THE BIG LAUGH by John

THE BIG LAUGH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The story of Richard Hubert Ward is centered on a bitter joke, for the boy into man and popular actor on Broadway and moving pictures when he was a self centered rascal was a more respectable person than when he became a domesticated rogue -- and a hypocrite. The path preceding his fame is grubby: bounced out of three prep schools, caught in passing a check, killing an old lady accidentally, and knowing his way with homosexuals. Ward hides out in summer stock, bulldozes the director into bigger parts, roughs his way on the stage and makes use of his no principle attitude to go far in pictures. His stumbling block is Nina Stephens, a widow with a little girl, and love for her locks him into rigidly proper behavior after their marriage, with only one short side step out of line. But when Nina, corrupted by Hollywood and bored with a life little different from her first marriage in the midwest, experiments, the marriage is wrecked and Ward only has some thirty years in pictures and a third marriage to live with. O'Hara's laconic, dry monotone indicates all the scars and seams, refuses any compromise but that this short regeneration did little to help this man who was far more real as a blackguard. The Hollywood background tends itself to this review of moral decay and a parade of outspoken characters complement the story. O'Hara's seasoned audience will respond -- there are others who may not.

Publisher: Random House