Oh Those French

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Oct. 24 cover by Max Ree.

Apparently even Parisians have fashion lapses from time to time. Janet Flanner (Genêt) reported with some alarm a “curious phenomenon” from Paris in the Oct. 24, 1925 issue of The New Yorker.

It seemed that the otherwise fashionable Parisians were slumming it a bit and had adopted a dowdy look previously associated with residents of the British Isles. (The un-dowdy image at the top of the page is French designer Sonia Delaunay and her matching Citroen in 1925).

Apparently such pedestrian tastes had also caused a shift from formerly fashionable travel destinations on the Atlantic coasts to Mediterranean destinations:

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And to top things off, the French were agog over the latest Charlie Chaplin film, The Gold Rush (another French favorite of American clown-dom, Jerry Lewis, would be born the following year):

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But then there was another new distraction in town, the Autumn Salon:

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Pavel Tchelitchew, self-portrait, 1925 (Flickr)

Pavel Tchelitchew was known as a leader of “mystical surrealist” painting. He left his native Russia in 1920 and lived in Berlin before moving to Paris in 1923. There he became acquainted with Gertrude Stein and Edith Sitwell, the latter with whom he had a long-standing friendship.

The French were also on display in a comic piece by Theodore Shane, who also served as the magazine’s movie critic.

Shane wrote a piece titled “Fra~nce” in a style that suggested he was teaching children about France by dividing words into syllables (it was similar to a piece about Russia (“Rus~sia”) in the Aug. 29 issue, signed “Freudy”) Here’s a sample:

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A full-page ad on the Page 1 announced the “The Midnight Open” event at The 19th Hole Club in the Hotel Roosevelt, with an impressive lineup of golf professionals such as Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen and even “prominent amateurs” including Bobby Jones.

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The Roosevelt Hotel, which opened in 1924 (Expedia)

I was surprised that the annual membership fee was advertised as only $10, which would roughly translate to $135 today—a bargain compared to what it costs today to join even the lowliest golf club.

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“Talk of the Town” welcomed news from Boston that “ladies are to be allowed to smoke in the open” in that city (drawing by Johan Bull):

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In a feature “Our Collegiate Hilltop,” Elmer Davis wrote about the droves of college students who had taken over much of the available housing along Morningside, “a ghetto for the Nordic native-born.” Davis offered this lament about Columbia’s continued creep into the surrounding neighborhoods (with accompanying art by Helen Hokinson:

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“Profiles” examined the life of “A Kind Man,” William Lyon Phelps. That title was not meant as a complement from writer Waldo Frank, but rather it was his “kindness” toward authors that caused him to praise books that were not worthy of praise and made him the personification of the “most American of disasters: the disaster of Good Intentions, when they are not fortified by intellectual hardness, when they are not drained of all sentimental juices.”

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Ethel Barrymore in 1925 as Ophelia in Walter Hampden’s Production of Hamlet. (barrymorefamily.com)

In “The Theatre” Elsie Ferguson and Basil Rathbone were appearing in “The Grand Duchess and the Waiter” at the Lyceum (“an agreeable piece of work”), while Ethel Barrymore “wowed” critic Herman J. Mankiewicz with her performance as Ophelia in a revival of Hamlet at Walter Hampden’s theatre.

Or at least I think she wowed him. Mankiewicz knew and worked with the Barrymore family, and I wonder if his over-the-top style here is a wink to the fact that a 45-year-old Ethel was playing the part of a young virgin. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

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I hate to jump ahead, but in the Nov. 14 issue, “Talk of the Town” offered this humorous anecdote from one of Barrymore’s performances:

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In sporting news, John R. Tunis continued his coverage of rivalry matches staged at Yankee Stadium, this time the fiercely competitive Notre Dame vs Army matchup. Despite Notre Dame’s renown under Knute Rockne, Army was a worthy foe in the 1920s and in this particular matchup the Cadets blanked the Irish 27-0. The matchup between these teams was so popular that it was played at Yankee Stadium until 1947.

And finally, Lois Long sharpened her pencil and offered her thoughts on a dull dinner crowd at Pierre’s:

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A drawing by Peter Arno (who would marry Long in 1927) in another section of the magazine seemed to refer to Long’s lament:

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Long also offered some criticisms of a “new negro revue” that decidedly differed from the mainstream:

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A great illustration by Julian deMiskey of the Bellows exhibition at the Met:

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Next Time: Short-tempered about Temperance…

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Fighting For Respect

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Oct. 17, 1925 cover by Max Ree.

The New Yorker catered to both Anglo- and Francophile readers in its early issues, especially in advertisements, although such pretensions were also satirized in its pages. The fledgling magazine, however, took great pains to show that it was something new, modern and very American.

A case in point is the treatment of artist George Bellows, whose untimely death from appendicitis earlier that year, at the age of 43, was followed by a memorial exhibition of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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George Bellows. (Wikipedia)

Bellows was from Columbus, Ohio, and was a pupil of fellow Midwesterner Robert Henri (Nebraska) at the New York School of Art. There Bellows became closely associated with Henri’s Ashcan School, a group of artists who advocated painting contemporary American society in all its grittiness.

In Bellows The New Yorker saw a fresh voice that gave form to the roiling life of a great city (Joseph Mitchell would later do the same with words for the magazine). The magazine also used the memorial exhibit as an opportunity to chide the Metropolitan Museum and its old-fashioned, Euro-centric tastes in art.

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One of Bellow’s last and perhaps most famous paintings from 1924 depicted the famous 1923 Dempsey-Firpo fight at the Polo Grounds (Wikipedia)

In the previous week’s issue (Oct. 10), “The Talk of the Town” noted that the upcoming memorial exhibition was “not quite the usual thing” for the Met (that is, to accord such recognition to an American artist). The “lanky Midwesterner” Bellows offered something unique:

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The same column noted that Bellows possessed something of a wit:

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In the Oct. 17 issue, art critic Murdock Pemberton offered these pointed observations of the opening of the memorial exhibition:

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Murdock Pemberton (New York Observer)

Murdock Pemberton himself is something of an interesting story. He co-hosted the luncheon that started the Algonquin Round Table, and was art critic at The New Yorker for more than seven years. The dismissal of this gifted and influential writer was probably one of Harold Ross’s biggest screw-ups as editor. You can read more about Pemberton in this Jan. 24, 2012, New Yorker article by Andrea Scott, who wrote that Pemberton “may be the most interesting person you’ve never heard of.”

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Sumner, by Johan Bull

The Oct. 17 issue also included an interview with John Saxton Sumner, who headed the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, a state censorship body empowered to recommend obscenity cases to prosecutors.

Sumner was quoted as saying it “may be impossible to legislate morals into humanity. But we can legislate decent conduct into humanity.” He also offered these insights:

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As I mentioned in my last post, thanks to an ailing Babe Ruth and the slumping Yankees, college football took center stage in “Sports of the Week,” especially with “rivalry” games that drew crowds (and revenue) to Yankee Stadium. John R. Tunis continued his coverage of the sport with an account of a game between the North and the South (Penn State and Georgia Tech) in Yankee Stadium. Georgia Tech prevailed 16-7.

“Profiles” examined the life of Doctor Abraham Arden Brill, an Austrian-born psychiatrist who was the first psychoanalyst to practice in the United States and the first translator of Freud into English. It was no surprise that Brill found America ripe for this new type of therapy.

In “Tables for Two,” Lois Long pondered the popularity of “the Charleston” at smart night clubs:

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C’MON…Teens dancing the Charleston in the 1920s. (flavorwire.com)

And to close, another political ad that seems out of place in The New Yorker:

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There’s something chilling about the ad. Perhaps it’s because the unsmiling faces of Tammany Hall suggest more a rogue’s gallery than a political line-up. As we know, Walker will get elected and go down in scandal in 1932, with McKee then serving as acting mayor for remainder of Walker’s term–just three months.

Next Time: A French Twist.

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Autumn in Paris

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Oct. 10 cover by Ilonka Karasz.

The Oct. 10, 1925 issue marked Janet Flanner’s first “Paris Letter” signed under the pen name Genêt.

The column, dated Sept. 25, noted that droves of American tourists were heading for the northern ports “carrying everything away that’s portable, and the American Express is hard pressed to find crates enough to house the antiques that are on their way to make American homes beautiful.”

Flanner also noted the huge attendance numbers at the Exhibition of the Decorative Arts, but she was no fan of the teeming masses: “More than ten million people have attended which, by the way, if you have been there, you will know, has been nine million nine hundred thousand too many for comfort.”

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Postcard image of the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts. The term “Art Deco,” which would be used to describe a prevailing design style of the Jazz Age, was derived by shortening the words Arts Décoratifs. (Flickr)
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Janet “Genêt” Flanner in Paris, 1928, in a photo by Berenice Abbott. (Wikipedia)

Persistent rainstorms that ruined the French wheat crop and inflicted major damage on the wine growing regions had also dampened the spirits of the French and tourists alike, so Flanner looked forward to the Autumn Salon which was “still to come as the big Fall event.” She also noted that James Joyces’s novel Ulysses, banned in the U.S., was already into its sixth French edition.

According to Ben Yagoda (About Town: The New Yorker and the World it Made), Flanner had first come to the attention of editor Harold Ross through his wife, Jane Grant, who was a friend of Flanner’s from the Lucy Stone League, an organization that fought for women to preserve their maiden names after marriage. Flanner would go on to work for The New Yorker for the next five decades.

In “The Talk of the Town,” it was reported that Patricia Salmon was returning to Broadway “a more confident person” after enlarging her fame with performances “in the hinterland.” And in other show-biz news, the Masonic Order’s new Mecca Temple announced that it would open with an American program led by John Philip Sousa. It was also noted that the great Sousa had succumbed to the lure of jazz music:

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The Mecca after its completion in late 1924. Known today as New York City Center, it is now home to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Flamenco Festival, and the Martha Graham Dance Company among other groups. (nycago)

“Profiles” featured publisher and stage producer Horace B. Liverwright, the piece defiantly titled “One Hundred Per Cent American.” The social activist Waldo Frank (pen name “Search-light”) wrote admiringly about this vocal campaigner against strict literary censorship, and observed that Liverwright possessed the soul of a poet who does what he likes, and this is what he likes above all: “that no hour be heavy, that no day and no deal be without its radiant wings.”

Morris Markey explored the Shenandoah airship disaster in greater detail in his “In the News” section, and hoped that the Navy’s inquiry into the crash would not deter further developments in airship travel:

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In “Sports of the Week,” John R. Tunis wrote what would be the first of many articles in the magazine on college football, which featured prominently in the fall issues thanks to an ailing Babe Ruth and the slumping Yankees.

The lengthy article was an account of Nebraska’s 14-0 victory over Illinois in the Illini’s gleaming new stadium in Champaign. The match was billed as one of the major contests of the season, bringing together two All-American captains in a defensive slugfest: Red Grange of Illinois and Ed Weir of Nebraska.

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Famed Illinois running back Red Grange (left) was held scoreless by fellow All-American Ed Weir and his Nebraska Cornhuskers in a much ballyhooed matchup of 1925.

Next time: Ode to a Real American Artist…

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The Eyes of Lois Long

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Oct. 3 cover by Barbara Shermund.

At an age when most students are barely out of college (23), Lois Long was emerging as one of The New Yorker’s most prolific contributors and a prominent voice of Roaring Twenties New York.

The Oct. 3, 1925 issue not only saw her continuing coverage of night life in “Tables for Two” (which she signed under the pen name “Lipstick”), but also the introduction of her column, “Fifth Avenue” (which she signed L.L.), that would further define her voice at the magazine for years to come.

And The New Yorker wasn’t even her first professional stint as a writer.

Beginning in 1922, Long wrote for both Vanity Fair and Vogue before she caught the eye of New Yorker editor Harold Ross, who hired her to take over the “When Nights Are Bold” column from Charles Baskerville. She later made it her own by changing the name to “Tables for Two.”

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Long in the 1920s. Photo from Andrea Long Bush. (Long’s grandchild)

With the Oct. 3 issue she doubled her workload as both an observer of night life and the fashion scene.

According to Judith Yaross Lee’s Defining New Yorker Humor, the “Fifth Avenue” column took a very different tack from the magazine’s original “Where to Shop” listings that were merely classified ads.

Yaross writes that Long’s first “Fifth Avenue” column relied on “the conceit of her friend Jerry, ‘boarding school roommate, perennial flapper, and graceful idler’ (evidently the department’s target reader)…”

The column would soon be renamed “On and Off the Avenue,” and Long would officially assume the title of fashion editor in 1927.

Her obituary in The New York Times (p. 36, July 31, 1974) quoted New Yorker editor William Shawn, who declared that “Lois Long invented fashion criticism,” and that Long “was the first American fashion critic to approach fashion as an art and to criticize women’s clothes with independence, intelligence, humor and literary style.” The article noted that her task was particularly challenging since The New Yorker did not publish photographs “and more than other writers she had to turn to words alone to describe clothes in detail.”

You can read Long’s first “Fifth Avenue” column, featuring her friend, “Jerry,” here in its entirety:

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In the same issue, just three pages back, in “Tables for Two,” Long shared these insights on the opening of the Club Mirador:

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And she pulled no punches in this erratum item that appeared below this Johan Bull illustration:

Screenshot 2015-07-06 16.59.52And in “The Talk of the Town,” Bull provided this illustration depicting the flare-up of Tong Wars among New York’s Chinese immigrant population. The main consequence of murderous assault seems to be a patron’s ruined shirt:

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“Profiles” featured Reinald Werrenrath, “A New Yorker Who Sings.” Described by writer Clare Peeler as someone who “looks New York,” the baritone opera singer also recorded popular songs and was a regular on early radio broadcasts.

In “Critique” George S. Kaufman’s The Butter and Egg Man received a positive review by Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote that the play was “not for the artistically inclined,” but adds:

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Gregory Kelly as Peter Jones in The Butter and Egg Man (1925). The Broadway play was a resounding success. Sadly, the beloved Kelly would die of a heart attack in 1927 (at age 36) while on tour with the play. (Museum of the City of New York)

By the way, the queen of New York nightlife, “Texas” Guinan, has been attributed as the source of the term “Butter and Egg Man” to generally describe generous souls (according to a “Talk” item in the Oct. 31 issue). At the movies, Theodore Shane found little to amuse as he panned The Tower of Lies (“colorless and loose-jointed”). Rather than capturing a Scandanavian setting, Shane wrote that the film “reeks of the studio scenario shops and the pleasant fields of Long Island.”

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BIG BROTHER OF LITTLE TRAMP Sydney Chaplin performed in 37 films, including The Man on the Box (1925) with actress Alice Calhoun (above). He was Charlie Chaplin’s older brother and business manager. (Ohio State University)

He also took Sydney Chaplin’s attempts at humor to task in the film, The Man on the Box, including his tired “male dressing up as a woman” gag.

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“Talk” also commented on changing face of New York City, including plans for a new Ziegfeld theatre as part of a “regeneration” of Columbus Circle:

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According to performingartsarchive.com, Florenz Ziegfeld took over Columbus Circle’s Cosmopolitan theatre in 1925 and updated the interior. The building originally opened in 1903 as the Majestic (where the first musical stage version of The Wizard of Oz and the play Pygmallian debuted). It was briefly a burlesque house in the early 1920s (Minksy’s Park Music Hall) until William Randolph Hearst acquired it as a main venue for his Cosmopolitan Pictures company.

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Postcard image of Columbus Circle, circa 1925. The Cosmopolitan is at far lower right. (NYC Architecture)

Under Ziegfeld, the Cosmopolitan returned to “legitimate” theater, but in 1926 he gave it up to focus on the construction of his self-named theatre at Sixth Avenue and 54th Street. The Cosmopolitan (renamed the International in 1944) would continue to serve both as a venue for movies and live performances until 1949, when it was acquired by NBC as a television studio for the TV program Your Show of Shows, featuring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. NBC left the International in 1954, and not long afterwards, the former theatre, along with most of its neighbors on Columbus Circle, was razed to make way for the New York Convention Center.

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The long-gone Majestic, later Cosmopolitan theatre on Columbus Circle. (performingartsarchive.com)

Also from this issue, Al Frueh’s take on a “Busy Business Man’s Day:”

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Hans Stengel delivered “Sermons on Sin”…

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And lest we doubt the snob appeal of our fledgling magazine, check out this advertisement from the Mayfair House assuring that tenants will be kept a safe distance from the proles.

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And to close, a back page ad for the Restaurant Crillon, featuring the unmistakable graphic innovation of Winold Reiss:

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Next time: A Letter From Genêt…

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The Maddest Week

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Sept. 26 cover by Rea Irvin.

“The maddest week any of us remembers in the theatre,” observed “The Talk of the Town” for Sept. 26, 1925, as The Green Hat (the play based on Michael Arlen’s popular novel) was creating a riotous rush for tickets on The Great White Way.

Talk described The Green Hat as “a play so eagerly sought after that even in a week providing 12 openings, speculators were offering five hundred dollars for twenty tickets” ($500 then is roughly equivalent to $6,800 today).

It was noted that despite the openings of such plays as The Vortex and No, No Nanette, The Green Hat was consuming most of the attention, with the opening attracting “every bigwig of Broadway” including Irving Berlin.

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Michael Arlen in 1925 (Wall Street Journal)

One notable guest, however, did not arrive until after the second act: Michael Arlen himself. It was said that Arlen had never seen a complete performance of his play, due to “nervousness.”

Perhaps there was a good reason for his butterflies.

Later in the “Critique” section, Herman J. Mankiewicz (H.J.M.) pronounced The Green Hat as “unreal and consequently uninteresting…a grand sentimental debauch for the romantically inclined. It has no place at all in the discussion of the Higher Theatre…”

Mankiewicz observed that the acting itself was passable, with Katherine Cornell delivering an “excellent, though scarcely ideal portrayal of Iris March,” but she was “showing the strains of playing a role that has no more grasp on life than a little boy’s daydream that the Giants will, after all, snatch the pennant from Pittsburgh.”

A publicity photo from the play:

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Broadway newcomer Leslie Howard embraces Katherine Cornell in this publicity photo from The Green Hat. (inafferrabileleslie)

And Ralph Barton’s unique take on the whole thing:

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Mankiewicz also reviewed the play, Arms and the Man, but his focus was not the play but rather an annoying patron in seat T-112:

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Although the Scopes Trial was long over, The New Yorker still found opportunities to take potshots at the backwardness and Babbittry of folks in the hinterlands:

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Talk also continued to help its readers with regular updates on the bootleg liquor trade:

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An article titled “Mid-Town” celebrated the 100th anniversary of 42nd Street. Henry Collins Brown wrote that 100 years had changed the street “from a dusty country lane to a self-contained metropolis. The brownstone of its middle age has given way to granite and marble. It has seen a railroad dynasty rise and has written its epitaph on a narrow, short avenue.”

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A 42nd Street landmark: Grand Central Station in the 1920s (wirednewyork)

Then Brown concluded with these prescient thoughts:

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An illustrated tribute (by Rea Irvin) to 42nd Street appeared in the “Talk” section:

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In “Profiles,” Jo Swerling looked at the life of comedian Louis Josephs, known to all as Joe Frisco, a mainstay on the vaudeville circuit in the 1920s and 1930s.

Swerling wrote admiringly that Frisco—who was from Dubuque, Iowa, of all places—was “the comedian’s comic.”

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Joe Frisco (findagrave.com)

Considered one of the fastest wits in the history of comedy, Frisco was a famous stutterer but could recite his scripted dialogue unimpaired. According to Wikipedia, he was first known for his popular jazz dance act–called by some the “Jewish Charleston”– which was a choreographed series of shuffles, camel walks and turns. He usually danced in a derby hat with a king-sized cigar in his mouth, often performing in front of beautiful women “smoking” prop cigars.

His most famous line was uttered while in a New York hotel. A clerk learned that Frisco had a guest in a room that was only reserved for one occupant, so he called up to the room and said, “Mr. Frisco, we understand you have a young lady in your room.” Frisco replied, “T-t-t-then send up another G-g-gideon B-b-bible, please.”

With vaudeville in decline, in the 1940s Frisco moved to Hollywood and appeared in several low-budget movies. A compulsive gambler who was constantly in debt, he died penniless in Los Angeles in 1958.

In “Motion Pictures,” Harold Lloyd’s “college comedy,” The Freshman, which Theodore Shane wrote was filled with “glorious laughter.” Shane also noted that another Rin Tin Tin picture was appearing at Warner’s Theatre (Below the Line), and “as usual our hound hero is enlisted on the side of virtue.”

FOLLIES OF YOUTH…Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston in The Freshman. (avclub.com)

An interesting ad near the back of the magazine (and the book reviews) offered readers an opportunity to sample a new, unnamed work by James Joyce:

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What this ad described was an avant-garde work by Joyce that would appear in serialized form until it was finally published in its entirety in 1939 as Finnegans Wake.

In other book-related matters, this illustration by Herb Roth appeared in the pages of the “Critique” section:

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Anne Margaret Daniel wrote about this “Suggested Bookplate” in her May 1, 2013 blog for the Huffington Post, and made this observation:

“Be Your Age” shows how fully the magazine at the pulse of the Jazz Age registered both Fitzgerald’s personification of the decade, in many readers’ eyes, as well as the dangers he had foretold in The Beautiful and Damned, and again in Gatsby of decadence and of the coming Crash. It’s a very double-edged image of festivity and fatality, just like so many of the images of people at parties that end in disasters in Fitzgerald’s best-known, and best-loved, novel.

Charles Baskerville (Top Hat) continued to report from the City of Lights in his “Paris Letter,” mainly focusing on the doings of American tourists. No offense to the urbane and talented Baskerville (also a great illustrator), but I am looking forward to Janet Flanner’s (a.k.a. Genêt) take on Paris in future issues (Does anyone out there know if she wrote the unsigned “Paris Letter” in the Sept. 5 issue?).

The issue featured a rather faded-looking movie ad for the back cover:

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And a still from the film on which the drawing is no doubt based:

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Tyrone Power Sr. and Greta Nissen in The Wanderer (1925) (Sad Hill Archive)

Next Time: Lois Long’s Fifth Avenue…

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Amateur Beauty

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Cover for Sept. 19 by Max Ree.

It was a busy week for the Sept. 19 issue of The New Yorker. “The Talk of the Town” reported that ‘amateur beauties” at the Atlantic City Beauty Pageant (known today as the Miss America Pageant) were “protesting against the presence of professional sisters in the contest.” Talk then posed this question:

“Is beauty, one wondered, ever amateur? Is it not the most professional of all professional matters? To a man it would seem so. But women may know better. And if there is a distinction—if we are to have amateur and professional beauties—why should not the Atlantic City promoters take a leaf from golf’s book and hold an open championship, wherein the two classes may meet?

Talk concluded:

The winner of last year’s beauty contest, Miss Ruth Malcomson, tells how she won it in a recent issue of Liberty; and from these writings we leap hastily to the conclusion that the very beautiful are also very very simple.

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Ruth Malcomson, Miss America 1924. (Vintage Everyday)

“Talk” was right about Ruth Malcomson, who was just 18 when she won the title. A native of Philadelphia, she defeated 85 fellow contestants including incumbent Mary Campbell, who was seeking her third consecutive crown. At the time the contest was only in its fourth year, and the winner was called “The Golden Mermaid.”

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Malcomson crowned “The Golden Mermaid,” Miss America 1924

Malcomson was among the critics of the “professional” contestants. According to her obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 28, 1988) Malcomson stated in 1925 that “The pageant now has become nothing but a commercial proposition to exploit the beauties who make their living from their good looks. What chance has an ordinary girl, untrained, to win a contest in which girls who have been trained to make the most of their beauty are competing?”

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Ninety-one years later…Miss New York Kira Kazantsev crowned Miss America 2015. (The Blaze)

In her Liberty Magazine interview, she also blasted women’s groups for berating her involvement in the competition.

Malcomson hinted that the women’s groups were exploiting her, not the pageant (yes, there is nothing new under the sun…).

True to her word, Malcomson married an unassuming Carl Schaubel in 1931 and returned to a quiet, simple life in suburban Philadelphia.

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Standing next to the Rickenbacker car she won as Miss America in 1924, Ruth Malcomson playfully spars with World Heavyweight Champion boxer Jack Dempsey. (Vintage Everyday)

In other “Talk” items, the “No Smoking” rule at the public library was challenged, and arguments were made for special smoking rooms that could be reserved for writers. The column also offered comment on the growing popularity of tennis as a professional spectator sport, rather than merely a side activity for a society weekend:

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“Profiles” turned its attention to bodybuilder and publisher Bernarr McFadden (featured in an earlier post in this blog). McFadden was always at the cutting-edge of scandal, whether for the nearly nude photos featured in his Physical Culture Magazine, or for the celebrity scandal and sensational crime reported in his Evening Graphic.

In his essay “Murder As Bad Art,” Waldo Frank pondered America’s high homicide rate, and suggested that murder is an expedient means toward an end for the impatient American. An excerpt, with artwork by Helen Hokinson:

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Willa Cather (Nebraska History)

In “Books,” Harry Este Dounce offered a lengthy, thoughtful and positive review of Willa Cather’s latest novel, The Professor’s House (my favorite by Cather), and likened its tone to an Ibsen play. Cather would continue to receive praise from New Yorker critics throughout the remainder of her career.

In “Sports Of The Week” John Tunis offered extensive coverage of the Davis Cup matches, and noted that American star Bill Tilden was hurt and was “far from the Tilden of old.” There were rumors that Tilden was determined to throw his match with French tennis champion Jean Borotra. Tunis wrote that he had his suspicions, but offered that perhaps Tilden was playing carelessly as he had done before “with other less celebrated opponents.”

And Lois Long offered her frank opinions on two New York hotspots, the 45th Street Yacht Club and the Owl Club at 125 East 45th:

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The Yacht Club building today (erbology.com)

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And another ad courtesy of Raoul Fleischmann, with testimonials from a man and two women who credit Fleischmann yeast with curing them of boils, constipation and “bilous” attacks:

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Well, at least advertising revenue is up, but this ad seems out of place in a magazine like The New Yorker:

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Culkin was a Tammany Hall politician who would serve as county sheriff from 1926 to 1929. He was later indicted for embezzling interest money from the sheriff’s office, part of the whole mess that brought down Mayor Jimmy Walker (we will explore that later, I am sure).

Now, for a couple of cartoons by I. Klein and Johann Bull, featured on facing pages, that illustrate two very different aspects of New York life in the 1920s:

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Next time: Fall fashions!

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Lighter Than Air

The New Yorker was launched as a sophisticated, funny, urbane weekly, so it’s always interesting to see how the magazine will respond to a national tragedy.

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Sept. 12, 1925 cover by Rea Irvin, depicting plutocrats on a Merry-Go-Round.

For example, the Sept. 12, 1925 “Talk of the Town” featured a brief item titled “Zachary Lansdowne.” It opens with a paragraph describing the lieutenant commander’s demeanor and character:

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Then it becomes apparent that this is a eulogy of sorts, since Lansdowne was the pilot of the American dirigible S.S. Shenandoah:

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Built in 1922, the S.S. Shenandoah was the first of four U.S. Navy airships. On Sept. 2, 1925, it departed on a promotional flight that would include flyovers of 40 cities and visits to state fairs. While passing through thunderstorms over Ohio on the morning of September 3, the Shenandoah was caught in a violent updraft that carried it beyond the pressure limits of its helium gas bags. It was torn apart in the turbulence and crashed in several pieces. Fourteen of Shenandoah‍ ’ s crew, including Commander Lansdowne, were killed. Amazingly, there were 29 survivors who succeeded in riding three sections of the airship to earth.

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Wreck of the Shenandoah. The front section rests in a field near Caldwell, Ohio. (Wikipedia)

After a lean summer, advertising in The New Yorker picked up dramatically, with the opening spread for the Sept. 12 issue featuring full-page ads by The Roosevelt Hotel and the French fashion house Paul Poiret:

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This infusion of advertising was largely the result of a big promotional push orchestrated by John Hanrahan, considered one of the most gifted writers of publisher promotions. The magazine’s major (and really only) investor, Raoul Fleischmann, brought Hanrahan on board to address the magazine’s dearth of advertising, a move that was much to the dislike of the acerbic Harold Ross.

The trials of starting a new magazine were not lost on Ross, as was evidenced in this Newsbreak on page 13:

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But Ross knew that the ad push helped the bottom line, and he did his part to draw new talent to the magazine and improve its overall quality.

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Ingersoll in the 1940s (baseball-fever.com)

New talent included Ralph Ingersoll, who joined the magazine as managing editor in the summer of 1925. Ingersoll went to work giving the magazine a “voice,” especially in the rather weak and unfocused “Talk of the Town” section.

After suffering Ross-induced burnout in 1930, Ingersoll would go on to serve as a managing editor of Time-Life Publications, and would later found the short-lived, left-wing daily newspaper, PM.

That summer Ross also brought on Katharine Angell (later Katharine White) as a part-time reader of manuscripts, but almost immediately she became a full-time employee and was soon involved in every aspect of the magazine.

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Katherine Angell (Wikipedia)

She is often credited with the magazine’s maturity and its sophisticated taste and style. It was through Angell that Ross would meet and hire both E.B. White (who would later marry Angell) and James Thurber.

In the “Profiles’ Section, Murdock Pemberton took a look at the challenges facing Richard Bach in his attempts to promote the arts to business-minded New Yorkers. Bach was an “Associate in Industrial Arts” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today, merchandise based on art museum collections is a ubiquitous practice, but in 1925 Bach’s job was viewed as somewhat distasteful:

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Morris Markey (“In The News”) tried to make sense of the continued enforcement of Prohibition, and seemed to conclude that it originated in Puritan resentment in the Midwest, and would continue to be enforced according to regional customs and strictures:

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And true to form, New Yorker film critic Theodore Shane panned a movie that today is considered a classic of the silent era:

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UM, AWKWARD…Theodore Shane called Phantom of the Opera “Grand Guignol in imitation of Poe with a generous smear of Laemmle hokum”…in this scene, Erik, The Phantom (Lon Chaney) woos Christine Daaé (Mary Philbin) (Wikipedia)

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With this issue Lois Long retired “When Nights Are Bold” (a column on local nightlife she inherited from Charles Baskerville) and introduced us to a renamed column, “Tables For Two.” She opened with a description of a police raid on a on old barroom where she had been apparently enjoying a nice beefsteak. She then abandoned the “slums” for the Plaza Hotel, where she spied none other than Charlie Chaplin and Adolph Menjou:

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Ads return to the back cover, an indication that things are picking up:

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The poster above was created by American illustrator Rose O’Neill, who is best known as the creator of the popular Kewpie comic characters in 1909. The wildly popular Kewpies were later produced as dolls, and became one of the first mass-marketed toys in America. Raised in rural Nebraska, O’Neill was active in the women’s suffrage movement and at one point was the highest-paid female illustrator in the world.

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Rose O’Neill in 1907, and her famous creation (Wikipedia)

On the back cover, we are treated to some more great illustrations by artist Einar Nerman in this ad from Doubleday:

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And a whimsey from Julian de Miskey:

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Next time: Signs of Autumn…

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