few days later, in a newspaper article, Anderson appealed over the heads of the critics
for public support of the play ( "To the Theatre Public," New York Herald Tribune, March 4, 1946, p. 10, cols. 1-2), but because of sparse attendance Truckline Cafe
closed on March 9. On March 18 Anderson's 1946 diary noted that "all day [he was]
trying to write a preface for Truckline Cafe--on the present critical situation. Not much
good--what I've written." On April 24 he returned to the writing of Joan of Lorraine
and immediately began to develop the argument against the critics and the plan for
withholding their opening night tickets that are embodied in the present letter.
According to the 1946 diary he wrote a first draft of the letter on April 27-18, another
on June 3-15, then revised the second draft on September 15. An autograph note
heading the final draft indicates that the letter was sent: "A Letter to the Theatre Critics
of New York--Sent with the Tickets to Joan of Lorraine."
The critics ignored the letter, attending Joan of Lorraine on opening night and
making no reference to the letter in their enthusiastic reviews, but Anderson did not
forget the matter. Recasting it, he published the letter as "The Mighty Critics" in the New York Times ( February 16, 1947, sec. 2, p. 1, cols. 1-2, p. 2, cols. 1-2), thereby
stimulating a separate controversy (see letters no. 152 and 153), then used it as the
leading essay in Off Broadway when that book was published in the summer of 1947.
In 1948 he envisioned a similar plan for circumventing the critics in connection with Anne of the Thousand Days (see letter no. 160).
March 1, 1947
If you, of all people, could miss completely the point of what I
had to say about the critics, the theatre must be inexplicable to laymen
or I must have done a poor job of explaining. You say you choose the
plays you see. No doubt you do, but you choose them from among
those the critics let live. Any play the critics say no to dies, and if you
look for it the next week you don't find it. Your comment implies that
you believe the critics are always right, and that you and the public
should be protected from any play the critics don't like.
You say you "will settle for this play-reviewing force in preference
to the force that tries to stand between me and Brooks Atkinson." But
what force tries to stand between you and Brooks Atkinson? Do you
mean that I am trying to exert such a force? I said, and meant, nothing
like that. I said that Mr. Atkinson's opinions should not have the force
of law, which they have at present. They have that force, as I tried to
make very clear, only because theatre costs are now so high that