Memoranda Of A Decade


I am quite drunk. I am told that this is Capri; though as I remember Capri was quieter. … That was a caller. His name was Mussolini, I think, and he says he is in politics here. … I am full of my new work, a historical play based on the life of Woodrow Wilson.

ACT I. At Princeton

Woodrow seen teaching philosophy. Enter Pyne. Quarrel scene—Wilson refuses to recognize clubs. Enter woman with Bastard from Trenton. Pyne reenters with glee club and trustees. Noise outside. “We have won—Princeton 12, Lafayette 3.” Cheers. Football team enter and group around Wilson. “Old Nassau.” Curtain.

ACT II. Gubernatorial Mansion at Paterson

Wilson seen signing papers. Tasker Bliss and Marc Connelly come in with proposition to let bosses get control. “I have important papers to sign—and none of them legalize corruption.” Triangle Club begins to sing outside window. Enter woman with Bastard from Trenton. President continues to sign papers. Enter Mrs. Gait, John Grier Hibben, Al Jolson and Grantland Rice. Song “The Call to Larger Duty.” Tableau. Coughdrop.

ACT III (optional). The Battlefront 1918.


The peace congress. Clemenceau, Wilson and Jolson at table. The Bastard from Trenton now grown up but still a baby, in the uniform of the Prussian Guard, is mewling and pewking in Wilson’s lap. … The junior prom committee comes in through the skylight. Clemenceau: “We want the Sarre.” Wilson: “No, Sarre, I won’t hear of it.” Laughter … Enter Marilyn Miller, Gilbert Seldes and Irish Meusel. Tasker Bliss falls into the cuspidor …

Oh Christ! I’m sobering up! …


I am quite drunk again and enclose a postage stamp.

At home, the older generation was bemoaning the morals and manners of the younger generation—as usual. And, as usual, the younger generation had some harsh and disturbing answers: I would like to say a few things about my generation.

In the first place, I would like to observe that the older generation had certainly pretty well ruined this world before passing it on to us. They gave us this Thing, knocked to pieces, leaky, red-hot, threatening to blow up; and then they are surprised that we don’t accept it with the same attitude of pretty, decorous enthusiasm with which they received it, ’way back in the eighteeii-niiieties, nicely painted, smoothly running, practically foolproof. “So simple that a child can run it!” But the child couldn’t steer it. He hit every possible telegraph-pole, some of them twice, and ended with a head-on collision for which we shall have to pay the fines and damages. Now, with loving pride, they turn over their wreck to us; and, since we are not properly overwhelmed with loving gratitude, shake their heads and sigh, “Dear! dear! We were so much better-mannered than these wild young people. …”

[Now] the oldsters stand dramatically with fingers and toes and noses pressed against the bursting dykes. Let theml They won’t do any good. They can shackle us down, and still expect us to repair their blunders, if they wish. But we shall not trouble ourselves very much about them any more. Why should we? What have they done? They have made us work as they never had to work in all their padded lives— but we’ll have our cakes and ale for a’ that.


In a few years’ time, the movies transformed the leisure time of Americans: … Like the automobile, the motion picture is more to Middletown than simply a new way of doing an old thing; it has added new dimensions to the city’s leisure. …

Today nine motion picture theaters operate from 1 to 11 P.M. seven days a week summer and winter. …

About two and three-fourths times the city’s entire population attended the nine motion picture theaters during the month of July, 1923, the “valley” month of the year, and four and one-half times the total population in the “peak” month of December. …

As in the case of the books it reads, comedy, heart interest, and adventure compose the great bulk of what Middletown enjoys in the movies. Its heroes, according to the manager of the leading theater, are, in the order named, Harold Lloyd, comedian; Gloria Swanson, heroine in modern society films; Thomas Meighan, hero in modern society films; Colleen Moore, ingénue; Douglas Fairbanks, comedian and adventurer; Mary Pickford, ingénue; and Norma Talmadge, heroine in modern society films. Harold Lloyd comedies draw the largest crowds. “Middletown is amusement hungry,” says the opening sentence in a local editorial; at the comedies Middletown lives for an hour in a happy sophisticated make-believe world that leaves it, according to the advertisement of one film, “happily convinced that Life is very well worth living.”