AL HIRSCHFELD. "Great to Be Alive!" Illustration for the musical comedy at the Winter Garden Theatre, New York, published in The New York Times, March 19, 1950; subsequently published in "The American Theatre as Seen by Hirschfeld," (New York: Braziller, 1961). Ink and gouache on board. 290x393 mm; 11 1/4x15 1/2 inches on 20x30-inch board. Signed "Hirschfeld / Philadelphia" in lower right image. Wide margins with cast list inked in Hirschfeld's hand along with numerous printers' indications, lower left corner of board missing (far marginal area).
The highly entertaining but short-lived Great to Be Alive! ran for 52 performances during the Spring of 1950. The musical farce features an elderly bachelor who lives in a haunted house and is entertained by ghosts who can only be seen by virgins. When he begins an affair with the woman who buys the house, he misses his affable apparitions and mayhem ensues. Hirschfeld clearly enjoyed depicting the main characters in the play's highlight "ghosts' ballet" scene (choreographed by Helen Tamaris): Stuart Erwin, J. C. McCord, and Vivienne Segal, Bambi Linn, and Valerie Bettis are drawn with great, fluid strokes floating above a sweep of expressive hands (one of his favorite things to draw). To depict the ghosts, Hirschfeld employed a technique he rarely used: applying ethereal lines of white gouache over the black forms to accentuate their translucent bodies.