The theater, the cinema and ourselves (1947)

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carelessly sprinkled about the altar that we should perhaps have called them daffs; it would certainly have been more in keeping with the Covent Garden porters outside and probably with Ellen Terry too. The ushers, everyone a famous actor, arrived long after a large congregation had assembled outside, but what did it matter when on the steps of the church a cheerful little clergyman told comic stories to entertain the waiting crowd? When everyone was finally settled and Emlyn Williams, having abandoned the difficult task of assorting celebrities in the centre of the church, had packed his side aisle and was surveying the scene, the service began. Even the Bishop of London tried to simplify himself and relax, though there was something unreal, almost tawdry, about his mitre and purple vestments. Theirs was the sincerity of the past, the congregation from the theatre seemed to have captured a deeper sincerity. It is the exquisite lines from much ado about nothing, or Peggy Ashcroft's beautiful simple rendering of one of Shakespeare's sonnets, that linger in the memory. A list of famous names would be superfluous—Ralph Richardson, Harcourt Williams, Edith Craig—for as Ellen Terry would have said, "they were all there, wasn't it wonderful. God bless them." That afternoon I picked up quite by chance an old Picture Post, and there was proof, if proof there need be, that Ellen Terry was no exotic type, or even bred of her age, but just her sensitive simple self, as so many others could be. On the cover of the Picture Post was a young Ellen Terry of to-day, no doubt one of many if we care to look for them, free of all the affectations and inhibitions, which become part of ourselves if we allow them, and of all the superficiality and the dullness of a mechanical mind. How easy to be laborious if we once embark on it; how difficult to be natural unless from the start we have remained our unaffected selves. Is it really so difficult to shut out all this self-imposed artificiality? Ellen Terry did not find it so, either on or off the stage. Let us say to our modern Coquelins, be they ever so famous, and to their face if necessary, "I am wearied of your studied acting"; and in applauding the Ellen Terrys of to-day, waiting to be encouraged, we shall at least have the satisfaction of knowing that a growing section of the public is with us. In by-gone days the public loved Ellen Terry but did they connect their love for her with the love of simplicity? Now it is different, we are tired of acting, we are thirsting for the sincere, the direct, the spontaneous, but though these things grow naturally, we can smother them if we choose, for in "our love they live." ^o