“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, late September, early October, 1922, 82 Merrion Square, Dublin; and Great Neck, Long Island, New York

Georgie Yeats, 29, is relieved to be settling into her new home in Merrion Square, Dublin, with her family—her husband, poet William Butler Yeats, 57, and their two children, Anne, 3, and Michael, 13 months.

She bought this posh row house just a few months ago, with her own family money. But they have been living out in the west of Ireland, in the tower Willie bought and named Thoor Ballylee.

Willie has been optimistic about how the newly independent Irish Free State is progressing. Despite the ongoing civil war, the Parliament elected in June has taken their seats and chosen W. T. Cosgrave, 42, as their President.

However, at the beginning of this month Republican soldiers came to the door of Thoor Ballylee and told Georgie that they were going to blow up the bridge over the stream that runs by the tower. She should move the family upstairs. Big of them to give notice.

They ignited the fuses; a Republican told her there would be two explosions. She writes to a friend: 

After two minutes, two roars came & then a hail of falling masonry & gravel & then the same man shouted up ‘All right now’ & cleared off.”

No one was injured. When the Yeats family left for Dublin the stream had poured two feet of water in the downstairs dining room.

Thoor Ballylee flooded

*****

As she got off the train at Great Neck, Long Island, Zelda Fitzgerald, 22, carrying her daughter Scottie, 11 months, took one look at the nanny that her husband, hit novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, just turned 26, had hired—and fired her.

Scott and Zelda have recently rented a house in this suburb, only a 45-minute drive from Manhattan, and, while Zelda went back to St. Paul, Minnesota, to pick up Scottie from Fitzgerald’s parents, Scott had botched things up as usual.

Scottie and Zelda Fitzgerald

They had come back to New York at the beginning of the month to start a life with less booze and more work on Scott’s next novel and a play he’s writing. But they made the mistake of staying in their favorite place for partying, the Plaza Hotel, and the partying came back too.

A few weeks ago, Scott invited his old Princeton University buddy, critic and managing editor of Vanity Fair, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, 27, over to the Plaza for an impromptu lunch—lobster croquettes and top shelf illegal liquor. Also joining them were novelists John Dos Passos, 26, and Sherwood Anderson, 46, who was looking a bit scruffy. The bootlegger’s bartender mixed Bronx cocktails (gin, vermouth and orange juice) and the men sat around drinking and whining about how their publishers didn’t promote their books enough.

Dos Passos and Zelda started teasing each other and Anderson, who had only come to be polite, left early.

John Dos Passos

Scott mentioned that, now that he had published two successful novels and just brought out his second short story collection, Tales of the Jazz Age, he and Zelda had decided to rent a house out on Long Island where they could raise their daughter.

So the slightly tipsy Fitzgeralds and Dos Passos got in a chauffeured red touring car and took off to meet up with a real estate agent in Great Neck. None of the houses interested them so they decided to pay a call on their friend, humor writer Ring Lardner, 37, at his home on East Shore Road looking out over Manhasset Bay.

Ring was already drunker than they were, so after only a few more drinks the group headed back to the Plaza. Zelda insisted on stopping at an amusement park along the way so she could ride the Ferris Wheel, and Scott stayed in the car drinking from a bottle that he had hidden there. Dos Passos decided his new friends were going to have a hard time adjusting to strictly domestic life.

After several other house-hunting trips, the Fitzgeralds finally found this lovely home at 6 Gateway Drive, in the leafy confines of Great Neck Estates:  A circular driveway; red-tiled roof; great big pine tree in the front yard; and a room above the garage where Scott can write in peace.

6 Gateway Drive, Great Neck

Zelda took off to retrieve Scottie in St. Paul, leaving Fitzgerald to hire servants and a baby nurse. He sure has screwed that up.

Despite his recent writing success, and encouragement from his publisher, Scott really isn’t making enough to afford the rent, the servants, the laundress, the nurse, the country club, the theatre tickets, the restaurant bills, and the Rolls Royce (second hand) that living in Great Neck requires.

Zelda doesn’t care. The finances are his problem.

“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 at Thoor Ballylee in Co. Galway, and as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. They are also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. 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 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 6, 1920, Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California

Almost over. Thank God.

The endless Democratic National Convention is finally coming to a close. 9 days. 14 candidates. 44 ballots.

Tkt GuestPassDemNatlConvSanFran06281920

Guest pass to the 1920 Democratic Convention

H. L. Mencken, 39, reporting for the Baltimore Sun, who had hated the smelly Chicago Coliseum where the Republicans had held their convention last month, rhapsodizes about the Democrats’ choice of venue, the Civic Auditorium:

So spacious, so clean, so luxurious in its comforts and so beautiful in its decorations, that the assembled politicos felt like sailors turned loose in the most gorgeous bordellos of Paris.”

Novelist, playwright and former full-time journalist Edna Ferber, 34 (but she only admits to 31), on special assignment for United Press, is as unimpressed with the Democratic delegates as she had been with those from the other party:

It was, in its way, almost as saddening a sight as the Republican Convention had been…Once the opening prayer had piously died on the air, there broke out from two to a half dozen actual fist fights on the floor of the assemblage—battles that raged up and down the aisles until guards separated the contestants. The meeting droned on. Nothing seemed to be accomplished.”

The New York Tribune’s Heywood Broun, 31, however, gave the edge to the Republicans:

They were able at Chicago to say nothing in just about one-tenth the number of words which the Democrats needed to say the same thing.”

Every time a woman delegate was given the floor to nominate or second a candidate, the band played the ragtime hit, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.”

OhYouBeautifulDoll-1911

Sheet music

By yesterday, everyone was so frustrated at the group’s inability to decide on a candidate, the Missouri delegation cast a .50 vote for sportswriter Ring Lardner, 35, whose syndicated columns have been delighting the country. He says he will run on the same platform he used to not be elected mayor of Chicago:

More Beer—Less Work.”

Ring Lardner

Ring Lardner

Finally, at 1:43 am today, on the 44th ballot, Ohio Governor James M. Cox, 50, received enough votes to secure the nomination. When he is informed of this by the Associated Press telegraph wire three hours later in his Dayton office, he is stunned.

Now there is the matter of the running mate. Who to nominate for vice president?

Cox favors the new, young star of the show, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and fifth cousin of the late Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 38. As Cox says,

His name is good, he’s right geographically, and he is anti-Tammany [Hall].”

And FDR has been running around the convention making friends, wooing the rest of his New York state delegation by turning his rooms on the battleship New York into a Prohibition-violating reception.

That’s good enough. The convention nominates Roosevelt by acclimation. Exhausted acclimation.

FDR_standing and_James_M_Cox

Franklin D. Roosevelt and James M. Cox

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

My presentation, “Such Friends”:  Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table [Heywood Broun was a member] is available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre. The program begins at the 11 minute mark, and my presentation at 16 minutes.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at University of Pittsburgh and 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 Kindle 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.