Feb 18, 2011

Walt Disney sends his regrets, 1938


click to enlarge

The original of the letter shown here was an item for sale at the bookshop I once worked in, Larry Edmunds in Hollywood (still there, and still well worth a visit). At $400 dollars my 21 year old self couldn't think of buying it, but at least I made a copy. It must have been a quite a soiree for Walt to have been invited; he certainly took some pains to produce an elegant reply.

The woman he's responding to, Carrie Jacobs Bond, was an author of popular songs famous in the first half of the twentieth century. Wikipedia cites her best-known composition as that wedding stalwart "I Love You Truly", but my favorite would be "A Perfect Day".

I happen to know that one because it's beautifully performed in a favorite film of mine, the Mitchell Leisen-directed "Remember The Night"(1940). For an added Disney Studio connection bonus the singer is none other than Sterling Holloway--the voice of Disney's Cheshire Cat, Kaa and Winnie the Pooh:

5 comments:

Jorge Garrido said...

Remember The Night! The greatest Christmas film of all time!

JonCow said...

With a screenplay penned by Preston Sturges!

Anonymous said...

Another Disney connection is the great Fred MacMurray. We have Mitchell Leisen to thank for Billy Wilder getting into directing--he hated Leisen for ruining his screenplay for Midnight!

Floyd Norman said...

Speaking of Sterling Holloway - he sung for me while working on "The Jungle Book." Loads of fun, I might add.

Jenny Lerew said...

Everyone knows their stuff here, that's clear!

Jorge, "Remember the Night" is a terrific Christmas film. It's a shame it's so unknown today-no doubt to due to the truly awful, generic title it got saddled with.

Jowcow-yessir, Preston! Close to his zenith.

Anon-I think you're mixing up a couple of Leisen/screenwriter stories: it was the screenwriter of this film, Preston Sturges who was purportedly so angry at the cuts Leisen made to his screenplay for "Night" that he really pushed to direct his scripts himself-and made that famous "I'll direct it for $1" agreement with Paramount to do it, on "The Great McGinty".

Billy Wilder, being another of Paramount's star writers(then teamed with Charles Brackett), cowrote the scripts that a star director like Leisen would get to do-"Midnight", "Arise My Love" and "Hold Back The Dawn" were three. The story Leisen told about Billy was that he'd scream bloody murder at a word of his dialogue being changed due to difficulty actors had in speaking it(which happens). Leisen said he told Billy, "Look, this isn't Racine, it's not Shakespeare! If the actors can't [easily] say the lines in the script, we have to substitute words they can say". Leisen goes on to say that later he visited Wilder on the set of his first film as director("The Major and the Minor") and got a kick of out seeing Billy rewriting his own dialogue right there on the set for exactly the same practical, "hard to speak" reasons.

In any case-be sure and watch "Midnight"-it's a brilliant, hilarious movie and in no way ruined-even Wilder would never have said so.

I'll add that I think Mitchell Leisen gets a bad rap vis a vis his more famous screenwriters. No one loves Sturges' writing more than I do, but the script he wrote for "Night" would have been over 2 hours long if filmed exactly as he wrote it.

Floyd-how cool! I envy you. Everything I've ever heard about Sterling sounds charming.