Berkeley Square – New York (1929)
Berkeley Square, a play by John Balderston
presented by Gilbert Miller and Leslie Howard
Lyceum Theatre, New York, November 4, 1929
Cast of Characters
|Tom Pettigrew||Brian Gilmour|
|Kate Pettigrew||Valerie Taylor|
|Lady Ann Pettigrew||Alice John|
|Mr. Throstle||Tarver Penna|
|Helen Pettigrew||Margalo Gillmore|
|The Ambassador||Fritz Williams|
|Mrs. Barwick||Lucy Beaumont|
|Peter Standish||Leslie Howard|
|Marjorie Frant||Ann Freshman|
|Major Clinton||Charles Romano|
|Miss Barrymore||June English|
|The Duchess of Devonshire||Louise Prussing|
|Lord Stanley||Henry Warwick|
|H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland||Robert Creig|
“Berkeley Square” of which much has been heard from time to time from London, came at last to New York last night, opening at the Lyceum Theater. It is a velvety play by John L. Balderston, telling no such story as dramatists are wisest to tell if money is their aim, but unfolding gently, skilfully a sympathetic tale of an American unlike Marke Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in king Arthur’s Court, though his opportunities are much the same. Baldly, it concerns a young man of today who fell in love with a girl of 1784 and had to leave her to come back to the age in which he belonged. “Berkeley Square” is gracious, subtle and delighting, and by the company Gilbert Miller has gathered together beautifully acted.[…] Leslie Howard plays Peter lovingly, softly, sensitively, surer of himself than ever in spite of the fact that it is not the comedy role he is so often found in. He has done nothing better. Valerie Taylor is the Kate Pettigrew, a smiling actress with expressive face, fine feeling and that charm so precious in the theater. Margalo Gillmore is her sensitive sister, playing with all Miss Gillmore’s habitual sweetness. The others are all they should be.
“Berkeley Square” is for those who love the theater and its choicest playfulness.
(Arthur Pollock, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 5, 1929)
In the limpid acting of Mr. Howard and Miss Gillmore it is a conflict fraught with great loveliness. Miss Gillmore is luminously beautiful as Helen, and she plays with a grace and lightness of touch and a sincerity that are enchanting. As Peter Standish, Mr. Howard plays with the neatness and delicacy of his finest work. Throughout the drama, in fact, Mr. Howard acts marvelously, clarifying the story constantly by the intelligence of his own performance. For what Mr. Howard understands, his audiences understand instantaneously, and he makes his transitions by the most intelligible means.
(J.Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times, November 5, 1929)
In telling of this conflict between the past and the present, and in writing of the separation which must inevitably come between Peter and Helen, Mr. Balderston shows a sincerity that is at times greater than his skill. In particular, his fantasy, which is both likable and interesting when it once gets under way, is slow in starting, held back by the machinery of a modern love affair of Peter’s and the share a very idle American Ambassador plays in its progress and Peter’s health. Its eighteenth century scenes, too, lack the spark, the rich gusto, and particularly the style that belong by rights to the eighteenth century, and that would have been at Mr. Balderston’s advantage in the making of his points and the sharpening of his contrasts.
Gilbert Miller’s production of “Berkeley Square,” like Mr. Balderston’s writing, is inclined te be flat and flavorless—-compared to what it might have been—-in the acting of most of its eighteenth century characters. It finds Margalo Gillmore, who is lovely to look at, as Helen, negative and monotonous in her earlier scenes, but truly simple and affecting in the separation scene of the last act.
It is, however, Leslie Howard who carries both the play and the production. His is a rare and charming performance that not only exhibits his rich and familiar gift for comedy to advantage but that also shows how finely sensitive and unsentimental he can be in his handling of pathos.
(John Mason Brown, The New York Evening Post, November 5, 1928)
In writing this trascendental and fanciful romance Mr. Balderston balances his sentiment with gentle but amusing excursions into the kind of anachronistic comedy which is guaranteed by Peter [Standish]’s presence in the past. In catching this double quality in the writing Leslie Howard shows once again how rare and accomplished he is as an actor. It is he who more than carries “Berkeley Square” by dodging the ever present pitfalls of treacle and farce, and making his Peter Standish–and the play which leans so heavily upon him–both credible and charming throughout.
(John Mason Brown, New York Evening Post, November 9, 1929)