Headlines from 1920 — a century ago
By Tom Morrow
Fanny Brice: A Not So ‘Funny Lady’
Here’s a 100 year-plus story that didn’t appear in the two Hollywood biopics on singer-comedienne Fanny Brice. Both films, “Funny Girl” and “Funny Lady” told us about her ill-fated marriage to professional gambler Julius W. “Nicky” Arnstein, but what we didn’t know from the Hollywood portrayals is mention about her run-in with the law because of Arnstein. Fanny had lived with “Nicky” for six years before marrying him in 1918.
When Brice married Arnstein he already was a convicted felon, serving 14 months in Sing-Sing prison for wiretapping. On Feb. 25, 1920, was wanted for conspiracy in stealing $5 million phony checks to a brokerage house. The New York DA request Brice surrender her husband for a $50,000 bail in exchange for immunity in testifying.
Brice and her husband failed to appear. Police scoured New York City before he apprehended. Brice evaded capture before having charges were reduced. Arnstein served three years in Leavenworth; Fanny was put on probation.
Released in 1927, Arnstein disappeared from Fanny’s life and that of their two children. Reluctantly, she divorced him on Sept. 17, 1927, soon after his release from prison. Negative publicity for the former Ziegfield girl and top Broadway star sort of fell by the wayside. She continued entertaining up until her death in 1951. In her waning years she created a popular weekly national radio program. Those of us in our 80-plus years wasn’t around for her Broadway performances, but we’ll remember her as “Baby Snooks” of the airwaves.
The ‘Flu’ Count Continues to rise
The “Spanish Flu” pandemic continued on its rise dramatically in New York City. The count rose 5,589 in a 24-hour period. It was the largest daily increase in the city since 1918, During that 24-hour period, some 118 pneumonia “Spanish Flu” deaths were recorded.
The pandemic hit the U.S. in four waves beginning in 1918, just as troops were returning from Europe (World War I). The last wave was 1920 – 100 years ago. World-wide, the Spanish Flu infected an estimated 500 million, about one-third of the world population. The world death-toll rate has been fixed at an estimate of 17 million, though that figure has been contested with varying estimates as much as 100 million.
Another Mexican Revolution Ends
On May 26, 1920, Mexican President Venustano Carranza was murdered in Vera Cruz by government soldiers. Carranza came to power in 1915 largely because of the backing of rebel forces of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. When the smoke cleared and fighting stopped, the government presidency passed through a number of hands; Zapata had been assassinated and Villa pardoned, thus ending the so-called “1920 Revolution.”
Wall Street Bombing Kills 38, Injures 300
A bomb was set off on Wall Street financial district of New York City on Thursday, Sept. 16, 1920. The blast instantly killing 30 people and another eight died later of wounds sustained in the blast. There were 143 seriously injured. The total number of injured finally reported was approximately 300.
No one took responsibility for the bombing and it was never solved. Although investigators and historians believe the Wall Street bombing was carried out by Italian anarchists, a terrorist group claiming responsible for a series of bombing in 1918. The Wall Street attack was related to postwar social unrest, labor struggles, and anti-capitalist agitation in the United States.
In 1910, the Los Angeles Times was bombed killing more people than the Wall Street bombing, which up to that time was the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil.
Hollywood Royalty Wed
Hollywood’s leading actors, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., were wed on March 29, 1920. Miss Pickford was known as “America’s Sweetheart. Fairbanks was noted as a leading silver screen “swashbuckler.”