Lapas attēli

The CHAIRMAN. Who is Jay O'Brien !

Miss FEARS. He is a society man all over the world. He has entertained the Prince of Wales and most of the famous people. I mean these all represent so many different types of people. Hammond Erlec, at the head of the Educational Film Exchanges; Bill Philips, who is a banker; Gus Edwards, who is a star maker. Elvin N. Edwards, who is the district attorney, or was District Attorney Edwards of Nassau County; Frank Case, who owns the Algonquin Hotel; Ward L. Catchings, who is a broker, president of the Ambassador Hotel Corporation.

The CHAIRMAN. You say the mayor of New York, James J. Walker, was there!

Miss FEARS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. What did the mayor say about the play?

Miss FEARS. He thinks it is perfectly grand. He said he never had a sweller evening in a theater. He laughed and he cried, and he loved the whole thing.

The CHAIRMAN. He laughed and cried ?
Miss FEARS. Yes.

The CHAIRMAN. Why not have the mayor write a dramatic criticism of the play?

Miss FEARS. I wish I could. He is the most human man in New York.

The CHAIRMAN. I would like to ask you one question if I may: You have met different theatrical producers whose money is invested in the drama?

Miss FEARS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. You know them?
Miss FEARS. Yes.

The CHAIRMAN. Are they afraid to be here because they are afraid of the stiletto that may be dipped into the oceans of ink which may assassinate them literally! What is their opinion about the modern dramatic critic!

Miss FEARS. Well, Doctor Sirovich, I can not speak for the other producers.

The CHAIRMAN. I mean, you have spoken to them? Without mentioning their names.

Miss FEARS. Why they do not come is not my affair. I am not afraid to come. I have perhaps everything to lose. I expect to act again and to produce a few more plays, and if my plays are good, I believe the people will like them, and I believe there are always critics who will be fair, and if my plays were bad, I feel they will go by the board. So I do not fear anything. I believe I can afford to tell the truth. I am in a certain financial position-perhaps I am a little luckier than the other producers, I do not know, but whether I am or not, I expect also to perform, and so I will be at their mercy. If they like me, all right; if they do not, all right.

The CHAIRMAN. But you feel you are doing your duty by all the actors and authors whom you are trying to help?

Miss FEARS. I feel that I can always afford to tell the truth. I always have. I have never catered to anybody as long as I was performing, and I do not see why I should cater to them now that I am producing. I believe that my actors have stood by me. They have taken chances; they have rehearsed and worked very hard. I have

30 people in my cast; I have about 30 people back stage; I have about 15 people out in front. So there are about 150 people that must have dependents, and I feel that if I can help them at all, I am very glad to do so.

The CHAIRMAN. Are there any questions that any gentleman would like to ask? Would you have any objection if I asked Professor Hughes to review your play and to send his report to this committee? I would like to get a report on the play.

Miss FEARS. I should be very grateful. They said his play Hell Bent for Heaven would stay out of New York, but it came in.

The CHAIRMAN. Are there any questions, gentlemen.

Mr. Rich. The criticism you had from the letters was all very favorable to your play?

Miss FEARS. They are beautiful. They are simply the most marvelous tributes, and for people to go to that trouble, those important people to go to that trouble, after an evening in the theater, I think proves that, and makes me very happy. I do not care what happens to the play, although it is doing very well, which makes the actors very happy, but I never stood a chance to lose money on the play because I was already—before I came in to New York I had an offer from motion pictures for my play that insured me a terriffic profit; so I never had anything really to worry about.

The CHAIRMAN. Since this play was panned so badly by this dramatic critic

Miss FEARS. He really did not even pan my play; he panned Doctor Sirovich, who was, apparently, my star performer. (Laughter.]

Mr. Rich. It would be a great deal better for him to pan Doctor Sirovich than to pan the play. (Laughter.]

The CHAIRMAN. Maybe that was instrumental in bringing people to your play the following day, because you took in more money after that.

Miss FEARS. Honestly, I almost put your name in the line. I think you deserved it.

The CHAIRMAN. By the way, have you any other offers from any motion-picture organization that might want to buy the play?

Miss FEARS. I have two or three offers.
The CHAIRMAN. Right now!

Miss FEARS. Yes. And I had a very attractive offer from Marion Davies when I was in New York.

The CHAIRMAN. Marion Davies would like to buy the play!

Miss FEARS. She sent a beautiful wire, and I sent her a reply by wire.

The CHAIRMAN. The play must be a pretty good play if Marion Davies wants to buy it.

Miss FEARS. It is a beautiful play.

Mr. Rich. You say you have had offers from the motion-picture producers. Is this play published in book form?

Miss FEARS. No. The CHAIRMAN. You have not sold your rights to any publisher? Miss FEARS. No. The CHAIRMAN. I am going to call now upon Mr. Saul Rogers, who has been for 20 years general counsel for the Fox Motion Picture industry, and is considered one of the most eminent counsel in

the theatrical profession and a very brilliant authority on copyright law.

Mr. Rogers, as I understand it, is the gentleman who has purchased for almost 20 years some of the greatest plays that have appeared on Broadway for the motion-picture organization that he represents.

Will you give your conception of modern dramatic criticism, Mr. Rogers!



Mr. ROGERS. Well, that is a rather broad question.
The CHAIRMAN. Answer it in any way you please.

Mr. ROGERS. It will probably require a very broad answer. In the experience I have had with the theater my answer would be that modern, so-called dramatic criticism has been divided roughly into two schools. One school has been fairly conservative, fairly competent within the time limitations placed upon it to express itself; and the other so-called school of columnists, who really have no eminent qualifications fitting them for dramatic criticism, who very largely indulge in biting, vitriolic, sarcastic, or humorous expression that has its place rather on the vaudeville stage as an act rather than in a dignified position in a dramatic column.

The position I take with reference to dramatic criticism is this: Dramatic criticism, after all, should be an analytical expression on the part of the reviewer of the achievements of the artist, who I may call the dramatist who has written the play, and the artists who have interpreted this play. It may be commendatory; it may be adverse. I am not opposed to adverse criticism if it is honest, adverse criticism.

The CHAIRMAN. But you are opposed to abuse?

Mr. ROGERS. I would like to finish that thought, if I may, Doctor. If it is honest, constructive criticism, either of a tendency to place certain themes or subjects before the public that really do not belong on the stage and should not be presented in a certain manner

the stage, or if it will tend to indicate to the author or to the actors themselves the proper method of expression or means of communicating that expression to the audience. However, the form of criticism that really is sad, so far as the stage itself is concerned, is the type of abusive criticism that has done more harm, in my opinion, and has done more to undermine the dramatic stage to-day and place it in the position of almost financial bankruptcy as well as dramatic paucity than any other single element.

After all, I do not think it is the province of a dramatic critic to see how entertaining he can become in his column at the expense of the play, because, after all, tremendous thought, study, and investment of capital has been made in that venture; a number of people are dependent on the outcome, the financial outcome of the play, and while that play may not be the masterpiece that the dramatic critics expect-plays may be classed as good, bad, indifferent, or fair, and if the play does not come up to the highest expectations of the critic, I do not think he is justified in going out and using a vitriolic pen to hurt everybody involved in that perform

ance, from the producer down to the poor stage hand or the man who takes tickets at the door. The result of that kind of criticism in a great measure has been the number of dramatic theaters that have closed to-day. I think that in this period when every effort is being made to try to put money into circulation and give people employment, this is not the time for these so-called critics to see how brilliant they can be at the expense of closing down business enterprises. In a measure, however, I hold the dramatic producers responsible for the condition. What I mean by that is this: One of the former witnesses spoke about the “electric-light” critic. Well, the “ electric-light” critic has been the creation of the dramatic producer. He has brought the electric-light” critic into existence by starring that “electric-light” critic in electric lights before his own theater.

The CHAIRMAN. He has built his own Frankenstein ?

Mr. ROGERS. He has built up a system against himself now. He has featured these critics himself, and he is reaping the harvest of poor judgment.

As a matter of fact, by way of practical relief for their own selfpreservation, I think one of the first steps that ought to be taken by these managers would be to cease headlining and featuring the critic, and do the featuring of their show and the artists in their show; and if they wish to state, by way of excerpts or by way of quotation from the opinion of their critic, merely state the language of this excerpt or quotation, but do not quote the critic, because we have arrived at a point now where the critic is being regarded as superior to the manager himself--and the manager has built him up. That would be one practical suggestion from my point of view.

Another practical suggestion, very much more difficult, is the question of arousing a spirit of fair play in the minds of these offenders-offenders against good taste, against decency, and against the cause of humanity. That, however, means arousing public opinion. It can be done if it is kept after and if these people do not receive the hearty cooperation of the people who built them up. Without that hearty cooperation and headlining, their flare for what is colloquially called on Broadway “wise cracking ” will in a very great measure be discarded.

The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Arthur Brisbane refers to them as “smart aleck."

Mr. ROGERS. I think that is very aptly termed by Mr. Brisbane. Now, those are really the only two practical suggestions I would have to offer.

I do not condemn all critics. We have some very honest, honorable critics, men of high ideals and very competent and capable men, and men who have had very fine training, who are honest in their criticism of the show. I do not think all critics should be condemned. That would not be fair, any fairer than attempting to universally or generally condemn any men in any special walk of life.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you not think that Mr. J. Brooks Atkinson, of the New York Times, is a very fair and honorable critic trying to do his best? Mr. ROGERS. I do.

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The CHAIRMAN. He has never entered into abuse and villification, that I know of.

Mr. ROGERS. No, he has a very splendid record.

The CHAIRMAN. The New York Times ought to be commended in the type of dramatic critic they find in him.

Mr. ROGERS. Yes. I think Hammond is another splendid man. There are several others. By merely naming those two gentlemen, I do not wish to indicate that I am singling them out at the expense of others, or that I am overlooking others equally honorable, competent, cultured gentlemen who are engaged in the profession of dramatic criticism.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you approve the criticism that rushes off into print, that Professor Hughes spoke of, at the end of the second act, without opportunity to see the whole play?

Mr. ROGERS. I think that question answers itself. I do not see how anybody can intelligently criticize anything unless he he has seen it. I also equally condemn the type of critic who sits through the entire entertainment and has 15 or 20 or 25 minutes to make the editorial desk deadline, however brilliant he may be. After all, take our own experiences in life. Sometimes we may be particularly moved by a situation; we may feel particularly offended, and we will hastily write a letter. Most of us who have had wide experiences in writing letters will allow that letter to rest on our desk a bit until we calm down and then read the letter again. When we have done that, it does not read quite so right as it did when we first dictated it. If these critics would do the same thing, just by way of memorandum jot down their reactions, and thoughts, and then go over those memoranda the day after or the next day following that, they might be inclined to temper some of their thoughts and temper some of their first vitriolic or sarcastic reactions toward the play, and be inclined to be a little more human, a little more sympathetic, a little more constructive and a little more intelligent in their criticism.

I do not know at present what can be suggested in the way of legislative relief that would adequately cover the situation. I have not given that phase of it sufficient study. It is a matter that should receive very careful consideration, very careful study.

The CHAIRMAN. On that question, Mr. Rogers, you are a very eminent authority on copyright law, and I know I am going to avail myself of many of your suggestions and advice for the benefit of our committee, because of your profound experience in the dramatic and motion-picture industry. I have had some dramatic producers and authors give me a thought that in writing the copyright law where the right to quotation is permitted, to insert something as follows:

That to quote from any material or story presented in the drama or the dramatization of any play by publication or by radio shall not be accomplished without the consent of the author.

Would that help it along? Because, after all, the copyright belongs to the author; and article 1, section 8, paragraph 8 of the Constitution of the United States provides that “ Congress shall have the power to promote the useful arts and sciences by granting to every author, to every inventor, for a limited number of years, the exclusive right to his writings and his discoveries."

Mr. ROGERS. While it might be

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