Her Cardboard Lover, New York, 1927
Her Cardboard Lover by Jacques Deval (original title: Dans sa candeur naïve), adapted and translated by Valerie Wyngate and P.G. Wodehouse
Produced by A.H. Woods and Gilbert Miller
Directed by Gilbert Miller
Empire Theatre, New York – March 21, 1927
Cast of Characters
|A Croupier||Charles Esdale|
|André Sallicel||Leslie Howard|
|Tony Lagorce||Stanley Logan|
|Paul Guisard||Terence Neill|
|Monsieur Bonnavant||Ernest Stallard|
|Cloak Room Attendant||Henry Vincent|
Act I.—Bar of the Baccarat Room, Hendaye.
Act II and III.— Simone’s Bedroom in her Paris apartment.
Simone, having divorced a husband with whom she still is in love, thinks she may avoid a temptation to return to him by hiring another man to make love to her. She thus accepts the ardent attentions of Andre Sallicel. Andre is persistent and very much in earnest. So much so that he finally routs Tony Lagorce, the former husband, and is accepted as Simone’s true mate.
(Burns Mantle, The Best Plays of 1926-1927)
After months of rumors and counter-rumors, and shuffleboard casting, “Her Cardboard Lover” came to the Empire last evening with Jeanne Eagels and Leslie Howard in the leading parts. Like many modish comedies from the French it is uneven entertainment with dull and amusing scenes by turns; and no more substance than thistle-down. In the part originally played by Laurette Taylor, Miss Eagels in none too happily cast. The ironic caprices of a temperamental Parisian lady do not trip lightly through her finger-tips, and her voice and gestures lack the subtle grace imperative for such a part. On the other hand, Mr. Howard as a blind young fool plays buoyangly with droll flourishes and a sustaining, sardonic intelligence. In a play so dependent upon acting, the clumsiness of the leading part is costly, and in consequence “Her Cardboard Lover” provides something less than complete enjoyment.
[…]As the description indicates, M. Deval has lavished most of his talent upon the young fool. This André Sallicel is fully drawn and actable. Mr. Howard makes the most of his opportunity by playing with the same mocking touch of M. Deval’s craftsmanship. As the temperamental Simone Miss Engels has rather to create a part from the very lightest substance, and to make its contradictions credible. Although extraordinarily thorough and concrete as a realistic actress, Miss Eagels lacks the style of scintillant comedy; and her conception of Simone in the current piece must be less than satisfying to herself. Her most constructive scene is a telephone conversation in the second act.
(J. Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times, March 22, 1927)
It is a gayly written, zestfully unfolded business, bright with irresponsible prank and cleverness. Miss Eagels takes it on the run, and no doubt for one. If she is out for the heavier pelting of fun, she at least leaves no turn unatoned in the unflagging rusto of her performance and the broad, free and almost too easy strokes of caricature. Perhaps there is suaver stuff in the writing and passages for slyer comedy, but she sustains, anyway, her own special notion in consistent and amusing performance.
The evening, by all available clock and tape measures, went to Mr. Howard and almost ran him down. After the second curtain there were swelling cries for “Howard! Howard!” which, unless he has added ventriloquism to his other shining talents, came indubitably from the audience.
Whoever shouted, though, had the frankly inaudible support of this umpire, who takes the present opportunity to clap his hands and cry “Bravo!” and similar noises of approval. It is a sharp, pervasively humorous and sure-footed performance Mr. Howard gives to the title part, pointing by subtle accent some of the keener moments of dialogue.
(John Anderson, New York Evening Post, March 22, 1927)
Jeanne Eagels, eager for a Broadway appearance this season after she had given up touring in “Rain! and had refused the heroine’s part in “Chicago,” tried a comedy-face called “The Cardboard Lover” Monday night at the Empire. The honors went mostly to Leslie Howard, who played the lover. But there were not enough to worry anybody into a fever.
This is the play Laurette Taylor journeyed all the way to Paris to see a year ago that she might be sure she wanted to play it. She came home and said she did. She tried, but the odds were against her. […]
Mr. Howard is engagingly naive in the name part, a shy lad but honestly determined. The audience liked him so much it would gladly have staged a demonstration for him if he had been professionally indiscreet enough to risk his star’s wrath by taking it.
Miss Eagels is not particularly happy as the heroine. Four years of “Rain” have put the stamp of the slithering, shrill voiced lady of loose hips, swaying torso and easy ways upon her and it is not easy for her to pretend to be even almost a lady on short notice. But she has her moments when she makes the most of fun.
(Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, March 27, 1927)
Leslie Howard, as the young man engaged by a divorcee in love with her ex-husband to keep her from surrendering to her love and returning to him, was such a perfect choice for the role that it would not have been tremendously important if the rest of the cast had failed by margin to come up to standard. Fortunately, however, they do not. The producers and director of “Her Cardboard Lover” felt the full resposibility of making froth even more perfect than heavier substance need be, and from Jeanne Eagels, in the leading role, on down, they give all of the sparkle so necessary to this type of drama. There are a few minutes in the early part of the second act when Miss Eagels carries her lightness a bit too far, it seems to us, and becomes twittery, but it would be a carping critic who would hold that against the general performance.
(Lockport Union Sun and Journal, March 29, 1927)