It is timely that in the week
which saw the writer Salman Rushdie publish his long awaited memoirs, that I
should come across the following press cutting as part of box-listing a
collection. The cutting details a visit made by Rushdie to Dublin in 1993. This
visit took place, of course, during the very height of the controversy and
consequent 'Fatwa' out on the life of Rushdie owing to the publication of his
novel the Satanic Versus, on January 15th 1993, with the press
cuttings, taken from the Irish Press, dated the following day.
The Article reads: "There
was a marked security presence at Trinity College last night where the writer
defied death threats to appear at a conference on censorship and
democracy." Rushdie met in private with President Mary McAleese and other
leading Government and political figures earlier in the day though then
Taoiseach Albert Reynolds "declined to meet the writer" and these
meetings had been subject to a "news blackout".
Rushdie's recently published memoir
is entitled Joseph Anton - both names
coming from the forenames of Conrad and Chekhov and was also the cover-name
that Rushdie operated under when under fear of threat to his life.
The eagle-eyed among you may spot
a familiar face at the talk by Rushdie on the second page of coverage, none
other than Bono!
To get you all in a suitably festive mood ahead of the Culture night events happening this Friday 21 September, here is a video interview with playwright Thomas Kilroy conducted by Prof. Adrian Frazier, College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies, NUI Galway, to mark the cataloguing of the Kilroy Archive in 2011. It is a wonderful interview and offers great insights in Kilroy the man as well as Kilroy the Playwright. At 6pm, this Friday Culture Night, there will be a talk exploring the archive of Thomas Kilroy which is proudly held by the James Hardiman Library.
All our events are being staged at the Huston School of Film and Digital Media and run throughout the evening. For more details and for booking enquiries ring 091 493353 or email barry.houlihan@nuigalway
Huston, Sartre and the Freud Scenario : The story behind an item from the NUI Galway archives' Huston Family Collection.
of John Huston's 37 feature films are literary adaptations however perhaps one
of the most interesting items in NUI Galway's Huston Family archive is an
original screen play for Huston's 1962 release Freud: the Secret Passion.
The original screenplay was written by renowned French philosopher and writer
Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre's manuscript in
NUI Galway's archive which includes 'corrections' by John Huston runs to over
700 pages, however Sartre refused to have his name associated with the film
when it was released following a dispute with Huston over the script.
first encountered Sartre in Paris in 1952 during the filming of Moulin Rouge and considered him to be an
ideal person to script a film about the life and work of Sigmund Freud because
he 'knew Freud's works intimately and would have an objective and logical
approach.' Ironically both Sartre and
Huston considered themselves anti-Freud for largely the same reason: Sartre
because as a Communist he believed the role of the psychoanalyst was limited
and of little social importance. For his
part Huston felt that psychoanalysis was an indulgence for bored house wives
and the problem children of the rich while the 'movers and shakes' were too
busy for it and those that most needed it couldn't afford it.
motivated by the need for cash to sort out his tax affairs agreed a fee of
$25,000 to write the script of Freud and
delivered a 300 page first draft in French in late 1959. Huston calculated that if a film was produced
from the 300 page script it would be over 5 hours long. The storyline centred on the development of
Freud's theory of the Oedipus Complex, exploring each 'wrong alley' Freud went
down while developing the theory. While Huston agreed with the general approach
he felt that there was too much material for a single film. After corresponding with Sartre for several
weeks Huston invited him to St. Clerin's , his home in Galway, for two weeks in January 1960.
Sartre and his 'multilingual Arab girl secretary'
consisted of daily meetings aimed at reducing the length of the script. The two men's recollections of the visit
differ considerably. Huston describes Sartre
as a man who talked incessantly taking notes of his own words. As Huston remember it "You'd wait for him
to catch his breath, but he wouldn't.
The words came out in an absolute torrent. You might be able to catch him
off guard and get in a point, but if he answered you at all -which was seldom-
he would resume his monologue." On one occasion Huston left the room during
one of Sartre's monologues, returning some time later to find him still
talking. A woman who Huston describes as
Sartre's 'secretary – a multilingual Arab girl' (in fact Arlette Elkaim-Sartre
an Algerian adopted by Sartre , who later edited many of his works) would type
up Sartre's notes in English and circulate them. According
to Huston Sartre was 'as ugly as a human being can be' always dressed in a grey
suit, black shoes, white shirt, tie and vest.
These clothes which he wore from when he came down for breakfast in the
morning until last thing a night were always impeccably clean. Huston wondered if perhaps Sartre had several
identical grey suits and white shirts. One
morning Sartre appeared with a swollen check resulting from a bad tooth. Huston offered to take him to his dentist in
Dublin. Sartre insisted on going to a
local dentist in Galway. He was out in a
few minutes having had the tooth pulled.
According to Huston "the physical world [Sartre] left to others;
his was of the mind. He was by the way,
very heavy into the pills. I think he
had to be to keep going at his pace.'
screened Let There Be Light his 1945 documentary about U.S. soldiers suffering
from psychiatric problems following combat in World War II. Sartre was fascinated by the scenes in the
film which depicted hypnosis and Huston who had learnt the technique during the
process of making the documentary offered to demonstrate on Arlette, 'an easy
subject' who was hypnotised by Huston without difficulty. When Sartre then put himself forward for hypnosis
Huston found him 'hypnotically impregnable ...occasionally you encounter someone
like that '.
memories of the two weeks of script meeting were somewhat different. In his letters home to his wife Simone de
Beauvoir in Paris he describes the Galway countryside: "Everywhere you go,
ruins, which range with no warning from the 6th century to the 20th . . . Only
the presence of grass proves that an atom bomb wasn't dropped there . . . one
step away from lunar, precisely the interior landscape of my boss, the great Huston.
" While Huston wondered about
Sartre's monologues and grey suit (or suits) Sartre wrote of Huston "...in moments of childish vanity, when
he puts on a red dinner jacket or rides a horse (not very well) or counts his
paintings or tells workmen what to do. Impossible to hold his attention five
minutes: he can no longer work, he runs away from thinking." According to Sartre's account of the incident
when Huston suddenly walked out of a meeting leaving Sartre with Arlette and another
house guest, Sartre noticed Huston's
departure but kept talking to avoid an embarrassing silence.
Huston did manage to discuss a few cuts in the script, Sartre returned to Paris
to make them. Huston wasn't surprised when
the revised script which arrived by post was even longer than the first draft. Huston was now presented with two problems
with the script: it was way too long and Universal studios who were funding the
project would only make the film is it could get past the censors (which would
necessitate additional changes). Huston
first enlisted a professional screen writer Charlie Kaufman to help him amend
the script, however Huston found Kaufman
was intent on following the pattern of most 'biopics' of time. 'The protagonist
is invariably a hero, and loveable to the point of banality. This was the very opposite of the sheet
lightning and sulphur I had in mind.'
Huston was eventually able to produce a workable script from Sartre's
draft with the help of the German producer and screenwriter Wolfgang Reinhardt.
Montgomery Clift as Sigmund Freud
Sartre the final 190 page script for comment.
When Satre read it he sent word back that he no longer want to be
associated with the project. When pressed
for a reason Sartre replied with a letter full of recriminations. He questioned Huston's understanding of Freud
saying that he should have listened more to Reinhardt who Sartre felt knew more
about Freud than either of them. Production and release of the film went ahead
without Sartre getting any screenwriting credit (in accordance with his own
wishes). The film was released in 1962
following a more difficulties between Huston and the film's star Montgomery
Clift who as well as suffering from an alcohol problem had his own opinions
about Freud having himself spent many years in analysis. Sartre's original script was eventually
published posthumously in 1984 as Le
Scénario Freud in French and The Freud Scenario in English
The manuscript of Jean Paul-Sartre's original script for Freud is available for consultation in the James Hardiman Library NUI.
A full descriptive list for the Huston Family Collection is available here
An online exhibition including some pages from the Sartre's draft can be viewed here
The opening scene from Sartre's manuscript for Freud. The full manuscript is available for consultation at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway
Scence from John Huston's Freud: the Secret Passion. Freud has more success with hypnosis than Huston did with Sartre.
John Huston (1980) An Open Book Knopf, New York. pp 294-305
Ronald Hayman (1986) Writing Against: A Biography of Sartre , Wiedenfeld and Nicolson. 323-340.
'The misfits: when Sartre met Huston in Galway' The Irish Times, January 6, 2009 Tuesday, FEATURES; Pg. 14