Congressman Richard M. Nixon made his first speech before the House of Representatives.
“Mr. Speaker, on February 6, when the Committee on Un-American Activities opened its session at 10 o’clock, it had by previous investigation, tied together the loose end of one chapter of a foreign-directed conspiracy whose aim and purpose was to undermine and destroy the government of the United States. The principal character of this conspiracy was Gerbert Eisler, alias Berger, alias Brown, alias Gerhart, alias Edwards, alias Liptzin, alias Eisman, a seasoned agent of the Communist International, who had been shuttling back and forth between Moscow and the United States from as early as 1933, to direct and master mind the political and espionage activities of the Communist Party in the United States.
When Eisler appeared before the committee, he did not come as a grateful political refugee who had enjoyed a safe haven in this country from war-ravaged Europe during the period of World War II; he came instead as an arrogant, defiant enemy of that government and promptly manifested his disrespect by refusing even to be sworn before the committee. His manner and attitude was one of utter contempt.
Two other conspirators and comrades of Eisler, Leon Josephson and Samuel Liptzin, who were subpenaed to appear, did not appear; Josephson contended by telegram that 2 days was not sufficient notice for him to come from New York to Washington, and Samuel Liptzin informed the committee by telegram that he could not appear because he was at the bedside of one very dear to him. It is no wonder that Eisler refused to talk and Josephson and Liptzin did not respond to the subpenaes, because the committee, through its own investigators, had obtained documentary evidence which linked these three individuals with several very serious violations of federal statute.
The committee also had present qualified witnesses who were prepared to unmask the subversive activities of Eisler and his coconspirators.
I think I am safe I announcing to the House that the committee will deal with Mr. Josephson and Mr. Liptzin at a very early date, and that subsequent hearings by the committee will reveal the detailed operations of Gerhart Eisler. There are a number of witnesses scheduled to be heard by the committee on this case.
I should like to read at this time from a report by J. Edgar Hoover on the activities of Gerhart Eisler:
It is of particular significance to note that through the investigation of Gerhart Eisler it has been ascertained that he is identical with an individual previously known as Edwards, who, from approximately 1933, until approximately 1938, was the representative of the Communist International to the Communist Party, U.S.A. by virtue of which position he was responsible for and instrumental in the determination of American Communist policy and the control and the direction of American communist operations.
Eisler’s primary contacts since his arrival in the United States have been important Communist functionaries, many of whom are strongly suspected of involvement in Soviet espionage operations.
The entire pattern of Eisler’s activities since his arrival in June 1941, as previously summarized, is one of apparent evasion and duplicity coupled with clandestine but no less important activity. He has been in constant contact with important Communist functionaries and has been frequently in touch with individuals identified as or strongly suspected as being Communist functionaries and has been frequently in touch with individuals identified as or strongly suspected as being Soviet espionage agents. In addition, as noted in greater detail above, Eisler was for many years an important representative of the Comintern. During a recent interview, Gerhart Eisler unequivocally denied his activities as outlined above, which denials obviously were false and unfounded.
How, Mr. Speaker, I would like to give the House some of the facts concerning Eisler. He was born in Leipzig, Germany, February 20, 1897. He started his Communist career in Austria when he helped organize the Communist Party I that country. He then transferred his activities to Germany and shortly thereafter was transferred to Moscow, where he was trained to be an agent of the Communist International, or a “C.I. Re;.,” as they are referred to in Communist Party Jargon. At the Lenin School in Moscow, he was schooled in revolutionary tactics, in espionage, sabotage, and other methods and tactics which serve the Communist revolutionary program. He was assigned to the American Commission of the Comintern to prepare himself for his future duties in America.
His first assignment as a Comintern agent was in China in 1928, and then in 1933 he was sent to the United States to take over. From 1933 until the late thirties, he was the mysterious but supreme authority on communist activities in the United States. Because his activities were carried on secretly, it was necessary that he use many aliases. It was also necessary that he return to Moscow at regular intervals to get the latest party line and instructions, and so in 1934, when he needed a passport to return to Moscow, he obtained one through the application which I hold here in my hand. This application has been reproduced and is contained in the committee’s hearings, and I suggest that every Member, at his convenience, study it, because it will give you an insight into the fraud and intrigue which is employed by the Communists agents to carry on their work.
Now the handwriting on this application, according to the questioned documents experts of the Treasury Department, is that of Leo Josephson; the name on this application is that of Samuel Liptzin the picture on this application is that of Gerhart Eisler; the signature of the identifying witness, Bernard A. Hirschfield, is also in the handwriting of Leon Josephson. In fact so far as the committee has been able to determine, there is no such person as Bernard A. Hirschfield. The passport was issued to Eisler in the name of Samuel Liptzin on August 31, 1934. He sailed on the Berengaria in 1935 for Moscow on passage which was paid for by the Communist Party of the United States.
He returned to the United States and used this passport again in 1936, when he again went to Moscow. Bear in mind, however, that the passport application made no reference to his going to Russia. Also bear in mind that while Eisler was the keyman on Communist affairs in the United States, he was known only to the top functionaries. The committee produced a number of other documents relating to Eisler’s activities during the thirties, and heard considerable testimony to the effect that he was operating in the United States, during the thirties. This becomes important when you learn that on June 14, 1941, when Eisler arrived at Ellis Island as a so-called political refugee form France, he swore before a special board of inquiry at Ellis Island that he had never been to the United States before. He swore that he had never been married, although the facts show him to have been married twice before he entered the United States.
When that board asked him the following question “Are you now or have you ever been a member of any communist organization?” his answer was “No.” When he was asked, “Were you ever sympathetic to the Communist cause?” his answer was “No.” He even denied under oath that he had a sister, even though that sister was at that time residing in New York. Eisler has been in the United States since June 14, 1941. All during the war period eisler was the commissar for communist activities in the United States. When he wrote articles he was “Hanns Berger.” When he sat I on secret Communist meetings he was “Edwards,” and when he traveled he was “Brown.” Under the name of Julius Eisman he was being paid regular sums by a Communist-front organization known as the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee committee, and from other Communist sources.
From the story I have related briefly today we can see the type of man we are dealing with. For those members who are interested in looking into the matter further. I recommend a reading of the full transcript of the testimony before the committee.
There is a tendency in some quarters to treat this case as one of a political prisoner, a harmless refugee whom this committee is persecuting because o his political belief, and who is guilty only of the fact that he happens to have a different political faith than the members of this committee. For that reason, I believe the story of his activities is important. It is a story replete with criminal acts against the United States, forged documents, perjury, failure to register as an alien agent. It is a story of a man described by his own sister as an arch terrorist of the worst type—a man who was clearly linked by the testimony with members of the Canadian atom-bomb spy ring, a man whose only reason for being in the United States was to tear down and destroy the Government which furnished him refuge during the war years.
This is the man who showed such contempt for a committee of this House. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations has run on many of the criminal acts of Gerhart Eisler. It seems most pertinent to ask where were the agencies of our Government responsible for enforcing the immigration and naturalization laws when the statute was running on the Eislers, the Josephsons, and the Liptzins.
The time of the gentleman from California has expired.
Mr. Speaker, I yield three additional minutes to the gentleman from California.
I think that every Member of the House is in substantial agreement with the Attorney General in his recent statements on the necessity of rooting out Communist sympathizers from our American institutions. By the same token I believe that we must all agree that now is the time for action as well as words. The Members of this House have probably had experience in dealing with the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice. The rules of that Service are extremely strict. For example, I have a specific case in my district, of a teacher of French at Pomona College, California, whose permit has been revoked because she did not report a change of employment to the Service: yet Gerhart Eisler was able to go freely in and out of the United States from 1933 until the present time with relatively no difficulty. It is significant to note that in 1943 the Immigration and Naturalization Service changed his status from that of alien in transit to alien for pleasure. In that status he had the complete run of the country. It would certainly seem that an investigation should be made of the procedures and the personnel responsible for granting such privileges to dangerous aliens of this type. Certainly no stronger case could be made for the proposition that there is no place in the Federal Service in positions so closely related to the security of the United States, for governmental employees who follow the Communist line or any other line which advocates the overthrow of our Government by force and violence.
It is essential as Members of this House that we defend vigilantly the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But we must bear in mind that the rights of free speech and free press do not carry with them the right to advocate the destruction of the very government which protects the freedom of an individual to express his views.
The resolution before the House today proposes a very simple and direct question. By adopting the report of our committee concerning an obvious contempt, this House can put Mr. Eisler out of circulation for a sufficient period of time for the Department of Justice to proceed against him on more serious charges.”
and then —
Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from New York.
Mr. Speaker and ladies and gentlemen of the House, I recognize there is very little anyone can say here that will at this time dispel the hysteria which has been worked up over this case. However, there are certain fundamental truths which are inescapable and which time and events will bring to bear more and more forcibly on the minds of the American people. The first is that when you tear away all the innuendos, the opinions of personal enemies, as well as the propaganda in certain sections of the press, neither this record, nor any other record, will ever show that at any time has this defendant engaged in any activity aimed at the violent overthrow of the Government of the United States. You cannot get away from that. You can say he is a Communist-true.
But you cannot say there is any concrete evidence anywhere that he has ever engaged in any activity supporting any action for the violent overthrow of the government of the United States. His only activity has been that of a militant anti-Fascist. Ironically, the anti-fascist is on trial while pro-Fascists are at liberty to applaud and demand his persecution. If he has violated any statues with respect to the immigration laws, that is not a matter for us to decide. We are still living in a country of law and order. That is a matter for the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury to pass upon.
I would like to deal at this time with two phases of this question-the first is whether or not there is a willful contempt of the committee. That is a legalistic phase and one which I admit is relatively unimportant. I call to the attention of the members of the House page 3 of the committee hearings, and I read as follows:
Mr. Eisler do you refuse again to be sworn?
I have never refused to be sworn in.
I came here as a political prisoner. I want to make a few remarks, only 3 minutes, before I be sworn in, and answer your questions, and make my statement. It is 3 minutes.
Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
My time is limited, but I yield to the gentleman.
I want to add to the gentleman’s remarks that the statement that Mr. Eisler wanted to make in 3 minutes consisted of 20 legal-size pages of paper.
Still and all, I do not think that he was guilty of contempt when he offered to answer all questions. The argument between Eisler and the committee was one of procedure. Of course, technically, the committee had the right to establish its own procedure and insist that the witness follow that procedure laid down by the committee. But we are dealing with contempt and we must consider the question of willfulness, to determine whether or not contempt was committed. This was not willful contempt when the witness states, “I want to answer questions but I ask you to permit me to make a statement first and then I will be sworn in and then I will answer questions.” Under the circumstances, the committee’s insistence on its procedure was unreasonable and this is the decisive factor in this case.
Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
In just a moment, I have only about two more minutes. I decline to yield, Mr. Speaker. I want to continue my argument.
So that here we do not have a case of willful withholding of information on the part of a witness. The witness was ready to answer questions. He so stated. He simply asked the right to read a statement. I do not think that witness should be blamed for it. Let us look at the circumstances under which he was brought before the committee. All of the evidence indicates conclusively that the witness was ready and willing to come before the committee and had made arrangements to come before the committee. All of a sudden, at the request of the gentleman from New Jersey, chairman of the committee, this man was picked up and brought before the committee as a prisoner.”
Meanwhile in Look Magazine, Eleanor Roosevelt observed The Russians Are Tough
“I was leaving in the early morning by Army plane for Berlin. The argument on displaced persons had dragged itself out until a very late hour. When the vote was finally taken and adjournment was finally announced, I made my way over to my opponent, Mr. Vishinsky, the delegate from the U.S.S.R. I did not want to leave with bad feeling between us. I said, “I hope the day will come, sir, when you and I are on the same side of a dispute, for I admire your fighting qualities.” His answer shot back: “And I, yours.”
That was February, 1946. When I saw Mr. Vishinsky again, it was October, 1946. He came to join his delegation at the second session of the United Nations General Assembly in Flushing, New York. I realized that we might again have some acrimonious discussions. But I had no personal bitterness. I have never had any personal bitterness against any of the people in any of the Eastern European group. I have had, nevertheless, to argue at some length with them because we could not agree on fundamental problems.
I have found that it takes patience and equal firmness and equal conviction to work with the Russians. One must be alert since if they cannot win success for their point of view in one way, they are still going to try to win in any other way that seems to them possible.
For example, the Eastern European group has but one interest in the International Refugee Organization set up to deal with displaced persons in Europe: the repatriation of as many of their nationals as possible. We, on the other hand, while agreeing that repatriation is desirable, feel there will be people who do not wish to return to their home countries. And our belief in the fundamental right of human being to decide what they want to do must impel us to try to prevent any use of force against displaced persons. We must find the opportunity, if we possibly can, for people to carry out new plans for resettlement somewhere in the world.
I have worked over this and similar questions with the Russians at two meetings of the General Assembly of the United Nations. They are a disciplined group. They take orders and they carry them out. When they have no orders they delay—and they are masterful in finding reasons for delay. They are resourceful and I think they really have an oriental streak—which one finds in many people—which comes to the fore in their enjoyment of bargaining day after day.
When they find themselves outside their own country in international meetings or even in individual relationships, they realize they have been cut off from other nations. They are not familiar with the customs and the thinking of other peoples. This makes them somewhat insecure and, I think, leads them at times to take an exaggerated, self_assertive stand which other people may think somewhat rude. I think it is only an attempt to make the rest of the world see that they are proud of their own ways of doing things.
I always remember that my husband, after one effort to make me useful since I knew a little Italian, relegated me to sightseeing while he did the buying in old bookshops in Italy. He said I had no gift for bargaining! Perhaps that is one of my weaknesses. I am impatient when, once I think the intention of a thing is clear, the details take a long time to work out. Gradually, however, I am coming to realize that the details of words and expressions are important in public documents.
I admire the Russians’ tenacity, though it is slightly annoying to start at the very beginning each time you meet and cover the same ground all over again. I have come to accept this as inevitable. It means one hasn’t convinced one’s opponent that the argument presented was valid. It is perhaps only fair, therefore, that they should go on until they either decide it is useless to continue or one is able to convince them that the opposing stand has truth in it.
I can point to a resolution which was presented after we had finished our discussion on the International Refugee Organization charter and the vote had been taken. Some seventy_odd amendments had been presented and considered. Apparently, it was all over. Then our Yugoslav colleague presented a resolution.
In many ways that resolution tried to do the things which the Eastern European group felt essential regarding displaced persons. Its passage would have nullified many of the things accepted. Our committee voted down the first parts of the resolution, but the third paragraph had in its first line the word “screening,” which represented something everybody could agree on.
I think most of our colleagues did not want to show prejudice against the Yugoslav representative. So without reading beyond the first line, they voted “yes” on this paragraph. The last few lines, however, referred back to the former paragraph which we had voted down. It was not until the vote came to the Netherlands that a “no” was heard. He gave no explanation and the “yes” continued to be voted until it came to me. I voted “no” saying, “voting ‘yes’ on this paragraph makes no sense.” I was greeted with laughter. But when they came to read the paragraph, it could only make sense if the preceding paragraph was attached. This paragraph, however, we had voted down!
It was a triumph for our Yugoslav colleague. I hope he realized that the committee desired to show some personal friendliness to him as an individual.
There are many factors which make working with representatives of the U.S.S.R. difficult. Their background and their recent experiences force upon them fears which we do not understand. They are enormously proud to be Russians and are also proud of the advance of their country over the past 25 years.
They also labor under one great disadvantage. Communism started out as a world revolution and undoubtedly supported groups in the other nations of the world which were trying to instill communist beliefs. Leaders of communism today in Russia may or may not believe the whole world should hold the same political and economic ideas. They do realize that for the time being, they have all that they can well do in their own areas. Though they wish to influence the governments of neighboring states to insure safety from aggression, they no longer think it possible to convert the world to communism at present.
It is unlikely that the Russian leaders today would actively encourage groups to work within other non_communist nations. In fact I think they find it embarrassing to have these groups active. It not only creates in the democracies an active desire to fight back, but extends very often to a general feeling against the U.S.S.R.
I feel sure that the representatives of the U.S.S.R. in this country have little desire to be associated with the American communist groups. One of the difficulties arising here is that among our own citizens we have disagreements about situations in their native lands. For instance, we have Poles who support the present government which is friendly to the U.S.S.R. We have Poles who oppose the Russians and probably would support the old regime in Poland.
There are Russians here who left Russia after the first revolution. There are some who left more recently from Ukraine or from the Baltic states. They all form groups here supporting different groups in Europe.
This makes for us a complex situation. It must make it difficult for representatives of existing governments when they come here.
These differences will eventually be resolved. It is fairly obvious that if existing governments continue to be supported by their people, the rest of the world will have to accept what those people have accepted and learn to work with those governments.
In working with the U.S.S.R., we will have to divorce our fear and dislike of the American communists, as far as possible, from our attitude as regards the representatives of the Soviet government. We will have to insist that the Soviet government give no help or comfort to a communist group within our country. I think when this is clearly established, we can work with Russia as we have with the socialist government in Great Britain. Both differ from our political and economic views, but these views are not static anywhere.
Words alone will never convince the Soviet leaders that democracy is not only as strong, but stronger than communism. I believe, however, that if we maintain as firm an attitude on our convictions as the Russians maintain on theirs, and can prove that democracy can serve the best interests of the people as a whole, we will be giving an effective demonstration to every Soviet representative coming to this country.
We know that democracy in our own country is not perfect. The Russians know that while communism has given them much more than they had under the Czar, it’s sill not perfect.
The question is, which group will fight more earnestly and successfully for its beliefs? We must come in contact with each other. Therefore, the battle is an individual battle to be fought by every citizen in our respective countries. The language barrier is, of course, one of the things which makes it difficult to work with the Russians. More and more they speak English. I wish I could say that more and more we speak Russian! . . .
Talking through an interpreter never encourages friendly relations. I think we feel that it is more difficult to know the representatives of the U.S.S.R. and of the Eastern European group than it is to know someone, for instance, from France, Great Britain, Italy, or any of the South American countries.
It is true, I believe, that official representatives of the U.S.S.R. know that they cannot commit their country without agreement with the Kremlin on some special program of action. It makes them extremely careful in private conversation. We who feel we can express our opinions on every subject find a Soviet representative unsatisfactory on a personal basis. This might not be the case if we met just plain, unofficial Russians who felt they had no responsibility and could converse freely on any subject with a plain American citizen!
We undoubtedly consider the individual more important than the Russians do. Individual liberty seems to us one of the essentials of life in peacetime. We must bear this in mind when we work with the Russians; we cannot accept their proposals without careful scrutiny. . . . But I am hoping that as time goes on, the differences will be less important, that we will find more points of agreement and so think less about our points of disagreement.
On the higher levels, where questions of expansion of territory, trade and influence have to be settled, I think we have to remember our own young days as a new Republic, and that Russia is a young, virile nation. She has to be reminded that world cooperation, international ownership and activity seem more important than any one country’s interests. Not an easy lesson for any of us to learn, but one that is essential to the preservation of peace.”
This same day in Hollywood, Evelyn Waugh offered a treatment for a film adaptation of one of his novels.
The theme is theological. It is in no sense abstruse and is based on principles that have for nearly 2,000 years been understood by millions of simple people, and are still so understood. But it is, I think, the first time that an attempt will have been made to introduce them to the screen, and they are antithetical to much of the current philosophy of Hollywood. It is for this reason that I venture to restate them briefly here:
1. The novel deals with what is theologically termed, “the operation of Grace”, that is to say, the unmerited and unilateral act of love by which God continually calls souls to Himself;
2. Grace is not confined to the happy, prosperous and conventionally virtuous. There is no stereotyped religious habit of life, as may be seen from the vastly dissimilar characters of the canonised saints. God has a separate plan for each individual by which he or she may find salvation. The story of Brideshead Revisited seeks to show the working of several such plans in the lives of a single family;
3. The Roman Catholic Church has the unique power of keeping remote control on human souls which have once been part of her. GK Chesterton has compared this to the fisherman’s line, which allows the fish the illusion of free play in the water, and yet has him by the hook; in his own time the fisherman by a “twitch upon the thread” draws the fish to land.
This metaphor appears twice in the novel and should be retained.
Brideshead is one of the historic English houses, the ancestral home of the Flyte family, of whom the head is the Marquis of Marchmain. Two architectural features are used in the story to typify the conflicting characteristics of the English aristocratic tradition. These are the chapel and the fountain, and I suggest that before I leave Hollywood, I should be allowed to see preliminary sketches of these two features drawn under my supervision.
The chapel in the book is a new one, and Lord Marchmain is represented as a recent and half-hearted convert to Catholicism. For the purpose of the film, the chapel should be old and part of the original castle on the site of which the baroque palace has been built. The Flytes should be represented as one of the English noble families which retained their religion throughout the Reformation period. The chapel should therefore be small and medieval, and should contain the Flyte tombs, which in the novel are described as standing in the parish church.
The fountain represents the worldly 18th-century splendor [sic] of the family. It has been brought from Italy and I see it as a combination of three famous works of Bernini at Rome, photographs of which may be found in any architectural handbook. These are the Trevi and Piazza Navona fountains and the elephant bearing the obelisk in the Piazza Minerva, which the Romans fondly call “the little pig”.
Before the story opens, Lord and Lady Marchmain have separated. The reasons for their quarrel is [sic] never specified, but it is implied that it derives from two sources. First, a personal incompatibility, which in its turn causes the internal conflict in the characters of the two children, Julia and Sebastian, who are the leading actors in the drama. Secondly, from Lord Marchmain’s revulsion and flight from his religion, which he identifies with his wife and home – a revulsion which is overcome only on his deathbed.
The Flyte family is seen through the eyes of Charles Ryder, an atheist, to whom at first their religion is incomprehensible and quite unimportant. It is only bit by bit throughout the action that he realises how closely they are held by it, and the book ends with Charles himself becoming a Catholic.
Charles is an intelligent, artistic and lonely young man whose mother died in his youth, and whose father is an eccentric and sardonically humorous scholar. The Ryders are far from poor, but, by the father’s choice, they lead a life of gloom, and Charles’s first impression of Brideshead is of its splendor [sic] and grace; in fact it is the fountain and all it represents which captivates him.
Lord Sebastian Flyte is the attractive, wayward and helpless younger son whom Charles meets in Oxford, where he, Sebastian, is the idol of the fashionable aesthetic set that was prominent in English university life in the 1920s. Charles’s romantic affection for Sebastian is part due to the glitter of the new world Sebastian represents, part to the protective feeling of a strong towards a weak character, and part a foreshadowing of the love for Julia which is to be the consuming passion of his mature years.
Sebastian has inherited something of his father’s instinct to escape from the bonds of home which, again, in his case represent the bonds of religion. The form which Sebastian’s escape takes is that of drinking, and it is important in the film to convey, as has been attempted in the book, the gradual stages of differentiation between the habits of a group of high-spirited youngsters, all of whom on occasions get drunk in a light-hearted way, and the morbid, despairing, solitary drinking which eventually makes Sebastian an incurable alcoholic…
At Brideshead, Charles meets the other members of Sebastian’s family. Lady Marchmain is a tragic figure, intelligent, attractive and devout, but quite unable to cope with the exceptional problems set her by Julia and Sebastian.
Lady Julia Flyte, when we first meet her, appears to have the world at her feet. She is preoccupied with her own affairs, primarily with the courtship of Rex Mottram… and has little use for Sebastian’s undistinguished friend. Her response to Sebastian’s progressive series of disgraces is chiefly one of annoyance.
Lady Cordelia Flyte, the youngest daughter, is intended to represent an entirely good and loving girl who finds she has no vocation as a nun, but devotes herself to a life of active good works. This character, if properly treated, should provide an answer to critics who complain that Catholic family life is being represented in an entirely abnormal manner…
The first half of the story is, in essence, the failure of Lady Marchmain. First with Sebastian, whom, with the best intentions in the world, she drives out of England to a life in the underworld. Secondly with Julia, whom she is unable to restrain from a disastrous marriage.
Rex Mottram, whom Julia marries, is intended to represent worldly ambition and success in a disagreeable form. He is the only character who, throughout the book, has no touch with religion. In representing this character it must be born [sic] in mind that although he is vulgar, pushful and unprincipled, he is not so unpresentable as to make fastidious Julia’s acceptance of him quite grotesque. Tycoons of [this] type do not flourish in Europe, and it is important that this part should not be overplayed.
It is essential to the structure of the story that Julia’s marriage to Rex should put her outside the Church. Otherwise Lady Marchmain’s tragic sorrow would appear to be mainly snobbish. In the novel Rex had been married and divorced in Canada, but if it is felt by the producer that this is leading to a too intricate network of marriages and divorces, another device might be employed… It is absolutely essential that Julia, by her marriage, should deliberately put herself in a state of excommunication. Lady Marchmain dies with a sense of complete failure, and with her ends the first half of the story.
The second half begins some years later. It is called in the novel “A Twitch Upon the String”, and it shows how the Grace of God turns everything in the end to good, though not to conventional prosperity. Sebastian finds a home in a monastery abroad. He is still periodically incapacitated by drink, and it is of course impossible for him to take monastic vows, but he becomes one of those people, not uncommon in monastic communities, half in and half out of the world, leading a genuinely mystical life among people who love and understand him.
The principal theme of the second half is the redemption of Julia, the final spur to which is her father’s deathbed reconciliation with the Church, which, if properly played, should be a finely dramatic scene.
Charles has now become a successful painter, largely through the help of a socially established wife. Whether this wife appears in the film or not does not seem to me essential, but there must be an impediment to the marriage of Julia and Charles. Otherwise since Julia’s marriage to Rex has never been ecclesiastically valid, there is no reason why she should not marry Charles and provide a banal Hollywood ending. I regard it as essential that after having led a life of sin Julia should not be immediately rewarded with conventional happiness. She has a great debt to pay and we are left with her paying it.
Charles meets Julia on board ship returning to England from America, and although they have never been close to one another, and there has been no suggestion of a love affair between them, it should be delicately suggested that both of them were conscious that they were in some way fated to be of vital importance in one another’s life [sic]. It is not the “plan” that they should be lovers, in fact the importance of which they are conscious is really that each is to bring the other to the Church; but defiantly they do become lovers.
A period follows of their love at Brideshead. On the face of it everything should have been lyrically happy. They propose to divorce their separate mates and marry; Lord Marchmain proposes to settle the property on them instead of the childless Brideshead [Sebastian], but there is a shadow across their lives, which deepens. It is Julia’s conscience, intermittently at work, combined with the fact that it is now 1938, and the world in which they live is doomed. It should be easier in the film than in the novel to suggest this mounting malaise. A moment comes when Lord [Marchmain] employs the conventional term “living in sin”, which suddenly strikes Julia’s conscience… The climax is the return of Lord Marchmain as a dying man, and I think the whole of this episode should be filmed almost directly from the novel, including the controversy about the admittance of a priest with the last sacraments.
It is important that the priest should be as unlike as possible to any priest hitherto represented in Hollywood. He must be a practical, single man. Doing his job in a humdrum way… I regard it as important that in some way it should be made plain that Charles is reconciled to Julia’s renunciation. He has realised that the way they were going was not the way ordained for them, and that the physical dissolution of the house of Brideshead has in fact been a spiritual regeneration.”
Hollywood wasn’t interested.
In the House of Commons British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin announced that the government did not see any prospect of a solution to the problems of Palestine.
Plus ca change. . .