The Unfamous of Hollywood — Howard Dietz — He Wanted a Two Weeks’ Job (1934) 🇺🇸
Fifteen years ago a young man fresh from Columbia University wandered into the offices of Loew’s picture company with something in his eye describable only as a glint and told them that he had a snappy idea to advertise their pictures. The idea was one whose validity could be confirmed or disproved in the space of about two weeks. And that, although the company had no way of knowing it, was as long as the young man wanted to work, since he was expecting some money from a magazine at the end of that period. The idea worked. Loew’s changed into Samuel Goldwyn and Samuel Goldwyn changed into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — and the man with the snappy idea was still there, now in exclusive supervision of the advertising and publicity departments. That young man, my chucks, is Howard Dietz: and his fifteen years with a film company have been distinguished as much for his brilliance in the actual job as for the incredibly many extra-territorial activities for which he is even better known.
Recall the first Little Show: “Three’s a Crowd,” “The Band Wagon,” “Flying Colors.” See if you can still hum “Moanin’ Low,” “I Love Louisa,” “New Sun in the Sky,” “Something to Remember You By,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Shine on Your Shoes” and “Louisiana Hayride.” The lyrics of all these are by Howard Dietz, and most of the more riotous sketches you remember from those revues were of his authorship, too.
This combination of shrewdness in exploitation and sensitivity in lyrics and topical satire is one of those things which only that rara avis, a native New Yorker, could achieve; and Howard Dietz is such a bird.
Even while at Columbia and contributing to The Jester, his verses were appearing in Life, Puck, Judge, and in the humor columns of F. P. A. and Don Marquis.
He was also working at the time as office boy on The New York American, later becoming its college correspondent and finally a general reporter there. Immediately after leaving college he got a job with an advertising agency on the strength of having won a $500 prize in a national advertising contest. Then he got the job with what is now Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — and he has never had any other job since.
In 1917 he married Elizabeth Bigelow Hall, of whom he has a huge oil painting in his private office.
He used to play baseball and still follows the game closely, but gradually dropped his interest in that sport and went in on the grand scale for tennis.
He follows football, boxing, wrestling, six-day bicycle races, track meets, billiard tournaments, hockey, swimming and yachting; he is a passionate devotee of anagrams; and a bridge shark.
He has an extensive wardrobe but alternates between two suits. He sleeps no more than four or five hours a night and admits he’s always tired. He has stayed up for three days at a stretch on several occasions.
He goes to Hollywood twice a year but doesn’t stay long. He can’t stand that sunshine.
He likes croquet, brandy and soda, drawings by Covarrubias, crab meat, everything that Robert Benchley writes, poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Eleanor Wylie.
Source: New Movie Magazine, February 1934
This article is part of our Unfamous of Hollywood series: Gilmor Brown, Natalie Bucknell, Bebe Daniels & Pauline Gallagher, Howard Dietz, Elmer Dyer, George Hurrell, Billy Hill, Sally Rand, Murray Spivack, George E. Stone