Terence Rattigan was 25 when he wrote French Without Tears. It opened at the Criterion Theatre to rave reviews in November 1936. Critics thought it 'gay, witty, thoroughly contemporary ... with a touch of lovable truth behind all its satire'.
Incorrigible flirt Diana Lake accompanies her brother to a 'crammer's' in France. There, the young men studying French are utterly distracted by her arrival. As one paper put it, 'while they are engaged in irregular verbs, she is engaged in irregular conduct'. Some objected to the characters' lack of morals, and the dialogue being 'interspersed with the kind of words always ignored in polite society', but the sparkling wit and brilliant performances won the public over.
Here Kay Hammond plays Diana, with Roland Culver as 'an altogether delightful naval Commander', one of her more mature conquests. Also in the original cast were Trevor Howard and Rex Harrison, and a young Jessica Tandy as the crammer's daughter, a sweet romantic contrast to Diana's vamp. Hammond would go on to play another siren opposite Rex Harrison as the sultry Elvira in the film of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit.