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Critical Moments

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It seemed as though this past week was going to be an exceedingly busy one for First Nighters but that was before some of the producers suddenly underwent a change of heart. Last Wednesday evening David Hertz’s first attempt at the drama “Waltz in Fire,” and Joseph Schrank and Philip Dunning’s “Dawn Glory” were on the schedule. Friday evening “All Rights Reserved” by Irving Kaye Davis was posted for a curtain riser. “Dark Victories” was likewise about to open and last Saturday evening “L’Aiglon” the first of the new Civic Repertory productions was due. All of these plays have been postponed for a variety of reasons.

Last Saturday evening there was a dress rehearsal of “Waltz in Fire” which your reporter attended. At the end of the first act as he wandered out into the lobby, the press agent of the show whispered that “Waltz” would not open on schedule. In fact, he intimated that it might never open. After seeing the first act, I do not wonder. It was slow, tedious and wordy. Not even the fine acting could save it. The author charges that his play was produced badly but I am inclined to think that the producer was least at fault.


“Dawn Glory” which the confident little Laurence Schwab was producing, has been indefinitely withdrawn. The out-of-town reviews were not exactly glowing and Mr. Schwab has decided to recast the play. For what I can gather, “Dawn Glory” is somewhat on the pattern of “She Loves Me Not” without that comedy’s fine wit.

“All Rights Reserved” and “Dark Victories” are new on the schedule for this coming week. The producers feel that all they need is a little rehearsing. “Dark Victories,” it is thought, will see light at the Plymouth Theatre next Wednesday or Thursday and “All Rights Reserved” will be saved for either Monday or Tuesday night at the Ritz.


“L’Aiglon,” adapted from the play of Edmond Rostrand by Clemente Dane, will open auspiciously Saturday evening, Nov. 3. In the cast there will be among others Eva Le Gallienne and Ethel Barrymore.

Despite the disappointments of the week there were some openings. “Allure” by Leigh Burton Wells on Monday evening; “The Farmer Takes a Wife,” on Tuesday evening; “Ladies Money,” on Thursday night, and a Yiddish play by the New York Art Troupe entitled “In-Laws,” on Friday night.

“Allure” can be disposed of with little comment. It is an exceedingly unpleasant and confused play about a female saddist and her deviltry in an otherwise happy family. Fortunately, the problem presented by the author is one most of us will never have to face and unfortunately that makes the play seem pretty vague and unimportant.

Frank B. Elser and Marc Connelly have adapted Walter B. Edmond’s novel “Rome Haul” to the stage and they call the results, “The Farmer Takes a Wife.” If you remember the novel, you will recall that it dealt with the times when the Erie Canal was in its infancy and the people who lived along its border were “canal minded.” To them, Fulton’s Folly was an Olympian gesture. Their lives revolved around the artificial waterway and they felt the same loyalty for it as a dog does for his master. The playwrights, using this as a basis, have constructed a sentimental and typical American folk-lore play about these people. The play is done on a big canvas and a cast of characters have been drawn from all the ranks of the society of those days. What little actual plot there is concerns a young man who deserts his farm to work on the canal and a young canal girl whom he loves. Shall he stay on the canal or will she go back to the farm with him ? This is the problem and it is answered satisfactorily.

June Walker, as the canal girl, and Henry Fonda, as the farmer, play the leads. Both realize that the play is very close to burlesque and act accordingly. Herb Williams, the always amusing vaudeville actor, is seen in a character part which he executes with neatness, dispatch and some humor. “The Farmer Takes a Wife” is pleasant, unimportant, sometimes delightful, often sentimental stage fodder.


Unlike the legitimate stage, vaudeville and radio has not don right by the movies. A legitimate star in pictures invariably makes the grade in Hollywood while the vaudeville and radio performers fall down with the traditional “boom.” Gracie Allen and George Burns, Kate Smith, Ben Bernie, Amos and Andy, Bing Crosby, are just a few former acts that look ghastly on a screen. The other night at the Rivoli, Jack Benny, certainly one of the cleverest of the vaudeville and air-men, was featured in a picture, together with a group of other radio stars, called “Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round” and the results were sad indeed. Not that this Reliance Picture isn’t better than average entertainment, but Benny seemed so much like a fish out of the water that the audience would have gladly formed a bucket brigade to help him out.

As you might guess, “Transatlantic” is a musical picture in the tradition of “Forty-second Street,” except that all the action takes place on a boat. Benny has taken a revue aboard ship to keep the passengers amused. This gives the director, Mr. Ben Stoloff, a chance to have the homely Boswell Sisters, the too cute Mitzi Green, the stiff Frank Parker, and Jimmy Greer’s orchestra all do their bits. In addition to this profuse and often enjoyable entertainment, there is a plot-something about a two-timing wife, a nasty gambler, a beautiful but harassed female crooner, a cute young confidence man, a husband with murder in his heart and a police inspector. There is a theft and a double murder but before the ship docks, everything happens that should.

Nancy Carroll, as the beautiful harassed gal, and Jimmy Brett, as the cute crook, supply the love interest. The shooting is done by the husband and the comedy is supplied by Sydney Howard as the drunk and Sid Silvers as the steward. If you are not too particular, you will like this film but Jack Benny should stay behind a microphone.


The new Jimmy Cagney picture, “The St. Louis Kid,” which is at the Strand, will be welcomed with loud cheers by the Cagney admirers. The films’ best tough-guy is cast in a perfect role, a truck driver, who becomes mixed up in the farmers’ milk strike and finds himself accused of murder. To me the big moment in the film comes when Cagney is on the receiving end of a lusty slap delivered by the hand of a lady, Patricia Ellis. Mr. Cagney, who first rode to fame through the simple expediency of socking ladies with little provocation, is for the first time seen as the recipient of the same kind of treatment. It must be reported that Mr. Cagney takes it very nicely.

The rest of the screen fare for this week, which includes “We Live Again,” with Anna Sten and Frederic March, at the Music Hall; “Outcast Lady,” with Constance Bennett and Herbert Marshall, at the Capital; “Six Day Bike Rider,” starring Joe E. Brown, at the Rialto; “Kansas City Princess,” at the Roxy, and “Three Songs About Lenin,” the Russian film at the Cameo, will be treated more fully in this column during the week.

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