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will be charged for each day the book is kept overtime Ac. £ \ TWENTY-FIVE BEST PLAYS OF THE MODERN AMERICAN THEATRE EARLY SERIES EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JOHN GASSNER NEW YORK CROWN PUBLISHERS Copyright, 1949, by Crown Publishers Note: All plays contained in this volume are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, the British Empire, including the Dominion of Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union. Behrman Maxwell Anderson Dorothy and Du Bose Heyward Ben Hecht and Charles Mac Arthur Sophie Treadwell Maxwell Anderson and Harold Hickerson . PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA • Introduction THE HAPPY YEARS, THE ADVANCING THEATRE By John Gassner In the brief chronicle of the modern American theatre, only one of its decades, that which ended ignominiously one late October day in 1929, was free from national anguish.
Permission to reproduce, wholly or in part, must be obtained from the copy- right owners. One decade of unclouded skies is about as much as the children of the century have enjoyed any- where, and we tend to look back upon it with a nostalgia that does not always seem quite so justified when a Broadway producer revives one of its plays.
David Belasco, who produced the play, also complied with naturalistic requirements, making the most of the sordidness of the fallen Laura’s furnished room, as well as doing his eye-filling best by her previous installation in a luxurious •hotel.
And three years earlier William Vaughn Moody, turning from poetry to prose drama in The Gredt Divide, had already made a rent in the curtain of prissiness that had veiled the theatre.
They Inew What They Wanted Beggai on Horseback Craig’^Wife Broadway . Paris Bound The Road to Rome ‘"'he Second Man cturday’s Children * ^rgy . NOTE ON THE SELECTIONS The selections, as will be seen, repre- sent virtually every important playwright who made his impression before 1930.
.- ST /ofti 0 * HONORAM - E V of w| djtannot s » pleas . Of course there aifc some gaps in the representation by play* in the scries, but anthologists’ apologies arc already too numerous and since eiplana- tions are tedious, the editor politdy fore- goes them.
Kaufman and Marc Connelly George Kelly Philip Dunning and George Abbott Philip Barry Robert E. Nevertheless, the sun did shine on a generally contented and confident people; and, for all the difficulties the exercise of art encounters and the distemper its practice produces or is produced by, our theatre did achieve a relatively undisturbed maturity. No one ain’t never put nothin’ over on me and got away wit it, see!
Thematically, Sheldon in 1919 was not far behind the Sinclair Lewis of Kingsblood Royal in the nineteen forties.
In time, America adopted the problem play, of older inspiration than Ibsen but no doubt promoted by his example as well as by that of later playwrights across the Atlantic.
Sacre^ cows were discreetly marked for sacrifice, as when, in 1911, Charles Klein, who made a\ business of grinding out popular fare, touched upon malefactors of great wealth in The Lion and the Mouse and when Edward Sheldon took note of political corruption in The Boss .
CONTENTS Litrodu^ion: The Happy Years, thb Advancing Theatre “The lij URY Ape” ... Skies were certainly not unclouded for the artists who found incentives for flight and scorn in the contentment of Main Street, which they were temperamentally incapable of sharing.
Desire I^nder the Elms John Gassncr Eugene O’Neill Eugene O’Neill Laurence Stallings and Maxwell Anderson Sidney Jloward George S. And the one acknowl- edged genius of our theatre, O’Neill, glared balefully down on the scene of American pros- perity with tragic perturbation and refused to be comforted.
Our perilously contracted Broadway theatre midway in the century can look back upon the period before 1917 with undisguised envy as one of expansion, of numerous playhouses later to be surrendered to motion picture exhibitors,* of many more plays per season than we have today, of productions costing a fraction of what they must cost today.