Monday, February 20, 2023

More Bits and Pieces Found on The Street of Forgotten Men

In my forthcoming book, The Street of Forgotten Men: From Story to Screen and Beyond, I state "Bits and pieces of this book were first tried out on my Louise Brooks Society blog, where anyone interested in The Street of Forgotten Men can find additional material which didn’t make it into the book." This is one such post.

One chapter in the book focuses on the film's legacy, and the surprising way it impacted American culture. I discuss how the title of the film became a catchphrase, and survey some of the fiction, film, and other material which was "inspired" by The Street of Forgotten Men, including poetry. I found a handful of pieces, including a prose poem in a 1928 high school yearbook, which referenced the film title. In my book, I didn't have room to discuss each of the examples of poetry which I came across. Here, I foucs on the two poems whose titles were taken from the film.

The film's title-phrase became the subject of a newspaper poem titled “The Street of Forgotten Men.” At the time, many papers printed inspirational or humorous verse, much of which rhymed, was satirical, or sought to teach a lesson. (Today, Edgar Guest may well be the best known writer of such verse.) 

One piece I came across was Daniel J. Knott, Jr.’s “original composition,” which appeared on December 13, 1929 in the Putnam County Courier, published in Carmel, New York. Knott’s verse, which is a sing-songy tour of the Bowery, reflects on the hungry and homeless – the “bodies of wrecks caught in poverty’s mesh.” It ran just a couple of months after the stock market crash which began the Depression.

Another piece I came across was an anonymous poem published in a book, Seth Parker Fireside Poems, a 1933 collection of folksy poems originally broadcast on the radio by Seth Parker (aka Phillips H. Lord), a popular radio personality and the host of the long running program, Jonesport Neighbors. Parker was quite famous in his day, and in 1932 he starred in a motion picture produced by RKO Radio Pictures which was based on another of his books. In the film, Way Back Home, he starred opposite Bette Davis.

A note accompanying the poem reads, “This poem was handed to Mr. Lord during his Monday night broadcast from his ‘Bowery Den’ (the old ‘Tunnel Saloon’ on the Bowery) by one of the men in the bread-line, It was written in pencil on an old scrap of paper. When questioned as to why he had written this poem, the author’s only reply was, ‘My tribute to Phil Lord for what he is doing for us boys down here’.”

If you are wondering how it is that I am ascribing the title of these two poems to the film and not some other source, you will have to read my book. I trace the history of the phrases "forgotten man" (or "forgotten men") and "street of forgotten men," and note that the latter was not used in any print source I could trace until George Kibbe Turner's 1925 magazine story (upon which the 1925 film was based) was published. As I state in the book, "Herbert Brenon's 1925 film has a distinction few other movies can claim, namely, its title became a catchphrase."

The Street of Forgotten Men: From Story to Screen and Beyond is nearly done. I am waiting for one last document to arrive, and have begun a final edit and indexing of the book. As The Street of Forgotten Men is Louise Brooks' first film, this is a book fans of the actress and of the silent era will want to read.

THE LEGAL STUFF: The Louise Brooks Society™ blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society  ( Original contents copyright © 2023. Further unauthorized use prohibited.

No comments:

Powered By Blogger