East Lynne is an English sensation novel of 1861 by Ellen Wood. East Lynne was a Victorian bestseller. It is remembered chiefly for its elaborate and implausible plot, centering on infidelity and double identities. There have been numerous stage and film adaptations.
The much-"quoted" line: : "Gone! And never called me mother!" (variant: "Dead! Dead! And never called me mother!") does not appear in the book version of East Lynne. Both variants come from later stage adaptations.
Lady Isabel Carlyle, a beautiful and refined young woman, leaves her hard-working but neglectful lawyer-husband and her infant children to elope with an aristocratic suitor. After he deserts her, and she bears their illegitimate child, Lady Isabel disguises herself and takes the position of governess in the household of her former husband and his new wife.
East Lynne has been adapted for the stage many times; the play was so popular that stock companies put on a performance whenever they needed guaranteed revenue. The play was staged so often that critic Sally Mitchell estimates some version was seen by audiences in either England or North America every week for over forty years.
The novel was first staged on 26 January 1863 in Brooklyn; by March of that year, "three competing versions were drawing crowds to New York theaters." The most successful version was written by Clifton W. Tayleur for actress Lucille Western, who was paid $350 a night for her performance as Isabel Vane. Western starred in East Lynne for the next 10 years. At least nine versions adaptations were made in all, not including plays such as The Marriage Bells that "used a different title for the sake of some copyright protection."
There have been many silent film versions of the book. One of them, starring Theda Bara, was made in 1916. The story has been refilmed as recently as 1982, in a BBC made-for-television production starring Lisa Eichhorn.
A film version of East Lynne was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1931. The movie was adapted from the novel by Tom Barry and Bradley King and directed by Frank Lloyd. The film is a melodrama starring Ann Harding, Clive Brook, Conrad Nagel and Cecilia Loftus. Only one copy of the film is known to exist.
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