Letter 003

To Sarah Lipton

Sarah Lipton (later Sarah Satrin) was one of the Chicago relatives with whom Ayn Rand lived upon her arrival from Russia in 1926. This letter was published only in the Winter 2017–18 issue of The Objective Standard.

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November 27, 1932

Dear Mrs. Lipton:

I was very, very happy to hear from you. Please forgive me for delaying my answer for such a long time. I have lots to tell you.

I have written to Mrs. Stone [another Chicago relative] several times, but I did not get any answer. I do hope the family isn’t angry at me for something. I hope you don’t think I am terribly ungrateful. I have not forgotten all that the family has done for me—nor will I ever forget it. I also remember that I owe a big debt—and I think I’ll soon be able to begin to repay it. I think—and hope—that I’m going to get on my feet now.

I’ve had a pretty hard time. However, I shouldn’t complain, for I have had a job all through this depression. That newspaper article you sent me just about covers all the essential news about me—except that they didn’t get straight the story about how I met Cecil DeMille. They had that wrong. But I did work in the wardrobe at RKO—for over three years. It was not a bad job—not sewing (for I still can’t sew a stitch), but in the wardrobe office. I wasn’t getting very much money—but enough to carry on. The work was quite hard—nerve wracking—a lot of details, a lot of rushes, excitement, and—quite frequently—a lot of overtime. Besides, I had to keep house—try to cook, and wash dishes, and such—at night. But I simply could not give up writing. I came to America to write—and I had not forgotten that. That’s something I’ll never give up. But it was pretty much of a problem—I didn’t have very much time to write and when I did find an hour or two at night, I was so tired that I could hardly get any ideas, my head felt too heavy—and one can’t do one’s best work after hours and hours in a studio wardrobe (the messiest department of a studio). Sometimes, I got up at 5:30 or 6 a.m.—to write a few hours before going to work. All this time I’ve been working on a novel—a real big novel I want to write—about Russia. But I found that advancing as slowly as I did—it would have taken me too long to complete a novel. So—last spring—I wrote two scenarios. I want to try and sell them—and get enough money to live without working for a while—and finish the novel.

You know how hard it is to sell an original story—especially for an unknown writer—and especially since the talkies. I was lucky enough to get a very prominent firm of agents [Myron Selznick] interested in the stories. They liked them, agreed to handle them and—sold one of them—“Red Pawn.” It’s a story about Russia—and I always have the advantage of saying that I know the subject. All the studios here were interested in Russian stories, but have had trouble finding any, so that helped me. Universal bought the story for their star Tala Birell, and signed me on a two-months contract—to write the adaptation or treatment of the story. I did the treatment and also the continuity, that is, the final, shooting script. And I am happy to say that they are very pleased. Right now, they are looking for a director for my story, that is, they have not selected one, yet. As soon as they do, the story will go into production—and I do hope it won’t be long.

My contract expired, but they liked my work so well, evidently, that they kept me on and gave me another assignment. I have to do the continuity or screen play for a story of theirs, called “Black Pearls.” It is a picture of the South Seas. Several writers have tried to adapt it, but the studio was not satisfied. It’s quite a difficult story to adapt. Now, I’ve got it. I had quite a few headaches over it, but I think I’ve solved the difficulty. At least, I outlined my idea to the supervisor and he liked it very much. So now I’m writing the script and I hope they’ll like it.

I have not signed another contract, yet—am waiting to see what they’ll do about my “Red Pawn.” If it goes over—I’ll, probably, get a good contract. As a beginner, I’m not getting very much money at present, but it’s more than in the wardrobe and it was worth taking to get a start.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you how thrilled and happy I am over it all. I was beginning to think that all my friends will lose all faith in me. It has taken me quite a long time. But I hope that the most difficult part of the struggle is over, now. Such is my “professional” life. As to my home life—I am still as happy as ever—even happier if such a thing is possible. Frank is simply wonderful. I wish you could meet him. I do hope I’ll see you before many more years pass. If I ever get established as a real writer—I’ll take a trip back east. And how about yourself? Do you ever contemplate another visit to California?

By the way, if you’re curious about Frank, you can see him in a picture called “Three on a Match.” He has just the tiniest bit in it—but it’s a good, long closeup of him. It’s along towards the beginning of the picture, there are a series of news flashes there and you’ll see the closeup of a man listening in on a radio—with old-fashioned ear-phones on, or whatever you call them, you know, a radio apparatus that you put on your ears to listen in. Well, that’s Frank. If you happen to see the picture, take a look at my husband. . . .

I am waiting for a nice long letter from you with all the news about the family. How is everybody? How are the children? They must be all grown up now.

I’ll close this long letter, before you get tired of reading my terrible handwriting.

Please give my love to Mr. and Mrs. Stone, Mr. Lipton, Bee and everybody in the family. And please give me Mrs. Stone’s address, I would like to write to her.

I thank you very, very much for still remembering me—and I hope to hear from you soon.

Lots of love—