by David Fairweather
LUISE RAINER’S first appearance on the London stage was clearly destined to be the event of the summer season, and now that I have seen her performance I am certain she will draw the town to the Shaftesbury for months to come.
She gives a tour-de-force of comedy, pathos and emotional stress, changing her moods with astonishing ease and rapidity, and holding together, by sheer force of magnetism, a play that, without her art to illumine and sustain it, would mean very little.
Behold the Bride is comedy, merging into farce. The Carringtons are on the fringe of financial disaster. The only hope of salvation is their son, Eric’s marriage to Auriol Massuber, daughter of wealthy parents. Seeing that before Eric went away to Paris, he and Auriol were almost engaged, the situation should have presented few difficulties. But unfortunately for the Carringtons, if fortunately for us, Eric has secretly married a charming little French girl named Francoise, whom he brings home to introduce to his parents.
Before he can do so, the tale of woe is poured into his ears by a father almost tottering to the grave, and Francoise, overhearing, agrees that for the moment Eric must pretend to become engaged to Auriol, so that the creditors, now thirsting for Mr. Carrington’s blood, may lay off for a while and enable him to repair his shattered fortunes.
By one of those strokes peculiar to comedy the world over, the butler mistakes Francoise for the new maid sent by an agency.
The new maid, luckily, is to “sleep in,” so that Eric’s honeymoon is not unduly interrupted, except by the alarm clock that goes off at seven each morning in Francoise’s room. No suspicions are aroused, save that Mrs. Carrington remarks that Eric no longer snores, while the butler is not unnaturally surprised at the stertorous breathings in the room next to his.
But the Carrington fortunes continue to totter, and further complications set in when Auriol, who has willingly agreed to the mock engagement , now announces that she has re-fallen in love with Eric and has no intention of giving him up. She even extends a most unmaidenly invitation for a trial week-end. In the end, of course, all such tangles are smoothed out to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.
I have already referred to Miss Rainer’s enchanting acting. Griffith Jones, with the agreeable task of being made violent love to by a pair of most attractive women, plays with a pleasant touch of comedy. Jeanne de Casalis is particularly good as Mrs. Carrington, while a special word of praise must go to Hazel Terry, whose good looks, fine voice and individual talent are rapidly singling her out from the ranks of our younger actresses.