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Lakeshore Players take on Hollywood scandal from the 1920s

  • John Elliott, pictured left, plays William Randolph Hearst and Jeremy Glenn plays Charlie Chaplin in the Lakeshore Players production The Cat's Meow.
    John Elliott, pictured left, plays William Randolph Hearst and Jeremy Glenn plays Charlie Chaplin in the Lakeshore Players production The Cat's Meow.
    Photo credit: Marie-France Coallier/THE GAZETTE

A mystery with a whiff of scandal. How enticing.

The Lakeshore Players present The Cat’s Meow, at the Louise Chalmers Theatre at John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire, beginning Thursday.

The Steven Peros play is based on real events surrounding the mysterious death of Hollywood film producer Thomas Ince following a birthday celebration on William Randolph Hearst’s luxury yacht, the Oneida, in 1924.

“It’s a story that tells itself,” director Jen Quinn said. “It’s about how far a person could go, when pushed. And how power can corrupt. To this day, the rumours are still flying about what happened on that yacht.”

The official version is that Ince succumbed to a bad bout of indigestion, left the yacht and died at his home 48 hours later of a heart ailment.

However, alternate theories abound.

One popular theory is that Ince died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Along with Ince, guests on the yacht on the night of Nov. 16, 1924, included Charlie Chaplin and Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies. It was Ince’s birthday (he was turning 42) and he was the guest of honour.

It’s believed Hearst suspected that Chaplin and Davies were romantically involved and the theory is he came across a couple in a dark room later that evening and, thinking it was Chaplin with Davies, shot the man, who turned out to be Ince.

Another theory is that a shooting took place, but that the bullet pierced a wall and killed Ince in the adjacent room.

“Gossip and scandal were a reality in Hollywood back then and it’s the same today,” Quinn said. “But in the age of (social media) it would be hard to cover up a scandal like this one.”

Quinn grew up out west and graduated with a theatre degree from the University of Victoria before relocating here in 2009. She had attended a French immersion school as a child and was keen on “getting her ear back” and perfecting her French.

“There is something about the arts and culture in Montreal that just can’t be beat,” Quinn said.

This is her first time directing for Lakeshore Players.

The 13-member cast includes Sterling Mawhinney as Ince, Tracey McKee as Davies, Jeremy Glenn as Chaplin and John Elliott as Hearst.

The yacht set design is by Steve Gillam, period costumes are by Karen Pearce and Kevin Saylor is the pianist and sound designer.

“There is humour,” Quinn said. “How can you not have humour with Charlie Chaplin onstage? You start out laughing and the next thing you know, you’re being taken on quite the ride.”

Peros also wrote the screenplay for the 2001 Peter Bogdanovich movie starring Kirsten Dunst as Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies and Edward Herrmann as Hearst.

The Lakeshore Players presents The Cat’s Meow at the Louise Chalmers Theatre, 501 St. Jean Blvd. in Pointe-Claire, Thursday through Saturday and Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at 8 p.m. There is also a 2 p.m. matinée on Feb. 2. Tickets cost $24 for adults, $16 for students and seniors and $21 for QDF members. For information, call 514-631-8718, email boxoffice@lakeshoreplayersdorval.com or visit www.lakeshoreplayersdorval.com.

kgreenaway@montrealgazette.com

 

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