Showman (1937)

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SHOWMAN theatrical history—which is saying a lot. Anyway he was certainly the worst actor I ever saw, and that's say- ing a lot too. They howled him off the stage when he first appeared in New York, playing Hamlet at the old Academy of Music—the howl being half laughter and half indignation. When he struck the Old Bowery a little later, its patrons had already heard of him and were waiting zestfully—a full house. The management, knowing its customers, had stretched a net across the stage, but not high enough to shield the Count from the plunging fire of the galleries. As soon as the Count got going on "Angels and ministers of grace defend us," the gallery let him have it—carrots, eggs and tomatoes. The Count plowed right ahead, evidently used to bombardments. But the ghost wasn't—when a carrot popped him in the eye, the spooky majesty of Denmark gathered up an armful of ammunition from the stage and rushed before the net to return fire with pretty accurate results. From then on every scene was climaxed with another bombardment. The Count kept his end up all through, particularly by raising Cain when his leading lady—an actress named Avonia Fairbanks, who was almost as big a clown, conscious or unconscious, as he was—came in for the audience's attentions. "Get thee to a nun- nery," says he to Ophelia, and a patron in a stage-box chips in with "Don't you pay no attention to him, honey," so the Count steps out of character to bawl the patron out—result, more eggs, tomatoes, carrots and 20