Mr. Walter’s various experiences in the theatre as an advance man, his star reporting on the Detroit News, his struggles to gain a footing in New York, contributed something to the bitter irony which runs as a dark pattern through the texture of “The Easiest Way.” He is one of the many American dramatists who have come from the newspaper ranks, having served on the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Press, the New York Sun and Globe, the Cincinnati Post and the Seattle Star. Not many will disagree with the verdict that thus far he has not excelled this play, though “Paid in Full” (February 25, 1908) contains the same sting of modern life, which drives his characters to situations dramatic and dire, making them sell their souls and their peace of minds for the benefit of worldly ease and comfort. Note this theme in “Fine Feathers” (January 7, 1913) and “Nancy Lee” (April 9, 1918). In this sense, his plays all possess a consistency which makes no compromises. Arthur Ruhl, in his “Second Nights”, refers to Walter as of the “no quarter” school. He brings a certain manly subtlety to bear on melodramatic subjects, as in “The Wolf” (April 18, 1908) and “The Knife” (April 12, 1917); he seems to do as he pleases with his treatment, as he did right at the start with his first successful play. For, of “The Easiest Way” it may be said that, for the first time in his managerial career, Mr. David Belasco agreed to accept it with the condition that not a word of the manuscript should be changed.
It is interesting to note about Walter that, though he may now repudiate it, “The Easiest Way” stands distinct in its class; perhaps the dramatist has ripened more in technique—one immediately feels the surety and vital grip of dramatic expertness in Walter, much more so than in George Broadhurst, Bayard Veiller, or other American dramatists of his class. But he has not surpassed “The Easiest Way” in the burning intention with which it was written.
As a dramatist, Walter adopts an interesting method; he tries out his plays on the road, experimenting with various names, and re-casting until ready for metropolitan production. His dramas have many aliases, and it is a long case to prove an alibi; any student who has attempted to settle dates will soon find that out. His military play, written out of his experiences as a United States cavalryman in the Spanish American War, was called “Boots and Saddles,” after it was given as “Sergeant James.” “Fine Feathers,” “The Knife,” “The Heritage,” “Nancy Lee”—were all second or third choice as to name.
In his advancement, Mr. Walter gives much credit to three American managers—Kirke LaShelle, and the Selwyn brothers, Archie and Edgar. It was the Selwyns who, during his various ventures in the “show business,” persuaded him to move to Shelter Island, and write “The Undertow.” It was in their house that “Paid in Full” was finished. Let Mr. Walter continue the narrative: