Tag Archives: 1940s

Classic Hollywood #56 – Johnny Weissmuller a.k.a. Tarzan of the Apes

Johnny Weissmuller Takes A Dive – 1948

Three Things You Didn’t Know About The Cinema’s Most Famous Tarzan

Tarzan Takes Off

Johnny Weissmuller better known as Tarzan of the Apes flies through the air with the greatest of ease, as he rehearses at Marshall Street Baths today (Monday) for his forthcoming Aquashow with Belita as his mate. February 16, 1948 (photo: Paramount)

Olympic multi gold-medal winner Michael Phelps is arguably the most famous swimmer in the world today.

If you had asked anyone living during the 1920s or 30s to name a male swimmer, Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984)would have been the answer 99 times out of 100. In 1950 the Associated Press named  Weissmuller the greatest swimmer of the first half of the 20th century.

Before Weismuller gained film stardom playing Tarzan of the Apes, he was setting swimming speed records during the 1920s. Weissmuller won five gold medals in the Olympics and 52 national championships. Weissmuller’s most amazing accomplishment as an amateur swimmer is that he never lost a race.

Weissmuller went on to play Tarzan a dozen times in films from 1932 – 1948.

Here are three things you might not have known about Johnny Weissmuller and Tarzan.

1 – How did Weissmuller get the role of Tarzan?

In 1932 screen writer Cyril Hume was working on a script called “Tarzan the Ape Man.” Hume had seen footage of Weissmuller that had been deleted from the film Glorifying The American Girl. Weissmuller had appeared in that film wearing nothing but a fig leaf and holding actress Mary Eaton on his shoulder.

Without realizing he was being asked to do a screen test Weissmuller was talked into into seeing director W.S. Van Dyke and producer Bernard Hyman by Cyril Hume. At the meeting Weissmuller was told to strip. Continue reading

Huge Crowd Of Last Minute Shoppers At Macy’s -1942

1942 – Crowds Come To Macy’s At The Last Minute, Not For Christmas Gifts, But Liquor

Macy’s department store in New York City – On October 31, 1942 people flock to the liquor department to stock up on spirits the day before a new liquor tax goes into effect

The government can raise food taxes, gasoline taxes and income taxes and people will get riled up. But when you increase taxes on alcohol, that’s when people go into a panic .

Immediately after the Unites States jumped into World War II on December 8, 1941, the Federal government added taxes on all sorts of things to raise money for the war effort. A tax on distilled liquor was passed: $4.00 per gallon effective November 1, 1942. In addition to that tax, retailers would have to pay a floor tax of $1.00 per gallon on any unsold liquor in their possession after that date.

Here is proof crazed buying scenes did occur in the past, though they were much more civilized. Today we associate buying frenzies with the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday or on Christmas Eve.

In our photo above on October 31,1942 crowds descended upon Macy’s liquor department to stock up on whiskey, gin, vodka and any liquor they could get, before the new liquor tax went into effect the next day.

The increased cost to consumers would be about 50 cents per bottle.

In New York City, Gimbels, Abraham & Strauss, Hearn’s, Bloomingdales, Macy’s and all the large department stores had liquor departments. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #54A – 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

1945 Cubs Sluggers and A 1948 Indians Championship

The Last Time:

Cubs In World Series, 1945; Indians Were World Champions, 1948

Cubs May Have Had Sluggers, But They Still Lost to Tigers in ’45; Indians Prevailed Over Braves in ’48

1945 Cubs Sluggers: Lowery, Secory, Nicholson, Pafko and Sauer photo: William Greene

1945 Cubs Sluggers: (l-r) Lowery, Secory, Nicholson, Pafko and Sauer photo: William Greene

The news photograph above was captioned “1945 Cubs Sluggers.” That may be a bit of a misnomer as Harry “Peanuts” Lowery hit seven home runs in 143 games, the most he ever hit in his 13 year career.

Frank Secory hit no homers in 35 games. Bill “Swish” Nicholson, the only true slugger in this photograph led the National League in homers in 1943 and 1944 with 29 and 33 home runs respectively. In 1945 Nicholson led the Cubs with a mere 13 home runs in 151 games. Andy Pafko hit 12 home runs and drove in 110 runs in 144 games. And Ed Sauer had two homers in 49 games.

As a team the 1945 Cubs hit only 57 home runs. On the other hand their pitchers allowed only 57 home runs.

In the closely contested World Series, none of the “Cubs sluggers” hit a home run. National League MVP Phil Caverretta hit the only homer and led the Cubs with a .423 batting average.

Claude Passeau and Rudy York before game 1 1945 World Series photo: International News

Claude Passeau and Rudy York before game 1 1945 World Series photo: International News

Before game 4 of the World Series began, this photo was taken. The caption reads: Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #54B – Veronica Lake – 1940

The Beautiful Veronica Lake – The Smallest Waistline in Hollywood

Veronica Lake I Wanted Wings promotional photo 1940

Veronica Lake publicity photograph for “I Wanted Wings” November 1940

Veronica Lake was born Constance Ockelman on November 14, 1922 in Brooklyn, NY. After the death of her father in a ship accident, she adopted her stepfather’s last name of Keane in 1934. Because of her great beauty, after graduating high school, the family moved to Beverly Hills, California so Constance could take acting lessons.

After a series of bit roles in 1939 and 1940 Constance Keane had a meteoric rise to fame.

The publicity machine started to roll in 1940 when Constance was “discovered” by producer Arthur Hornblow Jr. She was cast in I Wanted Wings (1941) co-starring Ray Milland and William Holden. For the film, Constance was given a new name – Veronica Lake.

Syndicated gossip columnist Hedda Hopper wrote about Lake on August 24, 1940, “It’s her first part in pictures, though she’s had a couple of years of little theaters and after they saw her (screen) test, and said, ‘You’ve got the part,’ she turned pale, said, ‘Oh yes?’ Her knees started to cave in, she whispered, ‘Gee Whiz!’ and fled. If she’s as good as her test, the audience won’t be able to keep its mind on its work either.”

Veronica Lake I Wanted Wings promotional photo 1940 back copyHopper’s column is typical Hollywood ballyhoo of the period.  Short on facts and stretching the truth. So is the back caption of our studio publicity photo above, which has many inaccuracies, such as Lake’s birthday and birth name.

Lake was just under five feet tall and became known for her peekaboo hairstyle which covered one eye and waspish figure. At the start of her film career her measurements were reported as 34-18½-34. Continue reading

Ted Williams At The All-Star Game

Ted Williams In Action At The 1946 & 1947 All-Star Games

Ted Williams hitting a home run off of Rip Sewell's blooper pitch in the 1946 All-Star game

Ted Williams hitting a home run off of Rip Sewell’s blooper pitch in the 1946 All-Star game

One of the most famous moments in the history of baseball’s All Star game occurred when Ted Williams connected for a long home run on a Rip Sewell eephus or blooper pitch in the July 9, 1946 game held at Boston’s Fenway Park. The eighth inning homer came with the American League holding an 8-0 lead. The home run definitely put a charge into the bored crowd. The game ended up being a 12-0 American League blowout over the National League.

Rip Sewell said it was the only time anyone ever hit a home run off of his high arc, super slow blooper pitch. What many people do not know is that Williams fouled off the first eephus pitch Sewell threw. Williams challenged Sewell to throw the pitch again, which he did. Below is Sewell describing the homer and film footage of the famous clout.

In 1947 Ted Williams started again in left field for the American League All-Star team and went two for four in an A.L. 2-1 victory. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #64

Gracie Square, 84th Street and East End Avenue 1949

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 1

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 2

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 3This sequence of photos from 1949 show a car coming down East 84th Street and entering 110 Gracie Square.

The stills are from the movie East Side, West Side starring Van Heflin, Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason.

The vantage point from the dead end of East 84th Street is one you will rarely see in old photos of New York. The wall in the foreground marks one of the entrances to Carl Schurz Park.

Nearly seven decades later the changes in this view are minimal.

84th Street Google 2009Some of the canopy’s to the buildings along Gracie Square are gone. 110 Gracie Square was renumbered for the film, it is really 10 Gracie Square, one of the most exclusive co-op buildings in the city. Built in 1930 as a rental building, famous past residents include Gloria Vanderbilt, conductor Leopold Stokowski (Vanderbilt’s husband), New York Times editor and author Charles Merz, and theater critic and author Alexander Woollcott. A five bedroom penthouse apartment has been on the market for over two years. Why so long? The original price tag was $23 million. Currently the asking price will only set you back $15 million, but be prepared for the monthly maintenance charges of $16,747. In 1937 the building went into foreclosure and the entire building was sold for $450,000!

The building seen in the first two photographs on the northwest corner of 84th Street and East End Avenue is the Chapin School, Continue reading

Pee Wee Reese and Red Schoendienst – Action At 2nd Base – 1949

A Play So Close You Need Two Umpires To Make The Call

Pee Wee Reese and Red Schoendienst 7 23 1949Reese Safe at Second on Long Double
New York: Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers slides safely into second in third inning of game with the St. Louis Cardinals at Ebbets Field July 23. Al Schoendienst dives in vain for the putout, but is too late. The two umpires calling the play are Art Gore (left) and Scotty Robb. Cardinals won 5-4. Credit: Acme 7/23/49

The fact that there are two umpires about to call this play is not so unusual. What makes it strange is that Continue reading

10 Vintage Advertisements From The New Yorker In 1949

10 Advertisements From Winter Issues of The New Yorker In 1949

New Yorker cover December 3 1949We’ve done this before looking at the advertising that appeared in The New Yorker magazine and decided to do it again. These ads appeared in the December 3, 10 & 17, 1949 issues of the magazine.

The most noticeable difference between these vintage ads from only 67 years ago and ads today is that almost every ad was for a service or product made in the United States. The few ads that were not for U.S. products, typically were for luxury products from France, Great Britain or Italy. Today go into any retail store and pick up almost any item and look for where it was made. Nineteen times out of twenty it will be made overseas, usually in China and most likely of inferior quality.

New Yorker 1949 Union Pacific Railroad Streamliner adPost World War II marked the beginning of the end of the luxurious era of train travel. The Union Pacific Railroad offered west coast travel on their Streamliners to and from Chicago. By the 1950s railroads would be permanently overtaken by airlines for long distance travel.
New Yorker 1949 Facts on Dial ad Before the internet if you needed some information about a subject you could look it up yourself or you could call the New York Public Library information desk. The library still offers this service. But there were also paid services for “sophisticated New Yorkers” like this one called Facts on Dial, Inc..
You could call Facts on Dial with almost any question and the researchers would have your answer “within minutes, sometimes even seconds.” In 1950 Facts on Dial was sued by Facts on File for unfair competition and trademark infringement. That was the end of Facts on Dial. If you call the number for Facts on Dial now, MU6-7800, ironically, a law firm answers.
New Yorker 1949 Amelia Earhart luggage adAmelia Earhart Luggage? Do you want your luggage to have the same fate as Amelia Earhart? Why a luggage company would name themselves after a pilot who vanished without a trace would seem bizarre. But the brand was launched in the 1930s by Orenstein Trunk of Newark N.J. when Amelia was the queen of the skies and very much alive.
New Yorker 1949 Dick the Oysterman Restaurant adOyster themed restaurants were plentiful in New York City when the waters along the east coast were chock full of oyster beds.
Richard Ockendon, better known as “Dick, the Oysterman,” had his original basement restaurant on Third Street since the turn-of-the-century. It was famous as a hang-out place for writers and artists. O. Henry based one of his short stories, The Country of Elusion on the bohemian restaurant.
Dick died of pneumonia on January 23, 1916 at the age of 39,  but his name and restaurant lived on, catering to the culinary tastes of Greenwich Village. By 1920 Dick’s had moved to Eighth Street where they remained until they closed their doors in 1952.

Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #51

James Cagney & Boris Karloff – 1940

James Cagney Boris Karloff 1940Movie Stars Twinkle At Own Party
Hollywood, Calif. – It was a dead heat when Boris Karloff (right) and James Cagney, screen menaces, exchanged leers on meeting at the first annual gambol of the Screen Actor’s Guild held here March 14. Credit line – Acme 3/16/40

Useful / Useless tidbits

The French Society of Mental Sciences in 1937 asked Boris Karloff to fill out an extensive 58 page questionnaire about his own mental health. The psychiatrists who put together the questionnaire were trying to determine how all the horror versus sympathetic roles Karloff had played on screen had affected his real life. Continue reading