Critical Moments

Tonight at the Maxine Elliott Theatre Herman Shulman will present a play by Lillian Hellman which that young lady has satirically titled “The Children’s Hour.” Although Miss Hellman has been on the verge of a “writing career” for the past decade, this is her first effort to reach a state of production and if her play acts as well as it reads it should do very well indeed.

When the curtain rises on “The Children’s Hour” the author will have an audience with nothing but good-will in its hearts. Brought up in the West End avenue section of this city Miss Hellman has as many acquaintances as a politician up for re-election who has a good chance of getting in. The only difference being that practically everyone who has ever met Miss Hellman really likes her. She is one of those unusual women of whom other women speak well and that despite the fact that men find her attractive.

Her play is a serious, sincere drama which should prove provocative and moving. It traces the effect of a child’s lie upon the lives of two women. As a framework Miss Hellman has used a little school girl, who, out of her imagination, accuses two women teachers of having unnatural relationship, the busybody begins to work and the result is tragic to the teachers involved. It is a difficult and touchy theme but Miss Hellman has handled it delicately and convincingly.

OTHER NEWS OF THE STAGE

Elmer Rice’s fine play “Between Two Worlds” at the Belasco closes tomorrow night which doesn’t give you much time to see one of the season’s best plays … The Forum Players who were trained at the Madison Street Settlement House will give “Singing Jailbirds,” Upton Sinclair’s play at the Heckscher Foundation theatre all this week…. “Gold Eagle Guy,” Melvin Levy’s play, will be presented by the Group Theatre at the Morosco on November 28. Edward Bromberg, who played one of the leading roles in “Men In White,” will head the cast. Stella Adler and the rest of the Group company will also have parts in this play of life in the northwest.

GAY DIVORCEE VERY GAY

“The Gay Divorcee,” which is playing at the Music Hall, is easily the most entertaining film of the current cinema season. RKO-Radio Pictures, which have been very much in the background these past months can be proud of having achieved a success that will sweep the country. In this gay entirely delightful film Fred Astaire dances, sings and acts his way through a number of amusing situations. He is ably aided by Ginger Rogers, Alice Brady and Edward Horton in the major roles. The minor parts are skilfully handled by Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore. The story of “The Gay Divorcee” follows in broad outlines the musical play of the same name. It concerns Astaire’s pursuit of Miss Rogers who is trying to get a divorce from her husband. When she mistakes Astaire for the professional co-respondent the picture makes a new record in laughs per film-foot.

The writers of the dialogue for “The Gay Divorcee” have earned at least one gold medal that won’t tarnish. From the program notes, I gather that honors should go to Dwight Taylor, Kenneth Webb, Samuel Hoffenstein, George Marion, Dorothy Yost and Edward Kaufman. Mark Sandrich is the director and he, too, has earned a round of applause.

For once Hollywood has done the obvious and done it well. “The Gay Divorcee” was a debonair and happy musical comedy with a plot that was really amusing. In making the picture RKO has retained the story. Fred Astaire, certainly the best of the “hoofers,” can dance with a grace and charm that captivates any audience. In the picture they have let him dance and dance often. Alice Brady, one of the legitimate’s finest actresses can do any part that calls for acting range and in “Gay Divorcee” she has been cast in a “dumb Dora” role which she literally eats up. As you might have gathered by now, I think that anyone who wilfully misses “The Gay Divorcee” simply doesn’t ever deserve to see another picture.

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