“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, October 29, 1922, The Little Church Around the Corner, 1 East 29th Street, New York City; and East Shore Road, Great Neck, Long Island, New York

This wedding is fun. The Manhattan editors and writers who trade quips and insults almost every day at lunch at the Algonquin Hotel are here. The groom is Robert Sherwood, 26, editor of the humor magazine Life, towering over everyone at 6 feet 8 inches tall. The bride is actress Mary Brandon, 20, who appeared with Sherwood and the Algonquin gang in their one-off revue, No Sirree!, a few months ago.

The Little Church Around the Corner, aka The Church of the Transfiguration

The ushers include Sherwood’s co-editor at Life, Robert Benchley, 33, who just finished a gig with the Music Box Revue doing his shtick from No Sirree!, “The Treasurer’s Report,” seven days a week. And Alexander Woollcott, 35, who just went from reviewing plays for the New York Times to writing a column, “In the Wake of the Plays,” for the New York Herald after the owner, Frank Munsey, 68, offered him $15,000 a year. “For money and no other reason,” explains Woollcott.

And playwright Marc Connelly, 31, who just had a second Broadway hit, West of Pittsburgh, with his collaborator, George S Kaufman, 32.

And also Frank Case, 49, who is not known to be particularly witty, but as the manager of the Algonquin Hotel, he must have a good sense of humor.

Frank Case

Also attending are hit novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 26, and his wife Zelda, 22, fresh off the successful publication of his second collection of short stories, Tales of the Jazz Age.

And America’s sweethearts, film stars Mary Pickford, 30, and her co-star and husband of two years, Douglas Fairbanks, 39.

All wish the Sherwoods well. But some predict this wedding will be the high point of their marriage.

Mary Brandon Sherwood

*****

Many of the wedding guests actually have more fun in the summer and into the fall partying out on Long Island.

The biggest bashes are at the rented home of New York World publisher Herbert Bayard Swope, 40, overlooking Manhasset Bay. People were not invited—they went there.

Herbert Bayard Swope’s house in Great Neck

From Great Neck then, came the Fitzgeralds, who have rented a house there and the Lardners from across the street. And a whole clan named Marx, including Arthur (“Harpo”), 33, and his brother Julius (“Groucho”), 32, who have made a name for themselves in musical theatre.

From nearby Sandy Point came magazine illustrator Neysa McMein, 34, and mining engineer Jack Baragwanath, 35. Neysa was the first to suggest that their competitive croquet games on the lawn be played without rules. Swope loved the idea; he feels the game

makes you want to cheat and kill…The game gives release to all the evil in you.”

Bust of Neysa McMein by Sally James Farnham

Heywood Broun, 33, a columnist on Swope’s own World, came to gamble, but sometimes brought his wife, free-lance writer Ruth Hale, 35.

Of theatrical people there were the Kaufmanns and Connelly and composer George Gershwin, 24. Also from New York were Woollcott, and New York Times journalist Jane Grant, 30. And the free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 29, separated now, who has pieces in almost every issue of the Saturday Evening Post. She’s sometimes accompanied by her latest beau, would-be playwright Charles MacArthur, 27, but other times is seen sneaking across the road to the home of sportswriter Ring Lardner, 37, when his wife is away.

Ring Lardner

In addition to all these, satiric writer Donald Ogden Stewart, 27, came there at least once.

All these people came to Swope’s house in the summer.

“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, 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.