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now stand, the remedy may be found have taken over the management of the might flow from the adoption of such a when Congress gets ready to delegate biggest business enterprise in the world? measure, one has but to look at the recsome of its tax-assessing power to a The biggest business of the world might ord of the Federal Reserve Board—with commission with authority to act as and appoint a competent "general manager,” power-or the Inter-State Commerce when any particular item in the tariff so to speak, of its tariffs; a permanent, · Commission, or even at the Supreme needs revising, be it upward or down. non-partisan Tariff Board with powers- Court of the United States. Nobody has ward. When will politicians get it out not to be changed because of change in yet come forward who could honestly of their heads that the tariff needs revis- Administrations. If a conspicuous ex- say that any of these bodies of men were ion because a new set of executives ample is needed of the success that influenced by politics.
N the Wisconsin town of six thou
sand where I live the moving-picture
theater is like a hundred others that I know, from New York to the Ozark Mountains. From its arched white-and-gold entrance a flood of amber light streams across the pavement. The girl ticket-seller stands in a domed Oriental booth, chopping twenty-two cent admission tickets from a little machine. Tri-colored posters in violent drawing advertise the nightly change of bill. And, no matter what the evening's offering may be, into the theater and out of it surges the crowd. The whole town, all sorts of people, flock to the theater as an established habit.
Our townspeople form but part of the regular audience. Just before the first show in the evening, if you happen to be driving in the country, you may look in all directions and see lines of automobile lights speeding along the roads toward a common focus. They are heading for the movies. If it be Friday or Saturday night, the street outside the theater and the adjacent side streets will be parked thickly with the farmers' Fords. Not even the dances which are going on in at least two halls, so near that the jazz music carries plainly to the Majestic's ticket window, can keep the country boys and girls away from the show.
Last summer I revisited a mountain valley in southeast Missouri after an absence of four years. It is twelve miles to the county seat, and the trip over a boulder-strewn road in a mountain wagon jolts for two hours. When I lived there formerly, it took an annual Baptist Assembly or an unbearable toothache to bring the average woman : to the point of herding her flock of chil. dren into the wagon and accompanying
audience of equal significance. That was in the days of the Elizabethans in London. There was such an audience then, motley, enthusiastic, regularly attending. It packed the playhouses from the beginning of the history of the commercial theater, years before good plays were offered by the managers and before there was one talented professional playwright. The apparent enthusiasm of the Elizabethan crowd for cheap melodramas, low comedies, and plays with unclean dialogue and situation worried the literary critics and the social reformers of that time just as our mania for the movies worries many thoughtful people to-day. That sixteenth-century mob of English show-lovers, however, proved to have a force which called their own playwrights into being, and so created what is now referred to as the golden age of English drama. Even
faint chance that the American moving-picture audience may have a similar force seems to me to give meaning and excitement to a comparison.
In 1586 or 1587, when an unknown young man named Shakespeare came to London from his home village to see what the city had to offer him, the English theater, in any modern sense of the word, was only a few years older than the movies are at the present time. The first modern English comedy, "Ralph Roister Doister," written by a teacher for a school performance, had appeared in 1551. Since then London had been going theater-mad. Our first movingpicture shows were put on by the Edison Vitascope Company in 1896, since when we have been going movie-mad.
In the early days of the craze sisteenth-century Londoners crowded to inn yards, where the plays were given cheaply, very much as we in 1905 packed
TITLE-PAGE FROM CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE'S
her husband to town. Since the movies came to the mountains times have changed. Last summer I looked about the dusty hall where the pictures are shown. The people from my valley were there, and it was evident that they were accustomed theater-goers. Whether the movies are wholly responsible for this latter miracle I cannot say, but I do know that no mountain man is going to labor at road-building when the road leads only to markets and the dentist.
It is like this all over the United States. In the history of the English theater there has been but one other
neighborhood store buildings and airdromes, paying our nickel to sit on kitchen chairs before a stretched cotton sheet and watch the first flickering versions of the Bill Hart school of drama. By the time Shakespeare came to London Richard Burbage, the manager from whom he secured work as an actor, had built a playhouse, and rival managers had followed suit. For an infant industry the theatrical business was booming. It had its buildings, managers, companies of actors, and a considerable number of actor-playwrights who were willing to turn out cheap thrillers as fast as the managers would pay for them. Most important of all, it had the whole of London for an audience crowd. Everybody went to the theater except Queen Elizabeth and some Puritans, and the Queen had the companies act their plays for her at Court. You will remember that Mr. Wilson had frequent showings of the movies at the White House during his recent illness, when he could not go to a theater.
For thirty-five years after its start the English theater was just about as far committed to commercialism as is our moving-picture theater. And you will keep in mind, please, that the movies are only twenty-five years old.
The Elizabethan managers and their financial backers-noblemen who liked a good show themselves and found it more advantageous to help maintain a fairly good company playing in a public theater than to keep a private troupe of lower-grade actors-were out to make as much money and popularity as possible by entertaining the crowd. Murders and kidnappings, scenes in insane wards and houses of prostitution, exciting stories of high society, violent love making and raw comedy. were sure to do the trick. And so the managers and their rather ignorant staff of young ac
tors and play-carpenters naturally took presented, and at the performance made the easiest way. Just as ours do.
up speeches and action as they went Only a few of the plays produced in along. I have read that successful movthe commercial theater before 1587 were ing pictures are produced in as sponpublished. Fewer still are available to taneous a fashion, a director with a modern readers. Yet we can form some megaphone calling necessary informaidea of the stuff they were, both from tion about the plot to the players, who the plays which immediately followed quickly mold facial and bodily expres. them and from the criticism of literary sion to suit the story. men and social reformers of the period. None of this is calculated to satisfy Scenes set in Spain were popular wit!! a highbrow. The literary critics in young Elizabethans much as ranch Elizabeth's reign thought the theater scenes are with young Yankees, and for hopeless. Books and pamphlets were the same reason; that was a land where published to show that it was pandering one went, or dreamed of going, to get to the worst level of public taste. The adventure. Another type of play had a playwrights and actors were condemned rich Jew for a hero-villain: the Jews immature and ignorant. Roger represented big business to the sixteenth- Ascham, critic of repute who had been century imagination. The play-goer had tutor to Elizabeth, complained because a chance to see these captains of com- English playwrights were not following merce in their counting-rooms, handling Greek and Roman models. The only convincing-looking heaps of gold and English dramatist approved by Ascham rubies and talking importantly of argo- was one Mr. Watson, of Johns College, sies and customs duties. Another favor- Cambridge, who wrote a tragedy. "Abite character with the crowd was the salon," but was, so ashamed of using courtesan or, in a slightly modified anapests instead of iambics in a few makeup, the fashionable woman of light places that he would never permit the character.
drama to be produced and gave up tryNotorious murders of the day were in- ing to write for the theater. Even Sir mediately turned into sensational bal. Philip Sydney, so generous in his apprelads, printed, and sold on the streets; ciations, could foresee little from the these ballads were dramatized, yellow vulgar drama of his time and condemned details included, while the horror still the “naughty playmakers and stage. quivered in the mind of London. Recent keepers." events, especially the lives of popular The social reformers, among whom, contemporary heroes,
Sir strangely enough from our modern point Thomas More, were used as material for of view, can be counted the London City crude historical plays. Our method in Council, declared with cause that the the twentieth century in the movies is people of England, "specially youthes." to engage the defendants in criminal were being harmed morally by "inortrials and such National figures as Mr. dinant haunting of great multitudes to J. Dempsey to present their cases or plays." triumphs in person.
"Look but upon the common playes in Much of the dialogue, and even of the London." cried a Puritan preacher plot, in an early Elizabethan play was named Wilcocks in an anti-stage sermon impromptu. The actors had a general at Paul's Cross, London, in 1577. “See idea of the plot outline of the play to be the multitude that flocketh to them and
followeth them: behold the sumptuous theatre houses, a continual monument of London's prodigality and folly."
Another clergyman, John Stockwood, complained from the same pulpit, presumably to a small congregation, "Wyll not a fylthe play wyth the blast of a trumpette sooner call thither a thousande than an houres tolling of a Bell bring to the Sermon a hundred?"
Boys and girls picked up dangerous acquaintances at the theater, its opponents stated with truth. There were ugly stories around London of young girls, daughters of good citizens, who had fallen into bad company through their habit of play-going and after that had followed evil ways. Echoes from some of these reports even got into the proceedings of the City Council. Censorship was tightened; plays, players, and theater buildings all had to have licenses, and these could be revoked at the discretion of the city officials. Players giving "naughty playes" were arrested. By city ordinance all performances had to be given by day, so the audience could reach home before sunset. The theaters were always closed in time of epidemic.
At such times as the doors were open, however, the people poured in. They were easily pleased and not at all delicate in matters of taste. They preferred jokes and sex appeal unexpurgated. Yet at bottom, with regard to things which they felt to be essential, they were effectively critical. Art they did not consider an essential, for the good reason that they knew nothing whatever about it. What they held out for was an ethical point: that their drama should make a clear distinction between the basic elements of right and wrong as seen by Englishmen. At a time when Italian and French fiction writers of the
THE GLOBE THEATER
Renaissance were glorifying trickery and sensual cruelty English writers and audiences, even in plays which seem to us coarse and violent to the point of madness, were giving their admiration to kindness, faithfulness, and independence.
Such an audience creates a demand which creates playwrights. Within five years from the time Shakespeare came to London, forty years from the start of the modern English commercial theater, that demand had created Christopher
Marlowe, Robert Greene, Thomas Kyd, and George Peele. Five years more, and it had created Shakespeare.
At that rate of time progress, probably the swiftest that the dramatic world has ever seen, the movies would have until 1936 to produce their first scenario writers of significance and until 1941 to launch a fully representative genius.
Whether we shall have a golden age in the movies depends, I believe, upon the existence of certain character elements in the American audience. It does not depend upon any feeling or lack of feeling which we may have shown in the past for other forms of art. We have the necessary initial passion for this one dramatic form. It happens to delight us as a Nation, and such popular delight is like the sun-without its warmth no drama can grow ripe and golden. In addition to the sun, theatrical art, like other growing things, requires soil. In the case of the movies, the elements of the soil are those which make up the essential character of our National audience.
What qualities will be developed in American scenario writers by our enthusiasm or checked by popular disapproval? Have we a strain of sentimentality which will prevent us from growing truthful playwrights? What about our present insistence upon a "happy ending"? Have we sturdiness with which to resist attempts at handing out economic or political propaganda, sugarcoated with drama?
It is too early for the productive force of the American audience to be determined, but upon it depends the future of the movies as well as its influence upon our own and coming generations.
HALF A DOZEN NOVELS
Dell is only occasionally and halfheartedly aware that his puppets are comic and not tragic, Miss Macaulay is slyly and quietly humorous to the finger tips. Her charming Gerda, like Mr. Dell's Rose-Ann, has the hectic flush of modernity. She simply can't think of marrying the man she loves, for "it isn't done, you know," by nice peoplenice not meaning respectable, you know, but the brilliant chaps and girls who are in the intellectual swim. Here is one bit of the author's irony:
Ten days later Gerda said to Barry, "I've been thinking it over again, Barry, and I've decided that perhaps it will be all right for us to get married after all."
Barry took both her hands and kissed each in turn, to show that he was not triumphing but adoring.
"You mean it? You feel you can really do it without violating your conscience? Sure, darling?"
"Yes, I think I'm sure. Lots of sensible, good people have done it lately.".
"Oh, any number, of course if that's any reason.”
"Not, not those people. My sort of people, I mean. People who believe what I do, and wouldn't tie themselves up and lose their liberty for anything." "I agree with Lenine.
He says liberty is a bourgeois dream."
R. POOLE'S “Beggar's Gold” i is
in point of literary quality and MM human interest on a par with his best work. It is simpler in its lines than his more elaborate novels -that is, there are fewer characters and less divergence to the study of momentous questions. The title is explained by the little parable of the beggar who was sitting on a bag of supposed trash that turned out to be gold. It is expressed in the story of the life of a young married pair who thwarted in their thirst for adventure in the Far East, but find as that dream recedes the true gold of work, love, and deep interest in what is near them. Yet at the very end events lead them to fare forth with their daughter to China to help—so they hope, at least-build a great nation. Possibly some readers may misinterpret two episodes in the husband's life—one when he, a New York City teacher, is interested in Socialism; the other when, after the armistice, he urges the right of liberty of speech, and loses his position therefor. But he is not at all a Bolshevist nor a pro-German. The author is not writing propaganda, but describing the man's development and intellectual biography.
The matrimonial ventures of Felix Fay of Mr. Floyd Dell's "Moon Calf" are related in "The Briary Bush.”
."': The title might not unfitly indicate that matrimony is the bramble-bush of our Mother Goose memories, into and out of which an infantile hero whose name escapes me jumped. That is not actually Mr. Dell's allusion, which is decidedly more "literary.” Moreover, Felix, now less impetuous but quite as calfish, and Rose-Ann, his charming but uneasy bride, do not exactly jump out but feel that to be really modern and free they ought to jump over or break through or something, to show how very, very free and modern they are. Felix does misbehave himself in a joyless way. As a matter of fact, the young people love one another sincerely and might perfectly well make a devoted couple, each free to carry out art and social theories ad libitum. The trouble is that they are haunted with the feeling that it was hardly respectable for them to have been married, for Nietzsche and Greenwich Village and the sex-analysis modernists urged them to a better life.
Essentially this is humorous; but the young idiots themselves, with the connivance of the author, are so solemnly portentous about the egotistic involutions of Felix's desire to be above any human shackles, to bathe in beauty and revel in liberty, that the reader has to smile quietly and cautiously. Oh, Lib
erty, Liberty, Madame Roland might have said, how much drivel is talked in thy name! "Can't we stop talking about it?" Felix plaintively asks. They can't, and they don't.
Thanks be; one character, Rose-Ann's father, has an ironic sense of humor and sees the thing straight. He is worth all the rest of the novel's people put together, unless we except one motherly old woman who has no briary nonsense about her. There are in the book some capital descriptions or side glimpses of Chicago life in studio, social settlement, drama league, and newspaper work. The story is not at all boresome even if it does irritate one's nerve of reasonableness.
The exact difference between Mr. Dell's story and Miss Rose Macaulay's “Dangerous Ages": is that, while Mr.
There are other women of "dangerous ages"—the intimation is that every age but serene old age is a dangerous age for a woman. Their respective plights are drawn more seriously than Gerda's; as one reviewer has said, the author "mocks at their deadly seriousness but as she mocks she marches along shoulder to shoulder.” It would be superfluous to ask Miss Macaulay for a wellbuilt plot or centralized situation. As with her "Potterism," one is more than content to enjoy the give and take of her clever dialogue and to savor her indulgently satirical comment. The chapter in which one of the uneasy and disturbed ladies of this family undertakes a course of psycho-analysis is enough to make the most owlish devotee of Freudism laugh and grow sensible.
In the creator of Tom Glenwood,“ of an old-time shipping town of Maine called Shipbay, we have a new American fiction writer who has a generous share of the humor that makes one chuckle rather than roar. He has made a live, hearty, unheroic “hero”—one precisely described in the publishers' note in the words "buoyant, honest, dynamic, tolerant; impulsive, loquacious.” The novel is deliberately leisurely; it diverges here and there and everywhere to tell us a little about people who have not much to do with the story, but always in a clever and amusing way; it is made up of episodes
Beggar's Gold. By Ernest Poole. The Macmillan Company, New York. $2.
? The Briary Bush. By Floyd Dell. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. $2,50.
3 Dangerous Ages. By Rose Macaulay. & Liveright, New York. $2.
4 Glenwood of Shipbay. By John H. Walsh. The Macmillan Company, New York. $2.