Notes of an Innocent Bystander

Walter Winchell

Spartanburg Herald/November 2, 1942

The First Nights: Two newcomers checked in to feed off the fat bankroll B’way has been flashing lately . . . “Little Darling,” a comedy, bowed in Tuesday. The hero of this caper is a hack who goes berserk from writing too much clean fiction, making him a whacky hacky. He takes up with his dotter’s school chum and Discovers Life. His sensible sekitty recaptures him before he buys a zoot suit. Leon Ames, Barbara Bel Geddes, Phyllis Avery and Karen Morley lark it up expertly. Mr. Lockridge advised the Sun’s readers it was “lively and gay—but not very often” . . .”Rosalinda,” a Straus operetta known around Europe as “Die Fledermaus,” arrived Wednesday, with Dorothy Sarnoff, Ralph Herbert, Oscar Kariweiss and others lifting their voices in the swell songs. The drama and music reviewers split the assignment and all  relished the music. Howard Barnes of the Trib found the revival “gay and lifting” . . .  Reports from the Pasadena Playhouse on the Cinema Coast are exciting over Hallie Flanagan’s play, “The Moment is Now.” It is the 2nd Front in the American Theater, reports Fitzroy Davis, and “should be staged from coast to coast at once. This is the play to fight fascism, not Maxwell Anderson’s hit, “The Eve of St. Mark.”


The Magic Lantern: You can’t go wrong with camera focused on flying machines. But that’s not all that makes “Thunder Birds” a dilly. Mr. Zanuck hid under a pen name to write this exciting piece about flyers in training, but he can come out for a bow. Gene Tierney and Preston Foster help lots . . . They aimed the prestige camera at “The Moon and Sixpence,” but they got a good show. This is Maugham’s story about the broker (Gaugin supposedly) who chucked babbittry for painting and lady-killing. George Sanders clicks as the talented cad, and Doris Dudley is just dandy. . . Jack Benny keeps on taking abuse, this time from a house, in “George Washington Slept Here.” Ann Sheridan and Percy Kobride are the star’s best assistants in this comicaper . . .Jeanette MacDonald is a fugitive from operettas in “Cairo,” a jobbie about Nazzy nasties in Libya. It’s a tough one to sing out of, though the songs are nice . . . “Destination Unknown” is another heavy-handed belt at the enemy, none of whom appears any brighter than Fritz Kuhn.


The Wireless: During Admiral King’s Navy Day broadcast, two advertising men from an AM daily (not a tabloid) sat in a café loose-mouthing about the Army-Navy friction. They didn’t even shut up long enough to hear Admiral King read a telegram from General Marshall assuring the Navy of Army cooperation. Those two jerks ought to read the daily they misrepresent . . . Mr. Dewey offered the neatest plug of the present campaign. Radio testimonials from citizens he had rescued from racketeers . . . If you want to know whom to vote against, listen to Axis shortwavers tell you whom to vote for . . . Roy Shields’ silky version of “You Were Never Lovelier” provided vitamins for the spirit . . . You may disagree with part of Willkie’s conclusions, but you can’t deny that his address oozed sincerity and sparkled with memorable idealism . . . In case you’re worried about it a survey indicates that soap-opera listeners make just as good citizens as those who don’t dial such programs. Could anything be more unimportant?


The Magazines: Lieut. John Mason Brown takes a civilian wallop at Archibald Henderson, G. B. Shaw’s biogger, in The Saturday Review. Henderson kept I-ing his way into the narrative, said Brown, until “what was supposed to be Shaw’s life managed to become Mr. Henderson’s scrapbook” . . . Irving Wallace quotes a couple of fabulous Hollywood shoestringers in Coronet on how they can make profitable flickers so fast. “Because,” explained the quickie wizards, “we don’t have to struggle through red tape, stooges and relatives” . . . Pearl Buck’s story, “The Enemy,” in Harper’s reminds you what wonderful things can be done with words, if you have talent . . . Woollcott’s brilliant story of a refugee in Reader’s Digest joints out that our first refugees were called Pilgrims—an obversation that this dep’t last-lined more than a year ago . . . Looky you mag correspondents at the Fronts. We aren’t panting to know how bumpy your plane rides are, or how ousylay your meals. Let’s have something about the war and the warriors . . . Commenting on the news that three thousand dead Japs received medals from their gov’t, Time observes: “The interesting thing was not that Jap had so many heroes but that the heroes were dead.” Punchy sarcasm.


The Front Pages: With a second front raging on African sands and a third front blazing on Guadalcanal, some editorialists are still whooping it up for a second front . . . Hanson Baldwin’s lucid military essays about the Solomons, in the Times, are another glorious page of journalism’s war reportage . . . As soon as the gazettes finished patting Congress for having the moxie to pass the teen age draft bill before the elections Congressional monkey-wrench throwers made certain it would be deferred until after them . . . The editors have jumped to the defense of the AP in the gov’t anti-trust action against the news service. They claim it threatens freedom of the press. Could be. But who tried to defend that freedom when the racing sheets were banned from the stands?


The Intelligentsia: Carl Sandburg’s epic four-volume treaties of Lincoln and the Civil War has been digested into a single meaty volume, “Storm Over the Land” (Harcourt, Brace). It’s a gold mine of historical knowledge . . . Two decades of Thomas Mann’s wisdom have been put between covers in “Order of the Day” (Knopf). You don’t have to be told that it contains a shining intelligence worth wrapping around your mind . . . Like the dress suit in “Tales of Manhattan,” a passport strings together the arresting story of Ed Beattie’s life as a UP foreign newsboy in “Freely to Pass” (Crowell) . . . The typewriters of foreign correspondents may be turning out oceans of books, but each performs a vital function—painting an important segment of the background of the global struggle.


Typewriter Ribbons: Ring Lardner: He looked at me like I was a side dish he hadn’t ordered . . . Edith Wharton: A lady of energetic eyebrows . . . B. Alexander: Her wrinkles proved that time had dug in for a long stay . . . Margaret Bailey: She wore conviction like a well-cut gown . . . Anne Parrish: A face as calm as custard . . . O. Henry: She gave him a well-manicured glance of a cultured lady . . . John G. Pollard: Geneology means tracing yourself back to people better than you are . . . Samuel Butler: He was a famous bore forever wagging the tail of his good fortune . . . Anon: Before you give a man a Congressional seat find out what he stands for—and for what he won’t . . . Geo. J. Nathan: He has been the tin can to his own tail.

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