Ohio History Journal

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Melodrama in Ohio:

Melodrama in Ohio:

Avery Hopwood and Boss Cox of Cincinnati






WHEN THE OHIO PLAYRIGHT Avery Hopwood died in 1928,

his reputation was that of an immensely successful writer of

light comedies and bedroom farces which had brought him a

fortune. If anyone remembered that as a youngster he had

written The Powers That Be, a serious play attacking civic

corruption and political bossism, that fact was not mentioned

in his obituaries. Yet for one week in 1907 The Powers That

Be was very much in the news in Cincinnati, the stronghold

of "Boss" George B. Cox and his party machine, where it was

savagely attacked by the daily press. Some years later Hop-

wood attributed the failure of the play to the fact that he had

patterned one of the characters too closely after Cox: "A

cold newspaper wave blew it [the play] out of town. I had

drawn the principal character after a well known political

boss, and the newspapers recognized the drawing and took it

up with a vengeance."1 The incident is of interest for its

recalling of a notorious era in the political history of Cincin-

nati and the free-wheeling journalism of the times, but it

also raises a question concerning the failure of the play: Was

Cox's power such that local reviewers damned the play out of

fear or loyalty, as Hopwood believed, or was The Powers

That Be simply bad drama?


* Arno L. Bader is a professor of English at the University of Michigan. He is

chairman of the committee on the university's Avery Hopwood and Jule Hopwood

Awards in Creative Writing.

1 "The Play-Writing Business," Green Book Magazine, VIII (1912), 222.