The following seventeen-page letter (marked “Confidential” in her handwriting on the first page) was not included in Letters of Ayn Rand because, although it was sent in the mail, it is more of a report than a piece of correspondence. It is, by that token, a unique written account by Rand of detailed events in her life and an indication of the kind of narrative that must have comprised the lengthy letters that she sent to her family in the Soviet Union, letters that were destroyed during the siege of Leningrad and of which she had made no copies.
This letter was previously published only on the Ayn Rand Institute website.
10,000 Tampa Avenue
September 18, 1948
Mr. Alan C. Collins
Curtis Brown, Ltd.
347 Madison Avenue
New York 17, N. Y.
As I promised you in our telephone conversation yesterday, here is a complete account of my dealings with Berg-Allenberg during the writing and production of THE FOUNTAINHEAD at Warner Bros.:
As I wrote to you at the time, I do not believe that it was the efforts of Berg-Allenberg that got me the job at Warners to write the screenplay. I was called by the studio shortly after you had entered the situation and after Mr. Swanson was ready to take me over as a client.[*] Also, I had discussed the situation with Mr. Herbert Freston, who is my attorney here and who is also attorney for and Vice-President of Warner Bros. He promised me at that time to look into the situation. It was shortly after this that I was called to go to work. I suppose that I shall never know the exact truth of what happened, but it is my conclusion that I owed this call to Mr. Freston and yourself—not to Berg-Allenberg.
Things went extremely well at the studio from the day I started to work there. I had no trouble or disagreement of any kind with Mr. Blanke, the producer, and King Vidor, the director. During our first interview, on March 23rd, Blanke and Vidor told me that it was their intention to make a faithful adaptation of THE FOUNTAINHEAD, to preserve its theme intact and to produce, in screen terms, an equivalent of the book in literary terms. Blanke said: “I want the people leaving the theater to have the impression that they had seen the whole book, and to get from the picture the same feeling they get from the book.” I said that if that was their intention, we would be in complete agreement from then on—and we were.
Mr. Alan C. Collins -2- September 18, 1948
When the first fifty pages of my script were mimeographed, the front office was extremely enthusiastic about it. Jack Warner stopped me on the lot several times to tell me so in person. Jimmy Townsend, of the Berg-Allenberg office, told me that Warners had informed him how pleased they were with my work, and he added that it was quite unusual for a studio to express enthusiasm in the middle of an assignment. Then I told him that if things went on as well as this, I would like him to take up with Warners the possibility of their buying my contract from Hal Wallis. I had two reasons for this idea: (1) I was much happier working with Blanke than I had been with Wallis and felt that his taste in pictures was closer to mine. (2) Since Wallis cannot sell my contract without my consent, I thought that if such a deal could be arranged, I would make it a condition that I would take off all the time I needed to finish my novel and would then give to Warners the time I still owe to Wallis on my contract. Jimmy Townsend said that he had had precisely the same idea, and that it would probably be difficult, because Wallis would not agree to sell my contract, but that he, Townsend, would take the matter up with Warners when I finished the script of THE FOUNTAINHEAD.
Sometime during the writing of the script, King Vidor told me that it would be wonderful if I could stand by on the set during the entire shooting of the picture. I had never mentioned the subject, he brought it up himself. He said that we could work out a lot of very interesting things together and that the experience would be valuable for me, that I would learn a lot about picture making. I told him that I would be more than delighted to do it, with or without payment. This was not a business proposition or a commitment on Vidor’s part, it was just a discussion. I did not press him about it, but I reported the conversation to Jimmy Townsend and told him that I was more than anxious to be present during the shooting, so that if any changes were made at the last minute on the set, I would be there to make them. Townsend said it would be a cinch to arrange, particularly if Vidor wanted me on the set, and that he, Townsend, would arrange it as soon as the script was finished.
Things went on very smoothly, and I kept hearing nothing but compliments all over the lot. Everybody was pleased with the script and with the rapidity of our progress.
Mr. Alan C. Collins -3- September 18, 1948
When we were approaching the completion of the script, I told Jimmy Townsend that the time had come to make an arrangement with the studio for me to remain on the set during the shooting of the picture. I made it clear to Berg-Allenberg that my sole and most crucial interest in the whole business was to protect the integrity of my script, to protect it from hasty or accidental changes, that I needed all the help which they, as my agents, could give me in this respect, and that it was the only thing I wanted. I explained how disastrous careless changes in script could be in a picture which has such a dangerous, controversial theme. Berg’s attitude, in effect, was: “Aw, they always make script changes in Hollywood, and your picture is no different from others.” I am not sure whether he has ever read my book or not.
Jimmy Townsend reported to me, after a while, that he had tried and been unable to arrange for my remaining on the set. He said the studio had a rule against permitting writers on the set. He was somewhat sad and evasive about it. This was one major request of mine, which Berg-Allenberg had promised me to accomplish—and had failed.
After that, I asked Vidor in person how he felt about this matter. He became strangely evasive. Up to that time, I had heard nothing but compliments from him, and he had acted as my enthusiastic friend. Now I began to suspect that he had wanted to get a script from me (he had said that I was the only one who could write that script)—and then get rid of me, in order to have a free hand and to defeat any possible influence I may have on Blanke. Blanke does respect my opinion, and his artistic taste is very similar to mine.
I made no further issue about remaining on the set and did not insist on it. It was not essential to me to be present during the shooting—my sole concern was to be on hand to protect the script from random changes.
By June 12th the script, which was called “Revised Temporary,” was finished, and on Monday, June 14th, we started on the Final script. The work consisted of Blanke, Vidor and me reading the script aloud and discussing every possible cut or change for the final editing. We were working very fast and thought
Mr. Alan C. Collins -4- September 18, 1948
that one week was all we would need to finish. But on Wednesday Mr. Blanke became sick and stayed home that day as well as Thursday and Friday. So we were held up on the editing.
On that Friday, June 18th, at about 12:30, Vidor telephoned me in my office and told me the following: Blanke had just called him from his home and told him that the studio had informed him, Blanke, that I was to be closed, that is, taken off salary, the next day, Saturday, the 19th, that this had come from the front office without any explanations and that Blanke was on his way to the studio, even though he was sick, and that he would be there at 2 o’clock.
I must say at this point that I still don’t know what was the reason for this incident. Blanke assures me that it was merely the usual policy of the studio, that they are always very anxious to take people off salary as soon as an assignment is finished and that they had probably figured that this week was all we needed for the final script. This may be true, but on the other hand, I have a strong suspicion that Vidor’s influence was behind this. I suspect that he was anxious to do the final editing himself.
The moment Vidor called me about this, that is, at 12:30, I telephoned Phil Berg. I told him what had happened and asked him to come to the studio at 2 o’clock, because something had to be done and I needed his help. We were only about halfway through the script—we had edited about 80 pages out of 150 pages, so we could not possibly finish it that afternoon and the next day. Berg got furious at me for asking him to come to the studio. He said he was booked solid for the whole afternoon, had a string of appointments with very important clients, and told me that I was not the only client he had. He said that his presence at the studio was not necessary, since I had not received an official notice that I would be closed off the next day. I repeated that Blanke had received the official notice and that Vidor had just told me so. Berg answered: “Vidor is not an official of the company. Never mind what he says.” (?!) I asked him what I was to do at the conference with Blanke at 2 o’clock. Berg said that I should do nothing, just ignore the whole thing, that he would come to the studio on Monday and straighten everything out, but he could not come that afternoon. You know, of course, that if I had been closed out officially on Saturday, it would have been impossible
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to get me back into the studio, because they would have considered the script finished and would have left Vidor or whoever to edit it without me.
At 2 o’clock Blanke arrived at the studio and confirmed what Vidor had told me, that is, that the front office wanted to close me next day, because the budget of the picture was very tight and they had expected the script to be finished that week. Blanke and Vidor both seemed to be panicky about this and did not know what to do. Blanke said that we should have my agent here to help him fight for me at the front office. I suggested that he call Mr. Berg himself. Blanke asked Vidor’s secretary (we were in Vidor’s office) to get Berg on the wire. She telephoned and gave us the following report, as nearly verbatim as I can remember it: “Mr. Berg is away on his yacht for the weekend. Mr. Allenberg and Mr. Townsend are away for the weekend. There is nobody at the office except Mr. Coryell.” (Coryell is the business manager at Berg-Allenberg and cannot do any studio negotiations.) We were completely stuck and did not know what to do next. Then I made the following proposal: Since we had about another week of work to finish the script, I said I would finish it without payment—in exchange for an agreement that all future changes in the script during the shooting would be done by me; and, for that purpose, I would remain in the studio, in my office, doing my own work, but would be available any time they needed me and would do the changes for them without salary. Blanke agreed to it. He and Vidor went to see Mr. Trilling, who is Jack Warner’s assistant, to obtain his approval. They came back and told me that Trilling did not know whether they could accept such an unconventional arrangement, but he had agreed to let me remain on salary for another week to finish the script.
On Monday morning Berg telephoned me to ask what had happened. I had barely begun to say: “We called you and were told that you were away on your yacht—” when he literally blew up and started screaming that he’ll be damned if he didn’t have the right to go away on a weekend and wasn’t he entitled to a rest? Mind you, I had not even reproached him yet. I told him that I was not arguing about his right to his weekend, but why had he found it necessary to tell me that he was booked solid with appointments? He kept screaming in self-defense, telling me how difficult I was, and ended up by saying that he would come to the studio.
Mr. Alan C. Collins -6- September 18, 1948
I was in Vidor’s office when Berg arrived. We told him what had happened. Berg’s whole attitude was one of antagonism toward me. I asked him to make the final arrangements with the front office for me to remain in the studio during the shooting of the picture—though not necessarily on the set. I pointed out to him that if the picture was preserved intact as we had it now, I would give it all my support. If the picture was mangled, I would have to come out against it and tell the public that it was not a movie of THE FOUNTAINHEAD. I said that this was the possibility I wanted to avoid and it would be best for the studio’s interest and mine to protect us against it. At which point, in Vidor’s presence, Berg said: “Oh, if you came out against the picture, it might even be good for it.” (Alan, I will let you judge whether you think as I do, that this was perhaps the most dreadful thing an agent could do to his client.) Then Berg said he had to speak to Vidor, and he would speak to me later, and I went back to my office.
Sometime later Berg came to my office and again started the discussion in a tone of hysterical anger. I cannot understand why every business conversation I have had with Berg has always started with an angry attack on his part. He began by saying that people on the lot were complaining about how difficult I was. I had dealt with no one except Blanke and Vidor, and there had been no quarrels among us. I asked Berg to tell me in what way I had been difficult, to name the specific instances he meant and to name the persons who had complained. He refused to answer. Then, he launched into a long speech exactly as follows: My commission amounted to only a hundred dollars a week. He had to give half of it to you. The income tax of Berg-Allenberg took some huge percentage of their income (he told me the exact figure, but I don’t remember it), he went into minute financial details of their costs, etc.,—and ended by saying that they got only something like 33 cents a week out of my commission—and they had clients who were directors making $12,000 a week! I think he caught himself in time, because suddenly and very hastily he added: “But of course, we will work for you just as hard as for anyone else, just the same.” I told him that I quite understood his point, that I did not want anyone to work for me as a favor, that I had never been a charity case in my struggling days and did not intend to be one now; and therefore the best thing to do was for Berg-Allenberg to let me go, as I had asked them before to let me go. At this point, Berg came back to his senses, I think, and became
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much more calm and almost friendly. He assured me that I had misunderstood him and that they would not let me go. Then he promised to make the arrangement with the studio for me to remain in my office—as I had proposed it to Blanke on Friday.
Later in the afternoon, I was in Vidor’s office, working on the script with Vidor and Blanke, when the door opened and Berg flew in. He seemed to be very cheerful, he said that he had made the arrangements with Mr. Trilling, that Mr. Trilling had okayed it and that after this week I would remain in my office without salary to stand by for possible script changes during the shooting. I said that was fine and would he please draw up the necessary documents in writing. He said something like “sure” and flew out of the office again.
I heard nothing more from him during that week. We finished the script on Friday, June 25th, except for a few minor things which I had to do at home on Saturday. I went home Friday night on the understanding that I would be back at the studio on Monday, but without salary. Blanke told me to write him a letter stating our agreement, and that it would probably be all that was necessary to cover it.
On Saturday I wrote the letter, a copy of which I am enclosing. On that same Saturday, Finley McDermid, the head of the scenario department, called me at home to tell me that the studio had changed their mind about our agreement, that they did not want me to work free nor to remain on the lot; that they would call me back for any script changes, if such came up, and that they would then pay me for the work by the day. I telephoned Phil Berg. He said that he was terribly sorry, but Jack Warner, who was just then leaving for Europe, had cancelled our agreement by reason of it being unprecedented. I said I understood that it was an unwritten law of the studios that one could not cancel a verbal agreement during the period when it was being committed to paper. (Do you remember how you had assured me of this at the time Warners bought the rights to my book?) I asked him hadn’t he arranged to have the agreement in writing. Berg kept saying, “What can I do? There is nothing I can do. They just changed their minds.” This was the second incident where Berg-Allenberg promised to achieve a request of mine—and failed.
I saw Blanke the next week. He gave me his word of honor that there would be no changes made in the
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script during the shooting, except by me; that if any changes became necessary, he would call me to make them and I would be paid for my work. I said that I would not agree to work by the day and to be on call in this manner, unless it was on the condition that all changes in the script would be made by me. If Blanke were willing to guarantee this condition, I would work in any way he pleased, with or without payment, at the studio or at home, any arrangement he chose would be agreeable to me, so long as this one condition about my making all the changes was observed—the rest did not matter to me. I said that I would not sign any agreement about my future work, if this condition was not included. He said: “Let it go without any signatures and leave it to me. You will see that the script won’t be touched. I give you my word of honor.”
I told my whole story to Mr. Freston. He spoke to Trilling and told me that Trilling assured him he, Trilling, had never made the agreement with Berg, which Berg announced to us as made. However, Trilling assured Freston that I would be called back should any script changes become necessary.
I must mention that King Vidor too, gave me his word of honor that he would make no changes in the script without me. But, by then, it was my impression that Blanke wanted me to remain on the lot, and Vidor did not.
The picture went into production, and everything went smoothly. Blanke telephoned me quite often and very faithfully to consult me about small changes in the script. I did the changes for him right over the telephone. He told me that I could visit the set any time, but I did not want to do it too often, if Vidor was afraid of my presence, as I think he was. I came a few times to see the shooting and did some minor rewrites right on the set. None of this work involved a whole day, and, therefore, I was not paid for it and did not ask for any payment. I am told that the picture was shot verbatim, as I wrote it, with no adlibing or improvising by anyone on the set. As far as I know, Blanke, Vidor and the studio did keep their word to me. Everything was fine and I felt very happy about it—until Wednesday, September 15.
As you probably know from the book, the most important and crucial part of the story is the speech which Roark makes at his trial. This was the most
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difficult thing to write in a condensed form, and the most dangerous, politically and philosophically, if written carelessly. We had many conferences about it. There were all kinds of objections and I rewrote the speech many times until all the objections were met.
Here is a list of the conferences we had about this speech—not counting the numerous conferences among Blanke, Vidor and me while I was writing the script:
June 14(?) Mr. Shurlock of the Johnston office,[**] Blanke, Vidor and I.
July 2 Judge Jackson, Mr. Shurlock and another gentleman from the Johnston office, Blanke, Vidor and I.
Aug. 31 Mr. Freston, Mr. Williams (his assistant), Gary Cooper, Mr. Prinzmetal (attorney of Gary Cooper), Blanke and I.
Sept. 1 Mr. Freston, Mr. Williams, Blanke and I.
Sept. 2 Gary Cooper, Blanke and I.
Sept. 2 Mr. Trilling, Blanke and I.
Sept. 8 Blanke, Vidor and I.
Sept. 8 Mr. Trilling, Blanke and I.
Except for the first one, all these conferences took place after I had finished the script. Blanke called me back to the studio for these conferences. I had to work for several days on rewriting, at different times, and the studio paid me for these days. I don’t have to tell you how excruciatingly difficult this work was. But I did not object to making changes—so long as I could preserve the theme of the story and the philosophical ideas of the speech. Altogether, from my first temporary script on, I rewrote that speech six times.
The last objection raised to the speech was from Vidor—on September 8. He found that the version which we made after the conferences with the attorneys
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was less dramatic than our previous versions—and he was right. So I rewrote the speech once more. And this final version was really the best one. Everybody okayed it and everybody was very pleased with it, including Vidor. He did not make a single suggestion or criticism, nor ask for any change in this last version. He said it was fine and just right. He told me this, and later said the same thing to Blanke.
You realize, of course, that this speech had to be written as carefully as a legal document. I had to weigh every word, every thought—in order not to leave any loopholes which would permit anyone to accuse us of some improper ideology. I had to make every idea crystal clear, cover every possible implication, guard against any chance of misunderstanding, avoid any possibility of confusion. I did it—and preserved the dramatic and literary qualities of the speech at the same time. You understand the problems of writing. Try to imagine what sort of effort this took.
Blanke and Vidor asked me to coach Gary Cooper in the reading of the speech for a voice recording. I did. The recording came out excellently. I asked both Blanke and Vidor whether they thought the speech was too long (it ran about six minutes) and told them that there were certain cuts which could be made. They both said, “No,” they did not want it cut and did not find it too long. Blanke said, “Every word of it holds. I want it just as it is.”
It was agreed long ago that the one scene which I would see shot would be the courtroom scene. This was the last scene of the picture. I came to the studio for the first two days, when all the preliminary shots were taken which precede Roark’s speech. Everything went along beautifully, and I can’t quite tell you what a wonderful mood prevailed on that whole set. Everybody was enthusiastic about the picture. It was just coming to an end triumphantly. I was extremely happy and thought that now, at last, I can relax and feel at peace, the picture was safe.
On the third day, which was Wednesday, September 15th, I came on the set a little after 10 o’clock (the set is called for 9, but the first hour is taken up with lighting and setting up the camera, and Blanke had told me to be there by 10.) Just as I came on the stage, the bell rang for the next take, and what I saw being done was this: Vidor was taking a shot of Cooper
Mr. Alan C. Collins -11- September 18, 1948
starting his speech from the middle, cutting out the entire first third of it.
The cut made the whole speech senseless and left glaring holes in the political theory of the speech, making it open to every kind of attack, objection or smear. The speech could be construed as anarchism or fascism or simply plain drivel; with the first third taken out, one could not tell what the character was talking about. Imagine a carefully devised, complex legal contract with the first two pages torn out of it—and visualize what sense or meaning would be left in the remnant.
I waited until they finished the shot and then asked Vidor what he was doing. (Incidentally, and on my word of honor, I did not raise my voice. I spoke very quietly because I did not want the people on the set to know that there was any trouble.) Vidor said that this was just a protection shot, that he had already shot the first part of the speech as written and that he was taking this in case the speech needed to be cut later. I asked him why he had not told me about this and he answered: “Because you were not here.”
I went to the telephone and called Blanke. He came on the set and told me that Vidor had called him at the last minute, at 9 o’clock that morning, and asked permission to take this “protection shot” which he, Vidor, had apparently devised then and there, on the spur of the moment; Vidor told him that the request came from both himself and Gary Cooper. Blanke told me that he had given Vidor permission to do it, even though he, Blanke, did not intend to use this cut; he had given in only to keep Vidor and Cooper contented and get a good performance out of them for the rest of the day. I told Blanke that this was a cut which we could not make, that if cuts were necessary, I could tell them where to make them, but this one simply blasted all sense out of the speech. Blanke agreed with me, we called Vidor aside. Vidor got very nasty; he had no reasons or explanations to offer except that he had felt (!) he wanted to make this “protection shot.” There was no time to argue on the set, so we left.
I went with Blanke to his office. He kept assuring me that this cut would never be used. I was literally shellshocked. I could not grasp (and still can’t) how they were able to make such a decision (even as an alternate possibility) so lightly and carelessly, after all those conferences, legal discussions and the
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brainwracking, careful thought we had all given to that speech. I could not understand how it was possible that they had consulted me about every little thing, every small doubt, during the shooting of the picture—and then had done this in the most crucial, most dangerous point, done it on the spur of the moment, knowing that this speech was more important to me (and to the film’s future prestige or disgrace) than all the rest of the picture. Both Blanke and Vidor had thus broken their word of honor to me.
I told Blanke that if this cut were considered, if it remained in existence, I would have to take my name off the screenplay and break off all connection with the picture. I could not sign my name to the speech in that form. I could not let my political reputation be smeared by the kind of attack which that speech would provoke and deserve. Blanke kept assuring me that the cut version would not be used and that he had permitted it to be shot only in order to appease Vidor. I felt certain that this was a deliberate double-cross on Vidor’s part—he had simply high-pressured Blanke to do things his way when there was no time to argue. I found out later from Gary Cooper himself that he, Cooper, had not raised any objection to the length of the speech and had not asked for any cuts that morning. (Incidentally, as just a minor touch of insanity, when Vidor read my last version of the speech, he said, “If there are any more changes, whatever you cut, don’t cut that first part”—because the first part of the speech was the one he seemed to like best.)
I asked Blanke for some form of written guarantee that this cut would not be used. I pointed out that their action had broken our agreement, and they had no legal right to all the work I had done after the completion of the script, because all that work was done on the express condition that I would make all the changes in the script, if and when they wanted changes made. They have no signature from me giving them the right to use that later, extra work. Blanke was actually very nice to me and very upset. He realized that he had been high-pressured and that he should not have given in. But he said that he could not give me a written guarantee about that shot, because it would upset all studio precedents.
He took me in to see Mr. Trilling. We had a long conversation. Trilling was very friendly and kept telling me, in effect, the same thing—they cannot give me anything in writing, but he gives me his word of honor that I would be consulted about the final form of the speech and about cuts in it, if cuts were made. I kept
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insisting I wanted a guarantee in writing and only in relation to this particular shot. They did not know what to do. They did not want me to leave, but they would not give me the thing in writing. I wanted to go home then, but Blanke asked me to wait and he went in to see Jack Warner. He came back and said that Warner sends me his love and tells me not to worry, that he gives me his word of honor that I will be in on the final film editing of the speech. Then I asked Blanke to let me see the rushes of the whole speech tomorrow, and said that I would hold my decision until then. We parted on this, with everybody in the studio expressing their regrets to me about the whole incident.
The next morning Phil Berg called me and started by bawling me out. He told me that Blanke, Trilling and Warner were furious at me and went on and on in this manner, telling me the exact opposite of what I had seen the day before in the attitude of those to whom I had spoken. Berg accused me of coming on the set, screaming and ordering the shooting stopped. (?) He said that he had spent two hours at the studio yesterday “fighting for me” and that it was all settled: everybody had promised that I would be called in on the final editing and we didn’t have to discuss it any further. I asked him how it could be “all settled” without my consent, who had called him to the studio when I hadn’t, and if he was at the studio, why hadn’t he come to hear my side of it before he discussed anything? He said he had been told that I had already left—while I had been at the studio, in my office, until 6 o’clock. I told him that the matter was not settled, as far as I was concerned.
Blanke called me a little later to tell me about some retakes he had ordered Vidor to make (not in connection with the speech), and I asked him for an appointment to see him together with Phil Berg. I thought that I had better bring Berg’s part in this out into the open. Blanke gave me the appointment very nicely, almost eagerly, for 2 o’clock that afternoon. I called Berg and told him this. He refused to come. He said that he had other appointments and told me again that I was not his only client. He said that he would send Jimmy Townsend, if I wanted him—then added that “Townsend is a very high-priced executive and I don’t see why he should waste his time on this.” I did not argue or insist. I said that I did not want Townsend to come and that I would go to the studio alone.
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You realize, of course, that I had needed an agent very badly the day before, to fight for me, because my whole screen career hung in the balance. If I had had an agent whom I could trust, the first thing I would have done would have been to call him. But I knew that I could not count on Berg’s help, so I preferred to avoid another nasty fight with him and leave him out of the case entirely. Yet now, he had entered the case and, apparently, not for me, but against me. I had not once seen him do any negotiations on my behalf. Now I had offered him a chance to do it, to stand by me openly and in my presence. This would have been the best way to prove to me that my suspicions were unjustified. (I did not tell him this, but that was my purpose in asking him to come.) He refused to do it.
I went to the studio alone. I spent most of the afternoon talking to Blanke. I promised him finally that I would not break with the studio now, but would first discuss the matter with Mr. Herbert Freston who was then out of town. That afternoon, Jack Warner saw the rushes and called Blanke while I was in the office to tell him that he liked my version of the speech, both in content and photography, and that mine was the version he wanted to be used. I felt a great deal better. Then Blanke took me to see the rushes. My full version of the speech was so superior in every way, not only in content, but in the quality of the shot and in Gary Cooper’s acting, that there could be no question as to which of the two versions was better. Blanke promised me that I would see the whole rough cut of the picture by the end of this coming week. I told him that I will wait until then, that I would make no trouble and no demands if the picture remains true to my script and most particularly if they preserve Roark’s speech. This is how it stands at present. I have not heard from or called Berg since.
It is my impression that the studio will keep their word, because they actually do agree with me and also because they do think that my name on the picture and my endorsement of it are valuable and important to them. The studio publicity has been featuring me in all their publicity, and one of the men there told me the following: “We have nothing to sell in this picture except Gary Cooper and your book—and for our purposes, the name of your book is even more important at the box office than Gary Cooper’s, because your book is so famous.” If this is the studio’s attitude, I am certainly more than delighted to cooperate, and it is certainly to our mutual advantage, both for me and the studio. But you can imagine what kind of pressure will be brought upon the studio heads when a few people see
Mr. Alan C. Collins -15- September 18, 1948
the picture and begin to express opinions. All the opinions, of course, will be contradictory, because the story is so controversial. I think that Blanke and Jack Warner will carry it through in the proper way, that is, will leave the script untouched—but this is the time when I need the help of an agent to argue for my view point, if necessary, and to stress to the studio the value of my name and support, should the studio heads be tempted to weaken and give in to some pressure such as Vidor’s. (Vidor had seemed to be in complete agreement with us—but now, after this double cross, I do not know what his real opinion is and what to expect of him.) I told Berg, in our last telephone conversation, that he should stress my value to the studio and I quoted the remark of the publicity man. Berg answered: “Aw, Ayn, you’re crazy. Who told you this? Probably some $40.00 a week publicity guy.” Dear Alan, please tell me whether this is an agent who is working for me, who is making proper use of my professional value and protecting my interests?
This is another matter where I needed Berg-Allenberg’s help—and they failed me. As to my request to Jimmy Townsend that he discuss with Warners the matter of their buying my contract from Hal Wallis, I have never heard a word about it. I don’t know whether Berg-Allenberg have bothered to do anything about it. I have not reminded them of it. I think they have simply forgotten. It is my impression that they don’t give a damn about my career.
Well, this is the whole story. I have spoken to Mr. Swanson on the telephone and he told me that he would be glad to take over any moment I say, and that he would sign with me any kind of contract that you decide on. He was very nice and quite frankly enthusiastic about getting me as a client. That, of course, is what I want—I have no desire at all to be a poor relative, or the client of an agent who handles “$12,000 a week directors.”
Swanson told me that according to a recent ruling, a client does not have to prove that an agent has failed to give satisfactory service in order to terminate his contract. It seems that I have the right simply to notify Berg-Allenberg that I wish to terminate it and then it will be up to them to appeal to a labor board for a decision, if they wish. It would then be up to them to prove that they had given me valuable services and advanced my career. If they can prove it, I would have to pay them their commissions for the remainder of
Mr. Alan C. Collins -16- September 18, 1948
the contract. If they cannot prove it, I do not have to pay. In either case, I have the right to dismiss them and be represented by someone else.
I am enclosing a copy of my contract with them. After you have studied all this, will you let me know what action you decide is best—whether you will notify Berg-Allenberg that I am through with them entirely and let them appeal to a labor board if they wish, or whether I should merely dismiss them but continue to pay them commissions for another year, when our contract expires, and for the remainder of the Hal Wallis contract, if I continue with the Hal Wallis contract. Whichever you decide, it will be agreeable to me. I am quite willing to pay Swanson an additional 5 per cent, if necessary.
I need your help particularly in the following problem: It is my impression that Phil Berg has not merely remained neutral during the whole period of my work at Warner Bros., that is, did not merely neglect to do anything for me, but has been working actively against me. I have no complete factual proof of that, but it is an impression and a very uncomfortable one. Therefore, when I leave Berg-Allenberg, he may attempt some form of malicious action against me or against my interests in the picture, such as creating antagonism toward me in the minds of Jack Warner or other studio executives with whom he may have influence. So I would like to ask you to use your influence on Berg and Allenberg, in whatever way you find it possible, to prevent such actions. I know that such matters as personal malice are beyond anyone’s control, but I think that Berg-Allenberg would be afraid to antagonize you and would be more considerate or cautious in their attitude toward me, if they knew that you are watching the situation personally and intend to protect me.
I would like the notice to Berg-Allenberg to come from you for two reasons: First, to impress upon them the fact that I am primarily your client, not theirs. Second, because they might agree to relinquish the contract without any further nastiness. Also, I would like to have your moral support in this. I feel very indignant at their attitude, and I feel very hurt.
Please let me know what procedure you decide is best to set me free of them, before you notify them officially. If you ask them for their side of the story, as of course you should, please ask them to be as specific as I was.
Mr. Alan C. Collins -17- September 18, 1948
Forgive me if this is so long, but I wanted to tell you everything, and I wanted to have a complete record of the whole matter for the future. It has taken me a week to write this letter. If it makes hard reading, you can imagine how hard it was for me to live through all this.
*H. N. Swanson was Rand’s Hollywood agent from 1948 until 1952.
**The “Johnston office” was an informal name for the Production Code Administration, Hollywood’s agency of self-censorship which exercised considerable enforcement authority from 1934.
On October 1, 1948, Collins responded to Rand with a basically non-committal letter regarding her dispute with Berg-Allenberg. He confirmed that she had no legal right to a final say, adding that “it comes down to what commitment, moral or otherwise, may have been made to you in the course of the past few months. I have every confidence that your estimate of what has happened is factually correct. On the other hand, when Allenberg was recently in New York he insisted to me that they had done a very fine job for you at the studio. At this point, however, it doesn’t seem to me to matter at all who is right and who is wrong. You are dissatisfied and want to quit. Therefore, the sole question is how best to do it.” On October 20, Rand wrote to Collins, asking him to cancel her contract with Berg-Allenberg.