Friday, December 10, 2021

Damon Runyon, 75 Years -- December 10, 2021

Washington Evening Star, 11-December-1946

Author Damon Runyon died 75 years ago today, on 10-December-2021. I have read many of his stories and seen many of the movies based on his work and enjoyed all of them. 

Damon Runyon, 62, Creator
Of Broadway Characters, Dies

Sports Writer Made
His 'Guys' and 'Dolls'
American Folklore

By the Associated Press

NEW YORK, Dec. 11. -- Damon Runyon, newspaper columnist and author, who made the "guys" and "dolls" of Broadway -- the gambler, fight promoter and small-time actress -- a part of American folklore, is dead at 62.

The famous sports writer who created Little Miss Marker, the Lemon Drop Kid and Harry the Horse died last night in Memorial Hospital, where he was admitted last Friday for treatment of a liver ailment. He had been ill for a long time and for the last year a throat ailment prevented him from speaking.

Paul Small, his agent, who was at his bedside, said Mr. Runyon died of a cancer.

There will be no funeral services and Mr. Runyon’s body will be cremated at an unspecified time and place. Friends said he had requested this.

Son at Bedside.

Others at his bedside when he died were his son, Damon Runyon, Jr., and Eddie Walker, a companion. Mr. Runyon was best known as the fiction chronicler of Broadway who created a whole library of new fables in slang woven about the nocturnal characters who frequented the restaurants in the forties and fifties. He once said he made a half million dollars writing about "one little section of New York."

Mr. Runyon was as much a part of the New York scene as his creations. Consuming quarts of coffee -- he was a teetotaler -- he would sit for long hours in Lindy’s Broadway restaurant, playing host to a long procession of characters, who later found themselves part of a Runyon short story.

He was born in Manhattan, Kansas, October 4,1884. When the Spanish American War broke out he professed to be 18 and served in the Army in the Philippines for two years. After the war he went to Colorado and entered newspaper work.

First New York Job.

In 1911 he got his first sports writing job in New York, on the American. Working for the Hearst newspapers in 1916, Mr. Runyon accompanied the punitive expedition to Mexico. In World War I, he served overseas with the 1st Army. Later he became a columnist and feature writer for King Features and International News Service and motion picture writer-producer. Many of his stories found their way to the screen.

Characters of his fiction had such picturesque names as Harry the Horse, Little Isadore, Spanish John, Dave the Dude, Apple Annie, Light Finger Moe, Broadway Rose, Frankie Ferocious, Feet Samuels, Madame La Gimp, Joe the Joker, Meyer Marmalade, Broadway Sam, Regret, the horse player, and Sorrowful, the bookmaker.

Once when Runyon was ill, a real life Broadway Sam said: "I am all broken up. My heart is broken for him and everybody along Broadway is likewise."

Wrote in Present Tense.

It was that type of speech that Mr. Runyon captured and wove into his lively, humorous, touching writing. His stories invariably were in the present tense from start to finish. His dialogue, like his background and action, remote from the grammatical, carried a clear overtone of sincerity in company with lightness and breeziness. There was sincerity behind every split infinitive, every mispronunciation, every slang expression.

Mr. Runyon had his own descriptive style that portrayed such things as a dour expression as a "castor oil smile," a pretty girl as a "very tasty-looking young doll," a no-good fellow as "a guy I consider no dice." The locale of many of his stories was "Mindy's" restaurant on Broadway. Sometimes he would be sitting there eating or standing outside "thinking of practically nothing whatever" when the action started.

Was Fashion Plate.

He was author of "Guys and Dolls," "Blue Plate Special," "Money From Home," "Best of Runyon," "A Slight Case of Murder," a play (with Howard Lindsay); "My Wife Ethel," "Take It Easy" and "My Old Man." Earlier he had published books of verse.

His success as a fiction writer allowed him to fulfill an early ambition to be a fashion plate. His clothing, although somewhat more conservative, was equally as interesting as that of his lingo-talking friends. His shirts had no standard buttons -- he wore jeweled studs that matched his shirt and tie. He bought and wore a fortune in jewelry. His suits were expensive. And he never paid less than $48 for a pair of shoes.

There is a short story in itself about his shoes. After buying a pair he would turn them over immediately to Hype Igoe, a New York sports writer who would break them in "and," Igoe once recalled, "when I gave them back to Runyon, if there was anything wrong with them, he would give them right back. I’ve been wearing $50 shoes for the last 15 years and never paid a cent for them."

Name Was Shortened.

When Mr. Runyon got his sports writing job on the American he signed one of his early stories "Alfred Damon Runyon," but his editor struck out the Alfred and said: "From now on you are Damon Runyon." And he was.

In 1936 Mr. Runyon began his column, "Both Barrels," which was carried in the American. The following year he wrote a new column, "As I See It," which was syndicated to 16 Hearst papers. Later King Features distributed a column under the title "The Brighter Side," in which Runyon wrote both seriously and humorously on subjects that interested him.

He signed a contract with RKO Pictures in 1941 as a writer-producer, and some months later signed another with 20th Century Fox. The first movie he produced was "The Big Street."

Mr. Runyon was married in 1911 to Ellen Egan and they had two children, Mary Elaine, now Mrs. Richard McCann, and Damon. Mrs. Runyon died in 1931 and the next year he married Patrice del Grande, an actress.

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