For me, the most rewarding part of putting together one of these Random Issues is when somebody writes to tell me how much they enjoyed reading about the issue and then invariably asks if it is still available. As I’ve said in the past, the nature of each magazine makes it necessary to cover them each in its own unique way, but I think the universal goal should be to get that inquiry, whether the issue is actually available or not.
For this month’s Random Issue I first took a look through the publications that I’ve covered in the past to make sure I’d choose something new. I was surprised we hadn’t done LOOK and I recalled having a stack of vintage issues that were in none-too-good condition, so going through those was my next step. Since I had about twenty issues to choose from I decided to go with the one that was dated closest to the date that I’m putting this issue together and thus settled on the November 3rd issue from 1953–the year was an added incentive as I had noticed several of our recent Random Issues had been placed in the 1920’s and 30’s and thought the 50’s would make a nice change. That’s how we got here.
The November 3, 1953 issue of LOOK is 124 pages plus covers and bulging with 61-1/4 pages (plus 3 cover pages) of advertising as we neared the Holiday season. Chesterfield shelled out for the back cover, Betty Crocker for the inside back cover, and Old Gold Cigarettes published a neat Halloween themed ad on the inside front cover that is shown directly below with a few of my other favorite ads from inside this issue.
Catherine Stover is credited with the cover photo of Moscow and inside she contributes the photos included in the seven-page "The Face of Moscow" photo-essay. Stover had been a member of the American Embassy staff in Moscow for two years before returning the previous summer. Four of the pages are all color photos and include shots of the Moscow Hotel, Gerzen Street, a statue of Stalin, a typical wooden house about three miles from Red Square, plus other scenes. The point of the text is summarized in one of the bold headings, "By the standards of free nations, life is hard for the people of Moscow."
By 1953, LOOK was a worthy rival publication to LIFE, somewhat similar in layout with a lot more text inside an issue than it had had in its early days of the 1930’s, but still much more photography than it would boast nearing decline in the 1960’s. As noted on the history of LIFE and LOOK page on the site, by 1948 circulation of LOOK was over 3 million. What went inside this extremely popular publication in 1953? After we turn the page on "The Face of Moscow", LOOK presents the standard pop culture mix of movie, sport, fashion, health, and politics:
"Lauren Bacall Tells Why ‘I Hate Young Men’" leads off with a large photo of Bacall and then follows with her list of the six men that she likes most and why. She eliminated movies stars from her list to "keep peace in my house and keep Bogart from turning into Bogart". The six men: Adlai Stevenson, Robert Sherwood, Nunnally Johnson, Alistair Cooke, Louis Bromfield, and John Huston.
"American Royal" is mostly photos with very little text about the annual American Royal Live Stock and Horse Show held in Kansas City.
"My Son Dies a Little Each Day" is an extremely sad story by Helen Boerner about her son Donald, who’s afflicted with muscular dystrophy. Photos captioned with Donald’s age morbidly show his decline over the years.
"Weinmaster-Master Lineman" is out sports article by Tim Cohane about New York Giants tackle Arnold Weinmaster. I’d have preferred World Series coverage, but hey, I just don’t care for football, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this on a Sunday afternoon in late October!
"Sleeping Pretty" is a fashion photo spread on the latest nighttime fashions for women. Included are photos of women modeling "Fanticaps", wild-animal striped nightgowns, gown-and-sweater sets, and the new "street length" nightgowns.
"Pity the Poor Teacher" was an interesting one. The article is about school teachers being both underpaid and overworked and includes some great reference text. For example, LOOK spoke with teacher H.L. Gaul, 58 at the time, and when asked if he’d advise a young man to become a teacher he replied, "Never!" His reasoning came down to paying the bills: "When I started teaching, I was paid $1,200 a year, which wasn’t a lot of money even in 1920. When my wife became pregnant, I started selling insurance on the side, and I kept right on selling insurance until my children grew up. My take-home pay today is $4,240, not much for a man who has spent his whole life in a profession…When I retire, I’ll get a pension of $2,200." Another teacher from Summit, NJ quit teaching to drive a beer truck. This is mostly a text-based article with few and little need for photos, but filled with other similar and interesting facts and figures.
"Coon vs Coon Dog" is just 2-pages, with ads filling half of that space, containing three photos, but worth mentioning for the wild photos of dogs battling raccoons. Apparently this was some sort of contest in Baton Rouge, LA, as one of the photos shows the "winning" dog, who’d knocked a coon off a log in eight seconds.
"New Look for Halloween Parties" is just some recipes with accompanying photos.
"Wall Street Art Collection" is a nice mix of photos and text about the Wall Street brokerage firm, Neuberger & Berman, which fills the walls of its firm with paintings. Responsible for the decor is Roy Neuberger, "who heads the firm and probably spends as much time with paintings as with stocks and bonds." Photos are included of works hanging at the office by Hans Hofmann, Ben Shahn, Marsden Hartley, Abraham Rattner, Milton Avery, and Peter Hurd.
"Custom Cars for Everyone" is about plastic-body automobiles being in limited production in Detroit, and is noteworthy because it includes photos of the first-year model of Corvette.
"Foto Fun Fest" is two-pages of pics from a convention in Hollywood and includes a shot of Elaine Stewart and Crash Corrigan riding a horse together.
"Coley Wallace Plays Joe Louis — Can He Live the Part?" is about the young fighter who played the part of Joe Louis in The Joe Louis Story. Wallace was ranked number 10 in the heavyweight division when he was tabbed to play the ex-champ, and was paid $17,500 for his acting efforts, considered more than he would have earned fighting during the four months it took to make the picture. The text mentions that Wallace had defeated Rocky Marciano when both were amateurs and that he is hoping to match up with the Rock again in the near future, noting that they had both improved dramatically. There’s actually an excellent article about the Marciano loss on the East Side Boxing site if you’re interested. Wallace finished with a pro record of 20-7.
"Accessories in the Limelight" is more fashion, this time for men and includes photos of Burt Lancaster, Fred Allen, and Ezio Pinza.
"What Is an Agnostic?" by Bertrand Russell is one of the longer text-based articles in this issue, covering parts of five pages and only including a single photo of Russell. In the piece a series of short questions are put to Russell such as "Are agnostics atheists?", "Does an agnostic do whatever he pleases?" and "Are you afraid of God’s judgement in denying him?" plus 17 others. Russell answers each question in a paragraph or two. In short, his answers to the three questions mentioned here were in order: No, No but in another sense yes, and most certainly not.
"Movie Review: Two Gals from Texas" features several photos of scantily clad Mary McCarty and Jane Russell, who photographers of this time just loved to photograph when she was scantily clad. The movie reviewed is The French Line but the term "review" is used very loosely as there is pretty much no commentary about the film at all, just a couple of pages of photos, which I guess technically serves as a review in the broadest sense.
"The All-American Look…and how it grew" is four pages featuring photos of Sally Ferguson, who was "born to the All-American Look in 1930." The photos show Sally from age one through today and concludes "U.S. babies born since 1930 have better chance for health, good looks." In the final photo Sally is shown modeling in Japan in a photo that LOOK notes "Sally clearly shows the results of 23 years of good care. Typical American grooming, with special emphasis on natural-looking make-up, stresses healthy effect." Pretty silly stuff, I thought.
"Mama Remembers Milton Berle’s 40 Years in Show Business" was a surprise to me as a movie fan, as I had not realized that Berle was a child star in early silent films. Taking a look at his profile over on the imdb I see that they list 8 of his 90 film credits as falling between 1914-1923, so obviously this is not privileged information, just something I did not know. I enjoyed this one quite a bit, especially the old photos of Berle with Mabel Normand and Louise Fazenda. The article covers all or part of seven pages, mostly photos of Milty over the years.
Those are the feature articles, with a few pages given over to regular features such as the Photoquiz, For Women Only, and Jack Wilson’s Washington. While it’s mostly fluff in between LOOK’s covers, it’s well-laid out fluff which with the proper photos can sometimes turn to eye candy.