Sunday, November 11, 2007

Noel Coward learns a lesson in privilege

I do not have any documentation for this anecdote. It is one that I remember Noel Coward tell on Dick Cavett's late night talk show on ABC in the early 70s.

When Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York City, Coward attended the opening night performance of a play involving a close friend of his. After the performance, he went to the telegraph office in Times Square to send the friend a mock congratulatory telegram. He signed the telegram "Fiorello LaGuardia". When the clerk for Western Union saw the signature, he told Coward that there was a company policy requiring that all telegrams be signed by the sender. So, Coward crossed out LaGuardia's name and wrote down "Noel Coward" in its place. The clerk then said to Coward that the problem was not that he had used LaGuardia's name but that he had not signed his own name. Coward told the clerk, "But I am Noel Coward". And the clerk said to him. "In that case, you can sign it Fiorello Laguardia"

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The fleeting fame of James Cagney

Frank "Pop" Mankiewicz, the father of director Joseph L Mankiewicz and screenwriter Herman Mankkiewicz was a high school teacher and later college professor in New York City. One of his students had the actor James Cagney. This anecdote is quoted from Pictures will talk : the life and films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz by Kenneth L. Geist.(page 107)

Joe loves to tell the story of how James Cagney, at the height of his thirties stardom, had stopped by their table at the Brown Derby one evening to pay his respects to his former Stuyvesant High School teacher. Pop's dedication to his academic pursuits had left him little time for seeing movies other than those made by his sons. In response to Cagney's query about whether the professor remembered him, Pop replied, "Yes, indeed, Mr. Cagney. Tell me, what are you doing now? "