Through a Naked Lens

Last updated

Through a Naked Lens is a 2005 American play by author George Barthel. It received its world premiere Off-Broadway at the Wings Theatre in New York City. The play itself uses historical evidence and imagined circumstances to depict the rise of early Hollywood film star Ramón Novarro. While a celebration of Novarro’s life, the drama is told largely through the perspective of reporter Herbert Howe. While Barthel places Howe and Novarro in a romantic relationship, it is unknown if such a connection actually existed. Howe did, however, spend a great deal of time with Novarro as his publicist. [1] The play also features Alice Terry, Rex Ingram, Irving Thalberg, Jim Quirk, Adela Rogers St. Johns, and Louis B. Mayer as characters.



The play opens with journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns and Jim Quirk, editor of Photoplay magazine, discussing Herbert Howe’s latest article and his general reputation around Hollywood as an ace reporter willing to do nearly anything to get an interview or story. Howe enters, and after a brief discussion about the tactics Howe implements to get his stories, St. Johns and Quirk leave. Tracy, a new reporter, enters and attempts to seduce Howe so that he might mentor her. She is quickly rebuffed. Howe does, however, give her one piece of advice: to never make any friends.

Quirk eventually drops a bomb on Howe: That the bosses at MGM want him to follow around new star Ramón Novarro and help promote Rex Ingram’s latest film, The Arab. Howe seems hesitant, but at the insistence of Quirk and thanks to a hefty paycheck from the studio, he agrees. Howe eventually meets Novarro as their ship is ready to depart for Tunisia. At first the pair do not seem to get along, but Howe is impressed with Novarro’s poise and confidence. After a very brief courtship, the two men become an item.

On location, Rex Ingram directs Novarro and his wife, Alice Terry in The Arab. While all four individuals are friends, Howe becomes frustrated with the long hours Novarro spends on set and his willingness to do whatever Ingram demands of him. Meanwhile, back in California, St. Johns tells Terry that Howe’s latest articles are unlike anything she’s seen from the writer. They are complementary. The play cuts back to Tunisia where Ingram and Howe come to blows over Novarro’s schedule, and eventually Ingram relents and lets the two spend more time together.

As the articles continue down the path of homosexual innuendo, L.B. Mayer grows agitated. “Boy Wonder” Irving G. Thalberg seems more relaxed and understanding of the situation, but agrees to ask Howe to tone things down. The first act ends with Novarro learning that he has been selected to play the lead in the epic film Ben-Hur , implying that he is about to become very famous.

The second act opens with a sympathetic St. Johns warning Howe that Novarro’s career is on the rise and his life very public. Quirk infuriates Terry, who was covering for Howe in his absence, by demoting her to covering small stories.

Howe meets with Novarro who is busy preparing for a press conference and expresses dismay that he can never be close to him in public. A shouting match ensues in front of a few crewmembers that threatens to blow their “cover.” Novarro, desperate, punches Howe in the face and then runs into his dressing room. Howe becomes uncharacteristically tender and offers his support.

Novarro then has a miserable time on the set of Ben-Hur. The director calls him a “stupid Mexican.” Novarro is almost killed filming the chariot race and is shown to have large bruises up and down one side of his body. Howe becomes infuriated and Novarro is desperate to leave and see Ingram. Howe agrees to assist in his boyfriend’s escape. Production on the film shuts down immediately and Mayer becomes infuriated while Thalberg becomes panicked. Novarro and Howe show up and Rex Ingram’s house for cover. Thalberg is able to convince the pair to return to the film set, giving increased power to Novarro.

Unfortunately, an article written by an anonymous author has revealed the relationship and exposed their romantic entanglement, threatening to end Novarro’s career. Quirk informs Howe that Mayer wants to see him at MGM studios and the two of them arrive in the movie mogul’s office. Quirk defends his star reporter, but Mayer grows furious and demands an end to their relationship. Thalberg agrees to let Howe end it his own way, which the reporter reluctantly does. One of the final scenes shows Novarro telling Alice Terry that he was going to break up with Howe as well.

Back in his office, Howe concludes that Terry wrote the article in order to get his job. He compliments her on her style, and says that he needs to get out of the business. The final scene shows all the characters reading excerpts from Howe’s articles on Novarro.

Original production

The original production of Through a Naked Lens opened on December 16, 2005 at the Wings Theatre and ran for 28 performances. It closed on January 21, 2006. The direction was by L.J. Kleeman and Richard Bacon with costumes by L.J. Kleeman, sets by L.J. Kleeman and Ray Wagner, lighting by Sean Linehan, and multi-media effects by Jas McDonald and Richard Bacon. The production stage manager was Parys Le Bron. The opening night cast was as follows:

Critical reception

The play opened to mixed reviews with some publications declaring the new play “compelling” [2] and others saying it was concerned more with image than content. [3] The play ran for little over a month and was considered a moderate success at the box office.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rex Ingram (director)</span> Irish film director

Rex Ingram was an Irish film director, producer, writer, and actor. Director Erich von Stroheim once called him "the world's greatest director".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Norma Shearer</span> Canadian-American actress (1902–1983)

Edith Norma Shearer was a Canadian-American actress who was active on film from 1919 through 1942. Shearer often played spunky, sexually liberated ingénues. She appeared in adaptations of Noël Coward, Eugene O'Neill, and William Shakespeare, and was the first five-time Academy Award acting nominee, winning Best Actress for The Divorcee (1930).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Irving Thalberg</span> American film producer

Irving Grant Thalberg was an American film producer during the early years of motion pictures. He was called "The Boy Wonder" for his youth and ability to select scripts, choose actors, gather production staff, and make profitable films, including Grand Hotel, China Seas, A Night at the Opera, Mutiny on the Bounty, Camille and The Good Earth. His films carved out an international market, "projecting a seductive image of American life brimming with vitality and rooted in democracy and personal freedom", states biographer Roland Flamini.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ramon Novarro</span> Mexican-American actor (1899–1968)

José Ramón Gil Samaniego, known professionally as Ramon Novarro, was a Mexican-American actor. He began his career in silent films in 1917 and eventually became a leading man and one of the top box office attractions of the 1920s and early 1930s. Novarro was promoted by MGM as a "Latin lover" and became known as a sex symbol after the death of Rudolph Valentino. He is recognized as the first Latin American actor to succeed in Hollywood.

George Edward Hurrell was a photographer who contributed to the image of glamour presented by Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s.

<i>The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse</i> (1921 film) 1921 film by Rex Ingram

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a 1921 American silent epic war film produced by Metro Pictures Corporation and directed by Rex Ingram. Based on the 1916 Spanish novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, it was adapted for the screen by June Mathis. The film stars Pomeroy Cannon, Josef Swickard, Bridgetta Clark, Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Beery, and Alice Terry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alice Terry</span> American actress (1899–1987)

Alice Frances Taaffe, known professionally as Alice Terry, was an American film actress and director. She began her career during the silent film era, appearing in thirty-nine films between 1916 and 1933. While Terry's trademark look was her blonde hair, she was actually a brunette, and put on her first blonde wig in Hearts Are Trumps (1920) to look different from Francelia Billington, the other actress in the film. Terry played several different characters in the 1916 anti-war film Civilization, co-directed by Thomas H. Ince and Reginald Barker. Alice wore the blonde wig again in her most acclaimed role as "Marguerite" in film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), and kept the wig for any future roles. In 1925 her husband Rex Ingram co-directed Ben-Hur, filming parts of it in Italy. The two decided to move to the French Riviera, where they set up a small studio in Nice and made several films on location in North Africa, Spain, and Italy for MGM and others. In 1933, Terry made her last film appearance in Baroud, which she also co-directed with her husband.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adela Rogers St. Johns</span> American writer (1894–1988)

Adela Nora Rogers St. Johns was an American journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. She wrote a number of screenplays for silent movies but is best remembered for her groundbreaking exploits as "The World's Greatest Girl Reporter" during the 1920s and 1930s and her celebrity interviews for Photoplay magazine.

<i>The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg</i> 1927 film

The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, also known as The Student Prince and Old Heidelberg, is a 1927 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer silent drama film based on the 1901 play Old Heidelberg by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster. It was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, and stars Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer.

<i>The Conquering Power</i> 1921 film by Rex Ingram

The Conquering Power (1921) is an American silent romantic drama directed by Rex Ingram and starring Rudolph Valentino, Alice Terry, and Ralph Lewis. The film was based on the 1833 novel Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac. Its sets were designed by Ralph Barton.

<i>Scaramouche</i> (1923 film) 1923 film by Rex Ingram

Scaramouche (1923) is a silent swashbuckler film based on the 1921 novel Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, directed by Rex Ingram, released by Metro Pictures, and starring Ramon Novarro, Alice Terry, Lewis Stone, and Lloyd Ingraham.

<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1922 film) 1922 film directed by Rex Ingram

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1922 American silent adventure film directed by Rex Ingram, one of the many adaptations of Anthony Hope's popular 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda and the subsequent 1896 play by Hope and Edward Rose.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Herbert Howe (journalist)</span> American journalist

Herbert Howe was a popular Hollywood news writer in the 1920s.

<i>The Arab</i> (1924 film) 1924 film by Rex Ingram

The Arab is a 1924 American silent drama film starring Ramon Novarro and Alice Terry, written and directed by Rex Ingram, based on a 1911 play by Edgar Selwyn.

<i>Trifling Women</i> 1922 film by Rex Ingram

Trifling Women is a 1922 American silent romantic drama film directed by Rex Ingram. It is credited with boosting the careers of its leads, Barbara La Marr and Ramon Novarro. It has been described as Ingram's most personal film.

<i>Where the Pavement Ends</i> 1923 film by Rex Ingram

Where the Pavement Ends is a 1923 American silent South Seas romantic drama film directed by Rex Ingram on location in Cuba and starring his wife Alice Terry and Ramón Novarro as lovers. The film was produced and distributed by Metro Pictures. It is now considered to be a lost film. Shooting began in September 1922, at Hialeah Studios in Miami, Florida, yet another source says the film was shot in Coconut Grove, Florida.

<i>The Pagan</i> 1929 film

The Pagan is a 1929 silent/part talking romantic drama filmed in Tahiti and produced and distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Both director W.S. Van Dyke and cinematographer Clyde De Vinna had previously visited Tahiti in 1928 to film White Shadows in the South Seas. The Pagan stars Ramón Novarro.

<i>Lovers</i> (1927 film) 1927 film

Lovers or Lovers? is a 1927 silent film romance drama produced and distributed by MGM and directed by John M. Stahl. It stars Ramon Novarro and Alice Terry. It is based on the 1908 play The World and His Wife and is a remake of a 1920 silent of the same name from Paramount. Lovers is a lost film.

<i>Huddle</i> (film) 1932 film

Huddle is a 1932 American pre-Code sports drama film directed by Sam Wood and starring Ramon Novarro, Madge Evans, Ralph Graves and Una Merkel. This was the first of two films Ramon Novarro would make in 1932, and his first after appearing in the acclaimed, successful Mata Hari.

Pierre Paul Vermoyal was a French stage and film actor.