Category Archives: Books

Classic Hollywood #54 – Katharine Hepburn 1940

Katharine Hepburn Looking Beautiful – Even Her Neck!

katharine-hepburn-1940-photo-van-damm-studioThere are a number of classic movie fans who like Katharine Hepburn as an actress but don’t care for her looks.

Looking at a photograph of Hepburn like this one taken in 1940 by Vandamm Studio, how could anyone say she doesn’t look absolutely beautiful?

The one feature Katharine Hepburn did not like about herself, especially as she aged, was her neck. She called it her “turkey neck.” By the end of the 1940s, wrinkles around her neck made her self conscious, and she would frequently cover up her neck both on screen and off. Continue reading

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 3

The Bronx In 1897 and Its Beautiful Homes – They Gave Way For Progress

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concluding our series on the Bronx from 1897 we look at the final set of photographs excerpted from the 1897 book The Great North Side.

The editors stated purpose in publishing the book was “to attract population, capital, and business enterprise to the Borough of the Bronx.  It is not issued in any narrow sense with the desire of building up this borough at the expense of the other boroughs, for the reader will observe that the writers evidence an equal pride in advantages distinctively the possession of the Borough of Manhattan. We are first of all New Yorkers — citizens of no mean city — and proud of the fact. But our particular field of activity is the Borough of the Bronx, and we know that whatever tends to the upbuilding of this borough redounds to the credit, prestige, and glory of our common city.”

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Fordham Heights Bronx 1897

The editors of The Great North Side really never saw the realization of their goals. The population increased and the borough was developed, but not in the way they envisioned.

What was once a roomy  borough with splendid homes and wide open spaces became overdeveloped. The construction of the subway in the early part of the 20th century brought land development, a building boom and hundreds of thousands of people to the Bronx.

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

By the 1930s many of the fine old homes had been demolished and large parcels of land were subdivided and developed with apartment buildings.

John Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

John S. Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

In the 1950s Robert Moses cut the Bronx’s jugular. Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway bulldozed a wide swath of the Bronx destroying thriving neighborhoods and essentially splitting the Bronx in two halves.

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

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Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 2

The Bronx In 1897 – Beautiful Streets and Homes Part 2

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Poet Ogden Nash once quipped, “The Bronx? No thonx.”

By 1964, Nash had changed his mind and said “I can’t seem to escape the sins of my smart-alec youth. Here are my amends. I wrote those lines, ‘The Bronx? No thonx!’ I shudder to confess them. Now I’m an older, wiser man I cry, ‘The Bronx, God bless them!”

Many people deride the Bronx without actually setting foot in it. In the 19th century, no such derision existed. The Bronx’s reputation as a great place to live and work was justified.

Let’s continue our look at the Bronx in 1897 from the book The Great North Side.

The following words were written for the book by Albert E.  Davis, architect & and a North Side Board of Trade organizer:

“The conditions which caused over-crowding on Manhattan Island do not exist on the North Side. It contains about two-thirds of the combined area of both, is broader and less closely confiued by water, and has unlimited room to expand northward into Westchester County whenever the growth of the city demands it.”

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

“Hence, while the state of affairs below the Harlem was perhaps the natural outgrowth of the necessities of restricted area, it is absolutely unjustifiable and positively wrong to thus crowd the habitations of human beings where there is so much room to spread out, and the price of land is still low.”

Hugh Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hugh N. Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

“There are many attractive residence streets and avenues on the North Side, only a few of which can be here alluded to. Mott Avenue, a very pretty thoroughfare lined with fine old trees which arch over the roadway, starts in the business section of Mott Haven, just below the 138th street station, and extends northward along the westerly ridge known as Buena Ridge to 165th street. Mott Avenue will form the entrance to, and part of the Grand Concourse which is to be the finest boulevard in the country. Walton Avenue, on this ridge, is also a residence thoroughfare.”

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Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 1

The Bronx In 1897 – A Borough of Beautiful Homes

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY 1898

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY in 1898. This view is looking east from Sedgwick Avenue towards Loring Place along West 183rd Street, (formerly Hampden Street). Every house in this photo is now gone, replaced by apartment buildings. The sole remaining structure is the stone wall on the right.

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

For almost anyone who grew up in the Bronx before World War II, they will recount happy memories of neighborhoods brimming with life and full of possibilities. But no one alive today remembers the Bronx when it was mostly undeveloped in the late 19th and early 20th century. Open land and spacious elegant houses dominated the landscape.

The Bronx was a conglomeration of about 50 villages, most of them rural in nature. In the grainy photographs you are about to see, many of the settings look like they could be in Ridgefield, CT or Smalltown, USA – but not the Bronx.

Now, with all the modern apartment buildings, public housing projects and ugly highways that have sprouted up in the last 60 years, these views of the Bronx will come as a surprise to many.

The book where these photographs originally appeared is The Great North Side or Borough of the Bronx by editors of The Bronx Board of Trade. After looking at these photographs, one thing is for sure: the Bronx will never again look as it did in 1897.

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Accompanying the photographs, also taken from The Great North Side are the words of Egbert Viele (1825-1902), the famous engineer, surveyor and mapmaker. Viele’s genuine adulation for the The Bronx is readily apparent.

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

“The North Side of New York, i.e., the territory above the Harlem River, bears a similar relation to the city at large that the Great West does to the country — a land of great promise of infinite possibilities, and the seat of future empire.”

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

“No city in the world has such a wealth of public parks and pleasure grounds as lie within its area; no city in the world has such natural and economical advantages for commerce, or on so grand a scale.”

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

“None has a more salubrious climate, or such a variety of surface, nor has any other city such abundant facilities of passenger transit and land traffic.”

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Who Controls The News In Newspapers?

In 1960 Reporter / Author Gene Fowler Saw The Impending Danger of Who Decided What’s News In Newspapers

Gene Fowler wrote the following in 1960:

…the besetting evils of a haywire economy, as well as the reprisals exacted by ferocious minorities against anyone who prints unpleasant truths, has taken much of the do-and-dare spirit out of the makers of newspaper policies. When appeasement supplants editorial enterprise, and silences the outspoken criticism of evil men, the newspaper forfeits its character, loses its influence—and eventually its life. Public servants become public masters. All freedoms are endangered when that of the press is assailed.

Gene FowlerWe continue looking inside Gene Fowler’s book Skyline a reporter’s reminiscences of the 20’s (Viking) published in 1961 a year after Fowler’s death. Fowler makes several prescient observations about the newspaper business. His commentary is astute and he recognized the shifting danger of publishers, rather than editors controlling what gets reported. Fowler witnessed the trend of electronic media (radio & TV at the time) making newspapers irrelevant as the news cycle became hourly. (Now it is instantaneous.)

As more newspapers are controlled by publishers who have an agenda, publishing what is really news has become a very blurred subject.

You’ll hear the term “the liberal media,” “conservative media” or “the mainstream media” thrown about in policy and political discussions. We all know one thing for sure, there are many forms of media bias. But who really sets editorial policy for newspapers? Continue reading

Did Newspaper Writers Really Used To Say “Stop The Press?”

Stop The Press and Other Movie Cliches

Skyline by Gene FowlerReading Gene Fowler’s highly entertaining memoir Skyline a reporter’s reminiscences of the 20’s  (Viking) 1961, I came across Fowler’s description on how newspaper writers talked shop or in this case didn’t.

Apparently those old films which featured newspapers as their settings did not capture the true vernacular of the field or their subjects according to Fowler.

In one passage, Fowler relates the following story when he was assigned to Oyster Bay, New York to cover President Theodore Roosevelt’s death in 1919. Fowler had just finished relaying his story via telegraph.

“Sign me off,” I said to the telegraph operator. So far as I know, none of us (reporters) ever used the supposedly classic term “thirty” at the end of our stories. That, and several other words and phrases which occur in motion picture scripts, was not part of our supposed lingo. For example, I never heard one Park Row man describe another as a “star reporter.” And if one of us even telephoned in with the legendary cry of “Stop the press!” he would have been turned over at once to Dr. Menas Gregory of Bellevue, or else fired.

Fowler’s memoir is a paean to 1920s New York with the central narrative focusing on the great newspaper writers and editors, now mostly forgotten. Continue reading

Marilyn Monroe’s 90th Birthday

June 1, 2016 Would Have Been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th Birthday

10 Rare Photographs From Her Life

A simply stunning unadorned Marilyn Monroe at agent Johnny Hyde's home 1950 photograph: Earl Leaf

A simply stunning, unadorned Marilyn Monroe at agent Johnny Hyde’s home 1950 photograph: Earl Leaf

June 1 marks Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday. We have pondered this before: what would an elderly Marilyn Monroe have been like? Reclusive and mentally ill like her mother was? Elder stateswoman of the movies and spokesperson for women’s rights? It’s all conjecture, there’s obviously no clear answer.

Marilyn Monroe at age 11 when she was just Norma Jeane Baker

Marilyn Monroe at age 11 when she was just Norma Jeane Baker

As much as Marilyn accomplished, her life was unfulfilled. No babies, no aging to segue into nuanced character roles in films, no Broadway or television career, no venturing into social activism on issues that would have concerned her.

When Marilyn died at the age of 36 in 1962, she became immortalized in ways that probably would have amused her. The movie goddess is still forever young, and has become an icon of many things: the 1950s; glamor; gay rights; womanhood and sex to name a few.

As time passes and the people who actually knew her pass away, Marilyn becomes more of a figurehead of a time rather than a once living flesh and blood person. Authors are drawn to Marilyn and have made her the subject of hundreds of books and millions of words analyzing her without knowing her.

Marilyn Monroe in a publicity photo for Hometown Story a rarely seen 1950 film which includes Alan Hale Jr. (yes, the Skipper from Gilligan's Island!)

Marilyn Monroe in a publicity photo for Hometown Story a rarely seen 1951 film which includes Donald Crisp, Jeffrey Lynn and Alan Hale Jr. (yes, the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island!)

This literary interest in every aspect of Marilyn’s life was not displayed when she was alive. Only six books were written about her during her lifetime. True, there were the articles in magazines that gave superficial glimpses into her life. But Marilyn and the publicity machine that surrounded her obfuscated much of who she really was.

Marilyn Monroe in a parka 1951 photograph: JR Eyerman

Marilyn Monroe in a parka 1951 photograph: JR Eyerman

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Book Review – Peter Arno

Peter Arno The New Yorker’s Most Famous Cartoonist Gets His Due

Peter Arno Maslin Book coverDays after Peter Arno’s death on February 22, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson wrote to The New Yorker editor William Shawn about Arno:

We all have our favorite memories of his comic genius. They seem so fresh in mind and heart that I believe he has a firm hold on posterity.

The nation can be glad of that, and grateful to The New Yorker for serving as Mr. Arno’s stage for so many happy years.

A private life is the most difficult to capture in a biography. For someone so famous during his heyday of fame, Peter Arno led a very private life. In his public life Arno hobnobbed with the famous, was once named the best dressed man in America and was the very definition of man about town. Yet Peter Arno never divulged his inner-self and is somewhat forgotten today.

Michael Maslin’s Peter Arno The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist (Regan Arts) April 2016, takes up the challenge of unveiling Peter Arno’s life . Continue reading

Searching The New York Book Shows For Collectibles

A Weekend For The Books

Two Additional Manhattan Book Shows Draw Collectors

St. Vincent Ferrer book show

St. Vincent Ferrer book show

Besides the ABAA Antiquarian Book Fair there were two other shows taking place in New York on Saturday April 9, 2016.

One show across the street from the ABAA Armory show was the The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair & Fine Press Book Fair at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer (Lexington Avenue and 66th Street) produced by Flamingo Eventz from 10 a.m.  – 6 p.m..

Wallace Hall book show attendees and booths

Wallace Hall book show attendees and booths

The other show further uptown was the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair held at Wallace Hall at St. Ignatius Loyola Church (Park Avenue & 84th Street) produced by Impact Events Group, Inc. and Abebooks.com from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Each show offered quality items at prices within the budget of most book collectors. These shows had bargains, you just had to be sharp, look carefully and be decisive. If you hesitate and walk away, the item you were just looking at can be sold a second later. I’ve seen it happen many times when someone puts down an item, another person is standing right near them and they pick it up and buy it! Continue reading

The ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair Arrives With Treasures For Every Book Lover

ABAA New York Book Fair Has Treasures In All Price Ranges

The display case of Sumner & Stillman Yarmouth, ME. One of the 200+ exhibitors at The New York ABAA Book Fair

The display case of Sumner & Stillman, Yarmouth, ME. One of the 200+ exhibitors at The New York ABAA Book Fair

There are not many places you can see a dozen first edition copies of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. That is unless you are visiting the Park Avenue Armory this weekend.

P164 Booth Lux Mentis and Brian CassidyOver 200 book dealers from around the globe have set up at the Armory (Park Avenue between 66th & 67th Streets) to display and sell their treasures and rarities. For sale are original manuscripts, maps, autographs, illuminated texts and of course, books. Lots and lots of books.

The book show had a preview opening Thursday, April 7 and presents a fascinating feast not only for bibliophiles, but for anyone wishing to see works that could be in a private library or museum, yet are available for purchase.

P161 Jules Verne first editions Sumner and Stillman

A collection of Jules Verne first editions at Sumner & Stillman

The exhibitors have brought a range of objects with them, from one of a kind rarities to books from highly collected stalwart authors like Hemingway, Verne, Dickens, Joyce, Wells, Faulkner, and Melville. And then of course there is Mark Twain and those multiple copies of Huckleberry Finn first editions. Continue reading