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Norman Allan
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Chapter Six: Back in the New World


Spain. Madrid. A scar on the heart of the world.

I need to "speak" to an apparent contradiction in Ted's Spanish saga. Arturo Barea, who was the Government censor in Madrid, says in his autobiography that he didn't speak any English and that he left liaisons with the foreign journalist to his colleague, Ilsa. But as I remember Ted telling the story, Barea met regularly with the foreign journalists in the restaurant of the Grand Via Hotel. There he held court and, on occasion, he would read to them any of their despatches that he found to be of special interest. These meetings were an important feature of the correspondents' social life in war time Madrid. But Barea doesn't speak of them. While they may have eaten in the same restaurant, Barea seems to intimate that he rarely communicated directly with the foreign journalists, so why does Ted say...

I was talking to a friend about these sliding truths.
"People should have a choice how they want to be remembered," she commented.

In her book on Hemingway's women, Bernice Kert writes of Martha Gellhorn: On January 5 (1937) Martha wrote Eleanor Roosevelt that she was seeing Hemingway, who was "an odd bird, very loveable and full of fire and a marvellous story teller. (In a writer this is imagination, in anyone else it's lying...)" (1)

There is so much material about Ted's childhood - I've only shown you samples, a small flavouring - and there is lots of writing about his adolescence and his time in Spain, but after that, for the most part, the next twenty years is thinly documented. What there is, is many lists, outlines for autobiographies. One amongst these ("Bridging Information" from a version of "Happy Ending: an autobiography") is almost in prose. He is speaking here of the autumn of 1937 after his return from Spain.

"I was planning to return to Spain and write a book which Capa's photographs would illustrate. The Canadian Communist Party deemed otherwise and ordered me not to return to Spain but to become Foreign Affairs Editor of The Daily Clarion. I wasn't happy. I wrote a short story titled "A Gun Is Watered", which was published in the New Masses. This led to an offer of a contract from Wm. Morrow to write a novel. I left Canada for New York."

And the following is an example of a list from "Outline of Autobiography. Feb 13, 1981":

"Gerda. Chaya. Shoeperle and Capa. Fred Rose, Foreign Editor, Toronto. New York, the search for John's widow, Kate Schwartz Lenthier, This Time a Better Earth. Marriage of death. All feeling cut off. Separation and Mexico. Love affair with Aza. Begging Kate to come after the break up.

Another outline/list reads:

"Capa and I decide we'll return to Spain and do a book together. The boat. I meet Shepperle. In Canada the Party, punishing me. Capa waiting for me in New York. I can't go back. He went on his own.
     I go to New York to write the novel and move in with Frances, my agent.
     Kate. Sadie's visit to New York. (Note how I have forgotten my first glimpse of Sadie on my return from Spain. Fat and living at Auntie Leah's.) Then marriage to Kate. Interlude with Aggie. The trip to Mexico with Ricky...

Even on the boat back from Europe Ted found himself thinking that he would visit John Lenthier's widow, Kate, to bring her John's farewell letter and that he would marry her. "We will wed," he thought, "and it will be a marriage of death."

"When I got back to New York I waited a few weeks before I felt ready to see Mike's (John's) widow. I had promised him I would deliver his message. I went to see her in her apartment. She was an extremely attractive girl, but very high strung. We sat in the front room of her apartment and I said, "Mike (John) and I were in the Brigade together. He wanted me to tell you that everything will be okay..."

John Lenthier had shown Ted a picture of Kate. "She's Jewish," John informed him. She had high cheekbones, closely cropped hair, and a small pretty nose. Ted thought that she looked Russian. They, John and Kate, had been married for a little over a year. She had been a concert pianist, but had given up her career because she felt she didn't play well enough.

Ted wrote a story about being in Mexico City waiting for his girl - the story is called "Hotel Fernando" (or, alternatively, "Love? Pooh!"). It was published in Mademoiselle. In the typed story the narrator's fiancée was called Marylin Sweetwater, but in the copy I have in front of me Ted has crossed out that name and pencilled in Kate Lenthier.

"I was in love once. Her name was Kate Lenthier, and I loved her so much I would happily have cut my throat for her. Which goes to show you what love will do. She had wavy brown hair and eyes and lips that made you want to pray. She had a trim figure and wonderful legs, but what does that tell you? When I saw her I trembled.
     So one day Kate says to me, "Ted," she says, "I like you very much but we have little in common, except politics. Forget me. I hope we'll always be good friends."
     So I came to Mexico to forget Kate.

How does the scenario of Ted and Kate's meeting go? On the boat back, before meeting her, Ted had decided to marry Kate. A "marriage of death": a consolation for the death of John Lenthier and Gerda Taro. So he courted Kate Schwartz - this would be 1938 - but he was always ambivalent, uncommitted.

Perhaps we can taste the flavour of Ted and Kate's courtship in Ted's story "Summer Idyll":

"They were riding on the top of a Fifth Avenue bus. It was Saturday night and it was summer, and they were holding hands. She snuggled closer and rested her head on his shoulder.
     "I like riding on the top of a bus," she said.
     "Me too," he answered, stroking her hair.
     "Let's talk silly. All right?" she said.
     "Okay. What?"
     "Shoes in wrapping oranges sell for six cents strike four."
     "That's talking silly?"
     "You've got to answer something like, 'Not unless Hitler singing Mammy I'd walk a mile for a Camel Sonny Boy,' or something like that. Didn't you play it when you were a kid?"
     "No. We made up dirty words to songs. Want to do that?"
     "No. Tell me about when you were a kid. No. Then we'll get serious. Let's not get serious. Let's talk silly and act happy."
     "Okay," he said turning to look at her and giving her a smile. "You're lovely," he said. Then he asked, "When do we get off the bus? It's getting late, isn't it?"
     "Let's go to the end of the line. Tomorrow's Sunday and we can sleep late. Don't you want to talk? Tell me about Spain."
     "Let's not talk. Let's just sit and ride."
     They listened to the shifting of the gears and the loud roar of the bus motor and to the sounds of the city at night.
     "How do you feel?" he asked after a while.
     "Swell. You?"
     "Me? I feel wonderful. Just wonderful," he answered with sarcasm.
     "Please let's not go over it again," she said
     "I don't like it." ...

In this story the girl is pregnant, planning an abortion on the upcoming Monday, and the man feels bad about it. "It's a dirty trick," he says. This then is not a story about Ted and Kate themselves, but we may catch a glimpse of them in it.

... "I don't like it. I..."
     "Stop it, will you?" She pulled her hand away from his and sat up erect staring in front of her.
     "I'm sorry darling," he said. "Honest. I'm sorry."
     "On Monday it'll be all over."
     "Okay darling." He pulled her hand towards him and pressed it hard against his heart. She brushed her cheek against his shoulder and he put his arm around her and hugged tight.
     "Let's hum something," she said.
     "You start."
     "Let's go through everything we know of Gershwin and Berlin. Let's start with "Remember". That's nice and gushy."
     They hummed through their repertoire.
     "Geeze, I remember us singing these songs in Spain. It made me so goddamned homesick..."
     "How many times have I told you you're not in Spain and to stop swearing."
     "Hell, you get into the goddamned habit and it's hard to break."
     "Tell me about the nights in Spain," she asked
     "I remember the first nights better then the last ones. Warm. Lots of stars. I'd get more homesick at night. More time to think." He stopped as the bus stopped. "We've come to the end of the line."
     The conductor passed and she put two dimes into the box. "Clinks like my office typewriter," she said. "Give me a cigarette. Yes?"
     He lit a cigarette and placed it between her lips.

Toronto, spring of 1995; the last weeks of Ted's life, Ted told me, again, about marrying Kate. Kate's mother, Zezzel, was ill, dying of cancer. Zezzel was concerned that her daughter was widowed and alone. She was agitated by this. She wanted to see Kate settled before she left. Ted and Kate decided to stage a marriage for Zezzel's sake. They went up to Boston, Kate's home town, and got a rabbi to perform a ceremony. The marriage would not be official until Ted and Kate signed the certificate. Therefore, to all intents and purposes, they were not really getting married.
     On the bus back to New York, Kate started to weep. "Why are you crying?" Ted asked.
     "You don't love me!" That's why she was crying.
     "Oh, for godsake," said Ted. "Give me the certificate. I'll sign it. See! I do love you."

Ted's relationship with Kate, his "marriage of death", brought him no joy or ease. After a short while he decided to leave.

"Why did I go to Mexico? Because Cardenas was president. It was a Socialist country. They spoke Spanish, and I felt a longing for Spain. I had been back from Spain a year and a half when I arrived in Mexico City. It reminded me of Madrid.
     I locked myself in a hotel room the first day and lay down on the bed and let the sun come in through the window and rest on my body. And I hummed the second movement of the Beethoven's fifth symphony. It was the first time in nearly two years I had done that.
     I began to study Mexico. I went around government departments to get statistics. One day in the Department of Agriculture I was walking down the stairs after getting some information on communal farms. A young man and woman were walking up the stairs. He stopped me in passing to ask, in Spanish, where he could see someone who could give him some figures on that same subject, communes. I told him it was a coincidence, because I had just got this data, but that the man in charge had left his office and would be back in an hour or so. We walked down the stairs together. "You're American aren't you?" I asked.
     He smiled, "Yes." Now he perceived that I too was an northerner. "I thought you were Mexican," he said.
     "No. I'm not Mexican"
     "But you speak Spanish pretty well."
     "So do you," I answered, "but we both speak with accents. We might as well introduce ourselves. My name's Ted. Ted Allan."
     He stopped dead and whispered, "Holy Christ!"
     "What's the matter," I asked with some concern.
     He started to sing the second movement of Beethoven's fifth, and began to laugh.
     The light dawned on me. It had to be Joe Stevens who had shared my hospital room in Madrid.      "But you're dead," I said. "You were practically dead when I left the hospital. You were going to die any day."
     "Die, nuts. Not me," he said, and he introduced me to his wife. "Darling this is Ted."
     His wife said, "So I gather, Joe. Joe's told me about you, and he drives me crazy singing the second movement."
     Joe and I looked at each other a long while. It was the first time I had seen his face. It was a swell face, and just now it had a grin that ran from ear to ear. "I'll be damned," I said.
     We talked for hours. We decided that the Spanish war was not over, that the people of Spain were going to win in the end. That's what Joe and I agreed on. We did argue a little. We argued about whether Harry Bridges was the greatest of union leader, and it was a wonderful thing being able to argue with Joe Stevens.

Ted fell in with a literary crowd. The nights were warm, the wine was cheap: the living was easy. There was a lot of romance in the air in Mexico.
     There were several writers and actors in the pension, the hotel, where Ted was staying. Notable among them was Clifford Odets. Odets was a celebrity. In the nineteen thirties, Odets, a young protege then in his twenties, had been the leading light of the theatre of social protest. He was one of the founders of the Group Theatre, and his contributions to that company, in particular his play "Waiting for Lefty" had a considerable influence on the American stage.
     Odets was a pleasant companion, in and out of his cups. He was just beginning, at thirty three, to run to fat. "You see me, Ted. This is you in twenty years time." Ted wasn't sure whether to be flattered or not. He was flattered, though, when the beautiful young Mexican whore who lived with Odets would steal away to share Ted's bed whenever she was able.

Of his time in Mexico, Ted wrote:
     "Lazaro Cardenas was President. He had tried to transform the economy, giving land to the landless peons. He was one of that very small band of political leaders whom power did not corrupt. He asked me to produce a radio program aimed at a U.S. audience. For almost a year I wrote, directed and produced "The Good Neighbour Hour", corralling anybody I could find in Mexico City who could speak English. This included people like Clifford Odets, John Garfield, Hans Eisler...

Among the group of acquaintances Ted mixed with in Mexico city was a beautiful dancer, Aza. Aza had a stormy on again off again relationship with her boyfriend, an actor. She was afraid of him, the boyfriend. He went away on a long tour. Ted and Aza began an affair. Ted fell deeply in love with Aza. The actor came back. Aza decided to marry him. "But you don't love him. You love me," Ted complained to no avail.
     "I couldn't bare it," said Ted. "I couldn't bare being left again. Gerda left me. Aza left me. I've always felt terrible when anyone leaves me. So I phoned Kate in New York. I begged her to come down to Mexico, even though I knew better. She knew better too. She was reluctant, but I was persuasive. I told her I had enough love for both of us. So she came, and she got pregnant immediately. That happened so quickly, I always had suspicions the child wasn't mine. I wanted an abortion, but the doctor frightened me. We kept the child, and that was the foundation of the marriage. A triple rebound and a moral shotgun."

"When Kate got pregnant we decided to have the child in the United States. The Mexican Department of Culture and Communication owed me six months salary. Cardenas accomplished much but was not able to cope with the traditional Mexican bribery and corruption.

Julie was born February 1940. This places the above events in the spring of '39.

Ted and Kate returned to the States.

"In New York I got a job through Helen Strauss, who was then a story editor of Paramount, I got a job writing commercial movies for a Paramount subsidiary called Caradel Films. For $50 bucks a week in 1939/40, I felt like a millionaire. Things began to look up.

For a while they lived with Kate's life long friend, Agnes Ives. "I was typing in the kitchen of Agnes Ives," Ted wrote. "I think I was working on my first novel. And I looked to my left at the window and saw my father with one foot over the ledge trying to jump out." This is a theme we will observe several times in Ted's life: repressed memories haunting him as the make their return to surface of his conscious awareness -freud's "return of the repressed".

In one set of notes Ted spoke of the "Agnes interlude." Was that an innocent interlude? Let's give innocence the benefit of the doubt.

Ted in New York in 1940. Julie was born Feb. 5th. Ted was writing. The novel had been published. Short stories were being written and being placed.

"What a miraculous day! A letter from The New Yorker! My hands shook so I could barely open it. It read, "Dear Mr. Allan: Your story, "Crazy Joe," has impressed all of us here at The New Yorker. I would like to speak to you about it in person and suggest you telephone to arrange a meeting. Sincerely yours, William Maxwell."
     I telephoned Mr. Maxwell. His secretary arranged an appointment for eleven o'clock the next morning. That night I kept trying to decide how much money I would ask. I'd been told The New Yorker paid as high as five hundred dollars for a story. I decided I would accept half of that. By now I had four dollars and sixty-two cents to my name.
     It took a good hour to walk to 44th Street. I started out at seven-thirty and found myself with two and a half hours to kill. I figured that if Maxwell was very enthused about the story, I'd ask for three hundred. Feeling wealthy I staked myself to a breakfast of ham and eggs, toast, orange juice and coffee, instead of the usual coffee and doughnut. Including the tip, a large tip, that left me with three dollars even, with a wife and child to support.
     Back on the street I witnessed an elderly man hit by a taxi. A shocked and remorseful cabby was bending over him as blood poured out of his mouth and ear. He was dead before the ambulance arrived.
     I was a few minutes late and badly shaken when I finally arrived at The New Yorker and was directed to the office of Mr. William Maxwell. A striking, sensitive-looking man in his early thirties smiled and beckoned me to sit down. "I loved your story," he said. "We'd like you to be a regular contributor. Unfortunately, we cannot buy this story because we published something very similar a few weeks ago, but we..."
     "What did you say?" I heard myself shouting. "You're not buying the story?!"
     "That's what I'm trying to explain." He spoke softly. "We can't buy this story, but we'd like you to send us anything you've written."
     "You're not buying the story?!" I screamed again. "Then why then hell did you ask me to come here?" I was standing now, trembling with rage.
     "I didn't want to send it back with what might have sounded like a polite rejection," he explained. "The other editors and I feel that you could probably write very humorous stories..."
     "I don't feel like writing humorous stories!" I shouted. "I just saw a man killed by a taxi! You shouldn't send letters like that unless you're going to buy the story. I bought myself a big expensive breakfast this morning because I thought you were going to buy it!"
     "I think," he continued calmly, "that you could become one of our regular contributors. Now that I see how young you are, I'm more convinced of it than ever. I'd be very happy to lend you some money if you need it."
     I grabbed my manuscript from his desk, mumbled that he should stick his money somewhere, and stormed out of his office.

In addiction to his writing, Ted was involved at this time in fund raising.

"My one and only meeting with Dashiell Hammett (2) took place in a Forest Hills, New York, home of some extremely wealthy people whose names I've forgotten. It might have been 1940 or 1941. At that time Dorothy Parker and I were on a fund-raising tour for the Joint Refugee Anti-Fascist Committee. Miss Parker and I traveled to the major cities of the United States addressing gatherings, large and small, in auditoriums and homes, raising money for Spanish refugees. Miss Parker was already famous as a writer, poet, raconteur, and wit.(3) Her presence added a touch of stardom to the occasion. And me? I was somebody who had participated in the Spanish Civil War. There was an aura of romance about me, particularly when I modestly mentioned that I had served in the trenches for a while (neglecting to mention that the "while" was all of three days and nights).
     It may not be generally known that Dorothy Parker suffered from stage fright. When the moment arrived for her to go on stage she would invariably take me to some space out of sight of everyone, and desperately whisper, "You'll have to do it tonight without an introduction. I can't go on. Don't argue with me. Just go and explain that I'm ill."
     A speech like this (with a few amendments) was always delivered a minute or so before the meeting was to begin. I always listened sympathetically, nodding with total understanding until she finished. Then, I would take her by the shoulders, turn her around, and propel her onto the stage or into the living room. The instant she looked at the people present she became calm, and funny.
     I wish I had recorded some of Miss Parker's remarks. My poor memory has left me only second-rate Parkerisms like: "They call me a dirty red. That doesn't upset me. Dirty red is a humble colour, but it suits me fine." Then she'd utter some glowing words about my talents as a journalist and my bravery as a soldier and finally say, "It is my pleasure to introduce Ted - the - man - I - love - Allan."
     I would then deliver an emotional harangue ending with a truthful explanation of the desperate need for money. Then I'd hit the audience with, "Who will give the first ten thousand dollars?" In those days that amount of money was the equivalent of ten times ten today, but we did get the occasional donor. If no one volunteered, I'd quickly drop to five, and then to one thousand dollars, which often brought forward a few offers. Then five hundred, a hundred, and end up asking for singles. We raised a few hundred thousand dollars this way in a few months. I may be exaggerating the figure, but it was a goodly sum.
     The evening of the affair in Forest Hills, before the speeches we mingled with the guests, among whom was Lilian Hellman and her even more famous friend, the tall, thin, distinguished, prematurely white-haired, Dashiell Hammett. I could not help noticing that Mr. Hammett was hammered. He was weaving slightly and his speech was slurred.
     When it came time for me to ask, "Who will start this off by giving ten thousand dollars?" a foggy voice said "I will." It was Hammett, reaching for his cheque book, wobbling to a table, and proceeding to write the cheque for ten grand with apparent ease. No one followed his example. I dropped to five thousand dollars. No one moved. The silence was ghastly. I was about to drop to half that sum when Hammett's thick, inebriated voice announced again, "I will." He wrote out a second cheque, this time for five thousand. Again I thanked him, feeling a trifle ridiculous. I knew that Hammett was one of the largest contributors to the Joint Refugee Anti-Fascist Committee and had already given large sums of money.
     I dropped my request to two and a half thousand. Again the same voice. Again Hammett writing a cheque. When I dropped to one thousand, finally the gathering came to life.
     After the collection I sought out the Committee's organizer. "For God's sake, tear up Hammett's cheques. He's so drunk he doesn't know what he's doing. He's already donated tens of thousands."
     Hammett left with Miss Hellman after a warm handshake and a friendly, albeit still slurred, congratulatory remark about my spiel.
     Next day the lady from the Joint Committee telephoned. "I called Mr. Hammett and told him we were going to tear up his cheques. He said absolutely not to. He insisted that he had given those cheques for the Spanish refugees, and that we were to deposit them. He may have been a little high, he said, but not that stoned not to know what the hell he was doing. I'm quoting."
     "Was he sober when you spoke to him?" I asked.
     "Cold sober," was the reply.

On the top of the grayed copy of the story "ENCOUNTER WITH DASHIELL HAMMETT" Ted had written in pencil, "Terrible! Rewrite it completely! 11/12/89". I haven't: though I've trimmed it a bit and altered a few words.

This is also the era of Sam Shaw:

"Sam Shaw plays an incredible role in my life," Ted wrote. "If he had not nagged me about Bethune I would never have written that 180 page biography that I sold to 20th Century Fox. It was his saying, "This is a great man," and me really not liking Bethune. But he forced me. He came every night forcing me to write a 20 page Treatment first, which a very close friend, Irving Hoffman, sold to Fox for 25,000 dollars. It's amazing the influence of Sam in my life. The work I got through him. He introduced me to Bob Goldstein who got me the job with Columbia. He had a tremendous influence on John (Casevettes) as well...

Ted wrote many times of Sam's importance, but doesn't say anywhere how they met. I phoned Sam just now (January 4th, 1997) to ask.
     "It was when he came back from Spain. I think he was negotiating on the book: This Time a Better Earth. He was the hot young writer. Everybody was talking about him." Sam speaks very slowly. He always did, but more so now that he is in his eighties.
     "But how did you meet Ted?" I asked. "How exactly did you meet?"
     "It was down at the Daily Worker, the Daily Worker and the Sunday Magazine, and we talked about doing an article on Spain for the Sunday Magazine."
     "Ted was so colourful, so charismatic. He was such a good speaker. I introduced him to Irving Hoffman. Irving was a columnist and dramatic critic for the Hollywood review. He was a very influential man. He was intrigued by Ted. Hoffman touted him all over. He (Ted) told stories. He was a wonderful story teller. Hoffman called him the Jewish Jimmy Cagney."
     "We all became friends here in New York. I and Hoffman got Ted to meet him Charlie Feldman. Ted and Michael Sayers were supposed to write a story for Charlie Feldman. They went out to Hollywood, but Ted never got down to writing it. From the stories Ted told Charlie Feldman went into preparing a picture... I forget. It became a very big picture. It became... it became "The Best Years of Our Lives". " (4)
     "Ted got a job for Bob Goldstein and, and Leonard Goldstein, who became head of 20th Century Fox. He had that great line, Ted told me, "I changed my name to Leonard Goldstein for business reasons."
     "Then Ted went and worked for Warner Brothers. He spent a lot of time with Fritz Lang. Fritz Lang taught him about editing films. And Gary Cooper. What was that story: at a dinner, no, a lunch, Ted turned to Cooper and said, "You're such a wonderful story teller, why don't you talk like that in the pictures." Cooper said, "The dialogue is so terrible. That's why I learned to grunt."
     "Ted came back to New York with an outline for a novel. He got a twenty-five hundred dollar advance from, Random House I think. He learned how to live on that, and he got twenty-five hundred from every other publisher in New York."
     "Irving Hoffman had this place on 48th Street right next to the Royal Court Theatre. It was a meeting place for all the Hollywood people. Whenever a VIP from Hollywood would come into town, Hoffman always had Ted come over to tell stories. Let's see, who was there? There was Darryl Zannick, Irving Berlin."
     "In Hollywood Ted was very involved with the German refugees. There was a whole colony of those people who used to hang out together. There was Brecht."
     I interrupted Sam to tell him I had material on Brecht.
     "Yeah. Ted wrote a lot about Brecht. There was Fritz Lang, and Marlene Dietrich. They were very close friends. Ted used to see her regularly. I'll try and see if I can remember any stories about Marlene. I've been writing notes on Ted like you asked me."
     I gave Sam my address again, thanked him, wished him a happy New Year. (It was Jan. 4th. 1997.)

In Mexico in 1939 Ted had done propaganda work for the government. With the advent of Pearl Harbour (December 1941) and America's entry into the war, Ted found a job with the Office of War Information.

"I worked for the OWI during World War II." Ted wrote. This is from one of the outlines. "My brother Georgie becomes a Lieutenant in the R.C.A.F. and flies many bombing missions over Germany. I meet Ruth Berlau and have a raging love affair - lustful passionate on the stairs - and she introduced me to Berthold Brecht. Uta Hagen.

The following is a composite of the three items on Brecht that I found among Ted's papers: a short story, a rough draft for a chapter of "The Biography", and three pages of notes:

"Brecht. I also met Brecht through a woman. I was working at the Office of War Information during World War II. I was on the Master Radio Desk under John Houseman and Dorothy Van Doren. I was writing news reports and propaganda broadsides that were being translated and broadcast into the Nazi occupied countries of Europe. There was a very attractive woman by the name of Ruth Berlau who worked on the Danish desk. We started to go out for coffee and became friends. Her English was unsteady, but vigorous and colourful. She had a sweet Danish accent. She was a writer and photographer and she kept telling me she wanted me to meet her friend, Bert Brecht, who she said was a genius.
     I knew Bertold Brecht as the guy who wrote lyrics for the working-class songs of Hans Eisler, "Just because he's human, he doesn't want a pistol to his head..." Things like that. Ruth was not surprised that I had sung his United Front and revolutionary songs as a young man in the Montreal Young Communist League, but she found it difficult to believe that I had not heard of the Three Penny Opera which had been so famous in Germany before Hitler. "Ted," she said, "you know he's one of the great playwrights."
     I said, "No, I didn't know that."
     Anyway, she brought the genius to my house for dinner. Brecht spoke English with a very heavy Berlin accent. He looked very strange to me: he had a weird haircut, but I liked him. His hair wasn't combed back as was the style at the time, but came over his forehead in a bang. He almost always had a cigar hanging in the corner of his mouth. He was very bright, and as time went on I began to respect his knowledge of politics. He was an avowed communist, but, unlike most Communists I had met, he critisized the Party. He considered the leader of the Communist Party of America to be a little man who had no idea of Marxism. I found this opinion shocking and arrogant. At that time I thought that if you became the leader of the Party, you had to be a political genius. Brecht treated all my naivetes with amused tolerance, while I, in return, felt that his put down of the various political leaders in the United States was just sour grapes.
     At the time I expressed to Brecht my unease about the Soviet-Nazi Non-aggression Pact of August 1939. In response he told me that when he had been in Moscow, his Russian publishers had asked him to give them everything he had for immediate publication. Brecht had told them, "Everything I have is anti-Hitler, banned by the Nazis." They said, "It takes a little time to translate, takes a little time to print." He was indicating to me that the Non-aggression Pact was a temporary strategic move, and that calmed me down a bit.
     We were together on that day, June 22nd. 1941, when the Nazi invaded Russia. For us the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union meant the beginning of the end for Nazism, and we never for one moment had any doubts of Hitler's eventual defeat. I doubt if anyone of us on the left-wing thought differently. Had we suspected that Stalin had been taken by surprise, we might not have been so smug, but we both believed that the first Russian retreats were part of a deliberately planned Red Army strategy.

I had started working on Bethune's biography. I had a 185 page draft that Ruth Berlau showed Bert. He said it was the most important thing he had read in this country. He urged me to stick with it. He said that Bethune was not only fascinating, but that it was very important for the world to know about him. Brecht's encouragement pleased me, but in as much as he was always saying he didn't know too much about writing prose, I wasn't all that flattered. I told Brecht that I was having trouble with the material because of my ambivalence about Bethune. "I hate him... and then I love him..."
     "Write it like that!" he said emphatically.

I was also working on the first draft of "Love is a Long Shot"(5) 1 which I had given to Ruth to look at. She gave it to Brecht. He loved the beginning. "Marvelous! Very good," he said, but when he read the completed draft he screamed at me, "You shit on your work! You shit on your work! It is very good, the first hundred pages. Then it is shit. Work on it!" I was not impressed with his critique.

He brought me his stuff to read as well. He brought me a poem called "The Children's Crusade" about a group of children wandering through Europe during the Thirty Years War. I worked on it with him to get it into some shape, but I was not a poet and, although the poem moved me, he could see I was only doing it as a favour and not because of any particular enthusiasm for the work.
     Then he brought me a play called "Mother Courage". He had a translation that he didn't like and he suggested I might help him with the translation. I could make neither head nor tale of it. I reread it several times, but I couldn't understand it. I thought, "This poor guy is going to have a hard time make a living as a writer." I told Ruth Berlau, "This guy should stick to lyrics."
     She said, "Oh, you are so stupid, you know!" She screamed. Then she brought me "Caucasian Chalk Circle" and "Good Woman of Setzuan". They made a little more sense to me, but I thought them didactic and naive. I confided to Ruth that I wasn't the man to help with the translations. She should tell Brecht that he needed someone who understood German, but in truth I had neither the time nor the inclination. I was too busy writing my own stuff.
     I continued to be blind to Brecht's talent. One Sunday afternoon he and Ruth brought a tape which they wanted to hear on my tape recorder. It was more of Brecht's lyrics to music by Kurt Weil, sung by Lotte Lenya. There was one song that stood out, "Mackie Messer" (6), that had a compelling march like quality to it, but the other songs, things like "The Alabama Song" ("Show me the way to the next whisky bar"), were alien and raucous to my ears. This is music that I later came to love, but again, as with the plays, at the time I couldn't understand it. I was open minded enough to concede how closed minded I was, but I was busy writing something, something very important, so I left them with my wife. Kate was a pianist and knew something about music. I figured she would be interested. They played the whole tape, this terrible German sounding stuff. And Kate was very excited by the music, but I thought, "Oh, Christ," and went up stairs to work. I kept hearing this grinding rasping German stuff, de de de de, da da.

Brecht fell in love with my daughter, Julie. He was just mad for her. Julie was a particularly independent and assertive little lady at four, and she was very particular about who could hug and kiss her. She'd stare at you when you came in, look you over, and she'd say, "I don't like you." Great. But this one, she fell in love with this guy. That's why I think it's such a great title, "Brecht was my Baby-Sitter." He used to phone and tell Kate and me to go out because he and Ruth wanted to come over and baby-sit. He just adored Julie's no-bullshit attitude, and the fact that she was exceptionally pretty. He used to like taking her for walks. They conducted long conversations about everything: birds, dogs, cats, grass, flowers, and God knows what else.

Brecht and his family - and Ruth Berlau was considered part of his family - moved to Santa Monica, California, where Brecht began to work on a film called "Hangmen Also Die"(7). I was very pleased by this for it meant that he was earning some money, and I was worried about his ability to survive as a writer. Not long after I too moved out to the west coast.
     The studio wanted a happy ending for "Hangman Also Die". "They want a happy ending?" said Brecht. "Give them a happy ending."
     I spent afternoons with Brecht and Charles Laughton while they were working on the screenscript of Brecht's "Galileo". My affection for him grew to admiration and respect as I gradually came to appreciate his measure of his work and worth.

Brecht had not told me right away, but I learned in dribs and drabs, that he had four mistresses. There was Ruth, and his wife, Helene Weigel. I don't think they were having sex anymore. Ruth told me Helene Weigel was a great actress. By that time I was used to Ruth's use of the words genius and great, and I treated it with the amusement I thought it deserved. Then there was Elizabeth Hauptman, and a fourth younger woman, who was not there with him at the time. (Was there a fifth woman, or did that come later, in Berlin, whom I met?) Anyway, there were four mistresses, and he was very jealous about them.
     Later in Berlin Ruth told me a story about her and Hauptman phoning Brecht. Hauptman had a sore finger and Ruth had a sore leg. Brecht asked Hauptman about her leg and Ruth about her finger. Each replied that they were fine to protect him from any embarrassment, and later they compared notes and laughed.
     Back then, in California, Kate told me she had discussed this situation with Ruth. Kate was shocked at Ruth's acceptance of him having three women. "Ten percent of Bert," said Ruth, "is better than a hundred percent of most men."

In August 1945 Brecht phoned me in the middle of the night waking me from a deep slumber. "Did you hear what they did?" he asked. His voice sounded hysterical.
     I said, "Did what? Who?"
     Kate was lying beside me going, "What?"
     I said, "It's Bert," and then asked him, "What are you screaming about?"
     "Did you hear about this atomic bomb they dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?"
     "Yeah," I said. "It was in all the papers and over the radio. It was a big bomb. Yeah."
     And he was screaming, "They've burned to death thousands of men, women and children. This is worse than Buchenwald and Auschwitz. It will go down in history as an even worse atrocity that anything the Nazis have done."
     "Now, Bert," I said, "it seems to be just two big bombs..."
     "What is the matter with you? Don't you understand what they've done? Can't you understand what they've done?"
     I was silent. He said goodbye and he banged down the receiver. I said, "Oh, he's screaming about this bomb they dropped, you know, this big bomb they dropped."
     It took me a long time to appreciate what Brecht had known immediately.

Later, in the nineteen fifties, I pestered Bert about coming and watching him direct with his Berlin Ensemble. He wrote to say he was busy, and that I'd have to wait till he was bored. So finally I get to Berlin, and I'm greeted by Ruth at the airport with the bad news. He won't see me. He's pissed off with me because she told him about us. Then when I did see him, he told me he could never forgive me for cuckolding him.

That's the Brecht story: "Brecht was my baby-sitter."

Before Ted moved to L.A., back in 1943, back in New York, Ted was 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 asserted.
     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.
     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".

"Tuesday Dec. 29th. 1942

"Dear Teddy,
     "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 up (8) 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.(9) 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 "tyke", 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.
                                                  good bye - "
     "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!"
     "On 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. (10)
     " '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. (11)
     "I did not, do not, "think of Beth". I am with Beth, even now, hanging a picture, moving my room around, its always for Beth - buying a hat I don't think, "Do I like it?" "Would Beth like it?" It's actually spoilt my judgement. Beth would want me to write A.R.E. - and so on - Beth would like this man, this woman.

"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.

Ted lost contact with Francis. He learned, later, that she had returned to Scotland and her family, that she had gone "crazy", and was institutionalised. She died in the nineteen fifties still in the institution. Ted felt, at some level, that he had abandoned her.

"Saturday Nov 10, 1990
     Like all flashes of insight I am amazed I never saw it before. Talking to Carol Hay I suddenly realized I had never mourned for Beth. Never. Ever. And when she suggested I write him a letter asking him for forgiveness I felt I might cry - might - and then stopped feeling again.
     He had loved me. He had been so happy to see me when I arrived in Madrid. When I arrived he hugged me and said, "Oh God, how I need you. I need you so badly. You'll be political commissar and help us get this unit into some order..." Something like that. But, "Oh God, I'm so happy to see you"; and his joy.
     He had been my surrogate father. And he disillusioned me. And I reported him and suggested he be brought home after discussions with Gallo - and when that meeting was held and I said, "We all know he's a son of a bitch" and he stepped from behind the curtain and gave me a look ("et tu Brutus?") of such pain, such hurt, such sadness - and I floundered and said I hadn't finished my sentence: I was going to add...
     "Thank you, comrade, Friend," he said, or something like that. "I will write out my resignation immediately and join the British or American medical unit."
     "The Party wouldn't like that," I said, and that stopped him. "The Party would like you to go home and go on a propaganda tour."
     I felt I had betrayed him - but at the time I felt justified. Then when I came home wounded and he saved my foot from a bad infection and came to my house to change the bandage every day, we hardly spoke. When my foot was better, I don't think I ever saw him again.
     When Sam suggested I write his biography I refused. I said I hated him. Then when Sam insisted and the big money offer came and I started writing it, I never understood what was bothering me.
     I told Brecht that I hated him and then I loved him and Brecht shouted, "Write it that way!"
     When it became clear that he had been a hero, and had done such wonderful things in China, I repressed my feeling of guilt and betrayal. I kept asking him to forgive me but I was never clear about what. And whenever anything bad happened to the movie I kept thinking he was getting back at me.
     I never mourned for Beth. I don't think I have mourned for Sadie either. It took me twenty years to start mourning for Gerda. I must let myself mourn and cry and forgive myself. I must do this or I shall die. But I am afraid if I allow myself to do it I'll bring on a heart attack.
     This is the first time I'm beginning to understand why I abandoned Frances. I didn't want to be near someone mourning for Beth the way she did! She never understood, neither did I, why I never contacted her again. Poor woman.

chapter seven