The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1940-1950

By Samuel L. Leiter | Go to book overview

F

FAMILIAR PATTERN, THE [Drama/Jews/Law/Marriage/Sex] A: David S. Lifson; D: John F. Grahame; S: Sally NuSsbaum; P: Modern Play Productions, Inc.; T: Provincetown Playhouse (OB); 9/2/43

Set in the Bronx, this little naturalistic catastrophe concerns a neurotic Jewish law student named Sam Miller ( Robert Feyti) who gets his empty-headed Bronx girlfriend Mildred Silver ( Olga Novosel) pregnant and has to marry her. He thereupon must deal with her distressing family of philistines, especially his nasty new mother-in-law ( Anne King), who cannot forgive her spineless daughter's traducer. He becomes so distressed by his mother-in-law's attacks that he abandons his law studies, his friends, and his ideals about using the law for the good of society. His attempt rebellion fizzles, and he is forced to leave his wife.

"Not only was [ Lifson's] story culled from the stage's morgue and his manner of writing from the Young's Magazine which flourished at the turn of the century," snarled George Jean Nathan ( TBY), "but his imagination hewed steadfastly and undeviatingly to that of the trashier playwrights of the same period." Wilella Waldorf ( NYP) commented interestingly that "the play might better be produced in Yiddish at one of the East Side theatres where they enjoy doing these things at the top of their lungs, with gestures." Lifson later wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the Yiddish theatre and published it as a book.

FAMILY, THE [Drama/Alcoholism/Boarding House/China/Family/Orientals/ Politics/Romance/War] A: Victor Wolfson; SC: Nina Fedorova's novel of the same name; D: Bretaigne Windust; S: Boris Aronson; C: Carolyn Hancock; L: Moe Hack; P: Oscar Serlin; T: Windsor Theatre; 3/30/43 (7)

What seemed highly promising material for dramatization turned out to be extremely disappointing when realized in this large-cast, seemingly plotless, "meandering" ( George Freedley [ NYMT]) play. Set in 1937, it concerns a family of White Russians who fled their native land during the Kerensky revolution to take up abode in the British concession in Tientsin, China. They run a boarding house but continue to love their native land and to hope that someday they will return to it. The family, burdened by crushing poverty, consists of the old matriarch Granny ( Lucile Watson), her daughter Tania ( Marion Evensen), and her three grandchildren, Lida ( Elisabeth Fraser), Dima ( Alec Englander), and the handsome and bitter Peter ( Nicholas [Richard] Conte). They take in as a boarder a tantrum-throwing, alcoholic Englishwoman, Mrs. Parrish ( Carol Goodner), who develops a yen for the anguished Peter. There are also old Professor Chernov ( Arnold Korff), whose prediliction for sending angry letters to Mussolini, Hitler, and Roosevelt makes him seem mad to his wife ( Katherine Squire), and, among others, a Chinese secret agent ( Yung Ying Hsu), five Japanese boarders, a kindly German-Jewish doctor ( Boris Tumarin) who has fled from Hitler, and a lady fortune-teller ( Evelyn Varden). When the Japanese forces begin to bomb the city, a mass evacuation takes place.

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