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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. VI, No. 3
Winter, 1982



1. LUMEI'S JOURNEY, TWENTY YEARS LATER. Andrew Sarris and Tom Allen reassessed the 1962 film version of Long Day's Journey Into Night, directed by Sidney Lumet, in their Village Voice column, "Revivals in Focus" (November 9, 1982, p. 54), calling it "one of the near-perfect jolts from a tirelessly headstrong filmmaker, who somehow has always found a way to recharge his batteries." These are their recollections:

As a posthumous autobiographical testament to O'Neill's punishing guilt, Journey is weak in the rhythm of Living but overwhelming in its resolution of Life. Its serial confrontations, attacks followed by healing among a family of four, are heroically exhausting. To go the distance, Lumet sets the pace with the most genuinely O'Neill actor in American theater, Jason Robards, as he did in his scathing public-television adaptation of The Iceman Cometh. Oddly enough, the English [Ralph] Richardson is more tragically in tune with the import of O'Neill's tormented ménage than the mannered [Katharine] Hepburn. Also surprisingly, [Dean] Stockwell does well in the part of the younger brother. Lumet's crew, led by Boris Kaufman's high-contrast photography of Richard Sylbert's set design, beautifully modulates the gloom and doom until the cast fades out in the shadows of a single light bulb.

2. BENTLEY TRIES AGAIN—AND SUCCEEDS. Eric Bentley, who once, in an oft-reprinted essay, recorded his failure in "Trying to Like O'Neill," a playwright he also dismissed as "promising" in The Playwright as Thinker (1945), has revised his opinion. In a recent interview, he explains why: "The promise was fulfilled. See, we hadn't seen those plays he'd written in the '30s. Even The Iceman Cometh wasn't done until after the war. There were people who admired Mourning Becomes Electra and Strange Interlude, which I did not. Not much. I could see them as melodramas but not what he wanted to make them, which was high tragedy. But The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey Into Night are great realism.... He should have gotten the Nobel Prize after that, but he got it before." (John Calhoun, "Flamboyant and Unrepentant," Other Stages, December 16, 1982, p. 5.)

3. PRAISE FOR BRYANT BIO. Virginia Gardner has published a biography of Louise Bryant, entitled Friend and Lover (Horizon Press, 1982, 390 pp., $18.95). O'Neill biographer Louis Sheaffer, reviewing the book in The Day (New London, CT, Nov. 28, 1982, p. B4), notes that such a study was needed because the movie Reds and the biographies of her husband, John Reed, stop with his death, and Bryant lived another 15 years. While O'Neill figures "only briefly" in Gardner's book, his relations with Reed and Bryant had a telling effect on at least two of his plays:

During Ms. Bryant's Greenwich Village period, she had a turbulent affair with ... O'Neill, even though she remained Reed's beloved and continued to live with him. O'Neill was torn between desire for Ms. Bryant and great affection for Reed. He would have his unhappy situation in mind when he wrote both Beyond the Horizon, in which two brothers are in love with the same girl, and Strange Interlude, where a man cuckolds his best friend....

The biography, says Sheaffer, is "fully annotated" and "fascinating."

4. RECENT PUBLICATIONS (exclusive of works reviewed or abstracted in this issue).

Berlin, Normand. Eugene O'Neill. Published in England by Macmillan as part of their "Modern Dramatists" series (1982), its US edition is published by Grove Press (xiii+178 pp., $9.95. ISBN: 0-394-62318-1). To be reviewed in the next issue.

Orlandello, John. O'Neill on Film (Fairleigh Dickinson U. Press, 1982). 182 pp. $27. 50. ISBN 0-8386-2291-7. Orlandello compares nine plays with their film adaptations (Anna Christie, Strange Interlude, The Emperor Jones, Ah, Wilderness!, The Long Voyage Home, Mourning Becomes Electra, Desire Under the Elms, Long Day's Journey and The Iceman Cometh). The book was "only mildly recommended" by the critic in Choice (Nov. '82), who found it "a needed contribution [but] not a very interesting one," except when it underscores "the invalidity of the assumed necessity to 'open up' a stage work for the screen." A review will appear in a future issue of the Newsletter.

The Plays of Eugene O'Neill (Random House, Modern Library Editions, 3 vols., 1982). Though incomplete because of copyright restrictions, the three volumes contain much:

Vol. I: Strange Interlude, Desire Under the Elms, Lazarus Laughed, The Fountain,
The Moon of the Caribbees, Bound East for Cardiff, The Long Voyage Home, In the
Zone, Ile, Where the Cross Is Made, The Rope, The Dreamy Kid, Before Breakfast

Vol. II: Mourning Becomes Electra, Ah, Wilderness!, All God's Chillun Got Wings,
Marco Millions, Welded, Diff'rent, The First Man, Gold

Vol. III: Anna Christie, Beyond the Horizon, The Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape, The Great God Brown, The Straw, Dynamo, Days Without End, The Iceman Cometh.

5. COLLECTION OF O'NEILL'S LETTERS PLANNED. Travis Bogard and Jackson Bryer, whose excellent collection of O'Neill's letters to Kenneth Macgowan, "The Theatre We Worked For," was reviewed in the last issue of the Newsletter (Summer-Fall 1982, pp. 37-39), have concluded an agreement with Yale to do a larger, more inclusive collection of O'Neill's letters. Such a volume is badly needed and will be of interest both to scholars and general readers. Bogard reports that they are currently seeking a way "to give the book a shape that is not merely chronological in design—as we focused the Macgowan book around the houses." When published, the collection will be reported on at length in the Newsletter.

6. GERMAN VOLUME IMMINENT. Dr. Ulrich Halfmann of the University of Mannheim (FRG) is preparing, for publication by Gunter Narr Verlag, Tubingen, a scholarly work
entitled, A Eugene O'Neill Source Book: A Selection of Essays and Remarks on Drama
and the Theater, Playwriting and Playwrights

7. KAPLAN/CHAPLIN. Justin Kaplan, renowned biographer of Mark Twain, Lincoln Steffens and Walt Whitman, is currently at work on a life of O'Neill son-in-law Charlie Chaplin. References to O'Neill will be reported herein when the book appears.

8. IN MEMORIAM X3. Karl Ragnar Gierow died in Stockholm on October 31, at the age of 78. As director of the Royal Dramatic Theater of Sweden from 1951 to 1963, he oversaw the world premieres of Long Day's Journey, A Touch of the Poet, Hughie, and More Stately Mansions. An intimate of O'Neill, he had discovered an unfinished, ten-hour version of Mansions in the O'Neill collection at Yale and spent four years shortening it to a four-hour playing time for its 1962 premiere.

Arthur Hughes died in New York City on December 28, at the age of 89. He played Seth Beckwith, the hired man, in the Broadway premiere of Mourning Becomes Electra in 1931. His musical preparation for the role was recalled in the New York Times (January 1, 1983, p. 24):

As Seth, Mr. Hughes was required to sing the song "Shendandoah," which distressed him because he was unable to carry the tune. In their book, O'Neill, ... Arthur and Barbara Gelb recounted that Mr. Hughes practiced the song everywhere he went, from the street to the subway, and even called his wife to have her sing it to him over the telephone when he forgot the words. When Mr. Hughes finally sang the song for Mr. O'Neill, the playwright said: "Fine, fine! This man can't sing!" Recalled Mr. Hughes: "O'Neill liked the idea of the singing being a little off key."

A third death, that of actor James Broderick on November 1 at the age of 55, may not have as much meaning for O'Neillians as those of Gierow and Hughes; but the editor remembers his bewhiskered solemnity as Ephraim Cabot in a Summer 1974 production of Desire Under the Elms, costarring Eva Marie Saint and John Ritter, at the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, MA. It was not Broderick's first O'Neill role: he had performed with Jason Robards in the television production of Iceman. But those who know him from his later work in television—especially as the soft, subdued father in the "Family" series—would be amazed had they seen him earlier as O'Neill's stern New England patriarch. Calling his Ephraim "remarkably strong and honest," Elliot Norton, reviewing the Stockbridge production, described his performance vividly:

Dressed in rusty black, his hair and bristling beard iron gray, he is at once old and fierce, strong enough to throw his thirty-year-old son in a brief encounter; a little mad when he speaks with glinting eyes of the hardness and loneliness of his God; fierce and almost insanely possessive as he talks of his farm. ("O'Neill's Desire at Stockbridge," Boston Herald American, July 2, 1974, p. 14.)


All God's Chillun Got Wings, dir. Virlana Tkacz. Horace Mann Theater (Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theatre Studies, Columbia U. Teachers College), New York City, October 21-23, 1982.

Desire Under the Elms, dir. Gregory S. Hurst. Pennsylvania Stage Company, Allentown February 16 - March 13, 1983.

Three Lost Plays of Eugene O'Neill (A Wife for a Life, The Movie Man and The Web), dir. Michael Fields. Lotus Theatre Group, Playhouse 46, New York City, November 4-20, 1982. Reviewed in this issue.

A Touch of the Poet. Roberts Theater, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI, November 11-14, 1982.

A Touch of the Poet, dir. Kevin Coleman. The American Stage Company, St. Petersburg FL, February 24 - March 27, 1983.

A Touch of the Poet, dir. Dorothy A. Schecter. The Concord (MA) Players, April 22 - May 7, 1983. (To be reviewed in a future issue.)

10. PRODUCTION DEFERRED. The production of Strange Interlude at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT, that was announced in the last issue, has been rescheduled and will be a part of the Long Wharf's 1983-84 season. Performance dates will be announced as soon as they are available.

11. TAO HOUSE GETS GRANT, SEEKS PLANNER. The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, has received a grant of $18,500 from the San Francisco Foundation. The funds will permit it to prepare a furnishings plan for the house and hire a part-time staff member who: duties will be to search for additional funding and develop a long-range plan for establishing Tao House as a center for the performing arts by the O'Neill centennial in 1988. Anyone interested in the position, whose title is Planner-Developer, can get information and application details from the Foundation at P.O. Box 402, Danville, CA 94526.

12. NO JOKES, FOLKS. The editor's winter of discontent results from his failure to find as he thinks he sometimes has in the past, a funny finale for the News section. The closest he's come—and the source will remain anonymous since it is the work, not of a wag, but of a typist—is a newspaper announcement of a forthcoming production of A Touch of the Poet. Beyond the whiff of "theatre of cruelty," reviewers seeing that spelling would have a field day if they found the performances "wooden"! Better jest in the Spring, I hope.



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