THE ROUND TABLE’S LEGACY

May 25, 2018 at 5:00 am

PBS’ “The Great American Read” continues in New York fashion. We’re headed to the Algonquin Hotel to explore the literary legacy of the writers who sat at its infamous “Round Table.”

Aired on May 24, 2018.

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>>> PBS IS IN SEARCH OF
AMERICA'S BEST-LOVED NOVEL AND
NEEDS YOUR HELP.
"THE GREAT AMERICAN READ,"
EIGHT-PART SERIES TAKES US
ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO COVER
NOVELS AND PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM.
HOPE YOU'LL HELP BY VOTING ON
YOUR FAVORITE NOVEL.
STANDING OUTSIDE THE LEGENDARY
ALGONQUIAN HOTEL IN MIDTOWN
MANHATTAN.
HOW DOES IT FACTOR IN?
ALGONQUIAN, IT'S THE CORNERSTONE
OF THEIR FOUNDATION AND ONE OF
LITERARY LEGACY.
LET'S GO INSIDE.
WE'RE AT THE ALGONQUIAN HOTEL.
JOINING ME IS KEVIN FITZPATRICK.
SITTING AT THIS LEGENDARY SPOT.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE
ALGONQUIAN ROUND TABLE?
>> RIGHT AFTER WORLD WAR I, A
GROUP OF FOLKS STARTED MEETING
FOR LUNCH SIX DAYS A WEEK, SEVEN
OR EIGHT YEARS.
ABOUT 16 PEOPLE AROUND THE
TABLE.
WOULD HAVE A WONDERFUL TIME
CRACKING JOKES, TALKING ABOUT
THE NEWS AND LATEST STORIES.
WHAT THEY SAID WAS USUALLY
REPORTED IN NEXT DAY'S
NEWSPAPERS.
HAD 20 DAILIES AT THE TIME.
SO COLUMNISTS WERE REPEATING
WHAT WAS SAID AROUND THE TABLE.
99 YEARS BEFORE TWITTER, WHAT
WAS SAID AT ROUND TABLE WAS
GOING TO GO COAST-TO-COAST RIGHT
AWAY.
>> TALK ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT
SAT HERE.
WAS IT OFFICIAL?
HOW DID IT START?
WHAT WOULD THEY TALK ABOUT?
>> SURE.
ROOTS OF THE ROUND TABLE ARE IN
PARIS.
MANY OF THE MEMBERS WERE IN
FRANCE IN WORLD WAR I.
WHEN THE WAR ENDED, WELCOME BACK
LUNCHEON FOR ALEXANDER WOLCOTT,
THE CHIEF DRAMATIC CRITIC FOR
THE "NEW YORK TIMES."
HAD A WELCOME BACK TO NEW YORK
GET TOGETHER FOR HIM AND INVITED
CREAM OF THE CROP OF THE WRITERS
AND COLUMNISTS AND BROADWAY
FOLKS.
WHO WAS COMING WERE PEOPLE
ASSOCIATED WITH "VANITY FAIR"
AND VOGUE AND "NEW YORK TIMES"
AND "NEW YORK WORLD" AND
"NEW YORK TRIBUNE" TALKING ABOUT
WHAT THEY WERE WORKING ON AND
WHAT THEY HAD SEEN, A BIGGER
THEATER SCENE.
LOT TO TALK ABOUT.
>> ANY THAT JUMPED OUT TO YOU?
FAVORITES?
>> SURE.
YOU'RE SITTING IN ROBERT
SHERWOOD'S SEAT.
WON FOUR PULITZER PRIZES SO
MAYBE THE MOJO WCOME OUT.
FAVORITES ARE DOROTHY PARKER
FROM THE UPPER WEST SIDE, POET,
WRITER, CRITIC.
ROBERT BENCHLEY AND FRANK
ROBERTS FROM CHICAGO.
HE WAS IMPORTANT COLUMNIST,
PUBLISHING CONTRIBUTIONS FROM
FUTURE ALL-STARS, THURBER, MILL
LAY, PARKER.
HE WAS GIVING THEM A LEG UP.
A FEW OF THE MORE THAN 30
MEMBERS THAT STARTED COMING
HERE.
>> WHAT IS IT ABOUT DOROTHY
PARKER THAT ATTRACTS YOU SO MUCH
TO HER CHARACTER?
>> LIKE A LOT OF PEOPLE, WHY I'M
DRAWN TO PARKER, WAS A REALLY
GREAT NEW YORKER AND AHEAD OF
HER TIME, KIND OF A REBEL.
I LIKED THAT ABOUT HER.
>> AND -- WAS ALSO PART OF IT AS
WELL?
>> HAROLD ROSS WAS -- JANE GRANT
FOUNDED NEW YORKER RIGHT HERE.
ROSS AND GRANT MET IN PARIS, HE
WAS WITH "STARS AND STRIPES" SHE
WAS VOLUNTEER.
THEY MET, CAME BACK TO NEW YORK
AND GOT MARRIED.
BANKED ONE SALARY AND GOT BY ON
THE OTHER.
GOAL TO LAUNCH MAGAZINE.
SAID WE HAVE EDITORIAL BOARD,
PARKER, CONNOLLY AND ADAMS.
THEY HAD NO INTENTION OF WORKING
FOR ROSS.
THOUGHT HE WAS KIND OF A FOOL
BUT ENDED UP WRITING FOR HIM.
IT WAS THAT KIND OF PUSH FROM
THE GROUP THAT GOT THE MAGAZINE
OFF THE GROUND IN 1925.
>> WITHOUT THIS ROUND TABLE, NEW
YORKER TLT WOULDN'T BE WHAT IT
IS?
>> NOT WITHOUT THE ALGONQUIAN
ROUND TABLE.
HE CAME TO NEW YORK WAS NOBODY
AND CONNECTIONS MADE IN THE ROOM
GOT THE MAGAZINE OFF THE GROUND.
DOING FANTASTIC, JUST WON A
PULITZER PRIZE LAST MONTH.
ALL ATTRIBUTED TO THE FOLKS WHO
MET IN THIS ROOM.
>> THIS IS 99 YEARS AGO, YOU
THINK 20 YEARS AGO YOU MIGHT NOT
B
IMAGINE WHAT THE WORLD IS NOW
AND INFLUENCE SOMEONE MIGHT HAVE
ON IT.
HOW DOES THIS STILL INFLUENCE
POPULAR CULTURE TODAY?
>> YOU SEE ECHOS OF THEM IN
OTHER WRITERS.
DAVID SEDARIS, TINA FEY, NORA
EFRON, THEY HAVE THE DNA OF THE
ALGONQUIAN ROUND TABLE IN THEM.
>> IF ANYONE WAS GOING TO TAKE
ONE THING, SOMETHING NOTABLE
ABOUT THIS ROUND TABLE, THE
PEOPLE THAT SAT HERE, THIS
HOTEL, WHAT IS THAT THING YOU
WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT IT?
>> IF THERE'S ONE THING YOU
SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE ROUND
TABLE IS NOT JUST WITTY THINGS
THEY SAID.
THEY WROTE SOME FANTASTIC,
TIMELESS PIECES.
EDNA FERBER WROTE "SHOWBOAT" THE
FIRST BIG MUSICAL.
HERMAN MANKIEWICZ, EXPERIENCE
GAVE HIM THE BACKGROUND TO WRITE
"CITIZEN KANE," THEY WENT ON TO
CREATE REALLY GOOD WORK.
SOMEWHERE SOMEONE IS PERFORMING
GEORGE F. KAUFMAN PLAY.
SOMEONE IS DOING "THE MAN WHO
CAME TO DINNER," "THE ROYAL
FAMILY" THEY LEFT THIS REALLY
GREAT LEGACY OF WRITING.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, and Judy and Josh Weston.

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