[PW] ""Definition of an Actor," by Irwin (or Irvin) S. Cobb

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Fri Oct 5 00:13:19 PDT 2018


Edward Helmrich wrote:
> Could you help me find something I've never been able to
> track down? Ronald Reagan regularly quoted a poem,
> "Definition of an Actor," by Irwin (or Irvin) S. Cobb. It's not a
> big thing but if you can find this poem, that'd be great. Thanks!

Below is an excerpt from a speech by Ronald Regan in which he
attributes statements about show business people to Irvin S. Cobb.
It's not a poem, and it does not really correspond to "The Definition
of an Actor", but it may be pertinent. The passage occurs after Reagan
describes some of the criticisms aimed at show business people.

Speech by Ronald Reagan
Remarks at the Ford's Theatre Gala
June 24, 1988

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=36036

[Begin excerpt]
And it remained for a columnist named Irvin S. Cobb to respond. And he
said: "If this be true, and if it be true when the final curtain falls
all must approach the gates bearing in their arms that which they have
given in life, the people of show business will march in the
procession carrying in their arms the pure pearl of tears, the gold of
laughter, and the diamonds of stardust they spread on what might
otherwise have been a rather dreary world. And when at last, all reach
the final stage door, the keeper will say, 'Open, let my children
in.'"
[End excerpt]

Here is a description of the poem that may help other researchers.
Book: Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography
Author: Kitty Kelley
Database: Google Books Snippet; must be verified with hardcopy

[Begin excerpt]
Reagan suggested ending the nightclub act by reciting a poem entitled
"The Definition of an Actor" by Irvin S. Cobb, which recounted the
glories, sacrifices, and contributions of his profession. . . In this
poetic finale he said that actors weren't quite like doctors or
lawyers because they didn't do regular work, but they did leave the
world a better place in which to live. "There wasn't a dry eye in the
house when he finished," said Bradford.
[End excerpt]

Garson


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