The Seven Lively Arts
by Gilbert Seldes

Before a Picture by Picasso

(pages 344-392)

Before a Picture by Picasso


For there are many arts, not among those we conventionally call "fine," which seem to me fundamental for living.


IT was my great fortune just as I was finishing this book to be taken by a friend to the studio of Pablo Picasso. We had been talking on our way of the lively arts; my companion denied none of their qualities, and agreed violently with my feeling about the bogus, what we called le grand Puccini. But he held that nothing is more necessary at the moment than the exercise of discrimination, that we must be on our guard lest we forget the major arts, forget even how to appreciate them, if we devote ourselves passionately, as I do, to the lively ones. Had he planned it deliberately he could not have driven his point home 'More deeply, for in Picasso's studio we found ourselves, with no more warning than our great admiration, in the presence of a masterpiece. We were not prepared to have an unframed canvas suddenly turned from the wall and to recognize immediately that one more had been added to the small number of the world's greatest works of art.

I shall make no effort to describe that painting. It isn't even important to know that I am right in my judgement. The significant and overwhelming thing to me was that I held the work a masterpiece and knew it to be contemporary. It is a pleasure to come upon an accredited masterpiece which preserve



its authority, to mount the stairs and see the Winged Victory and know that it is good. But to have the same conviction about something finished a month ago, contemporaneous in every aspect, yet associated with the great tradition of painting, with the indescribable thing we think of as the high seriousness of art and with a relevance not only to our life, but to life itself-that is a different thing entirely. For of course the first effect-after one had gone away and begun to be aware of effects-was to make one wonder whether it is worth thinking or writing or feeling about anything else. Whether, since the great arts are so capable of being practised to-day, it isn't sheer perversity to be satisfied with less. Whether praise of the minor arts isn't, at bottom, treachery to the great. I had always believed that there exists no such hostility between the two divisions of the arts which are honest-that the real opposition is between them, allied, and the polished fake. To that position I returned a few days later: it was a fortunate week altogether, for I heard the Sacre du Printemps of Strawinsky the next day, and this tremendous movement among the forgotten roots of being gave me reassurance.

More than that, I am convinced that if one is going to live fully and not shut oneself away from half of civilized existence, one must care for both. It is possible to do well enough with either, and much depends on how one derives pleasure from them. For


no one imagines that a pedant or a half-wit, enjoying a classic or a piece of ragtime, is actually getting all that the subject affords. For an intelligent human being knows that one difference between himself and the animals is that he can "live in the mind" to him there need be present no conflict between the' great arts and the minor; he will see, in the end, that they minister to each other.

Most of the great works of art have reference to our time only indirectly-as they and we are related to eternity. And we require arts which specifically refer to our moment, which create the image of our lives. There are some twenty workers in literature, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, and the dance who are doing this for us now and align it in such a manner as to associate our modern existence with that extraordinary march of mankind which we like to call the progress of humanity. It is not enough. In addition to them-in addition, not in place of them-we must have arts which, we feel, are for ourselves alone, which no one before us could have cared for so much, which no one after us will wholly understand. The picture by Picasso could have been admired by an unprejudiced critic a thousand years ago, and will be a thousand years hence. We require, for nourishment, something fresh and transient. It is this which makes jazz so much the characteristic art of our time and Jolson a more typical figure than Chaplin, who also is outside of time.


There must be ephemera. Let us see to it that they are good.

The characteristic of the great arts is high seriousness-it occurs in Mozart and Aristophanes and Rabelais and Moliere as surely as in Mischylus and Racine. And the essence of the minor arts is high levity which existed in the commedia dell'arte and exists in Chaplin, which you find in the music of Berlin and Kern (not "funny" in any case). It is a question of exaltation, of carrying a given theme to the "high" point. The reference in a great work of art is to something more profound; and no trivial theme has ever required, or had, or been able to bear, a high seriousness in treatment. Avoiding the question of creative genius, what impresses us in a work of art is the intensity or the pressure with which the theme, emotion, sentiment, even "idea" is rendered. Assuming that a blow from the butt of a revolver is not exactly artistic presentation, that "effectiveness" is not the only criterion, we have the beginning of a criticism of Esthetics. We know that the method does count, the creativeness, the construction, the form. We know also that while the part of humanity which is fully civilized will always care for high seriousness, it will be quick to appreciate the high levity of the minor arts. There is no conflict. The battle is only against solemnity which is not high, against ill-rendered profundity, against the shoddy and the dull.


I have allowed myself to catalogue my preferences; it is possible to set the bas's of them down in impersonal terms, in propositions:

That there is no opposition between the great and the lively arts.

That both are opposed in the spirit to the middle or bogus arts.

That the bogus arts are easier to appreciate, appeal to low

and mixed emotions, and jeopardize the purity of both the great and the minor arts.

That except in a period when the major arts flourish with

exceptional vigour, the lively arts are likely to be the most intelligent phenomena of their day.

That the lively arts as they exist in America to-day are

entertaining, interesting, and important.

That with a few exceptions these same arts are more interesting to the-adult cultivated intelligence than most of the things which pass for art in cultured society.

That there exists a "genteel tradition" about the arts which

has prevented any just appreciation of the popular arts, and that these have therefore missed the corrective criticism given to the serious arts, receiving instead only abuse.

That therefore the pretentious intellectual is as much responsible as any one for what is actually absurd and vulgar in the lively arts.

That the simple practitioners and simple admirers of the lively arts being uncorrupted by the bogus preserve a sure instinct for what is artistic in America.

And now a detour around two of the most disagreeable words in the language: high- and low-brow.

Pretense about these words and what they signify


makes all understanding of the lively arts impossible. The discomfort and envy which make these words vague, ambiguous, and contemptuous need not concern us; for they represent a real distinction, two separate ways of apprehending the world, as if it were palpable to one and visible to the other. In connection with the lively arts the distinction is clear and involves the third division, for the lively arts are created and admired chiefly by the class known as lowbrows, are patronized and, to an extent enjoyed, by the highbrows; and are treated as impostors and as contemptible vulgarisms by the middle class, those who invariably are ill at ease in the presence of great art until it has been approved by authority, those whom Dante rejected from heaven and hell alike, who blow neither hot nor cold, the Laodiceans.

Be damned to these last and all their tribe! There exists a small number of people who care intensely for the major and the minor arts and they are always being accused of cc not caring really" for the lively ones, of pretending to care, or of running away from "the ancient wisdom and austere control" of Greek architecture or from the intense passion of Dante, the purity of Bach, the great totality of what humankind has created in art. It is claimed, and here the professional lowbrow agrees, that these others cannot care for the lively arts', unless they romanticize them and find things in them which aren't there - at


least not for the "real" patrons of those arts-those who observe them without thinking about them.

Aren't they there, these secondary qualities! I take for example a sport instead of an art. Nothing about baseball interests me except the newspaper reports of the games, so I speak without prejudice. In the days of Babe Ruth I took the sun in the bleachers once and saw that heavy hitter do exactly what he had to do on his first appearance for the day-a straight, businesslike home run, much appreciated by the crowd, as any expert well-timed job is appreciated by Americans. The game that day went against the Yankees; they were two runs behind in the ninth, and with two men on base Ruth came up again. Again he hit a home run. And the crowd roaring its joy in victory exhaled two sighs, for the dramatic quality of the blow and for the lovely spiralling of the ball in its flight over the fence. "A beauty-a beauty"-you heard the expression a thousand timesand "He knows when to hit them." They would have roared, too, if he had hit a single, which, muffed, would have brought in the winning run. But they would not have said, "a beauty"-and as far as I am concerned that is proof enough that the appreciation of aesthetic qualities is universal. It isn't, thank Heaven, always put into words.

Take as another instance the fame of the Rath Brothers. They are acrobats who do difficult things, but there are others doing much the same sort of


thing without approaching the reclame of these two. Their appearance of ease is a delight; there is no strain, no swelling muscles, no visible exploitation of strength. The Hellenic philosopher who held that the arrow shot from the bow is never in motion, but at rest from second to second at the succeeding points of its trajectory, might have seen some ancient forerunners of these athletes, for each of their movements seems at once a sculptured rest and a passage into another pose. And that is precisely the quality which vaudeville and revue audiences care for, and in a groping way recognize as distinctive and fine. They may think that Greeks have been candy-vendors since the beginning of time and that Marathon was a racecourse; but they know what they like.

I do not see, therefore, that recognition of these aspects of the gay arts can in any way detract from actual enjoyment-on the contrary it adds. You see Charlie about to throw a mop; the boss enters; without breaking the line of his movement Charlie swoops to the floor and begins to scrub. The first, the essential thing, is the fun in the dramatic turn; but what makes it funny is that there is no jerk, no break in the line-the two things are so interwoven that you cannot separate them. And if anyone were actually entirely unconscious of the line, the fun would be lost; it would be Ham and Bud, not Charlie, for such a spectator. The question is only to what degree one can be conscious of it-for I have known intellectuals


who so reduced Charlie to angles that the angles no longer made them laugh. They have done the same with Massine and Nijinsky; they have followed the score so closely that they haven't heard the music and they correspond exactly to the man who bets on the game and doesn't see the play.

The life of the mind is supposed to be a terrible burden, ruining all the pleasures of the senses. This idea is carefully supported by "mental workers" (as they call themselves) and by the brainless. The truth is, of course, that when the mind isn't afflicted by a desire to be superior, it does nothing but multiply all the pleasures, and the intelligent spectator, in all conscience, feels and experiences more than the dull one. To such a spectator the lively arts have a validity of their own. He cares for them for themselves, and their relation to the other arts does not matter. It is only because the place of the common arts in decent society is always being called into question that the answer needs to be given. I do not suppose that my answer is final; but I feel sure that it must be given, as mine is, from the outside.'

I wrote once, and was properly rapped over the knuckles for writing, that it wasn't to escape Bach, but to escape Puccini, that one played Berlin. Mr. Haviland, whom I have quoted frequently, replied that those who really cared for jazz cared for it, not as an escape from any other art. I had not intended to write an apology; only, since I was replying to the usual attack on the jazz arts, I wanted to indicate that in addition to their primary virtues they have this great secondary one, that when we are too fed up with bad drawing, bad music, bad acting, and second-rate sentiment, we can be sure of consolation in the lively arts.


It happens that what we call folk music, folk dance, and the folk arts in general have only a precarious existence among us; the "reasons" are fairly obvious. And the popular substitutes for these arts are so much under our eyes and in our ears that we fail to recognize them as decent contributions to the richness and intensity of our lives. The result, strange as it may appear to devotees of culture, is that our major arts suffer. The poets, painters, composers who withdraw equally from the main stream of European tradition and from the untraditional natural expressions of America, have no sources of strength, no material to work with, no background against which they can see their shadows; they feel themselves disinherited of the future as well as the past.

At the same time the contempt we have for the lively arts hurts them as much as it hurts us. We have all heard of the "great artist of the speaking stage" who will not lower himself by appearing on the screen; as familiar is the vaudevillian who will call himself an artist and has hankerings for the legit; we have seen good dancers become bad actors, good black-face comedians develop alarming tendencies toward singing sentimental ballads in whiskytenor voices, good comic-strip artists beginning to do bad book illustrations. The "step upward" is never in the direction of superior work, but toward a more rarefied acclaim. They are like a notable novelist who has for years tried unsuccessfully to write a fail-


ure, because he has only one standard of artistic Success: popularity-but in reverse.

As these artists suffer under opprobrium and try to avoid it by touching the field of the faux bon, their work becomes more and more refined and genteel. The broadness, rough play, vitality, diminish gradually -until a sort of Drama League seriousness and church-sociable good form are both satisfied. And all the more's the pity, for the thinning out of our lives goes on from day to day and these lively arts are the only things which can keep us hard and robust and gay. In America, where there is no recognized upper class to please, no official academic

requirements to meet, the one tradition of gentility is as lethal as all the conventions of European society, and unlike those of Europe our tradition provides no nourishment for the artist. It is negative all the way through.

In spite of gentility the lively arts have held to something a little richer and gayer than the polite ones. They haven't dared to be frank, for a spurious sense of decency is backed by the police, and this limitation has hurt them; but it has made them sharp and clever by forcing their wit into deeper channels. There still exists a broadness in slap-stick comedy and in burlesque, and once in a while vast figures of Rabelaisian comedy occur. For the most part the lively arts are inhibited by the necessity to provide nice clean fun for the whole family - a regrettable,


but inevitable penalty for their universal appeal. For myself, I should like to see a touch more of grossness and of license in these arts; it would be a sign that the blood hadn't gone altogether pale, and that we can still roar cheerfully at dirty jokes, when they are funny.

What Europeans feel about American art is exactly the opposite of what they feel about American life. Our life is energetic, varied, constantly changing; our art is imitative, an2mic (exceptions in both cases being assumed). The explanation is that few Europeans see our lively arts, which are almost secret to us, like the mysteries of a cult. Here the energy of America does break out and finds artistic expression for itself. Here a wholly unrealistic, imaginative presentation of the way we think and feel is accomplished. No single artist has yet been great enough to do the whole thing-but together the minor artists of America have created the American art. And if we could for a moment stop wanting our artistic expression to be necessarily in the great artist will be that in time-we should gain infinitely.

Because, in the first place, the lively arts have never had criticism. The box-office is gross; it detects no errors, nor does it sufficiently encourage improvement. Nor does abuse help. There is good professional criticism in journals like Variety, The Billboard, and the moving-picture magazines-some of them. But the lively arts can bear the same


continuous criticism which we give to the major, and if the criticism itself isn't bogus there is no reason why these arts should become self-conscious in any pejorative sense. In the second place the lively arts which require little intellectual effort will more rapidly destroy the bogus than the major arts ever can. The close intimacy between high seriousness and high levity, the thing that brings together the

extremes touching at the points of honesty and simplicity and intensity-will act like the convergence of two armies to squeeze out the bogus. And the

moment we recognize in the lively arts our actual form of expression, we will derive from them the same satisfaction which people have always derived

from an art which was relevant to their existence. The nature of that satisfaction is not easily described. One thing we know of it-that it is pure. And in the extraordinarily confused and chaotic world we live in we are becoming accustomed to demand one thing, if nothing else-that the elements presented to us however they are later confounded with others, shall be of the highest degree in their kind, of an impeccable purity.


"THE egregious merit of Chaplin," says T. S. Eliot, "is that he has escaped in his own way from the realism of the cinema and invented a rhythm. Of course the unexplored opportunities of the cinema f r eluding realism must be very great."

It amused me once, after seeing The Pawnshop, to write down exactly what had happened. Later I checked up the list, and I print it here. I believe that Chaplin is so great on the screen, his effect so complete, that few people are aware, afterward, of how much he has done. Nor can they be aware of how much of Chaplin's work is "in his own way"-

even when he does something which another could have done he 'adds to it a touch of his own. I do not pretend that the following analysis is funny; it may be useful: Charlot enters the pawnshop; it is evident that he is late. He compares his watch with the calendar pad hanging on the wall, and hastily begins to make up for lost time by entering the back room and going busily to work. He takes a duster out of a valise and meticulously dusts his walking-stick. Then proceeding to other objects, he fills the room with clouds of dust, and when he begins to dust the electric fan, looking at something else, the feathers are blown all over the room. He turns and sees the plucked butt of the duster-and carefully puts it away for to-morrow.

With the other assistant he takes a ladder and a


bucket of water and goes out to polish the three balls and the shop sign. After some horseplay he rises to the top of the ladder and reaches over to polish the sign; the ladder sways, teeters, with Charlot on top of it. A policeman down the street looks aghast, and sways sympathetically with the ladder. Yet struggling to keep his balance, Charlot is intent on his work, and every time the ladder brings him near the sign he dabs frantically at it until he falls.

A quarrel with his fellow-worker follows. The man is caught between the rungs of the ladder, his arms imprisoned. Charlot calls a boy over to hold the other end of the ladder and begins a boxing match. Although his adversary is incapable of moving his arms, Charlot sidesteps, feints, and guards, leaping nimbly away from imaginary blows. The policeman interferes and both assistants run into the shop. By a toss of a coin Charlot is compelled to go back to fetch the bucket. He tiptoes behind the policeman, snatches the bucket, and with a wide swing and a swirling motion evades the policeman and returns. He is then caught by the boss in another fight and is discharged.

He makes a tragic appeal to be reinstated. He says he has eleven children, so high, and so high, and so high-until the fourth one is about a foot taller than himself. The boss relents only as Charlot's stricken figure is at the door. As he is pardoned, Charlot leaps upon the old boss, twining his legs


around his abdomen; he is thrown off and surreptitiously kisses the old man's hand. He goes into the kitchen to help the daughter and passes dishes through the clothes wringer to dry them-passes a

cup twice, as it seems not to be dry the first time. Then his hands. The jealous assistant provokes a

fight; Charlot has a handful of dough and is about to throw it when the boss appears. With the same motion Charlot flings the dough into the wringer,

passes it through as a pie crust, seizes a pie plate, trims the crust over it, and goes out to work.

At the pawnshop counter pass a variety of human beings. Charlot is taken in by a sob story about

a wedding ring; he tries to test the genuineness of goldfish by dropping acid on them. Sent to the back room, he 'takes his lunch out of the safe, gets into another fight, in which he is almost beating his rival to death when the girl enters. Charlot falls whimpering to the floor and is made much of. He returns to the counter and the episode of the clock begins.

A sinister figure enters, offering a clock in pawn. Charlot looks at it; then takes an auscultator and listens to its heart-beat; then taps it over crossed fingers for its pulmonary action; then taps it with a little hammer to see the quality, as with porcelain; then snaps his thumb on the bell. He takes an augur and bores a hole in it; then a can-opener, and when he has pried the lid off he smells the contents and with a disparaging gesture makes the owner smell


them, too. He then does dentistry on it, with forceps; then plumbing. Finally he screws a jeweler's magnifying glass into his eye and hammers what is left in the clock, shakes out the contents, measures the mainspring from the tip of his nose to arm's length, like cloth, squirts oil on the debris to keep it (quiet, and, lifting the man's hat from his head, sweeps the whole mess into it and returns it with a sad shake of the head.

A pearl-buyer has meanwhile come in and Charlot retraces his steps to the back room (carefully stepping over the buyer's hat) and begins to sweep. His broom becomes entangled with a piece of tape, which fights back and gets longer and longer. Suddenly Charlot begins to tight-rope upon it, balancing with the broom, and making a quick turn, coming forward for applause. A final quarrel with the other assistant ensues. As they are swarming round the legs of the kitchen table, the boss comes in and Charlot flees, leaps into a trunk, and is hidden. As the others enter the room, the pearl-buyer, who has stolen all the valuables, holds them up with a revolver. Charlot leaps from the trunk, fells the robber, and embraces the lovely maiden for a fade-out.

All of this takes about thirty minutes. I have put down nearly everything, for Chaplin is on the scene virtually all of the time. I am fairly certain that ninety per cent. of this film could not have been made, even badly, by anyone else. Analysis of A


Dog's Life would give the same result: the arrival at the climax being a little more certain and the drama of the climax (the curtain scene-compared with the clock scene above) being more involved in the course of action.

Here follows a complete list of all of the pictures in which Charlie Chaplin has appeared-all of those officially recognized by him:

Keystone-1914: Making a Living, Mabel's Strange Predicament, The Kid Auto Racers, His Favorite Pastime, The Film Johnny, The Cruel Cruel Love, The Dogcatcher, Mabel at the Wheel, The Star Boarder, Twenty Minutes of Love, Caught in the Rain, Tillie's Punctured Romance, The Rounders, The Knockout, Caught in the Cabaret, A Gentleman of Nerve, Mabel's Busy Day, Mabel's Married Life, Dough & Dynamite, His Trysting Place, Laughing Gas, His Prehistoric Past, Half Reel Scenic Yosemite Valley.

Essanay Film Company--1915-i6: His New Job, A Night Out, The Champion, The Tramp, The Jitney Elopement, In the Park, By the Sea, The Woman, The Bank, Work, A Night in the Show, Shanghaied, Carmen, Police.

Mutual Film Company- 19 16-17: The Floorwalker, The Fireman, The Vagabond, One A. M.,



The Count, Behind the Screen, The Rink, The Pawnshop, Easy Street, The Cure, The Immigrant, The Adventurer.

First National, 918-23: Shoulder Arms, Sunnyside, The Idle Class, Pay Day, A Dog's Life, The Kid, A Day's Pleasure, The Pilgrim.



IT was not my happiness to have heard Yes; We Have No Bananas first in America: and to understand phenomena one must know them in their natural setting. The phrase itself was created, or brought to notice, by Tad; as I have said in my wholly inadequate reference to his work, he is a master of slang and a creator of it; some acknowledgment to him might well appear on the cover of the song. His use of it was immeasurably more delicate and more amusing than the song, because he used it as a contradiction of all the blah and high-hat nonsense in the world; it is in his hands fantastic, funny, and impertinently pertinent. In the song I can't see it; nor am I exceptionally taken with the music, which is largely synthetic.

However, if I cannot understand the success of the song (or misunderstand it, for it seems to me to be "merely" popular) there are those who understand better. I do not think that my quite secondary powers of analysis would have risen to the following, by J. W. T. Mason, correspondent of the London Daily Express, in New York:

New York slang usually changes monthly. Of late there has been a falling off in inspiration, and picturesque argot culled from the city's polyglot interminglings has fallen sadly behind New York's quick-witted reputation. At last, however, after months of waiting a creative effort has been made, and one of the most effective phrases descriptive of life in New York has resulted.


One hears it on the stage, in the drawing-room, in the kitchen, on the streets, everywhere - "Yes; we have no bananas." A song has been written about it, and is the musical rage of the moment.

Cardboard imitations of bunches of bananas are making their appearance bearing the legend, "Yes; we have no bananas." Business men hang these ornaments in their offices, as a reminder that, after all, there must be a way out of every difficulty. The phrase originated in the fruit shops kept in New York by Greeks, Italians, and Jews, whose knowledge of the English language is limited in verbiage, but not in volubility, nor in willingness to try.

These ancient races come to the New World for profit, and never like to turn a customer away. So they have evolved a curious positive and negative for the same sentence. Why the slangmakers hit on bananas has not been discovered. It might as well have been any other commodity. But the phrase means that one having asked for bananas in a fruit shop where there are none, the anxious proprietor, seeking to be ingratiating and not desiring to displease, answers: 'Yes; we have no bananas.' Thereupon he may seek to sell a cabbage or a bunch of beets instead, since most fruit shops in New York are vegetable establishments as well.

The phrase is a tribute to the optimism of the newly arrived immigrant; to his earnest fight to master the language of his temporary country, and so, somehow, is supposed to take on the American characteristic of ('getting there," even though by way of an affirmative in a negative sentence.

It is, I believe, a generation at least since the English began to say "Yes I don't think." And they talk about the cable having brought the two countries closer together. 0 God! 0 Montreal'





I Hate to Get the Morning Yip-Yip-Yap-

Midnight Leaves for That Mesmerizing Mendelssohn Tune

Kiss Me

Wild Cherry

Call Me Up Some Rainy Next to Your Mother

Afternoon Who Do You Love

Grizzly Bear Sweet Italian Love


When I Lost You I Want to Be in Dixie

When I Leave the World Keep Away from the Fel-

Behind low Who Owns an

Alexander's Automobile

Band International Rag

Oh, How In My Harem

Up in Snooky-Ookums

(From Somebody's Coming to

hank) My House

Everybody's Doing It You've Got Your

I Want to Go Back to Mother's Big B I u e

Michigan Eyes

Ragtime Violine Araby

When That' My Bird of Paradise

Choo-Choo This Is the Life

Alabam' They're on Their Way to

Mysterious Rag Mexico

Yiddle, On Your Fiddle He's a Devil in His Own

My Wife's Gone to the Home Town

Country He's a Rag-picker

Along Came Ruth

Sadie Salome, Go Home

Piano Man

When I'm Alone I'm


Ragtime Soldier Boy

Goody - Goody - Goody -

Goody - Good

Pullman Porters on Pa-


At the Devil's Ball

Old Maids' Ball

San Francisco Bound

If You Don't Want Me,

Why Do You Hang


Down in Chattanooga

When It's Night Time

Down in Dixieland

If That's Your Idea of a

Wonderful Time, Take

Me Home

The Hula-Hula

Girl on the Magazine

I'm Gonna Pin My

Medal on the Girl I

Left Behind

Settle Down in a One

Horse Town (From

Watch Your Step)

Mandy (From Ziegfeld


A Pretty Girl is Like a

Melody (From Zieg.

feld Follies)

Some One Else May Be

There While I'm Gone

My Sweetie

Good-bye, France

The Hand That Rocked

My Cradle Rules My


I've Got My Captain

Working for Me Now

You'd Be Surprised

If I'd Have My Way

Cover (Id Be a Farmer)

I Love a Piano Nobody Knows and No

The Ragtime Melodrama body Seems to Care

When I Get Back to the I Never Knew

U. S. A. Homesick

(From Stop! Look! All by Myself

and Listen!) Some Sunny Day


WHEN YOU Walked Out


Say It With Music

Everybody Step

Music Box REVUE, 1923: Lady of the Evening

Crinoline Days

Pack UP Your Sins


By John Murray Anderson and Irving Qtsar

The scene it is Alaska and beneath the setting sun

We see a brave young miner toiling

He's thinking of the home folks and w there.

To a humble little shack he dot hen his day's work is done,

He's dreaming of the happy days h repair.

When he was but a boy

The places he frequented long ago;

On memories' '

wings he flies again to his dear Mother's knee.

'Tis then we hear him whisper soft and low.


Good-bye to dear old Alaska.

I'm going across the sea,

Back to the dear old home land,

MY country, the land of the free. can Picture a love nest at twilight

Where the old folks for me sit and pine,

So good-bye, Alaska, for I'm going home

To that old-fashioned mother of mine.

Once again the scene is changed he3s on a special train

And lands down at the Batter'y safe and sound.

He wends his way on Broadway and on every side again

The old familiar faces can be found.



He lingers but a moment as he passes City Hall,

And there he hears the national anthem sung,

And just to prove he's Yankee, aye, Yankee through and through, He sings the chorus in his native tongue.

-Sung by Jack Hazzard in "The Greenwich Village Follies," with dissolving views by Walter Hoban.


Words by Edgar Smith. Music by A. Baldwin Sloane. Copyright, igog, by Charles K. Harris. British copyright secured.

A village maid was leaving home, with tears her eyes were wet. Her mother dear was standing near the spot;

She says to her: "Neuralgia dear, I hope you won't forget That I'm the only mother you have got.

The city is a wicked place, as any one can see, And cruel dangers 'round your path may hurl;

So ev'ry week you'd better send your wages back to me, For Heaven will protect a working girl.



"You are going far away, but remember what I say,

When you are in the city's giddy whirl,

From temptations, crimes, and follies, villains, taxicabs and trolleys,

Oh! Heaven will protect the working girl."

Her dear old mother's words proved true, for soon the poor girl met

A man who on her ruin was intent;

He treated her respectful as those villains always do,

And she supposed he was a perfect gent.


But she found different when one night she went with him to dine

Into a table d'h6te so blithe and gay.

And he says to her: "After this we'll have a demi-tasse!"

Then to him these brave words the girl did say:


"Stand back, villain; go your way! here I will no longer stay,

YoAlthough You were a marquis or an earl;

u may tempt the upper classes with your villainous demi tasses,

But Heaven will protect the working girl."



I CANNOTwrite about Eva Tanguay-not in the way of Aleister Crowley, at any rate. Here are fragments from his appreciation:

Eva Tanguay! It is the name which echoed in the Universe when the Sons of the Morning sang together and shouted for joy, and the stars cried aloud in their courses! I have no words to hymn her glory, nay, not if I were Shelley and Swinburne and myself in one-I must write of her in cold prose, for any art of mine would be but a challenge; I rather make myself passive and still, that her divine radiance may be free to illumine the theme. Voco! per nomen nefandum voco. Te voco! Eva veni!

Eva Tanguay is the soul of America as its most desperate eagle-flight: . Her spirit is tense and quivering, like the violin of Paganini in its agony, or like an arrow of Artemis-it is my soul that she hath pierced!

The American Genius is unlike all others. The "cultured" artist, in this country, is always a mediocrity. Longfellow, Bryant, Emerson, Washington Irving, Hawthorne, a thousand others, all prove that thesis. . . .

Eva Tanguay is the perfect American artist. She is alone. She is the Unknown Goddess. She is ineffably, infinitely sublime; she is starry chaste in her colossal corruption. In Europe men obtain excitement through Venus, and prevent Venus from freezing by invoking Bacchus and Ceres, as the poet bids. But in America sex-excitement has been analyzed; we recognize it to be merely a particular case of a general proposition, and we proceed to find our pleasure in the wreck of the nervous system as a whole, instead of a mere section of it. The daily rush of New York resembles the effect of Cocaine; it is a universal stimulation, resulting in a premature general collapse; and Eva Tanguay is the perfect artistic expression of this. She is Manhattan, most loved, most hated, of all cities, whose soul is a


Delirium beyond Time and Space. Wine? Brandy! Absinthe? Bah! such mother-milk is for the babes of effete Europe; we know better. Drunkenness is a silly partial exaltation, feeble device of most empirical psychology; it cannot compare with the adult, the transcendental delights of pure madness. . . . Why titillate one poor nerve? why not excite all together? Leave sentiment to Teutons, passion and romance to Latins, spirituality to Slavs; for us is cloudless, definite, physiological pleasure!

Eva Tanguay is exactly and scientifically-this Soul of America. She steps upon the stage, and I come into formal consciousness of myself in accurate detail as the world vanishes. She absorbs me, not romantically, like a vampire, but definitely, like an anaesthetic, soul, mind, body, with her first gesture. She is not dressed voluptuously, as others dress; she is like the hashish dream of a hermit who is possessed of the devil. She cannot sing, as others sing; or dance, as others dance. She simply keeps on vibrating, both limbs and vocal chords without rhythm, tone, melody, or purpose. She has the quality of Eternity; she is metaphysical motion. She eliminates repose. She has my nerves, sympathetically irritated, on a razor-edge which is neither pleasure nor pain, but sublime and immedicable stimulation. I feel as if I were poisoned by strychnine, so far as my body goes; I jerk, I writhe, I twist, I find no ease; and I know absolutely that no ease is possible. For my mind, I am like one who has taken an overdose of morphine and, having absorbed the drug in a wakeful mood, cannot sleep, although utterly tired out. And for my soul? Oh! Oh!-Oh! "Satan prends pitie' de ma longue misre!" Other women conform to the general curve of Nature, to the law of stimulation followed by exhaustion; and by recuperation after rest. Not so she, the supreme abomination of Ecstasy! She is perpetual irritation without possibility of satisfaction, an Avatar of sex-insomnia. Solitude of the Soul, the Worm that dieth not; ah, me! She


is the Vulture of Prometheus, and she is the Music of Mitylene. She is the one perfect Artist in this way of Ineffable Grace which is Damnation. Marie Lloyd in England, Yvette Guilbert in France, are her sisters in art: but they both promise Rest in the end. The rest of Marie Lloyd is sleep, and that of Yvette Guilbert death; but the lovers of Eva Tanguay may neither sleep nor die. I could kill myself at this moment for the wild love of her. .

And so on-until French intervenes.



Mr John Alden Carpenter has been good enough to permit me to reprint the programme note attached to his ballet of Krazy Kat, performed Friday, January 20, 1922, at the Town Hall, in New York, and several times thereafter. The piano transcription of the score, decorated with many attractive designs by Herriman, is published. The note is:

To all lovers of Mr Herriman's ingenious and delightful cartoons it must have seemed inevitable that sooner or later Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse would be dragged by some composer into music. I have tried to drag them not only into music but on to the stage as well, by means of what I have called, for obvious reasons, a Jazz Pantomime.

To those who have not mastered Mr Herriman's psychology it may be explained that Krazy Kat is the world's greatest optimist-Don Quixote and Parsifal rolled into one. It is therefore possible for him to maintain constantly at white heat a passionate affair with Ignatz Mouse, in which the gender of each remains ever a delightful mystery. Ignatz, on the other hand, condenses in his sexless self all the cardinal vices. If Krazy blows beautiful bubbles, Ignatz shatters them; if he builds castles in Spain, Ignatz is there with a brick. In short, he is meaner than anything, and his complex is cats.

After a few introductory bars the curtain is raised and Krazy is discovered asleep under a tree. Officer Pup passes, swinging his club. All is well. Then comes Bill Poster, a canine relative of Officer Pup, with his bucket and brush, and pastes upon the wall an announcement of the grand ball which will shortly be given for all the animals. The job finished, Bill departs.

Krazy wakes up; he rubs his eyes and reads the exciting poster. He is moved to try his steps; he finds his feet heavy


and numerous. Of a sudden he spies on a clothes line which the moving scenery has brought into view, a ballet skirt. Undoubtedly it is his costume for the ball. He approaches the clothes line, first with restraint, then with eagerness. He snatches the skirt from the line, claps it on, and comes bounding forward in high abandon.

He is interrupted by the appearance of Old Joe Stork, drilling by with his bundle on his back. He passes on, but he has carelessly dropped his pack. Krazy sniffs at it, filled with curiosity. He picks it up and carries it triumphantly to his tree in the corner. He opens the bundle, and finds that it contains not what you thought it would, but a vanity case, mirror, rouge, powder-puff, lip-stick and all, complete, including a beautiful pair of white cotton gloves.

He abandons himself to the absorbing task of make-up for the ball. Meanwhile the moving scenery has brought into view the house of Ignatz Mouse. The door opens, and Ignatz' head appears. Opportunity has knocked. The Mouse steals forward and is about to seize an inviting brick when Officer Pup (thank heaven!) arrives in the very nick of time and drives him from the scene. The unsuspecting Kat, in the meantime, has completed his make-up. He now arises, draws on his white cotton gloves, and then by way of further preparatory exercise, he indulges in a bit of a Spanish dance.

At its conclusion Krazy is suddenly confronted by the Mysterious Stranger. The sophisticated audience will observe that it is none other than Ignatz disguised as a catnip merchant. Very formidable indeed! The Stranger steps briskly forward and holds out to the ever-receptive Kat a bouquet-an enormous bouquet of catnip. Krazy plunges his nose into the insidious vegetable, inhales deeply to the very bottom of his lungs, and then goes off at once into what Mr Herriman calls a Class A fit. It is a fit progressive, a fit de luxe, the Katnip Blues, in which the wily Ignatz joins as additional incitement. When the frenzy


has achieved its climax, the Mouse throws off his disguise, seizes his brick, dashes it full in the face of the Kat, and escapes. Krazy staggers back, stunned and exhausted, but yet undaunted. There is the moment of ecstatic recognition-Ignatz Dahlinkas he totters and reels back to his little tree. He sinks down wearily under its protecting boughs. The moon comes out. Krazy sleeps. Krazy dreams. Indominatable Kat!


great grace. His little trick of taking a glass full of beer out of his pocket at the end of each tumble is not new, but he does it extremely well, and he has the sense of gait as well as the sense of costume and impression.



IT begins to look as if we will have to find a new explanation for the French. Since that would be

difficult, I suggest that we hold fast to the old one, with variations. Let us continue to say that they are moribund and explain any outburst of activity as a death struggle. The last gasp. History provides

plenty of precedent, and we who find pleasant things in their art and letters will rank ourselves with those cultivated persons who cannot begin to care for Latin until it becomes a highly corrupt language.

I do not know whether seeing new opportunities and developing them quickly are the best signs of

degeneracy, for I seem to remember reading about these things in the advertisements, where nothing as irrevocable as degeneracy is permitted. The adaptability of the moving picture scenario to something be-

sides moving pictures was a thing easy to guess; the thing has been done in both America and

England in burlesque of the films-an adaptation requiring and receiving very little intelligence.

It may be slightly beside the point, but it is interesting to note that the cinema influence in literature in France is almost exactly opposite to what it is here. There it seems to make for brevity, hardness,

clarity, brilliance. You will find it in the extraord' nary stories of Paul Morand and Louis Aragon; and

you will find in neither of these those characteristic sloppinesses which American authors are beginning to blame on the movies. If they would take the trouble


of studying the pictures, instead of trying to make money out of them, and discover the elements in the cinema technique which are capable of making their own work fruitful, we might have better novels, and we certainly would have a few less bad pictures.

Two Frenchmen have, at the same time, used the scenario as a method of fiction, and each of them has written a highly ironic piece which is capable of being transferred to the film, but which reads sufficiently well to be considered as an end in itself.

Blaise Cendrars, poet, responsible for the Anthologie N~gre, is the author of La Fin du Monde and of La Perle Fie'vreuse; the second of these is running as a serial in a Belgian magazine, Signaux. Both are called Novels; the third instalment of The Pearl adding the word cinematographic. The End of the World is a cosmic cinema-novel in fifty-five Swift, concisely told scenes.

It deals with a sort of deity, resident on a planet accessible to all the mechanical comforts of this earth, who is induced to travel to Mars as a propagandist for his own religion. Like many propagandists he errs in his psychology and, in a Billy Sunday frenzy of the imagination, shows the Martians all the cruelties his religion is capable of. Too late he learns that "the Martians are disillusioned and confirmed pacifists, iodophages living on the peptonic vapours of human blood, but incapable of bearing the sight of the least cruelty." The mission failing, he decides to


make good on certain prophecies uttered in his name. The following scenes are left a little in the air; con!tinuity is lacking. One begins again with the sculptured angel on Notre Dame blowing a blast on her trumpet and the whole world rushing towards Paris and crumbling into dust. Thereafter, with the aid of retarded and accelerated projection, we see the world slowly dissolving into its elements, through those stages so graphically presented to us by H. G. Wells. There is chaos, and then annihilation.

And then, by an accident in the projection room, the film begins to reverse and so, naturally, one gropes upward out of the slime and returns to the first scene-to which is added the single phrase "It's bankruptcy." It opens with the deity "at his American (roll-top) desk. He hastily signs innumerable letters. He is in his shirt sleeves with a green eye-shade on his forehead. He rises, lights a big cigar, looks at his watch, strides nervously up and down the room

He makes notes

the ash which falls from Suddenly he snatches 'phone furiously. . .

on his pad and blows away

his cigar between the leaves.

the telephone and begins to

That is American movie technique which M Cen

drars has evidently learned all too well, because he

uses it, in all its tedious detail, in La Perle Fie'

vreuse, for which he is publishing not a scenario but a

director's script, with the cutbacks and visions and

close-ups all numbered and marked. It is in the


manner of the old Biograph movies with what may turn out to be not such innocent fun at the expense of the detective film. Among its characters are Max Trick, director of Trick's Criminal Courier, the great daily which specializes in criminal news. He is marked "Type: le President Taft" and is first shown in his office with twenty-five telephones in front of him; among his collaborators are Nick Carter and Arseine Lupin, Conan Doyle and Maurice Leblanc.

What Jules Romains has accomplished is much more remarkable, for he has pushed the method of the cinema forward a long and significant step, and, while using everything it can give, he has produced a first class work of fiction. The plot of DonogooTonka you will see at once, is entirely suitable to filming; it is not perhaps suitable to commercial success, but that can be, if it isn't, another matter.

It begins in Paris with the unfortunate Lamendin, who is about to commit suicide. A friend gives him a card with the legend: "Before committing suicide . . . don't fail to read the other side," and on the reverse is the advertisement of Professor Miguel Rufisque, director of the Institute of Biometric Psychotherapy, who guarantees to give you, within seven days, a violent love of life. Lamendin goes to the consulting room and after a fantastic examination is given certain instructions which eventually land him in the library of Prof. Yves Trouhadec, a geographer. Trouhadec would be certain of election to the Geo-


graphic Institute if he hadn't, many years before, placed on a map of South America the wholly imaginary town of Donogoo-Tonka, in the gold-mining area. Lamendin now proposes to float a company, start an expedition, and insure the Professor's election by actually creating the place.

In the second reel Donogoo-Tonka is launched; in the third we have adventurers in all parts of the world preparing to rush the gold fields, while Lamendin tarries at home making fake moving pictures of the place. At the end of the reel the adventurers have penetrated into the heart of the South American desert and, too wearied to go forward, aware of the deception practised upon them, encamp where they are. Derisively they call the place Donogoo-Tonka.

Later, a second group of adventurers comes. They are disappointed in the look of the place. But they are interested to hear that gold is being found; and while Lamendin at last sets sail, the DonogooTonka Central Bar and the London & DonogooTonka's Splendid Hotel are going up; it is obviously the intention of the earlier arrivals to mulct the later.

And then, of course, gold really is found in the river bed and the price of all provisions goes up fif ty per cent.

Regrettably, en voyage, Lamendin tells his pioneers that Donogoo does not exist. On his arrival at Rio de Janeiro he receives a cable from the Professor, demanding immediate results; and as he turns


in despair he reads the announcement by Agence Meyer-Kohn, of the next caravan to the gold fields of Donogoo-Tonka. He arrives; he takes possession; he founds an empire, in which the religion of Scientific Error is established. Trouhadec, still living, is deified; he becomes Trouhadec, Father of his Country. The utility of geography is one of the prescribed subjects for public lectures intelligent than most of the adventure things one sees in the movies. It is in the detail and in the presentation of an idea, the idea of scientific error, that M Romains has pressed beyond the professional technique of the moving picture without once exceeding its natural limitations. For instance in the waiting room where Lamendin sits with the other would-be suicides:

"Absurdity, given off by so many brains, becomes palpable. One begins to distinguish a sort of very subtle exhalation which disengages itself from the human bodies and little by little charges the atmosphere." The settings in this scene are very much in the manner of Caligari. Or there is the debate in the soul of Professor Trouhadec who knows that he will profit by a fraud. From the beginning the spectator must realize that the debate is only on the surface; that in his heart Trouhadec is going to accept; the spectator is to see him thinking of truth with a capital T and, much deeper down, of himself as a member of the Institute. Just as in the exploitation


of Donogoo-Tonka we see a man coming up the steps of a subway station with the words Donogoo-Tonka written on every step; until, as he emerges, his skull ceases to be opaque, and we see the twelve little letters dancing in his brain. M Romains has even carried the thing over into Keystone farce, so sure is he of his medium. During one of the lectures "his eloquence is so persuasive, his thought opens such penetrating channels into human nature that, little by little, little by little, a soft down begins to sprout on the bald head" of a man in the audience. (Ca c'est du Cinema, as M Cendrars says.

M Romains has also a complete understanding of projection. He protests, in a preface, against the monotonous speeding-up of pictures and urges that this one be taken and shown in the rhythm of ordinary life, with a shading toward slow, especially in the scenes "where the only events which pass before us are the thoughts of the characters" (required reading for Mr Griffith and Mr de Mille for one year is in those words). - In the scenes which exploit the shares in Donogoo-Tonka we enter into the minds of individuals, of groups, of crowds; at the end the very framework of a building succumbs to the madness of the idea. And then, with a technical mastery not yet put into practise, M Romains directs that the various scenes just projected be shown again, side by side, with a gradually accelerated rhythm. In the scenes of the adventurers we get glimpses at Marseilles,


London, Naples, Porto, Singapore, San Francisco; then we see the groups starting out; the lines of their voyage converge. These scenes are projected first in succession and then simultaneously. Each time we see them we recognize some of the individuals we have seen before. "And when by chance the faces are turned towards us, we have a feeling that they, too, recognize us." The cinema has not yet accomplished that; chiefly, I fancy, because it never has been asked to.

M Romains is the prophet of unanisme, and it would be remarkable if he did not use the moving picture to push his point. The end of DonogooTonka is pure poetry.

The horizon has receded before the Palace and the chief figures look out into a light which has its own laws. Paris appears deep in the background. "But so close, perhaps, that we are troubled to see it and would like to fall back a step.

"As if, yielding to friendly pressure, the world has renounced for one evening its concept of space and all its habits."



I OWE so much to others in connexion with this book that if I were to set down the names and the reasons it would appear, quite properly, that I have done little except collect and theorize about material presented to me; it might also appear that I wish to make others responsible. Virtually everyone I know has contributed something-and in many cases they did so before I had thought of writing this book. I can therefore make only specific acknowledgments. Above all to two managing editors, John Peale Bishop and Edmund Wilson, Jr., of Vanity Fair and to their editor, Frank Crowninshield; they pub-lished several essays which later served as the raw material for chapters here, published portions of other chapters written expressly for this book, and otherwise encouraged and prospered me-to such an extent that I owe to them and to my fellow-editors of the Dial the holiday which made it possible for me to write at all. Except as otherwise acknowledged, the illustrations are reproduced with the permission of the artists; in addition, I have to thank the editors of the two journals mentioned for joining their permission in the case of work they originally reproduced, the firm of Albert and Charles Boni for the liberal use of Frueh's Stage Folk, and H. T. Parker of the Boston Transcript for letting me reprint A Conversation in Old Athens. For technical information and exceptionally painstaking criticism I am indebted to Sara and Gerald Murphy, Martin Brown, Alexander



Steinert, Deems Taylor, Lewis Galantie're, H. K. Moderwell, and Dorothy Butler; for the material in the appendix to Charles Chaplin, Irving Berlin, Bushnell Dimond, Walter Hoban, and Sophie Wittenberg. My indebtedness to those whom I do not know-those I have written about-is too apparent to 'need emphasis, and too great to be adequately acknowledged.