The exact date of this episode is unknown. We've filled in the date above with a placeholder. What we actually have on record is: 1965-uu-uu.
This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
The program opens with Maurice Dolbier's Marquis Childs. He speaks of espionage and the United States. He also discusses the rise and fall of power in recent history - such as the fall of the British Empire. Childs describes the plot of his novel, "The Peacemakers."
Dolbier then introduces Dr. Han Suyin, he describes her unique Belgian-Chinese heritage. speaks of midwifery during the war in China. She discusses how she began writing, noting that all her books thus far have been "accidental." She notes that her critical successes are not the works she is most fond of. She describes researching her most recent book around the world - from China to Europe to the United States. She describes her autobiography - of which she has written the first two volumes - as being a record of her family, rather than only of herself. She also notes her renewed belief in Daoism.
Finally, Dolbier introduces television and stage actor William Redfield, author of "Letters from an Actor", a recollection of his work in the renowned 1964 international stage production of Hamlet, starring Richard Burton and directed by Sir John Gielgud. Redfield describes how he became an actor at the age of 9, and how this lead to his adult career. He also notes his lifelong love of reading and writing.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71303
Municipal archives id: T957
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
So John Gill Good's production of Hamlet which opened in New York in April nineteenth sixty four made he had a history in a number of ways in the first place its one hundred eighty five official performances for months and six weeks on the road set a new Hamlet record. In the second place its production concept was a novel when the play being staged as though it were a pre-draft rehearsal run through and in the third place for the theater played to capacity the people inside the theater were outnumbered by those who gathered outside two thousand or more likely in the hope of glimpsing not only Mr Richard Burton but Mrs Richard Burton. This may also have been the first time in Hamlet's history that an actor playing the role of Guildenstern was given stop billing. That actor was William Redfield Mr Redfield except for two years in the infantry has been on the stage all before the cameras since he was nine years old when he made his debut at the blue theatre in Swing your lady he's a charter member of the Actor's Studio his stage appearances have included our town junior miss out of this world A Man For All Seasons and Montserrat in which he played the title role which Richard Burton later played in London his recent motion pictures have included moratoria do want to blow in fantastic voyage he has performed frequently in television and most lengthy lay on the soap opera as the Wilton's as Dr Tim Cole Dr Cole was killed off after two years on Mr Redfield could go on to something else. But he still gets letters at the network from broken hearted listeners. Mr Read He was one of those rare fellows in his profession a good actor who is also a good writer and letters from an actor aside from its interest is a first hand account of the gill good Briton hamlet from first rehearsal to New York first night is a penetrating sensible and helpful description of the life the challenges the ideals and the prospects of the working actor in today's changing theater will entrance cue for Mr William. Thank C is just too loud that sound right. Thank you Mr Dog here I find myself in distinguished company both hands so you and Mark was childs or professional writers a vast experience and considerable reputation I am flattered to share this platform with them and I am gratified to have been asked to speak to you today being in some respects a commemoration of what was originally a lover's festival I would prefer to keep my remarks light and gay but it is my habit to be discontent as well as my hobby it is also true that light hearted remarks though easy to swallow do not stick to the rips Now what I would really like to do is stick to your ribs without making you sick I am an actor who has written a book more accurately stated I'm an actor who has written many books and finally got one published. The awful truth is that I have been writing with more or less regularity since I was thirteen years old during the same period I functioned as an actor having begun my professional career at the age of nine In other words I was a child actor that most curious of creative creatures and I eventually found myself an adult actor almost by default. That is to say I achieved my majority with a ready made profession at hand and some degree of success in my position I did not choose my profession it was thrust upon me I do not say that this was a bad thing I say only that it confused me during those twenty seven years between my being thirteen and forty I set down something over a million words and my estimate is likely conservative my lack of success in these writing endeavors was majestic even epic or at least I choose to think of it in such dramatic turn. Now this information is not presented in the interests of autobiography pleasing though it may be for me to chatter on about myself but only to emphasize once again that writing is a difficult business takes a good deal of practice as well as a good deal of failure and can be successfully brought off by very few children nevertheless in my spare time whenever the hounds of financial responsibility did not pursue my fleeing body too closely I wrote I also read I do believe that the love of reading lead inevitably to the love of writing reading is a form of nourishment when a well known group of post-war writers insisted that it was not books which fathered books but life itself Truman Capote he replied but how can they write if they do not read when he was presented with the evidence of countless rolls of paper towel spilling over the edges of wide carriage Smith Corona as he said but that's not writing that's typing Actually I prefer life to books of push comes to shove but I think that Mr quality is basically correct and that writers need books almost as much as books need writers well a catheter made no secret of her habit of reading a few pages of the Bible before she sat down to work. You know water as she has been quoted to get myself in touch with fine probes Scott Fitzgerald's advice to his daughter is equally famous a good style simply doesn't form he said unless you absorb half a dozen top flight authors every year as for me I absorb them all and that is to say I absorbed a great deal eventually I even learned how to steal and that's part of writing too during the final editing of the manuscript which resulted in letters from an actor I confronted Harold Clurman at a social occasion Harold I said I have read you carefully and listen to you carefully and now I have robbed you blind Mr Clement nodded and smiled one of the most important things a writer can learn he said is to steal from the right people. This was not only a kindly remark it turned out to be good advice when an extract from my book was published in The New York Times My allowed to refer to that paper in this company an uproar ensued because I had publicly publicly regretted the confinement of modern Brando's overwhelming talent to the Motion Picture medium will be turned out that my opinion of Brando is the finest actor of the mid twentieth century collided with a number of people's evaluation of motion pictures as the mid twentieth century are two weeks later Harold Clemen wrote in the World Journal Tribune thank goodness. That motion pictures and television were probably marvelous media but that they did not serve actors well and that Marlon Brando a major talent was now a mere shadow of himself to my knowledge there has been no subsequent furor at all I can only conclude that Mr Carmen's many valuable pronouncements over the years are now considered expected whereas mine somewhat pick pocketed from him in the first place all right surprise. This both flatters and appalls me still it demonstrates the debt each writer owes to every other I would like to think that I am original in fact and I am but I would be both a liar and fool if I did not acknowledge the influence upon me of one hundred writers if not a Thousand Well this leads me with an exhausted intake of breath to what I would really like to talk about what writing is why it is what it is and why I'm really here if I'm really here only to introduce myself and advertised my book and there's a little more decide I'm here you know about my book that's that there are certain principles involved in both the loving of books and the writing of them these principles quite demonstrably intertwined with one of the necessities of writing how is one to sell one's books how is one to make a living as a writer while remaining true to what one believes of bookmaking as an art for that matter HOW is one to cause a furor I do not write books to make money not that I would like to do so but it is worth noting that I do not have to do so I have another method of making my bread to say which method of breadmaking I prefer is to belabor the labor a personal question but to deal with ideals is not only significant it is the guts of my argument I believe a man to be an opinion whatever opinions I hold and I do indeed hold them with gritty insistence they measure me as a man as a human being they have come to me these opinions out of a measurable number of years. The years involved pressure necessity exposure and the propensities of my nature eventually a number of writers teachers artists relatives lovers friends freaks of nature experiences and even taxi cab drivers combined to evolve this set of opinions I have them now they're mine. I'd like to believe that they are flexible and changeable and I honestly believe they are but I must also cling to them with some degree of tenacity for they are like freedom a hard boiled thing I love the world of books because books are fundamentally a man and a man communication one mind meets another and there are no committees in between committees tend to dilute if not distort the original thrust of a conviction the edges of the opinion grow ragged and therefore the vision is finally blurred a camel is a horse drawn by a committee but books contain the possibility of a truly uncorrupted union between the author and the reader whether that union is intellectual emotional pictorial or poetic is up to the tastes of the two What is more important is that if the union is strong enough and total enough we discover at least part of what we mean by a work of art an art of course is a self-conscious word especially since one of America's best guarded traditions has been to make it pay its own way and since it is still an arguable matter whether heart with a capital A is all that valuable when there are other things after all such as paying one's bills purchasing a decent amount of creature comforts doing as well as the next fellow believing that life is worth living and enjoying a sensibly structured existence which would include for most of us love marriage and the rearing of children add to these things a proper supply of decently aged whiskey and occasional dram of imported per two or three sheep bonnets per year a good after dinner cigar and who on earth needs are especially serious are heavy aren't probings and wonderings complaints confusions follies doomed romances tragedies of missed opportunity deep brown studies of rejection in defeat. In other words Haven't we had enough of Matt bath and learned all we need to know from him if not we have certainly been bruised deeply enough by Dostoyevsky not to invite Him into our comfortable homes where he will where he will probably get very drunk complain of his losses at roulette make our children miserable and probably even shatter some valuable crystal art be damned let's have some fun is it not sufficient to a well rounded life then to confine our entertainments to Dean Martin's television show he certainly an amusing man and he seems rather nice when the boob and occasional visit to a genuinely entertaining briskly paced musical comedy and the purchase of whatever books for reading then move along in a sprightly fashion and don't make us work so hard what is all this holy holy business about art in the Great American Novel in the future of the American theater and a lot of blah blah blah aesthetic gungho which seems perhaps designed only to beef up the financial emoluments for serious artists at the expense of their more entertaining less pretentious brothers who at least know how to sell their goods in the marketplace aren't we perhaps being Bam food sold into believing that the less immediately a man entertains us the more important he is. In My Fair Lady Henry Higgins cries out why can't the English learn to speak with a mere twist of the tongue we might cry out Why can't the artists learn how to swing a lick confusion of art with pretentiousness this cursed each one of us down through the corridors of time yet in the current era many of us have got so sick of pretentiousness that we find it difficult to take seriously a pretense that important effort success is what counts. If a book be written let it be a bestseller or let the author recognize him self as less than the best if a play be put on let it be a smash hit or let it be lost to the libraries when a man like Eric Bentley persists in digging up neglected plays and gathering them into books Walter Kirk cries out in despair you worship failure to which Mr Bentley rather lamely replies Well you worship success and what is touching in the argument is that both men are right though I tend to believe that Mr Bentley is the writer of the well look here though hasn't it always been so that any artist must find a public and please that public has not always been so that the artist must be just enough of a business man to realize that without an audience he simply doesn't exist even Shakespeare discovered that he could best support himself by owning a piece of the Globe Theatre he was an unusually good businessman for a major artist but he actually made his money not from the play. But from the prosperous theatre which showed his plays as well as those of Webster Middleton Decker and Marlowe No it's not a new problem the artist for which read author a painter actor playwright or what you will must be either rich or willing to endure the privations of being pool he can prostitute his talents by writing down which is not so easy a matter is saying that he will do so or he can catch money from wealthy relatives or do whatever profitable Labor seems most appropriate to support himself while he composes works of art rather than pastime. If he is a popular artist he can sit back and believe the praise of his banker or he can painfully reexamine his work and decide for himself to what extent he is using the best of himself. One of the really sweet things in life is to discover that one has done something that is both good and popular on such a day as that firecrackers should be set off and party should be given for entire cities but the author him self must know the difference Graham Greene spent many years marking his various works with definitions the Ministry of Fear was marked as an entertainment a burnt out case was marked as a novel some critics have said that the Ministry of Fear is a better book than a burnt out case I agree that it is but I have nothing but admiration for green system of definitions a man who knows what he is doing and why he is doing it need not fear being contradicted by his critics or his public William Faulkner never liked sanctuary because he deliberately wrote it to make money the book is always been his bestseller and more than a few serious readers regard it as his best book The fact that sanctuary may have entertained or even unlikely more readers than did Absalom Absalom of the sound and the Fury is not the point not at least from Faulkner's place a vantage had he ever abandoned that position he would have been in a very serious sense retired I believe that authors must be not only entertainers but more than entertainers in fact they must be leaders they must even to some extent be snobs at any