Tag Archives: Theodore Dreiser An American Tragedy

Ayn Rand on Dreiser (some thoughts)

 

In her essay “Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 1”

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-1

Marilyn Moore writes:

We know that Rand was familiar with An American Tragedy. In her 1962 essay collection The Romantic Manifesto Rand singled out the novel as an example of a “bad novel” because the plot does not support the theme. The big ideas Dreiser aimed for couldn’t be supported by the story he told.

I am not an Ayn Rand fan. Have not read her books, don’t think I would want to.

But, I think Ms. Moore’s comment (and the views of Rand underlying it) are perceptive and well worth considering.

I may try myself at some point to write more about this. Keeping in mind that An American Tragedy is a work of fiction which, despite its defects, deeply impressed me as reader and which I still admire.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  May 2022

Robert Benchley. “Compiling an American Tragedy: Suggestions as to How Theodore Dreiser Might Write His Next Human Document and Save Five Years’ Work”

 

Robert Benchley, ‘Compiling An American Tragedy’ – Life 7-1-1926 (2)

 

Posted here as a PDF document:

Robert Benchley

Compiling an American Tragedy: Suggestions as to How Theodore Dreiser Might Write His Next Human Document and Save Five Years’ Work

Life

July 1, 1926


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   May 2022

Robert Penn Warren, “An American Tragedy”

 

Robert Penn Warren, ‘An American Tragedy’ – Yale Review

 

Posted here:

Robert Penn Warren

“An American Tragedy”

Yale Review 52 (October 1962), pp. 1–15

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

John Cowper Powys review of “An American Tragedy”

 

John Cowper Powys review of An American Tragedy – The Dial, April 1926

 

Posted here (downloadable PDF above) is a review by John Cowper Powys of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

The Dial, April 1926

An editorial comment: Dreiser’s friend Powys certainly enjoyed showing off his vocabulary.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2022

Gilbert Seldes on An American Tragedy and Dreiser

 

Gilbert Seldes, ‘Mainland’

 

Posted here (downloadable PDF above) are excerpts from Gilbert Seldes, Mainland (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936).

Gilbert Seldes (1893-1970) was an American writer and cultural critic. Seldes served as the editor and drama critic of the magazine The Dial.

Seldes’s review in The Nation of Ulysses by James Joyce helped the book become known in the United States. His tenure as editor of The Dial included the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in the November 1922 issue.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2022

Leda Bauer, ‘The Revival of Dreiser”

 

Leda Bauer, ‘The Revival of Dreiser’ – Theatre Arts

 

Posted here:

The Revival of Dreiser

by Leda Bauer

Theatre Arts

August 1951

A well written and acute review of two films based on An American Tragedy and Sister Carrie.

A few observations, comments of my own; and additions to the content of the review.

At the end of the film Carrie, Hurstwood (Laurence Olivier), down and out and desperate, waits for Carrie (Jennifer Jones) at the stage door and approaches her as she is leaving. Carrie, startled, is shocked by his bedraggled condition. She ushers the starving Hurstwood into her dressing room, has food ordered for him, and gives him a generous amount of money from her purse at his request. Shocked by Hurstwood’s condition, Carrie vows to take him home with her and says she wants to resume the relationship. Hurstwood is noncommittal

Carrie leaves the room for a minute to see if she can borrow more money for Hurstwood’s immediate needs. Hurstwood puts the money already given him by Carrie back into her purse, fiddles with a gas jet, turning it on for a minute and then off, and leaves. The film ends.

In the novel, Sister Carrie, the last encounter between Hurstwood and Carrie is in Chapter XLVI.

That night … she passed Hurstwood, waiting at the Casino, without observing him.

The next night, walking to the theatre, she encountered him face to face. He was waiting, more gaunt than ever, determined to see her, if he had to send in word. At first she did not recognise the shabby, baggy figure. He frightened her, edging so close, a seemingly hungry stranger.

“Carrie,” he half whispered, “can I have a few words with you?”

She turned and recognised him on the instant. If there ever had lurked any feeling in her heart against him, it deserted her now. Still, she remembered what Drouet said about his having stolen the money.

“Why, George,” she said; “what’s the matter with you?”

“I’ve been sick,” he answered. “I’ve just got out of the hospital. For God’s sake, let me have a little money, will you?”

“Of course,” said Carrie, her lip trembling in a strong effort to maintain her composure. “But what’s the matter with you, anyhow?”

She was opening her purse, and now pulled out all the bills in it–a five and two twos.

“I’ve been sick, I told you,” he said, peevishly, almost resenting her excessive pity. It came hard to him to receive it from such a source.

“Here,” she said. “It’s all I have with me.”

“All right,” he answered, softly. “I’ll give it back to you some day.”

Carrie looked at him, while pedestrians stared at her. She felt the strain of publicity. So did Hurstwood.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s the matter with you?” she asked, hardly knowing what to do. “Where are you living?”

“Oh, I’ve got a room down in the Bowery,” he answered. “There’s no use trying to tell you here. I’m all right now.”

He seemed in a way to resent her kindly inquiries–so much better had fate dealt with her.

“Better go on in,” he said. “I’m much obliged, but I won’t bother you any more.”

She tried to answer, but he turned away and shuffled off toward the east.

For days this apparition was a drag on her soul before it began to wear partially away.

Of the two films, A place in the Sun and Carrie, I think the latter is much more faithful to Dreiser’s novel. Also, the black and white film and period details, costumes, etc. make Carrie very effective in this respect; they evoke a quality of the novel that made it so telling.

Leda Bauer (born Leda Vesta Bauer-Berg; 1898-1975) was a New York-based film critic, motion picture story editor; and a girlfriend of H. L. Mencken.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2021

from Donald Friede, “The Mechanical Angel”

 

Donald Friede, ‘The Mechanical Angel’

 

Posted here are excerpts about Dreiser from:

Donald Friede, The Mechanical Angel (New York Alfred A. Knopf, 1948)

Friede recalls his various experiences as Dreiser’s publisher, the stage production of An American Tragedy, and the trial in Boston in 1929 to suppress An American Tragedy.

Mentioned in the book are T. R. Smith (pg. 22) and George Antheil (pp. 54-55). Smith was editor-in-chief at Boni & Liveright. He was heavily involved in the editing and cutting of An American Tragedy. Antheil was an American avant-garde composer, pianist, and author.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2021

 

what was Gillette’s motive?

 

I have been studying the trial transcript of the Gillette-Brown murder case.

What about the “other woman” (Sondra Finchley in Dreiser’s An American Tragedy)?

We know that there was no such romance in actuality. But what was Gillette’s motive?

I have pointed out that Harriet Benedict, rumored to be the other woman in the actual case, with brief reports to that effect in newspapers, was not only not engaged to Gillette; she did not have a romance with him.

But Gillette and Miss Benedict (later Mrs Levi Chase) were acquainted, and witnesses in the trial transcript reported occasionally seeing them in public together.

What do I think Gillette’s motive was? It is significant that while many employees at the skirt factory in upstate Cortland, NY where Gillette and Grace Brown worked saw them flirting and talking more than usual during work hours, it was commented upon that no one ever saw them out together in public. Gillette would visit Grace in the evening at her landlady’s house.

Gillette was the poor nephew, from humble beginnings, of factory owner Noah H. Gillette, his uncle. His cousin, Harold R. Gillette, was a supervisor at the factory. (Just as in the novel, the cousin seemed to have had little personal contact with Gillette.) I think Gillette did not want his romance with Grace Brown to become known because it would ruin his chances for professional advancement and his reputation — including, perhaps, his chances of marrying a rich girl. He seemed ashamed of the relationship.

He seems to have thought that he could do away with Grace “quietly” and escape detection. Then he could have returned to the factory from his “vacation” and resume his normal life. He was definitely interested in girls and in becoming a regular, accepted member of the Cortland social set.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  November 2021

“Horace Liveright: Publisher of the Twenties” (the chapters on Dreiser)

 

 

Horace Livreright, ‘Theodore Dreiser’

 

Horace Liveright, ‘An American Tragedy’

 

 

I have posted here excepts from the following book:

Horace Liveright: Publisher of the Twenties

By Walker Gilmer

New York: David Lewis, 1979

namely, the following chapters in their entirety:

“Theodore Dreiser,” pp. 39-59

“An American Tragedy,” pp. 134-152

plus footnotes

 

— Roger W. Smith

   November 2021

 

 

Horace Liveright

“If he were alive today, I think Dreiser would resent the second treatment of his work almost as much as the first.”

 

David Platt, ‘What Hollywood Did to Dreiser’s American Tragedy’ – Daily Worker 9-23-1951 pg 7

 

Posted here (downloadable Word document above) is a review of the 1951 film A Place in the Sun:

What Hollywood Did to Dreiser’s “American Tragedy”

By David Platt

Daily Worker

September 23, 1951

The review is self-explanatory. It elucidates my own views.

A chief reason that people rave about the film is that hardly anyone who has watched it has read An American Tragedy. Therefore, they are ignorant (although they probably wouldn’t care anyway) of the shameful liberties the film takes with Dreiser’s novel.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   June 2021