Murray Hill by Leslie Howard – A 1927 Review
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 30, 1927
Maids of “Murray Hill”
Leslie Howard Appears at the Bijou in a Play by Himself Which Has Its Good Points, But Too Few of Them.
By Arthur Pollock
It may be the fact that one of its characters is named Worthington that makes “Murray Hill” suggest Oscar Wilde. Or it may be the useful old dodge of mistaken identity, a dodge that helped Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” to be one of the finest of all farces. But perhaps it is only that “Murray Hill” is a gentlemanly make-believe in which the characters all talk good English. Whatever it is that suggests the comparison, they are somewhat alike. “Murray Hill” may be compared to Wilde as wine to water.
The new farce that came to the Bijou Theatre last night, the Bijou that only a few short weeks back housed briefly “The Wild Man of Borneo”, also a pleasant play, is by Leslie Howard, a pleasant and practiced young English actor. Mr. Howard writes in addition to acting, and he writes well. There is humor in “Murray Hill”, plenty of it, humor nicely worded. But it is the sort of humor that exists lonesomely in lines, and one line does not, by leading helpfully to another, cause the play to reach effective climaxes. Mr. Howard is a pleasant playwright until he gets to the point and then he doesn’t quite know how to make the point. His play is, therefore, though funny enough at important moments, not nearly funny enough when it should be funniest. And quite often it seems merely silly.
The plot concerns three old maids – no, one of them had been married, married for three weeks when her husband ran off with a tight-rope walker. He didn’t care a bit for the tight-rope walker when she wasn’t tight-rope walking, and if the wife had been able to walk a rope she could have held him easily. There is another maid, too, but not an old one. One day she found her eyes glued to those of a handsome young man standing on the curb at Fifth Ave. and 58th st. as she drove by in her carriage and pair. all four ladies live tranquilly in Murray Hill, the last spinsters of a long line.
Their nephew is coming from Chicago that day to see an aunt’s death celebrated and inherit $ 100,000. He turns up intoxicated and the family lawyer won’t let the prim aunt see him. By mistake they think that a young man who seems to have come from the undertaker is their nephew. It is upon whom the eyes of the young maid has previously been glued. The two had fallen in love on the day of the gluing and now are entranced in sight of each other.
Mr. Howard gets his second act by throwing the drunken nephew in among the maids, old and young, and whittling as much comedy as he can out of the incongruity of the situation, the necessity for both young men’s hiding their real identity and the fact that one aunt gets drunk with the nephew. She even goes off with him to a road house near Bridgeport and doesn’t get home until morning. Meanwhile the undertaker’s assistant has gone off with the niece to get married in Greenwich, arriving after hours. This young man turns out to be no undertaker’s apprentice at all. He’s a millionaire.
You will note that as a playwright Mr. Howard is not exactly fecund. This sort of thing has been done before. But not always with the charm that is to be found in this new dramatist’s dialogue.
Leslie Howard has staged the play and himself plays a leading role. So it hasn’t had the advantage of being cut and doctored and touched up by a good director. Playwrights who direct their own plays usually ruin them. As an actor, Mr. Howard is as good as usual when as author he gives himself the proper opportunities. The most amusing member of the cast is Gaby Fay as the tippling aunt. Genevieve Tobin, less determinedly bewitching than she has a habit of being, plays the role of the niece therefore agreeably. Gleen Anders, John Brewer, Florence Edney and Alice May Tuck do all that Mr. Howard can expect of them.
A farce by Leslie Howard
Presented by the Messrs. Schubert at the Bijou Theatre. Staged by Mr. Howard. Settings by Rollo Wayne
Van …. Harry Lillford
Mrs. Cass ….Alice May Tuck
May Tweedle …. Florence Edney
Elizabeth Tweedle …. Gaby Fay
George Appleway …. John Brewer
Amelia Tweedle …. Genevieve Tobin
Worhtington Smythe …. Glenn Anders
Wrigley …. Leslie Howard