How to Get Tough About It (1938)

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How to Get Tough About It (1938)

How to Get Tough About It, Ardrey’s third play, opened at the Martin Beck Theater the Friday after and at the same theater as Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and only ten days apart from Casey Jones going up at the Fulton. It was presented by Guthrie McClintic, who had bought the script after a single reading, and starred Katherine Locke and Myron McCormick, who were both praised for their acting.

The play, which Ardrey describes as “a proletarian love story of pleasant dimensions,” concerns Kittie, a midwestern waitress, torn between her boyfriend, a labor union racketeer, and Dan Grimshaw, a commercially unsuccessful boat builder.

The play received enthusiastic notices, especially from Robert Benchley, the critic for The New Yorker. Due in part to a crowded Broadway season (Our Town and On Borrowed Time, both of which opened during the week before How to Get Tough About It, had become quick hits) and a theater audience shrinking amidst the height of the Great Depression, Ardrey’s play again failed to find an audience and closed after a short run.

Ardrey writes in his autobiography that the proximity of two such prominent failures caught the attention of the Hollywood studios. His agent, Harold Freedman, received offers from Metro, Twentieth Century, and RKO. Ardrey decided to accept an offer from Samuel Goldwyn and moved to Hollywood to start his film career.