Saturday, March 19, 2005

Heigh-Ho, the Glamorous Life

Re-reading John Van Druten's 1943 play The Voice of the Turtle, a rather melancholy comedy about an affair between a young actress and a soldier on leave. I'd like to write a bit more about this one when I get a chance, but in the meantime I'll quote a bit of dialogue that caught my eye as an amusing and even insightful (in a Broadway-comedy kind of way) take on the difference between what you're taught as a child and the way you wind up living as an adult in the city. This is a dialogue between Sally, the heroine, who has just come off an unhappy affair with a producer, and her more experienced actress friend Olive:

SALLY: If I'd stayed home in Joplin, none of this would have happened.

OLIVE: Don't they... in Joplin?

SALLY: Olive, tell me something. Something I want to know.

OLIVE: What?

SALLY: Well, do ordinary girls? I was raised to think they didn't. Didn't even want to. And what I want to know is -- don't they? They don't in movies. Oh, I know that's censorship... but... the people who go and see the movies... are they like that too? Or else don't they notice that it's all false?

OLIVE: I've wondered about that, myself.

SALLY: Even in Shakespeare, his heroines don't. Ever. Juliet carries on like crazy about not. I don't know whether what Mother and Father taught me was right, or true, or anything. Were you raised like that?

OLIVE: Oh, sure. And I wasn't even legitimate. But Mama raised me just as strict as if I was.

SALLY: Did you have qualms when you started?

OLIVE: Never.

SALLY: What did you feel?

OLIVE: I just felt -- "So this is it! I like it!"

Picture Olive's lines being spoken by Blanche on The Golden Girls and you'll realize how close the style of old-fashioned Broadway comedy is to the style of the TV sitcom (which eventually co-opted most of the writers who, in another generation, would have written plays).

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