“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, mid-November, 1922, Midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York

At the Sam H. Harris Theatre on West 42nd Street, Hamlet, starring the legendary John Barrymore, 40, has just opened. The New York Herald says that his performance “will be memorable in the history of the American theatre.”

The Times predicts,

We have a new and a lasting Hamlet.”

And Brooklyn Life says that Barrymore has “won the right to be called the greatest living American tragedian.”

John Barrymore as Hamlet

*****

Farther up Fifth Avenue, the Cort Theatre on 48th Street is hosting a different type of theatrical success, Merton of the Movies, by Algonquin Hotel lunch buddies Marc Connelly, 31, and George S Kaufman, just turning 33. Like their previous Broadway hit Dulcy, Merton is based on a suggestion from another regular at the Algonquin, top World columnist Franklin Pierce Adams, just turning 41, known to all as FPA.

The Times calls it “a delight in every way,” and their other lunch regular, Heywood Broun, 33, also in the World, calls it “the most amusing show of the season.”

Cast of Merton of the Movies

*****

But, around the corner at the much smaller Punch and Judy Theatre on 49th Street, Connelly and Kaufman have financed a comedy review, The ‘49ers, written by their friends.

The gang put on a show back in April, No Sirree!, which was only performed one night for an invited audience of their friends and fans, who loved it.

So they figured they’d do it right this time—hire a producer, director and professional actors. Besides Connelly, Kaufman, FPA and Broun, the sketches were written by their talented friends, including Dorothy Parker, 29, Robert Benchley, 33, and Ring Lardner, 37.

What could go wrong?!

It wasn’t funny.

On opening night, the Mistress of Ceremonies, legendary vaudevillian Miss May Irwin, 60, was soooo bad, Connelly decided to take on the role himself, over Kaufman’s objections.

The whole disaster just closed after only 15 performances.

May Irwin

*****

One block away, at Tony Soma’s speakeasy, Parker is sharing the horror story of her recent abortion with anyone who will listen. Few want to.

She’d felt sick when her friend, magazine illustrator Neysa McMein, 34, was painting her portrait recently. Neysa gave her a glass of gin and immediately got her to a west side hospital.

Dorothy Parker by Neysa McMein

They both knew who the father was:  That cad, would-be playwright Charles MacArthur, 27.

When Dotty told Charlie that she had had an abortion, he slipped her 30 bucks, which did not cover the cost, and promptly disappeared from her life. Parker said,

It was like Judas making a refund.”

To make it worse, due to her sloppy timekeeping, Parker had passed her first trimester, and “Dr. Sunshine” (one of many so-called in Manhattan) was angry that her pregnancy was farther along than she had claimed.

After one week in the hospital, Parker is back to her usual writing, reviewing and drinking. She has poems regularly in the Saturday Evening Post, and her first short story, “Such a Pretty Little Picture” will be in next month’s Smart Set.

But this whole experience has truly depressed her. Her pal Benchley is supportive, but he warned her about MacArthur, who has become one of Benchley’s best friends.

She tells him,

Serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”

Charles MacArthur

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Early next year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, and about The Literary 1920s in Paris and New York City at the Osher 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, early August, 1922, Glasgow, Scotland; and Presbyterian Hospital, New York City, New York

At first, American actor and singer Paul Robeson, 24, was really enjoying his first trip to the UK, touring with a production of Voodoo by Mary Hoyt Wiborg, 34. He had appeared in the Broadway premiere—when it was called Taboo—and Miss Wiborg had used her posh connections to arrange a British tour starring none other than the legendary Mrs. Patrick Campbell, 57.

Mrs. Patrick Campbell

Mrs. Pat, as she is known, has been impressed with Paul’s talents—he was thought by many to be the only good thing in the original show.

She edited the play to make his part better, and, after she heard him humming “Go Down Moses” when he was preparing for a dream sequence, she insisted that he add more singing. During one of the curtain calls, Mrs. Pat pushed Paul forward, saying to him,

It’s your show—not mine”

as the audience’s applause increased. She has mentioned to Robeson that he would make a great Othello.

But their opening in Blackpool was a disappointment; the show didn’t get any better in Edinburgh. There was some improvement last night, here in Glasgow. And Paul got another good review: 

Particularly good was Mr. Paul Robson [sic] as the minstrel Jim…[He] sang and acted splendidly…a magnificent voice, his singing has undoubtedly much to do with the success Voodoo achieved last night.”

Robeson has been to a Celtics v. Hibernians “football” match, and generally found he is treated better here as a Black man than he is back in the States.

Now things seem to be turning sour. Mrs. Campbell is mumbling about leaving the show and shutting it down before they get to London.

More worrying to Paul, though, is the correspondence he’s been getting from his wife of one year, Essie, 26, back in New York.

Eslanda Goode Robeson

He writes to her almost every day, with great detail about the show and his experiences: 

Mrs. Pat is a really wonderful woman and a marvelous actress…[English theatre] seems in as bad a state as those in New York or worse…Vaudeville pays better here than the legitimate…”

Paul receives letters from her regularly. But they seem odd. Essie doesn’t respond to what he has told her, and doesn’t answer his questions about their future:  Does she want to join him over here? Maybe he should think about going to Oxford University for a year? Or should he finish law school back at Columbia in New York? What’s the best plan that will give them a solid foundation for their life together?

Paul writes to Essie that he has too many options.

Worries me sick…[You should] think carefully from every angle…You’ll know what to do…You always know.”

*****

Back in New York City, Essie is in Presbyterian Hospital where she works as a chemist in the Surgical Pathology Department. But now she is a patient.

Presbyterian Hospital

The day before Paul left for the UK, back in July, Essie’s doctor told her she needed an immediate operation to correct complications from her recent appendectomy.

Essie didn’t want Paul to worry about her while he was away, so she waited until his ship pulled out of New York harbor and then checked herself into Presby.

Essie had written out 21 letters to him in advance and handed them over to friends whom she could trust to mail them to him at regular intervals.

The operation went fine, but Essie developed phlebitis and other complications, so the doctors have kept her in here longer than anticipated.

Essie loves the beautiful letters she receives from her husband. She’s thinking it might be time to send Paul a telegram and tell him the truth.

“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.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

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, July 22, 1922, Toronto Daily Star, Toronto; and Saturday Evening Post magazine, New York City, New York

“A Veteran Visits the Old Front” by the paper’s foreign correspondent, American Ernest Hemingway, just turned 23, appears in the Toronto Daily Star:

PARIS.—Don’t go back to visit the old front. If you have pictures in your head of something that happened in the night in the mud at Paschendaele or of the first wave working up the slope of Vimy, do not try and go back to verify them. It is no good…

Ernest Hemingway in Italy during the Great War

Go to someone else’s front, if you want to. There your imagination will help you out and you may be able to picture the things that happened…I know because I have just been back to my own front…

I have just come from Schio,…the finest town I remember in the war, and I wouldn’t have recognized it now—and I would give a lot not to have gone…

All the kick had gone out of things. Early next morning I left in the rain after a bad night’s sleep…

I tried to find some trace of the old trenches to show my wife, but there was only the smooth green slope. In a thick prickly patch of hedge we found an old rusty piece of shell fragment…That was all there was left of the front.

For a reconstructed town is much sadder than a devastated town. The people haven’t their homes back. They have new homes. The home they played in as children, the room where they made love with the lamp turned down, the hearth where they sat, the church they were married in, the room where their child died, these rooms are gone…Now there is just the new, ugly futility of it all. Everything is just as it was—except a little worse…

I had tried to re-create something for my wife and had failed utterly. The past was as dead as a busted Victrola record. Chasing yesterdays is a bum show—and if you have to prove it, go back to your old front.”

*****

This same day, “Welcome Home” by New York free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 28, appears in the Saturday Evening Post:

If at any time you happened to be hunting around for an average New York couple you couldn’t make a better selection than my friends [Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Watson Lunt]…

Saturday Evening Post, July 22

Once a year, however, the Lunts lay aside the cloistered life, and burn up Broadway. This is on the occasion of the annual metropolitan visit of Mr. Lunt’s Aunt Caroline, from the town where he spent his boyhood days…

The moment she sets foot in the Grand Central Terminal she compares it audibly and unfavorably with the new railroad station back home, built as soon as a decent interval had elapsed after the old one burned to the ground…

In the short ride to the Lunt apartment she manages to work in at least three times the line about ‘New York may be all right for a visit, but I wouldn’t live here if you gave me the place.’…

Dorothy Parker

Once a year, when advertising in America can manage to stagger along without Mr. Lunt for three or four days, the Lunts do their share in the way of tightening up the home ties by paying a visit to Aunt Caroline…She meets them at the train, beaming with welcome and bubbling with exclamations of how glad they must be to get out of that horrid old New York…

And so the time goes by, till the Lunts must return to New York. Aunt Caroline is annually pretty badly broken up over their leaving for that awful city…

The only thing that keeps her from going completely to pieces is the thought that she has again brought into their sultry lives a breath of real life.

The Lunts blow the annual kisses to her from the parlor-car window…As Mr. Lunt sums it up, it’s all right for a visit, but he wouldn’t live there if you gave him the place.”

You can read the full Hemingway article here,  file:///C:/Users/Kathleen%20Donnelly/Desktop/KD’S%20STUFF/such%20friends%20good/PARIS/Hemingway_Old_Front.pdf

And the full Parker essay here.  https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112041727428&view=1up&seq=283&skin=2021&q1=dorothy%20parker

“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.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald 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, late July, 1922, West Egg, Long Island; Manhattan, New York City, New York; and 626 Goodrich Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota

Midwestern bond salesman Nick Carraway, 30, is spending the summer working in Manhattan and living in a rented bungalow out on Long Island. Slowly, he is getting to know his neighbors:

At 9 o’clock one morning late in July, [Jay] Gatsby’s gorgeous car lurched up the rocky drive to my door and gave out a burst of melody from its three-noted horn. It was the first time he had called on me, though I had gone to two of his parties, mounted in his hydroplane, and, at his urgent invitation, made frequent use of his beach.

Rolls Royce Silver Ghost

‘Good morning, old sport. You’re having lunch with me today and I thought we’d ride up together.’

…He was never quite still; there was always a tapping foot somewhere or the impatient opening and closing of a hand.

He saw me looking with admiration at his car.

‘It’s pretty, isn’t it, old sport?’ He jumped off to give me a better view. ‘Haven’t you ever seen it before?’

I’d seen it. Everybody had seen it.”

*****

Gatsby and Carraway have an interesting lunch in the city with one of Gatsby’s friends, which ends when the friend gets up to leave:

’I have enjoyed my lunch,’ he said, ‘and I’m going to run off from you two young men before I outstay my welcome.’

‘Don’t hurry, Meyer,’ said Gatsby without enthusiasm. Mr. Wolfsheim raised his hand in a sort of benediction.

‘You’re very polite, but I belong to another generation,’ he announced solemnly. ‘You sit here and discuss your sports and your young ladies and your—’ He supplied an imaginary noun with another wave of his hand. ‘As for me, I am 50 years old, and I won’t impose myself on you any longer.’

As he shook hands and turned away his tragic nose was trembling. I wondered if I had said anything to offend him.

‘He becomes very sentimental sometimes,’ explained Gatsby. ‘This is one of his sentimental days. He’s quite a character around New York—a denizen of Broadway.’

‘Who is he, anyhow, an actor?’

‘No.’

‘A dentist?’

‘Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler.’ Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly:  ‘He’s the man who fixed the World Series back in 1919.’

‘Fixed the World Series?’ I repeated.

The idea staggered me. I remembered, of course, that the World Series had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely happened, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of 50 million people—with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing up a safe.

‘How did he happen to do that?’ I asked after a minute.

‘He just saw the opportunity.’

‘Why isn’t he in jail?’

‘They can’t get him, old sport. He’s a smart man.’”

*****

Back home in St. Paul, where he has started work on his third novel, best-selling writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, 25, has received an interesting offer.

A leading Hollywood producer wants to buy the rights to Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, published two years ago. And he has suggested that the lead characters could be played on screen by Scott and his wife, Zelda, just turned 22.

This Side of Paradise

Scott is considering it. Even though he tells his editor at Scribner’s, Maxwell Perkins, 37, that this would be their “first and last appearance positively,” Max knows the Fitzgeralds better than that. He manages to talk Scott out of it.

“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.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with 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, early July, 1922, Cap d’Antibes, Cote d’Azur, France

American ex-pat Sara Wiborg Murphy, 38, heiress to the Wiborg ink company fortune, is sitting in a cove on La Garoupe beach, keeping an eye on her three children—Honoria, 4; Baoth, 3; Patrick, 18 months—and her husband, Gerald, 34, heir to the Mark Cross company fortune. Lounging on a tan rug under a sun umbrella, Sara’s swimsuit straps are off her shoulders and her long string of pearls is draped down her back.

Cap d’Antibes by Henri Matisse

Gerald, in a cap and stripey swimsuit, and their host, American composer Cole Porter, just turned 31, are raking seaweed and stones, about three feet thick, to make the sand a bit more pleasant.

Cole is mostly known for writing the scores to the Hitchy-Koo Broadway revues and Gerald is studying painting in Paris.

Hitchy-Koo sheet music

When the Murphys first decided to take a holiday at the beginning of this month, during their first summer living in Paris, they chose Houlgate, a resort in Normandy on the English Channel.

The Murphys at Houlgate

Horrible. Even having some friends staying close by wasn’t enough to make up for the crap weather.

Back in Paris, Cole, and his wealthy wife Linda, 38, convinced them to come south with them to the Riviera for the next few weeks. They’ve rented a chateau because none of the hotels stay open past the end of the season in May. The locals think, what kind of people would want to come here in the hot summer?! And sit in the sun?! Apparently Americans do. And some Brits.

The Murphys and the Porters are loving it.

They are having some light refreshments—sherry, crackers—and will soon head back to the chateau for lunch.

Gerald and Sara have already decided—they will definitely come back here next summer.

Sara Murphy and Linda Porter doing yoga on the beach

“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.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

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, 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, 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, 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.