Popular Literature, Silent Film, and the Perils of Genre: Chickie (1923-1925)

By Rainey, Lawrence | Literature/Film Quarterly, October 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Popular Literature, Silent Film, and the Perils of Genre: Chickie (1923-1925)


Rainey, Lawrence, Literature/Film Quarterly


In late November of 1923 readers of the Chicago Tribune, the city's leading newspaper, were confronted with a large advertisement (Fig. 1). It promised "tragedy - freedom - beauty - love-passion" and much more if only they would read Chickie, a work that would recount "The Story of a Chicago Girl and the Wheel of Life," a narrative that would explain, "What is life and love bringing to gitls of today?" and a tale that would begin appearing next Monday in the Tribune's afternoon rival, the Chicago American} By examining this story and its later filmic adaptation, we can better grasp the interaction among popular literature, silent film, and the fluid genres that connected them in the 1920s.

Chickie was written by Elenore Meherin (18861963), one of six children born to a middle-class family of San Francisco. Meherin completed her BA at Berkeley in 1917 and took up work as a journalist for the San Francisco Call.2 Her subsequent career became oddly intertwined with that of William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), the legendary press baron and prototype for Orson Welles's Citizen Kane? Hearst's career had begun in 1887 when he became editor/ proprietor of the San Francisco Examiner, in 1895 he acquired the New York Morning Journal, and one year later launched the New York Evening Journal. Four years later, in 1 900, he launched another newspaper, the Chicago American. To defray the high salaries of his most popular New York writers, he also started a features syndicate that would sell on their works to other newspapers in smaller cities, and in 1915 this became the celebrated King Feature Service, or KFS.4 Two years earlier, meanwhile, Hearst had purchased the San Francisco Call and appointed Ftemont Older (1856-1935) its editor. Meherin became Older's protégé, and it was at his suggestion that she wrote her first novel, Road to Love, serialized through the KFS in 1920 and published as an independent book in 1921. Meherin went on to publish eight more novels, all serialized with KFS and then issued as independent books with Grosset and Dunlap.5 The novels were explicitly marketed to younger women readers, as an illustration (Fig. 2) on the back of one plainly shows.

Chickie, Meherin's second, was serialized in newspapers such as the New York Evening Journal, the San Francisco Call, and the Chicago American - all Hearst newspapers - and many others as well, with the number swelling to over 70 newspapers with 50 million readers.6 Daily installments began on 26 November 1923, and were completed fourteen weeks later at the end of February 1924, when readers were offered a newsprint reprinting of the entire book for only 5 cents.7

"Chickie" is the family or pet name of Helena Bryce, who for most of the novel is a twenty-year-old secretary working in a "big brokerage office" in San Francisco Chickie 2O).8 The plot of Chickie is simple, insofar as it recounts a common tale of heterosexual romance and its consequences, but also complex, insofar as it has a second center of gravity residing less in that tale, more in how other characters react to and account for it. At the first plot level (Fig. 3), Chickie must choose one of three rival suitors: one is Jake Munson, a "wealthy" man who, at thirty-five, is "the head of a big brokerage business" (28); another is Barry Dunne, a struggling attorney in a large firm who, at age twenty-three, needs five years' experience before his salary will enable him to marry; the third is Jimmy Blake, an industrious young man from Chickie's neighborhood whose devotion to her is unswerving. At the second plot level, Chickie discusses her dilemmas with three other characters, all female: one is Janina, a twenty-five-year-old, "hard-boiled" secretary who works in the office with Chickie, has her own studio apartment, and stands for feisty independence; another is Mary Blake McPike, a girl from Chickie s neighborhood, a former classmate who is already married and has had a child, and who stands for traditional domesticity; the third is Martha Blake, who is from an older generation (she is the mother of Mary and Jimmy), a woman whose domestic virtue has helped her nurture a large family. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Popular Literature, Silent Film, and the Perils of Genre: Chickie (1923-1925)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.