The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams, Vol. 2: 1945-1957

The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams, Vol. 2: 1945-1957

by Tennessee Williams

ISBN: 9780811216005

Publisher New Directions Publishing Corporation

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

1. To Eddie Dowling

[Dallas, Texas] [Dallas, Texas] [May 30, 1945] [TLx, 2 pp. HRC]

Dear Eddie:

I am very grateful for your letter and the understanding in it. What a delicate operation we performed together, all of us, and what a strong bond it should be and I think is - now that it's worked out so well! Artists are peculiar creatures no one is more guiltily aware of this than I! - the strain we work under, so much greater than that of all the mundane occupations - makes us touchy, difficult even for each other always to understand - but we have such a great community of interest that the differences are relatively slight and unimportant, at least they should be.

I am leaving early tomorrow morning for Mexico after a week here with Margo - catching a plane, which always makes me nervous - I am not a good flyer. I hope to settle down at some quiet place and devote myself to work - much neglected since last Fall - for the next two months.

I have met nearly everyone connected with Margo's Dallas Theatre and I feel that the outlook is really wonderful. I attended a meeting of the executive board. They are a very capable, serious and progressive bunch, completely earnest about what they're doing, and determined to push it through. Margo has dedicated herself to this thing heart and soul and, knowing her, and having met her co-workers, I'm fairly certain that something very important to all of us is going to happen down here. I think it will be valuable to theatre all over the country.

For me personally, it means a place to experiment and clarify. I have no interest at this time in more Broadway productions, for I feel that my problem is getting work done, not produced, - which takes so much time from the other and more important struggle. This is not really selfish, since I can make no important contribution without a great deal of solitary labor. But a theatre like Margo's is an excellent place to remain in touch with stage while at the same time escaping the exhausting responsibilities of Broadway - a proving ground for things I'm not sure of. "Battle" is a case in point. I still have no script that is really definitive of that play but feel that one might come out of a production down here, so it is tentatively our plan to do it here sometime next season. Naturally I hope this trial will interest you, if it comes off. I can think of no one in the theatre to whom a theatre like Margo's would offer more interest than to you, because of your peculiar devotion to theatrical frontiers, so we both are hoping you will watch what goes on here.

Now that a road-company of "Menagerie" is being organized I think the matter of its direction ought to be taken up. I have talked with Margo about this and know that she is eager to undertake it. Of course it should be as close a duplication of what was done with the original company as possible, and so it seems to me that Margo would be the only right person. You are busy as an actor and producer so I am sure you would need another's assistance on this job. There will be just as many problems with this company as there were with the original production - possibly even more -and we don't want it to fall short, in any respect, of the best that could be offered. I don't think this is anything that I have [to] "sell" you on, for you know how faithful Margo is to whatever she undertakes, and her deep "family" interest in the "Menagerie" which no one else could match.

Please let me hear from you while I am in Mexico. My love to Laurette, Julie, Tony - Randy, Bill, Jean and all of the company.


[Eddie Dowling (1894-1976) produced and directed The Glass Menagerie (1945) and played Tom Wingfield to Laurette Taylor's incomparable Amanda. He recently answered TW's conciliatory letter of May 17 with thanks for having written "a beautiful play" and regret that the "shoddy" (May 19, 1945, HRC) tactics of his co-producer and hacker, Louis J. Singer, had added to the "strain" of production. TW deferred an offer to restage Battle of Angels (1940), a notorious failure in Boston, with a tribute to Dowling's innovative presence on Broadway.

From Mexico City TW informed his family that Dallas had been "terribly hot" (June, 1945, HTC) and gregarious and that he had disappointed his host, Margo Jones, by remaining only a week. He did, however, join the "board" of Theatre '45 and began to revise Battle of Angels for the relaxed "proving ground" of Dallas. Conceived as an antidote to Broadway, Jones's experiment in decentralized theatre would shun recent hits, revive a few classics each season, and develop the talent of such gifted new playwrights as TW.

Jones, Dowling's co-director in the "original company" of The Glass Menagerie, would not direct the tour production.

2. To Guthrie McClintic

SH: Hotel Geneve 7a. De Londres 130 Mexico City, Mexico Friday [June 1, 1945] [TLS, 2 pp. HRC]

Dear Guthrie:

I flew down here yesterday from Dallas. I have never liked flying and did not spend a comfortable moment in the plane, but was so exhausted by Dallas that the quickest way of getting furthest seemed best.

I'm sorry I missed your call but the long wire was very heartening and I am happy over Katharine Willard being Emmie. I have not vet had a chance to pick up my mail at Wells-Fargo, will do that this morning, and I hope you've thought of some people for me to meet. I have loads of names given me in Dallas by various sweet old ladies, which would only bring me in contact with more sweet old ladies. My seclusion in the Dallas hotel room was enjoyed very briefly and the stay turned into a social whirl-wind. I met Ida Camp and all her crowd, which correspond roughly to the 'horsey set on Long Island', although one or two of the women are fabulously and crazily amusing - if only you could have a concealed dictaphone when they are talking! All the energy and color seems to have gone into the Dallas females and the poor husbands look as if they had donated entirely too much blood and to the wrong cause. They just sit around holding glasses with a look which is far away but not dreamy, while the women rock and roar in one continual effusion.

One thing I didn't count on - on reference to Margo's project - is the vitality of these women. It is really out of the world, and if Margo can get them on her side - miracles may happen! Of course they don't have any real discrimination, these women, but they are snobs and in my opinion you can do almost anything with snobs if you handle them carefully, l suspect they will embrace almost anything if it is presented to them as having "smartness". They stick up all the "new books" like vacuum cleaners, in fact I don't see how it is possible to read that much and that fast. Of course they are still gabbing about 'Forever Amber'. But some of them have even been reading Richard Wright. When they get a few drinks under their girdles, their talk becomes right down lascivious, and that is another good sign for "The Project". All it needs to have is something phallic about it. And as a matter of fact that something may be the title! At any rate, they are all very interested in it, though Ida Camp said she wasn't sure that she was "behind it".

Margo wants to open her season with "Battle of Angels" and I think it might be a good thing. There is a lot of material in that play that is worth salvaging, and I have never prepared a definitive script of it, and this would be a good chance to. She wants to get Bobby Jones down here to design it and music by Bowles.

This hotel I am in is impossible so will not be my address. Must find a place where there is swimming and a balcony or patio where I can work in the Still and privacy. As usual I feel a terrible desolation in Mexico, but I must grit my teeth for a week or so until it wears off. The electric signs here are lovely! They are the color of soft drinks and much livelier than the ones on Broadway.

I will go, now, and pick up the letters you mention and let you know where I am when I settle.


[Guthrie McClintic (1893-1961) was the producer/director of more than fifty original Broadway plays and revivals, many starring his wife, the distinguished Katharine Cornell. He rejected You Touched Me! in 1943, but the work had gained stature following the success of The Glass Menagerie and was now being cast for a late-September opening on Broadway. Katherine Willard, as indicated, would play one of the leads.

The women of Dallas were "still gabbing about" Forever Amber (1944), Kathleen Winsor's succhs de scandale set in Restoration England. Richard Wright's autobiography, Black Boy (1945) was number two on national bestseller lists when TW visited Dallas in May.]

3. To Audrey Wood

[Mexico City] 6/20/45 [TTS, l p. HRC]

Dear Child of God:

I wrote you a very gloomy letter the last time for I had swallowed one of those Mexican bugs that prey on American tourists and I was feeling very low indeed. But I found a little Mexican doctor who gave me shots and pills, enough to kill a horse with - but I survived the treatment and have been feeling exceptionally well ever since.

Disregard the instructions affecting prize money in last Memo. Won't need it as I have wired Chase Natl. to let me draw $500, through Banco de Commercio in Mexico. This will, I hope, see me through the Mexican junket and perhaps even back to the wilds of Texas and New York.

I have met the following here: Leonard Bernstein, Dolores Del Rio, Rosa Covarrubias, Norman Foster (Now directing Mexican films), Romney Brent's sister, Balanchine, Chavez, and many lesser notables of the International Set (!) all of whom have invited me places. But it is not like Chicago and New York, that is, the society is not at all exhausting and I have plenty of time to work. And I love Mexico, I think it is really and truly my native land! I will stay here till it is almost time to go back for "YTM".

Guthrie has sent me several wires about casting and I also got a wire from Katharine Cornell (Signed Kit) saying she had seen "Menagerie" and wanted me to write her one. And today - having pinched myself, I know I am wide awake! - I received a letter from Lawrence Stanislavsky Langner, the one who operates that famous Art Theatre on E. 56th Street - saying that he still has the scenery of "Battle" stored at Westport and has a new director in mind for it! This was profoundly touching, but also a little funny I thought - so I am mentioning it to you and Liebling!

One cannot help loving people who make you laugh! And I think the Guild has been favored by the Gods because their serious antics have even gotten a chuckle out of Cothurnus! - Imagine enticing us with the news that that horrible old brown set, probably all webbed and molded, was waiting for us in a store-room at Westport! Of course my instinct is to wire Lawrence, "You should have stood in Miami!" But instead I shall write him one of my nicest testimonials of affection, for this last communication has completed the cycle, often observed in life, from deepest tragedy to lightest farce!

Love - 10.

[Audrey Wood (1905-1985) represented TW from 1919 until their parting thirty-two years later.

"Prize money" of $1,500 accompanied the Sidney Howard Award announced on June 5. The citation lauded TW as "a vigorous new talent" who "has the sense of poetry and of character of which great drama is made." Earlier selection of The Glass Menagerie by the Drama Critics' Circle gave TW two of three major awards for the past season. Mary Chase won the Pulitzer for Harvey (1944).

Leonard Bernstein seemed harsh and egotistical, although TW later described him as a "true" (Memoirs, p. 94) revolutionary in social expression. The ballet master George Balanchine disliked Mexico City and feared that his "girls," as TW mocked, were "sick with sumzings" (qtd. in Windham, p. 173) in New York. Dolores Del Rio, a veteran of silent films and Hollywood musicals of the 1930s, had returned to her native Mexico to restore a fading career in the cinema. TW met her at the home of Rosa Covarrubias, an American-born dancer married to the painter and writer Miguel Covarrubias.

Guthrie McClintic's "wires" brought a terse reply from TW: "Clift has more experience and charm Brown has more foxy upstart quality I have dysentery You decide" (telegram, June 9, 1945, HRC). Montgomery Clift played the role of Hardman in You Touched Me!

Ever cautious, Wood instructed TW to "be quiet" (July 5, 1945, HRC) about writing a play for Katharine Cornell, lest he restrict her ability to sell it.

Lawrence Langner and Theresa Helburn, co-directors of the Theatre Guild, supervised first professional staging of a TW play, Battle of Angels. Langner wrote earlier to congratulate TW on the success of The Glass Menagerie and to propose that the Guild offer Battle once again. Even "Cothurnus," stern image of tragedy, would be amused, TW thought, by the "antics" of the venerable Theatre Guild.]

4. To Lawrence Langner

[Mexico City] 6/20/45 [TLS, 1 p. Beinecke]

Dear Lawrence:

A whole pile of my mail, tied up somewhere on the trail between New York, Dallas and Mexico City, finally overtook me this morning, including the particularly welcome letter from win.

The statement in PM was sincerely meant. There are times, especially in the theatre, when it is only fair to judge by intentions and not by results, and God knows you and Terry had every intention of making "Battle" a good show. It was not quite in the book, nor in the stars, and our plans "ganged aft agley". As for the re-write, I was in no condition at the time to straighten things out, for I had gone through the most disturbing experience of my life.


Excerpted from "The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams, Vol. 2: 1945-1957" by Tennessee Williams. Copyright © 2004 by Tennessee Williams. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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