YANKEE POINT [Comedy-Drama/Family/Marriage/Politics/War] A: Gladys Hurlbut ; D: John Cromwell; S: Frederick Fox; P: Edward Choate and Marie Louise Elkins; T: Longacre Theatre; 11/23/42 (24)
A headline story in the summer of 1942 concerned a group of enemy saboteurs who had landed at Amagansett, Long Island, but were then captured. This event inspired Gladys Hurlbut's play about a family, the Adamses, who have a summer home on the New England coast at Yankee Point, which is a convenient place to search the sky for enemy planes. This task is undertaken by Mary Adams (Edna Best), a dedicated civilian defense worker whose husband Bob ( John Cromwell, stepping in at the last minute for Dean Jagger) holds down a desk job in Washington. Bob, a World War I veteran turned pacifist, has chucked those beliefs because he now is convinced that he must fight for his country in the present difficulties. The Adamses have two daughters, the ebullient Jeremy ( Dorothy Gilchrist), concerned with getting married to a young flier stationed in Texas, and her older sister Sandy ( K. T. Stevens), a pacifist upset by her father's change of convictions. She is pregnant, and her husband is going to be drafted. A Scottie dog belonging to a Miss Higgins ( Ann Dere), another CD observer, uncovers evidence of a German spy's presence in the dunes. The spy is turned over to a Coast Guard officer ( John Forsythe, in his Broadway debut), but it is learned from the spy (never seen) that an air raid is imminent. The raid occupies the latter part of the action, providing an opportunity for plenty of special effects. During the attack, the best in everybody is brought out. Sandy recognizes the justice of her father's decision in fighting for a better world into which she can bring her child.
The flag-waving Mrs. Miniver-like play was intended as a tribute to the patient civilian skywatchers, mainly female, who served so importantly during the war effort at home. To arouse interest in their job required the creation of a melodramatic and basically implausible plot (the well-bred response to the invasion at the end was only one of several things that were hard to swallow). Critical opinion held that the play should not have divided its interest between the personal problems of the family and that represented by the foreign threat. "There are moments of incisive human drama," contended Howard Barnes ( NYHT). "Unfortunately, the play wavers between martial pyrotechnics and an account of brave, disturbed people facing a crisis. In the doing it bogs down rather badly." Richard Lockridge ( NYS) appreciated the honesty of the character depictions, but was put off by the "unconvincing melodrama which surrounds them."
The play contained a couple of good performances, among them that of Elizabeth Patterson as an old New England retainer of the Adamses and that of Arthur Aylsworth as another old retainer, who hunts Germans on the beach with an old muzzle loader. Margaret Mullen and James Todd also proved useful.
YEARS AGO [Comedy/Family/Marriage/Period/Romance/Small Town/Theatre/