'…and say my glory was I had such friends.' — WB Yeats
The Algonquin Round Table
Dorothy Parker and her friends…
Robert Benchley, humorist, actor
Alexander Woollcott, critic
Marc Connelly, playwright
Harold Ross, publisher
George S. Kaufmann, playwright
FPA (Franklin P. Adams), columnist, critic
Heywood Broun, columnist, sports writer
A poem by free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 28, is published in the humor magazine Life, edited by her Algonquin Hotel lunch buddies, Robert Benchley, 32, and Robert Sherwood, 25. She praises the new hot Broadway star, Lynn Fontanne, 33, appearing as the ditzy title character in Dulcy, written by two of Parker’s other lunch buddies, Marc Connelly, 30, and George S. Kaufman, 32, based on a character by another one of their friends, columnist FPA [Franklin P. Adams], 40.
Lynn Fontanne as Dulcy
By Dorothy Parker
Dulcy, take our gratitude,
All your words are gold ones.
Mistress of the platitude,
Queen of all the old ones.
You, at last, are something new
‘Neath the theatre’s dome. I’d
Mention to the cosmos, you
Swing a wicked bromide.”
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the end of February I will be talking about the Publication of Joyce’s Ulysses at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.
In New York City, the New York Times Magazine features an interview with comedian Charlie Chaplin, 32, with the first byline by the Times’ first female full-time writer, Jane Grant, 29. She and her husband, Harold Ross, just turning 29, are living on her salary and saving his earnings as editor of Judge to bankroll a magazine they want to start.
At the New York World, Herbert Bayard Swope, 39, who took over as executive editor last year, is running front page articles 21 straight days in a row, exposing the Ku Klux Klan as a white supremacist organization. TheWorld’s investigation reveals that not only is the KKK terrorizing Blacks, Jews and immigrants, they are also harassing Catholics in the courts. The KKK is suing all the papers that are carrying TheWorld’s series.
Advertisement in the New York Tribune placed by the New York World
Down in Greenwich Village, the autumn issue of The Little Review, recently convicted of publishing obscene material, proclaims:
As protest against the suppression of The Little Review, containing various instalments of the Ulysses of James Joyce, the following artists and writers of international reputation are collaborating in the autumn number of Little Review.”
The list includes the magazine’s foreign editor, American ex-pat poet Ezra Pound, just turning 36, and writer and artist Jean Cocteau, 32. On the last page the magazine announces that, because Ulysses is to be published as a book in Paris,
We limp from the field.”
The Little Review, Autumn, 1921
The most recent issue of The Dial magazine contains an excerpt from Sea and Sardinia, by D. H. Lawrence, just turned 36. He complains to his agent that the magazine edited his piece of travel writing so that it is “very much cut up…Damn them for that.”
Sea and Sardinia by D. H. Lawrence
In Rome, Harold Loeb, just turning 30, and Alfred Kreymborg, 38, have produced the first issue of a new magazine, Broom, including work by two of their fellow Americans: A short story by Sherwood Anderson, just turning 45, and Sequidilla by ManRay, 31. To choose a title, the founders came up with a list of one-syllable words and randomly chose “broom.” Broom is dedicated to giving “the unknown, path-breaking artist” the opportunity to sweep away their predecessors. But Loeb feels that this first issue has too many predecessors and too few unknowns.
The Ziegfeld Follies of 1921 opened at Broadway’s Globe Theatre, with music once again by Victor Herbert, 62. The leads are Fanny Brice, 29, coming back to the Follies after ten years, singing “My Man” and “Second Hand Rose,” and comedian and juggler W. C. Fields, 41, his fifth time in the Follies.
Ziegfeld Follies of 1921
This was followed two weeks later by the premiere of George White’s Scandals at the Liberty Theatre, a few blocks away from the Globe. The music is by George Gershwin, 22, who hit it big two years ago when Broadway star Al Jolson, 36, heard Gershwin sing his tune “Swanee” at a party and used it in one of his shows.
George White’s Scandals
And just two days after that a new musical, Dulcy, by two young playwrights, both from western Pennsylvania, Marc Connelly, 30, and George S Kaufman, 31, opened just down 42nd Street at the Frazee Theatre. For their first collaboration, Connelly and Kaufman based the lead on a character created by one of their friends they lunch with regularly at the nearby Algonquin Hotel, New York Tribune columnist Franklin Pierce Adams, 39, known to all of New York as FPA.
The duo has already started in on their next musical project, To the Ladies!, set to premiere next year.
One of their other lunch buddies, Robert Benchley, 31, an editor at the humor magazine Life, had finally gotten around to having his first drink while listening to the live broadcast of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight at the midtown speakeasy Tony Soma’s. Soon after, Benchley tried some rye whiskey and realized it smelled just like his Uncle Albert did at family picnics back in Massachusetts.
Benchley’s best friend, and now best drinking buddy, free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, just turned 28, has had another short story in the Saturday Evening Post, “An Apartment House Trilogy,” based mostly on the characters around the flat she and her husband moved to just about a year ago, at 57 West 57th Street. When she sent the piece to the editor, she had warned him that it was “rotten…poisonous.” He didn’t think it was too rotten, but not quite her best. He really wants more of the shorter fluffy things she’s been selling to Benchley over at Life.
Saturday Evening Post, August 20, 1921
Bob has introduced Dottie to one of his other friends, Donald Ogden Stewart, 26, who has had some pieces in Vanity Fair and Smart Set. He’s been hanging out at Parker’s place but doesn’t like joining the others at their Algonquin lunches. They’re vicious. Stewart feels he has to fortify himself with a few drinks before he even gets to the hotel.
Edna Ferber, just turned 36 [but only admits to 34], would love to be invited to one of the Algonquin lunches. Her second novel, The Girls, has just come out and it wasn’t easy to get a national magazine to serialize it. Her story of unmarried Chicago women was too scandalous for most, but finally Women’s Home Companion bought it without any major changes. Not only did FPA praise the way she described his hometown of Chicago, even her own mother conceded that it’s not too bad.
Ferber has asked her friend Alexander Woollcott, 34, the New York Times drama critic, if she could lunch with him at the Algonquin maybe just once?
Alex took a leave of absence from his Times job this summer to go back to his alma mater, Hamilton College in New York state, to finish a book he’s been working on, Mr. Dickens Goes to the Play. He’s written a few chapters about Charles Dickens’ love of theatre and will fill out the rest with sections from Dickens’ novels and essays.
But the biggest news in New York publishing this summer is how the new editor of the New York World, Herbert Bayard Swope, 39, has been poaching columnists from his competitors.
Herbert Bayard Swope
Swope became executive editor of the paper last year and has been making big changes. He thought the page opposite the editorials was a mess, so he cleared out the book reviews and obituaries and now devotes the page to opinion pieces, christening it the “op-ed” page. Swope believes
Nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting.”
Those pesky facts can stay where they belong in the rest of the paper.
Swope also stole one of the top columnists at the Tribune, Heywood Broun, 32, another regular Algonquin luncher. Broun was eager to jump. Swope makes clear to him and all his columnists, that they can write whatever they want—within the limits of libel law and good taste. In return, they have to write new copy for each instalment, three times a week. No hoarding a bank of evergreen filler, ready to print any time. Swope wants it all to be fresh.
For $25,000 a year, in his column “It Seems to Me” on the op-ed page, Broun can write what he likes—theatre reviews, reports of the most recent football game of his alma mater, Harvard, or campaigns about social issues such as censorship, racial discrimination or academic freedom.
Poaching Broun is a coup. But Swope astounds New York’s literati again by luring the Tribune’s number one columnist, FPA himself, over to the World. Unlike the other writers, FPA is given his own private office to work on his “Conning Tower” columns. One of the first at his new home is about the return to New York of his fellow Algonquin-ite, Alex Woollcott.
Maybe Woollcott will be the next star to jump ship and land on Swope’s World?
Marc Connelly, 30, and George S Kaufman, 31, are here for the opening of their first major production, the three-act comedy Dulcy.
When they came to New York City from different towns in western Pennsylvania—separately—to start their careers, this is exactly what each of them had in mind.
After getting a few things published in the city’s daily newspapers, and working on a few theatre projects, last year Connelly and Kaufman were approached by two of the biggest Broadway producers, George C. Tyler, 53, and Harry Frazee, 41. The latter, owner of the Boston Red Sox, had within a few months last year sold his top player, legendary slugger Babe Ruth, 26, to the New York Yankees, and then bought this theatre.
Tyler and Frazee wanted the playwrights to come up with a starring vehicle for a young British actress, Lynn Fontanne, 33, who had appeared in a couple of Broadway shows in the past few years.
The young pair turned to one of their friends in the group of writers they lunch with regularly at the nearby Algonquin Hotel, the most-read columnist in the city, FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams], 39. In his New York Tribune column “The Conning Tower,” FPA has created a recurring ditzy character called Dulcy, short for Dulcinea, after the heroine of Don Quixote. Connelly and Kaufman thought they could build something around her and offered FPA a 10% cut of the profits.
Lynn Fontanne in Dulcy
The show has been through try-outs in the Midwest—Indiana, Illinois—with Kaufman becoming ever more nervous as this night approached.
Two of their friends from the Algonquin lunches have said that they will review the play. They think Heywood Broun, 32, in the Tribune will probably like the tricky patter. But Alexander Woollcott, 34, drama critic for the Times and Kaufman’s boss there, has already said their play is probably not good enough for Fontanne.
Boxing promoter George “Tex” Rickard, 51, knew that bringing his client, world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, 26, into the ring to defend his title against world light heavyweight champion Georges Carpentier, 27, would draw a big crowd.
So big, in fact, that, rather than hold the bout in his usual venue, Madison Square Garden, Rickard has built this new facility, Boyle’s Thirty Acres, across the river in Jersey City, New Jersey, to hold 90,000. Besides, he’s been having a bit of trouble recently with the New York State Boxing Commission and Tammany Hall.
Dempsey has an almost 20-pound weight advantage over the Frenchman. But Rickard has spun the story for the newspapers so that this is seen as a fight between the handsome French war hero, Carpentier, and the American draft dodger [in reality, Dempsey received an exemption for family reasons] who recently divorced his wife. As a result, Tex has more women buying tickets for a boxing match than ever before.
Program from Dempsey Carpentier fight
The winner gets $300,000. The loser, $200,000.
Rickard is hoping that this will be the first million-dollar gate in boxing history. It is the first fight to be sanctioned by the newly organized National Boxing Association. And the first sporting event to be broadcast live in more than 60 cities across the country.
In a Midtown brownstone on West 49th Street, past an iron grille and a locked wooden door with a peephole in it, a group of revellers are drinking illegal booze out of big white coffee cups at tables covered with red checkered cloths.
Tony Soma’s is the speakeasy of choice for the Manhattan writers and editors who lunch regularly a few blocks away at the Algonquin Hotel.
Dorothy Parker, 27, Robert Benchley, 31, and Robert Sherwood, 25, met when they worked together on Vanity Fair magazine. But since a bit of a tiff with management at the beginning of last year, Dottie has been free-lancing, and Benchley and Sherwood are editing the humor magazine, Life.
On this Saturday of a long Fourth of July weekend, they are joined by friends just returned from their first holiday in Europe, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 24, and his pregnant wife, Zelda, 20.
In the New York Evening World, Parker and Benchley’s friend, magazine illustrator Neysa McMein, 33, has sketched Carpentier, calling him “The Pride of Paris,” commenting that Michelangelo “would have fainted for joy with the beauty of his profile.”
Tonight they are all here to listen to the radio broadcast of the “Fight of the Century.” As they always do, Benchley’s friends are urging the teetotaler to at least try some alcohol. How can he be so against something that he’s never tried? Benchley has taken the pledge to not drink, and even voted for Prohibition.
But tonight, he figures, What the hey. He orders an Orange Blossom.
Benchley takes a few sips. He turns to Parker and says,
This place should be closed down by the police.”
Then he orders another.
By the end of the evening, Dempsey has defeated Carpentier in the fourth round. And Orange Blossoms have defeated Robert Benchley.
Recipe for an Orange Blossom:
1 ounce gin
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Shake gin, orange juice, and sugar over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with flamed orange peel.
This summer I am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh. In the fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London before the Great War in the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.
Ruth Hale, 34, journalist and theatrical agent, received her passport in the mail from the U. S. State Department. It was made out to “Mrs. Broun.”
Well, the only “Mrs. Broun” in her Upper West Side house is the cat. So she refused to accept it.
Four years ago, when she agreed to marry fellow journalist and sportswriter Heywood Broun, 32, they agreed she would keep her surname. Which hasn’t been easy. She fights with authorities every time she has to sign anything.
One of her friends, New York Times reporter Jane Grant, 28, is waging the same battle, with some support from her husband, magazine editor Harold Ross, also 28.
The four of them lunch regularly in midtown at the Algonquin Hotel, with other writers and critics from the city’s major newspapers. And they are often part of late night poker games at Ross and Grant’s apartment. Which Ross expects Grant to clean up after.
At least Hale, who insists on living on a separate floor from Broun in their house, had him agree to split the child care raising their son, Heywood Hale, 3.
The talk at lunch always turns to Hale and Grant complaining about the injustice of being expected to give up their surnames. A few weeks ago, Ross was sick of listening to them and said,
Why don’t you just go hire a hall?”
So here they are at the Hotel Pennsylvania for the founding meeting of the Lucy Stone League.
Ad for the Hotel Pennsylvania
They have managed to cajole some of their other lunch buddies to join, including FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams], 39, the top columnist in Manhattan; Neysa McMein, 33, an illustrator whose apartment has become a favorite haunt for the group; and Beatrice Kaufman, 26, publicist and wife of the playwright George S Kaufman, 31.
Broun joins; Ross doesn’t. And one of their woman friends from the Algonquin gang says no also: Dorothy Rothschild Parker, 27, tells them,
I married to change my name.”
The Lucy Stone League honors the 19th century suffragist who was the first American woman to use her birth name even after she married. Guess she never needed a passport.
With this group of writers and PR women involved, the League won’t have trouble getting the word out. However, the Times reporter is referring to them as “The Maiden Namers.”
Just nine months ago American women finally secured, through the 19th Amendment, the right to vote in all elections. Among the rights the League’s founders—Hale as President, Grant as Secretary-Treasurer—feel they will have to fight for include opening a bank account, holding a copyright, registering at a hotel, and signing up for a store account, an insurance policy, or a library card.
Free-lance journalist and fiction writer, Edna Ferber, 35, has her novel The Girls coming out later this year, and she shares this great apartment with her mom. But sometimes, particularly when her mother is out with friends, Edna wants to go out and play. And sometimes there is no one to play with.
Her favorite theatre companion these days is New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, 34. Edna has always loved the glamor of opening nights; Aleck always has tickets and likes to wear his opera hat and cape.
But, after a terrific night in the theatre, instead of moving on to a speakeasy for a late night drink, Alex dumps Edna into a taxi and races to his Times office to write his review.
Last week Ferber had gone on a shopping spree and when she came home, she felt like having a companion for a candlelit dinner. She’d called Alex and sent him a note, but he didn’t bother to answer.
Edna likes having a male friend to squire her around town, and Alex feels safe to her.
But annoying. She teases him about his deplorably unhealthy eating habits—gooey desserts and coffee all day—but he has also more than once ruined her dinner parties by arriving up to an hour late.
Ferber plans to ask Woollcott to take her to lunch some day soon with his friends at the Algonquin Hotel. All writers and artists on the city’s magazines and newspapers, they are the type of people she’d love to get to know.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. Later this month I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the CMU Osher program.
Marc Connelly, 30, budding playwright from western Pennsylvania, is pleased with how his Broadway debut play, Erminie, is going.
Connelly came east to New York City from his hometown of McKeesport, just south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, about six years ago, working on a play that had been a big hit back home. But it flopped in New York.
Made sense to stay.
Producer George Tyler, 53, asked him to adapt this 19th century comedy opera, Erminie, which has been brought back to life many times in the UK and the US.
Connelly is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Tyler. The cigar smoking, gambling producer from Ohio has built his company by bringing European talent to America, including four tours of Dublin’s Abbey Theater with their founder and director Lady Augusta Gregory, now 68.
Tyler also produced Someone in the House by another western Pennsylvania playwright, George S Kaufman, 31, at the end of the Great War. That play didn’t do so well, only partially because authorities were telling everyone to stay home to protect themselves from the influenza that was roaring through the city. Kaufman paid for ads that said,
Avoid the Crowds! Come See Someone in the House!”
George S Kaufman
Connelly’s Erminie is in its third week and Kaufman gave it a good review in the New York Times where he is an assistant to the main drama critic, Alexander Woollcott, about to turn 34.
Connelly and Kaufman met a few years ago and have started collaborating and hanging out in the Times newsroom, waiting for Woollcott to leave so they can use his typewriter. They are working on a play based on a character created by one of the other writers they lunch with regularly at the nearby Algonquin Hotel, Franklin P. Adams, 39, better known as the dean of New York columnists, FPA.
Their first joint project, Dulcy, is due to open in Chicago next month; FPA has been promised 10% of the profits. If there are any.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theatre and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, are available to view for free on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. Early this year I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
The apartment that free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 27, is planning to rent at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 57th Street on the Upper West Side, is not great.
But Parker feels that she and her husband, Eddie, also 27, a veteran of the Great War, really need a change.
Currently they are living farther uptown on 71st and West End Avenue. Eddie seems to have his morphine addiction under control, but still drinks. He has started back to work at Paine Webber, and she is selling lots of stories, articles and poems to magazines like Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal.
But the Parkers definitely need a change, and this could be it.
Dorothy has been looking around midtown and hasn’t come up with any better alternatives. One place an agent had shown her was much too big. She told him,
All I need is room enough to lay a hat and a few friends.”
This dusty three-story building, right near the rattling, noisy Sixth Avenue El, has a tiny place available on the top floor.
The Sixth Avenue El
The studios are designed for artists to use, not necessarily live in. One of the illustrators here is Neysa McMein, 32, whose apartment is used as a drinking hangout by many of their mutual friends, writers who lunch regularly at the Algonquin Hotel, right off Sixth Avenue on West 44th Street, a short walk away.
Another advantage is the Swiss Alps restaurant, on the ground floor of the building. They deliver.
So Parker is determined to sign a lease and move in with her seed-spilling canary, Onan, her not yet housebroken Scottish terrier, Woodrow Wilson, and her still traumatized husband.
If that doesn’t save this marriage, nothing will.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about Dorothy Parker’s ashes being re-interred in New York City here.
My “Such Friends” presentations, Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, and The Founding of the Abbey Theatre, are available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.
The endless Democratic National Convention is finally coming to a close. 9 days. 14 candidates. 44 ballots.
Guest pass to the 1920 Democratic Convention
H. L. Mencken, 39, reporting for the Baltimore Sun, who had hated the smelly Chicago Coliseum where the Republicans had held their convention last month, rhapsodizes about the Democrats’ choice of venue, the Civic Auditorium:
So spacious, so clean, so luxurious in its comforts and so beautiful in its decorations, that the assembled politicos felt like sailors turned loose in the most gorgeous bordellos of Paris.”
Novelist, playwright and former full-time journalist Edna Ferber, 34 (but she only admits to 31), on special assignment for United Press, is as unimpressed with the Democratic delegates as she had been with those from the other party:
It was, in its way, almost as saddening a sight as the Republican Convention had been…Once the opening prayer had piously died on the air, there broke out from two to a half dozen actual fist fights on the floor of the assemblage—battles that raged up and down the aisles until guards separated the contestants. The meeting droned on. Nothing seemed to be accomplished.”
The New York Tribune’sHeywood Broun, 31, however, gave the edge to the Republicans:
They were able at Chicago to say nothing in just about one-tenth the number of words which the Democrats needed to say the same thing.”
Every time a woman delegate was given the floor to nominate or second a candidate, the band played the ragtime hit, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.”
By yesterday, everyone was so frustrated at the group’s inability to decide on a candidate, the Missouri delegation cast a .50 vote for sportswriter Ring Lardner, 35, whose syndicated columns have been delighting the country. He says he will run on the same platform he used to not be elected mayor of Chicago:
More Beer—Less Work.”
Finally, at 1:43 am today, on the 44th ballot, Ohio Governor James M. Cox, 50, received enough votes to secure the nomination. When he is informed of this by the Associated Press telegraph wire three hours later in his Dayton office, he is stunned.
Now there is the matter of the running mate. Who to nominate for vice president?
Cox favors the new, young star of the show, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and fifth cousin of the late Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 38. As Cox says,
His name is good, he’s right geographically, and he is anti-Tammany [Hall].”
And FDR has been running around the convention making friends, wooing the rest of his New York state delegation by turning his rooms on the battleship New York into a Prohibition-violating reception.
That’s good enough. The convention nominates Roosevelt by acclimation. Exhausted acclimation.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and James M. Cox
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
My presentation, “Such Friends”: Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table [Heywood Broun was a member] is available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre. The program begins at the 11 minute mark, and my presentation at 16 minutes.