Frohman became greatly attached to Forman. With his usual generosity he invited the author to accompany him on his approaching trip to England.
"I want you to come with me and meet Barrie and know some of my other English friends," Charles said, little dreaming that the invitation to a holiday was the beckoning hand of death to both.
STAR-MAKING AND AUDIENCES
During all these busy years Frohman had reigned supreme as king of star-makers. Under his persuasive sponsorship more men and women rose to stellar eminence than with all his fellow-managers combined. It was the very instinct of his life to develop talent, and it gave him an extraordinary satisfaction to see the artist emerge from the background into fame.
His attitude in the matter of star-making was never better expressed than in one of his many playful moods with the pencil. Like Caruso, he was a caricaturist. Few things gave him more delight than to make a hasty sketch of one of his friends on any scrap of paper that lay near at hand. He usually made these sketches just as he wrote most of his personal letters, with a heavy blue pencil.
On one occasion he was talking with Pauline Chase about making stars. A smile suddenly burst over his face; he seized pencil and paper and made a sketch of himself walking along at night and pointing to the moon with his stick. Under the picture he wrote, as if addressing the moon:
Watch out, or I'll make a star out of you.
Once he said to Billie Burke, in discussing this familiar star subject:
"A star has a unique value in a play. It concentrates interest. In some respects a play is like a dinner. To be a success, no matter how splendidly served, the menu should always have one unique and striking dish that, despite its elaborate gastronomic surroundings, must long be remembered. This is one reason why you need a star in a play."
Despite the fact, as the case of Ann Murdock shows, that Charles could literally lift a girl from the ranks almost overnight, he generally regarded the approach to stardom as a difficult and hard-won path. Just before the great European war, he made this comment to a well-known English journalist, who asked him how he made stars:
"Each of my stars has earned his or her position through honest advancement. If the President of the United States wants to reward a soldier he says to him, 'I will make you a general.' By the same process I say to an actor, 'I will make you a star.'
"All the stars under my management owe their eminence to their own ability and industry, and also to the fact that the American is an individual-loving public. In America we regard the workman first and the work second. Our imaginations are fired not nearly so much by great deeds as by great doers. There are stars in every walk of American life. It has always been so with democracies. Caesar, Cicero, and the rest were public stars when Rome was at her best, just as in our day Roosevelt and others shine.
"Far from fostering it, the star system as such has simply meant for me that when one of my stars finishes with a play, that play goes permanently on the shelf, no one ever hoping to muster together an audience for it without the original actor or actress in the star part.
"Vital acting in plays of consequence is the foundation of theatrical success. You have only to enumerate the plays to realize the drain even one management can make upon what is, after all, a limited supply of capable leading actors. This is because the American stage is short of leaders. There is a world of actors, but too few leading actors."
"What do you mean by leading actor?" he was asked.
"I mean that if in casting a play you can find an actor who looks the part you have in mind for him, be thankful; if you can find an actor who can act the part, be very thankful; and if you can find an actor who can look and act the part, get down on your knees and thank God!"
Frohman had a very definite idea about star material. He was once talking with a well-known American publisher who mentioned that a certain very rich woman had announced her determination to go on the stage. The manager made one of his quick and impatient gestures, and said:
"She will never do."
"Why?" asked his friend.
"Because," replied Frohman, "in all my experience with the making of stars I have seldom known of a very rich girl who made a finished success on the stage. The reason is that the daughters of the rich are taught to repress their emotions. In other words, they don't seem to be able to let go their feelings. Give me the common clay, the kind that has suffered and even hungered. It makes the best star material."
There is no doubt that Frohman liked to "make" careers. He wanted to see people develop under his direction. To indulge in this diversion was often a very costly thing, as this incident shows:
Chauncey Olcott, who had been associated with him in his minstrel days, and become one of the most profitable stars in the country, once sent a message to Frohman saying that he would like to come under his management. To the intermediary Olcott said:
"Tell Mr. Frohman that I make one hundred thousand dollars a year. He can name his own percentage of this income."
Frohman sent back this message:
"I greatly appreciate the offer, but I don't care to manage Olcott. He is made. I like to make stars."
One reason that lay behind Frohman's success as star-maker was the fact that he wove a great deal of himself into the character of the stars. In other words, the personal element counted a great deal. When somebody once remonstrated with him about giving up so much of his valuable time to what seemed to be inconsequential talks with his women stars, he said:
"It is not a waste of time. I have often helped those young women to take a brighter view of things, and it makes me feel that I am not just their manager, but their friend."
Indeed, as Barrie so well put it, he regarded his women stars as his children. If they were playing in New York they were expected to call on him and talk personalities three or four times a week. On the road they sent him daily telegrams; these were placed on his desk every morning, and were dealt with in person before any other business of the day. He had the names of his stars printed in large type on his business envelopes. These were so placed on his table that as he sat and wrote or talked he could see their names ranked before him.
When his women stars played in New York he always tried to visit them at night at the theater before the curtain went up. He always said of this that it was like seeing his birds tucked safely in their nests. Then he would go back to his office or his rooms and read manuscripts until late.
One phase of Charles's great success in life was revealed in this attitude toward his women stars. He succeeded because he mixed sentiment with business. He was not all sentiment and he was not all business, but he was an extraordinarily happy blend of each of these qualities, and they endeared him to the people who worked for him.
The attitude of the great star toward Frohman is best explained perhaps by Sir Henry Irving. Once, when the time came for his usual American tour, he said to his long-time manager, Bram Stoker, who was about to start for New York:
"When you get to America just tell Frohman—you need not bother to write him—that I want to come under his management. He always understands. He is always so fair."
One detail will illustrate Frohman's feeling about stars, and it is this: He never wanted them, male or female, to make themselves conspicuous or to do commonplace things. He was sensitive about what they said or did. For example, he did not like to see John Drew walk up and down Broadway. He spent a fortune sheltering Maude Adams from all kinds of intrusion. With her especially he exhausted every resource to keep her aloof and secluded. He preferred that she be known through her work and not through her personal self. It was so with himself.
Frohman was one of the most generous-minded of men in his feeling about his co-workers. On one occasion when he was rehearsing "The Dictator," William Collier suggested a whole new scene. The next night Frohman took a friend to see it. Afterward, accompanied by his guest, he went back on the stage to congratulate his star. He slapped Collier on the back and, turning to his companion, said:
"Wasn't that a bully scene that Willie put into the play?"
He was always willing to admit that his success came from those who worked for him. Once he was asked the question:
"If you had your life to live over again would you be a theatrical manager?"
Quick as a flash Frohman replied:
"If I could be surrounded by the same actors and writers who have made me—yes. Otherwise, no."
This feeling led him to say once:
"I believe a manager's success does not come so much from the public as from his players. When they are ready to march with him without regard to results, then he has indeed succeeded. This is my success. My ambition frankly centers in the welfare of the actor. The day's work holds out to me no finer gratification than to see intelligent, earnest, deserving actors go into the fame and fortune of being stars."
Nothing could down his immense pride in his stars. Once he was making his annual visit to England with Dillingham. At that time Olga Nethersole, who had been playing "Carmen," was under his management. She was also on the boat. The passenger-list included many other celebrities, among them Madame Emma Calve, the opera-singer, who had just made her great success in the opera "Carmen" at the Metropolitan Opera House. Naturally there was some rivalry between the two Carmens.
At the usual ship's concert both Nethersole and Calve inscribed their names on programs which were auctioned off for the benefit of the disabled sailors' fund. Competition was brisk. The card that Calve signed fetched nine hundred dollars. When Nethersole's program was put up Frohman led the bidding and drove it up to a thousand dollars, which he paid himself. It was all the money he had with him. Dillingham remonstrated for what seemed a foolish extravagance.
"I wanted my star to get the best of it, and she did," was the reply.
Frohman, as is well known, would never make a contract with his stars. When some one urged him to make written agreements, he said:
"No, I won't do it. I want them to be in a position so that if they ever become dissatisfied they know they are free to leave me."
Like all his other stars, William Collier had no contract with Charles, merely a verbal understanding extending over a period of years. After this agreement expired and another year and a half had gone by, Collier one day asked Frohman if he realized that their original agreement had run out. Frohman looked up with a start and said:
"Is that so? Well, it's all right, Willie, you know."
"Of course," said Collier, and that ended it.
The next Saturday when Collier got his pay-envelope he found inside a very charming letter from Frohman, which said:
I'm sorry that I overlooked the expiration of our agreement. I hope that you will find a little increase in your salary satisfactory.
There was an advance of one hundred dollars a week.
Frohman literally loved the word "star," and he delighted in the so-called "all-star casts." He had great respect for the big names of the profession; for those who had achieved success. He liked to do business with them.
In speaking about "all-star casts," he once said to his brother:
"I have to look after so many enterprises that I have no time to conduct a theatrical kindergarten in developing actors or playwrights save where the play of the unknown author or the exceptional talents of the unknown actor or actress appeal to me strongly. There is an element of safety in considering work by experts, because the theaters I represent need quick results."
In reply to the oft-repeated question as to why he took his American stars to London when they could play to larger audiences and make more money at home, he said:
"In the first place, such exchanges constitute the finest medium for the development of actress or actor and the liberalizing of the public. Face to face with an English audience the American actress finds herself confronted by new tastes, new appreciations, new demands. She must meet them all or fail. What does this result in? Versatility, flexibility, and, in the end, a firmer and more comprehensive hold upon her art."
When Frohman was asked to define success in theatrical management he made this answer:
"The terms of success in the theater seem to me to be the co-operating abilities of playwright and actor with the principal burden on the actor. In other words, the play is not altogether 'the thing.' The right player in the right play is the thing."
The shaping of William Gillette's career is a good example of Frohman's definition of a successful theatrical manager, whose best skill and talents are employed largely in the matter of manipulating a hard-minded person to mutual advantage.
The relationship between stars and audiences is of necessity a very close one. The Frohman philosophy, however, was not the generally accepted theory that audiences make stars.
On one of those very rare occasions in his life when he wrote for publication, he made the following illuminating statement:
No star or manager should feel grateful to any audience for the success of a play in which he has figured. A play succeeds because it is a living, vital thing—and that is why it has got upon the stage at all. There is life in it and it does not, and will not, die. It keeps itself alive until the opportunity comes along. Often a kind of instinct makes the opportunity.
It is instinct also that prompts an audience to applaud when it is pleased, laugh when it is amused, weep when it is moved, hiss when it is dissatisfied. No actor should feel indebted to an audience for the recognition of good work, because that same audience that appears to be so friendly, at another time, when one character or play does not please it, will resent both actor and play. This is as it should be. The loyalty of English audiences to their old favorites is fine, but it is bad for the old favorites. It is stagnating.
The various expressions of approval and disapproval that come from the spectators at a play are involuntary on the part of the spectators. They are hypnotized by the play and the acting. Who ever, on coming out of the theater after seeing a play that has pleased him, has felt a sense of happiness that his pleasure had also pleased the actor, or the author of the play, or the management of the production? Loyalty, generosity, and encouragement, as applied to audiences, are so many empty words. Play-goers who apply them to themselves cheat themselves. Miss Maude Adams is the only stage personage within my experience who has a distinct public following, loyal and encouraging to her in whatever she does.
Audiences interested Frohman immensely. He liked to be a part of them. He had a perfectly definite reason for sitting in the last row of the gallery on the first nights of his productions, which he once explained as follows:
"The best index to the probable career of any play is the back of the head of an auditor who does not know that he is being watched. The play-goer in an orchestra stall is always half-conscious that what he says or does may be observed. But the gallery gods and goddesses have never thought of anything except what is happening on the stage. They may yield the time before the rise of the curtain to watching the audience entering the theater, but once the lights are up and the stage is revealed they have no eyes or thoughts for anything except the life unfolded by the actors. These people in the upper part of the theater represent the masses. They are worth watching, for they are the people who make stage successes."
Frohman had his own theories about audiences, too. Concerning them he declared:
"An American at the theater feels first and thinks afterward. A European at a play thinks first and feels afterward. In conversation a German discusses things sitting down; a Frenchman talks standing up. But the American discusses things walking about. Therefore each must have his play built accordingly."
Once Frohman made this discriminating difference between English and American audiences:
"In England the pit and the gallery of the audience come to the theater, turn in their hard-earned shillings, and demand much. Failing to get what they expect, the theater is filled with boos and cat-calls at the end of the play. This does not mean that the play has failed. It more nearly means that the less a man pays to get into a theater the more he demands of the play.
"An American audience is different, because it has a fine sense of humor. When an American pays his money through the box-office window he feels that it is gone forever. Anything he receives after that—the lights, the pictures on the walls, the music of the orchestra, the sight of a few or many smiling faces—is so much to the good. So keen is the American play-goer's sense of humor that often when a play is wretchedly bad it comes to the rescue, and the applause is terrifically loud. This does not mean that the play has succeeded. It means rather that the play will die, a victim of the deadliest of all possible criticisms—ridicule."
Nor was Frohman often deceived about a first-night verdict. He always said, "Wait for the box-office statement on the second night."
One of his characteristic epigrammatic statements about the failure of plays was this:
"In America the question with a failure is, 'How soon can we get it off the stage?' In London they say, 'How long will the play run even though it is a failure?'"
Indeed, Frohman's whole attitude about openings was characteristic of his deep and generous philosophy about life. He summed up his whole creed as follows:
"A producer of plays, assuming that he is a man of experience, never feels comfortable after a great reception has been given his play on a first night. He knows that the reception in the theater does not always correspond to the feelings of future audiences. Every thinking manager knows that his play, in order to succeed, must send its audience away possessed of some distinct feeling. A successful play is a play that reflects, whatever the feeling it reflects.
"The great successes of the stage are plays that are played outside of the theater: over the breakfast-table; in a man's office; to his business associates; in a club, as one member tells the thrilling story of the previous night's experience to another. Great successes upon the stage are plays of such a sort that one audience can play them over to another prospective audience, and so make an endless chain of attendance at the theater.
"I have never in all my experience felt a success on the opening night. I have only felt my failures.
"I invariably leave the theater after a first-night performance knowing full well that neither my friends nor I know anything at all as to the ultimate fortune of the play we have seen."
It is a matter of record that Frohman always viewed his first nights with great nervousness. Although he attached but little importance, save on very rare occasions, to tumultuous applause on first nights, he was sometimes deceived by the reception that was given his productions.
He never tired of telling of one experience. He had left the theater on the first night, as he expressed it, "with the other mourners." He returned to his office immediately to cast a new play for the company. Yet he lived to see this play run successfully for a whole season. This led him to say:
"There's nothing more deluding to the player and the manager than enthusiastic applause. The fine, inspired work of a star actor often makes an audience enthusiastic to such a boisterous extent that one forgets that it is an individual and not the play that has succeeded."
Here, as elsewhere in the Frohman outlook on life and work, one finds clear-headed logic and reason behind the bubbling optimism.
PLAYS AND PLAYERS
One day not long before he sailed on the voyage that was to take him to his death, Charles was talking with a celebrated English playwright in his office at the Empire Theater. The conversation suddenly turned to a discussion of life achievement.
"What do you consider the biggest thing that you have done?" asked the visitor.
Frohman rose and pointed with his stick at the rows of book-shelves about him that held the bound copies of the plays he had produced. Then he said with a smile:
"That is what I have done. Don't you think it is a pretty good life's work?"
He was not overstepping the mark when he pointed with pride at that army of plays. This list is the greatest monument, perhaps, to his boundless ambition and energy, for it contains the four hundred original productions he made in America, besides the one hundred and twenty-five plays he put on in London. That Charles should have produced so many plays is not surprising. He adored the theater; it was his very being. To him, in truth, all the world was a stage.
Everything that he saw as he walked the streets or rode in a cab or viewed from a railway train he re-visualized and considered in the terms of the playhouse. If he saw an impressive bit of scenery he would say, "Wouldn't that make a fine background?" If he heard certain murmurs in the country or the tumult of a crowd on the highway, he instinctively said, "How fine it would be to reproduce that sound."
He only read books with a view of their adaptability to plays. Where other men found diversion and recreation in golfing, motoring, or walking, Charles sought entertainment in reading manuscripts. He was never without a play; when he traveled he carried dozens.
In the matter of plays Frohman had what was little less than a contempt for the avowedly academic. He refused to be drawn into discussions of the so-called "high brow" drama. When some one asked him to name the greatest of English dramatists he replied, quick as a flash:
"The one who writes the last great play."
"Whom do you consider the greatest American dramatist?" was the question once put to him. His smiling answer was:
"The one whose play the greatest number of good Americans go to see."
On this same occasion he was asked, "What seat in the theater do you consider the best to view a drama or a musical comedy from?"
"The paid one," he retorted.
Back in Charles's mind was a definite and well-ordered policy about plays. His first production on any stage was a melodrama, and, though in later years he ran the whole range from grave to gay, he was always true to his first love. This is one reason why Sardou's "Diplomacy" was, in many respects, his ideal of a play. It has thrills, suspense, love interests, and emotion. He revived it again and again, and it never failed to give him a certain pleasure.
Once in London Frohman unbosomed himself about play requirements, and this is what he said:
"I start out by asking certain requirements of every piece. If it be a drama, it must have healthfulness and comedy as well as seriousness. We are a young people, but only in the sense of healthy-mindedness. There is no real taste among us for the erotic or the decadent. It is foreign to us because, as a people, we have not felt the corroding touch of decadence. Nor is life here all drab. Hence I expect lights as well as shadows in every play I accept.
"Naturally, I am also influenced by the fitness of the chief parts for my chief stars, but I often purchase the manuscript at once on learning its central idea. I commissioned Clyde Fitch and Cosmo Gordon-Lennox to go to work on 'Her Sister' after half an hour's account of the main idea. Ethel Barrymore's work in that play is the best instance that I can give of the artistic growth of that actress. The particular skill she had obtained—and this is the test of an actress worth remembering—is the art of acting scenes essentially melodramatic in an unmelodramatic manner. After all, what is melodrama? Life itself is melodrama, and life put upon the stage only seems untrue when it is acted melodramatically—that is, unnaturally."
The foremost quality that Frohman sought in his plays was human interest. His appraisal of a dramatic product was often influenced by his love for a single character or for certain sentimental or emotional speeches. He would almost invariably discuss these plays with his intimates. Often he would act out the whole piece in a vivid and graphic manner and enlarge upon the situations that appealed to his special interest.
Plays thus described by him were found to be extremely entertaining and diverting to his friends, but when presented on the stage to a dispassionate audience they did not always fare so well. A notable example was "The Hyphen." The big, patriotic speech of the old German-American in the third act made an immense impression on Frohman when he read the play. It led him to produce the piece in record time. He recited it to every caller; he almost lost sight of the rest of the play in his admiration for the central effort. But the audience and the critics only saw this speech as part of a long play.
What Charles lacked in his study of plays in manuscript was the analytical quality. He could feel that certain scenes and speeches would have an emotional appeal, but he could not probe down beneath the surface for the why and the wherefore. For analysis, as for details, he had scant time. He accepted plays mainly for their general effect.
He was very susceptible to any charm that a play held out. If he found the characters sympathetic, attractive, and lovable, that would outweigh any objections made on technical grounds. When once he determined to produce a play, only a miracle could prevent him. The more his associates argued to the contrary, the more dogged he became. He had superb confidence in his judgment; yet he invariably accepted failure with serenity and good spirit. He always assumed the responsibility. He listened sometimes to suggestions, but his views were seldom colored by them.
His association with men like J. M. Barrie, Haddon Chambers, Paul Potter, William Gillette, Arthur Wing Pinero, and Augustus Thomas gave him a loftier insight into the workings of the drama. He was quick to absorb ideas, and he had a strong and retentive memory for details.
Frohman loved to present farce. He enjoyed this type of play himself because it appealed to his immense sense of humor. He delighted in rehearsing the many complications and entanglements which arise in such plays. The enthusiasm with which French audiences greeted their native plays often misled him. He felt that American theater-goers would be equally uproarious. But often they failed him.
The same thing frequently happened with English plays. He would be swept off his feet by a British production; he was at once sure that it would be a success in New York. But New York, more than once, upset this belief. The reason was that Frohman saw these plays as an Englishman. He had the cosmopolitan point of view that the average play-goer in America lacked.
This leads to the interesting subject of "locality" in plays. Frohman once summed up this whole question:
"As I go back and forth, crossing and recrossing the Atlantic, the audiences on both sides seem more and more like one. Always, of course, each has his own particular viewpoint, according to the side of the Atlantic I happen to be on. But often they think the same, each from its own angle.
"You bring your English play to America. Nobody is at all disturbed by the mention of Park Lane or Piccadilly Circus. If there is drama in the play, if in itself it interests and holds the audience, nobody pays any attention to its locality or localisms.
"But an English audience sitting before an American play hears mention of West Twenty-third Street or Washington Square, and while it is wondering just where and what these localities are an important incident in the dramatic action slips by unnoticed. Not that English audiences are at all prejudiced against American plays. They take them in the same general way that Americans take English plays. Each public asks, 'What have you got?' As soon as it hears that the play is good it is interested.
"English audiences, for example, were quick to discover the fun in 'The Dictator' when Mr. Collier acted it in London, though it was full of the local color of New York, both in the central character and in the subject. Somehow the type and the speeches seemed to have a sort of universal humor. I tried it first on Barrie. He marked in the manuscript the places that he could understand. The piece never went better in America.
"On the other hand, one reason why 'Brewster's Millions' did not go well in London was because the severely logical British mind took it all as a business proposition. The problem was sedately figured out on the theory that the young man did not spend the inherited millions.
"If the locality of an American play happens to be a mining village, it is better to change its scenes to a similar village in Australia when you take the play to London. Then the audience is sure to understand. The public of London gave 'The Lion and the Mouse' an enthusiastic first night, but it turned out that they had not comprehended the play. It was unthinkable to them that a judge should be disgraced and disbarred by a political 'ring.'"
The ideal play for Charles Frohman was always the one that he had in mind for a particular star. His special desire, however, was for strong and emotional love as the dominant force in the drama. He felt that all humanity was interested in love, and he believed it established a congenial point of contact between the stage and the audience.
Although he did not especially aspire to Shakespearian production, he used the great bard's works as models for appraising other plays. "Shakespeare invented farce comedy," he once said, "and whenever I consider the purchase of such a thing I compare its scenes with the most famous of all farces, 'The Taming of the Shrew.' It goes without saying that when it comes to the stage of the production, my aim is to imbue the performance with a spirit akin to that contained in Shakespeare's humorous masterpiece."
Frohman often "went wrong" on plays. He merely accepted these mistakes as part of the big human hazard and went on to something new. His amazing series of errors of judgment with plays by Augustus Thomas is one of the traditions of the American theater. The reader already knows how he refused "Arizona" and "The Earl of Pawtucket," and how they made fortunes for other managers.
One of the most extraordinary of these Thomas mistakes was with "The Witching Hour." It was about the only time that he permitted his own decision to be swayed by outside influence, and it cost him dearly.
The author read the play to Frohman on a torrid night in midsummer. Frohman, as usual, sat cross-legged on a divan and sipped orangeade incessantly.
Thomas, who has all the art and eloquence of a finished actor, read his work with magnetic effect. When he finished Frohman sat absolutely still for nearly five minutes. It seemed hours to the playwright, who awaited the decision with tense interest. Finally Frohman said in a whisper:
"That is almost too beautiful to bear."
A pause followed. Then he said, eagerly:
"When shall we do it; whom do you want for star?"
"I'd like to have Gillette," replied Thomas.
"You can't have him," responded Frohman. "He's engaged for something else."
With this the session ended. Frohman seemed strangely under the spell of the play. It made him silent and meditative.
The next day he gave the manuscript to some of his close associates to read. They thought it was too psychological for a concrete dramatic success. To their great surprise he agreed with them.
"The Witching Hour" was produced by another manager and it ran a whole season in New York, and then duplicated its success on the road. This experience made Frohman all the more determined to keep his own counsel and follow his instincts with regard to plays thereafter, and he did.
Charles regarded play-producing just as he regarded life—as a huge adventure. An amusing thing happened during the production of "The Other Girl," a play by Augustus Thomas, in which a pugilist has a prominent role.
Lionel Barrymore was playing the part of the prize-fighter, who was generally supposed to be a stage replica of "Kid" McCoy, then in the very height of his fistic powers. In the piece the fighter warns his friends not to bet on a certain fight. The lines, in substance, were:
"You have been pretty loyal to me, but I am giving you a tip not to put any money down on that 'go' in October."
One day Frohman found Barrymore pacing nervously up and down in front of his office.
"What's the matter, Lionel?" he asked.
"Well," was the reply, "I am very much disturbed about something. I made a promise to 'Kid' McCoy, and I don't know how to keep it. You know I have a line in the play in which the prize-fighter warns his friends not to bet on him in a certain fight in October. The 'Kid,' who has been at the play nearly every night since we opened, now has a real fight on for October, and he is afraid it will give people the idea that it is a 'frame-up.'"
"You mean to say that you want me to change Mr. Thomas's lines?" asked Frohman, seriously.
"I can't ask you to do that," answered Barrymore. "But I promised the 'Kid' to speak to you about it, and I have kept my word."
Frohman thought a moment. Then he said, gravely:
"All right, Lionel, I'll postpone the date of the fight in the play until November, even December, but not a day later."
Frohman was not without his sense of imitation. He was quick to follow up a certain type or mood whether it was in the vogue of an actor or the character of a play. This story will illustrate:
One night early in February, 1895, Frohman sat in his wonted corner at Delmonico's, then on Broadway and Twenty-sixth Street. He had "The Fatal Card," by Chambers and Stephenson, on the boards at Palmer's Theater; he also had A. M. Palmer's Stock Company on the road in Sydney Grundy's play "The New Woman." This naturally gave him a lively interest in Mr. Palmer's productions.
Paul Potter, who was then house dramatist at Palmer's, bustled into the restaurant with the plot of a new novel which had been brought to his attention by the news-stand boy at the Waldorf. Frohman listened to his recital with interest.
"What is the name of the book?" he asked.
"Trilby," replied Potter.
"Well," he continued, "it ought to be called after that conjurer chap, Bengali, or whatever his name is. However, go ahead. Get Lackaye back from 'The District Attorney' company to which Palmer has lent him. Engage young Ditrichstein by all means for one of your Bohemians. Call in Virginia Harned and the rest of the stock company. And there you are."
With uncanny precision he had cast the leading roles perfectly and on the impulse of the moment.
During the fortnight of the incubation of the play Potter saw Frohman nightly, for they were now fast friends. Frohman was curiously fascinated by "Bengali," as he insisted upon calling Svengali.
"We do it next Monday in Boston," said Potter, "and I count on your coming to see it."
Frohman went to Boston to see the second performance. After the play he and Potter walked silently across the Common to the Thorndyke Hotel. In his room Frohman broke into speech:
"They are roasting it awfully in New York," he began. "Yet Joe Jefferson says it will go around the world." Then he added, "They say you have cut out all the Bohemian stuff."
"Nevertheless," replied Potter, "W. A. Brady has gone to New York to-night to offer Mr. Palmer ten thousand dollars on account for the road rights."
"Well," said Frohman, showing his hand at last, "Jefferson and Brady are right, and if Palmer will let me in I'll go half and half, or, if he prefers, I'll take it all."
At supper after the first performance at the Garden Theater in New York, Frohman advised Sir Herbert Tree to capture the play for London. Henceforth, wherever he traveled, "Trilby" seemed to pursue him.
"I've seen your old 'Bengali,'" he wrote Potter, "in Rome, Vienna, Berlin, everywhere. It haunts me. And, as you cut out the good Bohemian stuff, I'll use it myself at the Empire."
He did so in Clyde Fitch's version of "La Vie de Boheme," which was called "Bohemia."
"How did it go?" Potter wrote him from Switzerland.
"Pretty well," replied Frohman. "Unfortunately we left out 'Bengali.'"
On more than one occasion Frohman produced a play for the mere pleasure of doing it. He put on a certain little dramatic fantasy. It was foredoomed to failure and held the boards only a week.
"Why did you do this play?" asked William H. Crane.
"Because I wanted to see it played," answered Frohman. "I knew it would not be successful, but I simply had to do it. I saw every performance and I liked it better every time I saw it."
Often Frohman would make a contract with a playwright for a play, and long before the first night he would realize that it had no chance. Yet he kept his word with the author, and it was always produced.
The case of "The Heart of a Thief," by the late Paul Armstrong, is typical. Frohman paid him an advance of fifteen hundred dollars. After a week of rehearsals every one connected with the play except Armstrong realized that it was impossible.
Frohman, however, gave it an out-of-town opening and brought it to the Hudson Theater in New York, where it ran for one week. When he decided to close it he called the company together and said:
"You've done the best you could. It's all my fault. I thought it was a good play. I was mistaken."
Frohman took vast pride in the "clean quality" of his plays, as he often phrased it. His whole theatrical career was a rebuke to the salacious. He originally owned Edward Sheldon's dramatization of Suderman's "The Song of Songs." On its production in Philadelphia it was assailed by the press as immoral. Frohman immediately sold it to A. H. Woods, who presented it with enormous financial success in New York.
He was scrupulous to the last degree in his business relations with playwrights. Once a well-known English author, who was in great financial need, cabled to his agent in America that he would sell outright for two thousand dollars all the dramatic rights to a certain play of his that Frohman and an associate had on the road at that time. The associate thought it was a fine opportunity and personally cabled the money through the agent. Then he went to Frohman and said, with great satisfaction:
"I've made some money for us to-day."
"How's that?" asked Frohman.
Then his associate told the story of the author's predicament and what he had done. He stood waiting for commendation. Instead, Frohman's face darkened; he rang a bell, and when his secretary appeared he said:
"Please wire Blank [mentioning the playwright's name] that the money cabled him to-day was an advance on future royalties."
Then he turned to his associate and said:
"Never, so long as you work with me or are associated with me in any enterprise, take advantage of the distress of author or actor. This man's play was good enough for us to produce; it is still good enough to earn money. When it makes money for us it also makes money for him."
* * *
By the force of his magnetic personality Charles amiably coerced more than one unwilling playwright into submission to his will. An experience with Margaret Mayo will illustrate.
Miss Mayo returned on the same steamer with him when he made his last trip from London to the United States. As they walked up the gang-plank at Liverpool the manager told the author that he had a play he wished her to adapt.
"But I have decided to adapt no more plays," said Miss Mayo.
"Never mind," replied Frohman. "We will see about that."
Needless to say, by the time the ship reached New York the play was in Miss Mayo's trunk and the genial tyrant had exacted a promise for the adaptation.
Miss Mayo immediately went to her country house up the Hudson. For a week she reproached herself for having fallen a victim to the Frohman beguilements. In this state of mind she could do no work on the manuscript.
With his astonishing intuition Frohman divined that the author was making no progress, so he sent her a note asking her to come to town, and adding, "I have something to show you."
Miss Mayo entered the office at the Empire determined to throw herself upon the managerial mercy and beg to be excused from the commission. But before she could say a word Frohman said, cheerily:
"I've found the right title for our play."
Then he rang a bell, and a boy appeared holding a tightly rolled poster in his hand. At a signal he unfolded it, and the astonished playwright beheld these words in large red and white letters:
I DIDN'T WANT TO DO IT
A Farce in Three Acts
By Margaret Mayo
Of course the usual thing happened. No one could resist such an attack. Miss Mayo went back to the country without protest and she finished the play. It was destined, however, to be produced by some other hand than Frohman's.
* * *
Frohman always sought seclusion when he wanted to work out the plans for a production. He sometimes went to extreme lengths to achieve aloofness. An incident related by Goodwin will illustrate this.
During the run of "Nathan Hale" in New York Goodwin entered his dressing-room one night, turned on the electric light, and was amazed to see Charles sitting huddled up in a corner.
"What are you doing here, Charley?" asked Goodwin.
"I am casting a new play, and came here to get some inspiration. Good night," was the reply. With that he walked out.
* * *
There was one great secret in Charles Frohman's life. It is natural that it should center about the writing of a play; it is natural, too, that this most intimate of incidents in the career of the great manager should be told by his devoted friend and colleague of many years, Paul Potter.
Here it is as set down by Mr. Potter:
We had hired a rickety cab at the Place Saint-Francois in Lausanne, and had driven along the lake of Geneva to Morges, where, sitting on the terrace of the Hotel du Mont Blanc, we were watching the shore of Savoy across the lake, and the gray old villages of Thonon and Evian, and the mountains, rising ridge upon ridge, behind them. And Frohman, being in lyric mood, fell to quoting "The Blue Hills Far Away," for Owen Meredith's song was one of the few bits of verse that clung in his memory.
"Odd," said he, relapsing into prose, "that a chap should climb hill after hill, thinking he had reached his goal, and should forever find the blue hills farther and farther away."
While he was ruminating the clouds lifted, and there, in a gap of the hills, was the crest of Mont Blanc, with its image of Napoleon lying asleep in the snow.
I have seen Frohman in most of the critical moments of his life, but I never saw him utterly awe-stricken till then.
"Gee," said he, at length, "what a mountain to climb!"
"It is sixty miles away," I ventured to suggest.
"Well," he remarked, "I'll climb it some day. As John Russell plastered the Rocky Mountains with 'The City Directory,' so I'll hang a shingle from the top of Mont Blanc: 'Ambition: a comedy in four acts by Charles Frohman.'" And as we went home to Ouchy he told me the secret desire of his heart.
He wanted to write a play.
"Isn't it enough to be a theatrical manager?" I asked.
"No," said he, "a theatrical manager is a joke. The public thinks he spends his days in writing checks and his nights in counting the receipts. Why, when I wanted to become a depositor at the Union Bank in London, the cashier asked me my profession. 'Theatrical manager,' I replied. 'Humph!' said the cashier, taken aback. 'Well, never mind, Mr. Frohman; we'll put you down as 'a gentleman.'"
"But is a playwright," I asked, "more highly reputed than a theatrical manager?"
"Not in America," said Frohman. "Most Americans think that the actors and actresses write their own parts. I was on the Long Branch boat the other day and met a well-known Empire first-nighter. 'What are you going to give us next season, Frohman?' he said.
"'I open with a little thing by Sardou,' I replied.
"'Sardou!' he cried. 'Who in thunder is Sardou?'
"All the same," Frohman continued, "I mean to be a playwright. Didn't Lester Wallack write 'Rosedale' and 'The Veteran'? Didn't Augustin Daly make splendid adaptations of German farces? Doesn't Belasco turn out first-class dramas? Then why not I? I mean to learn the game. Don't give me away, but watch my progress in play-making as we jog along through life."
He got his first tip from Pinero. "When I have sketched out a play," observed the author of "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray," "I go and live among the characters."
Frohman had no characters of his own, but he held in his brain a fabulous store of other people's plays. And whenever they had a historical or a literary origin he ran these origins to their lair. At Ferney, on the Lake of Geneva, he cared nothing about Voltaire; he wanted to see the place where the free-thinkers gathered in A. M. Palmer's production of "Daniel Rochat." At Geneva he was not concerned with Calvin, but with memories of a Union Square melodrama, "The Geneva Cross." At Lyons he expected the ghosts of Claude Melnotte and Pauline to meet him at the station. In Paris he allowed Napoleon to slumber unnoticed in the Invalides while he hunted the Faubourg Saint-Antoine for traces of "The Tale of Two Cities," and the Place de la Concorde for the site of the guillotine on which Sidney Carton died, and the Latin Quarter haunts of Mimi and Musette, and the Bal Bullier where Trilby danced, and the Concert des Ambassadeurs where Zaza bade her lover good-by.
Any production was an excuse for these expeditions. Sir Herbert Tree had staged "Colonel Newcome"; we had ourselves plotted a dramatization of "Pendennis"; Mrs. Fiske had given "Vanity Fair"; so off we went, down the Boulevard Saint-Germain, searching for the place, duly placarded, where Thackeray lunched in the days of the "Paris Sketch-book" and the "Ballad of Bouillabaisse."
In the towns of Kent we got on the trail of Dickens with the enthusiasm of a Hopkinson Smith; in London, between Drury Lane and Wardour Street, we hunted for the Old Curiosity Shop; in Yarmouth we discovered the place where Peggotty's boat-hut might have lain on the sands. With William Seymour, who knew every street from his study of "The Rivals," we listened to the abbey bells of Bath. And when "Romeo and Juliet" was to be revived with Sothern and Marlowe, Frohman even proposed that we should visit Verona. He only abandoned the idea on discovering that the Veronese had no long-distance telephones, and that, while wandering among the tombs of the Montagus and Capulets, he would be cut off from his London office.
Having thus steeped himself in the atmosphere of his work, he set forth to learn the rules of the game. I met him in Paris on his return from New York. "How go the rules?" I asked.
"Rotten," said he. "Our American playwrights say there are no rules; with them it is all inspiration. The Englishmen say that rules exist, but what the rules are they either don't know or won't tell."
We went to the Concert Rouge. Those were the happy days when there were no frills; when the price of admission was charged with what you drank; when Saint-Saens accompanied his "Samson and Delilah" with an imaginary flute obligato on a walking-stick; when Massenet, with his librettist, Henri Cain, dozed quietly through the meditation of "Thais"; when the students and their girls forgot frivolity under the spell of "L'Arlesienne."
In a smoky corner sat a group of well-known French playwrights, headed by G. A. Caillavet, afterward famous as author of "Le Roi." They were indulging in a heated but whispered discussion. They welcomed Frohman cordially, then returned to the debate.
"What are they talking about?" asked Frohman.
"The rules of the drama," said I.
"Then there are rules!" cried the manager, eagerly.
"Ask Caillavet," said I.
"Rules?" exclaimed Caillavet, who spoke English. "Are there rules of painting, sculpture, music? Why, the drama is a mass of rules! It is nothing but rules."
"And how long," faltered Frohman, thinking of his play—"how long would it take to learn them?"
"A lifetime at the very least," answered Caillavet. Disconsolate, Frohman led me out into the Rue de Tournon. Heartbroken, he convoyed me into Foyot's, and drowned his sorrows in a grenadine.
From that hour he was a changed man. He apparently put aside all thought of the drama whose name was to be stenciled on the summit of Mont Blanc; yet, nevertheless, he applied himself assiduously to learning the principles on which the theater was based.
Another winter had passed before we sat side by side on the terrace of the Cafe Napolitain.
"I have asked Harry Pettitt, the London melodramatist," Frohman said, "to write me a play. 'I warn you, Frohman,' he replied, 'that I have only one theme—the Persecuted Woman.' Dion Boucicault, who was present, said, 'Add the Persecuted Girl.' Joseph Jefferson was with us, and Jefferson remarked, 'Add the Persecuted Man.' So was Henry Irving, who said: 'Pity is the trump card; but be Aristotelian, my boy; throw in a little Terror; with Pity I can generally go through a season, as with 'Charles the First' or 'Olivia'; with Terror and Pity combined I am liable to have something that will outlast my life." And Irving mentioned "The Bells" and "The Lyons Mail."
"But who will write you your Terror and Pity?" I asked Frohman.
"If Terror means 'thrill,'" said Frohman, "I can count on Belasco and Gillette. If Pity means 'sympathy,' the Englishmen do it pretty well. So does Fitch. So do the French, who used to be masters of the game."
"You don't expect," I said, "to pick up another 'Two Orphans,' a second 'Ticket of Leave Man'?"
"I'm not such a fool," said Frohman. "But I've got hold of something now that will help me to feed my stock company in New York." And off we went with Dillingham to see "The Girl from Maxim's" at the Nouveautes.
When we got home to the Ritz Frohman discussed the play after his manner: "Do you know," he said, "I find the element of pity quite as strongly developed in these French farces as in the Ambigu melodramas. The truant husband leaves home, goes out for a good time, gets buffeted and bastinadoed for his pains, and when the compassionate audience says, 'He has had enough; let up,' he comes humbly home to the bosom of his family and is forgiven. Where can you find a more human theme than that?"
"Then you hold," said I, "that even in a French farce the events should be reasonable?"
"I wouldn't buy one," he replied, "if I didn't consider its basis thoroughly human. Dion Boucicault told me long ago that farce, like tragedy, must be founded on granite. 'Farce, well done,' said he, 'is the most difficult form of dramatic composition. That is why, if successful, it is far the most remunerative.'"
Years went by. The stock company was dead. "Charles Frohman's Comedians" had disappeared. The "stars" had supplanted them. Frohman was at the zenith of his career. American papers called him "the Napoleon of the Drama." Prime Ministers courted him in the grill-room of the London Savoy. The Paris Figaro announced the coming of "the celebrated impresario." I heard him call my name in the crowd at the Gare du Nord and we bundled into a cab.
"So you're a great man now," I said.
"Am I?" he remarked. "There's one thing you can bet on. If they put me on a throne to-day they are liable to yank me off to-morrow."
"And how's your own play getting along?"
"Don't!" he winced. "Let us go to the Snail."
In the cozy recesses of the Escargot d'Or, near the Central Markets, he unraveled the mysteries of the "star system" which had made him famous.
"It's the opposite of all we ever believed," he said, while the mussels and shell-fish were being heaped up before him. "Good-by to Caillavet and his rules. Good-by, Terror and Pity. Good-by, dear French farce. Give me a pretty girl with a smile, an actor with charm, and I will defy our old friend Aristotle."
"Is it as easy as that?" I asked, in amazement.
"No," said he, "it's confoundedly difficult to find the girl with the smile and the actor with charm. It is pure accident. There are players of international reputation who can't draw a dollar. There are chits of chorus-girls who can play a night of sixteen hundred dollars in Youngstown, Ohio."
"And the play doesn't matter?" I inquired.
"There you've got me," said Frohman, as the crepes Suzette arrived in their chafing-dish. "My interest makes me pretend that the play's the thing. I congratulate foreign authors on a week of fourteen thousand dollars in Chicago, and they go away delighted. But I know, all the time, that of this sum the star drew thirteen thousand nine hundred dollars, and the author the rest."
"To what do you attribute such a state of affairs?"
"Feminine curiosity. God bless the women."
"Are there no men in your audiences?" I asked.
"Only those whom the women take," said Frohman. "The others go to musical shows. Have some more crepes Suzette."
"But what do the critics say?" I persisted.
"My dear Paul," said Frohman, solemnly, "they call me a 'commercial manager' because I won't play Ibsen or Maeterlinck. They didn't help me when I tried for higher game. I had years of poverty, years of privation. To-day I take advantage of a general feminine desire to view Miss Tottie Coughdrop; and, to the critics, I'm a mere Bulgarian, a 'commercial manager.' So was Lester Wallack when he admitted 'The World' to his classic theater. So was Augustin Daly when he banished Shakespeare in favor of 'The Great Ruby.' If the critics want to reform the stage, let them begin by reforming the public."
In his cabin on the Lusitania he showed me a mass of yellow manuscript, scribbled over with hieroglyphics in blue pencil.
"That's my play," he said, very simply.
"Shall I take it home and read it?" I asked.
"No," he replied. "I will try it on Barrie and bring it back in better shape."
So he shook hands and sailed with his cherished drama, which reposes to-day, not on the summit of Mont Blanc, but at the bottom of the Irish Sea.
"C. F." AT REHEARSALS
The real Charles Frohman emerged at rehearsals. The shy, sensitive man who shunned the outside world here stood revealed as a dynamic force. Yet he ruled by personality, because he believed in personality. He did every possible thing to bring out the personal element in the men and women in his companies.
In rehearsing he showed one of the most striking of his traits. It was a method of speech that was little short of extraordinary. It grew out of the fact that his vocabulary could not express his enormous imagination. Instead of words he made motions. It was, as Augustus Thomas expressed it, "an exalted pantomime." Those who worked with him interpreted these gestures, for between him and his stars existed the finest kinship.
Frohman seldom finished a sentence, yet those who knew him always understood the unuttered part. Even when he would give a star the first intimation of a new role he made it a piece of pantomime interspersed with short, jerky sentences.
William Faversham had complained about having two very bad parts. When he went to see Frohman to hear about the third, this is the way the manager expressed it to him:
"New play—see?... Fine part.—First act—you know—romantic—light through the window ... nice deep tones of your voice, you see?... Then, audience say 'Ah!'—then the girl—see?—In the room ... you ... one of those big scenes—then, all subdued—light—coming through window.—See?—And then—curtain—audience say 'Great!' ... Now, second act ... all that tremolo business—you know?—Then you get down to work ... a tremendous scene ... let your voice go.... Great climax ... (Oh, a great play this—a great part!) ... Now, last act—simple—nice—lovable—refined ... sad tones in your voice—and, well, you know—and then you make a big hit.... Well, now we will rehearse this in about a week—and you will be tickled to death.... This is a great play—fine part.... Now, you see Humphreys—he will arrange everything."
Of course Faversham went away feeling that he was about forty-four feet tall, that he was a great actor, and had a wonderful part.
Like the soldier who thrills at the sound of battle, Frohman became galvanized when he began to work in the theater. He forgot time, space, and all other things save the task at hand. To him it was as the breath of life.
One reason was that the theater was his world; the other that Charles was, first and foremost, a director and producer. His sensibility and force, his feeling and authority, his intelligence and comprehension in matters of dramatic artistry were best, almost solely, known to his players and immediate associates. No stage-director of his day was more admired and desired than he.
At rehearsal the announcement, "C. F. is in front," meant for every one in the cast an eager enthusiasm and a desire to do something unusually good to merit his commendation. His enormous energy, aided by his diplomacy and humor, inspired the player to highest performance.
Such expressions as, "But, Mr. Frohman, this is my way of doing it," or "I feel it this way," and like manifestations of actors' conceit or argument would never be met with ridicule or contempt. Sometimes he would say, "Try it my way first," or "Do you like that?" or "Does this give you a better feeling?" He never said, "You must do thus and so." He was alert to every suggestion. As a result he got the very best out of his people. It was part of his policy of developing the personal element.
The genial human side of the man always softened his loudest tones, although he was seldom vehement. So gentle was his speech at rehearsals that the actors often came down to the footlights to hear his friendly yet earnest direction.
Frohman had that first essential of a great dramatic director—a psychologic mind in the study of the various human natures of his actors and of the ideas they attempted to portray.
He was an engaging and fascinating figure, too, as he molded speech and shaped the play. An old friend who saw him in action thus describes the picture:
"Here a comedian laughs aloud with the comic quaintness of the director. There a little lady, new to the stage, is made to feel at home and confident. The proud old-timer is sufficiently ameliorated to approve of the change suggested. The leading lady trembles with the shock of realization imparted by the stout little man with chubby smile who, seated alone in the darkened auditorium, conveys his meaning as with invisible wires, quietly, quaintly, simply, and rationally, so as to stir the actors' souls to new sensibilities, awaken thought, and viviby(?) glow of passion, sentiment, or humor."
At rehearsals Frohman usually sat alone about the tenth row back. He rarely rose from his seat, but by voice and gesture indicated the moves on his dramatic chess-board. When it became necessary for him to go on the stage he did so with alacrity. He suggested, by marvelously simple indications and quick transitions, the significance of the scene or the manner of the presentation.
There was a curious similarity, in one respect, between the rehearsing methods of Charles Frohman and Augustin Daly. This comparison is admirably made by Frohman's life-long friend Franklin H. Sargent, Director of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Empire School of Acting, in which Frohman was greatly interested and which he helped in every possible way. He said:
"Like a great painter with a few stray significant lines of drawing, Frohman revealed the spirit and the idea. In this respect he resembled Augustin Daly, who could furnish much dramatic intuition by a grunt and a thumb-joint. Both men used similar methods and possessed equal keenness of intelligence and sense of humor, except that Frohman was rarely sarcastic. Daly usually was. Frohman's demeanor and relationship to his actors was kindly and considerate. Rules, and all strictly enforced, were in Daly's policy of theater management. Frohman did not resort to rules. He regulated his theaters on broad principles, but with firm decision when necessary. In Daly's theater there was obedience; in Frohman's theater there was a willing co-operation. The chief interest of both managers was comedy—comedy of two opposite kinds. Daly's jest was the artificial German farce and Shakespearian refinement. Frohman's tastes ranged between the French school—Sardou's 'Diplomacy' and the modern realities—and the pure sentiments of Barrie's 'The Little Minister.' Frohman was never traditional in an artificial sense, though careful to retain the fundamental original treatment of imported foreign plays.
"The verities, the humanities, the joys of life always existed and grew with him as with a good landscape architect who keeps in nature's ways. His departures into the classicism of Stephen Phillips, the romanticism of Shakespeare, or the exotic French society drama were never as valuable and delightful as his treatment of modern sentiment and comedy."
In this respect a comparison with the workmanship of another genius of the American theater, David Belasco, is inevitable. Belasco, the great designer and painter of theatrical pictures, holds quite a different point of view and possesses different abilities from those of Charles Frohman. Belasco revels in the technique of the actor. Frohman's metier was the essentials. The two men were in many ways complements of each other and per force admirers of each other and friends. In brief, Belasco is the technicist; Frohman was the humanitarian.
Charles usually left details of scenery, lighting, and minor matters to his stage-manager. "Look after the little things," he would say, in business as in art, for he himself was interested only in the larger themes. The lesser people of the play, the early rehearsing of involved business, was shaped by his subordinates. The smaller faults and the mannerisms of the actor did not trouble him, provided the main thought and feeling were there. He would merely laugh at a suggestion to straighten out the legs and walk, to lengthen the drawl, or to heighten the cockney accent of a prominent member of his company, saying:
"The public likes him for these natural things."
Frohman's ear was musically sensitive. The intonations, inflections, the tone colors of voice, orchestral and incidental music, found him an exacting critic.
To plays he gave thought, study, and preparation. The author received much advice and direction from him. He himself possessed the expert knowledge and abilities of a playwright, as is always true of every good stage-director. Each new play was planned, written, cast, and revised completely under his guidance and supervision. His stage-manager had been instructed in advance in the "plotting" of its treatment. The first rehearsals were usually left in charge of this assistant.
At the first rehearsals Frohman made little or no comments. He watched and studied in silence. Thereafter his master-mind would reveal itself in reconstruction of lines and scenes, re-accentuation of the high and low lights of the story involved, and improvement of the acting and representation. Frohman consulted with his authors, artists, and assistants more in his office than in actual rehearsal. In the theater he was sole auditor and judge. His stage-manager would rarely make suggestions during rehearsals unless beckoned to and asked by his manager. When the office-boy came in at rehearsal on some important business errand, he got a curt dismissal, or at most a brief consideration of the despatch, contract, or message.
Here is a vivid view of Frohman at rehearsal by one who often sat under the magic of his direction:
"In the dim theater he sits alone, the stage-manager being at a respectable distance. If by chance there are one or two others present directly concerned in the production, they all sit discreetly in the extreme rear. The company is grouped in the wings, never in the front. The full stage lights throw into prominence the actors in the scene in rehearsal. Occasionally the voice of Mr. Frohman calls from the auditorium, and the direction is sometimes repeated more loudly by the stage-manager. Everybody is listening and watching.
"The wonderfully responsive and painstaking nature of Maude Adams is fully alive, alert, and interested in Mr. Frohman's directions even in the scenes in which she has no personal part, during which, very likely, she will half recline on the floor near the proscenium—all eyes and ears.
"Or perhaps it is a strong emotional scene in which Margaret Anglin is the central character. At the theatrically most effective point in the acting the voice breaks in, Miss Anglin stops, hastens to the footlights, and listens intently to a few simple, quiet words. Over her face pass shadow and storm, and in her eyes tears form. Again she begins the scene, and yet again, with cumulative passion. Each time, with each new incitement from the sympathetic director, new power, deeper feeling, keener thought develop, until a great glow of meaning and of might fills the stage and the theater with its radiance. Mr. Frohman is at last satisfied, and so the play moves on."
Just as Frohman loved humor in life, so did he have a rare gift for comedy rehearsal. William Faversham pays him this tribute:
"I think Charles Frohman was the greatest comedy stage-manager that I have known. I do not think there was a comedy ever written that he could not rehearse and get more out of than any other stage-director I have ever seen—and I have seen a good many. If he had devoted himself, as director, entirely to one company, I think he would have produced the greatest organization of comedians that Europe or America ever saw. I don't suppose there is a comedy scene that he couldn't rehearse and play better than any of the actors who were engaged to play the parts. The subtle touches that he put into 'Lord and Lady Algy' were extraordinary. The same with 'The Counsellor's Wife,' with 'Bohemia,' and again with a play of H. V. Esmond's called 'Imprudence,' which we did. He seemed to love this play, and I never saw a piece grow so in all my life as it did under his direction. All the successes made by the actors and actresses in that play were entirely through the work of Charles Frohman.
"He had a keen sense of sound, a tremendous ear for tones of comedy. He could get ten or twelve inflections out of a speech of about four lines; he had a wonderful method of getting the actors to accept and project these tones over the footlights. He got what he wanted from them in the most extraordinary way. With his disjointed, pantomimic method of instruction he was able to transfer to them, as if by telepathy, what he wanted.
"For instance, he would say: 'Now, you go over there ... then, just as he is looking at you ... see?—say—then ... that's it! you know?' And simply by this telepathy you did know."
His terse summing up of scenes and facts was never better illustrated than when he compressed the instructions of a whole sentimental act into this simple sentence to E. H. Sothern:
In one detail he differed from all the other great producers of his time. Most managers liked to nurse a play after its production and build it up with new scenes or varied changes. With Frohman it was different. "I am interested in a production until it has been made, and then I don't care for it any more," he said. This is generally true, although some of his productions he could never see often enough.
Frohman's perception about a play was little short of uncanny. An incident that happened during the rehearsal of the Maude Adams all-star revival of "Romeo and Juliet" will illustrate. James K. Hackett was cast for Mercutio. He had worked for a month on the Queen Mab speech. He had elaborated and polished it, and thought he had it letter and tone perfect.
Frohman sat down near the front and listened with rapt attention while this fine actor declaimed the speech. When he finished Charles said, in his jerky, epigrammatic way:
"Hackett, that's fine, but just in there somewhere—you know what I mean."
As a matter of fact, Hackett, with all his elaborate preparation, had slipped up on one line, and it was a very essential one. Frohman had never read "Romeo and Juliet" until he cast this production, yet he caught the omission with his extraordinary intuition.
Charles was the most indefatigable of workers. At one time, on arriving in Boston at midnight, he had to stage a new act of "Peter Pan." He worked over it with carpenters, actors, and electricians until three in the morning. Then he made an appointment with the acting manager to take a walk on the Common "in the morning."
The manager took "in the morning" to mean nine o'clock. When he reached the hotel Frohman was just returning from his walk, and handed the man a bunch of cables to send, telegrams to acknowledge, and memoranda of information desired. At ten o'clock Frohman was conducting the rehearsal of a new comedy by Haddon Chambers, which he finished at four. At five he was on a train speeding back to New York, where he probably read manuscripts of plays until two in the morning. This was one of the typical "C. F." days.
* * *
Occasionally a single detail would fascinate him in a play. "The Waltz Dream" that he did at the Hicks Theater in London in 1908 was typical. Miss Gertie Millar, who sang the leading part, had an important song. Frohman did not like the way she sang it, so he worked on it for two weeks until it reached the perfection of expression that he desired. But that song made the play and became the most-talked-of feature in it. This led him to say:
"I am willing to give as much time to a single song as to the rehearsal of a whole play."
Frohman had a phrase that he often used with his actors and directors. It was:
"Never get a 'falling curtain.'"
By this he meant a curtain that did not leave interest or emotion subdued or declining. He wanted the full sweep of rage, terror, pity, suspense, or anger alive with the end of the act.
He always said, "A man who sees a play must feel that he is in the presence of an act." It was his way of putting forth the idea that any acted effort, no matter how humble, must have the ring of sincerity and conviction.
Charles had an almost weird instinct for what was right on the stage. Once at rehearsals he pointed to a heavy candelabrum that stood on a table.
"I want that thing on the mantelpiece," he said.
"You mean the candelabrum?" asked one of his assistants.
"I don't know what it is, but I know that it belongs on the mantelpiece." And it did.
* * *
Many of Frohman's rehearsals were held out of town. He was particularly fond of "pointing up" a production in a strange environment. Then the stage-director would ask the local manager for an absolutely empty theater—"a clear auditorium."
"Peter Pan" was to be "finished off" at Washington. The call was issued, the company assembled—everybody was present except Frohman. "Strange," was the thought in all minds, for he was usually so prompt. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes passed until the stage-manager left the theater in search of the manager. He was found at the front entrance of the theater, unsuccessfully arguing with a German door-tender who, not knowing him and immensely amused at the idea that he was pretending to be Charles Frohman, refused to admit him until reassured by the company stage-manager. Later, when the man came to apologize, Frohman's only comment was:
"Oh! I forgot that an hour ago."
Few people knew the Frohman of rehearsals so well as William Seymour, for many years his general stage-director. His illuminating picture of the Little Chief he served so long is as follows:
"At rehearsals Charles Frohman was completely wrapped up in the play and the players. His mind, however, traveled faster than we did. He often stopped me to make a change in a line or in the business which to me was not at all clear. You could not always grasp, at once, just what he was aiming at. But once understood, the idea became illuminative, and extended into the next, or even to succeeding acts of the play. He could detect a weak spot quicker than any one I ever knew, and could remedy or straighten it out just as quickly.
"After the rehearsal of a new play he would think of it probably all the evening and night, and the next morning he had the solutions of the several vague points at his fingers' ends. He was also very positive and firm in what he wanted done, and how he thought it should be done. But what he thought was right, he believed to be right, and he soon made you see it that way.
"I confess to having had many differences of opinion and arguments, sometimes even disagreements, with him. In some instances he came round to my way of thinking, but he often said:
"'I believe you are right—I am sure you are right—but I intend doing it my way.'
"It was his great and wonderful self-confidence, and it was rarely overestimated.
"To his actors in a new play, after a week's 'roughing out' of the lines and business, the announcement that 'C. F. will be here to-morrow' would cause a flutter, some consternation, and to the newer members a great fear. To those who had been with him before he was like a sheet-anchor in a storm. They knew him and trusted and loved him. He was all sympathy, all comfort, all encouragement—if anything, too indulgent and overkind. But he won the confidence and affection of his people at the outset, and I have rarely met a player who would not have done his slightest bidding."
* * *
One of Frohman's characteristic hobbies was that he would never allow the leading man or the leading woman of his theater, or anybody in the company, no matter what position he or she held, to presume upon that position and bully the property man, or the assistant stage-manager, or any person in a menial position in the theater. He was invariably on the side of the smaller people.
Very often he would say, "The smallest member of this organization, be he of the staff or in the company, has as much right to his 'say' in an argument as the biggest member has."
On one occasion a certain actor, who was rather fond of issuing his wishes and instructions in a very loud voice, made his exit through a door up the center of the stage which was very difficult to open and shut. It had not worked well, and this had happened, quite by accident, on several occasions during the run of the play. The actor had spoken rather sharply to the carpenter about it instead of going, as he should have done, to the stage-manager. He always called the carpenter "Charley." The carpenter was a rather dignified person named Charles Heimley.
On the night in question this actor had had the usual trouble with the door. Heimley was not in sight, for he was evidently down in his carpenter-shop under the stage. The actor leaned over the balustrade and called out: "Charley! Charley!"
Frohman, who was just walking through the side door on his way to William Faversham's dressing-room, turned to the star and said:
"Who is calling? Does he want me?"
"Oh no, he is calling the carpenter," replied Faversham.
Frohman tapped the noisy actor on the shoulder with his stick, and said, "You mean Mr. Heimley, don't you?" He wanted the carpenter's position to be respected.
HUMOR AND ANECDOTE
The most distinctive quality in Charles Frohman's make-up was his sense of humor. He mixed jest with life, and it enabled him to meet crisis and disaster with unflagging spirit and smiling equanimity. Like Lincoln, he often resorted to anecdote and story to illustrate his point. He summed up his whole theory of life one day when he said to Augustus Thomas:
"I am satisfied if the day gives me one good laugh."
He had a brilliancy of retort that suggested Wilde or Whistler. Once he was asked this question:
"What is the difference between metropolitan and out-of-town audiences?"
"Fifty cents," he replied.
* * *
Haddon Chambers was writing a note in Frohman's rooms at the Savoy.
"Do you spell high-ball with a hyphen?" he asked.
"No, with a siphon," responded Frohman.
* * *
Charles Dillingham, when in Frohman's employ, was ordered to hurry back to New York. From a small town up New York state he wired:
Wash-out on line. Will return as soon as possible.
Frohman promptly sent the following reply:
Never mind your wash. Buy a new shirt and come along at once.
That he could also meet failure with a joke is shown by the following incident:
He was producing a play at Atlantic City that seemed doomed from the start. In writing to a member of his family he said:
I never saw the waves so high and the receipts so low.
Frohman and Pinero were dining in the Carleton grill-room one night when a noisy person rushed up to them, slapped each on the shoulder, and said:
"Hello, 'C. F.'! Hello, 'Pin.'! I'm Hopkins."
Frohman looked up gravely and said:
"Ah, Mr. Hopkins, I can't say that I remember your name or your face, but your manner is familiar."
* * *
When Edna May married Oscar Lewisohn she gave a reception on her return from the honeymoon. She sent Charles one of the conventional engraved cards that read:
"At home Thursday from four to six."
Frohman immediately sent back the card, on which he had written, "So am I."
* * *
Once when Frohman and Dillingham were crossing to Europe on the Oceanic they had as fellow-passenger a mutual friend, Henry Dazian, the theatrical costumer, on whom Charles delighted to play pranks. On the first day out Dillingham came rushing back to Frohman with this exclamation:
"There are a couple of card-sharks on board and Dazian is playing with them. Don't you think we had better warn him?"
"No," replied Frohman. "Warn the sharks."
* * *
Some years ago Frohman sent a young actor named John Brennan out on the road in the South in "Too Much Johnson." Brennan was a Southerner, and he believed that he could do a big business in his home country. Frohman then went to London, and, when playing hearts at the Savoy one night with Dillingham, a page brought a cablegram. It was from Brennan, saying:
Unless I get two hundred dollars by next Saturday night I can't close.
Whereupon Frohman wired him:
Frohman delighted to play jokes on his close friends. In 1900, Dillingham opened the New Jersey Academy of Music with Julia Marlowe, and it was a big event. This was before the day of the tubes under the Hudson connecting New Jersey and New York. When Dillingham went down to the ferry to cross over for the opening night he found a basket of flowers from Frohman marked, "Bon voyage."
* * *
Nor could Frohman be lacking in the graceful reply. During a return engagement of "The Man from Mexico," in the Garrick Theater, William Collier became very ill with erysipelas and had to go to a hospital. The day the engagement was resumed happened to be Frohman's birthday, and Collier sent him the following cablegram:
Many happy returns from all your box offices.
He received the following answer from Frohman:
My happiest return is your return to the Garrick.
Behind all of Frohman's jest and humor was a serious outlook on life. It was mixed with big philosophy, too, as this incident will show:
He was visiting Sir George Alexander at his country house in Kent. Alexander, who is a great dog fancier, asked Frohman to accompany him while he chained up his animals. Frohman watched the performance with great interest. Then he turned to the actor-manager and said:
"I have got a lot of dogs out at my country place in America, but I never tie them up."
"Why?" asked Alexander.
"Let other people tie up the dogs. You let them out and they will always like you."
* * *
Frohman was known to his friends as a master of epigram. Some of his distinctive sayings are these:
"The best seat at a theater is the paid one."
"An ounce of imagination is worth a pound of practicality."
"The man who makes up his mind to corner things generally gets cornered."
"You cannot monopolize theaters while there are bricks and mortar."
"When I hear of another theater being built I try to build another author."
"No successful theatrical producer ever died rich. He must make money for everybody but himself."
"Great stage successes are the plays that take hold of the masses, not the classes."
* * *
Frohman could always reach the heart of a situation with a pithy phrase or reply. On one of the rare occasions when he attended a public dinner he sat at the Metropolitan Club in New York with a group of men representing a variety of interests. He condemned a certain outrageously immodest Oriental dancer, who, at the moment, was shocking New York.
"She must have a nasty mind to dance like that," said Frohman.
"Don't be too hard on her," responded a playwright who sat near by. "Consider how young she is."
"I deny that she is as young as you imply," retorted Frohman. "But I am bound to admit that she is certainly a stripling."
* * *
Frohman's mind worked with amazing swiftness. Here is an example:
At the formation of a London society called the West End Managers Association, Sir Charles Wyndham gave a luncheon at the Hyde Park Hotel to discuss and arrange preliminaries. Most of the London managers were present, including Frohman. There was a discussion as to what should be the entrance fee for each member. Various sums were discussed from L100 downward. Twenty-five pounds seemed to be the most generally accepted, when one manager said:
"Why should we not each give one night's receipts."
This was discussed for a little while, when Sir Charles said, "What do you say, Frohman?"
The American replied, "I would sooner give a night's receipts than L25."
There was a short silence, then everybody seemed to remember that he had at that moment a failure at his theater. The humor of it was hailed with a shout of laughter.
* * *
Just as he mixed sentiment in business so did Frohman infuse wit into most of his relations. He once instructed W. Lestocq, his London manager, to conduct certain negotiations for a new play with a Scotchwoman whose first play had made an enormous success in America, and whose head had been turned by it. The woman's terms were ten thousand dollars in advance and a fifteen-per-cent. royalty. When Lestocq told Frohman these terms over the telephone, all he said was this:
"Did you tell her not to slam the door?"
* * *
Frohman would always have his joke in London, as this incident shows:
He had just arrived in town and went to a bank in Charing Cross with a letter of credit, which he deposited. When he emerged he was smiling all over.
"I got one on that young man behind the counter," he said.
"How's that?" asked Lestocq, who was waiting for him.
"Well," he replied, "the young man bade me good morning and asked me if I have brought over anything good this time. I replied, 'Yes, a letter of credit on your bank, and I am waiting to see if it is any good.'"
A manager, who for present purposes must be named Smith, called on Frohman to secure the services of a star at that time under contract to the latter. His plan was to drop in on Frohman at a busy hour, quickly state the case, and, getting an affirmative answer, leave without talking terms at all. Later he knew it would be enough to recall the affirmative answer that had been given without qualification. The transaction took but a moment, just as the manager wished.
"Well, then, I may have him?" said Smith.
"Er-m-ah-er-yes—I will let you have him," replied Frohman, at the same time running over a paper before him. The visitor was already at the door.
"By the way, Smith," called out Frohman, "how much do you want me to pay you for taking him off my hands?"
* * *
Frohman was as playful as a child. Once he was riding in a petite voiture in Paris. It was a desperately hot night. The old cocher took his hat off, hung it on the lamp, and wiped his forehead. Frohman took the hat and hid it under his seat. When the driver looked for his hat it was gone. He stopped the horse and ran back two or three blocks before he could be stopped. Then he went on without it, muttering and cursing, and turning around every few moments. Watching his opportunity, Frohman slipped the hat back on the lamp, and there was the expected climax that he thoroughly enjoyed.
On one of his trips to Paris he was accompanied by Dillingham. Knowing Frohman's fondness for rich food, his friend decided to take him to dine at Durand's famous restaurant opposite the Madeleine. He even went to the cafe in the afternoon and told the proprietor that he was going to bring the great American manager. Great anticipation prevailed in the establishment.
That night when they got to the restaurant Frohman gave Dillingham the shock of his life by saying:
"I want to be a real American to-night. All I want is an oyster stew."
Dillingham instructed the chef how to make the stew. After long delay there was a commotion. In strode the chef, followed by two assistants, bearing aloft a gigantic silver tureen which was placed on the table and opened with great ceremony. Inside was a huge quantity of consomme with two lonely oysters floating on top.
Frohman regarded it as a great joke, and ever afterward when he met anybody in Paris that he did not like, he would say to them:
"If you want the finest oyster stew in the world, go to Durand's."
* * *
Frohman, who was always playing jokes on his friends, was sometimes the victim himself. He was crossing the ocean with Haddon Chambers when the latter was accosted by two enterprising young men who were arranging the ship's concert. Chambers was asked to take part, but declined. Then he had an inspiration.
"We have on board the greatest American singer of coon songs known to the stage."
"Who is that?" asked the men.
"It's Charles Frohman."
The men gasped.
"Of course we knew him as a great manager, but we never knew he could sing."
"Oh yes," said Chambers. "He is a great singer."
He pointed out Frohman and hid behind a lifeboat to await the result. Soon he heard a sputter and a shriek of rage, and the two men came racing down the boat as if pursued by some terror. Up came Frohman, his face livid with rage.
"What do you think?" he said to Chambers, who stood innocently by. "Those men had the nerve to ask me to sing a coon song. I have never been so insulted in all my life."
He was so enraged that he wrote a letter to the steamship line about it and withdrew his patronage from the company for several years in consequence.
* * *
Here is another instance when the joke was on Frohman. No one viewed the manager's immense success with keener pride or pleasure than his father, Henry Frohman. As theater after theater came under the son's direction the parent could gratify his great passion for giving people free passes to its fullest extent. He would appear at the offices at the Empire Theater with his pockets bulging with home-made cigars. The men in the office always accepted the cigars, but never smoked them. But they gave him all the passes he wanted.
One day the father stopped in to see Charles. It was a raw spring day. Charles remarked that the overcoat Henry wore was too thin.
"Go to my tailor and get an overcoat," he said.
"Not much," said the father. "Your tailor is too expensive. He robs you. He wouldn't make one under seventy-five dollars, and I never pay more than twenty dollars."
Charles's eye twinkled. He said, quickly:
"You are mistaken. My tailor will make you a coat for twenty dollars. Go down and get one."
Father went down to the fashionable Fifth Avenue tailor. Meanwhile Frohman called him up and gave instructions to make a coat for his father at a very low price and have the difference charged to him.
In an hour Henry Frohman came back all excitement. "I am a real business man," he said. "I persuaded that tailor of yours to make me an overcoat for twenty dollars."
Charles immediately gave him the twenty dollars and sent the tailor a check for the difference between that and the real price, which was ninety-five dollars. He dismissed the matter from his mind.
A few days later Charles had another visit from his father. This time he was in high glee. He could hardly wait to tell the great news.
"You've often said I wasn't a good business man," he told his son. "Well, I can prove to you that I am. The other night one of my friends admired my new overcoat so much that I sold it to him for thirty-five dollars."
Charles said nothing, but had to pay for another one-hundred-and-fifteen-dollar overcoat because he did not want to shatter his father's illusion.
* * *
Here is still another. When Frohman got back to New York from a trip few things interested him so much as a good dinner. It always wiped out the memory of hard times or unpleasant experiences. Once he returned from a costly visit to the West. On Broadway he met an old-time comedian who had been in one of his companies. His greeting was cordial.
"And now, 'C. F.,'" said the comedian, "you've got to come to dinner with me. We have a new club, for actors only, and we have the best roast beef in town. We make a specialty of a substantial, homelike dinner. Come right along."
The club rooms were over a saloon on the west side of Broadway, between Thirty-first and Thirty-second streets. The two went up to the room and sat down. The actor ordered dinner for two. The waiter went away and Frohman's spirits began to rise.
"It's the best roast beef in New York, I tell you," said the host, by way of an appetizer.
Then the waiter reappeared, but not with the food. He was visibly embarrassed.
"Sorry, sir," he said to the comedian, "but the steward tells me that you can't have dinner to-night. He says you were posted to-day, and that you can't be served again until everything is settled."
Charles used to tell this story and say that he never had such an appetite for roast beef as he did when he rose from that club table to go out again into Broadway.
* * *
Frohman was always interested in mechanical things. When the phonograph was first put on the market he had one in his office at 1127 Broadway. Once in London he found a mechanical tiger that growled, walked, and even clawed. He enjoyed watching it crouch and spring.
He took it with him on the steamer back to New York, and played with it on the deck. One day Richard Croker, who was a fellow-passenger, came along and became interested in the toy, whereupon Frohman showed him how it worked.
Frohman told of this episode with great satisfaction. He would always end his description by saying:
"Fancy showing the boss of Tammany Hall how to work a tiger!"
* * *
The extraordinary affinity that existed between Frohman and a small group of intimates was shown by an incident that occurred on shipboard. He and Dillingham were on their way to Europe. They were playing checkers in the smoking-room when an impertinent, pushing American came up and half hung himself over the table. Frohman said nothing, but made a very ridiculous move. Dillingham followed suit.
"What chumps you are!" said the interloper, and went away.
Frohman wanted to get rid of the man without saying anything. This was his way of doing it, and it succeeded.
* * *
Frohman was always having queer adventures out of which he spun the most amazing yarns. This is an experience that he liked to recount:
When Augustus Thomas had an apartment in Paris he received a visit from Frohman. The flat was five flights up, but there was an elevator that worked by pushing a button.
There was a ring at the bell of the Thomas apartment. When the playwright opened the door he found Frohman gasping for breath, and he sank exhausted on a settee.
"I walked up," he managed to say. When he was able to talk Thomas said to him:
"Why in Heaven's name didn't you use the elevator?"
"I couldn't make the woman down-stairs understand what I wanted. She made motions and showed me a little door, but I thought she had designs on my life, so I preferred to walk."
* * *
That Charles Frohman had the happy faculty of saying the right thing and saying it gracefully is well illustrated by the following:
When the beautiful Scala Theater in London was opened it made such a sensation that Frohman asked Lestocq if he could not inspect it. The proprietor, Dr. Distin Maddick, being an old friend of Lestocq, the latter called informally with Frohman. While they were admiring the white stone and brass interior, Maddick was suddenly called away. He returned in a few minutes to say that a manager friend from Edinburgh, hearing that Frohman was in the theater, had come in and asked to be introduced. Of course Frohman acquiesced. After a little talk the gentleman said:
"We have no beautiful theater like this in Edinburgh."
Quickly Frohman replied, with his fascinating smile, "No, but you have Edinburgh."
* * *
Frohman hated exercise. In this he had a great community of interest with Mark Twain.
On Sunday mornings, when he was out at his farm at White Plains, he would read all the dramatic news in the papers, and then he searched them carefully for items about people who had died from over-exertion. When he found one he was greatly pleased, and always sent it to Mark Twain.
In order to get him to exercise Dillingham once took him for a stroll and pretended to be lost. The second time he tried this, however, Frohman discovered the subterfuge and refused to go walking.
* * *
Frohman could pack a world of meaning in a word or a sentence. As Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree once expressed it, "he was witty with a dry form of humor that takes your breath away with its suddenness." He gave an example of this with Tree one day in London. They were discussing French plays for America. The question of American taste came up. Frohman described certain primitive effects which delighted our audiences.