“Star – Wagon” (Chicago Tribune – Wednesday April 13, 1938)

Chicago Tribune – Wednesday April 13, 1938 Page 23

“Star – Wagon”

Human Fantasy of Old School

The Star Wagon 3

“The Star Wagon”

A play by Maxwell Anderson with Burgess Meredith and Lillian Gish as co-stars; given at the Grand Opera house April 12, 1938, under the management of Guthrie McClintic.

The Cast

  • Hanus Wicks ………………….. Russell Collins
  • Martha Minch ………………..…… Lillian Gish
  • Stephen Minch …..……… Burgess Meredith
  • Park ………………….……………… Josh Trelfall
  • Ripple ………………….……….. Alan Anderson
  • Apfel ……………………….…………. Ralph Riggs
  • Duffy ……………………..………….. Barry Kelley
  • 1st Thug ………………………….. Keenan Wynn
  • 2nd Thug …………..……….. Charles Forrester
  • Misty …………………………..….. John Philliber
  • Hallie Arlington ……….……. Jane Buchanan
  • Mr. Arlington ……………..… J. Arthur Young
  • Mrs. Rutledge …………….. Mildred Natwick
  • Paul Reiger ……………………… Victor Rankin
  • Christabel ……………..……….. Evelyn Abbott
  • Della …………………………….……. Edith Smith
  • Oglethorpe …………………… William Garner

The Star Wagon 2

By CHARLES COLLINS

Maxwell Anderson’s drama “The Star – Wagon,” which came to the Grand Opera House last night to improve the vacant aspect of the Chicago stage, is an engaging meditation, both emotional and humorous, on the familiar and popular theme, “If I had my life to live all over again.” Other authors have brought about such miracles by magic potions, supernatural invocations and fantastic dreams; but Mr. Maxwell turns the trick with a gadget that looks like a chromium plated radio cabinet.

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Its dials are set to July 4, 1902, for time and to a bicycle repair shop in an Ohio town, for place; whereupon Burgess Meredith, as a doddering old inventor, and Lillian Gish, as his complaining wife, revert to the period of their courtship in that quaint old period of comic costumes which modern playwrights like to caricature.

New York critics have written about this play in terms of the fourth dimension, curved space and the Einstein theory, which makes it seem alarmingly profound and mystifying. The simple approach, however, makes it more enjoyable; for in essence “The Star – Wagon” is a sound, human, old school fantasy, which treats the eternal wish about living all over again with improvements in a hearty and appealing American style.

The Movies Mr. Griffith and Me (03 1969) With Burgess Meredith in The Star Wagon — with Burgess Meredith and Lillian Gish.

 

In the first act Mr. Meredith, whose vibrant voice has a way of winning emotional sympathy, appears as a snuffy, absent minded, unsuccessful inventor, over 50 years old and earning only $27.50 a week. His talents have been exploited, it seems, by the hard hearted capitalists who pay his pittance, and his haggard wife is highly annoyed by his lack of worldly success. His troubles, which include losing his job, cause him to grab the handles of his recently completed “time machine,” with his faithful henchman by his side, and whisk himself back to the start of his career, determined to give it a different direction.

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Then the audience sees the young Mr. Meredith, who has just invented a self-starting automobile, and the young Miss Gish, a belle in a new suit of bicycling boomers, and the manufacturer’s daughter, whom Mr. Meredith intends to marry, and their circle of small town friends. A church choir rehearsal, which forms the most effective scene in the play, gives Mr. Meredith a chance to sing “The Holy City” like the ardent choir boy he used to be before he started acting.

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The life of a prosperous inventor and capitalist in which Mr. Meredith finds himself in his new career is harrowing to his soul. His male associates are crooked; their wives are wenches, and he himself has lost his sense of honor. In desperation, therefore, he and his satellite patch up the old “time machine” and flick themselves into the humble reality from which they have fled. Then the old inventor and his wife live happily ever afterward, and the benign spirit that watches over sentimental endings to plays even arranges for them to improve their income.

Photo Lillian Gish Star-Wagon 9 x 13 B

Mr. Meredith characterizes the inventor richly; Miss Gish acts the old wife vividly and truly, and the bicycle girl with the ethereal coyness of 1902. The other members of the cast contribute skillfully to a performance that is always interesting. Russell Collins, as the inventor’s eccentric henchman; Jane Buchanan, as a pretty old style husband hunter, and Mildred Natwick, as a prudish chaperon of Sunday school picnics must be mentioned for admirable behavior.

Lillian Gish by Eric Pape 1937 Charcoal on Paper (Starwagon)
Lillian Gish by Eric Pape 1937 Charcoal on Paper (Starwagon)

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