film, played by Peter Sellers.
Weegee published additional books during the late 1950s and
1960s: Weegee's Creative Camera (1959), Weegee by Weegee
(an autobiography, 1961), and Weegee's Creative Photography
Weegee died in New York on December 26, 1968 at the age of
adored gentleman, scholar, rogue, connoisseur, linguist (he studied Icelandic!), bon
vivant and angler. The most popular of his stories has entered the literature, via Miles
Barth's Weegee's World.
"Ironically, this photograph was used by the Nazis in World War II as propaganda,"
Barth wrote. "During the invasion of Anzio, Italy, in late 1943, Charles Kavenaugh [sic]
was sitting in a foxhole when out of the skies came leaflets reproducing 'The Critic.'
Inscribed underneath the image were the words, 'GIs, is this what you're fighting for?'
Kavenaugh remembers being too embarrassed to mention to anyone that the woman in
the photograph was his grandmother."
There is more to the story.
called that back then. Her friend is Lady Decies, nee Elizabeth Drexel, who married into
the British aristocracy after burying two husbands. The first lived just long enough to
sire a son of his own and then expired, presumably of tuberculosis. The second told her
on their wedding night that women were physically repulsive to him and that he had
married her for her money, which he then spent as fast as she would let him until his
death 28 years later. (She kept up a charade of domestic bliss to protect her dear,
And what about the grumpy proletarian to the right? She was a Bowery boozer,
lubricated by Weegee's assistant and squired uptown on Weegee's instructions. Though
not in on the scheme, she glowered on cue when loosed on Weegee's prey. Unfazed in
their tiaras, the ladies swept on to face the flashbulbs. The scathing social critique
enshrined in this image of a seemingly spontaneous encounter is agitprop set up by the
guy behind the lens.
made within a very few seconds." For his part, Weegee told the story that he
"discovered" the woman viewing the opera patrons after the negative had been
developed, never revealing the prank, saying it was as much a surprise to him as
The camera doesn't lie, people used to say, before they knew better. Arthur Fellig, the
Austrian-born photojournalist who clawed his way to New York notoriety in the 1930s
and '40s under the name Weegee, liked to dispense that bunkum too. "A photograph is a
page from life," he wrote in Naked City (1945), an anthology of his newspaper work,
"and that being the case, it must be real."
winters there in Paris and then summered in Newport. She
was known, wherever she was, for entertaining.
Lady Decies wrote at least two books, both
semi-autobiographical histories. The first was "King Lehr and
the Gilded Age" and then "Turn of the World." In "King
Lehr." She utterly shocked high society by detailing her
honeymoon's nuptial night in her book. On the night of their
marriage, Lehr revealed to her that he did not love her and
had only married her for her money. Fearing the
embarrassment that a divorce would bring to her widowed
mother, Elizabeth remained in a loveless marriage with Lehr.
My father describes her husband Harry as a champagne
salesman, but in fact he didn't do much more than loan his
name to the enterprise for which he was given $6,000 a year
allowance or fee by a champagne company. He came from
riches to rags and vowed to be rich again. He essentially
thought people were stupid and simply needed entertainment
and flattery. A modus operandi he employed successfully all
|If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
|If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at CFitzp@aol.com. If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
your picture. You will also receive a free Forensic Genealogy CD or a 10%
discount towards the purchase of the Forensic Genealogy book.
|1. Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee
2. The 60th Anniversary Metropolitan Museum Gala Event
3. Weegee's book The Naked City under the name The Critic
Life Magazine under the name XXXXX.
|Answer to Quiz #169 - July 27, 2008
|The Opera Meets the Bowery
1. Who took the picture?
2. What was the occasion?
3. Where was this photo first published?
|Thanks to Stan Read for suggesting this photo-quiz.
Weegee's photo "The Critic" should make this quiz interesting for all quizmasters. In the
original edition of "Naked City", the photos are reproduced from Fellig's negatives and
have better resolution than what is available now on the Internet. For example, Mrs.
Kavanaugh is holding tickets in each hand, and the ticket in her right hand with her
purse has "House" printed at the top right end. Probably the whole ticket said Opera
House. The ticket in her left hand shows the row and seat numbers where the two
ladies would be seated. Stan Read
|Their First Murder
October 1, 1941
Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig (June 12, 1899 –
December 26, 1968), an American photographer and
photojournalist, known for his stark black and white street
Weegee was born Usher Fellig in Złoczew, near Lemberg,
Austrian-Galicia (later known as Złoczów, Poland, and now
Zolochiv, Ukraine) to Rachel and Bernard Fellig. He was the
second of seven children. The first four, Elias, Usher, Rachel,
and Phillip were born in Lemberg. The youngest three siblings,
Molly, Jack, and Yetta, were born in the United States. Weegee's
name was changed to Arthur when he came with his family to
|Comment from Stan Read, Submitter of This Week's Quiz Photo
"The Critic" is probably Weegee's most famous image, and certainly his most widely
published. The opening night of the Metropolitan Opera in 1943 was advertised as a
Diamond Jubilee to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the company.
In a recent interview, Louie Liotta, a photographer who acted as Weegee's assistant,
recalled that Weegee has been planning this photograph for a while. Liotta, at Weegee's
request, picked up one of the regular women customers at Sammy's on the Bowery at
about 6:30 p.m. With a sufficient amount of cheap wine for the woman, they
proceeded to the opera house. When they arrived, the limousines owned by the
members of high society were just beginning to discharge their passengers.
Weegee asked Liotta to hold the now intoxicated woman near the curb as he stood
about twenty feet away from the front doors of the opera house. With a signal worked
out in advance, Weegee gave the sign to Liotta, who releasd the woman, hoping all the
while that she could keep her balance long enough for Weegee to expose several plates.
The moment had finally arrived: Mrs. George
Washington Kavenaugh and Lady Decies were
spotted getting out of a limousine. Both
women were generous benefactors to
numerous cultural institutions in New York
and Philadelphia, and Weegee knew that they
were known to every newspaper in New
York. Liotta recalled the moment he released
the disheveled woman: "It was like an
explosion. I thought I went blind from the
three or four flash exposures which Weegee
Radio talk show host
Weegee for station
WEAF on July 11,
1945, shortly after the
publication of Naked
City, his first book of
photographs. Listen to
excerpts from this
interview by clicking
From: Nicholas F. Warner
Date: 17-18 Apr 2002
Lady Decies was my father's godmother. And (something I
think needs to go on record somewhere) is the anonymous
woman in Weegee's famous photograph, "the critic". The
other woman is Mrs. Kavanaugh, my great grandmother.
[My father] . . . has many tales to tell. The New Yorker
called him "a gentleman from a bygone era, a remnant of the
belle époque". As I understand it, and unlike my grandmother
and greatgrandmother, who did nothing other than expose
their vanity and wealth, lady Decies wrote several books and
had many interests.
My dad was hunkered down at the Anzio beach head when
the Nazis dropped the Weegee photo as demoralizing
propaganda, "This is what's going on back home" or
something to that effect. He loves telling that story!
Elizabeth Drexel was the daughter of Lucy Wharton and
Joseph William Drexel, who was himself the son of Francis
Martin Drexel, founder of the Drexel family in the United
|Mrs Henry Lehr
(nee Elizabeth Drexel)
aka Lady Decies
Giovanni Boldini --
Preservation Society of
The Elms Hotel
Elizabeth married John Dahlgren, son of Admiral Dahlgren, and was widowed after a
She married Harry Lehr (her [second] husband) at the urging of my Great Great Aunt
Mrs. Stuyvasant Fish, [who] was always telling her that her shelf life was expiring and
she needed to be wed. Mrs. Fish essentially ruled the social scene in Newport (You can
see more about her in Cleveland Amory's "Last Resorts").
Their primary residence was a 17th century mansion in Paris. It had a tall wall on Rue
des Saints-Pères on the left bank. My father recalls visiting her there on many
occasions and being admitted by two footman in full livery who would then CARRY
him across the courtyard to the front door in a chair with poles. It wasn't a far
distance, but apparently this was the protocol. There were lovely gardens on the other
side of the house in which he played. She spent most of her winters there in Paris and
then summered in Newport. She was known, wherever she was, for entertaining.
Mrs. John Vincent
Lady Decies during her
firs marriage, 1899.
his life. She had a son in her first marriage -- Jack Dahlgren...who never earned a cent
but wasn't a problem. One of his projects included photographing all the important
houses in the left bank and my father woefully recalls lugging the cameras around with
him. Lady Decies, being a patron of the artis, secured admittance for my father at the
Académie Julian where he drew for a short stint.
In 1915 the Lehrs returned to Paris, where Elizabeth worked for the Red Cross. They
were stuck there when World War I broke out. The early chapters of her second book,
Turn of the World, give the details of their life there during the War, including taking
cover in their basement as German bombs dropped around them. They remained in
Paris after the War, where they continued entertaining. Harry Lehr began a long decline
and illness, and finally died in 1929.
In 1931 Elizabeth was presented at Court to King George V and Queen Mary in
London. Five years later she married as her second husband John Graham Hope de la
Poer Beresford, Fifth Baron Decies. His first wife had been Helen Vivien Gould,
daughter of Elizabeth’s New York friends George Jay and Edith Kingdon Gould.
Decies and Helen had married in 1911, and she had died in 1931. In 1937, as Lady
Decies, Elizabeth attended the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at
|Harry & Elizabeth Drexel Lehr
Lord Decies died on January 31, 1944, shortly after the
famous Weegee photograph was taken of Lady Decies
and Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh. He died at
his house in England, near Ascot. Since the war was
still raging, and Lady Decies was in New York, she
was not there at his death or funeral.
Lady Decies died in New York City on June 13, 1944,
while a "guest" of her son, Jack, at the Shelton Hotel,
which no longer exists. The New York Times gave
extensive coverage to her death, funeral, and the
probating of her will. The funeral was held in the Lady
Chapel at St. Patrick's Cathedral, behind the high altar.
200 people attended, including Mrs. Kavanaugh and
Mrs. Orme Wilson (daughter of THE Mrs. Astor).
Well, here are some facts behind The Critic, shot on
the opening night of the opera season, November 22,
1943, and first published in Life magazine and now on
view in an exhibition of Weegee's work at the J. Paul
Getty Museum in Los Angeles. "The Metropolitan 'first
night' in the second year of the Second World War had
more chi-chi than is usual in times of national—and
international—stress," the New York World-Telegram
reported. "The place was packed. The audience was a
most cordial and fancily got up one, and-incidentally-
the opera was Boris Godunov."
The spry moll on the left is Mrs. George Washington
Kavanaugh, a fabulously rich and frivolous fixture of
New York society who drank champagne from her
slipper to titillate the paparazzi, though they weren't
Lady Decies was buried in the Dalhgren Chapel at Georgetown University in
The photograph that LIFE printed, which is the version
most often reproduced, is only one third of the original
negative. On the opposite page from the women arriving
at the opera was another photograph by Weegee taken
during the performance of the opera with the caption,
"The plain people waited in line for hours to get standing
room, listened intently and, as always, showed better
musical manners than the people sitting in boxes." This
contrast of images, the rich with the jewels, and the
well-mannered "plain people" was exactly what Weegee
was striving for in all of his photography. The
incongruence of life, between the rich and poor, the
victims and the rescued, the murdered and the living - his
photographs had the ability to make us all eyewitnesses
The first time the photo appeared with the actual title, "The Critic," was in Weegee's
own book, Naked City.
I must admit that when I started researching this, I was sure it had something to do
with the Marx Brothers' film, "A Night at the Opera." Carolyn Cornelius
When I looked at this picture I thought there is no way I'll figure it out. Instead it once
again shows that not everything is as it appears. Lydia Sittman
Oh, gosh. I hadn't seen the item about the Nazi propaganda leaflets. It must not have
appeared as comical to people back then as it does to us.
I did look at some of Weegee's other photos. Some are on the gruesome side to say the
least. He sounds like he was quite a character and I was pleased to see that the
University of Maryland Library has a copy of his autobiography. It's on my reading
list. My favorite piece of Weegee lore that I picked up as a result of this quiz is that he
was the credited still photographer for Dr. Strangelove and Peter Sellers copied his
accent for his part in the movie. Carolyn Cornelius
The back story behind this photo was really interesting, especially the part about it
being largely staged! Tom Tollefsen
It certainly was an odd photo - I didn't know what to make of it first. Was it a
costume party, men in drag, a scene from a play, were they all intoxicated, etc. It was
interesting that it was faked by bringing in a "real" poor person from the Bowery to
pose in the photo, when I thought the two "high class" women looked fake to me, esp.
the looks on their faces. I also liked the bit of info from the Smithsonian using this as a
propagation photo. Beth Long
This is a famous photo by Weegee. I recognized it right away. With only one Google
search, I found the photo and this story at museum.icp.org/.../special/weegee/weegee09.html,
Ooh, got it! (Is it strange that I googled "bowery" "opera" and "tiaras" and found it that
way? I'm sure there are more scientific, logical ways to go about this . . . ). This is
called The Critic. It commemorates the opening of the opera season on Nov. 22, 1943,
and it was first published in Life. The photo was taken by Arthur Fellig, an Austrian-
born photojournalist who went by the name Weegee. The Smithsonian website gives a
fascinating profile of the women in the picture. Great photo! The social criticism
aspect of it (although it wasn't apparently intended as such) seems equally applicable
today, doesn't it? Thanks for another fun quiz round! Merry Gordon
Thank you. I had struggled to find that answer, and when I showed it to my colleague
she immediately said, "The Critic". I was impressed. She once instructed photography
at a University. I did immediately sense that that photo was published in Life Magazine,
but none of the searches I tried came up with anything. After college I worked at
Norlin Library of the University of Colorado, and during free time I would page through
their massive collection of Life magazines going back to the 1920's. I do like the
quizzes where I have to search. I learn more that way and it's fun. Keep up the good
work. Dan Schlesinger
Have to admit I knew Weegee on sight, which was a nice rest from all that cricket
work. Rex Cornelius
You would not believe the different ideas I tried on this one. Great Quiz!!!
|Comments from Our Readers
photographic training but was a self-taught photographer and
relentless self-promoter. He is sometimes said not to have had
any knowledge of the New York art photography scene; but in
1943 the Museum of Modern Art included several of his photos
in an exhibition. He was later included in another MoMA show
organized by Edward Steichen, and he lectured at the New
School for Social Research. He also undertook advertising and
editorial assignments for Life and Vogue magazines, among
His acclaimed first book collection of photographs, Naked City
(1945), became the inspiration for a major 1948 movie The
Naked City, and later the title of a naturalistic television police
drama series and a band led by the New York experimental
musician John Zorn.
And what a poseur he was. After publishing Naked City, Weegee
amused himself with bit parts in movies, lecturing and
endorsement deals. By the time he died, in 1968, of a brain
tumor, his career had become something of a joke. A portrait
from the '50s shows Weegee on a throne and in full regalia,
puffing a cigar, camera in hand. "To all my subjects," he signed
One subject—our Mrs. Kavanaugh—seems to have borne him
no ill will. She posed for another photographer with Weegee,
along with her daughter Leonora Warner and grandson Charles
G.K. Warner, known as Shot.
reportedly been in decline since 1993, when 75 friends and
family members regaled him with an album of reminiscences for
his 75th birthday. But in those pages, a reader meets a hugely
live in New York in 1909, fleeing Antisemitism.
Fellig left home as a teenager and began working as an assistant to a street
photographer who shot tintypes of children on a pony. Through the 1920s he worked
as a darkroom assistant at The New York Times and Acme Newspictures, which was
later absorbed by U.P.I. Photos.
By 1938, Fellig became the only New York newspaper reporter with a permit for a
portable police-band shortwave radio. He maintained a complete darkroom in the trunk
of his car, to expedite getting his free-lance product to the newspapers. Weegee
worked mostly at night; he listened closely to broadcasts and often beat authorities to
Most of his notable photographs were taken with very basic press photographer
equipment and methods of the era, a 4x5 Speed Graphic camera preset at f/16, @
1/200 of a second with flashbulbs and a set focus distance of ten feet. He had no formal
|Congratulations to Our Winners!
Beth Long Dawn Carlile
David Suddarth Carolyn Cornelius
Diane Burkett Karen Kay Bunting
Lydia Sittman Beth Long
Alan Cullinan Dan Schlesinger
Kelly Fetherlin Andy Hoh
Diane Burkett Karen Petrus
Gary Sterne Carole Cropley
Brian Kemp Merry Gordon
Kate Clabough Jim Kiser
Audrey Speelman Frank Nollette
Harold Clupper Rex Cornelius
Lois Carr Judy Pfaff
Dave Doucette Robert E. McKenna
Weegee also made short 16mm films beginning in 1941 and worked with and in
Hollywood from 1946 to the early 1960s, both as an actor and a consultant. He was an
uncredited special effects consultant and credited still photographer for Stanley
Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the
Bomb. His accent was one of the influences for the accent of the title character in the