Memo from David O. Selznick: The Corinthian, 1943

GreatImaginaryFilm-Caine_zpsfdf9dfa1Georgette Heyer created the “Regency Romance” genre. By 1940, she had published Georgian romances and a mystery and historical novels set during the Regency period. That year, she was working on a detective novel but found herself unable to concentrate on it due to her worries about the war. Instead, she dashed off a lighthearted romance set during the Regency period. The Corinthian would set the pattern for almost two dozen subsequent Heyer works and scores of books by her imitators.

While Heyer enjoyed popular success, critics ignored her work. Despite the cinematic possibilities of her novels, which combine romance, humor, intrigue, and adventure, filmmakers ignored her as well. Only two of her works have received film treatments—The Reluctant Widow became a British film called The Inheritance (1950), and Arabella was the basis for a German film in 1959.

As soon as I read about this blogathon, I knew I wanted to give Heyer life on screen. And, since I was dreaming, I decided to dream big. Few golden-age producers were as successful at adapting books for the screen as David O. Selznick. As a child he absorbed classics like David Copperfield and Anna Karenina, which he later brought to the screen. Throughout his career, he also adapted popular contemporary works, including Portrait of Jennie, Rebecca, and—of course—Gone With the Wind.

After completing the Academy-Award-winning Rebecca, Selznick liquidated his company and took a short break from filmmaking. As Irene Mayer Selznick described in her autobiography A Private View, Selznick was battling depression and amphetamine addiction during this period and found it impossible to make a sustained effort on any picture.

In my imaginary world, however, Selznick came across Heyer’s novel and found in reading it the same diverting escape she found in writing it. Believing that the movie-going public might be ready for a similar diversion, he determined to produce it. Production took place late in 1942 for an early 1943 release.

Producing an imaginary movie has many advantages; the greatest is that you don’t have to worry about studio contracts. In casting my movie, however, I have tried to stay somewhat within the realm of possibility. I nabbed my leading man before he started military service. For my leading lady, I chose a genuine Selznick discovery, although I moved up the date of her breakthrough. For the supporting cast and production staff, I sought people with whom Selznick had previously worked.

What follows are excerpts from Selznick’s imaginary memos about this film. Selznick was a legendary memo writer. In some cases, I have re-purposed his own words from the 1972 collection Memo from David O. Selznick to serve my film’s purposes.

Note: For those unfamiliar with The Corinthian, Wikipedia provides a good plot summary and detailed list of characters.

The Property

To: Miss Katharine Brown

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

I have gone over and carefully thought about The Corinthian. I do feel that it has showmanship values, though it is a very simple and slight story compared to Gone With the Wind or Rebecca. For that reason, I have hopes that it might be simpler to film and relatively inexpensive, and the public might welcome it as an escape from the world situation. Obviously, we do not want to pay a large price for a book by an obscure author, so I would only recommend purchasing it if we can get a good bargain. If your information about Miss Heyer’s finances is correct, we should be able to do so.

The Casting

To: Mr. Daniel O’Shea*

For the role of Pen Creed, I think it is essential that we use a new face. As described by the author, the character is only 17 years old, with an innocent, open demeanor and a hint of merriment. It is essential that we cast someone with a combination of exciting beauty and fresh purity. (Another advantage to a fresh actress is that she won’t object to the haircut required for a character who disguises herself as a boy throughout most of the picture.)

Rhonda Fleming Source: Wikipedia

Rhonda Fleming
Source: Wikipedia

To: Mr. Daniel O’Shea

I am seriously considering Anne Baxter for the role of Pen. She did an excellent test for Rebecca, and the main strike against her was her youth. In The Corinthian, of course, that would be an asset. I have also considered Jennifer, but I don’t think she is the right type for this role.

We have another young woman named Rhonda Fleming under contract, and we are preparing a test for her. Since the plan is to film in Technicolor, her red hair would be an advantage, especially in the scene where Cedric Brandon recognizes her from her lock of hair. Of course, we would have to engage a dialogue coach for extensive work on her accent.

To: Mr. Daniel O’Shea

With Miss Fleming in place, the choice of a leading man with box office stature becomes critical. Heyer’s hero is a world-weary man of fashion, but he has a strong masculine presence that saves him from being a “pretty boy.” The character is about 30, and I think if we cast an actor much older than that, the pairing of him with Miss Fleming will be distasteful.

Robert Taylor Source: Wikipedia

Robert Taylor
Source: Wikipedia

Of course, the great difficulty is that most men of the right age are tied up with military service. The most perfect actor I can imagine for the role is Errol Flynn, but I don’t think this is the time to cast him in a romance with a teen-aged heroine. I’ve heard that we might be able to get Robert Taylor before he starts his service.

To: Mr. Daniel O’Shea

For the supporting characters, I think things will proceed most smoothly if we choose British actors in most cases. We should look at the actors used in Rebecca and Jane Eyre as a starting point. For the character of Lydia, it is important that we choose an actress who comes across as less mature and less clever than our heroine.

The Director

To: Mr. John Hay Whitney

In a director, we need someone with a light touch for comedy and experience with Technicolor. I wish I could use George, who has a great sense of the style of a book and of a picture and who could undoubtedly draw a good performance from Rhonda. Bill Wellman has the experience with color, but I don’t think he would be right for this picture. Someone like John Cromwell might be the safest choice, if we hold Mr. Menzies responsible for the physical aspects of the production and the final word on Technicolor issues.

The Script

To: Miss Katharine Brown

The ideal script, as far as I am concerned, would be one that contained very little original dialog. Dialog is one of the novel’s strengths, so we need a writer who will adapt it as faithfully as possible. Ben Hecht is good at conveying the mood of a novel, but I question whether he’s right because of the English atmosphere. Clemence Dane is a possibility, as is Aldous Huxley.

To: Mr. Aldous Huxley

With such a short novel, I think there is very little that can be cut without hurting the story. Certainly, the opening scene with Richard and his sister and mother should be shortened so the audience can meet the heroine more quickly. I would also recommend keeping the scenes relating to the diamond heist as short as possible. Overall, the film needs to have a brisk pace. Short scenes are at the very essence of good motion-picture making, and one of the great values that we have in this medium, by comparison with the stage.

I agree that the number of characters is high, but most are essential to the story. I don’t think we need to see the father of the Brandon brothers but can imply his character through their actions. I don’t think we need to see Pen’s intended either, which spares us the difficulty of casting a man “with a face like a fish.”

To Mr. Cromwell:

I think we must be very careful in both the script and in the reading of the lines by English actors to avoid anything which might be difficult for an American to understand—as to actual phrasing and as to dialect. This issue is most acute with Jimmy Yarde and his criminal slang. I think we should commission the script girl, or some other American, to watch this point carefully throughout the making of the picture and to call to your attention anything which she thinks is dangerous from this standpoint.

The Production and Post-Production

Beau Brummel. In the novel, he is a friend of the hero.

Beau Brummel. In the novel, he is a friend of the hero.

To: Mr. Cromwell

Regarding the wardrobe, I would like to be as historically accurate in the women’s costumes as possible, avoiding the mess MGM made of Pride and Prejudice. I trust Walter Plunkett and Rene Hubert when it comes to period costumes.

It might be wise to bring in Gile Steele to give the men’s costumes extra attention. Richard’s attention to his clothing is central to his character, but we have to make sure his costumes don’t look ridiculous to modern audiences, even if it means sacrificing some historical accuracy.

To: Max Steiner

In preparing your score, spend whatever time you have free in study of the music of the period.

To: Miss Katharine Brown

I will admit that I have had some concerns about the title, as I don’t think audiences will be familiar with the term as Heyer uses it. Any synonym I can think of, such as “dandy” or “bon vivant” has effeminate connotations we want to avoid. It will probably be best to stay with Heyer’s title and make the meaning clear in the script itself. My experience has been that if a book has succeed with a title that seems a bad picture title, picture producers are foolish to worry about it.

Cast

Richard Wyndham: Robert Taylor
Penelope Creed: Rhonda Fleming
Lord George Trevor: Robert Morley
Lady Louisa Trevor: Agnes Moorehead
Lady Aurelia Wyndham: Gladys Cooper
Melissa Brandon: Valerie Hobson
Beverley Brandon: Eric Blore
Cedric Brandon: Reginald Denny
Piers Luttrell: Hugh Marlowe
Lydia Daubenay: Joan Greenwood
Jimmy Yarde: Gordon Harker
Horace Trimble: Trevor Howard

* Executive Vice President and General Manager, David O. Selznick Productions, Inc.

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H.R. Pufnstuf and the Best School Library Book Ever

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Over the next month, I will be honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

At the school I attended in fourth grade, the “library” consisted of several shelves lining the end of a hallway between the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms. I didn’t mind the lack of atmosphere, though, because one of those shelves held the best school library book ever–Kids on TV by D.J. Arneson.

From the book’s cover, kids from The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and other shows smiled out at the reader. The psychedelic colors that tinted their portraits made the book irresistible to the eye.

The book took a catholic approach to its subject, both in terms of the shows featured and the actors it labeled “kids.” (Lou Gossett Jr., for instance, featured as a cast member in The Young Rebels, was 35 when the book hit shelves.) It also included young actors from daytime soap operas, as well as stars from shows that had been cancelled well before its publication, such as Gentle Ben.

Cast members from 24 shows appear in the book’s pages. Because I was reading the book almost a decade after its 1971 publication–and because some of these shows didn’t exactly stand the test of time–some of its entries confounded me. Arnie? The Double Deckers? The Smith Family?

The shows I recognized, however, were shows I adored. And even the entries on the unknown shows provided a fascinating glimpse into the exotic world of child actors. (The book strives to make these young people seem down-to-earth, though. In almost every case, it tells us that they earn straight As in school and enjoy riding their bikes.)

When I would find this book on our library shelves, I’d check it out immediately and renew it to the limits of our librarian’s patience. Finding it on the shelves wasn’t easy, however–other kids loved it as much as I did.

I found my current copy on Ebay, and it also started life in a school library–Pewaukee, Wisconsin, represent! Looking at its cover, you can tell that it passed through many young Wisconsinites’ hands.

About the Author

I didn’t expect to find out much about D.J. Arneson; the authors who wrote these old books aimed at libraries and school book clubs don’t usually leave much of a trace. As it turns out, however, Arneson also edited Dell Comics for almost 10 years. Collectortimes.com published an informative Q&A with Arneson in 2010.

H.R. Pufnstuf

Over the next few weeks, I will share some entries from Kids on TV with you.

I’m starting with H.R. Pufnstuf because today is the 44th anniversary of its premiere–and because I’m sure you’ve always wondered what Jack Wild’s hobbies were. (For the record: Swimming, sculpting, and building model cars.)

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Spin Again Sunday: H.R. Pufnstuf

Wonder Women of the 80s

Weird Words of Wisdom: Prize Pigs in the Cafeteria Edition

“Don’t show up looking like a beatnik!”–Gay Head

That Freshman Feeling by Judith Unger Scott, 1960
Hi There, High School by Gay Head, 1953 (1972 printing)

About These Books: In honor of back-to-school season, I present these two books about fitting in and standing out as a new high school freshman. Each book’s cover artwork accurately represents the tone its author takes toward readers.

that freshman feeling

These teens are approaching their new school with confidence and just a touch of awe.

hi there high school

This pair is having a nervous breakdown in the high school hallway.

Scott’s book, published for the library market, provides sensible advice about career planning, study habits, and friendship.

The Head tome, a Scholastic Book Club selection, doesn’t trust its readers to walk down the hall properly or to eat ice cream without plunging into the dish head-first.

Guess which book we’ll be concentrating on today?

(Adding to the Head book’s weirdness is its editors’ failure to update it after 20 years. I wonder what 1970s teens made of its references to jalopies, Nat King Cole, fountain pens, dance bands, and Bob Hope.)

Bad Examples

To show us what not to do in any situation, Head invents a gaggle of social misfits.

Consider, for example, the way these “traffigoons” handle something as simple as walking down the hall:

  • Breezy Jones “doesn’t mind bumping into people. He’s big and tough, and he acts as if it’s the Other Person’s fault for getting in the way.”
  • Buzz Newton “weaves in and out of traffic, whoo-whooing like a train whistle.”
  • Jessie James elbows people and bangs doors in their faces. “Bang-Bang Jessie. Still playing Wild West, when the rest have put away their pistols.”
  • Gertrude Gates “keeps everybody guessing, herself included,” by making sudden stops.

What’s in Jessie James’ messy locker? “Two library books; six textbooks containing notes, pictures, and papers; three ancient and tattered copies of the school paper; two fountain pen tops, no bottoms; one bottle of ink, no stopper; a stack of notebook paper splotched with ink; two and one half pencils; an old notebook cover; a battered violin case containing a wadded-up sweater and a worn-out gym shoe; a couple of smashed ping-pong balls; one glove; a cracked bottle of nail polish; a comb with three teeth in it; four dirty handkerchiefs; a stale sandwich and a banana peeling from yesterday’s lunch.” Except for the fountain pens, ink, and handkerchiefs, this sounds a lot like my car.

Questions that Head suggests students ask about their new school: “Must you have a school permit to park your bike or jalopy in the school parking lots? Is it all right for boys to wear jeans or dungarees? Shirts without neckties? May girls come to school with their hair in curlers?”

Fashion Tips

“A boy’s pressed suit and clean shirt, with harmonizing tie and socks, will fetch up more favorable comments than the latest craze in wild combinations.”

“One suit—plus changes of sweaters and shirts—equals many costumes. One dress with different accessories (collar, scarf, belt, or jewelry) can double for school and dates. Team up your wardrobe so that it works as smoothly as a well-trained backfield. You’re calling signals!”

More Wisdom from Hi There, High School

“The sophomore wags who try to sell you locker tickets, elevator permits, and season passes to the swimming pool are not to be trusted. But if you fall for one of their gags, take it with a grin. Your fun will come next year!”

“You’ll really be in the swing of things at Central High this year if you start by learning all you can about your school.” She recommends boning up on school history and tradition. That stuff actually interested me when I was in high school, but somehow my knowledge didn’t catapult me into popularity.

“Don’t make the cafeteria a circus ring for showing off some prize pig tricks!” Are there prize pigs in the circus? Sounds more like the county fair.

“Eat ice cream a spoonful at a time. Licking and lapping are kittenish tricks.”

On dance conversation: “If you converse, talk about the music and your favorite dance bands or vocalists, or ask your partner a leading question about his favorite sports, entertainment, or hobbies. This is neither the time nor place to display your knowledge of atomic energy, guided missiles, or supersonic speed.”

“Constipation, unless due to organic causes, can be controlled by proper diet. Don’t get the pill habit!

“Don’t wear your feelings on the outside. If they stick out like a porcupine’s needles, they’re going to bump into plenty of trouble.”

“A shrill voice grates on the ears. A squeaky voice makes everything you say sound silly. A guttural voice creates the impression of harshness. A whiny voice sounds ill-humored. A booming voice alienates listeners. A monotone puts them to sleep.” Sheesh–you can’t win here.

“Are you a Mumbler, a Word-Swallower, a Word-Mixer? You may be as wise as Einstein or as “wisecrack” as Bob Hope, but people won’t listen to your witticisms unless they can understand what you say.”

“Imagine that it’s New Year’s Eve in the year 1999! In a few minutes, the bells will ring and the year 2000 A.D. will be ushered in. That will be a big event in your lives, for most of you will be alive to celebrate the beginning of the new century. You’ll be the parents or grandparents, then, shocked (no doubt!) about the ‘wild ways’ of teen-agers. You’ll be running the factories, the stores, and the offices. Some of you will be mayors, governors, and senators. One of you may be the President!”

Wisdom from That Freshman Feeling

“If your friendliness and good manners extend only to a small, accepted social group, you’re a snob! ‘Wait a minute,’ you may say, ‘am I supposed to make friends with a collection of all the odd characters?’ No, of course not. But you shouldn’t ignore or reject them.”

“Delicious stuff to eat makes any party a howling success.”

“Every few years a new fad hits the high school. For no reason at all—it seems to come out of the atmosphere—the boys develop a passion for red sweaters or the girls wear green nail polish. Next year it may be crazy haircuts or dinky hats.” Dinky hats seem to be berets. See, for instance, this wonderful headline from 1931–“Gay berets sit atop male heads: Dinky hats in wild colors rage at Palm Beach.”

“In some families, a telephone timing system is worked out and it can be very successful for young people and grownups alike. A ten-minute timer is purchased and set at the beginning of every telephone conversation. When it goes off, the talk is terminated and the party cannot be re-called for at least a half hour.”

“Some girls whose goal is to be a wife and mother use these inherent talents in their job selection. They prepare themselves for a job that will make them more efficient in homemaking. For instance, the girl who has the money and ability to go on to college may study to be a home economist, or she may enter a hospital for nurse’s training.”

About the Authors: The semi-mythical Gay Head is an old friend of this blog. Scott was one of many writers who specialized in advice books for teenagers. Hers have especially nice titles, including Lessons in Loveliness, Pattern for Personality, The Art of Being a Girl, and The Bride Looks Ahead. According to her dust jacket bio, she also hosted a radio show for teenagers and “conducted classes in personality, beauty, and manners.” She once worked for Ladies Home Journal, a launching pad for many of our Weird Words of Wisdom authors. Scott died in 2001.

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

Speak Softly and Carry a Hot Breakfast Edition

Where the Boys Are (You’d Better Wear a Skirt) Edition

Betty Betz and Vintage Teen Etiquette That Rhymes Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: A Swing in Your Walk and a Gleam in Your Eye Edition

“Trouble with you thinker types is you are always so SURE people will act the way you think they should logically act. I gather you aren’t really in favor of teen-age hanky-panky, but you believe the boy must exercise as much restraint as the girl. I agree: This would be just peachy keeno, but life isn’t like that. Males are the conquerors and females, the limit setters. I doubt you moderns can ever eliminate this double standard, and if you do, Heaven help the men! When they are no longer the aggressors, they may become slaves, for many women won’t stop at ‘equality.’”

This girl NEEDS help. A creepy guy is following her around and staring at her. (I think he's trying to figure out her hairstyle.)

This girl NEEDS help. A creepy guy is following her around and staring at her. (I think he’s trying to figure out her hairstyle.)

Helen Help Us by Helen Bottel, 1970

About this Book and Its Author: If mid-century advice columnists were colas, Abby and Ann would be Coke and Pepsi. Helen Bottel? She was RC. Her syndicated column, “Helen Help Us,” ran for 25 years in about 200 papers that were apparently too cheap to spring for one of the bigger names.

Bottel entered the advice game on a dare from husband and began writing a column in her local Oregon paper in 1958. Not lacking chutzpah, Bottel sent her work to King Features Syndicate within three weeks of starting her column. Remarkably, they snapped her up.

Her column wasn’t specifically aimed at teens, but she acknowledged that they were her most frequent correspondents. In this 1970 collection, the letters are exclusively from teens and young adults, and Bottel concerns herself mainly with helping them resist the society’s growing sexual licentiousness. Judging from the letters, it’s an uphill battle; most of them seem to be from girls who “gave in” and regretted it.

Actually, the letters are weirder than most of the advice Bottel gives, and the predicaments the writers find themselves in disabuse one of the notion that they date from a more innocent time. Correspondents include a 16-year-old who’s seeking a divorce from her abusive husband; a high school girl who’s dating an alcoholic 13 years older than she; a girl whose 15-year-old friend “ran away to be with the hippies” and ended up pregnant and with a case of VD; and a 19-year-old guy who’s attracted to a 14-year-old girl (“I’m not going to tell you she is mature in looks and mind because she isn’t, but I feel she has the basic personality traits I look for in a girl.”)

Bottel’s own background was troubled, according to a 1986 People magazine article. Her father deserted the family when she was two, and her mentally ill mother died when Bottel was 15. A caring foster mother put her on the road toward success.

She sometimes used the slangy, quip-heavy style that Ann and Abby relied upon in their early years. Generally, she seemed sincere in her efforts to help, however. All those who wrote in—more than 3,500 per year–received a personal response in the mail.

She gave up her column in 1983, explaining, “I was tired of being the third person in a two-person market.” At around the same time, she attracted the attention of the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, which gave her a fresh outlet for her advice and whose readers relished her American perspective.

Bottel died in 1999.

A Note About My Edition: This 75-cent Tempo paperback wasn’t bound with great care. From page 56, it skips to page 89. Then, after page 114, it goes back to page 89 and starts from there again. I’m missing 33 pages of potentially weird wisdom!

When Weird Words of Wisdom Worlds Collide: Bottel recommends a book by Evelyn Duvall.

Extreme Weirdness Alert: Bottel’s book includes a bizarre letter from a girl who befriended a male TV star’s daughter. When the girls returned home 15 minutes past curfew due to a flat tire, the TV star was angry and got into an argument with the letter-writer, who ended up throwing a hairbrush at him. He, then, took the hairbrush and gave her “a real hard spanking.” This letter doesn’t entirely ring true, unless the TV star was Pat Boone.

Quotes from Helen Help Us

“You can’t turn a boy on and expect him not to catch on fire.”

“With immaturity, poverty, jealousy, distrust, an overdose of ‘family,’ and a slight case of mental illness against it, this marriage has as much of a chance for success as the Penguin against Batman.”

“You kids and a ‘real formal’ adult ball would go together like the Monkees and a minuet.”

“One girl’s wet blanket is another girl’s comforter.”

To an 18-year-old male whose parents won’t let him date: “Nothing will solve your problem faster than the draft. The Army may not be the easiest way to cut apron-strings, but it’s the most effective.”

“If a girl doesn’t stand on ‘Three slaps and you’re out,’ she may REALLY strike out on the fourth pitch.”

“Work on your looks and personality so that fellows will see the sparkle first and discover the sympathy as an added dividend. Change that ‘anxious-to-please’ smile to a friendly grin. Put a swing in your walk and a gleam in your eye. Let men know you’re a female-type girl. That’s all it takes.”

“…males being males, and females being forever feminine, ‘equal rights’ will always be shot full of loopholes.”

“Wild parties make you ‘in,’ all right—TROUBLE!”

“Nice girls don’t advertise—they wait to be discovered.”

“This ‘Pill for All’ bit is something like letting girls visit in men’s dormitory rooms. Much drumbeating, but where it’s allowed, who visits? Almost no one.”

“A kiss shouldn’t make promises a girl doesn’t plan to keep, and if it’s lacking in ‘technique,’ so much the better. As I’ve said before, a kiss is like a salesman’s spiel: If it’s too perfect, you suspect he’s had so much practice he couldn’t possibly be sincere.”

Other Weird Words of Wisdom Posts You Might Enjoy:

“Take It on the Chin, Gal” Edition

Swearing, Shouting, and Backslapping Edition

Twin Sister Smackdown Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Clean, Humorous, and Sprightly Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom is back, bringing you more sage advice from vintage teenage advice manuals!

“Have the greatest of respect for girls. Some will lose their heads and be foolish at times. Retain your poise and judgment and keep them in their place.”

Advice for Boys, 1947 (1954 printing)
By the Rev. T.C. Siekmann

About This Book and Its Author: Advice for Boys offers exactly what its title promises. The Reverend Theodore C. Siekmann was a Catholic priest, so much of the book deals with specifically Catholic topics—the Mass, the rosary, and sainthood. Fortunately for us, Siekmann includes a smattering of weird advice on more typical teenage preoccupations.

I haven’t been able to find much information about the Rev. Siekmann. He served at St. Joseph Church in Prairie Du Rocher, Illinois, from 1956 to 1968, and at St. Luke’s in Belleville, Illinois, from 1968 until retirement in 1982. He also did missionary work in Guatemala.

His book’s jacket indicates that he taught physical education and served as a sports coach as well as a religious educator. This background may explain his touching faith in athletics’ ability to keep people out of trouble. (Ask Aaron Hernandez how that’s working for him.)

Siekmann also wrote a book for girls. I haven’t been able to get my hands on it, but it sounds awesome.

Quotes from Advice for Boys

“If you are not happy, then something is wrong with you.”

“Athletics is good, very good…When you are all absorbed in a game, you think of nothing else, you want nothing else. Evil can wait.”

“Say a word of appreciation to your mother occasionally. Compliment her on her pie or cake. Praise the roast. Notice and mention the neat ironing she does for you.”

“At all times there is a supply of current slang expressions that are clean, humorous, and sprightly. A sprinkling of these innocent phrases will add zest to your conversation, without giving offense.”

“One girl among your present acquaintances may be yours till death. At any rate, she will probably be someone’s wife. Treat her even now as God’s noble gift to man, as a mother-to-be. Protect her virtue; guard her innocence. Keep her good for her future husband, whether it is you or Jack or Jim.”

“Personality may be summarized by three words: truth, cleanliness, and a smile.”

“When a room is cold, do not complain. Suffer it in a spirit of mortification. When the summer is hot and humid, smile and bear it for God. When you do not like food, do not complain.”

“Raising chickens is a fine hobby, and supplies fresh eggs for the table. If the location of your home permits, you might raise rabbits, pheasants or foxes, or other fur-bearing animals. All this will be at a considerable profit, in addition to the wholesome enjoyment which you will derive from your activity.”

On becoming a priest: “In short, almost all that you need to do is to enter a seminary and be willing to do what you are told.”

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

Mugging, Smooching, and Flinging the Woo Edition

Embracing our Nature and Destiny Edition

Big Splendid Manhood Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: “Take It on the Chin, Gal” Edition

“The more formal you are in your approach to the party, the better behaved your guests will probably be. Make them understand it’s a ‘party’ not a ‘gang-bang.’”

She-Manners, 1959 (1960 printing)
By Robert H. Loeb Jr.

K. Chin illustrated this book. The K. Chin best known for his 1970s artwork featuring cute animals? Probably. Like Loeb, Chin had an advertising background.

K. Chin illustrated this book. The K. Chin best known for his 1970s artwork featuring cute animals? Probably. Like Loeb, Chin had an advertising background.

About This Books and Its Author: A lot of people wrote advice books for teenage girls in the 1950s, and few of them had any special qualifications beyond magazine writing experience. Most of them, however, had lady parts. It took a certain amount of chutzpah for Robert H. Loeb Jr. to write a book aimed at girls (or, as he prefers to call them, gals.)

This dust-jacket blurb tells us as much about Loeb as I’ve been able to discover: “Bob’s a writer by profession, and an advertising man—no grey flannel suit, no Madison Avenue. And he used to be an editor for Esquire, when he also wrote Wolf in Chef’s Clothing, a hilarious cook book for men. Ah, then he turned his eyes upon the girls and said, ‘Say, they read, too, don’t they?’ That’s how he began. That’s how he dared.”

A writer and an advertising man? It’s as if Mad Men’s Ken Cosgrove wrote an advice book for teenage girls…which explains chapter titles like “The Wolf’s in the Trap—Wedding Time is Here” and “The Boss’ Lap is Not a Chair.”

Loeb is progressive on issues of racial and religious prejudice, devoting a whole chapter to the subject. The myths he sets out to debunk in that chapter are cringe-worthy reminders of how far society’s progressed: They include “The Negro in the United States has primitive morals,” “Negroes are not as clean as whites,” and “Jews have black curly hair and hooked noses. You can always tell a Jew.”

By 1950s standards, he’s even progressive on sex roles, admitting that they are social constructs and often unfair. In 1977, he would write a book called Breaking the Sex-Role Barrier. But his 1950s advice for dealing with male chauvinists doesn’t break any barriers: “Take in on the chin, gal. This is going to be with you always. We men have to stick together.”

Fun Fact: Loeb’s 1950 cookbook for men, Wolf in Chef’s Clothing, was reprinted in 2000. In this newspaper article, publisher Susan Schwartz describes the book and her decision to republish it—she sounds like a “gal” after my own heart.

Quotes from She-Manners

“Any man is wonderful if he is the man in your life.”

“Your best policy is always to accept the fact that (a boy) is a powerful giant, not matter what you may think. If you are able to beat him at tennis or golf or swimming, either don’t beat him or else beat him but tell him you know he’s not really trying or is just letting you win out of politeness. Let him maintain his powerful, caveman role.”

“To make (a boy) feel important, you have to forget your own desires for importance. Compliment him on his physical prowess, his mental acumen, his good looks, his virility. The worst mistake a girl can make is to make a man feel intellectually inferior or inadequate as a male. We men need  a lot of reassurance. So lay it on thick but subtly. Stoke his ego. Let him think he’s king much of the time. He will love you for it, and, you know, it will make you feel extremely feminine.”

“You know—men suffer from an odd sense of inferiority. They’re often terrified by smart women. This doesn’t mean you have to act the idiot role or the cute little ‘Oh, aren’t you smart!’ role. But it does mean that you can let him feel he is superior…The first evening you are together, don’t let him know you read Greek. Save that for next week. By that time he will like you so well that he won’t mind discovering you are an intellectual!”

“If you are a gal who uses frank, men’s locker room language—DON’T on this first date DON’T—EVER! Avoid shocking your date. Even if he uses such language and hears all the guys and dolls in the senior class using it, he wants his date to be better than the rest of the crowd.”

“(Many men will) grab you and kiss you on that first date, just to prove they can. This doesn’t mean they love you. It usually means they’re testing you. If a man can kiss you after a few minutes together, he has three reactions. One, he will think he’s irresistible. We men like to think that. Second, he will think you are an easy target. An easy target is not much to boast about. Third, he will wonder how many other men have had as easy a time as he. When he gets to that question, your market value drops.”

“The man has one set of standards for himself and another for you. He may consider himself a Don Juan for having succeeded in getting you to pet, but he will also decide that you’re too easy to get.”

On marriage: “Don’t be overanxious and feel that by the time you’re eighteen or twenty and have not been asked, you are on the shelf.”

k chin illustration 1Getting a guy to think about marriage: “Perhaps you can wangle an invitation for the two of you to dinner at the house of a happily married young couple? Or take him on a tour of home furnishing departments in the stores? Or on a lonely, romantic walk along the river? Or to an equally romantic formal dance? Maybe you can show him how well prepared you are for marriage—a good cook, a neat housekeeper, a gal who loves kiddies, a perfect hostess for a business or professional man?” Home furnishing departments? That’s really subtle.

At job interviews: “Don’t try to be overly glamorous, but don’t try to be the opposite extreme. You need not look like an old-fashioned eager beaver, all work and no-nonsense in the office…The male interviewer will probably be disinterested and think you’d not be much of an addition to the office décor.”

“If the (job) interviewer offers you a cigarette as a way of putting you at ease or as a gesture of friendship, then you may accept or not, as you wish.”

Fashion Tips (Yes, he even gives fashion tips)

“A word of warning—never overemphasize. A gal may have a terrific figure, but a homely face. So she overemphasizes her figure with tight sweaters and skirts, and walks with a hip-wiggle. All she gets are wolf whistles and leers. What she should have done was to make the best of her figure, since it is more attractive than her face, but not boast about her figure. And she should have realized that her face is not one half as ugly as she thinks.”

Suggested Wardrobe Essentials

2 long-sleeved pullover sweaters
2 long-sleeved cardigan sweaters
1 short-sleeved sweater or polo shirt or T-shirt
2 tailored shirts—1 solid color, 1 patterned
3 blouses—more feminine in styling
4 skirts—2 slim, 1 pleated, 1 full gathered
1 simple suit
1 jumper
2 date dresses—1 with discreetly covered top, preferably with small jacket; and 1 with low, round neck, décolleté style
2 simple dresses—to be dressed up with accessories for casual dates, street wear, or class
2 formals—1 long, 1 short
1 heavy all-purpose winter coat
1 dressier coat for church, dates, special functions
1 in-between coat for spring, summer, fall
1 bulky jacket or car coat
1 jacket to wear with skirts
2 pairs of slacks
2 pairs of Bermuda shorts

“Short short short shorts—no! In some towns and neighborhoods it’s against the law to wear short shorts in public.”

Weird Words of Wisdom: An Occasional Mad, Crazy Hat Edition

mccalls

Welcome to my latest Weird Words of Wisdom post about a vintage advice book for teens–and to my 100th post on Embarrassing Treasures!

“Besides being clannish, boys are basically conservative, especially when they’re together…They may whistle at the girl in the low-cut red dress, but it’s the demure little one in blue they ask for a date.”

McCall’s Guide to Teen-Age Beauty and Glamour, 1959 (1965 printing)

About this Book: This is the kind of cheap paperback that you could find in drugstore racks back in the day. It must have sold well, since the copy I have is from its 10th printing. Much of its advice is not so much weird as delightfully dated—it includes admonitions to straighten stocking seams, tip ladies’ room attendants a quarter, and take care when eating “Italian spaghetti.”

About the Author: Betsy Keiffer was a writer and editor at McCall’s Magazine. Born Elisabeth Corrigan in 1923, she married a painter named Edwin Keiffer in 1950. You can read about their lives on a web site that their children created about their father’s work. Betsy Keiffer, who died in 2006, was also the sister of New Yorker writer Faith McNulty. McNulty’s 1980 bestseller The Burning Bed became a memorable TV movie vehicle for Farrah Fawcett.

Beauty and Fashion Tips

“Put a few drops of perfume on a bit of cotton and tuck it inside your bra.”

Evidence of the vanity sizing that has taken hold in recent decades: “Of course, if you’re neither tall nor short, but just in between, not thin, not plump but a perfect size 12, you’re incredibly lucky and you’ll look fine in anything from a bikini to a sheath.”

“Don’t ever lull yourself into thinking you can ‘get by’ with those faintly grimy gloves or collars one more day.”

Why I’m really glad that someone invented blow-dryers: “It never seems to fail that when you are planning to wash your hair tomorrow, it’s today that divine boy you just met asks you out. There isn’t time, of course, for a real shampoo and set—but there is help at hand. To remove some of the oil that makes it look so stringy, use the trick of a piece of cheesecloth on your hairbrush, backed up by a hundred firm strokes.”

“When you buy a hat, be sure it will go with the coat and suit you have, as well as with several of your dresses, that it’s becoming and that you feel comfortable in it. Don’t let the salesgirl sweet-talk you into something that makes you feel foolish once you get it home. (Not that I’m against an occasional mad, crazy hat—provided your face and budget can afford it. It can do wonders for morale.)”

If you have wide hips: “Above all, rule shorts and slacks out of your wardrobe. They were never meant for the hourglass figure.”

Some suggested meals for weight loss

Breakfast
½ tangerine
1 soft-boiled egg
1 slice toast
Buttermilk or skim milk (1 glass)

Lunch
Frankfurter with mustard, no roll
2 salted crackers
Medium orange

Dinner
1 medium hamburger, no bun
½ small baked potato with butter
2/3 cup cabbage salad with lemon juice
½ cup fruit cocktail
Buttermilk or skim milk (1 glass)

Getting Along with Boys

“The only grounds for not following a boy’s plans for the evening are if he suggests going to some place your parents have not given you permission to go or if he suggests some sport or activity you don’t know how to do.” (I can think of some other things that might be in a boy’s plans that a girl would be within her rights to refuse. Of course, “some sport or activity” could be euphemism for those things, but I doubt it based on the suggested response for girls: “Before we go, I’d better tell you that I’ve never bowled before in my life—but I’m game if you are.”)

“If he’s made plans for the evening, don’t try to change them, no matter how much you hanker to see the double feature at the Palace or to show off your beau to the gang at the Pizzateria. Boys resent bitterly, and they have every right to, the idea that they’re being manipulated or pushed around on a date.”

“If you’ve ever taken the time to do any reflecting about which girls are popular and which aren’t—and why—you have undoubtedly noticed that one characteristic popular girls have in common is the ability to be relaxed around boys. They are frank, but never frantic, in their attitude that men are wonderful creatures.”

Some Boy Pet Peeves to Avoid (Supposedly Submitted by Male College Freshmen)

“Dresses that look as though they’d been painted on.”

“A raucous voice or sloppy speech.”

“Stance like a football player’s in a huddle.”

“Underwear straps that show.”

“Charm bracelets that clank so they drown out conversation.”  That must involve a huge charm bracelet and some really wild gesturing.

“Dresses with necklines that end slightly above the waist.”

“Eye make-up that’s so extreme a girl looks like a Chinese vase instead of a girl!”

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy

Boring Beth and Sunshiny Sue Edition

A Million and One Tricks with a Strand of Pearls Edition

Crisp White Gloves Edition