Robert Benchley Society News

From the founding in 2003 through 2008; for more recent news see our blog


September, 2008--September 2008 RBS News-Letter (Vol. 2, No. 2).
August, 2008--August 2008 RBS News-Letter (Vol. 2, No. 1).
April 12, 2008--2008 RBS Humor Contest Entries Available for Reading
March 1, 2008--Bob Newhart to Judge 2008 RBS Humor Competition Entries are due by APRIL 1st.
October 13, 2007--RBS Chairman's Speech Robert Benchley at the Crossroads of Comedy Delivered at the Biennial Meeting of The Wodehouse Society.
October 8, 2007--Photos from the 2007 Robert Benchley Society Annual Gathering and Humor Award Dinner.
September, 2007--September 2007 RBS News-Letter (Vol. 1, No. 2) and Announcement of Oct. 5-6 Annual Gathering and Awards Dinner.
July 21, 2007--Winners in 2007 Robert Benchley Humor Prize Competition announced.
May 14, 2007--Finalists in 2007 Robert Benchley Humor Prize Competition announced.
April 2, 2007--2007 RBS Humor Competition ENTRIES Available for Your Reading Pleasure.
March, 2007--March 2007 RBS News-Letter (Vol. 1, No. 1)
February 18, 2007--Dave Barry to Judge 2007 RBS Humor Competition Entries are due by APRIL 1st.
January 25, 2007--At Last, Photos of 2006 RBS Annual Gathering in Los Angeles, with Award Ceremony for W. Bruce Cameron.
October 18, 2006--RBS Voices Support for Student's Posting of "Offensive" Dave Barry Quote.
October 12, 2006--Plan to attend our November 10-12 Benchley in Los Angeles Weekend. The program will include luncheon on Saturday the 11th at which W. Bruce Cameron will be presented with the award for the the 2006 Benchley Humor Prize Competition.
August 18, 2006--The Portable Dorothy Parker with introduction by Marion Meade
Reviewed by Mary DiZazzo.

Why another Portable Dorothy Parker?

If just for the fabulous cover. The artwork captures the smirky dark side of Parker. The rear cover is reminiscent of mid-twentieth century Sunday funny papers, yet filled with sardonic Parker quotations.

Who but Marion Meade, authoress of the standard biography of Mrs. Parker, holds the credibility to introduce a new portable Dottie. Meade captures the unmistakable genius of Parker's noir talent and relates, using Parker's own words, her proudest moment -- it had nothing to do with writing! The mini biography of Dottie's adventures, successes, and infamous life of unquiet desperation pulls you in --you'll want to read Meade's companion tome, What Fresh Hell Is This?

Meade also defines --for a new generation of readers not familiar with the humor of Benchley, the dramas of Kaufman, and the sarcasm of Woolcott-- the celebrated Algonquin Round Table and their influence on popular culture.

July 18, 2006--Robert Benchley, Joan Crawford, and Clark Gable in Dancing Lady
Janie lives to dance and will dance anywhere, even stripping in a burlesque house. Tod Newton, the rich playboy, discovers her there and helps her get a job in a real Broadway musical being directed by Patch. Tod thinks he can get what he wants from Janie, Patch thinks Janie is using her charms rather than talent to get to the top, and Janie thinks Patch is the greatest. Steve, the stage manager, has the Three Stooges helping him manage all the show girls. Fred Astaire and Nelson Eddy make appearances as famous Broadway personalities.

Watch for:

  • Joan Crawford in a rare dancing role;
  • Ted Healy and His Stooges presenting their physical humor in the same film with the dry wit of Robert Benchley (it's so early a Stooges appearance that Curly is still being billed by his real name -- Jerry);
  • Film debut of Fred Astaire;
  • File debut of Nelson Eddy;
  • Early (uncredited) appearance by Eve Arden; and
  • Grand musical finale with sets and choreography that MGM will recycle later in the decade for the Emerald City scenes in The Wizard of Oz.
  • July 6, 2006--W. Bruce Cameron wins 2006 Benchley Humor Prize Competition; Christopher Perdue, Dan Burt, and Ed Tasca also honored.
    May 16, 2006--Finalists in 2006 Robert Benchley Humor Prize Competition announced.
    May 2, 2006--Experience the Brilliance of the Roaring Twenties with Reliving The Round Table: Algonquin Hotel’s Monday Night Lecture Series.
    April 28, 2006--Robert Benchley Humor Prize entries are available for reading.
    February 24, 2006--Dave Barry to Judge 2006 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor. Click here for details and rules.
    February 13, 2006--Peter Benchley, author of Jaws died over the weekend, aged 65. Peter Benchley was the son of author Nathaniel Goddard Benchley and grandson of humorist, theatre critic, and actor Robert Benchley and brother of actor Nat Benchley. He is survived by wife Wendy.
    December 23, 2005--AT LAST! The Paramount Comedy Shorts 1928-1941: Robert Benchley and the Knights of the Algonquin will be available on DVD (release date, February 21, 2006.)
    This collection contains the following Benchley shorts:

    The Witness The Trouble with Husbands The Man's Angle

    Crime Control

    The Sex Life of the Polyp

    The Treasurer's Report
    December 1, 2005--A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York
    by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, with a foreword by Marion Meade, cover by Natalie Ascencios Take a journey into the city of theaters, bars, and hotel rooms where Dorothy Parker sharpened her wit, polished her writing, and captured the edgy mood of her times. This eye-opening volume explores Mrs. Parker's favorite salons and saloons as well as her homes and offices (most of them still intact); charts her colorful career and intense private life; and recounts her political activism, theatrical exploits, and final years. This 150-page book has more than 165 photos and illustrations, many never before published. Among them are photos taken by the legendary Roy Schatt. Rare pictures and archival items help show Mrs. Parker's world and Manhattan from 1893 to today.
    November 28, 2005--Joking Apart Theater Dedicated to Serious Comedy, i.e. Comedy with a Serious Side presents That's MISTER Benchley To You, Mrs. Parker By Edwin Strout, Nov 17 - Dec 4, 2005, in Minneapolis
    November 19, 2005--Photos from Benchley in Boston Labor Day Weekend.
    November 19, 2005--Benchley's 1922 book Love Conquers All available free on RBS website.
    November 19, 2005--New RBS chapters form in Washington DC, Los Angeles, and New York City.
    November 19, 2005--Photos of Benchley's Childhood home courtesy of William Hyder.
    November 19, 2005--Benchley Weekend Synopsis by Eileen Forster Keck.
    August 7, 2005--New DVD release of Thin Man collection features Two Robert Benchley short subjects.
    Almost as welcome as a shaker full of martinis, The Complete Thin Man Collection represents an eagerly awaited DVD milestone for fans of the fizzy MGM movie series.

    Contains six films on seven DVDs: The Thin Man, After The Thin Man, Another Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man, Song of the Thin Man, and The Thin Man Goes Home

    The many extra features include:

  • Robert Benchley comedy short: How to Be a Detective
  • Robert Benchley comedy short: Why Daddy?
  • July 30, 2005-- RBS Releases Preliminary Program for Benchley in Boston Labor Day Weekend.
    June 25, 2005--New DVD release of 1943 flick Heaven Can Wait features original theatrical trailer with comments by Robert Benchley.
    Newly deceased playboy Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) presents himself to the outer offices of Hades where he asks a bemused Satan for permission to enter the gates of Hell. Though the Devil doubts Henry's sins will qualify him for eternal damnation, Henry proceeds to recount a lifetime spent wooing and pursuing women. Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture and Director, Heaven Can Wait is an enduring classic that showcases director Ernst Lubitsch's trademark blend of wit, urbanity, and grace.
    June 20, 2005 -- The Robert Benchley Society announces a "top ten" list of humorous summer readings for 2005.
    The list includes two pieces by Mr. Benchley along with eight other humor authors. RBS member Chris Morgan compiled the list with help from other members.
    May 20, 2005-- Benchley Society Announces Winners of Writing Competition.
    May 15, 2005--Benchley on Benchley.
    Nat Benchley reads a dozen of his grandfather's essays on this newly released audio compact disc Benchley on Benchley.
    May 15, 2005--Benchley and Parker return to the Algonquin.
    The musical The Talk Of The Town, the story of the ten-year friendship of the wittiest literary lights of the 1920s, including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman and Alexander Woolcott is moving to the Oak Room in the Hotel Algonquin. For more information, read the story in Playbill.
    May 7, 2005--Nifty reference for writers seeking authentic tone for Benchley-era stories.
    "How did people make their own booze during Prohibition?" "In which decade was something so cool that it had to be called the 'cat's pajamas'?" These and other questions about slang of the 1920s through 1940s are asked --and answered-- in Everyday Life from Prohibition through World War II. Try to write about the period without this guide and you may find yourself all wet. So shell out a few clams and get hep or you'll end up a dumb Dora. Chapters include linguistic notes on:
  • Slang, Colloquialisms and Everyday Speech
  • Prohibition
  • The Great Depression
  • World War II
  • Crime
  • Transportation
  • Clothing and Fashions
  • Radio and Radio Shows
  • Music and Dance.

    The volume concludes with a chronology of the period and bibliography.

  • April 23, 2005--"Friendly, vuglar and nice.
    <- [click on exerpt at left to get complete article.]

    The Robert Benchley Society, along with Kevin Fitzpatrick of the Dorothy Parker Society, and our favorite New York Sun reporter, Gary Shapiro, all make appearances in "Taki's" April 23 "High Life" column in The Spectator the British weekly magazine of politics and culture. The Spectator was established in 1828, and is the oldest continuously published magazine in the English language. The Spectator's taste for controversy, however, remains undiminished. There is no party line to which the writers are bound - originality of thought and elegance of expression are the sole editorial constraints. The result, week after week, is that the best British journalists, critics, authors and cartoonists turn out their best work for the magazine, to produce an extraordinarily wide-ranging title.

    Sorry you didn't make it to our cocktail party, Taki. Come join us for Labor Day Weekend in Boston for more Benchley and Parker celebrations!

    April 14, 2005--Mark your calendar for Labor Day Weekend, September 2-5 for "BENCHLEY IN BOSTON."
  • WHAT: Robert Benchley Society Labor Day Weekend Extravaganza
  • WHEN: Friday-Monday, September 2-5.
  • WHERE: Boston, the Hub of the Universe.

    PRIVATE BEACON HILL COCKTAIL RECEPTION. Boston's historic Beacon Hill has not changed since the days Robert Benchley spent here while an undergraduate at Harvard College and while working his first few jobs out of college.

    LITERARY WALKING TOUR OF BOSTON. Walk through Beacon Hill's Louisburg Square, site of Benchley's "We've Come for the Davenport" practical joke. Stand on the spot where Benchley's best friend, Dorothy Parker, got herself arrested. Visit the Parker House, the oldest continuously operating hotel in America and site of the famous nineteenth-century "Saturday Club" the original literary round table.

    SPORTING LIFE IN AMERICA. Benchley frequently went to the racetrack with friends and even, briefly, was part owner of a race horse. Boston's Suffolk Downs is conveniently located not far from downtown. If there is interest we can arrange for an afternoon at the track. One of Benchley's first jobs out of college was at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where his duty was to accompany one of the museum's more flamboyant patronesses when she went to view her beloved Boston Red Sox. Depending on ticket availability we'll include an outing to Fenway Park.

    MUSIC and MERRIMENT. Other plans include a 1920s-1940s themed evening at a cabaret or piano bar.

    MOVIES and MEMORABILIA. Enjoy Benchley movies on the large projection screen TV in the Victorian row house of a local RBS member. This private party will also be a great time to exhibit Benchley items from our members.

    BOSTON HARBOR / CHARLES RIVER CRUISE. See Boston from her best angle --from the water-- while we read some of Benchley's many essays about cruise ships and sight-seeing.

    OPTIONAL ADD-ONs. If there is interest we may be able to view the Benchley archives at the Mugar Library at Boston University.

  • March 1, 2005--DVD release of classic comedy The Phildelphia Story includes Robert Benchley's short subject That Inferior Feeling.
    February 2, 2005 -- Espree Magazine and Robert Benchley Society looking for the next Robert Benchley.
    Submit your entries now! Winner to be published in national humor magazine.. For contest details and rules click here.
    November 22, 2004 -- The Robert Benchley Society announces 2004 "top ten" list of humorous holiday readings.
    The list includes two pieces by Mr. Benchley along with eight other humor authors. Members of the Robert Benchley Society suggested readings for the list. "We hope that people will enjoy these selections," said Robert Benchley Society chairman David Trumbull. Each piece is short and can typically be read in 30 minutes or less. "All are excellent pieces to read aloud to friends and family at holiday gatherings," continued Trumbull. Following each entry is a brief description and a quotation from the piece. Enjoy!
    October 12, 2004-- Talk of the Town Play about the Algonquin Round Table Opens Off-Broadway, Nov. 4th.
    The Talk Of The Town tells the story of the ten-year friendship of the wittiest literary lights of the 1920s, including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman and Alexander Woolcott. Loaded with their legendary quips, critiques and put-downs, this delightful period musical traces the legendary skirmishes (both romantic and otherwise) around the famed Algonquin round table.
    Tickets: 212.868.4444
    Bank Street Theatre
    155 Bank Street
    New York City.
    September 25, 2004--Foreign Correspondent with Robert Benchley as supporting actor now available on DVD.
    Here is a movie that truly stands the test of time. In black and white but a colorful story none the less, it is about a hapless employee at a newspaper who is ushered into service as a foreign correspondent just weeks before WW II is declared. He is put into the experienced hands of our man Benchley who plays the real foreign correspondent now side-tracked with the diversions and trappings of his job.

    The foreign correspondent – Joel McRae becomes involved with a public murder of the chairman of an important committee working for peace in Europe. He uncovers the duplicitous plot to foil the participants of the peace meeting and extract information from the chairman of the peace committee in a way that only director Alfred Hitchcock can portray.

    The movie was nominated for best picture and a host of other awards."

    --RBS Secretary, Sharon Lyon
    September 24, 2004--RBS Chairman David Trumbull interviews Stuard Derrick creator of "Girls Who Wear Glasses: The Wicked Wit and Wisdom of Dorothy Parker.
    September 23, 2004--The Robert Benchley Society will join the Dorothy Parker Society for Parkerfest, October 1-3 in New York City.
    August 7, 2004-- "Girls Who Wear Glasses: The Wicked Wit and Wisdom of Dorothy Parker debuts on Cape Cod.
    June 8, 2004--New York Landmark Algonquin Hotel to Close Temporarily for Renovation.
    For the first time in its celebrated 102-year history, New York's legendary Algonquin Hotel will close its doors temporarily while undergoing extensive renovation of its public areas and guest rooms. Anthony Melchiorri, general manager, announced that the decision to close-from June 27th for one month-was prompted by management's desire to cause the least amount of inconvenience and discomfort to its longtime employees, guests and visitors. "Staying open while completing this work would not have been consistent with the reputation of the Algonquin as an oasis of quiet civility in the center of our bustling city," said Mr. Melchiorri. "The closing also enables us to complete the work speedily and efficiently so that we can reopen at the end of the summer freshly prepared to welcome guests and visitors in a setting that maintains our traditions while enhancing guests' comfort and convenience.
    June 1, 2004--DVD release of classic Gary Grant and Irene Dunne comedy My Favorite Wife includes Robert Benchley's short subject Home Movies.
    May 10, 2004 -- Dorothy Parker Biographer Marion Meade, in New Book Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin captures the spirit of the 1920s.

    This exuberant group portrait of four extraordinary writers - Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edna Ferber - tells the individual stories, traces the intersections of their lives, and describes the men - including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson, Harold Ross, and Robert Benchley - who influenced them, loved them, and sometimes betrayed them.
    May 7, 2004 -- Robert Benchley Society Subject of Sangbagger E-Zine Articles.
    May 4, 2004 -- Benchley Short Subjects Now Available on DVD.
    The Marx Brothers Collection Offers seven feature-length films plus extra items including: Robert Benchley's Academy Award-Winning How To Sleep and Robert Benchley's Academy Award-Nominated A Night At The Movies
    May 3, 2004 -- The Robert Benchley Society announces a "top ten" list of humorous summer readings for 2004.
    The list includes two pieces by Mr. Benchley along with eight other humor authors. Members of the Robert Benchley Society suggested readings for the list. "We hope that people will enjoy these selections," said Robert Benchley Society chairman David Trumbull. Each piece is short and can typically be read in 30 minutes or less. "All are excellent pieces to read aloud to friends and family while cooling off this summer at the beach, the pool, or on the porch swing," continued Trumbull. Following each entry is a brief description and a quotation from the piece. Enjoy!
    April 22, 2004 -- Dorothy Parker Society Announces Algonquin Round Table Walking Tours.
    March 29, 2004 -- RBS Announces Summer Reading Contest.
    March 13, 2004 -- New Humor Magazine ESPREE: Fine Minds at Play Features the Round Table and Classic American Wit.
    February 15, 2004 -- Original new play Where in the Hell is Dorothy Parker premiers in McAllen, Texas.
    January 16, 2004 -- The Robert Benchley Society Announces Benchley Beside Himself in New York City, March 9th.
    December 4, 2003 -- The Robert Benchley Society announces a "top ten" list of humorous holiday readings for 2003.
    The list includes two pieces by Mr. Benchley along with eight other humor authors. Members of the Robert Benchley Society suggested readings for the list. "We hope that people will enjoy these selections," said Robert Benchley Society chairman David Trumbull. Each piece is short and can typically be read in 30 minutes or less. "All are excellent pieces to read aloud to friends and family at holiday gatherings," continued Trumbull. Following each entry is a brief description and a quotation from the piece. Enjoy!
    September 15, 2003 -- The Robert Benchley Society Annual Report for 2003.
    September 15, 2003 -- Benchley's Birthday Bashes in East, West Coast, and in between.
    RBS chairman David Trumbull and Mary DiZazzo hosted a Robert Benchley birthday party at their Beacon Hill flat. One new member, Allan Kelly attended as a result of the notice of the event in the Beacon Hill Times and RSB Vice Chairman, Pamela Siska brought another new member, William Desmond. RBS Secretary, Sharon Lyon and Treasurer, David Lyon were among the fourteen people at this event of the We've Come for the Davenport chapter of the RBS. Chris Morgan, Harriet Finkelstein, William Desmond, and Pamela Siska entertained with readings from Benchley essays.


      It is auspicious that we are gathered on this auspicious occasion to celebrate the birthday of an author whom we all revere. As I was saying to Mary—you all know Mary, my fiancee?—As I was saying to Mary just the other day, “Isn’t it auspicious that the date of this gathering falls precisely on the birthday of the revered author whom we all, er, revere. It’s positively, um, auspicious.”

      So, well, here we are, to celebrate the birthday of an author known to all of you; an author we all revere—yes, Mr., er, Mr. ah, PETER Benchley, yes, Peter Benchley whose essays will live through the ages, the incomparable Peter Benchley who gave us such memorable sayings as—What’s that? Oh, my, why yes I guess I seem to have misspoken, surely I meant to say ROBERT Benchley. Ha-ha. After all Peter Benchley was not an essayist; he wrote a great adventure tale—shall I say a “whale” of a tale? Yes, of course, it was ROBERT Benchley’s son PETER who wrote “Moby Dick.” There was of course that nastiness when someone claimed prior authorship of the story and, oh, well, you all know how it ended with Peter denied the honor due him. And now schoolboys the country over are taught that “Moby Dick” was written by that other author—Nathaniel Hawthorne.

      But be that as it may be (or maybe isn’t) we are here on this auspicious occasion to celebrate that founder of the Algonquin Round Table, essayist, theater critic for The New Yorker, and Hollywood actor—our toast of the evening, Robert Benchley. Skol!

    Mrs. and Mrs. Jack Wertheimer planned a small Benchley birthday celebration at their home in Worcester, Mass., Benchley's birthplace. RBS member Steve Hackett raised a glass of heavy water in tribute to Robert Benchley and toasted with a hearty "Skol!" in California. While in Texas RBS member Yvonne Williams toasted Benchley while watching "The Treasurers Report" on video.

    August 25, 2003 -- RBS in the News at Parkerfest
    Several Members of the Robert Benchley Society attended Parkerfest, August 22-24, 2003, the annual gathering of the Dorothy Parker Society of New York, arranged by DPSNY President, and RBS Director, Kevin Fitzgerald. Take at look at our Parkerfest photos I and Parkerfest photos II (set page layout to landscape for printing).

    The New York Sun (August 25, page 19) sent a reporter to the festivities who commented, in "The Knickerbocker" column

      "Dorothy Parker Mouse Pads -- Visiting were members of the Robert Benchley Society, founded in March to study the writings and motion pictures of Benchley, American drama critic and humorist (1889-1945).

      Near the bar, Christopher Morgan entertained those within earshot by asking which word had the most definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary. “Set,” he said, which can be a noun, verb, or adjective. He has written a history of the Draper Labs. He said that Draper, whose research assisted pilots in flying planes, once met the Pope, to whom he quipped, “We both have the same job —celestial navigation.”

      On Saturday, a group ate lunch at the Algonquin Hotel. Framed quotations decorated the table, including Benchley’s observation: “It took me 15 years to discover that I had no talent for writing — but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”

      The group heard a brief talk by Natalie Ascencios, the artist responsible for the mural “A Vicious Circle,” which adorns the dining room. Then, in the nearby Oak Room, filmmaker Piotr Kajstura screened a short film based on Parker’s poem “Unfortunate Coincidence.” Musician Niki Lee of Baltimore performed selections from “Here Lies Dorothy Parker.” Some laughed when Ms. Lee said in reference to Parker’s suicide attempts, “As an added bonus, I brought my straight-edge razor to open the CDs.” Ms.Lee plans to meet tomorrow with Kweisi Mfume, head of the NAACP, which controls the rights to Parker’s literary estate, to talk about her musical and theater projects.

      Mr. Fitzpatrick thanked everyone for coming to what he said was the society’s best-attended event in its five-year history. Benchley Society chieftain David Trumbull stood up. He used to write a humor column and currently heads member services at the National Textile Association. “People have asked me why one would start a Robert Benchley Society,” said Mr. Trumbull, pausing to correct himself. “Well, one woman at cocktails asked me.” That society can only grow: its newsletter announced that the database of contacts has grown to 34 names.

      Enjoying the afternoon was Mary DiZazzo of Boston, who writes on cosmetology for an Italian American weekly newspaper; Gordon Ernst, a librarian at West Virginia University, who has written a Benchley bibliography, and Pamela Siska who is researching Shelley and visual arts.

      Mr. Fitzgerald received a Dorothy Parker mouse pad as a gift [from the Robert Benchley Society]."

    June 12, 2003 -- Paul Cranefield Eminent Scientist, Benchley Fan, Dead at Age 78
    June 10, 2003 -- RBS in the News
    The RBS was mentioned in "The Knickerbocker" column of the June 10, 2003 New York Sun (page 14): ...WIT’S END Kevin Fitzpatrick had drinks at the Dead Poet last week with members of the Dorothy Parker Society, a literary and drinking group devoted to the sardonic Algonquin Table writer.

    He is planning Parkerfest 2003, a celebration of Ms. Parker’s writing, to be held August 22-24.

    The Robert Benchley Society is coming down from Boston. One year, Parker’s relatives attended from Rochester; one of whom worked for Kodak. Mr. Fitzpatrick said Parker went out with The New York Sun reporter who covered shipping news but later regretted it,saying,"Just like me to put all my eggs in one bastard."