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manifestly, was to place an eccentric, gentle, affectionate, humorous, and somewhat forlorn elderly man in a predicament of sad circumstance, and in that way to arouse pity and stimulate the promptings of charitable impulse. That purpose was accomplished; and, while the play is neither novel with invention, potent with strong dramatic effect, nor brilliant with polished dialogue, it possesses the solid worth of fidelity to simple life, the charm of diversified character, and the beauty of deep, tender, human feeling.
It was a wise choice which chose to combine those attributes into a stage figure, and Mr. Warfield,-finding himself liberated, mind and heart, into a congenial character, made this figure a vital emblem of heroism and paternal affection—not insipid, not effusive, but piquant with involuntary humor and decisive with wellgoverned emotion. In earlier performances this comedian was almost exclusively photographic; but time, study, thought, and practice,—the forces that constitute experience,-gradually expanded and ripened his art, and in this performance (when repetition had eliminated excessive nervous trepidation and made it “a property of easiness”) he showed intuitive insight and was deeply pathetic. That is success; for the higher purpose of acting a play is not proclamation of the talents of an actor, but liberation and enforcement of the utmost of beneficial influence upon an audience that a play contains. Mr. Warfield conquered by the
two great virtues of simplicity and sincerity. The principal defects in the personation-defects conspicuous in all Mr. Warfield's acting—were a hard, metallic voice and a poor method of elocution. The best dramatic expedient in the play is that by which the father's dubious, inchoate recognition of the daughter is confirmed. At that point and in the sequent situation, “lifted” from “Belphégor,” Mr. Warfield evinced sympathetic delicacy and tempestuous fervor. The closing scenes of the play are marred by episodes of irrelevant incident and by prolixity, obscurity, and artifice, in the long-drawn passage of parental and filial reconciliation, which, indeed, require but a glance.
“A GRAND ARMY MAN.”
On October 16, 1907, Mr. Belasco opened the Stuyvesant Theatre, and Mr. Warfield, appearing in “A Grand Army Man,” gave a strong, sympathetic, tender, touching performance of an old soldier who is subjected to an afflicting domestic experience. The play presents neither surprising ingenuity of construction nor uncommon felicity of style, but it tells a plain story in a plain way. The chord that is struck in it is that of romantic, almost paternal, altogether manly, and beautiful affection. As a work of dramatic art it appertains to the class of comedies represented by such plays as “Grandfather Whitehead,” “The Porter's Knot,” and “The Chimney Corner,”—plays in
which the theme involves unselfish love and the sentiments and emotions that cling to the idea of home. In that respect it reverts to a style of drama once, fortunately, dominant-at a time when the American Stage was illumined and adorned by such actors as Henry Placide, John Gilbert, John Nickinson, Charles W. Couldock, William Warren, and Mark Smith. The authors of it, David Belasco, Pauline Phelps, and Marion Short, provided Mr. Warfield with a vehicle of dramatic expression that exactly conforms to the bent of his mind. The plot is simple, but by reason of being natural and being fraught with true, as opposed to false, emotion, its simplicity nowhere declines into insipid commonplace. The chief character, Wes' Bigelow, is a veteran of the Grand Army of the Republic. He has never been married. In youth he has loved a girl, but has not won her, and she has become the wife of one of his comrades. Years have passed, and the American Civil War has occurred. That comrade has been killed in battle. The widow has died: but she has left a son, that comrade's boy, and Bigelow has adopted and reared him. The substance of the play is his experience with the fortunes of that ward.
It happens sometimes that a man whom a girl has rejected, and who remains unmarried because of his absorbing love for her, will fix his affection on her child,-she having married a more favored suitor and