Bernard Shaw | Archive relating to a legal case on Arms and the Man and The Chocolate Soldier, 1926-27

Lot Closed

July 20, 03:19 PM GMT


6,000 - 8,000 GBP

Lot Details


George Bernard Shaw

Archive of papers relating to a legal case on Arms and the Man and the operetta The Chocolate Soldier, comprising:

George Bernard Shaw, 24 letters and cards, 14 autograph, the remainder signed, to J.G. Godard of the law firm Mason and Co., ("...It seems that Mr Levinson is going to let you in for a lawsuit at last. He is demented by his failure to steal the film right of Arms and The Man from me. It is worth £30,000 spot cash on account of royalties; and he naturally feels aggrieved at my doing him out of all that money...", 9 October 1926), various sizes, 36 pages, 10 Adelphi Terrace, October 1926 to March 1927, some staining and wear; correspondence and copy letters on the history of The Chocolate Soldier, its connection to Arms and the Man, Shaw's attitude to copyright over the operetta, and his refusal to allow its cinematic treatment; legal correspondence and telegrams; legal notes including draft questions for the cross examination of witnesses; court documents including affidavits, admissions, statements, orders, notices, and assignments; transcripts of court proceedings; scripts, including typescripts and printed texts of the Lyric Theatre production of The Chocolate Soldier (with passages similar to Arms and the Man underlined in red ink), typescripts of a direct translation of the German libretto with the titled The Brave Soldier, printed copies of Arms and the Man (with passages similar to The Chocolate Soldier underlined in red ink); cuttings; and other related papers, 1926-27; the collection housed in 41 manila envelopes in two boxes


The Chocolate Soldier (Der Tapfrere Soldat) was an operetta from 1908 based on Shaw's 1894 play Arms and the Man, with a score by Oscar Straus and German libretto by Rudolf Bernauer. Shaw despised the work and wanted nothing to do with it. He therefore gave permission for the adaptation but only if none of his dialogue or character names were used. Having repudiated the work he refused copyright payment for it, so was probably chagrined when The Chocolate Soldier went on to be an international success, having its premier on Broadway in 1909 and in London in 1910. In 1923 an American producer began to make plans to film The Chocolate Soldier. Shaw was immediately concerned that any such film could damage his own film rights for Arms and the Man. At first he simply insisted that his own name or work could not appear in connection with The Chocolate Soldier, but soon came to believe that any film of the operetta would infringe his copyright since it was based on his earlier play. In October 1926 Jesse Arnold Levinson exploited the ambiguity of Shaw's earlier comments repudiating The Chocolate Soldier to sue him for slander of title in the English courts. He hoped to restrain Shaw from claiming that a film of The Chocolate Soldier would infringe his copyright. The current archive comprises the papers of Shaw's defence team, who ensured that the case turned on the undoubted similarity between the two works: The Chocolate Soldier might be a travesty, but it was undoubtedly based on Shaw's play. The case was heard in the Chancery court in February-March 1927 and was a victory for Shaw.