One of the most popular television game shows of my youth was a program called To Tell the Truth, whose celebrity panel matched wits with teams of three contestants, all of whom signed affidavits claiming to be the same person but two of whom were in fact impostors. (On one occasion, each contestant claimed to be the real-life victim of mistaken identity portrayed in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man.) At the end of each round, Bud Collyer, once the mellifluous voice of radio’s Superman, intoned, “Will the real Mr. X please stand up?” and, after a bit of preliminary jockeying for position, the real Mr. X would do just that.

I thought of that half-remembered tableau as I read Marion Elizabeth Rodgers’s Mencken: The American Iconoclast, whose dust jacket bears a second subtitle, “The Life and Times of the Bad Boy of Baltimore.”...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now