Janet Flanner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Janet Flanner
Born(1892-03-13)March 13, 1892
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
DiedNovember 7, 1978(1978-11-07) (aged 86)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Writer, journalist, war correspondent
Known forForeign correspondent in Paris, 1925–1975
William Rehm
(m. 1918; div. 1926)
Partner(s)Natalia Danesi Murray
Solita Solano
Noël Haskins Murphy

Janet Flanner (March 13, 1892 – November 7, 1978) was an American writer and pioneering narrative journalist[4] who served as the Paris correspondent of The New Yorker magazine from 1925 until she retired in 1975.[5] She wrote under the pen name "Genêt".[6][7] She also published a single novel, The Cubical City, set in New York City.

She was a prominent member of America's expatriate community living in Paris before WWII. Along with her longtime partner Solita Solano, Flanner was called "a defining force in the creative expat scene in Paris".[8] She returned to New York during the war. Flanner split her time between there and Paris until her death in 1978.

Early life[edit]

Janet Flanner was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Frank and Mary Ellen Flanner (née Hockett), who were Quakers.[9] She had two sisters, Marie and Hildegarde Flanner. Her father co-owned a mortuary and ran the first crematorium in the state of Indiana. After a period spent traveling abroad with her family and studies at Tudor Hall School for Girls[10] (now Park Tudor School), she enrolled in the University of Chicago in 1912. She left the university in 1914. Two years later, she returned to her native city to take up a post as the first cinema critic on the local paper, the Indianapolis Star.

Expatriate in Paris[edit]

While in New York, Flanner moved in the circle of the Algonquin Round Table,[11] but was not a member. She also met the couple Jane Grant and Harold Ross, through painter Neysa McMein. It was based on this connection that Harold Ross offered Flanner the position of French Correspondent to The New Yorker.[5]

After these early years spent in Pennsylvania and New York in her mid twenties, Flanner left the United States for Paris.

In September 1925 Flanner published her first "Letter from Paris" in The New Yorker, which had been launched the previous February. She would be professionally linked with the magazine for the next five decades. Her columns covered a wide range of topics, including artists, performances, and crime, including a lengthy feature on murderesses Christine and Léa Papin. She also published several installments about the Stavisky Affair.[12] Flanner was also known for her obituaries—examples include those of Isadora Duncan and Edith Wharton.[13]

Flanner had first come to the attention of editor Harold Ross through his first wife, Jane Grant, who was a friend of Flanner's from the Lucy Stone League. This organization fought for women to preserve their maiden names after marriage, in the manner of Lucy Stone. Flanner joined the group in 1921. Ross famously thought Flanner's pen name "Genêt" was French for "Janet".[14]

Flanner wrote one novel, The Cubical City (1926), which achieved little success.[6]

Flanner was a prominent member of the American expatriate community in Paris which included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, e. e. cummings, Hart Crane, Djuna Barnes, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein - the world of the Lost Generation and Les Deux Magots. While in Paris she became very close friends with Gertrude Stein and her lover, Alice B. Toklas.

She played a crucial role in introducing her contemporaries to new artists in Paris, including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, André Gide, and Jean Cocteau, and the Ballets Russes dance company. She also introduced them to crime passionel and vernissage, the triumphant crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by pilot Charles Lindbergh[15] and the depravities of the Stavisky Affair.

Her prose style has since come to epitomise the "New Yorker style"—its influence can be seen decades later in the prose of Bruce Chatwin.[16] An example: "The late Jean De Koven was an average American tourist in Paris but for two exceptions: she never set foot in the Opéra, and she was murdered."

War correspondent[edit]

Her New Yorker work during World War II included not only her famous "Letter from Paris" columns, but also included a seminal 3-part series in 1936 profiling Hitler.[17]

After Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Flanner moved back to New York City,[7] where she lived with Natalia Danesi Murray and her son William Murray. She still wrote for The New Yorker, analyzing radio broadcasts and print reports about life in wartime Paris. She returned to Paris in 1944, contributing a series of weekly radio broadcasts entitled Listen: the Women for the Blue Network during the months following the liberation of Paris in late August 1944.

Flanner covered the Nuremberg trials (1945) for The New Yorker.[18]


She covered the Suez crisis, the Soviet invasion of Hungary, and the strife in Algeria which helped the rise of Charles de Gaulle.

Awards and recognitions[edit]

In 1948, Flanner was made a knight of Legion d'Honneur.

In 1958, Flanner was awarded an honorary doctorate by Smith College.

In 1966 she won the U.S. National Book Award in the Arts and Letters category for her Paris Journal, 1944–1965.[19] Extracts of her Paris Journal were adapted as a piece for chorus and orchestra by composer Ned Rorem.

In 1971, she was the third guest during the infamous verbal scuffle between Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer on The Dick Cavett Show. She got between the two men after a drunken Mailer started insulting his fellow guests and their host.[20][21]

In 2019, Park Tudor School — the coed successor to the Tudor Hall for Girls (Flanner's alma mater) — posthumously awarded her their prestigious "distinguished alumni award".[22] The school's fine arts department created a speaker series in her name, titled the Janet Flanner Visiting Artist Series.[23]

Marriage and personal life[edit]

Janet Flanner, as Uncle Sam, at Nancy Cunard's fancy dress party, Paris, 1925 [24][25]

In 1918, Flanner married William "Lane" Rehm, a friend she had met while at the University of Chicago. He was working as an artist in New York City, and she later admitted that she married him to get out of Indianapolis. The marriage lasted for only a few years and they divorced amicably in 1926. Rehm was supportive of Flanner's career until his death.

In 1918, the same year she married her husband, she met Solita Solano in Greenwich Village. The two women became lifelong lovers, although both also became involved with other lovers throughout their relationship. Solano was drama editor for the New-York Tribune, and also wrote for National Geographic.

In 1932 Flanner fell in love with Noël Haskins Murphy, an American singer who lived in a village just outside Paris. They had a short-lived romance. This did not affect her relationship with Solano.[26][better source needed]

Flanner lived in Paris with Solano, who put away her own literary aspirations to be Flanner's personal secretary. Although their relationship was not monogamous, they lived together for more than 50 years.

Flanner frequently visited Los Angeles, where her mother Mary Flanner lived at 530 East Marigold St. in Altadena with her sister, poet Hildegarde Flanner, and brother-in-law, Frederick Monhoff.

Flanner was a chain smoker.[27]

In 1975, she returned to New York City permanently to be cared for by Natalia Danesi Murray. Flanner died on November 7, 1978. She was cremated. Her ashes were scattered along with Murray's over Cherry Grove in Fire Island[28] where the two women had met in 1940, according to William Murray, Danesi Murray's son, in his book Janet, My Mother, and Me (2000).[29]

In popular culture[edit]



  • The Cubical City: A Novel (1926)
  • Paris Was Yesterday, 1925–1939, edited by Irving Drutman (1972)
  • An American in Paris: Profile of an Interlude Between Two Wars (1940)
  • Pétain: The Old Man of France (1944)
  • London Was Yesterday, 1939–1945, edited by Irving Drutman (1975)
  • Men & Monuments: Profiles of Picasso, Matisse, Braque, & Malraux (1957)
  • Paris Journal, 1944–1965, edited by William Shawn (1965)
    • Later published separately as Paris Journal, 1944–1955 and Paris Journal, 1956–1964
  • Paris Journal, 1965–1970, edited by William Shawn (1971)
  • Janet Flanner's World: New and Uncollected Pieces, 1932–1975, edited by Irving Drutman (1979)
  • Darlinghissima: Letters to a Friend, edited by Natalia Danesi Murray (1986)
  • Conversation Pieces, an autobiographical book by illustrator Constantin Alajalov with text and commentary by Flanner (1942)
  • Paris est une guerre : 1940-1945, translated from English by Hélène Cohen, foreword by Michèle Fitoussi Editions du sous-sol, 2020. (New Yorker columns, in French)[33][7]

'Letter from ...' in The New Yorker[edit]

From Vol:Num Date Page(s) Subject(s)
Paris 22:30 September 7, 1946 82-88 August vacances recommence post-war; Paris Peace Conference; l'Union Gaulliste, Henri de Kérillis' De Gaulle Dictateur; de Goncourt exposition at the Louvre
Paris 24:45 January 1, 1949 53–56 Peace activist Garry Davis in Paris; Prix Goncourt and Prix Fémina announced; several modern art exhibitions, including ceramics by Pablo Picasso at the Maison de la Pensée Française; French politics
Rome 24:47 January 15, 1949 50–54 Christmas in Rome; postwar austerities and the Marshall Plan; new Christian-Democrat government; the new opera season at the Teatro dell'Opera under Paolo Salviucci; Luchino Visconti's production of "Rosalinda, O Come Vi Piace", with designs by Salvador Dalí
Paris 25:46 January 7, 1950 68–71 Postwar austerities; Marshall Plan; exhibitions – Exposition Moustache and a retrospective of André Bauchant; reissue of Jean Genet's Journal du Voleur; Edwige Feuillère in La Dame aux Camélias
Paris 25:50 February 4, 1950 80–83 The Generals' Scandal – Georges Revers, Charles Mast; publication of Le Deuxième Sexe by Simone de Beauvoir


  1. ^ "Janet Flanner and Ernest Hemingway, both in uniform, seated reading papers at a table in the Deux Magots cafe in Paris, France". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  2. ^ Chapuis, Audrey. "Janet Flanner". The American Library in Paris. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  3. ^ Weber, Ronald (2019). Dateline-'Liberated Paris': the Hotel Scribe and the invasion of the press. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-5381-1850-4.
  4. ^ "Janet Flanner". Susanna Lea Associates. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Yagoda, Ben About Town: The New Yorker and the World it Made, Scribner (New York): 2000, p. 76
  6. ^ a b Dirda, Michael (November 18, 1979). "Foreign Correspondence: Janet Flanner in Europe". Washington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2021. Janet Flanner once wrote that she was dubbed Genet -- the name under which she composed her "Letter from Paris" -- because New Yorker editor Harold Ross thought it "seemed like a Frenchification of Janet."
  7. ^ a b c Joubert, Sophie (May 28, 2020). "Occupied Paris by Janet Flanner". France-Amérique. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  8. ^ Aron, Nina Renata (May 10, 2018). "These trendsetting lesbian lovers fled 1920s America for Paris and lived their best life". Medium. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  9. ^ "Janet Flanner - American writer". Britannica.com. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  10. ^ Notable American Women By Edward T. James, Barbara Sicherman, Janet Wilson James, Paul S. Boyer; Publ. Harvard Univ. Press
  11. ^ "Algonquin Round Table | literary group | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  12. ^ "Stavisky affair | French history | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  13. ^ Janet Flanner (Genêt), Paris was Yesterday, (1972), articles from The New Yorker, 1925–1939. ISBN 0-207-95508-5
  14. ^ Yagoda, Ben About Town: The New Yorker and the World it Made, Scribner (New York): 2000, pg. 77
  15. ^ "Charles Lindbergh Biography". www.charleslindbergh.com. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  16. ^ "Bruce Chatwin | British author | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Letter from Nuremberg". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  19. ^ "National Book Awards – 1966". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
    "Arts and Letters" was an award category from 1964 to 1976.
  20. ^ EMMYTVLEGENDS.ORG. "Dick Cavett discusses the clash of Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal on this show". via: YouTube. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  21. ^ The Dick Cavett Show (December 1, 1971). "Gore Vidal vs Norman Mailer". via: YouTube. Retrieved December 9, 2021. The Infamous feud between Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal. Date aired - 12/1/1971 - Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Janet Flanner
  22. ^ "Distinguished Alumni Award - Park Tudor School". www.parktudor.org. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  23. ^ "Janet Flanner Visiting Artist Series Reveals 2019-20 Line Up". www.parktudor.org. August 12, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  24. ^ "Janet Flanner as Uncle Sam, Paris, 1925". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  25. ^ "Janet Flanner at Nancy Cunard's fancy dress party". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  26. ^ Myweb.lsbu.ac.uk Archived May 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ Kershaw, Alex (April 23, 2012). "From D-Day to Paris: Capturing the Story of a Lifetime". HistoryNet. Retrieved December 9, 2021. New Yorker writer Janet Flanner with her perpetual cigarette
  28. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 15405). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  29. ^ Murray, William (2000). "Chapter One". Janet, My Mother, and Me: A Memoir of Growing Up With Janet Flanner and Natalia Danesi Murray. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80966-4.
  30. ^ Baker, Rob. "No Harem: Gurdjieff and the Women of The Rope". Gurdjieff International Review.
  31. ^ Donnelly, Matt; Setoodeh, Ramin (July 12, 2021). "Wes Anderson's 'The French Dispatch' Dazzles Cannes With Timothee Chalamet, a Party Bus and a Nine-Minute Standing Ovation". Variety. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  32. ^ "Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal Feud on the Dick Cavett Show" – via www.youtube.com.
  33. ^ Goby, Christophe (September 1, 2021). "Paris est une guerre. 1940-1945". Le Monde diplomatique (in French). Retrieved December 9, 2021.

Further reading[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. ^ Chioini, Mario (April 2019). "The Hub". Sawiris Library. American School of Paris. Retrieved December 9, 2021. Michèle Fitoussi's Janet (in French) is a captivating tribute to Janet Flanner who was the Paris correspondent to the New Yorker magazine from 1925 until her retirement in 1975. An early feminist, Janet was part of the Paris expatriate scene along with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein and her prose helped her become an important voice in literary journalism......Biography of Janet Flanner