Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Shermund's Sallies

A high-class women's magazine called Pictorial Review had graced the nation's newsstands since the late 1890s, but by the 1930s it was beginning to fall on hard times. In 1934 the magazine was sold to one of Hearst's many shell companies. Although they attempted to revitalize the magazine's bottom line by the usual Hearst method of throwing money at the problem, by the late 1930s the magazine was still hemorraghing red ink. In late 1939 the decision was made to shut it down.

However, Hearst recognized the value of the name, and decided to use it as the new title of the arts and entertainment magazine section of his Sunday papers. The new title began appearing in 1940, simply replacing a more generic section title. In the early war years, the magazine section gradually changed focus from Hollywood to picture-heavy news of the battlefronts. This change apparently proved unpopular, and in 1944 the focus returned to glitz and glamor. However, the magazine now also inaugurated a great many humor features. There was a new Milt Gross weekly illustrated column, other illustrated humor pages and even pages of cartoons. At first the cartoon pages were untitled, but soon Pictorial Review inaugurated a set of recurring features. The focus of almost all of them was on feminine foibles.

In addition to a running feature called Gals and Gags that revolved among three cartoonists, there was a pair of features that shared the same one-page space, switching off from week to week. The first of these was Cutie Quips, another offering from E. Simms Campbell of his familiar beauties, the other was Barbara Shermund's Shermund's Sallies. The odd thing about this pair of features is that when one had an off week, the creator's cartoons still appeared, but were instead featured on another gag page of the section. Why the titles didn't travel with them I can't understand, but that's how the Pictorial Review operated.

Shermund's Sallies debuted in the August 13 1944* issue. Her cartoons were already very well-known to readers of The New Yorker and Esquire, magazines that had featured her work for many years. In those venues Shermund's cartoons could be somewhat forward-looking and female empowering, but here in the Pictorial Review she mostly kept her sexy girls in the well-populated ghetto of gorgeous but dumb as a rock glamor girls. It's a shame that the gags for these cartoons are so wince-inducingly dated now, but the lovely art certainly makes up for the text underneath. The feature offered two cartoons per page throughout its life, and Shermund made sure that there were plenty of doe-eyed beauties for the fellows to ponder on her pages.

Although other titled features came and went in the Pictorial Review, including Campbell's Cutie Quips after only a few years, Shermund's Sallies never wavered in its every two week appearances for over a decade. In the mid-1950s Pictorial Weekly again began to tinker with its format. The new direction added more untitled cartoon pages in her place, and Shermund's appearances began to thin out. In 1957 the magazine's interest in humor hit rock bottom when Shermund's Sallies last appeared on June 2*, and most of the other untitled cartoon pages also came sputtering to an end. From then on practically the only cartoon content was in the magazine's centerspread, a double-pager of text gags and cartoons that generally went under the title of The Cheering Section. Here Shermund's cartoons continued to be seen on occasion until the magazine section itself apparently folded in mid-1958.

PS: Barbara Shermund died in 1978 and her remains were never claimed by relatives or friends. There is now an effort underway to provide her with a burial and grave marker. Please take a moment to read about this effort on a GoFundMe fundraising page.

*Source: San Francisco Examiner


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