Showman (1937)

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SHOWMAN Ed Harrigan, Tony Hart, Nat Goodwin, Billy Barry, Johnny Wild—with their admirers standing on the sidewalk and gaping at them—something highly en- joyable for both parties. Every kid who could talk was always spouting "My kingdom for a horse" and "Lay on, Macduff" and showing how this and that actor got it off. We talked about the actual hanging scene in "Neck for Neck" the way the boys in the barber shop discuss the world-series now. And one of the things that decided Public School Number Two to abandon my education was the way I used to break up all the point- ers in the place performing the last act of "Macbeth," when I was kept in at noon for disciplinary purposes. We were theatrical connoisseurs from the cradle. The small fry in the Old Bowery gallery had strict theories of how the villain ought to die, when the hero did him in in the final scene. The old melodrama villains had a specialized technique for kicking the bucket- elbows stiff, spine rigid, then fall over backward square on the back of your head. It took skill to do it right and not kill yourself in good earnest. We all practiced it— I've spent hours bruising myself to a pulp practicing a villain's fall. And we valued villains in direct propor- tion to the stiffness of their falls. When J. B. Studley, a fine old-time actor, started doing villains at the Old Bowery and tried dying like a human being—a natural sprawling collapse—the whole house came right over the footlights at him with hisses and cat-calls and roars of protest—they wanted a real fall. It wasn't till Stud- 18