The lights of Broadway dazzled the editors of “The Talk of Town,” who commented on the changing displays that brightened The Great White Way.
Broadway hit its prime in the 1920s, when many old buildings originally used for housing or commercial interests became more valuable as places to hang brightly lit signs.
The “Talk” editors were more or less impressed by the displays. Despite their garishness, the Broadway lights were also a symbol of the youthful exuberance of Roaring Twenties New York:
The “Talk” editors sang the praises of the “aortic” Grand Central Station, which they dubbed a place of both dignity and efficiency that sorts a “surprisingly cheerful stream” of travelers with a certain rhythm, set in motion by an impassive gateman:
The Talk writers also added this lyrical observation of the traveling masses:
Talk also noted the recent travels of Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., who was an apparent heir to the Vanderbilt fortune until he shunned high society and was disinherited by his parents for becoming a journalist and newspaper publisher. The Talk segment noted that Vanderbilt had returned from travels in Europe, where among other things until he rubbed elbows the Italian dictator Mussolini and observed the curious habits of people under his fascist rule:
We close out The New Yorker’s first year with the magazine on firmer footing and many of its mainstay writers and artists firmly in place.
The Dec. 26, 1925 issue was the usual hodgepodge, but some writers did give a nod to the end of the year, including film critic Theodore Shane, who offered his list of the best ten moving pictures of 1925.
Shane’s favorite film by far was The Last Laugh, (the German title was Der letzte Mann, or The Last Man) a 1924 German film directed by F.W. Murnau and starring Emil Jannings (who would later win the first Academy Award for Best Actor in 1929). Shane referred to it as “the greatest picture ever made.” Released in the U.S. in 1925, the film was about a proud doorman who loses his job and tries to hide the fact from his friends and family. Shane usually reserved his highest praise for German cinema in his columns.
Shane’s complete list of the ten best movies of 1925:
For the worst films of the year, Shane suggested a tie between Drusilla With a Million, Lord Jim, Joanna, the Million Dollar Girl or Stella Dallas.
The New Yorker also commented on the murder of the irrepressible boxer Louis Mbarick Fall, popularly known as “Battling Siki.”
Born in Senegal, he was a light heavyweight boxer from 1912–1925, and briefly reigned as a light heavyweight champion. Known for his heavy drinking and carousing, on the night of Dec. 15, 1925, he was found dead near his 42nd Street apartment. He had been shot twice in the back at close range. He was 28.
In his column, “A Reporter at Large,” Morris Markey offered this observation on Battling Siki’s passing:
The cartoonist I. Klein, on the other hand, contributed this strange stand-alone illustration for “The Talk of the Town” section:
Also in “Talk” was this brief item about the United Fruit Company:
United Fruit would be no laughing matter three years later with the Banana Massacre, which would claim the lives of an unknown number of workers who were striking for better working conditions in Columbia.
Art critic Murdock Pemberton offered a glowing review of an exhibit at the Montross Galleries by frequent New Yorker contributor Peggy Bacon:
“Profiles” looked at Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr, “The Fifth Avenue Maverick.” William Boardman Knox wrote that the young Vanderbilt “is as alien to his blood as a marmoset to a gorilla.”
In the “The Theatre,” critic Herman J. Mankiewicz pulled no punches when he declared Gilbert Seldes’ play The Wise Crackers “the worst play of the season” (Seldes was himself a noted critic and sometime New Yorker contributor):
What’s more, the play was about a group of literate New Yorkers who gather to exchange witty barbs and sarcastically comment on the doings of the day. In other words, it was inspired by the Algonquin Round Table, which famously included Mankiewicz as a member.
Another Round Table notable was Robert Benchley, who contributed this piece for the last issue of the year:
Lois Long offered her regrets for ever bringing up the subject of “The Charleston:”
And just a few pages over, lessons were advertised for…The Charleston!
And to close, here’s a little fun with hotel inspectors, courtesy of Al Frueh: