Weekend Spill: Birnbaum’s Sinatra… And Auerbach-Levy’s, And Cotton’s…And E.J. Kahn, Jr.’s

Birnbaum’s Sinatra

In late 1946, The New Yorker ran a three part series on Frank Sinatra by E.J. Kahn, Jr.. The three parts became a book (a small book: 5″ x 7 1/2″), with each part of the series accompanied by a different illustration — and different illustrator.* Abe Birnbaum supplied Part Two’s illustration:

I think it was the most successful of the three; E.J. Kahn, Jr.’s publisher, Harper & Brothers, obviously thought the same when they chose Birnbaum’s Sinatra caricature  for the cover of The Voice: The Story Of An American Phenomenon (as you see below, someone reversed the drawing, turned it blue and added red to a few of the bobby soxers).

I love this snippet from Preface:

“My investigation of Sinatra ultimately developed into a series of articles about him which were published in The New Yorker and which, somewhat expanded and altered, now comprise this volume. The reaction of a few of the magazine’s readers to these pieces astonished me. I was not only asked how much Sinatra had paid me to dream up so glowing and preposterous a tribute to him, but I was also asked how much his detractors had paid me to produce so vicious and unwarranted an attack…Sinatra himself, when I ran into him a few weeks after The New Yorker articles appeared, said he enjoyed them…”


*The illustrations for the three parts:

October 26, 1946, Pt.1, illustrated by William Auerbach-Levy

November 2, 1946, Pt.2, illustrated by A. Birnbaum

November 9, 1946, Pt.3, illustrated by W. Cotton

Further reading:

Read more about E.J. Kahn, Jr. here.

 Abe Birnbaum’s A-Z Spill entry:

Abe Birnbaum  Born, New York City, 1899. Died June 19, 1966, New York City. New Yorker work: 1929 -1974. Mr. Birnbaum began at the New Yorker as a cartoonist, contributing a handful before switching to cover work, of which he produced 141. He also provided spot drawings and illustrations. According to Mr. Birnbaum’s New York Times obit, his work was exhibited at The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Carnegie Institute.


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