round table: plays about war dances

The high spirits of the 1920’s. A circle of young, exuberant wits, Robert Sherwood among them, regaled Dry-Era America from around a hotel table. Nothing quite like them has been seen since…

Naturally, in such a world, Robert Sherwood was bound to try his hand at writing a play. He had been writing plays since childhood and had come to the Round Table at the Algonquin fresh from the deceptive amateur success of Barnum Was Right at Harvard’s Hasty Pudding. ¬†What the others could do, and were doing, he would do. The doing was not to be so easy as he thought. By 1922 he had dashed off a happily forgotten script, The Dawn Man, but it was so dreadful that it caused him to abandon playwriting as a career.

---The only person who doesn't seem to have a political or economic stake in world affairs is Harry Van, a two-bit American entertainer who is stranded in the hotel with his travelling all-girl troupe, "Les Blondes." Harry is convinced that the alluring Irene, the foreign-accented "travelling companion" of munitions tycoon Achille Weber, is actually an American girl with whom he'd had a one-night stand years earlier, but Irene laughs off his insinuations. Eventually, Irene turns to Harry for comfort when Weber proves too disgustingly warmongering for her tastes. When war breaks out and the hotel is targeted for bombing, Harry makes sure that everyone gets to safety; he himself stays behind with Irene, with whom he has fallen in love. The two sing a hymn as the hotel is blown to oblivion.---click image for source...

—The only person who doesn’t seem to have a political or economic stake in world affairs is Harry Van, a two-bit American entertainer who is stranded in the hotel with his travelling all-girl troupe, “Les Blondes.” Harry is convinced that the alluring Irene, the foreign-accented “travelling companion” of munitions tycoon Achille Weber, is actually an American girl with whom he’d had a one-night stand years earlier, but Irene laughs off his insinuations. Eventually, Irene turns to Harry for comfort when Weber proves too disgustingly warmongering for her tastes. When war breaks out and the hotel is targeted for bombing, Harry makes sure that everyone gets to safety; he himself stays behind with Irene, with whom he has fallen in love. The two sing a hymn as the hotel is blown to oblivion.—click image for source…

Not for long, however, The Tablers continued to tempt him by example; in particular, Laurence Stallings, , the exuberant ex-Marine captain who had lost a leg in WWI. Two years after Sherwood’s abortive attempt, Stallings, with Maxwell Anderson, an editorial writer for the World, had written What Price Glory? With rapture, Sherwood listened to the applause and cheers, loud as a bombardment, that greeted this lusty play which, as Alexander Woollcott recognized, said more, without editorializing, about “the war, its immensity, and its crushing evidence of human failure” than all the editorials on the subject.

What Price Glory? film version 1926. ...~Dolores Del Rio and Cast~click image for source...

What Price Glory? film version 1926. …~Dolores Del Rio and Cast~click image for source…

In 1936, when the clouds of a second war were lowering, Sherwood, with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine, stirred another first night audience to comparable enthusiasm with another anti-war play. At the curtain’s fall on Idiot’s Delight he “rushed backstage and thrilled to the sounds of the greatest demonstration any play of mine has ever received. Nineteen curtain calls, vociferous cheers- what I have been hoping for ever since i saw What Price Glory? twelve years ago, and decided it would be wonderful to be a playwright.”

ADDENDUM:

(see link at end)…Thoughts: After the emotionally uncertain conclusion, there is a postscript written by Sherman about the then-current political situation. Sherwood writes, “During the past two weeks (this is March 16, 1936) the Italians have made a great offensive in Ethiopia…” He spends an entire paragraph discussing specific tensions around the world before adding:
“What will happen before this play reaches print or a New York audience, I do not know. But let me express here the conviction that those who shrug and say, “‘War is inevitable,’ are false prophets. I believe that the world is populated largely by decent people, and decent people don’t want war. Nor do they make war. They fight and die, to be sure-but that is because that have been deluded by their exploiters, who are members of the indecent minority.” Read More:http://thepulitzerproject.blogspot.ca/2010/11/idiots-delight-by-robert-sherwood-1936_8554.html

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