Beginning with the publishing of We the Living, AR had long experience dealing with leftists in the book, film and theater worlds. We the Living had the misfortune to appear in the midst of the pro-Soviet “Red Decade,” when the staff of New York publishing companies included Communist Party members, including Macmillan’s Granville Hicks, who tried unsuccessfully to prevent Macmillan from publishing the novel. As a consequence, she was particularly sensitive to the perils of navigating through those worlds. Herman Shumlin, the focus of this letter, was a highly successful theatrical producer and director, whose Broadway hits included Inherit the Wind and Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. His lengthy obituary in The New York Times includes this relevant and somewhat euphemistic characterization: “A crusty perfectionist who was a passionate political liberal, Mr. Shumlin had a strong sense of social commitment.”
This letter was previously published only on the Ayn Rand Institute website.
August 19, 1946
Mr. Alan C. Collins
Curtis Brown, Ltd.
347 Madison Avenue
New York 17, New York
Thank you for your letter of August 14th.
Yes, I know that there are damn few people connected with the theatre who are not pink or pinkish. This merely means that our field is limited, and that we can submit IDEAL only to a small group among theatrical producers. If we do not find the right man among that group, we must not try any further. It is useless even to consider the others. For my purposes they do not exist, nor are they in the theatrical business. Realistically speaking, they are in the propaganda business.
I have had to go through exactly the same situation in relation to publishers and THE FOUNTAINHEAD. The problem is only to find one man of taste and intelligence who would be the theatrical equivalent of Archie Ogden. That is all I need. The more pink junk is being produced, the better chance there is for somebody to make a great hit with a serious play which is not pink. There is a growing audience for that in the theatre, just as there was among novel readers.
As to Herman Shumlin, you have unwittingly caused me some embarrassment by submitting IDEAL to him. I have never met the “gink”, but apparently he knows about me and has gone out of his way to be nasty, because he has made it a point to “smear” me and my work both to Warner Bros., when I was with them, and to Hal Wallis, when I went to work for him. This has been reported to me from both places. So you see what a bad position you put me in, when Shumlin finds that I am submitting a play to him.
Therefore, I would appreciate very much if you will tell him just exactly what you said in your letter: that you sent the script to him “with your tongue in your cheek” and without my knowledge; and that I objected to it, when I heard about it. I don’t actually care too much what people like Shumlin think, but since you gave him the impression that I am seeking his favor or support, I think you should correct that impression. I would appreciate it very much, just to keep the record clear.
The Rand-Collins correspondence in the Ayn Rand Archives contains no further reference to this issue.