Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Marc Lawrence at the Prince of Wales

Next time you're in mediocre Cardiff boozer (and former theatre) the Prince of Wales raise a glass to Hollywood bad guy Marc Lawrence.

If like me you enjoy watching old b/w American gangster movies you'll be familiar with his pock-marked face. Menace was Lawrence's cinematic speciality. Amongst the classic flicks his sinister mug appeared in were Dillinger (1945); Cloak and Dagger (1947); Key Largo (1948); and The Asphalt Jungle (1950).

In 1950 his Hollywood career came to an abrupt end after he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee. At the witch-hunt he admitted to being a former member of the Communist party and even named a couple of other 'co-conspiritors'. He left for Europe soon afterwards.

He spent most of his European sojourn in Italy where he eked out a living making westerns. However in 1958 he was in Cardiff for a week at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Lawrence was starring as tough stevedore Eddie in Arthur Miller's banned play A View From The Bridge. Because the play had been vetoed by the Lord Chamberlain only members of the Prince of Wales Theatre Club were allowed to go and watch it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the drama basically Eddie the docker fancies his 17-year-old niece Catherine; can't get it up anymore for his wife Beatrice; and exercises his frustrations by beating up homosexual men. You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to work out what Eddie's problem is. By all accounts Lawrence was absolutely electric in the role.

He stayed at the Park Hotel while he was in Cardiff. Apparently he noticed his name had been wrongly spelt on the posters put up around town to advertise the play. He wasn't at all happy. New ones were printed up immediately and Lawrence's name put at the top of the bill. Well you wouldn't want to upset the fella now would you? Not with that face.