Monday, October 19, 2009

Life Magazine a la Tainted Archive

I mentioned in my last post that my aunt acquired a number of Life magazines from 1927-28. My grandfather was a joke writer and from what we know, he sold a considerable number of jokes to Life. However, he's vague about the years in the memoir, although we can kind of guess it was around this time, maybe a few years before then. The problem is that the jokes in Life don't appear with any bylines, so the authors are not credited. But still, we may get lucky. There are 10 issues in all.

I'm going to take a page out of the Tainted Archive's book. The Archavist has occasionally taken comic books and similar types of mags from the 1960s and shown you some of the interiors. I scanned a few pages from one of the issues and here they are. And at the end of this post, I'm going to show you some of the best covers. They really are a treat.

What's really interesting about this issue, October 13, 1927, is that it features a two-page feature by none other than Tom Mix.

He writes of his observations of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles. I guess they thought it might be fun to have a "cowboy" give us a down-home opinion of citified, Hollywood people. (Although Tom Mix was as Hollywood-ed as any of them.) Now, whether Tom Mix really wrote this is debatable. I'm of the cynical type who would say no. It's more than likely ghosted, and the ghost writer made sure to add in a bunch a twang and down-home observations.

You may not be able to read the print in this scan. At one point Mix writes, "Most of the film stars roll in with a bored style that is supposed to indicate that carryin' a million dollars around in each pocket is hard work. the wives practice up in their bedrooms an' then come in tryin' to act like they had so much money at home that just before they started out for the evenin' they told the butler to heave a coupl'a million out the back door because the moths had got into it. Or course, a lot of 'em ain't got a million an' there's a few i could mention who ain't even got any moths."

The magazine at this time was more of a humor magazine and a "events around town" chronicle than the Life we knew from the 1960s which was more of a pictorial news periodical. There are several pages of jokes, cartoons, humorous essays and observations of life. There are so many pages of humor that I'm sure they kept quite a few joke writers in postage stamps for a while.

There are also theater and movie reviews.

I can see a big resemblance to the New Yorker in these issues of Life.

And now here are some more covers. I have to say the dog one is my favorite, although I'm biased.

Hope you enjoyed them!


Evan Lewis said...

Fascinating stuff, Laurie, and beautiful covers. And the scans are easy to read. I too doubt Mix had a hand in that Cocoanut Grove piece, but it's fun to pretend, which may be what the mag intended. Did the Life Magazine we knew really grow from this, or did this one die, freeing up the title?

Walker Martin said...

This early magazine is not the Life Magazine that most of us remember. The photo magazine started in the lated 1930's and is a completely different magazine. The Life that Laurie is discussing was a humor magazine and has no connection with the later Life.

Laurie Powers said...

I think I vaguely recall that this Life and the later Life were not connected.

Barry said...

I love the Havana cover! I suspect Walker is a lot like I am in that I enjoy almost all the vintage magazines from the early 20th century. Especially the cover art. I think Walker and I have discussed our dislike of flea market dealers that cut up these old mags for the covers and the advertisements before, I feel a special corner of Hell should be reserved for people that do that.
I just checked my copy of The Illustrator In America 1860-2000 and see I was correct that among the many artists that did covers for Life was John Held Jr. (the man that was famous for his Flappers in the 1920's). I much prefer the early Life to the photo Life.

Barry said...

Look at I found while trying to find some history of the first Life magazine (not an easy task it would seem) but I did find this. My Gosh do I love the internet, it ain't perfect but what is good about it is like having the key to the Library of Alexandria before the Barbarians torched it.

Laurie Powers said...

Ooo, this looks really good Barry. I'm going to add it to my blog list. Thanks!

Walker Martin said...

Barry mentions the dealers that we all see at just about every large flea market. They take vintage magazines, usually slicks, and cut out the advertisements and covers. They then frame them or back them with cardboard and sell to housewives and men who hang the pictures in the kitchen or den.

These people are referred to as "Breakers" by old magazine collectors, who look at this practice with horror and disgust.

Things have reached such a sorry state that I no longer can buy a vintage slick magazine without first looking through to see if a breaker has been at work excerpting pages and ads. I once bought several hundred Saturday Evening Posts from the 1920's and 1930's and after receiving them by mail, I made the depressing discovery that every single issue had been ruined by a breaker cutting out ads.

I know a baseball fan who works part time at the flea markets as a breaker. He admitted that he and his cohorts think nothing of ruining a fine condition magazine from the 20's or 30's, just to sell the ads for $10 or $15 each. Even if the magazine is worth $100 in complete condition, they often can make more than that amount by breaking it apart and selling the individual pages.

Being a magazine collector, needless to say I feel strongly about this widespread practice.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, such a difference it seems from today. But very interesting.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Love that art. Too bad you can't find it in magazines today.

Laurie Powers said...

yes, Cap'n. That art was amazing. Once photography took over, it seemed to have died away.