Saturday, October 3, 2020

Nickel Movies and the League

"Freeneasy Film Company Presents" by Frederick Opper for International Feature Service, ca, October 1, 1920
In my round-up of September, 1920 editorial cartoons about that year's presidential race, I shared some of Frederick Opper's series lampooning Democratic nominee James Cox as the hapless stepfather of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. I'll kick these October cartoons off with some more installments from Opper's series, supposed to evoke the popular moving picture serials of the day.

"Jimmy and His War Bride" by Frederick Opper for International Feature Service, ca. Oct. 2, 1920

In October, Opper (or his editors) changed the title of his series from "Freeneasy Film Company Presents" to "Jimmy and His War Bride." Opper has a low opinion of the dowdy bride, representing the League of Nations, or her fourteen offspring, who look less and less like actual children by this point. 

Cartoon historians will recognize Opper as the creator of "And Her Name Was Maud!", a comic strip about a mule who looked very much like the Cox family's "educated donkey, Dopo."

"Jimmy and His War Bride" by F. Opper for International Feature Service, ca. Oct. 4, 1920
By drawing the Fourteen points more doll-like than child-like, Opper was able to get away with suggesting that they might be thrown to the wolves. Had they retained the individuality they had at the beginning of the series, someone in Opper's audience might have felt some sympathy for their plight.

"Jimmy and His War Bride" by F. Opper for International Feature Service, ca. Oct. 6, 1920

Well, that's quite enough of that. Being October, there was plenty of other entertainment besides the movies.
"World's Series: Over the Fence" by Thomas E. Powers in New York Evening Journal, ca. Oct. 7, 1920
T.E. Powers notes baseball's World Series to depict Republican nominee Warren Harding and his bat of "Common Sense" knocking Cox's "League Question" pitch out of the park all the way to England. I suspect, however, that he might have found the Democrat more fun to draw. Very few of Powers caricatures are so artlessly bland as this one of Harding.

"If We Were in the League" by Winsor McCay in New York American, ca. Oct. 16, 1920

Winsor McCay, with his meticulous style and perspective, perhaps enjoyed drawing all these tombstones.
"What They Call Harmony" by Rollin Kirby in New York World, ca. Oct. 24, 1920
I have to give Democratic cartoonists a break, even if not equal time; so here's a brief musical intermission from Rollin Kirby before the next feature film begins.
"Go! And Don't You Never Come Back" by J.N. "Ding" Darling in Collier's, October 9, 1920

Returning to our moving pictures theme: "Ding" Darling departs from the cross-hatching style he used for newspapers, employing ink wash and (I suspect,) charcoal to evoke an ominous scene from melodrama in this cartoon for Colllier's magazine. Republican presidential nominee Warren Harding, backed by Senators Borah and Johnson, throws the film's heroine out to the blizzard. Sheltering Little Miss League of Nations are three past and future Republican nominees for president: William Howard Taft (1908), Herbert Hoover (1928), and Charles Evans Hughes (1916).

"Preserving American Independence" by J.N. "Ding" Darling in Collier's, October 23, 1920
I can't be absolutely sure what media Ding used for his October 9 cartoon, but later cartoons for Collier's, such as this October 23 opus, suggest that he was happy to use ink wash for the superior reproduction capabilities of the weekly magazine as contrasted with daily newspapers.

Leaping forward for a moment to the present day, there is no precedent for a presidential candidate — let alone the incumbent president — falling seriously ill this close to an election. Had President Woodrow Wilson pressed his interest in being re-nominated for a third term in 1920, the U.S. might have faced the same prospect.

Wilson had a history of petit mal strokes as early as 1896, but a series of strokes in September and October of 1919 left him paralyzed on his left side and blind in his right eye. Unbeknownst to the nation, Edith Wilson took over the everyday duties of the presidency during her husband's recuperation. He was unwilling to resign his office, and Vice President Marshall had no authority to wrest it from him.

While Wilson officially withdrew from the presidential race early in 1920, he withheld support from the party's strongest candidate, his own son-in-law James MacAdoo, still holding out hope that a deadlocked Democratic convention would come back to him for a third term. Not surprisingly, the party never seriously considered that option.

With Inauguration Day still over a month away, Wilson was bedridden with influenza in January, 1921, but survived until February 3, 1924. 

Of course, Warren Harding wouldn't survive the next presidential term, either; Wilson attended his successor's funeral.

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