Her Cardboard Lover, London, 1928
Her Cardboard Lover
adapted by Valerie Wyngate and P.G. Wodehouse from Jacques Deval’s play
Lyric Theatre, London, August 21, 1928
Cast of characters
|A Lady||Barbara Tallerman|
|A Gentleman||Phillip Clawes|
|Monsieur Bonnavant||Herman de Lange|
|Paul Guisard||Robert Newton|
|André Sallicel||Leslie Howard|
|A Croupier||Arthur Hammond|
|Tony Lagorce||Jack Melford|
|Cloak Room Attendant||Tom Woods|
Simone, making every possible attempt to rejoin her worthless husband and being thwarted at every turn by her ingenious secretary, gives Miss Tallulah Bankhead an opportunity for an exhibition of talent which, if it had more breadth and vigour than subtlety, seemed to be at least what was expected of her by those sections of the audience whose hysterical enthusiasm has become an uncomfortable rule at these festivals of lingerie. Mr. Robert Newton, when the intrusion of Simone’s husband was necessary, gave a cynical sketch of the man which had a refreshing quietness. But the only substantial pleasure of the evening to a playgoer who cares something for the finer points of character and its portrayal was Mr. Leslie Howard’s performance. He seemed at the outset to be an actor who would make no impression whatever–one of those of whom it is said they have “no personality.” Gradually his purpose and method made themselves plain. From being a colourless, timid, foolish little man, André became, not by extravagant transition, but by natural development, a man of charm, determination, and humour. Mr. Howard allows the part to shape itself before you until, in the midst of high-jinks in the bedroom which most actors would welcome as an opportunity for farce, you find yourself watching him with eagerness for the delicacy and discretion of comedy. Here again, if you will, is the Silly Ass turned hero. André might very easily have been no more than that. But Mr. Howard discovers much more in him, and reveals it, with infinite wit and patience, amid all the circumstances of tawdry emotionalism.
(The Times, August 22, 1928)
“Her Cardboard Lover,” produced at the Lyric Theatre last night, is an adaptation, by P.G. Wodehouse, of a typical French farce.
Simone, a bewitching French girl, very well played by Miss Tallulah Bankhead, has divorced her husband, but decides to take up “a cardboard lover” to help her resist the temptation of returning to her fascinating spouse.
The “dummy” lover takes his job very seriously, and the various complications provide many amusing situations. The “high spot” of the play is a disrobing scene by Miss Bankhead.
Mr. Leslie Howard, a young actor who has achieved a big reputation in America, was a great success as the makeshift lover, his acting being first rate throughout.
(Daily Mirror, August 22, 1928)
The youngster who lays siege to Simone’s heart and home is a familiar theatrical type, the simpleton who is not so simple as he looks […] Mr. Leslie Howard has this role and naturally he scores, everything being conceived for his part’s advantage. I thought that he overdid the quietude, […] and might have scored more if he had put a touch of vehemence into the attack. He was playing opposite Miss Tallulah Bankhead, whose personality is immensely strong, and whose methods were rightly vigorous. Simone’s part is throughly unsympathetic, and she applied all her volatily of mood and flutterings of voice to turn the hussy into good […?] company: in this she brilliantly succeeded; but Mr. Howard, who produced the piece, should realise that Miss Bankhead’s tempestuous method makes it necessary for him to temper his method to that wind.
(The Observer, August 26, 1928)
Miss Bankhead is an actress. Her performance in “They Knew What They Wanted” suggested that she was an actress of genuine ability. But in the present piece, vigorous and energetic though she still is, she seems not to care very much for the finer points of character of delivery. She throws her part at the audience, trusting to her “personality” to win their approval, and she stoop to such a scene as I have described. If there were any reason in plot or character for the heroine’s undressing herself, if the scene were an integral part of the piece, it might be altogether justified and would certainly be tolerable; but when she undresses for no better reason than a supposed telephonic request the whole affair becomes worse than ridiculous.
And the astonishing thing is that, in a play of this kind and before an audience suffering frome some sort of Bankhead intoxication, Leslie Howard succeeds in establishing himself as an actor. His quietness, amid so much that is flashy and meretricious, has at first the effect of obscuring him; you begin by imagining him to be an actor who has not strength enough to make his mark; but you realize very soon that his is the one figure on the stage that is genuinely worth watching. The part of André is not very much of a part and the violence of its surroundings make it an awkward medium for the expression of character. But little by little Mr. Howard builds the man up until you know him. His humour has the quality of a gentle, unspectacular but extremely sharp dig with a rapier, and out of each delicate fragment of laughter character proceeds.
Whether we should have thought so much of Mr. Howard’s performance if there had been rather more in its surroundings which a discerning playgoer could watch with comfort, I do not know. Certainly it seemed almost a miracle that he could preserve a little island of true comedy in the midst of so boisterous an ocean of farce and cheap emotionalism. But preserve it he did, earning thereby the gratitude of many. I hope we may see him before long in a comedy that will give a full opportunity to his talent.
(Charles Morgan, The New York Times, September 9, 1928)