• U.S.

Theatre: New Plays in Manhattan: Apr. 12, 1937

2 minute read

Young Madame Conti (by Bruno Frank; Bernard Klawans, producer) concerns that most fictional of fictional characters, the noble whore. In this case she is a Viennese by the name of Conti who, though possessed by many, somehow sublimates her profession into a vague and romantic background, while contriving to look like a girl on a valentine. In fact, she harbors an exalted passion for one Horka (Patrick Barr), who apparently is not at all disturbed by her business life. When the curtain rises, Mme Conti’s love for Horka has become so intense that she is on the point of shooting him for some scornful—and extremely rough—remarks he has made about her in a cafe. Whether she does or does not shoot, and how the Law looks on the situation, is a tale on which more talent has been spent than the idea merits.

Most of the talent wasted in Young Madame Conti comes from one family, the Benn W. Levys. Mr. Levy (Springtime for Henry) has lent his usual silky touch to the adaptation and direction. His small and beauteous wife, Constance Cummings, plays the title role. Critics were willing to admit that she had come a long way since Hollywood plucked her from an understudy’s role in June Moon in the second winter of the Depression. As a light lady she gets in some heavy dramatic hitting, especially during the three minutes of suppressed sobbing that precede the four shots which bring down the curtain.

Red Harvest (by Walter Charles Roberts; Brock Pemberton & Theatre Foundation of America, producers) is a thoroughgoing account of the activities of a medical unit from Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital behind the front at Jouy-sur-Morin and Chaâteau-Thierry, Aug. 1-17, 1918. The personnel of the unit is without exception brave and resourceful, including the nurse who continually expects to find her brother among the casualties and finally does, and the veteran who goes into a deep funk but recovers his nerve when a rookie loses his. Unhappily, Playwright Roberts has made the error of believing that a dramatic situation is all that is required for a drama, with the result that Red Harvest amounts to a compelling, colorful war poster, 19 years late.

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