In 1901, writer Justin Huntly McCarthy sentimentalized Villon’s career in a novel, If I Were King, that borrowed the king-for-a-day theme, allowing Villon to defeat France’s enemies and win the hand of an aristocratic lady, all in under 24 hours. The author adapted it as a Broadway play the same year and in London in 1902, and it was revived several times. In 1923, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were at the beginning of their careers. They created a musical version of the McCarthy play for a Manhattan girls’ school and then looked for a more prestigious venue for their collaboration. Broadway backers turned down the young team, but producer Russell Janney “borrowed” their idea and commissioned the more established Rudolf Friml to compose, and Brian Hooker to adapt the piece into a musical, increasing the comedy roles.

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