Phil Berg (1902–83) and Bert Allenberg were Rand’s agents “for the motion picture industry,” beginning in 1944 and ending in 1948. In a 1983 obituary for Berg, The New York Times described him as “a pioneer talent agent” who “was considered the originator of the package deal—a concept which changed the basic structure of Hollywood…Berg-Allenberg represented the cream of Hollywood’s movie stars, directors and writers.” In her biographical interviews, Rand commented: “They were my agents only through Alan Collins, because they handled all his clients, and I disliked them enormously. They were top agents, but I don’t know any agents in Hollywood that would be honorable.”
This letter was previously published only on the Ayn Rand Institute website.
March 13, 1948
Mr. Phil Berg
Phil Berg-Bert Allenberg, Inc.
121 South Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California
Thank you for your letter of March 10 and for the copy of the wire which you sent to Alan Collins.
Mr. Blanke’s attitude, as suggested in your wire, is a very grave matter, of which I was not informed. Since my “argumentative proclivities” is a statement that has extremely serious implications, would you please let me know the full particulars about it? Please tell me exactly what Mr. Blanke said, on what date, and to whom? Was it to you personally?
What “interminable discussions with Ayn Rand” do you refer to in your wire? The last time I saw you was on June 9, 1947, at your offices. The last time I saw Bert Allenberg was on September 23, 1947, in the Hal Wallis office.
In regard to the present matter of THE FOUNTAINHEAD, I have had one discussion with Jimmy Townsend of your staff, in Mr. Coryell’s office, on February 19, which lasted about half-an-hour. Thereafter, I had three telephone conversations with Mr. Townsend. The gist of these discussions was as follows:
In the office, on February 19, I told Mr. Townsend the understanding which I had with Mr. Blanke, as Mr. Blanke had said it to me repeatedly, on numerous occasions since 1944: that he (Blanke) considered that my script of THE FOUNTAINHEAD needed only about one week’s editorial work which he wanted me to do when he had a director and cast assigned to the picture, that he would have no other writer on it, and
Mr. Phil Berg
March 13, 1948
that the picture would be made in accordance with the spirit and intention of my novel. Mr. Blanke and I had never had a disagreement. I asked Mr. Townsend to inquire about Mr. Blanke’s present plans and particularly whether Mr. Vidor had some writer of his own which he might want to bring into the picture. On this last, Mr. Townsend assured me emphatically that Mr. Vidor had not.
On the next day, I called Mr. Townsend to ask him a question which, in our rushed conversation of the previous day, I had neglected to ask, and which was: why had your office not informed me about the fact that THE FOUNTAINHEAD was going into production, when you had knowledge of it well in advance, yet I was left to learn it from the newspapers? Mr. Townsend said that I was right in feeling that your office should have informed me, but that this was no more than a regrettable oversight.
Shortly afterwards (I believe it was the next day, but I did not mark the date on my calendar), Mr. Townsend called me to report on the situation. He told me that he had spoken to Mr. Blanke and that Mr. Blanke had confirmed to him our understanding just exactly as I described it, including the fact that the script needed only one week’s work which I was to do. Mr. Townsend said that the production of the picture was not definitely set, owing to budget difficulties, that Mr. Blanke and Mr. Vidor were now working on the budget and that they could undertake nothing definite until the return of Mr. Jack Warner, which was expected within a week. Then, if they found that they could make the picture now, I would be called. Mr. Townsend also stressed the fact that Mr. Vidor had told him personally that he wanted to discuss the picture with me.
On March 3 or 4, having heard nothing from Mr. Townsend, I telephoned him to ask whether Mr. Warner had returned and what had been decided. Mr. Townsend said that Mr. Warner was back, but no decision had been made, and that the “production office” was still working on the budget. Then Mr. Townsend added that Mr. Vidor had a junior writer working with him on the script, but—these are Mr. Townsend’s words as exactly as I remember them—“I have checked and they assured me that no writing was being done on the script.” When I asked what the writer was doing in
Mr. Phil Berg
March 13, 1948
such case, Mr. Townsend said: “I don’t know. It’s just somebody for Vidor to talk to, I guess.” Since there were too many contradictions here, I said that it was imperative that I see Blanke or Vidor or both. I stressed that it did not have to be a business appointment about a job for me, but a social appointment so that I would be acquainted with the situation. I said that particularly in the case of Mr. Vidor, your office should have arranged such a meeting long ago, without any request from me—which is the usual practice in Hollywood. Mr. Townsend said that he couldn’t arrange it, because “they weren’t ready to say anything.”
This is the last I heard from your office, until the receipt of your letter of March 10.
Which information in the above discussions do you refer to when you say in your wire to Alan Collins that “Blanke who knows Ayn’s argumentative proclivities refused meet with her. She was tactfully informed.”?
Don’t you think that the matter is much too serious for “tact” and that I am entitled to a full and exact report on the situation?
I will appreciate your personal attention and reply,
Copy to Alan Collins
Rand’s papers contain no response to this letter. The last letter from Phil Berg, dated September 24, 1962, is a friendly, newsy update of his activities (including his being a subscriber to Rand’s Objectivist Newsletter).