Anna Lucasta

Editors' review

June 4, 2017

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IF somebody dug down into the play-bin and brought up "Bertha the Sewing-Machine Girl," they could probably turn it into a better movie than has been made by Philip Yordan of "Anna Lucasta."

Not only is the basic fustian in this 15-year-old Broadway play about the shame and salvation of a gold-hearted prostitute exposed with embarrassing naiveté in this incredibly artless film, which was finally given a New York opening at the Victoria yesterday. But also it is directed by Arnold Laven as if he were looking out of the window most of the time, and it is played with surprising amateurishness by a big-name Negro cast.

Eartha Kitt in the role of Anna, the girl who is driven into a life of shame by a bewilderingly chuckle-headed father, slinks all over the place (and all over Sammy Davis Jr.) as if she had been tutored by a snake. And when it comes time to act decent and win the good farmboy (Henry Scott), she smoothes herself out into the primmest, most benign little trick you ever saw.

It is pure, unadulterated posturing, without concept or conviction, that Miss Kitt does.

As for Mr. Davis' portrait of a sailor fresh off the boat, jive-talking, snapping his fingers, jump-walking and r'arin' to go, it is so completely overacted that it is grotesque and ludicrous. Mr. Davis does sixteen wiggles for every one that the role requires.

In the critical role of the father who throws the daughter out of his home, then gets her back to marry the son of his old side-kick, then tries to destroy what he has done, that fine old actor, Rex Ingram, snorts and slambangs expansively. He does everything but point to heaven and how "Never darken my door!" But he always seems itching to do it, like the Angel Gabriel itching to blow his horn.

Alongside this horrendous character glides that of an oily son-in-law, played in the glibbest Kingfish fashion by heavy-faced Frederick O'Neal. An assortment of nice domestic ladies are played by Georgia Burke, Isabelle Cooley and Rosetta LeNoire. And the farmboy who falls in love with Anna is played pompously by Mr. Scott.

Sidney Harmon produced this misfortune in association with Mr. Yordan, who also wrote the screen play and thus hasn't a leg on which to stand if he wants to protest the desecration that has been done to a vulnerable play and girl.

The Cast
ANNA LUCASTA, screen play by Philip Yordan; based on his stage play; directed by Arnold Laven; produced by Sidney Harmon for Longridge Enterprises; released through United Artists. At the Victoria, Broadway and Forty-sixth Street. Running time: ninety-seven minutes.
Anna Lucasta . . . . . Eartha Kitt
Danny Johnson . . . . . Sammy Davis Jr.
Frank . . . . . Frederick O'Neal
Rudolph Slocum . . . . . Henry Scott
Joe Lucasta . . . . . Rex Ingram
Theresa . . . . . Georgia Burke
Eddie . . . . . James Edwards
Stella . . . . . Rosetta LeNoire
Katie . . . . . Isabelle Cooley
Noah . . . . . Alvin Childress
Blanche . . . . . Claire Leyba
Stanley . . . . . John Proctor
Lester . . . . . Charles Swain
Cop . . . . . Isaac Jones
Secretary . . . . . Wally Earl