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When George M. Cohan waves the American flag at the end of one of his plays staid men and stayed women are aroused to a tremendous pitch of enthusiasm. Therefore when "The Man Who Came Back" hits bottom in a low dive in Shanghai and utters the thrilling words that he is "Going to go back, every step of the way, and, by Heck, he's going to take Her with him", it is small surprise that the St. James audience think "he's. jist grand".
The object of this flattery, to misquote one of his speeches, was born with a funnel in his mouth. A deplorable circumstance which his father had in vain tried to remedy. And then came the storm which blew Henry out to the Pacific coast, drinking as he went. Of course he fell in love with the "whitest girl in the world", and, taking her heart in his hand, he dragged her after him to the dregs of a Chinese city--6, 560 miles! There "midst horrid shapes, and shrieks and sights unholy" the battle for purity took place a veritable wrestling match. Then came the long hard road back to respectability and New York--through peril, toil and pain 9,730 miles.
The actors who threw themselves into these extraordinary circumstances pleased a very large audience. If you've ever heard a crowd urge Bill Hart on in a race with death, you'll know how everyone in the theatre last Monday night was right behind Civic Virtue all the time. Encouraged by tremendous enthusiasm, the actors had a tendency to a declamatory utterance and self-consciousness the moment the action became tense, which revealed every dramatic absurdity in the play. How could they help it?-There was tremendous melodrama of life, and There was an audience craving raw meat: They got it.
The audience wanted to laugh at the hero when he overdrank so Mr. Gilbert for the moment gave up the role of leading man for that of comedian, Considering the plot of the play and the tender feelings of his Rose of Sharon, we should have expected a rather different attack. Disgust rather than amusement should have been the reaction of the audience.
However the crowd saw all their old favorites in new roles and enjoyed themselves immensely.
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