The New York Scene

Walter Winchell

Spartanburg Herald/March 19, 1940

The First Nights: Only one beginner hurdled the barricades of the theater last week, the loner being “Passenger to Bali.” Walter Huston, head man in the all-male ensemble, plays a man too tough to be landed at the ports of the Orient. Colin Keith-Johnson and Wm. Harrigan are other players who keep the vessel afloat. The freighter is a tramp, and many of the reviewers made one out of the play, too. John Mason ruling it “no more than a disappointingly zigzag” . . . Brooks Atkinson shed many a tea in his Sunday piece over the thitter’s current anemia. One of the causes, said he, was a shortage of good playwrights. On whose say-so? Producers whine that nobody is penning good things, but when you see what they consider good, you doubt if they’d know a winner even if Saroyan was sitting on it . . . And Hollywood can’t be blamed, either, for right now the studios are showing a few things better than the drama houses have got . . . The Critics’ Circle, which prefers to make its awards before the Pulitzer prizes are announced, in a dither this season . . . The Circlers have decided to wait for the new Robert E. Sherwood play, “Revelation” (due next month), before wasting their annual medal on “Time of Your Life”  . . . “Revelation” will have to be a revelation for its author to get the decoration he shouldn’t have lost by one vote last year.


The Magic Lanterns: W. C. Fields and Mae West ought to go to the woodshed for “My Little Chickadee.” each is so busy hogging footage that the story gets stamped to death—not that it doesn’t deserve to . . . On the brighter side there is “Road to Singapore” with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope being comical, and Miss Lamour being tropical. The melodies, not yet radio-ragged, are pleasant . . . Mickey Rooney reaches his cinematurity in an entertaining yarn called “Young Tom Edison.” What a man Edison would have been if he had Mickey’s get-up-and-git! . . . . Pete Smith’s new short (a 15-second quiz film) is a welcome novelty—but aren’t they usually? . . . New Yorkers do not appreciate how fortunate they are in having so many temples devoted exclusively to the showing of newsreels . . . In some cities a newsreel consists of three brief vies of icicles in New York, Miami Beach life guards being measured for their manliness by bathing beauts, and somebody winning a foot race some place. The reeel is shaved so closely to make room for some dull shorts falsely labeled “comedies” and long, dreary announcements of the next week’s attraction. A new way, no doubt, to ruin business.


The Wireless: “Johnny Got His Gun” rated high with the critics as a novel, and J. Cagney has very few superiors among actors. But linked up together on the air waves, with Cagney soloing a whole catalogue of sorrows, the thing made for tahsome ear-bending . . .  Kate Smith in her a.m. history recitals is good sap-boxing. One of us was halfway to the polls before he realized she hadn’t asked for his vote . . . It’s all to the radio’s good to have R. Vallee recaptured. Whether you like him or not (not saying we don’t), he’s the one headliner who isn’t afraid to load up his show with fresh talent. Some of the majors prepped on his carnival . . . Glenn Miller’s sponsors know constructive criticism when they see it. They’ve cut down on the cheering section, for which this admirer is ever so much obliged—tanques . . .The “So You Think You Know Music” announcer said “Next Sunday we will have as our guest star Hendrik Willem Van Loon, famous author, critic, philosopher, historian, artist, lecturer, and authority on the arts, who needs no introduction.”


The Story Tellers: Robert Allan cools off Sen. Wheeler’s White House dreams in Current History. The Montanan has a following, Mr. Allen admits, but isn’t bunched up enough to give him a good push . . . Read “The Dream of an M.P.” in the British Lilliput. It reveals that the Empahr’s Parliamentarians savvied the war threats better in their nightmares than when wide awake . . . Newsweek reproduces posters kidding the men who yearn to go to Washington. Best of the puns is on our Dist. Atty. which is “Dewey—Or Don’t We” . . .Matthew Biller’s “The Gemstock Lode,” an American ballad in the Mercury, is a natural for beer barrel harmonizing, just blue enough to outlaw the sopranos . . .John Bainbridge and Russell Maloney politely jeer at Henry Ford’s war-time peace ship in The New Yorker. And then add a quote rebuking the press for its shameful behavior at the time of the sailing! . . . The newest slick paper job is “The American Theater Magazine,” which ought to be encouraged . . . Petty’s girl in Esquire is now more attractive since Phil Stack’s verse is wed to her . . . Gene Tunney’s mag pieces were not ghosted by Prof. Buranelli, who did the editing . . .The Current Esteepee editorially pins the Commy tag on FDR while the Communistic Daily Worker calls him their biggest enemy. If you like puzzles try to solve that one.


The Front Pages: Byron Darnion’s articles in The Times on the Okies make good reading, but it must shame the daily to know it was scooped on the series by a novel and a movie, to wit: “Grapes of Wrath” . . .Neil MacNeill, of the West 43rd St. sheet, is blogging a daily in a book called “Without Fear or Favor” . . . How is the British propaganda busybody going to square himself with the U.S. Correspondents? Right up to signing time, his handouts pooh-poohed the Finnish-Bolo treaty, and the N.Y. sheets were out on the longest limb of the war . . . Harold Lavine and Jas. Wechsler are authoring a book on the war propaganda now flooding the States. If they just wait long enough, they needn’t bother. Most of it will debunk itself. Add Picturesque Reporting by Carol Frink, reviewing “Key Largo” for the Washington Times-Herald: “Slower than a Third-Term decision” . . . Could the attacks on J. Edgar Hoover have been inspired by the fear of the report here that the G-Man might be considered as a dark horse for the presidency? What dark horse could have a higher rating with the voters? When they start knocking you, as Confucius always say, it’s a sure sign that you’ve got them worried . . . Funny thing. The Finns were winning the war—but the Russians won the peace.


The Headliners: Declared Ingrid Bergman: “When I got off the boat with my little child, the press agents were upset” . . . Press agents don’t like babies. They dread the mental competition. . . Said George Brent: “It isn’t luck that controls what you do” . . . Being a sweepstakes winner can certainly change your way of living . . . Jane Wyman asserted: “The only time I look like anything is after dark” . . . It’s no trick to look good in the dark. . .  Marlene Dietrich’s remarkable remark: “I suppose nice legs are a good thing” . . . They’re responsible for your bread ad butter . . . Intoned Alice Fare: “If I had finished school and taken up typing, everything would have been simple. No reporters, no autographs, no costume fittings” . . . And no fame and fortune. Only subway rush hours and boy friends who don’t earn enough to get married . . . Chamberlain announced: “If Finland had requested troops we would have sent them” . . . Neville is always there with the lodine after the embalmer has arrived . . . Shrieked Smelly Pelley: “If I’m sent back to North Carolina they’ll abuse me physically!” . . . Afraid of his own medicine! . . . J. Barrymore said “I wanted to be an artist” . . . So he became a comic strip.