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Author Archives: allen0997

New York 1929

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New York, 7th Avenue and 45th Street, 1929. Norma Shearer’s first talking picture, The Trial of Mary Dugan, is playing at the Loew’s State Theatre.

Broadway in the 1920s

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New York, Broadway, February 4, 1926

The Strand Theatre on Broadway was the first large theatre in the world built exclusively for the showing of motion pictures, the first “movie palace.” 

The Dorris Motor Car Company of St. Louis (1906-1926)

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The Dorris Motor Car Company operated on Vandeventer Avenue in St. Louis from 1906 until 1926. The “practically hand-made” cars were too expensive for most people (as much as $7,000), when a Model T Ford cost $370. The company went out of business in 1926.

Twin Peaks: the Return ~ A Capsule Review

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Twin Peaks: the Return ~ A Capsule Review by Allen Kopp

Twin Peaks, the too-offbeat-for-mainstream TV series, appeared on commercial TV in 1990 and 1991. It didn’t last any longer than it did, we will assume, because it wasn’t the usual ho-hum TV fare (it was challenging to watch). Now, all these years later, we have Twin Peaks: the Return on the Showtime network, with, it must be assumed, less network censorship and more leeway on the part of the show’s creators to bring us disturbing images and situations, not to mention R-rated language. “Visionary” director David Lynch is back as one of the show’s two writers, its director and one of its principal actors. He’s still using some of the same directorial techniques he used forty years ago on Eraserhead.

If you can remember back all the way to 1990, you will remember the show’s premise: a high school beauty queen named Laura Palmer from the small town of Twin Peaks in the state of Washington is mysteriously murdered and “wrapped in plastic.” Handsome FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) is summoned to Twin Peaks to try to figure out who (it might have been anybody in the town) murdered Laura Palmer. (If I remember correctly, it was her own crazy father who killed her.)

Anyway, the early-thirties Dale Cooper of 1990 is now in his late fifties, although he still looks essentially the same. He has been missing since the end of the first series twenty-six years ago. He is still wearing the same darkly conservative suit and has been in a sort of nether world, where the floor is a red-and-white zigzag pattern, heavy red curtains hang all around, and the people (including the dead but now middle-aged Laura Palmer) speak as if they just landed here from another planet. (You’d have to hear it to know what I’m talking about.)

Dale Cooper has two (that we know of) “doppelgangers,” or doubles. One of the doppelgangers is (or has been until recently) in prison, has long hair and is terrible-looking. The other doppelganger is named Dougie Jones. Through a series of mishaps, Agent Dale Cooper is now living the life of Dougie Jones in the state of Nevada. He looks so much like Dougie Jones that nobody, including the real Dougie’s wife and son, knows it isn’t him. He goes to work every day at the Lucky 7 insurance company in Las Vegas and the people who work with him believe he’s Dougie Jones and don’t know that he’s not. Dale Cooper doesn’t know who he is, so he can’t tell them he’s not who they think he is.

If you have been watching the seven episodes that have so far aired, I defy you to explain the “plot” of Twin Peaks: the Return. There are so many characters and so many different things happening that one wonders if all the (seemingly unconnected) pieces will ever come together into a cohesive whole. Maybe the show’s writers don’t even know where it’s all headed.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

After Many Springs ~ A Painting by Thomas Hart Benton

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After Many Springs (1945) by Thomas Hart Benton

American regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) painted After Many Springs in 1945. The skull, discarded revolver and dead leaf hidden in a tangle of branches, blossoms and vines suggest that death awaits even as new growth springs into life.

 

Room 1219 ~ A Capsule Book Review

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Room 1219 ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

Room 1219, by Greg Merritt, is an American success story; how one man from humble beginnings rose to the pinnacle of his profession. It’s also a true crime story showing how that same man was ruined by a press that is more interested in dishing dirt and promulgating scandal than in being fair and objective and getting at the truth.

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was the biggest movie star in the world, the first to sign a contract for a million dollars a year. His onscreen persona (a good-natured, bumbling man-child) was the most recognized in the world. He lived in a mansion (for which he paid $250,000) in the most exclusive section of Hollywood. At a time when a Model T Ford cost $370 (what most people were driving, if they drove at all), Fatty drove a custom-made, $34,000 Pierce-Arrow.

On Labor Day in 1921, Fatty Arbuckle’s world came crashing down. He drove his Pierce-Arrow the 350 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco (the road wasn’t even paved the whole way yet), rented three adjoining suites on the twelfth floor in the exclusive St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, and hosted a little party for a handful of his friends.

A minor movie actress named Virginia Rappe with pretentions of making it into the big time was in attendance at Fatty’s Labor Day party, along with three other women and three other men, besides Fatty. Miss Rappe was 30 but was always shaving a few years off her age, so it was given variously as 23 or 25. She was a showgirl, an alcoholic, and was no stranger to men or to sex. (Later, much to Fatty’s detriment, she was characterized as pure, unsullied and virginal.)

During the course of the party, Virginia Rappe became ill, apparently (to most observers) from drinking too much liquor. She began tearing at her clothes and complaining of terrible abdominal pain. She was crying and carrying on and saying things like “He hurt me” and “I’m dying.” When a doctor was summoned, the doctor determined that she had only had too much to drink and would be all right. Four days later she was dead. An autopsy revealed she had a punctured bladder resulting in peritonitis. What caused her bladder to puncture could not be determined; the autopsy doctor could only conclude it was from an “external force.”

Immediately Fatty Arbuckle, who had since returned to his home in Hollywood believing that nothing was amiss, was accused of Miss Rappe’s death. The love the world bore for him instantly turned to hate. The press labeled him as a beast and an ogre, a gross fat man with salacious appetites. He became a symbol for excess and for all that was morally wrong in America, particularly in the motion picture industry. Conversely, Virginia Rappe became a symbol for outraged purity. Both extremes were untrue and especially unfair in Fatty’s case.

What, if anything, did Fatty Arbuckle do to Virginia Rappe in that San Francisco hotel room that contributed to her death? That was the question the whole world was asking.

Fatty’s defense team (assembled at great expense) believed he would be charged with manslaughter (the grand jury’s recommendation). Crusading San Francisco district attorney Matthew Brady, however, had other notions: he sought a murder conviction. He was courting the women’s vote (woman had just been given the right to vote in 1920) and believed that women everywhere wanted Fatty to get the maximum punishment. The charge was changed from manslaughter to murder but, in the preliminary hearing, the judge determined that a murder conviction wasn’t warranted and again reduced the charge to manslaughter.

So, with much hoopla and publicity, Fatty was tried for manslaughter in a sensational trial that was the talk of the country. The trial resulted in a hung jury (10 to 2 favoring acquittal), so the whole thing had to be done over.

In the second trial, Fatty’s defense team seemed over-confident. They didn’t bother to put Fatty on the stand to explain for himself what had happened in the hotel room, and they didn’t give closing arguments. The result was another hung jury, but this time 10 to 2 for conviction.

Fatty was called to the stand to testify in his third trial. The jury believed him (the truth has a sound of its own) and, after about five minutes of deliberation, voted to acquit him. Finally, the ordeal was over. He was free to return home and resume his shattered motion picture (acting/writing/directing) career.

Not so fast, though! Six days after Fatty’s acquittal, all his movies were banned from American movie screens by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). (Studio heads wanted a clean slate, with Fatty gone.) So, after the terrible ordeal he had been through, he was not going to be given a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the public. His career was effectively over. At thirty-five years of age, with possibly many more years of productivity ahead of him, he was ruined.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

Society Wedding

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Society Wedding ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp 

On Saturday evening the sixth of August, marriage vows were solemnized between Ponselle de Fortenay von Hoople and Roger Melville Arcotte-Devaney III. The bride is the youngest daughter of Sebastian Fortescue de Fortenay von Hoople and Mitzi Upjohn de Fortenay von Hoople, both of whom are leading lights of café society and the yacht club set. The groom is a well-known champion polo player and scion of the Arcotte-Devaney manufacturing fortune.

The flower-laden ceremony was held in the lovely gardens of the palatial country estate of the bride’s parents, Forty Winks. The Right Reverend Everett Yawberry Lovell officiated, with a thousand invited guests in attendance, including the governor, Luther Addison Biggs, who is pleased to call himself friend of the family and business associate of the bride’s father. Also in attendance were the renowned novelist Miss Millicent Farquhar Meriwether (whose latest novel, Just Hurry Up and Die, is a huge success), and Broadway hoofer Miss Beulah Doakes.

The bride wore a lovely seventeenth century-inspired gown made entirely of Neapolitan lace that just about swallowed her up and made her look like the dress was walking down the aisle on its own. She chose as her maid of honor her lifelong friend and confidante, Miss Penelope “Pinky” Peebles, who, since she is a midget, was given a stool to stand on to make her as tall as everybody else. Those honored to be bridesmaids were Miss Vesta Cundiff (daughter of the well-known film actress Lola Lola), Miss Marguerite “Tiny” Cadwallader, Miss Fricka Wagstaff, Miss Beryl Belladonna-Stammers, Miss Veronica “Hambone” Turlock, and Miss Hildegard “Puffy” Mannering. In a unique twist for any wedding this season, and, in keeping with the outdoor setting, all the bridesmaids were dressed in costumes representing different birds, from the familiar robin to the sweet mourning dove.

The groom chose as his best man his brother, Mr. Bryce Errol Fennimore Arcotte-Devaney. Groomsmen were Mr. Antonio “Little Tony” Delessio, Mr. Justin Marburg Phipps IV, Mr. Franklin Lester Shumway, Mr. Percy Sherwood-Upjohn, Mr. Troy Biggerstaff, and Mr. Gideon Elijah Gottlieb. The men of the wedding party wore matching linen suits inspired by the planter of the pre-Civil War South, with broad-brimmed Panama hats and black patent-leather knee boots.

The bride’s mother, Mrs. Mitzi Upjohn de Fortenay von Hoople, was a standout among the ladies in her dress and hat made entirely of chicken feathers. She wasn’t able to speak with the beak she wore, but those who know her considered this a great advantage. The father of the bride, Mr. Sebastian Fortescue de Fortenay von Hoople, was the life of the party in his tuxedoed gorilla costume, complete with porkpie hat and cigar.

The mother of the groom, Mrs. Clara Tubbins Arcotte-Devaney, was dressed entirely in black in honor of her late husband, Mr. Roger Melville Arcotte-Devaney II, who died last fall when he fell into the ocean on his return trip to the United States from his travels abroad and was eaten by sharks.

The newly married couple departed on a honeymoon trip around the world on the luxury liner The Virgin Queen. When they return from their travels in about six months, they will reside in their renovated Fifth Avenue townhouse that reportedly cost twelve million dollars, a gift from the bride’s father. Part of the year they will reside in Palm Springs or in the chalet in Switzerland the groom inherited from his father.

This reporter had a chance to chat with the excited bride and groom before they ventured into the world on their own. The bride kissed this reporter on the cheek, leaving the imprint of her lips, and whispered in his ear, “I want a good write-up; no funny business, or my father will have you killed.” The groom gripped this reporter’s hand and, in his booming baritone voice, announced that he wanted him to come back in about ten years and see how many “little bluebloods” they have been able to “pop out” in that length of time. The bride squealed in mock outrage and punched her newly minted husband on the arm.

As the couple made their way to their waiting limousine, the assembled crowd shouted out their good wishes and threw handfuls of rice. The bride’s mother held a handkerchief to her beak and sniffled as the car drove down the winding drive and through the immense gates. She retired to her room in exhaustion as the guests began a drunken bacchanalia that would last until long after daybreak.

Copyright @2017 by Allen Kopp