Alderman Becker (Who Wants a Stage Censor)
Tells Kate Carew What Sort of Scenes, Sayings and Costumes
Are Too Naughty To Be Permitted on the Stage.
By Kate Carew
Alderman Becker is young. Alderman Becker is earnest. Alderman Becker burns to abolish stage indecency by aldermanic enactment.
What is Decency? Here’s a Diagram That May Throw Some Light On a Very Ticklish Problem.
Over in England they’re fighting like the mischief to get rid of one censor who is like an appendage to the throne. Here in New York, Alderman Becker wants to present us with 25—count ‘em—25 appendages to the Mayor’s mission chair.
Becker is a bachelor. Alderman Becker is a hustler. Alderman Becker is in the real estate business ever so far up Broadway, where the apartment houses sprout. T’was there I found him –a pleasant young brunette person with a lean, sallow face and a knitted tie.
‘Alderman,” I began—I just dote on the word “alderman,” it is so merry and mouthfilling, will you kindly tell me exactly what significance the word “indecency” conveys to your mind?”
Alderman Becker rolled his eyes and looked at me in great surprise, then puffed his lips and bent his brow and tremulously faltered:
Did you notice the poetry? My, but ain’t I talented?
“You see, “ I explained apologetically, “Indecency” is rather an indefinite term. It’s quite possible for two perfectly nice, respectable persons to disagree flatly as to whether a thing is decent or not decent, and I was wondering whether twenty-five would have any better luck than two.”
“Why—er—I never thought of that,” said Mr. Becker, biting his thumb reflectively.
“Perhaps you don’t think it is worth thinking about,” I murmured shyly.
“Oh yes, I do. Indeed I do,” said young Mr. Becker encouragingly. “And it only goes to show what a –a- vast question this is, for much there is in it that doesn’t meet the eye.”
And he looked very profound, indeed.
“Well, I’ll give you an example,” said Alderman Becker. “In a play called ‘The City’—did you see “The City’?
“No,” said I, “but I read of it, and have a pretty good idea of what it was about.”
“In that play Tully Marshall had a line which I considered very shocking and unnecessary.”
“What was it?” I inquired blandly.
“Oh, I wouldn’t like to repeat the words to you,” said Alderman Becker, blushing faintly at the tips of his ears.
“Don’t mind my feelings, “ I said gallantly. “I hope I’m a lady, but I’m no chicken. If those words were repeated to an audience through a whole season, they certainly won’t hurt me.”
Whereat my little Alderman became sensible, with a little cough and said:
“Well, the words Tully Marshall had to say were, ‘You’re a __ ___ liar.’”
But no, sears, the dashes are too indefinite for such an important discussion as this. Let’s be brave, and hold our breaths. Ready? Well, the first dash begins with a capital G. and the second with a small d. There!”
“Don’t you think that is shocking language to hear on the stage?” said Alderman Becker.
“Horrid,” said I. “It must be almost as nasty on the stage as it is on the street, where every woman hears it—and worse—whenever the truck driving happens to be heavy.”
“But in the theatre,” argued Alderman Becker, “it seems so unnecessary.”
“Unless,” said I, “it happens to be the one appropriate thing for that particular character to say at that particular moment.”