Posts Tagged ‘Anita Loos’

Pop open the champagne! Happy Public Domain Day! ?

Friday, January 1st, 2021
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Ralph Barton’s illustration for “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” It’s also in public domain now.

For those of us who keep an eye on such things – including bloggers, everywhere – we have some exciting news, and it rolls around every New Year’s Day. (So if you didn’t send cards this year, you’ll have another opportunity on January 1, 2022.) Happy Public Domain Day! What? You’re not excited? Well, am.

As of today, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby is up for grabs. So is Virginia WoolfMrs. Dalloway,  Ernest Hemingway‘s In Our Time, and Franz Kafka‘s The Trial (in German). Excerpt as much as you like. Be my guest.

Plenty more books published in 1925 have entered the public domain, as of today.  According to Jennifer Jenkins, a law professor at Duke University who directs its Center for the Study of the Public Domain. “And all of the works are free for anyone to use, reuse, build upon for anyone — without paying a fee.”

“Works from 1925 were supposed to go into the public domain in 2001, after being copyrighted for 75 years. But before this could happen, Congress hit a 20-year pause button and extended their copyright term to 95 years Now the wait is over,” Jenkin’s writes on the Duke website.

1925 was the year of seminal works by Sinclair Lewis, Gertrude Stein, Agatha Christie, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Aldous Huxley … and, among musicians some works by Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, among hundreds of others. And 1925 marked the release of important works by silent film comedians Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

According to NPR:

Free! Free! Free!

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of having work in the public domain. For example, can you imagine the holidays without It’s A Wonderful Life? That movie happened to be unprotected by copyright, so it was able to be shown — a lot — for free, contributing to its establishment as an American Christmas classic.

It also means books can be published more cheaply and made available for free online; that old “orphan” films can be preserved by archivists; that scholars can access and publish material more easily; that musicians can sample and experiment with the songs of an earlier generation and that classic characters can be given new life and new interpretations.

While the most successful creators often leave behind legal estates to manage the care (and finances) of their famous books, plays, operas and so forth, most aren’t so lucky. “For the vast majority of authors from 1925, no one is benefiting from copyright protections,” Jenkins tells NPR. Having their work enter the public domain is a way to keep it circulating in the culture for artists and historians to use for education and inspiration.

Overlooked Anita Loos

May we throw in our own bid for greater circulation? This year also marks Anita Loos‘s underrated classic and comic masterpiece of the Flapper Era, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional LadyHere’s what I wrote when we featured the book at Stanford’s Another Look book club for forgotten, overlooked, and otherwise neglected books way back in May 2013:

Edith Wharton called Anita Loos’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes “the great American novel” and declared its author a genius. Winston Churchill, William Faulkner, George Santayana and Benito Mussolini read it – so did James Joyce, whose failing eyesight led him to select his reading carefully. The 1925 bestseller sold out the day it hit the stores and earned Loos more than a million dollars in royalties. …

Everyone, of course, has heard of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but the short novel’s fame was eclipsed by the 1953 movie of the same name, starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Once the bombshell blonde vamped “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” the effervescent Jazz Age novel became a shard of forgotten history. Who has taken the send-up novel seriously since?

You can check out the catalog for 1925 copyrighted works here. Or check out the podcast for the Stanford panel discussion with Hilton Obenzinger, Mark McGurl, and Claire Jarvis here. (Claire placed the book in the tradition of the courtesan’s diary.)

Meanwhile, go ahead! Excerpt as much as you like! It’s on the house!

Postscript: The biggest fish of all: George Orwell is in public domain today. According to The Guardian: “George Orwell died at University College Hospital, London, on 21 January 1950 at the early age of 46. This means that unlike such long-lived contemporaries as Graham Greene (died 1991) or Anthony Powell (died 2000), the vast majority of his compendious output (21 volumes to date) is newly out of copyright as of 1 January. Naturally, publishers – who have an eye for this kind of opportunity – have long been at work to take advantage of the expiry date and the next few months are set to bring a glut of repackaged editions. …As is so often the way of copyright cut-offs, none of this amounts to a free-for-all. Any US publisher other than Houghton Mifflin that itches to embark on an Orwell spree will have to wait until 2030, when Burmese Days, the first of Orwell’s books to be published in the US, breaks the 95-year barrier. And eager UK publishers will have to exercise a certain amount of care. The distinguished Orwell scholar Professor Peter Davison fathered new editions of the six novels back in the mid-1980s. No one can reproduce these as the copyright in them is currently held by Penguin Random House.” Read the rest here.

Lorelei Lee baffles “a famous doctor in Vienna called Dr. Froyd”

Monday, May 20th, 2013
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loos4One week until the “Another Look” book club event for Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, at the Stanford Humanities Center.  I wrote about it here.  Read the book, join us, have some fun, and come up and introduce yourself to Humble Moi.  I’ll be there.

Meanwhile, enjoy this selection from the book, in which Lorelei Lee meets Dr. Froyd in Vienna, which she explains is somewhere in “the Central of Europe.”

From Lorelei’s May 27 diary:

Sigmund_Freud

Cultivate a few inhibitions and get some sleep.

“Well finaly I broke down and Mr. Spoffard said that he thought a little girl like I, who was trying to reform the whole world was trying to do to much, especially beginning on a girl like Dorothy. So he said there was a famous doctor in Vienna called Dr. Froyd who could stop all of my worrying because he does not give a girl medicine but he talks you out of it by psychoanalysis. So yesterday he took me to Dr. Froyd. So Dr. Froyd and I had quite a long talk in the English landguage. So it seems that everybody seems to have a thing called inhibitions, which is when you want to do a thing and you do not do it. So then you dream about it instead. So Dr. Froyd asked me, what I seemed to dream about. So I told him that I never really dream about anything. I mean I use my brains so much in the day time that at night they do not seem to do anything else but rest.  So Dr. Froyd was very very surprised at a girl who did not dream about anything.  So then he asked me all about my life. I mean he is very very sympathetic, and he seems to know how to draw a girl out quite a lot. I mean I told him things that I really would not even put in my diary. So then he seemed very very intreeged at a girl who always seemed to do everything she wanted to do. So he asked me if I really never wanted to do a thing that I did not do. For instance, did I ever want to do a thing that was really vialent, for instance, did I ever want to shoot someone for instance. So then I said I had, but the bullet only went in Mr. Jennings lung and came right out again. So then Dr. Froyd looked at me and looked at me and he said he did not really think it was possible.  So then he called in his assistance and he pointed at me and talked to his assistance quite a lot in the Viennese landguage.  So then his assistance looked at me and looked at me and it really seems as if I was quite a famous case. So then Dr. Froyd said that all I need was to cultivate a few inhibitions and get some sleep.”

The Great Gatsby and the Roaring 20s: “There was a feeling that it couldn’t really last. And it didn’t.”

Friday, May 10th, 2013
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Exclusive - On Set of 'The Great Gatsby'

Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan in “The Great Gatsby”

Cynthia Haven:  Two novels from the same year.  One ends with marriage, the other with death – the comic and tragic sides of an era. Can you give us a little of the historical context that would help us understand the 1920s?

Gavin Jones:  The decade began in turmoil, with the end of World War I and with a mood of socialist revolution in the air. It ended with the Stock Market crash of 1929.

It was very much a boom time.  A time of intense competition as well.  In a way, American society began to look like it does today in the twenties.

Business became a kind of religion. By the end of the twenties, over 40 percent of the world’s manufactured goods came from the U.S.  The U.S. became an enormous global power during this decade.

Mass advertising campaigns began to dominate people’s lives.  The most famous advertisement was for Listerine. Its slogan has become a cliché: “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” In other words, halitosis was pitched as the cause of people’s social failure.

The salesman became a key figure.   Fitzgerald’s father had been a salesman for Proctor and Gamble, and was sacked when Fitzgerald was 12.  Fitzgerald described it as the central crisis of his youth, and became very interested in male failure in his writings.

Henry Ford became the cultural hero of this new business culture.  He claimed to make a new car every 10 seconds.  The road began to take over from the railroad.  There were 23 million cars in 1929, up from 7 million in 1919.  Perhaps the most important development was rise of the closed car.  It led to all sorts of new freedom – it provided a space where young people could become free from parental supervision.

yellowrolls

Rex Harrison in 1964’s “The Yellow Rolls Royce”

Haven:  Much like the internet has created a new social space today.

Jones:  Kind of like that, yes.  It’s a good comparison.

Haven:  I remember a rather so-so movie about the era, The Yellow Rolls Royce, written by the playwright Terence Rattigan.  The plot turned on an illicit affair that took place in the car of the title.

Jones:  Religious figures and social leaders saw the car as “a house of prostitution on wheels,” according to one judge.  It was a huge cultural shift to suddenly have all of these automobiles buzzing around society.

Haven:   And wasn’t there a yellow car in The Great Gatsby?

Jones:   The authorities are able to track Gatsby down because of his yellow car.  Initially all cars were black.  By the mid-20s, however, new finishing processes for cars led to a rainbow of colors.

THE GREAT GATSBY

Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Debicki in “The Great Gatsby”

HavenThe Great Gatsby ends with a car accident.  Oddly, the era marks the beginning of the car accident, and car fatalities, as a commonplace occurrence.

Jones:  It is very much a new thing.  It’s the emergence of modernity.  These novels describe a certain kind of modernity in which the fate of humans is intertwined with machines.  You can see it just the role of the accident – people are very much more prone to accident rather than intention.  There’s a loss of agency with the growth of industrial power.

Meanwhile, a self-conscious, isolated intellectual class came to the fore in America: H.L. Mencken was a huge figure.  Debunking popular myths was a popular pastime in the era, so intellectuals like Mencken would criticize bankruptcy of mass culture.

Read the rest here…