TWO BY O'HARA by John O'Hara


The Man Who Could Not Lose and Far From Heaven
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A never-produced screen treatment, a never-produced play--both weak though gruff-fronted. The Man Who Could Not Lose is Martin Zeigler, an embezzler whose greatest heist in 1922 sent him off into European island-exile, where he continues to wheel-and-deal in currencies, national rivalries, and the lives of his family. His creed--"to make a profit where a loss had seemed unavoidable; quid pro quo"--leads him to romance Mussolini and the Germans, to torture his wife by never allowing her a divorce, and (after the war) to sell himself and his secrets to the Russians. O'Hara may have counted on this bit of cynicism to be blackly compelling; but it's all empty gestures, an idea that refuses to be fleshed. Far From Heaven, an ultimately embarrassing "melodrama," was meant as a vehicle for Jackie Gleason, who didn't want to do it, and so it went into a drawer. John G. Sullivan is a Tammany leader in Chelsea, back after two years of a bribery stretch in Sing Sing, who finds his power and his girl and his friends leaked away. Full of bluster, he means to turn it all around, but can't--although at the end he gets the girl back before the inevitable last-act bang-bang. Interestingly, O'Hara's famous facility for dialogue utterly stiffens in his attempts at drama; to make up for the stilted, declaimed, obvious style of the dialogue, O'Hara puts across some tough--guy mob stuff--the low-down on cards and horses and molls--that he only seems to be half-sure about. What do these exhumations demonstrate? Only that O'Hara was a story writer who needed the pillowing density of his own narrative, not the highlights of stage and screen. No intrinsic interest, and no real aid to scholars of O'Hara's genuine work: gratuitous posthumous printings.
Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1979


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