A Year: Day to Day Men: 30th of September

The Roses and the Cross

September 30, 1919 marks the premier of Avery Hopwood’s play “The Gold Diggers’ in New York City.

“The Gold Diggers”, a play by Avery Hopwood, was produced by David Belasco, an American theatrical producer and playwright. Belasco, the first writer to adapt the short story “Madame Butterfly” to the stage, pioneered many innovative forms of stage lighting and special effects to the stage. He staged “The Gold Diggers” on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre, now the oldest continuously operating legitimate theater in New York City.

“The Gold Diggers” popularized the term ‘gold digger’ to reference women who seek wealthy partners, as opposed to the earlier usage meaning gold miners. The plot centered on wealthy Stephen Lee, played by Bruce McRae, who is convinced that the chorus girl who is engaged to his nephew Wally, played by Horace Braham, only wants his nephew’s money.

The reviews for the play were mixed; but the opinions of the reviewers did not stop the play from becoming a hit. It opened at the Lyceum Theatre on September 30, 1919 and ran until June of 1921, with 720 performances. The long-running play then went on tour across the United States until 1923, earning almost two million dollars. One result of its long run was that after the other plays Avery Hopwood had written opened in 1920, Hopwood had four shows running on Broadway simultaneously.

Avery Hopwood was an American playwright of the Jazz Age in the United States, a period in the 1920s and 1930s when jazz music and dance styles rapidly gained popularity. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Hopwood graduated from the University of Michigan in 1903 and started out in journalism as a New York correspondent. However, within a year, he had a play, “Clothes”, produced on Broadway. He became known as the “Playboy Playwright”, specializing in comedies and farces, many considered risqué at the time. Among the plays were: “Ladies’ Night” in 1920,; the famous mystery play “The Bat”, later filmed in 1926; and the 1927 “Garden of Eden”, filmed in 1928.

In 1906, Avery Hopwood was introduced to writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten. The two became close friends and sometimes sexual partners. In the 1920s Hopwood had a tumultuous, but abusive, romantic relationship with fellow Cleveland-born playwright John Floyd. Although Hopwood announced to the press in 1924 that he was engaged to dancer and choreographer Rosa Rolanda, it was confirmed later that it was a publicity stunt.

Avery Hopwood died of a heart attack while swimming on the French Riviera on July 1, 1928. The terms of his will left a substantial portion of his estate to the University of Michigan, establishing a Creative Writing Award, encouraging new, unusual and radical writing. Recipients of the award have included poet and essayist Robert Hayden, poet and social activist Marge Piercy,  playwright Arthur Miller, and gay novelist and essayist Edmund White.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 29th of September

The Skateboard

September 29, 1907 was the birthdate of Orvon Grover Autry, known to film fans as the American cowboy Gene Autry.

Gene Autry was an American singer, songwriter, actor, musician and rodeo performer who gained fame as a singing cowboy on radio, film and on television.  Born in northern Texas, he worked on his father’s farm while attending school. After high school, Autry worked as a telegrapher for the Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway. He would often sing and accompany himself on guitar at local dances.

Autry went to New York in 1928 and auditioned for Victor Records. The company had just hired two similar sounding voices so he did not get a contract; but he did get the advice to sing on radio to gain experience. Autry started singing latter that year on the Tulsa radio station KVOO as “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy”, eventually recording two duets with singer Jimmie Long for Victor Records.

Gene Autry signed a recording deal with Columbia Records in 1929. His first hit was in 1932 with “That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine”, a duet co-written and sung with Jimmy Long. Autry also recorded the classic Ray Whitley hit “Back in the Saddle Again” , as well as many Christmas holiday songs including “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer”, which became a big hit.  Autry’s own composition of “Here Comes Santa Claus”, which he wrote after the 1946 Hollywood Christmas Parade, was recorded in 1947 and became an instant hit.

Gene Autry and Pat Burnette, a recently returned Army Air Force veteran, were discovered by producer Nat Levine in 1934. Together, they made their film debut for Mascot Pictures Corporation in the western “In Old Santa Fe” as part of a singing cowboy quartet. Autry was then given the starring role by producer Levine in the 1935 twelve-part film serial “The Phantom Empire”, which combined western, musical and science fiction genres. This was Gene Autry’s first starring role, playing himself as a singing cowboy.

Mascot Pictures was absorbed by the newly formed Republic Pictures Corporation, which continued making films with Gene Autry. He made forty-four more films with the company up to 1940, all ‘B’ Westerns, acting under his own name. Autry rode his horse Champion, had Pat Burnette as his regular sidekick, and had many opportunities to sing in each film. In the Motion Picture Herald’s Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars poll, Gene Autry held first place from 1937 to 1942 and second place, after Roy Rogers, from 1947 to 1954, when the poll ended.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 28th of September

Amber Waves of Grain

September 28, 1924 was the birthdate of Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni.

Marcello Mastroianni made his uncredited screen debut as an extra in the 1939 Italian comedy “Marionette”. He made several more minor film appearances and landed his first big role in the 1951 “Atto d’Accusa”, playing Renato La Torre in the melodrama. Within a decade, he became a major international celebrity, starring in “Big Deal on Madonna Street” and in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” opposite Anita Ekberg. In “La Dolce Vita”, Mastroianni played a self-loathing and disillusioned tabloid columnist who spends his days and nights. exploring Rome’s high society.

After “La Dolce Vita”, Mastroianni starred in another Fellini film “8 1/2”. He played the signature role of a film director who, in the midst of self-doubt and troubled love affairs, finds himself in a creative block in his effort to direct an epic science-fiction move. Between 1954 and 1995, Mastroianni starred in twenty seven films including “La Notte” with Jeanne Moreau; “Marriage Italian-Style”; Robert Altman’s “Ready to Wear” with Sophia Loren; “The Pizza Triangle” with Monica Vitti”; Fellini’s “City of Women” and “Ginger and Fred”; and Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Dark Eyes” with Marthe Keller.

Marcello Mastroianni was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times; for “Divorce Italian Style”, “A Special Day”, and “Dark Eyes”. He is one of only three actors to have been twice awarded the Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. Mastroianni won it in 1970 for “The Pizza Triangle” and in 1987 for his role of Romano in “Dark Eyes”. His final film was “Voyage to the Beginning of the World”, a Portuguese- French drama film, released in 1997  after his death.

Mastroianni died of pancreatic cancer in December of 1996 at the age of seventy-two. The Trevi Fountain in Rome, associated with his role in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”, was symbolically turned off and draped in black as a tribute. At the 1997 Venice Film Festival, his lover Anna Maria Tatò, an author and filmmaker, screened her four-hour documentary entitled “Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember”. His honors included British Film Academy Awards, Best Actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival, and two Golden Globe Awards.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 27th of September

Flesh and Silver Claws

September 27, 1885 was the birthdate of magician Harry Blackstone, Sr.

Born Harry Bouton in Chicago, Illinois, Harry Blackstone was a famed magician and illusionist. He was in the model of courtly, elegant predecessors such as Howard Thurston and Harry Keller, and the last of that group in America. Blackstone customarily wore white tie and tails while performing, and traveled with a sizable cast of assistants and large-scale illusions. His stage show was presented to the accompaniment of a pit orchestra.

One of Blackstone Senior’s especially effective illusions was called the Kellar Levitation billed as “The Dream of Princess Karnac”. A woman would lay on a couch, uncovered unlike other magicians’ versions, and rise up in the air. In another illusion,  a woman stepped into a cabinet in front of many tubular incandescent bulbs. Blackstone would suddenly push the perforated front of the cabinet backwood so the bulbs protruded through the holes in the front of the box. The cabinet was then revolved, revealing the woman impaled by the blinding filaments.

His “Sawing a Woman in Half” illusion involved an electric circular saw some three to four feet in diameter mounted in an open frame. Blackstone demonstrated the efficacy of the device by sawing noisily through a piece of lumber. Then a female assistant was placed on the saw table in full view, as wide metal restraints were clamped upon her midsection. The saw table was pulled by a motor through the saw blade.The blade whirred and appeared to pass through her body. As ripping sounds were heard, the woman shrieked, and particles were scattered by the whirring blade. When the blade stopped she, of course, rose unharmed.

“The Floating Light Bulb”, was perhaps Blackstone’s signature piece. In a darkened theatre, Blackstone would take a lighted bulb from a lamp and float it, still glowing, through a small hoop. He would then come down from the stage and the lamp would float out over the heads of the audience. This illusion was passed to Blackstone’s son, also Harry Blackstone, and then after his son’s death to the Dutch illusionist Hans Klok.

Harry Blackstone Sr. spent the last years of his life performing at the Magic Castle, a magical attraction in Hollywood, California. He died at the age of 80 in Hollywood on November 16, 1965. Blackstone was interred In Colon, Michigan where the main street was renamed Blackstone Avenue in his honor.

In 1985, on the 100th anniversary of his father’s birth, Harry Blackstone Jr. donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. the original floating light bulb, which Thomas Edison designed and built, and the original Casadega Cabinet, used in the “Dancing Handkerchief” illusion. This was the first ever donation accepted by the Smithsonian in the field of magic.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 26th of September

Infectious Smile

September 26, 1877 was the birthdate of character actor Edmund Gwenn.

In 1901 Edmund Gwenn went to Australia and acted on stage there for three years, not returning to London until 1904. There he took a small part in “In The Hospital”, which led to him receiving a postcard from George Bernard Shaw, offering him a leading role as Straker, the chauffeur, in Shaw’s “Man and Superman”. Gwenn accepted and the play was a success. He spent three years in Shaw’s company, performing in “John Bull’s Island”, Major Barbara”, “The Devil’s Disciple” and other plays by Shaw.

Edmund Gwenn made his first appearance on screen in a 1916 British short “The Real Thing at Last”, followed by a silent version of “The Skin Game” in 1920 as the character Hornblower. This role he would reprise in a talking version by Alfred Hitchcock, released in 1931. After these films, Gwenn worked steadily until the end of his life, appearing in English stage pays and films, eventually doing more and more on Broadway and in Hollywood.

In 1940 Edmund Gwenn played a delightful Mr Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice”, then played a completely opposite role as an assassin in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 “Foreign Correspondent”. He later played a comedic role in the 1941 “Charley’s Aunt”, in which he romanced Jack Benny, masquerading as a woman. Gwenn was in the 1945 “Bewitched”, “Of Human Bondage” released in 1946, and the 1947 “Green Dolphin Street”.

Then in 1947, Edmund Gwenn became a super star. Twentieth Century-Fox was planning the film “Miracle on 34th Street”. The studio had offered the role of “Kris Kringle” to Gwenn’s cousin, the well-known character actor Cecil Kellaway, but he had turned it down with the observation that the role was too whimsical. Twentieth Century-Fox then offered it to Edmund Gwenn, who immediately accepted. His performance earned him at the age of 71 an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor and, because it is rerun every Christmas season, Gwenn would become for many their all-time favorite screen Santa.

Though rotund, Edmund Gwenn didn’t feel he was rotund enough to look like the jolly old elf most people expected after having read Clement Moore’s “The Night before Christmas”, in which Santa “had a broad face and a little round belly”. Although it was suggested that he could wear padding beneath the Santa costume, Gwenn resisted as he saw the padding effect as too artificial. So he gained almost 30 pounds for the role, a fair amount for a man of his short stature, and added nearly five inches to his waistline.

Gwenn’s final days were spent at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, California. Having endured terrible arthritis for many years, he had suffered a stroke, and then contracted pneumonia, from which he died at age 81 on September 6, 1959. His body was cremated, and his ashes are buried in a vault at The Chapel of the Pines in Los Angeles.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 25th of September

The Source of Inspiration

On September 25, 1906 Leonardo Torres Quevedo successfully demonstrated his Telekino before a crowd in Bilboa, Spain.

Torres Quevedo traveled throughout Europe, studying the scientific and technical advances of the day, especially in the initial stages of the science of electricity. He returned to Spain, set up residence in Santander where he began a regiment of study and investigation. From the work Quevedo accomplished from 1890 to 1899, the cultural institution Athenaeum of Madrid created the Laboratory of Applied Mechanics of which he was named director. The same year, he entered the Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences in Madrid, which he later presided over in 1910.

In early 1910, Torres Quevedo began to construct a chess automaton, that was able to automatically play a king and rook endgame against king from any position, without any human intervention. This device was demonstrated in Paris in 1914 and is considered the world’s first computer game. In the prototype, mechanical arms moved the pieces; later in 1920, electromagnets under the board was used for this task.

Torres Quevedo demonstrated twice, in 1914 and in 1920, that all of the cogwheel functions of a calculating machine, like that of inventor Charles Babbage’s design, could be implemented using electromechanical parts. Quevedo’s 1914 analytical machine used a small memory built with electromagnets; his 1920 machine used a typewriter to receive its commands and print its results.

Torres Quevedo presented the Telekino with a lecture and a demonstration at the Paris Academy of Science in 1903. He obtained a patent in that year covering the territories of France, Spain, Great Britain and the United States. The Telekino consisted of a robot that executed commands transmitted by electromagnetic waves. It constituted the world’s second publicly demonstrated apparatus for radio control and was a pioneer in the field of remote control. On September 25, 1906, In the presence of the King of Spain and a great crowd, Torres Quevedo successfully demonstrated the Telekino in the port of Balboa, Spain, guiding a boat from the shore. With his Telekino, Torres Quevedo created wireless remote-control operation principles.

In 1916 King Alfonso XIII of Spain bestowed the Echegaray Medal upon Torres Quevedo. The Sorbonne of Paris named him an Honorary Doctor in 1922; and he was named one of the twelve associated members of the Academy in 1927. In 2007, the prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers dedicated a Milestone Award in Electrical Engineering and Computing to Quevedo’s Telekino.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 24th of September

Attention Caught

September 24, 1893 was the birthdate of American blues and gospel singer Lemon Henry Jefferson.

Born blind, Lemon Henry Jefferson, known as “Blind Lemon” Jefferson, started playing guitar in his early teens. In the early 1910s, he traveled to Dallas, where met and played with the blues musician Lead Belly. Jefferson was one of the earliest and most prominent figures in the blues movement that developed in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas. It was here he met Aaron Thibeaux Walker, also known as T-Bone Walker. Jefferson taught Walker the basics of playing blues guitar in exchange for Walker’s occasional service as a guide.

Jefferson’s music was uninhibited and represented the classic sounds of everyday life from street corner blues to honky-tonk and gospel. Prior to Jefferson, few artists had recorded solo voice and blues guitar; but he became a successful solo guitarist and male vocalist in the commercial recording world. Jefferson was taken to Chicago in late 1925 by Paramount Records to record his songs. The first releases under his name were “Booster Blues” and “Dry Southern Blues”, both hit songs. Two other songs from the same session “Got the Blues” and “Long Lonesome Blues” also became hits, with sales in the six figures.

Jefferson recorded about one hundred tracks with Paramount between 1926 and 1929: forty-three records were issued. His sound and confident musicianship appealed to his audiences. Jefferson never stayed with any one musical convention, varying his riffs and rhythm and singing complex and heartfelt lyrics exceptional for that period of time.

Mayo Williams, Paramount’s connection with the black community, moved in 1927 to Okeh Records and took Jefferson with him. Okeh Records quickly recorded and released Jefferson’s “Matchbox Blues” with his “Black Snake Moan” on the obverse of the record. Jefferson, because of contract obligations, returned to Paramount, who because “Matchbox Blues” had become such a hit, released two new versions of the same song. In 1927 Jefferson recorded another of his classics “See That My Grave iI Kept Clean”, under the name of Deacon LJ Bates. That song was so successful that it was re-recorded and released again in 1928.

Blind Lemon Jefferson died in Chicago on December 19, 1929 at the age of thirty-six. He was buried in an unmarked grave at the Wortham Black Cemetery in Freestone County, Texas. In 1967 a Texas historical marker was erected in the general area of his plot; the precise location is unknown. A new granite headstone was erected in 1997 with the inscription “Lord, it’s one kind favor I’ll ask of you, see that my grave is kept clean”. The cemetery’s name is now the Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery, maintained by a committee of citizens of Wortham.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 23rd of September

The Lure of Nature’s Forests

September 23, 1806 marks the return of Lewis and Clark Expedition to the city of Saint Louis.

The Corps of Discovery Expedition, known to history as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was the first American expedition to cross the western portion of the United States. It was a selected group of US Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his friend Second Lieutenant William Clark. Its commission by President Thomas Jefferson was to explore and map the new territory of the Louisiana Purchase and establish an American presence in the territory.

Merwether Lewis had no formal education in his early years; but he became a skilled hunter and outdoorsman in the Broad River Valley of Georgia, developing a life-long interest in natural history. In 1793, Lewis graduated from Washington and Lee University. In 1795 Lewis joined the US Army, commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, rising to the rank of Captain in 1800 and ending his service in 1801. When President Jefferson began to plan the exploration of the newly purchased Louisiana territory, he chose Lewis, then at the age of 28, to lead the expedition. Meriwether Lewis recruited his close army friend William Clark, then age 33, to share command.

Meriwether Lewis spent the year of 1803 in study for preparation for the trip. He was sent to Philadelphia to study medicinal cures under Benjamin Rush, a physician, and was further educated by Andrew Ellicott, an astronomer who instructed him in the use of the sextant and other navigational instruments. At Monticello, Jefferson possessed the largest library in the world on the geography of the North American continent; and Lewis had full access to it.

The Corps of Discovery met their objective of reaching the Pacific, mapping and establishing their presence for a legal claim to the land. They established diplomatic relations and trade with at least two dozen indigenous nations. The Corps was not successful in finding a continuous waterway to the Pacific Ocean but located an Indian trail that led from the upper end of the Missouri River to the Columbia River which ran to the Pacific Ocean.

The Corps gained information about the natural habitat, flora and fauna, bringing back various plant, seed and mineral specimens. They mapped the topography of the land, designating the location of mountain ranges, rivers and the many Indian tribes during the course of their journey. The Corps also learned and recorded much about the language and customs of the American Indian tribes they encountered, and brought back many artifacts, including bows, clothing and ceremonial robes.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of September

Red Atop of Gray

September 22, 1885 was the birthdate of director, actor and producer Erich von Stroheim.

Erich von Stroheim is considered one of the greatest directors of the silent era; he created films representing both a cynical and a romantic view on human nature. His style of directing was known to be dictatorial and demanding on the actors. Stroheim’s best remembered work was his adaption of Frank Norris’ period novel “McTeague”, released in 1924 under the title “Greed”. It originally started as a project with Goldwyn Pictures, which later during the filming, Merged with Loew  and became MGM,

“Greed” was intended to be a highly detailed version of the book, shot at the actual locations in the book. Scenes with actors in period dress and Silent movie make-up were shot amidst a modern day San Francisco, with its automobiles seen in many scenes. The Death Valley scenes in the book were shot on location in the heat of summer, the first feature-length film shot at the location.

The original print of “Greed” ran for ten hours. Stroheim and director Rex Ingram, after cutting more than half of the footage, edited it into a four-hour version that could be shown in two parts. Metro- Goldwyn Mayer, tired of Stroheim’s attempts to cut the film to less than three hours, removed him from control and gave the film to head scriptwriter June Mathis with instructions to cut it further. Mathis gave the print to a routine cutter, who reduced it to two and a half hours in length. In what is considered one of the greatest losses in cinema history, a janitor at the studio destroyed the cut footage. Stroheim disowned the released version which became a commercial failure. 

Erich von Stroheim’s unwillingness or inability to modify his artistic principles for the commercial cinema, his extreme attention to detail, his insistence on near-total artistic freedom and the resulting costs of his films led to fights with the studios. As time went on he received fewer directing opportunities. In 1929, Stroheim was dismissed as the director of “Queen Kelly” after disagreements with star Gloria Swanson and producer Joseph P. Kennedy over the mounting costs of the film as well as Stroheim’s introduction of indecent subject matter into the film’s scenario.

Stroheim played the role of producer Max von Mayerling in Billy Wilder’s 1950 “Sunset Boulevard”, for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award fo Best Supporting Actor. Excerpts from Stroheim’s previous work “Queen Kelly” were shown in the film. His “Sunset Boulevard” character had lines stating that he used to be one of the three greatest directors of the silent era. These lines reflected the actual humiliations and trials Stroheim had actually suffered through his career. Erich von Stroheim, paralyzed from cancer in his body, passed at his chateau near Paris on May 12, 1957 at the age of 71.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 21st of September

Green Drawstring Shorts

September 21, 1866 was the birthdate of English author Herbert George Wells.

In 1890 Herbert George Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of London External Program and began teaching science.. Wells’ first published work was a “Text-Book of Biology” in two volumes in 1893. After leaving his teaching position,  H. G. Wells began to write short humorous articles for journals such as  “The Pall Mall Gazette”, which he later collected and published in two volumes, “Selected Conversations with an Uncle” in 1895 and “Certain Personal Matters” in 1897. His success with these shorter pieces encouraged him to write book-length work, leading to his first novel, “The Time Machine” in 1895.

H.G. Wells married Amy Robbins, one of his former students, and moved to a rented house in Woking, Surrey where they stayed for a short time. It was during this eighteen month period of time in 1895 to 1896 that he was perhaps the most productive and creative in his writing career. While staying there, Wells wrote “The War of the Worlds”, completed “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, wrote and published “The Wonderful Visit” and “The Wheels of Chance”. He also began writing two other books, “When the Sleeper Wakes” and “Love and Mr. Lewisham”.

Wells’ approach to science fiction, with his personal rules of writing,  was one of the major contributions to the genre. In his opinion, the author should always strive to make the story as credible as possible, even if the reader and the writer knew certain elements were impossible, thus causing a suspension of disbelief. Wells also thought there should be a sense of realism to the concepts and the story should contain only a single extraordinary assumption. Detail was imperative and adherence to the hypothesis of the story should be rigorous.

Prior to 1933, Wells’s books were widely read in Germany and Austria, and most of his science fiction works had been translated shortly after its publication. By 1933, he had attracted the attention of German officials because of his criticism of the political situation in Germany. On May 10th of 1933, Wells’s books were burned by the Nazi Youth in Berlin’s public square, and his works were banned from libraries and book stores.

Wells, as president of Poets, Essayists and Novelists International, angered the Nazis by overseeing the expulsion of the German PEN club from the international body following the German PEN’s refusal to admit non-Aryan writers to its membership. At a PEN conference in Ragusa, Croatia, Wells refused to yield to Nazi sympathizers who demanded that the exiled Ernest Toller, a German left-wing Expressionist playwright, be prevented from speaking.

Near the end of the World War II, Allied forces discovered that the Schutzstaffel (SS) had compiled lists of people slated for immediate arrest during the invasion of Britain in the abandoned Operation Sea Hunt, with Wells included in the alphabetical list of “The Black Book” to be placed into the custody of the Gestapo.



A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of September

Afternoon’s Drawing Class

September 20, 1878, was the birthdate of American writer Upton Sinclair.

In 1904, Upton Sinclair spent seven weeks in disguise, working undercover in Chicago’s meatpacking plants to research his next book. After its publication in 1906, Sinclair acquired particular fame for his classic novel “The Jungle”, which exposed labor and sanitary conditions in the U.S. meatpacking industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. With the income from “The Jungle”, Sinclair founded the utopian, but non-Jewish and white-only, Helicon Home Colony in Englewood, New Jersey; this colony burned down a year later under suspicious circumstances.

In 1919, Upton Sinclair published “The Brass Check”, an exposé of American journalism that publicized the issue of yellow journalism and the limitations of the free press in the United States. Yellow journalism is a tern for journalism and associated news sources that present little or no legitimate well-researched news while instead use eye-catching headlines or exposé to generate sales or viewing.  Four years after publication of “The Brass Check”, the first code of ethics for journalists was created.

Writing during the Progressive Era, Sinclair describes in his books the world of industrialized America from both the working man’s and the industrialist’s points of view. In his book “King Coal” published in 1917, Sinclair described the poor working conditions in the coal mining industry during the 1910s. As in his earlier work “The Jungle”, he used the novel to express his socialist view point. The 1937 “The Flivver King” described the rise of Henry Ford, his wage reform program, and the company’s Sociological Department; the book also described Ford’s decline into antisemitism.

Wanting to pursue politics, Upton Sinclair twice ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress on the Socialist ticket: in 1920 for the House of Representatives and in 1922 for the Senate. He was also the Democratic Party candidate for Governor of California during the Great Depression running under the banner of the “End Poverty in California” campaign, but was defeated in the 1934 elections.

“Do not let other people invade your personality. Remember that every human being is a unique phenomenon, and worth developing. You will meet many who have no resources of their own, and who will try to fasten themselves upon you. You will find others eager to tell you what to do and think and be. But it is better to go apart and learn to be yourself.” – Upton Sinclair



A Year: Day to Day Men: 19th of September

Morning’s Early Light

September 19, 1867 was the birthdate of English book illustrator Arthur Rackham.

Arthur Rackham, at the age of eighteen, worked as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office and began studying part-time at the Lambeth School of Art in central London. In 1892, he left his job and started working for the Westminster Budget, a national newspaper, as a reporter and illustrator.  His first serious commission were a collection of sketches of Anthony Hope, the English novelist who later wrote “The Prisoner of Zenda”.

By the early 1900s, Arthur Rackham had developed a reputation for pen and ink fantasy illustration with richly illustrated gift books such as the 1898 “The Ingoldsby Legends”, “Gulliver’s Travels”, and “Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” published in 1900. Although acknowledged as an accomplished black-and-white book illustrator for some years, it was the publication of his full color plates to Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” in 1905 that particularly brought him into public attention.

Arthur Rackham’s reputation was confirmed in 1906 with his illustrations for J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens”. His income from the book illustrations was augmented by the annual exhibitions of his artwork at the Leicester Galleries located in London. Rackham won a gold medal at the 1906 Milan International Exhibition and another at the 1912 Barcelona International Exposition. His work was also included in an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris in 1914.

Arthur Rackham’s work is often described as a fusion of a northern European ‘Nordic’ style strongly influenced by the Japanese woodblock tradition of the early 19th century. He is widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators from the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration which roughly encompassed the years from 1890 until the end of the First World War.

During that period, there was a strong market for high quality illustrated books which typically were given as Christmas gifts. Many of Rackham’s books were produced in a de luxe limited edition, often vellum bound and usually signed, as well as a smaller, less ornately bound quarto ‘trade’ edition. This was sometimes followed by a more modestly presented octavo edition in subsequent years for particularly popular books.

Arthur Rackham never lost his sense of wonderment and never gave in to the baser styles that fell in and out of favor over the years. From Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 to the start of World War I, Rackham’s illustrations preserved a lifestyle and a sensibility that kept the frighteningly modern future at bay. His beautiful drawings were the antithesis of the industrial advances that allowed them to be printed at affordable prices.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 18th of September

Morning Wake-Up

September 18, 1951 marks the release the film “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” is an American drama film adapted from Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 play of the same name. Williams collaborated with screen writer Oscar Saul and Elia Kazan on the screenplay. Kazan , who had directed the Broadway stage production, also directed the black and white film. Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden were all cast in their original Broadway roles; Vivien Leigh, who had appeared in the London theater production, was cast in the role of Blanche DuBois.

The play’s themes were controversial, causing the screenplay to be modified to comply with the Hollywood Production Code. In the original play, Blanche’s husband had committed suicide after he was discovered having a homosexual affair. This reference was removed from the film; Blanche says instead that she showed scorn at her husband’s sensitive nature, driving him to suicide. Other scenes were shot but cut after filming was complete to conform to the Production Code and later, to avoid condemnation by the National League of Decency.

The Production Code censors demanded 68 script changes from the Broadway staging, while the interference of the Catholic Legion of Decency led to even further cuts, most of them having to do with references to homosexuality and rape. In 1993, after Warner Brothers completed a routine inventory of ltheir archives, the censored footage was found and restored in an original director’s version.

The music score by Alex North was written in short sets of music that reflected the psychological dynamics of the characters. For his work on the film, North was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music Score, one of two nominations in that category that year.

Upon release of the film, Marlon Brando, virtually unknown at the time of the play’s casting, rose to prominence as a major Hollywood film star. The film marked the first of Marlon Brando’s four consecutive Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and earned an estimated $4,250,000 at the US and Canadian box office in 1951, making it the fifth biggest hit of the year.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” won four awards at the 24th Academy Awards. The film set an Oscar record when it became the first film to win in three acting categories, a feat later matched by the film “Network”. The awards the film won were: Vivien Leigh for Actress in a Leading Role, Karl Malden for Actor in a Supporting Role, Kim Hunter for Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Art Direction.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 17th of September

Breakfast of Champions

On September, 17, 1963, the American television series “The Fugitive” premieres on the ABC station.

“The Fugitive” is an American drama series created by novelist Roy Huggins. It was produced by United Artists Television and aired from September 1963 to August 1967. David Janssen, who had starred in the Richard Diamond detective series, played Doctor Richard Kimble, a physician wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder.

“The Fugitive” presented a popular plot device of an innocent man on the run from the police for a murder he did not commit while simultaneously pursuing the real killer. This concept had its antecedents in the Alfred Hitchcock movies “The 39 Steps”, “Saboteur”, and “North by Northwest”. The theme of a doctor in hiding for committing a major crime had also been depicted by James Stewart as the mysterious Buttons the Clown, who never removed his makeup, in the circus drama “The Greatest Show on Earth”.

Casting a doctor as the protagonist also provided the series a wider “range of entry” into local stories for episodes, as Kimble’s medical knowledge would allow him alone to recognize essential elements of the episode such as subtle medical symptoms or an abused medicine, and the commonplace doctor’s ethic of providing aid in emergencies would naturally lead him into dangerous situations.

American jazz composer Pete Rugolo composed the original music for “The Fugitive. Tracking music was common at the time and this was the case with this show. A keen listener could find himself listening to scene cues from “The Outer Limits” or the “Twilight Zone” episodes. All the original music composed by Rugolo and used for the series was prerecorded in London before the series premiered. What little original melody was actually written and recorded was built around a fast-paced tempo representing running music.

Part two of the final episode of “The Fugitive” was the most-watched television series episode up until August of 1967, with more than 78 million people tuning in. According to producer Leonard Goldberg, the network was simply going to end the series with a regular episode without any kind of denouement, as network executives were totally oblivious to the concept that a television audience actually tuned in week after week and cared about the characters of a TV series.

“The Fugitive” was nominated for five Emmy Awards and won the Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series in 1966. In TV Guide’s 2013 list “The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time”. the one-armed man ranked number five. In 1965 Alan Armer, the producer and head writer for the series, received the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his work.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 16th of September

Red and Whites

On September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla spoke his famous “El Grito de Dolores” to his congregation.

Father Hidalgo was born into a moderately wealthy family in the city of Guanajuato, northwest of Mexico City, in 1753. He attended the Jesuit College of San Francisco Javier, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mexico in 1774, and was ordained into the priesthood in 1778. He soon earned the enmity of the authorities, however, by openly challenging both church doctrine and aspects of Spanish rule by developing Mexican agriculture and industry.

In 1803, Hidalgo accepted the curacy of the small parish of Dolores, not far from his native city of Guanajuato. Between 1803 and 1810, he directed most of his energy to improving the economic prospects of his parishioners. Hildalgo also joined the Academia Literaria, a committee seeking Mexico’s independence from Spain.

In September 1810, Spanish authorities learned of the group’s plot to incite a rebellion. On September 13, they searched the home of Emeterio González in the city of Queretaro where they found a large supply of weapons and ammunition. Warned of his impending arrest, Hidalgo, on the morning of September 16th, summoned the largely Indian and mestizo congregation of his small Dolores parish church and preempted authorities by issuing the “El Grito de Dolores”, urging the people to take up arms and fight for Mexico’s independence from Spain.  Attracting enthusiastic support from the Indian and mestizo population, he and his band of supporters moved toward the town of San Miguel.

The rebel army encountered its first serious resistance at Guanajuato. After a fierce battle that took the lives of more than 500 Spaniards and 2,200 Indians, the rebels won the city. By October of 1810, the rebel army, now 80,000 strong, was close to taking Mexico City. Hidalgo, fearful of unleashing the army on the capital city, hesitated, then retreated to the north.

He was captured in Texas, then still a part of the Spanish empire, and executed by firing squad on July 31, 1811. After ten more years of fighting, a weakened and divided Mexico finally won independence from Spain with the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba on August 24, 1821. Father Hidalgo’s “El Grito de Dolores” is commemorated on September 16 as Mexican Independence Day.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 15th of September

The Color Green

September 15, 1907 was the birthdate of actress Fay Wray.

The year 1928 established Canadian-born Fay Wray as an actress to be reckoned with. She played the heroine, Mitzi Schrammell, in Erich von Stroheim’s 1928 “The Wedding March”.. Wray had made the successful transition into the “talkie” era when most performers’ services were no longer needed because of the sound of their voices on film. She continued playing leads in a number of films, such as the good-bad girl in the 1929 film “Thunderbolt”, a crime-prison movie with George Bancroft.

By the early 1930s Fay Wray was at Paramount Pictures working with Gary Cooper and Jack Holt in a number of average films, such as the 1933 “Master of Men”.  From 1932 through 1933 she appeared in eleven films such as the 1932 “Doctor X” and 1933 “The Vampire Bat”, playing opposite Lionel Atwell, and “The Big Brain”, a film about a gambler’s rise in to international crime .

In 1933 Fay Wray played Ann Darrow in Merion C Cooper’s classic “King Kong. She is best remembered for that one performance; her character provided a combination of sex appeal, vulnerability and lung capacity as she was stalked by the giant beast to the top of the Empire State Building.. The movie wound up being named one of the 100 greatest films of all time by the American Film Institute in 1998.

Fay Wray continued her pace in films, making eleven films again in 1934, including “Once to Every Woman” in 1934, the 1934 “Viva Villa!”, and “Alias Bulldog Drummond” released in 1935. However, her career was now beginning the proverbial backward slide. Movie roles were becoming fewer and fewer with new stars on the horizon. After the 1942 “Not a Ladies’ Man”, Fay was not in another film until the 1953 “Treasure of the Golden Condor”. Her last performance before the cameras was a made-for-television movie called “Gideon’s Trumpet”  in 1980.

Fay Wray died of an natural causes on August 8, 2004. Two days after her death, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were dimmed for 15 minutes in her memory. Fay Wray was an excellent actress who never was actually given a chance to live up to her potential, especially after being cast in a number of horror films in the 1930s. Given the right role, Fay could have had her star up alongside the great actresses of the day. Fay Wray though still remains a bright star from cinema’s golden era.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of September

Hand Over Hand

September 14, 1910 was the birthdate of Korean author Kim Hae-Gyeong, known by his pen name Yi Sang.

Yi Sang graduated in 1922 from the Gyeongseong Engineering High School with training as an architect and was employed as a draftsman in the public works department of the Governor-General of Korea. In December of 1929, Yi Sang won first prize in a design contest for the cover of “Korea and Architecture” and third prize for the cover of the journal of the Korean Architecture Society.

Yi Sang joined the “Circle of Nine” whose core members included Kim Girim, Lee Taijun and Jung Jiyong, taking the position of editor of the journal. Several of Yi Sang’s works were published in the journal, including his poems “Paper Gravestone” and “Condition Serious” and the stories “Wings”, “Meetings and Farewells”, and “Children’s Skulls”.

In November of 1936, Yi Sang went to Japan, where he was arrested by Japanese police in early 1937. This was during the time that the Korean Empire had been officially annexed by Japan with the signing of the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. Japan officially ruled Korea, which was deprived of the administration of all its internal affairs. Yi Sang was eventually released on bail and admitted to the Tokyo University Hospital, where he died on April 17, 1937 at the age of twenty-six.

Yi Sang was perhaps the most famous avant-garde writer of the colonial era. In his work he experimented with language and interiority, the separation from inside one’s self as well as from the outer world. His poems, particularly, were influenced by Western literary concepts including Dadaism and Surrealism. Yi Sang’s history in architecture also influenced his work, which often included the languages of mathematics and architecture including, lines, dots, number systems, equations and diagrams.

Yi Sang’s literary legacy is punctuated by his modernist tendencies seen throughout his collected works. His poems reveal the desolate internal landscape of modern humanity and, as in the well known “Crow’s Eye View Poem”, utilize an anti-realist technique to show the themes of anxiety and fear. Yi Sang’s stories disjoint the form of traditional fictional writing to show the conditions of the lives of modern people. His most famous story “Wings” utilizes a stream-of-consciousness technique to express these conditions in terms of the alienation of modern people.

Yi Sang never received much recognition for his writing during his lifetime, but his works began to be reprinted in the 1950s. In the 1970s Yi Sang’s reputation soared as more people became aware of his work. The Yii Sang Literary Award, established in 1977, is sponsored by the Korean publisher Munhaksasangsa and has become one of the most prestigious literary awards in South Korea.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 13th of September

The Wayfarer

September 13, 1903 was the birthdate of French-born American actress Claudette Colbert.

Claudette Colbert starred in the successful 1929 film “The Lady Lies” and followed tthe film with another hit that year “The Hole in the Wall”. She starred opposite Fredric March in the 1930 “Manslaughter”, a remake of the earlier silent film. Colbert was again paired with March in the 1931 “Honor Among Lovers”, a romantic story which faired well at the box office.

Cecil B. Demille cast Claudette Colbert in his last great work “The Sign of the Cross”, released in 1932. She played the Empress Poppaea, wife to Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar played by Charles Laughton. Later in 1932 Colbert was paired with Jimmy Durante in the “Phantom President”, a musical comedy by George M. Cohen. By this time Claudette Colbert’s name symbolized good movies and crowds gathered in the theaters to see her next film, the acclaimed 1933 dramatic love story “Tonight is Ours”.

Claudette Colbert had two very successful movies which increased her stardom in 1934. The first was her starring role as Cleopatra in Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacular 1934 “Cleopatra”. This was a difficult role for Colbert; having contracted appendicitis on her previous film, she was only able to stand a few minutes at a time during the shooting. She also was fearful of snakes, so the death scene shooting was delayed as long as possible. Not one of DeMille’s best films, it nevertheless was a financial success.

Claudette Colbert’s second role in 1934, the one which would immortalize her, was the character of Ellie Andrews, in the now famous “It Happened One Night”. Paired with Clark Gable, the madcap comedy was a mega-hit all across the country. It resulted in Colbert being nominated for and winning the Oscar that year for Best Actress. In 1935, she was again nominated for her role as Doctor Jane Everest, a staff member at a mental institution, in the film “Private Worlds”. Starring as Anne Hilton in the 1944 “Since You Went Away”, she received her third nomination for Best Actress. Claudette Colbert was now a sure drawing card for virtually any film she was in.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Claudette Colbert appeared in the early television medium as well as in theaters. She appeared in the 1955 western film “Texas Lady”; however, Colbert was not on the big screen again until the 1961 “Parrish”, playing a mother on a tobacco plantation in the Connecticutt River Valley. This was her final performance on the big screen; Colbert returned to her original acting career of stage productions.  After a series of strokes, Colbert divided her time between living in New York and Barbados, where she passed on July of 1996 at the age of 92.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 12th of September

The Garden Wall

September 12, 1898 marks the birthdate of the social realist artist Ben Shahn.

Ben Shahn began his path to becoming an artist when his family left Lithuania and moved to Brooklyn, New York. He was trained in his early years as a lithographer and graphic designer; his experience in these fields would be apparent in his future works, combining text with images. Although Shahn attended New York University as a biology student in 1919, he left to pursue art at City College in 1921 and later at the National Academy of Design.

Ben Shahn’s twenty-three gouache paintings of the trials of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti communicated the political concerns of his time. Shahn followed the trial closely and believed, like many people worldwide, that the two men were not given a fair trial. Shahn participated in protests and made his gouache paintings in 1931 and 1932. Many were based on photographs appearing in the newspapers. “The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti” was exhibited in 1932 and received acclaim for both the public and the critics.

Ben Shahn’s work came to the attention of Diego Rivera. In May and June of 1933, Shahn served as an assistant to Rivera while Rivera executed his New York Rockefeller Center mural. During the Depression years, Shahn worked for the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration, photographing the American south; his social documentary style emphasized the people’s living and working conditions. Shahn also painted many fresco murals for schools, post offices, and government buildings; the art he made affirmed his social justice ideals and the legacy of the Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Shahn mixed different genres of art; however, his body of work is distinctive for its lack of traditional portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. He used both expressive and precise visual languages, which he united through the consistency of using a strong line in his work. Shahn’s background in lithography contributed to his devotion to detail; his work is also noted for his use of unique symbolism, often compared to the imagery in Paul Klee’s drawings.

Ben Shahn’s social-realist vision informed his approach to art; his examination of the status quo inspired his creative process. Although Shahn often explored contested themes of modern urban life, organized labor, immigration and injustice, he did so while maintaining a compassionate tone. Shahn identified himself as a communicative artist, challenging the esoteric pretensions of art, which he believed disconnect the artists and their work from the public.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 11th of September

Packing Heat

September 11, 1972 marks the passing of Polish-American animator and film producer Max Fleischer.

By 1914 the first commercially produced animated cartoons started to appear in movie theaters. Max Fleischer devised an improvement in animation through a combined projector and easel for tracing images from live action film. This device, known as the Rotoscope, enabled Fleischer to produce the first realistic animation since the initial works of Winsor McCay. The patent to Fleischer and his two brothers was granted in 1917.

Max Fleischer started working with The Bray Studios, which had a contract with Paramount Pictures, after World War I. His initial series, the “Out of the Inkwell” films featuring “The Clown” character, was first produced at The Bray Studios. The films featured the novelty of combining live action and animation and served as semi-documentaries with the appearance of Max Fleischer as the artist who dipped his pen into the ink bottle to produce the clown figure on his drawing board. While the technique of combining animation with live action was already established by others at The Bray Studio, it was Fleischer’s clever use of the technique combined with Fleischer’s realistic animation that made his series unique.

It was during this time that Max Fleischer developed the Rotograph, a means of photographing live action film footage with animation cels for a composited image. This was an improvement over the method used by Bray Studios where a series of 8″ x 10″ stills were made from motion picture film and used as backgrounds behind animation cels. The Rotograph technique went into more general use known as “Aerial Image Photography” and was a main staple in animation and optical effects companies for making titles and various forms of matte composites.

In 1924, Fleischer partnered with Edwin Miles Fadiman, Hugo Riesenfeld and Lee DeForest to form Red Seal Pictures Corporation, which owned 36 theaters on the East Coast, extending as far west as Cleveland, Ohio.  During this period, Fleischer invented the “Follow the Bouncing Ball” technique in his “Ko-Ko Car Tune” series of animated sing-along shorts. The series lasted until early 1927, becoming very popular with theater goers.

Max Fleischer’s most famous character was Betty Boop, born out  of a cameo caricature in the early animated films. The “Betty Boop” series began in 1932, and became a huge success for him. However, Fleischer’s greatest business decision came with his licensing of the comic strip character Popeye the Sailor, who was introduced to audiences in the 1933 Betty Boop cartoon, “Popeye the Sailor”. Popeye became a box office hit and was one of the most successful screen adaptations of a comic strip in cinema history. Much of this success was due the perfect match of the Fleischer Studio style combined with its unique use of music. By the late 1930s a survey indicated that Popeye had eclipsed Mickey Mouse in popularity, challenging Disney’s presence in the market.