Week of January 13, 1947
The Republicans Take Over Congress
I was very fortunate to find a set of bound volumes of LIFE Magazine for the year 1947. Since 2004 is just beginning, I thought that it would be appropriate to meander through 1947 one week at a time to see how things have (and haven't) changed in 57 years. By the way -- the bound volumes came from the library of Bridgewater College (in Bridgewater, Virginia...) Are there any alumni out there who would like to share campus lore from this august institution -- especially during 1947?
Click here to see excerpts from other LIFE magazine issues during 1947
Thanks to Google Books, you can click here to read the entire January 13, 1947 issue of LIFE Magzine. You can look at some of the images that we refer to but cannot post due to copyright.
We are always glad to hear from our readers: e-mail us by clicking here
The January 13 issue had color photos of attractive models displaying the latest in resort fashions. The cover girls are Joan Cresswell and Charlotte Payne. Again, if anyone can fill in the rest of their lives between 1947 and 2004, we'd love to hear about it.
This issue contains and article about fire safety in high-rise buildings. Specifically, in 1946 there were 30 major hotel fires that killed 272 people. Of note, over 60 people were killed in a fire at the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago and 119 were killed in the fire at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta.. Most of the fires were in hotels labeled "fireproof", although that term only means that the building will remain standing for a fixed period of time if it is gutted by fire. The article discusses "firesafe" construction that prevents fire from rising through airshafts and elevator shafts. The article urges reforms that have beenlargely adapted today - metal fire doors, enclosed, isolated stairwells, and self-closing insulated room doors. Ominously, the article warns that no building would be safe if an airliner filled with fuel were to crash into it.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was forseen in an article about a special home that had been built for a paraplegic veteran by a group of Dallas businessman. The house featured many handicapped-friendly features that are now standard today.
The lead article focused on religion in China. Essays from the Catholic Bishop of Nanking and a Protestant missionary attested to the strength of the Christian religion in China. Both articles made the point that congregations had survived the war and the Japanese occupation and hence, Christianity had some claim to indigenous status and was not a transplant of Western colonial elements. All concerned were closely allied with the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-Shek which was notorious for its corruption.
Within a year, the Nationalists had fallen to the Communists under Mao Tse Tung. However, the church managed to survive underground. Even though organized religion has been persecuted for more than 50 years, there are still established Catholoc and Protestant congregations.
An Editorial reiterated LIFE's unbending support for the Nationalists to support a $500 Mil loan -- most of which lined the pockets of corrupt Nationalist politicians. Chaing Kai-Shek did a masterful job of pulling the wool over just about every American politician to the right of center. Never has more money been tossed down a rat hole. Largely, we fought the debacle in Viet Nam because no Democrat was ever willing to face the "loss" of another Asian country to Communism. It took a right wing Republican like Richard Nixon to end the anti-communist hysteria in China, because he, alone could not be accused of being "soft on Communism." The treasure and opportunity that were lost over this nonsense are appalling.
Something that did not have that remarkable staying power was the French Communist Party, or PCF, profiled in a following article in the same issue. The article begins with a three quarter page photo of Jacques Duclos, the leading intellectual of the PCF. As shown, he fits the established media stereotype of the "Party Boss" - short, fat, dumpy, badly tailored and wearing thick horn rimmed glasses. In general, the entire article is told through this lens, although in reality, Duclos had led a very courageous and effective fight against the Germans.
Much is made of the fact that the PCF headquarters has relatively heavy security, including massive barred doors. This may well be, but security at PCF is miniscule compared to the Elysee Palace, home of the established government. Of interest are photos taken inside the "PCF Nerve Center" which generally make it look like a dump. The only guy who has a decent office is the head man, Maurice Thorez. Although M. Thorez had extensive proletarian credentials as an ex coal-miner, the fact that he spent WWII in Russia rather than in the resistance weighed heavily against him.
LIFE worried gravely that a Communist electoral victory in France might prove "contagious", spreading to Italy and who knows where else. [The New York Times had recently "discovered" nearly 400,000 Communists in (gasp) Latin America...] LIFE said "Stern discipline is keeping down a potential powder keg of revolutionary direct action. But, such kegs can be easily lighted by those who would benefit from the explosion." These fears were totally groundless -- Western European Communism had its high water mark in 1948 and slowly fizzled out.
LIFE missed the point here completely -- there were a substantial number of Frenchmen who did quite well under the Nazi occupation, and these collaborators were justly reviled by the average Pierre Q. Citoyen on the street. In general, Fascism had lots of allies in France, particularly among those who felt hamstrung by trade unions. Maurice Chevalier was one of the more odious collaborators, and it still gives me the shivers to hear him sing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" in the fil GIGI. Josephine Baker and Edith Piaf sided with the Resistance, by the way. The Communists enjoyed some credibility and power because they slugged it out in the Resistance. If they had chosen a maquis for a leader instead of the Soviet puppet Thorez, they might have made a much better electoral showing.
As a footnote to the story, the reporter travelled for a day with members of a "typical" Communist Cell. These guys looked a whole lot better than the party bosses. Meeting in a coffee shop, the group's discussion began with the Marxist Dialectic, but eventually branched off into sex. That is probably why Communism never took firm root in France.
For the first time in 15 years, the Republicans took over control of the entire Congress (House and Senate). To their credit, they began by kicking out Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, the corrupt, racist demagogue that formed the basis for a generation of caricatures. Bilbo was the worst of the lot, although Congressional Democrats vowed to filibuster to seat Bilbo (covicted of illegal dealings with war profiteers). A compromise was reached with Bilbo's ouster but at full salary. He is shown in a photo leaving the Senate in a sloppy old suit covered with gravy stains. A true paragon of white protestant hegemony, he died a few weeks later of oral cancer.
Given control of the Congress, the Republicans reorganized the committee structure and promulgated the following agenda:
There were happy pictures of new Congressmen being handed brooms for a "clean sweep". Most of this also happened in 1994 when the Republicans finally got hold of Congress after a 20 year hiatus. Their platform was astonishingly similar. In fairness, the poll tax was finally lifted, but not until the mid 1950s. Lots of non-nationalized "aid" has been poured everywhere, and we embarked on an orgy of Anti-Communism. Budget control and tax cuts are still the dream of Republicans everywhere.
Babies were always worth a few photos in LIFE. This week brought the spotlight to the first baby born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a 6.5 pound baby boy born to Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Thome, a welder. Local businesses contributed a variety of gifts including a bottle warmer from Iowa Electric Light and Power and an egg-cooker from Art's Radio Dock. The article also showed photos of previous "first babies" from 1935 through 1946. There were two sets of twins in the group.
A monumental rainstorm dumped 2.7 inches of rain on Los Angeles flooded streets and provided LIFE's photographers with an opportunity to show some cheesecake as a group of ladies hiked their skirts thigh high to wade home after a wedding.
An amusing article dealt with the "Lost Men of American History", which deals with lesser-known characters such as:
A regular feature was photo coverage of a celebrity party. This week, LIFE went to a "Mermaid Party" thrown by Hollywood producer Nunnally Johnson, and conveniently plugged a film called Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid that was conveniently produced by the selfsame Mr. Johnson. (The film, starring William Powell may be the finest treatment of mid-life crisis ever made, and is certainly much better than the cheesy party).
The party featured starlets in mermaid costumes and featured squab, tenderloin, lamb, and 19 cases of champagne. Cleberities portrayed in the photo spread are: Edward G. Robinson, Deborah Kerr, Peter Lind Hayes, George Montgomery, Van Johnson, Keenan Wynn, Merle Oberon,Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
LIFE reviewed a Moss Hart play called Christopher Blake which examined the effects of divorce on adolescents. The play starred Richard Tyler, whose only other known role is the kid who gets boxing lessons from Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary's. For my money, the play looked like a real stinkeroo.
LIFE devoted several pages to the film The Lady in the Lake which featured an unusual "Camera as Eye" technique. The film was recently featured on TCM. The film was derived from the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name. Actor George Montgomery plays private eye Philip Marlow, although he is only seen fleetingly in sequences with mirrors. The gimmick actually works, and the film is quite coherent, although some of the devices are a bit clumsy. Audrey Totter is a real cutie in this film. My favorite actor to play Marlowe is Robert Mitchum, although the noted sleuth has been played by Dick Powell (Farewell My Lovely), Montgomery (Lady...), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep), Elliot Gould (The Long Goodbye), James Garner (Marlowe with Bruce Lee...), and James Caan (Poodle Springs).
Ads for the following films were run:
An ad for Nash automobiles touted the fact that their car had a "conditioned air system". This looked like gobbldegook to confuse the reader into thinking that the Nash came with Air Conditioning as standard equipment. This was only available as a very expensive option on the Cadillac, and even then didn't work very well. It took the invention of freon to make car air-conditioning a reality
A great car, but the company was headed for extinction
The Book-of-the-Month club offered all the Comedies and Tragedies of Shakespeare as a "come-on" for membership. These wer touted as "indispensible" for the home library.
Both Bordens and Shefford's Chevel published recipes for melted cheese on toast that was supposed to be Sunday supper. Main-stream Americans had a TERRIBLE diet in the 1940s. We do not espouse any retro food here. (See our Recipe Page for more details)
The Mutual Life Insurance company had another ad in the retire on $150 a month scheme. This month they touted the plan as being like a "rich uncle"
Colgate toothpaste helped a sad teenager (wearing a bow tie) to get the "phone ringing" and win the girl of his dreams
Swift and Company published a two-page photo of Martha Logan, one of their "food artists" taking pictures of a platter of insipid lunchmeat. She is surrounded by photographers, lighting and color-matching chps as she artfully sprinkles parsley on the display... The article begins with the title "Picture a woman having the last word at Swift and Company".
An ad for Ovaltine, a chocolate flavoring added to milk, made it appear that you could drink a glass of this stuff and get the nutrition in steaks, spinach, eggs, cheese, and beans. This has to set some record for corporate deception.
Douglas Aircraft had a two-page spread touting the reliability of its airplanes. The company was locked in a life-and-death struggle with Boeing in enticing airlines to buy its prototype jet aircraft, many years distant in the future. Boeng finally won with the 707
An ad for Ponds Hand cream reads "She's Lovely... She's engaged... She uses Ponds." Not exactly subtle, were they... Meanwhile, Pacquin's Hand crem theorized that "her fair and fragile hand was the symbol of noble birth..."
Gene Tierny, then starring in The Razor's Edge found time to endorse Stratford Regency Pens. Those of you who know the film Laura will see fine irony here...
The Sugar Research Foundation, which year-in-and-year-out lobbied Congress for fat subsidies touted sugar as "The Diamond that's good to eat.." Meanwhile, Sunset Prune Juice promised a "Happy Note for Breakfast" (they wrote this stuff, not me!)
Kinsey's Blended Whiskey offered a calendar for January filled with unusual occasions that could be the basis for drinking a toast (Gas Street Lighting began in London on Jan 28, 1807). They ran a calendar ad every month, so we will be revisiting this topic...
There is a spectacular ad for the "Kitchen of Tommorrow" by Youngstown Kitchens that we used for our Dream Kitchen remodeling
In the last vestige of LIFE's appeal to the upper middle class, Stinson airplanes advertised it's 1947 Voyager as the "Flying Station Wagon". The ad appeared amidst pitches for pencils, mustard and chewing gum.
The back cover is one of those glorious Coke ads featuring happy, All-American teenagers having fun singing around a piano. The boys are wearing sport coats and bow ties. "When the gang's together for a song-fest, you can depend on ice-cold Coca Cola to strike the refreshing note every time..." (An ad for 7-Up in the magazine features a happy family singing around the pano.)
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