Archive for July, 2021

Playing the King

In 1921, as monarchies in several other nations had recently fallen, a New York Times Sunday Magazine article noted the curiosity that the monarchy in England remained. And it still does.

Of the surprises that have followed the war, one of the strangest is the fact that, with the three great Emperors of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia driven from their ancient and solid thrones, there should remain the King of England, still firmly established in his sovereignty.

The final Russian emperor, Nicholas II, abdicated in 1917. The final German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, abdicated in 1918. The final emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, Charles I, was dethroned in 1919.

The Throne has ceased to be international. With the collapse of royalty in Germany and Russia it is, indeed, isolated. It depends wholly upon the British Commonwealth of nations. And yet it continues.

It continues, indeed. Although the last time that the English monarch actually refused to give “royal assent” to an act of Parliament was Queen Anne back in 1708.

 

Playing the King (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 31, 1921

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Written by Jesse

July 29th, 2021 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Overseas

Wall Street’s Heel on the Prodigal Movies

A 1921 article predicted that the era of large movie budgets was over. Let’s just say that didn’t turn out to be the case.

The final hour of profligate spending draws near — of million-dollar salaries and two-hundred-thousand-dollar sets. For the motion-picture-producing companies are putting their houses in order for the inspection of the bankers. These companies have incorporated and have issued stock, and now they are trying to interest the bankers in underwriting that stock. The banker is a conservative. Profligate spending does not look good to him on the payroll.

Thus enters the giant baby industry on the second lap of its journey — a journey suddenly grown staidly practical. The romance of the industry passed with 1920.

About that. Even adjusting for inflation, the list of most expensive movies of all time are all — not just “mostly,” but all — from the 21st century. (#1, if you’re wondering, is 2011’s Disney sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.)

And rather than production costs being curbed by stock, as was apparently occuring in 1921, if anything it’s the opposite today: production costs are soaring precisely because of stock. Entertainment companies’ fortunes are increasingly tied to their nascent streaming platforms of the past few years. Production costs have soared for original programming on those services, to entice new customers and subscribers, which in turn helps the parent company’s share price.

Forbes box office analyst Scott Mendelson put it best in a recent column: “A Wall Street mindset…values $1 in profits earned from streaming more than $5 in profits earned from [theatrical] exhibition.”

 

 

Wall Street’s Heel on the Prodigal Movies (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 24, 1921

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Written by Jesse

July 25th, 2021 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Business,Movies

An Officially Independent Afghanistan

100 years ago, in 1921, Afghanistan gained its independence from Great Britain.

A New York Times Magazine article that year portrayed the newly-independent nation as something akin to Atlantis, a land of mystery, as so few Americans had ever set foot there.

Not more than one American in ten years has ever gone up the Khyber Pass and off the map into Afghanistan. Twenty years ago, an American dentist went up to Kabul to attend to the teeth of the great Amir Abdur Rahman Khan; in May, 1911, an American electrical engineer went up to build a power house for the late Amir Habibullah Khan at Jabal us Siraj, some forty miles from Kabul.

After almost two full decades, under President Joe Biden’s orders, the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan is scheduled to end by August 31 — a move that former President George W. Bush calls “a mistake.”

 

An Officially Independent Afghanistan (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 17, 1921

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Written by Jesse

July 15th, 2021 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Overseas

Gandhi and British India

By 1921, a New York Times Magazine profile article about Gandhi already described him as a living legend: “In point of personal following, he is far and away the greatest man living in the world today.”

Though he’s now primarily pictured bald, as in his later years, at the time the 52-year-old had a full head of hair.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [is] a dark little wisp of a man, who looks as if he could be picked up in one’s arms and carried off like a child. In point of personal following, he is far and away the greatest man living in the world today.

His mission: Indian independence.

With the passage of the Rowlatt act, he had laid aside his European dress forever. He had become a mahatma, a saint who has transcended the flesh and the world. For him, India had found its soul in the fiery furnace of the Punjab ordeal. By “soul-force,” India would purge itself of every vestige of the British and their “satanic” civilization, and would return to the ancient Vedic wisdom and the peace which antedated the British conquest. And if a purged and purified India should fail in the eyes of the North to progress, that would be its virtue, its proof that it is still sound and healthy at the core.

That mission culminated in success 26 years later, in 1947. The next year, Gandhi was assassinated by a man who considered Gandhi too accomodating to Muslims in the wake of India’s independence.

 

Gandhi and British India (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 10, 1921

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Written by Jesse

July 9th, 2021 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Overseas

College Sports and Motherhood

In 1921, some people argued, letting young women play college sports would make them worse mothers down the line:

The Victorian girl was a better mother than our modern feminine athletes. Every girl, it seems, has a large store of vital and nervous energy, upon which to draw in the great crisis of motherhood. If the foolish virgin uses up this deposit account in daily expenditures on the hockey field or tennis court, as a boy can afford to do, then she is left bankrupt in her great crisis and her children have to pay the bill.

Is there something in this idea, or is it merely a manifestation of the recurrent nostalgia for the Good Old Days (whether of edible mammoths, knightly jousts or genteel females), which no generation can escape?

A century later, Serena Williams, Lisa LeslieMia Hamm, Brandi ChastainChris Evert, Mary Lou Retton, and Bonnie Blair will tell you: it was the latter.

 

College Sports and Motherhood (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 3, 1921

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Written by Jesse

July 2nd, 2021 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Life,Sports