New York Times
November 9, 1981

A Night Of Memories for Miss Hayes

A biographical work about the late playwright Edward Sheldon and the actor John Barrymore, "Ned and Jack" -- which opened last night at the Little Theater -- is a story about friendship in the theater, and for some members of the audience it was also an emotional evening of much nostalgia.

For Helen Hays and Lillian Gish, in particular, it was an occasion for much reminiscence. The two actresses, after all, knew the playwright for many years, and frequently turned to him for advice.

Although he was afflicted by a severe form of arthritis that kept him bedridden, Mr. Sheldon was known, during the 30's, as a kind of wise man on Broadway. "We called him the Pope of the theater," said Miss Gish, who joined Miss Hayes for dinner at Sardi's after the show. "You'd go to have dinner with him at 7 and you'd swear you'd go home by midnight, but you never would -- he was so entertaining. Anyone who had a problem that had to do with the theater went to him for help."

Miss Hayes, in fact, made it a ritual of rarely going to an opening night without first having dinner with Mr. Sheldon. The evening before she gave birth to her daughter, she and her husband paid him a visit, and Mr. Sheldon gave her a bouquet of violets that she carried with her to the hospital the following day.

"Ned was very important in my life and I think I was frightened to death to go to the theater tonight," she said. "I couldn't have borne it if the actor playing him hadn't measured up to what I remembered Ned to be. But, thank God, he did -- it was like he was possessed by Ned's soul, and then all my memories came flooding back."

ned and jack index