THE PLAYER KINGS by Richard Findlater


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. . . the great actor is the one who can make you jump higher, take you deeper and keep you going longer than any other kind of actor. . ."" suggests Mr. Findlater and by the time he has called the roll of the great and near-great Shakespearean actors, the definition has weathered well. Reverently passing over the contributions of the founding phantom, Burbage, Findlater begins with the jaunty ""lord loving"" Garrick (""I hate your Rearers,"" he was heard to insist) and goes on to those in the apostolic succession -- Kemble (his sister Mrs. Siddons worked with Garrick), Kean who destroyed Kemble's ""religion,"" Macready who had played with Mrs. Siddons and so on. The chapters concerning the work of Henry Irving and Johnston Forbes-Robertson are particularly lively, featuring as they do some earwigging by such theatre-goers as Shaw, James and Max Beerbohm, etc. In each portrait, selections from contemporary accounts accompany some brief biography. Findlater's summaries may not always quite agree with the reader's own conclusions (Findlater's statement that Irving ""thought his way to greatness,"" confronts Shaw's judgment: ""No brains -- nothing but character and temperament""). Nonetheless there is a steady and honest illumination. Part II deals with still-living and actively performing actors -- Gielgud, Olivier, Redgrave, and a few others.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1971
Publisher: Stein & Day