DescriptionTHE COLLECTION OF PAUL GREGORY AND JANET GAYNOR
AL HIRSCHFELD (American, 1903-2003)
Charles Laughton, Half Man, Half Devil, 1952
Pen, ink and wash on illustration board
12-1/2 x 9 inches (31.8 x 22.9 cm)
Signed lower right: Hirschfeld
Stamped on verso of board: POSTED MAR 29 1952 EDITORIAL AUDITING DEPARTMENT
Gift from the artist to Paul Gregory.
This drawing references Paul Gregory's celebrated production of Don Juan in Hell with Charles Laughton in the role of the Devil, for which he delivered a magnificent performance. Paul Gregory recalls that when he met with playwright George Bernard Shaw at his country estate in England to discuss the play, Shaw was against the casting of Charles Laughton in the role of the Devil. Shaw didn't like Laughton because he felt he was a traitor for leaving his native England during the war. He also believed that Laughton was too overstated as an actor. Paul Gregory agreed with this in part: "He was grossly big, but under that grossness was a fabric of tenderness and sensitivity" (see James Lester Johnson, The Art of Paul Gregory: An Examination of Gregory's Historic, Aesthetic, and Pedagogic Contributions to Interpretation and Theatre, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 1981, p. 51).
Following his meeting with Shaw, Paul Gregory returned to London to talk with Laughton: "I was with [him] at Great Fosters, Henry VIIl's hunting lodge that had been made into a hotel. We were sitting there and Laughton had a big brandy in his hand, and he said: 'Paul, who do you think we ought to get to play the Devil?' I looked at him and I said: 'You're playing the Devil.' He said: 'No I'm not, I'm playing Don Juan.' I said, 'No Charles, you're not playing Don Juan.' He said: 'Well, who is?' I said: 'Boyer, I've already signed him.' He jumped up and threw down his glass and said: 'Jesus Christ, I've always been relegated to play the sonofabitch, and here was my one chance to play Don Juan.' He went into a tirade and told me to get out of his room. It was the worst thing I'd ever seen the man do. At midnight there was a knock at my door; it was Laughton. He said: 'Paul, you're right and I'm wrong.' From that time on there was no question. The show would have flopped if Laughton had played Don Juan."
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