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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May 1, 1935)

The Biggest Show On Earth

page 52

The Biggest Show On Earth.

Elusive Illusion.

If the world is a stage, the stage is a world to which man turns to forget the exigencies of existence:—

His world forgetting, by his world forgot, “pro tem” to face the footlights or the “movie lot,” where each one acts a part—Gog and Magog, contorts his face and mouths his monologue. Each player is a hero conquering, a jester or a gangster or a king; an Alexander living once again, a grandee swanking in the ports o' Spain; a “clown,” like Charlie Chaplin, in a part portraying “laughter with a broken heart”; a villain—or a mother white of hair, whose motif is the ever “vacant chair”; or else the slap-stick men, who gag their wag through reel on reel of light and lissom play; a miser, or a mistress of a king, a factory girl—who has her foolish fling among the champagne bubbles and—alack! goes gay, until the hero plucks her back. The humble hero, struggling to attain some greatness which is prisoned in his brain—until at last he takes Success to wife, in ways which wouldn't stand the test of Life. But that's the secret joy which acting lends; the mummers twisting life to suit their ends.

We see the things unfold, before our eyes, which in our hearts we know for happy lies. We know that real existence doesn't move within a preordained and logic groove; we know that Sin so often reaps the things which we were taught that only Virtue brings; we know that Cinderella, in real life, can never be the Prince's wedded wife; we also know that slick Coincidence thrives only in the world of high pretence. And so we all believe “the play's the thing,” because it gets Illusion on the wing, and gives us all the heart-beats and the glee of things as we would wish such things to be. For instance on the screen and on the “board” we know that love will reap its due reward, and all the wounds and worries of the heart (which every lover suffers) are the part which they must play to whet our appetites for love requited and the might of Right. We know that in the country of Illusion, the more the pain of striving and confusion, the surer do mischance and pain afford the satisfaction of a just reward; and that's the reason why we like to see life lived as truly as it ought to be.

The Logic of the Shadow Show.

We know the gangster, out upon a “bend,” himself is sure to meet a sticky end. We know the cru-el father will relent, who cut his daughter off without a cent—for that's the way the business ought to go, if Life were acted like a decent show. We realise the villain who has slain the brewer on a continental train (and wangled things in such a subtle way, that everyone's suspected through the play), is bound, by every precedent, to meet his fate within the final hundred feet.

It stimulates our faith in actual life, to see such logic rising out of strife. And then the merry men who crack a quip, and sting our sense of humour with their whip, do but reflect our dormant sense of fun, which revels in the rays of humour's sun—the instinct to resort to merry-making, which ever was a sign of man's awaking. For, after all, 'tis laughter which, at least, puts man an inch or two above the
“An Alexander living once again.”

“An Alexander living once again.”

page 53 beast. But now, so lost, he is in things that bore him, he has to have his laughter “readied” for him; and all the fun and jesting on the screen, reminds him of the man he might have been. And now, my friends methinks that it is time to talk in sense, instead of reckless rhyme; for rhyme is wrapped in certain limitations, which tend to cramp one's mental incubations.

Romance in Retrospect.

From bellicose posturings of the naked head-hunter to the masked mummery of the medicine man and the mumbo-jumbo of the jungle to the unreal realities of the sin-and-muttergruff, entertainment depends for success on its power to present the commonplace in the habiliments of Romance. For Romance always has been something which happens to somebody other than ourselves. Thus we say of the millionaire who has fought his way from gutter to Gotham, “what a romantic career,” while he, poor wretch, spends his days trying to keep his digestion revolving on dog-biscuits and soda water, and his mind from dwelling on the opportunities he has lost of being poor but happy.

But the world is not to blame for our insatiable hunger for illusion. The Machine has brought a mechanical monotony into our lives, for which the only antidote is the elixir of Illusion.

The Knock in Names.

But, in my humble opinion, the present-day sophisticated sob-and-sin symphony projected on the silver screen often is not removed sufficiently far from reality to provide that forgetfulness so necessary for the preservation of sanity. Perhaps this is due to the fact that most pictures appear to be produced and played by men and women with names like items in the menu of a German beer-garten lunch.

When the lights go out in the citadels of celluloid, what do we see before us with their handles turned towards us? We see an array of names on the screen calculated to cause the caretaker of the Tower of Babel to join the Smith Family Robinson. For the best part of ten minutes before the actual film unfolds, we read something like this:—

Love and Lipsticks.

  • Produced by the Bunkum-Wurst

  • British - American - Worldwide-Punk Pictures Corp.

  • Adapted from the book “Quiet Byways,” written by Sigfried Somnolence.

  • Adaption by Herman van Welter.

  • Dialogue by Fritz Fiddlestix.

  • Continuity by Joak Madz.

  • Costumes by Jacques Fitz.

  • Directed by Jaegar Unnerware.

  • Assisted by Carl Coma.

  • Assisted by Al. Rong.

  • Musical effects by the Bash and Bang Boys.

The machine has brought a Mechanical Monotony into the world.

The machine has brought a Mechanical Monotony into the world.

The Cast.

  • Lord Layeasy——Eddy Gatt.

  • Lady Ermyntrude de Lustre——Gerta Gubb.

  • Mary Moloney——Kate Katz.

  • The Big Brain——Wilmer Wurm.

  • The Butler——Saul Tipz.

  • The Maid——Zizi Spitz.

  • The Philanthropist Douglas McJacobs.

You will note, dear reader, that there is not a Smith or a Jones or a Brown in the whole shooting match. No wonder the dear old “mellow-drammer” has died in the bath, and that continental sophistication has captured the celluloid.

You ask, “what's in a name?”, and I reply that a person with a name which sounds like a tropical disease or a plate of mashed tamales cannot possibly see eye to eye with the world, and should not be allowed to vent his complexes on the cosmopolis. Men and women whose names sound like echoes in the canyons of Delirium could not be expected to recognise the “straight banana” with a theodolite.

If ever I detect an advertisement announcing a play or picture directed by Albert Brown, written by Henry Smith and released by John Robinson, I will book seats for seven consecutive nights; and if the leading lady is Doris Jones, the hero Percy Prout, and the villain William Simkins, I will know that here at last is the dear old “drammer” with a real kick in it.

Bigger and Better Murders.

Ofttimes we old 'uns pine for the dinkum drama of yesteryear where, within the first five minutes, the old squire was foully shot in the rhododendrons. The villain who did it attempted no deception toward the audience but twisted his satanic moustachios in a manner so incriminating that any judge would simply reach under the rostrum for the black cap without a word of evidence; but nobody on the stage ever suspected him, and he went right ahead with his fiendish courtship of the late squire's lovely daughter (coupled with the squiral acres and herditaments). But it was all honest-to-goodness drama, with out any modern exotic aids such as cocaine, kidnapping, gangsters, illicit love, or murder on the sky-scraper roof. The sin was sincere
“The Play's the Thing!”

The Play's the Thing!