The Clarence Darrow Digital Collection
Written letter from Clarence Darrow collection
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Clarence Darrow Signature

The Clarence Darrow Letters

Irving Stone to Paul Darrow, June 24, 1944

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

New York     Washington
The Research Institute of America, Inc.
Carl Hovgard, President, Leo M. Cherne, Executive Secretary
292 Madison Avenue, New York 17, N.Y.
June 24, 1944

Mr. Paul Darrow

100 W. Monroe Street

Chicago 3, Illinois

Dear Paul:

I must admire your political tolerance and breadth of view. Most people make their political judgments according to their party labels, but you have judged men according to their actions -- and that takes a bit of doing in these troubled times.

I have recently had a number of very exciting talks with Wendell Willkie, talks which you would have enjoyed greatly. I hope I may be able to stop off at Chicago for a few days on my way home, at which time I would like to tell you about them.

I have just sent my new book to press. It is my first biography since LUST FOR LIFE, and is called IMMORTAL WIFE. It is the love story of a truly great marriage. I think that perhaps your wife and daughters may enjoy it a trifle more than you, but I will hope that you will find it worthwhile, too. Copies will be off the press some time in August, and I shall give myself the pleasure of sending you one still wet with the printer's ink.

There was an interesting development about your father shortly before I left California. A first-rate dramatist and screen playwrite by the name of Allan Scott asked me if I would consider collaborating with him on a play about your father, based on my book. Upon looking up my agreement with Ruby, I found that she had granted me the right to make and produce any such play. There was no stipulation that she was to receive any part of the royalties from such a play, if I wrote it or collaborated in the writing. However, I am not a playwrite, and Allan Scott is a good one. He has been interested in your father for many years, and when he told me some of the ideas for the play, I came to the conclusion that he would make an important contribution not only to the drama, but to the many causes for which your father fought so hard and so lovingly.

I told Mr. Scott that I would not write the play with him, but that I would consent to his writing a play based on my book, with the following provisions: (1) That Ruby receive the same royalties from the play as she is to receive from the motion picture; (2) that Mr. Scott make an immediate cash payment to Ruby of $500., as evidence of good faith; and (3) that you and your family be guaranteed the same income from the play as is stipulated that you receive from any motion picture.

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Mr. Scott and his agent most heartily agreed to all these demands. I tried to have included in the contract the fact that you must be called to Hollywood to serve as technical director of the motion picture. Mr. Scott was greatly pleased and interested in this idea, but he felt that the coming was a little premature. I have no doubt that the motion picture studio which does the screen biography of your father will most eagerly seek your services.

By a fortunate circumstance, Mr. Maurice Berkson was in California while I was discussing this matter with Mr. Scott. Mr. Berkson had several meetings with Mr. Scott, and became convinced that a play about your father would be a fine and worthwhile thing to do. He thereupon offered his services as our general counsel. Mr. Scott gave Mr. Berkson a $500. check made out in the name of Mrs. Ruby Darrow, which Mr. Berkson took back with him to Chicago. Mr. Scott has a great deal of experience in producing in the theatre; he also has a great deal of available money, and a couple of producers who are looking forward to staging the play. At the moment, he is on his way to the battlefronts to write special propaganda for the OWI, but he is returning in six months and hopes to begin writing the play at that time.

If we could get a successful play based on the life of your father -- and I am pretty well convinced that Mr. Scott's play will be a success -- it would not only bring an immediate income to all of us, but a very substantial one as well. Equally important, the production of a play multiplies the move price by anywhere from ten to one hundred. For example, the movies are buying biographies and biographical novels (such as Howard Fast's Citizen Tom Paine , for which they paid $15,000), for very small prices indeed. On the other hand, they are paying for even fairly successful plays, such as Jacobowsky and the Colonel , as high as $350,000. You can see that if we receive a $350,000 movie price for a play about your father, it would be a very large sum of money indeed for Ruby, for you and your family, and for Mr. Scott, and myself. I received a letter from Ruby a couple of weeks ago in which she said that she was pleased with the idea of a play, but that she must have final approval of the manuscript before it went into production. Mr. Scott -- or any writer for that matter -- could not begin work under such conditions: he might put in a solid year of work and then have the manuscript thrown out because Ruby disapproved of a line. I gather that Ruby is upset because there were a few details in my book which did not please her. Apparently, she would have been happier with a book of solid adulation, but what she does not understand is that no one would read such a book, let alone publish it. The play that Mr. Scott has in mind would be one which portrays your father's stature and greatness. I think this should be done on the stage, and in the movies, and in every other medium available to us. However, it will be difficult to go ahead without Ruby's consent. I do not want to write the play myself, yet her attitude might force me into the position of collaborating with Mr. Scott in order to keep within the terms of my contract with her. Under such a setup, she would receive nothing. Under the setup I have now brought into existence, there is a $500. check waiting for her and a good weekly income in a reasonably short time.

I don't know how you feel about all this, and I would be grateful if you would write and tell me your reactions to the idea.

My love to your wife and family.


Irving Stone