Lot 421
  • 421

Steinbeck, John

6,000 - 8,000 USD
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  • ink on paper
Autograph manuscript, 2 pages (15  1/8  x 13  3/4  in.; 382 x 349 mm), being the outline of his film treatment for The Red Pony, [Monterey, Calif., August 1941]; dampstaining at upper margin (not affecting text).  Manuscript on pages numbered 1 and 2 in a ledger book, half red morocco gilt, some dampstaining and wear.


Benson, The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, p. 483 

Catalogue Note

John Steinbeck's detailed outline for the screen treatment of his 1933 novella The Red Pony.  In August 1941 the contract for the screenplay of  The Red Pony was signed with RKO.  Lewis Milestone, who was to direct the film, was to help Steinbeck with the technical aspects of the screenplay.  Steinbeck immediately began a synopsis in preparation for Milestone's arrival the next month in Monterey.  He wrote, "I have mapped the whole thing out and think I can see a way to make it carry the dramatic load and one which might work" (quoted in Benson).

The synopsis includes Steinbeck's thoughts on combining the plot threads of the episodic novella, characterization, filming techniques, and other elements.  He devotes a lengthy and revealing paragraph to the use of music in the film: "Now last is the music—This should be considered with great care.  Since this picture deals largely in moods, in memories, both of which are to open up an audience and drive each one into his own past.  It is suggested that the music be largely in a tone of revery and memory, that it be rich in melody, that it largely rely on cellos and soft instruments only now and then using the shrillness of fifes and the clear clean tones of flutes.  It should have an almost dream like tone .... Some of Debussy has the quality I am thinking of.  The music can help to make this picture memorable, in fact the music in some scenes can dominate the picture .... Music should be rich and simple and melodic  even if modern composers do not like melody.  This is a sentimental film openly and honestly sentimental."  The score for the film was eventually written by Aaron Copeland and was considered highly effective.

The film was not made till the late 1940s.  It was commercial and critical success, directed by Milestone, filmed in Technicolor, and starring Myrna Loy and Robert Mitchum.

There are no other entires in the ledger book, indicating that Steinbeck may have found it cumbersome.  The front flyleaf is inscribed in pencil in a large scrawling hand, "To Howard Gossage with love, John Steinbeck" and dated in ink "6 March 1963".