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Graham Greene's 'Night and Day,' felled by a scandal, returns

March 14, 2011 |  8:43 am

Grahamgreene_1927 Graham Greene, who died in 1991, was one of the great writers of the 20th century. His novels include "The Power and the Glory," "The Quiet American," "Our Man in Havana," "The Third Man," "The Confidential Agent" and "The End of the Affair." In addition to writing books, he also worked as a journalist and editor.

In the 1930s, he led the magazine "Night and Day," described as a British rival to the New Yorker. The magazine, which folded in 1937, is now being brought back to (electronic) life. Editors at the publishers Chatto & Windus and Jonathan Cape will relaunch "Night and Day" as an online publication on March 24.

Greene himself was in part responsible for the magazine's closure. He was editor and sometime film critic, and he reviewed the film "Wee Willie Winkie," a 1937 Shirley Temple film in which the not-yet-10-year-old Temple helps her father, a British colonel in India.

"The owners of a child star are like leaseholders -- their property diminishes in value every year," Greene's review began. "Time's chariot is at their back; before them acres of anonymity. What is Jackie Coogan now but a matrimonial squabble? Miss Shirley Temple's case, though, has peculiar interest: infancy is her disguise, her appeal is more secret and more adult."

After describing Shirley Temple's outfits and adult emotions, Greene continued:

Her admirers -- middle aged men and clergymen -- respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desireable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialog drops between their intelligence and their desire.

The overt statement that there was hidden adult desire for Shirley Temple caused a furor. Twentieth Century Fox sued Greene for libel on Temple's behalf. Greene left England for Mexico. The movie studio won the lawsuit, with the judge writing, "This libel is simply a gross outrage."

Was Greene prurient or prescient, or some combination of the two? Watch a clip from "Wee Willie Winkie" after the jump.

Some say that "Night and Day" was already struggling financially, but the scandal over Greene's review is remembered to have sunk the magazine for good.

Now it's back. Or it will be, in 10 days.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Graham Greene at his wedding to Vivien Dayrell-Browning, Oct. 15, 1927. Credit: From book "The Life of Graham Greene" (Jonathan Cape, London) by Norman Sherry.

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