Through a Naked Lens

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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 G. Thalberg, Jim Quirk, Adela Rogers St. Johns, and Louis B. Mayer as characters.

An Off-Broadway theatre is any professional venue in Manhattan in New York City with a seating capacity between 100 and 499, inclusive. These theatres are smaller than Broadway theatres, but larger than Off-Off-Broadway theatres, which seat fewer than 100.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States and thus also in the state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Hollywood Neighborhood of Los Angeles in California, United States

Hollywood is a neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California, notable as the home of the U.S. film industry including several of its historic studios. Its name has come to be a shorthand reference for the industry and the people associated with it.



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.


Photoplay was one of the first American film fan magazines. It was founded in 1911 in Chicago, the same year that J. Stuart Blackton founded Motion Picture Story, a magazine also directed at fans. For most of its run, Photoplay was published by Macfadden Publications. In 1921 Photoplay established what is considered the first significant annual movie award. The magazine ceased publication in 1980.

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.

Tunisia Country in Northern Africa

Tunisia (officially the Republic of Tunisia) is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, covering 165,000 square kilometres. Its northernmost point, Cape Angela, is the northernmost point on the African continent. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and southwest, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Tunisia's population was 11.435 million in 2017. Tunisia's name is derived from its capital city, Tunis, which is located on its northeast coast.

Courtship period in a couples relationship which precedes their engagement and marriage

Courtship is the period of development towards an intimate relationship wherein a couple get to know each other and decide if there will be an engagement. A courtship may be an informal and private matter between two people or may be a public affair, or a formal arrangement with family approval. Traditionally, in the case of a formal engagement, it has been perceived that it is the role of a male to actively "court" or "woo" a female, thus encouraging her to understand him and her receptiveness to a proposal of marriage.

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.

Rex Ingram (director) 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".

Alice Terry actress

Alice Frances Taeffe, 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 husband.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 8.8 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

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.

<i>Ben-Hur</i> (1959 film) 1959 American epic historical drama film by William Wyler

Ben-Hur is a 1959 American epic religious drama film, directed by William Wyler, produced by Sam Zimbalist for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and starring Charlton Heston as the title character. A remake of the 1925 silent film with a similar title, Ben-Hur was adapted from Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The screenplay is credited to Karl Tunberg, but includes contributions from Maxwell Anderson, S. N. Behrman, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Fry.

Celebrity is the fame and public attention accorded by the mass media to individuals or groups or, occasionally, animals, but is usually applied to the persons or groups of people themselves who receive such a status of fame and attention. Celebrity status is often associated with wealth, while fame often provides opportunities to earn revenue.

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.

Chariot carriage using animals to provide rapid motive power

A chariot is a type of carriage driven by a charioteer, usually using horses to provide rapid motive power. Chariots were used by armies as transport or mobile archery platforms, for hunting or for racing, and as a conveniently fast way to travel for many ancient people.

A boyfriend is a male friend or acquaintance, often specifying a regular male companion with whom one is platonic, romantically or sexually involved. This is normally a short-term committed relationship, where other titles are more commonly used for long-term committed relationships. A boyfriend can also be called an admirer, beau, suitor and sweetheart. The analogous female term is "girlfriend".

Film sequence of images that give the impression of movement

A film, also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, or photoplay, is a series of still images that, when shown on a screen, create the illusion of moving images.

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

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