Saturday, August 11, 2007

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Birds of a Feather Edition

Eugene O'Neill, playwright, is nothing if not startling, and the public can hardly be said to be altogether unprepared for the announcement that he is to have a white woman play opposite a negro in an inter-racial drama which he has written and is now rehearsing. According to the New York dispatch, a young woman whose name is being withheld, has agreed, after one leading actress and many near-stars refused to play opposite a negro leading man in Eugene O'Neill's new dramatic production, "All God's Chillun Got Wings." In the closing scene of this play, it is stated, "the white woman is required to kiss the hand of the negro whose wife she has become." It is further stated that O'Neill's determination to go through with the staging of this play and make it "realistic" has "started much talk in theatrical circles." We read, "He first offered the leading female role to one of the best known actresses, and when she refused, consulted many others before finding one he said was willing to hold art above race prejudice. This young woman has asked that her name be kept
from the public, at least until the play opens."

Eugene O'Neill, son of James O'Neill who years ago starred in "Monte Cristo," is best known as the author of "The Hairy Ape," a play which interested jaded dramatic critics and won high praise from some of them because of its revolt against accepted standards, its brutality, the harsh nakedness of its horrors, and its puzzling obscurity of idea which recalled Ibsen without revealing Ibsen's inspiration. That such an imagination as O'Neill's should have reached out further into the repellent and adopted such a theme as he is now developing in stage rehearsals, though startling indeed, is no more than might have been expected.

Whether "all God's chillun got wings" may be open to debate, but it cannot be doubted that there would be a scandalized commotion among the winged creatures of the air if a robin were found mating with a dove and producing mongrel offspring in defiance of the law of nature that birds of a feather must flock together. The same law of nature applies in the case of distinct races of men and is made none the less imperative by a few violations of it with tragic consequences. In the economy and order of the universe there is some complete and fundamental reason as basic for the fact that the several grand divisions of the human race remain distinct, and are not amalgamating into a single mongrel type, in spite of the commercial intercommunion of all peoples and the talk of the "brotherhood of man"—which, it may be incidentally remarked, is good talk in its proper place and right meaning, without the madness of the demand for inter-racial mingling of blood.

Mr. O'Neill is altogether mistaken when he says he at last found an actress "willing to hold art above race prejudice." What he finally found was an actress willing to hold "art" above nature. And Mr. O'Neill is pleased only because he has definitely repudiated the long accepted canon that true art is the mirror of nature.

--"'Art' Above Nature," Kingston (N.Y.) Daily Freeman, March 5, 1924, p. 4.

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