Chapter 28: The Charlotte Papers
North Brooklin, Maine 04661 February 14, 1973
Andy has been very sick with vertigo caused by inner ear trouble ever since your good letter came. Finally he had to go to the hospital in Blue Hill, and he is just home after atwelve day stay. After being there for three days he came down with an absolutely fierce cold, which prevented any further treatment for ear trouble. What we are hoping is that the cold virus will prove to have been the cause of the vertigo.
A11 this is why I'm writing, at Andy's request, to Say he was glad to get your letter. He thanks you for it and for the lovely photos of your new country home. He will write you himself when he can but at present, writing (and even reading) are impossible for him. He did see a showing of "Charlotte's Web" in New York, when he went there for dentistry this fall. The city made him sick and he flew home after three days of it.
With our very best wishes, I am,
NORTH BROOKLIN, MAINE
March 19, 1973
The sketches you sent are great. I don't know Whether they were done by you or by Mirko Hanak, but anyway tney are right for the story and a great improvement over the H-B pictures, most of which I found lacking in sensitivity, An understatement.
One thing that was never been clear to me is why CHARLOTTE'S WEB had to be a musical. If I were filming the story, I wouldn't begin with songs. Too many things are taken for granted in the great world of stage and screen. The only song in the book was the lullaby that I wrote, and Hollywood removed that quite effectively---probably because it contained the word dung.
K and I would welcome a visit from, you, provided we are both on our feet. I think it would be a good idea to phone us from Connecticut and see how things are. My goose laid her first egg on St. Patrick's Day, so winter is officially over even though snow is falling today.
Sadly, we were not able to visit Andy and Katharine, nor did I ever have a chance to explain that Sagittarius ordered songs for C.W. With Andy, it was one of our disagreements. I feel we had songs which expressed the meaning of the film and propelled the story, and I certainly did include Andy's song, "Deep in the Dung!" But an important point was that my songs were not intended to be sung by the characters, but strictly as off-screen punctuations in the film.
NORTH BROOKLIN, MAINE
October 4, 1978
The whole episode, the attempt to make a film of "Charlotte's Web", is one of my nightmares. The only good that came out of it for me was that I learned never to try anything like that again.
I got in over my depth when I got involved with Sagittarius, and I'm still trying to surface. About all I know about Bronfman is that he flew here in his private jet and made off with some rhubarb pie to take back to his pilot--or maybe to eat himself, as he seemed to have a good appetite. The letters I wrote to you and to Jap expressed exactly what I felt about the project when it was still in your hands and in Mike Campus's. Of course, my opinions and feelings were based on the information that I was getting from various sources, including Sagittarius and Jap and you. I had no way of knowing that you were being used as a decoy.
I never wanted the characters in "Charlotte's Web" to break out in song---it is completely foreign to the spirit of the book. The only song I wanted was the one I wrote, deep in the dung and the dark, that Charlotte sang. And I never got that one. Hanna Barbera sent me their screenplay "to make suggestions", and I spent a week annotating it. They never paid the slightest attention to anything I said. I pointed out that the song they gave Wilbur, "I can talk, I can talk, I can talk," was completely contrary to the story, which simply accepts without question that the animals talk among themselves. To have the pig express surprise or glee in what was natural to him showed me how far the producer was from understanding the book.
It was good to hear from you.