Lauri Wylie

Lauri Wylie (25 May 1880 – 1951), originally Maurice Laurence Samuelson Metzenberg,[1] was a British actor and author. He is primarily remembered as the author of the play "Dinner for One", the 1963 screen adaptation of which went on to become the most frequently repeated television programme ever, according to the Guinness Book of Records, due in large part to its place as a New Year's viewing tradition in Germany.[2]

Early lifeEdit

Born in Southport, Lancashire, Wylie was the son of Henschel and Bertha Samuelson, tobacconists originally from Prussia.[3] By 1891, his mother was widowed and was carrying on the business.[4]

He began life as Morris Laurence Samuelson,[5] recorded as Maurice Laurence Samuelson Metzenberg.[6] Wylie's older brother, Julian Wylie (or Samuelson),[7] was a well-known producer in London, and Lauri Wylie's agent for plays produced as early as 1915.[8] Lauri Wylie is also the brother of early film pioneer G.B. Samuelson and uncle of former British Film Commissioner Sydney Samuelson.[9]


Lauri Wylie began his career in the late 1890s in London as an actor,[10] receiving frequent writeups in the entertainment press of the day.[11] His first work as a playwright was in 1911 with "Early Morning Reflections", which earned him a copyright infringement lawsuit for having plagiarised a similar play, "The Broken Mirror".[12]

He has authored / co-authored several revues and operettas (including Four, Five, Six at the Duke of York's Theatre in London, a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan entitled A "G&S" Cocktail (1925, pub. 1936),[13] and Princess Charming (1930), which was made into a film in 1934[14] and released under the name Alexandra in the United States in 1935.[15] With his younger brother, G.B. Samuelson, he co-wrote The Game of Life (1922),[16] at the time the longest British feature film ever produced.[citation needed] His other films include A Warm Corner (1930) and Never Trouble Trouble (1931).[17]

His one major success, "Dinner for One", was presented on stage at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London, from 5 to 31 March 1934 as part of a revue written by Wylie called "En Ville Ce Soir".[18] The Stage magazine for 8 March 1934, in its review of “En Ville Ce Soir," said: "A ‘Dinner for One’ sketch is a very laughable burlesque of hackneyed sentimentality by Dorothy Vernon and Mr. Newell [they were the actors]." The basic premise originated in a 1928 routine credited to American actor Red Skelton (though Skelton's intoxicating drug was originally tobacco before a sponsor forced him to change it to alcohol in 1941); as neither Wylie nor Skelton were yet internationally famous at the time of the compositions, neither likely knew of the other's work.[19] Dinner for One was again presented at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1948, and was later presented on Broadway in 1953 in the revue Almanac by John Murray Anderson.[20] Wylie, however, never profited from the script rights which were – allegedly[by whom?] – sold to English comedian Freddie Frinton (who played the role of James the butler in the 1963 television adaptation and had performed the sketch numerous times on stage) after Wylie died.

Death and legacyEdit

Wylie died at age 70 in 1951[21] in poverty in a camper which served as his home.[citation needed]

Wylie's short play Dinner for One has had a significant cultural impact in Germany. Having been a part of German culture for 50 years, it has spawned thousands of parodies.[22] One such parody, involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, may have led to Mrs. Merkel's widely publicised reference to Dinner for One in her 2012 New Year's address.[23]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ Gabriel A. Sivan, Jewish Historical Studies , volume 44, 2012
  2. ^ "Slate Magazine article on Dinner for One". Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  3. ^ 1881 United Kingdom census, 41, Nevill Street, Southport, at, accessed 5 May 2020 (subscription required)
  4. ^ 1891 United Kingdom census, 41, Nevill Street, Southport, at, accessed 5 May 2020 (subscription required)
  5. ^ "Name from Record of Marriage in Ormskirk (1904) from FreeBMD". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Record of birth in Ormskirk (not Southport) from FreeBMD". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  7. ^ "Julian Samuelson memorabilia page". Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  8. ^ "The Stage Year Book, 1915" (PDF). Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  9. ^ Rubinstein, William D; Jolles, Michael; Rubinstein, Hilary L (22 February 2011). The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. ISBN 9781403939104. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  10. ^ "Lauri Wylie articles in The Era, c.1898". Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Lauri Wylie newspaper articles". Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Lawsuit on "Early Morning Reflections" in the London Daily Mail". Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  13. ^ Library of Congress Copyright Entry for A G&S Cocktail. 1937. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  14. ^ Library of Congress Copyright Entry for Princess Charming (film adaptation). 1936. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  15. ^ "IMDB entry for Alexandra". Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  16. ^ "IMDB entry for The Game of Life". Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  17. ^ "Lauri Wylie films at MSN Entertainment". Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Red Skelton Is No Recluse". The Mount Airy News. 17 April 1984. p. 11A. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  20. ^ "PlayBillVault: Almanac". Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  21. ^ "Record of death in Brighton (not Shoreham) from FreeBMD". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  22. ^ "50th Anniversary of "Dinner for One"; Deutsche Welle". Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  23. ^ "Angela Merkel speech on". Retrieved 3 November 2013.

External linksEdit