Cast & Crew
In Dublin, on market day in 1743, Peg Woffington turns down the proposal of Michael O'Taaffe, who has asked her to accompany him to London, because her mother is against the match. In London, during the spring, while Michael entertains Margaret Dallaway, Peg writes to him of her impending arrival. Michael does not receive her letter until the day she arrives, however, and fails to meet her. When she sneaks into his apartment to surprise him, she finds the letter unopened, and proceeds to lovingly prepare an Irish stew, unaware that he is out dining in style with another woman. When Michael returns home after midnight and discovers Peg and her meal, he pretends to be hungry. On a summer morning at the Vauxhall Gardens, Michael explains that because his business is not doing well, they will have to wait to marry. At the gardens, Peg meets actor David Garrick, who runs the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and is currently appearing as Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice . Although Peg does not think she can act, she hopes to make some money playing small parts so that she and Michael soon can marry. Posing as an old woman, Peg gets into the theater and wins a part as an understudy in a small role in Ben Jonson's comedy The Alchemist . That night, she appears on stage and also meets with David. After the show, Peg rushes home excitedly to tell Michael her good news, but he is out again with Margaret and arrives home at two a.m., too tired to hear Peg's news. While David is starring in Shakespeare's Richard III , Peg candidly tells him one night that his performance that evening was not his best, and their fondness for each other grows. When she arrives home, Michael, overwhelmed by their poverty, tells Peg that a rich woman has fallen in love with him and wants to marry him. He then assures Peg that the union will ensure Peg everything she could want. Later, when David offers Peg the part of a young woman who has just been jilted, Peg speaks from the heart and wins the role. Peg wins the favor of the audience, as well as a kiss from David, inciting the jealousy of experienced actress Kitty Clive. By 1745, David has introduced Peg to London's theatrical circles, and she comfortably dines with men in haunts such as the Cheshire Cheese, which is usually restricted to male clientele. When her parents visit and inquire about Michael, she calls him a "dog who bit her." Later, when David is casting Shakespeare's As You Like It , Peg is eager to play Rosalind, but David insists that Kitty is more suited to the role. Peg finally appears as Rosalind, however, and, with Kitty, Michael and her parents in the audience, gives the best performance of her career. After the show, Michael visits Peg in her dressing room and tells her he wants her back, and David enters as they embrace. Michael then tells David that Peg is only using him, and he leaves, angry. When David is invited to a masquerade party at Vauxhall Gardens, Peg begs him to stay behind and let her explain, but he leaves without her. She then dresses up as a man and sits next to Michael at the party. When she hears Michael telling another woman the same line he used on her, Peg laughs at him. Michael retaliates by hitting Peg, precipitating a duel. David sees the fight and, as "sheriff," arrests her and apologizes, after which she faints. A doctor then writes to David that Peg is very ill with a weak heart, warning him that she must never act again. Peg sees the note, however, and pleads with the doctor not to send it, then continues to appear as Rosalind. One night, before the curtain goes up, David excitedly talks to Peg of their next season together, then of a season in Dublin. He tells her he has found a "lovely little house" and proposes. Peg goes on stage, but her frailty causes her performance to suffer. During the last act, she collapses and dies in David's arms. David then tells the audience, "She asked me to give you her love."
Credits on the viewed print were incomplete. This film was released in Great Britain by United Artists at a length of 75 min., and in the United States by Paramount at a length of 66 min. The film depicts the theatrical careers of Dublin-born actress Peg Woffington and English actor David Garrick, who managed London's Drury Lane Theatre Royal from 1747-1777. As in the film's plot, Woffington's last performance on May 17, 1757 was indeed as "Rosalind" in As You Like It; however, after she was taken ill at the beginning of the play's epilogue, she lingered on for three years before she finally died. Woffington is also the subject of the play Masks and Faces, written by Tom Taylor and Charles Reade in 1852, which was the source for the 1917 British film Masks and Faces, directed by Fred Paul and starring Sir Johnstone Forbes-Robertson and Irene Vanbrugh.