Lou Hoover Memo on Charles Michelson
The eminent Hoover biographer, George Nash, describes Charles Michelson as "the Democratic Party's chief publicist and spin-meister," who, during the Hoover Administration, "orchestrated an unremitting barrage of disparagement of Hoover's shortcomings: a foretaste of what later generations would call "the politics of personal destruction." Michelson's job was an unrelenting flow of criticism, often as ghostwritten editorials, speeches for others, attacking Hoover and his policies. His own memoir of these activities was aptly titled, The Ghost Talks.
Contained among Lou Henry Hoover's papers is an undated memorandum describing a social gathering she attended without her spouse. A fierce defender of her husband and his policies, Lou felt much of the criticism more deeply than Herbert Hoover. It was at this gathering that Lou accidently encountered her husband's most vocal critic:
|"There was a party the other night. A large party, in a large house, so that the guests moved about uncrowded, unhurried.
"It was not a party where guests sat down to eat, at table with one another. A lovely, gracious lady was there, from a distant city. But well known, she was the wife of a man who had been shamefully, brutally injured by another man some years before. Her husband was not with her. However, the other man was in the gathering and much whispering buzzed about, that any hostess should be so crass as to ask those two under her roof at the same time.
"But no one told them of each other, until they stood at right angles, some four or five feet apart, and then turning slowly, as tho' Fate pulled the strings, they faced.
"The woman with her was not equal to the situation, but hesitating, flustered, flushing, she murmured the two names, as tho' introducing them, or recalling slight acquaintances to each other,
"The room paused, electrified. The man was struck speechless, motionless. The lady poised, as it were, in her slow flight across the room. She showed no sign of greeting. She did not put out her hand with the smile of welcome or of interest that had met friend and acquaintance in the past minutes. But she did not move on. She simple stood erect, assured, unperturbed, but with her stead eyes not leaving his face. Forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, jay, she scanned. Slowly she repeated his name, in full, pronouncing every syllable. He was turned to stone, hypnotized. In a second she proceeded, with well-spaced, even tones, clam, low, but carrying to every corner of the room.
"I have long wanted to see you," she said unhurried, still studying his countenance, with the slightest accent on the 'see.' Then after an appreciable pause, but before the gasp of conversation could be resumed in the room, 'I have wanted to know what your face was like. I have wanted to know what your face could be like.' For a long moment she continued then deliberately, she turned toward her companion and moved along the direction of their earlier course. She gave no sign of farewell or dismissal to the man. She took her glance from that face as coolly as tho' she had been contemplating an unpleasantly interesting ugly marble bust. But she left upon it a hand of humiliation that cannot be entirely erased in the remains of a life time.
"It was that most utterly ruthless encounter that could have been staged. But it was spontaneous, unexpected, -one might say gracious.
"Before they had withdrawn beyond ear shot if quite all in that room they were approaching the door to the exit, she said casually, but distinctly, to her still stunned companion, "I am sorry to have had to do that in the home of my hostess. But she should not have asked me here at the same time as the man whom everyone knows stabbed my husband, and [me] in the back."
Movie Night at the White House
Like many of their generation, Herbert and Lou Hoover were fascinated by motion pictures. They lived at a time when film evolved from its infancy into a mature industry. Silent pictures were often enhanced by a piano, theatre organ accompaniment or even orchestral scores for some of the epic films. Movie houses in larger cities were the first to have the modern convenience of air conditioning which made film-going popular during the long hot summers. But the advent of sound tracks synchronized to the visual images made motion pictures almost an extension of reality. By the time of Hoover's presidency, sound motion pictures were the norm and advances in film production eliminated much of the dark, grainy quality associated with early film.
Recent research has uncovered a script and correspondence concerning a 1926 silent film on the history and achievements of the Commission for Relief in Belgium initiated by Herbert Hoover. While an extant copy of the film has yet to surface, the correspondence indicates that one was shown to Hollywood studio head Louis B. Mayer of MGM. Hoover's close friend and writer, Will Irwin, produced a campaign film biography of Hoover in 1928 entitled Master of Emergencies. The film undoubtedly used footage from the missing CRB film and recast it into a larger narrative of Hoover's humanitarian and public service efforts.
During Hoover's "Good Neighbor" tour of Latin America as president-elect, movies were a regular part of activity on the USS Utah. Among the selections was The Tempest with John Barrymore and Camille Horn, Jazz Mad with Jean Hersholt and Marian Nixon, and The Patent Leather Kid with Richard Barthelmess and Molly O'Day.
Movie screenings became a recurrent event in the Hoover White House. An undated 1929 memo indicates the "First night of movie tone pictures" included three news reels, a feature film and a news weekly that was on hand in case the audience wanted an encore. The newsreels included, "Hoover serenaded at the White House," "Opening the baseball season," and "Making speech at the AP [Associated Press] dinner." The feature film was The Valiant, a pioneer talkie staring Paul Muni who received an Academy Award nomination for his performance.
What the Hoover's began in 1929 continued throughout later administrations. Eventually, the White House obtained its own viewing room for the film showings. A coat room was converted into a family theater in 1942, seating about 40 individuals.