New York culture during the two world wars

Skyscrapers

  At the end of the 19th century, with the advancement of technology, steel structure buildings were developed, and skyscrapers began to appear in the United States. New York has a dominant position in this field. Architects are full of enthusiasm and boldly innovate designs. For example, the Flatiron Building completed in 1903, named after its shape like an iron, is still a typical symbol of New York.
  The Woolworth Building, completed in 1912, is undoubtedly the sacred place of New York’s driving force and commercial ambitions. It was the tallest building in the world until it was snatched away by the Chrysler Building in 1930. Due to its neo-Gothic style, Woolworth Building is also known as the “Commercial Cathedral”.
  But not all skyscrapers are so elegant. The Fair Building, built only three years later, was so large that people were so worried about the prospects of this sunless city that in 1916, New York first promulgated a zoning law, requiring the building to step back so that light and shadow can reach below. Streets.
  The first skyscraper built under these new laws was the Sheldon Building completed in 1925, and its graceful receding form brought a whole new view of the urban landscape. It was this year that Georgia O’Keeffe and her new husband, art dealer Alfred Stiglitz, came here and lived in an apartment on the 30th floor of the building.
  Although O’Keeffe has lived in New York since 1918, she has never lived in such a high place before. She was so excited that she immediately began to talk about her first attempt to portray the city. “Of course, someone told me that this is pure fantasy, and men may not do well.” She later recalled.
  But O’Keeffe persevered, determined to use facts to prove otherwise. Her first attempt, “New York Street and the Moon” (1925), had a weird sense of depression. This ruthless and solid structure highlighted the reasons behind the zoning law. Stiglitz did not like the painting and refused to exhibit it at his “Seven Americans” exhibition. However, O’Keeffe insisted on exhibiting in his 1926 solo exhibition, and the painting was sold for $1,200 on the first day of exhibition. She said: “They asked me to paint New York since then.”
  The next year, she got inspiration in her new home and created “Sheldon and the Sunspot” (1926). The magnificence and tallness of this building seemed to make her proud. The dazzling sunlight made the upper floors of the building exude a sacred light, and the smoke and steam seemed to undulate on the sides of the building with reverence.
  Although it is not obvious in O’Keeffe’s streamlined abstract composition, the Romanesque sculptural facade of the Sheldon Tower will have a major impact on the aesthetic development of skyscrapers. Later architects combined sculpture and decorative arts to create the most iconic skyscrapers in the 1920s and 1930s.

O’Keeffe’s “The Radiator Building at Night in New York” created in 1927 makes people feel a sense of awe

  O’Keeffe’s most amazing depiction of New York’s rapidly changing skyline is undoubtedly her 1927 “New York Radiator Building at Night”, which was completed only three years after the building was completed. The low viewpoint and the central position of the structure create a sense of awe, and the spotlights above and on the side enhance this sense of awe. O’Keeffe also playfully included Stiglitz’s name in the neon lights. Neon lights were a relatively new technology at the time and were placed on the left side of the top of the building, which added to the modern feel of New York.
  However, in 1929, the attraction of skyscrapers to O’Keeffe began to weaken, partly because of the collapse of Wall Street and she left New York. When the people around him are impoverished, it is naturally difficult for the painter to maintain his passion for this luxury architecture.
Broadway

  Skyscrapers may have embodied the ambitions of New York’s business world, and Broadway has always been the epitome of its show business. The disaster that affected O’Keeffe’s departure finally provided the background for the greatest backstage musical “42nd Street” of all time.
  In the film, director Julian Marsh faces bankruptcy due to the economic crisis. He agrees to direct a new musical “Pretty Woman”, hoping that this musical will make him prosperous again. However, the heroine Dorothy Brock sprained her ankle the night before the premiere, and everything seemed to fall apart, but the outstanding performance of the newcomer Peggy Sawyer, played by Ruby Keeler, saved the show.
  Of course, this is a classic story of a small town girl who came to New York to realize her dream, but the background of the Great Depression made it more attractive. Everyone wants to succeed. Even Dorothy Brock was forced to succumb to the care of the obese and elderly businessman Alberta Dillon in order to secure the funds for the show and thereby keep his position. Obviously, the girls in the choir, including Ann Lowell, will also win a role at all costs.
  Lowell is played by Ginger Rogers, this is her first successful supporting role. Rogers himself came to New York from Kansas and was a big success on Broadway, and then signed a contract with Paramount Pictures. Broadway as we now know it really made its mark in the early 20th century, when the theater moved from 14th Street to Times Square in New York, where Broadway meets 42nd Street.

The energetic music film “42nd Street” tells the classic story of a small town girl realizing her dream

  Although many performances are trivial and impractical small operas and light music entertainment shows, the legendary producer Florence Ziegfeld improved his performance with “The Wealthy Show”. The annual premiere in 1907 in Liberty Performed in the theater. The girls in the choir were originally static figures who wore stockings and were only suitable for male audiences. Now they have become a rational, precise and perfect arrangement, seeming to be aimed at inspiring businessmen sitting under the stage and watching the performance with their wives to promote economic development.
  They show the glamorous side of the modern city in a kaleidoscope-like form of kaleidoscope, which is very attractive to all those who pursue fame and fortune. “The Wealthy Show” staged in 1915 perfectly highlighted the fact that girls from all over the United States gathered in New York with the opening song and dance “Girls from My Hometown”.
  Ziegfeld understood Broadway’s dream deeply. Based on this, he created the musical comedy “Sally” in 1920. In the play, Sally is a poor orphan. She stands out from the choir and gains fame and love. This musical comedy must have had an impact on the movie “42nd Street”. Sadly, in the Wall Street crash, most of Ziegfeld’s own property was also lost. He died in Hollywood in 1932, and he was in debt? 1,000,000.
  With such an example, it’s no wonder Marsh will do everything possible to succeed. When he found out that Dorothy was dating his old lover Pat Denning, he knew it would anger ebner and endanger the funding of the show, so he asked a gangster friend to find Denning and forced him to leave New York.

  The connection between the New York theater scene and the gangsters was not made out of thin air by the screenwriters. The seemingly pure-looking Ruby Keeler’s career actually started in an underground bar in New York. Her later husband, Al Josson, the star of the first sound film “Jazz Singer”, had to persuade her to leave. The gang protector Johnny Costello.
  Of course, Marsh was frustrated when Dorothy was injured in an accident. After being reluctantly persuaded to give Peggy this great opportunity, he relentlessly asked her to rehearse and said the immortal line: “You were only a young man when you went out, but you will be a star when you come back!”
  Next is a series of cheerful dance performances carefully choreographed by Busby Berkeley, which completely immersed the audience. The final theme song of the film is spectacular, with the choir facing a fixed placard, forming an animated version of the New York skyline, pushing the performance to a climax. When the actors dispersed from the center to reveal a model of the Empire State Building, Peggy and her co-star sat on the floor and waved to the audience.
Harlem Renaissance

  Many people see New York as a place to pursue fame and fortune, but others think that New York is just a place where like-minded people live. In Wallace Thurman’s 1929 novel “BlackBerry”, the protagonist Emma Lou Morgan is a black girl who grew up in the prejudice of the white community and light-skinned relatives and friends in her hometown. She came to Harlem in the 1920s, just hoping to get people’s approval.
  The “Great Migration” began during World War I when thousands of African Americans went north to escape the “Jim Crow Act” that discriminated against blacks and the poor economic conditions of the southern states. Many people eventually settled in Harlem, New York, and by the 1920s, two-thirds of New York’s black population lived there.

Thurman’s classic novel “Blackberry” is set in Harlem, and it still resonates with people today.

  This novel partly reflects Thurman’s own experience. He was born in Salt Lake City and was the only black student in the school. But Thurman knew that discrimination had a greater impact on black women. For him, New York was “a paradise compared to other parts of the United States.”
  After moving to Harlem in the 1920s, Thurman soon became a leading figure and legend in the famous Harlem Renaissance. This is an era of cultural, social and artistic expression aimed at combating racist clichés. Thurman and his gang gathered in the house where he shared with his friend, queer writer and artist Richard Bruce Nugent, all of them deviant and unruly. They are critical of the avant-garde aesthetic and the lifestyle of sexual dissidents, which are incompatible with the social and political concerns of the early Harlem Renaissance.
  Thurman has never avoided the reality of the black experience. “Blackberry”, as the first novel to publicly tell about the prejudice among American blacks, is a widely circulated work during the Harlem Renaissance, and it is also a highly controversial work.
  Thurman also criticized the white people’s obsession with black Harlem, because there are many clubs and nightclubs in Harlem, which are generally run by white people. They show an exotic black life to cater to white customers.
  In the novel, college-educated Emma Lu cannot find a “desirable” job, and finally has to work as a maid for the white actress Arlene Strange. Arlene dyes her skin black every night and plays “Carmen the Half-Blood” in a so-called Harlem nightlife drama. Emma is persuaded to accompany Arlene and her brother to the nightclub because they think she understands what “real” Harlem life is.
  Thurman described Emma’s troubles as the result of her self-pity. But she finally understood that only when she learns to accept herself, others may accept her, and only when she admits that she was discriminated against, can she find the strength to leave the hypocrite Alva forever and start again.
  Harlem’s changing charm fascinated Thurman. He believes that there is a huge and even revolutionary potential for social and personal development in this area. Although Emma Lu’s future will undoubtedly not be smooth sailing, but at the end of the novel, she has grown from a white actress’s maid to a qualified teacher.
  The novel was praised by Thurman’s peers, including Langston Hughes. A recent Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar’s song was also named after this. Lamar’s lyrics are full of pride, which shows the lasting influence of this novel.

Share