George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 36
Arnold Daly Startles Broadway

IN THE LONG RUN, IT WAS INEVITABLE THAT Shaw'S PLAYS WOULD SUCCEED. AND it was in America again that the real Shaw "boom" was, for the second time, inaugurated. Two of his novels, Cashel Byron's Profession and The Irrational Knot, were moderately popular successes in the United States. Mansfield 's productions of Arms and the Man and The Devil's Disciple were remembered with delight by many who were by no means Shavian enthusiasts. In 1898, his Plays, Pleasant and Unpleasant were widely and, in general, favorably reviewed. The first American performances of Candida were given by the pupils of Miss Anna Morgan, the able instructress in dramatic expression, and under her personal direction, at her studio theater in the Fine Arts Building, in Chicago. Miss Morgan once told me that she recognized the dramatic merits of Candida as soon as she had read it through; and she immediately put it in rehearsal. These performances, five each week, during the month of April, 1899, beginning April 4, were of necessity "private," Shaw having issued strict injunctions, through the American publishers of his plays, against their unauthorized performance. These twenty-odd performances attracted audiences from the more enlightened and advanced literary circles in Chicago. Later in the year, when William Archer, who was studying theatric and dramatic conditions in the United States, visited Chicago, he begged Miss Morgan to give a special performance of Candida for his benefit. He pronounced most favorably upon the production which Miss Morgan gave, declaring that he did not believe there was another man who could enact the part and embody Shaw's conception of the idealistic poet, so well as did Taylor Holmes on that occasion.1 Archer wrote Shaw a description of the performance, in especial praising Miss Morgan's marked artistic appreciation of the dramatic values of the play; this letter was the indirect cause of a visit Miss Morgan subsequently paid Mr. and Mrs. Shaw at their country home at Haslemere. Mr. Shaw gave Miss Morgan permission to produce any of his

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1
Competent eyewitnesses of both Daly and Holmes in the rôle of Marchbanks considered Daly's interpretation inferior to that of Holmes, in that the former suppressed the patrician side of the character so ably portrayed by the latter. "He was tall and slender," so Miss Morgan described Mr. Holmes, appearance to me, "with dreamy black eyes; and in temperament was what may be called a 'clinging vine.' He possessed that indefinable something which made it possible for him to give distinction to the part."

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