The Theatre: Birthday

On the December day in 1933 when Repeal killed the 18th Amendment, Manhattan theatre critics made an almost unanimous critical suggestion. They suggested that Tobacco Road be relegated to Cain's warehouse, morgue of plays that die aborning. Reviewers wrote off the play's characters as scum, the play itself as "clumsy, rudderless, callow, repulsive."

In its first five weeks, the play lost $3,800. Then audiences' word-of-mouth advertising suddenly began to change all that. Tobacco Road began to pay. Soon Anthony Brown, who had come from balmy Hollywood to direct the play, had saved enough...

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