Three Wise Guys Notes

Damon Runyon (1880–1946) is best known today as the source for Nathan Detroit, Miss Adelaide, and the other New York characters of the musical Guys and Dolls (1950). In his own time, however, Runyon was legendary as a colorful sports writer and feature columnist for the Hearst newspapers. He was also a prolific poet of often grimly humorous verse and author of short fiction even before he wrote the tales of those Broadway guys and dolls that gave him lasting fame and considerable fortune. So distinctive is his style that his name became a common adjective, “Runyonesque,” which refers both to a character on the fringes of respectable society, who nevertheless lives by a strict code of outlaw honor, and to a distinctive argot. Runyon’s work is still in print the world over and lives on as well in the many films made from his stories including such classics as Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day (1933), based on Runyon’s touching “Madame La Gimp,” and Little Miss Marker (1934), starring Shirley Temple as Runyon’s diminutive charmer. Joining the long line of Runyon adaptations, Three Wise Guys, based on two of Runyon’s best stories (“Dancing Dan’s Christmas” and “The Three Wise Guys”), strives to remain true to the language, humor, and plot twists of a writer who, in the words of biographer John Mosedale, “invented Broadway.”