Starting this week, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art is running a film series titled Hollywood on the Hudson: Filmmaking in New York, 1920–39. As part of the that series, the 110-minute 1924 Rudolph Valentino version of Tarkington’s wildly popular Monsieur Beaucaire will be screening on September 27 and 29. “Nestled in Astoria after fleeing Paramount’s west coast studio, Valentino and his wife, Natacha Rambova, designed this romantic costume drama as an artful riposte to the frivolities they felt had been forced on them in Hollywood.”
“Alice Adams is the sort of book,” muses the National Review’s David Frum, “that you’d think would appeal to intelligent young women struggling for self-understanding. And once upon a time … it did. … But how many women who have turned 20 since the middle years of the last century still read it? Tarkington is no Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Fitzgerald or Dos Passos. But he’s a much better writer than … well shall we fill out the list? So why is there room for Zora Neale Hurston and John Steinbeck in our high school reading lists, and not Tarkington?” Read on for his theories, plus comments from Peggy Noonan.
Last Saturday was the annual Penrod Arts Fair, held on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. According to the event’s website, “The Penrod Arts Fair has been held annually on the first Saturday after Labor Day since 1967. The Penrod Arts Fair attracts over 30,000 people to the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art to listen to music, watch performing artists and purchase thousands of dollars of art. All proceeds from this one day extravaganza provide grants that are allocated to Indianapolis area arts organizations.” Check out the list of the grants the Penrod Society doles out!
While the John Hughes approach seemed awfully juvenile for its time, it seems positively tame today in light of the Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell schools of humor. Hughes now even feels frighteningly sophisticated and mature. So what does this have to do with Tarkington? According to the website Slash Film, Hughes made the following remark in an article for Zoetrope magazine: “As a print humorist—envisioning myself as Chicago’s Booth Tarkington Jr.—I willfully knew nothing of show business.” So I guess it’s no surprise that Hughes’ humor seems awfully old-fashioned today.
Last month, the Indy Star ran an update on Doris Sadler’s renovation of Tarkington’s Indianapolis home… and there are some great pictures to along with the online article! You really ought to click through to see the pictures if you’re at all interested. “Marble tiles line the floor, and a small marble staircase with full balustrades leads into the partly sunken room lined with bookshelves. A bank of French doors, each containing 15 panes of glass, lines one wall facing a lawn; each door is topped by a six-paned transom.”
In reviewing the recent documentary feature film American Teen, which features students at a small Indiana high school, Richard von Busack made some astute observations. Now, it’s hard to imagine Willie Baxter either fitting into Heathers or chumming it up with Megan and her crowd; but Busack is right that, particulars aside, there is a certain universality to the high school experience… and nearly a hundred years hasn’t made a dent in the angst associated with it.