The Primrose Path

Biltmore Theatre / January 23, 1939

(starring Helen Westley / 166 performances)

The Primrose Path opened Jan. 4, 1939 and ran through May 1939 at the Biltmore Theatre.

from TIME Magazine The Theatre / Monday, Jan. 16, 1939

"The Primrose Path (by Robert L. Buckner & Walter Hart; produced by George Abbott). Eccentric families
have become common as dirt on the stage. The family in The Primrose Path is not only screwy but scandalous.
Overflowing a ramshackle homestead, the Wallaces, except for one unsociable white sheep who insists on being
respectable, are a cheerfully depraved clan. Grandma is a gamy old bawd, who in her day plucked most of the
primroses along the path. Her married daughter, Emma, is a talented and popular lady of the evening. Her
granddaughter, Eva, too young to do anything worse than swear like a trooper, lines up at the starting post
of womanhood ready to outrun the fastest of her family. Less stuffy folk than the Wallaces would be hard to
find; they might say with Burns:

'Let them cant about decorum
Who have characters to lose.'

Short on inhibitions, The Primrose Path at its rosiest is all downhill
and no brakes. Were all the characters as rowdy and ribald as Grandma,
the play would blow the audience into the middle of next year. But the
rest of the family, if unconventional, are given to normal moments of
joy and sorrow. After mixing Grandma's outrageous antics with her
son-in-law's gruesome suicide and her granddaughter's rocky romance,
The Primrose Path fails to come off as well as it might. For, though
humor and pathos make the best of friends, realism and farce are immemorial foes.

Though no acknowledgment of source is made, The Primrose Path strikes many
a playgoer as a dramatization of Victoria Lincoln's popular novel, February Hill
(1934). First mentioned for production by Sam H. Harris in 1935, the
play went unproduced for three years, after a Fall River, Mass, woman,
charging that February Hill maligned members of her family, sued Author
Lincoln for $100,000. So far the case has not come to trial.

Producer Abbott apparently believes that the impending suit will not affect
the play, for the family of February Hill is named Harris and lives in Fall
River, whereas the family of The Primrose Path is named Wallace and lives
in 'a small town near Buffalo."

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