The glory days of bridge were the 1920s and 1930s, almost a century ago! Simon Cocheme writes a fascinating article about how popular bridge was in those days in the December edition of Bridge Bulletin.
In Emily Post’s 1922 book on etiquette, she wrote, “Those who do not play bridge are seldom asked out.” And later she said, “Bridge is always taken seriously.” She lists all the mannerisms of people unlikely to be invited back: Gloaters, card snappers and moaners, and those who hold endless post mortems about hands played earlier.
According to Cocheme, many writers mentioned the game in their novels and plays, although many of them had no clue how the game was played.
For example, Dorothy L. Sayers included many references to bridge in nearly all the chapter titles of her 1928 Lord Peter Wimsey novel “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.” Some titles include “Spades are Trumps,” “Lord Peter Leads through Strength” and “Grand Slam in Spades.” None of the characters, however, play bridge in this book.
Agatha Christie wrote about bridge in several of her novels. Cards on the Table (1936) finds Hecule Poirot, her famous detective, trying to deduce the character of each of four suspects by analyzing the way they played the game and the way they kept their score cards. Christie describes some bizarre auction, which ends in seven diamonds doubled going down. It is obvious from the sequence of the bidding that the author knew very little about the game.
Somerset Maugham, a wildly popular novelist of the 1930s, was an avid bridge player. One of his short stories, “The Three Fat Women of Antibes” has bridge and dieting as its main themes.
About bridge, Maugham said, “I would have children taught it as a matter of course.” He also noted, “You can play bridge so long as you can sit up at a table and tell one card from another. In fact, when all else fails — sport, love, ambition — bridge remains a solace and an entertainment.”
Ely Culbertson said in a film monologue for the British Pathe in 1932, “I have developed a method whereby you can choose an ideal wife or husband by using bridge as a yardstick. For instance, should your fianceé throw down her hand in a sloppy and nonchalant manner so that all cards become mixed up, you may draw the following important bridge inference: The button on your inner or outer garment will never be sewn up for the rest of your married life.”
Culbertson also noted that a man who holds his cards very close to his chest will surely scrutinize every bill of his wife’s with a microscope. She can never expect any pin money from him.
Unfortunately, the glory days of bridge are long gone. Too many other forms of entertainment vie for our attention, but it’s fun to remember when it was a game that everyone who was anyone played.
Happy New Year. Resolve to play bridge in the new year. Remember there is a game New Year’s Eve, but no game Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Day.
Thursday’s winners: first, Sue Wilson and Billy Bizzell; second (tie) Selby Corbett and Krishnaprasad and Tommy Franklin and Joe Exum; fourth, Linda Meyer and Linda Greenwood; fifth, Sherry Owens and Shelby Bizzell. C — first, Troy and Joyce Pate.