BETWEEN ACTOR AND CRITIC: Selected Letters of Edwin Booth and William Winter by Daniel J. Watermeier

BETWEEN ACTOR AND CRITIC: Selected Letters of Edwin Booth and William Winter

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KIRKUS REVIEW

On the surface, these letters by the great American tragedian, Booth, to critic and later biographer William Winter are deceptively scattered and mundane in content -- no real analysis of his art, the plays or peer performances -- but they do present an invaluable glimpse of Booth in witty, moody, and convivial converse. Although his years of acute family tragedy and alcoholism were behind him, the insanity of his second wife, death of an infant son, financial troubles and an assassination attempt drained his energies and spirits. These letters cover the middle years when Booth's reputation was secure and he chats to Winter about his travels (exhausting tours at home and abroad), his work on the ""prompt books"" (acting versions of the Plays), finances and wearing assaults from in-laws, promoters and the press. Most frustrating and fascinating, however, is Booth's complete and absolute avoidance of any reference to his onstage consciousness, although there are a few explicit (and sometimes humorous) remarks on technique, and one rare tribute to Irving with whom he worked: ""(He) revives my old interest in my profession."" With the ""old interest"" presumably waned, what was the core of greatness that was still stirring two continents? It is possible than when onstage Booth turned off his own miseries, memories, restlessness and ""blues"" to create a private world where he could listen to something else.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1971
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press