In Good Company: a look at the cartoons in Al Ross’s New Yorker debut issue

 

The news that Al Ross passed away last week got me to thinking about  his start at The New Yorker, way way back in the issue of November 27, 1937, when he was twenty-five years old. This morning I went to our cabinet full of bound New Yorkers, brought out the volume from late 1937 and began paging through the particular issue that contains Al’s inaugural drawing. It’s a wonderful snapshot of that time with an outstanding roster of cartoonists.

The issue begins with a Helen Hokinson cover,  one of those pieces capturing a moment. Beautiful. The first cartoon is by Charles Addams, done in his earlier style before his drawings became more defined. Next up is a Richard Decker drawing printed in step-ladder fashion – sitting atop two columns of type. On the opposite page, a Richard Taylor, also step-ladderish. Taylor had such an unusual style – it reminds me of P.C. Vey’s in a way. Turning the page we come to a beautiful full page by William Galbraith. On the opposite page a great spot drawing by Suzanne Suba – a Macy’s parade moment.

Next page, a Mary Petty that nearly eats up the whole page. Opposite that is a short piece by E.B.White titled “Small Thanks to You “(sorry, couldn’t avoid mentioning that). Several pages later a Syd Hoff spread along the top third of the page. Up next is one of the masters of the full page, Gluyas Williams. A few pages later the two Prices face each other: George and Garrett.

I have to take a break here just for a moment and comment on the way the make-up department handled the cartoons. With the exception of the full page cartoons, every single cartoon was awarded a unique space, meaning the shape of the cartoon is different for each cartoon. Even the cartoons that are rectangular are never the same size (the Hoff stretched out three columns wide, the Garrett Price two and a half columns wide).

Turning the page, a Robert Day cartoon (another rectangle, but nearly square). Two pages later, not a cartoon, but an Al Frueh drawing illustrating a current Broadway show.  Frueh does a terrific take on Orson Welles.  Would love to see a collection of his theater pieces in a book (there is a very nice catalog of his work, but so far, not a collection).

Two pages later we find Al Ross’s first New Yorker cartoon (caption: “Listen, Chief…”). Those familiar with Al’s later work would be hard pressed to recognize this cartoon as one of his.  It’s done in a somewhat early Addams-ish style. Across the gutter from the cartoon the name “Robert Benchley” appears at the end of his theater review.  Heady company!

A number of pages go by before we reach a fairly large and very funny Barbara Shermund cartoon.  Leafing through more pages, through the New Yorker’s holiday wrap up of children’s toys and books, we come upon a brief review of Dr. Seuss’s  And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street: “Slight but humorous. Spirited comic-strip pictures and a rhymed text show the power of exaggeration…”

And finally, a Perry Barlow cartoon to end the issue.  It’s a children’s book themed drawing running on the book review page.  If I’m not mistaken this is an unusual pairing. I’ve been under the impression for most of my life that the editors avoided tying the cartoons to the surrounding story.

Before we close the magazine, a treat near the end:  a full page ad for The 1937 New Yorker Album, published by Random House. A banner running across the page declares: “Just Published – bigger and funnier than ever.” Contributors include all the aforementioned in this post ( except Al, whose work would begin showing up in later Albums) plus, among others,  Peter Arno, James Thurber,  Rea Irvin, Gardner Rea, Otto Soglow, Alan Dunn, Barney Tobey, Alajalov,  Chon Day, Carl Rose, Whitney Darrow, Jr., and William Steig.  Wow.

 

For more on Al Ross, head on over to newyorker.com, where the magazine’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, has posted this piece (it includes a good scan of Al’s first cartoon).

And for even more: Mike Lynch has posted a number of Al’s drawings on his site. (You’ll need to scroll down a ways, past all the NCS business)


 

 

 

Chas Addams original sets record auction price; Reading: Carolita Johnson

From Artfixdaily.com, March 7, 2012, “Gil Elvgren dominates $3+ million Heritage Auctions illustration Art Event in Beverly Hills” (Chas Addams content about midway down: Addams’ Sad Movie original set a world record for an Addams’ original, selling for $40,625.  You’ll also find a link to the Heritage Auction listing).

 

From Melville House Books, March 7, 2012, “Leigh Stein & Carolita Johnson at 192 Books” — a reading/discussion March 19, 2012 @ 7:00pm. (link for details)

 

 

Ward Sutton’s Davy Jones Tribute; Jack Ziegler’s First OK; Panel discussion with Flake, Dernavich and Katz

From Spin, “Ward Sutton’s Most Memorable Encounter With The Monkees’ Davy Jones”

 

From newyorker.com, two items of interest:

Bob Mankoff continues his series of My First OK.  Last week it was Mick Stevens, this week it’s Jack Ziegler’s turn with the post “The Journey of a Thousand Cartoons”.

 

And, on March 5th, The New Yorker’s Editor, David Remnick moderates a panel discussion with cartoonists, Emily Flake, Drew Dernavich and Farley Katz

 

 

Coming this Fall: The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs; Lorenz book jacket illustration from the late 60s

From Random House this November 13th, The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs.  Scant information on this, other than that it will be 304 pages, and hardcover.  No cover posted as yet.

 

 

From the I Didn’t Realize I Had This Til Yesterday Dept.: while shifting books around I came across this 1968 Douglass Wallop novel (Wallop is perhaps best known for writing The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, which later became the hit play, Damn Yankees). The cover illustration is by Lee Lorenz, who in a matter of five years would become the New Yorker’s Art Editor, succeeding James Geraghty.