Jean Kerr Harold Clurman - Essay

Harold Clurman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[If "King of Hearts," a] comedy by Jean Kerr and Eleanor Brooke …, achieves success, it will be because it contains some of the funniest lines to be heard on any New York stage today. If it should fail, it will be because of something discomfiting in it.

I was almost constantly amused by it. But toward the end of the first act I began to be reminded of an experience I had long ago on reading a play by the English humorist Saki. The Saki play was hilarious from first to last, with an incessant drive to mirth which became wearisome. One had the feeling that it could go on forever. There was no reason for it to end, and because of this one suspected there had been no reason for it to begin. But in watching the second act of "King of Hearts" I discovered that it was not like Saki's play at all: there is a point—even an edge—to the Kerr-Brooke comedy. I was not weary with the exhaustion of laughter; I was being made nervous by a strange element in the source of that laughter….

The play concerns Larry Larkin, an obnoxiously, almost maniacally narcissistic and egotistic success-boy who happens to be a comic-strip artist. He is a snob and he is heartless. He is as indefatigably energetic as a trip-hammer besides being as prolix as an unattended radio. He is publicity-crazy, all-devouringly selfish, obtuse, and, worst of all, a phony "humanitarian."…

Contrasted to their horrid "hero" is a...

(The entire section is 494 words.)