Babe Ruth, from the archives of the New York Times

Here are some of the literary, entertainment and political bits from 1935. This was the official beginning of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood and the year people realized that Hitler was dangerous.

January 1….The first Sugar Bowl! Tulane won 20-14.

First week in January   Goodbye Mr. Chips by James Hilton had been on the NYT Bestseller list for half of its half year run.

January18    The release of “David Copperfield” starring Freddie Bartholomew, as David, Basil Rathbone as the evil step-father, W.C. Fields in a serious role as a down and out drunk, Maureen O’Sullivan as Dora. This was one of the top billing movies of the year.

Also in January…. Another top billing movie released that no one knows about. “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer” starring Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone, Richard Cromwell, Guy Standing and Douglas Dumbrille.

February 6    Charles Darrow began to sell the Monopoly game. He later sold rights to Parker Bros. and became a millionaire in his own right.

The first week in February, “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” by Franz Werfel was in the top ten best seller book list.

February 15   “Lovely to Look At” recording by Eddy Duchin and his orchestra was released.

February 28…. The first nylon polymer was manufactured. Little did anyone realize how important that would be within a decade.

March 9   Hitler announced creation of the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force.

First week in March, the book, “So Red the Rose” by Stark Young was in the top ten best seller book list published weekly by NYT.

April 1   The first radio tube made of metal was announced.

First week in April   “Come and Get It” by Edna Ferber hit the top ten books according to NYT.

April 14… Severe dust storms covered the US Midwest, destroying crops.

April 19…. “The Bride of Frankenstein” was released. It starred Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson and Elsa Lancaster.  

April 20   “Go Into Your Dance” was released. “She’s a Latin from Manhattan” was a single that hit the top of the charts, sung by Al Jolson.

First week in May, “Green Light” by Lloyd C. Douglas hit the top ten book for that week.

May 30   Babe Ruth played his last game for the Boston Braves and retired on June 1.

In the first week of June, Thomas Wolfe’s book “Of Time and the River” made it to the NYT Bestseller list.

June 10   Alcoholics Anonymous informally began with Dr. Bob and Bill and spread quickly all over the world.

“When I Grow too Old to Dream” by the Glen Grey Orchestra was heard on the radio. It was reprised often over the next 25 years.

In the first week of July, Rachel Field’s “Time Out of Mind” was on the best seller list.

July 31   The first Penguin Publishing Company book was sold. The paperback revolution was on!

One of August’s best-selling books was “National Velvet” by Enid Bagnold. After the war, it was made into a movie with Elizabeth Taylor.

August 14    The Social Security Act was passed into law.

August 25   The movie, “Broadway Melody of 1936” opened. The stars all went on to have great careers in Hollywood: Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, Sid Silvers and Buddy Ebsen.

September 6   “Top Hat”, the musical movie starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was released. One song from the movie, “Cheek to Cheek”, sung by Astaire, was the number one song of 1935.

“Paths of Glory” by Humphrey Cobb was on the NYT bestseller list.

September 30   The Boulder Dam (later renamed the Hoover Dam) was dedicated by Franklin D Roosevelt.

“Lucy Gayheart” by Willa Cather was on the NYT bestseller list for weeks in October.

October 20   Mao Zedung rose to prominence after the communist Chinese march to Yan’an China that ended this day.

“It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis was a best-selling book according to the NYT.

November 5   The Maryland Court of Appeals ordered the University of Maryland to admit Donald Murray, a black student.

November 8   “Mutiny on the Bounty”, a movie about a real mutiny, was released. It starred Charles Loughton as Captain Bligh and Clark Gable as Mr. Christian.

“Europa” by Robert Briffault was on the NYT best-seller list in December.

December 10   The Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Irene Joliot-Curie and her husband Frederic Joliot for the discovery of artificial radioactivity. A day later, the Nobel Prize in Physics went to James Chadwick for the discovery of the neutron. These two discoveries would change the world in ten years.

December 31   “Red Sales in the Sunset”, a popular song, became a staple of Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadian Orchestra.

Of the top 100 songs for 1935, seven were written by Irving Berlin and six were song by Bing Crosby. They were two very popular men that year!

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WHAT MADE 1938 UNIQUE? Let’s look at some of the events, movies, books and songs of that year.


March of Dimes began

Benny Goodman made jazz legitimate by playing at Carnegie Hall Jan 16

Madame Curie, by her daughter, Eve Curie, was released in 1937 but made #1 on the NYT Bestseller list around New Years


The second Sino-Japanese war began

First nylon bristle toothbrush was developed

 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs released

Northwest Passage, by Kenneth Roberts, was #3 on NYT Bestsellers List


German troops annex Austria

Jezebel, starring Betty Davis and Henry Fonda, an antebellum drama, was released

The Yearling, a coming of age story by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was @2 on NYT Booksellers List


Superman comics were released for the first time

Adventures of Marco Polo starring Gary Cooper and Basil Rathbone was released. This was the most elaborate and costly of Sam Goldwyn’s productions.

Joseph in Egypt by Thomas Mann his #3 on NYT Bestsellers list


The Vatican recognized Franco’s Spanish government, despite the continued civil war

Adventures of Robin Hood was released, starring Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, Olivia de Haviland,  and  Claude Rains

The Rains Came, by Louis Bronfield, ranked #3 on the NYT Bestsellers List


The ballpoint pen was patented in England

Three Comrades, starring Robert Taylor, Margaret Sullivan, Franchot Tone and Robert Young,      was released. It was a historical fiction about the Weimar Republic.

Parts Unknown, by Frances Parkinson Keys, was #4 on NYT Bestsellers List


The conference on refugees convened in France. No European country was willing to accept Jewish refugees. The US would only accept 27,370.

Marie Antoinette, a movie starring Norma Shearer, debuted.

The Mortal Storm, by Phyllis Bottome was #3 on NYR Bestsellers List


Germany spent two months threatening to invade Czechoslovakia before doing so in October

Four Daughters, a musical comedy, was released.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was still selling well, over a year after its release.


European countries were changing their stances regarding Germany. America stayed neutral.

You Can’t Take It With You was a popular comedic movie/

The Evolution of Physics, by Alfred Einstein, was still selling well after hitting #1 on NYT  Bestsellers list in May.


12,000 Polish Jews were expelled from Germany. Only 4000 were allowed into Poland. The  other 8000 had to  live on the No-Mans Land at the border.

The movie, Young Dr. Kildare, starring Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore, was released. This was the first of nine Dr. Kildare movies in a series.

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, was #6 on the NYT Bestsellers List


The union, the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) was formed.

If I Were King, a historical drama starring Ronald Colman, Basil Rathbone and Frances Dee was released.

All This and Heaven, Too, by Rachel Field, was #2 on the NYT Bestseller list.


Otto Hahn discovered nuclear fission of uranium, the basis of nuclear power. The Nuclear Age begins.

Sweethearts, a musical starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, was released. These two were a very popular singing duo.

Listen! The Wind! By Anne Morrow Lindbergh, released on 10/20 is on the NYT Bestseller List.


And the Angels Sing

At Long Last Love

Change Partners

I can Dream, Can’t I

Jeepers Creepers

Begin the Beguine

The Americans were celebrating a return to normal life, after the Depression had done its worst. They were being entertained with comedy and music. And they were trying to stay innocent.

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What was happening in the US in 1940?


Hitler invented the Bllitzkreig to invade Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France. London was bombed for months. The US government opposed Hitler’s aggression but would not get involved. Soon, however, they began to help Britain with supplies. The climate improved in the US and the harvest was better than in years. The first peacetime draft began In the summer.

Movies from 1940:

Gone With the Wind won Academy Awards.

The Philadelphia Story starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and James Stuart.

Seahawk, the swashbuckling movie with Errol Flynn

Mark of Zorro with Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell and Basil Rathbone

Best selling books:

The Nazarene by Sholem Asch

Kitty Foyle by Christopher Morley

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway




Walter Winchell

In my book, The Matter of a Missing Stutz, a Harvard professor and his wife are so intent on listening to the radio broadcast of Walter Winchell, that they don’t hear their new car being stolen. Who was this Mr. Winchell and why did his radio broadcast mean so much to them that they didn’t even hear the engine of the car start?

The 1920s and 1930s were a time of complete cultural change. Dresses moved from ankle-length to just below knee. Men’s faces became hairless. Newspaper publishing was at its peak, but soon to give way to national broadcasts 24 hours a day. Pianos in every home became silent as the radio music filled the houses. And house parties played second fiddle to the movie matinee.

Electronic entertainment was thrilling. There was something new every few hours all day long. Parlor seating was rearranged to get in close to the entertainment center. That was a radio. In the years before the war, this usually meant a furniture sized cabinet with speakers built in and three knobs prominently placed. One was the on/off switch. One was the volume switch and one was the channel changer, sitting below a window showing where on the dial you were tuned to.

Shows were anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes in length, including the commercials. For anyone who could afford a radio, there were a variety of shows. Comedy, drama, crime stories, gossip (all the dirt on your favorite politicians and actors!) and news commentary vied with orchestras for attention. And the attention was not only for the actors and actresses but also for their sponsors (nothing has changed in 100 years!) The sponsors of many of these broadcasts were companies who sold every day household items, soaps, cold creams, cigarettes and, later, food products.

Walter Winchell was different. He didn’t have a show, he had a following. In the 20s, his newspaper column was read by 50 million a day. He worked for several radio stations, starting with CBS in 1930. He did a 15- minute business analysis and gossip of Broadway and moved to another radio station in 1932 where the same information was sponsored by Jergen’s. These shows went national as people were entertained by his innovative style of gossipy staccato news briefs, jokes and Jazz-Age slang.

By the middle of the decade, Winchell had seen enough of the underside of crime, reporting on the activities of the criminals, who also happened to be his friends. It got dangerous for him. So, he switched sides and started rooting for J. Edgar Hoover and his crime-solving capacity. Soon enough, he started to see how Hitler was destroying Europe and joined that bandwagon to condemn Germany and the isolationists of America. Being Jewish, himself, this disaster was dear to his heart. During the war, he supported the president and insulted the president’s enemies.

Later, he claimed he could speak at 200 words a minute, delivering the news so quickly, that people had to pay very strict attention. With the quality of the transmissions being what they were 80 years ago, and his voice being the unique type that it was, we can assume that the professor and his wife would not have been able to concentrate on Mr. Winchell’s news and the neighborhood noises at the same time.




Curls were in in the 1940s. Pin curls, roller curls, brushed into place curls. Women could make them, artificially if need be, and men might be blessed with them.

Men were clean-shaven, their hair short. Parts were common. The pompadour was still around, but not as popular as it would be in the 50s. Curly hair was worn slightly longer on top so it could be swept up and worn wavy at the top of the head.

Women’s curls were big! They were achieved with pins or rollers, and any combination of chemicals that kept them looking good. Longer hair tended to be in vogue because, with so many women working, there was not enough time, or, honestly, money, to keep the short do at prime length. But the hair needed to be kept off the face for factory and office work. Plus, it was patriotic to not spend a lot of money when our boys were away fighting for our lives.

Turbans and head scarves were popular. They both achieved the same end, keeping the hair out of the way. The scarves were often multicolored and tied at the top of the head, where the knot was center of attention. The forehead was decorated with small curls or bumper bangs. More on that last one, later.

The ultimate show of patriotism seemed to be the Victory curls. These were big sausage sized curls kept in place with plenty of spray and pins. They were the ultimate pinup girl’s hairdo. Remember Betty Grable? These curls were worn piled on top of the head or pulled back and made into a roll at the nap of the neck. Sometimes both at the same time.

For those without the time or inclination, there was the hair snood. It was a loosely knit (or crocheted) item which took in all the hair (usually loose tresses) up to the crown of the head. The hair was seen through the loose stitching, but held away from shoulders and face.

For the lady who had the time, there was the omlet fold. Hair was parted in the middle, all hair on one side was rolled into a huge curl towards the part. The back was done in a variety of ways. This took patience.

For very long hair, or fake hair, there was the wrapped braid, a little country looking. It was not a big deal in the cities. Straight long hair could be worn long, with only the bottom curled, practically covering one eye, known as the peekaboo. Veronica Lake sported that hair style in several of her movies. Another look for quite long hair was barrel curls, a version of the Victory curl, but only at the ends of the tresses.

For medium length and shorter lengths, women could wear curls. Rollers worked for longer styles but pincurling wet hair and sleeping on it was quite common for the short styles. In the morning, all the woman had to do was take the pins out and fluff or comb. Page boy styles, not as popular as they would become in the 50s and 60s, were designed for ear length straight hair.

For slightly longer hair that was too short for the Victory curls, wearing the hair up with small curls pinned in place was just as popular. The pompadour, reminiscent of the Gay 90s, came back in a modified style, lower on the crown than before. The trick was to grow very long bangs to get the bulk a lady needed for the look.

So, for man or woman, the 1940s tended to accent the curl, or at least, the curve of the hair. Very pleasing to the eye and a welcome softness to another-wise tough time.

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One of the outstanding features of the 1940s is the Zoot suit. These first appearing in the 1930s, but, by the 1940s they were associated with gangsters or rebellious young men. They were characterized by heavily padded shoulders, wide lapels, double breasted styling, long jackets (mid hip length), baggy pants with narrowly-circumferenced cuffed ankles. Suspenders were needed to hold up the pants. They came in vibrant colors, like purple. Since such a suit contained more material than rationing permitted, they were seen as unpatriotic. The colors were the opposite of the military look.      On the east coast, a tie and dress shirt were worn. On the west coast, the wearers sported an open collar. A modified version became popular in the late 40s and early 50s. With that outlandish outfit, men wore wide ties and big hats. You could identify the gangster type from a block away!

After the war ended, there was an excess of military surplus on the market. People bought them or copied them for civilian use. Items included trench coats, bomber jackets, knit undershirts, chino jackets, pea coats and aviator sunglasses. Machinery which had been updated to speed up the manufacture of uniforms was now used to turn out civilian counterparts. Casual clothes, especially the shirts, became welcome when the men returned from the front. There was no going back to stiff and formal.

Not every man worked in an office. There was a distinction between the men’s office clothes and working men’s clothes. Workmen, factory workers or gas station attendants, wore collared shirts and work trousers, usually made of cotton twill or gabardine. The pants had flat fronts with a single leg crease. Leg widths were narrower than dress pants. The whole ensemble was in basic colors, white, green, dark blue, brown. Work shirts were all very similar with soft, pointed collars, patch pockets on either side of the buttons, pleats in the back and larger armholes for greater mobility.

Casual and sport clothing became very popular after the war. Knit shirts, vests and pullovers were suddenly common for all age groups. They all had textured ribbed knits that were form fitting, with rib bottom edges, sleeve ends and neck bands. They came as high round neck or V-neck styles. They were seen in solid colors, with wide horizontal stripes or in Norwegian designs, especially around the winter holidays. Either the V-neck vests or long-sleeved versions would be worn over dress or casual shirts. Winter weight knits were in wool and summer weight were in rayon or cotton blends. This outfit was often worn with contrasting colors, deliberately.

Dress shirts turned casual for some occasions by having boxy sleeves and a straight cut at the bottom, so that they could look good not being tucked in. Often there were two chest pockets. They came in all sorts of colors, patterns. After the war, Hawaiian prints became popular as did Western styled shirts, boots and hats.

Casual trousers continued to look much like dress trousers, with lighter materials like wool blends for the cold, cotton poplin, gabardine or seersucker. The pants came in solid or patterned (ie herringbone, small check, tweed). The fun was in mixing shirt and pant colors. Sports coats, which had begun to show in the 1930s, became more popular with all sorts of patterns.

Outer wear was adapted from the military styles. Overcoats were knee-length, straight and boxy. They had wide peak lapels and side-angles slit pockets. Later in the decade, they were belted. Colors were typically tan, plaid, tweed or herringbone.  The trench coat became vastly more popular than any other, whether it was the early single-breasted version or the belted double-breasted one. Every detective in every mystery movie wore one.  

Men’s shoes were designed for quality, durability and sensibility. They included oxfords, wingtips, brogues and slip-on loafers, the later being more of a casual look. Brogues were a good choice for summer due to their decorative perforations through the leather, letting feet breath a little. Colors were limited to black, brown, white and two-tone, a male version of women’s spectators. For the working man, boots were of thick leather and soles, laced with hooks at the top.

The styles had definitely changed and, 70 years later, have not reverted.