The Peggy Lane Theater Stories
by Virginia Hughes

The Peggy Lane Theater Stories by Virginia Hughes were published by Grosset and Dunlap from 1962 to 1965 in the picture cover format.  Virginia Hughes is a pseudonym for probably five different authors.  The only known author is Geraldine Wallis, an actress who wrote volume 3, Peggy Goes Straw Hat.  Geraldine Wallis is also known under the pseudonym Hope Campbell and contributed two Cherry Ames stories to the Cherry Ames Girls Annuals.  All that is known about the other authors is that they were four men, all of whom Wallis met one time in a meeting in which they discussed the characters and plots for the series.

At right:  Geraldine Wallis, also known as Hope Campbell, author of
               Peggy Goes Straw Hat

Geraldine Wallis, also known as Hope Campbell
The origin of this series is rather unusual.  In 1959, Simon and Schuster decided to enter the juvenile series market.  A group of writers was used for the project, and those writers wrote the books for two series which were published by Simon and Schuster, the Sandy Steele Adventure Series and the Win Hadley Sports Series.  The authors known to have been involved in this project include Jim Cox, Robert H. Leckie, John Stephen Doherty, John Ott, Jack Pearl, and Jack Zanger.

John Ott's career began in theater as both an actor and a director.  Ott's background in theater was a factor in the decision to create a third series as part of this project, the Peggy Lane Theater Stories.  Several stories were written but were never published by Simon and Schuster.  After a couple of years, the rights to the series were sold to Grosset and Dunlap, which did publish the series.

Source for photo and author information:  Yellowback Library, Issue #69, March 1990

Peggy Lane is a teenage girl who moves to New York City in an attempt to break into the world of theater.  Peggy faces a number of problems as she tries to succeed as an actress.  While she does have some very fortunate breaks, she also has her share of setbacks.  Peggy bears some similarity to Beverly Gray in that while is she considered very talented, she does make mistakes, some of them rather significant mistakes, and she does cry on occasion.

The books mainly focus on Peggy's struggles as she tries to succeed in the acting world, but each book does have a minor mystery for Peggy to solve or a conflict for her to resolve.  In Peggy's London Debut, the focus is more on mystery but the backdrop is still the theater.  The books have a hint of romance as Peggy has a number of admirers but not enough for the books to fit into the romance genre.  This series is quite good, especially the early books which are richly descriptive, almost drawing a picture of what Peggy sees.

Most of the books can be acquired fairly easily through eBay.  The last couple of titles are more scarce, but since few people collect this series, the prices are usually quite low when compared to the prices of scarce titles in other series.  While a few complete sets have sold for around $120, it is possible to acquire the complete run of this series for well under $100.

Cover Art Gallery

Each of the following summaries is taken from the pre-text summary page inside the book.

Titles in the Peggy Lane Series:

  1. Peggy Finds the Theater, 1962
  2. Peggy Plays Off-Broadway, 1962
  3. Peggy Goes Straw Hat, 1963
  4. Peggy on the Road, 1963
  5. Peggy Goes Hollywood, 1964
  6. Peggy's London Debut, 1964
  7. Peggy Plays Paris, 1965
  8. Peggy's Roman Holiday, 1965
  #1 Peggy Finds the Theater
As far back as she can remember, Peggy Lane - young, pretty, and talented - has wanted to become an actress.  Ambitious but realistic, Peggy knows her name isn't going to be in lights immediately but finally persuades her cautious parents to let her spend a year in New York to try to gain a foothold in the fabled world of the theater.

Peggy's first big test is an audition at the New York Dramatic Academy, whose eccentric director will decide whether she shows sufficient promise to be accepted for professional training.  Meanwhile, Peggy becomes friends with Randy Brewster, a young playwright, and Mal Seton, who will direct Randy's experimental play if and when they can find an off-Broadway theater in which to produce it.  Peggy eagerly volunteers to help in their desperate search and, exploring the byways of the city for a forgotten theater, unwittingly stumbles into a mysterious and dangerous situation.

Peggy Finds the Theater
The launching of Peggy's career, her struggle to make her dreams become a reality, is a delightful and heartwarming story.
  #2 Peggy Plays Off-Broadway
In the second book in a thrilling new series for girls, Peggy Lane, aspiring young actress, takes her first important step up the ladder of success.  She lands a small part in Randy Brewster's experimental play Come Closer - a part she secretly suspects Randy wrote especially for her.

Unknowns all, the cast is headed by lovely Paula Andrews, an inspiration on stage but something of a problem otherwise.  Hits don't just happen for an experimental group.  They are created out of hardships and disappointments.  The show's production is threatened with financial difficulties, and everyone's hopes now depend on the special presentation they are to give for a prospective backer.  When Paula, at the last minute, backs out, Mal Seton, the director, blows up.  Peggy, he says, can have the part.

Peggy Plays Off-Broadway
Peggy, knowing she is not yet ready for a leading role, proposes a radical solution.  Then, trying to help Paula, who appears tense and troubled, Peggy inadvertently discovers a mystery that cannot be unraveled until Peggy herself resolves a dilemma!
  #3 Peggy Goes Straw Hat
Peggy Lane's education in the theater and in life is "accelerated" the summer she takes to the Straw Hat Circuit.  Signed with the newly organized Kenabeek Summer Theater, Peggy is thinking only of her work when she arrives at the Adirondack resort.  But acting turns out to be only one of her problems.

Immediately, she learns that the Summer Theater is opposed by Max Slade, the local movie theater owner, who is exerting every effort to force the "competition" to leave town.  And she meets Chris Hill, blond, exciting, romantic leading man of the company - who can make any girl feel she's his One and Only, and not realize himself that he's insincere.  Finally, there's the back-breaking, bone-wearying, nerve-jangling job of mounting a new play a week - never knowing if it will open!

Peggy Goes Straw Hat
The maneuvering - legal and personal - as the actors fight to save their theater is as dramatic as their nightly shows.  But in the end it is Peggy's own warmth, charm, and intelligence which precipitate the surprising climax to their efforts to make the theater an accepted part of the community!
  #4 Peggy on the Road
Professional temperament and backstage jealousy confront young Peggy Lane when she lands a bit part in the road company of the hit comedy, Innocent Laughter.  Elated over winning the role, the aspiring actress quickly learns that a good day does not necessarily spell success.  It takes good people, too!

She aids in the search for a character actor to play the male lead, feeling triumphant when she locates Tom Agate, beloved but retired vaudeville trouper, who reluctantly consents to audition.  But Katherine Nelson, the prima donna who is to star in the show, throws a temper tantrum, claiming it beneath her dignity to play with a "has-been" comedian, and demanding both Peggy and Tom Agate be thrown out of the show!

Peggy on the Road
The young girl, who all her life has dreamed of her professional debut, is demoralized as she realizes that theatrical rivalry can stifle the joy of creativity.  But she believes in Tom Agate, and her faith is vindicated when she unravels a theatrical mystery which explains the conduct of the arrogant star!
  #5 Peggy Goes Hollywood
Attractive Peggy Lane encounters the first serious obstacle to her acting career when, her play closed, she cannot get a job in New York.  Discouraged, Peggy jumps at the chance to go to Hollywood, although tart-tongued May Berriman warns her that Hollywood can break her.

But Peggy, needing a job, and smarting from playwright Randy Brewster's preoccupation with his new play, boards the plane - and lands in another world.  Press cameras flash, and Peggy is built up as a young "starlet."  Fast-talking Max Gillian, her West Coast agent, has arranged everything - including dates with Doug Taylor, the most sought-after leading man in films.

The excitement, the glamour, the thrills of Filmland, U.S.A., are all experienced by Peggy as she struggles to keep her feet on the ground in the rarefied atmosphere of make-believe.

Peggy Goes Hollywood
However, Peggy's native common sense, her capacity to "bounce back" after bitter disappointment, and her sheer acting ability enable her to emerge triumphant - a triumph with a new twist, something completely different from what she or anyone else expected.
  #6 Peggy's London Debut
When actress Peggy Lane sails for England, she seeks fresh theatrical adventures - and leaves behind a tangled romance with a young playwright.  Aboard ship, she is "recognized" - first by attractive Kurt Werner, then by mystery man Tony Barstowe, both of whom are at Southampton when Peggy meets lovely Celia Wycliffe, who unwittingly enmeshes Peggy in a centuries-old theatrical curse.

Surprising Peggy at Southampton is lean, redheaded Randy Brewster, Peggy's playwright boyfriend, who should be in New York instead of here in England looking over Peggy's shoulder as she arranges dates with Kurt and Tony.  But sightseeing is forgotten when Peggy spots the weird light in Primrose Abbey and later realizes that the Primrose ghost has followed Celia and herself to London.

Peggy's London Debut
Between rehearsals for her London debut, Peggy tries to protect Celia from her family's dreaded ancestral taboo, and the young actress is almost as happy when she solves the secret of the Primrose curse as she is about the most exciting adventure of all - opening night in London!
  #7 Peggy Plays Paris
When Peggy Lane sets out across the English Channel bound for France, she is both thrilled and frightened.  Thrilled because at last she will be in Paris - City of Light - the glamour center of the world.  Frightened because this will be the most difficult undertaking the young actress has ever attempted.

The role of Irma, in One Last Chance, young Randy Brewster's latest play, has been played only by Amy Preston, Peggy's greatest friend back in the States.  But now, just when the Penthouse company has been invited to present the play in the Festival of Nations at the Th��tre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris, a great honor for so young a company, Amy is seriously ill and cannot make the trip.

It is up to Peggy to step into this important part, and she has to admit that she is completely confused by the role.  And it doesn't help matters one bit when Andr� Rodier, the attractive but arrogant young dramatic critic, tells Peggy with brutal frankness that she still has a lot to learn about acting.

Peggy Plays Paris
Peggy's ludicrous efforts to get about Paris without understanding a word of French, her difficulty in adjusting to French ways, and most of all, her frantic attempt to make the part of Irma come alive bring her almost to the brink of despair.  But Andr� - and France - have had their effect on Peggy; and when the curtain goes up on the last performance, Peggy goes on stage with joy in her heart because she knows she has mastered the part of Irma at last.
  #8 Peggy's Roman Holiday
Fresh from her holiday on the French Riviera, Peggy Lane plunges eagerly into a new role - this time in L'Aquila, an Italian film being made in Rome by the celebrated and unpredictable director, Renato Bellini.  What will it be like, the young actress wonders with some trepidation, working in a foreign language, not one word of which she knows?  Will the Italian cast like her?  Will her work satisfy Bellini?

When Peggy's plane lands at the Rome airport, at least one of her questions is answered immediately.  Bellini's son Paolo, who has been sent to meet Peggy, takes one look and declares he is hopelessly in love with her.  Before Peggy can get her breath back after this startling statement, Paolo has whizzed her across Rome in his high-powered sports car to a press party being held in the apartment of Iolanda Conti, the star of L'Aquila.  Here Peggy meets the director and the cast, including Enzo Moro, Italy's No. 1 box office draw; and here she immediately senses tension and mystery.

Peggy's Roman Holiday
By the time L'Aquila is finished, Peggy has had more than her share of excitement and drama, both on and off the screen.  And she has learned - the hard way - a priceless lesson in human understanding.
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