After Clifford Odets’s heyday as the voice of the people in the Group Theatre in the Thirties, he went off to Hollywood but returned to the New York stage with three final plays in new, postproletarian modes. The Big Knife (1949) was an expose of Hollywood moguls cruelly manipulating actors and writers under their thumb. Clearly, Odets had a score to settle. In 1950, he wrote The Country Girl, a backstage triangle story, and, in 1954, The Flowering Peach, a play about Noah that was highly praised by Eric Bendey. (The Fifties were something of an Indian summer of biblical dramatization. Broadway saw not only The Flowering Peach but Archibald MacLeish’s J.B., a Pulitzer-Prize-winning verse drama of Job. The movies, with equal meretriciousness but more nonchalance and fun, produced extravaganzas like The Robe, Quo Vadis, The Ten Commandments, and Ben-Hur. But the...


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