Old Hollywood, New Year

Clara Bow and Larry Taylor, 1925.

Clara Bow and Larry Taylor, 1925.

Seraphic Secret works hard to favor the glass half-full view of life.

When bad stuff happens, which it does all the time, we try not to plunge into a clinical depression. But let’s face it, 2012 was a difficult year for Conservatives — and for America. Obamacare has become the law of the land, which, no matter what measures individual states take, will, inevitably, degrade medical care and stifle research and development. We optimistically imagined the end of Obama’s big government regime, only to see his reelection. Taxes will rise, as will unemployment. The national debt will continue to soar as Democrats mold America into a version of the failing socialist EU. It’s hard to believe, but a free people is consciously adopting a governmental model which constricts liberty, and is an economic catastrophe.

So: what about the glass half-full view of life?

Well, there are always great old movies to recharge the batteries. Classic Hollywood, we like to remind our readers, was part of America, not some foreign shore inhabited by the chattering classes. In fact, during Hollywood’s Golden Age (1920s — 1930s) Hollywood’s heart reflected the American heartland.

And once upon a time, Hollywood ushered in a New Year with hope, joy and optimism.

Silent star Barbara Kent marks the time as she ushers in the New Year, 1920's.

Silent star Barbara Kent (b. Barbara Cloutman) marks the time as she ushers in the New Year, 1920’s.


Yes, that's Bette Davis making believe she's happy about posing for a New year studio shot, 1930s.

Yes, that’s Bette Davis (b. Ruth Elizabeth Davis) making believe she’s happy about posing for a New Year studio shot, 1930s.


Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple usher in 1937.

Myrna Loy (b. Myrna Adele Williams) and Shirley Temple bring in 1937.


The lovely if little known Sari Maritza counts the seconds until New year, 1930s.

The lovely if little known Sari Maritza (b. Dora Patricia Detring-Nathan) marks a New Year, 1930s.


Rita Hayworth bids adieu to 1940.

Rita Hayworth (b. Margarita Carmen Cansino) bids adieu to 1940.


Debbie Reynolds toots the horn for the New Year, 1953.

Debbie Reynolds (b. Mary Frances Reynolds) toots the horn for 1953.


And of course Marilyn Monroe hope you have a happier New Years than she ever had.

Marilyn Monroe (b. Norma Jean Mortenson) sends New Year’s greetings to the Marines.

Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a happy and prosperous New Year.


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  1. No profanity.
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That's it. Break either of these rules and you will be banned.


  1. Johnny
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Here’s wishing a blessed, prosperous and happy new year to you, the lovely Karen and the entire Avrech family.
    To the entire Seraphic Secret community, here’s hoping 2013 is the best year ever. Thanks to everyone for your entertaining and insightful posts and comments over the years. As great and informative as Robert is, the commentators here combine with him to make this a piece de resistance of the world wide web.  Thank you and lets have a great 2013.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink


      Thanks o much for the lovely and generous comment. I know I speak for all of us when I say how much we appreciate your always incisive and witty comments. Have a wonderful 2013.

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  2. sennacherib
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Though I’m a fish out of water here (background some military, some world traveling, etc) I can say be of good cheer, things aren’t as bad as they seem. The Libs have essentially dropped pretence and come into the open, the media same thing. The Libs have taken the Democratic party so far left they can’t come back, ditto for the “news” media with their “unbiased” reputation. An enemy in the open is easier to fight. We are gaining ground state and locally country wide (in military terms that’s depth to your strength). We have a tea party already a force and gaining rapidly. Yes I know the arguements, they are making a dependant electorate, etc., but their strength is thin and brittle and will shatter almost completely when they lose.
    My film loves:
    Man for all Seasons, Lion in Winter, Wind and the Lion, almost all Alec Guiness (esp. The Lady Killers), all Bogart, We were Soldiers, Fidler on the Roof, and for serious political philosophical subject W. C. Fields.
    Last movie in a theater Henry V, Branagh.
    So be cheerful, if only to aggravate them.

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    • kishke
      Posted December 31, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      I hope you’re right, but I’m not at all optimistic.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink


      Trust me, we have plenty of military men and women who faithfully read Seraphic Secret, so you’re not a fish out of water here. It’s funny, but W.C. Fields movies have never really appeared on my radar. I mean, I’ve seen a few and sort of get why he was good, but for some reason, I can’t get really excited about his films. I should give them a more careful look.

      As for being cheerful if only to aggravate them… that is wise advice. Thank you.

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  3. Posted December 31, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    It isn’t so much that taxes are so high. When I started my medical practice in 1972, the top rate was 70% for income over $200,000. That year, 200k was a hell of a lot of money. There were lots of tax shelters but I didn’t need one for another several years. A couple of doctor friends of mine had gone all the way to the tax court to establish the professional corporation a few years before, so we had a way to shelter income. The 1986 tax law cost me a lot of money but I was in favor of it because it ended most shelters and rewarded hard work. As a surgeon, I spent every Christmas working for years. Of course USC was going to Rose Bowls in those days and I traded my partner to get New Years Day off. I knew that Democrats would get the rates back up when they could as the source of money from lobbyists requires a “quo” for every “quid”.
    The evil thing about Obama is the insane regulation and the fact that the tax increases he wants are on middle class incomes. A $250,000 family income today, is the equivalent of $25,000 in 1972. My salary as a resident at LA County Hospital that year, plus some moonlighting in local ERs, added up to $24,000. A new 1968 Mustang convertible in 1968 was $3050. My house in South Pasadena was $35,000 in 1969.
    With the coming inflation from printing money, $250,000 may be the poverty line in a few years.

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    • kishke
      Posted December 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      This is so true. I read comments on liberal sites from the people whose hands are perpetually out, and they blare on about the rich, the rich, the rich. To them, someone making 250K is a practically a mogul, never mind how large his family might be, how many long hours he might put in, the fact that both spouses might be working, the tuitions and real estate taxes and state taxes he’s paying, and the fact that despite all that he’s in debt to his eyebrows, b/c the money is just not worth what it once was. None of that matters, b/c he’s “rich.” And he should therefore pay his “fair share,” which means nothing more than that they should have an ever greater share of his earnings, just because.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink


      Karen and I have many many friends who are physicians, and all of them are depressed/terrified/confused/furious about Obamacare. They are all remodeling their business model with various premium packages will entails, surprise, cash deals.

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  4. Barry
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I thought An Empire of Their Own interesting but deeply flawed. An entire book about the history of Hollywood without a single mewntion of Cecil B. DeMille. In any case, I did not like the book, its point of view nor the repitiition of that point of view. MIght have worked well or better as an essay.I don’t recall the places described for  Ince, Griffith, Chaplin, Fairbanks, Pickford, etc. In other words, anyone who doesn’t fit the prescription.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink


      Check again. De Mille is discussed on many pages in the book.

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      • Barry
        Posted December 31, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Further to my dislike, I see these men as founding fathers, jew and non-jew, and classically romantic. Gablers’ work is like a bookkeeper’s editiion of history. Too me. In any case, whether DeMille is in there or not, and he and Allan Dwan and Griffith created Hollywood, if anyone can be said to have, the approach is in my view wrong-headed and parochial.

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  5. Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    In fact, during Hollywood’s Golden Age (1920s — 1930s) Hollywood’s heart reflected the American heartland.
    Oddly enough, Robert, I’m reading Neal Gabler’s An Empire Of Their Own, and one of the ideas underpinning his book is that the “American heartland” was in a large sense created by the first generation of Jewish moguls (Mayer, Laemmle, Zukor, &c) in order to fit in with what they considered to be American values; in a sense, they created the Andy Hardy world and projected it to viewers with such consistency that ordinary Americans began to think life had always been – or always ought to be – that way.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink


      I like Gabler’s book quite a bit. What needs to be in focus is that the Jewish mogul’s invented an idealized America, but it was the America that Americans believed in and wanted to see.

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  6. kishke
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Obama is all about protecting the middle class, right? Yet, his Obamacare caps FSA contributions at $2500. In other words, a tax increase on the middle class. Only the first of the many abominations this awful bill will bring us.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted December 31, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink


      Let us never forget that it was high taxes that destroyed the Jewish Kingdom when Solomon’s son Rehoboam raised taxes even higher than his father.

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      • jzdro
        Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        Mr. Avrech,  Let others of us learn this for the first time!   Wikipedia says of Rehoboam:
        “The older men counseled Rehoboam at least to speak to the people in a civil manner (it is not clear whether they counseled him to accept the demands). However, the new king sought the advice from the people he had grown up with, who advised the king to show no weakness to the people, and to tax them even more, which Rehoboam did. He proclaimed to the people,
        “Whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, so shall I add tenfold thereto. Whereas my father chastised (tortured) you with whips, so shall I chastise you with scorpions. For my littlest finger is thicker than my father’s loins; and your backs, which bent like reeds at my father’s touch, shall break like straws at my own touch.”  “This sounds very painfully familiar to a reader in 2012.  I would be grateful if you would post further on the subject of Rehoboam.  Perhaps you might also take a look at the Wikipedia article about him.  It has a giant banner at the top, chiding that the only sources are Biblical ones, and that therefore secondary, critical sources are necessary!  Anyone can edit such an article, you know.Best to you and yours in 2013.  Thank you for blogging.Julie Zdrojewski

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        • Robert J. Avrech
          Posted January 1, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink


          Thank so much for your comment and suggestion. I usually don’t write blogs that deal with biblical exegesis because, quite frankly, I’m not a scholar. But the story of Solomon and the shattering of the Jewish kingdom is fascinating. I will try and study it in more detail so I can write a fairly intelligent post.

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