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Critical Moments

May 6, 1934
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Award of the Pulitzer Prize to Sidney Kingsley for his “Men in White” ends a perfect up-the-ladder story. Here was a young fellow (he is in his twenties) who before October of 1933 was completely unknown on Broadway. He had been graduated from Cornell University some years ago and had spent his post-college days knocking around from one job to another, trying to find some place for himself. He had press agented shows, worked for moving picture companies both in New York and Hollywood and hoad kept a steady eye on the drama. Five years back he conceived the idea for “Men In White.” His father a practicing dentist in the Bronx, Kingsley was not entirely unfamiliar with professional life, but he knew little about medicine. He went out and dug up his information by the simple expediency of asking questions and then set it down on paper. No fewer than four producers had the opportunity of producing “Men In White.” Each saw possibilities but not one of them was sufficiently enthusiastic to take a chance and put it into production. Finally the Group Theatre got hold of the script and last summer with many of the players spending the season at “Green Mansions,” an adult camp, the play was rehearsed. It opened in October the author’s first play. The rest is history. An instantaneous success from its opening night it has been playing to filled houses ever since. Stock companies took it out on the road. Amateurs produced it in local houses. A moving picture company came along and paid $46,000 for the film rights. Foreign producers in England, Hungary and other countries bought rights. In book form it is in its fourth edition. And to cap the climax the Pulitzer Prize committee stamped its approval, which means that the play will run through the summer.

IDEALISM PAYS

“Men In White” is the first play in years to say a few kind words for the medical profession. It is an idealistic presentation of a social problem. Shall a physician be bound to his profession or to himself? The answer favors his profession. Baldly speaking it is an inspirational play, a piece that should inspire young medical students, and it does create a feeling of good will towards doctors, pointing out to patients what sacrifices a career in medicine entails. The author fashioned his play realistically and by playing down sentimentality and presenting his hero as a man with faults rather than a boy scout was able to be convincing.

Kingsley’s idealism, and I believe that it is sincere, has certainly paid. Before the last royalty statement is received I imagine that the young man will be some $100,000 richer. And by the way “Men In White” was the first Pulitzer choice in years that met with the approval of dramatic critics. Most of them picked it themselves, months ago.

NO BEAUTY PRIZE

If the committee had been awarding prizes for the best looking playwright Kingsley would not have gotten a mention. He is short, slim, slouches a trifle, wears his shirts a size too large, talks with a non-Texan drawl, dislikes to be rushed and always carries a cane. He is unassuming and despite his good fortune, wears the same size hat that he did a year ago. He is, of course, Jewish.

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