Transcript: An Interview with Writer Ring Lardner, Jr. | Mar 15, 1978

Elwy sits in the studio. He’s in his fifties, mostly bald with some dark hair on the sides, and he has a moustache. He wears glasses, a mustard yellow suit, a white shirt, and a striped tie.

He says RING LARDNER JUNIOR, ARE YOU
NOW, OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN
A MEMBER OF THE
COMMUNIST PARTY?

Ring Lardner Junior is in his sixties, clean-shaven and with short wavy dark hair. He wears glasses, a blue suit, cream shirt and patterned tie.

Ring says WELL, AS A MATTER OF
FACT, YES, I HAVE BEEN.
I WAS DURING A NUMBER OF YEARS
IN THE LATE '30s AND '40s.

Elwy says WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN
CIRCUMSTANCES BETWEEN MY
ASKING IT NOW AND THE LAST
TIME YOU WERE ASKED THAT
QUESTION BACK IN
1947, I THINK?
MIGHTY DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES.

Ring says WELL, THE DIFFERENCE IN
THE QUESTION AFFECTS THE
DIFFERENCE IN THE ANSWER.
THE QUESTION WAS THEN
ASKED UNDER COMPULSION.
WHEN YOU ASKED IT, I WAS FREE
TO ANSWER OR NOT ANSWER,
SO I ANSWERED YOU.
BUT WHEN IT WAS ASKED BY THE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON UN-AMERICAN
ACTIVITIES IN '47,
I DID NOT FEEL I WAS
THERE VOLUNTARILY.

A caption appears on screen. It reads “How the committee worked.”

The caption changes to “Ring Lardner Junior.”

Ring says ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WERE
SUBPOENAED THERE FROM
HOLLYWOOD WERE EITHER
SUBPOENAED BECAUSE THEY WERE
SUPPOSED TO HAVE REVELATIONS
ABOUT COMMUNIST INFILTRATION
IN THE MOTION PICTURE
BUSINESS AND WERE WHAT WERE
CALLED 'FRIENDLY WITNESSES'
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE, OR WERE
SUSPECTED OF BEING COMMUNISTS
OR COMMUNIST SYMPATHIZERS AND
CONTRIBUTING TO THIS
PROCESS OF SUBVERSION
IN THE MOVIE INDUSTRY.
AND I WAS ONE OF
THE 19 WITNESSES
IN THE SECOND CATEGORY.

Elwy says WHAT WAS THE ATMOSPHERE
IN THE ROOM
WHEN THAT QUESTION
WAS ASKED?

Ring says IT WAS TENSE.
THERE HAD BEEN A WEEK OF
HEARINGS WITH THESE FRIENDLY
WITNESSES, AND THEN ABOUT, AS
A MATTER OF FACT, I WAS THE
10th OF THE WHAT BECAME
KNOWN AS THE HOLLYWOOD 10,
SO THERE HAD BEEN SEVERAL
DAYS OF SIMILAR WITNESSES
WHO TOOK ROUGHLY THE
SAME ATTITUDE AS I DID.
THE COMMITTEE WAS BEING PRETTY
BRUSQUE AND STERN WITH US.

Elwy says WHAT WAS THE MOOD IN THE
COUNTRY AT THAT TIME, IN '47?

Ring says IT WAS CHANGING.
IT WAS A TRANSITION FROM THE
WARTIME, FROM THE ROOSEVELT
PERIOD TO THE
TRUMAN-LED COLD WAR.
I HAPPENED TO AGREE WITH
PEOPLE WHO HAVE THOUGHT
PERHAPS TRUMANISM WOULD HAVE
BEEN A BETTER NAME FOR THE
PERIOD THAN McCARTHYISM
BECAUSE I THINK HE REALLY DID
START IT WITH HIS
LOYALTY HEARINGS.

Elwy says WHAT WAS YOUR RESPONSE TO
THAT QUESTION THEN AND WHY?

Ring says MY RESPONSE WAS
SPECIFICALLY...
“I COULD ANSWER THAT QUESTION,
MISTER CHAIRMAN, I COULD ANSWER
IT THE WAY YOU'D WANT, BUT
I'D HATE MYSELF IN THE MORNING.”
AND IT WAS AN ANSWER THAT
INFURIATED MISTER THOMAS.
HE STARTED TO YELL AT ME,
SAYING 'ANY GOOD AMERICAN
WOULD BE PROUD TO ANSWER
A QUESTION LIKE THAT'.
IN EFFECT, I WAS
NOT ANSWERING IT.
I WAS DECLINING TO ANSWER IT.

Elwy says WHAT WAS THE CONSEQUENCE
OF THAT HEARING FOR YOU?

Ring says THE CONSEQUENCE OF THE
HEARING WAS WE WERE CITED
FOR CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS.
INDICTED, TRIED AND SENTENCED
TO FEDERAL PRISON FOR
SENTENCES OF ONE YEAR,
AND A 1,000 DOLLAR FINE.

Elwy says AND A FURTHER CONSEQUENCE FOR
YOU WAS BEING BLACKLISTED,
WASN'T IT?
THAT HIDEOUS TERM.

Ring says YES.

Elwy says HOW MANY YEARS?

Ring says WELL, IT WAS ABOUT
15 YEARS IN MY CASE.
IT WAS ACTUALLY 17 YEARS
BETWEEN THE SCREEN CREDITS,
BUT THAT STARTED IN '47.
BY ABOUT '62, I WAS AT LEAST
ANNOUNCED FOR A PICTURE
BY OTTO PREMINGER.
IT WAS A SCRIPT
THAT WAS NEVER MADE.
THAT WAS REALLY THE END
OF THE BLACKLIST FOR ME.
ALTHOUGH IT PERSISTED FOR
OTHER PEOPLE SOMEWHAT LONGER.

Elwy says WHO WERE THE HOLLYWOOD 10?

Ring says WELL, THEY WERE WRITERS AND
DIRECTORS AND A PRODUCER WHO
WERE MORE OR LESS ARBITRARILY
PICKED AS EXAMPLES, I THINK.
AS I SAID, THERE WERE 19 OF US
SUBPOENAED, AND THEY CALLED
OFF THE HEARINGS AFTER
ONLY TEN OF US APPEARED.
DID YOU MEAN
SPECIFICALLY THE NAMES?

Elwy says I WAS THINKING
EDWARD DMYTRYK.
A DIRECTOR I'VE LONG ADMIRED.

Ring says YES.
EDWARD DMYTRYK WAS ONE.
DALTON TRUMBO, HERBERT
BIBERMAN WHO DIRECTED A
PICTURE CALLED
SALT OF THE
EARTH
AFTER THE BLACKLIST.
THERE WAS ADRIAN SCOTT WHO WAS
THE ONE PRODUCER AMONG THEM.
ALBERT MALTZ.

Elwy says WHAT DID MALTZ DO?
HE WROTE WITH
YOU, OF COURSE.

Ring says WELL,
CLOAK AND DAGGER.
AND HE HAS ALSO WRITTEN A
COUPLE OF PICTURES DURING THE
WAR,
PRIDE OF THE MARINES
AND
DESTINATION TOKYO,
AND I THINK A PICTURE
ABOUT THE AIR FORCE, TOO.

Elwy says MAY HAVE BEEN
CALLED
AIR FORCE.
THERE WAS A MICHAEL
CORTESE FILM.

Ring says NO, HE DIDN'T DO THAT.
AS A MATTER OF FACT,
THAT WAS A SCREENPLAY
BY DUDLEY NICHOLS.

Elwy says WHAT WERE AND ARE YOUR
FEELINGS TOWARDS THE MEMBERS
OF H.U.A.C. THEN AND
NOW, LOOKING BACK?

Ring says WELL, I...

Elwy says I THINK I KNOW THE
ANSWER, BUT AGAIN.

Ring says I WAS STRONGLY OPPOSED
TO THEM AT THE TIME.
MY SUBSEQUENT EXPOSURE TO
CONGRESSMAN THOMAS IN THE
DANBURY CONNECTICUT PRISON DID
NOT INCREASE MY REGARD FOR HIM.
HE WAS A VERY PETTY
AND IGNORANT MAN.
AND I RETAINED -- I'D ALREADY
CONCEIVED AN AVERSION FOR
RICHARD NIXON BEFORE THAT
BECAUSE, LIVING IN SOUTHERN
CALIFORNIA, I KNEW SOMETHING
ABOUT HIS FIRST ELECTION
TO CONGRESS.
THE YEAR AFTER WE APPEARED,
HE RAN FOR THE SENATE AGAINST
HELEN GAHAGAN DOUGLAS,
WHOM I KNEW AND CONDUCTED A
SCURRILOUS CAMPAIGN
AGAINST HER.
SO I HAD A PRETTY GOOD PICTURE
OF WHAT SORT OF A MAN HE WAS.
AND I MUST SAY MY ATTITUDE
NEVER WAVERED OVER THE YEARS.

Elwy says ONE IOTA.
WHAT ABOUT THEN AND NOW,
A PARALLEL QUESTION HERE,
WITH RESPECT TO YOUR ATTITUDE
TOWARD
FRIENDLY WITNESSES,
AS THEY WERE CALLED?

Ring says WELL, THERE WERE ALL SORTS
OF GRADATIONS AMONG THEM.
SOME OF THEM REALLY
DIDN'T HAVE TO DO IT.
THEY REALLY RUSHED TO CLEAR
THEMSELVES AND TO DENOUNCE
EVERYBODY ELSE.
SOME OF THEM HAD CONSIDERABLE
PRESSURE BROUGHT TO BEAR.
THERE WERE PEOPLE LIKE LARRY
PARKS, THE ACTOR, WHO HAD MADE
THE JOLSON STORY, AND WAS
JUST BECOMING A STAR
WHEN HE WAS SUBPOENAED.
AND HE WAS BLACKLISTED.
AND HE WENT BACK BEFORE
THE COMMITTEE AND TRIED
TO GET REESTABLISHED.
NEVER DID MAKE IT.
I FELT SYMPATHETIC TOWARD HIM.
THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE STERLING
HAYDEN, WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF
THE CURRENT BOOK OF THE MONTH
CLUB SELECTION, NOVEL JUST
COMING OUT, WHO IS THE ONLY
MAN I KNOW WHO LATER, IN A
BOOK, IN HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY,
EXPRESSED HIS REGRET FOR
HAVING BECOME A FRIENDLY
WITNESS, AND SAID HE WISHED
HE HADN'T DONE IT.

Elwy says AS YOU SAY, DIFFERENT SCALES.
EDWARD DMYTRYK, ONE OF
THE TEN, LATER WENT BACK,
DIDN'T HE?

Ring says YES, AND DMYTRYK'S WAS
A VERY PECULIAR CASE.
I REALLY DON'T UNDERSTAND.
I THINK IT WAS ENTIRELY
OCCASIONED BY MONEY.
HE POINTED OUT AT THE TIME HE
WAS THE ONLY MAN WHO WAS NOT
A WRITER, HERBERT BIBERMAN
WHO WAS ALSO A DIRECTOR,
HAD WRITTEN TOO.
EDDIE SAID, I DON'T KNOW
ANYTHING EXCEPT THIS WORK.
HE SAYS, THERE'S NO WAY I CAN
WORK UNDER AN ASSUMED NAME.
I HAVE NEVER EVEN DIRECTED
IN THE THEATRE, JUST BEEN A
CUTTER BEFORE I WAS
A MOVIE DIRECTOR.
IT'S GOING TO BE
HARDER FOR ME.
BUT NEVERTHELESS, HE FELT HE
SHOULD GO AHEAD WITH THIS
STAND WHICH HE BELIEVED IN.
AND THEN, IN PRISON, WE WERE --
BEFORE WE WERE SENT TO
VARIOUS DIFFERENT PLACES,
WE WERE IN THE DISTRICT OF
COLUMBIA JAIL TOGETHER, AND IT
HAPPENED TO BE THE WEEK THE
KOREAN WAR HAD BROKEN OUT.
EDDIE WAS MORE SYMPATHETIC
TO THE NORTH KOREANS
THAN ANY OF US.
WE DIDN'T KNOW.
I DIDN'T KNOW HOW
THE WAR HAD STARTED.
EDDIE TOLD ME ABSOLUTELY IT
HAD BEEN PROVOKED BY THE SOUTH
KOREANS UNDER THE LEADERSHIP
OF JOHN FOSTER DULLES.
AND HE WAS MUCH MORE
RADICAL-SOUNDING THAN OTHERS
OF THE GROUP WHO WERE THERE.
AND ONLY A FEW MONTHS LATER,
WHILE HE WAS STILL IN PRISON,
JUST TOWARD THE END OF HIS
TERM, WHICH WAS ONLY HALF AS
LONG, BY COINCIDENCE, AS MINE
WAS, HE MADE THIS STATEMENT TO
THE PRESS THAT HE REGRETTED
IT, AND HE SAID IT WAS THE
KOREAN WAR WHICH HAD
CHANGED HIS MIND.
BUT LATER ON, HE INDICATED TO
VARIOUS PEOPLE THAT IT WAS
JUST FACING UP TO THE
FACT HE HAD TO WORK.
AND THE ONLY WAY HE COULD DO
IT WAS BY GOING THROUGH THIS
PROCESS OF COOPERATING.

Elwy says WHICH MEANT TO NAME
NAMES, DIDN'T IT?
IN EVERY CASE IT MEANT --
THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY TO
COOPERATE, I GUESS,
EXCEPT BY NAMING NAMES.

Ring says AND EDDIE DID IT
WITH A VENGEANCE.
HE EVEN NAMED A MAN
WHO HADN'T BEEN IN HOLLYWOOD
AT THE TIME
EDDIE WAS TESTIFYING.
EDDIE SAID HE HAD LEFT THE
COMMUNIST PARTY, HE HIMSELF,
BY 1945, AND THIS MAN HAD JUST
COME TO HOLLYWOOD IN 1946.
AND AFTER EDDIE NAMED HIM,
THIS DIRECTOR'S AGENT RAN
ACROSS EDDIE IN THE STREETS OF
BEVERLY HILLS AND SAID, YOU
REALIZE THAT MIKE WASN'T IN
HOLLYWOOD WHEN YOU SAID HE WAS.
YOU SAID HE WAS A MEMBER OF
THIS COMMUNIST DIRECTOR'S GROUP.
AND HE SAID,
'OH, THAT'S RIGHT'.
'IS MIKE SORE'?

Elwy says HOW ABOUT THAT?

Ring says I THINK IT WAS A
PECULIAR THING.
HE FELT HE HAD TO MAKE THIS
GESTURE OF GOING AHEAD AND
SERVING HIS TERM, AND THEN HE
HAD TO GO TO THE NEXT STEP OF
HIS LIFE, WHICH WAS CLEARING
HIMSELF AND GETTING BACK TO
BEING A COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR.
ANOTHER STRANGE THING, I
DON'T THINK HE EVER MADE ANY
VERY INTERESTING
PICTURES AFTER THAT.
WHEREAS, JUST BEFORE, HE AND
ADRIAN SCOTT WHO WAS A MEMBER
OF THE 10 AND MADE A
PICTURE CALLED
CROSS FIRE
WHICH WAS QUITE...

Elwy says THE FIRST FILM, I GUESS,
ON THE RACIST ISSUE.
PREJUDICE AGAINST THE JEWS.

Ring says ANTISEMITISM.

Elwy says YEAH, YEAH.
DO YOU CARRY, I KNOW YOU
PARTLY ANSWERED THIS,
BUT IN LILLIAN HELLMAN'S
BOOK,
SCOUNDREL TIME,
SHE BEARS AN AWFUL LOT
OF RESENTMENT AGAINST
FRIENDLY WITNESSES TODAY.
SEEMS THERE'S A REAL
HATE IN LILLIAN.
I'M WONDERING HOW YOU
FEEL BY COMPARISON?

Ring says I FEEL THAT ABOUT
SOME OF THEM.

Elwy says YOU CROSS THE STREET TO
AVOID RUNNING INTO THEM?
I'M WONDERING HOW FAR
YOU WOULD GO TODAY.

Ring says MANY OF MY COLLEAGUES DID.
I NEVER DECLINED TO SPEAK TO
ANYBODY BECAUSE, FOR ONE THING,
I WAS ACTUALLY QUITE
CURIOUS ABOUT THEIR MOTIVES.
SO WHEN I RAN INTO BUDD
SCHULBERG, WHO ENDED UP BEING
A FRIENDLY WITNESS, HAD
BEEN A CLOSE FRIEND OF MINE.
THE FIRST TIME I
RAN INTO HIM AFTER THAT,
I WANTED TO TALK TO HIM.
AND DID FOR HOURS, ABOUT WHY
HE HAD DONE WHAT HE DID,
AS OPPOSED TO WHY I
HAD DONE WHAT I DID.

Elwy says DO YOU AGREE, TODAY,
BASICALLY, AND I'M REFERRING
NOW TO THE ACTUAL HEARING,
AND THE WAY THE HEARINGS WENT
THAT YOU WERE INVOLVED IN,
WITH ALL OF THE VARIOUS MOVES
YOU MADE, LOOKING BACK AGAIN
AT THE STRATEGY OF HOW YOU
HANDLED YOURSELF AND
THE ADVICE YOU GOT.
DO YOU PRIMARILY AGREE
WITH ALL OF THE VARIOUS
STEPS THAT YOU MADE?
OR ARE THERE SOME ASPECTS OF
THOSE THAT, IN HINDSIGHT,
I KNOW YOU'VE ALREADY DECLARED
HERE, IN TERMS OF THE MAIN
THRUST, IT'S
ESSENTIALLY THE SAME.

Ring says YES.

Elwy says BUT ARE THERE ANY OTHER
THINGS YOU WOULD HAVE AGAIN,
REDONE, OR REMOULDED,
REFASHIONED FOR YOURSELF?
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW NOW.

Ring says WELL, I MIGHT NOT HAVE
ATTENDED ALL THOSE HEARINGS
BECAUSE IT HAPPENS THAT I WAS
NOT ONE OF THOSE WITNESSES
WHO HAD A SCHEDULED DATE TO
APPEAR BEFORE THE COMMITTEE.
BUT I WENT THERE WITH THE 19
OF US, AND NINE OF THEM WERE
NOT CALLED.
AND I WAS REALLY ONE OF
THOSE NINE WHO DIDN'T HAVE
A SCHEDULED DATE.
BUT THEY SUDDENLY
CALLED ME TO THE STAND.
AND WHEN MY ATTORNEY SAID,
HE'S NOT HERE, THAT PARTICULAR
MORNING I'D SLEPT LATE, OR WAS
IN MY HOTEL IN WASHINGTON,
THOMAS SAID, WELL, HE'S BEEN
SITTING THERE EVERY DAY.
AND THIS WAS BECAUSE THE PRESS
PHOTOGRAPHERS HAD TAKEN QUITE
A FEW PICTURES OF ME BECAUSE
MY NAME, BEING MY FATHER'S
NAME, WAS WELL KNOWN, AND
BECAUSE MY WIFE, WHO WAS WITH
ME, WAS A PRETTY YOUNG
ACTRESS, SO OUR PICTURES HAD
APPEARED IN PAPERS AND
THAT ANNOYED THOMAS.
AND THAT MADE HIM CALL ME
TO THE STAND OUT OF TURN.
SO PERHAPS IF I HAD KNOWN
THAT, I WOULD HAVE BEEN A
LITTLE MORE DISCREET.
BECAUSE I WASN'T TRYING TO
BRING THIS CALAMITY ON MYSELF.
I WOULD HAVE
PREFERRED TO AVOID IT.

Elwy says YOU DIDN'T REALLY THINK,
OF COURSE, BACK IN '47,
THE NIGHTMARE YOU LATER
SAW, DID YOU, REALLY?

Ring says OH, NO.
WE THOUGHT WE HAD A GOOD
CHANCE TO WIN THE CASE.
THAT THE COURT DECISIONS
UP 'TIL THEN SEEMED --

Elwy says YOU MIGHT HAVE IF
THERE HAD BEEN SOLIDARITY
ALL ALONG THE LINE.

Ring says WE CERTAINLY, I THINK, WOULD
HAVE, IF THE STUDIOS HAD
KEPT TO THEIR ORIGINAL
ATTITUDE OF NO INTERFERENCE,
NO GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE.

Elwy says WHY DIDN'T THEY,
REALLY, RING?

Ring says FRIGHT...
BASICALLY.

Elwy says FEAR.
YOU WERE WITH 20th.

Ring says YES, I WAS UNDER CONTRACT
AT 20th CENTURY FOX.
I SUBSEQUENTLY SUED THEM FOR
BREACH OF CONTRACT AND WON
SOME MONEY; IT WAS
SETTLED OUT OF COURT.
THERE WAS A LOT OF PUBLICITY
IN THE PAPERS BECAUSE
HOLLYWOOD IS ALWAYS GOOD FOR
PUBLICITY, AND THERE WERE SOME
BIG NAMES INVOLVED.
ESPECIALLY AMONG THE FRIENDLY
WITNESSES, WHERE PEOPLE LIKE
ROBERT TAYLOR AND
RONALD REAGAN, AND...

Elwy says EVEN GARY COOPER,
ONE OF MY LIFELONG HEROES.

Ring says YES.
WHOM I HAD JUST HAD A FRIENDLY
RELATIONSHIP THE YEAR BEFORE
ON THE PICTURE
CLOAK AND DAGGER.
WHEN HE HAD ASKED ME NOT TO,
JUST REMEMBER TO KEEP THE
LINES SHORT AND SIMPLE BECAUSE
HE WAS PLAYING A NUCLEAR
PHYSICIST IN THIS PICTURE,
BUT HE WANTED TO GET OVER THE
POINT THAT HE WAS A LIMITED
ACTOR, AND HE COULD ONLY BE
CONVINCING IN THIS PART
IF THE KIND OF SPEECHES
THAT HE COULD SAY EASILY.
ANYWAY, THAT BROUGHT A LOT OF
ATTENTION IN THE NEWSPAPERS.
THE HEADLINES SCARED THE
PRODUCERS AND THEIR BOARDS
OF DIRECTORS.
AND ALSO, I GUESS, MANY OF THE
SENTIMENTS OF THE CONGRESSMEN
IN THIS COMMITTEE WERE SHARED
BY SOME OF THESE MEN WHO
CONTROLLED THE
PICTURE COMPANIES.

Elwy says WHEN THE BANKS, OR THE
BACKERS, OR THE BOARD OF
DIRECTORS TOLD DARRYL ZANUCK
HOW TO GO WITH RESPECT TO YOU,
HOW MANY YEARS WAS IT
AGAIN BEFORE YOU ENTERED
20th CENTURY FOX TO
DO ANOTHER PICTURE?

Ring says IT WAS...

Elwy says WELL OVER 15.

Ring says OH, YES.
BEFORE I WENT BACK TO FOX,
THIS WAS '47 TO 1969.
THAT WAS 22 YEARS.

Elwy says 22 YEARS.

Ring says YEAH, BEFORE I WALKED
ON THAT LOT AGAIN.

Elwy says RING LARDNER, WHAT WAS
GOING TO PRISON LIKE?
I DON'T EVER WANT TO KNOW, AND
I GUESS NONE OF MY FRIENDS
EVER WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THAT.
BECAUSE I HAVE TERRIBLE
FEELINGS ABOUT THE THOUGHT
OF IMPRISONMENT AND BEING
DEPRIVED OF MOVEMENT
AND SHUT UP IN A SMALL SIX
BY FOUR CELL AS IT WERE.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

Ring says WELL, I DON'T KNOW HOW IT
APPLIES, IN UNITED STATES,
THE BASIC RULE IS TO GET
CONVICTED OF A FEDERAL OFFENCE
RATHER THAN A STATE OR A
LOCAL ONE BECAUSE THE
FEDERAL PRISONS ARE
ON A MUCH HIGHER SCALE
AND GENERALLY PLEASANTER
THAN THE LOCAL ONES.
THE KIND OF THING THAT OCCURS
IN A PRISON LIKE ATTICA
IN NEW YORK, AND SO ON,
DOESN'T, IS NOT AS BAD.
ACTUALLY, I DIDN'T FIND
IT ANY SEVERE PENALTY.

Elwy says MIND YOU, YOU WERE A VERY
LITERATE AND LITERARY MAN.
AND YOU DID, FROM YOUR BOOK,
YOU WORKED ON FILES AND
RECORDS, DIDN'T YOU?

Ring says YES.
I LEARNED TO TYPE
BY THE TOUCH SYSTEM.
AND I HAD TO TYPE EIGHT HOURS
A DAY FROM DICTAPHONE RECORDS
THE LIFE HISTORY
OF EVERY PRISONER.

Elwy says YOU LEARNED A SKILL.

Ring says I DEVELOPED MY TYPING SKILL AT
THE EXPENSE OF MY GOVERNMENT.
AND I ALSO GOT SOME GOOD
MATERIAL OUT OF THESE
PRISONERS' STORIES.
AND KNOWING THE FACTS ABOUT
EACH CASE, I WAS ABLE TO TEST,
TO KNOW WHICH OF THE
INMATES IN THE PRISON YARD
WERE TELLING THE
TRUTH ABOUT THEMSELVES,
AND THEREFORE BE ABLE
TO JUDGE THEM BETTER.
IT WAS A GOOD
CHARACTER INSIGHT.

Elwy says BEING AWAY FROM YOUR WIFE
MUST NOT HAVE BEEN EASY.
BECAUSE YOU WERE
THERE HOW LONG?
12 OR 11... HOW LONG?

Ring says IT WAS A YEAR SENTENCE,
BUT ACTUALLY IT WAS ONLY
NINE AND A HALF MONTHS.

Elwy says GOOD BEHAVIOUR.

Ring says THAT I SERVED, YEAH.
YES, I WAS SEPARATED FROM MY
WIFE AND GOOD MANY CHILDREN
I HAD AT THE TIME.
BUT THERE'S QUITE A DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN A SENTENCE THAT'S
MEASURED IN THE MONTHS, THAN
ONE THAT'S MEASURED IN YEARS.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO REALLY MAKE
THE KIND OF ADJUSTMENT YOU DO
TO SAYING, GOD, I'VE GOT THREE
OR FIVE OR TEN YEARS OF THIS.
THAT'S A WHOLE, YOU REALLY
WOULD HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE
FOR THAT.
BUT IF IT'S LESS THAN A YEAR,
YOU SAY THIS IS GOING TO
PASS PRETTY SOON.
IT'S JUST A QUESTION
OF GETTING THROUGH IT.

Elwy says YEARS OF BLACKLISTING,
SURVIVAL FOR YOU.
HOW DID THAT GO?
WHAT DID YOU DO
DURING THESE YEARS?

Ring says WELL, AFTER, I SPENT THE
FIRST COUPLE OF YEARS AFTER,
I STARTED A NOVEL IN PRISON
WHEN I WASN'T DOING MY TYPING
FOR THE BUREAU, AND --

Elwy says AND IT WAS FORBIDDEN TO USE
THE TYPEWRITER, WASN'T IT?

Ring says YES, I HAD TO DO
THAT IN LONGHAND.
SO I SPENT SOME TIME FINISHING
THAT NOVEL AFTER I GOT OUT
AND LIVING OFF WHAT LITTLE
ACCUMULATED FAT THERE WAS
FROM THE HOLLYWOOD DAYS.
AND THEN MOVING IN ON MY
MOTHER IN CONNECTICUT
WITH MY WIFE AND CHILDREN.
BUT THEN I GOT INVOLVED IN
WORKING FOR TELEVISION,
WORKING ON FILMS THAT WERE
MADE, FILM SERIES THAT WERE
MADE IN ENGLAND AND SOLD
TO AMERICAN TELEVISION.
AND ANOTHER BLACKLISTED
WRITER, IAN HUNTER AND I
COLLABORATED ON DOZENS AND
DOZENS OF THESE THINGS.
WE STARTED A SERIES CALLED
THE ADVENTURE OF ROBIN HOOD.

Elwy says RICHARD GREENE.

Ring says WE WROTE THE PILOT AND THE
FIRST 20 OUT OF 26 EPISODES.

Elwy says MY SONS WILL BOTH BE
DELIGHTED, THEY ARE 17 AND 22
NOW, TO HEAR THIS BECAUSE THEY
WERE RAISED ON
ROBIN HOOD.

Ring says WELL, THAT WAS ONE OF THEM.
THEN WE DID SOMETHING
ABOUT SIR LANCELOT.
AND ANOTHER ONE THAT ROBERT
SHAW GOT HIS START IN.
IT WAS CALLED
THE
PIRATES,
I THINK.

Elwy says AND WHERE DID YOU
WRITE THOSE NOW?

Ring says THEY WERE WRITTEN
IN NEW YORK.

Elwy says UNDER NOM DE PLUMES?

Ring says YEAH, BUT IT WAS
KNOWN TO THE PRODUCER.
THE PRODUCER WAS AN AMERICAN
WOMAN WHO WENT TO ENGLAND AND
STARTED MAKING THESE SERIES.
AND PART OF HER MOTIVE WAS
TO USE BLACKLISTED WRITERS.
AND IT WORKED.
THE FIRST THREE PILOTS
THAT HUNTER AND I DID
ALL SOLD TO NETWORKS.
AND ROBIN HOOD, IN PARTICULAR,
WAS QUITE A SUCCESSFUL ONE.
MY OWN CHILDREN, INCIDENTALLY,
WATCHED IT, AND WE HAD THREE
LIVING IN THE HOUSE
WITH US AT THE TIME.
THE TWO OLDER ONES KNEW THAT
I WAS WRITING THE SERIES, BUT
MY YOUNGEST SON, WHO WAS SIX
YEARS OLD, OR SOMETHING, AT
THE TIME, WE COULDN'T TRUST
WITH THE INFORMATION BECAUSE
IT WAS SO CONFIDENTIAL THAT IF
HE TOLD HIS FRIENDS IN THE
FIRST GRADE THAT DADDY
WAS WRITING
ROBIN HOOD,
IT WOULD GET
EVERYBODY IN TROUBLE.

Elwy says AS A WRITER, YOU HAD A WAY
OF SURVIVING BY YOUR PEN.
AGAIN, THE ACTOR WHO COULDN'T
WRITE HAD TO SURVIVE
ON HIS FACE.
BLACKLISTING WAS --

Ring says IT WAS
ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE.

Elwy says JOHN GARFIELD,
I'M THINKING OF.

Ring says JOHN GARFIELD WAS... HIS
CAREER WAS DESTROYED.
AND THAT OF QUITE A FEW
LESSER KNOWN ACTORS.
THERE WERE ALSO WRITERS AND
DIRECTORS WHO WERE NOT REALLY
ESTABLISHED, WHO DIDN'T HAVE
SUBSTANTIAL PRESTIGIOUS SCREEN
CREDITS, WHO WEREN'T ABLE TO
SURVIVE THE BLACKLIST PERIOD.
THEY HAD TO GO INTO ENTIRELY
DIFFERENT KINDS OF WORK.
AND BY THE TIME THE BLACKLIST
WAS OVER, THEY HAD NO BASIS
FOR GETTING THEIR JOBS BACK.
SO THEY WERE WIPED OUT OF
THE INDUSTRY FOREVER BY IT.

Elwy says WHAT IS THE WHOLE ERA, THAT
WHOLE ERA, THOSE TWO DECADES,
MEAN TO YOU NOW?
WHAT DO YOU THINK
THE MEANING OF THOSE YEARS,
THE MEANING IS TO HISTORY?
HAVE THERE BEEN GAINS?
ARE WE A WISER WORLD THROUGH
THOSE YEARS HAVING HAPPENED?
OR ARE WE BEHIND BECAUSE
THEY HAPPENED, RING?

Ring says WELL, I THINK, ON THE WHOLE,
THAT NOT MUCH WAS GAINED.
APPARENTLY, IN AMERICA AT
LEAST, PEOPLE DON'T SEEM TO
LEARN TOO MUCH BY EXPERIENCE.
I THINK THE WHOLE
WATERGATE AFFAIR HAS
DEMONSTRATED THIS AGAIN.
THAT WE HAVEN'T MADE
ANY GREAT CHANGE.
WE HAVEN'T ELECTED AN ENTIRELY
DIFFERENT KIND OF PRESIDENT.
I FEEL ALL AMERICAN HISTORY,
PERHAPS
ALL
OF HISTORY, IS
SWINGING BACK AND FORTH
BETWEEN PERIODS OF COMPARATIVE
REACTION AND
COMPARATIVE FREEDOM.
AND THAT THE ACCUMULATED
LESSONS DON'T SEEM TO IMPRESS
THEMSELVES ENOUGH ON THE
GENERAL CONSCIOUSNESS.

Elwy says DO WE CHANGE VERY MUCH, EVER,
ABOUT ANYTHING, AS HUMAN BEINGS?

Ring says I SUPPOSE NOT.

Elwy says WELL, RING LARDNER
JUNIOR., THANK YOU
FOR MAKING
YOURSELF AVAILABLE.

Ring says WELL, THANK YOU.

Elwy says FOR THE INTERVIEW, AND
EVERY GOOD FORTUNE TO YOU ON
THE LARDNERS:
MY FAMILY REMEMBERED.
AS I SAY, LADIES AND
GENTLEMEN, THE TALE YOU'VE
HEARD OVER THE LAST HOUR
FORMS A GREAT CHUNK OF THE
ENDING OF THIS BOOK.
BUT THERE ARE OTHER PARTS OF
THE BOOK, TOO, AND OTHER DAYS.
WELL, YOU'VE SURVIVED AND
YOU ARE BUSY, AND YOU ARE
WRITING, AND GOOD
FUTURE TO YOU.

Ring says THANK YOU.

Watch: An Interview with Writer Ring Lardner, Jr.