The Press: Peak Passed

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Of all the careers which reached their tragic peak in the fateful year 1929, none had been more exciting than Ray Long's. A poor boy from a small town in Indiana, he had quickly made his mark in the newspaper business as "boy editor" of the Cincinnati Post and Cleveland Press. Then he splashed brilliantly into the fiction magazine field, running through the spectrum of Red Book, Bine Book, Green Book. On Armistice Day 1918, William Randolph Hearst succeeded, after several years' dickering, in hiring Editor Long for his Cosmopolitan. In the eleven years that followed. Editor Long made a great success. Explaining "All I know is what I like," he nevertheless showed an uncanny eye for the weather of public preference. When the public wanted Westerns, he gave it Curwood & Kyne. When it wanted Knowledge, he gave it Will Durant. When it wanted Russians, he gave it Russians. Prodigally sowing Big Names and New Names with talent in his slick and shiny monthly, Editor Long reaped a 1,700,000 circulation harvest in 1929. That was the year he printed perhaps his greatest coup: The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge.

Three years before, Publisher Hearst had made Ray Long boss of Hearst's International Magazine Co. Two years later, Ray Long announced his retirement from the Hearst organization. Friends, who had often heard tense, febrile Editor Long say that the only thing on earth he feared was "going stale," guessed that 13 years in one job had begun to wear on him. He at once plunged into the book publishing firm of Ray Long & Richard Smith. They had some successes, more failures. Suddenly one day in 1932 Ray Long walked out of his Manhattan office "a couple of jumps ahead of a nervous breakdown," sailed off for the South Sea Islands. From that point on the Long career became a study in descending discords.

In 1933 he was given the job of supervising all manuscripts which came into Columbia Pictures Corp. But that sort of job does not last long in Hollywood, particularly if the incumbent is an electric personality given to quick cigarets and quicker decisions. From Columbia he moved to Fox, from Fox to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Then he went back to the publishing business for a while, becoming editor of Photoplay, and recently "Western editor" of Liberty. The unhappy, pouched eyes of Ray Long grew unhappier. Panic-stricken, the man who once could command $100,000 a year and almost any editor's chair found himself reduced, at 57, to pick-up jobs from old friends and beneficiaries.

"No doubt it was suicide," said the police officer who found Ray Long in his Beverly Hills bedroom last week, dead in his pajamas, a hole in the roof of his mouth, a small-bore rifle nearby.

"He said he guessed he had passed his peak," recalled a friend who had been about to give Ray Long another job.