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Theatrical Insults

On a typical play of the 1890's:

'A tailor's advertisement making sentimental remarks to a milliner's advertisement in the middle of an upholsterer's and decorator's advertisement.' George Bernard Shaw

He makes his living from ham to mouth.

Sir William Schwenk Gilbert had as little respect for Shakespeare as he had for most other revered institutions. He appalled a group of writer friends one evening by taking the Bard's name in vain. But when challenged by one of them he defended himself by offering an example of Shakespeare's idiocy, as he saw it.

'Take these lines for example,' he said to them:

'I would as lief be thrust through a quickset hedge, As cry "Posh" to a callow throstle.'

One of his adversaries immediately came to Shakespeare's defence explaining that the passage referred to a bird-lover who preferred to get himself scratched in a thorn bush than disturb the bird's song.

'Which play is it from?' he asked Gilbert, when he'd finished his explanation.

'No play,' said Gilbert. 'I made it up.'

According to hearsay she was made for the part.

On John Barrymore:

'I always said that I'd like Barrymore's acting till the cows came home. Well, ladies and gentleman, last night the cows came home.' George Nathan

Television opened up a whole new field of unemployment for him.

A method actor who constantly interrupted rehearsals to ask his director, Noel Coward, about the motivation for his part, was finally silenced by this exasperated reply:

'Your motivation is your pay packet at the end of the week. Now get on with it.'

The audience would have booed and hissed after the first act, but you can't do that and yawn at the same time.

On Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree:

'Do you know how they are going to decide the Shakespeare-Bacon dispute? They are going to dig up Shakespeare and dig up Bacon; they are going to set their coffins side by side, and they are going to get Tree to recite Hamlet to them. And the one who turns in his coffin will be the author of the play.' W. S. Gilbert

(Gilbert actually described Tree's Hamlet as: 'Funny without being vulgar.')

The first time I saw you on stage I realized what a wonderful voice you've got. I think you're so brave not to have had it trained.

On Tallulah Bankhead:

- 'Watching Tallulah on stage is like watching somebody skating on thin ice. Everyone wants to be there when it breaks.' Mrs. Patrick Campbell

Apparently the understudy had to go because of her throat. I suppose someone threatened to cut it.

On contemporary stars:

'We used to have actresses trying to become stars; now we have stars trying to become actresses.' Sir Laurence Olivier


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