Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Blog Post No. 2100: Eustace Tilley in Leotards

It's ninety-two years ago this week that Eustace Tilley made his debut on the newsstand. As yet unnamed, Rea Irvin's cover creation must have either delighted or confounded readers who encountered this hopelessly outdated dandy superciliously regarding a butterfly through his monocle. What an unlikely mascot for Harold Ross's brand new magazine reveling in the jazz age and the Prohibition Era! And what incredible staying power he's had! Until very recent times, Eustace Tilley made a return engagement on the cover of each anniversary issue.

Rea Irvin, The New Yorker, February 21, 1925

It was fifteen years into this run that Eustace Tilley appeared onstage in a ballet entitled not too surprisingly "The New Yorker." George Zoritch danced the role of Tilley with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Rea Irvin himself, evidently a man of many talents, wrote the libretto in collaboration with choreographer Léonide Massine. Scenes and characters were based on the cartoons of Peter Arno, Helen E. Hokinson, Otto Soglow, William Steig, and others including James Thurber. Performed to the music of George Gershwin, it was an odd amalgam of Russian and American sensibilities. The production received poor reviews, prompting ongoing revisions. Massine elaborated the character of Peter Arno's Timid Man. The production continued through at least 1942, but was eventually dropped from the repertoire. The Museum of the City of New York retains in its permanent collection a painting by Marc Perper of Zoritch in his Eustace Tilley costume.

Marc Perper, George Zoritch, 1940

Maurice Seymour, Massine as Peter Arno's Timid Man

A program from 1942, two years after the premiere when "The New Yorker" headed a three-act program that included "Sheherazade" and "Gaîté Parisienne."


The New Yorker magazine noted the opening of "The New Yorker" ballet with absolutely no fanfare:

There exists a nine-minute video segment related to this production in the collection of the New York Public Library.

Note:  I am sure there exist many studio photos of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo's production of "The New Yorker." In addition, the company kept videos and other notes of their productions in order to be able to restage them at future dates. I would be grateful for any production-related photos, stage designs, or recordings to add to this post. If anyone would care to access the video in the New York Public Library, I'd love to hear your assessment.

Quick Links to Attempted Bloggery's Archives
The Attempted Bloggery Centennial Posts
Blog Post No. 100
Blog Post No. 200:  A Shaggy Dog Story


No comments:

Post a Comment