LIVES| Anthony J.D. Biddle Jr., debonaire diplomat, soldier, 1897-1961

BiddleDiplomat Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle Jr., as seen in 1961 in a photograph by Life’s Alfred Eisenstaedt.

I came across a mention of Anthony Joseph Drexel “Tony” Biddle Jr. yesterday and thought he’d make a worthy candidate for our lives series.

Born Dec. 17, 1896, he was the scion of a storied Philadelphia family. His father, A.J.D. Biddle Sr., might be considered the model Victorian eccentric as his life included stints in the Marine Corps, a membership in the American Geographic Society and the authorship of several books about exotic locales abroad. Biddle Jr., educated at St. Paul’s and later at Temple University, led just a varied life, it seems.

In 1915, Biddle married his first wife, tobacco heiress Mary Duke and, at the outset of World War I, Biddle enlisted in the army, rising from the rank of private to major. After the war, according to various sources, Biddle was something of a professional athlete — an ace in tennis and boxing — who moved from resort to resort, all the while engaging in mining and shipping. A Democrat in politics, Biddle began his unparalleled career as a diplomat when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Norway in 1934.

In the meantime, Biddle divorced Duke to marry his second wife, Margaret Thompson Schulze, in 1931.

In 1937, he became ambassador to Poland. He evaded the advancing German forces in 1939 and landed in Paris where he served on the staff of the American embassy. In 1941, he was appointed Ambassador to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia, the governments of which had retreated to London. Biddle remained in the diplomatic corps until 1944, when he rejoined the Army as a member of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff, retiring after the war with the rank of Major General.

Biddle returned to Pennsylvania after the war, where he served in various civic and philanthropic capacities. In 1946, he married his third wife, Margaret Loughborough. His final diplomatic assignment came in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy named him ambassador to Spain. He died months into the assignment, succumbing to lung cancer at Walter Reed on Nov. 13, 1961 at the age of 64.

In 1960, shortly before his death, George Frazier, writing in Esquire, described Biddle as the best-dressed fellow in America.

Here are a few more photos of Biddle from the Life Archive. The photos of the calisthenics were taken in 1961, shortly before his death from lung cancer. Wow.

LIVES| Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1908-1979

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, 41st Vice President of the United States and the 49th Governor of New York, has been on mind for a number of reasons these last few weeks.

The governor has been referred to through the character of Henry Francis on “Mad Men.” In Episode 309, “Wee Small Hours,” Betty Draper frowns over a Times headline that indicates a Goldwater surge.

This summer’s visceral screams from the nation’s right also have reminded me of Rockefeller’s speech, in which he rejected tactics still at play today, at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco:

Of course, Rockefeller, representing the liberal wing of his party, lost the nomination to Barry Goldwater. Lyndon Johnson trounced the Arizona senator in the general election.

Rockefeller was first elected governor in 1958, beating Democrat W. Averell Harriman, father of Whiteface Mountain Ski Center, by more than 600,000 votes. Among the notable moments of his administration — he was reelected three times, in 1962, 1966 and 1970 — were his efforts on conservation. Despite controversy that lingers nearly forty years on, his Adirondack Park Agency Act of 1971 has been key in the preservation of that region. He thwarted Bob Moses’ plan to construct a third Long Island Sound bridge from Rye to Oyster Bay. On the downside, the creation of Rockefeller Plaza, which George Lucas might have dreamed up as a set for Star Wars, decimated a huge swathe of downtown Albany, an injury that city is still recovering from. And, of course, the state continues to struggle with the governor’s aggressive sentencing laws for drug users.

Born July 8, 1908 in Bar Harbor, Maine, Rockefeller was the John Davison Rockefeller Jr.and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Nelson was graduated from Dartmouth in 1930 and, after graduating, took up work in various Rockefeller interests, including the construction of Rockefeller Center in New York. While serving as president of the Museum of Modern Art from 1939 to 1958, he took a number of roles in the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower administrations, taking particular interest in the economic and political development of South America.

In 1962, he divorced his wife of 32 years, Mary, to marry Margaretta “Happy” Murphy, which is alluded to on an episode of “Mad Men.” They married on May 4, 1963 in Pocantico Hills, where Rockefeller’s estate, Kykuit, is open to the public today as a museum. Mrs. F. and I plan to get over there before its fall season ends in a couple of weeks.

Rockefeller was nominated to serve Vice President of the United States by President Gerald Ford on August 20, 1974. He was the first vice president to reside at the Naval Observatory and donated a great deal of furniture and art to that home.

BRIEFING| Safire and other media notes

Good evening. It’s been a day of errands here in Cheever Country and I apologize for not having written more.

Here’s a rundown of what I’ve been reading in today.

• William Safire, who wielded his pen like a rapier and was one of the most brilliant technicians of the English language of our era, has died. The retired Times columnist succumbed to pancreatic cancer yesterday at age 79. Here’s his obituary. And here’s a remembrance from the Wall Street Journal. Today’s Times also carried this 2005 classic from Safire, “How to Read a Column.” And The Atlantic, reliably, has done my work for me by rounding up tributes to Safire from around the media establishment.

• Jim Willse, the former Daily News editor who’s run New Jersey’s largest newspaper and the nation’s 13th largest, the Star-Ledger, is to retire.

• The Associated Press has announced that the Stylebook will now be available as an application for your iPhone or iPod Touch.

• An anonymous Wesleyan alum has donated $20,000 to the University to provide 400 copies of the Times to the campus each day, the Wesleyan Argus reports.

• I thought New York magazine’s assessment of “Seven Twenty Three,” the seventh episode of this season of “Mad Men,” was barking up the right tree. It was a very interesting hour of television and it seems that Weiner’s ensemble are hurlting toward something disastrous.

• I thought this piece, in this week’s issue of New York, was worth my five minutes. Despite the economic slowdown, Union Square remains an economic engine in Manhattan, the magazine reports.

I need a cocktail. What are you reading?

CLIP| Peter, Paul and Mary, 1963

Read more

LIVES| Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

The Lion of the Senate has died.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy succumbed to his battle with brain cancer late last night, his family announced today.

Here’s the Times obituary, the Globe’s and the Post’s.

The news made only the papers west of the Rockies. Here are some front pages:

Here are two of the senator’s greatest speeches, his June 1968 eulogy of his brother, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and his withdrawal from the presidential race of 1980.

And here’s a large selection of classic EMK images from the LIFE archive:

LIVES| Eunice Kennedy Shriver, 1921-2009

ShriversThe Shriver family outside their Maryland home, Timberlawn, on May 6, 1966. From left are Maria, Robert, Timothy, Mark and Anthony with their parents, Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of the President Kennedy and senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy and founder of the Special Olympics, died around 2 a.m. at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Mass. She was 88.

Mrs. Shriver used her role as executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation to advance an agenda aimed at making conditions better for the mentally disabled, the Times reports in its obituary. Her greatest achievement, of course, was the creation of the Special Olympics, which debut weeks after her brother Robert’s assassination in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Mrs. Shriver, born July 10, 1921 in Brookline, Mass., is survived by her husband, former director of the Peace Corps and 1972 Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Robert Sargent Shriver; her children, Robert Sargent Shriver III, Maria Owings Shriver, wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Timothy Perry Shriver, Mark Kennedy Shriver, and Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver; her brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and her sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, former ambassador to Ireland.

GALLERY| 1970s Martha’s Vineyard thorugh Eisenstaedt’s lense

Alfred Eisenstaedt, the German-American photog most famous for his work with LIFE, particularly for the iconic shot he took of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J day, loved Martha’s Vineyard.

Born in Germany in 1898, Eisenstaedt fought for the Kaiser in World War I and took up photography. As the German climate grew increasingly inhospitable for Jews, he emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Jackson Heights. He landed a gig at LIFE in 1936 and remained at the magazine until 1972.

Hundreds of thousands of his images of literally every subject haunt the LIFE archive. Hustling around there yesterday for a shot of Ellsworth Bunker enjoying cocktails in the garden of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, I happened on this remarkable collection of images Eisenstaedt captured on his annual trips to Menemsha between 1971 and 1978. He died in his sleep on the Vineyard in August 1995.

I think you’ll enjoy these photos:

LIVES| Walter Cronkite, CBS anchor, 1916-2009

CronkiteCBS news anchor Walter Cronkite at the helm of a sailboat off Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1960s.

Walter Cronkite, “the most trusted man in America,” has died at 92, the Associated Press, CBS and other outlets report.

Mr. Cronkite, who had been suffering from cerebral vascular disease, died at 7:42 p.m. at his Manhattan home, surrounded by his family.

Here’s the current obituary from the Times. More material as I have time.

LIVES| Sir Noël Coward, 1899-1973

Blithe 1
Members of the cast of Sir Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” perform in York in 1941.

Your writer enjoyed a swell 29th birthday Wednesday. Not only did enjoy its heaviest day of traffic in the blog’s 11-month history with visits from nearly 100 unique users, but I also had a terrific night on the town.

Mrs. F. treated me to a performance of “Blithe Spirit,” the hilarious and classic comedic play by Sir Noël Coward.

The play, which debuted in London and New York in 1941, revolves around the haunting of a novelist who’s something of a rascal by his first and second wives. I first saw a community-theater production of the work in the early 1990s and have been enchanted ever since.

In the current revival, Rupert Everett stars as novelist Charles Condomine, Christine Ebersole as the ghost of his first wife, Elvira, and Jayne Atkinson as his second wife, Ruth. For the most part, we loved the show, which is full of British witticisms and a variety of classic slapstick elements. There were some slow moments, especially in the opening and next-to-last scenes.

The show closes Sunday, July 19. I strongly recommend you go and I’m sure tickets are still available.
NoelSir Noël Coward smokes in the desert outside Las Vegas, 1955

Sir Noël Coward, born Dec. 16, 1899 in Teddington, England, distinguished himself as a playwright, director actor and dandy. Inevitably photographed in either a house coat or a Tuxedo with cigarette holder in hand, the intrepid Coward authored more than 50 plays and made countless appearances in film, theater and television productions.

In addition to his work in the arena of performance, Coward was also devoted to the preservation of Britain. A conservative in politics, he was nonetheless a vehement anti-fascist and critic of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s attempts to appease Nazi Germany. During World War II, he worked as a propagandist for His Majesty’s government and also, it turns out, was an agent in the British Secret Service.

“Blithe Spirit” is arguably his greatest legacy. The play has enjoyed conversion into two films, multiple revivals in New York and London, and conversion to a musical in 1964.

Knighted in 1969, Coward died of heart failure on March 26, 1973 at Blue Harbor, his estate in Port Maria, Jamaica.

For much more on Coward and his legacy, explore the Coward Society, chaired by HRH the Duke of Kent.

LIVES| John P. Marquand, 1893-1960

MarquandAuthor John P. Marquand and his second wife, Adelaide Ferry Hooker, at their Newburyport, Mass. home in 1944, courtesy of the LIFE Archive.

We don’t often remember John Phillips Marquand as one of the top-tier writers of the mid-20th century. We probably should. The author, who won the Pulitzer in 1938 for his “The Late George Apley,” spent much of his writing taking on the absurdity of American society’s elite.

“Marquand is first of all a professional entertainer, and one of the best, but he is also something more than an amateur sociologist. As a sociologist, Marquand follows the method of creating — not copying from life — a leading figure in some profession, and then exposing him to a series of representative situations, both professional and domestic, so that we end by feeling that we are familiar with one segment of American society,” wrote the critic Malcolm Cowley in a 1958 passage that was quoted from in Marquand’s 1960 Times obituary.

Born Nov. 10, 1893 in Wilmington, Del., the author spent much of his childhood in the care of three maiden aunts in a crumbling Federal mansion his family’s hometown of Newburyport, Mass. His parents wandered from city to city, as the Times puts it, “in accordance with the vicissitudes of his father’s jobs and capital.” He attended Newburyport High School and was awarded a scholarship to Harvard. There, as an outsider who hadn’t attended one of the preparatory schools, Marquand was largely miserable. He did write for the Lampoon, though, and after graduation in 1915, he went on to serve in World War I and work as a newspaperman before turning his attention to the novel.

His first real effort, “The Unspeakable Gentleman,” was published in 1922. Several more titles followed over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. His “Mr. Moto” spy series, which charted the adventures of a relentlessly polite Japanese agent, were terrifically popular. His early work also included workaday stories and serials for the day’s magazines.

APleyWith “Apley,” published in 1937, his career took a favorable turn toward the serious.

The novel’s hero, an aloof Brahmin whose family has enjoyed an extremely comfortable position in Boston for generations, sees rebellious dream after rebellious dream crushed by his social set’s demands of absolute conformity. The satire Marquand employed in his send-up of Old Boston that Edward Weeks, editor of The Atlantic in 1960, said some in the Back Bay assumed the book was a legitimate biography and not a fictional memoir. Much later, the book was remembered by an anonymous writer in the pages of The New Yorker as the “best-wrought fictional monument to the nation’s Protestant elite that we know of.”

“Apley” is one of my favorites, not only because of its subject, but also because of its real success as a fictional memoir. Marquand’s attention to historical detail is terrific. And the satire is cutting — there are moments of real laughter if you’re able to get it.

Beyond the Pulitzer and critical success, the novel bore commercial fruit. His next three efforts sold very, very well. In a 1944 profile, Life dubbed him America’s most successful living author. On his death in July 1960, the Times estimated that his 26 novels had sold more than 15 million copies.

Martha Spaulding, in the May 2004 issue of The Atlantic, attempted to revive Marquand. She writes:

Though in his day Marquand was compared to Sinclair Lewis and John O’Hara, and his social portrait of twentieth-century America was likened to Balzac’s Comédie Humaine, critics rarely took him very seriously. Throughout his career he believed, resentfully, that their lack of regard stemmed from his early success in the “slicks.” Nevertheless, for his stylish depiction of the changes in American society over six decades, his humorous if occasionally grim observations on domesticity, and, above all, his sonorous, seductive prose, he deserves to be rediscovered.

Indeed he does.

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