“They can’t keep me out of heaven on a technicality!”*
Today is the birthday of Clarence Day (November 18, 1874–December 28, 1935), the author of Life With Father and long-time contributor to The New Yorker.
Born in New York City, he attended St. Paul’s School and Yale, where he edited the humor magazine. He was an Episcopalian. But bedridden with arthritis for the last 23 years of his life, he was barely able to hold a pencil. Isn’t it amazing that he wrote such hilarious material?
Scenes from Life With Father, along with its 1932 predecessor, God and My Father, and its 1937 sequel, Life with Mother, published posthumously, were the basis for the 1939 play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, which became one of Broadway’s longest-running non-musical hits. In 1947—the year the play ended on Broadway—it was made into a wonderful film starring William Powell and Irene Dunne and directed by Michael Curtiz.
Sadly, Day died in 1935, never having realized the sensational success of his book or the play and movie based on it.
We always got a big kick out of it, especially all the poking fun at Episcopalians:
Mary: That’s funny. The words are the same, but it’s the wrong tune.
Clarence Day: Oh, it can’t be the wrong tune. We sing it exactly that way in church.
Mary: We don’t sing it that way in the Methodist Church. You see, we’re Methodist.
Clarence Day: Oh, that’s too bad. Oh, I don’t mean it’s too bad that you’re a Methodist. Anybody’s got a right to be anything they want, but what I mean is, we’re… *Episcopalians*.
Clarence Day is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
That would be an interesting place to visit, don’t you think? A rural cemetery, it is one of the largest in New York City and is a designated historic landmark. There are lots of famous people buried there including Fiorello La Guardia, Irving Berlin, Damon Runyon…and Herman Melville! But I digress.
In the meantime, I’ll toast ol’ Clarence tonight (along with his mother and Father).
*Life With Father (1947)