“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” (scenes 1- 19(of 24), Crane and Cora’s apartment in Greenwich Village, early winter 1898

“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” (scenes 1- 19(of 24), Crane and Cora’s apartment in Greenwich Village, early winter 1898

USS Maine Tablet (1912). old City Hall, Rochester, NY, Fitzhugh Street


from 1896 film, Boxing match or Glove Contest


Scene 1: Havana, February 1898

Scene 2: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, February 1898


The Roosevelt Room in the White House

Scene 3: Washington, February 1898



Buffalo Soldiers in Montana, 1896

Scene 4: Montana, February 1898

Scene 5: New York, February 1898220px-StephenCraneandCora1899

Scene 6: The Cuban Countryside, February 1898



1893 edition

 Scene 7

Scene 8: Havana, May 1898

crank 2Scene 9, Siboney, Cuba June 1898

shafter on cart Scene 10

Scene 11negro troops



Scene 12 cuban flag Scene 13Black_Maria

Scene 1420150312-Petes_Tavern-1_0

Scene 15

wash 2

Scene 16Griggs

Scene 17lola

Scene 20

All scenes 1 – 24

For background, see: (from War, Literature and the Arts)

“Infirm Soldiers in the Cuban War of Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Harding Davis”

“Strains of Failed Populism in Stephen Crane’s Spanish War Stories”

“Imperium in Imperio: Sutton Griggs’s Imagined War of 1898”

“The Spanish-American War as a Bourgeois Testing Ground: Richard Harding Davis, Frank Norris and Stephen Crane”

also On Spanish-American War Monuments and Rochester. And remembering the Buffalo Soldiers on Veteran’s Day

Scene Nineteen: New York, early winter 1898

(In the week after Margharita has left for Spain, Crane works in his studio non stop to finished the movie. Finally, he is done. That afternoon, he calls Cora in their Greenwich Village apartment.)

Crane: Cora, let you be the first—and hardly the last—to know that Mr. Stephen Crane has finished the first American moving picture. Introducing Black and Blue on San Juan Hill. I’ll be back for dinner and a movie.

Cora: Oh, Stephen, may I be the first—and hardly the last—to congratulate America’s first film maker. What shall I make?

Crane: How about:

The variety of dishes was of course related to the markets of Havana, but the abundance and general profligacy was related only to Johnnie’s imagination. Our fancies fled in confusion before this puzzling luxury. And if the dinner itself put me to open-eyed amazement, the names of the wines finished everything. Seeing my fixed stare, he spoke with affected languor: “I wish peacocks’ brains and melted pearls were to be had here in Havana

And Spanish wine.

Cora: That sounds suspiciously lifted from “This Majestic Lie”

Crane: Life imitating art.

Cora: That’s assuming Johnnie wasn’t fantasizing that he ate that meal.

Crane: Let the critics decide.

[see “Strains of Failed Populism in Stephen Crane’s Spanish War Stories” ]


Cora and Stephen Crane, 1899

(Crane arrives at home. Before dinner, he opens a bottle of Spanish wine and they sit on the couch.)

Crane: I now we haven’t seen much of each other since I’ve been working on the film. I’m sorry. Scene 5: New York, February 1898

Cora: You had no choice. I remember when you were writing Red Badge and we could barely get you to leave your study. Even how you bought all those tin toy soldiers and set them up on your writing table pretending it was Chancellorsville.

(Cora goes to a desk and takes out an old box containing the toy soldiers)

Crane: You still have them!

Cora: Someday they will be collector’s items. They will pay for our children to go to Syracuse.


Crane (center), the catcher for the Syracuse University baseball team (1891)

Crane: Hope they stay longer than my single semester.

I’ve realized there’s a lot I haven’t yet told you about Cuba.

Do you know who I ran into? Sarah Clancy, my old babysitter in New Jersey. She actually runs a boarding house in Havana. Remember her?  Scene 7

Cora: How could I forget? You drove poor Sarah mad with your pranks. Always coming home from your games with bandages and hobbling on crutches. How is she?

Crane: Not so good when I saw her. She’s a widow now without much money. And food was very scarce because of the American blockade. All she had was codfish salad. And I wanted scrambled eggs. I gave her all I could with the funds Hearst gave me.

Cora: Always the gentleman, Stephen.

Crane: Yes, but later I went out to order eggs at a restaurant. I paid fifty dollars gold. And didn’t even get my eggs. Those treacherous Spaniards.

Cora: Wait, isn’t that what happened to Johnnie in “This Majestic Lie” ?

Crane: Alas, it happened in real life too.

Cora: Just like Crane to pay a king’s ransom and have nothing to show for it.

(Crane shrugs wistfully)

Crane: Cora, before the San Juan battle, Teddy, Norris, Davis and myself made a pact that the others would personally contact the loved ones of anyone who didn’t make. I told them, of course, to go to you.

Scene 11

(Cora smiles)

Cora: What about the others?

Crane: Well, Teddy said his deceased wife Alice. Dick said his mother Rebecca. And Frank said Blix.

Cora laughs.


Although it turns a little mushy at the end, this is generally such a superior example of romantic fiction as to make virtually all modern Hollywood rom-coms seem ridiculous. Norris (1870-1902) describes the growing companionship between newspaperman and would-be novelist Condy Rivers, and doctor-to-be Travis Bessemer (aka “Blix”), in turn-of the-century San Francisco. They go beyond the social conventions of their day to simply have fun together. They treat each other as equals, and the educational and professional aspirations of the young woman are accepted without fuss. You can easily tell that this novel must have felt thoroughly fresh and contemporary when it was published, and it hasn’t become musty in the years that have passed since then. Frank Norris’s excellent prose style makes it a pleasure to read on a sentence-by-sentence basis. The Bay Area atmosphere is delightful, and a sub-plot about finding romance in the personal ads is neatly handled, introducing members of a different socio-economic class into the story-line.

Crane: What so funny about a death pact?

Cora: Oh, Stephen. Norris and Blix?  He met that girl through a matchmaking ad in the San Francisco Examiner. They had one date at Fisherman’s Wharf. She dumped him as she would throw a smelly codfish into the San Francisco Bay. She told me he’s weird. He has a strange fetish for collecting glass eyeballs.

Scene 10

Crane: Hmm, how did I miss that about him? What about Davis?

Cora: Stevie, his mother? His mother the better novelist than he’ll ever be. Why exactly is Dick unmarried? And dresses like a dandy. My goodness, he’s been the model for the “Gibson Man.”


Roosevelt and Davis in Cuba. Davis considered the model for illustrator Charles Dana Gibson’s dashing Gibson man, the male equivalent of his famous Gibson Girl

Crane: Hmm, well, Dick did keep his toilet impeccably well in his tent. What about Teddy?

Cora: God rest her soul, but Alice died 14 years ago. It’s time for Theodore to move on. Yet he seems to spend all his free time “roughing it” with his cowboy friends on ranches out west. Not quite so alone on the range.

Crane: I thought I am the great novelist. Seems you are the perceptive one.

Cora, um, what’s it like being married to me? I mean I can be unconventional and eccentric.

Cora: I’d think you should know by now. We began dating in high school.

Crane: Yes, remember our first kiss at the Asbury Park Beach amusement park? And how I won you that prize in the baseball throwing game. That big, uh, teddy bear.

Cora: It wasn’t a teddy bear.

Crane: No, you’re right. That, um, stuffed Chesire cat.(Cora nods no) That cute pug dog?


Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (1895) was an immediate best seller and made him a celebrity author. The Red Badge remains one of the most read novels in American literature

Cora: It was a candle holder shaped like a cobra.

Crane: err, how could I have forgotten?


Crane in Greece, the Greco-Turkish War, 1897

Cora: When I signed on to be Mr. Stephen Crane’s wife I knew what I was buying. And I am not exactly so conventional myself. Remember last year when I accompanied you to Greece for the Greco-Turkish War. And even wrote some accounts myself. Didn’t the newspapers call me the world’s first female war correspondent?

Crane: They did indeed. And remember that midnight at the Acropolis?

Cora: You were my very Zeus that night under the moon.

Crane: Indeed my lightning struck Daphne.

Cora: I know you live most of your life in your imagination. And always wanting to experience. To experience and experience. Your paradise is to love many things with a passion. But as platitudinous as it sounds, I am also your strength. Your reality. Remember, before you struck it rich with Red Badge, when Maggie didn’t sell and we had to burn the manuscripts to keep warm in winter in our cold water flat. You wanted to quit. To lay down your pen.9781853265594

Crane: But you wouldn’t let me. Cora, when I charged up that damn San Juan Hill by myself, I was thinking about you. I guess I wanted to make you proud.

Cora: I know you were thinking about many things on that hill. And I know I was one of them. And you did make me proud, you reckless fool.

Crane: (coughing) Cora, I am worried about my health. It’s never been good and it seems to be worse since I got back from Cuba. I hope it’s nothing serious.

I always thought I wouldn’t make it to 35. Now I am worried I won’t make it to 30.

Hah, you may need a new husband . . . (brightening up) But you’ll never find someone as fun and charming as Mr. Stephen Crane.

Cora: Hmm, you are probably right. I guess it will have to be Norris.

Crane: Norris! You just said he was weird!

Cora: A glass eye ball fetish is rather intriguing. Wonder in what places he puts that eyeball.

Crane: Not Davis then?

Cora: Well, Dick is very rich. And very successful. And a very pretty boy. And dresses so dapper and keeps such an impeccable toilet. I’ll just keep a Cuban cabano boy on the side.

Crane: Not “fruity” Teddy of course.

Cora: I was just saying that about him to be nice to you. He’s really quite an impressive, strong man. I think he will be President someday.

Crane: (coughing) But what about children? We haven’t talked enough about that?

Cora: There’s time for that if it’s what we both want. If you just take care of yourself. You are not even 29 yet and I am only 25. Don’t worry about the future yet.

Crane: Yes, yes. You are right. I don’t know exactly what kind of father I’d make. But we’ll bring back Sarah from Cuba to help. If she could corral this Crane, she could do the same for his sons.

Cora: Let’s eat our feast and our drink our Spanish wine. And watch your movie.

(Crane set up the projector and begins the movie.)

Cora: I like the first scene. The Rough Riders training in Tampa Bay before crossing to Cuba.  Stephen, you’ve captured the bucking movement of the horses. Their wildness. Being tamed by wild men themselves. Hmm, but that one shot seems a bit off. The lasso maybe too far in the background. A deep focus angle might be better.

Crane: You mind reader. I agonized over that shot. We did it over a dozen times. I just couldn’t get it right. I had to accept imperfection.

(They continue watching until the parts where Crane has interspliced the acted scene with real footage of the black troopers)

Cora: The cinematography is stunning. And the mixing of the real and the “fake” is mesmerizing. And the black and blue clashing. And it’s emotionally powerful. But I am not sure yet. I just can’t judge. I don’t yet know what to think.

Crane: Neither do I. Tomorrow night I’ve invited all the writers and newspapermen who were down in Cuba. Norris, Davis, Bonsal, Marshall and the others. I’ve rented out the back area at Pete’s Tavern. I want to see what they think.20150312-Petes_Tavern-1_0

Cora: What about Roosevelt?

Crane: He’s in Washington. I have two copies and I’ve sent him one. McKinley’s travelling and I guess Roosevelt has access to the White House. He’s going to watch it there.

Cora: There’s one more thing I wanted to say. I am also worried about your health. Let’s get away from New York. Let’s go to Europe. First the countryside of England. The quiet will do you good. Then to a sanitorium in Baden Baden or Ravensbrook, Germany. Maybe to Spain where the weather is so good.lola

Crane: To Spain?

Cora: Or Portugal. Or the Canary Islands.

Crane: I am glad you brought it up. Yes, yes, it is something we must consider. (coughing)

Cora: Time to get you to bed.

Crane: Yes, ma’m. I mean, yes, Mrs. Sarah Clancy.

Scene 20

All scenes 1 – 24

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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