• U.S.

The Theatre: Minus the J.

2 minute read

For years reserved, Harvard-bred New York Times Critic J. Brooks Atkinson wrote reviews as sober and dignified as a Times editorial. Atkinson left the pun-making and funmaking to such colleagues of those days as Heywood Broun, Alexander Woollcott, Percy Hammond, George Jean Nathan.

Of recent years, having wrenched the J. from his name, Atkinson—though thoughtful as ever about good plays—has become a Katzenjammer Kid about bad ones. This season he has pulled leg after leg of flop after flop. Of Case History he wrote: “The stepmother goes off her chump.” Of Come Across: “You see him in bed, which is no treat.” Of The Devil Takes a Bride: “This is a sordid tale, my mates.” Of the author of The Good: “An old Hudson (N. Y.) boy, Mr. Erskin . . . should hesitate about visiting back home.” Of Thanks for Tomorrow: “Thanks for tomorrow, thanks for last week, thanks for next Friday—in fact, thanks for everything except last night.”

Last week, with the reverberations of Orson Welles’s radio riot still ringing in everyone’s ears, Atkinson reviewed the Orson Welles-directed, Danton’s Death (see col. 2). His review concluded: “(Ladies and gentlemen, you have just been reading a review of a performance of ‘Danton’s Death’ at the Mercury Theatre last evening. It is a play of imagination based on history. There is no occasion for alarm.)”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com