Archive for July, 2009
More than a couple of arts and education institutions bear Tarkington’s name in some manner. One you probably have not heard of is Indianapolis Public School 92. The elementary school was scheduled for closure last year due to budget cuts, but it still appears to be operational, as the website is still up and the listed phone number still rings through. The site, however, has not been updated since 2007. Their “Who is Booth Tarkington?” page contains some unusual biographical notes…
Good on the Cape Cod Times, which saw fit today to observe Booth Tarkington’s birthday. Karen Jeffrey offered the following, with links and excerpts from solid reference materials: “Once a familiar name in many American households, he was a playwright and author who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 for his novel The Magnificent Ambersons, later made into a movie directed by Orson Wells. In 2001, his book The Magnificent Ambersons was named as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century…”
Included is a letter from Tarkington’s daughter Laurel to her stepmother, and a poem found in Tarkington’s desk at the time of Laurel’s death. Several of the letters relate to Tarkington’s interest in art, both as a collector and as a museum board member. These include letters to Mr. Silberman an art dealer from whom Tarkington bought many of the paintings he collected, and on whom he modeled his stories about Rumbin Galleries. A letter to Indianapolis Symphony conductor Fabien Sevitzky refers to a joint project to make an opera out of Kipling’s Just So Stories.
Any charge that the Penrod books were actually racist would have to take into account the entire body of Tarkington’s work… and would also have to answer for Rupe Collins and Roderick Bitts, white boys in Penrod’s world who were equally stereotyped. Mallon and the censors find in Tarkington what they wish to… not because it’s not there, which it is, but because they’re not trying hard enough to find what else is there. If you’re interested, I recommend avoiding the critical and editorial filters of the 21st Century. Please, discover Tarkington for yourself.
Alexander Leitch memorializes, among other things, that Tarkington “spent his first two years of college at Purdue, his last two at Princeton. He was a founder of the Triangle Club, and editor of the Nassau Literary Magazine, a contributor of humorous drawings and literary wit to The Tiger, and the most popular man in his class. Bliss Perry said he was ‘the only Princeton man who had ever been known to play poker (with his left hand), write a story for the Nassau Lit (with his right hand), and lead the singing in a crowded room, performing these three acts simultaneously.’”
One of these days I’m going to have to get around to actually watching the films adapted from Tarkington’s novels… and there are scads of them, featuring luminaries from Hollywood’s past. In the present case, Presenting Lily Mars was adapted by MGM (and apparently faithfully, relatively speaking) with young star Judy Garland. The film is available on DVD, and the New York Sun offers a review in a musical pair-up with Fiddler on the Roof. Toward the bottom of the article, Gary Giddens gets around to talking about Mars.
89.3 WFPL is carrying a report that the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre (actually now called the Indianapolis Civic Theatre) is receiving $25,000 in Federal stimulus funds to help keep its doors open. “Anything that the government can do, like the stimulus fund grants, certainly help to maintain these important jobs, because arts organizations are like any other employer,” says Sally Gaskill. “They are responsible for paying taxes through their payroll and certainly those jobs are as important as jobs in the for-profit sector.”
When I reported on the very loose Penrod adaptation By the Light of the Silvery Moon the other day, I thought I recalled having seen a review of that movie’s prequel somewhere, also starring Doris Day and Gordon McRae… and I found it. An anonymous blogger put together a very extensive review of On Moonlight Bay… which also notes that the film was adapted from the Penrod stories. Again, what on earth does this storyline have to do with Penrod?
“Will Sherman returns from WWI. But his hasty pre-war proposal to Marjorie Winfield is not nearly as close to his heart as it once was. Loosely based on Booth Tarkington’s Penrod stories, the subplots are varied and largely forgettable; including one involving actresses who want to rent the Winfield’s barn, but who take on a spurious coloring when Marjorie’s younger brother, Wesley thinks the eldest is romantically after their father.” Okay… and Penrod figures into this how?
Find A Grave includes a memorial for Booth Tarkington. The site is primarily a researcher’s tool, and has a very nice layout including sections for a biography, photos, and memorial “virtual flowers” and notes. The photos section at present includes a nice portrait, a fine shot of the Tarkington-Jameson crypt at Indianapolis’ Crown Hill Cemetery, and a photo of the historical marker at Crown Hill, which takes note of Tarkington among many other famous Hoosiers.
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