N.p. N.p., 1951. Substantitve two-page typed letter signed from New Yorker writer Lillian Ross to her editor at the magazine, William Shawn, with regard to an 18-month assignment in Los Angeles, at the age of 32, to chronicle the making of John Huston's "The Red Badge of Courage." Her resulting essay eventually appeared as a series in five separate issues of "The New Yorker," and was published as a book ("Picture") in 1952.
The year before this letter, at age 31, Ross became the first female journalist to write a significant published profile on Ernest Hemingway.
The letter is dated May 22, 1951. With holograph emendations and typeovers.
In a letter with enough substance to amount to nearly another essay, Ross discusses her personal thoughts on the progress of her long visit in Los Angeles and environs. In particular, she discusses:
- concerns over the expense to The New Yorker of her long stay, at this point 10 months in.
- detailed thoughts regarding Huston's artistic concerns and how they were in conflict with the pragmatic "entertaining picture" concerns of MGM executives Dore Schary and L.B. Mayer, as well as internal strife at MGM that often leaves Huston in the crossfire.
- references to executives and producers whose precedents loom large over the proceedings, including Irving Thalberg and Samuel Goldwyn.
- her success in gaining an audience with Mayer, notorious for never granting press interviews apart from publicity opportunities.
- the changing of the picture in the wake of Huston's decision after completion of shooting to fly to Africa.
- peripheral but significant mention of the parallels she sees between Huston and the artistically-inclined likes of Charlie Chaplin, George Stevens, and in other contexts "Quo Vadis," Marie Dressler, Greta Garbo, Lionel Barrymore, and others.
- clear concerns about the piece being "too long already," making offers to cut it, etc., interesting in the historical knowledge that Shawn would ultimately suggest and allow for a long-form piece.
Two pages, each folded twice horizonatally for mailing. Ribbon copy, single spaced, rectos only. Very Good plus with no damage, supple.