One of the strangest things about the fall 1926 issues of The New Yorker is the almost complete absence of baseball coverage, even though the 1926 Yankees had turned things around from an abysmal 1925 season and found themselves in the 1926 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Yankee’s star Babe Ruth had recovered his health from the previous season and played exceptional all-around baseball in 1926, even setting a World Series record of three homers in the fourth game. According to (now disputed) newspaper reports at the time, Ruth had promised a sickly boy named Johnny Sylvester that he would hit a home run for him in Game 4. The papers reported that after Ruth’s three-homers, the boy’s condition miraculously improved.
The Yankees would lose the series in seven games (it would be the first of the Cardinals’ 11 WS championships), but nevertheless the season represented a dramatic turnaround for the team.
But The New Yorker was obsessed with college football, mostly Ivy League contests and the exploits of Knute Rockne and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Sportswriter John Tunis cranked out lengthy accounts of football games, including the Princeton-Yale contest covered in the Nov. 20, 1926 issue.
The same issue also included an article by Herbert Reed, who wrote about Notre Dame’s victory over Army at Yankee Stadium and proclaimed the Fighting Irish to be the greatest team in the country.
The New Yorker caught the Notre Dame bug the previous season. When attendance dropped at Yankee Stadium due to an ailing Babe Ruth and his team’s losing record, college football took center stage at the stadium that fall, with the fiercely competitive Notre Dame–Army game the marquee match-up (the rivals would continue their annual meeting at Yankee Stadium until 1947).
The “other” game–professional football–was still in its infancy, and the editors of “The Talk of Town” made it clear that the college atmosphere was more to their liking. It is interesting that even today when fans compare college to pro football, the same observations are made:
As for other sports, The New Yorker also offered extensive coverage of tennis, golf, and polo in its issues. And there would also be rowing, boat and auto racing, and steeplechase events such as National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. An advertisement promoting that event appeared on the inside back cover:
The editors of “Talk of the Town” continued their sad refrain on the city’s changing landscape, the wrecking ball this visiting Gramercy Park:
And to close, this terrific advertisment for the Greenwich Village Inn, illustrated by Hans Flato:
Silent film star (and sometime French “noble”) Gloria Swanson was back in the States after a summer sojourn at her Paris residence.
“The Talk of the Town” reported that she had arrived on the steamer Paris, with the great Polish pianist and statesman Jan Paderewski in tow…
Johan Bull’s take on Swanson’s grand arrival with Paderewski, who was much decorated as both a statesman and artist:
The New Yorker made light of the fact that Swanson assumed a rather regal bearing not only as a famous film star but also as the new wife of French aristocrat Henri, Marquis de la Falaise de la Coudraye, her third husband. In his column, “Of All Things,” Howard Brubaker added this swipe at the Swanson’s pretensions to royalty:
Although a marquis and member of the famous Hennessy Cognac family, Henri was not wealthy and worked for a living. He met Swanson when he was hired to be her assistant and interpreter during the filming of Madame Sans-Gêne (1925) in France. The match of a Hollywood star with European nobility made the marriage a global sensation.
The marriage ended in divorce in 1930. According to Wikipedia, (citing two books on the subject), Swanson had an affair with Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. for several years during her marriage to Henri:
Henri became a film executive representing Pathé (USA) in France through Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., who was running the studio. Many now assume he was given the position, which kept him in France for ten months a year, to simply keep him (Henri) out of the way…(Kennedy) became her business partner and their relationship was an open secret in Hollywood. He took over all of her personal and business affairs and was supposed to make her millions. Unfortunately, Kennedy left her after the disastrous “Queen Kelly” and her finances were in worse shape than when he came into her life.
In another Talk item, the Sixth Avenue Elevated rail line continued to serve as a “blot” upon the city of New York:
According to a Wikipedia, the old Sixth Avenue El (constructed during the 1870s) was notoriously noisy, made buildings shake, and bombarded pedestrians underneath with dropping ash, oil, and cinders. Eventually, a coalition of commercial establishments and building owners would stage a successful campaign to have the El removed because it was hurting business and property values. It would be razed in 1939 and replaced by the underground IND Sixth Avenue Line.
The New Yorker also featured a lengthy interview with Emory Buckner (conducted by Morris Markey), in which the New York District Attorney discussed his approach to Prohibition enforcement, including the padlocking of restaurants and clubs found to be serving alcohol. In a surprisingly frank interview, Buckner said his zealous crusade had nothing to do with moral conviction:
Buckner also admitted that the government wasn’t making a serious effort to enforce Prohibition (e.g. low salaries for agents), and if it wasn’t going to make the effort then the law should be repealed. Markey concluded his article with words of surprising admiration for a man who had been so thoroughly excoriated in previous issues of The New Yorker.
In other items, theatre critic Herman J. Mankiewicz stepped out of the “Critique” section to write about his experience travelling by train to a football game. He found the whole spectacle (especially the coonskin coat-clad fans) wanting.
Waldo Frank contributed a profile of the popular poet Carl Sandburg, whom he described as moving “through the Machine of our world” with “a peasant’s mind.” Frank used the term not necessarily as a criticism but as a way to describe Sandburg’s Midwestern simplicity. However, a drawing by James House Jr. that accompanied the article depicted Sandburg not as a man of letters, but more like some dim-witted forebear of Homer Simpson:
The actor Leslie Howard contributed another humorous piece to The New Yorker titled “Such is Fame,” accompanied by this Julian de Miskey illustration:
Theodore Shane reported in “Motion Pictures” that Rudolph Valentino appeared in person at the opening of his new film, The Eagle. Known for his aversion to public appearances, Valentino handled the occasion with a silent flourish:
At the end of his column Shane included this exchange with novelist and playwright Edna Ferber, who was also one of the regular wits at the Algonquin Round Table:
In “Tables for Two,” Lois Long wrote about the opening of the Nineteenth Hole Club at the Roosevelt Hotel, and noted that the putting greens on either side of the dance floor offered “additional uplift” to short skirts worn by some female patrons:
She closed her column with this observation and a “warning” about “Lipstick” imposters:
This was a familiar jest by Lois Long in her “Tables for Two” column–describing herself as short and squat–since most readers did not know her true identity or appearance, which was quite the opposite.
In Long’s other column, “On And Off The Avenue,” she offered this advice to women who were fashion-conscious but also thrifty:
The woes of Prohibition were acutely felt by the readership of The New Yorker. The magazine responded in kind with its continued criticism of the law’s enforcement and particularly the tactics of Manhattan District Attorney Emory C. Buckner, whose agents continued to padlock restaurants and clubs suspected of selling alcohol.
The New Yorker previously called the padlocking tactic a “promotional stunt” that would ultimately backfire (I wrote about this in a previous blog post last March).
Both the “The Talk of the Town” and “Tables for Two” took aim at Buckner this time around. “Talk” led with this item, accompanied by the art of Johan Bull:
“Talk” also made a call to action by “men of virtue:”
Heck with statements. Lois Long just wanted to have some fun, and led her column, “Tables for Two,” with her own attack on Buckner and on the “stupidity” of establishments that were closed by Buckner’s agents (I include art that accompanied the column by Frank McIntosh–at least that is what I think the “FM” stands for; if I am in error, someone please correct me!):
In a previous column (Oct. 17), Long pondered the popularity of a new dance, the “Charleston.” She closed her Oct. 31 column with “telegrams” from exemplary colleges in answer to the query: “Is the Charleston being done at college dances?”
“W.J. Henderson wrote a lengthy article about the upcoming opera season at the Metropolitan Opera (it was opening with La Gioconda), and recalled the days after World War I when the once-popular German singers suddenly grew scarce on the American stage.
According to Henderson, this led to a general falling off of quality in the performances, a situation made even worse by the absence of the late, great Enrico Caruso on the Metropolitan’s stage.
In other items, John Tunis wrote about Illinois All-American halfback Red Grange in “Profiles,” calling him “a presentable youth of twenty-two…well-groomed, he would pass anywhere—even in the movies—for a clean type of American manhood.”
Tunis also noted that Grange had been offered a “half a million” to star in movies, and that professional football was ready to offer him a sum “that would cause even the once-mighty Ruth to blanch.” Grange, known as “The Galloping Ghost,” would later join the Chicago Bears and help to legitimize the National Football League (NFL).
The young actor Leslie Howard, who was appearing on Broadway in Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat, wrote a humorous account of theatre life in “The Intimate Diary of An Opening Night.”
It was one of seven articles on the acting life that Howard (perhaps best known for his role as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind) would write for The New Yorker between 1925 and 1927.
For the record, I include Howard’s first New Yorker article here:
“Motion Pictures” looked at Buster Keaton’s new film, Go West…
Theodore Shane wrote that what at first seemed to be a real weeper…
…turned into a comic romp thanks to the introduction of the “sad-eyed cow…”
And finally, in keeping with the Prohibition theme, here is a center-spread cartoon by Rea Irvin that seemed to depict the results of consuming too much bootleg booze:
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:
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):
But then there was another new distraction in town, the Autumn Salon:
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:
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.
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.
“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):
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:
“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.”
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:
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:
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:
A drawing by Peter Arno (who would marry Long in 1927) in another section of the magazine seemed to refer to Long’s lament:
Long also offered some criticisms of a “new negro revue” that decidedly differed from the mainstream:
A great illustration by Julian deMiskey of the Bellows exhibition at the Met:
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.”
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:
“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:
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.