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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 415

updated
Saturday, 27 August 2005

Bedford's Hope,
a melodrama by Lincoln J. Carter,
14th Street Theatre, New York, 15 January 1906

a scene from Bedford's Hope

The race between a motor-car and a railway train at the end of the third act
in the melodrama of Bedford's Hope, 14th Street Theatre, New York, 15 January 1906

(photo: unknown, New York, 1906)

Bedford's Hope was produced at the 14th Street Theatre, New York, on 15 January 1906 following an initial week's run at the Academy of Music, Washington, D.C., beginning Monday, 1 January 1906.

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Bedford's Hope, Academy of Music, Washington, D.C., 1 January 1906.

'Lincoln J. Carter's strong scenic melodrama made its first appearance in this city yesterday before two large holiday audiences at the Academy of Music.
'Bedford's Hope is a wholesome story of the West of the present day; the characters are true in local color, and the show, taken as a whole, bids fair to be one of the greatest melodramatic successes of the season.
'The story of the play centers around Bill Bedford, known as "Old Pard," a Montana miner. His mine has prospects of being one of the richest in the State, when the vein suddenly gives out, and Bedford is almost ruined. Col. Hooker, who is also a mine owner, has a claim adjoining that of Bedford's, and holds Bedford's [promissory] notes, which have become due. Hooker threatens to foreclose, but when confronted by the sister of his deserted wife, who has accompanied Bedford's daughter from the East, he agrees to give him time. Hooker's sister-in-law forces him to sell her the notes at a decided discount, and makes out a check, paying to him, an act which is witnesses by Bedford. Bedford, in turn, agrees to give his stock for the amount of the check at 10 cents a share. The miners strike a new vein, and the stock soars above a thousand dollars a share. Hooker cuts the telegraph wires so Bedford is unable to stop the transfer of his stock, which is in the hands of his broker. Hooker boards the train, which pulls out just before Bedford's daughter arrives. While in a quandary what course to pursue, Bedford's son, Harry, appears on the scene with his newly purchased automobile, and then ensues a race between the train and the auto, the automobile winning out. The sale of the stock is prevented, and the mine pans out heavily, and everything ends happily.
'George C. Stalcy, as Bill Bedford, the bluff and hearty Western miner, gave a fine portrayal of the leading character, and was ably assisted by Jack Webster, as his son, Harry, and Mabel Bardine, as the sister-in-law of Hooker. E.M. Kimball, as Judge Fair, and the Long Pete of A.B. Lynds, were masterpieces of comedy. The rest of the cast rendered capable support.
'The scenery and the mechanical effects were beautiful, the race between the automobile and the train at the conclusion of the third act being very realistically worked up.'
(The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, 2 January 1906, section 2, p.3f/c)

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Bedford's Hope, 14th Street Theatre, New York, 15 January 1906.

'If some kinds of melodrama, especially of the sort recently exploited, are pernicious, other kinds are a great deal more invigorating and healthful amusement than half of the "productions" one sees on Broadway or Forty-second Street. Bedford's Hope affords a much splendid excitement as an intercollegiate football game, with the added advantage that the services of no physician are required after the fun is over. So to speak, Lincoln J. Carter/s creations are strenuously clean; he is too competent and ingenious an inventor of stage devices ever to resort to commonplace or salacious sensationalism in order to arouse his audience. Nothing could be more unsullied than Bedford's Hope, and few theatrical illusions have ever proved more thrilling. The culmination of the whole plot was a neck and neck race - for one always fancies that anything in a race has a neck - between a locomotive and a huge "red devil" of an automobile. Crime rode in the train and virtue in the automobile. Consequently the automobile triumphed.
'Aside from one stupendous scenic effect, still to be described more in detail, the play had many good qualities of plot, characterization and dialogue to recommend it. Except for a slight falling off in the second act, which was largely and perhaps not unwisely devoted to furnishing some relief in the form of comic contrast, the development of the story progressed with rapid and logical precision. The conventional Yiddish and Irish types of downtown melodrama had disappeared and in their places were human beings speaking sensible and intelligible English. Naturally the dialogue could not be constructed on the principles of classic realism, but neither was it the ordinary composite of hackneyed phrases. There was not a single "My God!" heard during the entire evening. William Bedford was the owner of a certain Montana mining property known, from his own nickname, as the Old Pard. This mine had suddenly given out, and Bedford, having recently lost on the stock marked, was hard put to it to keep out of bankruptcy. Colonel Hooker, the unqualified villain of the gulch, had bought up $180,000 worth of Bedford's notes and immediately pressed his claim for payment, thus intending to get possession of the mine, which he felt sure would soon reach a fabulously rich lode that barely appeared on his own neighboring property. However, he was willing to burn the notes provided that Alice, Bedford's daughter, should forsake young Lord Winston, the future Earl of Bedford in England, with whom she was obviously in love, and marry his son, Alf Hooker, an unprepossessing specimen of youthful braggart. At this point one Mrs. Merley, with whose mature charms Old Pard was himself hopelessly smitten, interfered, for she knew that Hooker had married and deserted her sister while his legitimate wife was still alive, and that he had had by said sister a daughter, that Mabel Page who engrossed the affections of Harry Bedford, Old Pard's son and heir. Hooker gave Mrs. Merley the notes, but she gave him a check for $18,000, the amount the villain had himself been forced to borrow to buy in all that paper. Bedford, having overseen this transaction, offered Hooker any amount of stock at 10 cents per share in return for the $18,000, and the villain joyfully accepted the offer. No sooner had Hooker started to the nearest city for that stock than the miners poured into the hut announcing that they had struck the richest lode in all creation. They went to the telephone to countermand that transfer of stock, but Hooker had cut the wires. On horseback Alice and Lord Winston galloped to the nearest station, but the train pulled out thirty seconds before they arrived, and Winston was held by the sheriff on a murder charge trumped up by the villain to gain time. Harry Bedford entered in his automobile. Alice jumped aboard, and the red devil, careening and bounding, was off after the locomotive. The scenery began to rush by at sixty miles an hour, the audience gripped its seats like one man as though itself being hurled through space; little by little the automobile forged ahead, the audience held its breath, and finally broke into a perfect tumult of hysterical applause. The chariot race in Ben Hur was tame and colorless by comparison! In the last act every one had money to build bonfires with an married the women of his heart's desire.
'George C. Staley as Old Pard and Jack Webster as his son gave performances that were surprisingly sincere and effective. E.M. Kimball and A.B. Lynds were respectively Judge Fair and Long Peter, the two comedy characters of the drama, and merit equal commendation. There was one delightful comedy scene, by the way, which might form the nucleus of an excellent farce: The old boys, seeing how much attention Old Pard received from Mrs. Merley on account of his wounded foot, forthwith swathed themselves up in bandages, hoping to elicit some of her sympathy for themselves. Griffith Evans as the villain rather overdid matters, and so did Ogden S. Wight, his son; they seemed to have forgotten that they were not playing in the accustomed cheap melodrama. Rignold Carrington as Lord Winston did not do justice to the author's conceptions, which was uniquely different from the stilted and strutting "Lord" of the stage. Carrington was not stilted, neither did he strut, yet he went to the opposite extreme of being a little too un-English. Frank Peters was a good foreman of the mine, and of the minor characters the sheriff and the half-breed were especially competent. W.J. Cogswell as the old Earl of Bedford appeared only for a few moments in the last act, but was then very pathetic and dignified - pathetic without ever falling in the banal fallacy. Mabel Bardine was truly excellent as that generous matron, Mrs. Merley, and had something about her personal beauty suggestive of Maxine Elliott. There was not a trace of "melerdramer" in her work. Louise Tapley was a more delicate and attractive ingénue than Eugenie Webb, and Florence St. Leonard was a satire on the Englishwoman of high degree. Mary Servoss as Alice overacted unpardonably.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 27 January 1906, p.3c/d)

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