Archive for November, 2010

Barnaby on the radio

O'Malley on the micThe first dramatic adaptation of Crockett Johnson‘s Barnaby appeared on the Frank Morgan Show of June 12, 1945.  Morgan (best known as the title character in MGM’s Wizard of Oz) played Mr. O’Malley, Norma Jean Nilsson played Barnaby, and Ralph Bellamy played Mr. Baxter. The radio dramatization begins in the second half of the show — at 15:30 of the broadcast.

Click to play The Frank Morgan Show: Barnaby Audition (12 June 1945)

I presume that this goes without saying, but, since this is 1945, some jokes may offend: racial & ethnic stereotypes, sexism, and so on.  A few references:

  • James Petrillo was the President of the American Federation of Musicians.
  • Victory Gardens: during the Second World War, the U.S. government encouraged people to grow their own food.

In my view, this was the lesser of the two radio adaptations.  It uses little of Johnson’s original material, and doesn’t capture the strip’s comic tone.  This broadcast was its one-and-only episode.  Barnaby also inspired another radio show (two episodes), two stage versions, two TV adaptations, and an animated cartoon.  Neither the 1946 nor the 1948 stage version was a hit.  In 1959, the pilot for first TV version — which starred Bert Lahr as O’Malley and Ron Howard as Barnaby — aired to strong reviews, but that was its sole episode.  Produced by Norman Lear, the second TV version (1966) never aired.  I’ve never seen either TV version, and nor have I seen the animated cartoon.  Since it (the cartoon) did win a prize at the 1967 Venice film festival, I presume a print is out there somewhere….

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Crockett Johnson & Ruth Krauss: biography outtakes, Part 4

For those who care about such minutiae, here are some outtakes from Chapter 14, “At Home with Ruth and Dave” — from which I’ve just cut 540 words.  The chapter, which covers Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss in 1947 and 1948, draws heavily on Ruth’s 123-page account of their daily lives in late winter 1948: suffering from writers’ block, she took a friend’s advice to write a few pages every day.  The resulting manuscript reads like a modern-day blog.  In short, it’s a biographer’s gold mine.  But, of course, I can’t use it all!

I’d already reduced it to just a few major themes, one of which is the document itself.  Ruth’s friend “planned to write three pages a day, in this way getting her dissertation ‘novel’ done.” I’ve cut an explanatory sentence after that:

It’s unclear whether her friend was writing a dissertation or a novel: considering publishing the results of her writing, Ruth sometimes crosses out words (including proper names) to replace them with ones that might work better in a magazine article or book.

The above did explain the struck-through “dissertation,” but who really cares?  This is about Ruth and not her friend.  Also, slicing that out allows me to move the narrative forward sans interruption.  I made another small cut in a story concerning an incident that highlights Ruth’s racial consciousness.  A white woman (Louise) in the neighborhood accused her black maid (Esther) of stealing two cups and two forks.  I’ve cut this:

When Louise threatened to call the police, Esther replied, “Go ahead.”  Louise decided not to phone, but instead to defer to her husband (who was not home at the time).

And I’ve moved directly to Ruth’s concern that such an accusation would make it difficult for Esther to find work, and would damage race relations.  The above detail would be important if I were writing (say) a legal history of racial discrimination, but what’s interesting for readers of the bio is what this means to Ruth.

Robert and Lillian Masters' adaptation of Crockett Johnson's BarnabyThe chapter also addresses a couple of dramatizations of Johnson’s comic strip Barnaby.  My main change here has been to cut the plot summary — which, in each case, was already radically reduced from what I’d originally written. The first, Robert and Lillian Masters’ stage version (for children’s theatre), focuses on Mr. Baxter (Barnaby’s father) running for major against the corrupt Boss Snagg.  I’ve retained that, but cut this:

All action takes place in the Baxters’ living room, and Mr. O’Malley’s flying is described but not shown.  Though a comedy, the show at times veers towards melodrama: Snagg is not just a crooked politician; he’s a criminal who threatens the Baxters with a gun.  Usually, though, it maintains a light tone.

The above detail isn’t needed.  However, I have retained that the Masters’ adaptation focuses on characters rather than special effects or scenery: the failure of the former and the expense of the latter doomed an earlier stage version, and so this detail resonates with that.

Mr. O'MalleyThe second adaptation, this one by Sidney Rumin and Helen Mack’s, was the second attempt at making Barnaby a radio serial.  Like the earlier version (which I’ll post tomorrow), this one also failed.  I’ve heard one episode (and there’s a second I’ve not heard), but it never found a sponsor.  Too bad. John Brown’s Mr. O’Malley and Jared Brown‘s Barnaby are both very good.  Anyway, after noting that the dramatization conveys sympathetically the perspectives of both children and adults, I indicate that this version (like an earlier stage adaptation) includes Barnaby’s parents taking him to a psychologist.  I’ve then cut all of this:

While Doctor Lenser is out of the room, O’Malley reads aloud some case histories and makes one into a paper airplane.  When the doctor returns (just after O’Malley disappears), Barnaby explains what O’Malley has done,  supplying details from the cases. Lenser accuses the Baxters of playing a prank on him, and asks how their son could know this information when, according to them, Barnaby cannot read?  They rally behind Barnaby and, that night, each parent’s attitude towards Mr. O’Malley has softened. Mrs. Baxter, suggesting that Barnaby not mention this to his father, says that she’s bought the dill pickles O’Malley likes. Mr. Baxter, asking that Barnaby not mention this to his mother, says he has bought a cigar for O’Malley to use as his magic wand.  When O’Malley arrives that night, Barnaby presents these items to his fairy godfather, who says “Now we’re really living!”  The episode ends there.

Removing that allows me to segue directly to the fact that the show never found a sponsor.  I’ve decided that too much plot summary slows down my narrative — the stories of Johnson’s and Krauss’s lives.  I hope I’ve not removed items of interest!  But… I’m reasonably sure that these cuts are good ones.  Barnaby scholars and some Barnaby fans might care about the above, but other readers likely will not.

Tomorrow’s post will be one for Barnaby fans: full audio of Barnaby on the radio in 1945.  So, stay tuned!

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Syd Hoff, A. Redfield, and Me

Syd Hoff (from Carol Edmonston's website)Meeting interesting people is one of the benefits of writing a biography.  I never met Syd Hoff (1912-2004) in person, but we corresponded and talked on the phone in 2000.  You may know Hoff as the author of Danny and the Dinosaur (1958) or as the creator of over hundreds of New Yorker cartoons.  As A. Redfield, he also published cartoons in the Daily Worker and New Masses.  Indeed, his first children’s story (Mr. His, 1939) appeared under the name A. Redfield.  (You can read it in Tales for Little Rebels, edited by Julia Mickenberg and yours truly.)

In the 1930s, he knew Crockett Johnson, then New Masses‘ Art Editor.  Explaining that I was writing a biography of Johnson (the book had not yet become a double biography of both Johnson and Ruth Krauss), I wrote him.  Here’s page one of his first letter to me, followed by my transcription of the same.

Syd Hoff, letter to Philip Nel, 8 July 2000

Here’s a transcription.

July 8, 2000

Dear Phil:

Old age is memories, of course, and I remember so much, not only Crockett J, my old editor at the New Masses, but Butch Limbach who inherited the job, as ever Mischa Richter of the NYorker, who used to call me up for NM drawings, until he started going big at the NYorker.

I was plunged in grief recently, because I didn’t know Ruth had passed away too.  Recalling a time long, long ago, when the old Cartoonists Guild a field day in Van Courtland Park, I wrote Ruth a letter about all us scriveners trying to show each other what great ball players we were.  I thought she’d be delighted to know that when Dave got up at bat, he was the greatest of us all.  He kept hitting balls at least as far as Yonkers.

Sadly, I rec’d a letter as from an attorney, informing me that Ruth had passed away, and that he is sure she would have been happy to hear that in my opinion her husband could have been at least another Babe Ruth.

I’m glad you found out about me through Terry Josephson.  Once a late daughter of mine insisted on going to “the Cookery” with her friends from Long Island.  When Barney found out she was my daughter, he picked up the check for all three!

I’m sure you must have known Sam Shaw, too, who got me together with Barney at Cafe Society, where I did a mural with Abe Birnbaum and others.  (Right now I’m trying to resurrect that mural for Terry who is writing a bio of him.)  Sam, who we always suspected of informing for Winchell, had caused Marilyn Monroe to pose for that photo in Times Square, never returned my phone calls in L.A. later, nor did an ex-young Philly worker photographer named Phil Stern.  Oh well, as I said, memories.

Right now TV is rerunning a series for which Sam is still getting credit as “Producer”!  His young wife in the ’30s was famous for chaining herself to the German ship The Bremen and making American realize we were dealing with Hitler.

You can see that Syd had somehow got the impression that I was also of his generation, and thus must have known some of the same people.  I suppose the fact that Terry Trilling-Josephson put me in touch with him might have conveyed that idea?  Well, subsequent correspondence confirmed that I was just a young academic.  Here’s page two of the letter.

Syd Hoff, letter to Philip Nel, 8 July 2000, page 2

And here’s a transcription of page two.

Producer.

Another memory — me, jealous of Dave and Charly Martin having “steady jobs” at P.M., and telling Ingersoll I’d travel the country for the rest of my life, doing cartoon interviews from coast to coast, like Ed? (the World War 2 reporter).  Ingersoll asked what college background I had, and I couldn’t answer.

For the last 50 years, I have lived in Miami Beach, and just lost my wife of 54 years, five years ago.  I drew for King Features (Hearst) for a long time, a strip and a panel, “Laugh It Off.”

“Danny and the Dinosaur,” which I did for Harper in 1958, still brings in royalties, for which I’m grateful and surprsied.

If you ever do come to South Florida, please look me up!  We’ll have a great time remembering.

My very best,

Syd Hoff

Box 2463

Miami Beach, FL 33140

Excuse the handwriting.  My Smith Corona just passed away.

I’ve done chalk talks all over the world, and perhaps you could use me in S.C.

When I first wrote to Syd, I lived in South Carolina (hence the “S.C.” at the end).  We did try to bring him to Kansas State University, but that fell through, and then I fell out of touch with him.  Letters to his Miami address went unanswered, and I couldn’t reach him by phone.  I think he may have gone to California to spend some time with his sister — I’m not sure.  He was very generous in sharing his recollections (and his time) with me, and I suppose he had nothing further to share.

If you’d like to learn more about Syd Hoff, Carole Edmonston (his niece) has set up a very useful website, Syd Hoff: Cartoonist and Author.  And, to give credit where it’s due, the photograph at the top of this page comes from her site.

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Safety Last

When I was about 9 years old, watching television one weekend afternoon, I saw a black-and-white film of a bespectacled man climbing the side of a building.  He ascends a floor, narrowly misses falling, is about to enter the building through the window — then, another man emerges, with a policeman in pursuit, and tells the first man to keep climbing for just one more floor.  He does, and again nearly falls (but in a different way than previously).  The pattern repeats, he ascends higher, and the peril increases.  The film oscillates between anxiety and comedy.  I found it riveting.

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last

The film was Safety Last (1923), and the actor Harold Lloyd (1893-1971).  Ever since that afternoon, Lloyd has been imprinted on my imagination.  I will always think of that style of eyewear as “Harold Lloyd eyeglasses.”  (Indeed, when I met my agent for the first time, the first thing I noticed was that his glasses were just like Harold Lloyd’s. And before you ask, no, George is not an accident-prone comedian.  But he does do all his own stunts.)

A couple of years ago, I bought a DVD of the film, and watched it from the beginning, learning that the friend of the character played by Lloyd is supposed to climb the building as a publicity stunt. When the law catches up to the friend, Lloyd’s character ends up doing it instead.  I had not remembered this — I remembered only the intense nervousness of watching Lloyd’s casually dangerous climb, and of being unable to look away… while simultaneously wanting to look away.  And when I watch the film today, I have the same experience.

Given the anxiety it arouses, the image of Lloyd dangling from that clock (see above) is, I suppose, a strange choice for the background of my computer’s desktop.  And yet it’s been my “wallpaper” image for years.  Why?  Because I always feel that there’s never enough time?  Because I’m daily confronting my dislike of heights?  Those may be some of the reasons.  But the main reason, I think, is an acute sense of the precariousness of being alive. We’re here. And then we’re not here. As Woody Allen says in Annie Hall (1977),

There’s an old joke — two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of them says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know — and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life — full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.

Allen and Lloyd both understand that comedy and tragedy are not opposites.  They’re close kin.  And, in Safety Last, Lloyd dangles between them, always just a few fingers from falling. To borrow a joke from Steven Wright’s classic comedy record I Have a Pony (1985), “You know how it feels when you’re leaning back on a chair, and you lean too far back, and you almost fall over backwards, but then you catch yourself at the last second? I feel like that all the time.”

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Crockett Johnson & Ruth Krauss: biography outtakes, Part 3

The Commoner, May 1939Working in a little biography-editing while at the American Studies Association conference in San Antonio.  (Why, yes, I would like some more workahol.  Thank you for offering!)  I’ve just condensed three paragraphs on Crockett Johnson‘s visit to Commonwealth College (radical labor school in Mena, Arkansas, 1922-1940) down to a single paragraph.  For the record, that one paragraph is the result of reading two books, interviewing the author of one book, and interviewing a former student of Commonwealth College.  My investigation into Commonwealth began when Stephen Smith kindly contacted me to let me know that he’d found this notice (at right) in the May 1939 issue of The Commoner, Commonwealth College’s newspaper.

I’ve also cut nearly all of the following sentences, which appeared just after I mention Crockett Johnson (known as “Dave” to his friends) inventing the nearly wordless comic strip that would be known as The Little Man with the Eyes:

As art editor for New Masses and McGraw-Hill, Dave might have already known Gurney Williams, the soft-spoken man who bought cartoons for Collier’s.  If he did, then he made an appointment.  If not, then Dave arrived on a Wednesday morning with all the other aspiring cartoonists, left a half dozen or so cartoons at the front desk, and went home to wait.

At my editor Walter‘s suggestion, this entire bit has become “He submitted it to Collier’s.”  I’ve moved the description of Gurney Williams to a later paragraph.

Crockett Johnson, The Little Man with the Eyes, 13 July 1940

Above: A Little Man with the Eyes cartoon from 13 July 1940.

I also made smaller edits to sections on Ruth Krauss this evening, but nothing quite as significant (or as extensive) as what I did on the Johnson sections.  And… that’ll be all for this evening.  Goodnight.

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Harry Potter and the Two-Part Finale

In advance of the film’s release, Kansas State University’s Media Relations asked us to talk about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  We did.  They taped us, and edited the results down to 3 minutes.  Karin is on the right.  And that’s me on the left.

They also put out a news release on Friday of last week. And no, we have not seen the new film yet either.  Looking forward to it, though!

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Crockett Johnson & Ruth Krauss: biography outtakes, Part 2

Crockett Johnson, "How to write a book," illus. from Ruth Krauss's How to Make an EarthquakeOne reason that so much must be thrown out from a biography — or, at least, from my forthcoming biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss — is that a lot of research can underwrite a very small fact.  For example, I sometimes had to read a book in order to write a single sentence.  Another reason is that not all research is conclusive.  I know that Crockett Johnson was an editor for several McGraw-Hill trade publications in the 1930s, but I never discovered which ones (company records don’t go back that far, and the publications do not consistently list editorial staff, if they list them at all).  Here is something that I’ve rewritten several times and have now just cut.  It follows — or used to follow — a sentence conveying the fact that Johnson joined the staff of New Masses in June 1936.

It is unclear whether he left McGraw-Hill for New Masses or continued to work at McGraw-Hill on a part-time basis. There are reasons to believe either.  In favor of the former: (1) In a June 1936 letter and a July 1936 letter, New Masses editor Joe Freeman mentions Dave leaving McGraw-Hill to work for them; (2) A. B. Magil, who joined as an editor in 1938, did not remember Dave working outside New Masses; and (3) putting out a weekly issue of New Masses was a full-time job.  In favor of the latter: (1)With no prohibition against free-lancing, he had economic incentive to keep his old job (at New Masses, Dave’s salary was only between $20 and $25 per week); (2) in July of 1936, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) listed him as a new member, employed by McGraw-Hill, and residing at 423 West 21st Street; (3) his 1940 Selective Service Registration lists McGraw-Hill as his employer.  McGraw-Hill retains no employment records from this period. Biographical profiles and reference entries either indicate that Dave stayed with McGraw-Hill throughout the 1930s or are evasive (saying that he was “art editor for several magazines,” but not which ones).  And none of them mention his involvement with New Masses.

I’d even toyed with the idea of presenting this information in two adjacent columns, thinking that perhaps one could use graphic design to make the facts more interesting.  On one side, place evidence for his staying at McGraw-Hill; on the other, place evidence for him leaving.  But I understand why readers might want some of the vagaries of the research process to remain invisible.  So, all of this is gone — well, nearly all.  I’ve retained the salary, and the fact that he may have remained at McGraw-Hill during this period.  But that’s it.

For balance’s sake, here’s the pre-revision version of a paragraph on Ruth Krauss and her first husband:

During these years, both Ruth and Lionel are hard to pin down precisely because Lionel liked to move.  He and Ruth had several addresses, probably including Dutchess County, New York; Bernardsville and Pittstown, New Jersey; and certainly including Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  In 1935 and 1936, Ruth and Lionel lived in Bucks County, in small towns along the Delaware River.  They lived on both River Road in Erwinna, and fifteen miles south in New Hope, an artists’ colony made famous by the Pennsylvania Impressionists two decades before. When Lionel and Ruth took up residence, some of these painters were still living there — notably John Folinsbee, Henry Bayley Snell, and William L. Lathrop. While Ruth and Lionel may have met these artists, the two of them had a much more precarious existence.

And here’s what remains of that now:

During these years, Ruth and Lionel moved a lot, living in: Dutchess County, New York; Bernardsville and Pittstown, New Jersey; and Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in small towns along the Delaware River.

The fact that they were living near an artists’ colony comes up a few paragraphs later, and the “precarious existence” forms part of the next sentence in the paragraph (the above sentence now introduces a different paragraph entirely).

I strongly suspect that the minutiae of editing The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (forthcoming from UP Mississippi, 2012) has a very limited audience.  So, in conclusion, I salute my readers.  Both of you.  Thanks for stopping by!

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Anita’s Got a Brand New Blog

Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac: blog logoAnita Silvey has a new blog.  Well, she started it late last month.  But I just began reading it.  If you have any interest in children’s literature, you’ll want to read it, too.  Here’s why.

  1. Anita Silvey really knows children’s literature. She’s a former editor at Houghton Mifflin, former Editor-in-Chief of the Horn Book, and the author of several books on the subject (four of which are on my bookshelves), including: 100 Best Books for Children, and Children’s Books and Their Creators.  So, you’re getting recommendations from an expert.
  2. The field of children’s literature is unbelievably vast, and it’s helpful to have a tour guide.  What should you read next?  What book might you give to a younger reader?  Anita is recommending both classics and newer books.  It’s a daily guide to some of the greats.
  3. In a sidebar feature, the blog also covers related events for each day in history — and children’s books that address those events.  This would, I think, be very helpful for teachers.

The thoroughness and clarity of each entry is impressive, and she seems to be posting every day!  Wow.  If you haven’t done so already, why not welcome Anita Silvey to the blogosphere by checking out her blog?

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Crockett Johnson & Ruth Krauss: biography outtakes, Part 1

Crockett Johnson, "How to write a book," illus. from Ruth Krauss's How to Make an EarthquakeWill publishing the “outtakes” from my forthcoming The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (UP Mississippi, 2012) help to promote the book or dissuade people from picking it up?  After all, these are the bits cut from the book, not the parts that remain.  Well, since this is my first such post, perhaps you’ll let me know in the comments, eh?

Key to the art of biography is throwing things away.  But what do you throw away?  I know more about Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss than anyone in the world, but not all of what I know is interesting to anyone other than myself.  I’ve cut a lot already, but my editor believes that still more should go — and he’s kindly taken the time to mark up the first 100 pages of the manuscript, indicating what, precisely, should go.  (I don’t agree with every suggestion, but I’m following at least 90% of them.)

One example.  I know more about Crockett Johnson‘s family history than even he did.  I cut pages of this before Walter (my editor) even saw the manuscript, but he’s asking for still more to be removed.  I have just cut the next two paragraphs from the bio., but they need a little set-up: Crockett Johnson’s given name was David Johnson Leisk; his father, a native of the Shetland Islands‘ capital city of Lerwick, altered the spelling of that surname from Leask, which may derive from the Norse or Danish word for “a stirring fellow” or be a diminutive of lisse, Anglo-Saxon for “happy.”  OK, here are the removed paragraphs.

The Leasks’ Scottish history, neither stirring nor happy, dates to the fourteenth century, when in 1345 Scots King David II granted William Leask the lands of Leskgoroune. 25 miles north of Aberdeen, parts of this area still bear the family name  — such as the old Leask Chapel.  The family fortunes declined in 1698, when Alexander Leask and his son Gilbert borrowed money for the Darien scheme, a plan to establish a prosperous Scots colony in Panama. As historian Simon Schama notes, the promised “paradise” for the Scotch settlers turned out to be “a mosquito-infested swamp.” The scheme failed spectacularly, taking down Alexander and other investors with it. As Schama says, Darien was a “national trauma” that cost “a quarter of Scotland’s liquid capital.”  When this bid for economic independence failed to thwart the English’s dominance, the Scots turned to open rebellion. They joined the Tory and Jacobite backers of James Edward Stuart, whom they believed the true successor to Queen Anne — not the Hanoverian George I, who had been proclaimed King in 1714. By 1716, Alexander Leask had either been killed in the Rising against Hanover or had fled to the Orkney Islands.  Or, possibly, he fought and then fled: as was true of earlier rebellions, leaders of this uprising were executed. Any survivors certainly would have taken the next boat out of town.[i]

Not surprisingly, at this point the genealogical trail runs dry: Whether evading capture or simply bankrupt, Alexander’s descendants were surely laying low. Although Johnson’s family is likely an offshoot of this clan, his earliest known Leask ancestors were tradesmen. Great-great grandfather Arthur Leask lived mostly in West Yell, and worked on a whaling ship. Great grandfather Thomas James Leask was a cooper, spending his professional life making and repairing wooden containers — barrels, casks, buckets, and anything made of staves and hoops.[ii]



[i]
Madam Anne Leask of Leask, The Leasks: Historical Notes on the Aberdeenshire, Orkney and Shetland Families (Madam Leask of Leask, 1980), pp. 1, 2, 10; Simon Schama, A History of Britain: The British Wars 1603-1776 (London: BBC, 2001), pp. 334, 335, 348-350; Leask, p. 10.

[ii] Gott, Notes for “Arthur Leask,” Shetland Family History Homepage.

This level of detail would be noteworthy if Crockett Johnson were of the level of cultural importance as, say, Shakespeare.  He’s not, and so I can’t reasonably expect readers to sit through that much family history.  (Don’t worry, though: I’ve retained some family history.  I instead begin with his grandfather, David Leask.)

Another example, this time concerning Ruth Krauss.  One of her many childhood addresses was the Baltimore apartment building known as the Marlborough.  Famous (or semi-famous) residents at the time were the Cone sisters, friends of Gertrude Stein and collectors of modernist artwork.  At Walter’s suggestion, I’ve retained the fact that they’re in the same building as the Krausses, but omitted some of the interesting details about the Cones — such as that they knew Stein, and that she introduced them to Picasso and Matisse.  I’ve also (at his suggestion) cut the fact that their apartment was so packed with artwork that they had to hang some of it in kitchens and bathrooms.  I find this contextual information interesting, but presumably it leads us too far afield from Ruth.  That said, I do see why the following description of the Marlborough is simply too much:

Even without modernist artwork, these apartments were very fancy.  According to a promotional brochure from about 1906, “The kitchens are larger than usually found in apartments.”  The building also boasted modern “high speed” elevators, mosaic floors in the hallways, stairways of marble and bronze, a central heating system, and a central vacuum cleaning system connected to every apartment.  With a kitchen, at least one bathroom, and between four and six rooms, the Krauss family had a lot of living space.[i]



[i]
“The Marlborough Apartment House,” promotional brochure, c. 1905, MD.

So, I’ve cut the above paragraph entirely.  If one were building a set for a movie or illustrating the graphic novel version of her life, the above paragraph would be useful.  But, for the purposes of my narrative, not so much.

Is the process of moving this manuscript (at last!) towards the final draft interesting to others?  (Since I’m on what must be my seventh revision, it’s hard for me to judge what is and is not interesting at this point….) And, more importantly, after seeing some of how the sausage is made (as it were), will you still want to buy the sausage?

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Barnaby. In Color.

Here is one origin story for Crockett Johnson’s classic Barnaby. At some point in early 1942, PM‘s Art Editor Charles Martin visited Crockett Johnson at his home in Darien Connecticut.  There, he saw a half-page color Sunday Barnaby strip.  Johnson had been unable to sell it.  Martin liked the strip, took it back to New York, and tried to sell it to King Features.  They rejected it.  PM‘s Comics Editor Hannah Baker loved it, and Barnaby made its debut on April 20, 1942 (preceded by the ads I posted on Monday).

I don’t know what ever happened to Johnson’s original color Sunday Barnaby, but from 1946 to 1948, a color Sunday Barnaby did appear in a few newspapers.  When it started, Johnson was serving as a story consultant on the Monday-Saturday Barnaby, having ceded the writing to Ted Ferro and the artwork to Jack Morley back in January 1946.  Johnson returned to writing the Monday-Saturday strip in September 1947, with Morley staying on to do the art (Ferro left at that point).  I believe that Johnson’s involvement with the Sunday strip mirrors his involvement with the weekday strip.  If that’s so, then the strip below — dated 13 July 1947 and reproduced courtesy of generous collector Colin Myers — is from just before Johnson ceased being merely a story consultant and resumed actually writing the text.

Barnaby, 13 July 1947

(Aside: The mendacity of the Tootsie Roll advertisement above is so cheerfully amoral: hey, kids, eating candy gives you energy!  Sure, the energy is very short-lived, but, uh… why not eat more candy? )

I haven’t seen many of the Sunday Barnaby strips, but those I have seen tend to recycle an idea from earlier Monday-Saturday strips — and by “earlier,” I don’t mean “earlier in the week.”  I mean “at any point earlier in Barnaby‘s run.”  But not all of them merely recycle.  The concluding Sunday sequence — published in May 1948, written by Crockett Johnson — is new material.  And quite clever, too.

Well.  Other tales of Barnaby‘s origin, along with about half a dozen weekday strips, will appear in The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi in 2012).  Yes, this is a shameless plug for my biography.  Thanks again to Colin Myers for the strip!  And, for those who need reminding, clicking on the strip itself will allow you to see it in its full size.

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