Bennett Cerf, “A Luncheon at the Ritz”

 

 

bennett-cerf-a-luncheon-at-the-ritz

 

 

 

Posted here is a downloadable PDF file of an article by publisher Bennett Cerf (1898–1971):

Bennett Cerf, “A Luncheon at the Ritz,” Playboy, vol. XIII, January 1969, pp. 179, 239.

Cerf describes a luncheon that Theodore Dreiser had at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Manhattan during which an oft recounted incident occurred. During the luncheon, Dreiser argued with publisher Horace Liveright over his share of the proceeds from the sale of film rights to his best selling novel An American Tragedy, and, outraged because he felt Liveright was cheating him out the share to which he was entitled, threw a cup of coffee at Liveright. (It was a huge sum, by any measure, for the 1920’s.)

The luncheon took place on March 19, 1926. It has been stated in other sources that it was attended by Dreiser, film producer Jesse L. Lasky, and Liveright.

Cerf claims in the article posted here that he was at the luncheon; he does not mention Lasky’s having been present. This has been questioned, as has been the accuracy of Cerf’s recollections of the luncheon.

Cerf states that the luncheon “involved exactly three people: …. Dreiser himself, … Horace Liveright, … and me. Despite other accounts to the contrary, that was the entire cast of characters. … .”

Cerf describes how he met Dreiser after joining the Liveright publishing firm in 1923. He describes Dreiser as an annoying visitor who would show up at the firm’s Manhattan offices periodically, would find fault with royalty statements, and would attempt to “make time” with a woman employee of the firm.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     November 2016

 
Note: This account was incorporated into Bennett Cerf, At Random: The Reminiscences of Bennett Cerf (New York: Random House, 1977), pp. 58-59.

 

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