Week of March 31, 1947
Spring Hats (in color)
Hat, Commies, and Pea Shooters
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...) Can anyone tell us more about this august institution?
We would LOVE to hear from you if you have some observations,comments or direct personal experience with any of the subjects treated here. Contact us by clicking here.
Click here to see excerpts from other LIFE magazine issues during 1947
Thanks to Google Books, you can click here to read the entire March 31, 1947 issue of LIFE Magzine. You can look at some of the images that we refer to but cannot post due to copyright.
The March 31 issue had Model Madelon Mason posed with Monet's painting The Water Lillies in the background. This conveyed the feeling that many women wanted to achieve with a stylish $60 spring hat. Her hat, designed by the famous Irene of the movies, is made of straw, decorated with lace and a cluster of big pink peonies. This indicated a trend for 1947 -- hats that looked like flowerpots or skyscrapers were out, and designers were trying to emphasize the wearer, not the hat. Still, the names given to the various hats were silly, including "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "Best Foot Forward."
The Army had taken some German V-2 rockets from Germany and was playing with them in the New Mexico desert. (With, of course, the aid of a few ubermenschen that the Russians didn't get hold of) LIFE published a famous photo taken from a V-2 at an altitude of about 100 miles. LIFE wrote: "On March 7, with the help of a V-2 rocket sent aloft from New Mexico's White Sands Proving Ground, man looked down on his Earth from a greater height than ever before. A photo made from the nose of the V-2 showed masses of cloud, the slightly wrinkled and furrowed land but the cities faded into insignificance." This is also the source of the famous footage of a rocket ascent that was de rigeur in all science fiction films of the period. The photo also sent a message to the Russians -- we are working on rockets just as hard as you are. Here is a whole page on the Technical details of Firing the V-2
DURING THE EARLY post-Second World War years, James Burnham, a leading American Trotskyite in the 1930s, emerged as a chief critic of the policy of "containment (or quarantine) of Communism" as articulated by the Department of State’s policy planning chief, George F. Kennan, and implemented by the Truman Administration. At this time, Burnham was a prominent liberal anticommunist associated with the journal Partisan Review who had worked for the Office of Strategic Services during the war. In three books written between 1947 and 1952, and in hundreds of articles written over a twenty-five-year period for the conservative magazine National Review, Burnham criticized containment from the ideological Right, arguing for a more aggressive strategy to undermine Soviet power. That strategy, which Burnham called “liberation” and others called “rollback,” was widely ridiculed at the time and subsequently became the basis of the Reagan strategy in the 1980s. ( National Review, the journal of literate conservative opinion ultimately brought forth Burnham's ideological successor, William F. Buckley. )
Burnham has a fascinating background, and you owe it to yourself to read more about him, regardless of your political orientation.
In 1947, he had just published a book called The Struggle for the World which warned of a worldwide Communist conspiracy. The premise of this book is that World War II had already begun in the form of the Greek Civil War that we have been covering since the January 6 issue. The point of the book was that America had entered a period of history in which World politics took precedence over national or internal policies and that World politics literally involve the entire globe. This sounds ominously like the call to struggle against "international terrorism." In fact, the US was weak because all her troops had come home. Burnham makes it out like Congress was abunch of vacillating cowards for doing this. The article was accompanied by a big polar projection map that showed Russia projecting its influence like a big red octopus. The article devoted some time to excoriating the United Nations and came to the conclusion that it was "us or them" for there was no compromise with Communism. There was talk of betrayal at Yalta, vacillating timid bureaucrats, and the possiblity of a Soviet Atomic Bomb. In the end, the article argued that only America could guarantee the peace and argued for an English-speaking American empire ("Joint citizenship with the British") that would at least check the Soviets and, if necessary, destroy them. (A considerable amount of of time and money would have to be devoted to chasing that boogy-man away.)
It even happend sort of that way. We certainly poured out our national treasure to put an end to Communism, in about 1989. We got 12 years of tranquility before "international terrorism" was discovered as the next majorvillain.
If you go back and look at exactly what happened, the Greek civil war was being fought by a bunch of farmers with sticks. It was not World War III. The so-called "International terrorist" movement is a bunch of farmers with sticks of dynamite. I wonder how many years and trillions of dollars it will take before the Al Quaeda menace is put to rest.
Was the "Communist Menace" real? Of course it was! Was it worth spending $300 trillion to get rid of it? Of course NOT! Was the "anticommunist crusade" used by generations of sleaze artists to feather their nests? Of COURSE!! As you read this, bureaucrats are building empires and spending billions based on your fear of a bunch of scraggly goat herders in the deserts of Kaboozistan. Fifty years from now, someone will ask the question, "Was the International Terrorist Menace real?" Of Course....
"Speaking of Pictures" was a regular feature that showed off images that were noteworthy -- or at least were good material for casual conversation. Most of the time, the feature involved trick photography, bu this week, it was devoted to the art of Rex Whistler a noted British muralist who was killed during WWII. Among his effects were a series of curious drawings of faces that conveyed two completely different meanings depending on whether you looked at them right-side up or upside-down. Whistler also left behind poetry that accompanied each drawing. They were published in memoriam by his devoted brother, Sir Laurence Whistler in a small volume called OHO, probably the only book that is entirely readable upside-down and backward.
Verse and Drawings are Reversable
I recommend that you get to know Rex Whistler more -- he had a wonderful sense of humor! Check out the Whistler Window (scroll down a bit when you get there) and The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats.
While you are checking out the "Whistler Window", you should check out Britain's Window Tax -- there was a proprty tax on windows, and this had a marked impact on architecture
Secretary of State George C. Marshall had been in Moscow since March 9 trying to work out the final peace treaties for World War II for Germany and Austria. The negotiations were made that much more difficult by the new Truman Doctrine, discussed last week in the March 17 issue, which called for American aid to stop the spread of Communism. The treaty for Austria was not much of an obstacle -- neither side objected to the main terms: denazification and demilitarization (and neither did the Austrians...) The major issues were German unity -- and German rearmament. Secretary Marshall had traded in his General's brass hat for a Diplomat's Homburg, but he still looked ever so much the five star general as he strode into the conference (at least in the photos snapped by LIFE) Much like the British empire, foreign minister Sir Ernest Bevan was very pale, barely recovered from a serious illness. French Premier Georges Bidault attended but found himself sidelined. This was really a US/USSR show -- symbolically, those were the only two flags being flown at the airport when the Big Four ministers arrived. And, so has it been for the past 57 years.
At the other end of the scale, LIFE paid a visit to Bope Mabinshe a tribal despot in the Congo.
Nyim Bope Mabinshe
Moshenge, Kuba (Belgian Congo, now Zaire), 1947
Described by LIFE as "big frog-faced man", he had adopted some strange rules: when he sneezed, all people present had to burst out in spontaneous applause. The punishment for disobedience among his 350 wives was to have red pepper rubbed in their eyes. He is kept in power by the ruling Belgians to keep his "once cannibal" subjects under control. In an interview, Mr. Mabinshe said that he would like to visit America because "American blondes are fascinating." LIFE managed to get in two photos of bare breasted "native women". The double standard is nothing short of amazing from a perspective of 57 years.
Please read this and decide who was the worse despot: The Christian King Leopold of the Belgians or Bope Mabinshe. Hint: King Leopold used substances a bit more powerful than red-pepper to enforce obedience. Ask yourself: Why did LIFE run this article? Could it have been that some of King Leopold's subjects were asking for independence?
1947 was starting out to be a pretty good year. This was the first full year after rationing and price regulations had been removed. Now, the "free market" was back in gear. There was lots of good news: food and cars were beginning to be available in large quantities and varieties. This was a big change after five years of rationing. The shelves in the groceries were well-stocked and impossible luxuries during the war like steak and sugar wre quite avaialble -- if you could pay for them. Corporate profits were high, but prices were rising as well. And, as we have seen in the past few issues, there was considerable labor unrest as workingmen sought to share some of those corporate profits -- in order to pay the rising prices. This week, negotiations were beginning on a new labor contract in the steel industry. This would prove to be critical because (back then) steel was a big component of nearly everything that was manufactured. In 1946, U.S. Steel made a profit of $88 million; a wage increase of $0.15/hr would add $70 million to the cost, and would basically mean that the price of steel would go up. This in turn would cause an inflationary ripple throughout the economy. LIFE argued that it would be good for the country if labor did not seek a wage increase and that management should cut the price of steel to benefit the consumers. This did not happen. Labor and Management began to work hand in glove to create a vastly inefficient steel industry that collapsed of its own weight in 1970.
They were having an election in Chicago and it was part circus, part drama. The drama came from the infamous Kelly-Nash machine. The Republicans were mounting an unusually strong challenge in the mayoral race. So, the Democrats picked a reform candidate, one Martin Kennelly, a businessman and civic leader who took a substantial lead against Russell W. Root, the handpicked candidate of G.O.P. Boss Col. Robert McCormick publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The only problem in this "good news" for the democrats was that reformer Kennelly was poised to toss the corrupt machine out on its ear.
Meanwhile, back in the trenches, LIFE followed the race for Alderman in Ward 43 which pitted long-time incumbent Mathias "Paddy" Bauler against reformer Rev. Alva Tompkins. Alas, the good Reverend lost by a margin of 8-1 when Bauler pulled out all the stops with free beer and an all-girl hillbilly band. Virtue is its own reward, particularly in the realm of municipal politics.
In Berkeley, California, a fellow named Michael Darida owned a couple of tarpaper shacks that he rented to low income folks. For some reason, he went berserk and began shooting at his tenants. (Some say that he was frustrated at being unable to collect $30 in arrears) The police were summoned. Mr. Darida shot it out with them for about half an hour and then gave up. Several people were wounded, but no fatalities.
In Mexico, scientists used a variety of modern tools to locate the remains of a society from 15,000 years ago, during the late Ice Age. The man was killed in a hunting accident and fell face down into a shallow muddy pond. The silt eventually covered his body and he supposedly lay there for 15 milennia before he was found by Dr. Hans Lundberg and Dr. Helmut de Terra. Both scientists were geophysicists and they used tools more suited to oil exploration than archaeology to find the specimen. The discovery was named Tepexpan Man he was subjected to intense study at the University of Mexico. The principal conclusion in 1947 was that our ice age ancestors probably looked a whole lot like us. Several years later, the truth came out: (1) it was a woman, not a man and (2) the skelteon was considerably younger, maybe 14,000 years younger. It was a hoax.
LIFE reviewed a play in Italy. This was a comedy called Naples Millionaire A combination of a satire on war and a comedy with war as the background. It tells of the ordinary people living on a Naples sidestreet, from 1940 to 1950 under the dominance of the Fascists, the Nazis and then the Allies occupation forces. Primary among the citizens is Gennaro Iovine (Eduard De Filippo)who has a penchant for innocently getting into trouble, and his friend Pasquale (Toto.) The latter is a rail-sweeper who becomes a professional stand-in...a corpse used to conceal contraband...serving jail time for those who don't care to spend the time to do the time...a substitute at a political rally when violence threatens the scheduled speaker
The city was no stranger to corruption, having a long association with smuggling, graft, and systematic thievery. The arrival of the Americans pushes business as usual to new heights, culminating in the theft of a whole Liberty ship from the harbor. Meanwhile, in Sicily, another theatrical company was presenting a farce based on the premise that Italy had won the war and had occupied America. The parody has Americans paying high prices for Italian cigarettes, shapely girls dying to go for a ride in a Fiat, and women scheming to marry a soldier to take them back to Italy.
Attempts to stage some of the staples of American theater had flopped badly in Italy -- Our Town, Life With Father, and Tobacco Road all flopped badly despite multi-year runs on Broadway. The consensus was that Tobacco Road conjured up a reality that was so bad that it could not exist. One critic even said "Things aren't even that bad in Sicily!"
In the United States, the radio program "Truth or Consequences" had been running a contest that had grown to monumental proportions. Each week, a clue would be given to the identity of a "Mrs. Hush" -- at the same time, a new prize would be added to the list if no one was able to give the correct answer. The contest had been running for months and the prize list was truly prodigios, including a Ford convertible, a Cessna airplane, a fully stocked freezer, a weekend at the Walfdorf, a camping trailer, mink coats, diamond rings, a television set, a billiard table, and a complete wardrobe for everyone in the family. All in all, 23 big ticket prizes were involved with a 1947 value of $17,590 or about $340,000 today..
In order to participate, a person had to send in a letter that completed the sentence, "I support the March of Dimes because..." The show received 730,000 letters and the March of Dimes netted $365,000 in cotributions. Every week, three letters would be drawn at random and the lucky people would be asked to identify "Mrs. Hush." based on the full set of clues which were:
At about 7:30pm on March 15, Mrs. William H. McCormick answered the question with "Clara Bow" and was deemed the winner and became a national celebrity. Those of you who are a little young will need some background. Clara Bow was a famous silent movie star who had unusual sex-appeal. She starred in a particularly salacious film called IT (as in "You got it, kid") and was known throughout her career as the "IT Girl".
In 1927, she had it...
After retiring from the screen, she married an actor named Rex Bell and became the mother two sons. Here is the solution -- I have used italics to identify the salient parts:
So, now you know who "Mrs. Hush" was. Of all things, on page 96, about 20 pages before this article, there was an ad for a set of "party records" from Ralph Edwards, the host of the "Truth or Consequences" program. In the March 3 issue, there was an article that lampooned radio programs that had "Big Giveaways" Go back and check it out...
It truly must have been a slow news week. LIFE went to Boston to interview state senator Theodore Vatises who had introduced a bill to ban Bean shooters as a deadly weapon. The good senator, who lived with his 84 year old mother, posed for several photos that demonstrated the "serious risks" of pea-shooters. The legislature quietly buried his bill that would have placed the lowly pea shooter in a category with blackjacks and brass knuckles. LIFE also sought the services of 10 year old Danny Devlin who was sort of an authority on the subject. He was equally versatile at shooting beans, split peas and bits of putty. He was able to put 13 out of 15 shots in a 9 inch circle at a distance of 20 feet. Althought Masachusetts had given kids like Danny a pass, the New York legislature was considering banning squirt guns. A slow news week for sure...
Bing Crosby had just bought the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. This was a golden time for the Pirates. John Peter "Honus" Wagner, possibly the best shortstop who ever played, was a coach and Billy Herman had just been hired to manage. The news of the season was that the great Hank Greenberg, American League home run king of 1946 had been bought from the Detroit Tigers. The Pirates already had Ralph Kiner, the National league home run champ. Even with all this star-power, the Pirates did not do well. Crosby eventually sold the team in 1952. I was a kid then and I agonized over the Pirates in the NL cellar for most of the 1950s. Kiner went on to win the NL home run championship for six more years, but Greenberg was past his prime. However, 1947 was quite a year when you could see three living legends of baseball - Wagner, Greenberg and Kiner at Forbes Field for only a quarter.
Meanwhile in Minneapolis, fight fans got to see not one, but two double knockdowns. The occasion was a Golden Gloves match between two teams of amateurs. In the third round of the 126 pound class, Milwaukee's Edward Fortier and Minneapolis' Johnny Malloy exchanged right hand punches and both hit the canvas. Fortier got to his feet right away, but Malloy took a five count and lost the match on points. In the next bout, it happened again. In the first round of the 135 pound class, Paul Martin and Dick Mays tagged each other with left hooks, and both went down. Mays got up on two but Martin was out for the count. This has about the same probability as two no-hit games in one afternoon of baseball.
This week, LIFE went fox-hunting in Virginia at the Farmington Club, just outside Charlottesville. "With elaborate etiquette, hound and hunter pursue their prey," began the article about fox-hunting, a sport whose prestige and rites have survived intact in a world that has dramatically changed. LIFE ran a very nice color spread of the horses and red-coated hunters. I found out that these outfits are called "Pink" not because of their hue, but because the best of the lot are made by a London tailor named Thomas Pink. For today, the fox was captured alive and was photographed while being held by the master of hounds, as if it were some kind of pet.
Since (below) Sir John Gielgud had been reviving Oscar Wilde on Broadway, it is appropriate to remember Wilde on Fox-hunting, "The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable." As we have said before, Lindy Week in Review is firmly on the side of the Fox! No subsidies for fox-hunting! Foxes are for Trotting, not for chasing!
LIFE photographer Andreas Feininger used a remarkable telephoto lens to capture views of the New York skyline from 2, 4, and 8 miles outside the city. The photos reduce detail and depth, making the mass of buildings look like a cubist painting. The night-scapes look very much like impressionist canvases. This type of image is quite commonplace today, but big telephoto lenses were just being perfected in 1947.
Winthrop Sargeant, a contributing editor wrote: "Manhattan is in a way a natural rather than an artistic phenomenon. Its imposing clutter of imposing structures was built not for beauty but in answer to a fundamental natural law -- the law of economic necessity. New York is an island. Beyond a certain point, its growth could only be upward. It has grown not so much by design as by the sort of riotous exhuberance that causes jungle plants to elbow each other toward the sunlight...Whether we like it or not, the skyscraper is America's most characteristic architectural form. Its powerful skyward thrust is the perfect symbolof a people whose dominant trait is an unlimited capacity for energy and hope."
Sargent's comments are not particularly new, echoing comments made by le Corbusier in the 1920s. However, they have a truth about them. Real cities are never "planned" -- embarassements like Brasilia, Chandigarh, or Reston prove that you cannot "create" a great city -- it has to evolve through a long history of trial and error experiments when only the best and the fittest buildings survive.
Sir John Gielgud had been having a big success with bringing Oscar Wilde to Broadway. He began with a version of Lady Windermere's Fan that had been running for six months and opened a revival of The Importance of Being Earnest Apparently 50 years was needed for the controversy of Wilde's conviction for homosexual behavion to die down and for his plays to be appreciated for their worth. From all accounts, Gielgud and his troupe of all British actors got maximum mileage out of Wilde's material, which includes: "the only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she is pretty and to someone else if she is plain"
This week, LIFE reviewed Frederic Wakeman's The Hucksters, which has turned out to be a classic send-up of the advertising profession. Although Clark Gable is nominally the star, Sidney Greenstreet steals the show as Evan Llewellan Evans, a big fat tycoon with a flair for selling "Beauty Soap" theough "Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!" In a famous scene, Evans (Greenstreet) spits on a table (actually hawks up a giant loogie) and tells a new employee, "I have just done a disgusting thing -- but you will always remember it. If nobody remembers your brand, you ain't gonna sell any soap!"
The character of Evans was a not-so-subtle parody of George Washington Hill, the fellow who merchandised Lucky Strikes. HIll was a terror of everyone in Radio and was beloved by none. His slogan alwasy involved repetition as in" Lucky Strike means Fine Tobacco. Yes folks, Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco" When Hill dies, one announcer broke into a program and said, "George Washington Hill is Dead. That's right, folks, George Washington Hill is Dead!"
George Washington Hill
Yes, he's dead
The Hucksters is a wonderful film, don't miss it when they show it on TCM!
Ads for the following films were run:
Stromberg Carlson had a full page ad for their line of radios that began with "Do people like to come to your house?" Playing on the social insecurity of the young marrieds in the audience, the ad went on to hint that a high-status console radio might just be the touch of good taste that was necessary to attract a wide swath of other tasteful and attractive folks.
A full page ad from The Bell System proclaimed "COURTESY". It went on to say, "Some materials for new telephone service are still scarce ... but reasonableness, courtesy and kindness we can provide in full quantity for we make them ourselves right on the spot. The Voice With a Smile keeps on being one of the nice things about telephone service." This may well have been true, but check out our Telephone Page for some of the depredations of the telephone company during the same period.
This was the first ad that we have seen for Croton "Aquamatic Watches". Advertised as "The world's most carefree watch" the Aquamatic was waterproof, dust-proof, shock-resistant and tarnish-proof, equipped with an unbreakable crystal, sweep second hand and radium dial. Not only that, it wound itself and "Kept 13.5% better time than other watches" With a watch like that, who needs a wife? The thing cost $57.50 in stainless steel, $157.5 in 14K gold. In today's dollars, this would be a range of $1,200 to $3,000. No wonder they could afford afull page ad.
DeSoto ran an ad for their 1947 model that had the now-famous "Toothy Grille" "De Soto is the best car I ever owned regardless of price," say overwhelmingl majority of new De Soto owners in a nationwide poll.
Ladies in Undergarments: Perma-lift Bras proclaimed "the lift that never lets you down" Mojud Hose had a rather tame ad this month. The prize goes to Sport-tights a brand of panty girdle that looked just like a pair of today's bicycle shorts. The ad showed a majorette leading a parade wearing only her Sport-tights girdle, performing a sort of goose-step that showed off the "patented contour crotch".
Pictures of Babies: Ipana Toothpaste was back with another of those "Model Mom" ads. This is a clever play on words between "ex-cheescake queen" and "exemplar". Today, Harriet Shepard and her happy brood of two kids and an adoring husband were found enjoying themselves while boating in the Gulf of Mexico. Mom's Girl Scout troop even got a mention. Scot Tissue showed a lovely Mom changing a cute Baby and suggested that their product would be ideal for baby's tender skin.
Who was Endorsing Pens? Inside the front cover was a full page ad for the Parker 51, priced at $12.50 ($250 today) which was the Mont Blanc of its day. A class pen like this got a class endorser, none other than Norman Rockwell
Bruno Traven the reclusive author profied in the March 10 issue was the subject of several letters. A fellow from New York suggested that Traven was a German anarchist named "Ret Marut" who had fled Germany after a failed coup attempt in Bavaria. The letter writer suggested that his novels were "Full of Anarchist Sentiment". (The line "We don't need no steenking badges" from The Treasure of Sierra madre certainly qualifies...). The letter writer suggested that he return to Germany where it was "relatively safe". Another letter suggested that the fellow was really Guido Bruno, the former editor of a publication called Bruno's Review of Two Worlds; the aforesaid Bruno also owned a secondhand bookstore in Detroit that was frequented by newsmen. His publisher, a representative of Curtis, Brown said "All we know about him is that he lives in a place that is a 14 hour bus ride from Acapulco." The riddle of Bruno Traven was never solved.
Other letters treated the trend toward Abtract Art that was "legitimized" in the February 15 Issue. Louis Guglielmi winner of the "1944 Pepsi Cola Prize" took a subtle dig at representational art: ...this kind of picture making shows a lack of gray matter, no poetry, no profound message." This actually had some significance. In 1944 Pepsi Cola first sponsored a competition for art for its calendar, a promotion but not product-related. A number of these works were selected for a circulating exhibition, Portrait of America. Both of these collections were characterized by the absence of abstract art styles and illustrate the conservative bent of early corporate collecting. Please read this for an interesting look at the entry of corporations into the World of Art
The coal crisis in Britain, treated in the February 24 Issue had a bit more discussion. The issue was modernization and mechanization. The consensus was that the coal crisis was brought about by inefficient mining machinery and played-out coal seams. A fellow who had served on some sort of production board during WWII suggested that modern engineering could restore British coal production -- but that the job was massive and would take 20 years. He was right -- it took Britain until 1968 to produce as much coal (per year) as she did in 1922
The back cover was the "ABC" (Always Buy Cheterfields) ad featuring Ethel Merman (then starring in Annie Get Your Gun) This ad had been run several times.
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