Variety (Apr 1942)

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Wcdnesdajr* Aprfl 29v 1942 Casts Talk of Insuring llmr Stars As Protection Against Sudden Qosings 4i- Aftermath of the abrupt closing of 'Banjo Eyes' at Warners Holly- wood, N. Y., may result In supporting casts protecting themselves, as do some managers, by Insuring the star against illness. Instance of the latter Idea was the Insuring of Gertrude Lawrence by the management of •Lady In The Darlc' Alvln, N. Y. New idea, if develc^ed, would be used when a star Is regarded as irrtplace- able. In the case of "Bango,' -Cantor's Illness tossed the large cast, plus back stage . crew, musicians, etc., suddenly out of work; some 200 people in all When Eddie Cantor went to the Ecspltal for' a minor'operation, and later stated he did not feel he could resume in "Banjo' within a reason- able period, it was reported that in- suring the comedian had been pro- posed to A. L. Berman, general man- ager of the musical, although It was produced by Warner IBros. and Can- tor, with th? latter said to have sold most of his share. Berman was supposed to have considered the In- surance plan, but it was not con- summated.' CoitM BsVe Protected Investnent ■ Now clear that had Cantor been Insured against Illness the venture would have come out even, or 'with some profit, it having closed still in red on production for $100,000. Flay- ers and others In the company of 'Banjo' have'figured how they may have been generously - renume'rated had they taken out a' policy. Cost of $126,000 policy approximates $10,- 000, and it was figured that, on a pro tata basis, premium would have been small per person. Protection plan may be considered by the stage Kianagers association for future ap- plication and would doubtless get the nod of Equity, which, however, could not figure directly In any such deal, ' While Cantor's Indisposition is stated to be the primary cause of the closing, there are sundry reports of contributing factors,.. However, there appears to be no foundation to an intimation of a ruction between the star and Warners. Cantor leaves Friday (1) for Palih Springs, Production of "Banjo Eyes' was offered for «le on Monday (27), pre- cluding any chance of Eddie Cantor resuming in the show which recently closed at 'Warners Hollywood, N, Y., when the star was taken ill. Settings were built ^or the Hollywood apd there is no other stage of similar size availaljle on Broadway. Dismantling of the show has start- ed. Hoiise will. revert to pictures late In May, when Warners 'Yankee Doodle Dandy,' the George M. Cohan biographical film, will start shbwing. HORGAN'S LINCOLN PLAY TO GET TEST SHOWING Ebcperimei|tal Theatre, which was created late last spring but has been Inactive since then, will.soon present ^eath, Mr: President,' a- Lincoln Atetmi by Paul Horgan, It is re- , garded as a fine work, but for vari- ous reasons did not reach production. Brock" PemBerton thought so well of tile Horgan play that he optioned the ri^ts for three years at a cost said to be around $3,000, When "Mr. President' first cropped up, 'Abe Lincoln in.nilnois,' by Rob- ert E. Sherwood, had scored and at the time it was not figured that another loncoln play might be ap- preciated. Pemberton, however, tried to get the show on the boards this season, but was stymied by being unable to cast the lead as he wished. It. was also understood that the backing sought was unavailable. The Experimental Idea was made possible by an agreement between tte Dramatists GuUd and Equity, and calls for showings without scenery and only elementary props: ™r. President' does not call for ex- ceptional production. . Actors are not paid in such pres- entations, but there are many ap- plications for the jobs, as it gives the player ah. opportunity to be Seen by managers. If experimental plays are regularly produced after the test snowing, a small percentage of re- ceipts is payable, to the group, part Of Such coin to\be shared by the original players,; Same applies If there is picture rights money. Although-mos* of her time is de- ■^oted to the American Theatre Wing. Antoinette Petry will direct 'Mr, President* No Coolers ^Washington, Aprll'38. There will be no priorities for theatre cooling syaterns according to the War Production Board. Decision means that thf National theatre's plans for a cooler this summtfr wlU be abandoned and the playhouse will rely upon a battery of fans. Half a dojEen producers are pre- pared to gamble with the Washing- ton cheat and keep the house open during June, July, August and Sep- tember. Figured that gas rationing will keep' the abnormal populace within tiie city /llmlte and any kind of stage entertainment will 'flhd' a' paying audience. CapL Waters Serionstf ID Capt Pierce-Power Waters is in serious condition at his Bayside home, after being hospitalized fOr some time. He was geiieral man- ager for Joseph Vemer Reed and other socialite showmen, and later was connected with Maurice Evans. Waters was back with "My Dear Children' during the various episodes . in which John' Barrymorc figured ''^ when starred in that attractloa Close association with the star in- spired a book on Barrymore, written by Mrs. Waters. LEOirmATE II Bamberger On Own At Bncks Connty; Ann Arbor Lines Up Gaest Stars Theron Bamberger will have sole operation this summer of Ihe Bucks County playhouse, New Hope, Pa., as Kenyon Nicholson, who has been as- sociated in the management the last two seasons, will enter the army soon. • Strawhat- opens June 0 for 15 weeks. Policy of guest directors will be followed again. N.Y. Legit House Strike Ends Just ' Ann Arbor's Sked Ann Arbor, Micb„ April 28. Ann Arbor Drama festival opens its annual spring ■ schedule May. 11 with Francis Lederer In 'No Time for Comedy,' Subsequent offerings will be Michael 'Whalen and Madge Evans In 'Petticoat Fever,' Florence Reed In 'Suspect,' and Jose Ferrer in 'Charley's Aunt,' Season ends June 6, Valentine B. Wlndt returns as dl-' rector, with Mrs. Lucille W. Walz as business manager and James D. Muman company manager. Mary Barthelmess Signed Cambridge, Mass., April 28. Mary Barthelmess. daughter of Richard, has been signed as the sea- son's ingenue by the Cambridge Summer theatre. Also signed for the resident company of the straw- hat, which opens May II, are: Allen Tower, Nancy Duncan and- Charles BeU. Louise KanasireS, William Mendrek and Helen Gillette are holdover players from last season, Robert E. Perry will direct and Andrew Mack will do the sets for the 18-week season, Stan Warren is again t}ie .p,a, for this strawhat Giving Critic* a Bide Washington, April 28. Steve Cochran will furnish trans- portetion for Washington and Balti- more critics when he opens the, strawhat season at his .Oln'ey theatre on May 18. ' Cochran will have an Equity com- pany, with Eddie Dowling as the first guest ster Jn 'George Washington Slept Here.' Besides enlarging the theatre and - increasing its capacity to 1,000. a popular priced resteurant ad- joins the playhouse with rooms and board available for his company. Renovations cost $10,000. Not Condensing IQckers' George Jessel. appearing with Sophie Tucker in 'High Kickers,' says a report that the show wlU be condensed -into a teb is incorrect. 'Kickers' is in Washington and will play Chicago for two weeks or more. Jessel expects to be available for individual bookings thereafter in about four weeks, possibly for one of those Clifford Fischer (Shubert's) vaudeville shows. Union flareups occurred around Broadway legit theatres late last week, with the porters and cleaners union plclceting Saturday (25) until half an hour before matinee curtein time. The 'strike' was suddenly called off when it was evident that the actors, stagehands and musicians would not'participate, having crossed the picket line, and ready to start performances: Porters and cleaners sought a 20% salary increase, but the managers claimed they could not pay more wages, what with the number of un lighted theatres and general condi- tions at this period of the season, Union then set a deadline and voted to picket early Saturday morning. Around noon the managers 'are said to have made an offer for slightly less than 10.% better pay, which was okayed but it was agreed- to con sider the matter further. Jerry Cbaken, head of the porters bunch, was their negotiator. Situation was quite confused when it was'claimed the combinedtheatre crafts, headed by 'Vincent JacobI, would support the strike.' Equity is not in the combo. JacobI is a bus! ness agent for the stagehands local, which led to an idea.that the deck- hands would strike in sympathy. From authbritetive sources, however, it was known that the" crews would stay on the job, because having a contract with the managers. Equity at first said the actors would not cross the picket line if the strike was 'legal.' 'What that Aieant vas not clear, but it was known they would appear if the stagehands were on the job. Technically the stagehands con- tract expired Feb. 1, but it has a continuing ' agreement until such time that a-new contract is agreed upon. Several confabs for that pur- pose were held with the League of New York Theatres, but further ses- sions will probably be necessary, Friday- (24) the stagehdnds sought a larger crew backstage' at the 44th Street for the vaude revue 'Keep 'Em. Smiling' There was a tilt be- tween JacoEl and Lee Shubert, who operates the house. Manager said he wouldn't open the show, but he did and the -union angle was evi- dently satisfactorily settled. Guests at Forrest Home . Celebrate Bard's Birtb 'Pursuit's' Switch 'Pursuit of Happiness,' with Francis Lederer topping, started out as a stock outfit then switched to a production basis. That may explain the mixup that had the show billed into Worcester, Mass., recently, but the stand was not played. Understood the management of, the little theatre in the Municipal auditorium in Worcester was stuck -with the newspaper ads on 'Happi- ness.' J. Harold Kennedy is pre- senting. Philadelphia, April 28. The 'guests' at the Edwin Forrest Hbme for Actors held their annual celebration of the birthday of William Shakespeare on Thursday (23) with a costumed presentetion of the Bard's greatest worlcs. Among the retired aged thesps who took part were William H, Tunjer. Mrs. Turner, Helen Potter Jackson, Julia ' Stuart, Josephine Morse, Joseph Greene, Herbert D. Fortier, Maude Nolan, Helen 'Van Hoose and Hal Forde. .y ■ The home in Falrmount Park is supported by the will of Edwin For- res^ leading stege figure of the last century. There are 13 guests in all. Abbott Signs Lester Jerry Lester has been. signed by George Abbott for comedy lead in 'Beat the Band,' musical set for pro- duction in New York next fall, Lester, who has had a shot at radio as summer replacement for Bing Crosby, Is mostly a nltery and vaude enterteiner. He was signed by Abbott during a run at the Strand theatre, N. Y„ which ended last week. B'wayRO,sBefieN.Y.Li^tCrix, Who Call It Worst Season in Years Seeks City Home Philadelphia, AprU 28. The Hedgerow theatre, one of the oldest and leading 'little the- atre' groups in the U. S., is seek- ing a hew ihome' somewhere in the heart of the- city before the pinch of tire and gas rationing begliis to be felt The theatre is now located In Rose Valley, about 18 miles from town, and. 'train, service to the Valley is very poor. Unlike the 'cowbam' theatres. Hedgerow functions \ all year round. The group,-headed by Jasper Deeter,. celebrates its 10th anniversary this week. N.Y. Governor Has Yet To Act on Agency BID; Veto Appears Likely New York Stete bill which would legalize higher commissions from ac- tors and artists than allowed by the talent imions still awaits action by Governor Lehman at Albany. Fact that Equity and the other unions within the Associated .Actors tt Art- istes of America have , not received word from the executive mansion in response to their request for a hear- ing before the Governor decides on wliether the measure shall become a law is takeh as an Indication that it will, be vetoed. . " Known as the Osterteg-London amendment to the employment agen- cy law. bill Is referred-to as a 'sleep- er* by talent union leaders, but 6nce it passed they speedily went into ac- tion. Equity for one is likely to start its own agency for legit shows should the bill be signatured. That is in line with the association's efforts to hold down maximium legit commish to 5%, although 10% applies to most other ehgagements, Legislatiure adjourned lat^ last week, but it Is understood the Oster- teg-Liandon amendment is among the mass of legislation upon which the Governor can decide within 30 days. If not signed, or vetoed within the next two weeks the bUl will auto- matically be killed. Hill calls for agents filing schedules of commis- sions with the license departpient, 'With no limit evidently on the pw- centage. 'GUESr NOW WORKING UNDER NEW CUT DEAL A new arrangement for a salary cut, if and when,_has been entered into between the cast of 'Guest in the House,' Plymouth, N. Y., and Paul and Stephen Ames, who pro- duced the play.^ Players agree to take 25% under contract salaries if the gross Is imder $9,000. Plan is to be for four weeks and provisionally another three 'Weeks, tCrhich would take 'Guest' well Into June. Show is now In its 10th weeic, faring .much better than indicated by the critics' notices. It is the third instence where an agreement to slice has been agreed upon by the management and play-, ers. Alarmed at the reviews, the Ames brothers. - who are new to Broadway, coming from WeU Street, thought of folding In the first weelc. Cut arrangement was the alterna- tive, to apply if the. gross dropped under $8,000. Celling was later lifted to $9,000. In both instences the slice was to be 33%%. Understood that the company has not been cut as yet, latest plan being based on a possible business drop as the season sterts to wane. Among other shows operating under a cut scheme Is 'Jason,' Hud- son. Full salaries are payable if tekin^ top $5,700, a level the show has not reached lately. Vinton Freedley New Prez Of Episcopal Actors Guild Vinton Freedley was elected presi- dent of the Episcopal Actors Guild last Week, filling the post left vacant through the death of Otis SIdnner. Peggy Wood has replaced the late Edwin Milton Royale as v.p. Several among the New York critics devoted their Sunday (S6) colunuis to contentions as to why they failed to pick a best play. Of the 1941-42 season. They agreed that the quality of plays was (ub> normal and mentioned name -play- wrights who -had written little or nothing. Brooks Atkinson, in the Times calls it the worst, season lor at least 20 years', an opinion which did not meet agreement on Broad- way. One observation missed ia that hits are running longer than in former- seasons. The boxofflce proves difterentiy and. it isn't new thdt critics Ignor« grosses in justifying their opinions on shows. ■ Not one reviewer re- ferred to the musicals, which "may not qualify for prize competitions, but which certainly have atfaracied big business. There haan^ been • show that drew such ' litiportanf money as 'Sons b' Fun' (Winter Garden) since pre-depression and the $S.50 top. 'Let's Fac« Jt' Clm^ perlal) has been just as consistent a high grosser; 'Banjo Eyes,' Up to the time it abruptly closed, -was a good money hiaker; ditto 'Best Foot Forward' (Barrymore) and "Lady in the Dark' (Alvln), which passed th« 52 week mark, while 'Borgy and Bess' (Majestic) is the beat , gross- ing revival In many years. Such shows, plus the season's hito, whether they be of .native or foreign origin, hardly supports the disaster theory^ in the thedtre, especially' when considering such continuing'. successes as the holdover 'Life With Father,' 'Arsenic and Old Lace' and 'My Sister Eileen.' There is little doubt about- new straight play product; but siich at- tractions are only part of the thea- tre fare. William A. Brady submits- the idea that 'gamblers' are respiin- sible for the number of mediocrities- produced during the season. There seems to lie little support to lito idea. There are.'successfiil shows in wlilch a munber of pepple outside of show business are ptffti^l back- ers. It is more., apparent'that'bad plays get produced because of mis- takes of judgment on iU> part of the managers, their alibi being tte paucity of good scripts. One of the most encouraging signs, despite the dour war times, is that' new backers have been attracted to, the theatre and, having gotten .goodly returns, on their Investments^ are potential investors in show? to cbme. , Oritlea passed Up IMeen' ' Critics seem to have passed iip the logical winner In The Moon Down' (Beck), Most of the review- ers were doubtful about tjie play'a merit, as indicated .by the notice*; and in. balloting, for the best play they refused to reverse themselves,'. However, while not selling dtit 'Moon' is gettlpg at much if not slightly more than 'Junior MistT (Lyceum), season's best grosser, which was also passed up 'by the critics, probably because it was a comedy Instead of a drama. Atkin- son was one of those who favored 'Moon,' other scribes having the same notion being Bums Mantle, News, and Dick Watts,. Herald Tribune, -j Pultlzer awards itre du^ the com- ing weekend and critics are hoping that the drama committee Will decide the same way they did—no best play. AMER. THEATRE WING HAS PHILtY CANTEEN Philadelphia April 28, The Aiperican ^Iheatre Wing will open a stpge door canteen in the basemeAt of'the Acadenay of Miislc within the next two -weeks, - The canteen will be tnOdtUed along the lines of that in View Y'ork and will be manned by voludtcer worker* from the theatre. a6 well aa non- pros. Chairman of the sponsoring group is Mrs. Upton Favorite, who also heads the Theatre GuHd here. The Newspaper Guild has volun- teered to keep one of its member! on duty at in times to keep th* dailies posted on news breaks. Deb- bies models and others have signed up to help dish out food, entertain- ment and provide dai^cing partners to visiting servlcemeh. Members of. the stegehands union have pitched in to put the Academy's basement into shape before the opening. The - basement was used as a bar in the' pre-prohibition era.