The Charlotte News

Sunday, December 3, 1939


Site Ed. Note: We can't speak to Farm of Three Echoes, never having had the pleasure, but we can affirm that those insistently tense, bedridden wild eyes of Ms. Barrymore, warning of her psycho sons, in "Spiral Staircase", were enough to scare the spit out of a dog, dark and stormy night or not. We don't recall screaming, but shiver our timbers they did.

As to Farm, alas, Broun's recommendation, even in his last days, couldn't save it; it needed some more echoes maybe, maybe another salesgirl hussy or two stopping by the farm--for it closed after only 48 performances, January 6, 1940, no doubt having seen the Epiphany that day.

As to "Pot and Kettle", we are reminded that N.A.F.T.A. and the W.T.O. are not the first such agreements and cooperatives over international trade to spur labor to anger. But, as industry management usually knows little conscience above the bottom line, it tends, like gravity, toward the lower end of the wage scale, wherever found internationally, as long as raw materials may be had at the same or lower rates at the plant locus. Yet, we as consumer, of course, both benefit from it and are to blame for the results. Should we buy anything from an American manufacturer, produced or assembled in South America, Mexico, Taiwan, Indochina, or China, then we shouldn't bother to complain about international trade barriers being relaxed, stealing manufacturing jobs from the United States; we are every bit as much a part of the problem as the manufacturers who produce overseas to afford us that continued flow of cheap goods--which we continue to buy, buy, buy. Simple remedy, if you really mean it, that is: save the protests at the meetings of these organizations and instead gather yourselves and boycott the goods produced by the worst offending manufacturers; better yet, campaign for a worldwide minimum wage and hour, labor standards provision within these trade agreements. Yet--we know, we know. It's tough not shopping at Walmart when the jobs are no longer around to pay for the higher priced American-made goods--a vicious circle, to be sure. (We think John Maynard Cayns said that.)

Theatre Heroine

By Heywood Broun

Everybody who likes the theatre should see Ethel Barrymore once a year for his own delight and edification. Her range is wide and deep and all the notes are true. As far as this commentator is concerned, she is and always will be the great lady of our stage. To be sure, I didn't always think so. As a cub critic, my second assignment took me to a Barrymore opening, and being fresh out of the sports department, it was my intention to tell all Thespians just where they got off. They weren't going to put anything over on a lad who had traveled with the Giants or John McGraw!

The review was filled with quips and cracks and bordered with barbed wire. Miss Barrymore replied in-kind, and gave out an interview in which she said, "All the critics like me, except one who I understand is a baseball reporter. Baseball is our national game, I believe, but after all, there is a good deal of difference between the diamond and the drama, is there not?"


That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship because Miss Barrymore's words proved a gift from heaven. Baseball reporting is a very clannish craft, and my confreres rushed to my rescue. Four or five sports columnists wrote long and angry articles pointing out that a baseball writer is the noblest work of God. How dared this Barrymore be snooty about the sports department? they wanted to know.

And the general verdict of the boys in the press box seemed to be that anybody who could tell the difference between a hit and an error could lick his weight in high-fallutin' critics any night in the week, and also at the matinees. Before the debate was over they had me feeling as if I were William Winter.

But time and the stage went on, and the magic of the most beautiful speaking voice known to our theater was music enough to soothe the savage beast of the reconditioned baseball writer. I became and remained a Barrymore idolator. I saw Miss Barrymore in Clyde Fitch's Captain Jinks when she played the role of a girl of 18. In White Oaks she was an old lady 102 years old. Now in her present venture, Farm of Three Echoes, she is a mere 97.


I am glad that Ethel is coming down the scale. In a few more seasons, she will be acting her age and appearing as a siren in drawing-room comedy. Somewhere along the way, she ought to play Candida, not only because it is the best of all modern comedies, but because Miss Barrymore happens to be Candida. She could show Shaw precisely what he meant when he created that gallant heroine.

Farm of Three Echoes will get no prize awards, unless I miss my guess. Somebody ran it up on a machine, and the caste mark of Hollywood is sewn upon its turban.

Whenever a traveling salesgirl drives up to a farmhouse, the rest of the play is not likely to contain many surprises for me. I know that an old friend has dropped in for dinner. They don't even have to tip me off with the scene where the local yokel whispers to the hussy, "Gal, you smell sort of different." It is a cinch that presently the minx will slip into something loose and come slinking down the stairs intent upon the icebox abaft which the boy is sleeping. And above the howl of the wind across the veldt, or moor or prairie, a rifle shot will ring out.


There seems to be no game law to protect the lady slicker from the city. But Ethel can take fustian or shoddy, and weave it into a robe for an emperor. Wherever a Barrymore stands upon the stage, that spot becomes the head of the table.

Miss Barrymore has made me weep in many productions, and I have laughed with her in comedy on scores of occasions. But on opening night in Farm of Three Echoes she frightened me so much in one scene that I screamed. And I haven't done that since I was five years old and saw the Confederate villain shoot William Gillette in Secret Service.

In fact, a reviewer just in front of me at the Barrymore play rebuked me sharply. "Heywood," he said, "if you're here to enjoy yourself, please keep it to yourself. I'm here to criticize." And so if you want to have your scalp lifted and experience a good time in general, be sure to see Ethel Barrymore in Farm of Three Echoes.

Tag Day

The State Sends Out Its Little Notices At A Bad Time

One tag day from which there is no escape is that conducted at the end of every year by the State Motor Vehicle Bureau. Come Jan. 1, you have bought your license or you put up your car, unless you are one of these venturesome souls who thinks he can run the gauntlet of the law and get away with it.

All of which means that, at a time when car owners are preparing to celebrate the joyful Christmas season, or paying for their memories, the State descends upon them and takes from their pockets some seven or eight millions of dollars. It stands to reason that you cannot make that operation painless to North Carolinians at any season of the year. But doesn't it also stand to reason that at no other time of the year would it be more painful?

The few days of grace which the State has given in times past have been only a false accommodation. If the motorists must shuck out during the Christmas season, a few hours postponement only adds inevitably to the settlement. But in the Spring...

Ah, in the Spring there are unusual expenses, too, as there always are. But year's end is when unavoidable expenditures gang up on the poor motorist until he is woozy. No time might be better, but none certainly could be worse.

Red Outpost

These Daring Troops Have No Means Of Aid Or Retreat

Something of the glorious excitement of the old-time cavalry foray returns in the Reds' parachute attack. It is a maneuver nicely suited to Russia's strength in the air and the enormous distances which her troops must travel to take towns and strategic posts in the Arctic regions.

If you get out your map of this new war theater, you'll find on it, between the 68th and 70th parallels of latitude on the narrow Finnish corridor that runs up to the Barents Sea, a place called Petsamo. Finland's chief port for Arctic Ocean commerce, Petsamo is days away by rail from towns of any consequence, and by march, however forced, is leagues away. And yet the Reds took Petsamo in a jiffy.

They did it by flying companies of well-armed troops to the vicinity of the town, by letting them down to earth in parachutes where they formed as a force superior to any local defense. And there they remain, in command of the port but isolated from reinforcements save those that are brought up in the same way, an outpost of Red warriors far in the land of the enemy.

We may wish them harm, out of the abundance of our sympathy for little Finland, but we cannot help expressing admiration at the audacity and resourcefulness of this Red tactic.


Ironpants Fails To Follow His Own Logic Through

Hugh Johnson today returns to the attack on England. Wicked old Albion, he maintains, is determined to hog up all our rights on the seas, with the result that our international trade is going to be destroyed. Specifically, she wantonly defies international law in taking our ships or other ships bearing our cargoes into English ports to search them. Her ban on German exports is a flat violation of international law. And the certificate system for American exporters is a "racket" (the term he used in his last column on the subject) which England plans to use to favor her own trade at our expense.

To begin with the last, we do not believe that the English Government is completely down with dementia paralytics.

As for international law--it is quite true that the Hague convention of 1907 and the London agreement of 1909 (never ratified by any nation) require that ships be searched at sea and forbid the seizure of exports. But--also they require that submarines must give a warning before sinking a merchantman. General Hugh Johnson himself has eagerly pointed out, however, that leading modern authorities on international law take the position that in common sense submarines cannot be held to such a rule with armed merchantmen and raiders conning the seas, since to do so might mean their own destruction. He neglects, however, to tell us that the same authorities agree also that it is impossible to search a modern freighter at sea, and that in common sense the right of a captor to take the possible prize into a port for search must be allowed, and that in common sense there is no real difference for war purposes between exports and imports.

In short, it seems common sense to be the position of Ironpants that Germany may be allowed to violate 30-year old rules in the name of common sense, but that England must be held rigidly to them, regardless of common sense.

Still Too Fast

There Is No Reason To Stretch The Law In This

Revenue Commissioner A. J. Maxwell announces that he has instructed the State Highway Patrol to enforce the speed regulations against oil trucks on the roads. It was high time. As the Commissioner himself candidly admits, it is notorious that these trucks have been traveling at 60 and even greater speeds.

But the actual ruling, it seems to us, leaves a good deal still to be desired. The Motor Vehicle Act (Public Laws of N.C. 1936-1937, Chapter 407, Sec. 103) provides in general that, "No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions then existing." Then it goes on to say that, where no special hazard exist, the speeds of 35 miles an hour for trucks and 30 miles for trucks with trailers shall be lawful, but that "any speed in excess of said limits shall be prima facie evidence that the speed is not reasonable or prudent and that it is unlawful..."

If that means anything, it seems to mean that speeds less than 35 miles for oil trucks are ipso facto unlawful. But the Commissioner has instructed the highway cops to give the trucks a leeway of ten miles (allowing a speed of 45 miles) in "the most favorable conditions."

But that leaves the case entirely up to the judgement of the individual cop, and if we know our cops, it will simply result in general in the trucks being allowed to make a speed of 45 miles. That seems to us much too fast for these rolling bombs save on some entirely deserted country road, with no inflammable property at hand.

Why should the law be stretched in the case of vehicles so manifestly dangerous as these are?

Pot and Kettle

Maybe Labor Had Best Begin This Business At Home

Down at Havana Tuesday, James B. Carey, secretary of the Congress of Industrial Organization, told the second Inter-American Labor Conference that organized labor must have a strong voice--a determining voice, indeed--in "fixing the terms of the peace settlement that follows the present European war."

Mr. Carey's thesis was that it is the common people who mainly fight wars, and that the Wicked Old Men of Versailles had demonstrated that so-called statesmen and diplomats cannot be trusted to tear down the barriers between peoples, and so make new wars impossible. So labor would just have to attend to it for itself.

All right, it sounds nice, anyhow--calls up visions of men of genuine good will, men devoid of hate, men who know that after all other men are made just as they are--that if you prick them, they, too, will bleed, and if you crowd them, they, too, will fight--sitting down at the conference table in the halls of the Brotherhood of Man, and fixing everything up for good.

Only two things occur to us to cast any doubt on it. One of them is that, whenever somebody has proposed to break down trade barriers between the nations, it has not only been the manufacturers and traders, but Labor, or at least a great wing of it, which has been most vociferously against it.

The other: that just now the most convincing imitation of the celebrated Kilkenny cats on exhibition in the United States is being staged as between the AFL, and CIO. Organized labor, at home, at least, seems unable to break down even the barriers as between organized Labor and organized Labor.

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