Distant Rumblings

As I’ve previously noted, reading back issues of periodicals often gives one a feeling of omniscience; as I thumb through week after week of late 1920s New Yorkers, I realize that for all their cleverness and worldly wisdom, even that magazine’s writers and editors could not see with any clarity into the future. But neither can any of us…one wonders what readers 89 years hence will surmise from today’s magazines, that is, if our civilization lasts that long.

January 28, 1928 cover by Theodore G. Haupt.

Howard Brubaker (in his column “Of All Things”) might have spotted something brewing on the horizon, even if it wouldn’t become perfectly clear until Dec. 7, 1941. Here is a clip from his Jan. 28, 1928 column in the New Yorker:

Two other major events in U.S. history, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that would follow, were less than two years away. But this was the Roaring Twenties, and some thought the fun would never end…except perhaps Equitable Trust, which placed this advertisement in the Jan. 28 issue:

Apparently the folks at Equitable Trust weren’t assured of their own financial freedom—after the Crash they would be acquired by Chase National Bank, making Chase the largest bank in the world at that time.

Despite the overheated economy of the 1920s, there still were plenty of poor and unemployed people in the city. One man, Urbain Ledoux (known as Mr. Zero in order to hide his identity), often arranged protests and demonstrations to bring attention to the poor and unemployed, and opened a number of bread lines and soup kitchens to feed the hungry, including the “Tub,” depicted in this two-page illustration by Constantin Alajalov along the bottom of the “Talk” section of the Jan. 28 issue (click image to enlarge).

 *  *  *

Not All Gloom and Doom

Hindsight also reveals the trajectory of the 20th century’s great accomplishments. Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight in 1927, for example, fueled the imaginations of those who would usher in the jet age and space travel. Just 31 years after Lindbergh’s flight, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) would begin operation of its first transatlantic passenger jet service. And only 42 years would separate Lindbergh’s flight from Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk.

JUST 31 YEARS would separate Lindbergh’s flight from the first transatlantic jet service. At left, the DeHavilland Comet 4 (1958), and at right, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis (1927). (warthunder.com/howstuffworks.com)

Like the rest of America, the New Yorker was an enthusiastic follower of developments in aviation after Lindbergh (the “aerial ambassador” referred to below). The January 28 “Talk of the Town” led with this item about pilots soaring to ever greater heights.

Consider that a mere 41 years separated this…

YETI, SET, GO!…A pilot in high altitude flying gear next to a Wright Apache biplane,  January 1, 1928. In September 1926 the Apache set the world altitude record for seaplanes (38,500 ft) and in April 1930 it set the landplane altitude record of 43,166 ft. (NASA)

…from this…

LEAVE THE FUR COAT AT HOME…The second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, prepares to step onto the lunar surface, July 20, 1969. (Neil Armstrong/NASA)

 *  *  *

While Back on Earth…

Big events in America always seem to involve the appearance of showgirls, whether it is the introduction of a new car or some techno gadget. As this “Talk” item indicates, much was the same 89 years ago…

READY FOR THE NEXT SHINDIG…Florenz Ziegfeld posing with the Follies Girls at a rehearsal in 1931. (ruthetting.com)

 *  *  *

A Silent Giant

German film actor Emil Jannings was lauded for his performances on the screen in both Germany and America in films, and he was particularly adept at portraying of the pathos of middle-aged men. The New Yorker disliked most of Hollywood’s output (and usually praised the much-artier German films), so when Jannings landed on these shores he was lauded by the magazine, which dedicated a profile (written by Elsie McCormick) to him in the Jan. 28 issue, accompanied by a Hugo Gellert illustration. Some excerpts:

LIFE IS HARD…Evelyn Brent and Emil Jannings star in The Last Command. In the first Academy Awards, Jannings would win best actor for two films, The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. (silentfilm.org)

At the first Academy Awards in 1929, Jannings would win a Best Actor Oscar for two of his 1928 films, The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. An interesting side note from writer Susan Orlean: In her 2011 book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend, Jannings was not actually the winner of the first best actor vote, but the runner-up. The famous dog actor Rin Tin Tin actually won the vote. The Academy, worried about not being taken seriously, gave the award to the human instead.

Janning’s thick German accent would bring his Hollywood career to an end with sound pictures. He would return to Germany, and during the Third Reich he would star in several films that promoted the Nazis. According to Wikipedia, the shooting of his last film, Wo ist Herr Belling? was aborted when Allied troops entered Germany in Spring 1945. Jannings reportedly carried his Oscar statuette with him as proof of his former association with Hollywood.

From the Advertising Department

This advertisement from the Jan. 28 issue caught my eye because Bergdorf Goodman is one of the few stores in Manhattan still operating at its original site:

Bergdorf Goodman today.

And here we have perhaps the iMac of its day, standing  apart from the competition with its colorful, bold new look…

And finally, this early cartoon from longtime New Yorker cartoonist Perry Barlow having some fun at the expense of New York’s working class…

Next Time: Good Vibrations…

 

 

More Funny Business

My last entry featured cartoonist Bud Fisher, inventor of the comic “strip” (Mutt & Jeff) and the subject of the New Yorker’s Nov. 26, 1927 “Profile.” It was something of a surprise, then, to open the next issue, Dec. 3, and find the New Yorker’s literary critic Dorothy Parker offering her observations on the funny papers, including Sidney Smith’s comic strip, The Gumps.

dec-3
December 3, 1927 cover by Constantin Alajalov.

Before we get to Ms. Parker, let’s have a look at The Gumps. Although that strip had plenty of slapstick, it was wordier than Mutt & Jeff and somewhat more realistic (Sidney Smith was the first cartoonist to kill off a regular character, in 1929–it caused a national outcry). An example of the strip from around 1920:

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-12-37-37-pm
(michaelspornanimation.com) Click image to enlarge

Like Bud Fisher, Sidney Smith would become wealthy from the merchandising of Gump toys, games, songs, food products, etc…

9eef3c685e113a5712ce4c353729044a
The image of Andy Gump even graced cigar boxes. (kenlevine.blog)

The Gumps were also featured in nearly 50 animated shorts, and between 1923 and 1928 Universal produced dozens of two-reel comedies starring Joe Murphy (one of the original Keystone Cops) as Andy Gump, Fay Tincher as Min and Jack Morgan as Chester (two-reelers were usually comedies, about 20 minutes long).  The director of these short films, Norman Taurog, would go on to become the youngest director to win an Academy Award (Skippy 1931). He would also direct such films as Boy’s Town (1938) and nine Elvis Presley movies from 1960 to 1968.

In 1922, The Gumps cartoonist Sidney Smith famously signed a 10-year, one million-dollar contract. In 1935 he would sign an even more lucrative contract, but on his way home from the signing he would die in a car accident.

574451a661b35824488062388d2a1939
OH MIN!…A publicity still from Universal’s two-reel comedy series featuring The Gumps. From left, Fay Tincher (Min), Joe Murphy (Andy Gump) and Jackie Morgan (Chester). The actress Fay Tincher is a bit of a mystery…an enterprising young comedienne who started her own production company in 1918, she dropped from public view by 1930, and little is known of her life since that time, even though she lived to see the year 1983, and died at age 99. (younghollywoodhof.com)
screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-9-26-09-am
Theatre poster announced the coming of what would be dozens of two-reelers produced by Universal between 1923 and 1928 featuring The Gumps. (imdb.com)

In her column, “Reading and Writing,” Dorothy Parker (writing under the pen name “Constant Reader”) lamented the fact that the comic strips were abandoning simple, light horseplay in favor of “melodramas.” Apparently even Andy Gump wasn’t exempt:

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-06-30-am

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-06-42-am

thegumpsintro21217

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-9-55-35-am
GUMPS IN THE DUMPS…in late 1927 Dorothy Parker longed for the antics of the old, dimwitted Andy Gump and his much-brainier wife, Minerva. Above, the first strip from 1917 that introduced The Gumps. Below, a circa 1920 strip featuring a typical Andy Gump mishap and his trademark “Oh Min!” (newspapers.com) Click images to enlarge.

Parker also bemoaned the likes of Little Orphan Annie and the gang from Gasoline Alley, where everyday hijinks were replaced by melodrama:

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-07-07-am

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-1-02-47-pm
I LOVE YA, TOMORROW…but I’m gonna kick your ass today! Annie gets rough in this 1927 strip. Hugely popular, the strip (begun in 1924) inspired a ton of merchandise, films, a radio show and the musical Annie. Little Orphan Annie made creator Harold Gray a very rich man. (ha.comics.com) Click image to enlarge.
ga23nov1927
SORRY, NO PIE IN THE FACE HERE…In this series of turgid word balloons, Walt gets full custody of the orphan Skeezix in this Gasoline Alley strip from 1927, ending what Dorothy Parker called “an interminable law suit.” First published November 24, 1918 by Frank King (who drew the strip until 1959), Gasoline Alley is still going and is the second-longest-running comic strip in the U.S. As Parker noted in her column, the characters in Gasoline Alley were allowed to age naturally. Skeezix is currently 97 years old. (hoodedutilitarian.com) Click image to enlarge.

Parker suffered throughout her life from depression, and no doubt turned to the funnies for respite. However, she wrote that she hadn’t “seen a Pow or a Bam in an egg’s age,” and sadly concluded that melodrama was what the readers wanted.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-9-27-56-am

When Minerva Was a Car

The New Yorker’s Nicholas Trott visited the Automobile Salon at the Hotel Commodore and noted that the latest trend favored an automobile’s “ruggedness” over its “prettiness.” Given the condition of roads in the 1920s, that probably wasn’t a bad thing…

the-automobile-salon

In the early days of the auto industry there were thousands of different manufacturers that eventually went broke or merged with other companies. Trott’s article mentioned new offerings from Chrysler, Mercedes, and Cadillac as well as from such makes as Erskine, Sterns-Knight, Minerva, Holbrook Franklin, Stutz, and Brewster.

28_minerva-af_dv_12-eh_01
SEE THE USA IN YOUR, UM, MINERVA…The 1928 Minerva AF. (conceptcarz.com)

In “The Talk of the Town,” however, the editors wrote about another car with a far less colorful name: The Ford Model A. After 18 years of the ubiquitous black Model T, Ford buyers were ready for something different…

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-9-38-36-am

1928_model_a_ford
GOOD ENOUGH…The 1928 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan (Wikipedia)

The New Yorker editors cautioned, however, that buyers of the Model A should “not expect too much” from a car aimed at more modest pocketbooks. In a little more than a year Ford would sell one million of the things, and by the summer of 1929, more than two million.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-9-39-30-am

When Model A production ended in early 1932, nearly five million of the cars had been produced.

German Atrocities?

It’s seemed a bit of an “about face” for New Yorker architecture critic George S. Chappell to write of the “horrific style of modern Germany” after previously writing admiringly of the Bauhaus movement and “International Style” promulgated by Le Corbusier. Chappell’s column “The Sky Line” included this subhead, “German Atrocities Neatly Escaped.” In a few years “German Atrocities” would refer to something very different…

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-02-36-am

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-03-44-am

mny325559
TEN-HUT!…The New Yorker’s George Chappell liked the Harriman Building at 39 Broadway despite its “militant aspect.” Designed by Cross & Cross, it opened in 1928 (Museum of the City of New York)

Another monstrous building of note in Chappell’s column was the “huge” Equitable Trust Building at 15 Broad Street…

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-03-56-am

mny323767
Equitable Trust Building at 15 Broad Street. Designed by Trowbridge & Livingston, completed in 1928. (Museum of the City of New York)

To save the best for last, Chappell also wrote of Cass Gilbert’s landmark New York Life Building, rising on the site of the old Madison Square Garden…

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-04-22-am

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-04-42-am

new-york-life-insurance-building-priyanka-madia
The distinctive pyramidal gilded roof of the New York Life Insurance Building aglow as evening falls on Manhattan. Photograph by Priyanka, January 18th, 2015. (fineartamerica.com)

 *  *  *

She Nearly Made It

Morris Markey wrote about the exploits of pilot and actress Ruth Elder in his “Reporter at Large” column. Known as the “Miss America of Aviation,” on Oct. 11, 1927 Elder and her co-pilot, George Haldeman, took off from New York in her attempt to become the first woman to make a transatlantic crossing to Paris. Mechanical problems in their airplane (a Stinson Detroiter dubbed American Girl) caused them to ditch into the ocean 350 miles northeast of the Azores. Fortunately they were rescued by a Dutch oil tanker in the vicinity.

ruth-elder-3
MISS AMERICA OF AVIATION…Ruth Elder in 1930. (Vintage Every Day)
elder_trip_4_500
NO WORSE FOR WEAR…Ruth Elder, center, and George Haldeman, far left, on board their rescue ship, the Barendrecht, Oct. 25, 1927. (ctie.monash.edu)
wt81_hootandlady
WHAT A HOOT…Ruth Elder and Hoot Gibson in a promotional pose for the film Winged Horseman (1929).

Although they were unable to duplicate Charles Lindbergh’s feat, Elder and Haldeman nevertheless established a new over-water endurance flight record of 2,623 miles–the longest flight ever made by a woman. They were honored with a ticker-tape parade upon their return to New York. Despite her derring-do, Elder suggested that she longed for a simpler, more domestic life…

morris-markey-a-reporter-at-large-ruth-elder

Whether or not she found the simple life it is hard to say. She married six times, perhaps looking for the right “old stuff” and not quite finding it.

 *  *  *

And finally, this ad from the Dec. 3 issue featuring the art of New Yorker contributor John Held Jr…

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-9-37-40-am

…and this cartoon by Otto Soglow, depicting how one toff bags his “trophy”…

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-9-51-46-am

Next Time: The Perfect Gift for 1927…

dec-10

Mutt & Jeff

We close out November 1927 by looking at a hugely popular comic strip–Mutt & Jeff–that made cartoonist Harry Conway (Bud) Fisher both famous and wealthy.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-05-52-am
Nov. 19 and Nov. 26, 1927 covers by Rea Irvin.

The editors of the Nov. 26, 1927 issue of the New Yorker thought Fisher interesting enough to feature in a lengthy “Profile,” written by Kelly Coombs. A brief excerpt:

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-50-02-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-50-10-pm

According to John Adcock’s terrific Yesterday’s Papers blog, by 1916 Bud Fisher was the highest paid cartoonist on earth. The New Yorker suggested his annual income was $300,000 (roughly equivalent to more than $4 million today). In addition to the strips, created by Fisher and a team of ghost illustrators/writers, Mutt & Jeff were featured in vaudeville engagements, theatrical shows, animated cartoons, comic books and toys.

muttmagicdark1380
DIE LAUGHING…Mutt & Jeff themed toys included this joke kit from Mysto Manufacturing. I don’t quite get the joke featured on the cover, depicting Jeff’s casually twisted approach to murdering poor Mutt. (melbirnkrant.com)
m902d5g
IT’S A LIVING…Harry Conway (Bud) Fisher, drawing a likeness of the character “Jeff” at a Chicago Daily News event in 1915. (Chicago History Museum)

Fisher began his career as a sports cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and started his strip about “two mismatched tinhorns” in 1907. It went into syndication the following year. Mutt and Jeff, originally titled A. Mutt, is regarded as the first American newspaper cartoon published as a strip of panels, making it the first “comic strip.”

There was obviously a time when American readers thought Mutt & Jeff hilarious, but I don’t quite get its appeal. In this strip from 1926, Jeff gets a pie in the face. The giant question mark was frequently employed by Fisher, as were the dotted eye lines and explanatory arrows like the one in the last panel. No, Jeff didn’t get his brains blown out by Mutt. It is only a pie! Hah Hah!

muttjeff052326b
Click on image to enlarge

Another visual cliché from comics of yore was the angry wife wielding a rolling pin. Apparently Jeff refers to Mutt’s wife as an “Old Buzzard” and assumes she is already in bed (sorry about the poor quality of the reproduction). Jeff subsequently gets whacked with the rolling pin, and Mutt takes it on the bean with a flatiron. That is quite a feat, throwing a grown man through a window while simultaneously hitting him on the head with a flatiron…

muttjeff112429a
Click on image to enlarge (Both strips courtesy University of Michigan)

The duo were also featured in more than 300 animated “half-reelers” produced between 1913 and 1926, including Mutt and Jeff: On Strike from 1920. The short film (which can be viewed here) even includes rare footage of Bud Fisher himself, since the story–sort of a film within a film–involves the penniless Mutt and Jeff going on strike after they see a movie featuring Fisher’s lavish home.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-12-50-34-pm
STRIKEBREAKER…Still images from the silent half-reeler, Mutt and Jeff: On Strike. Fisher is shown at home discussing terms over the phone with his striking characters. They lose. (www.filmpreservation.org)

Coombs concluded the New Yorker “Profile” with these observations concerning Fisher’s personal habits:

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-50-19-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-50-30-pm

Fisher employed a number of assistants on the strip, including  George Herriman (Krazy Kat) and a high-school boy named Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are). When Fisher appeared to lose interest in the strip in the 1930s, assistant Al Smith took over and drew the strip for nearly fifty years (but Smith didn’t sign his own name on the strip until after Fisher’s death in 1954).

In Yesterday’s Papers, Adcock notes that Fisher “was the unlikeliest person you could think of to draw Mutt and Jeff…along with most of his contemporary cartoonist-journalists pals, (he) enjoyed fights, chorus girls, gambling, and saloons. Fisher liked to shoot up hotel rooms with his pistols, one of which was a gift from Pancho Villa, indoors when he was drunk.”

Heads in the Clouds

Thanks to the race to fly across the Atlantic, toy models of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and other planes were in high demand for the Christmas season, according to this item in the Nov. 26, 1927, “Talk of the Town:”

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-42-51-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-42-56-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-9-48-40-am
BUILT TO LAST…A Metalcraft model kit (box, upper image, contents below) from the late 1920s. It was all metal in the days before plastic model kits. (eBay)

 *  *  *

At a Loss For Words

Jumping back to the Nov. 19, 1927 issue, we go from the low art of Bud Fisher to the high art of John Marin featured in “The Art Galleries” section of the New Yorker. Art critic Murdock Pemberton wrote:

the-art-galleries-marin-1

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-10-01-51-am
SAVAGE WORK…John Marin, White Horses – Sea Movement off Deer Isle, Maine, 1926. (Whitney Museum of American Art)

But perhaps “high art” is not an accurate description of Marin’s paintings, since Marin himself wasn’t into “highfalutin words” to describe his work…

marin-2-signed-mp

12032401444_4bb042eb04_b
HAUNTING BEAUTY…John Marin, Echo Lake Franconia Range White Mountain Country, 1927 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.)

 *  *  *

In the previous week’s issue (Nov. 12) Marmon 8 was advertised as an ideal car for women. Not to be outdone, the folks at Buick shot back with this colorful ad in the Nov. 19 issue of the New Yorker:

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-19-18-pm

The Nov. 19 issue also featured this strange advertisement from the famed Wanamaker department store. Strange mainly because of the illustration, which features a fashionable woman departing a fanciful aircraft studded with mullioned windows(!) and a staircase that stretches to improbable depths…oh, and in case the reader might miss the snob appeal associated with French furs, the words Paris, Parisian or French are featured ten times…

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-20-53-pm

And finally, the ubiquitous New Yorker cartoon featuring the humorous mismatch of rich old duffer and ditzy young mistress, courtesy of Julian de Miskey…

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-1-25-20-pm

Next Time: More Funny Business…

dec-3

 

 

Age of the Talkies

The Oct. 15, 1927 issue featured the premiere of the film The Jazz Singer. Although the New Yorker found the story a bit dull, it also recognized that the film’s use of sound marked a significant turning point in the short history of cinema.

cca81fb3c6aeb61c01f52c8dc5c3c05b
October 15, 1927 cover by Theodore G. Haupt.

The Jazz Singer was not the first film to employ sound, but as the New Yorker review pointed out, it was the first to effectively use synchronized sound (the industry standard Vitaphone technique) in a way that improved the motion picture.

The film featured only two minutes worth of sound dialogue, so most of the spoken lines were still presented on intertitle cards commonly used in silent films. But it was Al Jolson’s recorded voice, belting out popular tunes including “Toot, Toot, Tootsie,” that really wowed audiences. At the end of the film Jolson himself appeared on stage before an audience “clapping and bellowing with joy”…

jazz-siner-1

jazz-singer2

jazz_singer_f
IT SINGS! IT TALKS!!!…Al Jolson as Jack Robin and Eugenie Besserer as his mother, Sara Rabinowitz, in The Jazz Singer. One attendee at the premiere recalled that when Jolson and Besserer began their dialogue scene, “the audience became hysterical.” (wired.com)

It is interesting that as early as 1927, and even with the relatively crude sound of Vitaphone, the New Yorker was already predicting the advent of a new kind of star (and the decline of the stage actor)…

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-12-26-53-pm

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-12-27-04-pm

VitaphoneDemo
BLACK TIE EVENT…A Vitaphone projection setup at a 1926 demonstration. Western Electric engineer E. B. Craft, left, is holding a soundtrack disc, which was essentially a phonograph record. The turntable, on a thick tripod base, is at lower center. (Wikipedia)

As for the movie itself, well, there was Jolson, beloved by many. Perhaps it’s the sound quality, or the 89 years of changing tastes, but I cannot for life of me understand what audiences (or the New Yorker) saw that was so appealing about Al Jolson as a performer.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-12-27-12-pm

017-the-jazz-singer-theredlist
THAT WAS THEN…Al Jolson as Jack Robin in The Jazz Singer. Although performing in blackface is considered racist today, Jolson’s use of blackface was integral to the film in that it was tied to Jack’s own Jewish heritage and his struggle for identity. Of course that doesn’t make it any less offensive today. (theredlist)

*  *  *  *  *

Absent-minded Ambassador

The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” offered some curious observations about the new ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow.

morrows_1931
SON-IN-LAW…Aviator Charles Lindbergh would marry Dwight Morrow’s daughter, Anne, in 1929. in this photo from 1931 are, from left, Charles Lindbergh, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Elisabeth Morrow, and Dwight Morrow.

Morrow has been widely hailed as a brilliant ambassador with a keen intellect. The New Yorker, however, offered some additional perspective on the man:

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-59-33-am

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-59-38-am

Flight of Fancy

In the wake of Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight, the New Yorker (and the rest of the country) continued its fascination with air travel, which at this point was confined to military and commercial pilots, stunt flyers and the well-to-do.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-55-12-am

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-55-19-am

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-55-28-am

f7a-2a

f12cabindown
The Fokker F.VII pictured above is likely the same plane or very similar to the one owned by Texas oilman William Denning. The interior depicted below is also similar to what is described in the New Yorker article. (aviation-history.com)

 *  *  *  *  *

RIP Isadora Duncan

The New Yorker’s Paris correspondent, Janet Flanner, wrote of the funeral of famed modern dancer Isadora Duncan in her column, “Letter from Paris.” Duncan was killed in a freak accident on the night of Sept. 14, 1927 when her silk scarf, draped around her neck, became entangled around the open-spoked wheels of the car in which she was riding, breaking her neck.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-12-23-34-pm

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-12-24-54-pm

bizarre-deaths-isadora-duncan
Isadora Duncan (ati.com)

Other items of note from the Oct. 15 issue, E.B. White contributed this ditty…

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-12-13-06-pm

…and Corey Ford, who gave the fictional Eustace Tilley his persona, wrote of Tilley’s feat crossing Broadway in a parody of adventure stories popular at the time. An excerpt:

croey-ford

And finally, Peter Arno explored childhood angst among the smart set:

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-12-08-56-pm

Next Time: Electric Wonders…

6ed825c70c3fd789a666a63ecc376b5d

 

 

The Movies Take Wing

The First Academy Award for Best Picture went to Wings, a romantic action-war picture directed by William Wellman and featuring Paramount’s biggest star at the time, the “It Girl” Clara Bow and the young Gary Cooper in a role that would launch his Hollywood career.

31163f0a903d36d43f89b8495fe4e9a4
August 20, 1927 cover by Helen E. Hokinson.

The film was shot on location at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, on a budget of $2 million (about $27 million today). About 300 pilots were involved in filming  realistic (and dangerous) air-combat sequences using both mounted and hand-held cameras.

_57942979_wings_pose_hi
LOFTY AMBITIONS…Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Clara Bow in Wings, 1927. (BBC)

wings

william-wellman
NO CGI HERE…Director William Wellman, during production of Wings. (1927)
photo33chic_0632
WHERE DID HE BUY HIS INSURANCE?…Stunt pilot Dick Grace specialized in crashing planes for films, and was one of the few stunt pilots who died of old age. (ladailymirror)

 *  *  *

We leave the skies for the trenches in another World War I film–Barbed Wire–that was entertaining New Yorkers in 1927…

barbed-wire-1927-image-10
LOOKS MORE INTERESTING OUT THERE…Pola Negri watches the Germans in Barbed Wire, 1927 (Wikipedia)

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-53-17-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-53-28-pm

The Duncan Sisters were back, this time on the silver screen in an adaptation of their Broadway hit play, Topsy and Eva. Yes, one of the sisters performed in blackface, which was acceptable to white audiences of the time (including New Yorker critics). You can read more about this duo in my recent blog entry, Fifteen Minutes is Quite Enough.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-24-40-pm
Advertisement for the film, Topsy and Eva, 1927. (nilsasther.blogspot.com)

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-53-42-pm

Meanwhile, Paris correspondent Janet Flanner was noting some modern influences in the city thanks to the influence of the German Bauhaus…

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-55-16-pm

genet-mod-arch

002_mallet_stevens_rue_mallet_stevens_paris_theredlist
Rue Mallet Stevens was designed by Paris-based architect, designer and production designer Robert Mallet-Stevens, who founded the Union of Modern Artists (UAM) in 1929. (theredlist.com).

*  *  *

From the “they couldn’t see it coming” department, this item in “Talk of the Town” caught my eye. We have since learned that carbon emissions are indeed taking a toll on human life…

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-39-27-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-39-36-pm

…and a couple of cartoons from this issue, this one courtesy of Barbara Shermund…

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-40-32-pm

…and this from an unidentified cartoonist (Dussey?) that gives us a glimpse of the world to come thanks to merger of technology and tedious, proud parents…

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-46-17-pm

*  *  *

And to end on a “Wings” theme, the following week’s issue…

029648b8835cd8a9600d9dc4caf29b32
August 27, 1927 cover by Theodore G. Haupt.

…offered this advertisment from L. Bamberger & Co. that gave us a tongue-in-cheek glance at the future of aviation…

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-58-09-pm

Next Time: The Wages of Beauty…

31c2a728e871acb0cd991e761bcb7f76

 

Babe Comes Home

After months of reporting on polo, golf, tennis and yacht races, the New Yorker finally mentioned baseball–sort of–reviewing a movie featuring Babe Ruth and penning a brief piece about Lou Gehrig in “The Talk of the Town.”

447032a734d61215ca61a95a205dd7da
August 6, 1927 cover by Ilonka Karasz.

But the magazine still made no mention of the incredible season that was shaping up for the legendary 1927 New York Yankees, or the feats of its feared  “Murderer’s Row” lineup. Although widely considered to be the best baseball team in the history of major league baseball, the New Yorker up to this point had given more ink to the game of ping pong. But we’ll take what we can get, namely Babe Ruth’s acting performance in Babe Comes Home…

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-50-00-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-50-10-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-12-51-20-pm
BETTER STICK TO BASEBALL…Lobby card for the 1927 film, Babe Comes Home, featuring Anna Q. Nilsson and The Bambino himself. (posterscancollections.com)

…and over in “The Talk of the Town” section the editors looked at another Yankee slugger, Lou Gehrig, who besides his hitting ability was Ruth’s opposite…

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-32-32-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-32-51-pm

image5-9
MOM & APPLE PIE…Lou Gehrig and his mother, Christina, in 1927. (baseballfever.com)

 *  *  *

With the hullabaloo over Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, more Americans were becoming interested in flying as an actual travel option, although in August 1927 New York City had only one established passenger line:

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-37-24-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-37-30-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-37-45-pm

eastbostonairport018-2562
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS…On April 15, 1927, Colonial Air Transport (a predecessor of American Airlines) began passenger service between Boston and New York City. (Boston Globe)
pic04
SORRY, NO WI-FI…National Air Transport, a predecessor of United Airlines and a prime mail carrier, brought the Travelair 5000 to their minimal fleet in 1927 to add passenger revenue to its Midwestern and Western hops that linked Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno and San Francisco. (traveler.com)

 *  *  *

The August  6 issue also featured this strange little review in “Talk” about the popularity (or fad) of attending Chinese theater. Note how the writer described it as an exotic curiosity, as though the Chinese actors were as unknowable as Martians. I suppose it didn’t occur to the writer that you could actually speak to these performers, and have them explain the meanings of the various rituals.

7d5022414f367319b77659cba19591ac
OFF-BROADWAY…Actor Ma Shi-tsang posing with a riding crop in a 1920s publicity photo. Chinese theater actors performed in U.S. cities with large Chinese populations, including San Francisco and New York. (cdlib.org)

chinese-stephen-graham

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-43-42-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-44-19-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-12-44-28-pm

And to close, a couple of cartoons from the issue by Barbara Shermund that illustrated two very different aspects of New York society:

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-1-15-19-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-1-14-57-pm

Next Time: An Office Romance…

30e6d833482958226738b30ce4244558

 

 

 

 

Summer in the City

The July 1927 issues of the New Yorker were filled with news of yacht races, polo matches and golf tournaments as the city settled into the heart of the summer. The artist for the July 9 cover, Julian de Miskey, was in the summertime mood with this lively portrayal of Jazz Age bathers:

21b6fac0e9233b827d578cf6175dd79d
July 9, 1927 cover by Julian de Miskey. Born in Hungary in 1898, de Miskey emigrated to the United States in 1914.

Although Julian de Miskey was was one of the most prolific of the first wave of New Yorker artists, his work seems to be little known or appreciated. But even 40 years after his death in 1976, his influence is still felt in the magazine, particularly in the spot illustrations and overall decorative style that grace the pages of “The Talk of the Town.”

Here is a sampling of de Miskey’s spot illustrations for “Talk” in the July 9 and July 16, 1927 issues…

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-1-39-59-pm

…and here are examples of spot illustrations for some recent (Aug-Sept. 2016) New Yorker “Talk” sections, as rendered by Antony Huchette:

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-1-40-11-pm

De Miskey did it all–spots, cartoons, and anywhere from 62 to 100 covers (varying numbers are reported).

A member of the Woodstock Art Association, de Miskey was well known in the New York art circles of his day, rubbing elbows in the Whitney Studio Club in Manhattan with artists including Edward Hopper, Guy Pene du Bois, Mabel Dwight and Leon Kroll. De Miskey also illustrated and designed covers for a number of books, studied sculpture and created stage sets and costume design.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-11-18-07-am
PROLIFIC…Julian de Miskey illustrated a number of children’s books, including Chúcaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa (1958-Newbery winner); The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear (1960); and Piccolo (1968) which was both written and illustrated by de Miskey.

The June 9 issue also featured this cartoon by de Miskey:

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-18-17-am

 *  *  *

President Calvin Coolidge fled the bugs and heat of Washington, D.C. for cooler climes in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The New Yorker regularly mocked Coolidge’s dispatches from the Dakotas, including this item in “Of All Things”…

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-16-24-am

02-calvin-coolidge-cowboy_69085_600x450
VAPID CITY…Calvin Coolidge…Calvin Coolidge wears a cowboy hat and Western garb while on a 2-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1927. (Library of Congress)

The magazine’s July 16 issue added this observation in “Talk of the Town”…

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-2-38-02-pm

Closer to home, one cartoon offers an urban sophisticate’s take on nature:

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-16-49-am

For those who couldn’t flee the city, respite was sought in Central Park, as illustrated by Constantin Alajalov for “Talk of the Town…”

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-14-08-am
click to enlarge

Summer themes continued with the July 16 issue, which featured a cover by Helen Hokinson depicting one of her favorite subjects–the plump society woman:

1f64e9e51d307bb03097744ebbb681f6
July 16, 1927 cover by Helen E. Hokinson.

From 1918 to 1966, thousands of New Yorkers attended summer open-air concerts at Lewisohn Stadium, an amphitheater and athletic facility on the campus of the City College of New York. For many years Willem Van Hoogstraten conducted the nightly concerts, including the summer of 1927 when George Gershwin played his Rhapsody in Blue to adoring crowds.

summer-conerts
Performance at Lewisohn Stadium, located at 136th Street and Convent Avenue. (nyc-architecture.com)
1925
Program for the 1925 Stadium Concerts series.     (archives.nyphil.org)        Click to enlarge

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-54-07-am

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-54-40-am

serpico-1973
FINAL BOW…A still from the 1973 film Serpico, showing actors Al Pacino and Tony Roberts walking through the abandoned Lewisohn Stadium just before it was demolished. (YouTube)
110927-gon039-01
UGH…The Lewisohn Stadium site is now occupied by a City College of New York building with the inspiring name, “North Academic Center.” (nyc-architecture.com)

And finally, another illustration in the “Talk of the Town” of summer in the city, this a teeming Coney Island beach courtesy of Reginald Marsh…

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-24-00-am
click to enlarge

However, if you wanted to avoid the rabble at the beach, you could fly over them–in style, of course…

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-23-20-am

Next Time: Picking on Charlie Chaplin…

5128947dc365cb603134bbb6e56f67aa