The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

Movie poster
Directed by Delbert Mann
Produced by Michael Garrison
Written by Harriet Frank Jr.
Irving Ravetch
William Inge (play)
Starring Robert Preston
Dorothy McGuire
Release date(s) September 22, 1960 (1960-09-22)
Running time 124 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs is a 1957 play by William Inge about family conflicts during the early 1920s in a small Oklahoma town. It won the Tony Award for Best Play and was made into a film in 1960.



The drama centers on Rubin Flood, who loses his salesman job. While searching for a new job, he must deal with his wife, Cora, who shuns intimacy and mistakes his joblessness for stinginess, his shy daughter who prepares for her first dance and his pre-teen son who runs to his mother instead of dealing with bullies. He tries to find comfort with a friend, Mavis Pruitt, thus setting off rumors of an untoward relationship. In addition to the themes of modernization (i.e., not enough demand for horse harness, and the impending arrival of the oil industry)


Directed by Elia Kazan, the play opened December 5, 1957, at New York's Music Box Theatre and ran for a total of 468 performances, closing on January 17, 1959. The drama was reworked by Inge from his earlier play, Farther Off from Heaven, first staged in 1947 at Margo Jones' Theatre '47 in Dallas, Texas.

Opening night cast:

  • Eileen Heckart as Lottie Lacey
  • Pat Hingle as Rubin Flood
  • Teresa Wright as Cora Flood
  • Timmy Everett as Sammy Goldenbaum
  • Frank Overton as Morris Lacey
  • Anthony Ray as Chauffeur
  • Evans Evans as Flirt Conroy
  • Carl Reindel as Punky Givens
  • Judith Robinson as Reenie Flood
  • Charles Saari as Sonny Flood
  • Jonathan Shawn as Boy Offstage[1]

It was nominated for five Tony Awards: Best Play, Best Featured Actor (Pat Hingle), Best Featured Actress (Eileen Heckart), Best Scenic Design (Ben Edwards), Best Director (Elia Kazan) and won Best Play. Timmy Everett won a Theatre World Award.


Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch adapted Inge's play into a 1960 film directed by Delbert Mann.

Variety gave the film a favorable review, noting that it was "well cast and persuasively acted".[3] Shirley Knight earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as "Reenie Flood".


  1. ^ William Inge. "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 22, 2009. 
  2. ^ "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 22, 2009. 
  3. ^ Variety, January 1, 1960.

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