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Anna Christie
Arthur Hopkins Presents
Broadcast: NBC - Wednesday, May 17, 1944
Adapted:
Wyllis Cooper     Director: Wynn Wright
Music: Morris Momorsky

Anna - Pauline Lord
Chris -
J. Edward Bromberg
Mat -
Wendell Corey
Mattie -
Eva Conden

Also in the cast - Hal Dawson, Joe Latham



New York Times, May 21, 1944
By JOHN K. HUTCHENS

"Arthur Hopkins Presents"

"When Arthur Hopkins 'presents,' Brooks Atkinson wrote in this newspaper fourteen years ago, "that hackneyed old verb musters up a dignity. His goods are worth looking at." The general title of the series of dramas now being broadcast over WEAF-NBC on Wednesday nights at 11:30 is "Arthur Hopkins Presents," and again his goods are worth -- not looking at, because on the radio you do not see them, but mighty well worth hearing. For it is a treasure chest of drama over which the most distinguished of living American theatrical producers is presiding, with the keen cooperation of Wyllis Cooper, who makes the radio adaptations, and Wynn Wright, who directs them. The National Broadcasting Company has honored itself and the public with this project.

There have, of course, been other radio series that revived the great or at least worthy works of the stage in sixty-minute productions. None that comes to mind has done it so well as this one. Let it be admitted at once that merely hearing a play could never give you the complete satisfaction of hearing and seeing one, especially if you first met it in the theatre and cherish the memory of it in its entirety. Granted, too, that the individual listener's enjoyment is different from, and less intense than, that of the spectator in a crowd, who derives added pleasure from that of the people around him. The fact remains that the plays Mr. Hopkins and his colleagues have brought to the air have been singularly rewarding; that they have not only accepted the limitations of radio but, in a sense, have capitalized on them.

Stage to Air

You will observe, for instance, that they are presented as radio, not as pseudo-theater. There is no elaborate setting of the stage, because it is one of the rules of radio that the listener does his own scenic designing according to the power of his imagination. And because this is entertainment, and not a course in literature, Mr. Hopkins in his brief foreword says something about the performer or author -- Katharine Hepburn of "The Philadelphia Story," Thornton Wilder of "Our Town" -- but seldom much about the play. The listener is flattered by not being told what to think of what he is about to hear. The play simply starts, and thereafter it stands on its dialogue and its performance, and casts such a spell as it can.

For, in a curious way, the enforced simplicity of radio production has a certain affinity with Mr. Hopkins' theories of theatre direction. Long years ago, in the credo entitled "How's Your Second Act?" he declared war on "the prepared exits, the speeches at the door, the exits laughing, exits sobbing, exits hesitating, the standing in the doorways to watch someone off so that any applause they may receive would not be interfered with." He denounced "all gesture that is not absolutely needed, all unnecessary inflection and intonings, the tossing of heads, the flickering of fans and kerchiefs ... all the million and one tricks that have crept into the actor's bag."

No Tricks

It did not always work, his director's theory of "unconscious projection." He produced more than one play which lacked the substance, and sometimes the cast, that could meet such a challenge. But the best of them did meet it, plays like "Redemption," "The Jest," Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie" and "The Hairy Ape," "Machinal," Philip Barry's "Paris Bound" and "Holiday," and needless to say, the great Shakespearean productions with John Barrymore. How deliberately Mr. Hopkins is applying his old rules to a new medium it would be hard to say, but it would be surprising only if they were not in the back of his mind. In part, as noted, the straight line in which the productions move is of the essence of radio. They have no other choice. But if you listen carefully you will note that they avoid also the meretricious little tricks that radio has acquired through the years -- the phony sound effects, the contrived mechanics, the stilted diction. That would be the Hopkins way.

They Meet the Test

It is, naturally, to the great advantage of the series that it consists of the tried and true, and that the plays are performed by gilt-edged casts, including such players as Frank Craven, Miss Hepburn and Pauline Lord recreating roles they first played on the stage. By the same token, plays and players must meet the standard and the expectation their reputations have evoked before the radio curtain rises. To one listener it seems that they have thus far done so with exhilarating success.

And, with luck, this is but the beginning. In the little office in the Plymouth Theatre where so much history has been made, Mr. Hopkins talked to a visitor the other day of his dream of "a people's theatre" achieved by radio. Coming from another man that might have been a glib phrase, but you knew that he meant it. Amid the hurly-burly of Broadway he has never been ashamed to speak of art. Indeed, he has insisted upon it, with the courage of an experimentalist and the high optimism of a man of good-will. ... He envisioned, he went on to say, a radio repertoire of fifty plays going across the country to millions who had never heard them and might never hear them otherwise; inspiring new artists and community theaters; keeping the flame aglow.

"After all," he said, "in the beginning was the word."


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