Tag Archives: New York Times

Classic Hollywood #47

Harold Lloyd Between Takes On The Set of Professor Beware! – 1938

Harold Lloyd on set 1939Noted fun-maker rests during an idle moment on location. Harold Lloyd , now in production on his current comedy “Professor Beware!” is seen here taking it easy between “takes”. This is the first Lloyd picture in almost two years. – photo: Harold Lloyd Productions

In the 1920s Harold Lloyd was one of the top box office stars. By the 1930s he was reduced to making a film every two years. With the completion of Professor Beware!, LLoyd said he was now planning on getting ramped up and start making two films per year.

Instead, Professor Beware! turned out to be Harold Lloyd’s next to last film.

The story for Professor Beware! was written by Colonel Crampton Harris, the former law partner of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.

Lloyd plays an egyptologist who sees parallels between ancient happenings and his own life that seem like reincarnation and may spell doom for him. Lloyd’s co-star was the unknown Phyllis Welch, but Lloyd had originally offered the female lead to Jean Arthur, who turned it down.

A strange story connected with the film concerns the usually inoffensive Lloyd almost being censored. The Hays office called Lloyd and his staff in for a meeting and wanted a scene cut in which Lloyd’s character is driving in the street, bumps into a fire engine and tells the firemen there is a fire at the pier and yells “fire!” Lloyd was flabbergasted and asked what was wrong with saying “fire”.

Lloyd insisted to the censor that removing the scene would ruin the plot. The Hays office censor said that no actor should ever say the word “fire” on screen. The censor explained that two times previously it had led to  trouble  when a person out on the street buying a ticket at the box office heard the word fire and went to call the fire department.

Lloyd asked the overzealous censor if he had seen the film in a projection booth with no audience and if he had laughed, to which which replied that is where he viewed the movie and  he had not laughed. In a real theater situation, Lloyd explained, the audience would be laughing so hard at that point, that when the word fire was uttered no one would be able to hear it. Believe it or not, the censor agreed with this argument and left the scene intact.

The movie itself did not catch fire and was greeted lukewarmly by the critics and the public. Lloyd then made up his mind to give up acting until “he found the right story.”

After a career appearing in over 200 films, it took another seven years for the highly popular Lloyd to make another film, which ended up being his final movie The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (released 1947).

In 1945 producer-director Preston Sturges convinced Lloyd that he should play the lead character in his new film which was originally slated to star Eddie Bracken as Harold Diddlebock. Considering Sturges’ reputation as a comedic genius, Lloyd agreed.

In an interview with the New York Times after the filming was completed, LLoyd said, “Basically, Preston and I think alike even when our approach is different. I like to go out on the set with a scene mapped out and work from my head; Preston comes on with a blueprint he’s sweated over beforehand to the last detail. He can do his cutting a reel at a time, and stay with it indefinitely; it’s an effort for me to stay in a projection room with an uncut story. After I’ve seen three good ideas go through the chopper, I have to come up for air.”

The strained creative relationship Continue reading

1,001 Ways To Die In New York City In 1855

 A Detailed Look At New York City Mortality For One Week In 1855

the new york city morgue Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper 1866

The New York City morgue

Maybe there weren’t 1001 ways to die, but in a typical week in New York’s death log 160 years ago there were at least 73 ways to enter into eternity. New York City was only the borough of Manhattan and the population was around 629,000.

355 people died during the week of September 22 – 29, 1855.

First looking at how people died we see things that are not predominant causes of death in the United States today.

The most common causes of death that week were: Consumption (38 dead); Infantile Marasmus (35 dead); Infantile Convulsions (31); Stillborn (25); Cholera (25) and Dysentery (20).

Consumption was the 19th century name for tuberculosis. What exactly is marasmus? It is severe malnutrition. Only 5 people died of cancer. Old age was listed only once as the cause of death.

Some other causes of death that week that are now relatively uncommon or in some cases all too common (i.e. shooting, suicide): Bleeding Bowels (1); Colic (1); Diarrhea (21); Dropsy of Head (9); Gravel (passing broken Kidney Stones) (1);  Hydrophobia (Rabies) (9); Scurvy (1); Suicide by arsenic (1); Killed or Murder by shooting (1); Casualty being run over (1); Drowned (1) and Teething (2). Teething?

Death came to both Continue reading

1925 Police Chief Suggestion: Pay Bounties To NYPD For Killing Criminals

In 1925 A New York Police Chief Proposed Paying Cops Extra To Kill Criminals

Across the country complaints are rising against police officers using excessive force against alleged criminals. So it probably would not be politically correct today to make a suggestion that cops get paid extra to kill criminals. But that didn’t stop one top cop 90 years ago from making that proposal.

Second Deputy Police Commissioner George S. Dougherty c .1912

Second Deputy Police Commissioner George S. Dougherty c .1912

In January 1925 George S. Dougherty former NYPD Second Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Detectives wrote to the New York Times recommending that large bounties be paid to police officers who kill hold-up men.

Dougherty suggested that a police officer killing one hold-up man be paid $1,000, $2,500 for killing two and the astounding sum of $5,000 for killing three. This bounty would mean a regular patrolman could earn substantially more than the $2,500 annual base salary for killing a robber.

Though many citizens may have agreed and responded positively to the Chief’s populist proposal, it never gained any momentum. The New York Times commented that “of course no one goes into mourning when one of these land pirates meet the fate they deserve as enemies of the human race, and if a policeman in the exercise of his duty kills one of them it properly is regarded as a good job, well done. But Mr. Dougherty’s proposal is a very bad one.”

Several officials at the police department concurred with the Times opinion saying that if Dougherty’s suggestions were put into force, “they might incite indiscriminate shooting.”

Other positions advocated by Dougherty included: Continue reading

A Forgotten 1915 Brooklyn Tragedy: Four Boys Die In An Accident, Shattering Two Families Forever

Two Pairs of Brothers, Together In Life And Death

100th Anniversary Of The Forgotten Brooklyn Explosion That Killed Two Sets Of Young Brothers

While wandering the bucolic grounds of the Evergreens Cemetery on the Brooklyn – Queens border you come across many interesting monuments. There are Triangle shirtwaist fire victims, General Slocum memorials and many historic notables. And then there are the monuments like this one that are inexplicable on first inspection.

Zimmer inscription monument

Zimmer inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two sets of brothers each between 7 and 11-years-old all dying on March 13, 1915 and are buried together. This unique memorial has an angel, with a few fingers and toes missing, head bowed in sorrow, standing between the two columns that are connected at the top by a triangular stone with the Gospel of Luke quotation inscribed across it, “Suffer Little Children To Come Unto Me”.

Oil Explosion kills boys March 13 1915 memorial at Evergreens cemeteryMy first thought was that the boys were probably cousins or related in some other way and died in a house fire.

But checking the news accounts from the following days reveals a senseless tragedy of two unrelated families children just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Zimmer boys, Henry age 11 and Herbert age 7, of 186 Warwick Street and the Higgins boys, Alex age 11 and Arthur age 8 of 174 Warwick Street were close friends and neighbors growing up a few doors from each other. Continue reading

Babe Ruth And Lou Gehrig Comedy Record -1927

A Commercial Recording Release By The Bambino and The Iron Horse

Gehrig and Ruth at League Park Cleveland 1927 photo L Van OeyenRecently I was reading an old New York Times column from October 7, 1956 by Gay Talese in which he wrote about the history of baseball records. Not home run or pitching records, but baseball related music and spoken word records.

In the article Talese mentions that one of the first record companies to release a baseball record was Pathe records in 1928 when they got Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to make a recording explaining how they hit home runs. It did not sell very well. Almost all baseball related recordings have traditionally done poorly with sales, with the exception of Take Me Out To The Ballgame written in 1908 by Albert Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth. Incredibly neither Von Tilzer or Norworth had ever attended a baseball game prior to writing their hit song.

So I searched for the Ruth – Gehrig recording on youtube and couldn’t find the exact recording mentioned in the article, but came up with this version instead. (Click on the youtube video below). Apparently it is the exact same record as in the Talese article, but Talese is mistaken about  the content and the date.

It’s a comedy skit (which is not very funny) advertised Continue reading

Worst Snowstorms In New York History – January 1925

January 2015, Not As Bad January 1925

Trolley stuck in snow during storm

Trolley stuck in snow during storm

It was bad for Suffolk County, NY and Boston, MA, but New York City’s 2015 “worst blizzard of all time” did not live up to its billing.

Official records for the city have been kept since 1869, and so far this January, New York City has received a relatively small amount of snow with 14.3 inches accumulating.

January 1925 arrived and departed like a polar bear and New York City was the unwelcome recipient of 27.4 inches of snow, the most ever recorded for any January up to that time. (This record was finally eclipsed in January 2011 when the city recorded 36 inches of snow.)

But it was not only New York City that got hit multiple times in January 1925 with lots of snowstorms, but upstate New York got slammed as well.

The tally for the city read like this: A relentless snowstorm that lasted two days occurred from January 2-3. On January 12 the city required 12,000 shovelmen to tackle another snowstorm that clogged the streets. January 20 New York City got hit with two blizzards in one day. January 27 more snow fell and then the coup de grace; the giant storm on January 30 that affected the metropolitan area.

Ninety years ago today on January 30, New York City was hit hard, but so was the entire region. How bad was it? Cattle in the streets? Ferry service ground to a halt? Here are a few excerpts of what Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #10

A Look At Churchill’s and Four Other Restaurants From Old New York

Exterior Churchills Restaurant Broadway 49th St c 1915Churchill’s Restaurant southwest corner 49th Street and Broadway, circa 1915.

Police Sergeant Jim Churchill did not have the background of a typical restauranteur. He put in 20 years on the job policing the streets of New York and was named acting Captain of a precinct in the Bowery for a few months starting in November of 1901. He wound up being dismissed from the force in 1902 for neglect of duty.

It seems that Churchill was not aggressive enough in closing saloons operating illegally on Sunday and shutting down houses of ill-repute under his jurisdiction. From reading the newspaper accounts of his trial, Churchill may have been set up by others in the police department who wanted his ouster.

Churchill, with the help of friends and backers went into business for himself. In May 1903 Churchill ironically opened a saloon at 1420 Broadway between 39th and 40th Streets. The small bar and restaurant prospered and in 1906 he moved north to new digs on Broadway at 46th street to a space which could accommodate up to 350 patrons.

But even that was not enough room for the captain’s friends and clientele. In 1909 Churchill built for himself a spacious, luxurious entertainment and feasting palace at 49th Street that could seat 1,400 diners. Designed by architect Harold M. Baer, the three story terra cotta brick building with stucco ornamentation attracted huge crowds. Even with so much more space, guests frequently would have to wait in line for a table as capacity crowds filled the restaurant.

Employing over 300 people and with an annual advertising budget of $50,000 for a $250,000 business, Churchill’s became world famous and remained a favorite restaurant and cabaret spot for the Broadway crowd throughout the teens.

Churchill’s stayed in business until prohibition cut into profits and forced Jim Churchill to close his doors and lease the space to a Chinese restaurant. The building was demolished in 1937 and the location eventually housed heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey’s Broadway Bar and Grill from 1938 until its closing in 1974.

Churchill went abroad for a number of years after closing his restaurant and upon returning to the states, he commented about the changes that many New York City restaurants had undergone during the 1920’s. To the New York Times he remarked, “Hostesses? There were no such things in my days. No one ever thought of such a thing. It was not permitted that any woman come into a restaurant-cabaret unaccompanied. Instead of hostesses I employed 30 boys, one of them the late Rudolph Valentino, to dance with women who came unescorted for luncheon.”

When Churchill died in 1930 at the age of 67, he left most of his sizable estate, a half million dollars, to his wife.

Exterior Cafe Boulevard Restarant 156 2nd ave at 10th st 1911The Cafe Boulevard 156 Second Ave southeast corner of 10th Street, circa 1909. Continue reading

In 1961 Dr. Richard W. Hamming Predicted The Harmful Effects of Computer Technology

Loss Of Privacy, Pooling Of Data And The Slow Blurring Of The Distinction Between Human And Machine “Thinking.”

Richard W. Hamming photo: Naval Postgraduate School

Richard W. Hamming photo: Naval Postgraduate School

In 1961, scientist and mathematician Dr. Richard W. Hamming of Bell Telephone Laboratories, had enormous foresight in predicting that computers would soon change our lives in ways that few people could have imagined half a century ago.

Dr. Hamming saw the future improvements that the computer revolution would bring, but he also warned of the coming dangers in that revolution.  Looking back at his insights today you will find them eerily accurate. In many ways Dr. Hamming merely scraped the surface on many of his suppositions.

Today we are all aware that marketers are tracking your movements on the internet. Unless you’ve set up blockers, all your clicks, all your searches, every site you visit is captured and analyzed. Big Data firms want that information, supposedly just to market to you. The government, banks, schools, brokerage firms, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and merchants all collect information that you are obliged to provide in order to receive services. You just hope your information is secure and not compromised.

But then you voluntarily share information on Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In. We know that the information we provide is used to compile an aggregate online portrait of our lives that is available for the world to peer into and that includes stalkers, thieves and hackers and yet we still provide it!

Which leads us back to a symposium held in December 27-29, 1961 on “Man and the Computer” at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Denver, CO. At the symposium Dr. Hamming’s observations were listened to attentively and the New York Times interviewed him afterwards. Summarizing  Hamming’s observations:

While computers will surely benefit mankind in ways not yet dreamed of he said, certain harmful effects of the computer revolution can be foreseen. One example he gave was a reduction in individual privacy that would be possible with the increasing storage of personal records even travel information in computers.

A major concern is that a growing amount of personal information was being committed to the memory of machines: various data collected by Selective Service; Social Security, Internal Revenue, insurance companies, places of employment, medical services and even airline companies.

“How do we know that this is always being used for the benefit of the individual?” he asked, “How can we be sure that this information will not be used against a person?”

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Old New York In Photos #43

Giant Times Square Advertising Billboards Of The Past

New York's Times Square at night 60 Years ago, 1954 photo: Charles Shaw

New York’s Times Square at night 60 Years ago, 1954 photo: Charles Shaw

The New York Times article about the new eight story high, block long, LED illuminated billboard that will be put into use on Tuesday night, November 18, 2014, made me think about some of the classic advertising signs that were in place during the 1940’s and 1950’s at the crossroads of the world.

Bond Clothiers sign, 1948, Times Square looking north

Bond Clothiers sign, 1948, Times Square looking north

Chief among these ads was the dramatic Bond Clothiers sign taking up the entire Broadway block between 44th and 45th Streets. The 200 foot wide, 50 foot high billboard was brightly lit up at night and had a waterfall cascading between the two large scantily clad statues flanking it. The figures appeared nude during by day and had electric lights draped around them which produced a quasi-covering effect on the statues when the lights went on.

With two miles of neon, it was a colorful spectacle to behold in person, especially at nigTimes Square 1948 Bond Clothiers at night billboardht. The sign was only up from 1948-1954.

We previously showed what the area looked like at night in our story about the giant New York snowstorm of 1948.

The Bond sign replaced an earlier sign for Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum that also was breathtaking with its neon aquatic design. Designed by Dorothy Shepard, it occupied the site from about 1936 to 1948.

Times Square Wrigleys Billboard sign Ad postcardThe other billboard Continue reading

Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery Epitaphs

To Be Remembered – Some Thoughts About Inscriptions On Tombstones

Green wood Henry Croatman epitaph 1120840
 
Henry Croatman                                                  Eddie Brewster Croatman 
Born January 17 1845                                                Died Dec. 2, 1878
Died June 4, 1876                                                        Aged 19 Mo’s 26 Days
 
Come view the grave and drop a tear                           Budded on earth
O’er your kind brother once so dear                              To bloom in heaven
Who once delighted in your charms
But now he’s bound in deaths cold arms
 

When wandering around Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn I especially take note of  monuments with epitaphs. Rather than gravitate towards the costly and grand monuments that abound in great numbers, I am drawn to those anonymous graves with no known fame attached to them. It is interesting to see how these people, buried long ago, are eulogized in stone.

Green wood John F Abbott epitaph 1100936John F. Abbott
Died Sept. 23rd, 1857
Aged 23 Years and 10 Months
A Good Life Hath But Few Days
But A Good Name Endureth Forever

 

Many of these monuments mark the last resting spots of common people with unextraordinary lives. But we all have a story to tell. Tombstones try to do that. How can you sum up a person’s life with a few sentences?

Green wood Ann Lee epitaph 1160006A Tribute of Love to
My Dear Wife
ANN LEE
Died Feb. 25, 1887
Aged 58 Years
A fond and faithful wife,
A dear devoted mother,  And a kind friend to all

Without their simple marker and words engraved upon them, these people’s lives would go completely unrecognized. Today, it is hard to fathom that thought, considering all the information that is now collected and shared about us.

Green wood C Ella Ellison epitaph 1120836C. Ella Ellison
Wife of John T. Ellison
Born March 22, 1846
Died December 20, 1900
 
A Loving Daughter,
A Devoted Mother,
A Faithful Wife

 

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