Monday, March 16, 2015

A Look at the New Yorker's Fourth Issue

The pallid, labored first issues of The New Yorker failed the magazine's prospectus in every conceivable way.
--Thomas Kunkel
Genius in Disguise:  Harold Ross of The New Yorker.  New York:  Random House, 1995, page 98.

Rea Irvin returns with his third cover. This one is very playful and why not? Spring is in the air at last. Irvin's versatility is already quite apparent; each of his covers is different in realization and mood. By this fourth issue, it's clear that the magazine is not locked into any one particular artistic style.
Rea Irvin, The New Yorker, March 14, 1925

"The Talk of the Town" returns to the front of the magazine where it "belongs."
"The Talk of the Town"
 Parents never did understand style, did they?

Reginald Marsh is back with another lively spread. Greenwich Village is the Playground of the Bronx, and it is the Elevated train or El that gets people there and back. There's a lot going on south of the Washington Square Arch. Gilbert & Sullivan's "Patience" is onstage. Jazz is being played in the streets. The text lists "Drummers, finale hoppers, fake highbrows, hicks, suckers, old ladies from Dubuque, bank runners, jazz boys, collegiate boys, whiskey in coffee cups, squalor, amateur drunks." And that's just the left side of the page!
Reginald Marsh, Greenwich Village, Playground of the Bronx

The editorial content remains weak and it relies on some rather obvious humor:

The spot drawing suggests refinement and elegance. Who is K? Eldon Kelley?
Eldon Kelley, Spot drawing

The quotation in this cartoon is from Calvin Coolidge's March 4 inaugural address, the first to be broadcast on the new medium of radio.
Miguel Covarrubias, Almost Bedtime
"Economy Is Idealism in Its Most Practical Form."

Now we come to the section "Of All Things." Federal taxes were due March 15 back in the day. (The wordplay is on the Latin Pax vobiscum, Peace [be] with you.)

The New Yorker's style of national political commentary just might be influenced by the popular humor of Will Rogers. President Coolidge's inaugural address was actually the first to be broadcast on radio, so reading it wasn't, strictly speaking, necessary.

The magazine continues to write about the New York World's campaign to clean up the Broadway theatre, here with sarcasm, but it's no longer on the front burner. G.B.S. is George Bernard Shaw.

A wholly unnecessary piece on trying to give away tickets to the opera:
"The Tonsils of the Gift Horse" illustrated by Charles Baskerville

Bring on the showgirls! Something's got to sell this magazine.
"The Follies of Florenz Ziegfeld" by the Professor
Illustration by Lauren Stout

Name-dropping continues in the "In Our Midst" section. Herbert Bayard Swope is Harold Ross's counterpart at the New York World.

W. Heath Robinson shows off one of his ridiculous inventions. Is Rube Goldberg reading this? 
W. Heath Robinson, The New Safety Fork Adjustment for Automobiles for the Protection of Chickens on the Road

 Ibsen's "Wild Duck" gets great reviews. Ralph Barton illustrates.
Ralph Barton, Ibsen Done Right By At Last

With "Story of Manhattankind," the word The has been dropped from the title with no noticeable improvement. "'Don't shoot till you see the whites of their eggs,' was one of the famous slogans of the Manhattanites." Sorry, that's about as good as it gets here.
"Story of Manhattankind"
Initial illustration by Herb Roth

Maybe if one doesn't have children, this passes for humor:
Herb Roth, The Landlords Wouldn't Let Them in Unless They Got Rid of Their Children
Illustration for "Story of Manhattankind"

This week's "Profile" is of Jack Dempsey, a name still familiar today.
"Profiles:  A Symbol in Pugilism"
Miguel Covarrubias [?], Jack Dempsey

Some tepid theatre humor:
Illustration by Eldon Kelley

Introducing a new cartoonist, Donald McKee. Do you really want to know who's driving your cab?
Donald McKee, "We-ell, that's not so bad, comparatively.  We might take a chance."

If you didn't get the message yet, times have changed. Cartoonist Nate Collier makes his one and only appearance in the magazine.
Nate Collier, Something on the Hip

Not again! Is this an inside joke? Conceptual humor? It's been in all four issues.
"The Optimist"

This week, Gardner Rea gives us a musical cartoon for the jazz age. Despite two exclamation points in the caption, it still doesn't click. By the way, it looks as if our young musician has one leg in his saxophone. That's sloppy work.
Gardner Rea, "Good Lord!  Here I've come away on a week-end without my jew's-harp!"

I looked at the entire "Art" page and still couldn't figure out who Willard L. Metcalf is. Readers must have already known that the artist passed away on March 9, 1925.
Miguel Covarrubias [?], Willard L. Metcalf

From "Goings On." Look who's on Broadway:

Moving Pictures:  Why list it then?

The magazine's glib capsule reviews can fall on their faces or be moderately amusing.

Spot drawing with spotlight:
Spot drawing

 There's even a pun for Jascha Heifetz. So, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Miss Spence's school for girls is cleverly referred to as Miss Suspense's in this page-long self-serving teaser. Debutante Vivienne takes advantage of bachelor Rhinestone van Rhinestone's absence from his apartment to remove her clothes, take a hot bath, and do some leisurely reading in his tub. What could possibly go wrong?
"The Visualization of Vivienne:  The Direful Dilemma of a Debutante"
Illustration by Eldon Kelley

But stop! Rhinestone van Rhinestone returns to his apartment unexpectedly while poor Vivienne is still reading in the bath. He rushes in and...

Meanwhile, the New Yorker's coverage of the Metropolitan Opera is, like Vivienne's bath, somewhat ill-conceived:

Here's a new sober approach to the magazine's subscription offer. Instead of using humor, the New Yorker is marketing its "Goings On" page as a way of keeping up to date on all the happenings in New York.

Oh dear. If you're going to indulge in punning, you need to do better than this:

The New Yorker's stand against censorship in the theatre is quite naturally extended to the movie industry. The Hays Office directed censorship in films.

Watch your syntax! This note resembles the Newsbreaks of later years.

From "Books"--How to get an interview with the President, old school.

The same thing happened to me with Thomas Pynchon!

Say it isn't so!

On the back cover:  "The style that prevails today with University men..." Anything looks good after that freshman beanie.
The York Street Hat
F. R. Tripler & Co.

Note:  Care for some more? Well, put on your monocle and join me for A Look at the New Yorker's Third Issue.

There are also a couple of timely blog posts about St. Patrick's Day.


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