Saturday, April 04, 2015

Today -100: April 4, 1915: Of peaces, libel, election riots, and critics

Austria denies those stories that it’s seeking a separate peace with Russia.

A priest in Metuchen, NJ swears out warrants against 94 (102 in a later story) of his congregation for criminal libel. Some dispute over a duck dinner of which Father Csimadia (Csmadia in the later version) disapproved (the later story says he may have disapproved in sermons but at the actual duck dinner he got roaring drunk, started singing and hitting people in the street, according to the petition his congregants sent to the bishop. It is the petition that is supposedly libelous.

Election riots in Chicago, as was the custom. Women participated, because they have the vote now, and also the legal right to riot, because feminism, probably.

NYT theatre critic Alexander Woollcott gets an injunction stopping the Shuberts excluding him from their theaters. Last month they put ads advising theater-goers to ignore the critics’ reviews of the German farce “Taking Chances” in the same issues in which those reviews appeared.  In other words they took out the ad before they’d seen the reviews. And indeed Woollcott wrote that the play “is not vastly amusing.” So they issued the ban and he went to court. He was therefore able to review “Trilby” (the Svengali story), which he finds “well worth going to see – even if you have to get in by the aid of an injunction.”

Woollcott’s lawyers will argue before the NY Supreme Court that the Shuberts’ banishment of him amounted to an invasion of his civil rights as a critic and a citizen. The Shuberts will respond that they don’t hate all critics, just Woollcott, who has it in for them, with “rancor and malice and venom.” They’ll quote his reviews of their productions – “The White Feather” was “funny without meaning to be,” “Apartment 12-K” “is quite vacant,” etc. Woollcott’s lawyers read out reviews by other reviewers to show that those plays were just crap. The Court will decide in 1916 that the state Civil Rights Act applied only to discrimination based on race, creed or color, not profession or dickishness.

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