Friday, April 6, 2018

E. Simms Campbell: Getting Frisky

Let's be clear:  the unbecoming conduct described in a 1938 Esquire cartoon by E. Simms Campbell would be regarded as unprofessional and, it is to be hoped, unacceptable according to any real-world police standards. But by the slightly less rigorous standards of a cartoon published in a leading men's magazine of the 1930s, we are, it seems, supposed to identify solely with the lecherous officers and to take pleasure in the pretty woman's predicament. The female subject under interrogation, if that's the word for it, is given about two thirds of the page, with the three policemen relegated to the remaining third. In addition, the woman shows more skin than the three men combined, and she is depicted from a high enough vantage point that we may more enjoy her discomfort and dishevelment. The ultimate insult to her—and indeed the very point of the cartoon—is that she is not smart enough to understand the ulterior motives behind what she has just been subjected to under the falsest of pretenses.

"Well[,] you've all frisked me! Now are you
convinced I haven't a gun!!"

E. Simms Campbell
Esquire, 1938

Note:  No doubt the very talented E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971) gave the Esquire reader what he wanted, and probably more so than any other cartoonist. Attempted Bloggery is hard at work bringing this often overlooked artist back into public view. Therefore readers with access to original works by this artist are asked to submit high-resolution scans or photographs for consideration on the blog. Images of long-forgotten published works such as this one are also welcome.

At post time, this old magazine page is still available for purchase on eBay, so gun for it if you wish.

In what issue of Esquire did this cartoon appear? If you know, I want to know.

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