Home / Stage / Stench Made Visible - 1911-12 Worst Broadway Season Ever_david [48]

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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    kittyinva wrote on May 6, '11
    You're so right! Wow, apart from Ethel & John and Nazimova I can't imagine sitting through any of the others! Oh yes, I'd love to be able to go back in time just to see a young Billie Burke, too. Not that the play would be anything I'd waste my time on today, but just to see her. This is very enlightening. Thanks for sharing. Kathie

    ziegfeldgrrl wrote on May 6, '11
    It always strikes me how much ACJ's NY studio looked like the sets in these sorts of plays of that decade. With some I actually have to pull the ACJ studio photos because my mind sees them as being the stage set I'm currently viewing. Particularly in one of the early Billie Burke plays... the name of which eludes me at the moment, as usual.
    The title and your description of this season is very amusing, David. Thanks so much for another wonderful and informative album.

© David S. Shields

Stench Made Visible - 1911-12 The Worst Broadway Season Ever    May 5, '11 6:04 PM
by David for group historicalziegfeld #557

"In every race there is someone who aspires to be last."

I'm sure the producers had no idea in September 1911 that the jig was up. That the stars on the payroll had become yesterday's news and the star system itself falling apart. How could they know that the costumes in the stage wardrobes had lost whatever evocative quality they once had. Or that the dramatic gestures that had telegraphed emotion for a generation now looked liked windmilling. They trotted out the chorus girls, had the male chorines belt ersatz Viennese drinking songs, had the misunderstood ingenue hook up with the well groomed tenor . . . and aside from the unaccountable frenzy that teenager Hazel Dawn inspired in Yalies . . . it all fell flat.

Even the imported prestige productions by Galsworthy, Barrie, Rostand seemed precious rather than provocative. The theaters bled cash. And the novelty color movies at the Kinemacolor theater drew more audience than the mainstage productions on Broadway. Little wonder that the brothers Frohman determined at the end of the season to enter the motion picture business with a vengeance.

You look at the images below that the star portraits seem . . . well . . . posed. Only Nazimova and Arnold Daly seem possessed of some sort of interiority. The formulae stand all too visible in the production stills: drawing room comedy, costumer, musical comedy, women's drama. In terms of dramaturgy the Metropolitan Opera had it all over the Great White Way. Not even the posing of the photographers--Mishkin--Charles Davis--Jens Matzene--can make the best of these images seems anything more than artificial arrangements. The nadir. David S. Shields

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