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Critical Moments

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Theatre-goers should have that nice well fed feeling that comes after a heavy meal. Starting off on Monday evening at the National Theatre with “Within The Gates,” there was a course served every evening thereafter and even on Saturday, after Friday night’s dessert of “Geraniums In My Window,” a dress rehearsal of “Waltz In Fire” which will open officially Wednesday evening at the Masque was set up for the hearty eaters. The in-between courses consisted of “Conversation Piece” (44th St. Theatre), “Goodbye Please” (Ritz), and “Between Two Worlds” at the Belasco.

“Within The Gates” left me with mixed feelings. Poetic, sensitive, beautifully acted, well directed, it was often moving. Its symbolism is quite obvious and it is extremely theatrical. Yet there were moments when Sean O’Casey’s fantasy of life seemed to have escaped from the author and wandered off into irrelevant realms. For the seekers after realism and transcriptions of life as they know it, “Within The Gates” will be of small interest. Its appeal is intellectual, although there is much that will titillate the senses. Lillian Gish, as a lady of practically no virtue, and Bramwell Fletcher, as the poet who protects her from the stupidity of the mob, are skillful and believable players. The rest of the cast is equally able. Although the dialogue often tends to become flowery and prosy there is much that is beautiful and stirring and you are quite willing to forgive the author his lapses.


From England comes Noel Coward’s “Conversation Piece” and that is something to talk about When it was presented in London last season, Noel Coward played one of the roles. In the American version, that versatile gentleman is missing but Yvonne Printemps, the French actress, is still very much in evidence and that is a guarantee of entertainment. There is nothing that can compare with her on the American stage.

Mr. Coward is at home in all phases of the art known as play-writing and one seldom knows what to expect. “Conversation Piece” is on the light side, a cross between operetta and musical comedy. You will have to find its proper niche yourself but whatever it is, it is enjoyable. Before I forget to tell you, it is best to polish up your French before visiting the Forty Fourth Street Theatre as a great deal of that language comes over the footlights.

As I hinted above, Yvonne Printemps is delightful. She is not beautiful and her figure would never earn her a second glance from Earl Carroll but her charm, her singing, her ability to use her eyes, her expressive face, her voice and gestures set her apart from the other ladies of the stage. She is an actress in the best sense of the word. Without her, the play would be flat.

There is a plot to “Conversation Piece”—it is slight and unimportant. Yvonne is a young girl taken out of a French cafe by an impoverished nobleman and brought to England to make a wealthy marriage. The nobleman tries to pass the girl off as a French countess whose parents were killed in the Revolution. His plans would have succeeded but the girl falls in love with him and finally wins his affection. Before this climax she manages to confound and embarass some of England’s more stuffy society leaders. The action takes place in the years beginning the 19th century. The play is nicely directed, the costumes are charming and most of the cast play their roles as though they were having a perfectly grand time.

“Conversation Piece” is one of the most restful, soothing and amusing evenings the theatre has to offer.

The less said about Mr. Burt Clifton’s offering, “Good – Bye Please,” which opened quietly at the Ritz Theatre, the kinder a play reporter would be. It will undoubtedly soon be gone.

“Geraniums In My Window” which Vera Caspary, the novelist, and Samuel Ornitz, the author of the much read “Haunch Paunch and Jowl,” have prepared for a run at the Longacre, will be discussed at length in these columns very soon. Both the authors have been flirting with Hollywood these past few years and this is a step toward escape. As for Elmer Rice’s “Between Two Worlds” in which Joseph Schildkraut and Rachel Hartzell will play the leading roles, that too will be reviewed here early in the week.


This coming week looks promising for the ticket brokers. On Monday evening at the Empire Theatre, Leigh Burton Wells’s play “Allure,” will open. The constantly rehearsed and revised “The Farmer Takes A. Wife” by Marc Connelly and Frank B. Elser which is a dramatization of Walter Edmond’s novel “Rome Haul,” will start Tuesday at the Forty-Sixth Street Theatre. Wednesday evening two plays open—”Waltz In Fire” by David Glory” by Joseph Schrank and Philip Dunning at the Mansfield. For Thursday, the event is a new George Abbott show titled “Ladies Money,” at the Ethel Barrymore. Irving Kaye Davis will see his “All Rights Reserved” open at the Vanderbilt. And to close the week with fitting grandeur, the much discussed “L’Aiglon” of Edmond Rostand will launch the Civic Repertory season for Eva Le Gallienne at the Broadhurst. Ethel Barrymore is also in the cast.

“Judgement Day,” the play by Elmer Rice which has managed to survive despite its undeserved bad notices has been published in book form by Coward-McCann…. “Jayhawker,” a drama of American politics by Sinclair Lewis and Lloyd Lewis, the Chicago dramatic critic, which was due to open this week will not be seen until sometime early in November. The setting is the mid-west in Civil War times….


Paramount has two pictures on Broadway this week.—at its own theatre it is presenting “Mrs. Wiggs Of The Cabbage Patch,” an amusing picturization of the famous novel in which W. C. Fields, Pauline Lord and Zasu Pitts are the three stars. Over at the Music Hall, a Paramount film, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” is the attraction. This is the Broadway play of the same name done into films with Francis Lederer, Joan Bennett, Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland, the last two named walking calmly but surely off with all the honors. The Strand presents “Madame Du Barry” in which the Spanish or Mexican, (I’m not so good in the nationality of picture stars), Dolores Del Rio plays the part of the French mistress of the King. Better historical films have been made.

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