Ephemera, Part III

What’s the difference between  one totally bitchin’ Steinbeck (or Hemingway, or Faulkner, or Jack London, you-name-your favorite) collection and your neighbor’s collection?  Nothing, unless you follow my advice to color your collection with secondary or ephemeral items related to your favorite.  Last week we discussed bibliographies and periodical appearances.  This week we’ll look at Armed Services Editions and theatre memorabilia.

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9. Cup of Gold, Armed Services Editions, n.d. (1945), ASE No. 750, first edition thus, in wrappers.

10. Tortilla Flat, Armed Services Editions, n.d. (1943), ASE No. A-9 (just the ninth title issued in this series), first edition thus, in wrappers.

11. Lachez Les Bombes!, Overseas Editions, n.d. (c.1944), Steinbeck’s Bombs Away issued in French.

Items 9 and 10 are part of the same series, the Armed Services Editions series, the biggest book give-away in world history. Issued by the Council on Books in Wartime between 1943 and 1947, the Armed Services Editions series was designed to produce paperbound books that would fit into the pocket of a World War II American GI. For more details on this important series, see my article in the November 2001 issue of “Firsts” magazine. There were seven Steinbeck books in the series, one of which, The Grapes of Wrath, was so popular that it was published twice. The first issue is very difficult to find. Tortilla Flat is equally difficult to find. Steinbeck stories also appeared in a few anthologies issued in the ASE series, and one entry includes some material about Steinbeck himself. Lachez Les Bombes! is included in this group because the Overseas Editions series was a cousin to the Armed Services Editions series. This volume includes first edition material, a previously unpublished preface by Steinbeck written specifically for this edition.

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12. Of Mice and Men, San Francisco Theatre Union, May 1937 Playbill.

13. Tortilla Flat, Henry Miller’s Theatre, 1938 Playbill.

14. “All At Once You Love Her,” sheet music from Pipe Dream, 1955.

15. Here’s Where I Belong, Billy Rose Theatre, 1968 Program.

Most people think the first production of Steinbeck’s play version of Of Mice and Men took place in New York, but they are wrong. Before it reached Broadway, the play premiered in San Francisco. Any memorabilia from that production is rare. I have seen two copies of the original playbill, and nothing else. The play is listed as E1, the first item in Goldstone & Payne’s “Theatre and Film” section, but there is no notation as to whether Goldstone had a copy of the playbill or any other memorabilia. This item is not among Morrow’s 700 items, nor are any of the other theatre items listed. Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat was adapted into a Broadway play by Jack Kirkland, but the play was a bust. It ran just five performances. Any memorabilia related to this adaptation, cited as G&P E3, is very difficult to find. “All At Once You Love Her” is sheet music from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical Pipe Dream, which was an adaptation of Sweet Thursday. The play had some success, so material can be found. See G&P E20. Here’s Where I Belong had no success whatsoever. The play is, believe it or not, a musical adaptation of East of Eden. It had only one Broadway performance. Good luck trying to find any memorabilia. G&P makes no citation of this musical flop.

Next week we’ll tackle some film memorabilia as well as some interesting titles by Steinbeck published by subsequent publishers.

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