“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, May 25, 1922, Brook Farm, 845 North Salem Road, Ridgefield, Connecticut

Just a few days ago, Irish-American playwright Eugene O’Neill, 33, was awarded his second Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for Anna Christie which premiered last year. His first Pulitzer was for his first full-length play staged on Broadway, Beyond the Horizon, back in 1920. In addition to the awards, both plays received good reviews from the New York Times drama critic, Alexander Woollcott, 35, who told theatregoers that Anna Christie is

a singularly engrossing play…[that you] really ought to see.”

Other critics agreed.

Pauline Lord in Anna Christie

His most recent, The Hairy Ape, started out with his Greenwich Village theatre troupe The Provincetown Players, but has just been transferred to the Plymouth Theater on Broadway. With the playwright’s name in lights on the marquee, instead of any actors’ names. Quite a tribute.

Although Woollcott likes the Hairy Ape as well, calling it “vital and interesting and teeming with life,” the New York Police Department has deemed the play “obscene, indecent, impure.” Because of its themes of working class rebellion, the mayor wants to shut it down to avoid labor riots. Really.

His success has enabled O’Neill and his wife, English writer Agnes Boulton, 28, and their son Shane, 3, to move to this 31-acre Connecticut country house, with a library, a sun-room, four master bedrooms and servants’ quarters. As well as an Irish wolfhound Eugene has named Finn MacCool.

Eugene O’Neill with his dog and his farm  

He is also $40,000 in debt.

Today he is writing to a friend,

Yes, I seem to be becoming the [Pulitzer] Prize Pup of Playwrights—the Hot Dog of the Drama. When the Police Department isn’t pinning the Obscenity Medal on my Hairy Ape chest, why, then it’s Columbia [University] adorning the brazen bosom of Anna with the Cross of Purity. I begin to feel that there is either something all wrong with me or something all right…’It’s a mad world, my masters.’”

“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 in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Next month I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in 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.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, April 30, 1922, 49th Street Theatre, 235 West 49th Street, New York City, New York

You’ve seen them in the speakeasies of Manhattan…

You’ve seen them lunching at the Algonquin…

Now see them on stage in…

No Sirree!

49th Street Theatre

Now playing…For one night only!

Produced by Frank Case, manager of the Algonquin Hotel

49th Street Theatre

Programme

Your host for the evening,

“The Spirit of American Drama, played by Heywood Broun

Music provided throughout the evening offstage [and off-key] by Jascha Heifetz

“The Opening Chorus”

Performed by Franklin Pierce Adams, Robert Benchley, Marc Connelly,

George S Kaufman, John Peter Toohey, Alexander Woollcott,

[dressed only in their bathrobes]

“The Editor Regrets”

[in which poet Dante has his first writing rejected by Droll Tales magazine]

Performed by Mary Brandon, Marc Connelly, Donald Ogden Stewart and others

“The Filmless Movies”

Featuring Franklin Pierce Adams and, on piano, Baron Ireland

[composer of “If I Had of Knew What I’d Ought to Have Knew,

I’d Never Had Did What I Done”]

“The Greasy Hag:  A Eugene O’Neill Play in One Act”

[setting to be determined by the audience]

Agitated Seamen played by Marc Connelly, George S Kaufman and Alexander Woollcott

The Murdered Woman played by Ruth Gilmore

[please be advised there will be strong language]

“He Who Gets Flapped”

Performed by Robert Sherwood

Featuring “The Everlasting Ingenue Blues,”

Music by Deems Taylor, lyrics by Dorothy Parker

Deems Taylor

Performed by the chorus,

Tallulah Bankhead, Mary Brandon, Ruth Gilmore, Helen Hayes,

Mary Kennedy and others

“Between the Acts”

The Manager and the Manager’s Brother played by Brock and Murdock Pemberton

“Big Casino Is Little Casino:  The Revenge of One Who Has Suffered”

By George S Kaufman

[who advises the audience,

“The idea has been to get square with everybody in three two-minute acts.”]

“Mr. Whim Passes By—An A. A. Milne Play”

Performed by Helen Hayes and others

Helen Hayes

“Kaufman and Connelly from the West”

Performed by Marc Connelly and George S Kaufman

[“Oh, we are Kaufman and Connelly from Pittsburgh,

We’re Kaufman and Connelly from the West…”]

“Zowie or The Curse of an Aking Heart”

Featuring Dregs, a butler, played by Alexander Woollcott

And finally…

“The Treasurer’s Report”

By Robert Benchley

Featuring the last-minute substitute for the treasurer, played by Robert Benchley

Immediately following the programme, all cast and audience members are invited to

 the nearby digs of Herbert Bayard and Maggie Swope

The Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld

Clockwise from Bottom Left:  Robert Sherwood, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Franklin Pierce Adams, Edna Ferber, George S Kaufman

In the background:  Lynn Fontanne, Alfred Lunt, Frank Crowninshield, Frank Case

You can see a preview for the film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, which includes a re-creation of No Sirree!, here,

And the TCM Tribute to Robert Benchley here

“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 in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, which is celebrating Independent Bookstore Day today. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris just before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Saturday is national Independent Bookstore Day!

What a perfect time to visit your local independent bookstore!

If you are lucky enough to live near Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, you could stop by to say hi to our “such friends” at Riverstone Books on Forbes Avenue for their celebrations, 10 am to close.

While there, you could pick up signed copies of “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921, which are collections of the blogs that are posted on this site about what was happening 100 years ago.

“Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s—Volume I, 1920

And you could also buy some of Riverstone’s terrific Independent Bookstore merchandise!

Merchandise available at Riverstone Books

Remember—everyone is reading “Such Friends”!

Everyone reading “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s—Volume II, 1921

P. S. Follow this blog to receive updates on the progress of Volume III about the literary milestone year of 1922, due out this summer. Or email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com for more information.

In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, March 15, 1922, New York City, New York

Two playwrights from western Pennsylvania, Marc Connelly, 31, from McKeesport, and George S Kaufman, 32, from Pittsburgh, have a second hit on Broadway. Last year their Dulcy with Lynn Fontanne, 34, did well; this season, their three-act comedy To the Ladies!, starring Helen Hayes, 21, has been doing even better for the past month at the Liberty Theatre on West 42nd Street.

Helen Hayes and Otto Kruger in To the Ladies!

Truth is, Connelly and Kaufman finished writing the play just the day before rehearsals started. On opening night, when there were calls for “Author!,” they wheeled a mannequin out on to the stage.

The reviews have been good, with most critics preferring it over Dulcy. Their Algonquin Hotel lunch buddy Alexander Woollcott, 35, wrote in the New York Times that To the Ladies! provided “an occasion of genuine and quite uproarious jollification.”

*****

A 10-minute walk away, the first show presented in the Shubert organization’s new 49th Street Theatre, the revue Chauve Souris is Connelly and Kaufman’s main competition.

Produced by a troupe originally from Moscow, the evening of songs and sketches is hosted by the Turkish-Russian Nikita Balieff, 49, an émigré from the Bolshevik Revolution, like a lot of the members of his company.

Nikita Balieff

On stage Balieff speaks a combination of broken English, French and Russian while wildly gesticulating, but off stage the theatre world knows that he speaks perfectly good English.

Chauve Souris, or the “flying bat,” named for the original variety company Balieff put together back in Russia, has been a touring hit—Paris, London, South Africa. The tune in the show that sends the audience home humming is The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.

Connelly, Kaufman, and the other writers they lunch with regularly at the Algonquin are thinking that Chauve Souris is ripe for parody.

*****

Today, Woollcott has sent a note to Kaufman and his wife, publicist Bea Kaufman, 27, on the occasion of their 5th wedding anniversary: 

I have been looking around for an appropriate wooden gift, and am pleased hereby to present you with Elsie Ferguson’s performance in her new play.”

Elsie Ferguson

“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 in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program 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.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, March 10, 1922, New York City, New York

Last night New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, 35, saw the premier of The Hairy Ape by Eugene O’Neill, 33, at the Provincetown Playhouse on McDougal Street in Greenwich Village, and his review runs in the paper today:

Provincetown Playhouse, Greenwich Village

A bitter, brutal, wildly fantastic play of nightmare hue and nightmare distortion…[The auditorium was] packed to the doors with astonishment…as scene after scene unfolded…[Although the script was] uneven, it seems rather absurd to fret overmuch about the undisciplined imagination of a young playwright towering so conspicuously above the milling mumbling crowd of playwrights who have no imagination at all…A turbulent and tremendous play, so full of blemishes that the merest fledgling among the critics could point out a dozen, yet so vital and interesting and teeming with life that those playgoers who let it escape them will be missing one of the real events of the year.”

O’Neill is already established as a playwright, with two Pulitzer Prizes under his belt—for Beyond the Horizon and Anna Christie. And his play The First Man just opened a few days ago at The Neighborhood Playhouse in Midtown. When the company, which O’Neill has been associated with for the past five years or so, did its first reading of The Hairy Ape, he proudly proclaimed,

This is one the bastards [uptown on Broadway] can’t do!”

Last night the auditorium was packed and the audience enthusiastic. The lead actor, Louis Wolheim, almost 42, got a standing ovation, and there were cries of “Author!”

But O’Neill wasn’t in the theatre.

The Hairy Ape

His mother had died while on a trip to the West Coast about a week ago, from a brain tumor at the age of 64. The opening night of The Hairy Ape coincided with the arrival of her body at Grand Central Station. A friend went looking for O’Neill to bring the good news of the play’s success. But the hit author was too depressed to be interested.

The two friends spent the night walking around Central Park.

“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 in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in the Osher Lifelong Learning program 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.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”:  100 years ago, December 31, 1921/January 1, 1922, Ireland, England, France and America

At the end of the second year of the 1920s…

In Ireland, at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, still run by one of its founders, Lady Augusta Gregory, 69, the company is finishing up, with a matinee and evening performance today, the run of a double bill including A Pot of Broth by one of its other founders, Irish poet William Butler Yeats, 56. The Abbey has been performing this little one act about gullible peasants since it was written over 15 years ago.

Throughout the country, violent atrocities are committed by the Irish Republican Army and the British Black and Tans, while in Dublin, in a huge leap forward for Irish independence, the government of the Irish Free State is finally coming into being.

Newspaper headline, December 8

*****

In England, near Oxford, Yeats is encouraged by the news of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, giving Ireland, including 26 of the island’s 32 counties, Dominion status in the British Commonwealth. He writes to a friend that he expects the Irish parliament, the Dail, will ratify the treaty, but

I see no hope of escape from bitterness, and the extreme party may carry the country.”

With the establishment of the Irish Free State, Yeats and his wife Georgie, 29, are thinking of moving back to Dublin in the new year with their two children, Anne, 2 ½, and the recently christened Michael Butler Yeats, four months old.

In Sussex, Virginia, 39, and her husband Leonard Woolf, 41, have come to their country home, Monk’s House, for the holidays.

The Hogarth Press, the publishing company they have operated out of their home in the Richmond section of London for the past four years, is steadily growing. In total they published six titles this year, a 50% increase over last.

A book of woodcuts by a friend of theirs, Roger Fry, 55, that they brought out just a few months ago is going in to its third printing.

They have hired an assistant, Ralph Partridge, 27, who was at first helpful. Now he works in the basement, sleeps over during the week and has a bad habit of leaving the press and metal type dirty, which drives Leonard crazy. Partridge’s profit-sharing deal has increased from last year, but is only £125.

Before they came down here to ring in the new year, the Woolfs had a visit from their friend, one of their former best-selling writers, Katherine Mansfield, 33. They discussed excerpts from a new work, Ulysses, by Irish novelist James Joyce, 39, to be published in Paris in a few months. Mansfield agrees that it is disgusting, but she still found some scenes that she feels will one day be deemed important.

Katherine Mansfield

About three years ago, Virginia and Leonard were approached about publishing Ulysses, but they rejected it. They don’t regret their decision.

*****

In France, Paris has become home to over 6,000 Americans, enjoying being let out of the prison of Prohibition back home.

Writer Gertrude Stein, 47, who has lived here for almost 20 years, has been laid up recently after minor surgery. She is still writing, working on Didn’t Nelly & Lilly Love You, which includes references to her birthplace, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and that of her partner for the past 14 years, Alice B. Toklas, 44, Oakland, California, and how the two of them met in Paris.

The author at Gertrude Stein’s house in Allegheny, Pennsylvania

Because she recently visited the nearby studio of another American ex-pat, painter and photographer Man Ray, 31, who just moved here last summer, Gertrude works into the piece “a description of Mr. Man Ray.

*****

In America, New York free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 28, is attending, as usual, the New Year’s Eve party hosted by two of her friends from lunches at the Algonquin Hotel—New York World columnist Heywood Broun, 33, and his wife, journalist Ruth Hale, 34. Their party is an annual event, but bigger than ever this year because it is being held in their newly purchased brownstone at 333 West 85th Street.

Parker notes that they are directly across the street from one of the buildings that she lived in with her father.

Building across the street from the Brouns’ brownstone

Dottie is here alone. Her friends don’t expect her husband, stockbroker and war veteran Eddie Pond Parker, 28, to be with her. They joke that she keeps him in a broom closet back home.

She’s enjoying talking to one of her other lunch buddies, top New York Tribune columnist Franklin Pierce Adams [always known as FPA], 40, who is professing his undying love for Parker. While sitting next to his wife and keeping an eye on a pretty young actress in a pink dress.

All the furniture except for some folding chairs has been removed to make room for the 200 guests and a huge vat of orange blossoms [equal parts gin and orange juice, with powdered sugar thrown in]. No food or music. Just illegal booze.

As the turn of the new year approaches, the guests join the hosts in one of their favorite traditions. Dottie and the others each stand on a chair.

At the stroke of midnight they jump off, into the unknown of 1922.

Thanks to Neil Weatherall, author of the play, The Passion of the Playboy Riots, for help in unravelling Irish history. 

“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 kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Early in the new year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

On February 3, 2022, we will be celebrating the 148th birthday of my fellow Pittsburgh native Gertrude Stein, at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill. To register for this free event, or to watch it via Zoom, go to Riverstone’s website.

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.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Have a Happy New Year! We will be chronicling what was happening in 1922 right here…

“Such Friends”:  100 years ago, November 24, 1921, Life magazine, New York City, New York

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

Lynn Fontanne

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 kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

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.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”:  100 years ago, Fall, 1921, New York City, New York; and Rome

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.

Charlie Chaplin

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. The World’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 The World’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 Man Ray, 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.

Sequidilla by Man Ray

“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 in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

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 e-book versions.

Later this month I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, end of summer, 1921, Midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York

It’s been an interesting summer in New York.

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.

Heywood Broun

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?

There is a recent article about how digital media has affected the “op-ed” page here.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available in print and e-book format on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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 e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, August 13, 1921, Frazee Theatre, 254 West 42nd Street, New York City, New York

Opening night!

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.

Harry Frazee

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.

Curtain going up…

Dulcy

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available in print and e-book format on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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 e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.