Synopsis by Hal Erickson
On September 12, 1866, Broadway's first musical comedy, The Black Crook, opened at Niblo's Garden. In truth, the production was a shapeless four-hour hodge-podge, which started life as a supernatural melodrama written by Charles M. Barras, but was bloated into a self-described "Magical and Spectacular Drama" with the addition of elaborate special effects and a line of plump chorus girls in pink tights. Many historians have labelled the production "the first girlie show," and it was this as much as anything else that enabled The Black Crook to remain in continuous production, both in New York and regionally, for nearly thirty years. Unable to re-create the play's musical highlights, Kalem's 1916 film version was forced to concentrate on the plot, a Faust-like meringue involving a wealthy Count who enters into a deal with the Devil: for every soul he delivers to Satan, the count will be granted an extra year of life. One of the count's victims, an artist named Rodolphe, dedicates his life to punishing the nobleman, a mission he accomplishes with the help of the beautiful Fairy Queen. It was silly in 1866, and downright ridiculous fifty years later.