The Clarence Darrow Digital Collection
Written letter from Clarence Darrow collection
Collage of Clarence Darrow at different ages Postcard from Clarence Darrow Collection

Clarence Darrow Signature

The Clarence Darrow Letters

Irving Stone to Paul Darrow, November 12, 1941

Click on the image to view as a PDF. A transcription of the letter is on the right.


Nov. 12, 1941..

Dear Paul Darrow:

Thank you for your interesting packet of letters. I find myself trying to understand just what constitutes a "Darrow friend" for on the same post comes letters from W.R. Kellogg, George Leisure, Nellie Carlin. Were these people friends of Darrow's? In each instance the friend told me of the grand work the biography had accomplished for the causes Darrow loved, and for the establishing of Clarence Darrow as one of the most important men of our country. --I too had a letter from Fay Lewis in which he was miffed because I had not made him a more important figure in the book. But poor Fay was little more than a camp-follower; could I make him an Arthur Garfield Hays?

However, I greatly appreciate your kindness in telling me that I have a done a "fine, clear picture" of your father. Where I made mistakes, believe me, they were caused by the enormity of the task at hand. I am angry at myself over the John Brown affair, but as you will see by the enclosed clipping, your father was in the habit of telling this yarn. I have on hand four letter from people to whom he told the identical story. From this you will see what a difficult path a biographer has to tread!

I am obliged to return the motion picture agreement because of the last paragraph. Let me explain why no motion picture company will buy a story when an outside hand retains the right to reject. As a good business man, I think you will see their case. The company that buys the biography will have to pay a minimum of $50,000 and we have every hope of getting more. Lets say its $50,000. It then costs them at least another $50,000 to get their story written. It also costs them their producer and overhead costs during the long months while the story is being written, revised, edited, etc. Therefore they will have a minimum of $150,000 in the story before they could begin to shoot. If, then, they had to submit that story to an outside hand, and have their $150,00 kicked overboard because the outside party did not like the way something sounded on the page, they could not stay in business. No firm will work on that basis. --Just recall the beautiful jobs that were done with Zola, Pasteur, Lincoln, Edison, Ehrlich, etc, and you will realize that the screen idealizes, does only sympathetic portraits. And while you will be sure to find lines that you would have written differently, or wish had been omitted, it will be something on the personal front, like Ruby's dying a red carpet, and nothing of fundamental importance.

The rest of the agreement is fine. If you

will send it to me without the final paragraph, I will order that the monies be distributed as you wish them to be.


Irving Stone