Strange Bedfellows Department

Here’s a pop quiz for a lazy summer day.

One person played a role in advancing the reputations of both Charles Ives and Ronald Reagan. Who was it?

I’ll save up answers until I get a few before posting them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE: Wow, I’m rather surprised no right answers today, but the experiment does confirm something about my perception of the literature. Henry Bellamann (1882-1945) was one of the first people to respond to receipt of Ives’s Concord Sonata, the first to write an appreciative public article about him (in 1921), possibly the first to lecture about the Concord (accompanied in several lectures by a pianist named Lenore Purcell who may have been the first to play the whole thing), and he was the co-author (with Ives) of the program notes to the 1927 performance of two movements of the Fourth Symphony. In 1940 he published a novel, Kings Row, which became a bestseller and the basis for a 1942 movie which has gone down in history as Ronald Reagan’s best screen performance ever. Reagan’s most dramatic line in the movie, “Where’s the rest of me?” (he’s awoken to find his legs amputated), is straight from the novel, and became the title of his pre-presidential biography. But if you read the Ives literature, Bellamann is described as a music professor, Scriabin devotee, and poet (Ives set two of his poems), and it may mention that he wrote a novel called Kings Row. If you read the slim literature about Bellamann, there’s never any mention of Ives, and most of it concerns the famous movie made from the novel. So there’s almost no overlap between the two spheres of discourse that would highlight this man who moved from Ives’s world into Reagan’s and Hollywood’s. Bellamann seems to have visited with Ives only during the 1920s, and perhaps they had long been out of touch by the time he wrote the novel, but still. (Another early Ives supporter who went to Hollywood was Bernard Herrmann.)

Out of curiosity aroused by a lifetime of running into Bellamann’s name, I finally read Kings Row this week and became thoroughly engrossed in it, devouring its 674 pages in four days because I couldn’t quit. It has to be one of the earliest American novels to sympathetically portray the tribulations of a gay character, and there are several major themes (incest, extramarital sex) that the Hays office wouldn’t allow the movie to depict. It’s a dark book, an act of merciless revenge against Bellamann’s home town of Fulton, Missouri. Several of the characters are musicians, and I was super-alert to any possible reference that might bring Ives to mind, but no go. The dialogue in the movie manages to stick close to the book when it can, but they sentimentally mangle the ending – no surprise. What’s surprising is that the novel Kings Row, once so popular, seems to be out of print; at least, I could only obtain a used copy through one of Amazon’s associated sellers.

Want another such connection? Somewhere I heard that Dick Cheney was a grand-nephew or something of the composer Mrs. H.H.A. Beach – alias Amy Marcy Cheney Beach. But I haven’t been able to confirm it, so don’t quote me. If you have any relevant facts, the world is waiting to hear.



  1. says

    Elliott Carter??? If so, yet another reason for my dislike of his music (in terms of Reagan; I’ve adored Ives’ music since I was a kid and have made my pilgrimages to Danbury…)

  2. says

    I almost guessed Bernard Herrmann, who was an Ives enthusiast, but the only connection I could find to RR was that Herrmann did the music for A Child is Born, which was shown on The General Electric Theater, hosted by Reagan.

    I also thought of Elliot Carter, who actually does have a Reagan connection: the Gipper awarded him the National Medal of Arts in 1985, though i doubt that it had a measurable effect on Reagan’s rep.

    KG replies: Well, you get the prize, comparatively. Unfortunately, the prize is that I respond to your comment.

  3. Charlie Mann says

    What the fuck, Kyle. I’m having a normal day and then I hear that Dick Cheney is Amy Beach’s grand-nephew. My world is shattered.

    KG replies: Somebody told me with full confidence, but the Amy Beach bio doesn’t mention it. Those high-toned Boston families, ya know. One-percenters.

    • Dennis A. Aman says

      Are Amy Marcy Cheney Beach and Richard “Dick” Bruce Cheney related ?
      To me, within 9 generations, it doesn’t appear so. Their families were both
      hanging around Newbury, Mass at the same time, but if we look at their
      father’s father’s (etc.) names, we can’t say that Amy was a Aunt to Dick
      Cheney’s father, or even a distant 7C1R (7th Cousin, Once removed).
      It’s possible that a Cheney married another Cheney from another line,
      but I didn’t look at it that closely.

      Here’s Amy Marcy Cheney Beach’s father’s name, and then his father follows, etc. for some generations:
      G10. Amy Marcy Cheney Beach [ b. Sep 1867 in Henniker, NH – d. 27 Dec 1944 in, New York, NY ]
      G09. Charles Abbott Cheney [ b. 1844 in Ashland, NH – d. 1895 ]
      G08. Moses Cheney [ b. 28 Jun 1822 in Ashland, NH – d. 1889 ]
      G07. Moses Cheney Snr. [ b. 13 Jan 1783 in Thornton, NH – d. 17 Jul 1875 in Ashland, NH ]
      G06. Elias Cheney [ b. 18 Apr 1768 in Newbury, Essex, MA – d. 1805 in Thornton, NH ]
      G05. Elias Cheney Snr. [ b. 1741 – d. 1805 ]
      G04. Moses Cheney [ b. 1715 – d. 1759 ]
      G03. Edmund Cheney [ b. 1696 – d. 1761 ]
      G02. John Cheney [ b. 10 May 1666 in Newbury, MA – d. 1750 in Weston, MA ]
      G01. Peter Cheney [ b. 1638 in Newbury, MA – d. Jan 1694 in Newbury, MA ]

      Here’s the same for Dick Cheney:
      G10. Richard (Dick) Bruce Cheney (b. 1941 in Lincoln, NE )
      G09. Richard Herbert Cheney (26 June 1915 in Wood River, NE – 23 May 1999 Casper, WY)
      G08. Thomas Herbert Cheney [ b. 10 Apr 1869 in Defiance, OH – 29 Mar 1947 in Sumner, NE ]
      G07. Samuel Fletcher Cheney [ b. 02 Dec 1829 in Boscawen, NH – d. abt 1900 in Amherst, NE ]
      G06. Elias Eaton Cheney [ b. 30 May 1793 in Campton, NH – 02 Feb 1859 in Thetford, VT ]
      G05. Ebenezer Cheney [ b. 24 Feb 1764 in Newbury, MA – 08 Mar 1832 in Campton NH ]
      G04. William Cheney [ b. 08 Sep 1741 in Newbury, MA – 04 Apr 1803 in Grand Men. Is., NB ]
      G03. Joseph Cheney [ b. 02 Nov 1710 in Cambridge, MA – d. 1776 ]
      G02. Benjamin Cheney [ b. 29 Jan 1673/1674 in Roxbury MA – d. 13 Jul 1718 in Cambridge MA ]
      G01. Thomas Cheney [ 30 Jun 1633 in Roxbury, MA – d. 25 Mar 1696 in Cambridge, MA ]

      We can go further back on both these lines and still not find a common ancestor, but for now, I
      think we’re good. Good enough to put Charlie Mann at ease.

      KG replies: Very good, Dennis, I should have thought to ask you. But on some level I’m a little disappointed.