The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1940-1950

By Samuel L. Leiter | Go to book overview

J

JACKPOT [Musical/Gambling/Military/Romance/War] B: Guy Bolton, Sidney Sheldon, and Ben Roberts; M: Vernon Duke; LY: Howard Dietz; D: Roy Hargrave; CH: Lauretta Jefferson (ballet: Charles Weidman); S: Raymond Sovey and Robert Edmond Jones; C: Kiviette; P: Vinton Freedley; T: Alvin Theatre; 1/13/44 (69)

This fairly expensive show ($170,000) did not hit the jackpot because of a deficient book that completely defeated its talented principals. The story tells of pretty defense worker Sally Madison ( Nanette Fabray), who is first prize in a war bond lottery. The three marines who win her--and $50,000--are Jerry Finch ( Jerry Lester), Winkle Cotter ( Benny Baker), both comic types, and Hank Trimble ( Allan Jones), a good-looking guy with a great voice. All three vie for Sally's hand in marriage, but handsome Hank predictably wins the jackpot. The other fellows link up with a couple of military femmes played Mary Wickes and Betty Garrett.

The comic players struggled valiantly to turn their tired material into something funny, and there was a moderately amusing takeoff on the balletic Broadway choreography of Agnes de Mille called "Grist for de Mille," with satirical digs at Oklahoma! and One Touch of Venus, but otherwise the show remained tiresomely earthbound. A few critics were miffed by the numerous double entendres. "Somehow the show is routine and uneventful," responded Ward Morehouse ( NYS). "The book isn't very good and comes to a dead halt at intervals throughout the evening."

Dancers Althea Elder, Billie Worth, Peter Hamilton, Florence Lessing, and Flower Hujer were among those singled out for praise. Of the principals the standout was Betty Garrett, who livened up the show whenever she appeared. Some of the songs were "Sugarfoot," "One Track Mind," and "I Kissed My Girl Goodbye."

JACOBOWSKY AND THE COLONEL (Jacobowsky und der Oberst) [Comedy- Drama/German/Jews/Military/Politics/Romance/War] A: Franz Werfel; AD: S. N. Behrman; M: Paul Bowles; D: Elia Kazan; S: Stewart Chaney; P: Theatre Guild i/a/w John H. Skirball; T: Martin Beck Theatre; 3/14/44 (415)

This hit play had an unusual genesis, recounted by playwright Behrman in People in a Diary. At a dinner party hosted by Austrian refugee director Max Reinhardt, Behrman met German refugee writer Franz Werfel. Werfel told the fascinating, yet highly amusing, story of how he had escaped from France. An engrossing thread concerned a Polish-Jewish businessman named Samuel S. Jacobowsky, who escaped in the company of an anti-Semitic Polish colonel. Behrman thought that it contained the seed of a play. "Two men in an ambivalent relationship, two men from the opposite ends of the earth though they are countrymen--opposites physically, spiritually, mentally, held together during flight by a common enemy and a vehicle--they hate each other--they part--they find they miss each other." Behrman told Werfel that the latter must turn the anecdote into a play, but Werfel thought that Behrman should do it, and that the director might be Reinhardt.

After Behrman began to write, he learned that Werfel had betrayed him by

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