Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sic transit gloria mundi

When I was driving to Dallas last week, I listened to a few old-time radio shows on XM's OTR channel.  One of them was The Chase and Sanborn Hour with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.  The guest on the show was Louis Bromfield, and I wondered how many people listening knew who he was.  I did because Bromfield's novels were very popular at one time, and I pay attention to that kind of thing.  Not everybody does, though.  

After the show, the XM host said that every one of Bromfield's 30 novels had been a bestseller.  Who reads him now?  Anybody?  Does anybody even remember the movies made from them?  Yet here Bromfield was, a guest on a popular radio show.  Not some late-night talk show, but a primetime hit.  Maybe that was because he was also a conservationist and farmer.  Does anybody remember that Bogart and Bacall were married at his farm?  The farm is still there, by the way, but who remembers that it was started by a bestselling novelist?  

20 comments:

Rick Robinson said...

I know I live under a rock, but I have no idea what, exactly, you're saying here.

Bill Crider said...

Just rambling.

Deb said...

This was one of the reasons Patti started the Friday's Forgotten Books feature, so that some of us wouldn't forget writers like these. My favorite forgotten author is John P. Marquand. He was very popular in his day, had a string of best-sellers (THE LATE GEORGE APPLEY is probably the most famous), and yet hardly anyone know of him now.

I also think back to the tv talk shows of my teens when Gore Vidal or Truman Capote or Norman Mailer would just show up on Carson, Cavett, even Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas. Even less well-known writers would get a few minutes (usually toward the end of the show, but still). Other than Stephen Colbert, do any other talk shows have authors as guests anymore?

/sic transit gloria is right!

Elgin Bleecker said...

Bill – I’ve seen Bromfield’s name in movie credits, but never read any of his books. Thanks for bringing him to our attention. As Deb points out, authors were once regular guests on talk shows. What happened? And something from before my time that is hard to believe, but publisher and founder of Random House, Bennett Cerf, was a regular panelist on TV’s WHAT’S MY LINE?

Bill Crider said...

I remember WHAT'S MY LINE? well. Authors and publishers got better gigs in those days.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Are you saying that Bromfield is still alive, because it sort of reads that way? Yes, I've heard of him and the movies made from his books but no, I've never read one.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Bromfield died in 1956, by the way. The most well-known titles, as far as I'm concerned, were The Rains Came and Mrs. Parkington.

Bill Crider said...

I didn't mean to imply that he was still around, but I may have. I should be more careful.

Cap'n Bob said...

I remember the movie The Rains of Ranchupur (sp?) but I don't know the author. I think I was either unborn or a mere sprout when he was popular.

Bill Crider said...

He was popular for a long time, but maybe not so much after you came along.

Daniel Stumpf said...

Bromfield wrote the story that became the film NIGHT AFTER NIGHT: Mae West's first film.

As you may recall, I work for the Red Cross transporting elderly & disabled people to medical appointments. several years ago I carried a guy who did legal and financial work for Hemingway and for Bromfield. He said Bromfield's affairs were a mess that got worse as his books quit selling, but he was at Malabar farms when Bogart & Bacall were married there, and I saw his face in one of the old photos.

On a completely unrelated note, he told me once how unpopular Hemingway was with the locals in Key West, and how hard he had to work to get "papa" the house there. Now they've made his memory a cottage industry.

Bill Crider said...

Great stuff, Dan. Thanks.

George said...

I have a few of Bromfield's books. I should read one. Your example shows that fame is fleeting.

James Reasoner said...

I remember seeing Bromfield's books on the shelves of the library where I worked in the Sixties, but I don't think I ever read any of them. And I'm pretty sure I don't own any of them now. But maybe I will. They're plentiful and semi-cheap on Amazon.

Bill Crider said...

I wonder if his books are still in libraries.

Bill Crider said...

I checked the Brazoria County Library system. Not a single novel by him. There's a book of criticism of his works, though.

Fred Blosser said...

Think of all those best-selling novelists in the '40s and '50s whose names wouldn't even spark a glint of recognition among most people today. Lloyd C. Douglas, Kathleen Windsor, Edna Ferber, Frank Yerby, Thomas B. Costain, Samuel Shellabarger, the two Irvings-- Stone and Wallace. Geez, who even remembers Arthur Hailey and Sidney Sheldon of more recent vintage?

James Reasoner said...

A surprising number of Bromfield's novels appear to still be in print in both trade paperback and e-book editions. I just bought the e-book of NIGHT IN BOMBAY for 99 cents.

Fred, I remember all those writers you mention quite well. Some I've read, some I haven't, but I used to see their books all over the place. I've read quite a bit by Arthur Hailey, Frank Yerby, and Irving Wallace.

Bill Crider said...

I remember all those writers, too. Judy was a big Yerby fan when we first married. She read nearly all his books. And she loved Frances Parkinson Keyes, another forgotten bestseller of yesteryear.

James Reasoner said...

I think I'm going to make an effort to read some of these authors I've never read before, like Costain and Shellabarger.