(Terry Teachout’s article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 1/6.)
Sixty-one years ago last September, Wolcott Gibbs, the drama critic of the New Yorker, did something that by all rights should have earned him a place in the annals of chutzpah. He wrote a play—and it was a hit.
Mr. Gibbs's "Season in the Sun," a fluffy comedy that ran for 367 performances, is the last nonmusical play by an American drama critic to have opened on Broadway. Part of what made its success so surprising was that Mr. Gibbs, who covered theater from 1933 until his death in 1958, was one of the cattiest critics ever to sit on a Broadway aisle. Among other things, he suggested that the stars of a flop called "Anybody Home" "ought to be arrested for disturbing the peace." The fact that he then had the nerve to write a play of his own inspired Life magazine to run a story called "A Critic Awaits His Critics" whose anonymous author reported that "a highly expectant swarm of first-nighters, whiffing blood like spectators at a Roman circus, were on hand to watch Gibbs come to grief or glory."
View 'BACKWARD RAN SENTENCES: THE BEST OF WOLCOTT GIBBS FROM THE NEW YORKER' on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Backward-Ran-Sentences-Wolcott-Yorker/dp/1608195503/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325611806&sr=8-1