I have a great fondness for documentaries and films about writers and I’m always on the lookout for more. Ages ago I heard about a documentary called The Ten-Year Lunch: The Wit and Legend of The Algonquin Round Table but had been unable to find it to stream or buy anywhere, despite doggedly searching for it online every few months. I had almost given up hope of ever finding it but, in a last ditch effort, I decided to email the director of the film and see if she could help. Lo and behold, when I went to her website there was a streaming link for the entire film. Happy days!
The Ten-Year Lunch is a documentary about the celebrated wits who lunched daily in the Rose Room at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City during the 1920s. The core of the Round Table group included: short story and verse writer Dorothy Parker; comic actor and writer Robert Benchley; The New Yorker founder Harold Ross; columnist and social reformer Heywood Broun; critic Alexander Woollcott; and playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, and Robert Sherwood. These people would go on to greatly influence the world of American letters for the next century.
The sharp humour of the members of the Round Table circle is legendary and the acidic one-liners have been quoted for decades. When Dorothy Parker was told that famously taciturn US President Calvin Coolidge had died she responded, “How can they tell?” On one occasion Woollcott was enduring a dull story and, unable to take anymore, he interrupted, “Excuse me, my leg has gone to sleep. Do you mind if the rest of me joins it?”
The camaraderie between them, they way they supported and encouraged each other seemingly without competitive jealousy, seems utopian. I dream of a life spent in New York, writing in the morning and then popping into the Algonquin to see who was about, having a martini and a sandwich, and returning to work with a stomach sore from laughing!
The film is narrated by American author and sportswriter Heywood Hale Broun, whose father Heywood Broun was a member of the Round Table. The film was directed by Aviva Seslin and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1987. You can watch the film on her website and I also found it on Youtube for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!