Skip to main content

Mr Pim Passes By

1940

About Mr Pim Passes By

Mr Pim Passes By is a three act comedy by A. A. Milne, first produced in 1919, and seen in the West End in 1920 and on Broadway and in Australia in 1921.

There were later stage revivals in London and New York, and the play has been adapted for radio, television and cinema.

1940

  • Genre: Drama

  • Playwright: A. A. Milne

Plot

Act I

The title character, Mr Carraway Pim, arrives at the Marden house to deliver a letter of introduction for George and is received first by Anne, then by Dinah, who tells Mr Pim about her life (including her engagement the night before) and the lives of her uncle George and aunt Olivia. Brian enters and converses with Dinah about his attempts to tell her uncle about their engagement. Olivia enters, having overheard part of the conversation, and is delighted to learn of the engagement. She offers to help break the news to her husband. George enters, seeking out Mr Pim, who has since left; Olivia pushes the young couple to tell George of their engagement. While Olivia is optimistic about their future, George is heavily set against it, citing Brian's young, slow career as a "futuristic" artist as evidence that he and Dinah will be unable to support each other. George and Brian continue to clash on Brian's career, and George's views on marriage and politics before Olivia sends Brian and Dinah out for a walk. While they are out, Olivia tries to convince George of his hypocrisy and pessimism by questioning him on the motives behind their marriage, as well as their financial well-being. George stumbles and struggles to find answers for her questions while still justifying his decision regarding Brian and Dinah, while also becoming more and more impatient and uncomfortable with the black-and-orange curtains Olivia is sewing and planning to hang up. Olivia reminds George of the first man she fell in love with, and how her father had arranged for her to marry someone else, which resulted in a miserable marriage until her husband died.

After George leaves, Brian and Dinah come back. Olivia tells them that she thinks George will be fine with their marriage, though George hasn't made much progress in accepting them. Olivia also reminds them that Lady Marden is coming for lunch, after which Mr Pim returns. George returns to receive him. While talking to George and Olivia, Mr Pim tells them that he had just returned from a trip to Australia, and while on his way back, he had seen a man whom he had thought dead. He tells them the man's name was Telworthy, which was the name of Olivia's first husband, who had also lived (and was presumed to have died) in Australia. Before George and Olivia can consider the implications of this, Lady Marden arrives.

Act II
Olivia, Lady Marden, Dinah, George, and Brian prepare to have lunch on their terrace, as Anne follows with their coffee. Brian and Dinah retreat back indoors, where they again speak of their concerns about their marriage and George. Not long after, Olivia, George, and Lady Marden return inside. Olivia asks Dinah to show Lady Marden "the pigs" (which George keeps as pets) and they are joined by Brian. Alone at last, Olivia and George begin to tentatively discuss the news Mr Pim had brought them in Act I.

At first, George is in denial about the entire revelation, but Olivia reminds him that her late husband was the only Telworthy in Australia, so it must have been true. George then laments over having married Olivia while she was still another's wife, and expresses his desire to get their marriage annulled for the sake of the law and their publicity. Olivia reacts to this with some sadness and disbelief. She reminds him that they were happy together, and that she was happy to be away from her first husband. When George holds his position on the annulment, she begins to talk about going back to live with her first husband, which begins to make George angry and jealous. He tells her he doesn't want to send her away, but that he still feels as if he should because it is the right thing to do. They eventually decide to send for Mr Pim again, and consult Lady Marden.

Dinah returns for a brief moment before being sent by George to fetch Lady Marden and Brian, who are still outside. Before they all return, George is conflicted about whether to tell Dinah and Brian about Olivia's situation, but Olivia tells him that they should know. Upon hearing the news, Lady Marden is shocked, and refers to Olivia as a "bigamist," while Brian argues that George should fight for Olivia and prevent her from going back to her miserable marriage. Despite this, Lady Marden agrees that the marriage should be annulled, to the disgust of Brian, which causes him to land in another argument with George over morals and marriage before being sent out for another walk with Dinah. George again laments over his confusion; he understands that Olivia does not want to go back to her first husband, but he wants to do the right thing in the eyes of the law and public opinion. Olivia laments over George, the man she "didn't quite marry" in a last-chance-attempt to get him to fight for her. Mr Pim is then announced by Anne.

Mr Pim joins Lady Marden, George, and Olivia, who question him about Mr Telworthy again. After confirming it was him whom Mr Pim spoke of, they tell him of the situation regarding George's and Olivia's marriage, and ask Mr Pim where Mr Telworthy might be. Mr Pim tells them that after seeing him a few days before, Mr Telworthy had died in Marseille by choking on a fish-bone. Olivia jumps up in surprise and joy.

Act III
stage scene: a young white man in sports jacket and flannels, on a sofa with a young woman; they are gazing lovingly into each other's eyes.  Olivia and George marvel over this new revelation, while Mr Pim regrets having delivered shocking news to the same family twice in one day. George hastily shows a still apologetic Mr Pim out, after which he expresses his relief and joy over Olivia's first husband still having died. Olivia puts a damper on the celebration when she reminds George that she was still technically married to her first husband up until a few days ago, when he was said to have perished by Mr Pim. George, however, has changed his attitude of anxiousness to one of optimism, remarking to Olivia that they can just remarry quietly at the registry office in London the following day.

Olivia, deciding to have a bit of fun, suggests that George ought to propose to her again if he wishes to marry her again. The two approach each other and become engaged while putting on the shy, cheeky demeanour of a new young couple. Olivia further taunts George by inquiring whether he can afford to support a wife, and whether he is thinking about their future, as "love may seem to be all that matters" with a new engagement. George grows impatient, realising that Olivia is using the situation to change his mind about Brian and Dinah's engagement. After arguing about whether Olivia will accept George's proposal, or whether she would stay in his house should she refuse it, George storms off in anger. Mr Pim uses this opportunity to return – this time, by the window – hoping to leave before George returns. He tells Olivia that he got the name wrong since the beginning – the man whom he had known from Australia, whom he had met on his way back, and whom had died from choking on a fish-bone was named Pelwittle, not Telworthy as he had led everyone to believe. He explains to Olivia how Dinah that told him of Olivia and her previous marriage to Telworthy and her residence in Australia with him, which had led to his mixing up the two names.

Olivia confirms that Mr Telworthy had indeed died before she'd married George, and while she thanks Mr Pim – who is apologising yet again for the mix-up – Dinah and Brian come in. They are delighted to see Mr Pim again, and are oblivious to the conversation which had just taken place. Olivia sends them to see Mr Pim out. Brian stays behind momentarily to tell Olivia that he is "on her side" about the annulment situation, after which Olivia reveals to him her conversation with Mr Pim. Before he can say anything more, she sends him off when she hears George returning. George enters humming, appearing to have calmed down a bit. He observes the room and its decor, as well as the curtains Olivia is working on, which he had detested at the beginning of the play. To Olivia's surprise, George (who is established to be very old-fashioned) remarks that they should perhaps consider redecorating the room, to brighten it up a bit, and commends Olivia's curtains. It is evident that he wishes to take Olivia to London to be married again from his suggesting that they buy new carpet and furnishings to match the curtains.

Olivia tells George that she told Brian and Dinah that Mr Pim had made a mistake with the name (without telling George that the mistake actually happened) so that Brian and Dinah think that Olivia and George had been truly married the whole time. George, not realizing that the mistake was real, asked Olivia if she was actually considering marrying him again, quietly. Coyly, Olivia tells him yes, which greatly pleases George; he proceeds to shower Olivia with affection and offers to buy her whatever new furnishings she should want in London the following day. They embrace, during which Brian and Dinah re-enter and remark on Mr Pim's big mistake. George, still believing that the "mistake" was a lie, plays along with them, to the enjoyment of Olivia.

George invites Brian to look at the pigs, while Olivia and Dinah converse about Olivia's trip to London with George; Dinah thinks they are going strictly for shopping. Olivia attempts to hang up her curtains, but realises she needs George's help. Dinah calls for him, and he returns with Brian, who happily tells Dinah that George has agreed to their marriage after all. As they share in celebration, George steps back to regard Olivia's new curtains, now seeming to have adopted a new appreciation for them. As the four of them sit in the room, Mr Pim again returns, this time to tell them that he got the first name of the Pelwittle man wrong – though he originally told them it was Henry Pelwittle, his name was actually Ernest Pelwittle.

Performances

We know that some performances of this production were done in other places. A newspaper article indicates that one was done in Horsham to raise money for the Patriotic Appeal Fund.