At the Algonquin Hotel, mid-town Manhattan, June 1919…

…New York City’s top newspaper and magazine writers have all been invited for lunch.

Earlier this month, press agent John Peter Toohey, 39, searching for a way to promote his young client, playwright Eugene O’Neill, 30, had set up a lunch with New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, 32, just returned from France. At lunch, Alex, who weighed only 195 for the last time in his life, had no interest in talking about anyone but himself and his recent exploits in the “theatre of war,” of which he was inordinately proud.

To get back at Woollcott for monopolizing that meeting, and to get more publicity, Toohey had decided to invite all the other well-known critics from New York’s many publications to a big gathering at the hotel—all 12 dailies in Manhattan and five in Brooklyn.

Thirty-five have showed up! So hotel manager Frank Case, 49, has put them all at a big round table in the back of the dining room.

Dorothy Parker, 25, is here as the drama critic at Vanity Fair, wearing her best suit, and she had insisted that her new co-worker Robert Benchley, 29, come along. Sports writer Heywood Broun, 30, and his wife, Ruth Hale, 32, are here. Parker had met him, a vague acquaintance of her sister, one summer a few years before. The dean of New York columnists, FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 37] is here as a personal friend of Woollcott.

When lunch is over, Toohey–or somebody–says, “Why don’t we do this every day?”

And so they did. For the next nine years.

hirshfield alg

 

The Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld. Left to right at main table, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, FPA. On the other side of the table, left to right, Robert Sherwood, George S Kaufman, and Edna Ferber.

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

In Manhattan in mid-summer of 1915…

…New York Tribune writer FPA [Franklin P. Adams, 33] is searching for material for his daily column, “The Conning Tower.”

It appears that his loyal readers stuck with him after he got kicked off The Evening Mail last year—after a decade of building up one of the largest audiences in New York–when it was bought by a pro-German syndicate. The new owners managed to get rid of most of their Jewish writers, including one of FPA’s proteges, George S Kaufman, 25. So he’d brought Kaufman with him to the Trib.

Now FPA’s thinking of giving one of his other young writer friends a mention, Heywood Broun, 27. He has just moved from sports reporter to drama critic at the Trib. And has told FPA that he’s fallen madly in love with a Russian ballerina, Lydia Lopokova, 23, and is determined to marry her. FPA writes for tomorrow’s issue,

Heywood Broun, the critic, I hear hath become engaged to Mistress Lydia Lopokova, the pretty play actress and dancer. He did introduce her to me last night and she seemed a merry elf.’

Lydia Lopokova, c. 1915

Lydia Lopokova, c. 1915

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Manhattan, November, 1918…

…novice playwright George S Kaufman, born 29 years ago in Pittsburgh, PA, is thrilled to see a good review of his Broadway debut play, Some One in the House, in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine.

Unfortunately, the play closed last month. After only 32 performances.

Kaufman and his collaborator had written it as a melodrama, based on a magazine story. But their first venture into legitimate theatre had the misfortune to premier during the outbreak of the flu epidemic in New York, severely limiting the number of people going out for the evening. The authorities were advising people to stay away from large groups. So Kaufman had taken an ad,

Avoid the Crowds…See Some One in the House.’

And now, here is a good review. In Vanity Fair, no less…

Somehow, I have heard very little excitement about Some One in the House. It slipped unobtrusively into the Knickerbocker Theatre…All I knew about it was what I could glean from the billboards—that it was a “melodramatic comedy”—whatever that might be…And then I went to see the thing, they completely sold me on it. It wasn’t so much the melodramatic part that intrigued me…No, it’s the comedy that got me. It’s the best time I have had in, lo, these many weeks—ever since the current theatrical season opened, to be perfectly accurate. And the thing is done so perfectly, too….Lynn Fontanne [30], in a part that is a perfect dramatization of [New York columnist FPA’s, 36, character Dulcinea, does] the best bits of characterization that have been seen in these parts in many a day…You could go right down the cast that way and never find an error.’

Kaufman is encouraged. Vanity Fair is known for its usually acerbic reviews, by the only woman theatre critic in New York City, Dorothy Parker, 25. He decides he’d like to meet her some day and thank her.

Vanity Fair, November 1918

Vanity Fair, November 1918

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.