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New York World’s Fair at the Start of WWII: Tarzan and Hedy Lamarr

Elsewhere I have written about Joan’s visit to the NY World’s Fair that first week of the war in September 1939.

Poster advertising the Fair

Poster advertising the Fair

Her poem, New York World’s Fair 1939, commemorates that visit and ponders the peace at home.

We shall remember this peace –

This caught moment of half-night beauty

Music – and a night bird blinded by the spotlight

That same light which has just flashed

Following it as it moves….

You can read the rest of the poem here.

The New York Times today writes about how the war disturbed the World’s Fair, including what food to serve.  As the Times in 1939 reported:

“Foremost was an alarm from chefs of several outstanding foreign restaurants that some delicacies heretofore transported from Europe might have a little trouble getting by the submarines….The Polish restaurant said its famous hams would last through October. The British Buttery, however, faces a shortage in its Cheshire, Cheddar and Stilton cheese….[T]he Finnish Restaurant is worried about its smoked reindeer meat supply.”

There were many spectacular performances at the Fair. Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame appeared, according to Brooks Atkinson in the Times.


Atkinson wrote how you can enjoy “Aquadonis Weissmuller, baring his wide breast to the breezes….and you can also have the pleasure of seeing a fat man splash, although not in civil attire, which is the basic philosophy of fat comedians in a swimming tank.”



Here you can see the trailer to the original 1932 movie Tarzan the Ape man.

There was also a Hedy Lamarr film, “Lady of the Tropics,” that opened.

The Fair appealed to the viewer’s sense of adventure, the exotic, and remote.  But those lands would become all too familiar to those who had to fight in the war…..


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