The Theatre: New Play in Manhattan, Jan. 25, 1954

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The Starcross Story (by Diana Morgan) closed after one performance. The reason was not savage reviews—though they were mostly scowling—but a plagiarism suit. Slapped on the producers just before opening night, it charged that British Playwright Morgan had lifted the Starcross story from The Hidden Hero, a novel by Manhattan's Stanley Kauffmann, editor of Ballantine Books.

The play concerns a movie to be made about a heroic expedition that cost Explorer Christian Starcross and his men their lives. At odds over the movie project are Starcross' widow (Eva Le Gallienne) and his former mistress (Mary Astor). Their feuding reveals that Star-cross himself was an unscrupulous egomaniac who had knowingly set forth on a phony quest. But his devoted widow insists that the movie be made anyhow —arguing that, in an era of despair, a heroic legend born of a lie counts for more than the actual truth.

As the play was written, it was hard to know whether this final credo was merely Lady Starcross' or was Playwright Morgan's own. But it was hard to care much, for even at its best, when its two stars were effectively defiant or hysterical, the play had only a stagy force. For the most part, it was loaded with exposition and limp from reminiscence; nor would the suspicion down that Starcross was no less a bore than he was a fake.