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1942
Fifty Years Ago

February 2024
1min read

On the Home Front


Proving perhaps that the wartime soberness had affected truly everyone, collars were shorter and less luxurious on this year’s fur coats, which cost from $185 to $500 at Bergdorf Goodman’s. Esquire magazine—the guardian of male taste—noted that the cuff was disappearing from men’s trousers. More seriously, the magazine explained in its predictions for the coming year just how much the fight against Hitler would cost the average breadwinner: “Speaking very roughly your tax bill for 1942 will be twice what you paid last year.” The single man pulling down $3,000 per year would pay $450 in taxes, up from $225 in 1941. For the married man who made $10,000 and, as the Esquire editors put it, had “not yet been visited by the stork,” his tax share of the war effort might approach $2,100.

In movie houses Bette Davis was starring in Now, Voyager , casting off her spectacles and stern upbringing in the name of hopeless love; as one reviewer put it, she “stirs up trouble for no one but her mother.” The Glass Key , based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, premiered. It featured an unflappable Alan Ladd exchanging deadpan glances with the equally cool Veronica Lake but in the end proving more loyal to his ward boss.

On Broadway William Saroyan’s Hello Out There opened at the Belasco, while Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit played at the Booth; Life with Father (with Louis Calhern and Dorothy Gish) booked the Empire; My Sister Eileen , based on Ruth McKenney’s New Yorker magazine stories (and later itself the basis for the musical Wonderful Town ) was at the Martin Beck; Strip for Action , by Howard Lindsay and R’fcssel Grouse, about a burlesque troupe and an army camp, occupied the National. The Forty-sixth Street Theatre had New Priorities of 1943 , which one critic described as “a vaudeville show that must be classed as mediocre, even though it includes Harry Richman, Bert Wheeler, Carol Bruce, and all those wonderful dogs.” At the Ambassador it was Wine, Women and Song , starring the pantomimist Jimmy Savo.

The week of October 12-18 was many things to many people: J. Walter Thompson Company and the Laymen’s National Committee respectively lobbied to have it named National Wine Week and National Bible Week. “Hallelujah! Bottoms up!” saluted The New Yorker .

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