Monday, January 13, 2014

Documentary About the Great Writers Who Sat at the Algonquin Round Table

Barry Paris' swonderful biography of Louise Brooks details the time the then 17 year old actress lived at the famous Algonquin Hotel in New York City. The building, located at 59 West 44th Street in Manhattan, has been designated as a New York City Historic Landmark.

The 174-room hote, opened in 1902, was originally conceived as a residential hotel but was quickly converted to a traditional lodging establishment. Its first manager-owner, Frank Case (with whom Louise Brooks was acquianted), established many of the hotel's best-known traditions. Perhaps its best-known tradition is hosting literary and theatrical notables, most prominently the members of the Algonquin Round Table.

In June 1919, the hotel became the site of daily meetings of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of journalists, authors, publicists, artists and actors who gathered to exchange bon mots over lunch in the main dining room. The group met almost daily for the better part of ten years. Some of the core members of this "Vicious Circle" included Herman J. Mankiewicz, Franklin P. Adams, Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Jane Grant, Ruth Hale, George S. Kaufman, Neysa McMein, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Robert E. Sherwood, Alexander Woollcott and others.

Brooks never happened to meet Dorthy Parker, according to the Barry Paris biography, but she did report seeing her and other members of the vicious circle at the hotel. "I watched Robert Sherwood and Dorothy Parker and a lot of other people jabbering and waving their hands at the Round Table, wondering what made them famous." Benchley was a friend, and Sherwood reviewed Brooks' films in the pages of Life magazine a few years ago. Brooks was also friendly with Mankiewicz.

The Ten Year Lunch is an award winning documentary about the hotel and the famous writers who hung out there. It is informative and fun. Check it out.

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