“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, 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


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.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, Summer, 1920, Windsor, Vermont; Westport, Connecticut; and New York City, New York

For the first time since he moved from the advertising department, at New York publisher Charles Scribner’s & Sons, up to the editorial department six years ago, Maxwell Perkins, 35, feels as though he is entitled to a vacation.

He is back in Windsor, Vermont, where he had spent most of his summers while growing up. It’s peaceful. And quiet. And brings back good memories.

Windsor VT Old So Church

The Old South Church in Windsor, Vermont

However, as usual, he worries about his writers. Particularly his new discovery F. Scott Fitzgerald, 23, whose debut novel, This Side of Paradise, is earning Perkins this welcome rest.

Max decides he’d better send Scott his summer address, just in case he needs to be in touch:

Maxwell Perkins

Windsor, Vermont.”

Down south in Westport, Connecticut, Scott and his new bride, Zelda, about to turn 20, are spending most of their summer supporting the local bootlegger.

Working on short stories as well as his second novel, Scott flirts with Eugenia Bankhead, 19, sister of stage and screen actress Tallulah, 18, both old schoolmates of Zelda.

Zelda fights back by chatting up Smart Set co-editor George Jean Nathan, 37.

So many drunk drivers are racing up and down the road between parties in Westport and New York, the local police have given up trying to stop them.

Fitzs house in Westport

The Fitzgeralds’ rented house in Westport, Connecticut

Riding through midtown Manhattan one day in a taxi, Scott starts sobbing. He knows that he has gotten everything he ever wanted. And life will never be this good again.

“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.

Manager as Muse, about Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

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 the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

My presentation, “Such Friends”:  Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, 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.

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

At the 49th Street Theatre, mid-town Manhattan, April 30th, 1922…

…writer Robert Benchley, 32, is relieved.

He’s just come off stage after performing his one-man skit, “The Treasurer’s Report,” in his friends’ one-off revue, No Sirree! That went well, he thinks.

Preceding Benchley on stage was a chorus line of short women, including Tallulah Bankhead, 20, and Helen Hayes, 21, dancing around his friend, 6 feet 8 inches tall Robert Sherwood, just turned 26, singing “The Everlastin’ Ingenue Blues,” written by their drinking buddy and former co-worker when they all worked at Vanity Fair, Dorothy Parker, 28.

We’ve got the blues, we’ve got the blues,

We believe we said before we’ve got the blues.

We are little flappers, never growing up,

And we’ve all of us been flapping since Belasco was a pup.

We’ve got the blues, we mean the blues,

You’re the first to hear the devastating news.

We’d like to take a crack at playing Lady Macbeth,

But we’ll whisper girlish nothings with our dying breath.

As far as we’re concerned, there is no sting in death

We’ve got those everlasting ingénue blues.”

The show is for an invited audience and going well, but thank God they decided to do it as a joke for just one night. They named it after one of the hottest revues currently on Broadway, La Chauve-Souris.

Expected to contribute something, Benchley had finished off writing his part in the taxi on the way over. He thought it was pretty funny; the audience liked it. Right now, he’s just really glad he won’t have to do it again.

Bench Treas Report

Robert Benchley filmed doing The Treasurer’s Report

Here is a link to the short film, The Treasurer’s Report, for Fox Movietone (1928): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edlpn3CnqaQ

In the film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), there is a scene showing parts of No Sirree!, including a short piece of “The Everlastin’ Ingenue Blues”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMX6BubBwmM

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.’