In 1916, Charles Dillingham and Florenz Ziegfeld took out a lease on the Century Theatre hoping to produce glamorous, elegant shows with expensive ticket prices. Their first effort was The Century Girl, with music by Irving Berlin and Victor Herbert. Magnificent sets and an all-star cast could not save the show, but Dillingham and Ziegfeld were undaunted. On their next production, which was to be called Miss 1917, they hired Jerome Kern and Victor Herbert to compose the score and Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse to collaborate on the book and lyrics. Irene Castle was hired as one of the principals and the young George Gershwin was the rehearsal pianist. Although most of the score belongs to Kern, friction between Dillingham, Kern, and Herbert almost stopped the show. Kern's temper erupted more than once and he vowed to quit the production entirely. He felt that the Herbert songs included were already hits, while his songs were new to the public. Arguments over song selections and competition between the two musicians proved almost fatal. In addition, producers had demanded extremely elaborate staging for the revue, so no tryout shows were possible. The show opened at the Century Theatre on November 5, 1917. Critical reviews were mixed; some lauded the show's ostentation and many of the songs were hits. Among the most praised Kern pieces were "Go, Little Boat," "The Land Where the Good Songs Go," and "You're the Little Girl I've Looked So Long For." Although initially a success, eventually the Dillingham-Ziegfeld revue failed and the producers had to file bankruptcy. The principals all quit and ticket sales slumped. Dillingham and Ziegfeld were forced to give up control of the Century Theatre and Comstock and Gest took over its management.
Description by Rita Laurance
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