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    Many people today know or knew someone who lived through the Great Depression during the 1930s, perhaps a parent or grandparent, still alive or deceased, and can't imagine how they survived it. Those of us in our 60s can perhaps imagine it better than the youth of today who are inundated with technology that gives them this feeling of being invincible, that technology can somehow save us from all ills.
    And yet now, what is coming at us like a freight train is like the Great Depression on steroids, a dystopia brought on by toxic technology and those who have lost all touch with nature and the world. I personally can understand the Depression era, and it would be a good thing if something similar was about to hit, but there is no return from the dystopia to which we are heading.
    This collection of five plays is edited by Harold Clurman, a founder of the Group Theatre, 1931-1941. He supplies some useful information in his brief Introduction about the era and the plays he included and also other plays typical of the time, along with socio-political commentary. His opening sentence states: There is a tendency nowadays to downgrade the thirties;" (the book was first published in 1968). He explains attitudes toward works that are in the near past, and how that changes the more time passes. He also says a bit about the playwrights, including others he did not include. What is amazing is that even with the terrible poverty endured, theatre and the arts were still able to survive and even thrive. Hmm. Now people mindlessly stick their heads in their cell phones and mistake it for entertainment.
    And last, he says that the plays included here are not necessarily the best of the thirties, but are all representative. He has chosen plays which express the era from different perspectives, and not all poverty. Yet several themes keep reappearing, such as loneliness, radicalism, determination, and doing what one must do to survive. And the gaps are accentuated—between the youth and adults, the rich and poor, and those who believe there is something better that can come out of it all, rather than those who put up with what they've got and accept it. He also says "The theatre of the thirties attempted to make the stage an instrument of public enlightenment through a passionate involvement with the national scene." Here are the last two paragraphs of his Introduction. And remember, this book was published in 1968. I think it applies to just about everything now.

   An intelligent and successful Broadway producer recently said to me, "The theatre at present is twenty times more "commercial" than it was in the thirties. For one thing, you could reach the hearts and souls of actors, playwrights, designers, etc., with good sense and considerations of sound craftsmanship. Today these people, whatever their personal dispositions, appear encircled by an iron ring forged by agents who protect their clients from all thought beyond income, percentages and publicity."
   The lean days and hungry nights of the thirties were a brave time. Aren't we a little torpid now?

    Hmm. Just wait. The thirties will begin to look good to what's coming for us here in 2022.
    Since there are only five plays, I will say a bit about each one. Actually quite a bit.
Awake and Sing! by Clifford Odets, 1935
    Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Isaiah 26:19.
     Clifford Odets was born in Philadelphia in 1906 of Russian and Romanian Jewish immigrants, and died in Los Angeles in 1963. Awake and Sing! was initially produced by the Group Theatre, directed by Clurman opening on February 19, 1935, on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre, according to Wikipedia. It was set in The Bronx, New York City, in 1933, and the cast is an impoverished Jewish family, the Bergers, and their extended "family" of boarders. Of Odets and the play, Clurman says in the Introduction:

   Of the plays included one had to be the work of Clifford Odets. Historically speaking he is the dramatist of the thirties par excellence. His immediate sources of inspiration, his point of view, his language, his import and perhaps some of his weaknesses are typical of the thirties.
   I am not at all sure that Awake and Sing!, first presented by the Group Theatre on February 19, 1935, is the best of Odets' plays. The 1937 Golden Boy has a more striking story line and is more varied and personal in its meaning. But Awake and Sing! contains the "seed" themes of the Odets plays and indicates most unaffectedly the milieu and the quality of feeling in which his work is rooted. One might even go so far as to say that there is hardly another play of the thirties—except perhaps John Howard Lawson's Success Story (1932)—which so directly communicates the very "smell" of New York in the first years of the depression.

    I want to bring your attention to an excellent video I found on this play, explained by the Assistant Director and Prop Master, and the Assistant Studio Manager of that production in 2014. Not only does it include the set that was used, which, by seeing it, we understand the living conditions of these people, which I believe could be described as "packed in like sardines." They speak of the sense of entrapment experienced by them and many people now, also. But even better, as the two ladies are enlightening us, film footage of the actual conditions taken in the thirties, is being run, and upon seeing it, I immediately understood the frustrations of the characters. Please watch it here. At the end, there is a short scene from the end of the play. Having said all that, now I will share my thoughts.
    First, I liked it. In fact, for days after I finished it and went on to the next play in the book, I would find myself back at the Berger apartment. Yes, I got caught up with the characters, and that is an important criteria which I use to decide whether I liked it or not. And I certainly disliked most of the characters, but others I liked very much. One other point, before I go on, is that the language—was it thirties slang? Bronx slang? Jewish slang? Gosh, I don't know, but I found myself perplexed as to what certain expressions meant. And there is a lot to ponder here—layers of emotions and issues and perspectives and people trying to just stay alive, not able to agree as to the best way to do it.
    The Berger family consists of Bessie and Myron and their children Ralph, age 21 and Hennie, 26. Bessie is overly emotional, demanding, overbearing and probably has been responsible, too, of holding the family together. Myron is not much of anything. Ralph is truly likeable. He laments he has to sleep in the kitchen and cannot even have a room of his own. He works but makes almost nothing and what he does earn goes mostly for the family support. Hennie is quick to reply with smart-ass answers, much like her mother, and seems hard-hearted compared with her brother. Jacob, Bessie's father also lives with them, and along with Ralph is the most likeable. He is honest and wise, and often quietly observes the rest of family in their struggles. Bessie treats him like crap. Then there is Sam, a foreigner boarding with them, and Moe, a military veteran who lost a leg in the war. He is cynical and bitter. Uncle Morty, Bessie's brother, is a wealthy businessman who comes to dine with the family, and does little to nothing to help them, when he certainly could and should. He laughs about everything and is totally removed from the suffering going on in the household. There is also the German janitor, Schlosser.
    There is little harmony in the family. The children, especially Ralph, believe there is a way to happiness and success, but feel trapped by their situation and even more by the mother who rules their lives. The first act ends with Hennie giving up a dress and using the money to take her parents to a show, but getting sick along the way. She is pregnant.
    The second act begins a year later. Hennie has basically been forced to marry the foreigner, Sam, whom she does not like. We really don't know, or at least I didn't figure it out for sure, whose baby it is, but it is not Sam's and probably not Moe's. In any case, she does not love Sam and is terribly unhappy. Meanwhile, Ralph has fallen in love with an orphan—Blanche—which he has kept secret, but eventually his mother finds out because she is nosy. Their meeting was apparently disastrous, though it is not part of the act, and Bessie hangs up on her when she calls. Eventually, she is removed from the institution where she lives, and Ralph is unable to help her because he is dealing with a family crisis, which I will let you discover when you read the play.
    It is certainly not a fun work to read, in fact it is downright disturbing, which is partly what it was meant to be. But there is also a ray of hope that hovers around the characters, especially Ralph and Hennie, that expression of human perseverance and determination to not only survive, but to thrive.
End of Summer by S.N. Behrman, 1936
    Well, I didn't like this one near as much as the first. It is a comedy, but I didn't laugh. However, I must say that I probably would have roared if I saw it on stage, particularly if the exactly perfect actress played Leonie, an absurd, ridiculous and totally flaky woman. And I am not sure why I didn't like this play either. Maybe it's because I couldn't relate to the characters, or perhaps I related to them too much. And I am still not sure what was the point of the play to begin with. I found little about it online, and one short review seemed to have the same questions as I.
    The collection of plays represents five different aspects of the 1930s, and while the first one depicts dire poverty, this one is about wealth during a time when much of the country was in desperate need, and the two states of being are juxtaposed, as are the difference between generations, which is also a theme in the first play.
    Samuel Nathaniel Behrman was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1893, and died in NYC in 1973. Wikipedia says, "From the late 1920s through the 1940s, S. N. Behrman was considered one of Broadway's leading authors of 'high comedy,' was often produced by the famous Theatre Guild, and wrote for such stars as Ina Claire, Katharine Cornell, Jane Cowl, and the acting team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who became his good friends. One journalist remembered him from this period as "slim, dark-eyed, curly-haired . . . with the brooding melancholy of a young Jewish intellectual." Theater critic and historian Brooks Atkinson described Behrman as 'one of the Guild's most adored authors.'"
    And about this play in particular, they say, "Berhman's comedies repeatedly celebrate tolerance, yet show how tolerant people in their generosity are often vulnerable when confronted by fanatics or ruthless opportunists. In End of Summer, a liberal household is threatened by a devious psychoanalyst who is able to play upon the family's weaknesses in his desire for wealth and power. Behrman's protagonists often feel inadequate to deal with the evils and injustices in the world."
    The play takes place at the Frothingham estate in Northern Maine, although NYC is implied. Leonie Frothingham lives there with her daughter Paula, and her elderly mother, Mrs. Wyler, plus an endless array of people who come and go because Leonie cannot bear to be alone. The estate is hers. She is still married, at least for the first part of the play, and while she and her husband Sam are friends, they have not been together for years.
    Paula, in her late teens, is in love with Will Dexter, who is staying at the estate for the summer. Leonie, in her forties looks like a teenager (and behaves even worse!). Will is an activist for the poor, the unemployed, the downtrodden—and along with his Irish friend, Dennis McCarthy, they plan to start a magazine, which he describes as "a forum for intercollegiate thought" and "the organ of critical youth." He chats with Mrs. Wyler as she tells him of her youth.
    One of the themes running through the play is that Will, though quiet and serious, is also very stubborn, and wants to practice what he preaches. Though Paula is enthusiastic about joining him in his life of struggle and purpose, the main element keeping them from marrying is her money. Though she is willing to live a life of poverty and work for a living, the point is, she is still a wealthy girl, who will become wealthier at her grandmother's death. It makes no difference to her, but Will is afraid that life would be too easy for him if he knew there was always money available, and that would make his whole life purpose one of hypocrisy. OK, so THAT is an element in which I TOTALLY can relate—that need to be independent and succeed on your own, with or without money, and also to walk your talk.
    Leonie, has no purpose whatsoever, though she is generous and wants to be helpful, useful and most of all loved. She fills the house with men. Currently, there is a Russian—Count Mirsky—Boris—who is supposedly writing a book about his father. He, too is not wealthy, despite his aristocratic background. Though Boris believes he and Leonie will be married one day, she has now brought in another man—Dr. Kenneth Rice—who is a psychoanalyst—for the purpose of "helping" Boris. However, she falls in love with him instead, but he falls in love with—Paula! But he is such a phony and has so many ulterior motives, we are really not sure about him at all.
    Paula doesn't like him in the least, and, unlike her mother, knows there is something very crooked about him. She is determined to find out what it is. And add to that, he "psychoanalyzes" everyone, much to their annoyance, except for Leonie. He and Boris become competitors for Leonie (yes, I realize I just said Kenneth was in love with Paula, but . . .). and he states, in front of Leonie and Boris that Boris isn't writing a book at all, then goes on to name Boris's psychological "problems" such as the fact that he really hated his father. Soon Leonie is bored with him and throws him out. Then Kenneth declares his love for Paula, and she pretends he has a chance, if he declares it in front of her mother, which he does.
    Paula's scheme has worked, so that now Leonie can see what a fraudulent scoundrel he really is. He is thrown out, too. Meanwhile Will and Dennis come and go, both college graduates unable to find a job. Dennis's dialogue is always witty and flippant, and he brags about how many rejections he has gotten. Sam Frothingham by this time has divorced Leonie, and Mrs. Wyler has died. Though Paula has asked Will to marry him, he now refuses until he can earn a living on his own. He is ready to return to NYC, and though Leonie has kept Paula next to her because of her needs, she now urges her to follow Will, whether or not they marry, to be his shoulder to lean on.
    And oh, I almost forgot—the other goal of Will, Dennis and all those others supposedly in their little group whom we never meet—is to change the world so that the lifestyle of the Frothinghams will not be able to exist. Wow, wouldn't THAT be great?!
    Here is the only good review of the play I was able to find. "End of Summer" By S.N. Behrman (Looking Up at Down readings February 25-28), From the University of Washington, Seattle.
Idiot's Delight by Robert E. Sherwood, 1935-36
    Now this one I really liked, and I like it even more since I watched the film that was made of it a few years later, starring Clark Gable as Harry and Norma Shearer as Irene. Burgess Meredith—oh my goodness, a very young and cute Burgess Meredith, also had a small but important role.
    Incidentally, I have a special place in my heart for Clark Gable. He was born just a few counties south of me in Eastern Ohio, then in 1917, MOVED TO MY LITTLE TOWNSHIP!! In fact, it appears he lived just around the corner from me, but I am doing more research.
    This one is definitely a comedy (and romance) and did make me laugh, and the movie was even funnier. It pretty much followed the play, in fact, I said a couple lines along with them. One difference is that the play is set in the Hotel Monte Gabriele in the Italian Alps in what formerly had been Austria. Both Harry and Irene are Americans who had fallen in love years earlier, then meet again at the hotel. In the play, they reminisce, but the movie begins in the past, then jumps forward twenty years.
    The book calls it a tragi-comedy, and indeed it is because it foretells the outbreak of WWII, but here it begins by Italy bombing Paris. Of course, WWII actually began with Germany invading Poland, although there were other factors involved. The movie provides an alternate ending, but the first ending follows the play. The play leaves us dangling as to whether Harry and Irene are killed by bombs as they sing Onward Christian Soldiers, but in the movie, the bombing stops and they are still alive.
    And while both the play and movie are great, and the movie is particularly entertaining, the bombing at the end absolutely will grip your heart. You want to scream out, PEOPLE, HEY, WE CANNOT HAVE ANOTHER WAR. Anywhere, everywhere, wars must stop. We here in the U.S. have been fortunate to not have to live with air raids, but if our psycho leaders are not contained, our luck will surely run out. Here is the link to the IMDb, and here's the movie, free of course. Incidentally, this was Gable's only musical performance on film. He dances with his six "Les Blondes," to the song, Puttin' on the Ritz, and WOW!! Very impressive. OK, well he's not Fred Astaire, but . . . . He's just so cute in this movie, like when he is dancing with one of his Blondes and he wiggles his butt in front of Irene, who won't admit she is the same woman he fell in love with twenty years ago.
    And by the way, what does "Idiot's Delight" mean? It's another name for the game of solitaire! And it is only mentioned once, when Irene, as the Russian impostor, says that God must be lonely up there with nothing to do. "Poor, dear God. Playing Idiots Delight. The game that never means anything and never ends." Of course, there is obviously double meaning here—the title also referring to those who revel in starting wars (that mean nothing and never end). Later on, after it is clear there will be another war, Harry remarks that we should elect a new God—himself, for instance.
    And her! Norma Shearer is fantabulous in her role as the Russian. That accent! And the way she rolls her rrrrrrrrrs. OH!
    Here is my brief synopsis of the play. I have to make one strong point, first and that is, that this play written 87 years ago, as the world had just ended one war and was about to begin another, sounds frighteningly familiar in much of the dialogue and circumstances. It is said that we should learn from history because history repeats itself, but that little point has gone unnoticed by those that have put themselves in control. When will we awaken and put them OUT of control? At what point will it be too late?
    There is a detailed description of the stage, including the scenery—the Alps, where four countries can be seen at once. Dumpsty is the forty-year-old bell-boy, who laments through the whole play that he was Austrian, but now his land is no longer in Austria but is part of the Italian Fascist state, so he is a foreigner in his own home. Don Navadel is an American who has been recruited as a director of sports and social activities. The hotel is owned by Pittaluga, and there are various other hotel employees, including a small orchestra. The place is dead. But soon, amazingly, people begin to arrive. The border has been closed, so everyone intending to get to Geneva is detained. Air raid sirens are heard, and the Captain says they are only being tested.
    A young couple from England—newlyweds—Mr. and Mrs. Cherry arrive, followed by a an "elderly, stout, crotchety sad German," Dr. Waldersee. He is a research scientist who believes he has found the cure for cancer, and desperately needs to get to the University of Zurich with his 28 rats, where he will be given complete access to the library there.
    He asks the Captain about the planes, and the Captain says they must be prepared for the enemy. The doctor asks who is the enemy. Captain Locicero replies, "I don't quite know, yet. The map of Europe supplies us with a wide choice of opponents. I suppose, in due time, our government will announce its selection—and we shall know just whom we are to shoot at."
    The doctor says, "Nonsense! Obscene Nonsense!" and the Captain replies that the taste for obscenity is incurable. The doctor points out that he is German and not a foe, but it does no good. He cannot cross the border. More guests arrive. It is Harry and his six "Les Blondes." We meet Quillery (played by Burgess Meredith in the movie). He has no country, but if he could return to France and raise French pigs like his father, he would be French. He is a pacifist and an activist. He won't keep his mouth shut about what is evil in the world. He wants to leave Italy so he can work to stop the war. He wants change instead—a revolution. Just then a loud and aggressive Major walks in, and Harry asks Quillery what can be done about people like that. His answer?

   Expose them! That's all we have to do. Expose them—for what they are—atavistic children! Occupying their undeveloped minds playing with outmoded toys.

    Yes, we have that same problem now, but the toys have become so much more dangerous. Harry replies that he is in favor or anything that will make people wake up and get themselves some convictions! Yes, again!!
    Harry and the doctor chat. The doctor says that Germany is not good for research right now.

   They are infected with the same virus as here. Chauvinistic nationalism! They expect all bacteriologists to work on germs to put in bombs to drop from airplanes. To fill people with death! When we've given our lives to save people. Oh—God in heaven—why don't they let me do what is good? Good for the whole world?

    Hmm. Give them Covid "vaccines"?? Anyways, a couple arrives—a gorgeous blonde Russian and a man—Achille Weber. The woman's name is Irene, pronounced "Ear-Ray-Na." Harry stares—he thinks he knows her . . . . I will skip ahead to the rant by Quillery about Weber. There are rumors that Italy has bombed France.

   You don't know who he is, eh? Or what he has been doing here in Italy? I'll tell you. He has been organizing the arms industry. Munitions. To kill French babies. And English babies. France and Italy are at war. England joins France. Germany joins Italy. And that will drag in the Soviet Union and the Japanese Empire and the United States. In every part of the world, the good desire for peace and decency is undermined by the dynamite of jingoism. And it needs only one spark, set off anywhere by one egomaniac, to send it all up in one final fatal explosion. Then love becomes hatred, courage become terror, hope becomes despair.

    Well, yes, again. Quite familiar.
    In order to calm things down, Harry offers his girls for free entertainment and promises nothing vulgar, saying they'll "omit the bubble dance and the number in which little Bebe does a shimmy in a costume composed of detachable gardenias, unless there's a special request for it."
    So what the hell is a bubble dance? Here is a gorgeous video by Burlesque dancer Sally Rand. Wow—beautiful!! The music is obviously not from the 1930s. I wonder what the original was.
    All through the time Irene enters, she seems very flippant about war, almost awaiting the excitement, and certainly supportive of Weber. However, toward the end, she gives him a speech when they are alone in their suite. When I read it, I didn't understand she was insulting him, but the movie made it clear, and she pays for it the next day when the border opens and she is not allowed to pass. Here is part of the speech, referring to the Cherrys—the English Newlyweds—and their possible fate.

   That young English couple, for instance. I was watching them during dinner, sitting there, close together, holding hands, and rubbing their knees together under the table. And I saw him in his nice, smart, British uniform, shooting a little pistol at a huge tank. And the tank rolls over him. And his fine strong body, that was so full of the capacity for ecstasy, is a mass of mashed flesh and bones—a smear of purple blood—like a stepped-on snail. But before the moment of death, he consoles himself by thinking, "Thank God she is safe!" She is bearing the child I gave her and he will live to see a better world.
   But I know where she is. She is lying in a cellar that has been wrecked by an air raid, and her firm young breasts are all mixed up with the bowels of a dismembered policeman, and the embryo from her womb is splattered against the face of a dead bishop. That is the kind of thought I use to amuse myself, Achille. And it makes me so proud to think that I am so close to you—who make all this possible.

    I had more quotes marked, but this is probably enough. Here is the Wikipedia page for the play, and here is Faded Page in Canada, where you can download a copy of the play for free in various formats.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, 1937
    I knew I would not like this one because I read the book and it was just terrible. No, it is really a well-written book, and so is the play adaptation, so I am not criticizing it as literature, but the story is so sad, so pathetic. I read a very wide variety of books, but there are some that I just cannot deal with psychologically, and this is one of them.
    Of all the playwrights represented here, Steinbeck's name is probably the most well-known, not for plays but novels, and this novel is certainly famous. The play adaptation is not much different than the novel. Here is the Wikipedia page for the novel, (or novella, because it is quite short). The title comes from the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns' poem, To a Mouse, whence comes the well-known saying, "The best-laid schemes of mice and men Go oft awry". It certainly applies to this story.
    I will make this review brief. It begins in Soledad, California, where George and Lennie are traveling to get a job as itinerant farm workers during the Great Depression. George takes care of Lennie who is "mentally disabled," as described in Wikipedia but I think "developmentally challenged" is the current politically-correct term. He is huge and strong, and only dangerous because he accidentally kills animals by crushing them because he does not understand his own strength, and when he is afraid he clutches whatever he is touching. The two men are fleeing Weed, in Northern California because Lennie touched a woman's dress since he likes to touch anything soft, and when she screamed, he held on tighter. He is really quite pathetic—innocent as a child, and just wants to do good, but he can't remember anything, and has been a burden on George. George promised Lennie's aunt he would take care of him, but because of him they can't hold a job.
    Lennie likes George to tell him stories, and his favorite is when they get a farm of their own and live off the "fat of the land." George has promised they will have rabbits and Lennie will take care of them, but he kills every animal he touches. As they walk, he has a dead mouse in his pocket and he is stroking it. He tells George he found it dead, and George throws it away, but he retrieves it.
    The bus driver said their destination was close by when he dropped them off, but in fact they ended up having to walk ten miles, so they didn't reach the ranch until the next day. But it is okay, and everyone one treats them well except the boss's son, Curley. He has just gotten married and his wife (the other men believe) is nothing but a whore. She won't stay away from them, then Curley wants to fight, even though the other men tell her to get lost. She says she is just lonely because there are no other women to talk to.
    Neither George or Lennie really like the place, but they are determined to stay and save up money. Lennie is a good worker, once he knows what to do because he is so strong. There is an old man there—Candy—who is missing his right hand. He has a very old sheepdog whom he loves, that is blind and he has to feed, and smells bad. One of the other men finally shoots it. Candy has money, and asks George if he can join him and Lennie when they get their farm. With all their money pooled, they will soon have enough to leave. Candy is so distraught over the death of his dog, and says he can do dishes or whatever they need. It is agreed.
    One of the worker's dogs just had pups, so Lennie is promised one, but he won't leave them alone. Even though he is told to stay away from them, when the other men go into town, Lennie is with his puppy. He kills it, then Curley's wife comes in. She has no business being there, and sits down in the hay with him. She is close to him and tells him he can touch her soft hair, but then he doesn't know how to let go. He snaps her neck. George returns from town, as he wasn't interested in the whorehouse. He tells Lennie to go hide in a certain place and he would join him. But Curley finds out his wife is dead, and knows who did it. He calls for a search. George knows where Lennie is, and kills him mercifully.
    Isn't that a horrible story? The death of all those animals is what makes me dislike it so much.
The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan, 1939
    And so we arrive at the final play in the collection, and it is a toss-up as to which is my favorite, between this and Idiot's Delight. And, as with that one, a full-length movie was made that followed the script perhaps even more closely, because I found myself saying even more lines along with them. How could I remember these lines, having only read the plays once? HA! They are memorable!! In this case, more time elapsed between the play and the movie—which was made in 1948, and starred the great James Cagney as Joe, plus his sister Jeanne as Kitty, and it was produced by their brother William. Even though the play and the movie are quite the same, there were a few changes that were obvious. Ten years later, a TV film was made, which starred Jackie Gleason, and I have not seen that one. James Barton, who played Kit Carson in the movie also played that role in the TV film, and his was one of the most hilarious roles. Internationally known tap dancer Paul Draper, played Harry, who wants to be a comedian, but isn't funny, but WOW can he dance. In fact, he was still dancing into his seventies. Amazingly, he speaks well, too, though he had a problem with stuttering since age four. He was accompanied by the starving "colored" boy, played by the renowned actor/pianist Reginald Beane, who came to Nick asking for a job as an errand boy or dish washer, and ends up as the entertainment. The movie is truly an all-star cast, and despite its age is really worth viewing. Here are some links, before I tell you more about the play. Internet Archive supplies both the movie and the script to the play for free. You can watch the movie here, and the play from the book I am reviewing here. It does not contain the other plays. I recommend downloading the PDF version, which can be read on a Kindle app., because sometimes their digital conversions are really a mess. Here is the IMDb for the movie, and last, here is the Wikipedia page, which has links to both the movie and the TV film.
    Called a "sentimental comedy" by Harold Clurman in the Introduction, it is also a romance and a laugh-out-loud comedy too, in both the play and the movie. Here is the opening paragraph that appears before the cast listing.

   In the time of your life, live—so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart. Be the inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle, but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret. In the time of your life, live—so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.

    Sounds kinda spiritual, eh? Well, in a way it is, and I must comment that even though the movie follows the play very closely, I got a totally different impression from it. As I read the play, it was dreamy—almost like a stream of consciousness experience, where people seemingly disconnected entered and exited Nick's Pacific Street Saloon, Restaurant and Entertainment Palace at the foot of the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Actually it is a dive in a dumpy part of town which seems to attract misfits.
    In the movie, however, the dreaminess disappeared, and people didn't seem as disconnected, because they made up a whole, unified by Joe and Nick. The dialogue and action didn't change, but seeing it was different than reading it. And parts of the play that made me laugh out loud were different than the ones in the movie. As I mentioned above, "Kit Carson" the old man filled with bullshit, was hysterical, but what really made me burst out laughing was the chewing gum contest, where Joe (Cagney) and Tom, (Wayne Morris) tried to see who could stuff the most sticks of chewing gum into their mouths. Grown men.
    But, ultimately, what is the play about? It is about the innate goodness of people, and helping people to achieve their goodness and purpose. Joe and Nick are the key players. Joe just sits there observing. His description is this:

   Joe: always calm, always quiet, always thinking, always eager, always bored, always superior. His expensive clothes are casually and youthfully worn and give him an almost boyish appearance. He is thinking.

    As we get to know Joe better, he is much more. He is kind and generous, and curious about everything. He has this almost metaphysical presence yet childlike inquisitiveness. He knows what horse will win, even though Nick is the one who follows the races. He always has money—lots of it, but no one knows where it comes from. Where does he come from? He spends his day sitting at Nick's, and yet, he is the glue that holds things together, and the one that steers people in the right direction. He knows things. He makes things happen.
    Tom is his go-fer, whom he expects to always be there to wait on him. At the moment Tom is not there, and he is insulted. When Tom shows up a few minutes later, he makes him recite how Joe saved his life. He wanted a watermelon, but forgot, and instead, sends Tom to buy toys, because he wants to set them on the table and examine them. He tells him to put money in the juke box, always the same song, which Tom hates, so he makes him sit there and listen. It is Missouri Waltz, but that's not what is played in the movie. Just then, Kitty walks in. Tom is awestruck and it is love at first sight. Joe sends him away. Kitty is sad, and orders a beer. Joe invites her to the table and serves her champagne. Joe asks her about herself, and she says she is Kitty Duval, a former burlesque dancer, which is a lie because she is really a prostitute. Nick insults her by calling her a two-dollar whore and she insults him by calling him a dentist. HAHA!! She dreams of her childhood family farm out in Ohio. They lost it during the Depression and moved to Chicago where things were even worse.
    I want to mention here that most of the characters get a detailed descriptive paragraph, which in themselves are often amusing. I was going to include them here, but you can read them at the Internet Archive link above, even without downloading the book. I am pasting the quotes from there.
    Meanwhile, others come to the saloon. There's Dudley, who keeps trying to reach Elsie, but can't get the phone number right. He gets Lorene instead, after he has confessed that he will kill himself. Lorene, who is an older frumpy lady, says she will come herself. Meanwhile Harry arrives, looking for work as a comedian, but he isn't funny, so he starts to dance. Wesley the starving "colored" boy comes in next, and explains he isn't hungry and doesn't want charity, he just wants a job; but he really is starving and passes out, so Nick gets him food. Then he starts playing the piano, and Harry tap dances, so Nick hires them both for entertainment. Nick is a good and caring guy, too, and helps people when he can. Tom has returned with the toys and is dancing with Kitty. They are obviously in love. And oh, I almost forgot the other person—the Arab—that just sits doing nothing, but paying attention to what others do and say. Occasionally, he'll investigate, but his comment is always the same. "No foundation. All the way down the line." And what does he mean? Hell if anybody knows. It's just one of those funny quirks of the play! And there is yet another person who is present through most of the play. It is Willie the marble-game maniac, who sets his mind to beating the machine.
    Lorene has spruced herself up and hurries into the saloon to meet Dudley, who lies about his identity when he sees she is old and ugly (at least to him). Then comes another descriptive paragraph.

   The atmosphere is now one of warm, natural, American ease; every man innocent and good; each doing what he believes he should do, or what he must do. There is deep American naïveté and faith in the behavior of each person. No one is competing with anyone else. No one hates anyone else. Every man is living, and letting live. Each man is following his destiny as he feels it should be followed; or is abandoning it as he feels it must, by now, be abandoned; or is forgetting it for the moment as he feels he should forget it. Although everyone is dead serious, there is unmistakable smiling and humor in the scene; a sense of the human body and spirit emerging from the world-imposed state of stress and fretfulness, fear and awkwardness, to the more natural state of casualness and grace. Each person belongs to the environment, in his own person, as himself: Wesley is playing better than ever. Harry is hoofing better than ever. Nick is behind the bar shining glasses. Joe is smiling at the toy and studying it. Dudley, although still troubled, is at least calm now and full of melancholy poise. Willie, at the marble game, is happy. The Arab is deep in his memories, where he wants to be. Into this scene and atmosphere comes Blick. Blick is the sort of human being you dislike at sight. He is no different from anybody else physically. His face is an ordinary face. There is nothing obviously wrong with him, and yet you know that it is impossible, even by the most generous expansion of understanding, to accept him as a human being. He is the strong man without strength—strong only among the weak—the weakling who uses force on the weaker. Blick enters casually, as if he were a customer, and immediately Harry begins slowing down.

    Blick is the head of Vice Squad, and since there are often, em, ladies looking for work in the saloon, he is determined to cause trouble. Nick explodes in anger and throws him out, but he says he'll be back. He does return, and it is poor Kitty that he attacks. This is after Joe has moved her out of the slum where she lived into a nice apartment, and she is going to marry Tom, so she's no longer a whore, but he humiliates her, which angers everyone.
    I had SO much more to share about this play, but I'll leave it to you to read it and absolutely to watch the movie! Here's a spoiler, so if you don't want to know the ending, stop here. Joe gets Tom an actual job as a truck driver, and he starts that night. Kitty goes with him. Kit Carson kills Blick (but not in the movie) and nobody even cares, and Nick gives him a job in the kitchen and some food. Elsie shows up for Dudley, and Willie wins over the marble machine. It's definitely a feel-good play!
    And so I'll end this review. The book is available at Amazon, and probably if you look hard enough you can find the individual plays free. And please do watch both movies. I love the music and dance from the early decades of the 1900s. In my era of the sixties, dancing consisted mostly of just wiggling your butt or whatever else you wanted to wiggle. Dancing from earlier times required a bit more practice.

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