“An Idealist in a Realistic World”

“An Idealist in a Realistic World” (March 30, 1942)
by Will B Johnstone (1881-1944)
14 x 22 in., ink on board
Coppola Collection

Johnstone studied at the Chicago Art Institute, after which he became an artist with the Chicago Interocean. He illustrated the daily news events, and Johnstone was the first person to diagram football games showing every play for each team. He eventually moved to New York City, where he began doing illustrations for William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. Later on, he moved to The World, which was later renamed to The New York World-Telegram. He did a comic strip based on the news of the day. This feature had a recurring character that depicted a victimized tax payer. The man in question had been literally stripped down in the nude after paying his taxes and therefore walked around wearing nothing but a barrel. This has become a stock image in many humoristic cartoons and comics.

Johnstone and his brother were playwrights, and co-wrote ten musicals that were produced on Broadway. For his play, “I’ll Say She is,” he recruited Groucho Marx and then rewrote the play to bring in all the Marx brothers. Johnstone was a co-writer on “Monkey Business,” “Horse Feathers,” and “a Day at the Races.”

This piece is also representative of Johnstone’s terrific panorama pieces.

A capsule view of WW2 appears across the hemisphere, along with the naïve engagement of the United States.

Highlights on the map:

The ghost ship SS Bremen, a steamer that used to move between NYC to Bremerhaven, was gutted by disgruntled crew members on March 16, 1942.

Danzig, annexed by Nazi Germany on September 2, 1939, during the invasion of Poland at the start of WW2.

The Italians breaking the treaty with Ethiopia, 1935-37.

The Austrian Anschluss, March 1938.

The Slovak Republic became a client state of Germany in March, 1939.

The fight with Russia was deeply engaged in late 1941 and early 1942.

You can see the liberal, commie sympathizers (the Parlor Pinks) abandoning ship.

In March 1942, the Pacific War was still dominated by the Japanese forces, and the fear of invasion and the ban on large public assembly was strongly in effect on the US west coast.

In fact, that year, on January 1, is the only time the Rose Bowl game was played anywhere other than in Pasadena.

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