A Poke At Punch

In 1925 New Yorker founding editor Harold Ross wrote that he wanted his new magazine to be “humorous from a sophisticated viewpoint” and “record the situations of everyday life among intelligent and substantial people as do the English magazines, notably Punch, except that our bent is more satirical, sharper.”

Jan. 13, 1934 cover by Constantin Alajalov.

Sharper indeed, as was demonstrated in the Jan. 13, 1934 issue, when Ross’s young magazine took aim at Punch, which was founded in 1841 and had grown long in the tooth under the guidance of Sir Owen Seaman, whose Victorian sensibilities (he joined Punch in 1897) were ripe for parody by a magazine founded during the Jazz Age.

Writer and cartoonist V. Cullum Rogers (MagazineParody.com) notes that the eight pages devoted to “Paunch” was the New Yorker’s longest and most elaborate parody of another publication.

RIPE FOR THE PICKING…The covers of Punch for August 30, 1933, and the New Yorker’s 1934 parody.

E.B. White and Franklin P. Adams contributed parodies (“The Mall” by White and “The Intent Caterpillar” by Franklin) of what Rogers cites as “two of Punch’s favorite forms of bad verse: the sticky-sentimental and the mechanically clever.”

The New Yorker’s theatre critic Wolcott Gibbs joined the fun by penning “Mr. Paunch’s Cinema Review” (excerpt)…

…Rea Irvin and James Thurber offered up their cartooning skills…

Rea Irvin’s parody of a Punch cartoon. (Caption enlarged below).

…and Robert Benchley contributed this gem, “Hyacinths for Pamela.”

Rogers writes that although “Paunch” wasn’t promoted on the cover, “the issue it ran in became the first in the New Yorker’s nine-year history to sell out on newsstands. (The second sellout contained Wolcott Gibbs’s Time parody, which suggests a demand for such things).”

The parody issue concluded with this page of advertisements:

 * * *

The Show Must Go On

The death of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. in 1932 did not put an end to his Follies; indeed, under the direction of his widow, Billie Burke, the show seemed to have new legs, at least according to Robert Benchley:

HOOFIN’ IT…Clockwise, from top left: Program for the 1934 Ziegfeld Follies; performers in the show included popular brother–sister dancing act Buddy and Vilma Ebsen, pictured here with Eleanor Powell in Broadway Melody of 1936 (most of us know Buddy Ebsen as Uncle Jed from The Beverly Hillbillies); Al Hirschfeld drawing of the show’s stars; Willie Howard, Fanny Brice and Eugene Howard in Ziegfeld Follies of 1934. (YouTube/NYPL)

* * *

Keen on the Airflow

The streamlining trend in autos was not to E.B. White’s liking (see below), but the reviewer of the National Auto Show (pseud. “Speed”) was eager to take the Chrysler Airflow for a spin.

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

The Chrysler Corporation ran this two-page ad that took issue with E.B. White’s criticisms of the streamlining trend in automobiles, led by Chrysler’s “Airflow” model…here Chrysler responded with a note pinned to a tear sheet from the Dec. 16, 1933 “Talk of the Town”…You wrote this before you saw the new Chryslers, Mr. New Yorker

…with the National Auto Show still in town the splashy car ads continued, including this one from the makers of Fisher car bodies…

…another advertising stalwart, the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, gave us a young woman who enjoyed their Chesterfields “a lot”…

…Guinness was back for those who missed that taste of Dublin…

…and the folks behind “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous” placed their first ad in The New Yorker

…if you wanted to have your drink outside of the home, what better place than the Madison Room at The Biltmore…

…on to our cartoons, with begin with Perry Barlow and a tot losing sleep over the new year…

Kemp Starrett also explored the world of sleep deprivation…

…and we end with James Thurber, and a woman with a low tolerance for “cute” news…

…in case you are wondering, Anna Eleanor Sistie” Dall was the daughter of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s eldest child Anna Dall. When Dall separated from her husband in 1933, she moved into the White House with her children, Sistie and Buzzie.

TOO CUTE…Franklin Roosevelt with his grandchildren Anna Eleanor Sistie” Dall and Curtis “Buzzie” Dall in 1932. According to Buzzie, he and his sister lived in the White House from September 1933 to November 1935. (AP)

Next Time: A Modern Novel…

 

America’s Love Affair

New York’s first big event of the new year was the annual National Auto Show centered at the Grand Central Palace.

Jan. 6, 1934 cover by Perry Barlow.

The year 1934 was all about aerodynamic design, with Chrysler leading the way with its ill-fated Airflow, a bit too ahead of its time. Other companies followed suit in more subtle ways, especially smaller manufacturers looking for novel ways to grab a cut of market share.

The trend in streamlining was inspired by such designers as Norman Bel Geddes, R. Buckminster Fuller and John Tjaarda

SLIPPERY SEDANS…Top left, a 1933 Briggs concept car, designed by John Tjaarda, on display at the Ford Exposition of Progress in Detroit; right, a 1932 concept model of Motorcar No. 9 by Norman Bel Geddes; below, a reproduction of R. Buckminster Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion car. (detroitpubliclibrary.org/Harry Ransom Center/Wikipedia)

Chrysler pulled out all stops to promote its radical new design at the National Auto Show, even producing a special seven-page newspaper, Chrysler News, to promote the car’s many wonders…

…the inside pages featured the New Yorker’s Alexander Woollcott marveling over the Airflow’s design (at the time Woollcott was a Chrysler pitchman).

Although other manufacturers didn’t go as far as Chrysler, the streamlining trend was seen in slanting radiators and sweeping fenders.

LAIDBACK DESIGN…Clockwise, from top left, 1934 Hudson Terraplane K-coupe; 1934 Studebaker President Land Cruiser; 1934 Graham-Paige; 1934 Hupmobile. (hemmings.com/auto.howstuffworks.com/YouTube)

The review also noted the novel way Pierce-Arrow sound-insulated their motorcars:

IT’S STUFFY IN HERE…For sound insulation, luxury carmaker Pierce Arrow used kapok, a fine, fibrous, cotton-like substance that grows around the seeds of the tropical ceiba tree. (Pinterest)

 * * *

Wearing the Pants

In 1934 it was still something of a scandal for a woman to wear trousers. Like Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo was an actress who could and would defy gender boundaries, and in Queen Christina she effortlessly portrayed the Swedish queen, who in real life was given an education and responsibilities expected of a male heir and often dressed as a man. The film was a critical success, although John Mosher felt Garbo overwhelmed the movie.

READY FOR HER CLOSEUP…Clockwise, from top left, in one of cinema’s most iconic scenes, Queen Christina (Greta Garbo) stands as a silent figurehead at the bow of a ship as the camera moves in for a tight close-up; Garbo with co-star and real-life romantic partner John Gilbert—it was the last of the four films the two would make together; Christina kisses her handmaiden Ebba (Elizabeth Young)—some have suggested Garbo was portraying the queen as bisexual, however the kisses with Ebba were quite chaste; MGM film poster. (moviemaker.com/pre-code.com/IMDB)

 * * *

She Also Wore Pants

Katharine Hepburn quickly took Hollywood by storm, earning her first Oscar at age 26 for her performance in 1933’s Morning Glory. However, New Yorker drama critic Robert Benchley didn’t see that talent necessarily translating to the Broadway stage, at least not in The Lake:

A RARE FLOP…Robert Benchley thought it was “almost cruel” to foist Katharine Hepburn’s stardom onto the stage in a flop like The Lake. At left, cover of the Playbill; at right, Hepburn in one of the costumes for the production. (Playbill/Facebook)

Benchley correctly surmised that the play’s producer, Jed Harris, was trading on the young star’s “meteoric” film success, but Hepburn’s beauty and intelligence were not enough to save this critical flop, which closed after 55 performances.

 * * *

On the Town

The chronicler of New York fashion and nightlife, Lois Long, detested Prohibition but after repeal also missed the intimacy of speakeasy life. In her latest “Tables for Two” column Long seemed to be settling into a routine and finding new favorites, like the Waldorf’s Sert Room and Peppy de Albrew’s Chapeau Rouge.

THIS WILL DO NICELY…Lois Long sipped Casanova ’21 champagne while enjoying the music of Catalonian violinist Enric R. Madriguera (bottom left) amid the murals of Madriguera’s countryman Josep Maria Sert (right images) in the Waldorf-Astoria’s Sert Room. (waldorfnewyorkcity.com/Wikipedia)
FAMILIAR FACES…No doubt Lois Long knew Argentine dancer Abraham “Peppy” de Albrew (left) from his days at Texas Guinan’s notorious 300 Club; Long found de Albrew’s new club, Chapeau Rouge, to be a welcoming slice of Paris, enlivened by the dancing of Antonio and Renee de Marco, pictured at right with their dogs in front of San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, circa 1937. (Wikipedia/digicoll.lib.berkeley.edu)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

Thanks to the auto show the New Yorker was raking in a lot of advertising dollars on top of the steady income from tobacco companies and the new infusion of revenue from purveyors of adult beverages…Lucky Strike grabbed the back cover for this striking ad…

…and contrary to the wisdom of the ages, American speed skater Irving Jaffee (who won two gold medals at the 1932 Winter Olympics) credited his athletic prowess in part to smoking unfiltered cigarettes…

…finally, real French Champagne was arriving on American shores…

…as was authentic Scotch whisky…

John Hanrahan was the New Yorker’s policy counsel from 1925 to 1938 and is credited with putting the magazine on firm financial footing during its infancy…in 1931 Hanrahan rebranded the Theatre Guild’s magazine, renaming it The Stage and filling it with the same splashy ads he was also able to bring to the New Yorker…the Depression was a tough time to launch a magazine, and even though Hanrahan added articles on motion pictures and other forms of entertainment in 1935, the magazine folded in 1939…

…and with the National Auto Show in town, car manufacturers filled the New Yorker’s pages with expensive ads…we’ll start with Walter Chrysler’s long-winded appeal on behalf of the Airflow…

…the folks at the usually staid Packard tossed in some unexpected color…

…Pierce-Arrow, at the time America’s top luxury car, offered this sneak peak of its 1934 Silver Arrow…

…Cadillac bought this spread to announce both its luxury and down-market brands…

…Hudson Motor Car Company invested in three color pages to announce the rollout of their 1934 Hudson 8…

…and their low-priced yet powerful Terraplane…

…Fisher, which made car bodies for General Motors, offered up this color photo of a pretty aviatrix to suggest their interiors were as fresh and clean as the clear skies above…

…Studebaker also paired flying with their latest models…

…Nash employed cartoonist Wayne Colvin for a series of six ads sprinkled across the back pages…here are two examples…

…on to our cartoonists, Perry Barlow used the auto show as inspiration for this cartoon, which appeared along with the review…

Al Frueh drew up these images for the theatre section…I believe this is the first appearance of Bob Hope in the magazine…

…some housekeeping…I accidentally included this James Thurber cartoon and…

…this Rea Irvin cartoon in my post for the Dec. 30, 1933 issue…they belong with the Jan. 6 issue…

Robert Day offered up a roving reporter…

Carl Rose looked in on a wine connoisseur…

…and we close with a steamy image, courtesy Alan Dunn

Next Time: A Poke at Punch…

An Immemorial Year

Perhaps it was the end of Prohibition, or the implementation of the New Deal, but throughout the pages of the final New Yorker of 1933 you could sense a lightening of spirit.

Dec. 30, 1933 cover by Rea Irvin.

By most accounts 1933 was one of the Depression’s worst years, and that is likely why E.B. White chose to remember “only a few scattered moments,” mixing the silly with the salient.

Of the silly, there was the time when the Barnum & Bailey circus dwarf Lya Graf sat on J.P. Morgan’s lap while he was waiting to testify before the Senate Banking Committee…

HE DIDN’T BANK ON THIS…J.P. Morgan was paid a visit by Barnum & Bailey circus dwarf Lya Graf, prior to his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on June 1, 1933. (NY Magazine)

White also noted the passing of Texas Guinan. Known as “Queen of the Nightclubs,” she was a fixture on the Manhattan speakeasy scene throughout the Roaring Twenties and a reliable source of nightlife headlines. White also recalled George Bernard Shaw’s controversial speech at the crowded Metropolitan Opera House, during which he referred to American financiers as “lunatics” and called the U.S. Constitution a “charter of anarchism.”

YEAR IN A NUTSHELL…Clockwise, from top left: The year 1933 saw the passing of the “Queen of the Nightclubs” Texas Guinan—more than 10,000 showed up for her funeral in November; also that month Thomas G.W. Settle and C.L Fordney ascended to the stratosphere in the Century of Progress balloon; The New York Times (April 12, 1933) published the full text of George Bernard Shaw’s Met speech; Esquire published its first issue in the fall, featuring Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos as well as New Yorker cartoonists Constantin Alajalov, William Steig and E. Simms Campbell; according to Vogue, 1933’s breasts were “high and pointed.” (bounddv.medium.com/history.navy.mil/NYT/Pinterest)

White also had more to say about the streamlining trend in automobiles, led by Chrysler’s new “Airflow.” White preferred the older, boxier models, with plenty of head and hat room.

In 1922 White set off across America in the car of his dreams, a Model T, which had plenty of headroom and, as he later wrote, transformed his view of the land, a vision “shaped, more than by any other instrument, by a Model T Ford…a slow-motion roadster of miraculous design—strong, tremulous, and tireless”…

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG…Clockwise, from top left: E.B. White and wife Katharine Sergeant take a spin in a Model T in the mid 1930s; despite White’s remonstrations regarding headroom, the makers of the Chrysler Airflow advertised their streamlined car’s interior as practically cavernous. (Goodreads/Pinterest)

 * * *

Crying in His Beer

A couple of issues back we saw Lois Long bid a sad farewell to the cosy and secluded atmosphere of the speakeasy…Ogden Nash turned to verse to offer his own lament, feeling naked and exposed in dining rooms “full of 500 assorted debutantes and dowagers”…

FEELING EXPOSED…Ogden Nash (1902–1971) missed the sacrilegious rite of the speakeasy and lamented the “humdrumness” of legal drinking. (vpoeticous.com)

 * * *

Wondering About Alice

Combine horrific character designs with a young adult playing a child and you have the recipe for 1933’s star-studded Alice in Wonderland, a film the Nerdist’s Kyle Anderson calls “a fascinating, unintentionally disturbing take on a classic.” Almost ninety years earlier the New Yorker’s John Mosher found it disturbing in other ways, save for W.C. Field’s portrayal of Humpty Dumpty.

Writing for The Roarbots, Jamie Green notes that Charlotte Henry was 19 when she played Alice: “This version of Alice doesn’t feel like a sweet look at the twists and turns of adolescence; it feels more like a commentary on repressed desire and self-identity.” The film was a flop at the box office.

CHANNELLING HER YOUTH…Clockwise, from top left: 19-year-old Charlotte Henry as Alice in 1933’s Alice in Wonderland; W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty; Roscoe Karns as Tweedledee and Jack Oakie as Tweedledum; Alice has a chat with Gryphon (William Austin) and Mock Turtle (Cary Grant). Except for Henry, most of the cast was unrecognizable in their macabre makeup and costumes. (IMDB)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

We start with a selection of three one-column ads, featuring, from left, the latest back-to-school look for the collegiate male (apparently attending Columbia); the dustless, noiseless, smokeless, AIR-CONDITIONED railway wonder called the Orange Blossom Special; the automobile arm of the REO Motor Car Company trying to pack everything it could into this narrow little ad (REO would stop producing cars in 1936 in order to focus solely on trucks)…

…the distillers of Holloway’s London Dry Gin warned newly liberated American drinkers about the consequences of imbibing cheap gin…

…the folks at R.J. Reynolds found another member of the gentry to push their Camels onto aspiring young women…

…on to our cartoons, the Dec. 30 issue featured a James Thurber double-header, beginning with this “Talk of the Town” spot illustration…

 

 

…a rare one-panel Little King from Otto Soglow

…ringing in the New Year with Syd Hoff

…and George Price

…and we close with Gilbert Bundy, seeking from fresh air…

Next Time: American Love Affair…

Going With the Flow

“We had the horse and buggy. We had the automobile. Now we have the first real motor car in history.” — Walter P. Chrysler. 

Classic motorcar collector and aficionado Jay Leno has more than 180 vehicles in his collection, but a pride and joy is a 1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial CX—one of the only three surviving CXs today.

Dec. 16, 1933 cover by Rea Irvin.

The 1934 Chrysler Airflow was a car of the future that came too early. The Airflow’s advances in engineering—including invention of the modern unibody—still inform car design today. But the streamlined look of the car was probably too advanced for those depressed times, and despite lots of media attention it flopped with consumers. E.B. White was among those who weren’t ready to jump on the Airflow bandwagon, and even poked fun at colleague Alexander Woollcott for posing in the backseat of an Airflow for a Chrysler advertisement:

The Woollcott ad in question, which appeared in the previous issue (Dec. 9):

Of the major car companies in the 1930s, Chrysler was perhaps the most revolutionary in terms of technological and design advances. The first car to be wind tunnel-tested, the Airflow’s lightweight, unibody design moved the engine over the front axle and positioned the passengers between the front and rear wheels for a much roomier, smoother ride. Chrysler claimed the unibody also made the car stronger and safer, as this newsreel attests:

Air truly flowed through the car; even the windshield could be cranked open for greater air circulation.

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE…Jay Leno’s Chrysler Airflow Imperial CX, one of only three CX’s known to exist today. Other versions of the Airflow included a model sold under the DeSoto brand name. You can see this car in action on Jay Leno’s Garage. (Blair Bunting)
AIR SUPPLY…Clockwise, from top left: The Chrysler Airflow featured a windshield that could be cranked open; advertising card for the Airflow; Indy veteran Harry Hartz set seventy-two speed and distance records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in an Airflow, driving 97.5 mph over the flying mile; the roomy interior featured a nearly horizontal steering column, which freed up space in the driver’s footwell. Although normal today, it was revolutionary in 1934, when most cars had steering columns sprouting from the floor. (Blair Bunting/macsmotorcitygarage.com)

 * * *

No Fair, Doug

Few Hollywood marriages could ever match the legendary status accorded to that of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, darlings of the silent screen who who exchanged vows in 1918. When the couple separated in 1933, even E.B. White couldn’t resist a bit of Tinseltown gossip.

FAIRY TALE FIZZLE…The very public nature of the Mary PickfordDouglas Fairbanks marriage put a big strain on their matrimonial bonds. When both saw their careers fade at the end of the silent era, Fairbanks found escape in overseas travel, and in a romance with Sylvia, Lady Ashley (pictured above, center). Pickford and Fairbanks would divorce in 1936, and that same year Fairbanks and Lady Ashley would marry—just three years later Fairbanks would die from a heart attack, at age 56. Pickford would marry actor-musician Charles “Buddy” Rogers in 1937—they would remain married until her death in 1979. (Huffington Post/npg.org.uk))

  * * *

Drinking Problem

“The Talk of the Town” reported on the challenges facing both restaurants and patrons who were becoming reacquainted with legal drinking:

 * * *

Before Mr. Rogers

The “Profile” took a childish turn with this account of Don Carney (1896–1954) penned by Margaret Case Harriman. Carney is best remembered as the host of Uncle Don, a hugely popular WOR children’s radio program produced between 1928 and 1947. Excerpts:

MERCH…Don Carney’s popularity in the 1930s is evidenced in the output of merchandise including sheet music (1935), a 1940 activity book, and a 1936 “Strange Adventures” story book. (phantom.fan/ebay)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

Speaking of fine cars, the folks at Packard pointed out one similarity between their automobile and the product manufactured by Rolls-Royce…owning a Packard in the 1930s was indeed considered prestigious, and like Rolls-Royce it competed in the international luxury car market…

…Bergdorf Goodman placed this helpful ad listing various gift ideas in descending order of price…and extravagance…

…and it wouldn’t be Christmas without the perennial Whitman’s Santa Claus touting his sweet wares…

…and New Yorkers were getting ready to celebrate a New Year without Prohibition, and pop some “good news” with Cook’s American “champagne”… 

…an “old friend,” Johnnie Walker, strode into the advertising pages of the New Yorker for the very first time…

…while another purveyor of Scotch whiskey, Teacher’s, raised a glass to the return of legal liquor in the colonies…

…the makers of Hennessy brandy celebrated the fact that “we can be ourselves once more”…

…the end of Prohibition saw the rapid expansion of the chain of Longchamps restaurants in New York City…in the 1930s the company hired top modernist decorators and architects (Winold Reiss and Ely Jacques Kahn, among others) to create some of New York’s most glamorous interiors…

LONGCHAMPS LONG GONE…Winold Reiss’s Louis XV mural behind the Chanin Building’s Longchamps bar, 1935. Hugely popular in mid-century New York, Longchamps all but vanished by 1970. Read more about one of New York’s most stylish restaurants at two wonderful sites, Driving For Deco and Restaurant-ing Through History. (winoldreiss.org)

…Schenley was a giant in the spirits industry…headquartered in the Empire State Building, it also had a giant impact in the United States…to assure consumers that quality hadn’t suffered over the thirteen long years of Prohibition, Schenley ran this two-page ad stating: on through the years—famous names, famous brands, secrets, formulae, warehouses, yes—and stocks of precious old liquor have been accumulated and guarded by Schenley for you when the day arrives

…here are some of the brands listed by Schenley in the side column:

Old Quaker was one of Schenley’s popular whiskey brands in the 1930s.

…and we sober up for our cartoonists, beginning with Mary Petty

…mixed company was always a recipe for trouble in James Thurber’s world…

…and we close with George Price, and an unexpected visitor…

Next Time: The Cold Light of Day…

 

Not Even Funny

There were a number of people Dorothy Parker couldn’t abide. That included gifted writers who not only eschewed serious literature, but who instead chose to crank out a lot of mass-market trash.

March 18, 1933 cover by William Steig.

Parker was well acquainted with Tiffany Ellsworth Thayer (1902–1959), and for a time she even associated with the Fortean Society, which Thayer founded in 1931. Inspired by writer Charles Fort, the Forteans promoted the use of scientific methods to evaluate unexplained phenomena such as UFOs, spontaneous human combustion, and other oddities. Parker and fellow New Yorker writers Ben Hecht and Alexander Woollcott were among founding members, doubtless drawn to Fort’s reputation as a skeptic; however one famous skeptic, journalist H.L. Mencken, called Fort’s ideas “Bohemian mush.” It’s hard to say how long Parker stayed connected to the Society, but by 1933 she was fed up with Thayer’s novels, including his latest, An American Girl, which she found to be “the gaudiest flower of pretentiousness.” Here is an excerpt from Parker’s sometime column, “Reading and Writing,” subtitled Not Even Funny…

TIFF WITH TIFFANY…At left, Tiffany Thayer aboard a cruise ship with an unidentified woman, most likely his first wife, a dancer named Tanagra, early 1930s; at right, Dorothy Parker and a first edition of the offending volume. In her review, Parker observed that Taylor “is beyond question a writer of power; and his power lies in his ability to make sex so thoroughly, graphically, and aggressively unattractive that one is fairly shaken to ponder how little one has been missing.” (IMDB/Worthpoint)

Although Thayer founded a society based on scientific reason, his pulp novels were filled with fantasy and prurient imagery. F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed that “curious children nosed at the slime of Mr. Tiffany Thayer in the drug-store libraries.”

BELIED LETTRES…Clockwise from top left, Thayer’s 1931 novel Call Her Savage was made into a 1932 film starring Clara Bow, here featured on the book’s dustcover; the same novel repackaged in 1952 for the pulp trade; a 1943 edition of Thayer’s One-Man Show, and a 1951 Avon reprint that toned down the nudity but upped the creep factor. (facebook.com/biblio.com)

…and speaking of creep factor, check out Avon’s 1950 re-issue of Thayer’s 1937 novel The Old Goat, illustration attributed to Edgar Lyle Justis

(biblio.com)

Artists like Justis must have had a ball doing these illustrations, creating images to lure the unsuspecting into purchasing these old titles. Note how the coked-up old man sports not-so-subtle devil horns.

*  *  *

They Called It a Holiday

E.B. White, James Thurber (see below) and others in the March 18 issue commented on the national banking “holiday” declared by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an effort to stabilize America’s banking system and rebuild public confidence. This led to the Glass-Steagall Act, signed three months later by FDR. Some observations in “Notes and Comment” by E.B. White, with the usual great spot illustrations by Otto Soglow

SAY CHEESE!…President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Glass-Steagall Act on June 16, 1933, effectively separating commercial banking from investment banking and creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), among other things. (AP)

…meanwhile, Germany’s new chancellor, Adolf Hitler, was busy abolishing civil liberties while pretending to be distressed by the behavior of his brownshirt thugs…an excerpt from Howard Brubaker’s “Of All Things”…

*  *  *

A Familiar Ring

For the second week in a row Ring Lardner lent his wit to The New Yorker’s “Over the Waves,” column, which typically reviewed the latest news and entertainment beamed from the radio tower atop the Empire State Building. Lardner, however, was in California, lamenting the challenges of the time lag. An excerpt:

AND NO WI-FI, EITHER…Ring Lardner (center) detailed the frustrations of listening to New York-based radio entertainers like Eddie Cantor (left) and Rudy Vallée during his stay in California. (Pinterest/The Classic Archives/New York Times)

 *  *  *

Dance Away Those Blues

The pre-Code musical 42nd Street received a brief, albeit mostly positive review from critic John Mosher, who along with the producers of the film knew Depression-weary Americans needed such distractions. Nearly 90 years later (April 10, 2020), another New Yorker film critic, Richard Brody, suggested 42nd Street as one of the best films to stream during the Covid-19 pandemic: “Modern musicals start here, and Busby Berkeley’s genius bursts into full flower,” he wrote.

DANCE ‘TIL YOU DROP…Under pressure to produce a hit after losing his lead dancer (Bebe Daniels) to a broken ankle, Broadway musical director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter, center) mercilessly rehearses her replacement, Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler, in her film debut) before the premiere, vowing “I’ll either have a live leading lady or a dead chorus girl.” Looking on (to the right of Baxter) is Ginger Rogers, who portrayed “Anytime Annie.” (tcm.com)

A LEG UP ON HIS CAREER…42nd Street was a breakthrough film for choreographer Busby Berkeley, who would direct and choreograph a long string of musicals until the 1960s. The film is now considered a classic, preserved in the United States National Film Registry. (IMDB)

…and for trivia buffs, during an opening scene Bebe Daniels is shown reading the February 20, 1932 (anniversary) issue of The New Yorker…

*  *  *

From Our Advertisers

A convertible LaSalle (a downscale Cadillac brand) looks like a great way to enjoy a drive along the beach…let’s hope it has enough acceleration to outrun the tsunami apparently heading its way…

Walter Chrysler continued to dig into his deep pockets for two-page color spreads, including this one that placed his humble DeSoto in St. Moritz, of all places…

…not to be outdone, the folks at Nash found another exotic locale for their budget-priced sedan…Chicago, that is, at the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition…and for an extra touch of class, we have what appears to be a chauffeur attending to this modest motorcar…

…America’s top luxury car maker, Pierce Arrow — a regular advertiser in The New Yorker — decided a quarter-page ad was sufficient to keep their name before the eyes of the well-heeled…at right, an ad from another back page featured cartoonist Don Herold shilling for the makers of imitation liquor flavors…according to the ad, one bottle, obtainable from your druggist, “flavors a gallon” of whatever forsaken hootch you are consuming…

…the folks at Log Cabin relied on the talents of another New Yorker cartoonist, John Held Jr., to make both their product and a signature cocktail a more palatable experience…

…I have to hand it to the folks at Heinz for signing off on an advertisement only a vampire would find appealing…

…the purveyors of Marie Earle beauty products rolled out this modern ad to promote their “Essential Cream”…

…while staid Brooks Brothers remained true to form — no flashy colors or advertising jargon — just straight talk about price increases….

…and then there’s the upmarket Fortnum & Mason, appealing to America’s Anglophiles with one of their famed wicker hampers filled with various goodies selected for “charming and greedy people”…

….for several years R.J. Reynolds employed the services of Carl “Eric” Erickson (1891–1958) to illustrate a series of ads featuring classy, disinterested, continental types smoking their Camel brand cigarettes…despite their less-than-exotic name, the makers of Spud menthol cigarettes hired Ruth Sigrid Grafstrom (1905–1986) to create their own smart set of smokers…

…ads that bore a striking resemblance to Erickson’s Camel work (this example from 1931)…

…and for your consideration, works from 1933 by Carl Erickson and Ruth Sigrid Grafstrom…both were noted fashion illustrators…

…on to our cartoonists, we begin with Charles Addams, who’d just published his first New Yorker cartoon the previous month, in the Feb. 4, 1933 issue

…that first cartoon was simply signed “Addams”…here he used the familiar “Chas Addams”…a close-up of the signature…

…we continue with a great caricature by Al Frueh to accompany a profile of Rudolf Kommer (as told by Alexander Woollcott)…

…a delightful full page of bank holiday-themed cartoons by James Thurber

Richard Decker offered up a tall tale…

…and we close with Peter Arno, who served up one of his clueless cuckolds…

Next Time: Diary of a Lady…

 

Role Reversal

James Cagney began his entertainment career singing and dancing in various vaudeville and Broadway acts, but when he was cast in his first film as a tough guy, the die was cast…at least for one New Yorker critic.

Feb. 11, 1933 cover by Constantin Alajalov.

Cagney’s first film role came after he starred along with Joan Blondell in Broadway’s Penny Arcade. However when the play was made into the 1930 movie Sinners’ Holiday, execs at Warner Brothers opted to put Grant Withers and Evalyn Knapp into the lead roles, believing they were destined for stardom; Cagney and Blondell were relegated to supporting parts. As fate often has it, Withers and Knapp ended up in B-movie obscurity, while Cagney and Blondell went on to become two of the biggest stars of the 1930s. The pair would appear in six more films together, including the gangster film The Public Enemy (1931) and the musical Footlight Parade (1933).

TWO-FACED…James Cagney would be paired with Joan Blondell in seven films during the 1930s including the gangster film The Public Enemy (1931, left) and the musical Footlight Parade (1933, also with Ruby Keeler). (IMDB)

THE ONE I USED TO KNOW…Top, Cagney mashes a grapefruit half into Mae Clarke’s face in a famous scene from Cagney’s breakthrough film, 1931’s The Public Enemy; below, Cagney gets acquainted with a bartender (Lee Phelps) in The Public Enemy. (IMDB)

New Yorker film critic John Mosher preferred the tough guy Cagney to the toe-tapping version, and was anticipating Cagney’s return to pictures after a contact dispute with Warner in which he threatened to quit the business and follow his brothers into the medical profession…

When Cagney finally announced his return in Hard to Handle, Mosher found he had taken on the guise of actor Lee Tracy, who was best known for his comic portrayals of wisecracking salesmen and reporters…

MY SOFTER SIDE…James Cagney and Mae Clark (top) in 1933’s pre-Code comedy Hard to Handle — Cagney played a clowning con artist who organizes a dance marathon. Below, critic John Mosher thought Cagney was channelling the comic actor Lee Tracy, seen here with Jean Harlow in 1933’s Blonde Bombshell. (IMDB)

 *   *   *

Slippery Slope

Located on Lexington between 102nd and 103rd streets, Duffy’s Hill was once famous for being the steepest hill in Manhattan and the scourge of street cars that had to quickly accelerate and decelerate at that point, leading to numerous accidents. An excerpt from “The Talk of the Town”…

LOOK OUT BELOW…Duffy’s hill played merry hell with New York’s streetcars more than a century ago. (New York Social Diary via Facebook)

 *   *   *

Getting High

George Spitz Jr was an AAU high jump champion when he participated in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In 1933 he made a personal best leap of  6 feet, 8¼ inches using scissors-style leap with elements of the Western roll. “The Talk of the Town” marveled at Spitz’s feat, giving him an extra quarter inch for his record leap:

MILLION-DOLLAR LEGS…In 1933 George Spitz Jr made his personal best leap of 6 feet, 8¼ inches using a scissors-style jump with elements of the Western roll. With the introduction of the Fosbury Flop in 1968, today’s men’s record stands at 8 feet, ¼ inches. The current women’s record is 6 feet, 10¼ inches. (Olympedia)

 *   *   *

Ugh, This Guy Again

As we move into the 1930s we will be seeing more references to Adolf Hitler, who seized power in Germany on January 30, 1933. At this point “The Talk of the Town” wasn’t taking him seriously…

…and neither was Howard Brubaker in his regular column of short quips…

 *   *   *

From Our Advertisers

Hitler aside, the German-owned Hamburg-American Line was still serving peaceful purposes when it advertised the comfort of its “stabilized ships” on transatlantic voyages…these sisters ships of the Hamburg-American Line were all destroyed during World War II…the SS New York and the SS Deutschland were both sunk by the British RAF in 1945…The SS Albert Ballin and the SS Hamburg sank after hitting Allied mines…

THE BIG BANG…the RAF sent the S.S. Deutschland to the bottom of the Bay of Lübeck  on May 3, 1945. (Wikipedia)

…if travel wasn’t your thing, when you escape the winter blahs in the comfort of your home thanks to the GE Mazda Sunlight Lamp…

…and Dad, when you were her age you called these things “horseless carriages”…

…the folks at luxury carmaker Packard answered the splashy color ad from Cadillac in the Jan. 7 issue…

…with a colorful show-stopper of their own…

…if the Packard was too pricy, you could have checked out this lower-priced Cadillac, marketed as the LaSalle…

…no, New York did not say “Rockne, you’re the car!”, even if it was juxtaposed with a giant, attractive woman…the car was named for famed football coach Knute Rockne, and the Depression was not a good time to promote a new car line…it was produced from 1932 to 1933, when Studebaker pulled the plug and sold the remaining inventory (about 90 cars, packaged in kits) to a Norwegian railroad car manufacturer…

…a couple of posts ago (“Life With Father”) we were accosted by a 3-page Camel ad featuring a Q&A stating the facts about its product…here they are back with two more pages of irrefutable evidence…

…what I read in their eyes is that none of them, including the woman, gives a damn about the others…if anything, the fellow at left is checking out the other guy…

…this ad from Sonotone Corporation promoted a new hearing aid developed by Hugo Lieber…this revolutionary bone conduction receiver enabled the deaf to hear through bones in their head…

…a 1939 Sonotone catalog demonstrated how the hearing aid could be worn inconspicuously…

(abebooks.com)

…on to our cartoonists, Al Frueh illustrated the drama on board Broadway’s Twentieth Century Limited…note vaudevillian William Frawley’s caricature in the bottom right hand corner…although he appeared in more than 100 films, Frawley is best known today for his role as Fred Mertz on TV’s I Love Lucy

…here’s a great caricature by Rea Irvin of New York’s new mayor John P. O’Brien, using his new broom to sweep away the corruption of the deposed Jimmy Walker and his Tammany Hall cronies…

…here’s another early work by George Price, who would be a cartoonist at The New Yorker for nearly six decades…

…and here we have the other Price…Garrett Price gave us a fellow who made some changes in his life à la Paul Gauguin

…I like this Perry Barlow cartoon because it reminds me of the patient-in-traction trope commonly seen in comedy of the 1960s and 70s…

…such as this Paul Coker Jr. illustration from the June 1970 issue of MAD magazine…

…and Terry-Thomas and Spencer Tracy in 1963’s It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

William Steig assured readers there was nothing sweet about his “Small Fry”…

…once again Helen Hokinson offered her impressions of the annual Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden…

Peter Arno’s Lake Placid would never be the same for his mustachioed millionaire “walruses” after the previous year’s Winter Olympic Games…

Next Time: One Perfect Night…

 

A Slice of Paradise

Lois Long welcomed 1933 by venturing out into the New Year’s nightclub scene…

Jan. 28, 1933 cover by William Steig.

…where she encountered the new Paradise Cabaret Restaurant at Broadway and 49th, where there was no cover charge and not much covering the showgirls, either…

THE GANG’S ALL HERE…Everyone from gangsters to sugar daddies (and a number of New Yorker staffers) took in the sights and sounds of the Paradise Cabaret Restaurant (shown here in 1937). (Pinterest)

THE SPIRIT OF NEKKIDNESS, as Lois Long put it in her “Tables for Two” column, could be found at the Paradise Cabaret Restaurant: clockwise, from top left, marquee on the corner of the Brill Building advertises a 1936 appearance of the comedy team of Dewey Barto and George Mann (photo by George Mann via Flickr); menu cover made it clear that food was not the main attraction at the Paradise; a 1933 poster advertising “a Galaxy of Stars”; a 1943 “Paradise Girls” poster; circa 1930s matchbook; circa 1930s noisemaker. (Flickr/picclick/Pinterest)

THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT…known as the “laugh kings” of vaudeville, the comedy team of Barto and Mann rehearse at the Paradise in 1936. Their humor played on their disparities in height — Barto was under 5′ and Mann was 6’6″. If Mann (top right) looks familiar, later in life he portrayed “King Vitaman” in commercials for the breakfast cereal of the same name. As I recall it tasted like Cap’n Crunch. (Wikipedia)

While Mann went on to become King Vitaman, another Paradise performer, 16-year-old Hope Chandler, found the love of her life while performing in next-to-nothing at the Paradise…

SHE WAS ONLY SIXTEEN…Hope Chandler’s photo (right) was featured on the Dec. 20, 1937 cover of LIFE Magazine, which proclaimed the 16-year-old as the “Prettiest Girl in Paradise”. Photo at left was included in the magazine article. (Twitter)

…namely the 22-year-old son of William Randolph Hearst, who spotted Chandler during one of his visits to the Paradise. David Whitmire Hearst married Chandler in 1938 and they lived happily ever until his death in 1986.

YOUNG LOVE…David Whitmire Hearst and his new wife, Hope Chandler, after their wedding ceremony in New York, 1938. They would be married 48 years until David’s death in 1986. Hope would remain active in the Hearst organization until her death at age 90 in 2012. (Tumblr)

 *  *  *

Tragic Opera

Yes, the lovers die at the end of Tristan und Isolde, but for New York opera buffs the real tragedy belonged to Samuel Insull (1859–1938), a Chicago utilities magnate responsible for building a new Chicago Civic Opera House in 1929. When Insull’s opera house went bust in 1932, the Met landed two of its principal stars. Robert Simon reported for the New Yorker:

CHICAGO’S FINEST…Soprano Frida Leider (left) and mezzo-contralto Maria Olszewska were stars of the Chicago Opera from 1928 to 1932. When the company went belly-up, the singers headed for New York to appear in a much-acclaimed performance of Tristan und Isolde. (metoperafamily.org)

Insull was a famed innovator and investor who was a driving force behind creating an integrated electrical infrastructure in the U.S. In 1925 he addressed the financial difficulties of the Chicago opera community with a proposal to build a skyscraper with an opera house on the ground floor — he thought the rental of office space would cover the opera company’s expenses. The building was completed in 1929 — the same year as the market crash — and suddenly his grand plan didn’t look so grand.

Then Insull’s companies went under, and he was charged with fraud and embezzlement. He fled to Europe, but in 1934 he was arrested in Istanbul and brought back to Chicago to stand trial. Although he was acquitted, he was left a broken (and broke) man, his $3 billion utilities empire in shambles.

DUELING ARIAS…New York’s rival in the opera scene, the Chicago Civic Opera erected this skyscraper in 1929 with the help of Samuel Insull; a door at the Cook County jail in Chicago is opened for Insull in May 1934, his $3 billion utilities empire in shambles. He was unable to raise the $200,000 bail in fraud charges, which were eventually dismissed; New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1909. (classicchicagomagazine.com/Wikipedia)

FAME TO INFAMY…Insull’s appearances on the cover of Time said it all: left to right: issues from November 29, 1926; November 4, 1929; and May 14, 1934. (classicchicagomagazine.com)

 *  *  *

From Land to Sea

The National Auto Show left town to be followed by the annual Boat Show at the Grand Central Palace, featuring boats that were priced to meet the needs of some Depression-era buyers:

CRUISIN’ CRUISETTE…You could buy an Elco Cruisette for just under $3,000 in 1933, but that was roughly equivalent to $64,000 today, so it was still out of reach for most Americans in the 1930s. (Pinterest)

*  *  *

From Our Advertisers

Yes, the boat show was in town, but automobile manufacturers were still making their points to potential customers including Chrysler, one of the New Yorker’s biggest advertisers in the early 1930s…here’s a two-page spread for the Dodge 8…

…Chrysler’s DeSoto line claimed a luxurious interior that would inspire even regular folks to put on the “haughty air” of a French Duchess…

…on the other hand, the folks at Cadillac went for understatement with this announcement of a limited edition V-16…

…with 16 cylinders under the hood, this thing could really tear down the road, but it was the Depression, and even though this edition was limited to just 400 cars, only 125 were sold…

 

(supercars.net)

…it really bothers me that the Savoy Plaza Hotel (1927) was knocked down in 1965 and replaced by the monolithic GM Building…and look, in 1933 you could get a single room for five bucks a night…

…maybe you’d rather take to the seas on the Hamburg-American Line…

The SS Reliance in 1937. Gutted by fire in 1938, she was scrapped in 1941. (Wikipedia)

…or you could chase away the winter blues in a steaming bath that the folks at Cannon Towels called “almost the ultimate in mortal content”…

…and no doubt a few lit up a Camel or two during their soak…note the tagline “I’d walk a mile for a Camel!”…it was a slogan the brand used for decades…

…I still remember these from when I was a kid…

…on to our cartoons, and we begin with William Crawford Galbraith, still up to his old tricks…

Gilbert Bundy gave this exchange between old mates…

Alan Dunn showed us what happens when you hire a chatty governess…

…in the spirit of the 2022 Winter Olympics, one from George Shellhase

…and we close with James Thurber, and the trials of married life…

Next Time: Belle Geste…

 

Modernism Lite

Above: “The Fountain of Youth” mural by Ezra Winter in the Main Foyer of Radio City Music Hall. (Architectural Digest)

The opening of two new theaters at Rockefeller Center no doubt brightened a few souls at the start of 1933, but art and architecture critic Lewis Mumford wasn’t particularly dazzled by the “watered-down” modernism of the buildings’ much-ballyhooed decor.

Jan. 7, 1933 cover by Rea Irvin, in a nod to the annual automobile show in New York City.

Oddly, it was a philosophy professor from Nebraska, Hartley Burr Alexander, who was tasked with creating an artistic vision for Rockefeller Center, developed along the theme of “Frontiers of Time.” According to Mumford, Alexander’s “classic-banal” vision, executed under the “virtuous glare” of theatrical impresario Samuel L. “Roxy” Rothafel, resulted in the first “large-scale vulgar tryout of modern art.” Excerpts from Mumford’s column:

Several aluminum sculptures in Radio City Music Hall no doubt pleased Mumford — Gwen Lux’s Eve sculpture, William Zorach’s Spirit of the Dance, and Robert Laurent’s Goose Girl. However, thanks to Roxy Rothafel’s “virtuous glare” and worries that the nudes might hurt ticket sales, all three sculptures were temporarily banned from RCMH.

NAKED AND AFRAID…A flare-up of puritanism led to the temporary removal of aluminum sculptures at Radio City Music Hall. At left, Eve by Gwen LuxRobert Laurent (right) working on Goose Girl in his studio. Below, William Zorach’s Spirit of the Dance. (Smithsonian/viewingnyc.com)

Radio City Music Hall also featured an array of murals that should have brought some delight to Mumford…

SHOW BEFORE THE SHOW…Radio City Music Hall featured a number of murals including, clockwise from top left, a detail of Donald Deskey’s The History of Nicotine (The Life of Saint Nicotine) in a second floor men’s lounge; a textile piece titled The History of Theatre by Ruth Reeves, which covers the back wall of Radio City Music Hall; Stuart Davis’s mural Men without Women in the  men’s lounge; Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s mural in the women’s powder room. (melwithpals.medium.com/viewingnyc.com/evergreen.com)

*  *  *

Mea Cuppa

“The Talk of the Town” shared this account of fifteen Harvard freshman who dared to pay a call on the home of visiting poet T.S. Eliot

TEA-DIUM…Fifteen nervous Harvard freshman confronted this visage until one of them finally broke the ice. Photo above taken during one of T.S. Eliot’s visits to Monk’s House, the 16th century cottage of Virginia Woolf. (blogs.harvard.edu)

*  *  *

Country Cousins

During his 1932 presidential campaign Franklin D. Roosevelt paid a Sept. 29 visit to the Waterloo, Nebraska farm of Gustav “Gus” and Mary (Kenneway) Sumnick. Mary served FDR a chicken dinner and pie before he addressed a crowd of 8,000 at a rally on the Sumnick farm. Gustav, a German immigrant, and Mary, a daughter of Irish immigrants, were successful farmers even during those tough years. The visit would turn the Sumnicks into national celebrities, and in later years FDR would return to visit the family and would also stay in touch by telephone. Howard Brubaker, in “Of All Things,” made this observation about the celebrated farm family:

TIME FOR SOME VIDDLES!…Mary Sumnick chats with presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt during his Sept. 29, 1932 visit to the Sumnick farm. (douglascohistory.org)

ENOUGH FOR A FOOTBALL TEAM…A lengthy article in the Dec. 4, 1932 New York Times described life on the Sumnick farm and their upcoming visit with President Roosevelt in the spring. Gus and Mary and their 11 children all planned to make the trip. (NYT)

*  *  *

The Gang’s All Here

Siblings Ethel, John and Lionel Barrymore of the famed Barrymore theatrical family appeared together in just one film — Rasputin and the Empress — and you would think that would have been enough to guarantee multiple awards along with box office gold. However, the film actually lost money, and on top of that attracted a lawsuit that further dipped into the pockets of MGM producer Irving Thalberg. Critic John Mosher was wowed by Ethel’s performance, but wasn’t exactly charmed by the overall production:

ACTING ROYALTY ACTING ROYAL…John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore, and Lionel Barrymore with child actor Tad Alexander in Rasputin and the Empress. It is only film in which all three siblings appeared together. (Pinterest)

About that lawsuit: The film used the real-life Princess Irina Yusupov as a model for Princess Natasha, portrayed by English actress Diana Wynyard. The film implied that Rasputin raped Princess Natasha (that is, Irina), which wasn’t true, so she sued MGM and won $127,373 from an English court; MGM reportedly  settled out of court in New York for the sum of $250,000 (roughly equivalent to nearly $5 million today). The ubiquitous “all persons fictitious” disclaimer that appears in TV and film credits is the result of that lawsuit.

NO HARD FEELINGS?…English actress Diana Wynyard (left) portrayed Princess Natasha in the Barrymore family vehicle Rasputin and the Empress. Her portrayal, however, drew the ire of a real Russian royal, Princess Irina Yusupov, who successfully sued MGM in 1933 for invasion of privacy and libel. (Wikipedia)

A much-less controversial film was the “glib” No Man of Her Own, a pre-Code romantic comedy-drama starring Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in their only film together:

LET’S PLAY HOUSE…Clark Gable romances Carole Lombard in the pre-Code romantic comedy-drama No Man of Her Own. It was their only film together, and several years before they became a married couple in real life. (ha.com)

*  *  *

Vroom-Vroom

The annual National Automobile Show opened at the Grand Central Palace and other locations in Midtown, promising an array of affordable models:

DECISIONS, DECISIONS… The 1933 National Automobile Show offered a number of affordable options to car buyers including these shiny new Pontiacs on display at the Grand Central Palace. (libwww.freelibrary.org)

BUT LOOK OVER HERE…General Motors also displayed its models at the first “Motorama” held in the Waldorf-Astoria’s Grand Ballroom in 1933. (waldorfnewyorkcity.com)

Auto Show visitors also got a glimpse of their streamlined future in the form of a 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow…

FAST & FURIOUS…Powered by a V12 engine, the aerodynamic 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow could exceed 100 miles per hour. Unveiled at the 1933 National Automobile Show, the car grabbed the spotlight with its futuristic, streamlined design. Just five of these were built, and only three are known to exist today. The Silver Arrow was one of Pierce-Arrow’s final attempts to appeal to its wealthy clientele, but even they were feeling Depression’s pinch. The company folded in 1938. (Sotheby’s)

 *  *  *

From Our Advertisers

The New Yorker had unusually thin issues over the holidays, so the magazine’s bean-counters must have been thrilled by the dozens of ads that poured in ahead of the National Automobile Show. As usual Walter Chrysler took out several two-page ads to promote his Chryslers, Plymouths, Dodges and DeSotos…

…while GM one-upped Walter with its own series of two-pagers — in color — sprinkled throughout the magazine…everything from the affordable Oldsmobile…

…to the high-end Cadillac…

…General Motors also featured this Peter Arno-themed ad (with sugar-daddy walrus) to promote its posh new venue at the Waldorf-Astoria…

…the folks at struggling Hupmobile tried to wow not with shiny cars but rather with the announcement of their…drum roll, please…annual report…

…companies that supported the auto industry also got in on the act, including the makers of leaded fuel…this image says a lot about the lack of safety concerns in the 1930s…

John Hanrahan, who early on served as the New Yorker’s policy council and guided it through its lean first years, be­came the publisher of Stage magazine (formerly The Theatre Guild Magazine) in 1932. In 1933 Stage became part of the Ultra-Class Magazine Group’s line-up that included Arts & Decoration and The Sportsman. Stage published its last issue in 1939, and I don’t believe the other two survived the 1930s either…

ULTRA-CLASS GROUP was the over-the-top name used to describe this line-up of magazines.

…on to our cartoons, we join Peter Arno for some fine dining…

…based on the what we have seen lately from William Crawford Galbraith, he seems to be hung up on seductresses and showgirls…

…to my point, some of Galbraith’s recent entries…

…we move on to Richard Decker and a dangerous cold front…

Garrett Price pondered the wisdom of children…

Gluyas Williams was back with the latest industrial crisis…

Perry Barlow found some ill-fitting words to go with an ill-fitting coat…

…and we close with James Thurber, and some very fitting words for those times, and ours…

Next Time: March of Time…

 

Not for the Kiddies

Over the years Tod Browning’s 1932 pre-code film Freaks has been called everything from grotesque and exploitive to sympathetic and compassionate. Now a cult classic, the film’s closing scenes are regarded by some critics as among the most terrifying ever put to film.

July 16, 1932 cover by Rea Irvin.

What disturbed so many about Freaks was Browning’s use of actual sideshow performers with real disabilities to tell the story of a conniving trapeze artist who plots to seduce and then kill a dwarf performer to gain his inheritance. The film was not well-received by audiences and many critics. The Kansas City Star’s John Moffitt wrote, “There is no excuse for this picture. It took a weak mind to produce it and it takes a strong stomach to look at it.” However, the New Yorker’s John Mosher, along several other New York critics, gave the film a rather favorable review:

ONE OF US…Although audiences and critics found Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks grotesque and exploitive, today many regard the film as a rare (for its time), sympathetic portrayal of persons with disabilities. Clockwise, from top left, Browning with some of the members of his Freaks cast; French-American actress Rose Dione portrayed Madame Tetrallini, operator of the sideshow; Daisy and Violet Hilton with actor Wallace Ford in a scene from Freaks. Born fused at the pelvis, the sisters were joined at their hips and buttocks and shared blood circulation; limbless sideshow performer Prince Randian, who wore a one-piece wool garment over his body, appeared in the film as “The Living Torso.” (IMDB)

IT HAD A PLOT, ACTUALLY…Freaks told the story of a conniving trapeze artist named Cleopatra (portrayed by Russian actress Olga Baclanova, bottom right) who plots to seduce and then kill a dwarf performer, Hans (portrayed by Harry Earles) to gain his inheritance. Top photo: assembled “freaks” chant their acceptance of Cleopatra at the wedding feast of Hans and Cleopatra; bottom left, the kind-hearted seal trainer Venus (portrayed by Leila Hyams) consoles Frieda (Daisy Earles), who worries about Hans (Daisy and Harry Earles were members of a famous quartet of sibling entertainers known as The Doll Family. The quartet also appeared as members of The Munchkins in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.)(IMDB)

SURPRISE…Leila Hyams (1905 – 1977) was something of a surprising presence in the controversial film Freaks, given that she was a popular leading lady in the 1920s and 30s. Known for both her comedic and dramatic talents, she retired from films in 1936; another unlikely cast member was Henry Victor (1892 – 1945) whose physique didn’t necessarily support his role as circus strongman. (dangerousminds.net)

TRUE GRIT…Perhaps only a Russian actress in 1932 had the grit to transform herself from an exotic blonde temptress to a grotesque “human duck” for the movie Freaks. In the film, Olga Baclanova (1893 – 1974) portrayed a conniving trapeze artist named Cleopatra. Near the end of film the “freaks” capture Cleopatra, gouge out her right eye, remove her legs and tongue and melt her hands to look like duck feet. For critics and audiences, the horror was just too much. As for Baclanova — who was a popular silent film actress known as the “Russian Tigress” — her heavy accent did not translate well to talking films, and she left the movie business altogether in 1943. (muni.com/IMDB)

 *  *  *

Tennis Anyone?

Helen Moody was the top women’s singles tennis player for nearly a decade in the 1920s and 30s, winning Wimbledon eight times, including a match in 1932 against her rival Helen Jacobs. However to sportswriter John Tunis, the women had reached such a level in their play that it had become robotic and tedious to watch. At least James Thurber livened things up with some keen illustrations.

RACKETEERS…Helen Jacobs (left) and Helen Moody (right, in a 1929 photo) were tennis rivals known for their explosive matches. Except, apparently, for the one attended at Wimbeldon in 1932 by John Tunis. (nickelinthemachine.com)

 *  *  *

From Our Advertisers

Sensing that the end of Prohibition was near, the makers of Budweiser reminded readers of the good ol’ days of beer drinking and such…

…if you could afford something better than beer, then you might have contemplated a trip on the SS Manhattan, which along with her sister ship SS Washington were the largest liners ever built in the US…

TO AND FRO…Beginning in August 1932 the SS Manhattan operated the New York – Hamburg route until 1939, when instead of taking passengers to Germany the ship began taking Jewish refugees and others away from Nazi-occupied Europe. It was turned into a troopship in 1941 and never returned to commercial service. The SS Manhattan was sold for scrap in 1965. (cruiselinehistory.com)

…if your thing wasn’t traveling to Germany to see that country being transformed into the Third Reich, you could instead become a Bermuda “Commuter”…

…back home, William Steig joined other New Yorker cartoonists who earned extra money off of the big tobacco companies…

…which segues into our cartoonists, beginning with Victor Bobritsky’s illustration for “Goings On About Town”…

Otto Soglow offered more Little King adventures…

…and Carl Rose gave us a man striding into a factory, apparently a rare sight in 1932…

…on to July 23…

July 23, 1932 cover by Antonio Petruccelli (1907 – 1994). This is the first of six covers Petruccelli created for the New Yorker from 1932 to 1938. He also did numerous covers and illustrations for Fortune, Colliers and other publications.

…and we have another John Mosher film review, in which he refers to Freaks as a “dainty prelude” to another film about the lives of entertainers, in this case George Cukor’s What Price Hollywood, a pre-Code drama starring Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman with a storyline that anticipated 1937’s A Star Is Born — namely, a famous but fading male star who helps an ingénue rise to stardom while he descends into a pit of alcoholic despair.

FUN WHILE IT LASTED…Top image: Waitress and aspiring actress Mary Evans (Constance Bennett) has the good fortune to meet film director Maximillan Carey (Lowell Sherman) when she serves him one night at the Brown Derby. Bottom: Mary and her polo player boyfriend Lonny Borden (Neil Hamilton) look down with pity at the down-on-his-luck Maximillan in What Price Hollywood? (Wikipedia/IMDB)

 *  *  *

From Our Advertisers

Originally published by Adam Budge, Inc. in 1910 and later by Joseph Judd Publishing and others, Arts & Decoration magazine hoped to stay alive in the Depression with a promise that its August 1932 issue would be “compellingly readable”…

…and here is the cover of that issue…Arts & Decoration would hang on for another ten years before folding in 1942…

…one of the stars of Ziegfeld Follies of 1931 was actress and dancer Patricia Boots Mallory (1913 – 1958), who posed for this portrait to demonstrate the wonders of color reproduction…

…and here’s Boots Mallory in a scene from the 1932 film Handle With Care with comedian Elmer “El” Brendel (standing) and actor James Dunn

…not everyone could be a movie star, but you could pretend to be one in this swell new (and low-priced) DeSoto…Walter Chrysler must have laid out some big bucks for this two-page color spread…

…for those with greater means you could skip the roads altogether and fly the friendly skies of Ludington Airlines…the airline was founded by wealthy New York socialite Charles Townsend Ludington and his brother Nicholas…

…founded in 1929, Ludington Airlines was the first airline with flights every hour on the hour and the first to carry passengers only (others carried mail, an important source of revenue). The airline offered service between Washington, D.C. and New York City — with stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, Virginia, Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee — using seven Stinson tri-motor 6000 aircraft in its fleet, each carrying up to ten passengers…the airline went bankrupt in 1933 (mostly due to the lack of mail revenue) but left behind an astonishing record — in its first two years it flew more than 3.4 million miles and carried 133,000 passengers, a record at the time…

A Stinson SM-6000 airliner similar to the type flown by Ludington Airlines from 1929 to 1933.

…back to earth, sort of, we have this Lucky Strike ad with the famed “Do You Inhale?” campaign that oozed innuendo and no doubt prompted a few young men to take up the habit posthaste…

…on to cartoons, beginning with this spot art by James Thurber

Gardner Rea showed us a man getting his nickel’s worth of sin and repentence…

…and we end with the delightfully unrepentant Peter Arno

Next Time: Rebecca and the Zombies…

A Visit to Minskyville

During the 1930s few people could afford the luxury of a Broadway show, but a trip to “Minskyville” was in reach of nearly anyone looking to escape the gloom of the Depression, at least for a few hours.

May 28, 1930 cover by Constantin Alajalov.

The Minsky family — brothers Billy, Herbert, Morton and Abe — built the beginnings of a New York burlesque empire, writes actress, author and documentarian Leslie Zemeckis: “Abe, the eldest, started showing racy films in a nickelodeon theater on the Lower East Side. His father — believing that if his son was gonna be a perv, he might as well make real money at it — bought the National Winter Garden theater on Houston Street near Second Avenue (where a Whole Foods stands today), and gave Abe the sixth floor to run his burlesque shows.” Alva Johnson paid a visit to Houston Street and environs for the “A Reporter at Large” column:

LITTLE EGYPT, aka Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, top left, both titillated and scandalized crowds at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (really?); clockwise, from center top, three of Minsky Brothers – Billy, Morton and Herbert; the Minsky Brothers owned several burlesque theaters in New York, including Minsky’s Oriental on 51st Street and Broadway, where ‘stripper  Julie Bryan was a top draw in 1936; Billy Minsky brought the Minsky brand to Broadway when he leased the Republic Theater on 42nd Street in 1931; the last two images are by Margaret Bourke-White, backstage at the Republic Theater in 1936. (Wikipedia/Daily News/Estate of Margaret Bourke-White)

NEED A CAREER?…Well, in the 1930s an aspiring dancer or comedian could earn some chops on the burlesque stage. Gypsy Rose Lee (aka Rose Louise Hovick), left,who became the world’s most famous stripper (as well as an actress, author and playwright), was one of the biggest stars of Minsky’s Burlesque; breaks between burlesque performances were commonly filled by comedians, including Abbott and Costello (pictured above in their 1930s burlesque days), who first worked together in 1935 at the Eltinge Burlesque Theater on 42nd Street, at right.

According to Zemeckis, “burlesque caught on among the recent immigrants of the Lower East Side. The shows were cheap, the humor broad, and the allure of beautiful, barely-clothed women transcended language barriers.” But if striptease wasn’t your thing, Minskyville offered plenty of other diversions:

ONE LUMP OR TWO?…Minskyville’s entrepreneurs (top images) added a modern twist to the study of head bumps and cranium size — called Phrenology — with the electronic “Psycograph” (sic); at bottom, Prof. William Heckler’s Trained Flea Circus at Hubert’s Museum on West 42nd Street attracted some gents itching to see Heckler’s fleas in action; according to Alva Johnston, Minskyville’s penny arcade peepshows (such as the one at bottom right) would take your penny or nickel in exchange for photos of a woman old enough to give your grandpa the glad eye. (Museum of Questionable Medical Devices/sideshowworld.com)

LET’S SEE THAT AGAIN…Folks who didn’t want to look at forty-year-old photos of bathing beauties could check out the most popular attraction at Minskyville’s penny arcades — a clip from the famed Long Count Fight, a 1927 rematch between world heavyweight champion Gene Tunney and former champ Jack Dempsey, which Tunney won in a unanimous decision despite being knocked down in the seventh round. It was, and is, the subject of endless debate. (www.wbaboxing.com )

*  *  *

Not a Gearhead

“The Talk of the Town” noted that young Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. preferred arts and literature over things that went zoom:

SOMEDAY THIS WILL ALL BE YOURS, RIGHT?…Walter P. Chrysler Sr. and Walter P. Chrysler Jr. share a father-son moment in 1930. Junior Chrysler devoted much of his life to building a multimillion-dollar collection of paintings (some of which were later found to be forgeries) and made substantial forays into collecting stamps, rare books and glassworks. He also produced a movie, The Joe Louis Story, released in 1953. (chrysler.org)

 *  *  *

Rat-a-tat

Today most movie lovers associate Scarface with the 1983 Brian DePalma film (starring Al Pacino), but the original Scarface in 1932 was far more influential in that it helped define the American gangster film genre. Directed by Howard Hawks and produced by Hawks and Howard Hughes, the screenplay was penned by early New Yorker contributor Ben Hecht. Mild by today’s standards, the film’s violent scenes caused it to be banned by many theaters around the country. Along with 1931’s Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, Scarface is regarded as among the most significant gangster films. Here is what critic John Mosher thought of it:

JUST IN CASE YOU GET THE WRONG IDEA…Also known as Scarface: The Shame of the Nation, this 1932 gangster film opened with some cautionary words (top left). Clockwise, from top right, gangster “Tony” Camonte (Paul Muni) is flanked by his cronies during a hit on a rival; Tony (Muni) shows his softer side with his dear sister Francesca (Ann Dvorak). United Artists promotional poster (note how Boris Karloff was billed with a reference to his 1931 Frankenstein role). (IMDB)

 *  *  *

From Our Advertisers

Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water, out comes another line of wool swimsuits. I honestly can’t imagine how they must have felt, especially when wet and clinging to your skin after you left the water…

…the ad below from DuPont was just the sort of thing that drove New Yorker fashion critic Lois Long nuts…a couple of downscale royals shilling their fashion lines to an unsuspecting public…the paychecks from DuPont must have been substantial enough for these bluebloods to publicly embrace synthetics…

TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE…Here is the real Countess Borea de Buzzaccarini Regoli, left, and the Princess de Rohan, who played to America’s insatiable thirst for nobility while shilling for a chemical company. (Wikimedia)

…if you had the money and the steady nerves, you could have hopped aboard an almost 32-hour flight to the West Coast assured that a “coordinated mechanism” of men and machine would get you there in one piece…

…perhaps you could have steadied your nerves by dragging on a Tally-Ho — for some weird reason the Lorillard Tobacco Company (who also made Old Gold) thought some folks might prefer an oval-shaped cigarette (I include the remainder of the back-page ads for context)…

…despite the Depression, the New Yorker was holding its own in sales and subscriptions, but it never hurt to place a house ad every now and then to convince a few who might be holding out…

…on to our cartoons, Garrett Price showed us the result of a bad hand…

James Thurber offered up this spot illustration in the opening pages…

…and this terrific cartoon…

Gardner Rea demonstrated the perils of summoning the dead…

…the departed soul mentioned in Rea’s cartoon was prolific British crime writer, journalist and playwright Edgar Wallace (1875-1932), who wrote 175 novels, 24 plays, and countless articles in newspapers and journals in his relatively short life. He is most famous today as the co-creator of the film King Kong…

…and we end with this gem from Kemp Starrett, and some high-jinks…

Next Time: Jimmy’s Jam…