Gretchen Cryer Walter Kerr - Essay

Walter Kerr

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

As a natural male chauvinist who's simply never been able to get away with it …, I am endlessly fascinated by the varied cases the more ardent women's libbers make for themselves.

Gretchen Cryer, for instance, seems to me to be making the wrong one—or making it wrongly—in … "I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On The Road." Miss Cryer, of course, is the writer-singer-actress who collaborated so niftily with composer Nancy Ford on "The Last Sweet Days of Isaac," and in the fretfully defiant challenge she's issuing now she does remind you—once or twice—how lyrically intelligent, how self-assertively bold she can be. She sings the phrase "Dear Tom, yes, I always fixed your suppers" with a liquid upward thrust that's enchanting, even as you quite understand that Dear Tom has been given the heave-ho sometime past.

But here's the thorn: Miss Cryer, in the entertainment, has firmly made her break with the image and the life-style imposed upon her by her daddy (daddy taught her to smile, smile, smile, so she'd look pretty enough to snare a man who'd take care of her the rest of her life), by her husband (she tried to be the "who" he wanted her to be but the charade was too dishonest to be endured), and by her manager (who is trying to adjust her outspoken nightclub act so that it will be more palatable to middle-brow, still macho, males).

Having "split" with everyone who's tried to impose an alien role or an alien look on her …, she is proud of her freedom…. Her career is quite enough …, she doesn't want to talk about success but about integrity …, she books no further argument…. Okay.

But. She's still miserable, burdened with a permanent frown, self-righteous and—much of the time—sorry for herself…. How are we to dredge up the sympathy we're supposed to feel? No one can feel sorry for the unliberated woman and the liberated woman at one and the same time. That's double jeopardy, or something. It can't be cricket.

Walter Kerr, "Two Women, Both Alone, Two Moods," in The New York Times, Section 2 (© 1978 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 9, 1978, p. 3.∗