The Dowager’s Diary: Week One Hundred and Ninety-Six

December 1-8, 1918

The first week of December, 1918 found Kate Roosevelt in the front row at the Bijou Theater located at 209 West 45th Street watching a new play called Sleeping Partners and complaining about the ticket price. “They charge $2.50 a piece for tickets at the box office and ten percent tax. This is too much!” But after the show, she wrote in her diary that it was very French, was very funny and excellently acted by Warner and Bodine. It was one of her few and far-between flattering theater reviews.

Also, in the audience was another prominent New York City woman who also had an opinion on the play, but hers was not as nice. Dorothy Parker, the satirist and famous member of the writers’ Roundtable at the Algonquin Hotel on 49th Street found it rather boring.  In 1918, she wrote, “I may be hypercritical, but I certainly cannot understand what they all see in Sleeping Partners, the comedy from the French of Sacha Guitry, the play’s author. On the first night I wouldn’t have given it a week to live, but then, perhaps, I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind for it. I had endeavored with a blind, childlike faith to reach the theater in the subway service and I became hopelessly involved in the shuttle system. I simply couldn’t get out of the thing. For what seemed like hours, I wandered helplessly around under the city feeling like Jean Valjean, the tragic hero in Victor Hugo’s, Les Miserables. It seemed like I would spend the remainder of my life underground. So, when I arrived at the Bijou Theater, spent and footsore, I was not in the most receptive mood to see farce, not a play. Sleeping Partners is one of those productions which provides the author with an opportunity to do some skating on thin ice. I don’t object to skating on thin ice, but I do object to sitting through a thin farce. I yearned for a pack of cards so I could play Canfield, the game of solitaire to pass the evening away.”

After painting a vivid picture of a boring evening at the theater, Parker complimented the cast. She said that H.B. Warner and Irene Bordoni were delightful. She liked them as talented actors, but said the roles they played left her feeling lackadaisical. She wrote, I didn’t seem to care particularly much about what happened to either of them.”

Although advertisements boasted that the play was doing nicely, theater-goers seemed to agree with Dorothy Parker about the plot and with Kate Roosevelt about the price. It’s run on Broadway ended in February, 1919.

Top Photo:
Dorothy Park and members of the Round Table
Library of Congress