NOTE: For a more comprehensive history of the Lakewood Theatre Colony, visit our marketing director, Jenny Oby's website.  Jenny's book on Lakewood Theatre will also be available in July of 2017 -- check back soon!

John B. Hymer, playwright and original colony house proprietor (Image courtesy of Jenny Oby)

John B. Hymer, playwright and original colony house proprietor (Image courtesy of Jenny Oby)

For more than 30 years, playwright John Bard Hymer summered at Lakewood.  Nicknamed “The Mayor of Lakewood,” Hymer began his long association with the theatre colony in 1915, and was the first resident playwright at Lakewood.  Hymer was well-known as a prolific vaudeville writer and producer, and in 1917, he was engaged to direct the entire Lakewood season.  Although Hymer got his start in vaudeville, he began writing “legitimate” theatre in the 1920s, often collaborating with other playwrights, many of whom he would bring to Lakewood for the summer season to write.  Hymer had impressively extensive Broadway (and later Hollywood) connections, and it was he who began the practice of “trying out” plays at Lakewood that later played on Broadway (often with the same actors who had played the roles at Lakewood).  He influenced numerous notables playwrights and producers (among them Sam Shipman, LeRoy Clemens, William A. Brady, Anne Morrison, Max Gordon, William E. Barry, and others) to come to Lakewood, undoubtedly building a foundation for its being known as “Broadway in Maine”. 

 

Shown at right is one of John B. Hymer’s favorite collaborators, playwright Samuel Shipman (standing, left), along with John B. Hymer himself (seated, center), and Hymer’s son, Warren Hymer (standing, right).  Hymer and Shipman’s most famous (and extremely lucrative) collaboration was “East is West,” which was later made into a silent film (1922) starring Fay Bainter.

Warren Hymer, born in 1906, literally grew up at Lakewood during the summers, and received his early theatre training there.   In 1929, he began acting in films, at which he was immensely successful.  In 1932, Warren acted in the movie Up the River with Spencer Tracy, Claire Luce, and Humphrey Bogart (whom Hymer undoubtedly knew from Lakewood, as Bogart was a player there in 1928, ’29, and ’31).  Warren was so well-known at the time that he was actually billed above Bogart in the credits. Usually typecast in B movies as a streetwise plug-ugly, Warren Hymer was actually very a bookish and well-educated Yale man.  He died in 1948 at 42 years old, having played in 129 films.

Samuel Shipman (standing, left), along with John B. Hymer  (seated, center), and Hymer’s son, Warren Hymer (standing, right). (Image courtesy of Jenny Oby.)

Samuel Shipman (standing, left), along with John B. Hymer  (seated, center), and Hymer’s son, Warren Hymer (standing, right). (Image courtesy of Jenny Oby.)