Friday, April 3, 2015

"It Has a Tabloid Mentality"

"A Month of the Theatre."
By Francis Fergusson (1904-86).
In The Bookman (November 1931), page 301.
Review of play adaptation of Payment Deferred by C. S. Forester (1899-1966).
Novel: 1926; play: 1931 [70 performances on Broadway]; film: 1932.
Review online HERE.
It's safe to say this critic wasn't too fond of crime fiction, theatrical or otherwise:
This thriller, imported with cast intact from England, is about a poisoning, committed before our eyes in the first act, expiated in acts two and three by the poisoner's sufferings, and avenged by the police after the end of the play, as we are told in the epilogue.
Like Grand Hotel, it has a tabloid mentality plus the relentless devices of modern realism.
William Marble, a small bank clerk who resembles H. G. Wells; his nervous daughter, and his faithful, worried wife, are portrayed to the life. None of the all too probable misfortunes that follow [SPOILER DELETED] are spared us, in all their detailed and painful working out.
The point of the evening is the excellent acting of Charles Laughton, who plays [SPOILER]. In his pussyfooting eagerness for [SPOILER], in his long pauses while he realizes calamity or plans an evasion, in his struggles with his sedentary fatness when he wants to turn quickly or get up from a chair, in his childish weeping on his wife's thin shoulder, he shows a command of both his body and his emotions, which is the real actor's gift, rare and precious.
Cicely Gates as his wife and Elsa Lanchester as his daughter are both subtle psychologists and neat performers, and the rest of the cast, the ugly settings, and the directing, are entirely convincing.
Such talents are worthy of better material than sensationalism, entertaining though the result may be to many. It is better than Grand Hotel in a similar genre.
- Martin Edwards discusses Horatio Hornblower creator C. S. Forester's involvement with crime fiction HERE [warning: SPOILERS].
- The film version of the play, also starring Charles Laughton, is described HERE [warning: MORE SPOILERS], and a contemporary review of it [also with YOU KNOW WHATS] is HERE.

Category: Crime-themed plays

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