Tag Archives: 1920s

Old New York In Photos #84 – West End Avenue 60th Street 1927 & Now

How West End Avenue & 60th Street Has Changed Over The Last 90 Years

One word describes this transformation – drastic.

Judge for yourself.

Our first photograph looking north and west on West End Avenue from 60th Street was taken by Percy Sperr on May 20, 1927. Sperr photographed the city endlessly during the 1920s and 1930s and preserved many views of common scenes and places that other photographers would rarely chronicle.

The Belgian block paved street and rail tracks that line West End Avenue from 60th Street stretch as far as the eye can see. Continue reading

New York in the 1920’s & 30’s as Seen by Luigi Kasimir – Part 2

Six More Views of New York City From The 1920s & 30s by Artist Luigi Kasimir

New York City skyline as seen from Central Park. Etching by Luigi Kasimir

Seven years ago we featured the art work of Luigi Kasimir.

In the first half of the 20th century Kasimir was admired by peers and critics in the art world. His name has been forgotten in the 21st century by most people, except New York art aficionados.

Luigi Kasimir was born in 1881 in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and later came to New York where he repeatedly captured the architectural sights of the city. Kasimir is best known for his detailed etchings, many of which were done in color, which apparently was not the norm for early 20th century etchings.  The New York Times distinguished Kasimir from other etchers of the time at a contemporary exhibition in 1926 by referring to him as a “colorist.” These aquatints have a vibrancy that makes the New York of the 1920’s and 1930’s come alive.  Kasimir was prolific and produced hundreds of works until his death in 1962.

We thought it was worth taking another look at Kasimir’s delightful scenes of New York. So here are six additional etchings of Luigi Kasimir’s New York City.

(click on any etching to enlarge.)

Wall Street, April 1936 Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #66 – Rudolph Valentino Goes To Court In Costume

Rudolph Valentino Is Not Acting, He’s Actually In Court – 1925

Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguella – aka Rudoplh Valentino, one of the world’s biggest film stars in 1925.

As big as a film star Valentino was it would not prevent him from being compelled to show up in court against his wishes to answer a speeding violation. His crime: going 38 in a 20 mile per hour zone in Santa Monica.

The news caption reads:

Valentino in Court in Screen Costume – Fined $50

Rudolph Valentino, failing in an attempt to have a representative answer speeding charges in court asked to have court held at his studio pleading business pressure. Justice Marchetti became angered demanded Valentino’s appearance and fined him $50. Photo of “The Sheik” in the costume of his latest screen vehicle – 9-11-25 (photo Wide World)

Valentino was not being a prima donna asking the court to come to the studio. Shutting down production for one day of the film he was starring in, “The Eagle” would cost $10,000. More importantly the people who could least afford it, all the extras involved in the filming, would have lost a days wages

On September 8 Justice Marchetti said, “I am sorry that anyone should lose money or be inconvenienced, but the court can show no partiality. Before the law a famous actor is in the same situation as anyone else. The dignity of the law would be compromised, the courts would be made a laughing stock, were I to set up legal machinery in a studio.” Continue reading

Yankee Stadium As You’ve Never Seen It – 1928

An Empty Yankee Stadium Was Used As A Filming Location For Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman”

Here Are Some Views Of A “Different” Yankee Stadium In 1928

90 years ago, Buster Keaton made The Cameraman, a comedy in which he played a newsreel cameraman trying to get newsworthy footage. Many of the scenes were shot on location in New York City.

In one scene Keaton figures he’ll head up to the Bronx and film some baseball action sequences. He arrives at Yankee Stadium and hurries in with his camera ready to catch the Bronx Bombers, only to discover the Yankees are not playing that day.

That does not stop Keaton from indulging in fantasy, as the empty stadium looms as a backdrop to his antics.

In real life Keaton was a baseball fanatic. This was a time when many Hollywood studios had their own baseball teams and played against one another. In the written application to work with Keaton’s company, there were two questions on the form:  1. Are you a good actor? 2. Can you play baseball? If you answered yes to both you probably could get a job working with Keaton.

Yankee Stadium opened in 1923. Over the next ten years constant changes occurred to the dimensions, seating and field itself creating the classic Yankee Stadium that most fans are familiar with either first-hand or through old photographs.

Presented below are stills from Buster Keaton’s classic film, The Cameraman.

In the opening Yankee Stadium sequence Keaton enters through center field. Note the unfinished right field stands. As originally configured, straight away center field was over 490 feet away from home plate! The bleachers could hold over 10,000 fans. The flagpole was on the playing field and there were no plaques or monuments in Yankee Stadium yet, honoring the “greats.”

A locker room manager emerges from the dugout to tell Keaton, the Yankees are not at home. If you look at the “box seats” you can see that they  are really “boxed” off with movable chairs. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #65 – Lillian Gish, Ethereal Beauty In The Dawn of Cinema

Lillian Gish – An Eight Decade Career in Entertainment

 

Lillian Gish, whom George Jean Nathan the eminent critic, has termed “the finest actress in motion pictures”, has again scored a signal triumph by her characterization of “Romola” in the Inspiration company’s production of George Eliot’s celebrated novel of the same name. Miss Gish spent a year in Florence, Italy making this picture, under the direction of Henry King. Photoplay reviewers have classed her work in “Romola” as fine as that of “The White Sister”. “Romola is a Metro-Goldwyn release. October 20, 1925

For longevity there are few stars that can rival Lillian Gish (October 14, 1893 – February 27, 1993).

The star of D. W. Griffith’s legendary Birth of a Nation (1915), Gish made her stage debut in 1898 and her final movie The Whales of August in 1987. In between those many years, Gish alternated between the stage, movies and television.

In 1914 theatrical producer David Belasco was quoted as saying that Lillian Gish “is the most beautiful blond he had ever seen.”

George Jean Nathan the critic who provided the quote in the news caption above was in love with Lillian Gish and the two dated for many years. In April 1925, Variety, the weekly theatrical paper, reported that the two were engaged to be married. Similar reports emerged in 1927. Gish and Nathan never  married and no reason or announcement was ever provided except that they were just “good friends.” Continue reading

When Hazel Was Young

Is That Really Hazel???

Once upon a time there were seven television channels to choose from in New York City. Before 1977 and the wide introduction of cable television every kid experienced the same TV shows and could talk about them with their peers.

Gilligan’s Island; I Dream of Jeannie; Mr. Ed; F-Troop; Green Acres; Bonanza, Star Trek, Family Affair; I Love Lucy; Batman; The Brady Bunch and so on. If it was being rebroadcast after school in syndication we saw it. That means kids also had little to choose from. Which means kids watched many bad TV shows. And that’s why I saw Hazel.

Hazel was one of the most annoying television series from the 1960s.

The star playing Hazel was Shirley Booth (1898-1992), Continue reading

Immigration Enforcement In 1921 & Immigration Battles Today

Immigrants Inspected – Keeping America “Safe” 1921

Immigrants Examined By New York City Health Officials For Typhus Symptoms

To ward off a possible spread of the dread typhus in New York, Dr. Royal S. Copeland, Health Commissioner, has assigned a squad of inspectors to examine all immigrants released from Ellis Island on their arrival in New York City. The immigrants must pass two inspections before being permitted to land. The Federal health authorities examine them at Ellis Isalnd and Dr. Copeland’s squad assisted by New York police round them up at the Battery and take them to a nearby ferry house where another examination is made. Several carriers of the typhus lice  according to reports have been discovered by the Copeland squad after the Ellis Island officials had permitted them to pass through.

The photo shows Dr. Copeland’s squad examining newly landed immigrants. photo: International News 2-14-21

Today there is much more than typhus to worry about when deciding who shall be admitted to the United States. “Extreme vetting” to thwart terrorists is one of the big debates. And of course there is that contentious issue of the estimated 11 million people that are in the United States illegally.

In all the arguments that have been brought up about amnesty for illegals, I have not seen anyone saying they are against legal immigrants and immigration. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #66 – Brooklyn Bridge & The Manhattan Skyline At Night 1928

Under The Brooklyn Bridge & The Classic Manhattan Skyline At Night -1928

brooklyn-bridge-manhattan-skyline-at-night-1928The Brooklyn Bridge frames this unique view of lower Manhattan at night in 1928. The Woolworth Building (partially seen behind the tower of the bridge) was still the tallest building in the world.

In the center of the photo is the third tallest building in the world, the Singer Building at Liberty Street and Broadway. The second tallest building at the time was the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building on 23rd Street and Madison Avenue.

The next skyscraper to the left of the Singer Building is the Equitable Building. Just south of the Equitable with the pyramid shaped roof is the Bankers Trust Building.

Over the next four years Continue reading

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