Sunday, April 16, 2017

Esquire Archives

You can click the image to view the
amazing line-up for this issue.
Yes I find old magazine archives interesting and they are incredibly accessible now thanks to the Internet.

I never had any interest in Esquire though, it always struck me as a kind of New Yorker for men, or perhaps a cross between The New Yorker and Playboy. It had a cartoon face as its mascot, like the Playboy bunny logo, I suppose, except the cartoon face seemed to exist to leer at women. Which makes this cover from December 1959 pretty creepy given that the face appears, on the left leering apparently at a reindeer - who looks appropriately nervous.

But look at the line-up of literary greats in this issue. Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, George Bernard Shaw. In a magazine aimed at men. Did men really read so much sixty years ago?

 Shaw was the reason I ended up buying access to the Esquire archives because I discovered, while researching the latest topic for the weekly NYCPlaywrights email, that he had written a tiny playlet in French called UN PETIT DRAME.

Esquire published it here for the first time. It's interesting to note that Shaw had died only nine years earlier in 1950 at the age of 94. I was ambitious to try out my French translations skills but they provided an English translation - I still might try it anyway.

It's interesting to contrast the Esquire archives from this period with those of the New Yorker. Strangely I think there are fewer sexist and xenophobic cartoons in Esquire. The ads are very similar, except that the New Yorker didn't include this very curious page devoted to hobbies called "Hobby Den: which features opportunities to buy stamps, musical instruments, all kinds of things. I guess men in those days had to fill up those long hours outside of work, which were certainly not being taken up by childcare. It was either foreign stamps or reading great literature I guess.

Arthur Miller was one of the subjects of Esquire's March 1961 issue with the story of the making of the Misfits. I read it, it contained little I hadn't already heard about.

One of the articles listed is "Cast Your Own Broadway Show"
Straight men were certainly different back then.
The magazine probably felt a little proprietary, and possibly defensive about the movie, which was based on a short story that Miller published in Esquire in 1957.

According to the 1961 article:

The basic story appeared in Esquire in October, 1957, Arthur Miller's tale of three cowboys who take mustangs from the Nevada mountains in order to sell them for meat. Miller had gone on a roundup with three such cowboys when he was obtaining a Nevada divorce fro this first wife. What had caught the imagination of the Manhattan-born playwright was the mechanization of catching wild horses in the West: one man flew an old plane into the mountains, flushed the herd down a canyon to a dry lake bed the two other roped from the rear of a trick. Miller ws displayed by the fate of America's feral horses ("misfits" because they are too small to ride), but was even more haunted by the lives of the cowboys who killed them. As soon as he got away from the public hysteria over his marriage to Mairlyn, he settled down and wrote the novelette.

I will say I was impressed that instead of including photos of Marilyn Monroe, they instead used illustrations, even on the cover. I might have to reassess my impression of old school Esquire.