viernes, 16 de agosto de 2013

De autores y periodistas

Before I began to work in the theatre I thought that playwrights were the most glamorous fellows in the world. I pictured them strolling into the palatial offices of great impressarios, or into heady boudoirs of famous stars, always imperturbable and epigrammatic –exquisites to the tips of their fingers. Where I got this cock-eyed idea I don’t know.
But I do know that authors are rarely as arresting as their plays. And I have learned from experience that a pretty good play can be written by an idiot. In fact, I can assure you that in a group of successful playwrights you are likely to discover as distinguished a body of men as you might find at an Elk’s outing.
All the more pleasant then to devote these lines to such brilliantly unorthodox gentlemen as the authors of "The Front Page".
For here is a play which reflects miraculously the real as well as the literary personalities of the playwrights. Every line of it glows with a demoniacal humor, sordid, insolent and mischievous to the point of downright perversity, in which one instantly recognizes the heroic comic spirit of its authors.
Ben Hecht and Charlie MacArthur are the Katzenjammer kids of the theatre. At once sophisticated and artless, they desire little more than to upset "der Kaptain" occasionally. "Der Kaptain" is anyone who aspires to authority,dignity, or any other pretenses which our heroes regard as bogus. (...)
Both Hecht and MacArthur owe their literary origins to the newspapers of Chicago. Famous crime reporters, their talents were first cradled in the recounting of great exploits in arson, rape, murder, gang war and municipal politics. Out of a welter of jail-breaks, hangings, floods and whore-house raidings, they have gathered the rich, savory characters who disport themselves on the stage of the Times Square Theatre.
And though they would be the last to acknowledge it, because they are terrified of the word "charm", they have nevertheless written "The Front Page" with a more innocent and unsynthetic charm than I have ever found in Barrie. In an original manuscript almost devoid of stage directions I found this:
"Jennie, the scrublady enters. The reporters rise and give her an ovation."
And in an age when the theatre seems imprisoned in a vise of literal and superficial realism, a paradise for the journeymen and hacks who infects the Authors League of America, and in a day when the successful portrayal of a newspaper reporter is accomplished by attaching to the person of the actor a hip-flask and a copy of the American Mercury, it is soothing and reassuring to stumble on a stage reporter who begin an interview in this innocent fashion:
"Is it true, Madame, that you were the victim of a Peeping Tom?"

Como puede verse, el texto no deja títere con cabeza, salvo, precisamente, a los autores de la obra de que se habla, quienes reunían en sus personas tanto la faceta de reporteros de periódico como de, lógicamente, autores de teatro.

Los autores eran Ben Hecht y Charles MacArthur, y la obra teatral, como ya se habrá deducido del texto, The Front Page, es decir, portada o primera plana de un periódico.

El texto transcrito es prácticamente la totalidad de la Introduction que firmó Jed Harris a la edición impresa de The Front Page, obra que él mismo produjo en Broadway.

El estreno tuvo lugar en el Times Square Theatre  un 14  de agosto de 1928, y por ello, para recordar el octogésimo quinto aniversario del mismo, esta anotación tenía que haberse publicado hace dos días.

Pero si he llegado tarde ha sido porque “the son of a bitch stole my watch!”.

Extracto de la Introduction de Jed Harris (el subrayado es mío), tomado de la edición de The Front Page, de Ben Hecht y CharlesMacArthur, realizada por Covici Friede Publishers, de Nueva York, en 1928, de la biblioteca del autor.
Transcripción de la última frase de la obra de teatro, pronunciada por el personaje de Walter Burns.

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