[ L. A. G. Strong, British author. ] 24 Signed Letters (5 of them in Autograph and 19 Typed) to Margaret Greenwood, mainly regarding her efforts to adapt his books for film. With copies of 26 letters from her to him.
A total of 50 items, all but the three earliest of Strong's letters held together with a brass stud. The collection in good overall condition, on lightly aged and worn paper. Strong's 24 letters total 37pp., with the early letters signed 'L A G Strong' and the later ones 'Leonard', and occasional variant signatures in between ('Leonard Strong', 'LAGS'). The copies of Greenwood's 26 letters (two in autograph, the rest typed) total 32pp. An interesting correspondence, in which Strong responds with tact and patience to his inexperienced correspondent's proposals and actions. Strong had considerable experience, not only as a publisher with Methuen, but also in the film business: for example, his own novel 'The Brothers' was made into a film in 1947, and he also worked on the script of the David Niven comedy 'Happy Ever After' (1954). The three earliest of Strong's letters date from 1946, and concern her request to work as his secretary. In the first, on Methuen letterhead, 8 August 1946, he explains: 'During the war, my wife has typed my MSS – but of course, I have had to do them & my letters all longhand: no dictating: with great loss of time. | I'm longing to be able to dictate letters & start work, radio scripts, etc: BUT we have no room in the house for a secretary to live in: there is no room locally: so that, since the war stopped, I've still been able to do nothing about it. | What I want at the moment is somewhere in London, with but one room & typewriter, to which I could go on three or four mornings a week – for a start, at any rate.' The next two letters indicate that the scheme fails for want of accommodation. The rest of the correspondence dates from between 1949 and 1952, with Greenwood explaining (7 March 1949) that she has 'left the Bank at last and for the past few months have been working as Secretary to Mr. Robert Donat, the actor. I have always been interested in writing, as you (perhaps regretfully) may remember, and have never quite given up on the idea. On entering the film business I found, at least I hope so, a good outlet for this ambition. Yes, writing film scripts!' She explains that she has teamed up with a former secretary of his 'and started a script writing concern which we called “FILMPLAY”. I did a script of Hugh Walpole's “Rogue Herries” for Robert Newton, which greatly interested him […]'. In response to her request that he let her have 'a go' at working on one of his novels, whilst sending him samples of her work, he replies (10 March 1949): 'I am appalled by your industry and optimism in making scripts for which you have no contract! […] If you can interest a producer in Trevannion or The Bay or any of my books, then I shall be only too glad. There are enquiries after Trevannion, but nothing at all defininite, and the market is wide open. Cecil Parker is a good idea – but I think Ralph Richardson an even better?' On 28 May 1949, in a five-page autograph letter, he strikes a note of disapproval: 'I'm afraid I didn't much care for your synopsis of TREVANNION – which has a complete misstatement in the first sentence, by the way – but at the same time I didn't want to hinder you from trying to place it with a producer. […] I am shocked by your letter to Eric Portman. Honestly, I cannot have my book touted around in this undignified way; <?> apart from the fact that Portman would not at all suit the character, nor the character him. […] I think, too, that it is wrong of you to say that we are personal friends. We might be, if we had met: but what on earth would that have to do with the merits of the synopsis? I don't agree that one has to push in the film world: &, even if one did, that is hardly the way.' He elaborates on his position on 3 June 1949: 'Let me put it this way. I have been doing film work now since 1936, and my name has a certain professional goodwill as novelist and screen-writer. There could be no harm in your submitting a synopsis of one of my books, made with my permission, to producers in the ordinary way. But to submit it to an actor, to hawk it round in an unprofessional manner, is a very different thing. I have never had the slightest idea that you would be likely to do this, or I would have warned you at the start. I assumed that you knew the normal way in which to go about a business of this kind.' Despite his reservations he urges her on 30 June 1949 to have 'another go', and on 12 July 1949 he is moved to 'most earnestly suggest' that she needs 'practice at what is after all the most important part of the script writer's business, the preparation of an adequate and attractive synopsis'. By 22 July 1949, when he suggests that they drop formalities, he is acting more as a mentor than potential business associate. Two months later he writes that he 'should be delighted if Cecil Parker took an interest in the story and wanted to play in it', cautioning her that '[t]here will be time to talk about a contract if and when he is interested'. When the screenplay is rejected he urges her not to 'be discouraged […] This kind of thing is always happening. The chances against any single idea or script being taken for the films are many thousands to one against.' There is another mild reproof on 28 October 1949: 'The difficulty about using an agent is that I have my own, and therefore cannot hand over the negotiations of a script to any other. It is far better for you to offer the script yourself. Mr. Algar should therefore return the book to you. He is Cecil Parker's agent, Cecil Parker doesn't want the story, therefore his agent has no further business with it.' On learning that Algar may be interested in purchasing Greenwood's script on behalf of Cedric Hardwicke, he stresses 'that no one must offer to sell scripts on my behalf except my own agent [A. D. Peters]'. On 25 May 1950 he seeks to wind down the correspondence: 'As I never allow myself to hope anything about films, I am not disappointed when projects to do with them come to nothing. | No, I don't think there is any other book we can tackle. The McCormack project has been taken up and abandoned; the Director is all fixed up and I am doing it myself; The Swift Shadow would not, I think, be any good.' On 31 May 1950 he informs her that he hopes 'to go to Ireland on location for the Director; but the producer hasn't come over yet from Hollywood'. As the correspondence ends he has become quite paternalistic, with such expressions as 'Bless your kind heart.', 'Clever girl!' and 'Best of luck!' On 6 April 1951 he sympathises: I am sorry that things are at a stand-still with you – but I do think you are right not to attempt any more scenarios at the moment.' He continues with the news that he is 'preparing a television version of Trevannion, at the B.B.C.'s invitation', before explaining: 'The snag about getting into a studio is that the studio won't admit you unless you have a union card, and, because so many union members are unemployed, the unions won't give cards to anyone new. Your only possibility is to get in through a director or someone in business – and even that is a very slender possibility.' In the last few letters he responds to her suggestions regarding Leslie Banks and Liam Redmond. In the penultimate letter (14 February 1952) he discusses the overlap between his television script of Trevannion and her film script, suggesting that they 'meet for a meal soon and talk it over'. In the last letter (21 February 1952) he asks her not to 'congratulate me on the T.V. production of Trevannion till you see it on the screen!' He reassures her that if she finds a producer, she will not be forgotten, 'whether you help with the script or not. I should, however, do my best to tie you in with a script-writing job.' Responding to a cryptic comment by her, he concludes: 'I am much intrigued by your remarks about your first public creation which you may see sixty times. It opens a very fine field of speculation!'