Walter Abbott (1905–73) was a screenwriter and friend of Ayn Rand’s.
This letter was previously published only in the Winter 2017-18 issue of The Objective Standard.
173 East 74th Street
New York, N. Y.
March 19, 1938
Dear Mr. Abbott,
Thank you for the clipping about “Night of Jan. 16th”. I was very glad to receive it from you, because it shows that you know I haven’t forgotten you, in[ ]spite of my long silence. At least, I hope you do. Ever since your last letter, way back this summer, I have been trying to do something about getting some pull to get for you one of those scholarships you mentioned, or some form of scholarship, but I haven’t had any luck. I’m afraid my pulls are not so good, and I’m not so good at getting any.
I have been hoping to hear that someone has had the good sense to produce “A better day”, but I am really beginning to think that people either have good taste or money. They don’t come with both any more, in this damned century. I also had another hope, but nothing has come of it: I thought that if “We the living” were produced, I would have enough money of my own, to do your play, if it were still available. You see, I am both optimistic and conceited. And I still think that “A better day” is the best play I have ever read in English, my own and everybody else’s dramas included. But I’m still sitting and waiting—for a better day, literally and figuratively. “We the living” has not been done yet (troubles both casting and political). There is a good chance of its going on next season. But you can see for yourself how uncertain everything is on Broadway. So I can do nothing but wait and hope.
And I HOPE that you have NOT seen “Night of Jan. 16th” in Cleveland. I think I’ve told you how ashamed I am of the damn thing. In the first place, it was mutilated by Woods here, so that the New York production script was bad enough. But what is worse, I understand that in Cleveland they used not the Broadway but the amateur version of the play. And that is something to blush about and to crawl under the waste basket. It was “edited” by the publishers, Longmans Green, to suit the demands of the church and school acting groups. It was censored and “cleaned up” and castrated. If, God forbid, you saw it, you can’t even know what’s mine in it and what is everybody else’s. And collective creation never creates anything except a shameful mess. The jury gag and a vague outline of the plot in general is about all that is left in the amateur version from what the play really was. So, if you saw it, don’t hold it against me. Forgive and forget.
What are you doing now? What has happened to the play on married life that you mentioned writing this summer? I am sorry to hear that you are trying to go commercial, you who have so much real talent, but I can’t take it upon myself to blame you, in view of the reception you got on your magnificent work and in view of the trash that is being produced every day here. They flop, they close one after the other, but there is always more coming. The public doesn’t want it, but it seems that that’s what the producers want. I’ll have to lose thousands out of my own pocket before I will be convinced that there is no audience for a play like yours. And even then I won’t be convinced. Oh, to hell with them all! Our day will come yet. Then we’ll have the pleasure of telling all the B……..s “we told you so.”
But don’t go commercial more than once, if you have to. Have you done any real work? Have you any prospects of coming to New York? Or is it still a question of a job?
I do want to hear from you. Don’t hold my long silences against me. I’m one of those writers that have a horror of writing letters. When I’m working I just can’t coordinate my ideas on anything else, such as writing a coherent letter. Not that I don’t want to. I try, but I give up. Then I take time off from work and concentrate on letters. I’m a one track mind. Then all my friends hear from me at once. If you can understand and tolerate such a system, let me hear from you, when you can. I won’t always be such an unreliable correspondent about answering.
I have been very busy this summer and ever since. Finished a new play—no news on that so far. Finished a novelette—a short novel—and sold it already in England. It will come out there this spring. Now I’m working on a new novel, a tremendous one, about 400,000 words long and taking in a span of fifteen years, I judge. It’s about American architects. I spent over two months this winter, working as a typist in an architect’s office, without salary, for the experience. Got great material, too.
Frank asks me specially to say hello to you for him and to send you his best regards. My ex-partner Albert is in Hollywood, got himself signed on a long term writing contract.
With all my best wishes,