When Irvin Berlin wrote “Put’in On the Ritz” in 1927 the roaring 20’s was in full swing. The days and nights of dapper sophistication was all the rage. Whit tie and tails as they say. Where this generation of women wore Flappers and Speakeasys is where the action was. The culture of the 20’s flourished and made Put’in on the Ritz the benchmark of society until the early 1930’s. Practically everywhere you looked at that time from New York to Chicago the gaiety and revelry transcended cultures and exposed the world to the dance craze of the Charleston.
The refinement of that era defined a nation. Sad, though the Great Depression soon griped the world where too many were trapped into a downward cycle toward poverty. Many sought refuge by watching the movies visualizing what it would be like to revisit those carefree days of yesteryear. Captivated by the performances of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and others made those days of misery more bearable.
As the world moved closer to World War II a new ear was emerging. The 1940’s where the sights and sounds especially in music moved society away from the dapper sophistication that prevailed 20 years ago. The swing age of Benny Goodman, Crooners like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra set the tone for a departure of the times where people were putting on the Ritz. For us baby boomers it was our parents who experienced the gaiety the 1920’s, danced the Charleston, endured the tough times of the Great Depression and freed the world from the scourge of World War II who through it all managed to instill in their children much of the moral values, integrity, and social mannerisms that endured for more than 40 years.
Even though we were instilled with the same moral standards of our parents sad to say a sociological shift was already underway. As world War II ended the emergence of Rock and Roll was taking off and by the mid 1950’s another sociological shift was underway. Many can say the cause of the way society as a whole again shifted was linked to the emergence of a new acceptance in music, entertainment, and social norms. A gradual departure from the strict behavior and dress that was the accepted norm years ago also helped societies shift.
This sociological shift during the 50’s and again during the 1960’s displaced the refinement, the etiquette, and mannerisms that enabled society to avoid all the pitfalls that are embedded in our society today. Our schools were the first to show a deterioration of codes of conduct, respect, and discipline. The baby boomer generation faced almost insurmountable odds in trying to instill what they were taught only to find outside forces from the Dr. Spock mentality craze and entertainment. It has been the entertainment industry from much of the music like hard rock, hip hop and rap to the video games of today that have turned our society inside out. We have to also realize that the Viet-Nam War along with many Supreme Court rulings have undermined societies retrieval of a certain amount of the Dapper Sophistication when Put’in on the Ritz would not only be possible but more acceptable in our society today.
The accustomed norm of today is a far cry from the days of Irvin Berlin. When I look back to how my parents and those parents of the kids I grew up with all had the same qualities in the way they carried themselves. By today’s standard though it is such a shame because to many today could not fathom the way our parents behaved let alone dressed during the times of my youth. And, yet in our upbringing we managed to avoid so much of the violence, the lack of moral judgement and the lack of respect that is displayed today and not just by our youth either.
We all should remember and embrace Put’in On The Ritz for that craze and phrase symbolized a nation. The Dapper Sophistication America embraced is one aspect of our society that transformed our culture into refinement and elegance that has been lost. As my farther told me when I was growing up Chicago even with Al Capone the 1920’s was one of the best periods that shaped how my father was to become and how he instilled in me the values and moral integrity that made so many of us baby boomers able to as they say ” live long and prosper.”