S. N. Behrman
The New Yorker
 May 27, 1972: 38-81

One day in 1943, my telephone rang. It was Theresa Helburn, at the Theatre Guild, asking me to come to her office. Elia Kazan was there. I was astonished to learn that the Guild was going to put on my play "Jacobowsky and the Colonel," and that Elia Kazan was to direct it. In its casting of the play, the Guild was inspired: Louis Calhern for the Colonel; Annabella for Marianne; and, for Jacobowsky, the Viennese comedian Oscar Karlweis.

I had seen Karlweis once, some time before. An Austrian friend had invited me uptown, to the East Side, to see a performance of "Fledermaus," promising me, "You will see an entrancing actor." Karlweis played Prince Orlofsky. I was entranced by him from the moment he appeared on the stage. He was stylish, he was crisp and elegant, he was an aristocrat who saw through aristocracy's pretensions. Through everything he said and did there was the sportive javelin thrust of humor. The refrain "Chacun à son goût" he sang with a je-m' en-fiche nonchalance, an air of "I can take it, but I can leave it," that was irresistible. He had the audience in the palm of his hand. That's where I was. I had long been fascinated by the idea of writing a play about Montaigne. As I watched Karlweis, I thought, Here is my Montaigne. I no longer had an excuse; I must write this play, and for him. He even looked like Montaigne.

And now here was Prince Orlofsky-Montaigne sitting with me, and with Kazan and Miss Helburn, in the Oak Room of the Plaza. He had been singing in a Paris night club at the time of the fall of France. A high-placed friend, whom he later married, knew the way things were going and facilitated his escape. Karlweis was half Jewish. ("So was Montaigne," I said to myself.) "But," Karlweis said, "the way things are, half is more than enough." He captivated all of us; he was so light in touch, witty, and self-deprecatory. I determined that as soon as we'd opened in New York I would sew him up for Montaigne.

All through rehearsals, which went swimmingly, the Guild and Kazan were after me to find a title for the play, since it was manifestly impossible to call a play "Jacobowsky and the Colonel." For one thing, that title was unpronounceable. "Can you imagine people coming to the box office and asking to buy seats for a play with a title like that?" Kazan said. I couldn't imagine it, and promised to find a title. I wrote down scores, but I didn't like any of them. Neither did anyone else. We decided, finally, to open with the one we had, and, with false confidence, were sure we'd get a workable title on the road. We opened in New Haven, on a Friday. As soon as Karlweis walked on and spoke a few sentences, we knew we were all right. The audience took him to its heart. In the first intermission, Terry Helburn came up to Lawrence Langner and me, beaming. "We're in," she said. "I've just talked to Lee Shubert. He says it's Potash and Perlmutter with class." In the inevitable conference that night at the Taft—which included Stewart Chaney, who had done the sets, and Paul Bowles, who had written a modest but evocative score—the atmosphere was optimistic, even though we all knew that we could do with a stronger last act.

After a weekend in New Haven, the play went to Boston. I had spent the weekend in New York doing rewrites. I watched from an aisle seat in the fifth row, making notes. In front of me sat two elderly gentlemen of a type more frequently encountered in London than in this country—tall, slim, with narrow faces, keen eyes, and beautifully brushed silver hair. The first act had gone well, and Karlweis had captivated the audience, as he had done in New Haven. I wanted, if possible, to get a comment on the play from these two gentlemen. In the intermission, I walked up the aisle just behind them.

"You know," said one, "I think that fellow Karlweis . . . is Jewish."

There was a long pause. The other man took time to assimilate this bizarre fact. Then he said, "Well . . . I don't mind."

We sold out in Boston and in Philadelphia, which was our last stop before New York. Audiences seemed able to pronounce the title, so we all forgot that we were going to find another one. After we opened in New York, at the Martin Beck, Louis Calhern told us that, walking in for the first Saturday matinee, he saw two bearded Williamsburg Jews staring up at the marquee. He overheard one say to the other, "Jacobowsky and the what?"

I studied Karlweis during the run of "Jacobowsky and the Colonel." We became friends. More and more, I identified him with Montaigne: he was aristocratic, as Montaigne was; he was skeptical, as Montaigne was. I told him I was writing a play for him. He was much excited. I didn't tell him what it was about, but I told him I would soon have something to show him.

After "Jacobowsky" closed in New York—it ran for a year—the Guild sent it on tour. In Chicago, Karlweis had a heart attack. He was sent to the hospital. The tour was ended. Karlweis recovered. One bright January day some years later, he came to see me in my apartment. He looked wonderful and was in wonderful spirits, and was now much excited about a new project, with which he wanted my help. There was to be a drama festival in West Berlin and he had been invited to appear in it. He wanted to do "Jacobowsky and the Colonel," which was about the flight of two men from the Nazis. Wouldn't it be marvellous? Wasn't it an ideal, a poignant choice? Wouldn't it really prove that the Nazi horror was over? He wanted me to try to get Kazan to direct it. I said that I would do my best and that I'd call him the minute I'd spoken to Kazan. He was radiantly happy. Two days later, I got the news: Karlweis was dead.

I went that afternoon to see Mme. Karlweis. She asked me if I would speak at Oscar's funeral. I said that I was no speaker but that I would. The next morning, I stood beside Karlweis's coffin in the Little Church Around the Corner and said farewell to him.

On a spring morning in 1932, during one of my Hollywood stints, Sonya Levien, the screenwriter, burst into my office in excitement. "It's all settled," she said. "On the Aquitania."

"Has there been a dispute on the Aquitania?" I asked.

"Sol just told me. He asked me to tell you." (She was referring to the Fox producer Sol Wurtzel.)

"In that case, why don't you?"

"We're going to England," she said. She sat down on the sofa and began fanning herself with a huge silk handkerchief. I gave her a minute to get control of herself. "The studio has bought 'Cavalcade.' Noël Coward's. They want us to go to London to see it. They want us to write the screenplay." This excited me as much as it did Sonya. It seemed too good to be true. "The studio has made all the reservations—the Savoy," she concluded.

"Well," I said, "that is news. When do we leave?"

"Friday, on the Chief. Gets us in just in time for the Aquitania. She sails Wednesday."

"Just the two of us?"

"Oh, no. Frank Borzage and Lou."

Frank Borzage was one of Fox's top directors. Lou was his brother, and was on his staff.

"What about Carl?" I asked, referring to Carl Hovey, Sonya's husband.

"Oh, he's coming."

"I'm glad," I said. "It'll be fun to have him."

"Carl loves England. He used to go all the time when he was running the Metropolitan—to see authors."

I went to the studio post office and cabled my friend Siegfried Sassoon.

We had a pleasant journey on the Aquitania. Carl had suggested that we postpone discussion of the film version of "Cavalcade" until we had seen the London production. Sonya had agreed. Perhaps it had occurred to her that Carl deserved a rest from the perpetual story conference in which his life was spent, during meals at home, in the family car (Sonya was always travelling with one or another of her collaborators)—everywhere and all the time. As we started the voyage, we were as free as birds. We dined together every night—Frank Borzage, Lou (I called him Soothin' Lou, because he always agreed heartily with everybody), Sonya, Carl, and I. On the wall above our table in the dining room hung a tremendous oil painting of the Renaissance general Colleoni. Carl was the only one who knew who Colleoni was; he enjoyed teasing Frank by pretending to see a resemblance between him and Colleoni.

"But isn't it extraordinary?" he said. "Don't you see it? Same chest, same arms, same shoulders."

Lou was the first to agree that he saw the resemblance. "Spittin' image," he said.

"Oh, no," said Sonya. "He looks so fierce, and our dear Frank is so gentle."

"That's true, too," said Soothin'.

Frank, an authentic innocent, was embarrassed. He didn't like being the subject of a conversation. He blushed. To spare him, Sonya changed the subject.

"Isn't that a wonderful little scene in 'Cavalcade'—the honeymooners on the Titanic?"

That did it. The story conference was on. Everybody except Carl, who hadn't read the play, became articulate and combative: little quarrels about casting; ideas on where to stay with the script and where to depart from it; where to place Queen Victoria's funeral, which the "Cavalcade" family watches from a window, in a scene with the final, blackout line "She must have been a very little lady." It went on full tilt. I watched Carl nursing a liqueur. He smiled wanly.

When you travelled for a film company in those days, you travelled at the height of luxury, and in London I found myself in a river suite looking out at the twilit Thames. It was thrilling. I felt at home at the Savoy, though I had never stayed in it before. Previously, I had felt most at home in a room I rented at the house of Siegfried's friend "Dame" Nellie Burton, on Half Moon Street. Arnold Bennett had devoted his last novel to describing the Savoy and the intricate mechanism that manipulated it. It was amusing to keep testing Bennett's accuracy. He held up pretty well.

I found a message from Siegfried; he was still living at Campden Hill Square. I called him. He was having dinner with Glen Byam Shaw at the Reform Club. I had become fond of Glen and of his wife, the actress Angela Baddeley—on the several visits he had made to New York, where he had come to direct English plays. He was sensitive, modest, and all kindness. I insisted that Siegfried and Glen come to the Savoy for dinner. "I don't want to leave the river," I said. "I have become very much attached to it." Siegfried laughed, and said he was sure it would be all right with Glen.

We had a happy time in the Savoy dining room. Glen wanted the Grill, because theatre people were addicted to it, but I insisted on getting a table in the dining room, with a river view. Siegfried looked older. He was very quiet; it pleased him greatly that Glen and I had become friends. In a satirical voice, he expressed criticism of me for making this journey to see someone else's play when I should be retiring to the country—to the Spread Eagle at Thame, for example—to write one of my own. I made a weak defense. I said that I shouldn't in that case be entertaining him and Glen in the style to which they were accustomed.

"I don't think I've been in the Savoy in twenty years," Siegfried said mildly.

I asked Siegfried whether he had succeeded in finding a country house for himself.

"He hasn't succeeded for himself," said Glen, "but he's succeeded for Burton."

Half Moon Street had proved no longer possible for Burton, and Siegfried had found her a pleasant house with a large garden in Woodside.

"Angela and I went to see her," Glen said. "Her new house is lovely, but somehow everything about it is huge. The tomatoes are huge, the sunflowers are huge, the sofa in the drawing room is huge, and the lunch was huge. I don't know how we ever got through it. But she's always wonderful. You must go and see her, Sam."

"Of course," I said. "I can't wait."

"I always kiss her when I see her," said Glen. "It's like kissing a large, wet gooseberry."

Back in my river suite, I telephoned Burton. She invited me for lunch on the following Thursday. I said I'd prefer tea. She yielded to my preference. Sonya and Carl were not back yet, and neither were the Borzages. The Borzages had gone to the Drury Lane Theatre to see "Cavalcade," and the Hoveys were spending the evening with some London friends—the writer F. Tennyson Jesse and her husband, H. M. Harwood. I sat at my window to see what was doing—so late in the evening—on the Thames.

The next night, we all went to "Cavalcade." We arrived at the historic theatre and were ushered into a stage box reserved for us. The vast house was crowded. One felt a palpitant expectancy in the audience. As the play unfolded, one could feel increasingly a deep wash of sympathy, of recognition, of national identification, of pride. The things that were happening to this family had happened to all of them. Those who had not seen Queen Victoria's funeral had nevertheless deeply felt it: the symbol of the great Empire laid low. Frank Borzage, though not English, had tears in his eyes.

In the intermission after the first act, we were greeted by Charles B. Cochran, the producer of "Cavalcade." "You've made Borzage cry," I said to him, "and he is a very hard man." Cochran laughed; it was only too obvious that Borzage was not a hard man. We asked for Noël. Cochran said that he had gone to South America. Having directed and opened "Cavalcade," and having received the thanks of the King, he'd treated himself to a holiday. Cochran asked whether we didn't think it would be a good idea to photograph the play, so we'd have a record of the London production. We all thought it would be. Cochran said he would see to it. He also told Sonya and me that Noël would he in Hollywood before we really got working on the script.

I had invited Harold Laski and his wife to lunch the next day. Harold asked if he might bring a friend whom he greatly admired, and who was prominent in the Labour Party—Edward Frank Wise. I said fine, but that I would retaliate by inviting Siegfried. "That will be perfect," said Laski. We met next day in the Grill, at one o'clock. I liked Wise at once—good-looking, very forthright and open. Laski was in great form; he had a great deal to say, very edged, about Ramsay Macdonald ("The ribbon is in his coat and he will never know the verdict of history"), and he also talked about former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Arthur Henderson, whom he loved. Laski had spent justice Oliver Wendell Holmes's ninety-first birthday with him, and the recollection of this made him happy. He quoted the justice on Coolidge's writing: "He makes even his platitudes seem vulgar." Mrs. Laski was very quiet; she had learned, evidently, that this was the destiny of the wives of great talkers. I asked the Laskis whether they had seen "Cavalcade." They had. Laski took a poor view of it. "Sentimental nationalism, in which the whole play was drenched," he said. The treatment of Queen Victoria particularly irritated him. The Queen, he said, was a tough woman, who would not abolish whipping in the Navy.

Frank Wise took issue with him on this. "I don't agree with you, Harold," he said. "The Queen is, by this time, a symbolic figure. She is part of the mystique which made this little island a great power in the world. Don't forget—while she lived, the people in the audience lived. They shared, more or less, the same fragment of time. They share, with her, the national memory. I don't at all agree with you." 

Laski then said that of course she was a symbol universally accepted—a symbol of the nationalism that was the greatest breeder of wars. He attacked Cecil Rhodes and Standard Oil as conquistadores who enticed their governments to take certain actions in order to protect their own investments. He touched on the conflict over Morocco, the scramble for Africa, the fight for the spoils of Manchuria, the Middle East. Siegfried and I exchanged glances. Laski was way beyond our depth. To show that I was not without international outlook, I quoted from Maurice Hindus's just published book on Russia, in which he mentions that gypsy music was banned in Moscow, because it didn't help the Five Year Plan. Frank Wise laughed, but said he was sure this was an improvisation of Hindus's. Wise was a most charming and likable man. He had just returned from America; he had seen all our labor leaders. He was struck by our heterogeneity, whereas in England, he said, labor is so homogeneous that "I can mobilize all of British labor in one morning."

I rode back with Siegfried in a taxi, to drop him at Campden Hill Square. I asked him whether he didn't feel himself lost in a conversation like that, with Laski's dizzying spirals all over the world.

"But, my dear Sam, that is my habitual feeling wherever I go," he said. "I am totally uneducated, and the people I see know everything. I often think I should call my book, instead of 'Sherston's Progress,' 'SimpIeton's Progress.'"

Siegfried asked me to meet him in Salisbury, so that I could see the cottage he'd taken for the summer at Teffont Magna. I had to go to see "Cavalcade" again. I asked Siegfried to join us, but he said he simply had to get some quiet in the country. He told me of a good train to Salisbury on Tuesday morning, and I said I'd he on it.

Siegfried met me at the train that morning and drove me the fourteen miles or so to his cottage. I was enchanted by the beauty of the country and the villages through which we drove. To get in to his cottage, we had to cross a little bridge over a brook that ran right beside his front door. I have never forgotten that day. Siegfried and I talked about it many times in Heytesbury, Wiltshire, where he finally settled. He showed me the poems he had written—enough for another book. He had also been rereading George Meredith and was about to gather himself to write a biography of him. He hoped to revive interest in this unjustly neglected author, and, especially, to reanimate interest in him as a poet. We talked until late in the evening. I said what I felt—that I could spend the rest of my life in Teffont. And there have been times when I've wished I had. I had to get back to London to keep my Thursday date with Burton, and I was sailing Saturday on the Berengaria. Siegfried suggested that I come back on Friday. He would drive me to Southampton—an easy drive—to make the sailing. I accepted his offer.

As Siegfried was sitting and brooding, with large silences, his face would crease into a smile. It was always some memory of Burton. "I came back from Bayreuth one summer, full of excitement about the performances I had seen there," he said. "I could get no adequate response from Burton. I did my best over 'Tristan.' She cut me short. Her favorite opera was 'Carmen.' She had seen it in Berlin, in the company of Robbie Ross's mother, and, she said—with a great suspensive silence before to set it off—there had been nine horses on the stage! Could Bayreuth match that? I had to confess it couldn't. Burton loves animals."

On Thursday, after lunch, I hired a car at the Savoy, gave the address to the chauffeur, and started out for Woodside. It took about an hour. The car stopped, finally, before Burton's new home—a square, verandahed house on a leafy street. Burton opened the door. I hugged and kissed her. Never having tasted a gooseberry, I couldn't test the accuracy of Glen's comparison. We were certainly glad to see each other. She was a bit older, a bit grayer, but otherwise unchanged—the same look of irrepressible beneficence and gaiety. She was tidy; everything about her was tidy.

"Come in—come in," she said. I followed her down the front hall and into the sitting room. It was large and pleasant. It was a rare afternoon for England—full of sunshine. On the piano I saw a photograph of Burton happily cuddling a lion cub on her lap. I asked her how she had acquired this pet.

"I got 'im in the Berlin zoo when I was there with Mrs. Ross. They lent 'im to me. 'E was 'appy with me. I was 'appy with 'im. 'Is nyme is Siegfried."

"I saw Siegfried," I said. "He sends his love. So does Glen Byam Shaw."

"'Ave you been to Teffont?"

"Yes. I spent the night there."

"It's good for Sieg. It quiets 'im."

"I think so."

"Come into the garden. Then we'll 'ave tea."

I followed.

"You look wonderful, Burton."

"You can see I don't use pynt or powder. I'm a natural woman."

"Where's Mr. Fleming?" I asked, referring to the Theosophist who had rented the rear double back at Half Moon Street. "When I see you, I miss Mr. Fleming."

"'E went to America. 'E's naughty. 'E 'asn't written yet."

The garden was lush: sunflowers as tall as I was, birch trees, maples, and elms. Burton took me by the hand and led me to the bottom of the garden, and to the side farthest from the road. It debouched into a small clump of trees. There was a circlet of enormous sunflowers and, in its center, a bamboo reclining chair, like a chaise longue. Burton had a great air of showing it off. "Siegfried's bower," she said. "'E loves to sit 'ere an' muse."

"I don't wonder," I said.

She took my hand again. "An' over 'ere I'll show you—Osbert's nook." She was referring to Osbert Sitwell.

The nook was less relaxed and less protected than the bower. It had a swing between two of the trees in the clump behind the bower, with an ordinary wicker chair and a huge ashtray on a taboret beside it.

"Cigars, 'e smokes," said Burton.

"I should think they'd spend all their time here."

"Osbert 'as a 'ouse in Italy," said Burton, to account for his non-presence at the moment.

We walked back to the house. Burton rang, and a maid entered and served tea in a bay window overlooking the garden—a Half Moon Street tea. Burton produced a bottle of champagne. We sat drinking it. Suddenly she said, "Do you think 'e's 'appy¬Siegfried?"

The question startled me. Actually, I'd had the feeling that all was not entirely well with Siegfried.

"Tolerably," I said. "Not especially."

She shook her head. "It's no good," she said. "That's why 'e's in Teffont. No use 'is styin' there. No use. The longer 'e styes, the worse 'e'll be."

I did not inquire. I knew she would not tell me.

"I'm going back there," I said. "My last night in England. He's driving me to the boat."

"Good," she said. "I'm glad you'll be there. I wish—just now—you'd tyke 'im back to America."

"I'll ask him," I said.

There was a long silence. I saw that it was time to go. Burton walked with me to the door. "Well," she said, "they're a genius, I suppose—meant to leave some wonderful book or poem, an' that's all?"

There was a query, but I could not answer it. Did she wish me to say "That's enough"? It would not be good enough for Burton. Instead, I said, "I'm happy to see you so nicely settled here. I loved Half Moon Street, but this is ampler."

"'E did it—Siegfried. 'E took the trouble to find it. 'E bought it. 'E pyed for it. You couldn't 'ave a more loyal friend in the world than Siegfried."

"I have found that to be true."

Burton was moved. She held my hand. "I can sy this," she said. "Between Siegfried an' me . . . it's a pure love."

She stood outside the front door and waved to me as the car moved down the street. It was the last time I ever saw her. By the time of my next visit to London, she had died.

On Friday afternoon, Siegfried met me in Salisbury, and the externals were as usual, but I knew Siegfried well enough to realize that these might be deceptive. I felt that all was not well. Also, I had been troubled by Burton's odd remarks. Why had she said that he should not stay in Teffont, that I should take him to America? I was troubled by this but was also cherishing the appealing beauties of the countryside. Siegfried said, "Would you mind if I made a detour here? I feel I should pay a call on the Hunter girls. They have been extraordinarily kind to me during a difficult period they—are taking care of a friend of mine. Also, they are theatre-crazy, and eager to meet you."

I said I'd be delighted.

We drove along in silence for a while. Then Siegfried told me that the estate we were about to visit belonged to a famous British public figure. The Hunter girls, who were in charge of the house, were at present looking after the famous man's nephew, who was there alone and ill.

The next hour or so still has a quality of phantasmagoria, and when I consult my diary I find it there, too. The quiet, ordered beauty of the estate we entered—the gardens, the lawns, the trees—was as warm as an embrace. The house, with its tower and its solitary invalid, exercised a spell that was disquieting, necromantic. I met the Hunter girls: two ladies, one past forty, her sister a little younger, who were manifestly darlings who adored Siegfried and were eager to do anything in the world to make him happy. Siegfried asked a few questions about the invalid: Did he know that he was coming? Yes, they had told him, but he was not well enough to see anyone.

"There's nothing wrong with him, as we know," said Siegfried.

This seemed to embarrass the Hunter girls, but one of them quickly covered it up by asking me questions about the theatre. They were especially keen about the Lunts, whom they had seen in London. Were they coming again? When and in what? I answered these questions as well as I could. All the time, I was in a daze at the beauty by which I was surrounded—the dappled lawns, the vista of the far hills, the church steeple in the village that belonged to the estate.

Siegfried and I walked a little way down the lawn to the great flower beds, streaming color.

"I've never seen any place so utterly beautiful," I said to Siegfried.

I followed his glance. He was looking up intently at a window in the square tower. "Yes," he said. "It is beautiful. It's like 'The Turn of the Screw.'"

Siegfried changed direction, heading back to his car. We stood for a moment chatting with the Hunter girls. And then, suddenly, we were not alone. A young man had joined us—a flamboyantly dressed and arrogant young man. The women evidently knew him. He treated them with condescension. "'Ow is 'Is Lordship today?" he asked, with a jocular wink at them.

The elder Hunter girl introduced us.

"'Ow do you do?" He nodded up toward the tower room. "'E expects me, an' I 'ave to make the six-thirty to London. Apologies." He turned abruptly and walked into the house.

The Hunter girls suffered. Having told Siegfried that the invalid was too ill to see him, they were embarrassed and unhappy. Siegfried had gone white. He turned and walked toward his car. I followed.

We rode in silence. Siegfried's face was set; he kept his eyes on the road. I wondered, Had the invalid contrived this visit from the disagreeable young man in order to humiliate Siegfried? The ride back to Teffont passed in painful silence. The incident was ugly, grotesque. We crossed the rivulet in front of Siegfried's house and entered his cottage. I said I thought the Hunter girls perfect. He said it would be nice if I sent them something from America. I said I certainly would. Conversation at supper lagged. The visit had left an impression of evil, intensified, somehow, by the surrounding beauty. It remained with me that Siegfried had mentioned "The Turn of the Screw." It was like thata poisoned beauty.

After supper, I gave Siegfried my new play to read. He gave me his new poems. Next morning, before we left for Southampton, he presented me with a lovely little book of woodcuts of churches and village street scenes in the Salisbury environs. It is before me now. I read Siegfried's inscription:

Fitz House—23/4/32
On Shakespeare's Birthday—
Off to the boat.

I had a good deal to think about on the boat. I remembered Burton. I thought I saw why she had suggested that I should take Siegfried back with me to America. About a year later, in New York, I had lunch with a famous English stage star. He said that there was no more pernicious young man in England than the occupant of that tower room. Now I sat in my cabin thinking about Siegfried with a heavy heart. He was one of the few people I had known with a true quality of nobility; he was a poet of exquisite sensibility. I had been a witness to his humiliation—a humiliation arising from a vulnerability that had nothing to do with his character. Because of the loftiness and sensitivity of his nature, he could not defend himself. It was tragic.

In 1915, I was a junior at Harvard. I blew myself to a second-balcony seat at the Colonial Theatre in Boston to see "The Ziegfeld Follies," which featured Ina Claire. She was then under twenty, and was a star of musical comedy. She carne before the footlights in an organdie dress and, in a spotlight, sang a satiric song called "Marie-Odile." The big musical revues then used for material takeoffs on plays that had recently been successful. "Marie-Odile" had been a tremendous Belasco success, starring Frances Starr. She had played a young peasant girl whose knowledge of biology was rudimentary; she did not know how babies were generated, and was shocked when she had one.

As Ina Claire sang, I craned forward in my faraway seat to take in this personality, because she saliently was a personality. There was a comedic edge to her singing that made the audience laugh warmly. By the end of the song, Ina had the audience at her feet. The next time I heard her sing that song was in Paris some forty-five years later. I was staying briefly with my friend, and erstwhile producer, Joseph Verner Reed, who was doing a stint as cultural attaché to President Eisenhower's ambassador to France. In the Place Vendôme, I ran into Ina. She had by then done three plays of mine. I hadn't seen her in a long time. We fell on each other's neck. She was free for dinner. I asked her to come to the Reeds'. I was sure they would be delighted to have her. They were. As we sat having cocktails before dinner, I said, "Ina, do you remember the song you sang in the Ziegfeld show in Boston in 1915—the 'Marie-Odile' one?" She said, "Of course I do." "Won't you sing it for us?" Joe Reed asked. She sang it—two verses and the choruses. She wowed the Reeds, as she had wowed the audience in Boston forty-five years before.

I tried to get Ina for my seventh play, "Rain from Heaven," in 1934, but that didn't work out. Ina was busy; Jane Cowl played it. A couple of years earlier, I had given "Biography" to Guthrie McClintic, who wanted Laurette Taylor for it. I had an unhappy correspondence with Miss Taylor about it; things swerved, the way they irrationally do in the theatre. Ina was in Philadelphia trying out a European play for the Theatre Guild. Terry Helburn called from Philadelphia and asked me to come to see Ina in this play, which, she said, had almost got over. She felt that if I were to do a rewrite on the play it might work. I went. I would go anywhere to see Ina in a play. We made a date in Terry's suite at the Ritz-Carlton to discuss a possible rewrite. We met after the performance—Ina, Lawrence Langner, Terry, and I.

Ina is the most candid, most unsecretive person in the world. She is like some British aristocrats I have known, who tell you everything about themselves and their families at first meeting. This candor has often astonished me. I think it comes from a feeling of independence, of ultimate security. Ina liked to talk about her romances, especially if they hadn't gone well for her. Soon after I met her, she told me of her experience with Vincent Astor. He was in love with her and wished to marry her. The great obstacle was his father, John Jacob Astor. One day, the obstacle disappeared in the Titanic disaster. When the obstacle disappeared, so did Vincent. She simply stopped hearing from him. Years passed; she had written him off long since. One day, she arrived in New York, feeling low, and went to the Pierre, where she always stayed, in a single room. She felt she must find a place for herself—a home. She said, "I thought, God damn it—Vincent. One thing he could do, with all the real estate he owns, is find me an apartment. I'll call the swine." Before she could follow up on this plan, the phone rang. It was Vincent. He was awfully glad to hear her voice. She was the one person in the world he wished to see at that moment. Ina kept listening. He finally came to the point. "The fact is, darling, I've written a play. I'd love to have your opinion of it. Frank, you know—utterly frank. Will you read it for me?" She told me, "I never got an apartment from him—I never got a chance to mention it. I just found myself reading his goddam play. It was lousy, I'm happy to say."

In Terry's suite, Ina began to talk about a more recent romance of hers, with a European princeling. Ina had begun to wonder about him, and she went on to clarify her feelings in front of all of us. She went on and on. Meanwhile, I was getting very sleepy. I hated midnight conferences anyway. Terry jumped up. "We're all tired," she said. "Let's postpone this till tomorrow—the noon train to New York. I've got a drawing room for Ina. We'll have our conference there." This suited everybody. I went thankfully to my room.

I was glad to be alone, because that afternoon in New York I had received a most surprising letter from Siegfried, announcing that he was going to be married. I had brought the letter along with me, and I now reread it for the third time. Siegfried had been to a fête champêtre given by some friends of his. It was a costume party on the lawn of their country place. He had danced with a masked girl in a Renaissance costume. He had been so beguiled by her that by the time the evening was over he had asked her to marry him, and she had accepted. His mother was a friend of the parents of the bride-to-be, and liked her greatly. His mother was very happy. So was he. He longed for me to meet her. He would write presently, when they were settled. I had cabled at once, saying how happy I was.

The next day, Ina appeared at the train: tall, sparkling, beautifully dressed. The members of the company were gathered in a knot at the Pullman entrance. When Terry, Langner, and I arrived, we found Ina in impassioned conversation with her leading man. We all got aboard the train, and the company distributed itself in Pullman chairs. Ina's conversation was going full tilt when the train started. Terry told Ina we'd wait for her in her drawing room, at the end of the car. We marched into the drawing room and sat, leaving the door open. We watched. Ina and the actor showed no sign of reaching a conclusion.

"What on earth are they talking about?" Terry asked.

"She's talking to him about the play," said Langner.

"That's what we'd like to do," said Terry. "We certainly couldn't get to it last night."

Langner placed himself so that he could look down the length of the car.

"Take it easy, Terry," he said. "I'll report."

In about half an hour, he did. Ina and the actor were lengthily saying goodbye to each other. Ina started to her drawing room, but she stopped to say goodbye to the ingénue, the character woman, the second lead. She sat in an empty chair to accomplish each of these farewells in depth. Trenton passed, and Princeton, but Ina did not pass. She had something personal and interesting to say to every member of the company, When we got to Newark, Ina had not yet reached the drawing room. Terry appealed to Langner. "For God's sake, Lawrence," she implored. "Do something."

"Stop Ina talking?" Langner said hopelessly. "It can't be done."

We arrived in Pennsylvania Station. Langner, Terry, Ina, and I started the long trek up the platform.

"I've never been in a company I liked better," said Ina. "They're charming—absolutely charming. When are we going to talk about the play?"

"That's what we're beginning to wonder," said Terry.

"Well," said Ina, "I'll be at the Pierre, and available."

"What about five o'clock this afternoon?" said Terry. "O.K. with you boys?"

Langner and I said it was all right with us boys.

"I just remembered," said Ina. "Five o'clock is no good for me. There's a feller coming up to talk to me at five o'clock."

"He will not," I said, with some bitterness, "realize his intention."

Ina laughed. "These wisecracks of yours! Why don't you get them into your dialogue?"

I knew in my bones that the play I had seen in Philadelphia was a dead duck (it was), but I was glad to have seen it. Ina's timing and diction were miraculous. I wanted more than ever to have her do "Biography." I knew that she had read it—my agent, Harold Freedman, had given it to her and that she was tepid about it. I'd identified her so passionately with the heroine of "Biography" that I felt I didn't want to do the play without her. Her readings were translucent, her stage presence encompassing. The flick of an intonation deflated pomposity. She never missed a nuance. She was under contract to the Guild; I told Terry and Langner that I must have her. But she was reluctant; in fact, she asked the Guild if she might not try out another play, which she fancied. I was furious that they allowed her to do it. The all-wise Miss Helburn advised me to allow her to burn her bridges. I went to see that tryout, too—without making my presence known to Ina. My obsessive feeling about her was only deepened. This play also closed on the road. Some time later, I heard a story, told me by one of Ina's offstage friends, that quickened my heart. I have never asked Ina whether it is true or not, and I cannot vouch for it. According to the story, Ina told how she had outwitted the Theatre Guild. "They gave me a lousy play of Behrman's, sure that I would reject it," she said. "But I was hard up and needed the money. If I'd rejected it, it would have broken my contract. So I fooled them—I accepted it!" We opened in Princeton. Ina, who always had trouble remembering her lines, was prompted all evening by her pet stage manager. When the final curtain fell, Ina rushed to him, embraced him, and said, "Darling, it's the best performance we ever gave!" 

What with its New York run and the road tour, Ina appeared in "Biography" for two seasons. Then, after the tour closed, she played it in summer stock, and the stage manager at Marblehead, Massachusetts, made a recording of a performance there. After all these years, it projects Ina's special qualities: her timing, the edge and clarity of her readings, her acute gift for comedy. Some people think of Ina as a brittle actress. The truth is that in addition to being a superb comedienne she had great warmth, with profound emotional control. Somerset Maugham said of "Biography" that it was a tragic play. It was Ina's performance that made it so.

Ina was immensely voluble and graphic on the subjects close to her heart: posture, dress, proper breathing, the function of the diaphragm in voice control, and diction. She felt that you could achieve poise only by frantic discipline. She would think nothing of lying down flat on the floor in the middle of a party to illustrate one of her five points. While she was supine, her diaphragm stayed perfectly flat but still cooperated subtly in voice control, which she illustrated by reading Shakespearean lines at different rates of speed and volumes of sound. Her diaphragm never let her down. She also had made a deep study of clothes in different epochs and in different regimes; she had a library on the subject.

When I told her my idea for "End of Summer," the next play I was writing—for her, I hoped—she was delighted and accepted it at once, though she was no longer hard up. She cautioned me. "Don't put it all in the stage directions," she said. "You fool yourself doing that, but you don't fool me. Get it in the dialogue." I promised to try. "End of Summer" ran successfully in America for two seasons. There is a moment in the third act when the heroine, preparing for her wedding, which doesn't come off, walks downstairs in her mother's wedding dress. As Ina played it, it was a moment of rare loveliness.

It was tremendous fun having Ina in a play. Before we brought "End of Summer" to New York, we played Boston. One day, Ina said that she'd never seen Harvard. Would I take her to see it? On a sunny afternoon, I took Ina for a walk through Harvard Yard, passing Weld Hall—where I had lived—and other landmarks. We must have made a rather bizarre couple as we walked along: Ina taller than I, golden, dressed with great chic in expensive simplicity; I in an unpressed suit that I'd been wearing for weeks. Before we had walked very far, dormitory windows started popping up and wolf calls began to fill the Yard. As we continued our walk, we were serenaded by whistling undergraduates.

"You see, Ina," I said, "they are awfully happy to have me back on campus."

Ina smiled.

One spring day in 1938, Sidney Howard called and asked me to have lunch with him at the Plaza. I had known Sidney for a long time; he had been a co-member with me of one of Professor George Pierce Baker's playwriting classes—English 47—at Harvard in 1915 and 1916. I had seen him only sporadically in the intervening years, but I had a healthy regard for him as a writer and as a person. I had been impressed by him early in English 47. Professor Baker's first assignment to us was to dramatize a short story of our own choosing from any of the current magazines. Sidney chose an unusual one—a short story by John Galsworthy. The scene is a mangy night club on Christmas Eve. The comedian, a raffish and illiterate scavenger, tries to pick up laughs by denigrating Christmas. In the middle of this unholy doggerel, Jesus Christ appears, a figure of compassionate dignity. He does not reproach the comedian, who has been making fun of him; he takes him into his confidence. The Christ figure vanishes; the comedian and the audience, vanquished by this display of good manners, remain to bless the gracious apparition. (I chose a story from the Smart Set about a bounder who makes love to the nurse of his dying wife; the rest of the class was similarly addicted to sensation.) Professor Baker praised Sidney for having chosen a theme that was impossible from a practical point of view but had spiritual significance. I had watched Sidney's work since then—his magazine articles and his plays. He had written "They Knew What They Wanted" and "Yellow Jack," the first play that ventured to dramatize a heroic episode in medical science. In one season, he had had two hit plays produced by the Theatre Guild—"The Silver Cord," the first exposure, as far as I know, of virulent momism, and "Ned McCobb's Daughter," a study in bootlegging, with a wonderful performance by Alfred Lunt.

What Sidney proposed to me over lunch at the Plaza was that I join the Playwrights' Company, an organization about to be created at the instigation of Robert Emmet Sherwood. Bob was then surely the most popular playwright in the English-speaking world. The Theatre Guild had produced two of his plays—"Idiot's Delight" and "Reunion in Vienna"—with tremendous success, both with the Lunts, who were members of the Guild acting company. The other members of the new company were to be Maxwell Anderson and Elmer Rice. Max Anderson had also been produced successfully by the Guild. I asked Sidney what we could do for ourselves that the Guild couldn't do. This was a sore point. Sidney told me finally that Bob was not happy with the Guild, for all sorts of reasons, too minute to go into then. "Bob wants to talk to you," Sidney said. Bob had a new play, "Abe Lincoln in Illinois," with which he wanted to start the company's season. What did I have? I said that I was just finishing a play called "No Time for Comedy." "I have one, too," said Sidney. "'Madame, Will You Walk?' That will give us a start three plays."

The truth is that Sidney's proposal rather bowled me over, and I said as much. This would mean breaking with the Guild. They had produced my first play and several plays since. The members of their board were friends of mine: I was fond of Terry Helburn, Lawrence Langner, and Phil Moeller, who, as a director, suited me perfectly; Maurice Wertheim had been extraordinarily kind to me. I was flabbergasted; I just didn't know what to say. "It bowled me over, too," said Sidney. "But Bob cleared up my doubts." Sidney added that Bob had persuaded John Wharton, a highly regarded theatrical lawyer and a member of a distinguished firm, to be president of our company. There it was, already in existence, seemingly—a company of five playwrights, with a president. Sidney had a paper for me to sign stating that I would join the company. I put off signing it. Sidney agreed that it would be better to wait till I had seen Bob.

Of course, I discussed the idea at once with my agent, Harold Freedman. He took a very poor view of it. He did not believe in playwrights' producing their own plays. Four of us were his clients. He believed in deciding on a manager in each individual case. He believed in the open market—even if it meant that most of us ended up with the Theatre Guild in any case.

I had met Bob Sherwood, but I didn't come to know him intimately till later. He was a tremendously impressive person—six feet seven inches tall, straight and thin, almost cadaverous. He had dark, expressive eyes, which deepened, when he was seriously involved, into a tragic look. He was self-conscious about his abnormal height; I had been told that when he was young he felt sure that girls didn't want to dance with him. He was at the peak of his profession, as much at home in the London theatre as he was in New York. He was powerful. He could get the Lunts whenever he wanted to. When it came to casting a new play for which he wanted Spencer Tracy, he got Spencer Tracy away from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; this was a thing that could not be done, but he did it. He had an overflowing sense of humor; he was known throughout the city as a party turn. Just a few weeks before, at a party given by George Kaufman and Moss Hart, I had seen him get up on an improvised stage and do the number for which he was famous—"When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along." He wore a dinner jacket and an opera hat, and wielded a vaudeville comedian's ebony stick. With all this, his face was set in troubled seriousness. His eyes were sombre with tragedy. The walking stick cavorted, circling and pointing irrelevantly, following some sinister choreography of its own. The total effect was incredibly and strangely funny. The applause was vociferous, but Bob refused to sing another verse and chorus.

In my first talk with Sherwood about the company, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of his feeling about it. It was as if it mattered to him more than anything else in the world. "Why don't we simply do our plays ourselves?"—it seemed a plausible question, to which there was no ready answer. About the Guild, Bob was voluble and bitter. It had offended him as an author. I asked for particulars. He produced some—the kind of trivialities that tear people apart for a few hours during rehearsals and are forgotten the next day. I could not believe that a man of Bob's stature could he so riven by such differences. It was clear that his passion to start his own company came from some fundamental impulse for self-assertion. But I felt from that first talk—from the very beginning—a deep reservation about the venture. My first response was emotional: I hated the idea of breaking with the Guild. I had no interest whatever in profits made from play production; I was interested only in author's royalties made from plays I had written. If I needed money—and I often did—I could go to Hollywood. Sometimes I didn't even have to go. A few weeks before, Nicholas Schenck, the grand panjandrum of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, had called me from Hollywood to ask me to come out to work on the screenplay of Sherwood's "Waterloo Bridge." I had said flatly that I couldn't come—I was finishing a play of my own. Presently, I got a wire from Eddie Mannix, the studio manager, saying that they were sending Gottfried Reinhardt, the son of Max, to work with me on the film in New York. In those days, being allowed to work away from Hollywood's direct supervision was practically unheard of. Gottfried was an immensely entertaining companion, and I welcomed his arrival. The first thing he told me was that I had acquired a new reputation in Hollywood: the first writer who had frontally turned down Nicholas Schenck.

It was very hard for me to hold out about the company. Who was I to resist a man as eminent and lovable as Bob Sherwood? I didn't. I signed. Neither Bob nor I divined the problems that would beset us, including the underlying one: that any play any of us wrote would automatically be produced—that the sieve of play-peddling would not operate with us. We did not foresee having to produce the work of writers who mask sterility with incessant productivity. One day, early on, Bob grumbled to me, "Max, who hasn't even paid his initial investment, has got us involved in a musical comedy he wrote with Kurt Weill, 'Knickerbocker Holiday.'" Sidney and I sat through a rehearsal. We were charmed by Walter Huston, who sang the to-become-famous "September Song."

Sidney had married Polly Damrosch, the daughter of Walter Damrosch, the conductor. They had bought an old house and a farm in Tyringham, Massachusetts, a village in the foothills of the Berkshires. Sidney was an outdoor type; he was descended from a line of California shipbuilders. He meant to farm his land in Tyringham. He bought tractors and manned them himself on his acres. I had married Elza, the younger of Jascha Heifetz's two sisters. The Howards invited us to Tyringham for the weekend. It gave Sidney and me a chance to go over his play "Madame, Will You Walk?" The play presented problems. Bob had tried to get the Lunts for it, but had found them somewhat intractable when he approached them for a play that was not by him. It was a very pleasant weekend. Polly was the most unobtrusively considerate of hostesses. Sidney and I didn't get very far on his play. It lacked the clarity and drive of his best plays; we could talk about it endlessly without hitting on an expedient that would pull it together. Sidney and I made a lunch date for Friday in New York to go on discussing it.

Elza and I returned to New York on Sunday night. On Thursday morning, I got a telephone call from Victor Samrock, our company manager. He told me that Sidney was dead. He had been killed by one of his tractors. He had been standing between it and the back wall of the barn and had cranked the motor, not knowing that the tractor was in gear. It had leaped forward, pinned him against the wall, and killed him. The following Saturday, we were all at the little church in Tyringham for his funeral. At the graveside, Polly threw a rose on Sidney's coffin as it was being lowered. I have never forgotten the expression on her face—anger and defiance.

Polly's brother-in-law Tom Finletter called me to say that Sidney had not left much in the way of worldly goods (everything had gone into the farm), and that he hoped that I and the others would do all we could for Sidney's play. We were left with a tragic chore. Bob, with the best will in the world, refused to rewrite Sidney's play; he wished it to be Sidney's, not his. He felt terrible about Polly. We did what we could. We engaged George M. Cohan for a major role. It was an expensive contract. Cohan told us that it was his habit to travel with an entourage when he went on the road, and that previous managements had not hesitated to pay for it. We opened Sidney's play in Baltimore. I don't think that four playwrights could have worked harder than we did to make a play acceptable. The company had instantly acquired great prestige and publicity, and now we made formal entry into the various cities of the play's scheduled tour. We saw the critics and did our best to condition them. In Baltimore, we had lunch with the drama critic for the News-Post, Louis Azrael, who was to review the play. We swamped the poor critic with our pooled reputations. We listed Sidney's earlier plays and said that in our considered judgment his latest, which Azrael was to see that night, was his maturest, his best. While we were flooding him with encomiums, a note was handed to Bob Sherwood. It was from Cohan, giving notice that he was quitting his part after the opening. Actually, the play was kindly received, and Cohan stayed on. But it was no go. The audience was always disappointed that Cohan did not sing or dance. Finally, feeling the frustration of the .audience, he did a little dance on his last exit, to a salvo of applause.

The company failed in the discharge of this tragic chore. The play closed in Baltimore. Coming back from Baltimore on the train with his wife, Madeline, and me, Bob Sherwood said, "I like the plays of Robert Emmet Sherwood. He hasn't got much to say, but at least he doesn't try to say anything else." This was a half-conscious reflection on Sidney's play. Sidney had tried to say something else but had not dramatically integrated it. We were aware of our failure and were desperate to make it up to him. One day, at a full-dress meeting, Bob suggested that we revive "Yellow Jack." It seemed to us a good idea. We applauded it. But by the time the applause had died out the worthy idea had vanished. The envoi to the history of "Madame, Will You Walk?" was supplied by Cohan on his deathbed. He had a twinge of conscience for having made us pay so heavily when he signed his contract with us for himself and his entourage. He sent us an apologetic note and a check for fifteen hundred dollars.

The company had started out auspiciously. "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" was an impressive success. It was the first Lincoln play that made salient the melancholy side of Lincoln's character. It opened at a singularly tense moment. Hitler had begun his takeover of Czechoslovakia; one did not know what was going to happen in Europe. Americans were reassured and very much moved to see a play showing that in a national crisis of our own we had produced a man of great moral force who steered us safely through it. My own play "No Time for Comedy" was a success also. Max Anderson's "Knickerbocker Holiday" was not a financial success when we produced it, but it had a fragrance about it that appealed to many people. Walter Huston singing "September Song" enraptured people, as he had done Sidney Howard at the rehearsal we saw together. A great many years later, Max Anderson told me that year after year he received a royalty of eight thousand dollars for the lyrics of this song. He deserved it. Serious musical-comedy lyricists said that Max was potentially a unique writer of musical-comedy lyrics. But he preferred to write verse plays in which he hovered imaginatively in "interstellar space."

I became very fond of Max. His personality radiated universal benignity. He had a great shock of brown hair, wore glasses, and was on the qui vive for injustice, especially that committed against the American Indians. Max's father had been an itinerant preacher.  They were always travelling in impecunious piety. Max couldn't remember at any time in his youth having a home. Later, when he was travelling on his own, he met Laurence Stallings. They collaborated on a play, "What Price Glory?," and this made a confirmed playwright of Max. Max didn't think it was good for creative artists to have money; he thought its possession devitalized them. Whenever be earned any, he immediately gave it away—to members of his family. One day, Harold Freedman startled me by calling to say that a reputable publisher had offered to pay me an advance of thirty thousand dollars to write a book on Maxwell Anderson. I said the publisher must he crazy. Harold said not at all—that I didn't realize what a vogue Max had in the universities in this country. He was a campus hero; the undergraduates thought that Max, single-handed, was converting the shoddy American theatre to poetry. I turned the offer down.

After the war started, things became very tense in this country, and even within the Playwrights' Company. Bob Sherwood got himself passionately involved in the war crisis on the side of England. He was fearless and courageous. He attacked Lindbergh and what he called Lindbergh's "mechanical heart." He got the idea of taking a full-page ad in New York and out-of-town newspapers with the heading "Stop Hitler Now!" It was a plea for us to send planes, guns, munitions, and food to Europe right away. This proposal had already been discussed in high places. The Communists, better financed than Bob, had propagandized the White House against it. I spent the whole of one night in Bob's apartment on Sutton Place helping him to edit the text of his ad. I asked him how he intended to pay for it when he finally had it finished. He said, without worry, "I don't know." I knew that he would manage it, and he did. The ad appeared, and caused a stir. Meanwhile, Harold Ross, the editor of The New Yorker, had asked me to do a two-part Profile of Bob. I called it "Old Monotonous"—a description applied to Bob by members of his own family. At one point, my Profile worried Bob. He had been asked to be the Commencement speaker at Milton Academy, which he had attended as a boy. He had accepted the Academy's invitation. The date was set. What worried Bob was that in recalling his history as an undergraduate I had recalled perhaps too much—that Bob didn't do so well in his studies and didn't get very good marks. He hadn't wanted his parents to see those marks. The solution he'd evolved was simplistic. He set fire to the building containing the poor marks. Bob said that this arson might undermine his authority as an inspirational preacher at the Commencement. I pointed out that the Profile recorded also how hard he had worked to put the fire out. Bob still felt that his new role would be vitiated. There was nothing to be done about it The New Yorker inexorably came out. Bob delivered the Commencement address. There were no cries of arson against him; the students evidently approved of his simplistic solution.

Presently, the Playwrights' office, which was in Rockefeller Center, came to have a semi-official nimbus: Bob was made head of the Office of War Information. He also became a member of the President's official staff of speechwriters. Bob told of taking the typescript of a speech he had written to the President's office. As F.D.R. sat in his wheelchair going over it Wendell Willkie was announced. "Ah, Willkie!" said F.D.R. "I sent for him. I am sending him abroad." While he was saying this, he began mussing up the typed pages of Bob's manuscript and scattering them all over the desk. Bob looked on uncomprehending; he had thought F.D.R. liked the speech. The President, with an explanatory nod at the dispersed papers, simply said, "I want Willkie to think I'm a busy man."

Elmer Rice I hardly knew at all until I met him through the Playwrights' Company. He was socially charming and humorous but was apt to be strident when he was arguing for his plays at company meetings. When I first came to New York, in 1917, Elmer was already famous. The theatrical columns and the magazines were full of him. He was a phenomenon: he had been a lawyer and had written a tremendous success, a melodrama called "On Trial." It had had a long run in New York and was touring the United States in various companies. He was then in his early twenties; he gave up the law and made playwriting a full-time job. By the time he came to us, he had also written "Street Scene" (which Kurt Weill later converted into an opera) and "Counsellor-at-Law," which Paul Muni played with great success. There had also been innumerable others, none of them successful; his productivity lowered his average. Elmer was public-spirited; he took an active part in the crusades of the American Civil Liberties Union. There were those who said that the Playwrights' Company was a lifesaver for him, because the regular managers had become leery of his product. I thought that he must he aware of this and that that awareness made him unduly sensitive to criticism offered by his colleagues—not that we offered much. One time, after reading Elmer's latest, I had asked Sidney how he liked it. He had said, "Terrible, but I am not going to tell him." Nobody told him. We just produced the plays.

Elmer lived at that time in the Hotel Ansonia, at Seventy-third and Broadway, and after one of his openings—I have forgotten which—he gave a party. It was sad, because we all knew that the play didn't have a chance. The walls of Elmer's suite were plastered thick with modern abstract paintings; they contributed to a sense of claustrophobia. Elmer, obeying some impulse to dig up one artifact of former glory, came upon what he wanted while going through a desk drawer. He displayed it to us. It was a yellowed box-office statement of the tour of the third company of "On Trial" from Erie, Pennsylvania. Elmer made it thematic: how the American theatre had in the interval become constricted and provincial. He said that in most of America now no one had seen live theatre.

Generally, our company meetings were great fun. One day, Max Anderson said he was on tenterhooks about something. Elmer asked, "What are tenterhooks, anyway?" Sherwood explained. "Tenterhooks," he said, "are the up-hol-ster-ry of the anxious seat." After Bob became head of O.W.I., he spent most of his time in Washington, and came to very few meetings. He was flown to England on a bomber. He was full of inside stories of Washington, of the President, of Winston Churchill, of the war. After the death of Harry Hopkins, he undertook to complete Hopkins' memoir, for which only the notes existed. It appeared under the title "Roosevelt and Hopkins," and was universally acclaimed.

One fateful day, John Wharton, our president, summoned us to a serious meeting. Bob was not present—just Max Anderson, Elmer Rice, and I. Wharton had some accountants' statements before him. He confronted us with the bleak fact that the company had lost twenty-five thousand dollars in the past year. At this announcement, Max Anderson grinned widely and said, "That's good." He meant it, since it was a major theme of his that financial stringency was a stimulus to creative effort. Without contradicting Max, Wharton went on to say that he thought it would he expedient for us to give up our expensive offices and move into cheaper ones. It was put as a motion, and we passed it. Victor Samrock was designated to find the cheaper offices. Wharton undertook to notify Bob of our decision. Bob demanded another meeting, at which he would be present. That meeting proved tenser than the earlier one. Bob confronted all of us with a plea. "Do not," he said, "take away from a man who has already lost everything—do not also take away from him this office." We at once revoked our earlier decision. Samrock was ordered to stop looking. I did not know that Bob's statement was literally true—that he had indeed lost everything. I had lunch with him the next day and he explained it. On a train several years before, Bob had asked me what I did with my money. I said that I kept it in savings banks. Bob said that that was very foolish; he had found a wonderful stockbroker to whom he had entrusted his entire capital—even his daughter Mary's—and that the broker was doing wonderful things for him. The broker would do the same for me. He gave me the broker's telephone number and strongly urged me to call him, using his own name as a reference. I devoutly meant to call him, but I am badly organized and never did. Now, at lunch, Bob told me what had happened: He had arranged for the broker to get his entire income directly; he lived on an allowance given him by the broker. The allowance stopped coming. Sherwood demanded an explanation and discovered that the broker, through stupid investment and embezzlement, had lost everything Bob had in the world.

The story made the angry. How could Bob have let that run on so long without looking into things, without making inquiries?

Bob answered with simplicity. He spoke very slowly, islanding each syllable. "He was so bor-ing," he said, "that I a-void-ed him."

The years went on. It was becoming increasingly clear that the company had developed a life force of its own, which sapped my life force. I was constantly having to read, criticize, and watch rehearsals of four plays concurrently. I had not Bob's facility; he could sit down in an office—preferably our office—with telephones ringing and people walking in and out and write a play. I couldn't. I required privacy. Little differences arose between the company and me; they were trivial, but they led, finally, to my resignation. The basic issue was that I felt that Harold Freedman's original reservations about the company were valid: that playwrights should not produce plays, especially their own; that the function of the manager, who had no axe to grind, was not dispensable. I came to this decision gradually and painfully, in great agony of spirit. I loved Bob, and I knew that my resignation would be a blow to him. He was one of the most remarkable and admirable men I have ever known. His integrity was inviolable; on any question of principle he would not give an inch.

"No Time for Comedy" was the fourth production of the Playwrights' Company. I sent the final draft to Bob Sherwood before I had even signed to join the company. He was keen about it. He said Katharine Cornell would be great for it, and undertook to get her for me and to get her husband, Guthrie McClintic, to direct. Harold Freedman had wished to give it to Ina Claire, who was in a betwixt-and-between position professionally. Harold wanted passionately to keep Ina in New York—"to save her for the theatre," as he put it. Certainly Bob had a lot on his side. Miss Cornell was the most popular star in the country; an emanation of her rich and generous personality as well as her luminous beauty had got across to the American audience. In the course of the two-rear run of my play, I came to know her well. Exhibitionism is taken for granted as the sine qua non of any acting career; Miss Cornell had less of it than any actress or actor I have ever known. Her position in the theatre transcended technique; she was not, like Ina Claire or Lynn Fontanne, a great comedienne. It was something essential in herself, as a person, that the audiences sensed and reached out to. Had she not been an actress, she might have been the effective head of a great humanitarian enterprise. Once, in Boston, at the Wilbur Theatre, I peeped at the stage through the closed auditorium doors. I could hear nothing, but I saw Miss Cornell. I became instantly aware that the whole stage and the other actors took light from the radiance of her personality.

Whom to get to play opposite her? Harold Freedman, who knew all the great actors and those who were to become great as well, called up young Laurence Olivier, who was then in Hollywood. He sent Larry the script, and Larry consented to play the part. Once we had Cornell and Olivier, Guthrie was able to complete the casting most felicitously. We had, besides Larry, two other Englishmen Robert Flemyng and John Williams. FIemyng played the tiny part of Makepeace Lovell, called Pym. Lynn Fontanne once told me that Pym was the best small part she had ever read. No member of the audience knew at the end of the play what a tiny part it was; Flemyng had made it salient. We also had Margalo Gillmore, who had been in my first play, and whose satiric humor had cheered me up often during the intervening years, and we had Gee Gee James, who played the maid. We embarked by train for Indianapolis, where we were to open. I went to the station with Larry; I was surprised that he carried only one light suitcase. "What about your stage clothes?" I asked. "I am going to wear this," said Larry, pointing to the suit he was wearing. "Anything wrong with it?" There was nothing wrong with it. I thought, How wonderful, just to walk onstage in your street clothes!

Kit and Guthrie were taking another train; Bob Sherwood and the other members of the Playwrights' Company were coming later, in time for the opening. Larry, Margalo, Bobby Flemyng, John Williams, and I spent the evening in the club car. There is something exciting and adventurous about taking a new play to an unfamiliar city. Of course, being young helps. The fact that you don't know whether the audience of strangers is going to like you adds a tang of hazard, which no one mentions. Larry began to tell stories.

"I'd been playing Hotspur in England," Larry said. "I played him in a red wig. Once you've decided to wear a red wig, you have to make up for it all over. My makeup, to live up to that red wig, took me about three hours. I had to get into my dressing room by five o'clock in the afternoon. At one performance, I was annoyed from the very beginning by a flamboyant commercial type sitting down front with a girl. He kept whispering to her all the time, especially after I made an entrance. The man became an obsession with me. I tried not to see him, but—do you know? —I could see nobody else. Next time I came on, he gave me a personal welcome. He said out loud to his girl, 'Well, here comes Old Ginger again.'"

"Love's labor's lost," said Margalo.

"Exactly," said Larry.

John Williams asked Larry how his son was.

"Tarquin?" said Larry. "Oh, he's all right. He's growing up."

"Don't tell me that you had the effrontery to pin a name like that on your son," said Margalo.

"Why not?" said Larry. "I thought it would look good on the bills." He traced it out with his hand—"Tarquin Olivier"—and asked, "Is it bad?"

"It's not bad, but it's impossible," Margalo said.

We asked the porter to switch off all the lights in the car to give the visiting Englishmen a sight of the famous U-turn that the Pennsylvania train makes around Horseshoe Curve, near Altoona.

We opened, appropriately, at the English Theatre, a lovely old house that reminded me of the Hollis in Boston. It must have been of about the same vintage, and has probably disappeared by now, as the Hollis has. Because Kit was in the play, the performances were all sold out before we arrived. Bob Sherwood and the rest of my colleagues showed up, as did Alexander Woollcott, a devoted friend of Kit's. The little contingent from New York did not alleviate the tension of appearing before a new audience; if anything, it heightened it. It was apparent to me from the first that Kit was nervous and insecure; it was the first time in years that she had played a straight comedy part. John Williams, who had a long scene with Kit before Larry came on, played with authority and ease and made his effect in a strange, laconic part. Larry walked on in his street suit. His playing was, from the moment of his entrance, so effulgent that the audience was startled and fascinated. Kit looked wonderful; she had her beauty. But beauty is a static thing. Larry had the most engaging and volatile good looks. There was a stir in the audience about him that lasted all evening. His authority and idiosyncrasy were so compelling that they put the play out of balance, in a way; the other actors seemed a bit perfunctory. The only one who was imperturbable was Bobby Flemyng, as Pym; he had a razorlike edge to his comedy playing that nothing could dent. In the intermissions, I heard people exchanging queries about who this surprising young man Olivier was and where he had been keeping himself all this time.

When the play was over, I went to see Kit in her dressing room. She was crying. "I let you down," she said.

I made light of it. "Bob and the others think the play got over," I said.

"Thanks to Larry," she said.

In our conference after the play, at which Aleck Woollcott put in an appearance to register how dazzled he was by Larry, I was conscious of the panic that afflicts managements on occasions like this: Would Kit quit? But the apprehensive ones did not know Kit. She did not quit. She stuck. She got better and better as she vanquished her nervousness. The company was her responsibility. She mothered it. Everybody in it blossomed under her ministrations. I made a discovery myself—that the woman she was playing was Kit, though I had hardly known her when I wrote the part. She became surer and surer. By the time the company left Indianapolis, it was an ensemble.

Our last stop before New York was Baltimore. On the closing night, I went into Larry's dressing room for a word with him. He had just finished taking off his makeup. He put a few things in his suitcase. He was delighted that he had so little to carry. I asked him whether he wasn't going to buy a new suit for New York. "It would make me uncomfortable," he said. "I want to keep the feeling I've had in the towns we've just played. I've had such a good time." I could see that Larry's performances were like a stroll in the park for him.

In New York, Brooks Atkinson wrote, "The cast is the most spring-like event that a sullen April has borne this season." Of Kit he said, "After two years of silence in New York, which does not enjoy the quiet, Katharine Cornell has returned in all her magnificence, playing comedy with effortless skill and personal sincerity." The company settled down happily for a run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. I have never known anything quite like the sympathy and warmth of that engagement.

Several months later, I had to go to England to see Rex Harrison, who was to play the Olivier part in "No Time for Comedy" in London. It was the fateful summer of 1939. My talk with Harrison was satisfactory; he was keen to do the play. I also saw Binkie Beaumont, who was to produce it at the Haymarket. I liked Binkie's casting ideas: Diana Wynyard and Lilli Palmer. The Sassoons were away. So was Laski. I returned home on a leisurely boat. The evening I got back, I looked in at the Ethel Barrymore. Everything was going tidily. But when I went back to see Kit I found her downcast. She told me awful news: Olivier was leaving the show. He simply could not remain for the transcontinental tour that Guthrie had arranged for the following fall and winter. It was a heavy blow.

When it became apparent that England would soon be at war, Bobby Flemyng left, too. He loved his part, he loved being in New York, he loved playing with Kit, but he felt he must go home and enlist. He had a varicose vein in one leg; he knew that this would disqualify him. He quit the play and went into New York Hospital to have an operation on his leg. (He sailed for home, qualified for enlistment, and served all through the war. He put in what the English describe as "a good war.")

There were two doleful evenings when I went to see Bobby Flemyng for the last time and Larry for the last time. On both occasions, I went with Gertrude Macy, Kit's business manager and a great buddy of mine. Gert Macy was considered one of the ablest managers in New York. On both occasions, Flemyng and Larry were at their best, which made the evenings more poignant. Gert and I condoled each other—she felt the way I did. On Larry's last night, Gcrt and I took Kit home. We mourned Larry. "It was so exciting playing with him," Kit said. "You never could tell what he would do. But, whatever he did, it was always right—some new facet, some new insight." When we left Kit, I said to Gert that I couldn't imagine the play without Larry but that Kit had to do more than imagine it—she had to play it. "That is exactly what she will do," said Gert. "She will play it. Moreover, she will keep it up. You'll see."

Play it Kit did, till late next spring, on an immense tour that went from Boston to Seattle, with major cities in between, and from Seattle south through California and Texas to New Orleans, from New Orleans to the East and the final performance, in Newark. From Newark, I went to Kit's house, on Beekman Place, where she was giving a farewell party for the company.

I loved Kit's house. I always felt in it that I was in a Chelsea house in London. It was comfortable, spacious, and unpretentious. Everyone was pretty tired; the company had been touring hard for many months. Guthrie made me a little speech and gave me a present from the company—a silver cigarette box that had a map of the United States on the cover with a red band marking every town the company had played. The stage manager played the piano. Gee Gee James, John Williams, and Margalo—along with Kit, the veteran elite of the original company—stood around the piano and sang. It was all slow-paced and pleasant. I sat with Kit on a sofa in a corner, under a Burchfield painting. I thanked her for what she had done for me and for the play.

"The audiences enjoyed it," she said "But I was never—not from the beginning—happy about my own performance. I have never been happy about my own performance—not in anything."

I said that that was nonsense—that she had been marvellous in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street."

"I came nearest in that," she said. "That suited mc. But, you know . . ." She paused; she was gathering her thoughts. "I wanted to act when I was young. There was nothing I wanted so much. But I was never secure in it. I never . . ." She paused again. "I've always had to be cautious."

This quality in Kit—modesty in so great a star—was remarkable. She is one of the most distinguished and gracious women I have ever known. Some time after this party, Kit got together a company—which included Margalo—and took it to Italy to give performances for the G.I.s. The G.I.s adored her. Margalo wrote a book about it. In it she reveals how admirably Kit carried out this demanding enterprise.

In Verona, Italy, the home town of Romeo and Juliet, I once was taken to see the house where Juliet lived. I was sure that this attribution was apocryphal, but I inspected the commonplace little cottage. From it came the strains, on a phonograph record, of George Gershwin's "The Man I Love." This was thematically appropriate. Was the present occupant imagining the supposed earlier tenant's last thoughts? But "The Man I Love" was followed almost immediately by another Gershwin composition, the "Rhapsody in Blue." This was in 1938, about a year after George's death; it saddened me that I should be unable to report this little concert, on a Verona street, to the composer of both works. It would have amused and delighted him. I had heard him play both unforgettably; I should have liked to tell the present tenant that I had known him and adored him. I walked away from the little house, pondering the mystery of the incidence of genius. There is no mystery more incalculable, more tantalizing than the emergence of genius from an ordinary, even coarse, social texture. I walked along thinking of the years I had known the Gershwins—from the early Saturday nights at the Lou Paleys', on West Eighth Street, to the later, grand nights at George's duplex apartment on East Seventy-second Street.

To a memorial volume published after George's death Ira contributed a compact and lucid essay, with a paragraph describing the environment and the early tribulations of the Gershwin family:

My brother, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., September 26, 1898, was the second of four children of Morris and Rose Bruskin Gershwin. I was the oldest, then came George, then Arthur, and last, our sister, Frances. Most of our early boyhood was spent on the lower East Side of Manhattan, where my father engaged in various activities: restaurants, Russian and Turkish baths, bakeries, a cigar store and pool parlor on the Forty-second Street side of what is now Grand Central Station, bookmaking at the Brighton Beach Race Track for three exciting but disastrous weeks. We were always moving. When my father sold a business and started another, we would inevitably move to the new neighborhood. George and I once counted more than twenty-five different flats and apartments we remembered having lived in during those days.

A great day in the Gershwin history was the arrival of the family's first piano. It was a second-hand upright, bought on the installment plan. Mrs. Gershwin thought she ought to have one, because her married sister had one. It was addressed to Ira as the eldest of the children. The moment it arrived, George began to play by ear some popular songs he had heard. Pleased to find a pianist in the house and relieved of responsibility, Ira returned to his thoughts and to the St. Nicholas Baths, at Lenox Avenue and 11th Street, where he was then working. George found a piano teacher, and the two brothers went their own ways, without suspecting that soon their destinies would be inextricably welded. George left the High School of Commerce at fifteen to become "the youngest piano-pounder ever employed in Tin Pan Alley," for fifteen dollars a week. When he submitted a song of his own to his employers, he was bluntly told, "You're here as a pianist, not a writer." Little by little, George demonstrated that he was indeed a writer.

Ira was literary. He sold a filler to the Smart Set for a dollar. Not long afterward, he tripled his income; he describes the process in his book "Lyrics on Several Occasions":

In my late teens I fooled around with French verse forms, such as the triplet, villanelle, and especially the rondeau—with its opening phrase taking on new meanings when repeated. I even sold one to the New York Sun, for which I received three dollars:


My Rosie knows the places where
One goes to lose all trace of care.
The ultra swagger cabaret . . .
The crystal chandeliered café . . .

And oh, she knows the waiters there.
Her wink will fetch from magic lair
A bottle of a vintage rare . . .
And potent beer? Hot dog! I'll say
My Rosie knows!

Without my Rosie, I declare
I'd plumb the depths of dark despair.
To her I dedicate this lay;
To her I owe my spirits gay,
My smiling mien, my cheerful air,
My rosy nose.

Ira was known to his family as "the floating soul." Unanchored, he took a job touring with a carnival show. On tour, from Pittsburgh, he wrote to a friend to thank him for clippings about George's successes as a rehearsal pianist for musical-comedy celebrities; he wryly admitted, "I now belong, I see, to the ranks of Brothers of the Great." It was a role Ira set for himself early, and he has remained contentedly within it ever since. Now that George is gone, Ira devotes himself to fostering his memory. He became a lyric writer of singular genius. His book "Lyrics on Several Occasions" is an enchanting volume, not only for his songs but for his numerous comments upon them. I said to him once, while I was reading it with enormous pleasure, "You know, Ira, you are every bit as good as George." He shook his head. "No," he said. "George was an original." At the Gershwin parties, with everyone spellbound around the piano while George was singing Ira's lyrics, I would steal a look at Ira, standing on the outskirts of the crowd, a small, benignant smile on his face, stirred to happiness by the effect his brother was creating. That they were his lyrics George was singing was, to him, peripheral. He was under the spell of his brother's overwhelming personality, as the rest of us were.

The fact is that in the Gershwin years there was nothing more thrilling than to hear George play the piano. It heightened the sense of being alive. How universal his effect was is attested to by Eva Gauthier, the first singer to perform George's songs in a concert hall. In a piece she wrote for the Gershwin memorial book, she recalls:

After our London concert, which was a repetition of the New York and Boston programs, Lord and Lady Carisbrooke (cousins of King George V) gave a party for us. It was Gershwin's first meeting with royalty and it was as if he had always belonged there. With his charm and talent he made the party alive and interesting and had everyone around the piano as he sang and played all his latest songs and dance hits. . . . In London he became the good friend of Prince George, now the Duke of Kent, who used to drop in at George's apartment while he played to him. Gershwin took great pride in a photograph inscribed "To George from George."

Those lucky enough to have the acquaintance of certain members of the prolific Strunsky family in the early Gershwin years had, although they did not suspect it, a jump of many years on Lady Carisbrooke and the party she gave for Eva Gauthier and her accompanist. There were two Strunsky girls—Leonore and Emily. The former married Ira Gershwin, the latter Lou Paley, an English teacher who wrote song lyrics on the side. He wrote some for George. The Paleys had an apartment on the second floor of 18 West Eighth Street. On the first floor lived Mr. and Mrs. Howard Dietz. Dietz began to be annoyed because on Saturday nights the chandelier in his living room had the shakes, owing to a rhythmic pounding on the floor above. One Saturday night, he and his wife were going to the theatre. Just as they were leaving, Dietz decided to go upstairs and protest the tremors of his chandelier. "One of us might get killed if that chandelier falls," he said to his wife. Dietz, who later became vice-president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and a librettist and lyrics-writer for revues and musical shows, has described what happened on his trip to save his chandelier:

I knocked on the door of the Lou Paleys'. Someone opened the door carefully and put his finger to his lips, cautioning me not to disturb the music. About forty people were sitting on the floor around the grand piano at which a dark-haired chap was playing and singing in a rich guttural, and vastly entertaining. I took a seat on the floor. My wife below got impatient waiting and came upstairs to find out what had happened to me. I went to the door, put my finger to my lips and motioned her to come in and sit beside me. We never got to the theatre and we stopped bothering about our chandelier. We became regulars at the Saturday nights at the Lou Paleys' to hear George Gershwin.

I have read numberless pages of musical analysis of Gershwin songs and his more ambitious compositions by experts—"diminished sevenths," "tonic triads," "broken chords." I don't understand any of it, as I know nothing, technically, about music. Gershwin's originality, they all agree, came from his intuition for the dramatic and the colloquial. But when I first heard him, and subsequently, I found that I had an intuition of my own, as a listener. I felt on the instant, when he sat down to play, the newness, the humor—above all, the rush of the great, heady surf of vitality. The room became freshly oxygenated; everybody felt it, everybody breathed it. In Philadelphia, some time after my initiation, I met Josef Hofmann. He said of Gershwin, "He is a pianist. He has complete command of the keyboard." One got this sense from Gershwin immediately: command, mastery triumphal. I knew from the first Saturday night at the Paleys' that I was having the best time I'd ever had in my life. Other composers there that night played their stuff, but these were preliminaries. They were all waiting to hear George play "That Certain Feeling," "Liza," "The Half of It, Dearie, Blues." He demolished rivalry. Later, on East Seventy-second Street, the audience was augmented by Society and Finance. The old regulars from West Eighth Street did not snub them. It was fun to show George's paintings to Doris Duke—those he'd done himself and those he'd bought.

George was striking in appearance—handsome, lithe, and well built. Osbert Sitwell has described his looks, in one of his books, as "streamlined." This was so; George was streamlined in all his activities: as a composer, as a pianist, as a painter, as a golf and tennis player. As I think over the people I have known, it strikes me that George stands practically alone among them for possessing an almost nonexistent quality: the quality of joy. Pessimism, melancholia, depression are a dime a dozen; joie de vivre is the rarest phenomenon in the world. George knew that he was something new; he was perpetually fascinated by the development of this novelty. A great many of the stories about him can be explained by this view he had of himself. Once, when he was talking about his mother, he said, "You know, the extraordinary thing about her—she's so modest about me." It was not that George especially valued modesty as a quality. It was that he wondered whether his mother appreciated fully the scope of what he was—whether her modesty perhaps emanated from her being half informed. DuBose Heyward, the author of "Porgy and Bess," said of George that his self-appreciations were beyond modesty and beyond conceit. George was incapable of insincerity; he didn't see why he should suppress a virtue or a talent simply because it happened to belong to him. The popular composers are a race apart, like dancers and kings. The fatuous ones are canny and move about in a carefully spun cocoon of pretentious modesty, George Gershwin was neither canny enough nor calculating enough for that. He was just plain dazzled by the spectacle of his own music and his own career; his unaffected delight in it was somewhat astonishing, but it was also amusing and refreshing. George was becoming one of the most eligible bachelors in America; there was curiosity among his friends from the beginning as to who the girl would be. I began hearing about the Dream Girl. The Derain Girl was a Chicago physical-culture teacher, whom I never met. She gave George elaborate workouts, which he thought were good for him. Physical well-being led to infatuation. Perhaps some of us thought it was a bit naïve of George to enhalo his sweetheart in this way, but on the whole we didn't mind. We liked the concept; we believed in Dream Girls. It was a more guileless time. We waited for a wedding announcement. It didn't come; it kept on being delayed. One day, Ira called me to tell me some devastating news: Dream Girl (we never referred to her in any other way; I never knew her name) was married. He hadn't the heart to tell George. He begged me to relieve him of this disagreeable chore. I took on the job. I went up to 110th Street, where George and his parents were then living. I went up to George's room; he was working on the Concerto in F. He played me a passage; he completed a variation on it.

"George," I said, "I have bad news for you. Dream Girl is married."

His brown eyes showed a flicker of pain. He kept looking at me. Finally, he spoke. "Do you know?" he said. "If I weren't so busy, I'd feel terrible."

The phrase "Music by George Gershwin" came to have an incantatory spell for managements; George White signed him up five times to write the music for his "Scandals." George's activities were incessant; his involvements in musical comedies did not stop while he was preparing "Rhapsody in Blue." The audience that assembled on a February afternoon in 1924 to hear Paul Whiteman's orchestra, with George as piano soloist, play the "Rhapsody" included Walter Damrosch, Victor Herbert, John Philip Sousa, Jascha Heifetz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ernest Bloch, Willem Mengelberg, Leopold Stokowski, Mischa Elman, Fritz Kreisler. The concert added a dimension to George's reputation. Samuel Chotzinoff, the music critic of the New York World, wrote that George had made "an honest woman out of jazz." Walter Damrosch commissioned him to write "a work of symphonic scope" for the New York Symphony Society. The Concerto in F was the result. My listener's intuition told me that the opening of its slow movement was one of the loveliest, most poignant passages I had ever heard.

The Gershwin brothers wandered about in all directions. George wrote shows with other lyricists. Ira interpolated his lyrics wherever he could find an opening for them. He wrote the musical comedy "Two Little Girls in Blue" with Vincent Youmans and Paul Lannin. But one day it occurred to the producers Alex Aarons and Vinton Freedley to combine George and Ira in a show with music and lyrics written entirely by them. The result was "Lady, Be Good," which was a big hit and established George and Ira as a team—who ideally complemented each other in producing something unique: music and lyrics that matched each other in spontaneity and verve. In it the brothers found each other. Their wanderings ceased; they produced an unexampled series of musical-comedy hits, and branched into folk opera—"Porgy and Bess"—and various films.

George knew that his own circle, his tried-and-true friends, took a deep, personal interest in him. He shared this interest. When he moved into his new apartment, the duplex on East Seventy-second Street, he invited Emily Paley and her friend Mabel Schirmer to lunch. The girls were much excited. They wanted to justify the honor of being George's first guests and hoped to impress him. They spent the morning making themselves as glamorous as possible. At one o'clock, they rang his front doorbell. George, who had put on a new suit he had bought in London, opened the door. He presented himself. "Well, girls," he said, "how do I look?"

In this apartment, George began his work on "Porgy and Bess." The Theatre Guild was producing the opera. I called on him one day with Theresa Helburn. He played sections of it for us; he played "Summertime." Our reaction delighted him; he was in a state of tremendous excitement. "You know, Terry," he said, "they tell me that the interest in 'Porgy' is so great that, just to be sure they'll get good seats, they're subscribing to all that stuff of yours." As among that stuff there was a play of mine that the Guild had just announced, I hoped the rumor was true.

The stories about George and his self-absorption grew into a mythology. When any of them were repeated in front of him, he laughed as heartily as everyone else. He laughed when I told him that my play was included in the "all that stuff" remark of his. "Just the same, it's true," he said. "I was told that." He respected the truth. There is a famous story of his playing catch with his friend Harry Ruby, the songwriter. Ruby threw very hard; George quit. "I've got to be careful of my hands," he said. "With you, it doesn't matter." Ruby chided George for this remark. George listened hard and adjudicated the case impartially. "Well," he said "it's true, isn't it?"

George's time was far too valuable for him to waste it on building up a pose of modesty. And he was incapable of it even if he had had the time. He enjoyed his life and his work, and he didn't see why he should muffle this enjoyment. George Kaufman complained that he played his stuff so much at parties that by the opening night of a show, when the audience heard the overture, many of them must have thought it was a revival. George's mother cautioned him about this; she begged him to quit playing his new songs at parties. George refused to be cowed. "You see, Ma," he said, "if I didn't play, I wouldn't have a good time." Neither would the people at the parties.

George was engaged to play the "Rhapsody" and his concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony. He invited Oscar Levant along. When Oscar got into their drawing room on the train, George had already settled down in the lower berth, smoking a big cigar. Oscar resignedly climbed into the upper. "Well, Oscar," said George, smiling up at him through a cloud of cigar smoke, "it's the difference between talent and genius."

Rouben Mamoulian, who directed "Porgy and Bess," has spoken of George's extraordinary modesty as a composer:

It seems to me that this sense of exaggerated modesty in artists is highly overrated by people. It is made out to be a saintly virtue where frequently it is merely sanctimonious and actually nothing but masked vanity and conceit. Very often people who seem so modest about their work would all but tear you to pieces if you suggested cutting anything out of what they had written, considering every word of it as well-nigh sacred. Yet George, who loved his own stuff as much as he did, never hesitated to make any cuts that were necessary. "Porgy and Bess" as performed in New York was almost forty-five minutes shorter than the original score. He did this because he had no false vanity about his work and also because George was one of the best showmen I have ever known.

The difference in the personalities of the two Gershwin brothers was striking. If George was streamlined and dynamic, Ira was reserved and scholarly. He was gently humorous. One sensed in Ira, even at the very center of involvement, a well of detachment. George gave you everything at once; he was boyish, with an extraordinarily sweet character. He wanted his listeners to participate in the excitement of his own development. Ira was shorter than George, somewhat rotund. It took time to discover the pawky humor that irradiated him. He was diffident. He was too modest and too proud to want to coast along on the rapidly expanding reputation of his kid brother. To his early songs, which were inserted as "interpolations" in occasional shows, he attached the name of Arthur Francis, which he took from the first names of his younger brother and sister. When he came to write his book "Lyrics on Several Occasions," in his quiet way he let himself go. As an epigraph for his book, Ira uses a quotation from John Aubrey's "Brief Lives": "How these curiosities would he quite forgott, did not such idle fellowes as I am putt them downe!"

In this book, he prints the lyrics of the shows he wrote with George and others, and comments on the exigencies that produced them; these comments confirm what the lyrics have already established—that Ira is one of the most authentic humorists of his time. A veteran in this field, P. G. Wodehouse, happens upon this book every year at Christmastime and writes to Ira annually to tell him the renewed joy he finds in it. At the first performance of "Of Thee I Sing," during the torchlight parade for Wintergreen that opens the show, when I heard Ira's first lyric—

Wintergreen for President!
Wintergreen for President!
He's the man the people choose;
Loves the Irish and the Jews

—I knew that I was in for a first-rate political satire. It couldn't have been neater—without malevolence, but sharp enough. Ira repeats this lyric in his book with the following comment:

For some years Strickland Gillilan's "On the Antiquity of Microbes":

Had 'em

was considered the shortest poem extant. But this record fell when someone (Anon.) came up with "Lines on the Questionable Importance of the Individual":

I . . .

Compared with both of these, the words of "Wintergreen for President" almost equal the length of an Icelandic saga. I imagine, though, that in Songdom "Wintergreen" is one of the shortest lyrics ever.

Additional lines would have been supererogatory.

In 1928, the Gershwins went to London to see the closing performance of Gertrude Lawrence in "Oh, Kay!"—a salute to the benignity of the times—and then went to Paris for a holiday. George met the leading composers—Milhaud, Ravel, Stravinsky, Prokofieff, Poulenc—and worked on his tone poem "An American in Paris."

In 1930, George and Ira made their debut in Hollywood; their first film was "Delicious," for Fox. As it happened, I was working for Fox at that time. We had a happy reunion. I introduced them at once to the Hoveys, who had become like my own family. Sol Wurtzel was the producer, and he put Sonya on the Gershwin film; she worked on it with them and with Guy Bolton, who was to write the screenplay. The three Gershwins—George, Ira, and Ira's wife, Leonore—took a two-story Spanish house at 1027 Chevy Chase, in Beverly Hills. George's charm and his piano brought people from near and far. Artur Rodzinski led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in "An American in Paris." George became a friend of Arnold Schoenberg, who used to come over to swim in his pool and play tennis with him. George painted him. In all this, George had the advantage of having his sister-in-law as hostess. As I myself can testify, there is no more gracious hostess in the world.

In those days, everybody was going to a psychoanalyst. Herman Mankiewicz, an outstanding wit, wished all the patients of his own doctor, whose name was Ernst Simmel, to have a huge "S" embroidered on their sweatshirts, to show that they had the courage of their special cult. George went to the same man; he also had a psychoanalyst in New York. Oscar Levant added to the gaiety of nations. Most of the habitués took seriously the injunction forbidding them to report on their séances; Oscar defied this injunction. He reported singing to his analyst George's song "Love Walked In," by which Oscar was enthralled. "The s.o.b. is so unmusical that he didn't realize what a great song it is!" he complained.

In May of 1937, when the Gershwins and I happened to be in Hollywood at the same time, I had to go to New York to meet the Lunts to rehearse "Amphitryon 38." They were to open the next month in San Francisco. I went over to say goodbye to George. He played me some of his Shostakovich records; he spoke of the Russian composer's addiction to short themes. He held forth a bit on this, as if it were a method he might himself apply. He suggested we go for a drive. I said all right. As George drove, I realized that there was something odd about him that day—something I had never noticed in him before. He was subdued, shadowed. I edged about in my mind to account for this. I had heard that he had fallen seriously in love with a film star and that the affair had not been going well. George said nothing about this. Neither did I. He had been writing great stuff: "A Foggy Day" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me." I asked him to sing them and he did, in bits:

"The way you wear your hat,
The way you sip your tea,
The mem'ry of all that—
No, no! They can't take that away from me!

"The way your smile just beams,
The way you sing off key,
The way you haunt my dreams—
No, no! They can't take that away from me!"

I spoke of how marvellous it was of Ira to have added singing off-key to the list of the heroine's perfections—how it bathed nostalgia in humor. George agreed. We got together on how extraordinary Ira was.

George began asking me about "Amphitryon 38." He said he couldn't wait to see it. I said, "You will. After two weeks in San Francisco, we come to Los Angeles. I’ll have seats for you opening night." George thanked me.

All the time, I wanted to break through and ask him if there was anything worrying him—he did not seem as carefree as usual. But I didn't do it. I felt that if he wanted to talk about whatever it was, he would do so. Still, it was a beautiful day and a lovely drive. He dropped me at my door. I confirmed our date: I would meet him on Monday, July 5th, at the Biltmore Theatre in Los Angeles, where "Amphitryon 38" was to open. He looked forward. I looked forward.

From San Francisco, on the Friday night of the second week, I called the Gershwins in Beverly Hills. I got Ira. I told him I was returning the next day and hoped to see them that night. He said fine. He said that George had not been feeling well the last few weeks. When I asked what was wrong, he seemed unable to give me a definite answer. George had had a three-day physical checkup the week before at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, but tests revealed no physical disability. It seemed to Ira to be some nervous ailment. I told him I was leaving seats for him and Lee for Monday night, and two for George also. He said he would tell George.

On my arrival, on Saturday, I called up Sonya Levien and Oscar Levant. We had dinner together. I tried to find out what was wrong with George. I could get nothing definite. Oscar said that the general opinion was that George had been frustrated by his lukewarm reception in Hollywood and by the mild success of the films he had worked on. This drove Oscar crazy, because he felt that George had never written anything better than the songs in his recent films. In any case, George was in the hands of his psychoanalyst, Dr. Simmel, who was trying to cheer him up.

When Oscar said this, I remembered an incident recounted to me by George Kaufman. "There are days when I just feel awful and have to stay in bed," Kaufman said. "Beatrice [his wife] had been trying to get me for a long time to go to her analyst, Dr. Zilboorg, but I was stubborn and wouldn't go. On one of my bad days, she looked in on me and offered again to call Dr. Zilboorg. I said, 'No, thanks.' She gave me a long look and said, 'You know, George, with you it may be partly physical.'" Hollywood was so preempted by the psychoanalysts that it was inconceivable that any ailment could on occasion be physical. Such a bizarre source of malaise never occurred to anybody, even as a possibility. Whatever was wrong with you must be a mental aberration owing to some disappointment connected with the film industry.

We went over to the Gershwins'. Lee and Ira greeted us. George was upstairs. Lee told us that George knew we were coming and would be down presently. We waited in the living room. George came downstairs, accompanied by a male nurse. I stared at him. It was not the George we all knew. He was very pale. The light had gone from his eyes. He seemed old. He greeted me mirthlessly. His handshake was limp. The spring had gone out of his walk. He came to a sofa near where I was sitting and lay down on it. He tried to adjust his head against the pillows. The nurse hovered over him.

I asked him if he felt pain.

"Behind my eyes," he said, and he repeated it. "Behind my eyes."

I knelt beside him on the sofa and put my hand under his head. I asked him if he felt like playing the piano. He shook his head. It was the first such refusal I'd ever heard from him.

"I had to live for this," he said. "That Sam Goldwyn should say to me, 'Why don't you write hits like Irving Berlin?'"

There was silence. He spoke of the "Porgy" tour, which had not been successful.

I asked him whether he would come to my opening Monday night. He shook his head slowly. He moved his head around on the pillow. I took my hand away.

He looked at me with lustreless eyes. I had a sinking feeling: he is no longer one of us. He turned to the nurse and said he'd like to go back to his room. The nurse got him up. They went upstairs.

When he had gone, I looked at Lee. "How long has he been this way?" I asked.

"For several weeks. He seems worse tonight. Maybe it's seeing you—reminds him of the past."

"Didn't you tell me he has trouble eating?" Oscar asked Lee.

"Yes," said Lee. "He doesn't seem to be able to manage his food. I have to cut it for him."

We sat for a time, not speaking. Oscar, Sonya, and I rose to go.

In the car, Sonya, Oscar, and I rode in silence. Finally, Oscar said, "You think George is very sick, don't you?"

"Yes," I said. "I think he is very sick."

The next day was Sunday. Sonya drove me out to her beach house in Santa Monica. I said to her that I thought something should be done about George. I was leaving for New York on Tuesday, and I felt I should take George along and get the best medical treatment possible for him there.

"You can't take the responsibility," Sonya said.

When I got back to Beverly Hills that night, I called Ira. George had seen Dr. Simmel, who had conferred on the telephone with Dr. Zilboorg, George's New York analyst. They had decided that it would be wise to separate George from his family and the activities going on in their busy household. He had been transferred to the house of a friend who had luckily left that day for New York. Ira was relieved by the fact that the two analysts had conferred and come to a conclusion.

The next afternoon, I went to the Gershwins'. I saw Paul, George's Swedish butler, whom I had known in New York. He had driven George to his new domain. I asked him how George had behaved. "He was all right till we got to the house," Paul said.

"What happened then?"

"He asked for a dark room. I darkened the room for him—pulled all the shades down, made it quite dark. Then he asked for a towel to put over his eyes."

When I heard this, something snapped in my mind. For a long time, I had been irritated by the pseudoscientific vocabulary that dotted the conversation of most of my friends who were involved with psychoanalysts. I had a special antipathy to George's New York psychoanalyst; he was boorish. I called in Lee and Ira. I told them that I thought George was gravely ill. I asked their permission to call Dr. Abraham Flexner in New York to get his advice. While I was trying to get Dr. Flexner, Moss Hart, who was in analysis, came in. He didn't see why I was making all this fuss. "I myself have had many suicidal impulses—I have been helped over them," he said. I lost my temper a bit with Moss. I said his suicidal impulses were not relevant to George's case. I got Dr. Flexner, finally—at his summer place in Canada. I described George's condition as briefly as I could. He advised that the Gershwin family should, as soon as possible, get hold of a brain specialist. That night, I went to the theatre alone. I sat in the balcony. By this time, I knew the performance by heart. Watching Lynn's and Alfred's exquisite interpretation, I couldn't help thinking of George Gershwin lying in a strange house, in a darkened room, with a towel over his eves. I hoped that the hours would go swiftly for him.

I tried to postpone my departure for New York, but I was urgently needed at home. I arranged with Oscar that he should call me daily when I got home. On his second call, on Friday, Oscar told me that George had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. I had to talk to somebody. Who? I thought of one of George's friends, who was also a patient of Dr. Zilboorg's. I told him George was in a coma. George's friend took it lightly. "That coma," he said, "is self-induced." The surgeons found a brain tumor. George did not survive the operation.

In the years since George's death, when I have met new people whom I have especially liked, I have invariably thought, If only I could introduce them to George Gershwin. I feel pain over the missed delight they would have taken in him. Looking back on George's career now, I see that he lived all his life in youth. He was given no time for the middle years—for the era when you look back, when you reflect, when you regret. His rhythms were the pulsations of youth; he reanimated them in those much older than he was. He reanimates them still. Fred Astaire said after his death, "He wrote for feet." A Gershwin tune has a propulsive effect still, all over the world. He was perpetually in pursuit of new musical horizons. In youth, there is always time for everything. We all aged; George remained young. His own tempo was as propulsive as the tempos of his music, whether he was playing golf or tennis or painting pictures or collecting them. "Golf is supposed to be a leisurely game, but not for George," a friend of his wrote. "He ran from hole to hole. He was like a young colt." One can never know the truth about anyone—what his inmost motivations and feelings are—but George's life was lived so out-of-doors, so in the public eye, and these activities so absorbed him that he was always "too busy," he said, for introspective agonies. He told me once that he wanted to write for young girls sitting on fire escapes on hot summer nights in New York and dreaming of love.

Every playwright is hemmed in, in space and in time, by the words he has to write at the beginning of every play: "Scene; Time; At Rise." Once you have risen, you are committed until you are able to write the final "Curtain." Those two words, "At Rise," are the most fateful in the language—more fateful than "I thee wed" or "I will and bequeath." In the first case, there are remedies for disaster; in the second, the bequeather, by the time his gifts are delivered, is himself beyond disaster. The words that one writes at the beginning and the end of every play form the parentheses by which life itself is bounded: the rises and falls within our lives, the innumerable rebirths and renewals from the mock deaths of depressions to the plateaus of self-belief, the diminuendos and crescendos of the psyche. The rises and falls of non-playwrights, of the anonymous stumblers, are no less momentous for them, even when they are neither heroic nor tragic, even when they are merely banal.

I keep filling my notebooks, which have been lifelong companions, with ideas for plays that I shall never write. In my last years, these jottings have been dominated by an old ambition: to write a play about Montaigne. I had early become addicted to Montaigne. I wrote down a sentence from him: "We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn." The idea of pluralism in personality, of duality, fascinated me. My first play was on this subject. I had a sense of plagiarism some years ago when I found that W. H. Auden had used the sentence just quoted as an epigraph for his book of poems "The Double Man." My play about Montaigne was to he called "The Many Men," and was to be a dramatization of a passage in which Montaigne speaks of the many men resident in every man. The theme of the warring selves within the self has always beckoned to me, because I have always had to cope with it myself. One uncomfortable manifestation of it has been indecision. I no sooner decide on a course than I reject it. It was being victimized by these perpetual tournaments that drew me to Montaigne. Over the years, I have gone far with the idea for the Montaigne play, but not far enough. I have written the "At Rise," and that is all there is of it, except for a sizable crammed notebook.

When you are absorbed in a project, people seem to turn up to help you. This happened to me. I met Professor Donald M. Frame, of Columbia, the biographer and translator of Montaigne. I have been told by other scholars that he is the foremost Montaigne authority in America. I feel that the meeting was psychic—that my interest in his favorite subject was so keen that we were bound to meet. He has been immensely kind—has sent me his special writings from learned journals, illuminating recondite phases of Montaigne's career. Were I younger, had the strength, I should ask this gracious man to collaborate with me on a Montaigne play. I suggest to some future playwright who might engage in this difficult task that he couldn't do better than to introduce himself to Donald Frame.

Montaigne lived in a barbarous time, somewhat like our own. His friend Henri de Navarre, the future Henri IV, was, on St. Bartholomew's Day, a prisoner in the Louvre. He looked out of the window and saw Catholic women drinking the blood of freshly slaughtered Protestants. I have read extensively for years about this era—an era during which Montaigne kept a level head. He realized that all he had, all he could cling to, was himself. He expressed himself—his various selves—and this expression has given him an ever-fresh immortality. Montaigne gave up the life of action for the life of thought; the former is easier to dramatize than the latter. I thought to resolve this difficulty by dividing the play between Montaigne and Henri de Navarre, who was fairly active. For a time, Montaigne worked with him, and Navarre enjoyed coming to see Montaigne for discussion and advice. Heinrich Mann, in his novel "Young Henry of Navarre," touches frequently upon this relationship. The Scottish scholar J. M. Robertson, in his book "Montaigne and Shakespeare," gives chapter and verse for the immense borrowings by the latter from the former. My notes call for, in scenes between Navarre and Montaigne, dialogue with casual remarks in it by Montaigne which the Shakespeareans would recognize. I conceived also that the idea for the Grand Design—the sixteenth-century adumbration of the League of Nations—should be suggested to Navarre by Montaigne. I dreamed of a scene in which someone should tell Montaigne that a talented young English playwright devoured his essays and used ideas from them in his plays. But who? In G. P. V. Akrigg's "Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton" I thought that perhaps I had found a link: this was Florio, Southampton's Italian-language teacher—a hot-tempered fellow who got around.

I keep in my room an engraving of Montaigne—the frontispiece of one edition of his essays. He was short, bald, grave-looking, with a full mustache and a small beard. Who could play him? In every cast of every play—mine and others'—I looked for Montaigne. It is a moment I shan't forget—that moment when 1 first saw Oscar Karlweis and had the instantaneous thrill of recognition. He was Montaigne. I still think that if he had lived I would have put steam on and written the play.

After my first meeting with Karlweis, I went home and wrote the "At Rise." I hope some future playwright may use it. To him I will and bequeath all my notes and the only part of the play which is written:

AT RISE: A circular turret library in a small chateau in the environs of Bordeaux, in France. The tower, with this room at the top, is the retreat of Michel de Montaigne, Mayor of Bordeaux. The Mayoralty of Bordeaux was an office Montaigne did not want, but he yielded to the entreaty of his friend Henri de Navarre. It is the winter of 1581. The room is lined with books—choice editions, tooled volumes, red, brown, and gold. In this library are the books left him by his dearest friend, Étienne de La Boétie. In a frieze over the books, running around the circle of the walls, is written Montaigne's tribute to his dead friend: "In as-much as he desired that there should be some unique memorial of this most sweet, most dear, and most close companion, than whom our age hath seen none better, none more absolutely perfect, Michel de Montaigne, unhappily bereft of so beloved a guardian of his life, mindful of their mutual affection and of the kindly feeling which united them, hath set up, since nought more expressive could be found, this learned shelf, a special laboratory for the mind, in the which is his delight."

On the rafters above the frieze are aphorisms culled by the Mayor of Bordeaux from his intensive reading: "Who knoweth if what men call living be not dying?;" "To any reasoning one may oppose an equally strong reasoning;" "Rejoice in those things that are present—all else is beyond thee;" and, from Terence, "I am a man; nothing human is alien to me." But the dominating motto is "What do I know?"

When the curtain rises, Montaigne, in black, is talking to his intellectual disciple Marie de Gournay. She is wildly excited, because Henri de Navarre, the Mayor's guest, is about to arrive. Montaigne tries to calm her. "The King," he is saying, "is, after all, only a man . . ."

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

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