Edward Cohen

Issue 1: Nonfiction

Lady Defies the Depression

LADY IN THE DARK arrived at the tail end of The Great Depression. F.D.R. was making headway against the economic slump but there were still soup kitchens and bread lines and ex-businessmen selling apples on street corners. As always, show business flourished when the economy went sour because people so desperately needed escape. By 1941, there were plenty of the wealthy who had recovered enough to attend a glamorous opening night.

The opening night of LADY IN THE DARK was bitterly cold but the crowds turned out because it was the peak of the theatre and social season. Book by Moss Hart, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, score by Kurt Will, the show starred the glamorous Gertrude Lawrence and introduced a dazzling young comic named Danny Kaye. The heroine of the plot was a dashing new figure, a lady executive, and the topic was her psychoanalysis. It was shocking and groundbreaking, yet the production staged her dreams in a series of sumptuous numbers which got Lawrence into an array of glittering costumes.

The event attracted the cream of New York society, the theatre community, the glamour squad – and those intellectuals who could afford it. And the show was a hit! New York never seemed as glamorous and as rich with possibility as it did that night. The audience headed for the many celebrations, humming “My Ship,” the haunting hit song which promised that dreams do come true.

Suddenly the couples waiting for limos and cabs were startled out of their laughter by a blind beggar who had posted himself at the theatre entrance.

“Gentleman in the dark,” he sang, rattling his tin cup, “gentleman in the dark…”

Some were shocked out of their make believe world. Some thought it only proved that, on Broadway, even the beggars make money off of a hit.

Edward M. Cohen’s novel, “$250,000,” was published by Putnam’s; his nonfiction books by Prima, Prentice Hall, Limelight Editions, SUNY Press. His novella, “A Visit to my Father with my Son,” appears in Running Wild’s forthcoming “Anthology of Novellas.” His story collection, “Before Stonewall,” won the 2019 Awst Press Book Award and will be published next year.

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