Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just because I find the articles interesting, and because it's a good example of what a 1922 audience member would have been used to, here are the scans of one of the original West End programs

 I find some of the ads in here highly entertaining.
I have come to a conclusion that Secrets, if performed today, would have to advertised as history. It would never be able to be a social commentary on the modern society, unless you count retrospectively, but it could be a  recollection to a moment in time when rules were stricter and the laws of love were drastically different than they are today. I would love to see this play produced today, but since there are, I believe, less than a hundred scripts in existence it would be pretty hard to do it.
Another important thing to keep in mind if you ever get to read the script or see it performed, is the ideals and rules of the Victorian Era. I know that I have touched on this subject many times before, but I truly think it is an integral part of what makes the story and characters so interesting. Here is another excerpt from one of my essays that explains a few of the important social and moral ideas:

In the Victorian era many people based their lives around strict morals, and even stricter rules. The division of class was extreme, and many people, especially the upper class, were hypocrites.  "The key words of the times were "thought," "work," and "progress." clear thinking was preferred to impulse or prejudice and the battle of ideas to the dictatorship of slogans; hard work was considered the foundation of all material advancement; and both clear thinking and hard work were deemed essential to continued national progress" (Briggs 1). These principles both helped create and were created by the technological and material advancement that Great Britain underwent in the 1800s. This advancement was showcased by the Great Exhibition of 1851 that took place in the Crystal Palace. The Great Exhibition is believed to be signifying the beginning of the High-Victoria period (Mitchell). It showcased the great technological advancement, the beauty, the strength, and the affluence of Great Britain. These ideas were integrated into society in the form of a moral code. The "belief in a common moral code, based on duty and self-restraint, was shared by most groups in society" (Briggs 3). And it was this moral code that became the backbone of the Victorian era. Through the era ideas did change, grow, and even warped in a way that did eventually bring about the end of the era. "The stress on thought, work, and progress, carried with it smugness, dullness, and what contemporaries, particularly the bright young intellectuals of the Saturday Review, called 'can't.' But it was accompanied also by heightened national pride" (Briggs 2). This sense of “can’t” verses “can” is a large contributor in the generation rift and the downfall of the Victorian era.
One of the large issues in the Victorian era was sexual relations. Sex was not something that the Victorians talked about, and sex education was unheard of "Young Victorians gained carnal knowledge by avoiding their usual sources of education- family, church, and school- and conversing with friends, observing animals, and trying to extract information from books" (Mitchell 710). While sex was not a direct subject of confrontation in Secrets it is a unspoken undercurrent in both the society in which a majority of the play takes place as well as the play itself. The characters in Secrets are so much dynamic because of the amount of time that the play covers as well all of the different moral codes, such as Victorians and sex, that each of them have unintentionally integrated into their lives. When Susan goes into “hysterics” in act 1, page 19, it would have been blamed on unbalanced humors that some doctors believed were caused by sex or the lack thereof. “Dr. Samuel Solomon's widely read A Guide to Health, or Advice to Both Sexes (1800) stated that, although intercourse was enjoyable, 'over indulgence' caused mental and physical exhaustion and 'convulsions of all the senses'" (Mitchell 710). While the only person in Secrets  that goes into “hysterics” is Susan, she is the character of the lowest class in act 1. This could be a comment on class or maybe just a coincidence, but it does show a variance between Susan and her employers, the Marlowes.
            In Victorian society there were rules for everything. As long as a person knew their place and what their role in society was, they were considered a step above the rest. "Society, said Lady Frances Balfour, was 'composed of people who knew how to behave, were well-bred, and felt their obligations to live according to the position in which they were placed" (Mitchell 734). Every action, choice, friendship, or marriage of a person in society was expected to follow the high moral standard (Mitchell 734). Only people of the upper-class were considered to be a part of society, and in order to become a member you had to have one of the following: wealth, impressive lineage, connections, or be a part of the correct club. "One classic way to gain access to higher social status has always been through marriage" (Mitchell 734). The goal of any engagement was to raise either family’s respectability in society either by marriage for wealth or to join a family with an impressive lineage. "[Marriage] also provided a way to control access to status positions- to the highest and most visible social circles and also to the centers of economic and political power" (Mitchell 735). Being a part of society was expensive and because of that "substantial numbers of men delayed marriage or remained single because of the need to have sufficient income to maintain a suitable style of life- a place in society- which would cost exponentially more for a man with a family than for a single man" (Mitchell 734). This often meant that the majority of marriages in the Victorian era were older men to younger women. Many engagements were made by parents of a young girl to a wealthy man of society, so participating in society functions became a huge part of the Victorian life. The social functions became so important and so expensive that a “social season” was created. It would last a few month and cost a great deal of money. "Society regulated courtship with great care. The marriage market was organized under extensive chaperonage within the confining activities of the season, starting with balls or parties where girls would meet eligible young men" (Mitchell 734). Act one of Secrets takes place while Mary is actually getting ready for one such ball to which her parents have great hope for. It was a Victorian mother’s goal in life to see her daughter well married which is why Mary’s parents take her courtship with John Carlton so terribly. As her father, Marlowe, states "No comment of ours can adequately describe your daughter’s conduct and the conduct of her- her accomplices in this scandalous affair. For the present, there’s no more to be said. You will, of course, go alone to the party this evening. You had better say that your daughter has contracted a slight chill, and that you felt it would be inadvisable to expose her to the night air" (Besier and Edginton 23). Since Mary had become such a disgrace there was no way her parents could have taken her to a function of the season, but they did not want to make the disgrace public, which would have ruined Mary’s prospects forever, so they made up the lie. This would and should have been heart breaking for any other Victorian girl, but Mary is more distraught by being forbidden from seeing John again. Her parents wanted someone from a suitable background for their daughter and a lowly clerk was not seemly. Of course, Mary still disregards her parent’s wishes and elopes with John Carlton. John knows that by marrying him she is forsaking every luxury that would have assuredly been hers with another man, which is why he reminds her that, "By running away with me your family will consider that you have disgraced them and utterly disown you. You will have nobody in the world to depend upon but me. And I’m only-" (Besier and Edginton 30). To which Mary cuts him off with, “Nobody but you! You’re all I want- now, and to the end of my life” (Besier and Edginton 30). This unconventional Victorian love, while to a modern audience seems like puppy love or mere infatuation, is proven time and time again to be just as strong and lasting as Mary’s declares that it is. It would have been unseemly to talk about love the way Mary and John do in act 1, but it was, and still is, highly uncommon for words of that deep a devotion to be true and lasting.
Okay guys,
For those of you reading to the first time, and for those returning to read this blog, I want to know what you think love means when it comes to marriage.
Sometime in my early preteens I heard a story about the languages of love. I cannot tell you all of them, nor can I tell you who told me the tale, but I can admit that it has shaped my view on "love". Some of the "languages" are touch, gifts, words, and time. I'm pretty sure that there are more, but oh well. I've always thought of love as an intense form of caring.  Love is when you care deeply for a specific person and want them to be happy. Sometimes this feeling is mixed with infatuation or desire, and we call that "love". The languages of love is a way that you convey those feelings. In my case gifts make me feel uncomfortable, words need to be used sparingly for me to believe them, time and touch are the ones that I really truly appreciate. I appreciate time because I know that everyone is busy and if you truly want to be with someone you will make the time. Touch is the best reassurance for me of another person's affection, but too much too hastily and I start to feel like an object.
The reason I ask this is because I've been focusing a lot of the theme of "love" in the play. I realized that my view of "love" is, while accurate for someone of my age and background, lacking. Here is a decent chunk on one of my essays that talks about love in a very concise way.

"A line in the prologue dates the play more vividly than the chronology of the program synopsis. There is no such thing as love, says an advanced daughter of the couple whose secrets are to be revealed- only a love-complex in the brain. But her aged mother presently sinks into a sleep sorely needed after weary weeks of watching at her husband's sick-bed; and, while she sleeps, her backward vision is unfolded, disclosing another truth of love" (Gorbin 17). Mary proves over and over again that the driving force in her life is the love she has and shares with John. Her children view her unfaltering devotion as an outdated, uneducated mistake. Lady Lessington even goes as far to blame everything on the times. "The fault of her generation, my dear. Women of her time simply didn't know how to manage life. When they married they gave themselves up body and soul to the man. Darling mummy! It was just the fault of her day" (Besier and Edginton 6). Many critics throughout the years will agree with Lady Lessington and assume that the play “…is devoted entirely to the theory that the best interests in the race depend upon a woman’s ability to respond with a prompt and cheerful 'yes' to each claim and demand made by one selected male person" (Broun). This assumption is absolutely not true. It is pointed out at almost every corner by almost every character that their love is a mistake, that everything will fall apart. It never does, but what works for John and Mary is something that every other character in the play may never understand or feel. The children, as well as many audience members, only see Mary being “slavish and subservient” (Besier and Edginton 6) to John, but what they do not see is that everything that John has done with his life, every choice and every success, has been for Mary. The young man pulled her away from a life of ease and comfort, with no promise of being able to give her the same. He does make a moving promise to Mary, “And, my love, I shall succeed for you, I swear it. One day you will be a wife of a big man. You shall be proud of me. You shan’t have a wish ungratified that money can buy. And never, never, my darling, shall you have a wish ungratified that love can buy” (Besier and Edginton 31). It is his devotion to her happiness is what motivates him and continuously drives him to become better, and he does eventually succeed. His success is what everyone sees of him, but what they do not know or see is the reason why. As per, the Victorian ideals that they were raised with, Mary and John are the surprising epitome of what a husband and wife were meant to be, they are truly devoted to one another’s happiness and, in their own way, take care of each other. John Carlton has many failings as a human being, but the love that he has for Mary is possibly his biggest virtue. When John cheats on Mary and they are faced with the awful truth of the situation, Mary “…shows the deeper meaning of the Victorian tradition, in the simplicity and strength of her fidelity” (Gorbin 17). She forgives him. Despite her jealousy and the shame that he has brought on the family, she forgives him because he needs her. They need each other. “Secrets is highly sentimental, but it is distinguished by its acute perceptions into the psychology of the two main characters" (Rollyson). Their lives are intertwined so deeply that it is hard for any outsider to truly understand the marriage, much like real life marriages are. It is this connection that helps make sense of the titling quote, “Every separate marriage is a separate mystery. Men and women come to doctors and they tell them secrets about marriage. But the innermost secrets they never tell. They couldn’t if they tried. For in every marriage there are secrets which only one man and one woman know” (Besier and Edginton 8).  Sometimes the husband and wife do not fully realize them except in rare moments (Gorbin 17). For Mary and John, their truth of their love is one of those many secrets between a couple that may never be fully understood. Secrets allows an audience in to experience the truth, but, more often than not, that truth is misinterpreted or missed altogether.
I feel very strongly about understanding the "why" behind an action or feeling. "Why" is the reason for everything and if we forget the "why" and the "how" and especially the "when" everything starts to loose it's perspective and we fall, once again, into the pit of apathy that is so common in my generation.

By the time Secrets, the film, came out in 1933 audiences were ready for something more cutting-edge. One critic remarked that, "the Talmadge version is too stagy and drawn-out, and this second version is much more cinematic" (Callahan). Mary Pickford, another starlet of the silent screen, was casted as Mary Carlton. Secrets was Mary Pickford’s last film and her first “talkie”. 
The fact that she had based her career on silent films meant that she had a very distinct way of acting. "More importantly, her style of acting didn't work in sound films: in the first scenes of Secrets, Pickford does an emotion, freezes it as if she's waiting for a title card to be inserted, then goes into the next emotion. (Gloria Swanson had the same problem.) She was unable piece emotions and behavior together or make it flow (Callahan). It is also noticed that when Mary’s baby dies, that Pickford’s acting is at its best. One critic commented that, “It's no mistake that her best scene is a silent one" (Callahan), and another critic agreed that as "Mary goes into the bedroom and discovers that their infant son is dead she gives a long slow silent movie reaction. She proves what Norma Desmond meant by, “We had faces then!”. Her facial expressions are brilliant. While she was only average at delivering dialogue she was one of the finest actresses of the silent medium" (Nash).  
Mary Pickford actually chose the script and pushed very hard for it to get produced. She may have felt a certain connection with the script and the character of Mary when it came to the affair. "In the last section, Pickford stands by her husband (Leslie Howard) after she learns of his affair with a dark-eyed temptress; this was meant to show Pickford's loyalty to her husband Douglas Fairbanks, whose eye had begun to wander to other women” (Callahan). Sadly, the production was not enough to keep her marriage intact and in 1936. 
While the movie was not an astonishing piece of work it was still a well-written movie that was overshadowed by other movies, such as Cavalcade (Nash). Everything about Secrets is now outdated and very difficult to relate to a modern audience; this was definitely first apparent with Pickford’s rendition of Secrets. "All in all, it makes a rather lovely and satisfyingly romantic swan song for its star, who thereafter holed herself up in her mansion, Pickford, to indulge in chronic alcoholism and regret" (Callahan).

Secrets(1923) was a silent film starring Norma Talmadge as Mary Carlton. Though the film still exists today, but about a third of it has been lost. The story is still basically the same, but many of the locations and a few of the plot devices have been changed to better fit the silent screen better. Some of the changes that were made included changes such as the fact that Talmadge starts out in England and ends up in Scotland instead of back in England, and that in the skirmish in the wilderness, the Carlton’s baby does not survive. Instead of having the action of the play be in the form of a flashback from a dream sequence, the movie uses the diary of the wife to bring back the memories. By having Norma Talmadge star as Mary in the production, Secrets was guaranteed to have an enraptured audience: Norma Talmadge was a very popular actor of her time, and audiences loved to come see her tragic characters suffer through an exciting ordeal. Secrets delivered in exciting trials for our heroine and even in the movie adaptions of Secrets the most intense and most enjoyed by the audience is the fight scene against the cattle rustlers. In the silent film Secrets with Norma Talmadge as Mary Carlton, the staging of the cattle rustler fight “differs from the action of the play; but it is decidedly vigorous, especially when one beholds the forbidding countenance of Dick Sutherland as one of the robbing, death-dealing crew" ("New York Times"). The intense action was definitely one of the reasons that the play did as well as it did, and was just as successful as a movie. In a review from Variety, March 26th, 1924 it compared the film adaptation to the original stage production,

“On the screen "Secrets" is a far better entertainment than it was on the spoken stage. Its punches are driven home with greater effect than they were in the spoken play, and the interpretation Miss Talmadge gives of the wife who never wavered, but remained firm in the belief that her husband still loved her best of all, even at the times that she knew he was unfaithful, is something that will go down in film history. It is a work of art, deftly handled with a divine touch that makes it stand out as one of the greatest screen characterizations in years” (de Groat).
This raving review was not the only one that believed that the film would go down in history. The New York Times also believed that Secrets was a “love story is of unusual depths and one which, in a picture, considering its appeal to hundreds of thousands, will undoubtedly have an effect upon the spectators who see it. It may patch up squabbles between young married couples and it may cause others to think twice before they decide upon separating" ("New York Times"). The love and devotion that is so evidently embedded into the story was exactly what the audiences of a silent film wanted. The only part of the play that any critic called into question was the historical accuracy and Talmadge’s makeup. While "the elopement scenes are beautifully pictured, it would, however, have been difficult for a young man, no matter how much in love he was, to ride far with his precious charge on one of those high bicycles. But perhaps here and there are harmless anachronisms. Postmen in London do not whistle, and in even those days the old door knocker with the double tat-tat according to the authors, was in vogue" ("New York Times"). These are things that an audience can easily forgive if they become invested into the show. The suspension of disbelief is a saving grace for those little inaccuracies. 
Unlike the past actresses who had played Mary Compton, Norma Talmadge had mixed reviews on her ability to play all of the ages seamlessly. The review in the New York Times lamented that "Miss Talmadge appears to have been reluctant to do anything more than submit to gray hair. There are no signs of sunken eyes, or thinnish neck, no wrinkled forehead, or lines of laughter. She is 40! A beautiful woman with hair tinged with signs of age" ("New York Times"). Even with the makeup mishap the show was a great success and eventually influenced the creation of another revival and another motion picture.
I have all of the things to post today! I've had a breakthrough in my research, and I have finished both of my essays. What I will be posting over the next few hours are some insights that I think are interesting, important, and should be shared.
First off, there is very little information on the authors of Secrets, but I have found some good information.

Rudolf Besier lived a straight-forward life as a journalist, a translator, and a playwright. He was primary known for his dramatic works, “although he was also engaged in journalism and translated works from the French" (Rollyson). While there is very little information about Besier's personal life, many of the details were recorded by Carl Rollyson in his Critical Survey of Drama. Besier was of Dutch descent, born in Java, in July 1978, to Margaret (née Collinson) and Rudolf Besier, Sr. He was well-educated and studied at St. Elizabeth College, Guernsey, England, and then finished his studies in Heidelberg, Germany. He worked in journalism while working for the firm of C. Arthur Pearson for several years after graduating. Besier left journalism in 1908, after he decided to devote his efforts to the theatre. He married Charlotte Woodward, the daughter of the Reverend J. P. S. Woodward, of Plumpton, Sussex (Rollyson). He wrote a large number of plays; the most famous of these plays and the one that put Besier on the map as a playwright is The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

May Edginton has even less information available than Rudolf Besier does. 

May Edginton, has a life that is hard to research due to the fact that she used many pen names, and rarely wrote anything about herself. In "1883 or 1884 Helen Marion Edginton (who later wrote under several forms of her name, but usually as 'May Edginton') was born" (Blain, Clements, and Grundy). There is little about her life that has been recorded other than her novels, plays, and some of her pseudonyms. One of the few dates historians know for sure is that of her death: June 17th, 1957 at “Rondebosch, South Africa, two years after the appearance of her final novel" ("Miss May Edginton"). It is believed that she was married, but no source can say exactly to whom. Much like the rest of her life, Edginton’s marriage was either not recorded or was a private matter.Edginton’s works were quite popular in her day, when she “published more than fifty romances between 1909 and 1955, besides serials, short stories, and plays. Several of her plays did well on stage. One of her novels was filmed, and another gave rise to a musical and a movie which won fame for themselves though not for her" (Brown, Clements, and Grundy). 
also, here is my works consulted for this whole ordeal. any and all of my sources for this project are on this list. so this will cover every cite in every post:
Barrow, Mandy. "Old English Money." British Life and Culture (2010): n.pag. Web. 27 Mar 2013. <>.
Besier, Rudolf, and May Edginton. Secrets. French's Acting ed. London: Samuel French, LTD, 1930. Print.
Blain, Virginia ed., Patricia Clements ed., and Isobel Grundy ed. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present. Alternate Title: Feminist Companion; FC. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press; Batsford, 1990.
Bordman, Gerald. American Theatre:A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1914-1930. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1995. Print.
Briggs, Asa. Victorian People. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972. Print.
British Library Catalogue. <> 28 June 1999.
The Broadway League, . "Secrets." (2001): Internet Broadway Database. Web. 2 Feb 2013. <>.
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. May Edginton entry: Overview screen within Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <>. 23 April 2013.
Broun, Heywood. "Classification of Drama Becomes More Difficult." Indianapolis Sunday Star [Indianapolis] 7 Jan 1923, n. pag. Print.
Callahan, Dan. "Secrets." Slant. (2006): n. page. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <>.
Contento, William G. comp. The FictionMags Index. Homeville Bibliographic Resources. (31 October 2004). 12 December 2004. <> 
Corbin, John. "Off the Key of Comedy." New York Times[New York] 30 Sept 1923, R1. Print.
de Groat, Greta. "Secrets (1924)." The Norma Talmadge Website., 10 Apr 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. 
de Souza, Eunice. "How do I love thee?." Times of India. (2013): n. page. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <>.
Duncan, Mary. "Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me." n.pag. Web. 20 Apr 2013. <>.
"Feminism." 2013. <>.
Findon, B.W. "Secrets." Play Pictorial. Sept 1922: n. page. Print.
FreeBMD. The Trustees of FreeBMD. 10 October 2010. <>
Gale, Maggie B. "West End Women - 1917 to 1929." West End Theatre Histor (2011): n.pag. West End Theatre. Web. 28 Dec 2013. <>.
Gorbin, John. "The Play." New York Times [New York] 26 Dec 1922, 17. Print.
Kemp, Sandra, Charlotte Mitchell, and David Trotter. Edwardian Fiction: An Oxford Companion. Alternate Title: The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997: 113
"London Notes." New York Times [New York] 26 Sep 120, Section 6. Print.
McGrath, William J. Freud's Discovery of Psychoanalysis: The politics of Hysteria. Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1986. Print.
McKinnel, Norman. "Secrets." Magazine Programme. 23 Jul 1923: n. page. Print.
"Miss May Edginton." Times. (20 June 1957): 16.
Mitchell, Sally. Victorian Britain: an encyclopedia. New York: 1988. Print.
Nash, Patrick. "Movie Review: Secrets." Three Movie Buffs. (2009): n. page. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Other Works of May Edginton." (1990): n.pag. IMDB. Web. 23 Apr 2013. <>.
Rollyson, Carl. Critical Survey of Drama. Second Revised Edition. Salem: Salem Press Inc., 2003. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <>.
Roth, Michael S. Psycho-Analysis as History. Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1987. Print.
"Rudolf Besier Dead; British Dramatist, 63." New York Times [New York] 15 Jun 1942, Pg. 19. Print.
"The Screen." New York Times [New York] 25 Mar 1924, n. pag. Print.
Snodgrass, Chris. "A CHRONICLE OF SOME VICTORIAN EVENTS." . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2013. <>.
"Victorian England: An Introduction." . N.p.. Web. 19 Apr 2013. <>.
Wilson, A.N. The Victorians. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2003. Print.
Zarrilli, Phillip, Bruce McConachie, Gary Jay Williams, and Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei. Theatre Histories: An Introduction. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I've been struggling to figure out what exactly I need to do with these essays that I need to write. I finally finished writing my outlines and now I just need to flesh them out. My first essay is on the authors Rudolf Besier and May Edginton. It covers some of their other work, and of course the reactions to Secrets.  It will also cover the screen versions of the play.
My other essay will cover the play itself. It will have the generation gap, anti/pro-feminist perspective, and it will deal heavily on how much theory, morals, and ideals change over time. Oh, also it will deal with love. I feel like I can't write anything on this play that doesn't have at least a little bit of something that has to do with love.
I am also making a glossary for terms and whatnot that may confuse my readers. Like the fact that Rudolf Besier sometimes has his name spelled "Rudolph" and not "Rudolf". I'm not sure why, but it is correct.
Soon to come: a TON of information on everything you wanted (and maybe didn't want) to know about Secrets. Hopefully this blog will help anyone who tries to read, see, or produce it. Most of my arguments are written for the potential audience's perspective since I feel like that if the best way for me to get as in depth into this play as I can.