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"Dear Old Darling" is the perfect medium for the bland, effervescent personality of the American stage actor, George M. Cohan. Besides that, it is an evening's worth of high-tension excitement, with astonishingly little remission. After you have left the theatre, however, your task--the spectator's task--is done. There is nothing to brood over in melancholy moments. "Dear Old Darling" makes no pretensions beyond those of good, solid entertainment.
Mr. Cohan's peculiar virtue must be that he always gives the impression of not having learned his lines. It doesn't matter whose dialogue he is voicing, it is always beyond dispute his own. Fortunately his talk is never too brilliant to lose its smack of complete spontaneity, and it is a revelation to see the wealth of aptness and humor that he can put into a stock rejoinder like "You'd be surprised." Mr. Cohan is not a versatile actor; his own identity is too strong for that. But in the part of the mundane business man who quails and blusters; who loses face, his head, and his temper, but remains lovable and richly human throughout, George Cohan is a lasting delight.
The Darling Is the Dupe
In this play Mr. Cohan is the "Dear Old Darling," of course, but what that title really means is "Dear Old Dupe." The precedent of "Kind Lady" is carried on, and the entire plot of the present production is concerned with the machinations of a slippery clan of genteel racketeers. For the first three of the five scenes, however, the craft is coverered by the show, and the flattering challenge is issued to discern the infernal workings under the velvet cloth.
Mr. Cohan is Calvin Miller, a rosy, chubby, bald-headed business man, retired in affluence. He loses his middleaged widow love by being too jolly a drunk and revealing the way he befriended an infant in the south of France, a female infant eighteen years of ago. This infant rapidly strides to the fore, and throws herself repeatedly about Calvin's wrinkled neck, in the most gratuitous mannor conceivable. She is alone for a while, but, seen it develops that she has a most insolent pup of a jilted flance; a hatchet-faced companion; a stern, outraged mother whose dignity is regal; an oily detective who shadows her every step; and, back in Arizona, a cattle-king father with a fidgetty trigger finger.
Flash--The Scene Changes
In a dazzling flash the whole panorama shifts, and these characters assume their new roles in the gang. Immediately preparations build up for the denouement, an outcome that can be predicted in general import, but that leaves an exhilarating suspense as to details. A final charming touch occurs when the pretty bait, bared in her shame and led off by the police, swears that she never liked any guy as much as Calvin Miller.
Mr. Cohan's support is pleasing throughout, although perhaps the three leading women enunciate a little too clearly and speak a little too earnestly, in contrast with the star's jolly abandon. But Joseph Leggitt, acted by Charles D. Brown, deserves a palm along with his colleague. Calvin's alter ago in the play, he portrays to perfection all a friend's loyalty, banter, conniving, assistance, and well-intended blunders.
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