Spontaneity in the work of Jackson Pollock, Charlie Parker, and Jack Kerouac

During the decade following World War Two, a body of artistic work was created that clearly articulated for the first time, a distinctly American aesthetic, independent of European models. This is not to say that celebrated works like The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Appalachian Spring and Roy Harrisʼ Third Symphony are not recognized as American masterpieces; but their American characteristics are expressed through content, rather than form or methods of production. Fitzgerald and Hemingway all furthered their apprenticeship in Europe during the 1920s while Copland and Harris studied in Paris with Boulanger. It remained for the next generation of the avant garde, living for the most part in New York, to create original schools through the modes of Abstract Expressionism, the new chromatic jazz of Be Bop, and the literature of the Beats. The singly most important characteristic of the new American expression was the central role played by spontaneity and improvisation yielding works of astonishing vibrant surface detail.

The emphasis on the spontaneous as an alternative to the careful and rational reflected larger cultural and philosophical issues. In seeking a subjective, existential view of reality, honesty, authenticity, were prized over the objective world view, process over product. Whether expressed in gesture painting, spontaneous bop prosody, or the chromatic flights of bebop, the emphasis was on the experience, rejecting the academic craftsmanship of revision as antithetical to the glorification of the now.This emphasis plus the incorporation of elements from African and Native American sources were interpreted as an attack on the privileged hegemony of the Anglo-American academy. Beat writers were ridiculed by proponents of the New Criticism who vaunted T.S. Eliot as their model. Kerouacʼs spontaneous prose was dismissed as “mere typing” by Truman Capote. While mainstream journals such as Life magazine devoted some attention to abstract art, it was more often of a patronizing nature, referring to Pollock as “Jack the Dripper”. The new jazz faced opposition even within its own ranks, even prompting a revival of New Orleans music, now called “Dixieland”. Louis Armstrong dismissed bop as making about as much sense as “Chinese music”. So with its fusion of modernist complexity with vernacular) or “street”) immediacy the new art represented a third alternative to European elitism and mainstream pop culture. In an even larger context, the avant garde of the late 1940s represented a reaction to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag – the latter having a dampening impact on the leftist Communist idealism of the 30s. Whether implicit in words or explicit in painting and music, the avant garde became a central voice in the new bohemian counterculture criticism of United States political and corporate globalization with its strategy of cold war xenophobia and domestic consumerism. The full effect of this will not be fully realized until the mid 1960s when the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Viet Nam galvanized many to question the policies of the government.

 

Jackson Pollock photographed by Arnold Newman for LIFE Magazine, 1949

 

Charlie Parker, at the Carnegie Hall, New York. Photo by William P. Gottlieb, 1947

 

Jack Kerouac in his Long Island home displaying one of the scrolls on which he composed his books, unidentified photographer, 1964.

 

Three artists, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Charlie Parker (1920-1955), and Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), play a central role in the emerging post war avant garde, each incorporating elements of spontaneity to their arts. The outline of their biographies shows many similarities. Roughly of the same generation, each were born and raised in provincial settings, Pollock in Cody, Wyoming, Parker in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts. Each came from working class blue collar maternally dominated families, with dysfunctional (Pollock and Kerouac) or nonexistent (Parker) relationships with their fathers, Pollock and Kerouac becoming highly misogynistic. Each produced their most important work in New York beginning around 1945, where they all habituated the same Lower East Side and Greenwich Village neighborhoods, often hanging out in the same bars and coffee houses. All three experienced difficult personal lives, cut short from substance abuse resulting in early deaths (Pollock at age 44. Parker at 35, and Kerouac at 47). What is of great interest is the mutual interest and influence among the artistic intelligentsia of the period. Much of Kerouacʼs innovative spontaneous prose sketching achieved most notable in Visions of Cody and The Subterraneans were heavily indebted to his sophisticated knowledge of jazz. Several of the “choruses” in Mexico City Blues are profiles of Parker, Lester Young, and other musicians. Lee Krasner, Pollockʼs wife, has documented the painterʼs interest in jazz as well as classical music. Night Clubs, such as the Five Spot, doubled as jazz venues as well as art galleries.

 

 

A Pollock painting illustrates the cover of Ornette Colemanʼs, Free Jazz, released in 1959. Some artists worked in several disciplines, most notable saxophonist Larry Rivers who became a prominent painter, composer-novelist Paul Bowles, pianist-poet Cecil Taylor, and poet-painter-composer Weldon Kees. Poetic recitation with jazz, begun with Kenneth Patchen and Charlie Mingus included performances at the Village Vanguard with Kerouac who recorded with tenor men Zoot Sims and Al Cohn as well as recited on television with Steve Allen backing him up on piano. The image of these performances, with their “beards,bongos and beatniks” became simplistic cultural clichés in the late 1950s. perpetuated by the mainstream media in an attempt to trivialize and ridicule the movement. To reiterate the central thesis of this argument, the main thread that unites this rich period of American creativity is the use of improvisation for the purpose of creating art characterized by great emotional and intense expression.

 

American Zeitgeist: Spontaneity in the work of Jackson Pollock, Charlie Parker, and Jack Kerouac
Randall Snyder
(Excerpt)

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A Foreign Sound

Concept, graphic design, and photography by Miguel Rio Branco.

The album’s title seems derived from a line of a Bob Dylan’s song, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding): “So don’t fear if you hear/ A foreign sound to your ear”

 
 

Caetano Veloso is widely recognized as one of the world’s most original artists and has been hailed by as “one of the greatest songwriters of the century.” Still Veloso never hesitates to acknowledge those who influence his own music—whether the bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto or the seminal filmmaker Federico Fellini. His first album sung entirely in English, A Foreign Sound reveals the diversity of American songwriters he has loved and studied over the years, from Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart, and Cole Porter to Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and David Byrne.

A Foreign Sound is a culmination of Veloso’s longstanding and multifarious exploration of American music. Surprising and imaginative interpretations of American songs have been a staple of his recent live shows, and they have made occasional appearances on his studio albums over the years. As he explains in his acclaimed memoir, Tropical Truth: A Story of Music & Revolution in Brazil (Knopf 2002), he came to some of his favorite American singers and musicians—including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, and the Modern Jazz Quartet—by tracing the steps of his foremost musical hero, Joao Gilberto. On A Foreign Sound, Veloso interprets several songs he first learned listening to these artists in the early 1960s, including So In Love, Love for Sale, Manhattan, and Body and Soul. Other songs have particular significance in the context of Brazilian culture.

Veloso’s approach to the music varies from track to track. While on some songs he is backed by a 28-piece orchestra, on others his only accompaniment is his signature acoustic guitar playing. Love for Sale is recorded completely a cappella. Among the many accomplished musicians featured on the album are Caetano’s son Moreno and his longtime collaborator Jaques Morelenbaum, who contributes as arranger, conductor and cellist.

This Too Shall Pass

George Harrison flipping the “bird”. Photo by Aaron Rapoport

 
 

این نیز بگذرد‎is an adage indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary. The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets, and is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by the simple words. Some versions of the fable, beginning with that of Sanai and Attar of Nishapur, add the detail that the phrase is inscribed on a ring, which has the ability to make the happy man sad and the sad man happy. Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The adage and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald (Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances). On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln included a similar story in an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee:

 

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

Stardust

Stardust is an American popular song composed in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics added in 1929 by Mitchell Parish. Carmichael first recorded the song, originally titled “Star Dust”, at the Gennett Records studio in Richmond, Indiana. It is “a song about a song about love”, and it’s played in an idiosyncratic melody in medium tempo. It became an American standard, and is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, with over 1,500 total recordings.

According to Carmichael, the inspiration for Stardust came to him while he was on the campus of his alma mater, Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. He began whistling the tune then rushed to the Book Nook, a popular student hangout, and started composing. He worked to refine the melody over the course of the next several months, likely in Bloomington or Indianapolis (sources cite various locations, and Carmichael himself liked to embellish the facts about the song’s origins).

Isham Jones‘s recording became the first of many hit versions of the tune. Young baritone sensation Bing Crosby released a version in 1931, and by the following year, over two dozen bands had recorded Stardust. It was then covered by almost every prominent band of that era. Versions have been recorded by Artie Shaw, Billy Butterfield, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, (on the 1956 album Dave Brubeck Quartet) Tommy Dorsey, Tex Beneke with The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Jan Garber, Fumio Nanri, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole (considered by many to be the best), Mel Tormé, Connie Francis, Jean Sablon, Keely Smith, Terumasa Hino, Harry Connick Jr, Hank Crawford, Ella Fitzgerald, Olavi Virta, The Peanuts, Django Reinhardt, Barry Manilow, Art Tatum, John Coltrane, Earl Grant, Willie Nelson, Billy Ward and His Dominoes, George Benson, Mina, Ken Hirai, Al Hirt, and many others.

 
 

Stardust, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1983

 
 

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely nights dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you

When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
Ah but that was long ago
Now my consolation is in the stardust of a song

Beside the garden wall
When stars are bright, you are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
Of paradise where roses grew

Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

 

To listen to Nat King Cole and John Coltrane´s versions of this song, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Snacks of the Great Scribblers

Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton

 
 

“When I sit down to work, I keep a small bowl of garlic croutons on my desk. These are little rewards for good ideas and strong lines, Pavlovian pellets to keep my spirits up. Recently, I began to wonder what fuel writers have relied on, and the answers turned out to be all over the culinary map. Walt Whitman began the day with oysters and meat, while Gustave Flaubert started off with what passed for a light breakfast in his day: eggs, vegetables, cheese or fruit, and a cup of cold chocolate. The novelist Vendela Vida told me she swears by pistachios, and Mark Kurlansky, the author of “Salt” and “Cod,” likes to write under the influence of espresso, “as black as possible.” For some writers, less is more. Lord Byron, a pioneer in fad diets as well as poetry, sipped vinegar to keep his weight down. Julia Scheeres, the author of the memoir “Jesus Land,” aims for more temporary deprivation. “When in the thick of writing I minimize food intake as much as possible,” she told me. “I find I work better when I’m a little starved.”

Wendy MacNaughton

The New York Times. Sunday Book Review, July 29, 2011

From the Point of View of a Villain

“God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 
 

 
 

A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent, has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

 
 

Theatrical release poster

 
 

On May 12, 2009, it was revealed that Brad Bird was developing a live-action motion picture based on Walt Disney‘s Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman, 1959), retold from the point of view of Maleficent with Angelina Jolie starring as the eponymous character. In January 2010, it was rumored that Tim Burton was to direct the film. Reports surfaced online in May 2011 stating that Burton had left the project to focus on his other upcoming projects; Disney began to look for a replacement director, with David Yates being cited as a potential candidate due to his experience with the fantasy genre, having directed the final four Harry Potter films. On January 6, 2012, Disney announced that Robert Stromberg would direct the film.

 
 

The character is Disney’s version of the wicked fairy godmother from the original French fairy tale, loosely based on Carabosse from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet

 
 

Maleficent (2014) marks the directorial debut of Robert Stromberg after serving as a visual effects supervisor on numerous films, including Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003), and more significantly, as a production designer of Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton, 2010), and Oz the Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi, 2013); the first two films earned him consecutive Academy Awards for Best Production Design.

Angelina Jolie also said that “having a director (Robert Stromberg) coming from the world of production design really helped pull me into the fairy tale world. The film is beautiful but also has a sexy, dark edge because the story is coming from the point of view of a villain.”

 
 

By coincidence, Maleficent (2014) was released on May 30, 2014; precisely the same year as the 55th anniversary of Walt Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty (1959)

 
 

Angelina Jolie worked very closely with Anna B. Sheppard,the costume designer and make-up department to develop Maleficent’s menacing look. Disney executives objected, hoping to take advantage of Jolie’s beauty in marketing the film, but the actress insisted that the character maintain the scarier look of the animated incarnation. Maleficent’s prosthetics and make-up were inspired by singer Lady Gaga, particularly on her Born This Way album cover.

 
 

Single cover designed by Nick Knight

 
 

Angelina Jolie based her character’s speech and accent in homage of the original Sleeping Beauty voice actor Eleanor Audley. Her laughter in the film was also based on the best variation she tried in front of her children and chosen by them.

 
 

Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, who portrays Princess Aurora as a young girl, is the daughter of Angelina Jolie (who plays Maleficent in the movie) and Brad Pitt

 
 

Angelina Jolie was definitely interested to be in the movie to begin with. She repeatedly stated it was because 1.) she grew up on Disney movies as a child, especially Sleeping Beauty (1959); she was quite fond of the character Maleficent: “Since I was a little girl, Maleficent was always my favorite,” Jolie said. “I was terrified of her, but I was also drawn to her. I wanted to know more about her. She had this elegance and grace, yet she was wonderfully, deliciously cruel,” 2.) she wanted to a movie in which her children can go see her in, as well as the fact that her children really also wanted her to be in the movie, 3.) the beauty, warmth, complexity, and strong intelligence of the script, and 4.) she was very impressed with Maleficent’s characterization for this film. In fact, Jolie also served as an executive producer on the film.

 
 

Maleficent marked the first time that Elle Fanning has appeared in a film opposite Angelina Jolie, after starring opposite Brad Pitt, Jolie’s fiancé, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008).

Swan’s Way

Blazon

For the Countess of Peralta

 
 

The snow-white Olympic swan,
with beak of rose-red agate,
preens his Eucharistic wing,
which he opens to the sun like a fan.

 

His shining neck is curved
like the arm of a lyre,
like the handle of a Greek amphora,
like the prow of a ship.

 

He is the swan of divine origin
whose kiss mounted through fields
of silk to the rosy peaks
of Leda’s sweet hills.

 

White king of of Castalia’s fount,
his triumph illumines the Danube;
Da Vinci was his baron in Italy;
Lohengrin is his blond prince.

 

His whiteness is akin to linen,
to the buds of the white roses,
to the diamantine white
of the fleece of an Easter lamb.

 

He is the poet of perfect verses,
and his lyric cloak is of ermine;
he is the magic, the regal bird
who, dying, rhymes the soul in his song.

 

This winged aristocrat displays
white lilies on a blue field;
and Pompadour, gracious and lovely,
has stroked his feathers.

 

He rows and rows on the lake
Where a golden gondola waits
For the sweetheart of Louis of Bavaria.

 

Countess, give the swans your love,
for they are gods of an alluring land
and are made of perfume and ermine,
of white light, of silk, and of dreams.

Ruben Darío

 
 

Photo: Bruce Weber

 
 

Carmen Dell’Orefice by Norman Parkinson, 1980

 
 

Swaroski logo

 
 

Bathyllus in the swan dance, Aubrey Beardsley

 
 

Henri Matisse making a study of a swan in the Bois de Boulogne, c. 1930

 
 

Advertisement illustrated by René Gruau

 
 

Illustration to Garcia Márquez’s short story Bon Voyage Mr. President, by Josie Portillo

 
 

Still from The Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

 
 

Anna Pavlova

 
 

Still from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Bill Condon, 2011)

 
 

Helena Bonham Carter

 
 

Laetita Casta. Photo: Mario Testino

 
 

Uma Thurman and Mikahil Baryshnikov as The Swan Prince. Photo: Arthur Elgort

 
 

Truman Capote styled his beautiful and wealthy female friends “swans”

 
 

Accompained by Lee Radziwill and Jane Haward

 
 

With socialité Babe Paley in Paris

 
 

Escorting CZ Guest

 
 

Capote and Gloria Vanderbilt Lumet arrive at New York’s 54th Street Theatre for the opening performance of Caligula., 16 Feb 1960

 
 

Gloria Vanderbilt ad campaigns

 
 

Ludwig II (Luchino Visconti, 1972). He was sometimes called the Swan King

 
 

Mirror, Mirror (Tarsem Singh, 2012)

 
 

Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton, 1974)

 
 

Leonardo di Caprio. Photo: Annie Leibovitz

 
 

Madonna. Photo: David LaChapelle

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

Ad campaign featured in Vogue, January 1997

 
 

Tory Burch swan-print wedge sandalias

 
 

Swan Evening dress by Charles James, 1951

 
 

Kate Moss wearing a Givenchy gown by Ricardo Tisci, Spring-Summer collection 2011

 
 

Giles Deacon Spring-Summer 2012 collection

 
 

Erin O’Connor wearing a gown by Alexander McQueen. Photo: Tim Walker

 
 

Eglingham Children and Swan on Beach, Tim Walker, 2002

The Man Who Would Be Gatsby

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

 
 

While a teenager, Francis Scott Fitzgerald was collecting ideas about the goings on in West Egg and not just those of the community but those of a specific man: W. Gould Brokaw, a now-forgotten Long Island socialite, playboy and gentleman automobile racer. He literally could not escape his shadow.

 
 

W. Gould Brokaw

 
 

Brokaw was the son of hugely successful New York clothier Vail Brokaw of Brokaw Brothers, and grandson of a railroad tycoon; he inherited a fortune of around $4.5 million and never needed to do anything in particular for work. His circle of friends was the cream of New York society: Astors, Whitneys, Guggenheims, Vanderbilts, Goulds, Morgans, all of them interested in speed, whether horses, greyhounds, yachts or cars. Brokaw was an elder statesman for that set of young millionaires, having been born a decade or more before most, in 1863. In later legal proceedings–of which there were oh so many, he was described as “a rich and fashionable clubman.”
 

According to Some Sort of Grandeur, Matthew Bruccoli’s biography of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, the character Jay Gatsby is based on the bootlegger and earlier World War I officer Max Gerlach. In the 1920s, when Gerlach knew the Fitzgeralds, he operated as a bootlegger and allegedly kept Fitzgerald topped off with booze. Born in Yonkers as Max A. Stark (or possibly Max A. Stork), he claimed direct German ancestry and went by the names of Max Stark Gerlach and Max von Gerlach later in life (his gravestone reads Max Stork Gerlach). Nevertheless, Gatsby is a composite, as are all Fitzgerald’s characters, and there’s a certain amount of Scottie himself in Jay.

 
 

Robert Evans and Ali MacGraw

 
 

About the filming adaption of The Great Gatsby directed by Jack Clayton in 1974, it was originally conceived and developed as a wedding present vehicle for Ali MacGraw (formerly Diana Vreeland’s assistant at Harper’s Bazaar magazine) from her then-husband Robert Evans. The project was derailed from its initial purpose when MacGraw fell in love with her The Getaway (Sam Peckinpah, 1972) co-star Steve McQueen and divorced Evans.

 
 

Evans in his home Woodland, built by architect John Woolf

 
 

The producer with Tatjiana Shoan. Harper’s Bazaar, 2004

 
 

Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw

 
 

Stills from The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton, 1974)

 
 

Automobiles are almost treated as a character in the plot of Fitzgerald’s book. Myrtle Wilson was knocked down by a car and this sad event unchains the climax of the story. Plus, Fitzgerald to his editor Maxwell Perkins that the name of Jordan Baker (a character based on the golfer Edith Cumming) is a combination between the two then-popular automobile brands, the Jordan Motor Car Company and the Baker Motor Vehicle, as an allusion to Jordan’s “fast” reputation and the freedom now presented to Americans, especially women of 1920s.

 
 

Ralph Lauren

 
 

Ralph Lauren who (as we know) made the costumes for Jack Clayton’s The Great Gastby, has a penchant for cars. His collection of classic automobiles is another dimension of his own persona. An amazing lineup of 50-plus dream machines that have all been restored to glory, the convoy is a portal to the past, when men like Brokaw drove their race cars home from the track at the end of the day and manufacters were the manifestations of their designers: Jean Bugatti, Enzo Ferrari, Ferdinand Porsche… RL’s gateway drug was a white ’61 Morgan convertible with red leather seats, which he bought in 1963- back when he was a travelling salesman for the Boston-based tie company A. Rivetz & Co.- and was later forced to sell when he couldn’t afford a garage in Manhattan.

 
 

Steve McQueen

 
 

And it’s a little bit curious and probably not coincidental that one of Ralph Lauren’s cottages is adorned with black-and-white photos of Greta Garbo, Johnny Depp and Steve McQueen, a man who also loved engines and made himself just like Jay Gatsby and Lauren did.

The Last Flappers

Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane in Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

 
 

Jack Lemmon, Marilyn and director Billy Wilder

 
 

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag

 
 

Audrey Hepburn as Holy Golightly in Breakfast at Tifanny’s (Blake Edwards, 1961)

 
 

keiraKeira Knightley wearing  Chanel Couture

 
 

Make-up and styling for Chanel Resort Collection 2013

 
 

Natalie Portman photographed by Mario Testino. Vogue USA, February 2004

 
 

Portman in a still from Closer (Mike Nichols, 2004)

 
 

Michelle Pfeiffer. Photo: Herb Ritts

 
 

Madonna

 
 

Anjelica Huston. Photo: Gian Paolo Barbieri

 
 

Portrait of Isabella Rossellini by Ellen von Unwerth

 
 

Ali MacGraw

 
 

Ralph Lauren

 
 

Jean Paul Gaultier

 
 

Alexander McQueen

 
 

LV0043Louis Vuitton

 
 

Etro

 
 

Gucci

 
 

Balenciaga by Nicholas Ghesquière

 
 

Images from fashion editorial Paris Je T’Aime photographed by Steven Meisel. Vogue USA, September issue. 2007

 
 

Rihanna

 
 

Mary Jane Russell with a Christian Dior swan hat. Photo: Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1949

 
 

Christian Dior by John Galliano Spring-Summer collection 1998

 
 


The Dolly Sisters

 
 

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior Haute Couture at the Oscars 2013

 
 

* The Last Flapper is the title of a play written by William Luce. It is based on Zelda Fitzgerald’s life.

Flapped Their Wings and Took Flight

Violet Romer in flapper dress (Circa between 1910 and 1915)

 

Lady Diana Cooper, circa 1916

 

Still from The Flapper (Alan Crosland, 1920)

 

Frances Marion, a journalist and author from San Francisco, wrote the screenplay which was responsible for bringing the term flapper, which had been a slang term for many years, into popular use in the United States

 

Portrait of Olive Thomas by Peruvian Illustrator Alberto Vargas. Thomas played a teenage schoolgirl who yearns for excitement outside of her small Florida town in The Flapper

 

Zelda Fitzgerald

 

“The Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-deb-ism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure … she was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do. Mothers disapproved of their sons taking the Flapper to dances, to teas, to swim and most of all to heart.”

Zelda Fitzgerald

 

Anita Loos wearing a Mainbocher suit

 

Gwili Andre by Cecil Beaton

 

Louise Brooks

 

Clara Bow

 

Norma Shearer

 

Josephine Baker

 

Alice Joyce

 


Norma Talmadge

 

Teresa de la Parra

 

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

 

Joan Crawford

 

Virginia Woolf

 

“Flapper” was a popular term, in use mainly during the Jazz Age, describing mischievous and flirtatious women. The use of the term has its origins in the 1600s. However, by 1920, the term had taken on the full meaning of the flapper generation style and attitudes and behavior which changed several deeply planted social beliefs and norms. Flappers changed women’s sexuality, fashion, and thinking. Some of them expressed their free will displaying their sex-appeal; wearing short skirts, bobbing their hair, dancing to jazz or doing the Charleston, and for not caring about what someone would think about their loose behavior. There were other types of flappers, though: the intellectual flappers who fostered fashions of that time yet were more concerned about women’s rights (Women’s Suffrage, for instance). These women created more than a “frivolution” in the Western world.

The slang word flapper, describing a young woman, is sometimes supposed to refer to a young bird flapping its wings while learning to fly. However, it may derive from an earlier use in northern England to mean teenage girl, referring to one whose hair is not yet put up and whose plaited pigtail flapped on her back.

By November 1910, the word was popular enough for the author A. E. James to begin a series of stories in the London Magazine featuring the misadventures of a pretty fifteen-year-old girl and titled Her Majesty the Flapper.

The word appeared in print in the United Kingdom as early as 1903 and United States 1904, when novelist Desmond Coke used it in his college story of Oxford life, Sandford of Merton: “There’s a stunning flapper”. In 1907 English actor explained it to Americans as theatrical slang for acrobatic young female stage performers. By 1908, newspapers as serious as The Times used it, although with careful explanation: “A ‘flapper’, we may explain, is a young lady who has not yet been promoted to long frocks and the wearing of her hair ‘up'”.

Brief Treatise of Elegance

Theoni Aldredge won the Academy Award for Best Costume design in 1974, beating out 3 other Paramount movies.

 
 

In The Great Gatsby fashion is almost another protagonist of the story. Francis Scott Fitzgerald depicts every garment worn by Nick Carraway, his cousin Daisy Buchanan, Tom, Daisy’s husband, Jordan Baker, the titular Jay Gatsby and so on the secondary characters. In Fitzgerald’s own words, all the people who attended Gatsby’s parties were always “well dressed”.
 
Myrtle, the woman who cheated on George Wilson with Tom Buchanan, tells how disappointed she was when discovered Mr. Wilson borrowed “somebody’s best suit” to get married to her in. Later, Myrtle tells why she felt attracted to Tom and started the affair with him: “It was on the two little seats facing each other that are always the last ones left on the train. I was going up to New York to see my sister and spend the night. He had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, but every time he looked at me I had to pretend to be looking at the advertisement over his head.”
 
In this short story every detail in the deco and in fashion counts, it’s almost an essay about style and about the importance of good appearance. It helped Gatsby to get social ascension and wealth. “I saw right away he was a fine-appearing, gentlemanly young man”, said Mr. Wolfsheim, Gatsby’s mentor when he remembered the first time he saw him.
 
It’s not very distant from Nick Carraway’s first impression about Gatsby: “His tanned skin was drawn attractively tight on his face and his short hair looked as though it were trimmed every day. I could see nothing sinister about him.”
 
The origin of the word elegance (from Latin elego, to choose) is strongly interrelated not only with our appearance, but our decisions. That’s why the clue that is given by Gatsby’s father about how his son started his determination of getting success is so important.
 
“On the last fly-leaf was printed the word Schedule, and the date September 12, 1906, and underneath:
Rise from bed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.00 a.m.
Dumbbell exercise and wall-scaling. . . . .. 6.15-6.30 ”
Study electricity, etc. . . . . . . . . . . . 7.15-8.15 ”
Work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.30-4.30 p.m.
Baseball and sports. . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.30-5.00 ”
Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it 5.00-6.00 ”
Study needed inventions. . . . . . . . . . . 7.00-9.00 ”
 
General Resolves
 
No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable] No more smokeing or chewing Bath every other day Read one improving book or magazine per week Save $5.00 {crossed out} $3.00 per week Be better to parents”
 
This story is told from a relativist point of view by the narrator, Nick Carraway, a trait he inherited from his father: “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

 
 

In the novel, we know through Jordan Baker that Daisy used to dress in white when she was younger. Aldredge added  ivory and pale tones and even black into the palette of colors worn by Mia Farrow.

 
 

Bruce Dern (as Tom Buchanan), Sam Waterson (as Nick Carraway) and Robert Redford (as Gatsby) in the movie directed by Jack Clayton.

 
 

“His bedroom was the simplest room of all — except where the dresser was garnished with a toilet set of pure dull gold.”

 
 

“Gatsby, in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold-colored tie”, according to Fitzgerald describes the scene when Gatsby met Daisy again five years after.

 
 

 
 

“Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high.”
 
-“I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall”, said Gatsby.
 
He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher — shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.
 
“They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such —such beautiful shirts before.”

 
 

 
 

“At two o’clock Gatsby put on his bathing-suit and left word with the butler that if any one phoned word was to be brought to him at the pool. He stopped at the garage for a pneumatic mattress that had amused his guests during the summer, and the chauffeur helped him pump it up. Then he gave instructions that the open car wasn’t to be taken out under any circumstances — and this was strange, because the front right fender needed repair.
Gatsby shouldered the mattress and started for the pool.”

Another Turn of the Screw

Or how a script was screwed

 

Paramount Pictures executives commissioned Truman Capote to pen the screenplay for the third filmed version of Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. They offered to pay him $135 for the script.
 
By its structure, like an extensive flashback, by its brevity and, above all, by its elegiac tone, The Great Gatsby has a lot in common with The Grass Harp and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Basically, Truman was delighted by the commission. “Fitzgerald has a charm”, he said. “It may be a silly word, but I think that is maybe the word that fits. I like The Great Gatsby a lot and that nostalgia, it’s both sad and joyful.” Capturing and portraying Gatsby’s ephemeral features into a screenplay turned out to be a task much harder than what Capote ever thought. It was a nightmare for him.
 
Jack Clayton, the British director who specialized in bringing literary works to the big screen, had previously worked with Capote on The Innocents (1961), a movie based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. By a suggestion of the author of In Cold Blood, Clayton was hired to direct The Great Gatsby.
 
Capote finished the draft in January 1972, and on the whole he felt satisfied with what he had constructed. However, Paramount rejected the script, considering it “unacceptable” and for being too similar to the literary version. A young, UCLA screenwriter named Francis Ford Coppola came in and did a basic transfer of the novel to screenplay form. It was a solid script but perhaps too respectful. On his commentary track for the DVD release of The Godfather, Coppola makes reference to writing the Gatsby script at the time, though he comments: “Not that the director paid any attention to it. The script that I wrote did not get made.”

 
 

Truman Capote portrayed by Irving Penn, 1965

The Flapper And The Philosopher

Flappers and Philosophers was the first collection of short stories written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1920. It includes eight stories. Illustration by W. E. Hill.

 
 

W. E. (William Ely) Hill (1887-1962) was an enormously popular illustrator during the first half of the twentieth century. He drew for Life and Puck and had his own weekly page of illustrations, titled Among Us Mortals, in the Sunday New York Tribune. He also drew the dust jacket art for the first editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise (1920)

 
 

Norman Rockwell’s illustration for the Saturday Evening Post containing Bernice Bobs Her Hair. The issue from May, 1920 marked the first time Fitzgerald’s name appeared on the cover.

 
 

As a gesture of gratefulness, in the First Chapter of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald mentioned the weekly magazine founded by Benjamin Franklin:

“Tom and Miss Baker sat at either end of the long couch and she read aloud to him from the Saturday Evening Post. — the words, murmurous and uninflected, running together in a soothing tune. The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair, glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles in her arms.

When we came in she held us silent for a moment with a lifted hand.

“To be continued,” she said, tossing the magazine on the table, “in our very next issue.”

 
 

The short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair was based on letters Fitzgerald sent to his younger sister, Annabel, advising her on how to be more attractive to young men. The original text was much longer, but Fitzgerald cut nearly 3000 words and changed the ending to make the story more attractive to publishers. The name of the protagonist echoes that of Berenice, whose sacrifice of her golden tresses resulted in the victory of her husband in war, and the honor given to her by the gods. Her tresses were placed into the heavens as the Constellation Coma Berenices.

 
 

Queen Berenice II of Egypt

 
 

During her husband’s absence on an expedition to Syria, she dedicated her hair to Aphrodite for his safe return, and placed it in the temple of the goddess at Zephyrium. The hair having by some unknown means disappeared, Conon of Samos explained the phenomenon in courtly phrase, by saying that it had been carried to the heavens and placed among the stars. This story is parodied in Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.

An Early Version of The Great Gatsby

Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s letter to his editor, Max Perkins when he set out to write The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald was ambivalent about the title, making it hard for him to choose. He entertained many choices e.g. Trimalchio in West Egg, before settling on the definitive one. Trimalchio is a character in Satyricon by Gaius Petronius. In the AD Roman work of fiction Trimalchio is a very rich freedman who displays his wealth

 
 

Transcript
July, 1922.

Dear Mr. Perkins:

Glad you liked the addenda to the Table of Contents. I feel quite confident the book will go. How do you think The Love Legend will sell? You’ll be glad to know that nothing has come of the movie idea & I’m rather glad myself. At present working on my play — the same one. Trying to arrange for an Oct. production in New York. Bunny Wilson (Edmund Wilson Jr.) says that it’s without doubt the best American comedy to date (that’s just between you and me.)

Did you see that in that Literary Digest contest I stood 6th among the novelists? Not that it matters. I suspect you of having been one of the voters.

Will you see that the semi-yearly account is mailed to me by the 1st of the month — or before if it is ready? I want to see where I stand. I want to write something new — something extraordinary and beautiful and simple & intricately patterned.

As Usual

(Signed, ‘F Scott Fitzgerald’)

 
 

Cover of the first edition, 1925 illustrated by Francis Cugat. Ernest Hemingway confessed to Fitzgerald he did loathe that book jacket

 
 

Handwritten manuscript of Chapter 1

 

 
 

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgasmic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…and one fine morning–so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”?
(Chapter 9)