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Submitted by Mark Fuller
September 24th 1930
Caste (1930) 6,421 ft
- George D'Alroy, an officer in the Guards, marries Esther Eccles, a ballet girl, against the advice of his friend Captain Hawtree, and without the knowledge of his mother, the Marquise de St.Maur. On the outbreak of war George and Hawtree have to go abroad with their regiment, and Esther is left, amply provided for and awaiting, under the care of her sister Polly, the arrival of her baby. Esther's father, old Eccles, loses all the money left to Esther on horse racing, and George is reported killed in action. Esther returns to live with her family, and after the birth of the baby decides to go back to the ballet. The Marquise offers to take the child, which Esther indignantly refuses. With the help of Polly and her young man, Sam Gerridge, Esther makes a brave struggle, and when things are at their worst George returns alive and well, the Marquise offers the hand of reconciliation and all ends happily.
- The fact that "Caste" has been played in some part of the country or the other almost without a break for more than sixty years is sufficient proof that it is a popular play of sterling value, and additional proof might be gained from the fact that it has added to the reputation of such players as Sir Squire and Lady Bancroft, Sir John Hare, Cyril Maude, Charles Brookfield,Marie Tempest and a score of others, It is, however, a play of its period, and it is doubtful if the experimentof bringing it up to date could be perfectly successful without re-writing much of the dialogue. The three comedy parts of Old Eccles, Polly and Sam Gerridge hardly need revision, as these are true sketches of Cockney humour, as true now as when they were written. It is the sentiment that dates, and the bashful delicacy of the mid-Victorian era, when a young bride dare only timidly hint to her husband at the possible approach of one of the greatest joys of married life, seems strangely out of place at the present time. Moreover, by placing the period of the play in 1914-15 the producer has had to invent a very flimsy reason for Sam Gerridge not joining the army, and the return of D'Alroy and Hawtree fit and well, when the former's son is only a few months old, seems to call for explanation. "Caste" treated as a costume-play of the period of the Crimean War would have a great popular appeal. As a present-day drama it has much of the incongruity of " Hamlet" or "Macbeth" in modern clothes.
- The comedy parts, on which "Caste" chiefly relies for its popularity, have been considerably cut down, but Ben Field, with what opportunities are left to him, gives an excellent performance of Eccles, particularly in those scenes, interpolated by the producer,in which he is seen with his boon companions, trying vainly to spot winners. Hermione Baddeley as Polly, and Edward Chapman as Sam Gerridge, playing on conventional lines, are responsible for some bright comedy. Sebastian Shaw as George D'Alroy and Alan Napier as Captain Hawtree lack the distinction which one expects from officers of the Guards, a distinction which is supplied by the admirable performance of the Marquise de St. Maur by Mabel Terry Lewis, a performance which stands out for its polish and sincerity. Norah Swinburne looks charming and does all that is possible with the rather colourless part of Esther.
- The action takes place chiefly in the humble home of the Eccles and D'Alroy's Mayfair flat, which are adequate. Some of the most effective scenes are those introduced showing Esther's work at the theatre and old Eccles at the bar of his favourite pub. The photography is fair.
- The recording is mainly good.
- In Brief
- T.W. Robertson's most successful play, brought up to date, capably played and produced. Good story of old-fashioned sentiment and genuine comedy. Suitability - Fair appeal to average audiences. Selling Angles - The world-wide reputation of the play; the great successes made in it by world-famous players
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