Menu Bar

Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. VII, No. 2
Summer-Fall 1983



1. ANENT THIS ISSUE'S COVER. The autographed photograph of O'Neill that is featured on page one was acquired by the editor last year. The provider was unable to offer any information about where or when the picture was taken. So eager is the editor to learn more about his cherished catch, that he offers a free one-year subscription to the first writer who proffers persuasive and documented evidence of the photograph's place, year and approximate date.

2. CALENDRICAL KUDOS. Having now examined the calendar announced on p. 28 of the last issue, I can attest personally to its beauty and assure potential purchasers that it will be cherished long after its 365 days on the wall have passed. 18" high and 12" wide, it is similar in format to the annual "Literary Calendar" that it has ousted in my affection, but its paper is superior, its photographs are sharper, and its snippets from the letters and diaries of Mr. and Mrs. O'Neill (far more than I'd expected) make it a very personal glimpse of life during the Tao House years. Its only flaw is quality: though space is provided, I couldn't imagine defacing it with ephemeral scribbles of my own! But I'll get another calendar for use—this one, like the writer it celebrates, is for the ages. For copies (@ $10 ea.), write to The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, P.O. Box 402, Danville, CA 94526.

3. CORRIGENDA: TWO DREAMS DEFERRED. Two events announced in the last issue have been postponed: (1) the television documentary on O'Neill (item 5, p. 28) will probably be ready for airing in January 1985, not 1984; and (2) the Provincetown double-bill entitled "Beginnings" (item 1, p. 27) has been postponed from September 2 and 3 to September 22 and 23.

4. OBIT À DEUX. Raymond Massey and Lynn Fontanne are not names that the general playgoer associates with the work of Eugene O'Neill, but it had an important place in each's career—a place worth recalling in the wake of their deaths on consecutive summer days (Massey in Beverly Hills on Friday, July 29; Fontanne at her home in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, on Saturday, July 30). Massey, as a Canadian-American, had an accent that secured him his first role when he attempted a theatrical career in England: the play was In the Zone. Much later, in 1947, he played Ezra Mannon in the film version of Mourning Becomes Electra. Fontanne, of course, was triumphant as the original Nina Leeds in Strange Interlude, even though she didn't like the script (and grew to hate it during the rehearsal period), and even though (or perhaps because) she cut the text extensively after O'Neill had refused to agree to any deletions: "I relied on the fact that the play was so long that not even O'Neill would remember what he'd written," she later recalled. The most memorable excisions occurred in Nina's "passionate love scene" with Ned Darrell:

we were sporting about quite vigorously and then I was supposed to be thinking a lot of thoughts at the same time and the action was supposed to stop and we had to freeze while I was speaking my unconscious thoughts. Well, the audience would have just laughed out loud at me if I had done it. You can't stop in the middle of a nice sexual romp and have a brain wave.*

Both artists will be missed.

5. O'NEILL TO CO-STAR IN ROBARDS' AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Jason Robards reported, in a recent New York Times interview with William E. Geist, that he is proceeding "at a snail's pace" on his autobiography, A Curious Friendship. The title refers to his long relationship with O'Neill, which is "curious" because, although the actor and the playwright never met, O'Neill has had a marked influence on his career and the parallels between their lives are remarkable. The friendship began when Robards, in the Navy, read Strange Interlude in the ship's library and "was moved to become an actor." Then came overnight stardom in Iceman (1956) and, soon after, his "acclaimed performance" as Jamie in America's first Long Day's Journey, a role that influenced his life as well as his career:

You play a drunken brother for two years, and sometimes you don't know where the role ends and you begin.

Failure to get the Hickey role in the film of Iceman led to depression, imbibition and a near-fatal automobile accident. But another O'Neill play reversed his "self-destructive" course: in 1974, playing Jamie again, this time in A Moon for the Misbegotten, he stopped drinking. Subsequent performances as Erie Smith in Hughie (which he'd first played in 1964), James Tyrone, Sr. in Long Day's Journey, and Con Melody in Touch of the Poet have reconfirmed his position as the greatest American actor of O'Neill in our time. A Curious Friendship will make fascinating reading. ["Robards—An Actor At the Peak of His Art," New York Times (May 22, 1983), Sec. II, pp. 1, 30.]

6. KERRA CULPA. In announcing his retirement from weekly reviewing in the Sunday New York Times last July, Walter Kerr assured his readers that the free time he will resultantly enjoy will be spent going to the theater, "because it may be the very last thing in the world that causes me constant surprise." One of the surprises he recalled was the brilliance, in production, of Long Day's Journey Into Night, which he'd given an "at best so-so" review as a book:

how did I know that Fredric March, whom I'd gone on record as calling our finest realistic actor, and Jason Robards, who'd been so sensational in The Iceman Cometh, were going to be so good? Obviously, these things simply cannot be predicted.

This initial misjudgment of "what may be [O'Neill's] masterpiece" Kerr calls "one of my most egregious errors," and he offers it with a purpose: "so you won't miss me so much." (No way, Mr. Kerr!) "Not in the least incidentally," he concludes, "I still think Moon for the Misbegotten is the masterpiece." ["A Critic Celebrates the Unpredictability of Theater," New York Times (July 3, 1983), Sec. II, pp. 1, 4.]

7. BIBLIOGRAPHIC ADDENDA. The following publications on O'Neill, listed in the 1981 MLA International Bibliography have not received previous mention in the Newsletter. They comprise, in separate alphabetical lists, chapters in books and articles in periodicals.

Avram, Rachmael ben. "Eugene O'Neill in the Divided Stream." In Naturalisme américain, ed. Jean Cazemajou and Jean-Claude Barat (Bordeaux-Talence: Maison des Sciences de l'Homme d'Aquitaine, 1976), pp. 38-47.

Castro, Ginette. "Les Femmes dans le Theatre d'O'Neill: Essai d'interpretation feministe." In Seminaires 1976, ed. Jean Beranger et al. (Talence: Centre de Recherches sur l'Amer. Anglophone, Univ. de Bordeaux III, 1977), 131-158.

Mounier, Catherine. "Le Marchand de glace est passe d'Eugene O'Neill et le mise en scene de Gabrial Garran au Theatre de la Commune d'Aubervilliers." In Les Voies de la creation théatrale, IV, ed. Denis Bablet and Jean Jacquot (Paris: CNRS, 1975), 62-102.

Suyama, Shizou. "Eugene O'Neill Iceman Kitaru: Moo Hitori no Sisyphe to Kankyaku no Shisei." In Bungaku to America: Ohashi Kenzaburo Kyoju Kanreki Kinen Ronbunshu (Tokyo: Nanundo, 1980), III, 297-312.

Törnqvist, Egil. "Strindberg and O'Neill." In Structures of Influence: A Comparative Approach to August Strindberg, ed. Marilyn Johns Blackwell (Chapel Hill: U. of N. Carolina Press, 1981), pp. 277-291.

Blesch, Edwin J., Jr. "Lots of Desire, No Elms: A Consideration of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms on Film." The Nassau Review (The Journal of Nassau Community College Devoted to Arts, Letters, and Sciences), IV (1981), 14-22.

Egri, Peter. "The Reinterpretation of the Chekhovian Mosaic Design in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night." Acta Litteraria Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, XXII (1981), 29-71.

Moleski, Joseph J. "Eugene O'Neill and the Cruelty of Theater." Comparative Drama, XV (Winter 1981-82), 327-342.

Rollyson, Carl, Jr. "O'Neill's Mysticism: From His Historical Trilogy to Long Day's Journey Into Night." Studies in Mystical Literature (Taiwan, Republic of China), I (Spring 1981), 218-236.

8. O'NEILL DISSERTATIONS (listed in Dissertation Abstracts International March 1983):

Como, Robert M. "The Evolution of O'Neill's Tragic Vision."

Herzog, Callie J. "Nora's Sisters: Female Characters in the Plays of Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw and O'Neill."

9. BOOK IN THE WORKS. Virginia Floyd is completing a book on O'Neill for the "Literature and Life" series published by Ungar. When available, it will be reviewed in the Newsletter.

10. HUGHIE REDUX. Jason Robards and Jack Dodson repeated their performances as Erie Smith and the night clerk in Hughie this summer—at the Donnell Library, 20 W. 53rd Street, New York City, on July 11.

11. O'NEILL FEATURED IN NEW PROGRAM AT BINGHAMTON. "Eugene O'Neill and the Modern Drama" is one of the courses included in the new cross-disciplinary concentration in Modern Drama and Theater at SUNY-Binghamton. A faculty committee of nine oversees the program, which has separate curricula for undergraduates and graduates. (The nine: Haskell Block, Donald Boros, Charles Carpenter, Sandra Cypress, Christian Gruber, John Hagopian, Fridolin Mellert, Loften Mitchell and George Wellwarth.) For a brochure describing the program, write to the Department of Theater, SUNY-Binghamton, Binghamton, NY 13901.

* Louis Sheaffer, O'Neill, Son and Artist (Boston; Little, Brown, 1973), p. 275.



© Copyright 1999-2007