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    Kirk Douglas Typed Letter with Secretarial Signature. Dated October 9, 1968.
    Contains notes and thoughts regarding a never completed screenplay entitled, Summertree, that Douglas had hired McKuen to write in order to give his son Michael Douglas his first leading role. Closes with "Dictated but not Read" which would suggest a secretarial signature. Two pages, each measuring approximately 10.5 x 7.5 inches. Indention from paper clip at upper left corner. With two horizontal folding creases. Light staining. Also includes 5 x 7 inch black and white press photo of Douglas and wife Anne. Global Photos: 1968. Overall very good. From the Estate of Rod McKuen.


    More Information:

    Rod Mckuen relates the background story:

    "I have two unproduced screenplays and one that I never completed. Here's the skinny on the first. Although I had performed at several State Dinners at The White House (notably during The Kennedy Administration) my first paid engagement in Washington, DC was at The Cellar Door in 1968 or '69. To my amazement and delight my two weeks stand was sold out weeks in advance and I found it hard to get tickets, even for my friends.

    Enter Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Society of America -- he had also been Nixon's Press secretary. His old friend Kirk Douglas was in town and wanted to catch the show and meet with me afterward. Douglas had a project in mind. Never mind the tickets, Valenti had already arranged for them (such is the pull of a Washington insider.)

    The next night the pair showed up and caught the late show. Afterward Kirk marshaled me off to his hotel where he proceeded to try to talk me into writing the screenplay for "Summertree," an off-Broadway play he had bought the rights to for his son Michael's first screen role.

    The meeting went on and on and didn't end until dawn. I kept saying that while I was flattered and thrilled to be considered for such an important job, I knew nothing about writing films and didn't have the time or even the inclination to start now. He was very persuasive but I stood firm. I was in the middle on a concert tour and because I was the flavor of the season I had more work than I could reasonably attend to.

     "Where's your next engagement," he asked.

    "New York," I replied.

    "I'll be there," he said.

    Sure enough when I got to my hotel there were roses and a note wishing me good luck on the shows and asking when we could get together. Roses arrived every day afterward. Jeeze, I was being courted by Kirk Douglas. Sure, it was for business reasons but I felt like a debutante.

    Cut to the chase. After more New York meetings and several on the West Coast, I gave in and agreed to adapt "Summertree." Several weeks went by and many false starts. Finally I called Kirk and told him that I just couldn't get a handle on it.

    "Forget the play," he said. "Throw it out the window, keep the title and write me something original with the same theme." Huh?

    "Summertree" is a good play and makes a strong antiwar case, much like one of my favorite early Douglas films, "Paths of Glory." Making my own statement about war appealed to me even though I had to use someone else's title. Three weeks later I had completed the first draft. Pleased with myself I messengered it to Kirk and an hour later he called full of adjectives praising it. "Wonderful, wonderful," he kept repeating.

    He had some notes and ideas for miner changes. "Bring 'em on." After all I was a novice and very much willing to take any advice from one of Hollywood's most successful actors and producers. I didn't care if the changes were major. For the next ten days or so pages and pages of note arrived on a daily basis. I set to work employing the changes I agreed with and ignoring those I didn't. I even canceled some concerts to give me a little more time. My editor, Nan Talese at Random House was not amused because the publication date on my next book had to be postponed. But being married to a writer (Gay Talese) she understood writers and stayed in my corner.

    In a month I had finished a second draft of "Summertree". I had been sending Douglas completed pages all along and we met many times to discuss them. Overall he seemed pleased and offered intelligent and knowing criticism.

    I sent the new draft off to Douglas and for the next six weeks or so didn't pay much attention to what was or was not happening with the script. I had resumed my concert tour and spent my days completing the new book. One day my secretary sent me a copy of a press release that had just appeared in the trades. Actor Anthony Newley had been signed to direct Michael Douglas in "Summertree." I figured Kirk or Tony would be calling soon and went on about my business.

    A while later a telegram arrived from Freddie Fields, Kirk's agent (and mine, since I didn't have one for screenplays when I started working on the film Douglas suggested his own.) The telegram informed me that "Mr. Douglas" had decided to go another way with the film and would like the money he had advanced me for my work returned.

     I called Fields immediately reminding him that he had negotiated an iron clad "play or pay" contract for me and that I not only had no intention of paying back the advance but was owed another $30,000.00 as final payment.

    I didn't mind that Kirk for whatever reason had soured on my fledgling effort but I planned to fight to the death to get paid for my work. A check for the remaining monies arrived promptly along with the return of the right to my script. I fired Fields and turned all my negotiations for writing projects over to my talented and able friend Helen Brann who had just opened her own agency. I never looked back and the Brann/McKuen team has had a long string of successes.

    My friendship continues with Kirk and Michael. Freddie and I still share a martini once a month. Contrary to popular folklore one of the better things about Hollywood is that deals seldom get in the way of friendships." - Rod McKuen "This One Does it for Me!" Flight Plan, Wednesday 18th August, 2004. Website: http://www.rodmckuen.org/flights/180804.htm



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    12th Thursday
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