Chapter 28: The Charlotte Papers
NORTH BROOKLIN, MAINE
Dear Gene: June 6, 1971
I've delayed answering your letter because I haven't known exactly what was going on in the Sagittarius world. Day before yesterday Edgar Bronfman and Henry White showed up here bringing with them Joseph Barberra, and I learned that you were out of the picture and that the action had shifted to Hollywoodand to Hanna-Barberra Productions. I have no knowledge of this outfit and had nothing to do with the thing, but I gathered something was in the wind when I learned.... from Jap Gude, that White had made a hasty trip to Prague, followed by one to Hollywood.
Even no I don't know what to say except to tell you how deeply sorry I am about what must be for you a disappointing and frustrating experience....
Anyway, I am truly sorry, Gene, that our brief encounter ends on a sad note. I had not anticipated any such thing... I was rooting for you...
At age 71, there's one thing I understand fully: the creative life is hell more than half the time, riddled with trials and terrors, and paved with woe. I know what it is like to try to bring something into being, as you've been doing the last few months. I know what an unhatched egg does to the spirit.
Katharine and I, sand and sorry, send our best to you and Zdenka, along with our congratulations on your Golden Eagle award.
So it was all over, except the waiting - to see if H&B would actually outdo the alchemists of old, and turn gold into lead.
NORTH BROOKLIN, MAINE
March 2, 1973
I'm terribly sorry to have waited this long before answering your letter. The month of February was about four lost weekends for me and I'm just beginning to revive after hospitalization and a bout with flu and vertigo.
The picture opened at the Music Hall last week, and you have probably seen the Times review, which panned it. I saw the film last December when I was in New York for a few days. It came out about the way I imagined it would---a big spectacular, interrupted every few minutes by a jolly song. The story is adhered to fairly faithfully, but without distinction, and the humans look like something out of Rex Morgan and Dick Tracy. There is a kind of arrogance about most Hollywood people that annoys me, and it was evident in this production. I was invited to read the screenplay and make suggestions, and I did. But not the slightest heed was paid to anything I said. For instance, Wilbur sings a song that goes, "I can TALK, I can TALK, I can TALK." I pointed out that this was completely out of the spirit of the book, since there was never any question in the minds of any of the animals that they were capable of speech. But the song was kept. The treatment of the country Fair is incredible ---none of the true feeling at all. Instead, a barber shop quartet is introduced, along with a great loud marching song called "Zuckerman's Famous Pig", reminiscent of seventy-six trombones and hardly suggestive of a small country fair. Blah!
You asked about my reading your script. I feel free to do it, although I'm not good at interpreting movie scripts. I'm not sure anything except pain would result from your sending it: if I simply loved it, it would probably cause us both pain, and if I hated it, it would surely cause us both pain. But if it means a lot to you to have me read it, Go ahead and send it. Pain is my middle name. (My first name is Trouble.)
K and I send our best to you and Zdenka, and thanks for your letter and the photos. I'm still trying to figure out what kind of tree the big one is that overhangs your house.