The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1940-1950

By Samuel L. Leiter | Go to book overview

W

(1) WALK HARD [Drama/Blacks/Family/Gambling/Race/Romance/Sports] A/D: Abram Hill; SC: Len Zinberg's novel, Walk Hard--Talk Loud; S: John Proctor; P: American Negro Theatre; T: 135th Street Library Theatre (OB); 11/30/44 (42)

The black theatre group that had recently produced Anna Lucasta before it became a Broadway hit in a revised version offered this less successful play that was awkwardly staged but showed dramaturgical promise. For seventy-five cents one saw a drama concerning a bitter black shoeshine boy named Andy Whitman ( Roy Allen) who resents feeling alienated because of his skin color and whose natural fighting ability leads him to become a professional boxer, despite his family's desire that he go to college. He encounters racial prejudice in the fight racket and floors a powerful white gambler ( Joseph Kamm), which leads the other to buy up his contract so that he cannot get any bouts. His outspoken grandmother ( Jacqueline Andre) advises him to walk hard and talk loud if he wants to make a mark for himself in this world.

The play is an episodic work with locales in various states. It gave Ruby Dee one of her first important roles as Andy's girlfriend. Leonard Yorr was Andy's white manager and .pn1391 Howard Augusta a punchdrunk pal. "Set Walk Hard down as an honest attempt to write of a difficult racial problem, but its weakness of structure and slightness of characterization robbed it of much of the power the theme possesses," reported George Freedley ( NYMT). Lewis Nichols ( NYT) took issue with Hill's introduction "of extraneous scenes and people which slow his play and cloud his story." Burton Rascoe ( NYWT) rejected the vague conclusion but enjoyed the excellent characterizations, "so natural, so easy, so unfeigned, so unactorish, so right in timing and inflection."

(2) [Dramatic Revival] D: Gustav Blum; S: John Wenger; P: Gustav Blum and Gilbert Weiss; T: Chanin Auditorium (OB); 3/27/46 (7)

One of the chief features of this unsuccessful revival in a skyscraper auditorium on the East Side was the appearance of erstwhile welterweight and middleweight champion Mickey Walker (the "Toy Bulldog") in the role of fighter Larry Batcheller, the hero's friend. He came off surprisingly well, outclassing some of his more theatrically trained stagemates. Leonard Yorr, Jacqueline Andre, and Joseph Kamm repeated their roles of 1944, but, among other changes, Andy was now played by Maxwell Glanville.

The slightly revised play, not well reviewed its first time out, was even less well liked on this occasion. "Uptown it had a semi-amateurish zest for life, with the accompanying spirit," lamented Lewis Nichols ( NYT). "Now it is just a bad play rather tediously performed." George Jean Nathan ( TBY) thought that the revisions had "further lamed an already crippled script."

WALK INTO MY PARLOR [Drama/Business/Crime/Family/Labor/Marriage/

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