A Joycean Odyssey

Above, James Joyce and his longtime partner Nora Barnacle, in Zurich, 1930. They would marry the following year when Joyce established residency in the UK. (SUNY Buffalo)

It began 103 years ago when the American literary magazine The Little Review published its latest installment of James Joyce’s landmark novel Ulysses—a chapter that featured an account of a wanker on a beach.

Jan. 20, 1934 cover by Adolph K. Kronengold.

More specifically, the passage described the novel’s main character, Leopold Bloom, pleasuring himself while gazing at a teenage girl. It didn’t take long for the pearl-clutchers at the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice to go after the editors of The Little Review, who were ultimately fined for obscenity and banned from publishing the remainder of the novel, which, by the way, Joyce had structured along the lines of Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey.

Scenes in the novel that frankly described sexual acts and mocked rituals of the Catholic Church kept the book off American shelves until 1934, when District Judge John M. Woolsey ruled that the book was neither pornographic nor obscene. One wonders if Judge Woolsey took a cue from the end of Prohibition.

Lovers of literature, including New Yorker book reviewer Clifton Fadiman, rejoiced at the judge’s decision. We skip ahead to the Jan. 27 issue for Fadiman’s thoughts on the matter:

DUBLINER…James Joyce in 1928, as photographed by Berenice Abbott; announcement by Shakespeare & Company (Paris) of the first publication of Ulysses, 1921; cover of the American first edition, 1934, with Ernst Reichl’s “calmly audacious” jacket design. (Wikipedia/Abe Books)

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Pleasurable Diversion

We now turn to the Jan. 20 issue, in which Robert Benchley concluded his stage reviews with a generous nod to his dear friend and colleague, Dorothy Parker, whose short stories were being performed as sketches at the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel, the first fully-equipped music and arts residential center in the U.S.

INCIDENTAL ATTRACTION…Stories from Dorothy Parker’s 1933 collection After Such Pleasures were performed as sketches at the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel; at left, Parker with her husband, actor/author Alan Campbell. (Pinterest/Biblio)

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Une Séduction Américaine

Janet Flanner began writing her weekly New Yorker column “Letter from Paris” in September 1925, keeping readers informed on a variety of subjects ranging from arts and culture to politics and crime. In the Jan. 20 issue she introduced readers to French actor Charles Boyer (1899–1978), who was preparing to try his luck in Hollywood. Actually, Boyer made his first trip to Tinseltown in 1930, but his return would mark the beginning of a successful run in American cinema, including the 1944 mystery-thriller Gaslight and the 1967 romantic-comedy Barefoot in the Park.

MAKING BEAUTIFUL MUSIC…Charles Boyer as the ” gypsy” vagabond Latzi, with Jean Parker (center) and Loretta Young in 1934’s Caravan. (MoMA)

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The Way Of All Flesh

Lois Long continued to chronicle New York nightlife in her “Tables for Two” column, exuding “rapture” over the new theatre/restaurant Casino de Paree, which featured ample nudity as well as top performers dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and comedienne Sheila Barrett.

The Casino de Paree featured revues, dancing, and side shows such as fire-eaters and animal acts. It closed in 1937, and the building later became home to the trendy 80s–90’s hot spot Studio 54.

CLOTHES OPTIONAL…A 1934 brochure offered glimpses of the entertainment to be had at the new theatre/restaurant Casino de Paree.

The Casino de Paree’s menu gave patrons some idea of what could be expected on the stage…

…but if food and drink was the only thing on your mind, you could enjoy lobster thermidor for a buck seventy-five…

(The Culinary Institute of America Menu Collection; Craig Claiborne Menu Collection)

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From Our Advertisers

How reliable were Goodyear’s tires? Hopefully more reliable than this adage, which Abraham Lincoln apparently never uttered…

…major exhibitions at the Grand Central Palace changed like the seasons, the National Automobile Show ceding to the National Motor Boat & Engine Show…

…if you’d rather have someone else do the sailing, the Bermuda line could take you on a round-trip cruise for as little as $60…

…with the end of Prohibition, the folks at White Rock were doubtless pleased to overtly advertise their product as a cocktail mixer…

…on to our cartoonists, Al Frueh contributed this rendering for the theatre review section…

Daniel ‘Alain’ Brustlein found this salon conversation a bit Mickey Mouse…

Helen Hokinson explored the results of family planning…

E. Simms Campbell gave us an unlikely den of thieves…

Gilbert Bundy had us wondering what ensued at this gentlemen’s club…

…and James Thurber fired the first shot in The War Between Men And Women…

…on to Jan. 27, 1934…

Jan. 27, 1934 cover by Rea Irvin.

…where writer W.E. Woodward profiled Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), whose manner had changed noticeably after receiving the Nobel Prize. An excerpt (with caricature by Al Frueh):

I’M SOMEBODY NOW…Sinclair Lewis (far right) with his 1930 Nobel Prize for literature. Other 1930 prize winners were, from left, Venkata Raman (physics), Hans Fischer (chemistry), and Karl Landsteiner (medicine).

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More From Our Advertisers

We begin with this lovely color illustration by Helen Hokinson, which also graced the cover of the January 1934 issue of The Stage

…the vintners at Moët & Chandon let New Yorkers know that their fine Champagne could be had from sole distributors Labourdette and Company…

…cultural critic Gilbert Seldes advised drinkers to abandon their degraded ways and return to the civilized consumption of an old favorite…

…while the folks at Guinness reminded us of their product’s deep history as well as its health benefits…

…and for the teetotalers the purveyors of Joyz Maté encouraged Yankees to take up this “strange” South American drink…the ad claimed it “fortifies the body against fatigue” (thanks to the generous amount of caffeine) and acts as a “corrective and a balancer” (it helped stimulate bowel movements)…

…on to our cartoons, we begin with Gardner Rea, borrowing from a running gag in the Marx Brothers’ 1930 film Animal Crackers, which featured Harpo chasing a sexy blonde around a mansion (apologies for the poor reproduction quality—the archival image was quite faint)…

Gilbert Bundy gave us a couple confronting the subtleties of Times Square…

Robert Day commented on the latest trend in taxicab conveniences: coin-operated radios for passengers…

…this two-page Little King cartoon by Otto Soglow revealed another side to our diminutive potentate…

…and the war between the sexes raged on, with James Thurber

Next Time: Under the Knife…


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.

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:

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.”

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.”

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:

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

Next Time: Lois Long’s Fifth Avenue…

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