MERRY GENTLEMEN (AND ONE LADY) by J. Bryan

MERRY GENTLEMEN (AND ONE LADY)

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Robert Benchley once invited Bryan to dinner at a restaurant where they were joined by a dazzlingly beautiful Chinese girl. ""This is Miss Ching Lee,"" he said. ""I invited her for you because you're from Virginia and everybody from Virginia is related to the Lees."" Dorothy Parker sent him a telegram that read, ""In order to wish you a Merry Christmas I am interrupting by work on my screen epic Lassie Get Down."" Parker is the ""one lady"" of the title and Benchley and Samuels are but two of the 13 wildly wacky gentlemen Bryan has known in his more than half century as an editor and writer. Along with such celebrated wits as S.J. Perelman, Fred Alien and practical joker Hugh Troy, Bryan includes the likes of John Steinbeck and playwright Marc Connelly--none particularly remembered as being a barrel of laughs, but who more than contribute their share here. Almost every page evokes chuckles and guffaws. In a mural for the Bowery Savings Bank, Troy included a ship flying signal flags that spelled out ""Keep Your Money In Your Mattress."" Connelly, who is standing on a balcony with Benchley, shouts down to a group of passengers on a traffic-stalled open-decker bus, ""People! People! Your new prince!"" He then bows to Benchley and withdraws. Unperturbed, Benchley delivers a speech in fluent German that assures the open-mouthed passengers they should have no qualms about being ruled by a foreign monarch: he Will keep America's priceless heritage unsullied. The author himself is no slouch at turning a risible phrase. He describes Allen's face as a veritable ""villainy's ledger,"" adding, ""The avarice of a Scrooge, the treachery of a Quisling, the malignant cunning of Fu Manchu--all were written there in an alphabet of pouches, sequents and seams."" At the book's finale, Bryan describes his friends as ""All--all--wonderful company."" Most readers will agree.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum