29 December 2022

Fun with all the hard work

Coming to the end of 2022, here is a selection of random letters, written by a few of my fave actors and a fave director.

First up is a letter from Barbara Stanwyck to Miss Cunningham (a fan) about the making of Banjo on My Knee (1936). Barbara writes how she and her colleagues had enjoyed making the film. Banjo on My Knee is the first film in which Barbara sings on screen. While she wanted to be dubbed —"I have a deep husky voice without a high note in it", Barbara had warned beforehand— producer Darryl Zanuck insisted that she would do her own singing. (There's a lovely duet by Barbara and Tony Martin, to be watched here). Apart from Banjo, Barbara also sings in This is My Affair (1937) and Lady of Burlesque (1943) but her voice was dubbed in Ball of Fire (1941).

Via: Ebay


Jan 10/37

Dear Miss Cunningham —

Thanks for your nice letter. I'm glad you liked "Banjo" - we all liked making it - we just had fun with all the hard work.

The filming took thirty-one days, that's about average time with the exception of epics and they go on forever.

My hair is dark red - eyes blue- and there you have it.

I do appreciate your taking the time to write me and hope you will continue to like my work.

Thank you,
Barbara Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck in the door opening of her trailer during production of Banjo on My Knee.

In October 1938, Norma Shearer wrote to her fans, Mr and Mrs Layton, about Marie Antoinette (her "most loved role"), while next touching on the subject of Cleopatra and her new film Idiot's Delight co-starring Clark Gable.

Via: vivelareine.tumblr.com

Above: Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power in a scene from Marie Antoinette (1938)directed by W. S. Van Dyke. Below: Norma with Clark Gable in Clarence Brown's Idiot's Delight (1939).
Next is another letter to a fan, this one is from Alfred Hitchcock to a Mr Parker, dated 21 April 1941. Hitch reacts to a suggestion from Mr Parker to have the audience solve the murder mystery. The film Before the Fact mentioned in the letter would be released under the name Suspicion (1941).

Source:  Worthpoint

On the set of Suspicion with the leads Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine and director Alfred Hitchcock.

In March 1971, Doris Day wrote this lovely letter to friend and fellow actress Mary Wickes. The two women appeared together in four movies, i.e. On Moonlight Bay (1951), I'll See You in My Dreams (1951), By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953) and It Happened to Jane (1959). Wickes also guest-starred on the first season of the tv series The Doris Day Show (1968).

Source: dorisday.net
A candid photo of Mary Wickes and Doris Day

Doris and Mary in By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)

Cary Grant wrote the following note to fellow actor and friend Clifton Webb, signing it "Betsy and Cary". Betsy Drake, an actress and writer, was Grant's third wife and they were married from 1949 until 1962.

Source: Heritage Auctions


Monday- 29th 

Clifton —

It's so nice to know someone, in this seldom considerate, and usually selfish, world, who is kind courteous and undemanding. You have our affection, dear Clifton!

Betsy and Cary

Chrysanthemums are so impressive and colorful this time of the year that we thought we'd accompany this note with a few for your mother and you.
B and C.

Cary Grant and Betsy Drake in 1958
1935, Cary Grant and Clifton Webb and some friends/fellow actors, among them Claudette Colbert and Marlene Dietrich.

The final letter for this post was written by Deborah Kerr to her friend Radie in May 1990. In it, Kerr talks about Greta Garbo and Garbo's last visit to Klosters (Switzerland), the Alpine village in which Kerr and her second husband, novelist/screenwriter Peter Viertel, had settled since they got married in 1960. Viertel's mother was Salka Viertel —an actress/screenwriter and a very close friend of Greta Garbo— who, in order to be near her family, had also moved to Klosters. Garbo was a regular visitor there and even after Salka's death in 1978 she kept visiting Klosters during the summer months, her last visit being in 1988. (Incidentally, the Viertels also had a house in Marbella (Spain) from where Kerr wrote her letter.)

Tea and Sympathy (1956) mentioned in Kerr's letter is a Vincente Minnelli film, in which Kerr co-starred with John Kerr. The film was based on the 1953 stage play of the same name, written by Robert Anderson. I assume Kerr is referring to Anderson when she talks about "Bob".

Source: Heritage Auctions
Deborah Kerr and Peter Viertel — the couple got married in 1960 and remained married until Kerr's death in 2007.
Deborah Kerr with co-star John Kerr from Tea and Sympathy and Robert Anderson (right) who wrote the original play.


11 December 2022

I don't know why we can't be friends

Having the power to ruin careers and lives, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper was hated by most actors in Hollywood. Joan Bennett once sent Hopper a live skunk as a valentine after having been "the victim of her nasty remarks" for years, and Spencer Tracy publicly kicked Hopper in the butt due to gossip she had spread about him and Katharine Hepburn. Hepburn herself wasn't a fan of Hopper either, not only because of her damaging gossip but also because of Hopper's political beliefs. A fervent Republican, Hopper was a strong supporter of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the Hollywood blacklist. Hepburn, by contrast, had been a member of the Committee for the First Amendment, an action group established in September 1947 in support of the Hollywood Ten and in protest against the HUAC hearings.

While Hepburn and Hopper seemed to have little in common, 79-year-old Hopper wrote Hepburn a letter in December 1964, wondering why they couldn't be friends. It was about a year before Hopper would pass away and apparently she was reminiscing and missing the good old days of Hollywood. Having always admired Hepburn, Hopper wrote: "... it's a crime that you're not acting. We have no one fit to kiss your feet". (At the time Hepburn had taken a break from acting, while caring for her life companion Spencer Tracy who was in poor health.) Hepburn responded with a kind letter five days later, first referring to the photograph of her and Humphrey Bogart which Hopper had sent along, and next fondly remembering Bogie and his Oscar win for The African Queen (1951). Then Hepburn went on to say, "You and I are friends, Hedda. Time has seen to that...", while at the same time reminding Hopper that she never approved of Hopper's profession or politics. In this light, Hepburn also mentioned John Foster Dulles, a conservative Republican politician who was, like Hopper, a staunch opponent of communism.

In 1967, Hepburn would return to the big screen and eventually win three more Oscars, for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). Hopper was not alive to see this, she died in February 1966.

Hepburn (l) and Hopper
Both letters and many more can be found in Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Moviemaking (2019) by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall. 

On location in Africa, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn enjoy a break during the filming of The African Queen. 

23 November 2022

Broadway Bogie

Like many Hollywood actors, Humphrey Bogart began his acting career on the stage. He appeared in 18 Broadway productions between 1922 and 1935, making his debut in the play Drifting. Bogie's early Broadway roles were mostly romantic juveniles in drawing-room comedies and he sometimes referred to them as his 'Tennis, anyone?' roles. In a 1948 interview he explained: "I used to play juveniles on Broadway and came bouncing into drawing rooms with a tennis racket under my arm and the line: 'Tennis anybody?' It was a stage trick to get some of the characters off the set so the plot could continue."

When the Great Depression hit and theatre attendance dropped, Bogart tried his luck in Hollywood. His first feature film was Up the River (1930) co-starring Spencer Tracy, followed by Bad Sister (1931) with Bette Davis. The early 1930s saw Bogart shuttling back and forth between Hollywood and the New York stage, and during that period he was also often out of work. 1935 proved a turning point in Bogart's career when he was offered the role of the escaped murderer Duke Mantee in Robert E. Sherwood's play The Petrified Forest. The play, which starred Leslie Howard in the leading role, was a big success, running for 197 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York. The Petrified Forest would be Bogie's final stage appearance.

Warner Bros. bought the rights to The Petrified Forest and wanted Edward G. Robinson for the role of Duke Mantee but Leslie Howard, who held the production rights, wanted Bogie. For that purpose, Howard sent a telegram to Jack Warner which read: "Att: Jack Warner Insist Bogart Play Mantee No Bogart No Deal L.H." Bogart was cast, with the film proving his breakthrough in Hollywood. (The Petrified Forest, directed by Archie Mayo, was released in 1936, with Bette Davis co-starring with Howard and Bogart.) Having been friends with Howard ever since they played together on Broadway and grateful for everything Howard had done for him, in 1952 Bogart named his daughter Leslie Howard Bogart (Bogie's second child with wife Lauren Bacall), in honour of his friend who had died in a plane crash during WWII.

Bogie and Shirley Booth in the Broadway play Hell's Bells (1925)
Bogie and Ruth Gordon in the Broadway play Saturday's Children (1927). Apart from being an actress Gordon was also a successful screenwriter, known mostly for her screenplay of Adam's Rib (1949), co-written with husband Garson Kanin.
Bogie and Judith Anderson on Broadway in The Mask and the Face (1933). While Anderson was a leading stage actress, she is best known for her role as Mrs Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940).

On the Broadway stage in The Petrified Forest (1935), with Bogie (far left) and Leslie Howard (far right).


Humphrey Bogart wrote the following letter sometime in the late 1920s when he was still years away from becoming a famous movie star. At the time he was performing on the New York stage, although I'm not sure which play he was in. His letter is addressed to "Lyman", possibly Lyman Brown; Lyman and his brother Chamberlain were theater agents and producers of Broadway plays.


March 15

Dear Lyman:

Am enclosing the notices for Washington and Boston.  Stopped in to say "Hello" on Monday but you were, as usual, out to lunch.

As far as I know we continue playing after a lay-off Holy Week; but have received no booking as yet.

If the show is as brilliantly handled as it has been so far, will probably play the Century Theatre – Madison Square Garden not being available.

Hope your new play gets over – Ruth Gordon told me she thought it a very funny play – it appears that Gregory and Harpo were going to buy it for her at one time.

Regards and premature Easter Greetings etc.


13 November 2022

For Lord's Sake, don't let those bulbs stick out

In July 1934, Joseph Breen and his Production Code Administration (PCA) started to strictly enforce the Motion Picture Production Code, Hollywood's own set of censorship rules that was adopted in 1930 (aka the Hays Code). Up till then PCA's predecessor, the Studio Relations Committee (SRC), had been tasked with implementing the Code. The SRC had no authority, however, to censor content or order studios to remove content; all they could do was advise studios on how to change the scripts in order to meet the Code's requirements. As the SRC only had an advisory capacity and no penalties were given for violating the Code, studios often ignored the SRC's suggestions. This did not mean, however, that pre-Code films (made between 1930 and mid-1934) went uncensored. City and state censorship boards could order studios to cut films or they could even ban films from playing in cinemas. With the costs for cutting films being paid by the studios, a major concern for studio executives was the fact that each censorship board had different rules, so what was allowed in one state/city could be forbidden in another. This often meant making different cuts of the same film, costing studios large amounts of money. (By giving studios advice, the SRC tried to save them from making these costly cuts and to help them get their films past the censors. Nevertheless, as said, the SRC's advice was frequently ignored.) 

Adolphe Menjou flanked by Joan Blondell (l) and Mary Astor in a publicity still for Convention City.

Of all the major studios Warner Bros. was the most recalcitrant when it came to following the Code. Joseph Breen hated the pre-Code Warner films and called them "the lowest bunch we have". Nevertheless, at times the studio had to give in to the censors, for example with Baby Face (1933), which was initially rejected by the New York State Censorship Board; only after Warners made the changes that had been demanded by the New York censors —financially NYC was too important a market to lose— the film got accepted. 

Here are two memos, showing two slightly nervous Warner Bros. executives, worrying about the censors. The first memo was sent by studio boss Jack Warner to producer Hal Wallis regarding Convention City and the second is from Wallis to director Michael Curtiz re: Mandalay, the latter film released just before the enforcement of the Code. 

DATE: October 5, 1933
SUBJECT: "Convention City"

TO: Mr. Wallis
FROM: Mr. Warner

We must put brassieres on Joan Blondell and make her cover up her breasts because, otherwise, we are going to have these pictures stopped in a lot of places. I believe in showing their forms but, for Lord's sake, don't let those bulbs stick out. I'm referring to her gown in Convention City.

J.L. Warner

[*More about Convention City, see the note at the bottom of this post.]




DATE: October 21, 1933
SUBJECT: "Mandalay" 
TO: Curtiz
FROM: Hal Wallis

I am just looking at your dailies ...

Generally your stuff is beautiful and I don't want to start limiting you and restricting you ...

However, when you show Kay Francis in the bathtub with [Ricardo] Cortez in the shot and a close-up of Kay Francis in the tub and show her stepping out of the tub and going into Cortez's arms, then you get me to the point where I am going to have to tell you to stick to the script and not to do anything else. For God's sake, Mike, you have been making pictures long enough to know that it is impossible to show a man and a woman who are not married in a scene of this kind. The situation itself is censorable enough with Cortez and Francis living [together] ...

Hal Wallis 

Source: Inside Warner Bros. (1935-1951) (1985), selected and edited by Rudy Behlmer.  

Above: The scene (as described in the memo) was changed, with Cortez now leaning in through an open hatchway and kissing Francis (out of the bath and wrapped in a towel) through the hatchway, with the final shot of Francis' bare legs and the towel landed on the floor. While the scene was still risky, it got accepted.  However, when Warners applied for a certificate of approval to re-issue Mandalay in 1936, the application was denied. Below: Kay Francis fabulously dressed by Orry-Kelly in a scene from Mandalay.

Convention City
, directed by Archie Mayo and starring Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Mary Astor, Guy Kibbee and Adolphe Menjou, is considered a lost film. When it was released in 1933, the film was successful at the box-office but, due to its racy content, was taken out of circulation once the Code was enforced. The story of the film revolves around the convention of the Honeywell Rubber Company in Atlantic City, with the company's employees being mostly preoccupied with booze and sex. In 1936, Warner Bros. tried to re-release the film but PCA's Joseph Breen considered it beyond redemption and rejected the studio's request for a seal of approval. Subsequently, studio boss Jack Warner reportedly ordered the prints and negatives of the film to be destroyed. According to this interesting article by Ron Hutchinson of The Vitaphone Project, however, not all prints were destroyed and prints of the film were shown as late as WWII. Hutchinson seems convinced a print still exists but "we just have to find it!". At any rate, until that happens (if it ever will happen), Convention City remains one of the more coveted lost Hollywood films. Leading lady Joan Blondell once said about it: "That is the raunchiest thing there has ever been. We had so many hysterically dirty things in it ..." (Incidentally, the original screenplay of the film still exists and can be found in the Warner Bros. script archives.)

Dick Powell, Joan Blondell and Guy Kibbee in Convention City

5 November 2022

Buster Keaton, whom I have selected to follow in my footsteps ...

I am not a fan of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle but I love Buster Keaton and recently watched a lot of Buster shorts, including several he made with Arbuckle (The Cook (1918) being my favourite of the Buster-Arbuckle shorts). It was through Arbuckle that Buster had his first break in Hollywood. The two met in early 1917 and Arbuckle, who was then at the height of his popularity, took Buster under his wing. Until then Buster had been performing with his parents in a vaudeville act (as The Three Keatons) and had never stood in front of a camera before. When asked by Arbuckle to do a scene for his newest two-reeler The Butcher Boy, Buster proved to be a natural and Arbuckle immediately hired him. The two men entered into a very successful working relationship, with Buster appearing in a total of 14 Arbuckle shorts. 

In 1920, after completing their final film together The Garage, Buster went on to make films on his own, starting with a series of two-reelers including One Week, Convict 13 and Neighbors. Due to his success with Arbuckle, Buster was given his own production unit by independent producer Joseph M. Schenck —Buster Keaton Productions— which first produced two-reelers and later feature films. Arbuckle, in turn, signed a very lucrative contract with Paramount Pictures in 1921 and made several full-length features for the studio before becoming involved in a huge scandal. Accused of the rape and manslaughter of actress Virginia Rappe, Arbuckle faced three highly publicised trials which —despite his eventual acquittal— destroyed his career, while also leaving him bankrupt.

Apart from being colleagues, Buster and Arbuckle were close friends. Buster was one of the people, along with Charlie Chaplin, who had supported and defended Arbuckle during the scandal. After his acquittal Arbuckle tried to make films again, but he was banned from the screen and could only work behind the camera under a pseudonym. Buster attempted to help his friend by hiring him as co-director on Sherlock Jr. (1924). Arbuckle proved very difficult to work with —a nervous wreck after the trials, he lost his temper easily and screamed at actors on the set— which made Buster end their collaboration. Nevertheless, the two men remained friends and Buster financially supported Arbuckle for the remainder of Arbuckle's life. (In 1933 Arbuckle died of a heart attack, only 46 years old.)


For the letter of this post, let's go back to the period before the scandal. Having completed The Garage (his last short with Buster), Arbuckle was excited to move on and make feature films. He also wanted to give Buster a hand with his solo career, and for that purpose a printed copy of the following letter was sent to 25,000 of Arbuckle's fans. Calling Buster "a worthy successor" and "one who could make you laugh even more than [he] did", Arbuckle encouraged his own fans to go out and see Buster in the theatre.

Via: Pinterest


Dear friend:

I am sending you a photograph of "Buster" Keaton, the little sad faced fellow who used to work in my pictures and whom I have selected to follow in my footsteps and make two-reel comedies.

As you know, I am now making five-reel comedy features but I did not desert the two-reelers until I felt perfectly sure I had found a worthy successor -- one who could make you laugh even more than I did.

Up to date "Buster" has made three pictures entitled: "One Week"; "Convict 13" and "The Scarecrow". These pictures are first-class laughing successes.

If you want to see them ask the manager of your favorite moving picture theatre when he is going to play "Buster" Keaton's comedies and he will give you the exact date.

Always your friend,

(signed) Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle

25 October 2022

You are the most talented woman at friendship

Helen Hayes and Joan Crawford became friends in the 1930s. In her (third) memoir My Life in Three Acts (1990) Hayes said that Joan had adopted her as her best friend, despite the fact that they were very different. Joan probably didn't feel threatened by her, Helen thought, not considering her a rival. In any case, Helen was fascinated by the glamorous Joan and the two women entered into an unlikely friendship. 

According to her memoir, Hayes didn't see much of Joan anymore after Joan became involved with Pepsi-Cola, while Hayes herself was busy working in the theatre. (In 1955, Joan married Alfred Steele, president of Pepsi-Cola, and after Steele's death four years later she became a board member of Pepsi, to eventually retire in 1973.) Nevertheless, the women would still meet on occasion and also sent each other telegrams/letters. In her 1962 autobiography, Joan said that she and Helen were "staunch friends, sometimes only by letter". Below is some of Helen's correspondence to Joan from the 1970's, clearly showing that Joan never forgot her friends.

Sources: letter above left The Concluding Chapter of Crawford and the two other letters The Best of Everything: A Joan Crawford Encyclopedia


March 6, 1970

Dearest Joan:

As I said at "Pavillion", you are the most talented woman at friendship (along with some other things) that I have ever known.

Thank you for being so helpful to my morale with your wire and your visit to "Harvey" and for helping me through that lunch last Monday.

You look great, so there's no need to tell you to be careful not to work too hard.

signed "Helen H."


October 20, 1972

Dear Joan: 

Thank you for your thoughtful wire.

I can't get over you. You are always right there - never forget.

Love and blessings,
signed "Helen H."


October 26, 1974

Dear Joan:

Just back from England to find your birthday wire.

You are rapidly becoming my favorite person.

Bless you,
signed "Helen H."

In 1978, a year after Joan's death, Joan's adoptive daughter Christina published Mommie Dearest, a tell-all book in which she accused her mother of mental and physical abuse towards her and her adoptive siblings. Joan's two other daughters, Cathy and Cindy, denied the allegations made against their mother as did many of Joan's friends, including Joan's ex-husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Barbara Stanwyck and Myrna Loy. Helen Hayes, however, was one of the people who said she had personally witnessed some form of abuse (others were, for example, June Allyson and Betty Hutton). This is an excerpt from Hayes' memoir, published thirteen years after Joan's death:

"Joan was not quite rational in her raising of children. You might say she was strict or stern. But cruel is probably the right word. [...]

When my young son Jim came to stay with me, we would go out to lunch with them [Joan and her son Christopher]. Joan would snap, “Christopher!” whenever he tried to speak. He would bow his little head, completely cowed, and then he’d say, “Mommie dearest, may I speak?” Joan’s children had to say [that] before she allowed them to utter another word. It would have been futile for me or anyone else to protest. Joan would only get angry and probably vent her rage on the kids. 

On one of my Hollywood trips about this time, I ran into Dinah Shore in the hairdressing department of MGM. She beckoned me to come over, and then began talking in a whisper. “Helen, everybody knows that you’re Joan Crawford’s close friend. Can you do something about her treatment of those children? We’re all worried to death.” ... Well, I was frightened to do it. We were all afraid of Joan – which is the biggest problem in this kind of situation, as we’ve seen with fatal results. No one would speak up. 

I have read that people who are abused as children often become abusive parents. Maybe it was Joan’s tough childhood that made her exert her power like that over her own children. But understanding the reason did not make their suffering any easier to watch."

(l to r) ca. 1956, Helen Hayes, Alfred Steele, Joan Crawford and James MacArthur; Steele was Joan's fourth husband and MacArthur was Hayes' adopted son.

20 October 2022

I can’t think of anyone who could do it as you could

Author Ayn Rand immigrated from her native Russia to the United States in 1926 and had her first big success with the novel The Fountainhead (1943). After selling the film rights to her book to Warner Bros. in 1943, Rand was hired by producer Hal Wallis to work as a screenwriter and script doctor (her work includes Love Letters (1945) and You Came Along (1945)). Adapting her own novel, Rand also wrote the screenplay for The Fountainhead, which was finally made into a film in 1949.

Barbara Stanwyck was an avid fan of Ayn Rand and desperately wanted to play the role of Dominique Francon, the female protagonist of The Fountainhead. For that purpose she had urged Jack Warner to purchase the film rights for her. As said, Warner bought the rights, but production got delayed and in the end Warner chose a different leading lady for the film. Patricia Neal got cast instead of Barbara, much to Barbara's dismay (read more in this post). 

While Barbara never got to play Dominique Francon, in a 1946 letter (seen below) she was approached by Rand to play one of Rand's other characters, the female protagonist in Red Pawn. Red Pawn was Rand's very first screenplay, which she sold to Universal in 1932; Paramount later bought it from Universal, reportedly as a vehicle for Marlene Dietrich. The script deals with the evils of dictatorship, in particular of Soviet Russia. The role Rand offered Barbara was that of an American woman, Joan Harding, who infiltrates a prison for political prisoners in order to free her Russian husband. Due to the anti-Soviet theme of the script, the filming of Red Pawn was postponed by Universal several times. In the end, Barbara rejected Rand's offer by telegram, simply stating that she and her manager found it not "the right kind of story". Red Pawn was never made into a film and was ultimately shelved.

Above: Barbara Stanwyck and Ayn Rand who eventually became friends. Below: Rand on the set of The Fountainhead, flanked by the leads, Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. 

September 7, 1946 

Dear Barbara: 

Now that I have a better idea of the kind of story and characterization you like, it occurred to me that I should show you Red Pawn, a synopsis of which is attached. 

This is an original by me, the first story I ever sold. Paramount owns it, but has never produced it. 

I would like you to read it, keeping in mind that if it were to be made now, I would suggest changing the locale and having the story take place in an unnamed dictatorship, rather than in Soviet Russia. It would give the story deeper significance. 

I called this story to Mr. Wallis’ attention, when I first started to work for him. He read it and liked it, but hesitated for a long time over the question of the locale, saying that he did not like to have a story in an unnamed background. I don’t agree with him on that. He did admit that the story has the same dramatic pattern and the same basic situation as Casablanca (I wrote it long before that), but he could not quite make up his mind to do it, so I let it go and have not discussed it with him since. 

As far as I am concerned, since Paramount owns the story, I would not get any kind of extra payment for it — so this is not an attempt to sell you an original of mine for any reason except that I love this story. I think it is still the best film story I ever wrote, and I would rather work on it than on anything I know. 

The starring role is an acting part of the kind which a writer can succeed in devising very rarely; I know it, because I’ve tried since. She is the only woman in the story—and a kind of advance echo of Dominique. After seeing [The Strange Love of] Martha Ivers, I can’t think of anyone who could do it as you could. 

Since you said that what you were anxious to find was a love story, a story about positive characters, and a story that had a quality of prestige — I could not help sending you this one. It is all three. 

If you like it, I think we can persuade Mr. Wallis to make it; and I would be one of the happiest authors in Hollywood. But if you don’t, I shall do my best with Be Still, My Love, as we discussed it. 

I will telephone you Monday morning to learn your reaction before I make an appointment to see Mr. Wallis. If the time is not convenient to you, would you leave a message as to what time I may reach you, and I will call then.  

[Source: Letters of Ayn Rand (1997)— via archive.org]

The 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand's best-known work, her magnum opus, and in the fall of 1957 Rand again approached Barbara Stanwyck to see if she would be interested to play the novel's heroine: "As you see, I don't forget, even if Warner Brothers do. I will be very interested to hear your reaction to Atlas Shrugged. ...  Before I make any decision in regard to the movie rights of this novel, I would like to know whether you feel about Dagny Taggart as you did about Dominique Francon". Barbara replied a few days later, saying that she loved the book and even "lost a week’s sleep" over it. Nevertheless she declined, thinking that Hollywood would probably want somebody "young, beautiful, and all the rest that goes with it." Rand was working on a screenplay of Atlas Shrugged when she died in 1982, with only one-third of the script completed. 

13 October 2022

She was like all Charlie Chaplin’s heroines in one

Elia Kazan met Marilyn Monroe, by his own account, on the set of Harmon Jones' As Young as You Feel (1951), a comedy in which Marilyn played a small role. The two would later embark on a brief love affair. At the time, Kazan —seventeen years Marilyn's senior— was married to his first wife, dramatist Molly Day Thacher (their marriage lasted from 1932 until Thacher's death in 1963). Kazan was a very close friend of playwright Arthur Miller and was the one who introduced Marilyn to Miller. Marilyn and Miller (the latter also married then) fell for each other immediately but wouldn't become romantically involved until 1955 and eventually married a year later. Marilyn and Kazan reportedly remained friends after their affair.

Top photo: Arthur Miller (left) and Elia Kazan were close friends until Kazan named names before HUAC (House of Un-American Activities Committee) in early 1952, thereby destroying their friendship. Marilyn Monroe was reportedly instrumental in reuniting them years later. After her death, the two men worked together on Miller's 1964 play After the Fall, which Kazan directed. Bottom photo: Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller who were married from 1956 until 1961. When they met, Miller was still married to Mary Slattery whom he divorced in 1956; Marilyn would marry Joe DiMaggio in 1954, only to divorce him nine months later.  

Seen below are two telegrams and a letter written by Elia Kazan. First shown are the telegrams, sent by Kazan to Marilyn during their affair. Noteworthy is that the first telegram was signed "B", which stands for "Bauer". Kazan and Miller had adopted Marilyn as their "mascot" and nicknamed her "Miss Bauer" following a prank they had played on Columbia boss Harry Cohn. In a meeting with Kazan and Cohn —during which Kazan tried to sell Cohn Miller's script The Hook— Marilyn had posed as Kazan's private secretary Miss Bauer, without Cohn ever recognising her. 

Source: Bonhams

The following letter —not shown in full but the part that deals with Marilyn— was written by Kazan to his wife Molly Day Thacher on 29 November 1955. In it, the director confesses to his affair with Marilyn four years earlier. The "boy friend, or keeper" to whom Kazan refers was Marilyn's agent Johnny Hyde. Thirty-one years Marilyn's senior, Hyde was in love with Marilyn and even left his wife for her. Marilyn didn't return Hyde's feelings but did love him dearly and was heartbroken when he died on 18 December 1950 (a few days after production on As Young as You Feel had started). When Kazan met Marilyn, she was grieving over Hyde's death. 

In one sense it’s true to say that it meant nothing. On the other hand it was a human experience, and it started, if that is of any significance, in a most human way. Her boy friend, or “keeper” (if you want to be mean about it) had just died. His family had not allowed her to see the body, or allowed her into the house, where she had been living after the death. She had sneaked in one night and been thrown out. I met her on Harmon Jones set when I went over to visit Harmon. Harmon thought her a ridiculous person and was fashionably scornful of her. I found her, when I was introduced, in tears. I took her to dinner because she seemed like such a touching pathetic waif. She sobbed all thru dinner. I wasn’t “interested in her”; that came later. But I did feel terribly touched by her and did think she had a lot of talent. .... I got to know her in time and introduced her to Arthur Miller, who also was very taken by her. You couldn’t help being touched. She was talented, funny, vulnerable, helpless in awful pain, with no hope, and some worth and not a liar, not vicious, not catty, and with a history of orphanism that was killing to hear. She was like all Charlie Chaplin’s heroines in one. 

I’m not ashamed at all, not a damn bit, of having been attracted to her. She is nothing like what she appears to be now, or even appears to have turned into now. I don't know what she is like now, except I notice Lee Strasberg [Marilyn's acting mentor and friend] has the same reaction to her that I did. She was a little stray cat when I knew her, total possession a few clothes, and one piano. I got a lot out of her just as you do from any human experience where anyone is revealed to you and you affect anyone in any way. I guess I gave her a lot of hope, and Arthur gave her a lot of hope. She had a crush on Art, not me. I was more interested in her, especially humanly than he was. She is not a big sex pot as advertised. At least not in my experience. I don’t know if there are such as “advertised” big sex pots. I didn't have anything to do with her when I went out during the testifying. She was sleeping with [Joe] DiMaggio. She told me a lot about him and her, his Catholicism, and his viciousness (he struck her often, and beat her up several times). I was touched and fascinated. It was the type of experience that I do not understand and I enjoyed (not the right word) hearing about it. I certainly recommended her to [playwright] Tennessee’s [Williams] attention. And he was very taken by her. 

I’m not sorry about it. I don't think a man can go thru a life without lesions, faults, slips and all that. I have no will towards same, and I have no desire to harm you. .... I am human though. It might happen again. I hope not, and I have resisted quite some other opportunities. No loss. I got a lot out of this one, can’t say I didn’t. I think I helped her. I don't know the answer to all this. If you don’t like what I say and feel it necessary for your own sense of honor and cleanliness to divorce me, divorce me. ... I don’t think I should not be married or anything like that. If you divorce me, I’ll tell you plainly I will in time get married again and have more children. I feel I’m a family man and I want a family, and am a damned good one. I don’t care what your judgment is on that. .... Let me repeat: I had nothing to do with her getting into the Actors' Studio, or Lee Strasberg's classes. Nor am I coaching her, advising her, seeing her or cuddling her. I'm really weary of the whole subject just as you are. ....

Source: The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan (2014), edited by Albert J. Devlin.  

Above: Marilyn Monroe and Johnny Hyde pictured dancing at the Palm Springs Racquet Club on New Year’s Eve 1949. Below: Elia Kazan with his first wife Molly Day Thacher. After Thacher's death in 1963, Kazan remarried twice —to actress/director Barbara Loden (m. 1967 until Loden's death in 1980) and author Frances Wright (m.1982 until Kazan's own death in 2003).