Rain in the Doorway


When the mysterious hand pulled Mr. Hector Owen (who was waiting there pretty hopelessly for his wife) through the rainswept, dismal doorway on a depressing New York street, it pulled him at the same time into a new life - a life where inhibitions vanished and dreams came true. For this is the odyssey of Mr. Owen, the average man, who never had had his share of fun, whom life bullied and harried, who wanted nothing so much as to go away somewhere and hide. Instead, through the miraculous doorway, he was to meet love and adventure, to fall in with Miss Honor Knightly, that paragon of her sex; with Mr. Monk, who had written a book, and with Minnie the stuffed whale, who was simply inert; with the three outrageous shopkeepers, Messrs. Larkin, Britt-Britt and Dinner; with hordes of women who pursued him clamorously; with triple martinis served in a stein; with, in short, the kind of a life he had always wanted to live.

From Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. June 1933
Mr. Thorne Smith sings of the golden moments we snatch away in beauty's bloom from our ugly hours on Main Street. His lawyer-hero is snatched out of a doorway into a partnership in a harem of shop girls, who twaek the noses of customers, and snatch kisses from Victorian males like you and me, and snatch a few hours off duty to indulge in mixed bathing. It is all a "hilarious, mad whirl." The hero, like the author, neglects his proper business to snatch the keyhole from the Peeping Toms who crowd his pages. The profuse illustrations will serve for those who have no real time to read the book: dresses caught fatally on mudguards, disconcerting collisions in bathroon doors, dawn revealing strange bedfellows. The prevailing accent is humorous rather than sensual. Even as laughter is allied to tears, so the inimitable wit of Thorne Smith induces pain -- but I must illustrate. No reviewer can do justice to the subtlety of overtone. The lawyer has been snatched out of the rain into a job as a salesman in the rare book department:

"Do you have the Sex Life of the Flea?" the woman asked sharply.
"No, lady," he answered disgustedly. "I don't have the sex life of a louse."
"But I must have the Sex Life of the Flea," the woman insisted.
"I hope you enjoy it," he retorted, "but I shall play no part in it. None whatsoever."

For the disillusioned reader the author offer "trenchant satire," as in the following patch:

"He had married her under the impression that she was a delicately complex creature of many charming moods and fancies. Now he found her no better than a sleeping and eating...cat. A cat would be an improvement, in fact. Cats did not slam doors and hurl books. Yes, taking everything into consideration, a cat would most certainly be a welcome relief."

The author maintains the level of his earlier books, where you may find hilarity snatched from life, even the reader's life, as a bishop is thrust into a nudist colony, or the gods roam Broadway, or a commuter turn, at the wave of this Merlin's wand, into a beast. It would be ungracious to pick minor faults, to insist that these novels lack the vigor of Rabelais or the gaiety of Wodehouse. Dull, unreadable, monotonous they may be, but the Truth is One, and hence monotonous. Despising the counterfeit tricks of the artist, Thorne Smith remains true to his ideal: to strip the cloak from humanity and expose its underwear. William A. Eddy

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