Mixing Etiquette with Humor

Evidently the photographer was still hanging around when Shelley Winters showed up at the police station to claim her man.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a slew of etiquette books. I have old, collectable books, vintage books, antiquarian books, and even a few new ones hanging around. My favorites are the vintage etiquette books. I especially love any original tomes by Amy Vanderbilt, Letitia Baldrige and Miss Manners. Those are true gems.

Every once in awhile, I come across an article or blog post referencing new manners or the "new etiquette" for modern living. In reality, the manners and etiquette needed aren't new, but how we spend our daily lives is changing at such a rapid pace, the "old etiquette" just needs a bit of tweaking to adapt. In some cases, the old etiquette still fits just fine.

Anyone who knows me well, also knows I edit and moderate the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia blog. Whenever I am looking for new things to post, or reading submitted articles, I find things that are well written, funny and honestly helpful with regard to "new etiquette." This one is a gem! In our celebrity obsessed culture, this plea for new etiquette, from 1957, was a refreshing reminder of just how innocent the 1950s seemed.

New Book Needed

"MY GOOD deed for this day is a gratis presentation of a million dollar idea to Amy Vanderbilt and her host of imitators. The etiquette authorities, in their eagerness to transform us into a nation of Fauntleroys and Miss Prisses have somehow overlooked a virgin territory ripe for their ministrations. The ladies have prescribed the ground rules for every social contingency (rum apple bobbing to zebra hunting), but they have let their public down woefully on a 'Book of Etiquette As She Is Practiced in Hollywood.'

THERE IS a crying well, maybe, a screaming need for such a tome. Such a volume, if written by Mme. Fearless Fairless, would clear up the justifiable confusions that assail the civilian or non-Hollywood mind when Miss Shelley Winters (the inflammable Bernhardt of the screen), and her fiance, Anthony Franciosa, who is incadescent on his own, became entangled with (1) a news photographer and (2) with the law. The nuances of Hollywood social usage and the delicate shadings of custom in the cinema capital are splendidly illustrated by this fracas and also the necessity of a book that will explain these tribal taboos to outlanders.

TO BEGIN WITH Miss Winters and Franciosa have made no secret of their betrothal in any Broadway or theatre gossip column which would print the word. Nor has the phrase "Festively Top Secret" been stamped on the news that they would be wedded once the fiance was divorced by his wife. Furthermore, Miss Winters has never shown any more repugnance to being photographed by the press than, say, Jayne Mansfield. So when Miss Winters and her fiance went publicly and together to the Superior Court Building in Los Angeles to make an open and public bid on a home in Beverly Hills, a news photographer started to take a routine picture of the pair.

THIS IS WHERE the plot thickens and confusion reigns for us barbarians beyond the hills of Hollywood. The attempt to take a picture of Miss Winters and Franciosa together obviously fractured a strictly cinema social taboo. It caused Franciosa to fall upon the photographer and aim a placekick at his groin. And caused the law to jail Franciosa. "We can't have our pictures taken! He is still getting a divorce!" screamed Miss Winters. "He doesn’t want to be photographed because he doesn't want any scandal!” Sure enough, Franciosa was getting a divorce, on that very day. (Or rather, his wife received such a decree in Reno.)

ANYWAY, there you have the epitome of the delicate social usages that make Hollywood a trap for the unwary and a book of etiquette a necessity. Apparently, one of the basic rules says that if one is engaged to a man in the process of getting a divorce, it is all right to say it in print but not in pictures. That would constitute scandal. Of course, any book of etiquette is one-tenth politesse and nine-tenths anthropology. So my nominee as the author to tackle Hollywood's etiquette problems is Anthropologist Margaret Mead. Her study of the natives of Samoa made her world famous and ought to prepare her handsomely for research among the Holly-woodenheads." — Inez Robb for The Dessert Sun, May 4, 1957

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is generally annoyed by pleas for "new etiquette." Oh yes, and she edits the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia blog that you can read


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