John Herbert Welcome to this dedication to "Fortune and Men's Eyes" and author John Herbert

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Fortune Society Organization
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John Herbert


Fortune Video Cover

A play in two acts (comedy drama).

In the single setting of a prison cell and its outside corridor, four young men, prisoners, and a middle-aged guard live out the Christmas season in an atmosphere of anger, violence and desire. Two characters, Queenie and Mona, are openly homosexual and the other two prisoners, Rocky and Smitty, fight to preserve their masculinity within a system that encourages homosexuality by its very nature. The guard, called Holy-Face by the prisoners, detests all convicts and is a racist and sexist bigot who exploits prisoners for money. Before the play is over, we see the first-time offender, Smitty, changed forever by a corrupting experience.

5 Characters: Queenie, Rocky, Mona, Smitty and Holy-Face.


In 1965, Herbert’s play ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ was accepted for workshop production at the Stratford Festival Theatre, where it was directed by Bruno Gerussi and featured Richard Monette in the role of ‘Mona’ and Ken James as ‘Queenie’.

In 1966, Nathan Cohen asked to read the play and sent the script to David Rothenberg in New York city, where ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ received its second workshop production; this time at New York’s Actors Studio. Upon reading, David Rothenberg was urged and began working on founding The Fortune Society; an organization intended to help those impacted by current laws governing prison life.

Fortune Society Organization

The play aas recommended to the Studio by Dustin Hoffman, who was the first actor to play the role of ‘Rocky’ in workshop.

Note: By the time ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ had backing to go onstage Off-Broadway, Hoffman was cast in another professional production and was unable to play Rocky’ for the public, which he regretted because he believed in the play.

In 1967, ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ opened in the Actors’ Playhouse, near Sheridan Square, NYC, and ran there for a year, sending out a touring company during that year to play in Canada (Toronto and Montreal) and across the U.S.A. to San Francisco, finally.

Fortune Soiety Organization
Towards the end of the year the play opened at Charles Marowitz’s Open Space Theatre in London, England, and after nine months in that location was moved to the Comedy Theatre in The West End by producer Michael White, where it played three months.
Fortune and Mens Eyes
In 1970, the film of ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ was made co-operatively by M.G.M. Studios, Cinamex International and the Canadian Film Development Corporation - Watch it on YouTube
Starring Wendell Burton, Michael Greer, Zooey Hall.
Screenplay by John Herbert. Music by Galt MacDermot. Produced by Lester Persky and Lewis Allen. Directed by Harvey Hart.
Rated R. Running time: 102 minutes.

Herbert had worked on the film script from 1968 to 1970 and refused to sign any contract that would not guarantee use of his own film play. It was M.G.M. that most approved Herbert’s film version; in fact, urged the firing of the movies’ first director (Jules Schwerin was replaced by Harvey Hart, who produced a beautiful powerful film) because he would not adhere to the script. The film was released in 1971. Purchase online at

In June of 1971, Herbert left for Europe, where productions of ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ were playing or planned in several countries (France, Turkey, Israel) with the intention of never returning to Canada, which he felt had, in fact, treated him rather shabbily.

In 1971 and 1972, while living between London and Paris, Herbert wrote articles for various publications, including Canada’s ‘Saturday Night’, a brochure biography of the dancers Belinda Wright and Jelko Yuresha and co-directed the Paris production of ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ (called ‘Hommes’ in French version), taking over from the French director at the request of translators, Alain Brunet, producers and backers. The production created a sensation in Paris and has a long, successful run; it remains Herbert’s favorite performance of his play.

In 1975, the first Toronto-based production of ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ was performed at the Phoenix Theatre, directed by Graham Harley. UrJo Kareda, former drama reviewer for the Toronto Star, has written several times that his Phoenix production was not the first Toronto-based showing, but he is wrong: Kareda seems to believe that the 1967 production at the Central Library Theatre was a Canadian show. It was not; it was the New York cast on tour.

'Fortune and Men's Eyes' is studied as part of some High School, College and University courses. The movie is widely available in video rental stores and the play is still in productions around the world. The play is often described as timeless as the situation for those in prisons, around the world, has not changed for the better.

Note: Since 1967, ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ has played in more that 400 productions in over 100 countries of the world, in translations into almost every language which is used in the performing of theatre.

More online info - Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia
Documentary - "John Herbert: Fortune and Men's Eyes" - by Anton Wagner
John Herbert, the Canadian playwright of the international classic gay prison drama Fortune and Men's Eyes, speaks about the oppression gays faced after World War II and how he came to write his play in the 1960s. David Rothenberg, its New York producer, describes the Fortune Society which assists prisoners transition back into society.
Writen by - John Herbert - 2001


  John Herbert was the pen name of John Herbert Brundage (13 October, 1926 – 22 June, 2001), Canadian playwright and theatre director best known for his 1967 play Fortune and Men's Eyes who authored 26 additional works.
John's Personal website -


  Please contact:

Nana Brundage (sister) has the rights to all literary works of John Herbert.

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