Friday, February 5, 2016


What does the title of this play represent? Dix gives a simple explanation in the Prologue to this three act play.
      KATHERINE: He was their god, laddie. They gave him their children to
                              devour, and they thought it was a noble thing to do.
      PROFESSOR: Sun worship merely. Moloch is another name for Baal.
      KATHERINE: I wonder if it’s not another name for the god of war. 

Dix obviously wished to keep the explanation simple and it clearly denotes her meaning.

Moloch opened in New York City at the New Amsterdam Theatre on September 20, 1915. It is another play written shortly after the start of World War One. Like many of its contemporary American and British dramas, it denounces war. Dix is quoted in the New York Times article dated September 26, 1915: “In writing ‘Moloch’ it was my purpose to show the terrible waste of war—the physical, material, moral, and intellectual waste without one solitary recompense.” She wanted the play to be neutral, regarding nationalities, involved since American is a melting-pot country.

Prior to the opening of the play in New York City, it was previewed in Cleveland, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois during May of 1915. The Chicago Daily Tribune announced on July 18, 1915 that “Mrs. Beulah Marie Dix is revising her play before its New York opening” and Edmund Breese (1871-1936) was engaged to act the “bit” of the corporal in the second act. Breese was a respected Broadway actor with a loyal audience base. He began his Broadway career around 1893 and he was in 1915 spending more time as a screen actor. Obviously the producers were anxious to build audience appeal with his hire. Other noted actors were also added to the New York cast.

Undoubtedly, the rewrites and the illustrious cast headed by Holbrook Blinn, who had produced Dix’s play Across the Border, helped to secure a reasonable run for Moloch. Major newspapers ran positive reviews that encouraged more audience attendance. The headline for the New York Times review dated September 21, 1915: “New War Drama Deeply Impressive.” The sub-heading declares it “An Elaborate Production”. The first paragraph states: “The story of this grave play is one of misery unrelieved. Written with rare and unswerving sincerity, “Moloch” is arresting, vivid, impressive, and utterly cheerless.” It claims in the next paragraph that “of all the war plays that have come to the New York stage since August 1 a year ago, this is the finest and highest quality by far.”

Moloch is a play with the first scene titled “Prologue—Before the War.” It is followed by three acts and a final scene designated as Epilogue. The Prologue is set in a country house on an estate before war is declared. The month is May and the time of day is sunset. The family is a large extended group ranging from a seven year old son and his parents, who own the estate. The large cast also includes the estate owner’s mother, sister, brother, uncle, servant, friend and miscellaneous youngsters. The discussions are centered round the possibility of war being declared. The Prologue concludes with the announcement that “War was declared at midnight.”

“Act One—Mobilization” is set in a town house. It is early June, ten days after the events in the Prologue. This act illustrated the events of a community caught up in the early stages of war with the young men marching off to serve their country. There is a bit of adventure as well as bravado from the soldiers who believe they will win the war by Christmas. War has a certain glamour in this act since the young men march off under flags waving, flowers thrown from windows and music blaring.

“Act Two—Invasion” utilizes the same location, but nine months of war has passed. It is a bitterly cold February. It is early evening. This act demonstrates war in action on the home front with the invasion by the foreign soldiers. An unfortunate incident in the home against a foreign soldier demonstrates the senseless brutally of war. It concludes with a public shooting of a woman and the burning of the town house.

“Act Three--Battle” is located at a little farmstead that is close to the firing line. Seven months have passed since the previous act. The soldiers belong to the home country and they are struggling to hold their position. This act demonstrates the cruelty of war in action at the front.

The Epilogue is again set in the country-house of the Prologue. It is eight months after Act Three and once again it is the month of May. The family is again in possession of the house after foreign troops had inhabited it during part of the war. The family thought the war was over, but they learn a new conflict is commencing. Robert, the protagonist, says: “As long as men are men, there will be fighting.”

The New York production closed in October, 1915. Moloch was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1916. It was the second play Knopf published in his series titled The Borzoi Plays.

Sometime in 1916, Beulah Marie Dix decided to use her writing skills for the new motion picture industry. She moved to Los Angeles and began to write for Famous Players-Lasky (Paramount). From 1917 until 1935, Beulah Marie Dix wrote more than two dozen film screen plays and adaptions. After her retirement from screen writing some of her own earlier stories and plays were adapted into successful films.

Photo: An 18th century German illustration of the Idol Moloch. (“Der Gotze Moloch”)
This representation is from Wikipedia’s “Images for Moloch”.

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