Thurber Thursday: The Thurber Carnival Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

When I first began collecting just about anything with Thurber’s name and/or drawings, coming across the above vinyl album was a big big deal. Not just because it’s a very fun “objet d’Thurber,” but the design delivers more than your typical soundtrack album: when you open the gatefold sleeve you find Thurber’s The Last Flower in its entirety.

The inner front and inner back covers are also well-designed.  If you’re a Thurber fan, you get your money’s worth.

The soundtrack, released in 1960, came out of the successful Broadway review, which came out of Thurber’s successful book, originally published in 1945.

The Last Flower  was published in 1939. According to Thurber’s second wife, Helen, it was her husband’s favorite of his own books (and E.B. White’s favorite Thurber book). Thurber famously claimed to have “finished” The Last Flower in an hour, following dinner at The Algonquin, adding “it took some three hours of course, to ink these drawings in.”*

 

Around here, in Spill headquarters, The Thurber Carnival (book) is referred to as “The Bible.” If I had to be marooned on a desert island, this is the book I’d want with me.

Here’s James Thurber’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

James Thurber  Born, Columbus, Ohio, December 8, 1894. Died 1961, New York City. New Yorker work: 1927 -1961, with several pieces run posthumously.  According to the New Yorker’s legendary editor, William Shawn, “In the early days, a small company of writers, artists, and editors — E.B. White, James Thurber, Peter Arno, and Katharine White among them — did more to make the magazine what it is than can be measured.”  

Key cartoon collection: The Seal in the Bedroom and Other Predicaments (Harper & Bros., 1932). Key anthology (writings & drawings): The Thurber Carnival (Harper & Row, 1945). There have been a number of Thurber biographies. Burton Bernstein’s Thurber (Dodd, Mead, 1975) and Harrison Kinney’s James Thurber: His Life and Times (Henry Holt & Co., 1995)  are essential. A short bio appears on the Thurber House website: http://www.thurberhouse.org/about-james-thurber/

*According to Thurber’s second wife….and “It took some three hours…” From Harrison Kinney’s James Thurber: His Life And Times, p. 737.

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David Sipress on what one royal likes.

Mr. Sipress has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1998.

 

 

 

The Wednesday Watch: Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon; Time Capsule: The New Yorker Issue Of March 21, 1931 Via A New Yorker State Of Mind

Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Mort Gerberg  on Zoom(ing) this day.  In just two days Mr. Gerberg will celebrate the 55th anniversary of his first published New Yorker cartoon, shown below.

Visit his website here.

Mort Gerberg’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Mort Gerberg  Born, March 11, 1931, New York, NY. New Yorker work: April 10, 1965 – . Co-edited, with Ron Wolin & Ed Fisher, The Art in Cartooning: Seventy-five Years of American Magazine Cartoons ( Charles Scribner & Son, 1975). Essential reading… Mort Gerberg On The Scene: A 50-Year Cartoon Chronicle (Fantagraphics, 2019).

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Time Capsule: The New Yorker Issue Of March 21, 1931 Via A New Yorker State Of Mind

A New Yorker State Of Mind: Reading Every Issue Of The New Yorker Magazine   dives deep into the issue of March 21, 1931. Some of the names you’ll run across: Dorothy Parker, E.B. White, FDR, Charles Lindbergh. And cartoons by, among others, Otto Soglow, Mary Petty (and her husband, Alan Dunn), Barbara Shermund, and Helen Hokinson (the cover artist for the issue as well).

 

 

 

Personal History: Work Wall

I’ve always worked at home, sometimes in a dedicated corner of the living room, sometimes using the arm of any old comfortable chair as a desk. But for many years I worked in a converted 6′ x 8′ laundry room. My desk faced a wall, part of which is shown above.  One day, after about twenty years of working in front of that wall, I felt I needed open space, and so I picked up my Rapidograph and a small stack of bond paper, then walked fifteen feet or so into our living room and set up shop at a table with no wall in front of me.

I left my old work area completely intact — a stack of bond paper still rests in its usual place —  and every so often I return to work there (I’m working there now).  What you see above is fragment of the wall above my desk. The collection of cartoons has always been a kind of rotating mini-gallery. There are a lot of New Yorker materials on the shelves (mixed in with childhood train set buildings, metal toys, art made by my kids, etc., etc.).  Just for fun, I’ve provided a key to anything New Yorker-related (and a few not)

1.  Joe Dator New Yorker original drawing. Published February 28, 2011.

2.  Stan Hunt original drawing.  Publishing history unknown. The fellow on the porch swing is saying to the woman: “Darling, your eyes are like dark limpid pools! …What’s the matter, aren’t you getting enough sleep?”  Mr. Hunt contributed to The New Yorker from 1956 though 1990.

3. Charlie Hankin original drawing. Unpublished. The sign on the lawn reads “Beware of Clam”

4. George Booth original. Titled Dog, Chair, and Chicken. Unpublished. Mr. Booth drew this in The New Yorker‘s cartoon department a few years ago while being filmed. Luckily, Liza Donnelly was also there being filmed.  Mr. Booth generously handed the drawing to her when filming wrapped. 

5. E.B. White’s The Lady Is Cold.  His first book. This became the subject of an Ink Spill piece.

6. Batman Giant No. 182.  In the late 1960s,  when my family moved from one end of town to the other end, only two comic books of my vast comic book collection made the transition (sad, I know). This is one of them.

7. The New Yorker Album.  Published in 1928 by Doubleday, Doran & Co. The very first New Yorker cartoon album.

8. A Rox Chast letter from the pre-personal computer days, probably late 1980s. In this New Yorker cartoon crowd, exchanged letters were usually illustrated.  I’m especially fond of this one because of the White Castle drawing at the very top (it’s possible my White Castle coffee mug made an impression on her).

9. We’ll Show You The Town. A 1934 promotional book from The New Yorker‘s business  department. You can see a little more about this if you go to the From the Attic section of the Spill and scroll down.

10. What! No Pie Charts?  An undated promotional book from The New Yorker‘s business department. Profusely illustrated by Julien de Miskey. As the copy refers to the magazine’s original address as 25 West 45th Street, we can safely assume this was published pre mid-1930s.

11. The American Mercury. August 1948.  Up on the shelf because of the great cover of the magazine’s founder and first editor, Harold Ross along with a re-drawn (i.e., non Rea Irvin) Eustace Tilley. The cover story “Ross Of The New Yorker” by Allen Churchill is a good read.

12. Curtain Calls of 1926. From the title page:

In which a few choice rare bits that have occasionally appeared in the pages of The New Yorker repeat themselves.

This is a lovely little book spotlighted on the Spill in July of 2013. Rea Irvin did the Tilley drawing on the cover.

13. Batman In Detective Comics Vol. 1 (Abbeville Press 1993).  Covering the first 25 years.  Vol. 2 is sitting right behind it. 

14. A Thurber Garland. Published by Hamish Hamilton in 1955.

15. The Making Of A Magazine. Undated. A promotional booklet collecting some, but not all of Corey Ford’s pieces. Drawings by Johan Bull.   Link here for more info.

16. James Thurber’s New York Times obit, dated November 3, 1961. The headline reads: James Thurber Is Dead At 66; Writer Was Also A Comic Artist . I’ll say!    Read more here on the Spill’s morgue.

***unnumbered, appearing just below #6’s Batman Giant, and the toy helicopter, is Otto Soglow’s Little King pull toy.  You can see it close up in the From the Attic section.

 

Firsts: Thurber’s First New Yorker Drawings

When you think of James Thurber’s drawings you probably think of one or two or three of his classics.  But before any of his cartoons appeared in the magazine (his first cartoon appeared in the issue of January 31, 1931), he illustrated and wrote something he called Our Pet Department.  It was, from the very first, intended to be a series; the first installment (shown above) appeared in the magazine’s fifth anniversary issue, February 22, 1930.  What’s fascinating (to me) is that the piece contains two elements that would go on to be forever associated with Thurber’s art: a dog, and a seal. 

It’s unclear when the two camps formed over whether Thurber’s art was or wasn’t art. Was it when the illustrations began appearing, or was it nearly a year later when the cartoons started turning up. Thurber’s simple line certainly wasn’t a shock. A trio of single line artists were already established at the magazine by the time Thurber’s first drawings appeared: Gardner Rea, Otto Soglow, and Gluyas Williams.  But it appeared that no little effort went into their finished pieces.

Thurber’s drawings seemed as casual as the effort he claimed to have put into them; their initial appearances in the New Yorker seemed to have dropped like graphic boulders in a placid pond. Thurber’s New Yorker colleague Wolcott Gibbs wrote (this from the Book-of-the-Month Club News, February, 1945):

“…for a good many years [Thurber’s drawings] were regarded by the rest of the staff, with the exception of E.B. White, as a hell of a way to waste good copy paper, since his usual output at a sitting was twenty or more, not to mention those he drew on the walls.”   

 New Yorker history books tell us that White was instrumental in bringing Thurber’s art to the world’s attention.  In 1962, a year after Thurber’s death, White told Thurber biographer, Harrison Kinney that “I think his art surpasses his writing” and “his drawing has a touch of genius.”

 

 

 

 

  

Spinach, Part 2 with Shanahan, Steiner, and Weber

As anyone who follows cartoon art knows, nearly everything and anything is fair game, including other cartoons. The famous Carl Rose “spinach” cartoon from the December 8, 1928 New Yorker  (shown above) that was yesterday’s subject here (well, more precisely, its caption origin was the subject) spawned a number of later cartoons.  Danny Shanahan gets the credit for causing me to think about casting around the Cartoon Bank site, using search words/terms like “spinach”  “broccoli” and “the hell with it”  — here are three takes by three masters of the art of cartooning:

Danny Shanahan’s from the February 28, 2005 New Yorker:

Peter Steiner’s from the July 24, 2000 New Yorker:

 

Robert Weber’s take, the February 21, 1994 New Yorker: