Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Helen Keller

Two incredibly talented women, Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan, somehow wove communication out of some other warp than sight; some other weft than hearing.

Keller was “trebly defective”: blind, deaf, and mute.  Sullivan also faced triple obstacles: partially blind, mistreated in childhood, and parentless young. How did they manage to overcome such formidable hardships?  It couldn’t have been done with only one incredibly talented person.  Both had to be remarkable.  Both were.

Helen Keller went on to live a generous life of helping others, especially children.  She campaigned for better treatment of people with physical disabilities.  This letter, which found its way into riverrun, is of another one of her areas of interest.

The civil war in Spain, just like any war anywhere, left children without family, without country.

The sentiment in the letter is well expressed.  It is the careful signature at the bottom, though, that is so very poignant and so very admirable.  

A 1930 newsreel with Keller and Sullivan demonstrating how Keller learned talking from Sullivan.  Fascinating.

very moving newsreel of Helen Keller speaking to disabled youngsters in Australia

American Foundation for the Blind includes a biography and photos of Helen Keller
AFB bio & photos of Ann Sullivan

Article about Basque child refugees in UK

Spanish Civil War: Refugees

autobiographies of Spanish child refugees in a Quaker Home in France

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Hollywood Ten

The House UnAmerican Activities Committee was, as a phenomenon, first cousin to an oxymoron.

How could the persecution of people for what they believe possibly be considered American? Wasn't there a Big Fuss over the U.S. Constitution? All those states refused to ratify without the assurance of a Bill of Rights to protect the individual from a frivolously malicious government.  A frivolously malicious government.

Nevertheless Senator Joseph McCarthy was able to take over the reins of the HUAC and tromp over much touted American freedoms.

The government printed pamphlets of all that tromping.  riverrun recently got whole boxes of the House UnAmerican Committee Proceedings.

The Hollywood Ten and Blacklisting are representative of the havoc wrecked across many industries in many regions of the country.
In 1947, members of the movie industry were brought before the committee as accused Communists.  The accusation in itself, at that time, carried the implication of treason or near-treason. Some people squirmed and cooperated with the committee.  The Hollywood Ten didn't.  They faced inquisition because anonymous "friendly witnesses" had suggested their names to the HUAC. As a group, The Ten refused to play the HUAC game. They were jailed for contempt of congress.

Who were they?


Alvah Bessie - 1904 - 1985 - went to Columbia University - worked in theater - wrote short stories, novels and screenplays - leftist political views - volunteered in the Spanish Civil War -theater and film critc -later wrote Inquisition in Eden about his bout with the HUAC -sentenced to 12 months prison and fined $1000.

website by his son, Dan Bessie about books etc.

Herbert Biberman - 1900 - 1971 - attended Yale and Univ PA - joined Theater Guild - stage manager and director - wrote and directed B movies for Warner Bros. - 1950 served 6 months in prison and blacklisted

YouTube excerpt of HUAC bullying and Biberman resisting:

Lester Cole - born 1904 NYC – high school dropout - actor - screenwriter - one of the founders of Writers' Guild - joined ACP in 1934 - wrote many screenplays, after blacklisted could only sell screenplays under other peoples' names - wrote autobiography Hollywood Red -paid $1000 fine and served 10 months in prison and then was blacklisted

Edward Dmytryk  - 1908 – 1999 – born in Canada, Ukrainian grandparents - served time in jail but lost his resolve.  He gave the HUAC names of alleged Communists to win release from the Hollywood Blacklist. He was an employable director again. Wrote Odd Man Out: A Memoir of The Hollywood Ten about that time and some books on directing including On Film Editing which advises that every scene should begin and end with continuing action.

somewhat pitiable attempts at justifying himself + film advice:
bio and more info on the times:

Ring Lardner, Jr  - 1915 – 2000n – wrote screen plays (also books) – fined and served a full year in prison for contempt of congress – even after he was released, he had to get non-blacklisted friends to front his screenplays for him – went on to do impressive work, eventualty under his own name again.

Very nice life timeline and filmography:

somewhat scrambled info:

John Howard Lawson - 1894 – 1977 – screen writer – helped organize The Screenwriters’ Guild – worked, then later volunteered for Red Cross in World War I – formally protested Sacco and Vanzetti trial.  – he was fined, imprisoned and blacklisted for his refusal to talk to HUAC – moved to Mexico after release from jail and wrote under pseudonym.

Site set up by Lawson’s son, Jeffrey, includes bio and much more:

Intro and transcript of part of Lawson’s hearing:

Albert Maltz  - 1908 – 1985 – a talented, well-educated, and successful and rich screenwriter, Maltz struggled with ideas and creativity – he was a sympathetic member of the Communist party but bridled under the party’s push to have writers be spokesmen for the party.  In his famous essay, Maltz says, “It has been my conclusion for some time that much of the left–wing artistic activity—both creative and critical—has been restricted, narrowed, tuned away from life, sometimes made sterile—because the atmosphere and thinking of the literary left–wing had been based upon a shallow approach…" "I have come to believe that the accepted understanding of art as a weapon is not a useful guide, but a straitjacket.”

NY Times Obituary:

Accolades and bio information by an admiring family member:

Samuel Ornitz - 1890 – 1957 -  social worker for New York Prison Association and for Brooklyn Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – later a screenwriter – outspoken advocate of the Soviet Union – like the other 9, he was fined, imprisoned and blacklisted.  Later he lived in Mexico and wrote novels.

These novels were apparently more substantial and experimentally creative than generally acknowledged -- except here:


Robert Adrian Scott  - 1912 – 1973 – writer, later producer – especially film noir – after HUAC and blacklisting his second wife, Joan LaCour fronted for his screenplays.

Mini biography includes some interesting family relationships:

CIA testimony from congressional hearings:

Dalton Trumbo - 1905 – 1976 – lived in western USA – held various jobs during the depressed years – screenwriting starting in 1934 – in 1947 defied HUAC and was punished along with the rest of the Hollywood 10 - Blacklisted but was very active writing from Mexico City ad then southern California behind fronts and under assumed names -  a movie written under the assumed name, Robert Rich, won an Academy Award which presented a puzzle since award winner “Rich” seemed mysteriously non-existent.  The award ceremony was in 1957 – 3 years after Senator Joseph McCarthy had been censured by the Senate for his wild excesses.  Trumbo revealed himself behind the fake name.  Shortly afterwards he was credited for several other hits and the lengthy decade of Hollywood Blacklisting was effectively over.

San Francisco Chronicle – includes photographs:

American Masters biography:

American Communist Party

A lengthy and extremely interesting article, including several YouTube documentaries and extensive quotations both sympathetic to and horrified by McCarthyism