S. N. Behrman
The New Yorker
 May 20, 1972: 39-95

In a sense, most of my playwriting life was devoted to Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, although after my first play, "The Second Man," I had only one success with them—the adaptation, which they commissioned me to do, of Jean Giraudoux's "Amphitryon 38." In addition, they appeared in one original play of mine, "Meteor," and two foreign adaptations—"The Pirate," based on a play by the German playwright Ludwig Fulda, and "I Know My Love," adapted from Marcel Achard's Paris hit "Auprès de Ma Blonde." With the Lunts, it was not easy to distinguish a hit from a failure, because whatever they did attracted large audiences. Robert Sherwood wrote a piece of doggerel that went "If you want a play to run many a munt, get Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt." On the road, of course, the Lunts could do no wrong; business would be good for as long as they cared to tour.

"The Pirate" and "I Know My Love" gave me, and them, great trouble; my adaptations of these plays didn't stack up. I went to Paris in 1946 to see Achard's "Auprès de Ma Blonde." The idea behind this play was a good one—that a very happy married couple arouse envy and hatred in those around them, even within their own families. Yvonne Printemps played the lead. (I was struck by the disparity between our audience and the French audience when I started to think about what I would do with the first-act curtain line of Achard's play. The husband's younger brother falls in love with the heroine and commits suicide. When she hears the awful news, she brings the curtain down with the line "O God, why didn't you make me ugly?" I couldn't imagine a heroine's winning sympathy with a line like that in America; it seemed a little self-conscious.) Alexander Korda urged me to adapt the play; the Theatre Guild got the Lunts for it. What appealed to Lynn and Alfred was that the play took this couple from youth to old age, and through the Second World War. They saw in it a parallel to their own marriage. It ran the gamut; the Lunts were eager to make the run. Alfred's performance as the eighty-year-old Bostonian in "I Know My Love" (I had shifted Achard's play to America) was remarkable. I remember his walk across the stage during which he glanced down at a telegram he was carrying without interrupting his conversation with his son—it was uncannily convincing. Alfred's details for his performances were often like the observations of a great novelist. Peter Brook, who directed the Lunts in the last play they did in New York—Friedrich Dürrenmatt's "The Visit"—told me a wonderful story about Alfred, who played a shopkeeper in a small European town. In one scene, the shopkeeper, down and out, is sitting on a bench in front of a railroad station. Alfred asked Brook how it would be if, to convey his sorry state, he took off one of his shoes and shook some pebbles out of it. Brook said that that would be fine. After some thought, Alfred asked, "How many pebbles do you think? Three? Four?" Lynn told me that in one scene, where the wealthy woman she played is sitting upstage and overhears a speech in which the doomed shopkeeper tries to shield himself against the encroaching suspicion that walls him in, Alfred was so touching that she could hardly bear to listen to him.

"The Pirate" was a romantic satire set in a tropical realm. It gave Alfred a chance to walk a tightrope into his lady's chamber. The wife, Manuela, dreams of the exploits of the romantic hero, a pirate who dominates the surrounding waters; it turns out that her fat husband is the pirate. By the time we got to Philadelphia with this play, the Lunts and I were at an impasse with it. Sometimes Alfred and I would battle over a line that I liked better than he did. He would continue to say it, but he would misread it intentionally, so that it fell flat. Then he would turn to me and say, with impish triumph, "See? I told you it wouldn't play."

Very few Americans return to their home towns to live after they have made a great success in life, but Alfred did—to the improbable habitat of Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, a village not far from Milwaukee. In Genesee Depot, he and Lynn have a farm. On one occasion, Alfred sent his mother, Hattie, to Europe for a holiday. He saw her off on the Queen Mary. Hattie had a look around the ship. She complained to Alfred. "I don't see anyone here from the Depot," she said. The Lunts' Genesee Depot house expresses Alfred and Lynn entirely—their tastes, their histories. There are porcelain stoves from Scandinavia, ceilings wonderfully painted by an artist friend; on the piano, in glass, lies a huge cigar given to Alfred by Winston Churchill; there is a set of imaginative drawings made by Alfred for "Macbeth," a photograph of him in "Meteor" looking very much like Jed Harris. The only conventional room is the handsome and up-to-the-minute kitchen, where Alfred experiments endlessly with what has become his second art—cooking. It is a very comfortable house to stay in. The meals are often gala, with a constant obbligato of Lynn's stories and imitations of Genesee Depot neighbors and of the titled ladies of London. There are not in the world two people more self-sufficient than Lynn and Alfred. It has been said of Lynn that by an act of will she converted herself from a rather awkward, though interesting-looking, young girl into one of the great beauties of the stage.

Lynn Fontanne used to say, when I first began writing plays for the Lunts, that it was really her husband I wrote for. There may have been something in this, because I was fascinated by Alfred's style and personality in the first play I ever saw him in—a comedy called "Banco," which was an adaptation from the French. He captivated me. He had total command, not just physically but mentally. You saw his brain digesting the lines and the situations and finding them funny. There was glee in his voice, in his expression, in his gestures. I went to see "Banco" time after time. I found that Alfred changed his readings—that he changed his performance—all the time, but that he never changed his point of view, which was comedic. It was the comedy of intelligence. He was not always amused by the same things, so you got different facets at almost ever performance. I felt that he was a creative actor, and that it would be an easy step for him to play a creative artist, if you could write such a part for him. In my first play, I wrote the part of a writer whose intelligence far transcended his talent. To get Alfred Lunt for it was a singular stroke of luck. It was generally admitted by the critics and by the public that in this play Alfred gave the greatest comedy performance then visible.

The next play I wrote for him was "Meteor." Charles A. Beard, in "The Rise of American Civilization," which I was reading when I wrote this play, dilates on the extraordinary profusion of millionaires who appeared in the years I was writing about—the nineteen-twenties. The character was a young man with "ghetto" vitality, from the meanest background, who pinned a grandiose name on himself—Raphael Lord—and persuaded himself that he had the gift of clairvoyance. There are two actors who by coming onstage can transmit the suggestion of genius. One is Alfred Lunt; the other is Laurence Olivier. Ibsen, in "Hedda Gabler," keeps telling you, through the mouths of his characters, that Eilert Lövberg, he with the vine leaves in his hair, is a genius, but Lövberg does nothing to support this claim. Of all the characters in "Hedda Gabler," he is the dullest. You feel nothing in Lövberg but mediocrity. Producers worry about who is going to play Hedda. They should be worried about who is going to play Lövberg. I have wondered how the play would seem if Lövberg should be played by Lunt or Olivier.

The first reading of "Meteor" took place at Ford's Theatre in Baltimore. The reason for this was that the Lunts were in the middle of an unusually successful tour in an adaptation of a comedy by the Viennese playwright Sil-Vara called "Caprice." After Baltimore, we followed "Caprice" to Philadelphia and Boston. The "Meteor" rehearsal tour—sandwiched between the performances of "Caprice"—was as dolorous as the "Caprice" performances were lightsome. "They won't like me in 'Meteor,' " said Alfred, referring in his customary manner to the brigade of hostile critics who dogged his efforts, its collective will made up in advance to discredit him. He meant that they wouldn't like "Meteor," and here he was as prophetic as Raphael Lord, the character whose peculiar obsession he was wrestling with every minute he wasn't playing "Caprice," which "they" received rapturously eight times a week. I was rewriting all the time. I wrote reams in the hotel rooms of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston. There was one thing I was aware of powerfully: that the climate of the time—the proliferation of private fortunes, the vision of "success," meaning money and power, that hung over everything like a canopy—made Lynn's speeches, which I wrote expressing a humanitarian point of view, sound prissy and abstract. They couldn't be got right. One day after the Boston opening, which had been well received, we were still rehearsing some scenes in the beloved and now vanished Hollis Street Theatre. The director, Philip Moeller, burst into tears. The rehearsal had to be stopped. Afterward, Lawrence Langner, who, like Moeller, was on the board of the Theatre Guild, said, "If Phil hadn't broken down, Alfred would have. It was a good thing."

On the day Phil Moeller broke down, I spent the evening in my room rewriting, in the hope of sparing him other breakdowns in the future. The Lunts rang me when they got to the hotel after their performance. I went to their suite for a light supper. Christmas and the New York opening were both approaching. Lynn suggested that we take a walk up Beacon Street to hear the carols. The three of us set out. It was a mild evening; the Common was covered with snow, but the streets were navigable. Beacon Street was a few minutes away. We began to pass the wreath-hung houses; through the windows we saw Christmas trees being festooned and lit. We stopped in front of a hospitable window. "How enviable these people are, with just Christmas and presents, and no play on their hands!" Lynn said.

"I'd like to get my hands on some of those presents," Alfred said.

I misunderstood him.

Lynn corrected me. "Alfred means to wrap them," she said. "He has a wonderful knack for wrapping presents."

We passed groups singing carols. Lynn and Alfred remarked how much Beacon Street reminded them of London. We walked up to the State House and then returned to Commonwealth Avenue. On Commonwealth, Alfred stood still in the middle of the sidewalk in front of a brightly lit brownstone. "What was it—the exact point where Phil broke down?" he asked Lynn.

Lynn answered instantly. "It's in our second-act scene where I say, 'There may be a lot of cant spoken in the name of altruism. Just the same, there is such a thing as altruism.'"

Alfred picked it up. "'There may be, but I can't pretend to feel it. Moreover, I see no need for it. I expect to make a decent place of Ariandos—bathtubs and gardens—but I do it as an economic measure. I do it because it will save me trouble and insurrection in the future. I do it because it'll be pleasanter for me to observe when I go clown there. Most of all, I do it because it's a terrific job and I'm probably the only man alive who could pull it off.'"

Lynn and Alfred had forgotten where they were, and were rehearsing. I moved a bit away from them to give them a sense of privacy.

Several passersby had joined me and stopped to listen. The Lunts were so absorbed in each other's readings that they didn't notice. Alfred was saying, "'Lenin's motive wasn't altruism but revenge on the Czarists who shot his brother—the first Utopian who knew how to handle machine guns.'"

A burly man, alcoholized, in a muffler and with a soft felt hat pulled down over his eyes, had come up beside me, and stood listening. When Alfred mentioned Lenin, he began to splutter. "Who is that guy?" he asked belligerently.

"A friend of mine," I said.

"Well, who is he to shoot his mouth off about the Abe Lincoln of Russia He's a goddam reactionary!"

Lynn and Alfred didn't like irrelevant conversation while they were rehearsing. Alfred shot me an imploring look. I went up to them and suggested that their rooms might be better for what they were doing. I walked the two reactionaries toward their hotel.

A light snow had begun to fall. Great flakes were settling on Lynn's fur coat. "Look at them," she said, showing off the snowflakes on her sleeve. "How big they are. How soft and perfect—like buttercups." But Alfred was still ruminating over his immense plans for Ariandos.

When I got back to the hotel, I was given a message to call Harold Freedman, my agent. He told me two pieces of news: Guthrie McClintic, to whom he had given a comedy I had written called "Brief Moment," wanted to produce and direct it. Also, Winfield Sheehan, the production head of the Fox Film Corporation, was in town and wished to sec me. He had a film proposal that he thought would interest me. Fox had bought Ferenc Molnár’s "Liliom" and wanted me to write the screenplay. I asked Harold to make an appointment for me with Mr. Sheehan two weeks later.

Going to sleep, I began to recall "Brief Moment." I had written it in a long breath some months before. Unlike "Meteor," "Brief Moment" presented no special problems: no one in it had the faculty of clairvoyance or was bloated with self-belief. Actually, the hero of "Brief Moment" felt himself a failure. That was a chilling thought, too. I prayed for sleep, but it eluded me.

Just seven years later, I set to work to adapt Giraudoux's haunting play "Amphitryon 38" for the Lunts. "Amphitryon 38" is an ideal comedy. Alkmena's husband, General Amphitryon, whom she adores, is the square of all time, the essence of squares. This play requires of the actress who plays Alkmena the rarest of qualities: radiance. Miss Fontanne had it. Like all good comedies, "Amphitryon" is in actuality a tragic play, since comedy is the saving grace that makes life bearable. A French dictionary beside me, I began. Giraudoux arose on "une terrasse près d'un palais." He is laconic; he doesn't say whose terrace, or whose palace, and, as I had no equipment for furnishing such places, I was equally laconic. But Alfred got an idea that changed all that. Terraces in the vicinity of palaces seemed dull to him, especially since, as Jupiter, be would he on at the opening. "I want to go up with me and Mercury lying naked on a cloud and watching Alkmena on earth from there," he said. I had never written an "At Rise" on a cloud before, but when you are working for great stars you adapt yourself. Besides, I thought it was a thrilling idea. I arose, as follows, getting a lift myself from the elevation:

A cloud above Olympus. Jupiter and Mercury, his son, are lounging comfortably on this cloud, their phosphorescent eyes focussed for the moment on the domesticities of a terrestrial couple, Alkmena and her husband, General Amphitryon. Jupiter's long beard is a firework of golden curls; otherwise he is naked, as is Mercury. They are lying on their stomachs; they face the terrestrial audience; their arms and faces are their own; their backs, legs, and buttocks belong to the scenic designer.

The new "At Rise" necessitated a slight dialogue change also. I had to improvise a bit for Mercury:

Jupiter, you astonish me. If you're in love with this mortal, why don't you employ the facilities you have as a god? Why waste an entire night, ravished with longing, bouncing about on a cloud, catching at her shadow, when you might so easily, with your ordinary god-sight, see her as she is through the walls of her chamber?

We rehearsed "Amphitryon 38" in Chicago, in Baltimore, in Boston, in Genesee Depot, and in London, where the Lunts took the playwright Edward Knoblock's house in Cadogan Square for the summer. They gave me the top floor, and we rehearsed up there. You couldn't be with the Lunts without rehearsing. Giraudoux would have been surprised at the amount of time that was spent in reorchestrating the harmonics of the dialogue scenes between the two of them—making the tiniest capillary changes, recanalizing the flow of the scenes. They had played together so much that Alfred, who was very musical, knew exactly what he wanted: the tone and the lift of every second, every diminuendo, every suspension.

The opening was in San Francisco, and it was fun. I have never enjoyed an out-of-town opening more. When the curtain went up on the nude, recumbent gods, a wave of delight swept over the audience. Alfred, with his long beard and golden curls, looked like the master of the gods; had Jupiter caught sight of him, I am sure he would have made up to look like him. It was a gala evening. In the intermission, I heard a décolletéed woman say to her companion, with a sigh of deep satisfaction, "Well, everybody from Burlingame's here tonight!" A few days later, the Lawrence Langners took me to see the Eugene O'Neills, who were then living not far away. I told them how cooperative our opening-night audience had been. "Oh, yes," O'Neill said. "It's the best audience in the world. They come to enjoy themselves. Singular motive, isn't it?" He confronted Mr. and Mrs. Langner. "I warn you. I don't care what it'll cost you, but from now on you'll have to open all my plays in San Francisco."

The play opened in New York in November, 1937, at the Shubert Theatre. Following a rule I had made ten years before, I didn't go to the New York opening. Not going was easy; I knew it couldn't come up to the San Francisco opening. Still, I was told that the audience responded. Giraudoux, who had a high post in the French Foreign Office, was on a world tour in his official capacity. He was, luckily, arriving the next day. I was to take him to the theatre and introduce him to the Lunts. Giraudoux was tall and lean, with a narrow face and keen eyes. He was courteous but somehow formidable. His play had run for a year in Paris, in a tiny theatre with a few hundred seats. At eight-thirty on the second night, I walked him into the auditorium of the Shubert, which was packed. I could see that he was astonished by the vastness of the theater and by the crowd. "It's a large room," he said. We stood at the back and watched the stage for a few minutes. "Is there another room upstairs?" he asked. I said there was indeed, and walked him up to the balcony, also packed. I saw that he couldn't resist the fascination of the packed, suspended other room. I watched him. He edged cautiously down the outer aisle till he came opposite the first row. From there he could see both rooms and their occupants. He ran back up the steps to rejoin me. He looked disturbed, tense, unhappy. I asked him what was the matter. His English was not at the ready. I wondered about this, because I knew that he had, in his youth, been to Harvard. He asked me what I thought the receipts at the theatre would come to for the week. I told him twenty-four thousand dollars, which was capacity for the Shubert at the price scale then. He looked horrified. He computed it in francs. "Mais," he said, "c'est astronomique, c'est . . ." It must have come to millions in francs. It sounded like it; I had never heard so many francs. He looked woebegone.

"But aren't you pleased?" I said.

He shook his head. "I shall have difficulty with my income tax."

"But you can deduct this trip as an expense."

He shook his head, looking sadder than ever. He sighed. "Unfortunately," he said, "my expenses are paid by the state."

Rehearsals of "The Second Man" in London were starting in January of 1928—earlier than had been originally planned—and I arranged to go over for a few months. "Dame" Nellie Burton, with whom I had stayed when I first visited London, wrote to tell me regretfully that she couldn't put me up at 40 Half Moon Street just then, because she was full up. The same day, I got a call from Carl Brandt, the literary agent, telling me that he had taken a charming little house in Chester Terrace, in London, and that I would be welcome to stay in it for my first ten days, since he would be travelling on the Continent. He was going to London that night. I was sailing on the Mauretania a week later. He had to leave London for Berlin on the day of my arrival.

My last week in New York was crowded with casting ideas for "Serena Blandish," which Jed Harris was producing. That week was also a time of party-giving—even costume parties. I went to one given by Mrs. Anna Heifetz, the mother of the violinist Jascha Heifetz. I had been introduced to the Heifetz family by my friend Samuel Chotzinoff, formerly Heifetz's accompanist and by then music critic for the New York World. The Heifetzes were an entrancing family. The dominant figure was the mother, Anna. She was a large, handsome woman, who had piloted the whole family to this country from St. Petersburg. Jews had not been allowed to live in St. Petersburg, but Mrs. Heifetz had got a special dispensation for the family, because her son was enrolled in the Imperial Conservatory—the star pupil of the famous violin master Leopold Auer. Mrs. Heifetz's husband, Ruvin, was a violinist, and had been Jascha's first teacher. He was an unhappy character, in a perpetual state of resentment. He disapproved of his daughters' using makeup. He objected to his wife's spending money—unnecessarily, from his point of view. He held the opinion that America didn't give enough thought to the violin. He would stand in the wings at Carnegie Hall and offer last-minute advice to his impassive son: "Jaschinka, don't forget what I told you about the second finger." Jascha had by then played innumerable concerts in Russia, Europe, and America, and was an established phenomenon.

One day, Jascha said to an American newspaperman, "I've made my own living and supported my family from the time I was six years old."

"I suppose," said the newspaperman, "that up to then you were just a parasite."

Anna Heifetz was a remarkable woman—hardheaded, detached, unsentimental, but full of humor and fun. When she dressed up to go to a concert or to the opera, she looked like a duchess, or the way a duchess might like to look. Her daughters captivated the town. Pauline, as the elder, came in for most of this attention. Alexander Woollcott was crazy about Pauline's tawny complexion. Many young men strove to take her out. She said afterward that they always took her to prizefights and football games—things she was not really much interested in. Eventually, Pauline married Samuel Chotzinoff. Elza was three years younger than Pauline, and some years later she and I were married.

At the Heifetz costume party, Jascha was a complete and dashing Mexican officer, Alexander Woollcott a somewhat excessive cardinal, Charles MacArthur a Paris taxi-driver, George Gershwin an Italian diplomat, and Helen Hayes a little schoolgirl, which she was. Josef Hofmann sat in a corner telling lewd stories. Hofmann's licentiousness was brought to Mrs. Heifetz's attention. She rose above it. "In my house," she said, "an artist like Hofmann can speak what he wants to speak."

In London, I arrived at 43 Chester Terrace just as Carl Brandt was leaving it for his trip to Berlin. He introduced me to Miss Abbott, a spinster of about fifty, who would do for me. I should be, he assured her, much less trouble than he was. I was quieter. Miss Abbott received this information with a bobbing skepticism. I found myself alone in the drawing room, in an armchair in front of the fireplace. It was a tiny room, with a tiny fireplace, in what seemed to me the tiniest house I had ever seen. The fire took itself very seriously; it crackled and fumed as if its responsibilities were too much for it. Outside of these flourishes, the house was perfectly still. It was heaven. I don't think I have ever been happier than I was during the days I spent in that midget house. Miss Abbott was part of this perfection. She never spoke; she bobbed and smiled. That first afternoon, I called up my friend Siegfried Sassoon. There was no reply. I thought I'd look in on Dame Nellie Burton to see if I could find out about him. I was already so fond of this minuscule house that I hated to leave it. On the sidewalk, I took in Chester Terrace. All the houses on it were tiny, demure. I became immediately unfaithful to my first love, Half Moon Street. Nevertheless, I went there.

I found Miss Burton deep in conference with Mr. Fleming, the Theosophist who rented the rear double. She gave me a rapturous welcome, laced with lament at being unable to take me in at this time. Mr. Fleming was reserved; he seemed more lemony than ever. They asked about my play. When I said that Noël Coward was to be in it, they were both enthusiastic. Miss Burton said that she knew and admired Mr. Coward—that he used to come often when Robbie—Robert Ross—was alive. Siegfried? Miss Burton thought he had gone to Max Gate to be with Thomas Hardy "at the end." Hardy had caught a chill a month before and was dying. The moment of gravity was not allowed to settle. Miss Burton swept it away in personal gossip. She had been to an astrologer, a marvelous diviner—Miss Victoria Sadee. The understanding, the penetration, of that woman was beyond belief. On Miss Burton's first visit—imagine, her first—Miss Sadee had said right out, "Though you are mother to many, you have borne none."

"Mr. Fleming could 'ardly believe it when I told him—is it not so, Edward?" Miss Burton said. Mr. Fleming admitted that it had seemed to him remarkable. I indicated that I was myself quite impressed. Miss Burton went on, "The wisdom of that woman. 'Though you have lived with many men,' she said, 'you are not immoral.' Truer word was never spoken. I asked 'er advice: Should I marry Siegfried? Should I marry Osbert Sitwell? She advised against it. She was firm. 'You are not meant,' she said, 'for double 'arness.' While she was sayin' it, I knew it was the truth. In single 'arness I shall remain!" Burton crossed her arms and stared defiantly at me to convey that this was her last word on the subject and to impress upon me the fact that I must never reopen it, in case I should be tempted to ignite false hopes in Siegfried or Osbert.

A maid came in to announce that her mistress was wanted on the telephone. Miss Burton rose at once. "Wouldn't it be a lark if it was Siegfried?" she said to me as she left the room.

I was alone with Mr. Fleming. He said nothing; neither did I. We sat, congealed in silence. I finally ventured a sally. "Do you know Chester Terrace," I asked, "where I am now living?"

"Only by reputation," said Mr. Fleming charily.

I didn't know what to think. Had Carl Brandt been sold a den of iniquity? It couldn't be. That dear little street, those chaste little houses.

Miss Burton returned. She was all smiles. "It is Siegfried," she said. "'E 'ad a feeling 'e'd find you 'ere. 'E wants to speak to you. You remember the phone?"

I did indeed. Siegfried sounded very far away. He was at Max Gate. As Miss Burton had said, Thomas Hardy was very ill. I gave him my address and telephone number. He didn't know when he'd he returning to London. It depended on Mrs. Hardy. His voice was shadowed, faint. He hung up abruptly.

I returned to the parlor. Miss Burton was triumphant. "'E was just syin' to me, 'Do you by any chance know—' I said, 'I more than know. 'E's right 'ere.' It was simple as that!"

I invited Miss Burton and Mr. Fleming to my first night, and got away with becoming speed. Back at 43 Chester Terrace, I telephoned Noël. He wanted me to come to the Playhouse Theatre at ten-thirty the next morning to meet the company.

The next morning, at the Playhouse Theatre, I met the company: Miss Zena Dare, Miss Ursula Jeans, Mr. Raymond Massey, and Mr. Basil Dean, the producer and director. Noël was in great form. He'd been, the night before, to the pantomime, and he did an imitation of Miss Florrie Ford, the "principal boy." He described her—beyond middle age, corpulent, and with a garish voice and a garish smile. He became Miss Ford; he became the principal boy. He sang Miss Ford's song: "If your fyce wants to smile, well, let it." Miss Ford's smile was cosmic. Noël "let it" amply before all of us. Basil Dean had to exert authority to get his little company going on the reading of the play. I was struck by the fact that there was no aspect of the theatre that didn't vitally interest Noël. Anything theatrical engrossed him—Florrie Ford and the pantomime as much as Shaw or Shakespeare.

I went out front to listen to the first reading. They went so lickety-split in some of the dialogue that I couldn't understand them; it was like listening to a play in a foreign language. Noël must have felt this, because he called out to me, "We're probably going too fast for you, but don't worry about the tempo! Our audience will understand us!" The third act began with Noël, as the writer, reading some pages he had just written, crushing them, and throwing them in the wastebasket while he stigmatized them: "Trash, trash, trash!" After he'd read this line, he confided to us, "Don't be surprised if there's a little burst of applause when I say that." Noël was referring to the fact that the last two plays of his own had been booed; they had both been disastrous failures. Presently, the first reading was over. I went to lunch with Noël and Mr. Dean.

As my diary tells me, the most serious problem was finding a place to rehearse in that was not too cold. Once, we rehearsed in a shabby series of rooms over a vegetarian restaurant. Nothing fazed Noël. He went through that rehearsal with care and precision, as if the circumstances were idyllic. I invited him over to Chester Terrace afterward. I was sure Miss Abbott would provide a cup of tea. On the way, he began questioning me rather seriously about my origins and early background. Was my family rich? I told Noël all—my impoverished childhood in Worcester, Massachusetts; my father's little grocery store—and it seemed to provide him with a certain satisfaction. "So you came from the wrong side of the tracks, too?" he said. "With no help from anyone? Good!" I felt that if Noël had found out that my circumstances had been comfortable he would have been quite disappointed.

We sat before the fire talking shop. I asked Noël whether he knew the author of "Serena Blandish." I'd had a letter from her in which she said nice things about my dramatization. "Enid Bagnold," he said. "Indeed do. Enchanting creature. You will fall in love with her. She is, unfortunately, at the moment in love with Jed Harris. He went out to the country and read your play aloud to her. He's a very good actor, and the reading did the trick. She's on the hook."

"Well, it's not surprising. Jed has great charm when he wants to exert it."

"No, not a bit surprising. But mark my words. It'll be the usual process—first the fever, then the rash."

"Have you quarrelled with Jed?" I asked.

"Not at all. We just don't speak to each other. The truth is, you know, I am harder and more sophisticated than Jed."

"Does he suspect it?"

"I don't think so. What he is bound to learn is that I can go all the way from winsome to determined without change of tempo."

With his unfailing instinct for an exit line, Noël departed, leaving me laughing.

Thomas Hardy died on January 11th, a Wednesday, and I spent the weekend reading the tributes to Hardy in the London papers. On Saturday, I got a telegram from Siegfried asking me to meet him at the Reform Club for dinner on Sunday night. He was changed—thinner and with a look in his eyes that showed a heightened awareness of the pain of life. Siegfried explained to me that he'd stayed on at Max Gate because Mrs. Hardy had asked him to. She would be busy now with the arrangements for Hardy's funeral, in Westminster Abbey. He described Hardy's last day, his last hours: how Siegfried and Mrs. Hardy had taken turns at reading poetry aloud to him—Browning and Fitzgerald and de la Mare. Hardy's interest in poetry and literature was unflagging to the end; shortly before he died, he insisted on sending his check for dues to the Society of Authors. It was his last chore.

I asked Siegfried how his work was going. He had a poem in the current London Mercury, he said. Had I seen it? He would send it to me. I felt that he was under a great strain, and he told me he had been finding it a terrific struggle to work, to achieve the solitude necessary for working. There were, he said, categories of people who lived for fun. They kept urging him to share their excursions, but he always refused, and often with nothing to show for it. He had begun to wonder whether his way of life was not altogether wrong.

We were sitting in the club library now. It was very still. He went on about the terrific struggle within him—to get work done.

"It's what you want," I said. "You'll get it done."

He began to talk about me. "You can become a first-rate comedy writer—which the world needs—but can you do it with everybody tearing at you?" He warned me to hoard my time and my energy—to put it into my work. I was touched and flattered that he took me so seriously. I responded by telling him that nothing could prevent his becoming—he already was—a Name in English poetry. When we parted, I think we both felt better.

"I've wanted to have this talk with you," he said.

"So have I."

We shook hands on it.

The next day, I went to tea at Hyde Park Gate with Enid Bagnold. She was in bed, convalescing from an illness. I met her husband, Sir Roderick Jones, the head of Reuters. Jones apologized for being there, and said he wouldn't stay. I tried to make him feel he was not an intruder. Miss Bagnold wondered how I had come upon her book. I couldn't really remember, but it had delighted me, so I hadn't been able to keep my hands off it. I asked her why she hadn't put her name on it. She said that her father was an Army officer, retired, and that he had objected to her publishing it; he was fearful of its effect on the British Army, and even on Reuters. Jones interjected that he had thought Reuters could survive it but that his father-m-law hadn't thought so. Simultaneously with the book, she had started a baby; they were both finished at the same time. "It was nice to produce something that I could claim publicly," she said. But it had also amused her to publish her book anonymously. It was fun to go to dinner parties and hear her book discussed, with no one suspecting that the author was sitting right there. H. G. Wells, who knew the original of Serena, had said that the trouble with the universe was that there weren't more girls like Serena in it. At this point, Jones left, saying that he and his wife were giving a lunch party for me and that we would therefore meet soon again. Enid, relaxed, told me that she was completely fascinated by the theatre—that, reading plays, she actually counted the words on each page to help catch on to the trick of how playwriting was done. She asked me whom I'd like to meet at their luncheon party. As a kind of joke, I recited a list of the great figures in English literature. We fixed on a place—Sovrani's, a new restaurant on Jermyn Street. The date was to be the day after my opening.

I began receiving, almost daily, books, novels, and plays from Elizabeth Bibesco. She was the daughter of Herbert Asquith, the recent Prime Minister, and was married to Prince Antoine Bibesco, a Rumanian diplomat. I saw a good deal of the Bibescos. In later life, I have come to rail against my ignorance; instead of talking to Bibesco about plays and movie sales, I should have questioned him about Marcel Proust, who was a close friend of his. I now have a handsome edition of Bibesco's correspondence with Proust. But I was plunged too abruptly into this complex and sophisticated society. I didn't really know anything about it; I skated along on thin ice as well as I could. Bibesco used to come to see me and question me endlessly about the theatre situation in New York. Once, he asked to read "The Second Man;" I gave it to him. He asked me whether I would allow him to make a French adaptation; I said I would. He was excited and happy, but I felt somehow that I would never read his adaptation, and I never have. Elizabeth Bibesco was a wonderful talker and a prolific writer. She talked to me about the arts; about her girlhood, which she spent conversing with Aldous Huxley and Bertrand Russell; and about American politics, about which she knew a great deal. "My father," she said once, "is very knowledgeable about the political situation in Ohio." I always felt a deep malaise in her; her writing and the fluctuations in her brilliant and esoteric conversation seemed to lead everywhere but to self-satisfaction. She took me to dinner at the Savoy once with her mother, Margot, and her brother Anthony (Puffin), later the famous film director. I had read Margot's memoirs in America. She was very pleased that I knew them. Her voice was soft. She had great natural dignity. Puffin had it, too. It was only in Elizabeth that I felt pursuit by the Furies. Elizabeth's kindness was immeasurable; one wished that she could share in it.

Siegfried gave my social life a steep turn to the left by taking me to Harold Laski's. Professor Laski lived in a modest little house in Fulham. It was a gloomy day, but the gloom was dissipated by Professor Laski's high humor. He was very fond of Siegfried and had given him lifts in his effort to find occupations that took more time than writing poetry. Professor Laski had been in correspondence with Oliver Wendell Holmes for many years. Mrs. Laski teased him about it. Smiling, she said to Siegfried and me, "You should see him when he gets a letter from Justice Holmes. He runs upstairs into his room with it and shuts the door. He's like an undergraduate who's just got a letter from his sweetheart."

Laski, to whom pupils came from all over the world (John F. Kennedy was one of them), started off by telling me about a countryman of mine. He had him to dinner, and after dinner they went into the parlor where we I were now sitting. "Professor Laski, how do you live?" the American had asked. "Well, you've had dinner, haven't you? Didn't you have enough?" Laski had replied. He explained to me, "But that's not what he meant. The son of a great millionaire, he simply couldn't take in the scale—the house, the absence of servants, the general penury." Laski was very funny about it.

He asked Siegfried how he was getting along at the Daily Herald, where he was literary editor. Laski took an incisive interest in everything. He later asked Siegfried to tell us about Hardy's funeral, in the Abbey. Siegfried said that what he found unforgettable was a meeting between Kipling and Bernard Shaw, who hated each other. Owing to an uncertainty about the seating arrangements, they found themselves facing each other. The person in charge ventured an introduction. Kipling’s face was purple. He looked at Shaw with aversion. Still, he was being introduced. "How do you do, sir?" Kipling managed to sputter out, as if he were greeting Lucifer. "How do you do, sir?" Shaw replied urbanely.

Laski was delighted. He went into a brilliant disquisition on Shaw and Kipling, the Boer War, India, Little England and Big England—the kind of spiral for which the Professor at the London School of Economics was famous.

Carl Brandt returned, and I moved to the Park Lane Hotel. The opening night was January 24th. Carl took me to the Garrick Club for dinner; then we went to the Playhouse. We stood at the railing at the back of the orchestra. Carl kept rattling the change in his pocket. This was an irritation; it seemed to be in unfair competition with the dialogue. But things went well, and there was enthusiastic applause at the end, especially for Noël. I had had a telegram from him earlier. It read, "Things transcendentally jake. All the best, Noël." They seemed sufficiently jake at curtain time. Carl and I went backstage to Noël’s dressing room and witnessed a minor, controlled spat between him and Tallulah Bankhead. The notices next morning were satisfactory.

My daybook said, "1:00 P.M., lunch Sovrani's—Sir Roderick and Lady Jones." When I read this, my heart sank. Why today—the very day after my opening? How Siegfried would disapprove. Why did I have to make a lunch appointment for today? It was characteristic of me, and, having passed sentence, I appeared at Sovrani's at one. In the foyer I saw Jones and Enid with a group of about fourteen people. It was a dreadful moment for me when I realized that Enid had taken seriously my satiric suggestion that she invite a roster of stars. I was presented to Arnold Bennett. It was a relief to meet him. I was fascinated by his seignorial manner of dress. I was reassured by his good humor, and by his stutter. Siegfried had given me an instance of its effectiveness. Bennett had been at a literary evening that included Aldous Huxley and Hilaire Belloc. They were discussing a female novelist whose success was stupendous. They left her not an inch of space to stand on. They comminuted her on the grounds of psychology, structure, bad taste, and pretentiousness. They all had their say, eloquently and in detail. When they were through, Bennett, who had not uttered a word, said, "I'll tell you the trouble with that woman. She c-c-c-can't write!"

Bennett now said, "I saw your play last night. The first act was all right, but then we both know it isn't hard to write a good first act. The second I thought fell off a bit, and I was q-q-q-quite p-p-p-pleased. But the third came back a bit and I was quite a-a-a-annoyed."

I prayed that I would be sitting next to him, and I was. I knew that he had been on a yachting trip with Otto Kahn in the Greek islands. I asked him how that was. He told me, stuttering, "Well, you know, the minute the party got on board, Mr. Kahn and three others went below and started a bridge game. I don't play, so I was left to my own devices, which I didn't mind much. The next morning, it was beautiful. I went on deck. We approached an island. I asked the captain what it was. He said Ithaca. My heart missed a beat. There was nobody to look at it. I made my way below. There they were, playing bridge. 'Gentlemen,' I said, 'we are approaching Ithaca!' Mr. Kahn looked up at me for a moment—only a moment—then back to his hand. 'I double,' he said."

During lunch, Bennett and I talked mainly about the theatre. Bennett had finished a play about Don Juan. He thought it the best play he had ever written; he couldn't understand the difficulty he had in placing it. He said he would like me to read it. "What people don't seem to understand is that my Don Juan isn't just a chippy-chaser," he went on. "He represents the search for the ideal woman, the perfect woman." For the rest of the lunch, we talked agreeably of this and that. About Siegfried—Bennett loved him. Bennett spoke of his wonderful talent, of his courage and gentleness. Yes, he would rate Siegfried high among his favorites. It was a lifesaver to me to have Bennett beside me. I arranged to read his play. He invited me to Cadogan Square, where he was living with Dorothy Cheston, whom he could not marry, because his first wife would not give him a divorce. Miss Cheston, he told me, was a very fine actress.

I have never been more taken with a man than I was with Arnold Bennett. There was great kindness there, enormous good will, enormous charm and common sense. There was also something very touching—a fatigue in his eyes, a sense that, successful though he was, he was still aware of not having the upper hand in life. I was to see a lot of Bennett during the rest of my stay. I soon went to Cadogan Square to lunch, and met Miss Cheston. She was strikingly handsome, but I got from her the sense, which I often get from actresses, that she felt herself the center of interest. She talked all the time; Bennett, whom I had come to see and hear, said very little. She talked mainly about a play in which she had appeared that fall (Bennett had financed it), about the difficulties of it, in rehearsal and in production, and how she had, by will, determination, and natural skill, brought it off. In summation, she said, "I got the notices." In a tired echo, I heard Bennett repeat, "Yes, she got the notices." To this day, when I think of Arnold Bennett, I hear that tired echo: "Yes, she got the notices."

One thing that impressed me on this visit to London was the difference between New York and London in what you might call the cultural and social position of the theatre. During the run of "The Second Man," it seemed to me that the actors' dressing rooms were, after each performance, lively and entertaining social centers, where you could meet the most brilliant figures in London society. The actors were casual and accustomed hosts. Of course, Noël was rapidly becoming something of a social star himself. He rose on one occasion to the defense of Sibyl Colefax, accused of being a lion-hunter. "I think it's quite marvellous that Sibyl fills her house with artists instead of stuffing it with dull dukes and duchesses," he said. Nevertheless, there were more of the latter stuffing Noël's dressing room than of the former. The actors themselves "belonged." Zena Dare, who played Lynn's part in the play, was the daughter-in-law of Viscount Esher. Harold Laski had told me about him. Esher, he said, was a man of very great ability, and had probably been closer than anyone else, as friend and adviser, to King Edward VII. Raymond Massey was the younger brother of Vincent Massey, who later became Governor General of Canada. Ursula Jeans was very pretty and charming, and didn't need relatives, though she probably had some. I invited Harold Laski to the play one night, and looked for him in the lobby in the intermission. He was talking to two tall and assured men in white tie; he presented me to one lord and the other. I didn't catch their names. They continued their conversation. Finally, Laski, probably feeling that I was being unduly left out, said to his friends, "Mr. Behrman wrote the play you are watching." One of them looked down at me from his great height and said, in the friendliest voice, "I don't believe it." I recovered from this blow sufficiently to go back to see Noël after the performance. In fact, I repeated the incident to Noël and his friends. Noël said, "Lord Whoever's skepticism is quite justified. I have a letter from a Miss Burroughs telling me that she knows perfectly well that I wrote the play mistakenly attributed to you. Quite ingenious." He picked up the letter and read from it. "'I think you did well not to put your name on it. After the reception of your last two plays, you didn't want to risk another under your own name.'" He put the letter back. "I quite agree with her, don't you? It was clever of me."

We all enjoyed this, and went on talking. A very pleasant, ruddy-faced, bald middle-aged man came in, accompanied by three ladies. There was a tremor of deference (at least, I thought so), but the newcomer put up a restraining hand (at least, I thought so). Noël poured drinks for the new guests. The genial stranger plunged into a story about his grandmother. While he was at Eton, he had written to his grandmother asking whether she could please send him five pounds for Christmas. He got a peppery letter telling him that he was developing rather expensive tastes. He wrote back and said, "Dear Granny, Please don't bother at all about the five pounds, because I've sold your letter to another boy for seven pounds." This seemed to go well with everybody, but I couldn't understand it. The gentleman went on illustrious names cropped up in his conversation. Everybody seemed to hang on his words. Finally, he left, and I, for one, was rather pleased.

I said to Noël, "Who is that man? He seems to be well connected."

At this, I thought Noël would have a paroxysm. "Oh, my God!" he cried. "Well connected! It's Prince Arthur of Connaught! Queen Victoria was his grandmother."

Thanks to my friend John Balderston, the London correspondent of the New York World, this gaffe of mine received international circulation.

I was going home in a few days, and Siegfried wanted me to meet his mother. The day before I sailed, we drove down to Weirleigh. We talked in the car about Arnold Bennett. Siegfried adored him; he said that to help a friend Bennett, busy as he was, would set aside anything he was doing. I told Siegfried I felt a deep malaise in Bennett. Siegfried had felt it, too. The yachts and the complicated frilled evening shirts, he felt, had perhaps been too much for him. "Isn't it sad that writers who in their youth break their backs to escape the bourgeoisie end up by imitating them?" he said. "At least, the wealthy ones." I thought of examples of this at home. We brooded over it.

Siegfried began to talk to me about his mother. She was a Thornycroft—a member of a family famous in English history for achievements in the arts and in government. Her brother Hamo Thornycroft was an eminent sculptor. Siegfried visited him often and was devoted to him. Next time I came, he would take me to see him. I asked Siegfried about his father. Siegfried had known him, but not for long. The marriage to his mother had broken up early. His father, who died soon after the breakup, had been a vague, exotic figure to him. His father's father, who came from Bombay, had been a great friend of Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. Siegfried was deeply conscious of his dual heritage: the Thornycrofts and the Sassoons.

Weirleigh was an enchanting sixteenth-century village. "You should see it in the summertime," Siegfried said. Mrs. Sassoon was sympathetic and gracious. She was very quiet, but one felt reserves of strength in her. She had always wished me to come, she said, ever since Siegfried wrote to her about me from New York. We sat before the fire in the large, beautifully furnished living room. I wondered how a room could manage to be at the same time cozy and soberly distinguished. I took it in at leisure. Here was tranquillity. I wondered what it must he like to be born in a house like this, in a village like this, and grow up in it. How could you fail to be a poet? I said this to Siegfried.

"It's in my own room that I did my poetry," he said. "ComeI want to show it to you."

I followed him down a narrow, curved passageway into his simply furnished bedroom. On the desk were neat piles of his poems, written out in his beautiful handwriting and dated. There were copies of all his published works, including the little red volume of his "War Poems"—a copy of which he had given me in New York—with, on the title page, a list of all the places where he had given readings. He talked of how he had come to write one of his war poems. "It was a night in April that a strange thing happened to me," he said. "I didn't want to go to bed. I was too restless, but there was nothing else to do. I had done no work that day—just idled it away—and that depressed me. Then the odd occurrence—I heard 'Everyone Sang.' I sat down at that desk and wrote it out—as if from dictation. It is the most widely anthologized of my poems."

I knew the poem—a jubilation for the end of the First World War. Siegfried, rapt, was reciting from memory:

"Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was fill'd with such delight
As prison'd birds must find in freedom
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on; on; and out of sight.

"Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted,
And beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away. . . O but every one
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done."

When he'd finished, he said, "Just like that. I wrote it down like that and never changed a word of it."

We were called into the dining room. Dinner was rather a trial. Siegfried had become very abstracted. I thought he was still hearing his poem—or was he listening to a new one? Mrs. Sassoon seemed to be interested in our New York days, and I told her something about them. While I was talking, Siegfried's face grew darker and darker. I felt a tension between him and his mother—the tension of great love with incomplete understanding.

I asked Mrs. Sassoon whether she knew Burton.

"Indeed I do," she said, "I dote on her. Such a refreshing personality, don't you think?"

Dinner ended, finally. At ten o'clock, we left. Mrs. Sassoon asked me please to come again when I returned to England. Actually, I felt—I don't know what gave me the feeling—that this particular visit was not successful.

In the car on the way back to London, Siegfried's dark mood intensified. "Mother liked you very much," he said. "She made me promise to bring you back."

"I don't feel it was a successful visit," I said. "It seems to have depressed you."

"It's all those New York stories."


"They remind me of something that you don't know—that I've never told you."


He didn't answer. He was driving. His eyes were intently on the road, though there was little traffic.

His answer, when finally it came, startled me. "Edna Millay," he said. "You remember my meeting with Edna Millay?"

"Of course," I said. "At her play."

"Yes, but, you know, I saw her several times after that."

"I know you enjoyed seeing her."

"I did. I liked her very much."

My mind raced. What could have happened?

There was an immense interval before Siegfried said anything more. We were approaching London. Siegfried went on, "A friend of mine told me. . . . Someone was praising my war poems—perhaps excessively. Miss Millay said, 'Yes, yes, I agree. But I wonder whether he would have cared so much if it were a thousand virgins who had been slaughtered.'"

"I don't believe she said it."

"She did." There was a pause. His cheek muscles were twitching. He was suffering. "What's the use?" he said. "What can one do?"

Did he mean against the concentrated malice and venom of the world? Of even a fellow-poet—a nice creature like Edna Millay?

"It couldn't have meant much to you, or you'd have told me," I got out at last.

"It meant so much to me that I didn't tell you. It all came back while you were telling those stories at dinner."

We drew up before the Park Lane.

"I'll call you in the morning," he said. "Good night."

"Good night, Siegfried," I said.

He shook my hand. My heart ached for him.

I went upstairs to my room. I sat on the bed thinking of him. Everyone sang, I thought, except the poet.

A year or so later, after various delays, "Serena" finally went into rehearsal, and then we all embarked for Philadelphia, where we were to open at the Broad Street Theatre. I don't think that ever again, for me, was the offstage scenario to be so intense, so complicated, and so unsolvable as it was in this production. It was a boundless vortex of misunderstandings, which engendered lifelong enmities. The end result was a succès d'estime—a category that fits George Kaufman's famous definition of satire: something that closes on Saturday night. Though it was written about beautifully by Brooks Atkinson in the Times, "Serena" was not a success. The preliminaries, before we left for Philadelphia, were pleasant. Jed had engaged David Burton to direct, and the cast was superlative. I enjoyed very much talking with Constance Collier. She was looked up to by most actresses as the high priestess of stage deportment and speech. She knew everybody in London and Hollywood. Had I then been aware that she had once been engaged to marry Max Beerbohm, I should certainly have pursued her more assiduously. But I found that out only much later. When, eventually, I came to write about Max, I asked Constance what had happened to their engagement. She said, "Oh, well, the manager sent me on tour with a very handsome leading man, and you know how things are in Manchester."

It was then the custom of the Times to print one out-of-town review of an incoming show. For Philadelphia, the Times used the Inquirer, and George Kaufman, who was then drama editor of the Times, had no choice but to print the Inquirer's review of "Serena." It was unfavorable; the other reviews were good. That George should print the one unfavorable review made Jed furious, and, in a frenzy of anger, he wrote George a shaming letter attacking his domestic life. George, understandably, never forgave Jed for this. Many years later, embroiled with a pair of musical-comedy producers who were famous and successful, he described them to me as "Jed Harris rolled into one."

The antagonist who handled Jed better than anybody else was the English actor A. E. Matthews. He was well established in London as a high comedian; he had been playing assured English gentlemen for so many years that he had come to believe himself to be one—indeed, he behaved like one. For "Serena," he had been engaged to play an imperturbable English butler. Uncomfortable in the part, he wanted to give it up. Jed decided to take him in hand, and began to coach him. "Just what Shakespeare did for Burbage," he told Matty. Matty never contradicted Jed; he simply ignored him. I had the feeling that somewhere in the back of his mind Matty wondered why he, who had been so many top-drawer Englishmen, should pay much attention to Jed, manifestly non-U. One day, Jed, his temper already exacerbated by George Kaufman, let go at Matty. In front of the whole company, gathered on the stage, Jed began to denounce him. Matty looked at Jed in wonderment for a moment, trying to figure out whom he was denouncing and what he was so excited about. Then he took up his walking stick and began an elaborate game of golf to pass the time. Matty took so much care with his shots that we began to share his anxiety about the outcome of the game. Jed lost his audience. The stage of the Broad Street Theatre was a very large one. Matty played himself off it into the wings. We watched till his final putt, which was impeccable. When he came back on-stage, modestly satisfied, he got a spontaneous hand from the rest of us. Jed remembered then that he had engaged David Burton to direct the play. He motioned Burton back on the stage and left the theatre.

By the time we got to New York, the mythology of grievance had proliferated in the company. Constance Collier said that Jed had called her at her apartment just as she was leaving for the first performance at the Morosco Theatre to tell her that she was playing the part all wrong and that she had no equipment for it in the first place. Whether Jed had or hadn't, he had created an atmosphere in which Constance felt he might have said anything. L'affaire Collier took precedence over any such trivial matter as whether the play had got over—which, actually, it never did. It was as if a rivalry had developed in the company (which was large) to see who had suffered the most scarifying wound. I feel that Constance's first-night story gave her the happy conviction that she was well ahead. I have often thought that the rivalry kept Jed alive, too. He was, obviously, intensely theatrical.

One agreeable memory of this play lingers. We were lucky enough to get the ideal actor to play the part of Lord Ivor Cream. This was Henry Daniell. He had the most extraordinary good looks and a naturally melancholy temperament, which perfectly suited him to play this disillusioned character. Several times during the New York run, I dropped in at the Morosco to catch the seduction scene between Ruth Gordon and Henry Daniell. On one of these occasions, I ran into Noël Coward, who said that it was the most beautifully staged and acted scene he had ever seen.

At the time I wrote "Serena Blandish," I was far too inexperienced to see the enormous, insurmountable difficulties that the play presented. The Guild, far shrewder, did see them, and rejected it. Jed Harris, in the full tide of success, could not imagine that anything he did would fail; this is a form of lack of imagination that must he acquired early by anyone who consigns his life to the theatre. Jed was attracted by the strangeness of the play and by the fact that the role of Serena seemed to him to offer an opportunity for Ruth Gordon. I was beguiled by the vivacity and humor with which the novel was written. Many years later, my agent, Harold Freedman, told me that he was sitting beside Gilbert Miller at the opening performance of my play "Biography" in Princeton. At one point, Miller whispered to him, "I fed the cloven hoof of literature here." The cloven hoof was all over "Serena." Maybe that is why it failed. When I went backstage to see Constance Collier after the Philadelphia opening, the room was full of her friends and thick with an atmosphere of euphoria. Constance embraced inc. "You realize, don't you, that you have a world success!" I didn't know about the world; what worried me was New York. I felt that at no point had the play seized the audience. I went home and to bed, depressed.

From the moment "The Second Man" was produced, I began getting urgent invitations to come to Hollywood. The Industry, as it was called, was going through a revolutionary change—from silence to sound. Soon there would be great billboards all over Hollywood blazoning an eccentricity of Greta Garbo's: "GARBO TALKS." The revolution had a frightening effect on the bosses, including Winfield Sheehan, the production head of Fox. Sheehan had first tried to entice me out West by offering me the popular novel "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" to work on. I turned the offer down. Sheehan thought this improvident of me, because the plan at the time was for Rebecca to be played by his big star Janet Gaynor. Now he was after me to transfer to the screen Ferenc Molnár's "Liliom," a play of considerable quality, which had been a great success at the Theatre Guild. It later served Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein as the inspiration for their great musical success "Carousel." Moreover, Winnie had told Harold Freedman that he wished me to sign a six-month contract then and there, at a salary of twelve hundred and fifty dollars a week, or he would get someone else. I was in a strangulatory dilemma. I had, up to then, tried to follow Bernard Shaw's advice to young playwrights: "Build up your repertory." That meant, "Go on writing plays, and don't be diverted by brummagem side offers. If you write one good play, it will help support you in your old age." A few years ago, forty years after the play was first produced, I got a check for eight hundred dollars for a tour of "The Second Man" in Finland. I now realize the soundness of Shaw's advice, but to adhere to it required two qualities, in both of which I was deficient—courage and self-belief. At that time, all I knew was that I had written several plays, of which only "The Second Man" had been successful. In a time of drought, it is scarcely possible to imagine a time of efflorescence.

I consulted a friend of mine, the playwright Arthur Richman, who had had much experience of Hollywood. He told me that a six-month offer was merely an introductory offer, and that I could never get through in six months—that I might consider that I was through but no one would agree with me. He told me to put a heavy price on overtime. I spoke to Freedman about it, and he added to the contract a provision that I was to get two thousand dollars a week for time required beyond the six months. Richman said, "They'll be happier with you at two thousand than at twelve-fifty. They don't really believe that a writer they can get for twelve-fifty can be much good."

The night before my crucial lunch appointment with Sheehan, I couldn't sleep; I was racked by indecision. Should I make this change? There was the money. I hadn't made much money out of "The Second Man;" the Lunts had stayed in it only seven weeks. The receipts for the rest of that summer were greatly reduced; the house was usually full of cut-rate tickets. The few hours of an opening night could demolish years of work. It was quite possible—in fact, it was quite likely—that I would never write another successful play. Here was Winnie Sheehan offering me a trip to the Coast. I loved trains. I loved travel. Frederick Jackson Turner's book "The Frontier in American History" had argued that the frontier was focal in American history. I would cross all the frontiers. I would cross the Mississippi. I was torn between the desire to see the Mississippi and the urge to go back to Woodstock, Vermont, sit myself down at the bridge table in Room 202, and get involved again in the tense, warm claustrophobia of a new play . The next day, I went to lunch with Sheehan, in his suite at the St. Regis.

Sheehan was shortish and fair, with glassy, somewhat protuberant blue eyes; the head of a great company, he was benign and assured. We talked about "Liliom." He said that at the moment of buying it he had thought of me to do the screenplay. When I spoke of the difficulty of transplanting Liliom to the celestial regions, he laughed it off. "We'll give you whatever you want" he said, brushing the Beyond aside as a difficulty, welcoming it as a glorious opportunity to display the resources of the Fox Film Corporation. In those days, the film magnates all talked that way. They controlled the earth and all the firmament. While listening to him expound on how he would provide and appoint the Beyond, I was reminded of a story I had heard about him—about how he had handled an obstacle during his previous marriage, showing the resolution he could summon in a crisis. He and his wife lived in an apartment in the Savoy-Plaza, furnished by them. He had asked his wife for a separation agreement, which she was reluctant to grant. He sent her off on a Saturday afternoon to see a movie. He set to work with a team of movers, to whom he was giving double pay, to unfurnish his furnished apartment. When Mrs. Sheehan returned from the movie, there wasn't a stick of anything left in the apartment. She couldn't help admiring the speed and thoroughness of the job. The separation agreement followed quickly, and then the divorce, whereupon Winnie married Maria Jeritza, the famous diva.

Winnie offered me enticements. Frank Borzage would direct. He had directed the great Fox success "Seventh Heaven." Moreover, Winnie would give me the stars of that very film, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. He made it all sound like a cornucopia that he had gone to great pains to stock specially for me. Then he shook from the cornucopia still another tidbit: Sonya Levien, a skilled scenarist, whom all writers loved. He would put Miss Levien to work with me on "Liliom." Winnie gave the cornucopia an additional shake: "I've ordered our transportation man to reserve a compartment for you on Monday on the Century and the Chief." I knew that the luxury of the transportation was just a further bait. Indeed, status was implied by the offered transportation—whether you got a drawing room, a compartment, or just a berth. He had another piece of information, which he regretted to have to impart to me. He had hoped to produce "Liliom" himself, he was so crazy about it—had hoped to make it his personal production—but circumstances over which he had no control rendered that impossible. He had to remain in New York for conferences with hankers. But I was to rest assured: the picture would be taken over—as, indeed, all production at Fox would be—by his assistant, Mr. Sol Wurtzel, in whom he reposed the greatest confidence. Very able, very sophisticated. I was sure that a man who had won Winnie's confidence to that extent must be an ideal producer to work for.

In the flurry of the next few days, before I started crossing frontiers, I thought, with a sinking of the heart, about my friend Hilda Gaige. I had neglected her; the busy have little time for the unhappy. She had finally divorced Crosby Gaige and—to the consternation of her friends—married a man whom she had known for only a short time. This marriage seemed not to be going well, either. I called and told her I was going to Hollywood for at least six months, and asked her to dinner. She said "Fine," and added that she had been wondering when she was going to hear from me. I asked whether things were any better with her. "They're worse," she replied. At dinner, she told me that the marriage was a complete disaster. There was nothing to do about it—she had made a sorry mistake, that was all. She was faced with an economic problem. She was penniless. Had she seen Gaige? She had spoken to him but hadn't seen him. He couldn't help her, in any case. He was hard up himself. In fact, he was working as a consultant to the chief steward at the Waldorf-Astoria, putting his knowledge of food and wines to good use. She was, at the moment, trying to put her own taste in furniture to good use. She had gone into partnership with an old friend, Ruth Saylor, to start a decorating business. Mrs. Saylor was trying to raise capital. She had many well-placed friends, but so far things were going slowly. Hilda looked at me with her great blue-green eyes.

"Hilda," I said, "do you remember what you always used to say to me—how I was living in a rat hole but you prophesied that I would do well and that you would find me a pleasant place to live and would furnish it for me?"

"I suppose so," she said vaguely.

"Here is your chance," I said.

She stared at me. Was I joking? In earlier days, she would have known, but Hilda was not herself tonight. Her gaiety had vanished. Life had become too painful a chore.

"Look, darling," I said. "When I get back from Hollywood, I want a place of my own, where I can live and work. I want you to find it for me—furnish it so that I can just walk into it when I get back."

She said nothing for a moment. "Can I tell Ruth?"

"Of course. I’ll make you a down payment."

"Our first commission?"

"Exactly. And I'm sure there will be many more. Run along and call Ruth."

Reassured, she asked the waiter where the telephone was. She gave me a last look and ran off to the phone. I couldn't stand the anxiety in her eyes.

She was back in a minute, smiling for the first time that evening. "Oh, darling, Ruth was so pleased. She says now we're in business!"

That evening is an illuminated panel in memory. Some of the objects in the room in which I am writing this—chair, desk, sofa—were bought for me by Hilda, for the lovely apartment she found for me, long since given up.

In my compartment on the Century, I watched the Hudson for a while, thinking of Hilda. I decided to write her a letter. I rang for the train stenographer—an appurtenance of the Century, like the red carpet in the station. A young woman came in, and I began to dictate. "Dearest Hilda," I said, "I sit here thinking of you . . ." I finished the letter.

The stenographer got up to go. I asked her to wait a minute. While I had been dictating the letter to Hilda, my mind had been divided. I had begun to think of another woman, older than Hilda, who had been in and out of my mind as a possible subject for a play. She was a successful portrait painter who had got some of the most famous people in Europe to sit for her—statesmen, composers, archbishops. I now began dictating some notes, then a rough outline of the first act. Dialogue for it began to emerge in freshets. The stenographer, irritated by so much talk, became restive. I let her go. The letter to Hilda, she assured me, would be mailed from Albany; the play notes would he left in my compartment that evening. I sat thinking, not about Hilda but about the portrait painter. She was easy to think about. I took my notebook out of my briefcase and went on making notes. This play was to be called "Biography." I had already mentioned the idea to Guthrie McClintic; he was interested. He thought Laurette Taylor would be fine for it. I hoped for Ina Claire, but would be happy with Laurette Taylor. I went in to dinner feeling elated, because after the long drought it seemed that here was something I could work on, Maybe in the shadow of the brummagem and the marginal I could continue to build up my repertory.

On the Chief, out of Chicago, to absolve myself of contractual guilt for having worked on "Biography," I read "Liliom" again. I began to be bothered by the last part of it, after Liliom commits suicide. I knew that Winnie Sheehan had promised to give me the celestial regions, but that last part still bothered me, because I have no natural taste or liking for fantasy. I worried about "Liliom" till we crossed the Mississippi. Given Molnár's play, I saw no way to avoid the Beyond. I also saw no way to stop thinking about "Biography," in spite of what the contract said about exclusive concentration. Perhaps Sonya Levien, with all her experience, would know what to do. I began to be grateful to her before meeting her. I would concentrate on "Liliom" but think about "Biography."

My first day at the studio was so crowded that I could neither think nor concentrate. I met everybody in the cornucopia and some who were not. Sonya Levien came into my just opened office to welcome me. She was very attractive, with lustrous black hair and big blue eyes. Sinclair Lewis, in earlier days, had supposedly wished to marry her. You could see why. She was warm, overflowing with vitality, an instant darling. She spoke an engaging pidgin English; she was constantly saying "That's exactly"—you never knew quite about what. I told her my "Liliom" worry. She brushed it aside. She was terribly excited at the idea of working on "Liliom" with me. She was especially elated that Frank Borzage was to direct it. She loved Frank Borzage, and so would I. Would I come with her, for just a few minutes, to the set of a film she had been working on? It was just being concluded, and starred the Irish tenor John McCormack. After that, we would look in on Greta Garbo in "Anna Christie"—also in its last days—and then we could drop by to say hello to Will Rogers, who was just starting a new film. I begged off. Too many high spots for one morning. "That's exactly," said Sonya.

Saying she would be back shortly, she went off to the McCormack set. The telephone rang. It was Myles Connolly, a producer at the R.K.O. studio. They had bought the film rights to "The Second Man" and were now shooting it. Connolly would like me to come over and have a look. I said that I'd love to but that I had just arrived and felt I should meet Mr. Wurtzel first. He understood perfectly. I asked how things were going. "Come and see for yourself," he said. I said I'd call him the next day.

I hung up. The phone rang again. A secretary's voice said, "Mr. Wurtzel for you."

A torrential voice shouted in my ear, "I want you to lunch with me today, with Will Rogers and your director, Frank Borzage!"

"Fine," I said. "I'd love to."

"Executive dining room at one o'clock!" Wurtzel said.

I said I'd be there. The call was over.

I was quite astonished by my boss's voice. I had seen photographs of him. He looked young, grave, and scholarly. His voice sounded not only loud but gravelly and splattered.

At lunch, Will Rogers' voice was also gravelly, but much lower in key than our host's. I had been told that Rogers, when he wanted to, could speak perfectly normal and correct—not lariat-throwing—English. Still, the dialect was amusing. Rogers was talking about a visit he'd made in London to Lady Astor. "She set there," he said, "gnawin' on a cocktail. She'd pressed one on me, but I wanted to be ahead of her and turned her down." I thought that Rogers was a shrewd man—that he specialized in keeping ahead of people and had made a very good thing of it. We became friends. He always referred to me—I never knew why—as Sad Sam.

Frank Borzage was a big, powerful, silent, gentle man. Sol Wurtzel was all over the place. I looked for sophistication in him; Sheehan had promised it to me. I did not find it; instead, I found something preferable—an engaging candor. "I read your play in New York," he said to me of "The Second Man." "Nothing but a lot of goddam phonies in a penthouse."

That afternoon, Sonya invited me to her house for tea. She wanted me to meet her husband, Carl Hovey, and their children, Serge and Tamara. Sonya's house was on Rexford Drive, in Beverly Hills—a commodious, unostentatious house, such as might belong to a well-to-do legislator in Concord, New Hampshire. There was lawn in front of it, garden and trees in the back. In the ample, comfortably furnished living room, I met Carl Hovey. Sonya turned us over to her maid, Bertha, and went upstairs to rest a bit after her strenuous day. Carl Hovey was a tall, good-looking man with keen blue eyes, and was very outgoing if encouraged. He had had a career in New York and had started to have one here. He was a vastly well-read man from a very old New England family. There is a statue of an ancestor of his in Boston. He had been the managing editor of the Metropolitan magazine in New York. Shortly after that folded, in 1924, he was asked to be the story editor of a big Hollywood company—a role for which he was eminently suited. It did not work out, somehow. He lost his job, and had nothing to do. Sonya, who had a law degree from N.Y.U. and had practiced briefly as a lawyer in New York before coming to Hollywood to join Carl, became a screenwriter, and succeeded brilliantly. The sombre aspect of Carl, the emanation of defeat, must have been due to the ambiguous position in which he found himself then. I was curious about the Metropolitan magazine, which had enjoyed a vaunted reputation for some years. Carl said that he had engaged the best writers available: H. G. Wells, Scott Fitzgerald, John Reed. (Theodore Roosevelt, after he retired from the Presidency, became a contributing editor of the magazine.) Sonya came down. I told her that Carl's stories about the magazine were fascinating. "That's exactly," said Sonya. Her husband looked at me, smiling. "That's exactly," he repeated. (Carl made a habit of teasing Sonya about her English. Sonya, who had been born in Russia, was sensitive about it. Both Carl and I used to pick up some of her quaint expressions and mimic her. I think there were times when we overdid it.) Sonya invited me to stay to dinner. After dinner, we went into the living room and played records—Mozart and Ravel. It was a mellow evening. It began a pattern for the ensuing Hollywood years. Rexford Drive became a second home to me. The children, Serge and Tamara, were both delightful. The Hoveys became family. They took in my friends—especially Oscar Levant.

Sonya and I settled down to work on the "Liliom" script. We worked either in her house or in my office at the studio. At first, we had worked in her office, but that proved impossible. Sonya was immensely popular; her social involvements were incessant; every writer she had ever worked with came to her for help. At dinner in her house, or wherever, I began to feel sorry for Carl. He took a deep interest in what we were doing, and we aired our difficulties before him, but ultimately he remained an outsider. He was so knowledgeable and so resourceful that I asked Sonya one day how it was that no other studio had grabbed him to he its story editor.

"He missed his chance," she said dolefully. "You know, he came here before I did. Story editor for Cecil B. De Mille."

"What happened?"

"I don't really know. Somehow, he' couldn't get along with the people. Too reserved, I think. I think they got the feeling he was upstaging them."

"But Carl isn't like that at all," I said.

"I know it. I don't understand it."

"Can't you get Sol to take him on?"

"Sol likes Carl very much, but he said to me one day, 'He's too educated.' I think that's the trouble."

"What does he do all day?" I asked. "How does he kill time?"

"He reads."

"It's lucky that he's a reader," I said.

"I'm not sure," she said. "He reads too much. It's an opiate." That shocked me a bit. Sonya went on, "There's such a thing as too much reading."

We left it there. I could see that to some extent Sonya agreed with the executives. Carl was overeducated. As time passed, I often heard writers say that they'd much rather work for hardheaded run-of-the-mill executives than for those who, like Walter Wanger, had been to college.

When John McCormack finally left for Ireland, Sonya, greatly relieved, was able to devote her vast energies to the "Liliom" script. We met daily to work on it. The more deeply I got involved in it, the more bothered I became about Liliom's death and transfiguration. I kept pestering Sonya about this, but she wanted to postpone all worries till we got to the embankment scene. The embankment scene is the last scene in which Liliom remains alive. Up to the embankment scene, "Liliom" is a beautiful play. It has in it all of Molnár's best qualities: his imagination; his humor; above all, his compassion for poor and ignorant people. I felt when I got into the embankment scene, in which Liliom commits suicide, that I was in exactly the position Molnár must have found himself' in when he got to it: What to do next? How to finish it? The rest of the play—the scenes with the kindly celestial police magistrate—is fantasy. It is fantasy that I, a confirmed agnostic, could not swallow. It seemed to me that in these and the return-to-earth scenes Molnár's imagination slipped into a facile groove. After ten years in Purgatory, Liliom is sent back to earth to do a good deed for his daughter. It is obvious that Molnár had fallen in love with an idea—he makes it obvious in a scene between Liliom and Louise, his daughter. The idea is that if you are beaten by someone you love, you literally don't feel it. He contrives for this to happen between Liliom and his daughter. Liliom is provoked by her and hits her. The child is amazed that she doesn't feel it. Her mother repeats the anesthetic truism she expressed earlier when Liliom beat her. I couldn't help thinking, It is an encouragement of flagellation. I expressed these doubts and fears to Sonya; she postponed consideration of them till we got to the embankment scene. That was still several months away.

The months went by. We passed the embankment scene and found ourselves inevitably squirming in the Beyond. I had achieved with Sol a kind of badgering intimacy. We seemed to be in a contest in which he tried to discredit me on points of knowledge, as if I were a savant travelling under false pretenses. He made me go with him to outlying towns—Riverside and Fresno—to previews of Fox pictures. You couldn't really have a conversation with Sol. Remarks erupted from him without preamble or contextual balance; they were islands in a stertorous silence. Once, driving to Riverside, passing a huge clock advertisement—set, as they all were, at three o'clock—he suddenly barked at me, "Do you know why all these clocks are set for three o'clock?"

I said I had no idea. I could tell that this confession of ignorance pleased him.

"There's a hell of a lot of things you don't know—I suppose you know that"

"Yes, I do," I said. "Why are they set for three o'clock?"

"It's the hour Lincoln died," he said, and that closed that field of inquiry.

I had been to Sol's house several times for dinner with Sonya and Carl. He lived in a small Renaissance palace in Bel Air. Sol's wife, Marian, I greatly liked—very good-looking, warm, and humorous. She painted. She had commissioned a young artist protégé of hers to do a series of murals, in the living room and dining room, of her family in medieval costume. She herself was made to look like Isabella d'Este; Sol, deprived of his glasses and cigar, was powerfully recognizable in parti-colored doublet and hose.

I made other friends during this period—Samuel Hoffenstein, the poet, and Ernst Lubitsch. These I cherished. They were never in a quest to expose me; they were just delightful friends. I have never had better times with anyone than I had with them. The friendship with these two lasted as long as they did.

Finally, after about six months, the great day arrived. We sent the finished script to Sol. A few days later, in my hotel room, I found a three-year contract, which at the start gave me a raise to two thousand dollars a week. From there the salary kept ascending. I sat at the desk and made a rough estimate of what it would come to if I signed it and fulfilled its terms. I stared at the result. It came to about half a million dollars.

The next day, I went to Sol's office and turned it down.

Sol made no fuss. "We'll talk about it in New York," he said. "I have to go there. I think I'll go with you."

We went together on the Chief. Sonya and Carl saw us off. She was elated. She thought it was a great compliment to me that Sol had chosen me as a travelling companion.

On arriving, I went to Woodstock, Vermont, where I finished the first draft of "Biography." By doing this, I avoided the blandishments of Winfield Sheehan and Sol. I was in constant correspondence with Sonya, who kept me informed about all the current gossip in the studio. She was working on a screen treatment of the immensely popular play "Lightnin'," for Will Rogers. She wrote me that Rogers came upon a story outline I had drafted with a long word in it. The minute he spotted that, he said, "That's a Behrman. Wrap it up and send it to the Theatre Guild. Also my best to Sad Sam."

Some time after my first immersion, with "Liliom," I signed other shortterm contracts with Fox and began to be sent out on loan to other companies—chiefly to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer—for quick jobs. The first of these was to rewrite the script of "Queen Christina," for Greta Garbo. It was to be directed by Rouben Mamoulian, who was unhappy with the script he had, and wanted it completely rewritten. He had already begun the filming. The set, the Queen's palace in Stockholm, was up; the snow had been piled around it. I was to keep a day ahead of the shooting. There had been a great to-do about the casting of the leading man. Laurence Olivier, who would have been ideal for it, was tapped and rejected. He still does a hilarious imitation of the executive who peered at him, put his finger to Olivier's face, and said, "What am I going to do about this actor's uuuuug-ly face?" It was decided, finally, to take a chance on John Gilbert. Miss Garbo had had a romantic attachment to him when she first came to Hollywood. This, from the executives' point of view, was all to the good. Gilbert was signed up. While the film was rolling, Gilbert would disappear for a day or two—he drank. This stopped everything. The delays were tremendously costly.

In those days, Miss Garbo and Salka Viertel, her friend and adviser, used to drop in for a cup of tea in a house I had rented in Beverly Hills. One day when Garbo couldn't work, because the leading man had not shown up, my guests were in a state. I complained to Garbo, "How could you have ever got mixed up with a fellow like that?" It was a rhetorical question; I expected no answer. But I got one. Garbo meditated; it was a considered reply, as if she were making an effort to explain it to herself. Very slowly, in her cello voice, she said, "I was lonely—and I couldn't speak English."

The "Christina" film was a success all over the world. Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, in her book of memoirs "Twenty Letters to a Friend," recalls seeing the film in Russia and being "tremendously impressed." No one could have been less like the actual Queen Christina than Garbo. But she was thrilling as a symbol: a queen, and beautiful, who spoke up for peace. She was a modest queen; the aristocratic quality that Garbo brought to all her performances was lambent in this one. You wouldn't know from this film that the French philosopher Descartes, who had come to Stockholm to educate Christina, died in her court of the cold and the awful hours.

I became, in some sort, a Garbo specialist (as I later had the reputation of being, in some sort, a Lunt specialist, having written five plays for Alfred and Lynn). I came out to Hollywood again to work for David Selznick on the script of "Anna Karenina." worked again with Salka Viertel, who collaborated on all of Garbo's films. Getting this film ready to preview took an unconscionable time—far beyond my contract time. But finally the happy day arrived. I drove out with Mr. and Mrs. Selznick, Mrs. Viertel, and Miss Garbo to Riverside for the preview. The delicacy and distinction of Garbo's performance affected me, as they did the audience; I felt, as I always did watching her, that she was the most patrician artist in the world. Mr. and Mrs. Selznick were pleased. But on the way home, in the car, Miss Garbo sat silent. She spoke once, in reply to a query from Selznick as to how she felt. "Oh," she said, "if once, if only once, I could see a preview and come home feeling satisfied!" None of us could get anything more from her than that.

The next day, the retakes began. I had long outstayed my time. I was dying to get back to New York; Hilda had been slowly, painstakingly furnishing a charming apartment for me at 815 Park Avenue, and I had just received a telegram saying that it was ready and that she had found a French couple to look after me. A day was finally set when Mr. Selznick said I could go. I was to leave on a Sunday, and Sonya gave a farewell party for me at her house the night before. Many people came, including George Kaufman, who was by then a screenwriter. In the morning, Mr. Selznick called me early. He said he had been talking to Miss Garbo; she was unhappy about several points in the film and insisted that I remain to fix them. He was sorry, but he could not let me go for at least another week. It was like being told after weeks in a hospital that you could leave on a certain day, and then, at the last minute, having the promise revoked. I met Selznick at the studio at nine on Monday morning. We were walking to the commissary for a cup of coffee. George Kaufman was walking in the opposite direction. He had said farewell to me on Saturday night. His face showed no surprise. "Oh?" he said. "Forgotten but not gone."

Some years later, I repeated this story to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Eras went by. I was in Detroit for the road tour of a play of mine when I got a call from him inviting me to a small dinner party at the White House which the John F. Kennedy's were giving for Isaiah Berlin. After dinner, Schlesinger asked me to tell the Kaufman story. The President was greatly amused. Later, when he bade me good night, he said, "Thank you very much for that line of yours."

"It's not mine—it's George Kaufman's," I told him.

He said, "Whoever said it, it will come in very handy to me in the corridors of the White House."

Presently, I came back to Hollywood on another Garbo project—the film that became "Ninotchka." On this picture, I worked with Gottfried Reinhardt. The basis for the film was a first-rate satiric idea, but Gottfried and I made slow headway with it. The producer had a felicitous inspiration; he took the story away from Gottfried and me and gave it to Ernst Lubitsch, who began to work on it with his celebrated writing team of Charlie Brackett and Billy Wilder. I had a talk about it with Ernst; he said he would switch the whole thing through a device that he knew would seem to me a cliché—jewels. "The nice thing about jewels," he said with a happy grin, "is that they are photogenic."

I returned to New York. When I saw "Ninotchka" announced, I went, the first day, to see it. I was astonished and delighted; I saw Miss Garbo doing what she had never done before—giving a first-rate high-comedy performance. I wired Ernst to tell him my pleasure in it, and, when 1 came to Hollywood again, telephoned him on arrival, then went at once to see him. I told him that he had opened a new vista for Garbo. She could play comedy; she must. He said he had several ideas for her along this line but the difficulty was that he couldn't get her on the telephone. I spoke to Salka Viertel about this. She told me that Garbo had really not been happy on the set with Ernst. There was no Stimmung there, Garbo said. It was never patched up.

The late thirties and early forties were a halcyon period in Hollywood. There were few places in America where you could go out to dinner with Harpo and Groucho Marx, the Franz Werfels, Leopold Stokowski, Aldous Huxley, Somerset Maugham, and George and Ira Gershwin. In Harpo Marx's living room you encountered high art: four full-length oil paintings by four great masters of the Renaissance, museum-lit, magnificently framed, with gold plates accommodatingly supplying the names of the painters—Tintoretto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. The painters outdid themselves in rivalry; they were ahead of their times. Each concentrated on one of the Marx brothers, all four of whom were painted in magnificent Renaissance costumes as doges of Venice. Groucho was a rather sinister doge; you didn't feel you would go to him to help you out of a jam. Harpo, on the other hand, had the quality of wild serenity that he had in life—the quality that endeared him to so many friends and to the public. A guest once complimented Harpo on these paintings, saying they were wonderful. Harpo said, "They'd better be. They cost me five thousand dollars."

The last time I saw the sinister doge, Groucho, he told me a Goldwyn story. Harpo, after his retirement from films, moved to Palm Springs, with his wife and children. He seldom came to Hollywood. Every time Groucho encountered Sam Goldwyn at a party, Goldwyn singled him out and impaled him with a stock question: "Tell me, how is Harpo?" Groucho imitated perfectly Goldwyn's high-pitched, somewhat strangulated voice. These confrontations went on for fifteen years. Groucho knew that Harpo had always been Goldwyn's favorite. The last time Goldwyn subjected him to the standard query, Groucho rebelled. "Look here, Sam, every time you meet me you ask me how Harpo is," Groucho said. "This has been going on for fifteen years. For God's sake, why don't you, for once, ask me how I am?"

"Someday I will," said Goldwyn patiently. "But just now, tell me, how is Harpo?"

I once shared a house with Harpo in Beverly Hills. He always took guests up to show them his library. His library consisted of two books, affectionately inscribed to him by their authors: "Saint Joan," by Bernard Shaw, and "Of Human Bondage," by W. S. Maugham. Every once in a while, Harpo would dreamily express his intention of someday, when things were quieter, reading his library.

An élite corps existed in Hollywood that outsiders were unlikely to know about. This was a select professional group known as "the trainers." They upheld "the cult of the body"—a necessary religion for the stars, of course, but the executives, producers, and Name Writers were acolytes, too, and as impassioned as the stars. There were gymnasiums and sauna baths in all the studios, yet the chosen had them in their homes. Lubitsch had a gymnasium in his house and a personal trainer who came at eight o'clock each morning to exercise him. I had a trainer. His name was Bolt. The writer Sidney Howard had Bolt, too. Sidney was very funny about him. "Well," he would say when we met for dinner, "what flatteries did Bolt hang around your neck today?" On arrival, you signed up one of these trainers for the length of your stay, to come so many times a week. Once you had signed him up, you felt you had done enough for hygiene. You were then faced with the excruciating problem of avoiding him. How many unwanted engagements we made in order not to be home when the trainers arrived, with their hideous gear—a folded massage table and a black bag full of rubbing unguents. They would put you through painful gymnastic exercises in grotesque positions and would make you run around the garden. It was horrible. But they were also purveyors of intimate studio gossip, since they tended the executives when the executives were, presumably, off guard. They knew the dissolving rating of each writer. Sidney Howard said that our Bolt was a liar and a sycophant. He enjoyed drawing him out to test his perfidy. Bolt always gave him a good report on my studio standing, because he knew that Sidney and I were close friends, and once I was able to tell Sidney that Bolt had told me Sam Goldwyn was so pleased with Mr. Howard that he had ordered a Cord roadster to give him as a present. The following week, the Cord was delivered at Sidney's door. Bolt rose in our estimation. "If only the s.o.b. didn't exercise us?" groaned Sidney.

A memorable—an unprecedented—event took place one day in 1936, which thrilled and excited us: Ernst Lubitsch was made the production head of Paramount. Nothing like that had ever happened before. We all felt exalted by proxy, because Lubitsch was one of us: he had great camaraderie with writers and was one himself, as those who worked with him knew; he was unselfish, and glad to let whatever writer he was collaborating with write up his ideas. I was so excited that day, and so busy calling up Lubitsch to congratulate him and others to celebrate the news, that I forgot that it was my day with Bolt. There he was, with his massage table, which he instantly began to set up. Bolt was stirred up, too; Lubitsch's trainer, Kip, was his closest friend. "Kip must be happy," I said.

"Very happy," said Bolt. "Kip loves Mr. Lubitsch."

Months passed. I had gone back to New York and then returned to Hollywood to do some rewrites. When I had been there a few weeks, my phone rang, early in the morning. It was Lubitsch. He was in a state. "Vot you think?" he asked.

"What's the matter?"

"I am no longer head of Paramount."

"So early in the morning? What are you talking about?"

"But is true. And how do you think I find out? Hour ago—from my trainer. He comes in usual this morning. He is something sad. He say, 'Good morning, Mr. Lubitsch.' I say 'Good morning, Keep. Something is not good with you?' He reaches out his hand to me to shake. I shake. 'I am verry sorry to have to tell you bad news,' he say. 'For God's sake, Keep,' I say, 'vot are you talking?' He say, 'I hate to be the first to tell you—you are no longer the head of Paramount.' I say he is crazy. He say, 'No, is true.' I ask him how it is true, and he say last night he massages front office and they are all saying it. So I call front office, and, yes, it is true. They are vaiting for me to come in to tell me. From my trainer I have to find it out. Verry funny. You do not think it is verry funny? Don't tell yet. It is so funny I vant to tell. From my trainer I find it out. Is not funny?" He hung up.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was run in those days by a triumvirate: Bernie Hyman, who was a producer; Benny Thau, who was an executive without portfolio; and, of course, Louis B. Mayer. When it was asked exactly what Thau did, Herman Mankiewicz, the screenwriter, said that his assignment was to watch from a third-floor window of the Thalberg Building and to report at once to his colleagues the approach of the north wind, which they all somehow felt was in the offing. Bernie Hyman was an amiable fellow with a streak of stubbornness. He would read a scene and say it lacked "zip." He was affected by the opinion of the last person he had talked with. Sam Hoffenstein said of him that he was like a glass of water without the glass. He also said that Bernie was like Dr. Jekyll in the uncapturable moment before he metamorphosed into Mr. Hyde. I knew Bernie's secretaries and had the run of his opulent office. When he was late for a lunch date, I used to wander into his office, sit at his desk, and look over his memoranda. Once, I saw "Miss Harlow called. She was very anxious to talk to you." I wrote on the memo, "Why is she no longer anxious?" Another memorandum interested me more—a sheet of yellow paper headed "Writers Available." It was a macabre list: playwrights who had written one success twenty years ago and had not been heard from since, novelists whose novels you could not remember. But then I saw a name that gave me a turn—Scott Fitzgerald. It made me angry. To be on a list of the available in Hollywood was to be on a death list. When Bernie came in, I let him have it on Scott. "He's easily one of our greatest writers," I said.

"Maybe he is," said Bernie, unruffled, "but he's slow."

I expressed myself on Scott to other producers. I got the same reaction from all of them: he was slow.

Louis B. Mayer, the chief of the triumvirate, was a man of extraordinary shrewdness, and even, as far as the industry was concerned, of vision. He was incorrigibly histrionic and put on a great show. Sometimes it slipped his mind what role he was playing—whether the benevolent autocrat, the humanitarian concerned for the well-being of everyone except his enemies, the sentimentalist, or the religious leader. His relationship with God was intimate and confidential; he spoke for Him as well as for himself—they thought along the same lines. He sat behind his circular desk in his regal office surrounded by large, silver-framed photographs of another triumvirate, which bounded his spiritual and political horizons: Cardinal Spellman, Herbert Hoover, and Douglas MacArthur. He called me up one morning and asked me to write a speech for him to deliver at a St. Patrick's Day celebration in San Francisco. I did what I could. I tried to make it entertaining. L.B. was not pleased; he quickly rejected it. "It is not what they expect from me," he said. I gathered that from him they expected the solemn and the lofty. To show that he had no hard feelings, he invited me to lunch in the executive dining room—an accolade that had never been extended to me before. Every producer on the lot was there. L.B. sat at the head of the table. The seat beside him, reserved for Eddie Mannix, the studio's general manager, was empty—Eddie was late. It caused concern and speculation. Where was Mannix? "It's not like Eddie," said L.B. But he ordered lunch to be served. Suddenly, Eddie appeared. His face was flushed; he was very angry. He had just heard the music for a trailer and had had a fight with the arrangers. The music was so complicated—so full of "fil-fals," he said—that he couldn't hear the melody. He begged to be allowed to hear the melody. But the arrangers would not remove a single fil-fal. He bared his heart to L.B. He couldn't have asked for a more compassionate sympathizer. Mannix was very loud, L.B. very quiet. "Listen, Eddie," L.B. said. "Do you think I run the studio? Do you think you run the studio? Oh, no, Eddie. The arrangers—they run the studio." L.B. spread his hands in a votive gesture; his voice was prayerful. "I go down on my knees to 'em, I beg 'em, I pray to 'em, 'Please let me hear the melody.' But they won't—they stick to the fil-fals. Counterpoint, they call it."

But the effect of this on Mannix was not sedative. He threw his napkin on the table. "Well, God damn it," he shouted, "either counterpoint leaves the studio or I leave the studio!"

In the thirties, Hollywood attracted many artists who had come to America as refugees from Germany and Austria. In the early forties, three escapees from the Nazi death trap changed the color and tone of my life and, after agonizing tribulations, gave me a successful play. The three were Franz Werfel, the novelist, poet, and playwright; Oscar Karlweis, the Viennese actor; and one Samuel L. Jacobowsky, whom I was never to meet, but whose destiny and foibles engrossed me, on and off, for three years.

For some time, Ernst Lubitsch had been urging the executives in Hollywood to bring Max Reinhardt to the United States. Lubitsch had been a member of Reinhardt's company during Reinhardt's great days in Berlin, where he had been the reigning lord and had run four theatres. Another refugee, the novelist and playwright Bruno Frank, in an access of nostalgia, told me what it was like to see a Reinhardt production in Berlin. He remembered a performance of Galsworthy's "Loyalties" in one of Reinhardt's theatres, the Kammerspielhaus. "It was like chamber music," he said. "The theatre was small and exquisite. You sat in armchairs. The performance was flawless. You sat there in thrall to the world Reinhardt had created."

Max arrived in 1934, took a palatial house, and reigned like a king in exile. Several years later, he invited me to dinner to meet the Franz Werfels. Max was unchanged after all he had been through, his charm and humor undiluted. It is no more possible to convey in writing the nature of a man's charm than it is to convey in writing the effect of music; in Max some elements were the resonance and timbre of his speaking voice, his laugh, his easy manner, his presence, his looks. Max's charm was proverbial, a trademark. His wife was gracious and withdrawn. I told Max how much I was looking forward to meeting the Werfels. I was a friend of Ben Huebsch, Werfel's publisher, and Ben had been in great distress about Werfel. There had been a story in the press that Werfel had been captured by the Nazis. Efforts to reach him, even through the Red Cross, had been unavailing. Max said it was nice to find out that the newspapers were fallible. The dinner guests began to arrive; there were ten altogether, among them Lubitsch and the Werfels.

Alma Mahler Werfel was a large blond woman with violet eyes; she could be safely described as statuesque. Her husband was small; she towered over him, her expression grave, immobile, calmly observant. Werfel was mercurial, chubby, round-faced, hair brushed straight back, beginning to recede. His eyes, behind thick glasses, were on the alert for humor; he made fun of almost everything, including himself. On his escape through France, he had found himself in Lourdes; he made a vow there that if he ever came out of it alive he would write a novel dedicated to the saint of Lourdes. He did—"The Song of Bernadette." It became a best-seller, and was filmed in Hollywood while he was there. I sat next to Frau Alma Mahler Werfel at dinner. She made no bones about it—she could take an interest only in what she called "productive" men. Her first husband, Gustav Mahler, had been so spectacularly productive that she would have thought it sacrilege, on his death, to extinguish his name, so she kept it, and attached Werfel's to it when, after an intervening marriage to the eminent architect Walter Gropius, she married Werfel. It exalted Werfel to be a successor to as great a man as Gustav Mahler. Werfel was intensely musical. He worshipped Mahler. He carried his scores around. He knew them by heart.

Sitting across from Frau Alma was Charlie Brackett, one of Hollywood's most successful writers, looking very tidy in his dinner jacket. Alma was staring at him. She asked me who he was.

I said, "Charles Bracken."

"He is Aryan?" she asked.

"No doubt about it," I said.

"Write me down his name."

I did—on my place card. I saw her lips move as she learned Charlie's name. She picked up her handbag from the floor, opened it, and shoved the Aryan's name inside it for future reference.

I teased Charlie about this for a long time; I prophesied a union between him and Alma.

"Do you think I am productive enough?" Charlie asked wistfully.

"Leave that to Alma. Of course, you realize you will be just a number in a series."

"Oh, that'll be fine with me. I'll he Charlie Mahler Gropius Werfel Brackett—all four of us productive."

It was a jolly dinner party. Werfel dominated it. He kept the table in a roar of laughter, oddly, by describing details of his escape through France—a time during which he was in danger of losing his life at any moment, day or night. Here, at Max Reinhardt's, talking an ersatz English, was Werfel, being funny about it. I had met many refugees, great and small, and from all of them I had heard accounts of their experiences. But Werfel's was something new in horror stories. Talking with a gusto undiminished by the idiosyncrasies of English syntax, his eyes alight with enjoyment, Werfel kept the table spellbound for well over an hour. He conveyed what it meant to be in France in that summer after its fall, to be a step ahead of the Nazis: the frantic crowds in front of the consulates, the concentration of consciousness in one acrid grain of desire—to get a stamp on a piece of paper. Werfel told with the utmost zest the story of an overworked consular official, besieged by a frantic crowd outside, and lost, himself, in a mountain of visas waiting to be stamped, who suddenly went mad, lunged at the mass of visas as though they were his jailers, and destroyed them—ripped them to pieces and hurled them into the fireplace. An incident he observed during his own escape from Paris had amused Werfel. It involved Samuel L. Jacobowsky, a Polish Jewish businessman who in his prosperous days had found time for literature and chamber music. He buys a car from a rascally chauffeur. He can't drive, but he trusts to luck to find somebody who can. An anti-Semitic Polish colonel, a cavalry officer, happens along; he has a military mission to the South of France. The idea of travelling with Jacobowsky revolts him, but he has to get away from the Germans and here is a car. His aide beside  him, he takes the wheel. Jacobowsky is allowed to occupy the back seat. To Jacobowsky's horror, instead of heading south the colonel heads north, where the Germans are, to pick up his sweetheart, a French girl.

I was seized by this anecdote. It had a peculiar compactness—I felt there was a play in it. Werfel went on weaving his farcical extravaganza—for when the conventions of property, of justice, of the division between life and death are all held in abeyance by an arbitrary God, the habits based on these conventions evidently jumble into farce. I kept thinking, Two men in an ambivalent relationship, two men from the opposite ends of the earth, though they are countrymen—opposites physically, spiritually, mentally held together during flight by a common enemy and a vehicle. They hate each other. They part. They find they miss each other.

After dinner, in the living room, I took Werfel aside. I told him that I had been fascinated by his story of the Polish refugee and the reactionary cavalry officer. I thought there might be a play in it—a beautiful comedy. It seemed simple and natural.

Werfel was delighted. "Do you think so?" he said.

"Yes," I said. "You must write it."

"No, you must write it," he said.

I began to work on the Jacobowsky play with enthusiasm. I wrote the "Scene": "The subterranean laundry of the Hôtel Mon Repos et de la Rose. It is evening on the 13th of June, 1940. There has been an air-raid alert and the laundry of MADAME BOUFFIER's fourth-class establishment is doing service as an air-raid shelter." I got an idea—that Jacobowsky entertains the Colonel's girl, Marianne, by making her laugh. Whenever the Colonel comes upon them, she is laughing. It drives him crazy. I devised a scene in which the Colonel tries to emulate Jacobowsky, to make Marianne laugh. The Colonel's attempt is pitiful, since he hasn't a grain of humor. I enjoyed developing this idea. I felt it might serve.

I saw a great deal more of the Werfels. Alma Mahler Werfel endlessly fascinated me. My brother-in-law Samuel Chotzinoff told me that he had worshipped Mahler and had never missed one of his concerts when he conducted the Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall. In the greenroom once, he had beheld Alma. He said she was the most ravishingly beautiful creature he had ever seen. I repeated this to Alma. She nodded emphatically and said, "I was!

A scene in the Werfels' tiny living room returns after thirty years to solace me. Arnold Schoenberg was present. He had the most intense eyes and gaze I have ever seen in anyone. You felt that there were immensities behind the tightly drawn yellowish skin of his skull-like head. Alma sat beside me on the sofa, Werfel facing her, Schoenberg, withdrawn, on the other side of Alma. Alma had chosen to narrate her life story. Werfel and Schoenberg listened as if it were all new to them. I actually was a fresh audience for Alma. She was sorry that I had never seen their new house in Vienna—"black and white marble"—and wished to give me an insight into the life she led in Vienna when she was married to Mahler. She called to her maid, who was clearing the table in the dining room, "Marie! Bring in Beethoven's hair." The maid left her task and disappeared, returning a moment later with a little gold box. Alma opened it to show me: there was a wisp of brownish hair in it. Alma explained, "Given to Mahler by the Vienna Opera when he left to conduct the New York Philharmonic." Schoenberg asked if he might take the box for a moment; he sat staring at his predecessor's hair, lost in reverie. Alma went on with the star-studded narrative of her conquests. There was, for example, the case of the painter Oskar Kokoschka. He was so in love with her that he had a life-size mannequin made of her to take with him on his travels. When something in one of her letters displeased him, he would stick a pin in the mannequin. "Childish, no?" But Alma didn't wait for my opinion. "Alban Berg . . . 'Wozzeck'—dedicated to me . . . Gropius . . ." She went on and on, till she came to Werfel; she included him in her list as if he weren't there. Finally, looking straight at her husband, she made a grand summation. "But," she said, "the most interesting personality I have known was Mahler." Werfel nodded fervently. He would have been the last person in the world to contradict an authority so eminent or to pretend to rival a genius whose memory he held in awed reverence.

(This is the second part of a three-part article.)

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