“OF ALL THE EXHIBITS AT THE FAIR IT IS THE ONE YOU ARE MOST LIKELY TO REPORT TO YOUR GRANDSON”: ORIGINAL SOUVENIR PROGRAM FROM BILLY ROSE’S “AQUACADE”
ROSE, Billy. Original souvenir program for “Billy Rose’s Aquacade.” New York, 1939. Quarto, original printed pictorial paper wrappers, staple-bound as issued; pp. 32. $175.
Scarce original souvenir program from the biggest attraction of the 1939 World’s Fair, a star-studded singing, dancing and swimming extravaganza.
Songwriter and show business impresario Billy Rose conceived of the Aquacade—a singing, dancing and swimming extravaganza—for the Great Lakes Exposition of 1937. Two years later, he moved it to the New York World’s Fair. The star-studded spectacle, staged in an 9000-seat Art Deco amphitheater, became the fair’s most successful production. “It included the actor and five-time Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller [replaced in the second year by Buster Crabbe of “Flash Gordon” fame], the Olympic gold medalist Eleanor Holm, lights, singing, dancing, water ballet, synchronized swimming, stunt diving, slapstick and 177 ‘Aquafemmes’ with swimsuits that, according to The New York Times, were ‘easy on the eyes… Although the Aquacade had a low-brow target, even serious critics like Brooks Atkinson of The Times praised its spectacular audacity. Wolcott Gibbs, writing in The New Yorker, loved the show’s ‘cockeyed majesty’ and ‘strange balance of splendor and foolishness.’ ‘A lot of water will pass over Miss Holm before we shall see its like again,’ Gibbs wrote, adding that ‘of all the exhibits at the fair it is the one you are most likely to report to your grandson” (New York Times). The attraction also featured Gertrue Ederle—the first woman to swim the English Channel, and for whom the amphitheater was later named—as well as future MGM aquatic screen icon Esther Williams.
Interior with mild creasing, wrappers lightly rubbed. A bright and attractive copy in near-fine condition.