William Faulkner, under contract to Warner Brothers in Burbank, left Oxford for Los Angeles in early June of 1945 and planned to stay until October. During this last stay in a city he came to hate, Faulkner stayed at the home of his friend, screenwriter "Buzz" Bezzerides, and his family. He rose early in the morning and worked on the novel that was to become A Fable. At Warners he produced the screeplay for Stallion Road from a novel by Stephen Longstreet. He hoped it would it become a vehicle for his friends Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, but to his disappointment, the roles went to second-tier actors Ronald Reagan and Alexis Smith. When the film was released, Faulkner sent a telegram to Reagan saying, "My horse didn't like it." He helped Jean Renoir, a director he greatly admired, rewrite several crucual scenes in his film The Southerner. During this time, he also renewed his romantic relationship with Meta Carpenter.
In addition to Stallion Road, Faulkner reports that he has "[s]pent two weeks working at night and on weekends fixing up a picture for Ginger Rogers," "[s]pent two other weekends writing a 50 page story with Bezzerides which we hope to sell to Howard Hawks." "I'm doing all this to try and make enough money to get the hell out of this place and come back home and fix Missy's [Jill's] room and paint the house and do the other things we need."
Estelle and Jill stayed in Oxford and Faulkner promised to write them weekly. In these letters, he tries to deal with problems at Rowan Oak from the West Coast. "Doing the best I can from this distance," he writes. The Faulkners' butler and tenant "Uncle Ned" Barnett is overfeeding the livestock and will not let Estelle have any corn for canning; the key to the safe deposit box cannot be found; money is needed for school clothes for Jill, etc. In order to remedy the shortage of money in Oxford, Faulkner writes a letter to "Ruby" at the bank in Oxford and includes it within the body of the 21 August letter. He prefaces it by telling Estelle, "If you can't find the [key]ring at once, take this letter to Ruby at the bank." To Ruby, he writes, "Please let Estelle have what sum she wants, on presentment of this letter. This is an emergency. After she draws this sum, she will return to the constant arrangement. She will sign a tab for the money, so you do not need to keep this letter as the check." In addition to the cares of home, he frets over his attempts to dismiss his Hollywood agent: "I have also been engaged in a battle to get rid of the agent [William] Herndon and get myself more salary from the studio." To add to his pressures, he faces a difficult commute each day. "… I spend 3 hours every day on busses getting back and forth from Bezzerides' house to the studio, since he's not working now and does not drive me in his car."
The brightest note in the letters is the postscript and drawing for Jill in the 26 July letter. On an earlier stint in Hollywood, Faulkner had taken Estelle and Jill with him and had arranged for Jill to ride a horse named Lady Go-lightly daily at a riding club. Jill had fallen in love with the horse and asked for news of her. Faulkner writes in pencil, "Lady is fine. I'll try to remember the groom's name. He looks like a young cowboy, like this." Here Faulkner has drawn an arrow to a pencil drawing of a tall figure in ten-gallon hat, jeans and boots. In a letter to her father, Jill pleaded, "Pappy, I've got to have that horse. It hurts my heart." Rather than wait till October to return to Oxford, Faulkner took unauthorized leave of Warner Brothers on 18 September. He bought Lady Go-lightly from stable owner Jack House. He then purchased a horse trailer and arranged for House's son, Newt, and his wife, to drive him back to Mississippi, pulling the horse trailer behind their Cadillac. The entourage left Los Angeles on 21 September and arrived in Oxford four days later. Although Faulkner would work on the film Land of the Pharaohs in Europe and Egypt and on a few television scripts in New York, he would never again return to Hollywood for the screenwriting work he so strongly disliked.
These letters were written at the time when the Potsdam Declaration, urging Japan to surrender, was drafted (26 July); the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima (6 August) and Nagasaki (9 August); and Japan surrendered (15 August). None of these events, however, is recorded in the letters Faulkner wrote home to Rowan Oak. It would be five years before he would publicly assess the impact of the atomic bomb in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Stockholm.
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