The following is an excerpt from a draft of my biography of Ted Allan. It is taken
from several letters that Frances Penney/Bethune wrote Ted. There are just a few
editorial changes to her wording, but a major rearranging of the sequence of various
parts of the letter. I claim a copyright on all the document as printed here.
Norman Allan, 416 928 9272. |
... Before Ted moved to L.A., back in 1943, back in New York, he had been working on a biography of Bethune. He got a $25,000 advance on a Bethune movie from Fox, "And that's why I named you Bethune," he once told me.
Ted would spend ten years working, off and on, on Bethune's biography spurred on by Sam Shaw, by Brecht. Ten years of frustration struggling to organize the material and turn it into a readable text; years steeped in Bethune.
Early on in this project, Ted renewed his acquaintance with Beth's ex-wife, Frances Bethune, nee Frances Penney. Frances came down to New York and spent some time with Ted and Kate. And Ted and Frances had an affair, Ted told me.
Soon after Frances returned to Montreal she wrote
Ted a letter. The letter, in part, is a response to an early draft of the Bethune
biography: "The Scalpel, The Sword".
"4 a.m. The fourth Christmas since he left us behind. I am sitting up with my tree, a little beauty standing so proud and free - perfect in form, and covered with snow (absorbent cotton!) and silver bells, and an angel, and one little Chinaman that Beth gave me long, long ago. Perhaps fever these last nights has made me see this tree sometimes as a gallant ship, sometimes as a Chinese pagoda this morning.
"And the first letters I picked up1 are surely among the most beautiful a man ever wrote a woman, but these are for me only. Ah, there are many furious ones, many bitter ones, many only to do with money.
"Oh, what to do about it all - the me and Beth v Beth and me bit. Part right.2 Somehow neither deep enough or light enough, and it could be done - it must be done, not for me, for him - but this morning I pull these out at random making notes for you if I can.
"We were married August 13th! I was in a black chiffon frock, and I broke my hand mirror that morning. These are facts. Yes, he said, "Now I can make your life a misery," but he added, "But I will never bore you." It is a promise (a promise kept).
"Actually, there was an incident in the Channel Islands - did I tell you? A high high cliff, a deep, deep ravine - a long step, almost a jump, to cross, oh pretty bad, and no earthly reason to cross, but Beth suddenly said, "I would rather see you dead than funk that." I did it, but something died. My failure: it shouldn't have died.
"Do you remember the story of the knight who wanted to do a deed of valour for his ladye, and she threw a rose into a lion's den and said fetch it back. He did, but afterwards he rode away.
"It was after that Beth told me, "Always look at me though half closed eyes."
"And he didn't call me "darling" always. He mostly called me "tike", i.e. bum: often "rabbit", and he didn't say, "Change your hat." He threw it away - without comment. Once when I was away from him, having left for a "breather", I got a wire saying, "Posted you three inconsiderable hats this morning." He had. On my charge account!
"Oh God, an awful letter discovered. Do you know Mary Queen of Scots lament for Douglas? "Oh to bring back the days that are not. Mine eyes were blinded. Your words were few."
"And his last letter from the ship to
China. "It would seem that the time for offering you advise has gone, but I beg
you to leave Montreal - I feel so unhappy about you, what you have become and
will become - escape for your life or these terrible people will kill everything
in you I once loved.
"Ted, this is getting too much -
"I must sleep or weep.
"First and last and always it was a spiritual bond. His last letter was still "My dear Francis", not just "Francis" as when he was good and mad. Oh why did he think I could be changed - I mean by A.R.E. and his friends.
"Did you know we had a doll-child called Alice.
"Oh Ted, why did it have to happen, all of it.
"I went to London on my own - no connection with him at all - though he was always at me to leave the family roof. God knows why. I was extremely happy. He found me at the Settlement, where I was doing "good work". He arrived dressed as a tramp. Then I was also extremely happy he disrupted that - for returning from Barcelona he gave me a ring - old Bethune family affair, garnets, and hair under glass, engraved inside with the name Bethune and dated 17**, something? I naturally took it at face value. Later found that woman found it in a junk shop in Barcelona and gave it to him. I threw it away. Why not, after all!
"My God, I left Beth oftener than he left me. Do you take me for a ninny? First time I divorced him. Next time we decided fair play meant him doing it. We meant to have a third time, a third marriage: stay put. What of it: he continued to introduce me as "my wife". "I lend my wife," said he when I remarried (on account of A.R.E.), "I do not give her!"
our first honeymoon, in the Channel Islands, Beth went swimming at night in the
raging storm-sea. Sobered and quiet when he came out, we walked back silently,
dressed for dinner (always full evening dress, of course), and had a bottle of
Imperial Tokay. Teddy, I am truly shocked, my lad, by the picture you present:
"Buried my face in his shoulder"! God in heaven! Why dear heart, the sea nearly
got him. One doesn't, except in Hollywood, indulge in sentimental slush. At least,
we never did. We didn't have to. (You see, we loved each other.) I was frightened.
Also rather grimly angry. He was frightened, and a little ashamed. We didn't speak
till over our wine glasses our eyes meet, and we both laughed. That was always
our solution. We laughed, and so to bed. (Do not think the latter played a small
part with us. Much much more complicated than that.) "Beat it again, Tyke." There
was at no time anything undignified in our relationship.
"Oh, I'm tired. You understand, don't you. It's all the re-opening of an old wound that was beginning to heal. One of the last things Beth said to me (after Spain) was, "I have a scar in my heart forever." Not Spain. Me!
"You know, he also gave me a typewriter - you and me, but one of his women friends, alien, hostile to me, came and borrowed it. She is poor. One had to lend it. I have never touched it since.
"Oh, it's been a long silent struggle between us - a (unintelligible) - but the thaw has come - at last, and I feel the man on top of the tiger, the tiger being my own feelings, of course, but you see why you have to struggle with this writing.3
"She for a little tried to live without him: liked it not: and died.
"My love, my love was an Egotist.
"I do enclose plan of 1221 St. Mark, and his
remarkable Chinese bed.4
"You see, I know - we were both gamblers, but our stakes were never small. Faites vous jeux! Messieurs, faites vous jeux! cry the Olympians. And the last line: -
"Rien ne va plus.
there is someone you know