Ever since the very ancient days of the theatre when stage settings were mere placards and casts were all males and ladies were nothing more than actors padded in the customary and more familiar places, the girls have itched to demonstrate what they could do behind the footlights. When the prohibition against the better-looking sex was lifted, its members took what amounted to a usurious interest in the drama. Not satisfied with impersonating their own sex, the girls also poached on the males’ reserve. Many actresses felt they could never reach histrionic immortality until they had played at least one male role.
Edmond Rostand’s historical drama about the young Bonaparte, King of Rome, has been, ever since its creation, one of the favorite proving grounds for these versatile ladies. Sarah Bernhardt, Maude Adams and Michael Strange (the former Mrs. John Barrymore) are among the illustrious actresses who have played this part, and now, at the Broadhurst Theatre, under the management of Selwyn and Franklin, Eva Le Gallienne is having her chance.
Unlike her predecessors Miss Le Gallienne was not satisfied with the scrip as written by Rostand. She called in Clemence Dane, who went over the play carefully and modernized it. Instead of the verse of the author there is now prose. Incidental music was supplied by Richard Addinsell, who wrote the music for "Alice in Wonderland." Aline Bernstein was hired to design the settings and costumes.
Miss Le Gallienne was wise in calling for these modern aids. Rostand’s original is perhaps beautiful but it is also archaic and a trifle too poetic. In modern prose "L’Aiglon" has more lilt, not that it is ever a very bouncing, buoyant piece. After all, telling as it does the tragic story of the son of Napoleon, who after his father’s demise in St. Helena is taken to Vienna by his Austrian mother and there made a political football by Metternich and the Hapsburgs, it could hardly be very amusing. In fact, the whole play is pervaded with a musty air of the long-dead past but the superb acting of Le Gallienne gives it life and makes it seem vital.
Ethel Barrymore as Napoleon’s mother, Marie Louise, brings the play most of its moments of happiness. She remains, a great actress with a wonderful understanding of what a part means. The rest of the cast, many of whom are regular members of Miss Le Gallienne’s Civic Repertory troupe, are also to be commended for their fine work.
"L’Aiglon" as it is produced in its present form, is a gallant and worth while theatrical gesture. It proves that there is still such a thing as acting and strangely enough that fact needed further proving.
‘OUTCAST LADY’ AND ANNA STEN
Michael Arlen once wrote a novel called "The Green Hat," which was very popular. In fact it was so popular that the movie companies adapted it for no fewer than three distinct pictures. The latest version, now showing at the Capitol Theatre, is called "Outcast Lady" and Constance Bennett plays the leading role. It must be stated with some sadness that a not too talented actress adds nothing to either her reputation or the cinema by her portrayal of the lady who acted not in accordance with the accepted standards of conduct.
Anna Sten is a different story. Samuel Goldwyn’s much publicized actress is now seen in what is said to be an adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel "Resurrection." It looked to me as though it is a distant relative.
The story of the poor peasant girl who is ruined by the prince and then sent off to Siberia although innocent of any crime, is vaguely familiar to the readers of the book, but when the prince, who suffers from a guilty conscience, chases the girl and goes marching off with her into the coldness of Siberia, then the film becomes just another Hollywood emulsion.
One of important points of Tolstoy’s novel was the refusal of the girl (played by Anna Sten) to marry the prince (Fredric March). She stayed with the sick revolutionist who really needed her, but that would have made a sad ending and for Hollywood that was not sugar-coated enough.
Photographically the picture is well made, but the direction by Rouben Mamoulian leaves much to be desired. There is a long shot interjected into the film when the prince’s conscience makes him act as though he had eaten something that disagreed with him. In this episode he relives all his big moments with the girl—which makes it seem as though you are seeing the picture all over again.
However, there are some virtues in "We Live Again." The stupidity of the Russian ruling class is portrayed vividly. The acting of Anna Sten, although a little lush, is usually convincing and she has a charming accent.