Pincus Berner (1899–1961), a New Yorker, was Ayn Rand’s attorney, beginning with arbitration in 1935 against producer Al Woods regarding Night of January 16th. She became friends with “Pinkie” and his wife, who once took Rand to a lecture by British socialist Harold Laski, setting Laski in Rand’s mind as the main model for the character of Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead.
This letter was previously published only on the Ayn Rand Institute website.
10000 Tampa Avenue
September 24, 1944
Mr. Pincus Berner
25 West 43rd Street
New York CIty
Will you forgive the long silence from a dizzy and overworked writer? So many things have been happening to me so fast that I simply cannot catch up with myself.
To give you the briefest account of my events to-date: I finished the screenplay of “The Fountainhead” at Warner’s with great success. Henry Blanke, my producer, was very pleased and most complimentary about my script. It will go into production some time early in 1945, as a big special. No cast decided on as yet. Two weeks after I finished at Warners I had to start working on a new job—with Hal Wallis. You may have heard that he was a big producer at Warners and has just left them to form an independent company of his own. I have signed a five-year contract with Hal Wallis (with options, of course.) It is a very unusual contract, the kind that’s very hard to get in Hollywood—but I would not sign any other; this contract gives me six months off each year to work on my own writing; so that I give half a year to movie work and half a year to my own. I have just finished my first assignment for Wallis—an adaptation of a novel—and I rushed on it like all hell, since it’s to be his first production.[*] I did a good job—because Wallis and everybody concerned are enthusiastic about it. So, believe it or not, I’m successful in Hollywood. Personally, I can’t quite believe it yet. But miracles will happen.
In the only two weeks I had off since I’m here, I went and bought a house. Or rather, an estate, 13½ acres, in Chatsworth, twenty miles from Hollywood. The house is ultra-modern, by Richard Neutra, all glass, steel and concrete. The house is a small palace—too wonderful to describe. We have ten acres of alfalfa, an orchard, chickens, rabbits, two ponds that go around the house, and a tennis court. Can you see me as a capitalist? And here I thought I was the poorest (financially) defender capitalism ever had. Frank has become a rancher, spends all his time working on the grounds and loves it. It was he who picked out the house—and everybody marvels at his good business judgment. We had to settle down here, since I will have to stay in California—and apartments here are simply impossible, in both cost and comfort.
This is a brief synopsis of my situation. Now to
business matters. I have to become a California resident now and file my income taxes from here. I have not yet made an amended return since the first one you made early this year. I’ve paying the installments according to that—but I suppose now is the time to change it, including my new income since then. I will have to have it done here, to establish California residence, and also because it is too complicated now to do it by mail. Would you send to me your original estimate of my tax for 1944, with all the details, deductions and reasons on how you arrived at the $1,000 I was to pay? I will turn it over to the tax-man of Berg-Allenberg, my agents, who does all the returns for their clients—and he will know how to amend it according to what I have earned since then.
I was told I will have to make out a new will, here, as a resident of California. How will that affect the old one I made, which is in your safe? The new one will be the same in content. Does it simply supercede the first one, or what is the correct legal procedure? Or should I keep both—to be filed in either state if anything should happen to me? All I want to put in the will is still that I’m leaving everything to Frank.
Bobbs-Merrill have sent me the full amount of my royalties for the first six months of this year, which is over $5,000. Apparently they forgot our agreement that they were to pay me only $1,000 this year and the rest on my next statement. Shall I keep the check—or return it and keep only $1,000? I think it will be all right to keep it, because I am told that my work at Warners on the screenplay cannot be considered as income from “The Fountainhead” by any standards. It is new work on salary—not income from a finished property. Besides, while I was at Warners, I worked on three other movies, besides my own, doing editing and rewrites for them. So my time at Warners cannot be charged to any one job. However, I don’t want to accept the Bobbs-Merrill check without your okay.
You asked me in your last letter how I could hate California when I’m successful here. I can still hate it geographically, as a place, and I do. I love New York, always will, and miss it terribly. I will probably go there for a visit, on my own time, just for purposes of morale. I feel like an exile here. A lot of people have been wonderful to me here, and I have actually become a celebrity here, but I miss New York people. And that means the Berners, too.
Best regards from both of us to you, Anne, Rose and Mr. Cane,
*Love Letters, starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones.