A youthful John Barrymore just then had turned from the errors of playing second juvenile in a road musical show, to get his first chance (shades of the Drew-Barrymore forebears!) in the legitimate, and this newspaper expressed hope, that the star of "The Fortune Hunter" on that Sept. 4, 1909, "is now lost to musical comedy forever" was destined to be realized in "Ibbetson," "The Jest," and "Hamlet."
But Winchell Smith's play, one of the best American comedies of its time. has now gone in for music on its own. It was "Skeet" - beg parden, Mr. Richard - Gallagher, whose manager, Charles Dillinghan, fancied "The Fortune Hunter" spelled fortune still. Jerome Kern did the music, barring perhaps that on the stage by George Olsen's band, James Montgomery cut the four acts to two, with up-to-date lines. Anne Caldwell wrote several lyrics that served and R. H. Burnside and David Bennett pyramided dances on dances, till the play was no longer the thing that caught the crowd at the finale.
Phyllis Cleveland looked charming and sang charmingly as the transformed village druggist's daughter, that Mary Ryan had played with Barrymore. Ina Williams was neatly athletic as Josie, ths small town banker's daughter, who, as the old play plot had it, "must always fall for the city chap." The entanglements involved enough hick and hokum to end the first half of a village festival where the dancing started with Betty Compton in a young riot and on wildly cheered turn by 80-year-old Eddie Gerard.
The play bobbed up in way trains to Bradford, detour from Elmira, and on a private car to Saratoga, where the crossed romances ended with swapping a ring before the quick curtain. The audience found a new interest in a drug store which had added "hooch" since 1909, along with a jazz floor and a bookstall that sold, as Mr. Gallagher said, "The Brown Derby, a 135th Street version of 'The Green Hat.'"
A throughgoing ovation greeted the Saratoga ballroom, where Olsen's men played back-stage and George Fontana and Marjorie Moss danced till their imitation of Pavlova's "Swan" with green feathers in mid-air brought down the house. Hansford Wilson added good tumbling in the heavyweight class.
One briefly scene actor, Helen Eby Rock, as the traveling drug saleswoman, did a bit that established a new character on theatrical Broadway. Robert O'Connor got a hand as the up-State train conductor. Frank Doane as "Blinkey" Lockwood and Charles Abbe as old Graham gave two new twists to drugstore drinking.
The idle rich were handsomely represented in town and country in Irene Dunn, John Rutherford and a personable chorus who ranged form Autumnleaf and flower costumes to the crinolines of "Walking Home With Josie," which will rival Mr. Kern's love songs for the musical hit of this show.