Chess and Cutting

Happy new year! In case you missed it in 2022: I had two articles in the “Overlooked” section of The New York Times (aka “Overlooked No More”), which profiles remarkable people who never got proper obituaries in the Times, due to the cultural biases of past decades.

The first article was on Vera Menchik, the world’s first women’s chess champion (her reign lasted from 1927 to 1944). I regretted that I didn’t have space to include information on a couple of her contemporaries, including her husband’s Rufus Stevenson’s first wife, Agnes Lawson Stevenson, a top-notch player who died when she walked into an airplane’s whirling propeller. And Menchik’s last major tournament, at the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires in 1939, pitted her in an epic match against Sonja Graf, an equally fascinating figure.

Graf had left for Buenos Aires as part of the German team but was removed from it en route by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda. Unwilling to recant her public anti-Nazi statements, Graf played the tournament under “the international flag of Liberty.” After finishing second (losing a very close match to Menchik), she stayed in Argentina rather than return to Nazi Germany.

The second article was on Dorothy Spencer, a deft film editor who cut over 70 Hollywood movies across five decades. I wasn’t able to see all of them, but I particularly recommend Stagecoach and To Be or Not to Be (the Ernest Lubitsch version, not the Mel Brooks remake). I was particularly proud that I was able to track down a couple of editors who had knew her professionally at Universal Pictures (her last movie was the otherwise forgettable The Concorde… Airport ’79 in, yes, 1979).

May their lives be an inspiration in 2023, and beyond.

posted 5 January 2023 in Archives and tagged , , , , , , . no comments yet

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