Another item from my blog backlog file, this time based on a hilarious book review in the NYT Book Review on 1/1/17, by Woody Allen — yes, that Woody Allen — of Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936 (from Liveright) by Edward Sorel (who also supplied the illustrations):
Astor and Kaufman, together again, but not in bed
Part-way into the review:
And as we study Sorel’s text, we are surprised to learn that the woman who played the warm, wise mother of daughters Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien in “Meet Me in St. Louis,” the maternal presence who sang with her spouse in the film’s Victorian parlor was in fact a foulmouthed, hard-drinking, sex-hungry carouser. Born to awful parents, a mother who never seemed to like her and a father who exploited her success financially, she developed acting aspirations early and was fortunately blessed not just with talent but great beauty. Just after turning 17, despite her pair of helicopter parents, she was already having a major affair with John Barrymore, who was hugely older than she, infinitely more experienced, a big league boozer and one of the greatest actors on the American stage. A partnering like theirs required clandestine meetings and stolen moments of passion; they met in hotel rooms, they made love. The affair, with its close calls and heavy breathing, is chronicled by Sorel with pace and humor.
I [have] used the word eccentric … to describe his storytelling style, and it includes delightful digressions into his own life experiences. He will suddenly leave the main shenanigans to describe personal anecdotes that somehow seem to add to and not distract from his narrative. In the midst of everything, he suddenly channels the departed Mary from the beyond and converses with her as she candidly reveals personal feelings in a novel interview.
At the center of the story is a custody fight over Mary Astor and Franklyn Thorpe’s only child, in which Astor’s diary of her steamy affair with playwright George S. Kaufman plays a key role.
And then there’s the artwork. One of Astor with Barrymore:
And one of Astor in court:
Astor went on to a substantial career in the movies; she’s best remembered for her role as Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941), playing opposite Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade:
On to Sorel. From Wikipedia:
Edward Sorel (born Edward Schwartz, 26 March 1929, The Bronx) is an illustrator, caricaturist, cartoonist, graphic designer and author whose work is known for its storytelling, its left-liberal social commentary, its criticism of reactionary right-wing politics and organized religion. Formerly a regular contributor to The Nation, New York Magazine and The Atlantic, his work is today seen more frequently in Vanity Fair. He has been hailed by The New York Times as “one of America’s foremost political satirists”. As a lifelong New Yorker, a large portion of his work interprets the life, culture and political events of New York City. There is also a large body of work which is nostalgic for the stars of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood when Sorel was a youth. Sorel is noted for his wavy pen-and-ink style, which he describes as “spontaneous direct drawing”.
Sorel has his sweet side, full of nostalgia (as above) or celebrating NYC, as in this New Yorker cover “Taking a Break at the Met” (that’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art):
(in which characters from famous art works take an ice ceam break outside the Met).
And there are also jokes, like this New Yorker cover, “Mother’s Day”:
(in which Whistler’s mother waits angrily by the phone for her son to call her on this special day).
But Sorel is especially famous for his political caricatures, many of which are savage. Here’s “Milhous I, Lord of San Clemente, Duke of Key Briscane, Captain of Watergate”:
Richard Milhous Nixon, in a character study.