JUNE 16, 1943
NEW YORK, Tuesday—Last night one of the most remarkable Army benefits, "The Army Play By Play," was given for the Soldiers and Sailors Club of New York.
Mr. John Golden, who has produced many Broadway successes, probably never put on a more interesting performance before a more distinguished audience. When he was asked to give a benefit, he happened to have on his desk a number of plays written by soldiers for a competition, in which he had offered a prize for the best soldier play written by a soldier.
The plays had been weeded down to five when the note asking for a benefit performance arrived, so he simply put them on for it and spent hours of his precious time coaching the soldier casts. He says he swore at them, but they still liked him, and I have no doubt that is true. He adds that there are a number of boys who have never acted before and who he really considers good professional material, besides the few boys who were professional actors in the past.
All this work was done for one night's performance, and the first thing Mayor La Guardia said was, "What a waste, they should play for a few times at least." There isn't any question in my mind but that should they happen to play under professional auspices, they could roll up considerable sums for charities.
The soldiers will enjoy these plays, because in places they are like "Private Hargrove," just the life of a soldier with all of his language, his interests, and his separation from the world in which he once lived. Some of the old life still clings to the soldiers, but it undergoes a subtle change and they are just American soldiers, giving due deference to their officers, but never for one minute being fooled by them.
These boys are the people of the United States. Their families are the families we all know. The plays are gay and you have a good time, but there are lessons in them—lessons of the unity of the American nation which are good for us all to feel in our souls.
As I walked through a side street yesterday I saw a woman in black ahead of me. A man in uniform walked by her, stopped and went back. She greeted him warmly and I heard her say, "My, it is good to see you looking so well. You know I lost my boy in this war." I wanted to stop and to tell her how sorry I was that there were so many people who must be saying just the same thing. I hope they said it with as brave a smile and as courageous a ring in their voices as she did.