Broadway, ever wise, considers itself very astute in guessing what the public likes. From what I have seen of the stage here there is no basis for such an assumption. Very few plays are superior to the acting that goes into them. Certainly there is no dearth of competent performers in the theatrical belt, but as the legitimate season progresses it certainly becomes apparent that playwriting as it is exemplified by the current productions lags far behind the histrionic skill of the players who are available.
Perhaps I am being surprised by the obvious and certainly not new situation, but it is appalling to recall the number of flops upon which have been wasted some very fine acting. Alice Brady, Katharine Cornell, Ethel Barrymore, Pauline Lord, and especially Tallulah Bankhead, to name a few fine actresses who never have been known to do a role an injustice, are pertinent instances of this sort of thing. These ladies, each of whom is an actress of unquestionable skill, have been handed some awful truck by managers and producers who are supposed to have some idea of what makes people go to plays.
All of which is merely “obiter dictum” to the main tenets of this thesis, which you would never guess is concerned with Miss Tallulah Bankhead in a play by George Brewer and Bertram Bloch called “Dark Victory,” now playing at the Plymouth Theatre.
“Dark Victory” is not chosen as a horrible example to show you how a good actress and a bad play can never get along. As a matter of fact “Dark Victory,” despite its faults, is an entirely engrossing piece of theatre; but without the fine acting of Miss Bankhead it would be very dismal stuff indeed. It is further proof that give an actress who knows her business half a chance and she will infuse life and meaning into a script that needs the magic touch.
“Dark Victory.” is not a very good play because it gets nowhere, but you will like it as it enables Miss Bankhead to do everything an actress likes to do. She can be carefree, reckless, wanton, sad, terrified, happy, cowardly and heroic, all within the space of three acts. Miss Bankhead takes advantage of these opportunities and the result is an exhibition of stage work the like of which you will see few times in a season.
The play is in the “What would you do if?” tradition. In this particular case it concerns a young, vitally alive, wealthy society girl who has but six months to live. She is suffering from a brain tumor. At first she does not realize she is to die but she falls in love with her doctor (Earle Larrimore) and guesses what her fate will be. At first her reaction is to crowd into the remaining moments of her life all the gaiety she can, but she soon finds that is an empty gesture. How she solves her dilemma so she can get the most out of her life may not be your answer to the problem, but you will be interested nevertheless.
Eddie Cantor, who has returned to his radio role of salesman, also returns to the screen in a big, new, elaborate conglomeration called “Kid Millions,” which United Artists has brought to the Rivoli Theatre. It is a Samuel Goldwyn production and has been directed by Roy Del Ruth.
The only idea in producing “Kid Millions” was to entertain, and there can be no quibbling about the ear and eye qualities of the picture. Eddie Cantor jokes, sings and laughs his way through this amusing farce about the buried Egyptian treasure; Ethel Merman of musical comedy renown contributes her batch of songs; Block and Sully, the vaudeville team add their nuttery, and Ann Sothern and George Murphy supply the romance. As intimated above, “Kid Millions” is tuneful, gay, utterly irresponsible and lots of funâ€”that is, if you like that sort of thing.