Showman (1937)

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SHOWMAN real. It was raw, pure theater—I can taste it yet. No wonder I'm addicted to melodrama the way a Kentucky mountaineer is to plug-tobacco. Besides, much of my early history sounds like the scenario of an old-time melodrama itself. My father before me had the family weakness for speaking out of turn and getting into hot water. He once barely es- caped lynching for letting his scrapping instinct pick the wrong moment to come up for air. During the Civil War he was an ardent secessionist, editor of a San Francisco newspaper which felt the same way and said so out loud. When the news of Lincoln's assassina- tion hit town, mobs collected, looking for secessionists to take it out on. In those days a mob and a lamp-post was San Francisco's automatic reaction to any given sit- uation. They had to bring in troops from Alcatraz— the same place where Al Capone is now cooling his heels—and declare martial law. The other secessionists hunted cover or made tracks out of town. But father chose to climb up on the tail gate of a wagon, just when the mess was at its messiest, and give the mob the rough side of his tongue, attacking the murdered President for going to the theater on a Good Friday. It may have been a relief to his feelings, but it was not tactful. A detail of soldiers saved him just in the nick of time and whisked him off to a cell in Alcatraz. The mob had to let it go at wrecking his newspaper plant into junk. I missed that party, being only two at the time and 12