January 26, 2021

How to write a book.

IMG_2284 

Photographed by me, just now, from a book that appears in my earliest childhood memories. I've never read the book, but I saw it and played with it before I could read, and when I could read, I read and puzzled over the title. I knew my parents loved the author, a radio comedian who died, too young, in 1956. The book is ©1956. 

I kept the book for my own library after my parents were gone, and I knew exactly where to find it in my disorganized shelves when the author's name came up in conversation here at Meadhouse. The conversation began with a report of something funny that had happened outside in the snow, and a confession of mine about being too concerned about embarrassment when I was a child, which led Meade to engage in a type of transgressive humor that I associated with Louis CK, whom Meade contrasted to Red Skelton, a sweet, gentle comedian we both remember loving back in 1950s TV. 

I guessed — for no reason other than his on-screen niceness — that Red Skelton might have been a terrible person in real life. I went looking for dirt on his Wikipedia page. I didn't read every word, and I didn't find any dirt, but I got interested in the subject, so timely today, of censorship:
On April 22, 1947, Skelton was censored by NBC two minutes into his radio show. When he and his announcer Rod O'Connor began talking about Fred Allen being censored the previous week, they were silenced for 15 seconds; comedian Bob Hope was given the same treatment once he began referring to the censoring of Allen. 
[FOOTNOTE] Fred Allen was censored when he referred to an imaginary NBC vice-president who was "in charge of program ends". He went on to explain to his audience that this vice-president saved these hours, minutes and seconds that radio programs ran over their allotted time until he had two weeks' worth of them and then used the time for a two-week vacation.

And then I was reading the Wikipedia article on Fred Allen, whose book I played with when I was a child and have kept all these years but never read:

A master ad libber, Allen often tangled with his network's executives (and often barbed them on the air over the battles) while developing routines whose style and substance influenced fellow comic talents, including Groucho Marx, Stan Freberg, Henry Morgan and Johnny Carson; his avowed fans also included President Franklin D. Roosevelt, humorist James Thurber, and novelists William Faulkner, John Steinbeck and Herman Wouk (who began his career writing for Allen).... 
"Fred Allen's fourteen-year battle with radio censorship," wrote the New York Herald-Tribune critic John Crosby, "was made particularly difficult for him by the fact that the man assigned to reviewing his scripts had little sense of humor and frankly admitted he didn't understand Allen's peculiar brand of humor at all." Among the blue pencils, according to Crosby, were:

  • Allen was barred from saying "Brenda never looked lovelier", at the time of socialite Brenda Frazier's wedding, unless he could get direct permission from the Frazier family. 
  • Allen was ordered to change the Cockney accent he assigned the character of a first mate aboard the Queen Mary — on the grounds that the ship's first mate could only be a cultured man who might not like a Cockney accent. 
  • Allen had to fight to keep Mrs. Nussbaum in the Allen's Alley routines because NBC feared Jewish-dialect humor "might offend all Jews" despite the fact that Jewish dialect humor had been a vaudeville and burlesque staple for years. 
  • Allen was ordered to not even mention the fictitious town of North Wrinkle until or unless it could be proven that no such town actually did exist. 

"Allen not only couldn't poke fun at individuals", Crosby wrote. "He also had to be careful not to step on their professions, their beliefs, and sometimes even their hobbies and amusements. [Allen's wife, the comedienne] Portland Hoffa was once given a line about wasting an afternoon at the rodeo. NBC objected to the implication that an afternoon at the rodeo was wasted and the line had to be changed. Another time, Allen gagged that a girl could have found a better husband in a cemetery. (The censor) thought this might hurt the feelings of people who own and operate cemeteries. Allen got the line cleared only after pointing out that cemeteries have been topics for comedy since the time of Aristophanes." Allen's constant and sometimes intense—as well as often ridiculous—battles with censors may have aggravated his longtime problems with hypertension.

Allen died of a heart attack when he was 61. Here's the episode of "What's My Line?" that aired the day after he died: 


Put it all in. Don't try to organize it. And put in all the details you can remember.... Don't think back over what you have done. Don't think of literary form. Let it get out as it wants to....

ONE MORE DETAIL: Here's the book, "Much Ado About Me." It was puzzling to me when I was a child because I didn't know what "ado" was, and, of course, I lacked the background knowledge of the Shakespeare title "Much Ado About Nothing." When you are a child, you see many things that are a play on something, and you don't know the thing. You've got nothing. In this case, the thing I lacked was "Nothing."

122 comments:

Fernandinande said...

"My advice to the would-be-writer is that he start slowly, writing short undemanding things, things such as telegrams, flip-books, crank letters, signature scarves, spot quizzes, capsule summaries, fortune cookies and errata.

Then, when he feels he's ready, move up to the more challenging items such as mandates, objective correlatives, passion plays, pointless diatribes, minor classics, manifestos, mezzotints, oxymora, exposes, broadsides, and papal bulls."
...

"There are many more writing hints I could share with you, but suddenly I am run over by a truck.
- The End - "

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Mark Evanier has an interesting Red Skelton essay.

tcrosse said...

Fred Allen also wrote Treadmill to Oblivion about his career in vaudeville and radio.

Michael K said...

I was a Fred Allen fan as a kid. His humor was dry, which probably got him into trouble with people who had no sense of humor. Senator Claghorn, one of his characters, lived on as a cartoon rooster character in Loony Tunes cartoons.

Openidname said...

"Funny Men Don't Laugh," by Arnold Auerbach.

Auerbach was a comedy writer for Fred Allen and others, including a radio comedian (given a pseudonym) who was an overbearing, joke-stealing hack. Spoiler: Allen comes off looking a lot better than Mr. Pseudonym.

Highly recommended, if you can find it at your library.

Michael K said...

Red Skelton was a neighbor of my in-laws in 1961. When the Bel Air fire began, he ordered a gasoline powered water pump and had it delivered to his home. He and and some of his crew from the studio, which was right outside the Bel Air gates, used the pump to pump out his pool onto the roof and save his house.

Later, he was a benefactor of South Coast hospital in Laguna Beach. There was a big portrait of him in the lobby.

tcrosse said...

I, too, was a childhood fan of Fred Allen. Unfortunately, he did not transition well into television.

The Crack Emcee said...

I keep wanting to get my experience with NewAge down, but I just don't think I'm a long-form dude. I wish I knew a ghostwriter who was, but I don't even know anyone interested in the topic. Which is weird, considering - currently - it's the most important one in the world, and consuming our lives. I see the books by others on it, but they're all too partisan (or compromised) to tell the story accurately.

Like Zappa, I know it doesn't matter, but, deep down, it would still be nice to die without that as a regret.





Rob said...

In case you didn't know, John Charles Daly was married to Earl Warren's daughter Virginia. Contrary to some rumors, it was not Virginia who was known as Honey Bear; that was her sister Nina.

Sebastian said...

"tell what people looked like"

Apart from filling out paragraphs for novelists who have nothing in particular to write about, does this make any difference? Do you ever remember what a character looked like, as described in the novel itself?

Elizabeth Bennett? Anna Karenina? Emma Bovary? Herzog?

Not meant to be rhetorical questions.

tcrosse said...

"tell what people looked like"

This goes against rule 8 of Elmore Leonard's.

daskol said...

If you can write dialogue as amusing and rhythmic as Leonard, you can follow his rules and let your characters talk for the whole book.

daskol said...

I love using idioms and expressions and metaphors that include references my kids couldn't possibly understand to encourage them to ask what the hell I'm talking about, which is often a silent request, more of a blank stare at dad talking weird. One of the great amusements in having kids is confusing them in an educational way.

Mike Sylwester said...

Recently I read the following explanation of Shakespeare's play title Much Ado About Nothing.

In Shakespeare's time, the words nothing and noting (i.e. noticing something) were rather close homonyms.

Throughout this play, there are several incidents where characters overhear (i.e. notice) other character's conversations.

Therefore, the play's title is a pun indicating much ado about overhearing other people's conversations.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Portland Hoffa????!!!!!

Ann Althouse said...

The OED has another writer writing "much ado about nothing" before Shakespeare:

"much ado about nothing and variants: a great deal of fuss or trouble over nothing of any significance.
Later use is often influenced by the title of Shakespeare's play; cf. quot. 1600.

1574 J. Whitgift Def. Aunswere to Admon. 637 How dare you..make so much adoe about nothing.
1600 W. Shakespeare (title) Much adoe about nothing."

Jeff Brokaw said...

I could be wrong but ... I could swear I've read several stories about Red Skelton being one a wonderful, warm human being.

Please don't ruin any more of my idols. ;-)

William said...

Treadmill to Oblivion is a great title, and it came true. I remember reading it when I was a kid. I think I can even remember a line from it: When my mother died, she gave out a sigh of relief that must have pushed her halfway to heaven....I never saw or heard his show, but he was a good writer. As a comedian, he wasn't a superstar, but he was successful and had a following among sophisticated people. I don't think many people under the age of sixty have even heard of him, but he rode his ripple with grace and wit......Ernest Hemingway looked like a Hemingway character. I'm sure it helped book sales.

vermonter said...

One of the more interesting blog entries of late

Ralph L said...

Was that Ann Landers or Dear Abby on the show?

Joe Smith said...

Love the 'What's my line' episode.

But to give real names at the beginning seems to be quite a clue.

And the prize money! It would only buy you a mediocre dinner for two these days.

The handwriting was beautiful and the women were lovely and classy.

What happened to our country?

Now TV is all commercials for dick pills during prime time when the little ones are watching.

'Mommy, does daddy need to get bigger and last longer to satisfy you in the bedroom?'

JFC we have fallen a loooong way (and I'm younger than AA, btw).

Ralph L said...

Not that it makes much difference.

Jeff Gee said...

On the "Young & Old" episode of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio, there's a little Stan Freberg skit about radio censorship. The censor makes him change "Old Man River" to "Elderly Man River" so as not to offend senior citizens. I thought it was both tame & lame (big laugh lines are things like "It's gonna be one of THOSE days")but in the context of the Fred Allen censorship battles it took some guts and probably hit pretty hard.

Wince said...

A combination of laughing and wanting to see the rest of the TV sketch resulting in me pissing my pants watching the Red Skelton Show as a very young kid, right on my mother's living room chair.

I always wanted to impart that rare comedic achievement to Red in person, but I never followed through, even as he toured right up until his final illness.

rcocean said...

I always liked Red Skelton on a personal level, but I never found him funny, except in his early movies. He's the exact opposite of Sam Kinason or Rodney Dangerfield, who were both creeps, but hilarious creeps.

rcocean said...

Steve Allen wrote a book about comedians "Funny men" or something like that. He didn't like Red Skelton because he was a Republican or something. Allen also thought Lenny bruce was "ground-breaking" "Brilliant" and "Hilarious".

His most ridiculous comment was that Costello wasn't funny and that "Who's on first" was bad comedy because it was "unrealistic". LOL.

Steve Allen was such a pompous twit. Did you know he wrote 1,000 songs? I always found that a hilarious boast. Beethoven only wrote 9 symphonies, but Allen wrote 1,000 songs. Advantage Allen!

Mike Sylwester said...

I remember watching an old movie on the TCM cable-television channel where Red Skelton played essentially a handsome man -- not a goofy clown. I think it was the 1941 movie Lady Be Good.

rhhardin said...

I never got Fred Allen, except he had a comedic feud with Jack Benny.

Lord Clanfiddle said...

Allen's radio shows--which can still be found on the web--are great. Listen to them in combination with Jack Benny's show from the late 30s to late 40s--the two of them had a running 'feud' (actually they were good friends). Much hilarity ensues on both sides.

tcrosse said...

Fred Allen said that imitation is the sincerest form of television.

William said...

Raymond Chandler didn't know what Philip Marlowe looked like. He thought Dick Powell and not Humphrey Bogart was the best likeness of Sam Spade.

Big Mike said...

I guessed — for no reason other than his on-screen niceness — that Red Skelton might have been a terrible person in real life.

The most negative thing I’ve ever read about Red Skelton is the story Churchy links to. And it’s not all that negative. Every other thing I have read about him depicts a man whom everybody felt affection for —in Hollywood no less! — including the wife who divorced him.

Ann Althouse said...

"This goes against rule 8 of Elmore Leonard's."

Steinbeck's rules are liberating but also onerous. Lots of description. Who remembers what people wore? Is that part of your memories? I can remember what *I* wore, but I don't think I've preserved what other people wore (or how they walked).

Pick a starting point scene in you life from at least 20 years ago: What were *other people* wearing?

But it's a memoir. You can fall into a dream of the past and look around.

Mike Sylwester said...

Recently I read John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men -- rather, I read about 4/5 of it. Then I gave up and went to the Sparknotes webpage to read how it ended.

I'm Full of Soup said...

I had an uncle, a pipefitter, who claimed he had worked on a construction job with Red Skelton once. My uncle said Skelton was a bit crazy but he did not mention anything about Skelton being mean.

JPS said...

rcocean,

"He's the exact opposite of Sam Kinason or Rodney Dangerfield, who were both creeps, but hilarious creeps."

For whatever reason I find this very easy to believe about Kinison, but I'm sorry to learn Dangerfield was a creep.

It can be interesting to learn who's surprisingly nicer than expected, who's nastier than their on-screen persona, and who's exactly as kind or as cruel as you would have thought.

(Some people seem to mix it up. If I add up the anecdotes I've read about Bill Murray, he is often nice to ordinary people but hell on fellow performers and directors.)

Rory said...

"Listen to them in combination with Jack Benny's show"

The underrated show of this kind is the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Big Mike said...

The most negative thing I’ve ever read about Red Skelton is the story Churchy links to. And it’s not all that negative.

It seems that anything you hear that's derogatory about Skelton comes from the years after his show was cancelled during CBS's "Rural Purge". Reportedly he was very bitter about that.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Steinbeck's rules are liberating but also onerous. Lots of description. Who remembers what people wore? Is that part of your memories? I can remember what *I* wore, but I don't think I've preserved what other people wore (or how they walked).

Steinbeck's rule for fiction writing.... not being chronological in writing a draft is something that my creative writing professor in college stressed. Don't start with a detailed plot in mind and then try to shove your memories and characters into the plot. Have a general story in mind or a statement that you want to make in the end.

If you are trying to build the story starting from the beginning through to the end, tediously one step at a time, you are just going to be bogged down, frustrated and it will likely be a stiff, lifeless narrative. Forcing it doesn't work.

It is better to write vignettes or small but significant scenes and then rearrange them into a coherent whole. Fiction is a structure made out of hundreds of leggo bricks (vignettes, snippets of remembrance). You will find that some fit, some don't, so you set those aside for a new structure. The missing bricks, and there will be many of those...then you can continue to create. Maybe even tear down the structure and start over by rearranging the parts.

Details that you don't think you remember, when you start writing, will come back to you. The idea isn't to be so "literal" about what people wore but to paint a vivid picture. So what if it isn't Levi jeans and a green and orange tied died top but instead was Wranglers and a purposely bleach splattered blue top. The effect is the same.

Who remembers what people wore? Is that part of your memories? I can remember what *I* wore, but I don't think I've preserved what other people wore (or how they walked).

I do!!! How people walked, talked, smelled and dressed...how their houses/apartments were decorated,smelled and sounded, among other details of the time...are vivid in my memories. Am I 100% accurate??. Probably not, but that doesn't matter because you are setting the mood and fleshing out the characters and writing fiction.

Joe Smith said...

"Raymond Chandler didn't know what Philip Marlowe looked like."

I'm re-reading 'Lady in the Lake' now because there was a horrible adaptation shown on TCM recently.

Chandler says Marlowe is 6'2" and 220 or so (I think).

In essence, a man built for a tough job who could take a punch.

Other than that I don't recall much in the way of what he was supposed to actually look like...

James Graham said...

Fred Allen on the short-ish Mayor LaGuardia:

He's the only man in New York who can walk under a horse without removing his hat.

rcocean said...

"Raymond Chandler didn't know what Philip Marlowe looked like. He thought Dick Powell and not Humphrey Bogart was the best likeness of Sam Spade.

Chandler describes Marlowe in his books. He looks like Robert Mitchum. He thought Bogart was the best Marlowe on-screen, because he could be "Tough without a gun". He thought Alan ladd was a schoolboy's idea of toughness. He liked Powell because he could toss off a one-liner, not because he was tough or looked like marlowe.

M Jordan said...

I used to be a big Steinbeck fan. He was great for the high school English classroom: very clear and simple (superficially) in his writing style. But he’s just too depressing, can’t read him anymore. And too much a socialist for my blood.

That said, “Of Mice and Men” was the best book I ever found for high school seniors who were not the academic sort. It introduced them to moral nuance, something they are not good at. The shooting of Lennie by George (oh, spoiler alert, btw) always evoked a true conflicted discussion.

rcocean said...

Chandler said Bogart made "Bums" out of Powell and Ladd. He also said the supporting actress in The Big Sleep had her part cut down because she made Bacall look like a wooden Indian. which she was.

narciso said...

Fleming said bond looked like hoagy carmichael not much like connery.

rcocean said...

Mice of Men always struck me as proletarian fakery. I hate that 30's nonsense of making heroes about of bums. The literary elite stopped doing that in the 50s when the party line changed. The new heroes were "People of color". Then after a while they had to stop that, because the party line changed again. Now, its Gays, Lesbians, Immigrants, and rich white people who believe in Leftism. IOW, themselves.

Now that they've completely replaced the old elite, the new elite love "elitism". No more novels about "bums who know the true meaning of life, unlike those horrible Bourgeoise"

Ralph L said...

I read East of Eden straight through overnight in college (not for class). The only bit I remember distinctly is the railcar of lettuce sent to Chicago and rotting. Can imagined smells be a strong memory?

rcocean said...

What's amazing about the grapes of wrath is how popular it still is. Its quite insulting to people from Oklahoma. The Joads are complete morons, who can barely function in a modern society. Based on Steinbeck's novel, they appear to have never read a newspaper, had any friends, or listened to the radio. They could have driven to Calf in 40 hours. But they dawdle along and then do all kinds of crazy things because "They have enough money left".

You'd think no one in Oklahoma had ever gone to California before 1935 or lost their farm.

rcocean said...

When I read "Grapes of Wrath" in HS, i accepted it all because I knew nothing about History or read life. When I read it again, i saw how dumb it is. For example, why does the entire family - about 12 people - load themselves on the truck and go to Calf? why didn't the able bodied men just go to Calf and settle in, earn some $$, and then have the women and old folks join them by bus? Instead, despite grandpa and grandma being old and ill, they're loaded up and die on the way! Then the crazy son goes up the Colorado river. Then Grandma dies. Then the son-in-law runs off. Its like the Bataan Death march instead of a drive from Oklahoma to Fresno!

Mattman26 said...

The What’s My Line excerpt was nostalgically endearing.

A level of erudition you wouldn’t find in a mass market show today, much less a game show.

Gabriel said...

@rccocean: For example, why does the entire family - about 12 people - load themselves on the truck and go to Calf? why didn't the able bodied men just go to Calf and settle in, earn some $$, and then have the women and old folks join them by bus? Instead, despite grandpa and grandma being old and ill, they're loaded up and die on the way!

Because their houses were getting wrecked by bulldozers. They were all losing their farms.

I don't want to defend everything in the book, but jeez.

Mike Sylwester said...

Speaking of Grapes of Wrath, I recommend Ken Burns' documentary series about the Dustbowl. That is one of the very best television shows that I ever watched.

Mattman26 said...

I don’t get to name drop often enough, so a plug for Bill Murray (or “Dad’s friend Bill,” as I make my kids call him). Met him at a party once and he couldn’t have been nicer.

Amadeus 48 said...

Ralph L--That was Ann Landers--known around Chicago as Eppie Lederer. Her twin sister (identical) wrote Dear Abby. They didn't get along professionally.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

rcocean said...

Chandler describes Marlowe in his books. He looks like Robert Mitchum.

Cite?

All the Marlowe novels are written in the first person, from Marlowe's perspective. Marlowe never describes himself other than by reporting other's comments about him that are in his hearing. No one ever says anything about looking like Robert Mitchum, most likely because the bulk of the novels were written before Mitchum became a big star.

tcrosse said...

When told that Steve Allen had written 1000 songs, Jack Paar said,"Name three."

tcrosse said...

The underrated show of this kind is the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.

Not underrated by me. They're the anti-Ozzie and Harriet.

JML said...

I know someone who knew Red Skelton back in the day. She said he was a wonderful and hilarious man, but could be a filthy joke teller. She said he would often go out to his studio audience to warm them up before the show. He would check to see if there were any minors in the audience, and if not, would tell some very adult jokes, but if there was anyone underage in audience, he would be keep it clean.

Bilwick said...

"'tell what people looked like'

"This goes against rule 8 of Elmore Leonard's."

I found Elmore Leonard's rules of writing useful mainly if you want to write just like Elmore Leonard. Not a bad thing in and of itself; but literature, even popular literature, would be a pretty arid desert if writers only wrote like Elmore Leonard.

Joe Smith said...

"Cite?"

It will take some digging...but I think other people say things to Marlowe in the course of the story, and I think at times Marlowe 'talks to himself' and provides information...

Various sources I could find say he is just shy of 6'2" and around 190lbs.

In 'Lady in the Lake' the local sheriff says to Marlowe '...You got a good build on you for the work' when he confirms Marlowe is a private detective...

That's just from what I read last night and I remembered it...

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Various sources I could find say he is just shy of 6'2" and around 190lbs.

He didn't mean to be tall.

rcocean said...

Cite?

Tell me where I'm wrong. Jesus, the internet. You give ME the cite.

"Hello, I'm a Dummy. I don't know anything about the subject, but I'll be "clever" and ask people to PROVE to me what they write".

Sorry, Goofball.

DavidUW said...

Steinbeck wasn’t a very good author.
Just commie ish depression porn for democrats/teachers.

Ralph L said...

known around Chicago as Eppie

How fitting they named a pen after her. I wonder if this show appearance helped her column become syndicated.

Stephen said...

My parents and grandparents loved Red Skelton. He always ended his show with "And may God bless," which to this grade-schooler sounded weird because he left off the "you." Even to this day "bless" is considered a transitive verb only, so Red's usage never caught on.

Interested Bystander said...


Joe Smith said...
"Raymond Chandler didn't know what Philip Marlowe looked like."

I'm re-reading 'Lady in the Lake' now because there was a horrible adaptation shown on TCM recently.

Chandler says Marlowe is 6'2" and 220 or so (I think).

In essence, a man built for a tough job who could take a punch.

Other than that I don't recall much in the way of what he was supposed to actually look like...

1/26/21, 11:11 AM


I don’t recall Chandler describing him in detail other than what you mentioned about his size. Most of what we get about Philip Marlow’s appearance comes from the reactions of people with whom he interacts. Sexy dames are always attracted to him so we know he’s tall and handsome. He often mentions what he’s wearing as it describes how he conceals his rosco.


I have always enjoyed Raymond Chandler’s physical descriptions. He put a lot of thought into it. By describing a fat slovenly man with red veins in his cheeks and an alcoholic nose he’s telling you a lot about the man and how he lives his life.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

rcocoean Re Steinbeck and Grapes of Wrath Its quite insulting to people from Oklahoma. The Joads are complete morons, who can barely function in a modern society. Based on Steinbeck's novel, they appear to have never read a newspaper, had any friends, or listened to the radio. They could have driven to Calf in 40 hours. But they dawdle along and then do all kinds of crazy things because "They have enough money left".

You need some historical perspective. Life was much much different in the dustbowl 30's. Life in rural anywhere was very different.

They probably didn't read a newspaper because they lived on a farm in bumfuck nowhere without delivery. They probably had a Bible and maybe a book or two...IF they could read. Also a radio...probably not. No reception and radios were a luxury. Telephone...ha ha ha. Besides who they gonna call Dust Buster?

Driving to California in 40 hours??? GET REAL. Their old clunker vehicles probably couldn't go more than 50 mph at best. NO INTERSTATE highways. Miles of nothing to drive through Gas stations few and far between. Overheating radiators, no gas. Not to mention people need to sleep, eat and piss along the way. It takes days to get anywhere of any distance.

Geeze why didn't they just use their cell phones to call for gas or AAA when their vehicle broke down? How stupid they must have been. /sarcasm

Convenience stores or fast food restaurants...ha ha ha ha They had to take their water and food with them and cook it along the way. Miles and miles and miles of desert and nothing between towns. They had NO MONEY or very little anyway.

Then when they finally get to dustbowl California...no one wanted them to be there. People in farm country California were having a pretty hard time too. Die...stupid Okies.

Leaving Grandma and the kids? Sure. No money. No jobs. No housing. No neighbors...they are all gone too. Remember they just lost everything? No way to communicate other than write a letter. Yup. Just leave them behind to starve. No big deal.

Do you have ANY concept of what life is like for people outside of your own narrow experience? How people almost 100 years ago lived? Any????

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Joe Smith said...

That's just from what I read last night and I remembered it...

You had it right, Joe. I've read the Marlowe novels, multiple times. Chandler alludes to Marlowe being a tall, solidly built guy; but that's about the only description you ever get of him.

daskol said...

Fleming said bond looked like hoagy carmichael not much like connery.

If so Bond looks more like Don Adams than Connery.

Joe Smith said...

"Chandler alludes to Marlowe being a tall, solidly built guy; but that's about the only description you ever get of him."

I have them all on my iPad...I think they're all free on Project Gutenberg these days.

I will make a note and add to an overnight thread in the future...

Eric said...

I think it's a sign of weirdness that I immediately knew who Jacques Plante was (I suppose it's was by now) and why he was somewhat controversial in his day.

Jeff Gee said...

Jack Parr said 'Name three.'

I can't name two. How ever, his piano on Jack Kerouac's 'Poetry for the Beat Generation' LP, especially on "October in the Railroad Earth," is aces.

Michael K said...

Steve Allen was such a pompous twit.

I was not a Steve Allen fan but his son was a nice guy. He was my intern. He had had open heart surgery as a kid and went to medical school. Never met the father.

Narr said...

We watched Skelton religiously, but about all I recall is the comic lush and Clem Kaddidlehopper(?)

Almost everyone else mentioned was too highbrow for our kind.

Narr
Bogie and Bacall are overrated

William said...

The interesting thing is that Steinbeck advised him on how to write rather than how to seek out a good writer. Did celebrities actually write their own books back then? How remarkable. Anyway, Fred Allen was a good writer.....Whatever Sam Spade actually looked like, his soul looked like Humphrey Bogart. I don't think Humphrey Bogart was all that impressive physically and would have had trouble knocking out people with one punch. All those cigarettes and concussions. Sam Spade and Humphrey Bogart were not destined for long lives.

rcocean said...

Dr. K.

One can be a pompous twit AND a nice guy - some of the time. Besides being a twit is not genetic, although I'm not a scientist, so don't take my word for it.

BTW, I'm surprised his son went into medicine, usually the kids of show biz folks try to follow their parents into the Entertainment "Industry".

rcocean said...

Bond was an English gentleman. More roger moore than sean connery. But Connery brought a needed toughness to the part.

Joe Smith said...

"I don't think Humphrey Bogart was all that impressive physically and would have had trouble knocking out people with one punch."

He had a tough guy's face and voice, but he was an average guy for the time...listed many places 5'9' 150lbs...not exactly a brawler.

Moore was so prissy. He looked more at home in the garden club than the license to kill club.

Brosnan was a pretty boy but he looked like he could cause trouble but only if he had to.

tcrosse said...

Fred Allen's humor was not visual, like Skelton, Gleason, or Berle, so he was ill-suited to early television. Besides, Jack Benny said that he looked like a short butcher peeking over five punds of liver.

RoseAnne said...

Not a Stephen King fan but loved his "On Writing" book. Part of it was his biography and part was his explanation of how he manages to write so many books.

Ozymandias said...

NYT front page today: "The First Amendment is broken"!?!?!?

Francisco D said...

narciso said...Fleming said bond looked like hoagy carmichael not much like connery.

I read Fleming's books as an adolescent, so my memory may be off. I remember him describing Bond as a thin and average height with no discernible physical strengths, except for shooting a Beretta and the ability to withstand pain. He was a lot more like Daniel Craig and Roger Moore than Sean Connery.

Joe Smith said...

"I read Fleming's books as an adolescent, so my memory may be off. I remember him describing Bond as a thin and average height with no discernible physical strengths, except for shooting a Beretta and the ability to withstand pain."

Supposed to have had a visible scar on his cheek and the back of his hand.

Also a good boxer.

But 6' 175 or so...slightly bigger than average for the time.

Also was supposed to smoke as many as 70 cigarettes in a day along with all the drink.

bonkti said...

Shakespeare understood the vagaries of gender but he also respected the binary of biological sex,coded with visual serendipity: 1 & 0.

Hamlet. That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
Ophelia. What is, my lord
Hamlet. Nothing.

bonkti said...

Oh, yeah. So, "Much Ado About Nothing", as Hamlet said, is about country matters.

chuck said...

You need some historical perspective.

My mother's family were share croppers from OK. They got to CA somewhat late, but they were nothing like the Joads. My mother had nine surviving siblings, and four went to college. All of them could read and write and several were musically talented, two performed professionally. Before conversion Grandfather played harmonica, organ, and fiddle. Believe it or not, there were schools in OK. My mother's family may not have been typical, but neither were the Joads. Steinbeck was a Marxist mystic.

rcocean said...

In the movies every leading man is 6 feet tall. Bogart is usually the tallest man in the film. IF they can't accomplish that by having short supporting actors (like Claude Rains) they have everyone sitting down or they shoot the actors separately. Bergman was the same height but you'd never know it from watching Casablanca. when they're sitting together on a couch, they gave Bogart a cushion to sit on. Incredibly, in the late 30s bogart was the tallest leading man at warner brothers, at least among the Gangster/Film noir types. Garfield, Raft, and Muni were shorter. EG Robinson was the tiniest of all, barely 5-4.

Hercules, not that one though said...

I had a comment to make. I thought about it for awhile and was drawn by Ann's comment. "too concerned about embarrassment when I was a child."

It's a universal comment that every one of us could make. None of us want to say it.

This chick, Ann Althouse lays it out there now, at the end. Wisdom comes late in the game.
When young, we don't want to admit it. We can't admit it, because of the game. We need to play the game. Try to tell your younger self about the game. Truth falls on deaf ears.

The game. Who makes the rules in this world that Satan rules? Looking back thru time, we can see it is a crucible.

tim in vermont said...

He’s right, you have to immerse yourself until the project takes over your brain.

tim in vermont said...

Fleming came around in the end to Connery when the movie glamour and the money started to come in. Unfortunately he passed away before he could enjoy it very much.

Deanna said...

About 8 or 9 years ago the kids were on the Academic Decathalon team for our homeschool organization. The theme was the Great Depression and the major work of literature was Grapes of Wrath. One of the few books I regretted having made them read. Not worth the time at all.

My husband and I started watching What's My Line a few months ago - starting at the beginning and watching chronologically (thank you YouTube). It's been so interesting seeing the world of that day through the perspective of this show and it's participants - both regular and guests. We grew to really appreciate Fred Allen's sense of humor and were sad when he died. Currently watching shows from late '61. Kennedy is president and will be soon assassinated. Dorothy Kilgallen will follow soon after under what seems to be suspicious circumstances as she was investigating the Kennedy assassination.

Mr. N has undertaken a major remodel in our late-60's standard issue split-entry starting with the kitchen. The only things still in their original positions are the sink and stove. Everything's ripped back to the studs. We made flooring decision last week. Should have lighting nailed down by the end of this week - style, placement etc. It's slow going after he puts in a full day of structural engineering work. Has seriously moderated the pace of our What's My Line viewing. We used to watch 2-3 episodes of an evening. Now we get maybe that many in/week.

tim in vermont said...

"Mice of Men always struck me as proletarian fakery.”

Yeah, but it had the immortal line “Tell me again about the rabbits George.”

Two of his books he pretty much lifted the story lines straight from the novel McTeague. The Pearl, and possibly Of Mice and Men . it’s been too long since I read them to tell you for sure on that second one.

tim in vermont said...

I remember Fred Allen, but if you are talking about black and white TV, my absolute hero was Paul Lynde.

Dagwood said...

I watched that episode of "What's My Line?" on YouTube just last week. And had watched scores of others before that one.

I especially like the segments with the mystery celebrity guests, and love to see how the audience reacts as he/she/they sign in. Biggest ovation was on a March, 1967 episode, for (imo) the greatest legend to appear on there.

tim in vermont said...

Yeah, he lifted the plot of Of Mice and Men from McTeague. It’s coming back to me now. McTeague was a novel about a San Francisco dentist. And the story lines from The Pearl and Of Mice and Men both appear in it. So maybe his advice should be read some great but little known novels and steal everything you can!

rcocean said...

Its 1300 miles from Oklahoma city to Bakersfield. Driving at 30 MPH average, that's about 4o hours. The Joads had 4 men who could drive the truck. everyone could've slept on the truck, made the occasional pit stop for gas, etc. Even if you account for flat tires or whatever, they could've done it in a 3 days. that's 72 hours.

instead, it takes them 2 weeks. they seem to drive about 8 hours a day, & make endless stops. They leave the grandpa dead in the bushes because they "don't have time" to get him to funeral home (!). They drive through Calf checkpoint with Dead Grandma in the back, but then stop at funeral home after they get through Mojave desert. Guess, they liked Grandma better than Grandpa. Finally, they take any work they can get, because they used all their food GETTING to Calf. Maybe if they'd driven faster, they would've had a week's worth of food when they GOT to Calf.

They believe all the fliers that tell them they can make great wages picking fruit. But didn't anyone from Oklahoma ever go to Calf and tell them you can't make "great wages" picking fruit? They were farmers wouldn't they have known you can't make "great wages" picking fruit? They seem to be completely ignorant of Calf farming despite the fact that people from Oklahoma had been going to Calf for 30 years.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Of Ducks & Men

wildswan said...

Just today I was looking at a series of pictures I put together about 2010 and called "Romantic Shorewood." It was all the pictures of that Wisconsin suburb which I moved to from the East Coast in late 2008 which had a definite feeling which to me was that place more than any other. Like Little League baseball, high school football, church barbecue, snow-swept lake, blazing autumn trees, clean alleys, high-school plays, grilling in the snow, family dinners, dawn over the lake, marriages, moonrise over the lake, renovating the kitchen. And, as I went through these pictures today, I asked myself: what was a story those pictures fit - (other than the private one that happened, I mean.) What type of story can these pictures be background to? Couldn't work it out. It is like trying to work out who Ann and Meade are from the sunrise pictures without the blog or from the blog without the sunrise pictures or by trying to fit the two together. Really I don't know. (I'm laugh sometimes when I read brand-new commenters "explaining" Althouse or Meade. Don't bother with their certain-to-be-shallow comments, I think to myself.) And Crack Emcee and Shouting Thomas from music or from comments or from the two - unknown. America is hard to find.

rcocean said...

"Leaving Grandma and the kids? Sure. No money. No jobs. No housing. No neighbors...they are all gone too. Remember they just lost everything? No way to communicate other than write a letter. Yup. Just leave them behind to starve. No big deal."

Hello? This is the 1930s. People didn't starve to death. They had charity and welfare in Oklahoma. what do you think, they let old people die back then? Besides, they were rich enough to sell their horses and buy a used truck, plus Gas, plus spare tires, plus a battery and lots of food. You're telling me they couldn't have set up Grandma and grandpa in cheap hotel somewhere? Ridiculous.

Of course, again, it goes back to Steinbeck's absurd picture of Oklahoma (which he never visited). The Joads are just out there on a farm, all alone, no neighbors, no friends, no relatives. Like they live on a desert island. Really?

traditionalguy said...

Interesting thing about Steinbeck was his great fictional characters written so accurately that we seem to know them.The Steinbeck haters apparently never read his great books or are stuck on stupid hating his reality based reports written about the Salinas Valley, California of the Great Depression as unAmerican. The slander that Steinbeck was a Communist is false John Birch Society propaganda.

Ralph L said...

In the movies every leading man is 6 feet tall.

There's a delicious photo of De Niro outdoors wearing 3 inch platform shoes during a filming.

Leora said...

A few decades ago I was reading something about the Beach Boys and I realized they were the grandchildren of the Okies in Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck was a lefty preppy writing about the mythical poor.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

A few decades ago I was reading something about the Beach Boys and I realized they were the grandchildren of the Okies in Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck was a lefty preppy writing about the mythical poor.

Probably Timothy White's The Nearest Faraway Place.

Darkisland said...

Churchy,

Thank you for that link to the article about Red Skelton. I found it very moving. I enjoy reading about people who love their work like that. Like Red, I am lucky enough to have a job that I have so much fun at I would do it for free if I could afford it. Red and I are both incredibly lucky.

John Henry

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Thank you for that link to the article about Red Skelton

Sure!

Evanier is a longtime TV & comic-book ("Groo The Wanderer" etc) writer who has lots of stories like that. He used to do a column for CBG, a lot of which I think landed on that site.

Darkisland said...

Narciso,

Fleming also said that his bond was no Sidney Reilly. Nobody could have that good.

As for Elmore Leonard not describing his characters, I'd never noticed that. He may not have said Raylan Givins was 5'10, 200 lbs brown hair and so on. But from the books I knew exactly what Raylan looked like. A bit dismayed when I saw Justified and he was nothing like what I knew he looked like.

I am sure how I imagined him was different from how others imagined him.

John Henry

Hercules, not that one though said...

rocean-'They believe all the fliers that tell them they can make great wages picking fruit.'

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Those 1930s people were so stupid. Not like 2021 people.

Darkisland said...

Bogie on 3" platform shoes while filming with Ingrid Bergman.

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ob2Ne485asA/YArkaEL0kvI/AAAAAAAB7X0/_mwLtmWYvQkyBZC4Y_U3jYQD0ObVXFaeACLcBGAsYHQ/s756/c4et3pqu2vc61.jpg

John Henry

KellyM said...

As DBQ noted in her post at 11:10 AM, I can see for a writer that Steinbeck’s suggestions can be helpful. I can envision plot lines and dialogue based on snippets of music alone. His fiction, on the other hand, left me cold. Maybe it was due more to his characters and their circumstances being unpleasant and tough to like.

Dick Powell did at least two, if not three, separate radio series in the 30s and 40s. In “Richard Diamond, Private Detective”, each episode began or ended with him at the piano singing some little ditty. He had a light and pleasing way with lyrics, likely due to his being a song and dance man. His scenes in “Gold Diggers of 1933” with Ruby Keeler were beyond cute.

Sam Spade to me will always be Bogart, and Effie will always be Lee Patrick. Interestingly, the radio serials portrayed Effie as a complete dingbat but she was anything but. My image of Phil Marlowe is a large man with blond hair, a guy who was probably a football star in high school, with a nose broken one too many times. Maybe because it’s LA that I think blond versus San Francisco, and dark, and steely.

Fred Allen’s and Jack Benny’s running “feud” is a thing of hilarity. I listened to a bunch of Jack Benny’s shows during my Christmas Break (thank you, Archive.org) and their nit-picking on various themes kept up week by week, and the Christmas ones were annual threads. And long suffering Rochester endured it all so valiantly.

rcocean said...

"The slander that Steinbeck was a Communist is false John Birch Society propaganda."

You must be like 100 years old. What is the John birch society?

William said...

I wonder if James Bond would have ever picked up on Kim Philby being a Commie spy. Bond was very quick to spot trickery and sly moves. Ian Fleming not so much. Fleming and Phiby were pals.....I read John Steinbeck's books long ago. Whatever his politics, he knew how to tell a story. He was a good writer of comparable worth with John O'Hara or Somerset Maugham, in the very first row of the second tier seats. He was overpraised in his time but that was probably because of those politics which make him so dated now.....The Joad family got jobs in the defense plants, entered the middle class, and became the sort of people that are nowadays demonized rather than mythologized.....The Grapes of Wrath was not shown in the USSR. It was shown for a while but the audience marveled at the wealth of the Joad family who could afford their very own truck.

Joe Smith said...

"Bogie on 3" platform shoes while filming with Ingrid Bergman."

In all fairness, she was an Amazon* (but a hot one) : )

*5'9" so tall for a woman back in the day...

chuck said...

Besides, they were rich enough to sell their horses and buy a used truck

I asked my mother how the depression affected her life. She said she didn't notice, nothing really changed. Folks who worried about loosing their farm, bought with borrowed money, that was different, they stood to lose something. That said, the dust bowl mostly affected the panhandle region of Oklahoma, her family moved around the AR, KS, MO, OK area.





































daskol said...
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daskol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ralph L said...

chuck, copy, delete, and repost your comment without the verboten blank space, or the moderator might delete it.

Bart Hall said...

What I remwmber most about Red Skelton was that in about 1960 his 13 yo son died of brain cancer. I was 11 yo at the time, and it changed my attitudes about death, and life.

Discussing the matter with my paternal grandfather, he put his hand my shoulder and said "We all already know the beginning year on our gravestones, but we don't know the ending year. There's gonna be a dash in between. Make the best use of that dash that you can." Then he opened his Bible to Ephesians 5:16. I chose my ancestors well.

Darcy said...

What I know about Red Skelton is the recollection from my mother-in-law that, as entertainers became too big and pricey for the DuQuoin State Fair (which her family ran, including the Hambletonian horse race), Red Skelton would set his booking fee at whatever they could afford and always played it when asked. He would answer his own phone as well.

She thought he was a wonderful human being. Very humble and gracious.

Bilwick said...

"The slander that Steinbeck was a Communist is false John Birch Society propaganda."

Perhaps; but in my experience, "false John Burch Society propaganda" more often than not turns out to be true.

Lileks said...

Dick Powell did at least two, if not three, separate radio series in the 30s and 40s. In “Richard Diamond, Private Detective”, each episode began or ended with him at the piano singing some little ditty. He had a light and pleasing way with lyrics

He had two detective series, one in the 40s, the other spanning late 40s - early 50s. "Richard Diamond" was the best, thanks to a strong cast and a great writer: a young Blake Edwards.

Powell's reinvention as a tough guy must have seemed unlikely at the time, but he pulled it off. His radio Marlowe was better than his film version, though - he just didn't look right.

KellyM said...

Lileks said...
"Powell's reinvention as a tough guy must have seemed unlikely at the time, but he pulled it off. His radio Marlowe was better than his film version, though - he just didn't look right."

I'll have to go on the hunt for his radio Marlowe. I've been listening to the later version with Gerald Mohr as Marlowe. Quite good; his voice sounds as you imagine he'd look.

The other show I listen to a lot is "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar", for which Dick Powell cut an audition tape. He decided to go with "Richard Diamond" instead. Good call.

Hercules, not that one though said...

I asked my Dad about the Depression. He was 8 yrs old when it started. He talked about kids getting together to play ball in the street. He talked about watered down tomato soup (hot water with a dash of ketchup) Mayonnaise sandwiches. (no meat or cheese)

It was normal to him. It wasn't a deprivation. It was normal, because he had nothing to compare it to. He was a kid. In the 30's, pretty much everyone had a radio. He could listen to the ball game. He got to have ketchup soup. He got to have mayonnaise sandwiches. He got to hear the 'Bambino' hit a home run. Perfectly normal.

I listened to my Grandfather who dropped out of school in the 4th Grade, to sell newspapers on the street, calling out 'Newspaper here. Get your newspaper here.' He told me that in the winter, it got so cold that the news boys would stuff newspapers down their pants, as insulation to ward off the cold. "Newspaper Here!" Getcher Newspaper here!"
It was normal. It wasn't a deprivation.

It was life.