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)

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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…

 

Genesis of Genius

It’s hard to believe in this day and age that a theoretical physicist could enjoy rock star status, but then Albert Einstein wasn’t your everyday theoretical physicist.

Dec. 2, 1933 cover by Helen Hokinson.

A two-part profile of Einstein (1879–1955) by Alva Johnston (with terrific caricature by Al Frueh) examined the life and “idol” status of a man who would define the idea of genius in the 20th century. Although Einstein desired to live an almost reclusive existence at Princeton University, Johnston noted that he had become “fairly reconciled to the occupation of popular idol.”

Einstein was at Princeton thanks to the rise of Adolf Hitler, who came to power in Germany in early 1933 while Einstein was visiting the United States. Returning to Europe that March, Einstein knew he could not return to his home country (indeed, the Gestapo had raided his Berlin apartment and eventually seized all of his property), so when Einstein landed in Antwerp, Belgium on March 28, 1933, he immediately went to the German consulate and surrendered his passport, formally renouncing his German citizenship.

I’M OUTTA HERE…Albert Einstein with a Zionist delegation from France, Belgium, and England upon leaving the SS Belgenland in Antwerp, Belgium, 1933. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

After some time in Europe and Great Britain, in October 1933 Einstein accepted an offer made earlier by from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey to serve as a resident scholar. When he arrived with his wife, Elsa, he said he would seclude himself at the Institute and focus on his teaching and research.

(NY Times, Oct. 18, 1933)
EINSTEIN WASN’T FIDDLIN’ AROUND when he played his cherished violin—he once said that if he hadn’t been a scientist, he would have been a musician. This photo was taken at Einstein’s Princeton home in November 1933—he and fellow members of a string quartet were practicing for a December concert at the Waldorf-Astoria to raise money for German-Jewish refugees. From left to right, sitting: Arthur (Ossip) Giskin, Toscha Seidel, Albert Einstein, and Bernard Ocko; standing: Estelle Manheim (Seidel’s wife), Elsa Einstein and unidentified man. (Leo Baeck Institute)

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Stop and Go

E.B. White devoted his “Notes and Comment” to Manhattan’s traffic situation, which he found manageable as long as tourists stayed out of the way…

White also noted the perils of Park Avenue, especially the taxi drivers (distracted by those newfangled radios) darting between the islands…

Park Avenue in the 1930s. (geographicguide.com)

…and then there was Fifth Avenue, notorious for traffic jams, made worse on weekends by the tourist traffic…

Fifth Avenue in 1932. (New York State Archives)

…later in “The Talk of the Town” White continued his thoughts on New York taxis, namely the introduction of coin-operated radios installed for use by passengers…

 * * *

Fly Newark

Albert L. Furth took us off the mean streets and into the air when he filed this account about the Newark Metropolitan Airport for “A Reporter at Large.” Furth seemed put off by the cachet of European airports and their many amenities, given that the Newark airport—although admittedly utilitarian—was the busiest in the world. An excerpt:

FREQUENT FLIER…Albert Furth noted that Newark Municipal Airport logged a landing or departure every thirteen-and-a-half minutes. Above, passengers boarding a Boston-bound American Airlines Condor at Newark Airport in 1930. In those simpler times, passengers just walked to the runway and climbed on board. The airport had opened two years earlier on 68 acres of reclaimed swampland along the Passaic River. It was the first major commercial airport in the New York metro area and the first anywhere with a paved runway. (njmonthly.com)

 * * *

Goodnight, Speakeasy

Lois Long was an 17-year-old Vassar student when Prohibition went into effect in 1919, so when she started her career in New York in 1922 the only nightlife she knew revolved around speakeasies. Although she held Prohibition officers in disdain, she also believed that the repeal of the 18th Amendment would lower the quality of New York nightlife—the food, the “adroit service,” and the “genial din” of the speakeasy. Excerpts:

FROM LOUCHE TO LEGAL…Lois Long was saying a sad goodbye to her beloved speakeasies; perhaps the Algonquin Hotel (here, circa 1930) would offer some cheer. (Pinterest)

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From Our Advertisers

Abercrombie & Fitch (then an outfitter for the elite outdoorsman) was offering holiday shoppers everything from multi-tool knives to cocktail shakers…

…while the folks at Clerevu telescopes found a growing market for folks who used their product for anything but stargazing…

…with Repeal just days away, the Pleasant Valley Wine Company of New York hoped folks would pop a few of their corks before the good stuff arrived from France…

…the British were coming to the rescue via the Berry Brothers, who were overseeing the importation of liquor from their offices at Rockefeller Center’s British Empire Building…

…let’s look at an assortment of one-column ads…the center strip features an ad promoting Angna Enters’ appearance for “one evening only” at The Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street)…Enters (1897–1989) was an American dancer, mime, painter and writer who likely performed her piece Moyen Age…

FEEL THAT STRETCH…Angna Enters performing Moyen Age, circa early 1930s. (NYPL)

…we begin our cartoons with Gardner Rea, and a dedicated bell ringer…

Otto Soglow showed us a softer side of The Little King…

Peter Arno revealed the human side of the posh set…

…and we close the Dec. 2 issue with this classic from James Thurber

…on to Dec. 9, 1933, and a cover by an artist we haven’t seen in awhile, Ilonka Karasz

Dec. 9, 1933 cover by Ilonka Karasz.

…and we open with this comment by E.B. White, who along with critic Lewis Mumford had once voiced displeasure over the massive Rockefeller Center project. However, while viewing the floodlit tower by night, he decided that he would have to eat his words, observing how “the whole thing swims up tremendously into the blue roxyspheres of the sky”… 

MEA CULPA…E.B. White gained a new perspective on Rockefeller Center, pictured here in December 1933. (Wikipedia)

…we continue with White, who also offered his thoughts on something heretofore unthinkable—a proposal to start putting beer in cans… 

…it would happen about a year later…on Jan. 24, 1935, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company, in partnership with the American Can Company, delivered 2,000 cans of Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale to drinkers in Richmond, Virginia…

(seletyn.com)

…and despite White’s doubts, apparently ninety-one percent of the first drinkers of the product approved of the canned beer, although when Krueger’s launched their ad blitz they had to include instructions (and a new tool) to open the darn things…

(seletyn.com)

 * * *

Dreamscapes

Critic Lewis Mumford offered his thoughts on a recent exhibit by a young surrealist named Salvador Dali

MIDDLEBROW SURREALIST…The Triangular Hour by Salvador Dali, 1933. (wikiart.org)

…and we move along to moving pictures, where John Mosher was showing some appreciation for Joan Crawford (1906–1977) in the pre-Code film Dancing Lady

SHE HAD IT ALL…Audiences and critics alike were wowed by Joan Crawford’s performance in Dancing Lady, which featured a star-studded and eclectic cast. Clockwise from top left, Clark Gable plays a Broadway director who becomes Crawford’s love interest; Crawford displays her dancing talent in a Broadway rehearsal; Dancing Lady featured an early film appearance by The Three Stooges, pictured here with Gable and the Stooges’ leader at the time, Ted Healy; Crawford with Stooge Larry Fine—in the original film, Fine completes his jigsaw puzzle only to discover (to his disgust) that it’s a picture of Adolf Hitler. The Hitler scene was removed by the Production Code; its enforcers claimed it insulted a foreign head of state. (IMDB)

In addition to Crawford, the star-studded cast included Clark Gable, Fred Astaire (in his film debut), Franchot Tone (who was married to Crawford from 1935-39 and made seven movies with her), The Three Stooges, Nelson Eddy, and Robert Benchley, who played a reporter in the film.

Dancing Lady was the film debut of Astaire, making Crawford the first on-screen dance partner of the famed hoofer…

(IMDB)

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We begin with this full-page advertisement from Heinz, which went to great lengths and expense to make their ad appear to part of the New Yorker’s editorial content, even featuring a Perry Barlow cartoon of a boy making a mess with their product…

…another New Yorker contributor who occasionally went over to the advertising side was Alexander Woollcott, here shilling for Chrysler… 

…Kayser, purveyor of women’s hosiery and underthings, was going for some humorous holiday cheer, but the effect is a bit unsettling…

…liquor-related ads began to proliferate with the end of the Prohibition…this one from Martini & Rossi…

…Continental Distilling was hoping to grab its share of gin sales with its Dixie Belle American gin…

…from the same folks who brought us Fleishmann’s yeast (and kept The New Yorker afloat in its early lean years) came this American dry gin…

…Ruppert’s Beer was back with another full-page color ad by Hans Flato

…on to our cartoons, and Santa again, this time besieged by an aggressive tot as rendered by Helen Hokinson

Carl Rose found an unlikely customer at a newsstand…

…here is the last of four cartoons Walter Schmidt published in the New Yorker between 1931 and 1933…

Peter Arno left his glamorous world of nightclubs and high society parties to look in on life at a boarding house…

…and we close with the delightful Barbara Shermund

Next Time: Going With the Flow…

Coach Arno

Peter Arno departed from his usual one-liners in the Nov. 18, 1933 issue with a football-themed cartoon that featured a four-paragraph caption…

Nov. 18, 1933 cover by Abner Dean.

…that consisted of a pep talk from a football coach—”Old Waddy”…

…Arno had visited the football theme before, notably in this early cover from 1928…

Arno cover from Oct. 7, 1928.

…and he referenced it again in the years ahead…

HAIL VARSITY…Peter Arno delivered another, much shorter pep talk in a cartoon (left) from the Nov. 20, 1937 issue; at right, Arno’s last football-themed gag, published in The New Yorker of November 25, 1967, just three months before the cartoonist’s death. Check out one of my favorite New Yorker sites, Attempted Bloggery, for more on the 1937 cartoon.

…and one more from Arno, a classic from September 27, 1947…

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Pre-emptive Nostalgia

Although E.B. White welcomed the end of Prohibition with open arms, he also wondered what could be lost when drinkers emerged from the shadows of the speakeasy world…

THAT HOMEY FEELING…E.B. White suggested transforming the Waldorf-Astoria’s Sert Room (right) into a dingy dive to help ease drinkers back into the world of legal alcohol. (Britannica/Library of Congress)

White also referenced his many years at Tony’s, a speakeasy and Italian restaurant popular with writers and others in the New Yorker’s orbit. Tony Soma operated the speakeasy until 1929, when John D. Rockefeller bought Soma’s building along with other properties to make way for Rockefeller Center. Soma would later open another popular (and legit) restaurant and also become known as a yoga practitioner and the grandfather of actress Angelica Huston. You can read more about Soma at The Speakeasy King.

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The French Underground

Although war seemed like a distant rumor to most Americans, the French were busy preparing for that likelihood, according to this “Talk of the Town” piece attributed to Europe-based documentary filmmaker Richard de Rochemont and New Yorker stalwart James Thurber.

LOOK OUT BELOW…At left, a preserved WWII abris can be found below platforms 2 and 3 at Paris’ Gare de l’Est; right, Parisians take shelter in an abris in 1939. (Trip Adviser/Ebay)

…in his column, “Of All Things,” Howard Brubaker mused on the latest rumblings from Berlin…

DEMOCRACY IN ASHES…An arson attack on the Reichstag (home of the German parliament) on February 27, 1933 was used by Adolf Hitler as pretext to suspend civil liberties and conduct a ruthless pursuit of “communists,” both real and imagined. (Wikipedia)

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Little Women, Big Film

On the brighter side, we turn to Hollywood and John Mosher’s review of George Cukor’s critically acclaimed Little Women, which featured a cast led by Katharine Hepburn and Joan Bennett.

MEINE LIEBCHEN…Impoverished German linguist Professor Bhaer (Paul Lukas) proposes to Jo (Katharine Hepburn) in 1933’s Little Women. (IMDB)

SEW WITH JO…From left, the March family as portrayed by Jean Parker (as Beth), Joan Bennett (Amy), Spring Byington (Marmee March), Frances Dee (Meg), and Katharine Hepburn (Jo) in the George Cukor-directed Little Women. (IMDB)

…Mosher also found something to like in the MGM romance The Prizefighter and the Lady, which starred Myrna Loy along with professional boxers Max Baer, Primo Carnera, and Jack Dempsey.

THE NEW “IT” MAN was how MGM publicists promoted professional boxer Max Baer in his film debut. Top right, Baer in a scene with Myrna Loy; bottom right, professional boxer Primo Carnera with Loy and Baer—Carnera was the world heavyweight boxing champion at the time of the film’s release, however Baer would defeat the Italian giant in their real-life 1934 fight; bottom center, Baer’s son, Max Baer Jr., would also find Hollywood fame in the 1960s playing Jethro Bodine on TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies. (IMDB/Wikipedia)

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Sausage Factory

We’ve previously looked at the smashing success of Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs cartoon and its theme song, which took the country by storm in the fall of 1933. So it was no surprise that the piggies could be found in toy departments across the metropolis as the Christmas season approached. These are brief snippets from a lengthy holiday shopping column that was appended annually to Lois Long’s “On and Off The Avenue” every November and December.

HOG HAVEN…You could help the Three Little Pigs find their way to safety in this 1933 Disney board game. As in the film, the final leg of the board game’s journey has the wolf landing in a cauldron of boiling water. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Disney film also featured one of the pigs adding turpentine to the cauldron. (Ebay)

This being America in the 1930s, and early Disney, the Three Little Pigs cartoon contained an offensive scene in which the Big Bad Wolf disguises himself as a Jewish peddler, complete with a fake nose, glasses, and beard (accompanied by a fiddle, the wolf also adopts a Yiddish accent).* The character was included in the above board game:

* The film was finally edited in 1948 with a redesign of the Wolf’s disguise—as a Fuller Brush salesman.

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From Our Advertisers

We kick off our ads with more “healthy nerves” testimonials from Camel smokers, including stuntwoman/pilot Mary Wiggins

…Caron Paris also went aloft with one of their famed “En Avion” adverts…

…back on the ground, this hapless couple found themselves taking a slow car to a soaking…although wearing a fur coat while riding in a rumble seat probably wasn’t a good idea, regardless of the weather…

…for those rainy days, you could get yourself a Salisbury overcoat from Brooks Brothers…this sports-themed illustration was a new twist for the usually staid BB…

…and there’s always one or two really weird ads, like this one from The Sun newspaper that touted baloney sales at Gimbels as proof of advertising prowess…

…collectors of Art Deco are well-acquainted with the work of Hans Flato, who did a series of ads (and related merchandise) for New York-based Ruppert’s Beer in the early 1930s…Flato (1887-1950) worked in a variety of styles, but the characters he created for Ruppert’s stand out…for reasons known only to the Flato, the feet of the Ruppert’s characters were always attached to yellow disks, like toy dolls…

James Thurber was keeping busy illustrating ads aimed at folks wanting to escape the cold…

…as well as those who caught a cold in a drafty automobile…

The New Yorker announced the publication of its sixth album, with an illustration by Gluyas Williams

…while Otto Soglow, in a much smaller back-page ad, proclaimed the publication of his first The Little King collection…Soglow had just ten months left on his contract with The New Yorker—his Little King would relocate to  William Randolph Hearst’s King Features Syndicate in September 1934…

…speaking of Soglow, we kick off the cartoons with his potentate’s latest adventure…

William Steig gave us a sneeze and a chorus…

…and we close with Eli Garson, and a tale from the Almost Wanted…

Next Time: The Invisible Man…

The Radio City

The NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza have wowed visitors and performers alike for nearly 90 years. Today we look back at the remarkable foresight of the studios’ designers, who created spaces that would one day accommodate a new medium called television, which was still in its experimental stages.

Nov. 4, 1933 cover by Robert Day, who contributed a total of eight covers to The New Yorker.

However, before we jump in, let’s look at Robert Day’s cover for the Nov. 4 issue, which featured a familiar character who made his first appearance on the cover of issue #12 (May 9, 1925), and returned four years later looking much older in the dog days of August…

Cover of issue #12 (May 9, 1925) by Rea Irvin introduced our street sweeper, who returned Aug. 3, 1929 by the hand of Gardner Rea.

Day’s cover, however, was also a nod to the annual gathering of autumn leaves—an occasional cover theme that began with Peter Arno’s contribution to the Nov. 27, 1926 issue (below, left) and most recently expressed in Adrian Tomine’s cover for the Nov. 7, 2022 issue (with timely pandemic reference)…

Back to Radio City, Morris Markey recounted the technological wonders of the new NBC studios in his “A Reporter at Large” column, “Marconi Started It.” Markey noted the “fabulous quality” of the facilities, wired for the day when television would arrive. Excerpts:

GEE WHIZ…Morris Markey could be assured that some folks would be “goggled-eyed” by NBC studios, including the technophiles at Popular Mechanics. (westmb.org)

WHERE HISTORY WAS MADE…Studio 8H was the world’s largest radio studio when it opened in 1933. It would be converted for television in 1950. (westmb.org)

Markey marveled at NBC Studios’ various design innovations, including a revolving control room dubbed the “Clover Leaf”…

(Modern Mechanics, Jan. 1931)

Almost 90 years later, the studios continue to serve the broadcast needs of the 21st century, including Studio 8H…

LIVE FROM NEW YORK…Studio 8H was the world’s largest radio studio when it opened in 1933. Converted to television in 1950, it has been home to Saturday Night Live since 1975. Above, SNL stage manager Gena Rositano, in 2015. Below, longtime SNL director Don Roy King at the controls for Studio 8H, also in 2015. (Dana Edelson/NBC via Directors Guild of America)

 * * *

Leopold!

Conductor Leopold Stokowski was no stranger to Studio 8H. From 1941 to 1944 he led the NBC Symphony Orchestra in that venue. One of the leading conductors of the early and mid-20th century, Stokowski (1882–1977) began his musical career in New York City in 1905 as the organist and choir director at St. Bartholomew’s Church, but by 1915 he was conducting the famed Philadelphia Orchestra. Robert Simon reported on Stokowski’s return to New York for a performance at Carnegie Hall. A brief excerpt:

I GET AROUND…Portrait Of Leopold Stokowski by Edward Steichen, Dec. 1, 1933. Married three times and once romantically linked to Greta Garbo, he was married to wife #3, Gloria Vanderbilt, for ten years.(Condé Nast)

Stokowski had the distinct honor of being satirized in a 1949 Looney Tunes cartoon, “Long-Haired Hare,” in which Bugs Bunny disguised himself as the conductor and entered the stage to the astonished whispers of the orchestra…Leopold! Leopold!…

MAESTRO…Bugs Bunny as Stokowski in “Long-Haired Hare.”

Stokowski was no stranger to animation. The conductor appeared in silhouette in Disney’s Fantasia (1940), leading the Philadelphia Orchestra in the film’s score. He even shook hands with Mickey Mouse.

 * * *

Bigga Badda Wolfa

The New Yorker took a look at the popular records of the day, and in addition to tunes by Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallée there was yet another release of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”…Ethel Shutta was the latest of seemingly dozens of artists to cash in on the Disney hit…

I’LL HUFF AND I’LL PUFF…Those who couldn’t get enough of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” could turn to Ethel Shutta’s rendition of the hit song on Columbia records. (discogs.com)

 * * *

Page-Turner

Writer Kay Boyle wasn’t afraid of wolves or any other subject for that matter, according to book reviewer Clifton Fadiman

TOSSING A SALACIOUS SALAD…Kay Boyle, photographed by George Platt Lynes, 1941. (The Kay Boyle Papers, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University)

 * * *

A Grapeful Nation

As New Yorkers counted the days until the end of Prohibition, The New Yorker did its part to get readers back up to speed by enlisting the talents of one of the world’s great wine experts, Frank Schoonmaker, who had the enviable job of filing a series of wine reports for the magazine. His first installment of “News From the Wine Country” featured the Champagne region. Excerpts:

THAT FIZZY FEELING…Bottling the good stuff in the Champagne region, circa 1930. (wineterroirs.com)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

Christmas was just around the corner, and F.A.O. Schwarz was READY with its 64-page catalog…

…White Rock anticipated the end of Prohibition with an ad featuring a miniature colonel who apparently needed a stiff drink to prepare for his wife’s return from abroad…

…Mrs. Hamilton Fish Jr, aka Grace Chapin, was married to the New York congressman from 1920 until her death in 1960, apparently enjoying many Camels along the way…her husband would go on living another 31 years and take three more brides before expiring at age 102…

…another cautionary tale from Chase & Sanborne about the perils of undated coffee…

…and with the holidays approaching, a jolly ditty from Jones Dairy Farm, home to little piggies who merrily dash toward their inevitable slaughter…

…and we jump to another back-page ad, this from the stately Plaza, where you could get a single room for five bucks a night…

…turning to the cartoons, we find George Price hitting his stride with multiple cartoons in consecutive issues…

…and taking a look at the recent elections…

…on to James Thurber, and continuing struggles on the domestic front…

…and that brings us to our next issue…

Nov. 11, 1933 cover by Constantin Alajalov.

…in which E.B. White had a thing or two to say about the latest edition of the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden.

HORSE SENSE AND SENSIBILITY…The National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden was a major event on New York’s social calendar; top and bottom right, scenes from the 1936 show; bottom left, undated scene circa 1960. (Stills from YouTube)

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Versatile Verse

Phyllis McGinley (1905–1978) was the author of children’s books and poetry, the latter genre most notably for The New Yorker. However, she attracted a wide audience for her light verse in other publications ranging from Ladies Home Journal to The Saturday Review.

LIGHT TOUCH…Phyllis McGinley in an undated photo. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for her book Times Three—the first writer of light verse to receive the prize. (wnyc.org)

 * * *

Oil and Water

Art and architecture critic Lewis Mumford found two very different visions of America in the works of contemporaries John Marin and Edward Hopper. Marin’s watercolors were featured at An American Place, while Hopper’s oil paintings and etchings were shown down the street at the Museum of Modern Art.

SIDE BY SIDE…Lewis Mumford found different visions of New York and the world at An American Place and MoMA galleries. At left, John Marin’s watercolor From the Bridge, N.Y.C. (1933); at right, Edward Hopper’s Room in New York, also from 1933. (Artists Rights Society/Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery)

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Okay, so I’ll buy the part about PBR’s ability to soothe “jaded nerves,” but I doubt it gave this guy “fresh energy” and “a sound, healthy body”…

…After thirteen long years, winemakers emerged from their cellars to glimpse the light of a new day…

…and yes, after thirteen long years, some folks would be yearning for their DRY SACK Sherry…

…the name Elizabeth Hawes was synonymous with high fashion in the late 1920s and 1930s—she owned one of the most exclusive couture houses in New York…

…an outspoken advocate of dress reform, Hawes (1903–1971) was referred to by one historian as “the Dorothy Parker of fashion criticism.” After attacking the fashion industry with her 1938 book, Fashion Is Spinach (Hawes wrote: “I don’t know when the word fashion came into being, but it was an evil day…”), she closed her fashion house and in 1942 took a job as a machine operator at a wartime plant in New Jersey. She became a union organizer, a champion of gender equality, and a critic of American consumerism.

IN A LEAGUE OF HER OWN…Elizabeth Hawes — writer, fashion designer and political activist, poses for a photograph in 1941. (Mary Morris Lawrence)

…speaking of consumerism, ooooh look! A radio “you can slip in your pocket,” depending of course on the size of your pocket…

…transistors would not come along until the late 1950s, so the Kadette still depended on tubes, and you had to plug it in somewhere, so no running down the beach with headphones, at least for awhile…

The Kadette Junior. (radiolaguy.com)

…it must have been a rare treat to sail on a ship like the SS Santa Rosa—situated between the ship’s two funnels, the dining room had an atrium stretching up two-and-a-half decks and featured a retractable roof…

…on to more cartoons, and more George Price

…moving along, we received some big news from one of Helen Hokinson’s “girls”…

…an aside I’ve been meaning to include…in 1952, just three years after Helen Hokinson’s untimely death, a cartoonist for The Cincinnati Enquirer, Franklin Folger, debuted a cartoon called “The Girls.” The cartoon was eventually syndicated and appeared in more than 150 newspapers worldwide before Folger retired it in 1977. Perhaps I am missing something, but I cannot find a single reference to Folger’s obvious appropriation of Hokinson’s “girls”…some examples of Folger’s work from the early 1960s and another from H.H. for comparison:

…and onward to Peter Arno, and the trials of portrait artists…

…and we close with two by Barbara Shermund

…rendered in different styles…

Next Time: Coach Arno…

The Bombshell

Much like Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, Jean Harlow occupied a brief period in Hollywood history, but her star shone long after her untimely death.

Oct. 28, 1933 cover by Rea Irvin.

Adam Victor’s The Marilyn Encyclopedia draws all sorts of weird parallels between the actresses: both raised by strict Christian Scientists, both married three times, both left school at sixteen to marry their first husbands, both acted opposite Clark Gable in the last film each ever made. Most importantly, Monroe idolized Harlow, so it was no coincidence that she sported her own version of “platinum blonde” hair.

ART IMITATES LIFE…In 1958 Marilyn Monroe posed as Jean Harlow for photographer Richard Avedon in a Life magazine feature. (Flickr)

The term “Bombshell” was affixed to the 22-year-old Harlow after the 1933 film’s release, and was later used to describe Monroe and other sex symbols of the 1950s and early 60s.

Harlow’s character in Bombshell, Lola Burns, satirized the stardom years of the silent era sex symbol Clara Bow, who was director Victor Fleming’s fiancée in 1926. Although critical reviews were mostly positive, New Yorker critic John Mosher found the film “mossy with verbiage.”

TAKE A BOW, CLARA…Bombshell satirized the stardom years of silent era sex symbol Clara Bow, who was director Victor Fleming’s fiancée in 1926 (photo at left is of the couple on the set of 1926’s Mantrap); in Bombshell Jean Harlow portrayed a sex symbol who, like Bow, wanted to live a normal life. In real life, Bow made her last film in 1933 and retired to a ranch at age 28.

A STAR IS BORED…In Bombshell, movie star Lola Burns (Jean Harlow) dislikes her sexy vamp image and wants to live a normal life, but her studio publicist E. J. “Space” Hanlon (Lee Tracy) insists on feeding the press endless provocative stories about her. Clockwise, from top left: Lee Tracy and Louise Beavers in a scene with Harlow; Harlow and Una Merkel, who portrayed Lola’s assistant, Mac; Harlow in a scene with Mary Forbes, C. Aubrey Smith, and Franchot Tone; Harlow in a scene with Ruth Warren and Frank Morgan—the latter portrayed Lola’s pretentious, drunken father. (IMDB)

Harlow would die at age 26 on June 7, 1937. Her heavy drinking didn’t help, but neither did the misdiagnosis she received as her kidneys were rapidly failing. While filming Saratoga with Clark Gable, Harlow was stricken with what she believed was the flu, and her persistent stomach pain was misdiagnosed as a swollen gallbladder. Just two days before her death another doctor finally diagnosed her kidney disease, but in 1937 nothing could be done—kidney dialysis would not be available for another decade, and transplants would not be an option until the mid-1950s.

 * * *

Second City Sanctimony

The New Yorker rarely missed an opportunity to take a dig at the square-toed ways of the Second City and its flagship newspaper, the Tribune. In his “Notes and Comment,” E.B. White (who enjoyed gin martinis) found the newspaper’s sanctimonious stance tedious:

The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, aka “A Century of Progress,” received scant attention from The New Yorker, unless it provided opportunities for parody. Musicologist Sigmund Spaeth (1885-1965), well-known in the 1930s and 40s for his NBC radio programs, offered this take on the Windy City’s exposition:

WONDERS NEVER CEASE…In addition to its more high-minded attractions, the Chicago World’s Fair also featured such sideshow attractions as Ripley’s Odditorium, which featured “The Fireproof Man” among other novelties. (pdxhistory.com)

 * * *

Big, Bad Earworm

It seems quaint that nearly 90 years ago one of the most popular songs in America was “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” To Frank Sullivan, there was no escaping “that lilting tune”…

SIMPLER TIMES…”Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” was a huge hit during the second half of 1933. One of the most well-known Disney songs, it was covered by numerous artists and musical groups.

Sullivan concluded that a trip to Vladivostok might be the only way to escape the catchy melody…

Briefly jumping to the Nov. 4 issue, “The Talk of Town” took a closer look at the song and the 1933 Disney Silly Symphonies cartoon in which it was featured—Three Little Pigs. Written by Frank Churchill and Ann Ronell, the song launched a market for future Disney tunes, with Irving Berlin securing the sheet music rights over Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies. 

WE’RE IN THE MONEY…The 1933 Disney Silly Symphonies cartoon Three Little Pigs helped to launch the Disney juggernaut nearly 90 years ago.

 * * *

Polymath

Le Corbusier, aka Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (1887–1965), was known as a pioneer of modern architecture and design in the early and mid-20th century, but as this review by Lewis Mumford suggested, he was also a talented modernist painter.

WAYS OF SEEING…Le Corbusier’s early paintings followed the ideas of something he called “purism”—at left is an example from 1920, Still Life. Later on his work become more abstract, including Menace, at right, from 1938. The horse head in the painting seems to reference Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting, Guernica. (Wikipedia/Art Basel)

 * * *

Dear Papa

Following the high praise Ernest Hemingway received in 1926 for The Sun Also Rises, Dorothy Parker feared for the novelist’s next book: “You know how it is—as soon as they all start acclaiming a writer, that writer is just about to slip downward.” Seven years later Parker’s colleague Clifton Fadiman detected some slippage, finding Hemingway’s latest output a bit stale. Rather than pen a negative review, Fadiman shared his concerns by way of an open letter:

PHONING IT IN…Clifton Fadiman (right) found Ernest Hemingway’s Winner Take Nothing to be “stuck fast in yesterday.” (AP/Wikipedia/Pinterest)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

Until the 1920s all car bodies were framed in wood, preferably ash, but by the end of the 1930s all-steel car bodies became the standard…Packard made the switch beginning around 1938…

…ah, the good old days when you could smoke in the “rarefied atmosphere” of an airplane, the pilot so close by you could tap him on the shoulder…

…Brooklyn’s Hittleman-Goldenrod Brewery opened in late 1933 promising beer in the finest English tradition…sadly, it closed in 1937…

…the Waldorf-Astoria announced the re-opening of its Empire Room with entertainment by Xavier Cugat and his tango orchestra, featuring the dancer Margo…this was just the sort of “juvenile” entertainment Lois Long detested (see my previous post)…

…according to this ad, “His Lordship” drank a pot of decaf Sanka at midnight “and never winked an eye all night”…it doesn’t mention that he probably also wet the bed…

…on to our cartoons, we begin with Peter Arno and the woes of the monied classes…

…on to Helen Hokinson, and the charms of the precocious…

Gardner Rea gave us a toff absorbed in historical fiction…

Alain (aka Daniel Brustlein) offered up a flautist who found beauty in his routine life…

…and we close with Perry Barlow, and motherhood among the smart set…

Next Time: Radio City…

 

As Millions Cheer

New Yorkers bid farewell to Prohibition, repealed by the 21st Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933.

Proposed by the 72nd Congress on February 20, 1933, the 21st Amendment to end national prohibition needed ratification from at least thirty-six states—by the end of October twenty-nine had ratified the amendment, and with passage seeming imminent…

Oct. 21, 1933 cover by Harry Brown.

…Manhattan’s venerable grocer turned national wine and spirits distributor Park & Tilford began shipping tens of thousands of cases of “potables” to New York, according to “The Talk of the Town.” Excerpt:

ON THE OFF WAGON…Parched, jubilant Americans ride on carts loaded with liquor prepared for distribution at the end of Prohibition. (Still from Universal News)

Edward Angly, who at the time was a journalist at the Herald-Tribune, tempered the celebratory mood in “A Reporter at Large” by considering the supply and demand issues (and higher prices) consumers would likely face upon ratification.

In early 1934 the Washington Post reported cocktail prices ranged from twenty-five cents (roughly $5.50 today) to forty cents. Whisky by the drink was selling from fifteen cents for blends to twenty-five cents for bonded varieties. One of the “higher priced” stores quoted a price of $3.80 for a quart of Four Roses (roughly eighty bucks today) while you could grab a quart of Crab Orchard straight Bourbon whisky for $1.40.

Until supplies could satisfy demand, distillers were encouraged to perform a “modern loaves-and-fishes miracle” and rectify their small stocks by cutting them with colored and flavored straight alcohol.

YOU CAN COME OUT NOW…With the end of Prohibition, bootleggers considered other career options. (floridamemory.com)

Who else would feel the pinch? In addition to the thousands of speakeasies that would close shop, legions of bootleggers would have to go legit or find another line of vice to keep themselves fed and occupied.

…before I close out this lead story, I came across this obituary for Edward Angly in the Dec. 8, 1951 edition of The New York Times. Note that this clip also features the funeral notice for New Yorker founding editor Harold Ross.

 * * *

Name Your Fears

Irish writer and critic Ernest Boyd was for a time connected to the consular service and probably had a pretty good sense of what was to come in Europe. Turning to verse he pondered the origin of the Hitler curse.

 * * *

Fat and Happy

Premiered to record-breaking crowds at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, The Private Life of Henry VIII was a smash hit in both the UK and the US and established Charles Laughton as a box office star. Although the film played fast and loose with the historical record, it was a critical success for director/producer Alexander Korda. The New Yorker’s John Mosher was among those praising the British film.

SINKING HIS TEETH INTO A ROLE…Charles Laughton’s portrayal of Henry VIII in The Private Life of Henry VIII is credited with creating the popular image of the king as a fat, lecherous glutton. Top photo features Wendy Barrie as Jane Seymour (wife #3); below, Binnie Barnes as Katherine Howard (wife #5). (moma.org/tcm.com)

HAIL TO THE KING…Opening night in London for The Private Life of Henry VIII, Oct. 24, 1933. From left are Elsa Lanchester, who portrayed wife #4 Anne of Cleves; Merle Oberon (who portrayed wife #2 Anne Boleyn), producer/director Alexander Korda, and Charles Laughton. ( Science & Society Picture Library / National Portrait Gallery, London)

 * * *

Kid’s Stuff

In her latest “Tables for Two” column, Lois Long bemoaned the state of ballroom dancing, which seemed to be appealing more to juvenile tastes.

SUITABLE FOR ADULT AUDIENCES…Lois Long recalled the cool allure of dancers Leonora Hughes (at left, with dance partner Maurice Mouvet in 1924) and Irene Castle (in a 1929 photo). Both photographs by Edward Steichen for Vanity Fair. (Conde Nast)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

Let it pour indeed, as advertisers anticipated the end of Prohibition…

…Brooklyn-based Piel’s joined other brewers in targeting women as a new growth market, and as in previous New Yorker ads also appealed to those who fancied themselves among the smart set…

…looking for signs of optimism after four years of economic depression? Look no further than luxury shoemaker Nettleton…

…while Nettleton held steady on its prices, the makers of Steinway pianos posted this gentle reminder about rising material costs, but what can you expect if you are purchasing “The Instrument of the Immortals”…

…the Architect’s Emergency Committee continued its campaign to promote the hiring of unemployed architects…in this ad the committee went back to the profession’s ancient origins, Marcus Vitruvius’ Virtues of an Architect

…on to our cartoonists, we begin with more adventures of The Little King, courtesy Otto Soglow

William Crawford Galbraith was still stuck on his theme of seductive women either paired with sugar daddies or clueless suitors…

…speaking of clueless, James Thurber gave us this party pooper…

Gardner Rea checked the economic temperature of the upper crust…

…and we close with William Steig, and an enterprising paperboy…

Next Time: The Bombshell…

Keeping Their Cool

The heat came early to New York in June 1933, so folks flocked to air-conditioned cinemas or sought the cooling breezes of rooftop cafes and dance floors. And thanks to FDR, there was legal beer to be quaffed at various beer gardens popping up all over town.

June 24, 1933 cover by Rea Irvin. Providing a bookend to Constantin Alajalov’s June bride cover (May 27), Irvin gave us the newlyweds now contemplating a fixer-upper.

Lois Long kept her cool on the beach or at home with a cold Planters’ Punch, but one gets restless, and Ethel Waters was at the Cotton Club, so Long headed out into the night; an excerpt from her column “Tables for Two”…

STORMY WEATHER AHEAD…Ethel Waters was “tops” during a June 1933 performance at the Cotton Club, according to nightlife correspondent Lois Long. Left, Waters circa 1930. At right, the Cotton Club in the early 1930s. (IMDB/Britannica)

SHOWER THE PEOPLE…Children gather around a center stand sprinkler (connected to a fire hydrant) on a Harlem street in 1933.

POP-UP PLAYGROUND…Play street and street shower alongside the Queensboro Bridge, June 22, 1934. (NYC Municipal Archives)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

Legal beer and hot summer days combined to bring some much-needed advertising revenue to The New Yorker

…here we have dear old dad telling the young ‘uns (all in formal wear, mind you) about the good old days before Prohibition took away his favorite tipple…

…notable about the magazine’s first beer ads was the target market…this is akin to the cigarette manufacturers, who were also targeting women as a new growth market for their products…curious how this PBR ad is illustrated…is she getting ready to drink the beer, or serve it?…

…also joining the party were the folks who made mixers like White Rock mineral water…note the reference at bottom right to the anticipated repeal of the 18th Amendment…

…the purveyors of Hoffman’s ginger ale were less subtle, encouraging drinkers to mix those highballs right now

…you could enjoy that cool one while sitting in front of a Klenzair electric fan, which was probably nothing like riding a dolphin—a strange metaphor, but then again perhaps something else is being suggested here besides electric fans…

…no doubt Lois Long took in one of these breezy performances on the rooftop of the Hotel Pennsylvania…

…an evening with Rudy Vallée would have been a lot cheaper than one of these “compact” air conditioners, available to only the very wealthy…

…but you didn’t need to be J.P. Morgan to own a Lektrolite lighter, which was kind of clever…this flameless lighter contained a platinum filament that would glow hot after being lowered into reactive chemicals in the lighter’s base…

…another ad from the Architects’ Emergency Committee, which looked like something an architect would design…

…our final June 24 ad told readers about the miracle of Sanforizing, which was basically a pre-shrinking technique, like pre-washed jeans…

…we kick off our cartoons with George Price at the ball game…

Alan Dunn was in William Steig’s “Small Fry” territory with this precocious pair…

James Thurber brought us back to his delightfully strange world…

…and Whitney Darrow Jr gave us a trio at a nudist colony dressing a man with their eyes…

…we move along to July 1, 1933…

July 1, 1933 cover by Helen Hokinson.

Where in this issue we find the Nazis not keeping their cool. In an article titled “Unter Dem Hakenkreuz” (“Under the Swastika”) American journalist and activist Mary Heaton Vorse commented on the changes taking place in Berlin, where the vice, decadence and other freedoms of the Weimar years had been swept away, including women’s rights…an excerpt:

SIT UP STRAIGHT AND PROCREATE…Swastika flags hang from a Berlin building in the 1930s. In Hitler’s Germany, women of child-bearing age were expected to produce lots of babies and not much else. (collections.ushmm.org)

 * * *

Some Strings Attached

Back in the states, Alvin Johnston published the first installment of a two-part profile on John P. O’Brien (1873–1951) who served as mayor of New York from January to December 1933, the second of two short-term mayors to serve between the disgraced and deposed Jimmy Walker and the reformer Fiorello LaGuardia. Considered the last of the mayoral puppets of Tammany Hall, he was known for his brief, heartless, and clueless reign during one of the worst years of the Depression; while unemployment was at 25 percent, O’Brien was doling out relief funds to Tammany cronies. A brief excerpt (with Abe Birnbaum illustration):

A PIOUS, LABORIOUS DULLARD and “a hack given to malapropisms” is how writer George Lankevich describes John P. O’Brien. According to Lankevich, to a crowd in Harlem O’Brien proudly proclaimed, “I may be white but my heart is as black as yours.” (TIME)

 * * *

That Pepsodent Smile

The author James Norman Hall (1887–1951), known for the trilogy of novels that included Mutiny on the Bounty, offered these sobering thoughts about a famed actor he spotted on a South Pacific holiday:

IT ISN’T EASY BEING ME…Fifty-year-old Douglas Fairbanks Sr, teeth and all, was apparently looking worse for the wear when he was spotted by writer James Norman Hall in Tahiti. His glory days of the Silent Era behind him, Fairbanks would die in 1939 at age 56. (fineartamerica.com)

 * * *

More From Our Advertisers

More cool ones for those hot summer days courtesy of Schaefer…

…and Rheingold, here served by a sheepish-looking woman who doubtless wished that the tray supported champagne or cocktail glasses…and leave it to the Dutch to be one of the first countries to get their foot into the import market…when I was in college this was as good as it got, beer-wise…

Dr. Seuss again for Flit, and even though this is a cartoon, it demonstrates how in those days no one really cared if you sprayed pesticides near your breakfast, or pets, or kids…

…here’s one of just four cartoons contributed to The New Yorker in the early 1930s by Walter Schmidt

Otto Soglow’s Little King found an opportunity to stop and smell the flowers…

Mary Petty gave us two examples of fashion-conscious women…

James Thurber explored the nuances of parenting…

…and we close with George Price, master of oddities…

Next Time: The Night the Bed Fell…

Beer Thirty

There’s a good reason why Americans celebrate National Beer Day on April 7.

April 15, 1933 cover by William Steig.

It was on that day in 1933 that the Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect; after nearly 13 years of Prohibition, folks were allowed to buy and drink low-alcohol content beer. The act not only promised to wet their whistles on the hot summer days ahead, but it also signaled the eventual doom of 18th Amendment. E.B. White opened his column with musings on the Easter holiday, but soon turned his attention to the big news of the day.

THINK THIS WILL BE ENOUGH?…Workers at a New York brewery unload thousands of crates of beer, getting ready for the return of legal beer in April 1933. (allthatsinteresting.com)

FRONT PAGE NEWS…The New York Times proclaimed the return of legal beer in this April 7, 1933 edition.

BLONDE’S BOMBSHELL…While on the other side of the Lower 48, actress Jean Harlow christened the first legal bottle of beer at midnight in Los Angeles, April 6, 1933. (Los Angeles Public Library)

In his “A Reporter at Large column,” Morris Markey looked in on a former speakeasy owner who was more than happy to go legit, and who also predicted the demise of his fellows who still lingered in the underground liquor trade. An excerpt from “Now That There’s Beer”…

CHEERS!…The first truckload of beer to leave New York exits the Jacob Ruppert Brewery in New York in 1933. (allthatsinteresting.com)

The subject of Markey’s column explained why speakeasies would soon be a thing of the past. Markey also observed that theatre owners would soon feel the pinch as folks would forgo movies for summer evenings at a beer garden.

 * * *

No Laughing Matter

Writers and editors at The New Yorker did their best to keep things as light and witty as possible, but sometimes the headlines could not be ignored, and tragedy was acknowledged, albeit briefly. “The Talk of the Town” had this to say about history’s deadliest airship disaster:

NATURE’S FURY…The U.S. Navy’s 785-foot dirigible, the USS Akron, plunged into the Atlantic Ocean during a violent storm shortly after midnight on April 4, 1933, claiming the lives of 73 crewmen. Clockwise, from top left, the Akron on a routine flight; men in a rear control car; servicemen in the dirigible’s engine room; April 23, 1933 photo of wreckage recovered off the coast of New Jersey. Because the ship had no life vests and one rubber raft, only three crew members survived the disaster, which heralded the end the Navy’s dirigible fleet. (howstuffworks.com/AP/Daily Mail)

In his “Of All Things” column, Howard Brubaker had this to add:

 * * *

Alex at the Movies

It wasn’t every day you got to read a movie review by Alexander Woollcott, but he did just that in the opening lines of his “Shouts and Murmurs” column, calling Cecil B. DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross an “unpleasing mess drooled on to the brobdingnagian bib” of the director.

Woollcott, who doubtless related to Nero’s bacchanalian ways, singled out Charles Laughton’s campy performance as the Roman emperor.

ANIMAL HOUSE…Charles Laughton camped it up as the Emperor Nero in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross. (IMD

Besides Laughton’s performance, the pre-Code film is perhaps best known for Claudette Colbert’s revealing milk bath scene, which took several days to shoot—the powdered cow’s milk eventually turned sour, making it a very unpleasant experience for all involved.

IT STINKS…that was Alexander Woollcott’s assessment of The Sign of the Cross. Clockwise, from top left, studio poster for the film; Claudette Colbert’s famous bath scene; an actress portraying a Christian being thrown to the lions (as well as crocodiles and gorillas) was the famed burlesque dancer Sally Rand, who left little to the imagination in her uncredited appearance; an orgy scene. Although Paramount marketed the film to churches, it was attacked by the Catholic Legion of Decency: a re-release of the film was censored after the Hays Code went into effect in 1934—a “lesbian dance,” violent gladiator scenes and sequences with naked women being attacked by crocodiles were cut and wouldn’t be restored until a 1993 video release. (Wikipedia/IMDB)

As for film critic John Mosher, the remaining Hollywood fare was even worse—like The Sign of the Cross, these pictures used faith-based themes, a seemingly new trend in Hollywood scenarios, to poor effect.

Gabriel Over the White House starred Walter Huston as a politically corrupt president who, after a near-fatal car accident, comes under the divine power of the Archangel Gabriel and the spirit of Abraham Lincoln…

I SEE DEAD PEOPLE…Walter Huston and Karen Morley in Gabriel Over the White House. (TCM)

…the pre-Code drama Destination Unknown also summoned supernatural forces to tell the tale of a stranded ship saved by a stowaway who turns wine into water and heals a crippled man.

NEEDING A MIRACLE…Pat O’Brien and Betty Compson in Destination Unknown. (IMDB)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

Considering that Adolf Hitler gave Nazi paramilitary units control of German streets in January 1933, the words “Appeasing refuge” don’t readily come to mind…

…if you liked all things German but wanted to avoid getting a jackboot to the groin, you could remain stateside, drink some 3.2 beer, and chew on some Liederkranz…

…actually this looks more preferable, especially as rendered by fashion illustrator Leslie Saalburg

…before Zillow or Craigslist you could look for some digs in the New York American, which merged with the New York Journal in 1937…

…the makers of leaded gasoline urged on a stereotypical country doctor, even though the stork seemed to have things under control…

…on to our cartoonists, Garrett Price illustrated the limits of legal beer…

…while Chon Day explored the same problem at this tea room…

…here’s a trio of The New Yorker’s early women cartoonists…Barbara Shermund

Mary Petty

…and Alice Harvey

…and we close with Al Frueh, and some brave firefighters…

Next Time: Not Worth a Dime…

Stormy Bellwether

While legal beer dominated the headlines in the spring of 1933—a little something to cheer about in those depressed times—few seemed to notice the troubles brewing on the other side of the pond.

April 1, 1933 cover by Julian de Miskey.

Artist George Grosz (1893–1959) was not among them. A recent self-exile from his native Germany, Grosz had savagely caricatured the perversity of the bourgeois in 1920s Weimar Berlin; through his art he tried to warn fellow Germans of the horrors to come. Critic Lewis Mumford stopped in at the Raymond & Raymond galleries to check out the latest efforts of this Manhattan newcomer:

EARLY WARNING SIGNS… George Grosz’s The Pillars of Society (1926) satirized the bourgeois supporters of Fascism in post-war Germany; Grosz with friend, circa 1933. (history net.com)

Although Grosz intended to make a clean break with his past after emigrating to New York in January 1933, his work still reflected his distaste for bourgeois sensibilities…

GROSS GROSZ…In a Restaurant (circa 1933) was admired by Mumford for the tenderness of the watercolor wash that contrasted with the “grossness” of its subjects. (artnet.com)

ON THE SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK…Grosz wanted to make a clean break with his past after emigrating to New York in January 1933, but he still couldn’t help but see the hypocrisy in the faces of bourgeois Manhattanites. At left, Black & White (1933) and at right, Street Scene, Downtown Manhattan (1933). (mutual art.com/artsy.net)

…and when war raged in his homeland, Grosz returned to chronicling the perversity of the Nazi regime…

HORRORS REALIZED…Grosz’s God of War (at left, from 1940) and his 1944 oil on canvas, Cain or Hitler in Hell. (David Nolan New York)

 *  *  *

Bluenose Blues

Sadly, we are moving toward the end of the pre-Code era, and as E.B. White explained in “Notes and Comment,” the talkies were about to get a bit less talkative:

AW HECK…Dorothy Mackaill portrayed a secretary-turned-prostitute in the 1931 pre-Code Hollywood film Safe in Hell. The days were numbered for the brief period in Hollywood (roughly 1929–34) when films featured “adult” themes including sexual innuendo, mild profanity, and depictions of drug use, promiscuity and prostitution. (IMDB)

 *  *  *

From Our Advertisers

We begin with the back pages, and the latest in entertainment on Broadway…

…the makers of Cadillacs continued to promote the snob appeal of their 12- and 16-cylinder automobiles…it appears these folks are leaving an Easter service (note the doves), but whatever went on in there, they don’t seem very moved by the spirit…

…and here’s a close-up of the ad’s opening lines that suggested Cadillacs are an ideal complement to the apparel of those strutting their stuff on the Easter Parade…

…and here’s a jolly rendering for Lucky Strike by advertising illustrator John LaGatta (1894–1977)…his work was seen in many ads and in magazines during the first half of the 20th century, including twenty-two Saturday Evening Post covers…LaGatta’s style was known for its cool elegance, but I have to say this image is a bit disturbing, given that the banjo player’s fag is just inches from the woman’s eyeball…

…on to our cartoonists, we have a rare appearance by Clara Skinner (1902–1976), showing us here in the “Goings On About Town” section that John Held Jr wasn’t the only one making woodcuts…

William Steig was lost at sea…

Perry Barlow gave us this split scene (across two pages) of the challenges of mixing domestic and non-domestic life…

Otto Soglow continued to chronicle the adventures of his popular Little King…

…we haven’t seen Mary Petty in awhile, so here’s a bit of gossip…

James Thurber used a rare two-page spread of Alexander Woollcott’s “Shouts and Murmurs,” to lay out this unusual illustration…

…and Thurber again, in a more familiar vein…

…we move on April 8, 1933…

April 8, 1933 cover by Adolph K. Kronengold.

…and go straight to advertisers who were responding to the March 22 signing of the Beer and Wine Revenue Act by Franklin D. Roosevelt…the Congressional action made it permissible to sell beer as long as it was less than 3.2% alcohol…

…the makers of Rheingold beer came out of the gates with this ad showing that even elegant women could enjoy this taste of freedom…

…not completely sure, but I believe this was the first ad for Coca-Cola to appear in The New Yorker

…in those tough times the steamship lines were beginning to realize they needed to appeal to the thrifty as well as the posh…

…the style and signature of this illustration look familiar, but I can’t ID the cartoonist…nevertheless, it’s a great gag…

…on to our cartoons, we begin with this Peter Arno spoof of a series of R.J. Reynold’s Camel ads that referenced various magic tricks…

…in the same issue, just 20 pages later (p. 48) appeared one of the actual Camel ads…proof that Harold Ross would never kowtow to the advertising department—with the exception of those yeast ads for his friend and benefactor Raoul Fleischmann, who kept the magazine afloat in the early, lean years…

…we have more James Thurber, who kicked off the April 8 issue…

…and offered more hijinks inside…

William Steig gave us this strip captioned “The Spicy Story” which ran across the bottom of pages 26-27…

Gluyas Williams continued to hang out with his fellow citizens, this time in the skies above Manhattan…

Daniel ‘Alain’ Brustlein showed us one cabbie’s reaction to the cheap ways of the posh crowd…

…and we end by saying grace, with Peter Arno

Next Time: Beer Thirty…

Diary of a Lady

It was no surprise Dorothy Parker did not think much of society types, especially those characterized by extreme solipsism.

March 25, 1933 cover by Harry Brown.

Parker’s “The Diary of a Lady,” briefly excerpted here, featured entries from a diary of a fictional socialite who constantly bemoaned the minor inconveniences of her shallow existence, oblivious to the world around her.

YOU POOR THING…Dorothy Parker (left) took a dim view of the lives of “poor little rich girls” like socialite Brenda Frazier (who had a tempestuous relationship with New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno); Robert Benchley, on the other hand, took a more jolly view of human absurdity. (britannica.com/Wikipedia/theattic.space)

In contrast to Parker, Robert Benchley’s satire was usually more on the silly side, with a lot less bite. Here is an excerpt from “Home for the Holidays” (which immediately followed Parker’s piece in the magazine), in which Benchley describes the festive mood of one family during FDR’s “bank holiday”…

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On the Lighter Side

E.B. White was the unofficial aviation correspondent for The New Yorker, ever eager to go aloft in the latest contraption. In this excerpted “Talk of the Town” entry White described his adventures aboard the Goodyear blimp Resolute:

WHAT A GAS…Top photo, the Resolute at its home base, Holmes Airport (in Jackson Heights, L.I.), where E.B. White boarded his flight. As White noted, Resolute was a sister ship to kathrynsreport.com/New York Times)

And we turn again to White, this time an excerpt from his “Notes and Comment” celebrating Franklin D. Roosevelt’s planned amendment to the Volstead Act that would allow people to have a legal beer while they waited for the 21st Amendment to be ratified. White had a couple of ideas regarding locations for beer gardens. An excerpt:

BEER THIRTY…E.B. White believed the front of the internationally famous Brevoort Hotel (next to the Mark Twain House at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 9th Street) would be an ideal spot to quaff some suds. Alas, the hotel (and the Twain house) fell to the wrecking ball in 1952, replaced by the Brevoort apartments (right). (MCNY/streetwise.com)

Although the Brevoort idea didn’t pan out, White did get his wish, more or less, for a Bryant Park location, the Bryant Park Grill…

(bryantpark.org)

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Mayor McCarthy

The profile featured Stitch McCarthy, considered one the most flamboyant “street mayors” of the Lower East Side. Writing in Lapham’s Quarterly (Aug. 1, 2018), Laurie Gwen Shapiro describes McCarthy as “a five-foot-tall, cross-eyed Romanian Jew born Samuel Rothberg, always seen with a cigar in his mouth.” What Stitch lacked in height he made up for in toughness, and by his teens was as tough as nails. Shapiro writes: “At night he managed a small-time boxer who once was scheduled to fight a bantamweight named Stitch McCartney in Jersey City. As he later told the story (no doubt over and over), his client fled in fear at the sight of McCartney and the crowd booed. He went in the ring himself, flattened McCartney, and took a version of his opponent’s name for his own.”

The New Yorker profile was written by Meyer Berger, known as a master of the human interest story. Berger did a short stint at The New Yorker but for most of his career he worked for The New York Times, where he wrote a long-running column, “About New York.” Here is a very brief excerpt of the profile, with a caricature by Al Frueh.

TOUGH AS NAILS was what you became if you wanted to be one of the unofficial mayors of the Lower East Side like Stitch McCarthy, seen here in 1931. According to Laurie Gwen Shapiro, street mayors “were likable fixers who cut through red tape and might settle between fifteen and twenty neighborhood disputes a day.” Photo at left (by Berenice Abbott) is a scene from McCathy’s world—Hester Street, between Allen and Orchard Streets. (New York Public Library/Lapham’s Quarterly)

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From Our Advertisers

I would guess Dorothy Parker would have some problems with this ad, featuring society women shilling for nail polish…

…the folks at Packard went with an ad that showed the ideal customer (seated in a library, clad in smoking jacket), contemplating one of their recent ads (the same one that was featured in the Feb. 18, 1933 issue of The New Yorker

…Camel ads took on a new look thanks to the artistry of Ray Prohaska (1901–1981)…in the early 1930’s you see more use of watercolors in ads for fashion, or in this case, cigarettes…

…and Gardner Rea drew up this scene for the makers of Sanka coffee, the decaf of its day…

…which leads into the work of other New Yorker cartoonists and another master of the line drawing, Gluyas Williams

Robert Day offered a bit of understatement…

Carl Rose celebrated the arrival of legal beer…

Otto Soglow showed us how royalty responds to a noisy feline…

Kemp Starrett shopped for somp’n to read…

…and we close with Peter Arno, and an ill-timed joke, at least for one woman…

Next Time: Stormy Bellwether…