At the Cert Theatre, where “The Milky Way” gradually picks up pace and looks very much as though it will stay on through the summer, a young man named William Schorr may be found backstage nightly. He is the person responsible for directing this comedy. The following story, hot from the typewriters of those demon press agents, Emanuel Eisenberg and Rith Seinfel, tells all that should be told about this director, who is fast becoming one of the leaders in his field.
Bill Schorr, his pals call him, and it seems an incongruously casual nickname for a slight young man with the keen face and the brooding intellect of a Talmudic student. But the nickname is no more incongruous than the fact that William W. Schorr is the director of that boisterous farce comedy of milkman-to-prizefighter, “The Milky Way,” which Sidney Harmon and James R. Ullman brought to the Cort Theatre not long ago to find that they had the season’s newest hit on their hands.
To Bill Schorr the fact that he has officiated at the birth of one of the least serious efforts of the theatrical year is in no wise surprising. No more surprising, indeed, than the fact that one of the earliest efforts of his professional career was the direction of “Six Characters in Search of an Author.” From Pirandello to prize fight comedy seems a long distance, but it is no more than a full fledged director should be able to take in his stride, says Mr. Schorr. Drama yesterday, farce today, and tragedy or whatever the theatrical future may hold for him, tomorrow-it is all in order, according to the young man who is the permanent director for those of the theatre, the Messrs, Harmon and Ullman.
BORN IN RUSSIA
William Schorr was born in deep Russia, in a small town not far from Moscow. His father, a schoolmaster, was one of very few Jews who were allowed to pursue such a profession under the old regime. The elder Schorr met his Waterloo, however, in the revolution of 1905. Although he was only mildly radical, even for those days, he was thrown into prison, and only the heroic efforts of his wife made possible his escape. He fled, then, to the New World, and his family, including ten-year-old William, followed later.
The boy had the beginning of a good European education in a government school at home. In New York he went to the public, schools, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at New York University, and proceeded to attend almost every other form of higher educational institution in the city. He passed his bar examination without ever intending to practice law, went to the Beaux Arts without planning to become a painter or sculptor, and followed a generally unconventional educational course which was nevertheless excellent background for his present profession.
ALWAYS NEAR A THEATRE
During all this time he was never far from the theatre. At the age of twenty-five-he is now thirty-one-he had already directed a production of “The Dover Road” for Tom Van Dyke’s Drama House Players at the Theatre Albert Premier in Paris. His next effort was to lease the Fifth Avenue Playhouse and stage a production there of “Green Fields, “translated from the Yiddish of Perez Hirschbein. The critics, in a rare exploratory mood, journeyed to lower Fifth avenue to see it and pronounced it good, and it ran for forty or more performances.
Another experience during that period was that of co-directing with Leslie Howard. The play, “Out of the Blue Sky,” was unfortunately short-lived. “Six Characters” came next, and then a period with Paramount on the Coast. He was called back from working with Jane Cowl on the road to do “The Milky War” for his regular bossed.
Schorr has never wanted to be an actor, and in fact he has never smeared on the grease paint since amateur days, when he played an occasional role while directing. When he reads the notices the morning after an opening, he pores over them to make certain every actor in his cast has received a good notice. Then he knows he has done well.