«Printing and Publishing in
(JPR title: My Life in Printing)
JPR Interview Third Quarter, Part 2 of 2
an interview for the Library at UCLA,
third quarter of interview, Part Two of Two, JPR 07
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… It rather surprises me now in looking back over the records of The Primavera Press to find the invoice for the printing of this book [Phil Townsend Hanna’s Libros Californianos, or five feet of books on California J.T.]. It was done in the fall of 1931; it was started while I was still working for Jake. Gregg Anderson had come down [to Los Angeles. J.T.] from the Grabhorn Press [in San Francisco. J.T.] He was working with Hackett & Newell, a firm in which I had one-third interest. He was primarily responsible for the design and the makeup of the book.
We printed an edition of 500 copies and invoiced it to Mr. Zeitlin on December 1, 1931, at $145. [laughter] Also part of that was paid by Jake in a book which he sold to Gregg Anderson at $25.00, I don’t know what the book was now, but evidently the firm took that out of Gregg’s wages. The book sold well; it was a very much needed book and almost immediately we had an order for a reprint, which we finished in record time because it was billed out January 1, 1932, less than a month after the first one. For this second printing of 500 copies, we were paid the munificent sum of $72.00 [laughter].
When I look back at this, I can see why Jake thought the publishing business was great in those days. I must admit this didn’t include the binding because Weber-McCrea did the binding. For the first issue they charged him $92.30 and for the second one $73.50. Jake was a good businessman in those days because I see that he took off a two percent discount for paying right away!
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Soon after this, the Hackett, Newell & Ritchie enterprise broke up, and I went on my own. One of the first jobs that I did for Jake was also a Primavera Press book called Summer Denial by Madeleine Ruthven. [The Scots — it is a Scots name — pronounce this as ‘R I V V E N’. J.T.] I suspect that this was a vanity book. Being a book of poetry, I doubt if any publisher would put his own money into it.
I was amused, though, in running across a letter from Bennett Cerf of Random House, Jake had evidently sent him a copy of Summer Denial, and Bennett wrote, ‘Dear Jake, Thanks for sending us a copy of Summer Denial. We will be very glad to keep this book where it can be seen by anyone who comes into the office. I must be frank enough to tell you, however, that I don’t think anybody is going to spend $2.50 for a book of poems by somebody they have never heard of in times like this. We will be very glad, however, to send any orders that come in for the book to you and let you bill them any way that you see fit.’ [laughter]
The next year after Summer Denial, Jake seemed to have found several poets who were willing to have their books printed by The Primavera Press, and we did a book called Wives Come First by Gladys DuBois, The Lay of a Summer’s Day or ‘Love is Mightier than All‘, by F.H.A. and Weathered Wine by Anita Grey. Now Jake, evidently, had some compunctions because he dropped the Primavera imprint from them, and they were printed under the imprint of the Faun Press.
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Then in 1934, Marguerite Eyre Wilbur came forth with a translation from Alexander Dumas, called A Gil Blas in California. Alexander Dumas evidently had a batch of writers working for him. Occasional authors would come to him with a manuscript which he would take over and rewrite, using their first-hand experiences. It’s doubtful that Dumas had ever been in California but somebody who had [been], gave him the material for this book. Because of its California interest a first translation into English seemed to have sales possibilities.
Jake made arrangements to have Saul Marks at the Plantin Press print this book, and Saul had worked on some designs for it. It was one of Saul’s earliest attempts at book design, and he hadn’t quite reached the finesse that he has now.
Jake,at this time, began to feel that the publishing venture was a little too much for him to handle alone while he was still running his bookstore, so he suggested that The Primavera Press be formed as a corporation by himself, Phil Townsend Hanna, and myself. Jake was to be responsible for the selling of the books; Phil Townsend Hanna for the editorial work; and I for the production of them. This was done in 1934, while A Gil Blas was in the works and as a result I took over the designing of A Gil Blas, but we still had Saul Marks print and produce the book.
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From then on, the books which we did were all legitimate books. We made no attempt to get subsidies for them. There was quite a distinguished group of interesting books. Lawrence Clark Powell had done a thesis on Robinson Jeffers for his doctorate at the University of Dijon in France. We republished it with illustrations by Rockwell Kent.
We did the little book, Americans, by Laura Riding. She had sent the manuscript to me from her home in Majorca. We did The Sinister Shepherd, a translation of Fracastoro’s 16th-century poem in a translation by William van Wyck.
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[«»] Tape Number: TAPE ELEVEN, SIDE TWO
August 10, 1965
Ritchie: I’m not quite sure where I left off on our last discussion, but it seems to me that we were right in the middle of The Primavera Press. The Primavera Press, as I mentioned before, had been started by Jake Zeitlin and Leslie Jennings. Eventually, Jennings withdrew from the organization, and Jake continued it himself.
In 1933, he made arrangements with the Plantin Press of Saul Marks and Kenneth McKay to print an edition of 525 copies of A Gil Blas in California by Alexander Dumas. At about the same time, Jake also started a discussion with Phil Townsend Hanna and myself about joining him in The Primavera Press. It seemed like a good idea, and on the 25th day of May, 1933, The Primavera Press was incorporated.
Its purposes were: the publishing of books about California and the Southwest which might have merit deserving of permanent form; the reprinting or reissuing where sheets are available of new editions of such volumes as having proved their worth and desirability and are now out of print; designing, printing and distributing under a subsidiary imprint privately printed limited editions where desired by individuals willing to pay the cost; and printing and publishing books for public school and visual education. Phil Townsend Hanna was to be the editorial and head the press promotion; I was to handle the production; and Jake Zeitlin, sales and
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redistribution. Phil Hanna was also secretary; I was treasurer; and Jake Zeitlin was the business manager.
We each invested $75 at that time, and as the original stipulations read ‘Since Phil Townsend Hanna brings to The Primavera Press, Inc., editorial knowledge and experience of great direct value, and since he agrees to use all his efforts to bring all desirable publication material to which he has access, either through his professional position or personal contacts, to the benefit of The Primavera Press, Inc. so long as such agreement is not prejudicial to his present responsibilities, his proportion of ownership of the one hundred percent of assets shall be thirty percent.’
The second stipulation was, ‘Since Harry Ward Ritchie has an already established private printing business and an expert experience and competence in book production and since he agrees to turn over to The Primavera Press all book production jobs brought to him except private printing undertakings not bearing the imprint of the press and not to be offered for sale by him and also book production jobs done for other publishers. And since he agrees to furnish printing too in his own shop for the Primavera Press, Inc. at a cost of ten percent plus a net time and material cost consumed in the actual production, his proportion of the one hundred percent assets shall [be] thirty percent.’
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And the third stipulation, ‘Since negotiations and pioneer work have been carried on in this direction by Jake Zeitlin for several years and since he agrees to discontinue further independent publishing activities exclusive of those already contracted for under The Primevera Press imprint and since he agrees to transfer all valuable titles belonging to him free of cost to The Primavera Press, Inc. and since he agrees to transfer title to the firm name and goodwill of The Primavera Press and to discontinue its private use at the termination of all present contracts, his proportion of the ownership of the one hundred per-cent of the assets shall be forty percent.’
The initial plans for The Primavera Press,Inc. were first to publish A Gil Blas in California, the printing of which had already been contracted for.
The second was to consider the publication of Lawrence Clark Powell’s book on Robinson Jeffers. This had been printed in a limited quantity in Dijon, France, as part of Powell’s doctorate which he had received from the University of Dijon. At the time, there were a few additional copies available, and Powell allowed Jake to sell them in this country. Of course, they had a ready market through the universities and others who were interested in Robinson Jeffers. So we were quite interested in having a new edition of this book, especially since Larry Powell had received his doctor’s degree, he had returned to America
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and was working at Jake Zeitlin’s bookstore. The book was produced during the next year as one of the Primavera imprints with decorative initials by Rockwell Kent, and some revisions by Powell from his original thesis.
We also considered the reissue of Reminiscences of a Ranger in a new binding, jacket, and format. Reminiscences of A Ranger was a one of the great books about Los Angeles, probably the best book printed in the nineteenth century in Los Angeles about Los Angeles. It had been reprinted by Wallace Hebbara of Santa Barbara a few years before — the printing having been done by the Lakeside Press in Chicago.
Evidently Hebbard had either gone bankrupt or not taken all copies of the book, so the Lakeside Press had made contact with us suggesting that we might be interested in taking over the balance of the sheets of this book which they had on hand.
So one of our next publications was a reissue of this using the Lakeside Press sheets, with a new title page and binding and jacket which I designed. It’s what we would call a real gutsy book, and Phil Hanna who wrote the blurb for the jacket of this new edition played up the gusto and the vitality of the man who had written the book.
The original jacket was quite a sensational comeon for the casual reader; however, the family, being still alive, protested violently and the original jacket had to be withdrawn and a new, less lurid, one produced. As far as I know none of the original jackets are still extant. I
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only have one copy of the book, and it doesn’t seem to be that jacket, so I don’t know exactly where, or if there are any around. The book itself was issued, as I recall, in an edition of 500 copies in this binding. We didn’t buy all of the sheets that Lakeside had available, and I don’t know what happened to the rest of the edition.
We also were considering a group of books called ‘Lurid California Classics,’ but we never got very far with that project. And we projected a book to be called Around the Year with the Lancer by Harry Carr who wrote his column ‘The Lancer’ in the Los Angeles Times and was a very important figure in California journalism at that time, but it was never done.
The next few years — 1934, 1935 and 1936 — saw us publishing a substantial number of books. The year 1934 had the largest group with a total of eight books including A Gil Blas, Robinson Jeffers: The Man and His Work by Powell, an Indian book by Dr. Hartley Burr Alexander of Scripps College, and a delightful book called Who Loves a Garden by Louise Seymour Jones, which was one of the pleasantest books that we ever did.
Also we published, though we didn’t print, a small edition of Recollections of the Grabhorn Press by Gregg Anderson. After leaving Southern California in 1932 Gregg went East and worked for the Meriden Gravure Company in Meriden, Connecticut. While there he and Harold Hugo
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started to do some small projects of their own, and they founded a book club comparable to the Rounce & Coffin Club in Los Angeles, which they called the Columbiad Club. For this club, each of the members was required to print a keepsake from time to time.
Since Gregg had worked for about a year and a half at the Grabhorn Press, he wrote this charming account of his memories of those years. He made it as a keepsake with an extra edition with The Primavera Press Imprint, which we sold out here on the coast to those who were interested in Gregg and the Grabhorns.
John Hodgdon Bradley wrote a charming little nature book called Farewell Thou Busy World which we did in a very small format.
And then we did the play Everyman, Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s version of it, which had been translated by George Sterling. The play was being given in the Hollywood Bowl and sponsored by the California State Chamber of Commerce, and they wanted to have copies of the book available for sale at the Bowl. The Primavera Press undertook this. We did an edition of 5,000 copies of which we may have sold at that time 1,000 or so.
The book supposedly was being underwritten by the California State Chamber of Commerce, but the play Everyman was not quite as successful as they had anticipated, and they ran into a deficit. Unfortunately on these projects, the deficits seem to be passed on to the creditors. The Primavera Press was never paid for the job, or only in part, and as a result The Ward Ritchie Press was
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not paid in full either. That was in 1936.
In 1936, we printed and published China Boy by Idwal Jones — a fine book. As you can see, the books which The Primavera Press published after it had been incorporated were quite unlike the paid-for books which it had published previously. They were all of literary value.
As I have mentioned, upon his return from Europe, Larry Powell worked for Jake Zeitlin in his bookstore, and he was brought into the Primavera organization, primarily as the workhorse. He not only helped us read and decide on the manuscripts, but he filled the orders, wrapped the books, mailed them and did most of the hard work.
Carey McWilliams was also brought into the organization inasmuch as he had drawn up the papers of incorporation and handled the legal affairs of The Primavera Press.
The third new member was an old college and high school and even grammar school pal of Larry Powell’s and mine, Cornells Groenewegen, who was working with an accounting firm in Los Angeles. He handled the accounts.
According to the original agreement, we were to have a Board of Directors meeting at least once a month to discuss the problems of the press, to consider titles, and in general, get together and discuss things. Originally Jake had his little shop at 706 1/2 West Sixth Street, but about this time he moved down Sixth Street a block and crossed the street and had a charming little bookstore
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designed for him by Lloyd Wright. It was here that most of the meetings of The Primavera Press were held. The meetings sometimes turned in to be quite amusing and interesting affairs, as you can imagine with this group of gentlemen.
Phil Hanna was one of the most articulate and precise speakers I’ve ever known. Every word was calculated and was exact. Phil also had a very learned air. He was a bon vivant, he was a gourmet, and he was strangely enough one of the hardest drinking men that I have ever known. He was thin, stooped by arthritis, and you would hardly consider him capable of downing the quantities of alcohol he did.
The meetings were started at Jake’s, but next door there was a little bar. During these days a martini would cost about fifteen cents, or twenty-five cents at the most, and usually we would have a bite to eat in the bar and, of course, we would have a drink or two. Sometimes the drinking consumed most of the evening as Phil was not one who enjoyed stopping once he had started.
Some meetings were not too productive, [laughter] but they were always enjoyable, and the conversation seemed, at the time, to be rather exciting. Jake was always great, and Larry Powell and Groenewegen added their occasional wit.
We had a statement of the assets and liabilities of the corporation as of April 30th, 1936, from Groenewegen. During the year 1935: we issued three titles, and in 1936 we got out one title. So the stream seemed to be running out. Groenewegen, as a postscript to his statement, said:
it is obvious that the sales for the past year and the current asset status are both very unfavorable. Unless this is altered, our current publication will probably be our last.
At about the same time, I had petitioned the corporation to allow me out of the stipulation where I couldn’t print or publish anything on my own, because it became exceedingly difficult for me to rely completely upon printing the publications of The Primavera Press. They were generous enough to allow me this freedom to work independently from The Primavera Press.
The burden of trying to run this independent organization was a little too much for each of us since we all had our own jobs in which we were primarily interested. It had been a pleasant plaything for us. It had started out seriously, but as time went on, it took too much time. So it was decided in 1936 to dissolve the corporation, which was done, and the assets were turned over to me as the surving member of The Primavera Press.
I returned to Jake some of the early books which he had done before the incorporation. The rest of them were stored in our cellar on Griffith Park Boulevard until we sold the place. Before I could remove the books the person who had bought the place [laughter] cleared the place out. Evidently the rubbish man who was called in recognized the books to be of some value because for the next few months, I saw stacks of them for sale at various antiquarian book stores around town.
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Dixon: At least they weren’t burned.
Ritchie: No, they weren’t burned. Well, that is the story of The Primavera Press.
Dixon: Was Libros Californianos published under the incorporation?
Ritchie: Libros Californianos, as I recall, was under Jake’s own imprint. It was done in 1931. It possibly was a Primavera Press imprint, but it was pre-corporation. It was compiled by Phil Townsend Hanna, published by Jake Zeitlin, and printed by Hackett, Newell & Ritchie before I had started my independent printing company.
In the summer of 1933, our family home in South Pasadena was sold. My mother had died in the spring. I had continued living there with my little printing shop in the back, but the family was in no financial position to carry this house. It was sold that summer, and it was necessary for me to seek other quarters.
My older brother, Palmer Ritchie, had always had a great interest in real estate, which he dabbled in — he bought and sold houses and was continually getting something and picking them up. He noticed in the paper a large ad telling of the liquidation of the Moreno Highlands in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles.
Antonio Moreno had married a Canfield girl from a wealthy oil family, and they had a huge house on the summit of a hill between Griffith Park Boulevard and Silverlake* overlooking all of that area. In the twenties, they had developed
‘Silverlake’ sounds like a beautiful place, but it is less beautiful when you know how the name came about. It was a reservoir, not a lake, and it was named ‘silver’ not because it glowed that colour on the moonlight. The neighborhood was named for Water Board Commissioner Herman Silver, who was instrumental in the creation of the Silver Lake Reservoir in the neighborhood, one of the water storage reservoirs established in the early 1900s. The name reminds me of the ‘Moonlight Sonata’, a piece by Beethoven, who never knew it by that name. Wikipedia says that the name ‘Moonlight Sonata’ comes from remarks made by the German music critic and poet Ludwig Rellstab. In 1832, five years after Beethoven’s death, Rellstab likened the effect of the first movement to that of moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne [in Central Switzerland.]
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all of that hill which extended from Silverlake on over to Griffith Park Boulevard and up to Rowena Avenue. It was beautifully done with all underground utilities and curving streets up those hills, but the Depression had come and it was impossible for them to sell their lots. In 1933, they offered them at ridiculous prices.
With my brother, I went over to look at some of these — they were selling them for $300 and $350. We had a little money from the sale of our house in South Pasadena and we decided to grab some of them. We bought a total of five lots.
The plan was for us to build a small studio on one of them, so I could move the printing press there. But while Schindler was getting some plans ready for it, my brother noticed that the original old ranch house on Griffith Park Boulevard was also for sale, quite reasonably. It was situated on five lots, high on a bluff, looking down on Griffith Park Boulevard. We bought that, with the plan to move me and the press in there and with my brother living upstairs in the house.
It was a typical early California house. I don’t know what the original name of this area was, but evidently at one time all of these hills were a cattle ranch. The foreman of the ranch in the early 1900’s who lived in this house was William S. Hart who, being available and suitable at the time that the movies came to Hollywood, was called in to take a cowboy role, and became one of the early stars
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of the motion pictures. But this was the old house in which he had lived for many years before he became a star.
It was on the side of a hill, and the lower part was completely unfinished. This being in the depth of the Depression, there was lots of available labor. My brother was running an apartment house in Alhambra in order to keep body and soul together for himself, and there were several people who were unable to pay any rent because they didn’t have anything with which to pay it.
There was a conductor for the Southern Pacific Railroad who had been let off. There were various people with various skills. He herded a group of [laughter] these together, and each day they would come over. We dug out the hillside under the house and laid a cement floor, paneled it, and created a most attractive studio out of the underportions of this building.
We gathered materials from all over. When I was a little boy I remember on North Broadway the Baker Iron Works. In 1933 they were dismantling it. We went down there and bought half a dozen huge windows. They were about eight feet tall by five feet wide, and we put these around the studio. We whitewashed the inside, and also we had gotten a huge beam, about a 12 x 18, which spanned the entire length of this room, with large 12 x 12 uprights to hold it up, and these we painted black. From my memories of Schmied’s home in the suburbs of Paris, I recollected the
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great candelabra that he had over the diningroom table, which could be let down by a rope to light the candles and also to replace them as they burned out. I found one of these in a junk yard and fitted it with a similar rope arrangement. I bought some beautiful linen curtains at the bankrupt sale of the Cheesewright Decorators in Pasadena for the windows. We covered the walls with examples of printing which I had gathered from everywhere, Eric Gill pieces and old manuscript pages. Included in there was my family’s old grandfather clock, their grand piano and my Washington hand press. It looked much more like a studio or an antique shop than a printing shop when we got through with it. In a little separate room up a handful of stairs was my study, which was completely surrounded with books. It was where I designed while things were going on down below.
It became a hangout for salesmen. [laughter] It was much more interesting coming over to The Ward Ritchie Press and sitting around than it was to be out pounding the pavement, especially since I had a phone available there and each half hour they could phone their office and see if there were any calls for them. There were plenty of books to read, and quite occasionally they would bring along a bottle of booze which they would sip on while reading a book and enjoying themselves.
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The movie studios also discovered this hangout. They came over and took dozens and dozens of pictures of all aspects of it and attempted on various occasions to reproduce it for some of their own sets when they needed a printing scene. It helped augment my income at that time because when they would do one of these scenes, they would also want some of my equipment. The Washington hand press was one which they especially liked to use. The building was on a hillside, and the press was one of the most difficult things to move I’ve ever seen. The poor moving men from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cursed every time they had a picture with a printing scene in it because they would have to bring a truck over to get it. The truck couldn’t get up to the studio because of the steep, curved driveway, so they would have to get rope and pulley [laughter] and planks and work the press down the hill and then in a few weeks bring it back up. But the pay was good; I would get about $25 a day for the use of it.
In some instances they even rented books from me because they just liked the appearance of the books on my shelves. They could have gone down to Dawson’s or any other secondhand bookstore and gotten any quantity of books. But they always felt that they didn’t look like the books which I had — which is true because there were many valuable books. I always worried when they went out because
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I didn’t know what handling they might get on the sets.
This was the studio which Powell so aptly described as ‘Ritchie’s Road House.’ Gordon Newell, my sculptor friend, did a plaque of the printers’ mark which I’d adopted of the skull and the anchor, which we put down in on the street level in front of the studio. Gordon, about the time that I moved in there, discovered a little house on Hyperion Avenue which was a stone’s throw down the hill and which had been the original old mill of that area. In former days before they had built the two highways — Hyperion Avenue and Griffith Park Boulevard, side by side — there had been a little valley with a stream running down the middle of it, and this little building of Gordon’s had been the mill which the ranch had evidently used for grinding the grain. He converted it into a studio for his sculpture. We had an intimate little group around there, with continual good times and camaraderie.
Jake was living nearby, in the hills of Echo Park in a typical charming Jake Zeitlin house. I recall, early in 1934 — I believe it was — being invited to a party at Jake’s. Among his other guests was Sarah Bixby Smith, who had written Adobe Days, which Jake had published some years before. She had written innumerable books of verse.
She was a very talented woman. During the course of the evening, we chatted a bit, and when it was time for her to go home, and her having no transportation, I offered to
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take her. She, at that time, lived on Los Feliz Boulevard in one of those ample mansions. As I took her home, we conversed all the way. She evidently enjoyed our conversation because she soon called Jake and said, ‘I would like you to have another party and invite my daughter to go with Ward Ritchie.’ Jake accommodated her, and I picked up Janet Smith, her daughter. We enjoyed one another and became engaged and eventually married.
It was a most interesting family. Sarah Bixby Smith’s father was Llewellyn Bixby, the first of the Bixbys to come west — in 1852, I believe. He came out here with a cousin, Thomas Flint. They found the digging for gold not as much to their liking as they had expected, but they saw the great possibilities in the State of California. They also saw the need for cattle and for sheep out here.
The Bixbys had come from the state of Maine, and Llewellyn went back there as soon as he could and made arrangements with his other brothers and cousins to come west with him. They bought as many sheep as they could, and how they were able to drive thousands of sheep across the perilous badlands and deserts and bring them safely to California is almost incomprehensible. But they did it and that was the beginning of the Bixby’s fortunes.
The Flints and the Bixbys together acquired a ranch, I believe, near Hollister. Northern California was where they started their sheep ranching. From there, they gradually sent their tentacles out, gathering in more and more land, which included the Cerritos Ranch and the Alamitos Ranch in the Long Beach area, the Rancho Palos Verdes, and at one time they were partners with the Irvines in Orange County.
In time the Flints and the Bixbys decided to separate their properties. The Flints took the northern California ranches and the Bixbys took the southern California ranches. Sarah was born in California, and the story of her early days and experiences is told in her book, Adobe Days.
She attended the preparatory school at Pomona, and there she met Arthur Maxson Smith who was a member of the first graduating class of Pomona College. They were married. He was a handsome man. Sarah was a woman of beauty in her soul, but she was not the most beautiful woman to look at. When I knew her, she was rather plump with very plain features.
All of her children were quite handsome though. Sarah was one of the most generous persons I have ever known and one of the most likeable persons, but in many ways she had a tragic life. She was popular partially because of her family’s position but mostly because of her vibrant personality. I suspect that she had to support her husbands to a great extent.
Arthur Maxson was quite a playboy. He was, at one time, president of Punahou University in Honolulu. But I’m afraid that his amorous inclinations [laughter] were his undoing over there.
I have never been told too much about this episode, but I did read the hundred-year anni-
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versary history of Punahou and the tenure of Arthur Maxson Smith as President is glossed over with about one sentence. [laughter] They lived in Claremont where he taught for a good many years at Pomona College, and that is where the children grew up. There he became enamoured of the live-in household helper, who was also a student at Pomona College. Sarah, I imagine, maneuvered him up to Berkeley in order to thwart this romance, and he became pastor of the Congregational Church up there.
There was quite a scandal when he and this girl ran away together, leaving Sarah stranded. [laughter] The replacement pastor was an energetic young man by the name of Paul Jordan-Smith. To the surprise of the congregation the new pastor replaced the old pastor in many ways and Sarah Bixby Smith and Paul Jordan-Smith were married. Paul Jordan-Smith had three children; Sarah Bixby Smith had five children. They all grew up together.
Eventually they moved back to their house in Claremont, where Paul Jordan-Smith devoted his time to writing. He translated into modern English Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote an explanation of Joyce’s Ulysses and several novels.
As usual, I believe that Sarah was responsible for the expenses and the raising of the children. Janet was the youngest of Sarah’s children and the only girl. Wilbur Smith, now at the UCLA library, was one of Paul Jordan-Smith’s children, and he grew up there with the rest of the family.
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When I first met Janet, she was living with her mother and Paul Jordan-Smith on Los Feliz Boulevard. Sarah, discovering a situation similar to that which had confronted her with her first husband, with Paul Jordan-Smith becoming interested in his cousin, Dorothy, built this house on Los Feliz to divert him. He wanted to be in Los Angeles.
In back of the house, she had built a studio for his books and a place to work, but it didn’t solve the problem. At about the time I met Janet, Sarah and Paul Jordan-Smith had separated. Sarah had one of those great forgiving hearts she was so generous, that she never blamed anybody. She brought to her bosom everyone that was involved in her vast family.
Thanksgivings and Christmas were always great occasions for the Smith family as long as she lived and after. She not only included her past husbands, but their wives if they were around. Paul Jordan-Smith and Dorothy Smith have always been a part of the Smith family gatherings, even to this day.
She loved people and enjoyed entertaining them. She had a continual series of parties. She would say, ‘November; this is my time to have lawyers over.’ So she would get half a dozen lawyers and their families — prominent people in Los Angeles. It was great fun to go to any of her parties because the conversation was stimulating and she would lead it around to subjects interesting to her guests. She knew everybody and everybody knew her. On another
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occasion she’d, say, ‘This is my time to have doctors.’
She would have a half a dozen doctors, and they all had their own points of view, and arguments would go on. It was the same with the artists. We got to know the Arensbergs through her.
Our great loss was her death. Janet and I had been married a little over a year, and our son Jonathan had just been born. We had taken him back to Sarah’s apartment for the first few days after Janet came home from the hospital.
Sara was soon after taken ill. The doctors couldn’t diagnose what it was, and it was feared that it was an epidemic of some sort and she was isolated, especially from Janet and the baby.
But after she died, it was found to be trichinosis. She had had a companion, a German girl, who lived with her, and the German girl loved raw meat, which she would make into steak tartare. She had gone to the market and bought some beef and had them grind it, and evidently the butcher had previously just ground some contaminated pork. Both of them were taken ill. The German girl survived, but Sarah Bixby Smith died. I only had about a year of real acquaintance with her, and it was all too short a time.
The family continued the traditions that she had formulated and this vast family of brothers and sisters and sister-in-laws and their children gathered for years at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a little more difficult
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now because there have been many divorces and new wives and in-laws brought into the family, and the younger members have their own new affinities. You just can’t continue with so many grandchildren and great grandchildren and all of their separate family relationships.
The Smith brothers were all hellions in their youth. I’ve heard them tell tales about Pomona College in the early days.
Once they got into Sumner Hall at night and, somehow or other, found a way into the college office where there was an old safe in which were kept all of the college records. They cut a hole in the floor and lowered the safe down into the subbasement and then shored up the floor again, put the rug over the spot and the next day when the college officials came, there was no safe! And they couldn’t find it. It was months before they finally discovered it. [laughter]
Another time, I remember of their telling of getting into the chapel one night, fixing the seats in the choir section. The choir marched in and standing, sang beautifully. When they finished they sat down in unison and as a group they went phooomp, with their bottoms crashing to the floor! [laughter]
Roger Smith was the next older to Janet. He was thrown out of Pomona College for bootlegging [laughter] but managed to go on to Cal and graduate there and then to Harvard Law School. He’s now vice-president, secretary, and
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legal counsel for Lockheed Aircraft Company. Llewellyn Smith died several years ago. He was with Paramount Pictures in their business office, a graduate of Harvard Business College. The next oldest brother was with the United States Steel Company as their chief economist. That was Bradford Smith. The oldest brother named after his father, Arthur Maxson Smith, Jr., was a lawyer, at one time with O’Melveny and Myers and later independent. They were all successful, competent men who despite their early proclivities for fun, settled down to sane productive lives.
[«»] Tape Number: TWELVE, SIDE ONE
August 10, 1965
Ritchie: Paul Jordan-Smith was the most lively member of this family that I had married into. As a young man, he always maintained that life was only for the young, and he’d never allow himself to live beyond the age of forty. He gradually stretched this limit as time crept by, and now at eighty he is still vital, with a sparkling tongue. I first met him when I was about nineteen — a freshman at Occidental College — and he must have been on the verge of forty at that time. [laughter]
At Occidental, there was a literary club which Carlyle MacIntyre, my heroic Freshman English teacher, thought to be rather dull. He gathered a few of the younger people around him and started a new club. Gordon Newell was also a member of this club, and one day he mentioned the fact that his friend Raymond McKelvey, who was attending Pomona College at that time, had invited a few of us to attend the meeting of their club at Pomona, at the home of Paul Jordan-Smith. We went out there in great anticipation, and that was my first meeting with both Paul Jordan-Smith and Sarah Bixby Smith.
Paul was at his best that night, reveling in all the young people listening and admiring him. Of course, the impressions of a youth about family relationships could be suspect, but at that time I wondered about this youngish,
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exhilarating man being married to an older drab woman.
Sarah was obviously much older than he and terribly devoted to him. She shadowed and adored him. We were conscious of this and subconsciously felt that he had made a good thing of marrying a rich old widow.
But as we sat around on the living room floor, he talked quite naughty for those days and most stimulating.
He was reviewing literature. He talked about one of his great favorites, James Branch Cabell. I had recently read Jurgen which is a slightly naughty book — or it was considered so then though now it’s quite tame compared to what’s now available. I was quite excited because I had bought with my hard-earned money, working at Vroman’s, a limited and signed edition of Straws and Prayer-Books, by Cabell.
Smith showed me his collection of Cabell. He also had a fine collection of Samuel Butler. Another great favorite of his was Arthur Machen. Paul Jordan at that time was greatly influenced by James Branch Cabell with his intricate, ornate style of writing, with none of the simplicity which we usually associate with great literature. P.J. (Paul Jordan) wrote several books there in Claremont in which he aped this style.
Among the possessions of P.J. which I remember at that time with great envy, were two little lanterns which he had on either side of the fireplace. He told the story of how he had acquired them. He had been in France at the time that Anatole France had died. Being a literary
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hero worshipper, he went to the funeral. He noticed that following the French custom, two lanterns were lit and used in the ceremony at graveside. P.J. waited until everyone had left and then arranged with the gravediggers to buy them in memory of Anatole France.
P.J. has written his own autobiography, which was published by the Caxton Printers in Caldwell, Idaho, so most of his story is pretty well told in that. My memory is only hazy on many subjects. I know that he went to Emory and Henry College for a couple of years. He was interested in religion at that time and after a falling out with his family transferred and worked his way through Chattanooga College. He went into the ministry. He was a vital and dynamic man, very unorthodox.
I recall his getting the pastorate of a broken-down, financially desperate church in Chicago which he managed to build up in no time at all. It always amused me when he told how he’d dramatize everything to get publicity and to draw people into the church. He said that he would wait until the church was filled and people were waiting and restless and then he would dash up the aisle and leap up onto the podium, and as he was turning around, he would start preaching loudly and clearly with gyrations and antics. [laughter]
He explained that tricks like this resulted in greatly increased attendance because the people were always more interested in a show than in a message, though he attempted to give them that, too.
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World War I: found Paul Jordan-Smith a most ardent pacifist. I remember, when a boy, that down the street from our house in South Pasadena there was an influential family by the name of Bent who had quite a large house. I don’t know why I happened to go to a meeting there because I couldn’t have been over nine or ten at the time, but the Bents had mentioned to my mother that they were going to have a speaker and wanted us to come down and hear him. This being before the babysitter era, I was taken along. [laughter]
It was a little scary at the time because here was a pacifist speaking vehemently against America’s participation in the war, and there was the possibility that the place might be raided, or that there would be trouble of some sort with other neighbors. However, this particular night went along peaceably enough.
While I can’t now remember now what P.J., who was the speaker, said at that time, I do remember talking to him many years later about his experiences as a militant pacifist. He laughingly told of [laughter] almost being killed several times and escaping from several unruly crowds.
In the Second World War, he had changed completely. He was the most militant of hawks. I believe he felt that there was definitely something to fight for in the Second World War, because of the Nazi and Fascist philosophy, which he thought would make America and the world untenable if they prevailed. He preached that we should go in there immediately and put all of our might behind our Allies.
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P.J. Is a fascinating speaker. Even at his present age, he’s full of mannerisms and facial expressions that make him a born and absorbing story teller. He also has a great presence of mind. One amusing incident shows the resources of this man many years ago when he was the speaker at some banquet. He arrived late, so he wasn’t able to prepare himself, and he was taken in and wined and dined at the banquet. Then there were these innumerable speeches and introductions, and he was unable to leave the table, though after all of this there was a need’. [laughter}
Finally, he was cornered, and when he was called upon to give his talk, he was in such agony that he didn’t know exactly what to do. But with presence of mind, he got up and humphed and har-r-rumphed a bit and then took the pitcher of water and started to pour himself a glass, but unfortunately he spilled it all down the front of his suit! [laughter] This gave him the opportunity that he needed, and despite the fact that the audience was greatly concerned — the fact that their poor speaker was soaked with water — he was able to continue his speech. [laughter]
During the many years, when the family would gather at Christmas and Thanksgiving, we always enjoyed most of all the contribution of Paul Jordan-Smith. For the thirty-odd years I attended and for many before I came into the family, one of the requirements for Thanksgiving was that each family would prepare some sort of entertainment. Some of the more talented ones would have a song and a
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dance and others, a little dramatic skit, which usually were original. P.J. would do one of his fine monologues which were always of great interest. During the earlier years when most of our children were small, it was also a tradition that there would be a storytelling time for the children themselves.
P.J. was magnificent; his stories were always imaginative. He was always the number one man who would take the children into another room, and he would tell his truly wondrous tales to them.
Uncle Maxson Smith was another very articulate man, a lawyer, who had a rather macabre turn of mind in storytelling. His stories were always grisly and full of horror. [laughter] He would almost send the little children into shock with these terrible things. There was always the cutting off of arms and legs and things like that — and war stories.
I was the third who was involved in this, sort of a letdown I’m sure, after the other two. My stories were fantastic stories about a creature, a man called Any Old Thing. I imagine that this had started at the very beginning when I was called upon to help entertain the children, and I asked them what they wanted to hear about and they said, ‘Any old thing.’ [laughter] So I started out telling them the story of Any Old Thing, and it became progressively a continuous history of Any Old Thing.
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Among other possessions that we had at home at that time was a picture of Janet which Sarah Bixby Smith had painted when Janet was a little blonde girl of eight or nine. It was a sweet little thing. Sarah had a good deal of talent in painting, but it was quite academic. At one early exhibit in Los Angeles, she had submitted the painting, and it was hung among many others. But one of the ‘smart’ young art critics singled it out — it being so academic and so prim — as an example of exactly what the modern artist shouldn’t be doing. He wanted more avant-garde painting.
This was a long time ago, and America was not in the forefront in those days, of contemporary art, as it is now.
Still there was enough seeping over from France with the Cubists and the others, that this critic was trying to stimulate a new approach to art here. Unfortunately for Sarah, he picked on hers as an example of the old academic style which the Americans should be forgetting.
It incensed P.J. to the extent that he said, ‘Well, if that’s the kind of painting they want, I can do it’.’ He took some of Sarah’s paints and started splashing them on some canvas which she had around. One of the first, he submitted to a show in Chicago and was given the first prize for it. He didn’t use his own name; It was under the name of Pavel Jordanovitch.
And he concocted a completely false biography which he had sent along with his paintings, about being a poor Russian who had come to America and this-and-that. The painting was reproduced in some international magazines,
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and he followed with several others. I don’t think any of them quite compared with the first one which was a painting of a Negress at a washtub,in bright and strident colors. There was a watermelon down there, and there was also a small Negro boy that was snatching her purse.
When he was ready to send it to the first show, he couldn’t find a frame that would fit the whole picture. He sliced the end of it off where the little colored boy was. All that was left sticking out was the hand, [laughter] He fitted it into the frame and off it went.
Somehow or other, all these paintings came to us, and we had them around the house for many years, including this little end which somewhere disappeared. I rather suspect that somebody grabbed it. Eventually P.J. exposed himself, and it caused quite a furor that Paul Jordan-Smith could thus hoax American critics.
He laughed about it often. It was always a lot of fun to have these paintings because often when we would have a gathering of artists we would get them out and have an exhibition of Jordanovitch paintings.
Dixon:He’s been written up for that hoax, hasn’t he?
Ritchie: Oh, yes. I remember an article in Newsweek at one time. Previous to that I am certain there must have been considerable publicity when the hoax was exposed.
There was an article a couple of weeks ago about him in the Times, and it mentioned this hoax. The story was a little different than my own memory of it because it didn’t mention
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the Sarah Bixby Smith painting — he was incensed by something else in this story. He used house paint on a lot of these paintings. The way he was splashing colors around, it was a little easier with house paint and a little cheaper [laughter] than ordinary paint and quite as effective.
Walt Kuhn, one of the most eminent of American artists, came to Los Angeles back in the late ’30’s, and Fillmore Phipps, who was running a gallery out on Sunset Boulevard at that time, invited him to come to a party at our house. Kuhn was in Los Angeles because he had decorated a parlor car or a barcar for the Union Pacific Railroad. They were making quite a to-do about the elegant decorations in this lounge car. They had toured him and the car around the country.
When he got to Los Angeles at the end of his trip, he stayed here for a few days. He came over to our place. This was during the Depression when none of us had very much money, but we would often gather and enjoy a party, especially with the artists around this area. When Kuhn came most of the artists joined us to meet with him.
In those days we didn’t ask, ‘Do you want gin, scotch, bourbon,’ or anything like that [laughter]. We would go out and buy a couple of bottles of whatever was the cheapest or what we could afford and that was it. For this party we had a couple of bottles of bourbon out in the kitchen and I asked Kuhn would he like water or soda?
He thought for a minute and he said, ‘Water, please.’ So I went out and mixed a bourbon and water and brought it in.
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He was talking and took one gulp of it and spit it out.
He said, ‘There’s whiskey in that’.’ [laughter]
I didn’t realize that he was a non-drinker. During the course of the evening, Alonzo Cass said, ‘Let’s get out the Jordanovitch paintings.’ So we got them out and spread them across one end of the room and all of the artists — Fletcher Martin, Barse Miller, Landacre and others — were there, all chortling because they knew of the hoax.
Walt Kuhn studied them very carefully, and then quite pontifically he said, ‘You know, these are the best paintings that I have seen since I came West.’
Well, this started an argument because we had some temperamental ‘geniuses’ there, each of whom considered himself outstanding in the West. Kuhn’s appreciation showed that Paul Jordan did have a certain exciting natural ability, which came through without any formal training.
After Janet and I were divorced, we gave the pictures to UCLA. I noticed that they are having an exhibition of his things at the library now, so I expect they would include them.
Well, this little meeting was one of a little organization that we had called, for want of a better name, ‘The Club.’
The Club for four or five years was quite an institution among the younger artists of this southern California area. It started at the suggestion of Dr. Remsen Bird, the president of Occidental College. He was always vitally interested in the artistic development of southern
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California. He was a man full of ideas, but naturally he had little time to pursue them. But he was always suggesting to others that they do this-and-that. Many a time when he would drop by the studio, he would say, ‘Ward, what we need is some sort of club, some place for the artists of southern California to get together and stimulate one another — to talk, to transfer ideas.’ After enough needling, I thought that it might be a good idea.
Our printing plant had been ensconced in our home on Griffith Park Boulevard, where the lower floor had been built to house the presses. But in 1936, we bought a building down on Hyperion Avenue, about a block away, and the press was moved down there, leaving this large studio with the huge windows, empty. A young writer, Peter O’Crotty, from the Disney Studio rented it for awhile. When he moved out the idea of The Club came to mind.
The first meeting was on Wednesday, June the 2nd, 1937. We started out with a luncheon meeting. Gordon Newell and Archie Garner, both sculptors, built a huge table for the occasion and benches made out of 2 x Vs.
It was so heavy that nobody could lift it, once it had been built. [laughter] It was twelve or fourteen feet long, with huge legs.
Gordon’s wife, Amelia, made salad and sandwiches. Onestus Uzzell and Tom Craig brought pictures over with which we decorated the room. Those attending the first luncheon meeting were Dr. Alonzo Beecher Cass; Lawrence Clark Powell; Theodore Criley, the architect; Paul
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Landacre, the wood engraver; Onestus Uzzell, portrait painter who at that time was teaching art at Occidental College; Archibald Garner, the sculptor; Gordon Newell; Peter O’Crotty from Disney’s; and Tee Hee, one of the animators at Disney’s; Gregg Anderson, who was rny partner; and myself.
Originally it was planned to have a luncheon every week, but within a short time we decided to have a sketch class every Thursday night. The luncheons proved to be unwieldy because we never knew exactly who would arrive or how much food to prepare, so they were given up.
But the sketch class survived until 1941 when we moved to La Cañada. The war started soon thereafter, and it became impractical for people to meet at such a far away spot.
Delmer Daves was the main support for The Club. [He was also the director of the Bogart-Bacall movie Dark Passage, set in San Francisco. — J.T.]
During the Depression days, Delmer was one of the few of the group who was making ample money, so he was able to pay his own dues, and also he took care of the dues of many of the artists who weren’t really able to put out. The dues were quite nominal, I believe, $2.00 a month, which paid for the model each week and also for beer. We would always have a case or two of beer at hand. In general, the sketching would come first. We would sketch for a couple of hours, and then the model would go home and we would sit around and compare our sketches and talk. These talk sessions sometimes were interminable, lasting until
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three and four in the morning. But they were wonderful; they were lots of fun.
Occasionally I would make some notes about these things. Here is one:
Present at this meeting were:
Delmer Daves, Karl Zamboni, Barse Miller, Ward Ritchie, Fletcher Martin, Edwards Huntington Metcalf, who was the grandson of Henry Huntington, and Reginald Pole, a Shakespearean actor and poet, who wasn’t a member, (Occasionally we would bring in other interesting people). As I wrote at that time:
It started in New York when Fletch was there recently for the opening of his show at the Midtown Galleries. A girl from Time magazine interviewed him in a bar, and after they had had plenty of drinks, she asked him about Grant Wood.
Fletcher let it be known that they didn’t like Wood at Iowa and that they had been trying to get rid of him for some time. That he was a lousy artist and that he copied photographs in making his paintings.
She sensed a story and so had the Chicago office call Fletcher after he had returned to Iowa City, to the University. Fletch then, sobered, told them that he had nothing to say and that they would have to get in touch with Dr. [Lester D.] Longman, the head of the department, if they wanted any statement.
This they did and turned a panic loose among the authorities at the University who prepared an innocuous typewritten statement for Longman to give to the representative when he came down from Chicago. However, the
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Then Longman told the reporter that someone had a file of all the photographs Wood had used in painting his pictures. The reporter went to Wood and spent about twelve hours with him. Wood then rallied his staunch friends on the campus, and the place was an uproar of recriminations and fear that the thing would break publicly in Time.
Fletch then wrote Wood a letter, telling him that he thought he was an awful painter and that he would say it to his face so that he couldn’t be accused of saying it behind his back.
In the meantime, Emil Ganso, who also teaches at Iowa, lined up on Fletcher’s side because he learned that Wood had tried to squash his appointment. And also the Time reporter managed somehow to get the box of photographs out of Wood.
That is how the situation now rests, waiting for Time to use the story, unless enough pressure can be applied by the University to quiet it.
Fletcher had said that Wood couldn’t draw, so Wood’s publicity man went to Ganso and said that after Fletch had suggested that they have a public competition out in the square, that he wouldn’t agree to that, but to prove he could draw, he would take a strange model and, given eight hours with her in his studio, he would produce a sketch.
Fletch was sleek, well-groomed and newly haircutted. He said he hadn’t painted much while at Iowa because of too many social engagements and too many parties at his apartment. This was a practice he was going to have to give up unless he could find a house and give up his present abode. Just before he came out here, he said he gave a party in his apartment that became extremely noisy.
After the landlord had phoned, a few times, complaining, Fletch told him off. About four o’clock, the last of the drunks were carted out, and he went to bed. Around noon the next day, his cleaning woman came and, after surveying the place, came in and woke Fletch up, asking him what he wished him to do with that man in under the table. In the meantime, the forgotten man had awakened and staggered into Fletch’s room saying, ‘Well, am I the last one?’ [laughter]
These notes are a little loose as you can see, but they were written late that night after they all had left. But this was a typical example of a club meeting.
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As I mentioned before, Gordon Newell’s studio was across the block on Hyperion Street, in the little old mill. In the back of it, he had flattened out an area which was his yard, full of stones and his tools for sculpturing.
He and many of his friends worked there — Archibald Garner, and Jim Hansen. Another sculptor in our group was George Stanley. George made the motion picture Oscar. He also did the piece at the entrance to the Hollywood Bowl. Archie and Jim Hansen also did some outstanding sculptures. In the Los Angeles Federal Building are two figures — one of Lincoln which was Jim Hansen’s, which was produced in Newell’s little yard, and the other one was by Archie Garner.
The whole group was involved in the Works Projects Administration, the art project during the Depression years. Merle Armitage and Dalzell Hatfield were the men who administered it in this area, and they were sympathetic to the better artists around here. The Federal Building project was one of these projects.
There was also the design of the sculpture in front of the Planetarium in Griffith Park. My recollection is that either Archie Garner or George Stanley got that commission. I worked with Gordon Newell on an idea for the project but it wasn’t the one selected. Archie Garner also did the murals at the Inglewood Post Office.
My own part was in two or three little projects. One was the Declaration of Independence. I cut a big wood engraved initial letter for it and printed it on handmade
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paper in an edition of about fifty copies which presumably was distributed to schools of the State of California. I don’t know what’s ever happened to them. My own copy is now at UCLA; I think they have it at the library so at least there’s one extant. I also did a Lincoln speech and the final was a letter from Armitage to the head of the project in ’Washington upon its consummation.
The way it worked was that they would put you on a salary for a certain number of weeks while you were working on your project or I suppose, if it was big enough, a certain amount of money. They took into consideration your ability and your need and all of such things and also the possibilities of getting works of art to decorate the government buildings.
I had known Gordon since we had started Occidental College together. He transferred to the University of California at Berkeley for his last year and there became interested in sculpture. He got a job working with Ralph Stackpole who was at that time doing the Stock Exchange Building in San Francisco.
There, Gordon learned to use the tools and did the rough chipping for Stackpole before Stackpole refined and finished it. In 1930 he married Gloria Stuart who later became quite well known as a motion picture actress. They moved to Carmel where Gordon started working as a sculptor in earnest. Gloria came to Hollywood, and her rise as a young starlet was quite fast. After several years, Gordon began to feel like the tail behind
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the dog. She was so active in movie circles, and he became a forgotten man whom she would occasionally introduce at a party as her husband. Their marriage gradually fell apart. They had very little in common except an interest in one another’s work, naturally.
So he bought this little mill for practically nothing and moved in there. He began teaching at Chouinard Art School, and he there met a White Russian girl, one of his students, by the name of Amelia Bubeshka. I think Amelia took one look at this handsome young sculptor and decided that he was for her, because she left no rock unturned until she had gotten him.
They were married by our old friend. Judge Harold Landreth, in the big studio room in our place.
Almost as long as I knew Gordon, I had known Paul and Margaret Landacre. Margaret was one of the sweetest women I have ever known, and so self-effacing. She did everything for Paul, who had been crippled by a disease while he was in college at Ohio State.
It was unfortunate because he had gone to Ohio State on an athletic scholarship as the best prep miler in the state of Ohio. During his freshman year, he suffered from some illness that left him a permanent cripple. It caused him in his future plans to realign his life into the field of art.
He had a natural talent for drawing; he turned this into wood engraving, eventually. After the therapy of beginning to draw he took up making linoleum cuts because that was an easy way to make saleable
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prints. He soon started experimenting with cutting his designs on boxwood. While his technique was unorthodox, it was most effective, and he had such talent. He is probably one of the finest wood engravers that has been produced in America. He and Margaret lived quite an idyllic life, completely to themselves.
They had a small house which they had bought up on the Echo Park hills. It was pretty much of a wreck, but Delmer Daves took a great interest in Paul Landacre. While he wasn’t obvious about it, he was always helping. He looked at the house one day and.soon sent over some carpenters and had them reroof it and refurbish it.
When Paul was really on his uppers. The Club commissioned him to do an engraving for them, and we each contributed $25 or so which was given to Paul. In time we all got a print of a special engraving from him. Jake Zeitlin was also a benefactor. Jake organized the Paul Landacre ‘Print of the Month Club,’ and he got enough subscribers so that Paul had enough to live on during the depression years. Eventually Paul began to teach at Otis Art Institute, and he earned enough money to live on.
The great tragedy for Paul was when his wife Margaret died. Just a short while before, Delmer Daves had called me and said that they were doing a motion picture about an author and a publisher. He wanted me to design some book jacket and he also wanted to use some of
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Paul’s work. We gathered some of Paul’s old engravings and I was able to adapt them to three or four book jackets.
At that time Margaret was complaining a bit about some aches in her back, and she was going to the doctor’s to have a barium exploratory. The next thing we knew, she was being operated on. The operation showed that there was very little hope for her.
Paul and Margaret were counting their blessings to a certain extent at that time because the money that they were getting for these engravings was defraying the expense of the hospital and the operations. Paul didn’t realize how serious it was, and I don’t believe they told him right off. Eventually, they both knew.
Margaret died, and the day after, I went up the hill and knocked at the door. There was no answer, so I went back to my car and wrote a note to Paul and went around to back, where the post box was. I was there pushing it in when I heard a noise, something inside the house, I went back and Paul came out. He sat down and said, ‘I didn’t know who it was. I don’t want to see anybody, but with you it’s different.’ So I sat there all afternoon with him while he poured out all of the anguish from his heart. He was quite bitter at the time, as people can be when they see one they love so dearly die in pain right before them.
As Paul continually said, ‘They wouldn’t allow it to happen to a dog. And I prayed to them to just let her get out of her misery. But they persisted on keeping her alive as long as they could.‘
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He then told me that he wanted to have a suicide pact with Margaret toward the end. He told her, ‘With you gone, there’s nothing left for me. You can’t continue in this pain. You don’t like it. Let’s take some pills.‘
And she resisted it. She was a member of the Friends church, the Quaker church, and she thought it wouldn’t be right and correct. Finally he almost convinced her, and she said, ‘Well, let me think it over one more night and I’ll tell you.’ But the next day she had deteriorated so much that she wasn’t able to think or talk it over with him. And so she died.
One of the touching things that he told me was of a few days before she died when at she was lying in the hospital bed they had rented for her. She said to him, ‘I don’t want to sleep in this bed. May I come with you?‘
They had a huge old bed which was out on the porch, and she came and crawled in with him. He said that he put his arm around her and touched her on the thigh, and she said, ‘Oh, this feels so good, so wonderful’.’ And that was their life together.
When I talked to Paul, ‘How can you get along?‘
He said, ‘I don’t know. I can’t put my hat on. (He was crippled so.) It takes me an hour every morning to put my socks on. The neighbors are good. They will see to it that I get food. I have a half-brother down in San Diego and,though I haven’t seen too much of him and don’t
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know him too well all these past years, he kindly has asked me to come down there and live, but I don’t want to.’
About a week later, he decided to finish it all, and he turned on the gas in the bathroom but he evidently forgot to turn off a pilot someplace, and the whole place blew up. He wasn’t killed, but he was badly burned.
The neighbors rushed over and the ambulance came. He fought everybody off just like a demon; he didn’t want to leave the place. He wanted to die right then and there. They took him to the county hospital, and he was on the critical list for about a week before he died. I went down there once to see him, and it was pathetic. He was so badly burned all over his face with scars and scabs. At that time I couldn’t communicate with him at all. They had given him a sedative, and so I sat around for an hour.
Two days later he was dead.
I was asked by his brother to say something at his funeral. It was a pathetic occasion. It was held at one of the little mortuary rooms across from the cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard. Paul’s body wasn’t there; it was a memorial service rather than a funeral service. A few of his old friends had come, including one of the models that had posed often at The Club. She had read in the paper about it and had called me and said she had always liked Paul. So she had come, and, of course, Arthur Millier, the critic for the Los Angeles Times, was there and many other of his old friends.
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[«»] Tape Number: TWELVE, SIDE TWO
August 17, 1965
Ritchie: The preparation of the talk which I was to give recalled many old memories. I read this little eulogy to him.
This was as far as I got in writing at that time. Now, in regret, I wish I had completed that which I had planned.
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And after his marriage to Margaret McCreary on July 9th, 1925, art became a serious part of his life. First, it was etching, then he tried linoleum, before finding his true medium in wood engraving.
Back in the late 1930s,he wrote a short biographical note on himself:
‘My study of wood engraving, which started about thirteen years ago, was conducted almost entirely by trial and error as my only formal art education consisted of some intermittent classes in life drawing. At that time, much less wood engraving was being done, and there was no one in this vicinity to advise me. It was also difficult to find any books on the subject which necessitated my digging it out for myself.‘
My own memories of the Landacres began in 1928. Margaret was working for Jake Zeitlin in his small 10 by 15 bookshop at 714 1/2 West Sixth Street. It is difficult to imagine how much intense excitement about literature and art could have been concentrated into such a small area of Los Angeles.
The books seemed to crowd every cranny, books of the modern presses and artists, and all of the contemporary writers. But there was still room enough for a gallery, and there Jake Zeitlin gave Landacre his first show, and I bought my first print — one of those stark dramatic scenes of the Monterey Hills, which he depicted so well.
In 1931 Bruce McCallister printed and published a book of Paul’s engravings called California Hills. It was a great local success. And when Carl Zigrosser included some of Paul’s prints in his American Printmakers, his work came to national attention, and today his prints are in almost every important gallery in the United States, and his prizes have been innumerable.
Several years later to add to his honor, he was made a member of the National Academy.
Paul was both fun to ‘work with and fun to play with. Grant Dahlstrom and Saul Marks remember a book of poems they worked on with Paul back in 1933. They had a little poet trouble before the book was completed, but it was selected as one of the Fifty Books of the Year. Next year Paul was involved in two of the
I took him a batch of Peter Lum Quince’s poems to illustrate. He was still a little leery of poets, but he agreed for my sake to make some engravings, even though as he said, ‘The poems are lousy,’ not then knowing that I had written them.
He was a wonderful, honest and forthright man. The
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There are many more books that he has illustrated, among which I should mention those of Donald Culross Peattie. Paul was a perfectionist and for Peattie’sNatural History of Western Trees he had hundreds of freshly cut branches sent to him from Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite parks all over the West. These beautiful boughs of pine and cedar, spruce and hemlock, were in every room and on the porches as Paul frantically tried to sketch them accurately. For the Landacres it was a beautiful experience, for they lived in their own deep-scented forest for weeks.
His last illustrations were for an edition of Darwin, published by The Limited Editions Club. He studied for months, as he always did with Margaret’s help, to be certain of the accuracy of his drawings. And then over a period of two years, he cut sixty of his most beautiful engravings. The book was printed in Australia, and it was shipped by slow freight.
It arrived just too late, and Paul never saw his last book. Once when Paul was being interviewed he was asked what Margaret did. He thought for a moment and answered,
‘She takes care of the correspondence, answers the telephone, is Chancellor of the Exchequer, drives me to and from wherever I have to go, helps push the lever of the press when I have to print a large block, delivers prints, checks the manuscripts when I am illustrating a book, keeps house and is an excellent cook, and then she acts as a critic and a balance wheel.
‘She boosts my morale when I am discouraged, and calms me if I get too excited over my work at the wrong time. Any art coming out of this studio is a dual production for sure.’
For almost forty years these two lived in intimate harmony. Only a few weeks ago, Paul told me how every thought he or Margaret had was for one another, how the only pleasures for either of them in reading, or going shopping for groceries, or to the class Paul taught at Otis was that of afterwards being able to repeat and to share the little experiences they had. They lived for one another. I think Paul is happy to be with Margaret again.
Archibald Garner was another member of The Club during those years. He was known primarily as a sculptor, but his drawings on our Thursday nights were some of the most delicate and beautiful that were done by any of the
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members of The Club. At that time there was a feeling of voluptuousness in the sketches he made.
He was married to Marie Garner at that time. Marie was an extremely beautiful girl, whose life had been dominated by her mother. Sven after their marriage, they lived most of the time with her mother and her mother’s lover.
The mother was a dress designer of some importance. She had decided, when Marie was a young girl, that she would make her life Important and to that end drove her incessantly.
Marie spent most of her childhood practicing on the piano. She had some talent and her mother took her to Vienna to continue her studies. She developed into a really gorgeous creature, and her mother wanting to capitalize on this beauty introduced her to and forced her to accept the attention of those she thought were Important in the world of arts and might further her daughter’s career. She was allowed, actually forced, to become intimate with several celebrities including, as Marie told me, Theodore Dreiser.
She was also forced to work so hard that she became tubercular. To this problem was added a mental one, resulting from her mother’s ambitions. For a while the whole menage rented our upstairs apartment on Griffith Park Boulevard. I saw quite a bit of them as I was living in the downstairs apartment.
Soon however they moved back to Hollywood, and Jim Hansen, who was working on a sculptured figure, as was Archie, for the Los Angeles Post Office,
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became a frequent caller at the Garner house. Before we were really aware of it, Hansen had moved in and Garner had moved out. [laughter]
Eventually Jim Hansen married Marie, though this too was only for a short period. They were subsequently divorced. Both Archie and Jim Hansen married again, very happily.
Jim was a tall, angular fellow who looked more like Abraham Lincoln than Abraham did himself. It was only natural that when he was doing this piece of sculpture for the Los Angeles Post Office that he should do one of Abraham Lincoln.
He had this great talent at sculpture, but he eventually gave it up to go into the more lucrative advertising field. His talent was such that he could make the transition easily and very successfully. For a good many years he did illustrations for various advertising agencies in Los Angeles, and subsequently moved to San Francisco where he was equally successful, though I haven’t seen or heard of him for several years.
Probably the most interesting of the whole group was Fletcher Martin. Fletcher was a broad-shouldered, physical sort of a man with a huge handlebar mustache, black hair, bright piercing eyes. He had grown up in Idaho where his father was a printer and newspaper editor. He would buy a paper in a small town, run it for a while and then get tired and move to another town.
Fletcher was brought up on farms near these various small towns in
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Idaho. Since he was the oldest boy of a large family of children, he was the one on whom his father relieved all his frustrations. Fletcher has told me that he got a beating every day of his life when he was a child. His father would come home from a hard day, and being irascible, if anything was wrong he would blame Fletcher and flog him for this.
Of course, it was inevitable that Fletch would eventually run away, which he did, to Seattle, where in time he joined the Navy. I don’t recall when he began to draw, but it must have been a childhood talent.
In the Navy, he was a rugged individual and became light heavyweight champion. Many amusing tales he used to tell at these meetings — he was one of the best and most dramatic of storytellers. I recall one occasion when he was telling us an episode in his Naval career.
It was in San Francisco when the Navy was there before going on maneuvers down around the Panama Canal. It was the last leave before departure, and Martin with some of his mates took advantage of this last night on the town. [laughter]
Fletcher Martin evidently overdid it somewhat because the next morning as he woke up he saw the fleet steaming out through the Golden Gate, and here he was still on dry ground in San Francisco together with another of his buddies. Despite their hangover, they felt that it would be important for them to join the fleet before it got too far away.
Knowing that it was going to stop at San Pedro on the way down, they
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floundered out in the street and hailed a taxicab and [laughter] asked the driver if he would take them to Los Angeles. Well, the taxi driver thought it over for a little while and looked at them and decided that he would. So they drove pell-mell down the coast to Los Angeles.
As they sobered up and began considering their problem, they realized that they didn’t have enough money to cover this kind of fare. So as they were going down Broadway in Los Angeles, and the cab had stopped at an intersection, Fletcher hopped out one side of the cab and the other boy out the other side as the cabby screamed like mad [laughter].
Cops chased them. The other fellow got away, but Fletcher not knowing all of the intricacies of Los Angeles, went up a dead end alley where he was caught and delivered to his ship. The officer on board took a dim view of what Fletcher had done, and he was thrown into the brig for the next three months or so.
But he also took a dim view of the cab driver who attempted to take advantage of the two sailors, so that he wasn’t quite as hard on Fletcher as he might have been. The cabby was severely admonished too.
It wasn’t until the fleet had arrived in Panama [laughter] that Fletcher was let out, and, of course, it being his first night of freedom for three months, he got into trouble again that night in Panama.
One other experience — Mrs. Millard’s estate was being liquidated in Pasadena, her magnificent collection of books, and pieces of art and furniture which she had brought to
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Pasadena from abroad — England, Italy, and France, and Spain. For two or three months, these things were sold by the estate at her Frank Lloyd Wright house on Prospect Circle.
It got down to the time when they wanted to close out the estate. Though I was terribly poor at the time and cash was an almost impossible thing to come by, I had known Mrs. Millard so well and enjoyed her treasures so much that I used to go over there occasionally and talk to the gals that were selling and was able to buy several little things which people didn’t want — some of the correspondence that she had had with Thomas James Cobden Sanderson of the Doves Press, and certain books which I liked.
Toward the end, one thing which I did want was a filing cabinet, but it seemed that the filing cabinets also were something that most people could use, and what was left was primarily furniture. There was one extremely large and handsome Italian, fifteenth or sixteenth century, chest, which evidently had been built as a hope chest, with carvings on it of a bride and groom.
It was suggested to me that this was something that I could use as a filing cabinet. So I said, ‘All right.
I didn’t want to pay over $15.00, but this evidently is much too expensive for that.’ They said, ‘Well, why don’t you make an offer of $15.00 then.’ I did, and a week or so later I was called and told to pick up my chest, [laughter] Fletcher and I borrowed a truck from somebody.
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We drove to Pasadena, and heaving and struggling we managed to get the chest out and up onto the truck. I don’t know how we did it to this day. Getting it back to our place on Griffith Park Boulevard was even worse because it was up on the side of a hill with perhaps thirty or forty steps to get it up to the house. We got it up there and left it right in the middle of the living room. We were completely exhausted, and couldn’t move it another foot.
So there it sat until the next Thursday night, which was sketch class. The first one to arrive was Paul Landacre, full of curiosity, and he looked it over and opened it up and then he had to crawl into it. By that time we heard others arriving and Paul said, ‘Don’t say a word.’ So he stayed inside of the chest and of course it was quite a topic of conversation. Fletcher, Delmer Daves, and Gordon Newell, all of them gathered around looking at the carving, commenting, marveling and feeling the texture of the beautiful wood. As we sat down to sketch the model, Paul gave out with just a little groan.
Somebody said, ‘What’s that?’
I said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know.’
Then they said, ‘Have you looked inside the chest?’
And I said, ‘No, it was locked. I haven’t been able to get into it.’
There was some chatter about it, and then we got back to drawing and then another little groan. By this time the
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artists were really getting curious, and there was all sorts of speculation as to what Fletcher and I had brought into the house. [laughter] Well, finally it ended, up with Paul coming out of the chest, happy and full of glee. [laughter]
Fletcher went east to teach at the University of Iowa with Grant Wood, as I have accounted in the note of his little running battle with Grant Wood while they were there. One or two wives later, he settled in Woodstock, New York, an artists’ colony.
He has illustrated several books, a couple for The Limited Editions Club. His paintings have been used by advertisers several times, and he is now one of the artists of the Famous Artists Group — a school sponsored by Norman Rockwell and others. He illustrated a couple of books for me — one, the book called Of Ina Jeffers in which he did a drawing of Tor House, the rock house that Jeffers had built by hand, and a unicorn, Una’s favorite symbol, which we used on the title page of the book.
Fletcher’s closest friend and fellow artist was Herman Cherry, and it was a strange combination because Fletcher was tall and broad-shouldered. Cherry was a small round-faced fellow; his head was like a ball; and his curley, kinky hair came down almost to his eyebrows. Yet, he was an extremely intelligent and jovial fellow and quite a good craftsman. He was married to a girl by the name of Denny Winters, who was probably a better painter than he was, which tends to hurt a man’s ego and pride, as it did his.
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We did a Scrapbook of Art together. At the time it sounded like a wonderful idea for teaching art to young people. It was made as a loose-leaf book. Cherry wrote an article about each of the famous modern painters which we printed and then added many blank pages after each painter on which could be pasted pictures by that artist cut out of magazines. In time, they would have their own scrapbook of modern art.
It was an easy way to save pictures which one has no way of handily preserving. Alex Brook, whose painting had recently won the Carnegie first prize, was out here at the time and wrote an introduction for the book. Alvin Lustig did a colorful cover for it.
After Fletcher went back to Woodstock, Cherry followed him back there and became what I would call a scavenger artist. He picked up anything — old pieces of glass, debris of all sorts — which he put together. He had quite a bit of success, enough success that Life magazine once devoted a page to the things which he had made up of the odds and ends which he had found.
Barse Miller was also one of those who frequented the place. Barse was a great watercolorist, one of the most facile that we had. While the others were mainly sketching the model, he quite often would come with his brushes and do two or three water-colors during the evening. We had a commission to do a book for the Book Club of California.
It was a collection of early California poems called Ballads
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of Eldorado. As I was conceiving the book, I got an idea that I would like to make it a running picture of San Francisco, starting with the cover. Here is a picture of the waterfront which showed on the cover, and as we turned the page, the illustration on the cover continued right on to the flyleaf, across it, as you go up to the hills of San Francisco. Then, as you turn the next page to get to the title page, it flows right into that; so you had a series of paintings.
I talked about this to Barse Miller, and he was quite enthusiastic about the idea. One Thursday night I brought a book dummy along with me, and while the others were sketching, Barse and I sat at the dining room table, he with his water colors, and as we outlined these things he did the whole concept right in the book.
When he finally did the finished drawings, all he had to do was copy what he had done. It was so completely perfect, this first thing, that there was really no problem except that we wanted the colors separated and so he did it over from that.
World War II broke up The Club. Barse became a captain in the Air Force and spent most of the war in the South Pacific, painting battle scenes. Fletcher became a painting correspondent for the Life-Time group and was sent over to the African and European sector. Another great friend, Millard Sheets, was sent over to India to draw on
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the Burma front. Barse and Fletcher were also extremely good friends and vied in many respects.
Fletcher, as you know, was strong as an ox and Barse at that time was almost as strong. I recall especially one incident. In addition to our Thursday night sketch classes, The Club loved to give parties. A good many of them were held right in our studio because it was handy, though every member at one time or another had a party for The Club.
They varied; once we had a gin tasting. [laughter] Another time we had a wonderful Halloween party in which everybody had to decorate a pumpkin and bring it. What this particular occasion was I don’t recall, but in the dining room we had a round table which we had covered with sandwich makings, mayonnaise, all of the things for later in the evening. As Barse came by, he knocked something off of the table, and he picked it up and went out to get a broom and came back with it just as Fletcher came by. Fletcher said to Barse, ‘Now don’t bother with this, let me do it.’
And he grabbed the broom from Barse and Barse said,
‘No, I spilled it, let me do it.’
Well, in a moment they were both struggling for the broom. This led to more serious strugglings. The next thing we knew the table had tipped over on top of them, with everything on the floor in a mess, which hardly made them pause.
Before long the party was a shambles. Finally as they looked at the complete destruction, they fell into a gale of laughter and left the
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cleaning up to us. [laughter]
There were many who came and enjoyed those. Tom Craig, a talented watercolor artist, was a student of Millard Sheets while attending Pomona College. He painted some magnificent watercolor scenes of the California coast before he became interested in raising flower seeds and went down to the Coachella Valley and gave up his art.
Onestus Uzzell was primarily a portrait painter, a fashionable portrait painter in Texas and Miami Beach and other places, who had been discouraged by his own success in that field and wanting to do more substantial painting had turned his back on his lucrative clientele to come and teach at Occidental College.
Ted Criley, though basically an architect, (a man who now is responsible for a good many of the buildings, in the Claremont college complex; he’s done all the buildings at Pitzer College, some at Scripps, and Harvey Mudd, and the rest), was a thwarted watercolorist.
As an avocation, he would go down to Ensenada and other places to paint. Tom Craig and Ted Criley both have enough facility to really enjoy the sketch class.
Dr. Alonzo Beecher Cass was an old friend of mine from grammar school and high school, and we had roomed together at Stanford. He’s an eminent pediatrician who’s done so much work on blue babies. But his chief avocation has always been painting. He has covered the walls at his home with Cass creations. A. Maxson Smith, my brother-in-law,
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while a lawyer, also became intrigued with painting and would come to these classes. His drawings were quite pixie, and he had a wonderful linear quality. He had no training at art, and when he started to draw, he seemed to draw a line around an idea. When it ended up, he would have a picture of a girl.
He got into one extremely interesting evening. I had brought a canvas to sketch class one night with a couple of dozen tubes of paint, and a palette. I thought I would do a real painting. I conceived it. It was a woman picking flowers; it was quite a fat little old lady with a kindly face who was stooping over to pick up a single daisy. As the others were sketching, I went to work with my paints.
Finally Fletcher Martin came over to look at it and said, ’’Ward, let me use that brush.’ So he started and I could just see myself getting into the National Academy with this painting. [laughter] Fletcher was working on it, and he was doing a beautiful job. And then Onestus came over, and he had to add something to it.
Then Tom Craig came, and he added his bit, and it was beginning to look pretty good. Then Delmer Daves came over, and he stuck a cigarette in it and then somebody else came and felt that it needed more paint at one place and emptied a whole tube on it. [laughter]
Well, before we got through with this, it was the most over-painted object that I have ever seen. Every tube of paint was completely gone and it was a good inch thick on the canvas. That was one of the
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great masterpieces of the art group. I wish I had saved it. Today, it would be ‘in.’
Delmer Daves was the most successful of all of the members of The Club. Delmer had been at Stanford when I was there, and he was the type of person who is successful from the beginning. He was chairman of the rally committee; he was the outstanding actor in most of the plays on the Stanford campus. He created the posters that were used.
He was a campus politician. He was into everything and on the top of the heap always. When he graduated, his acting ability naturally brought him to Hollywood where he thought he could get into the movies, and he did work in several of them. They were making a college movie which he was in.
The typical Hollywood producer’s and director’s concept of what a college was, was so childish that Delmer sort of took charge, and explained and arranged and helped them along with it. The next thing he knew he was writing motion picture scenarios in Hollywood which was what he was still doing during the era of The Club. He was most successful at it, and since then, he has risen to be his own director and producer, as well as writer, and has done some of the large movies to come out of Hollywood. [including the 1947 Bogart-Bacall movie set in San Francisco, titled Dark Passage. J.T.]
There was a chap by the name of Peter 0’Crotty who came and rented the lower studio after we moved the presses to Hyperion Avenue. Peter had just gotten a job at Disney Studies as a story board man, and as a writer. He was one
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of the most intriguing men I have ever known. He had complete charm, good looks and ability. He wrote several very fine short stores which Rob Wagner had published in his magazine in Hollywood, and had a very checkered career. Before taking his job at Disney, he had been a newspaperman in Hawaii where he had married a cute little girl called Betsy. They had lived for some time in Carmel where he edited and published a small newspaper until he was run out of Carmel.
O’Crotty could never let anything alone long enough to get settled. He could get the best jobs in the world, but after a while he became restless and had to agitate.
In Carmel, he got a little tired of the artsy-craftsiness of the place, and so on one occasion he thought, ‘I’ll make the town really interesting.’ [laughter] So he arranged with some of the more daring girls of Carmel to meet him very early in the morning before anybody was awake. He planned to do a brochure for ‘Carmel, the Nudist Colony.’
His approach was very matter-of-fact. Among the pictures there was one of a car in the service station. You could see two or three nude service girls cleaning the windshield, and putting oil into it. Then there was also a picture in which the girls were gossiping in typical housewifely fashion in the entrance to the P.O., ‘Going to the Post Office.’
He took dozens of such pictures and gave them such prosaic captions as one might find in any real estate pro-
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motion folder. [laughter] He and a printer up there decided they would publish a little book, and they went as far as having all of the engravings made when news leaked out and O’Crotty was asked to leave Carmel. [laughter]
He brought the engravings down to Los Angeles and tried to induce me to publish the book for him, but we never got around to it .
O’Crotty could last in a job about six months. He could always talk himself into a new one without any problem, but he could never last long because of this restlessness that got to him. After he had been at Disney about four or five months, he decided what the Disney studio needed was to be unionized. He started agitating and getting everybody upset; and this wasn’t the time when Mr. Disney wanted to have the unions in there. So O’Crotty left. He was the most magnificent name dropper I’ve ever run into.
You could go into a bar with Peter O’Crotty and you’d sit down and he would order this. Then obviously he was talking to you in a voice that was just loud enough so that the people nearby could hear. He would drop some names and incidents, and finally everybody would crowd in to hear more about it. Somebody would start talking to you and before you knew it everybody there knew O’Crotty and what a great man he was and what he had done, because he had been almost everyplace and had done almost everything.
I saw him quite often in the next few years because every time he got a new
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job he would come over to me and have a new card printed, [laughter]
Dixon:He could keep you in business.
Ritchie:It kept me going except that O’Crotty, through friendship, didn’t think to pay for these cards. He did get a job with Grover Jones at the Grover Jones Press one time as assistant editor on the magazine Jones which was Grover Jones’ hobby.
Grover Jones was the highest paid writer in Hollywood at that time, and he lived on Sunset Boulevard, out towards the beach. Somehow or other he got intrigued with the Linotype machine, and he found that the linotype operated just fast enough for him to think. He had one installed in the studio in back of his house, and he wrote all of his movie scripts on this linotype machine.
He would set a line on the keyboard and it would take just long enough to cast it to organize in his mind the next line he wanted to write. Through this he became interested in printing and having enough money at that time, he decided to do a little magazine for his friends which he called Jones.
He had various people write articles, and he wrote a good number himself and got it out every two or three months. It was a substantial magazine of sixty or seventy pages.
While O’Crotty was living at our place,I was working on a screen scenario about Johann Gutenberg, since we were approachingthe 500th anniversary of
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Gutenberg’s birth. As I wrote it, Betsy O’Crotty typed it up for me. I showed it to Delmer Daves once, and he seemed to like it and gave it to his agent. His agent got it around, and finally a director by the name of Lothar Mendes took an option on it and I could just see myself in big money. [laughter] Just at that time (it was around 1940) the Nazis invaded France and the Germans were not the most favored people in Hollywood, and since Johann Gutenberg was a German, the idea of the pictures was dropped.
But when O’Crotty started working for Jones on his magazine, he remembered this and told Jones, ‘Here is one of the most exciting stories you ever had.’ He asked me if they could publish it. It had to be rewritten because movie scenario style hardly makes good magazine style.
Jones got it and was so intrigued by it that he produced it in what he thought to be a fifteenth-century style, looking like a manuscript with great medieval illustrations. He also had a separate edition made which he gave directly to his friends.
But, again, O’Crotty lasted there only for five or six months and wandered on to become a photographer for the Union Pacific Railroad. The last two times I heard about O’Crotty was once when I had an article in the ‘Chefs of the West’ in Sunset magazine. In the same group there was a ‘Malibu Fish Dinner’ by Peter O’Crotty.
In 1950, whenever the centennial was of the State of California, they had a great pageant at the Coliseum and Peter O’Crotty was
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running that and always appearing in pictures dressed as a politician of the 1850’s.
One of the club parties was held at Delmer Daves’ place off Sunset Boulevard near UCLA, in the late ’30s or early ’40s. We decided to place a time capsule (with everyone present putting something into it) into the wall of the new studio which was being built for Delmer at the time. And now twenty-five years later I often wonder, ‘What’s in that capsule?’
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[«»] Tape Number: TAPE THIRTEEN, SIDE ONE
August 24, 1965
Ritchie: The Club, in addition to its weekly meetings and occasional social events in town, also had some most interesting experiences visiting some of the places that its members had out of town. I remember several parties at the Criley’s ranch, the old Stevens’ Ranch above San Dimas. But possibly the most interesting of these parties was at Delmer Dave’s cabin which was on Crestline up towards Arrowhead and Big Bear. I wrote about one of these parties, saying:
We met at the corner of Allesandro and Riverside Drive a little after noon and started towards the mountains, in a caravan. Janet and I went in Delmer’s car with the Landacres. The top was down, and the wind was fresh and warm. All stopped at Wilson’s in Claremont for lunch. We sat the length of one big table and confused the waitress with our orders. Leaving, we proceeded in caravan, arriving at the cabin a little before dusk.
At San Bernardino, Delmer had stopped for provisions and after looking around the cabin the girls started preparing dinner of spaghetti and wine. First we had cocktails which set everyone on a fine edge, except Gordon, who with a cold decided to go to bed. And we had dinner and a long cheery evening before the fire. Jokes, games, stories, and hilarious dancing made it very enjoyable.
The next morning, quite early, Tom, Janet, and Fletcher went out to the edge of the mountain that looked out over the San Bernardino Valley and made watercolors. After lunch, we all went to the point and drew. It was quite a sight to see them all sitting around sketching or painting. Tom and Delmer both drew a picture of me sitting on a big stump there. Afterwards Tom and I
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It was beautiful. The sun streamed its light from the far west, the pine trees were a very dark green, almost in blackness, silhouetted, but the young oaks reflected the late light and their leaves shown yellow-green. Down below where the whole valley stretched out, a blue mist held the land with the tops of distant hills and more distant mountains looking like strange dark islands. A long cloud strung darkly across the whole sky. Above it white whiffs hung motionless. Everything was silhouetted in that light.
Tom sat painting, trying to get the color in the valley. Janet watched. The wind which whipped us a short time before when everyone was there became still. There was not a sound. The trees stood as in a Japanese painting. The ferns which covered the hills around us were yellow with the fall. A few crickets began to make noise down the little valley at our side. It became darker and Onestus came with the car to take us back to the cabin.
Tom finished two pictures there and gave me one which had on the back the one he had done of me on the stump. He was not happy with them.
The weekend ended. Each car headed for home separately. We stopped again at Wilson’s for dinner. It was a beautiful and perfect time, and everybody was congenial and happy.
I mentioned this at one time to Garner Beckett who was president of the Riverside Cement Company which owned Warner’s Ranch, and he mentioned that there was an old Butterfield Stage Station, an adobe, down there on the ranch, and possibly if we would like to take it and fix it up it could be ours on a permanent loan. So Roger and Rosamond Smith and Janet and I made the tour down there to see it and it was a most enchanting spot.
[ breaks off here, near the foot of page 480 of the original text.]
[ This is the end of the third quarter of the Ward Ritchie interview.]
[ Here is the first Part of the third quarter of this interview: Part One ]