The Watch on the Rhine

Definition

Theater

  • Lillian Hellman's anti-Nazi drama, first produced in 1941 in New York, where it ran for 378 performances.

    The play, which is set in 1940, opens with Sara Muller returning to America with her German husband, Kurt. Sara is shocked to find the Romanian aristocrat Teck de Brancovis, a fascist sympathizer, staying with her mother and brother in their country home. Teck discovers that Kurt is a member of the anti-Nazi resistance with a price on his head and attempts to blackmailhim. Although Sara's family hope to avoid unpleasantness by buying Teck off,Kurt knows this is no solution; he therefore kills the Romanian and leaves immediately for Germany. Hellman's point - that Americans must brace themselves to confront the evils of Nazism - proved particularly timely:by the time the play closed, America was at war.

    During the performances, the actor Charles Goldner ran a sweepstakein which members of the cast guessed the evening's box office takings.Goldner always won because he made the first entrance, walked to centrestage to kiss the leading lady's hand, then straightened up and lethis eyes roam slowly from stalls to gallery, to assess the numberof empty seats.

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