An Actor Turns Playwright (1927)

An Actor Turns Playwright

There seems to be something approximating public demand to know how an actor like Leslie Howard happened to have a play produced like “Murray Hill.” At least there would be something approximating public demand if two other people joined in it, but that is not going to prevent an unsparing recital of the details. Not the management can help it.
That Howard would write a play is in itself not particularly extraordinary. He has always been known as an intelligent actor and he has supplemented his activities in such productions as “Outward Bound,” “The Green Hat” and “Her Cardboard Lover” by writing for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and other publications with Mayfair aspirations.
Determining to do a play, Howard banged away at it and it took the form of a farce. When finally he completed the script, after much delay, he brought it to E.E. Clive, an English producer whom he had known in London and who is now the director of the Clive Players at Copley Theatre, Boston. The manager agreed to put it on there: Howard would serve as a guest player, and it so happened that the condition was possible of realization a few weeks ago. In addition, Genevieve Tobin was obtained for the leading feminine role, and “Murray Hill” began the current Boston season of the Clive Players. It has been continuing there ever since, although, of course, with replacements.
“Murray Hill” was written in Boston, as well as tried out there. It was evolved while its author was playing in “The Green Hat,” but when it was finished there was no great rush of producers to Boston Common to bid for the rights of it. Whereupon the author put the play away, as he was too busy to take the time and trouble to market it.

When, in 1926, “The Green Hat” ended its career and Howard went to London for the Summer, he packed “Murray Hill” along with him, hoping to find time to go over it again. He finally took an evening off and read it to his family, who, if they weren’t convulsed, at least expressed a polite interest. On return trip from England Howard read it to several people on the boat, Rabb Stephan S. Wise and his wife among them, and they also said it was good. What is more, they said it as if they meant it.
Howard’s first engagement last season was in “Her Cardboard Lover,” when Laurette Taylor was trying out that play. Miss Taylor’s disagreement with the management is well known and among the result of it was that Howard had several months of idleness to go over and revise his script while the producers of “Her Cardboard Lover” were on a search for a feminine star that culminated when “Rain” finally freed Jeanne Eagels. It was about the time of the New York opening of “Her cardboard Lover” that Mr. Howard received word that Mr. Clive would present “Murray Hill,” but the production was not made until he was at liberty to act in it.
Soon after “Murray Hill” opened Joseph M. Gaites of the Shubert staff was dispatched to Boston to see it. He was taken with the farce to the extent that he bid successful to have his firm sponsor the New York engagement.
Mr. Howard will not remain long as an actor in “Murray Hill,” as he is scheduled to open later this month in Winthrop Ames’s production of “Escape,” the Galsworthy play. But for the time being he is emulating George White and George M. Cohan by appearing in a little something of his own authorship. So there you are.

(The New York Times, October 2, 1927)