The Summer Playhouse 'Beautiful'
For the July 4 holiday period Vincent Carroll’s comedy, Shadow and Substance, set in Ireland, again starred Courtleigh with George Makinson, and new players James Corbett and Earl Jones among other usual cast players, with Augusta Farnum in another role. In the play the very Rev. Thomas Canon Skerritt, a parish priest too cultivated for his Irish flock, has his mind mended by the artless goodness of his Irish servant Brigid, played by Cecile Wulff.
The production for the week of July 10, 1939, was the three act comedy Easy Virtue, based on sophisticated life in the Murray Hill section of New York City. This time Cecile Wulff had the primary female lead with Courtleigh and Roscella Lightner as the third leading part. At the time, too, theatre trade papers were commenting on the Lake theatre’s unusual and beautiful setting. A Nanticoke novice, Franklyn Lenthall, a few days short of his twentieth birthday, had a small role. In later life, he would hold substantial roles as actor, director, producer and theatre curator.
But it was the following week that produced the season’s greatest excitement. On July 17, 1939, the Lake playhouse would host Elaine Barrie (Barrymore) as the lead in End of Summer, another three-act comedy drama with serious “modern” undertones. The fourth wife of legendary actor John Barrymore, she initiated a romance with him as a young 19 year-old starlet when he was 53. A “media sensation” followed a mysterious yacht voyage, a cross-county chase (by her of him), an elopement and marriage to Barrymore in late 1936 and general scandal which the public loved – all of which Barrie penned for a New York newspaper.
In 1939 Elaine Barrie was to have appeared with Barrymore in a Broadway play My Dear Children, but already they were on the road to divorce. She could afford a stint at the Lake because she was still paid $500 weekly to not appear in the Barrymore production (In the meantime, Barrymore was filing a lawsuit against Barrie for $300,000 in unaccounted marital funds).
Barrie’s appearance in the Wyoming Valley coincided with her twenty-fourth birthday on July 16, 1939, and one of the Valley’s leading businessmen, Edward Morris, the “Square Deal” jeweler, hosted a birthday party for the actress at his Shrineview, Dallas, home, presenting her with a Univex Mercury camera.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no reviews of Barrie’s performance at the Lake. After her late 1940 divorce, Barrie wrote a book about her life with Barrymore titled All My Sins Remembered. She never remarried and later had a successful business in the fashion industry. She reportedly was the only one of Barrymore’s former wives to attend his 1942 funeral. In 1997 she helped the noted actor Christopher Plummer with his 1997 one-man Broadway show depicting John Barrymore. Elaine Barrie died in March 2003 in New York City.
After Barrie’s appearance the Lake theatre apparently experienced unexplained difficulties. The week of July 17 saw the restaging of the earlier production Night Must Fall, and the following week the reappearance of Shadow and Substance.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo