Monday, December 5, 2016

The Dirty Old Man (1964)

Photo that accompanied reviews of The Dirty Old Man
In 1964, Franchot starred in Lewis John Carlino's play "The Dirty Old Man." The play was presented along with Carlino's "Sarah and the Sax" under the title Doubletalk. Doubletalk, which earned Carlino the Vernon Rice Award, ran for 16 performances from May 4 to May 17, 1964 at the Theatre de Lys. Now the Lucille Lortel Theatre, the Theatre de Lys is located at 121 Christopher Street in New York City.

In the play, Franchot stars as the old man (the character is not given a name.) A recluse living alone, the old man embraces the solitude of nature as he comes to terms with his aging body. Despite issues with his heart, the old man hikes the cliff near his secluded house each day. He is content to peacefully journal all that he sees around him.

One day, returning to his cabin, the old man stumbles upon two teenagers making out. Chuck (Gregory Rozakis) runs out, but Mary (Amy Taubin) stays behind after the old man assures her the boy will come back within an hour. As they wait, the young woman and old man introduce themselves and find that despite the discrepancy in their ages and lifestyles, there is much that they understand about and relate to each other. Concerned because he is experiencing pain due to his heart condition and seeing the youthful spirit behind his eyes, Mary asks if she can kiss the man. Chuck returns, and interpreting the kiss as an attack by the old man, violently beats him. The play ends with the old man feeling beaten down, literally by the physical punches and figuratively by the cruel passing of time.

Franchot received positive reviews about his role. Jack Gaver wrote:
Franchot Tone gives a moving performance in a touching little play called "The Dirty Old Man," which Cheryl Crawford and Roger L. Stevens presented at the De Lys Theatre Monday night...Tone hasn't been seen to such advantage around here in several years. His is a completely understanding performance and Carlino is indebted to his interpretation under the affectionate direction of Cyril Simon. Amy Taubin is a good match for Tone. Her teen-ager portrayal is so real that it is almost frightening. Gregory Rozakis does well the little he has to do as the boy.
In their book The One-Act Play Companion, Colin Dolley and Rex Walford deem the play a "deeply affecting story." As of this writing, I have not found any photos from the staging of the play or any playbills promoting it. I'm sure they are available, I just haven't tracked them down yet. You can read a bit of the play online through Google Books here.

Carlino, Lewis John. "The Dirty Old Man." Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1964.
"The Dirty Old Man." Stage Plays.
Dolley, Colin and Rex Walford. The One-Act Play Companion: A Guide to Plays, Playwrights, and Performance. YEAR.
Gaver, Jack. "Tone is Moving in 'Dirty Old Man'." St. Petersburg Times. May 6, 1964.

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