Eisenstein versus Sinclair: H. W. L. Dana and “¡Que Viva México!”

“It is true,” acknowledged the review, “that the picture is absurdly abrupt in the closing interludes, but for fully three-quarters of its length it shows Eisenstein, the stylist, at his best.” [15]
Eisenstein’s friends and communist activists in the United States aggressively protested Thunder Over Mexico. The filmmaker, he thought, should return to the Soviet Union forthwith. She not only had a personal connection with Eisenstein but also a thorough understanding of his theories and artistic methods. W. [12] In the summer of 1909, while accompanying her ill mother to the famous Kellogg sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, she met Upton Sinclair, already famous for his novel The Jungle. [13] In 1913, despite her family’s objections, they were married, and Craig embraced her husband’s crusade for social justice. On May 21, Eisenstein addressed an audience at Columbia University’s McMillin Academic Theater with a lecture on “The Cinema as Art.” In Boston, George Kraska, secretary of the Artkino Guild — an organization dedicated to screening exceptional experimental films, of which Dana was a board member — took responsibility for organizing Eisenstein’s lecture. I can only warn you once more that your reputation among lovers of liberty and art throughout the world is being weighed in the balance and found wanting. Sinclair and the trustees of the Mexican enterprise determined that they could no longer trust him. It is unclear when Upton Sinclair and Harry Dana first met. Pease wrote to Jesse L. In her acknowledgments, she thanked the late H. It was given a particularly leftist cast as the title of the eponymous American journal, which ran from 1911 until 1917 and promoted an explicitly socialist agenda. He wrote that Eisenstein and his crew had engaged in professional misconduct on more than one occasion, and described Eisenstein as a “sexual pervert” based on the drawings found at Laredo, Texas. Mr. Because montage was the essence of Eisenstein’s filmmaking, depriving him of the ability to edit his own film was equivalent to depriving him of his art. Eisenstein was asked to pose with the dog on a loveseat while the press photographed the “two stars.” In an article headlined “Rin-Tin-Tin Seems Interested,” the Boston Herald recounted that Rin Tin Tin performed some tricks for the guests, but the Soviet visitor seemed unimpressed. Sinclair sent Dana a detailed response on July 26, 1933, in which he heartily defended his “artistic conscience.” Circumstances were beyond his control, he explained:
The Russian Government got their great artist back and avoided having him turn into a White, as Rachmaninov and Shaliapin have done. And mostly it doesn’t want art nor education nor uplift nor cinematic stylism, nor does it care two pennies for any picture because of its director […] And Hollywood has grown rich and great and unshakable because it knows this and accepts it and profits by it. Eisenstein: A Biography (London: Bodley Head, 1952), Illustration 33i. L. The outcome of this equivocal alliance will be awaited with more than usual interest. I ask you to keep it confidential: First, Eisenstein was overdue in Russia. Du Bois (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012), 115–116. The evidence did not speak in favor of Danashevsky, Stalin declared, but if Sinclair insisted, he would “SOLICITE [sic] BEFORE THE HIGHPOWERED BODY FOR THE AMNESTY.” In fact, Stalin rescinded the sentence at the last minute. In the mid-1950s, Upton Sinclair donated all the remaining Eisenstein footage to the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film. Sinclair also received a warning about a possible stink bomb attack during the Los Angeles screenings, which subsequently required that guards be stationed at all performances. But that provides all the more reason why you cannot take advantage of a comrade and commit a breach of faith between friends. When the pavilions were completed, however, an engineering mistake became obvious: architects had failed to account for shifting artistic trends and techniques. Second, the Russians wanted us not to talk about this. [17] H. Joseph Freeman, a writer and editor of The New Masses, a successor to The Masses that ran from 1926 to 1948, was also acquainted with Dana and had been Eisenstein’s friend since the two met in Moscow in 1926. Danashew’s father, Anatole Danashevsky, also a film technician, had left Hollywood for his native Russia to bring his skills to the emerging Soviet film industry. Perhaps Alexandrov and Tisse could do so in Hollywood, or Eisenstein might resume his project in Moscow. You and your friends, whom you call friends, are doing your best to put me in a position where I have to tell all these stories to defend my own good name. In 1932, she traveled to Moscow as a European correspondent for Theatre Arts Weekly. Eisenstein: A Biography (London: Bodley Head, 1952), from which a good deal of biographical material in this essay is sourced; Ronald Bergan, Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict (Woodstock, N. [7] “Eisenstein Predicts New Type of Film,.” The Boston Globe, May 27, 1930. Eisenstein, the Russian socialist, an impregnable individualist. It read, in part: “We have not met for years — not, I think, since 1935 […] Now I have something very important to write you about. [2] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, Additional Papers, 1914-1950, Correspondence, *2006MT- 125r, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. The isolation of sounds was so bad that it was impossible to make several sound films in parallel. The personification of sublimated cinematic art. On August 15, 1932, he sent an extremely long telegram to Stalin urging him to have Amkino buy the Mexico footage and ship it to Russia. From the moment Eisenstein arrived in New York, Paramount had been speculating about the future film he was to make for them. Amkino did not respond to the plea. His primary interest lay, rather, in the power of montage to convey abstract notions through the juxtaposition of images. No further communications to or from Amkino have been found in Dana’s correspondence. He asked his wife, Mary Craig Kimbrough Sinclair, who came from a wealthy Southern family, to back Eisenstein’s venture financially. If they crossed the United States without stopping, the filmmakers would be welcome to board a ship bound for home at the port of New York. Sinclair began by contemplating the last two words written by Dana, “Very sadly”:
My dear Harry:
You say that my letter made you sad — well, yours made me even sadder. His father, of German Jewish origin, was a civil engineer. Dana shared photos, stills, letters, documents, and newspaper clippings, and connected Seton to Leyda and Kraska. Mrs. ¤
Angela Shpolberg is a resident scholar at Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and center associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. Sinclair was a famous writer, a respected socialist, and a committed friend of the Soviet Union. I am engaged in raising money to make a picture, and if pledges made to me are broken, my friends lose money which they can ill afford to lose, and my good name is ruined. In December 1930, Eisenstein’s crew, which included his assistant Grigori Alexandrov and cameraman Edward Tisse, arrived in Mexico City. The Mexican film project’s financial problems were worsened by the personal antagonisms that emerged between Eisenstein and Hunter Kimbrough. Do you know what that means? Although Dana was undoubtedly pleased when Alexander Nevsky was released, he writes, in an unpublished reflection on the film, as someone who has accepted the Soviet authorities’ view of his friend. Then, the telegram quickly shifted its focus. He speaks excellent English, although the flow of his ideas proved so strong that at times last night his thoughts ran ahead of the lecture he was giving his audience. The film recounted the mutiny aboard the Russian battleship Potemkin, whose mistreated crew took up arms against their officers and the tsarist state in 1905. Dana, 1928;  Courtesy National Park Service, Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site. Seton was, Dana knew, particularly well qualified for the task she had taken on. Like Dana, Sinclair was eager to see the Soviet Union — the world’s first workers’ state — succeed. In addition, Mexico lacked facilities for developing film, so the material had to be sent to Hollywood, thus delaying Eisenstein’s ability to work with it. He knew both father and son well, Sinclair wrote Stalin, and they had always been enthusiastic about and loyal to the Soviet Union. Postcards had been sent to the department of fine arts’ mailing list and 500 seats remained for those not specifically invited. [14] Anthony Arthur, Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair, (New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2007), 231–32. The surviving exchange has, however, the tone of an ongoing conversation between friends. The letter was closed with two words: “Very sadly.”
Dana did not let the matter drop. In addition, he wanted to sue Sinclair, hoping for a judgment that would allow him to purchase at least some of Eisenstein’s footage and generate publicity that would damage the author’s reputation. I am writing a biography of Sergei Eisenstein. “Which will Upton Sinclair put first,” Dana provocatively inquired: “his money or Eisenstein’s art?”
Dana compared the situation to the then-ongoing controversy between Nelson Rockefeller and Diego Rivera over Rivera’s fresco Man at the Crossroads, commissioned for the Rockefeller Center. The patterns are dictated by the box office, and the box office is the composite voice of the Crowd expressed in the clink of silver coin. His imaginative genius for allegory and symbolism is all the more effective when it is working within the bounds of historical subject matter and in cooperation with other directors and with a great composer such as Prokofiev. Now you exemplify it. Eisenstein set to work and almost completed a screenplay. Eisenstein contributed an essay to Freeman’s book Voices of October: Art and Literature in Soviet Russia, published by the Vanguard Press in 1930. On October 22, 1930, Eisenstein and Harry Dana met in New York for the premiere of the play Roar China by Russian playwright Sergei Tretyakov, Eisenstein’s friend and Dana’s Moscow acquaintance. Among his personal papers in the Harvard University archives are materials that elucidate his role in the Eisenstein episode as well as the national and international forces that tormented Sinclair and tested his — and his comrades’ — ideological and artistic commitments. They had a number of friends in common, and certainly shared political views. Eisenstein’s American backers, as Sinclair referred to them, had published a manifesto in The Daily Worker calling for protests at all Los Angeles and New York cinemas where Thunder Over Mexico was to be screened. ¤
[1] Harry M. All the footage was sent to Hollywood. Sinclair promised that, after recuperating the original investment, she would pay Eisenstein 10 percent of all proceeds from selling or leasing the film. A strange paradox indeed. She managed his papers, dealt with his publishers, and supported him financially. When Eisenstein and Paramount failed to agree to terms, socialist novelist Upton Sinclair, armed with his wife’s enthusiasm and her checkbook, stepped forward to sponsor the production of Eisenstein’s ambitious Mexican-American project, ¡Que Viva México! His team traveled throughout the country and filmed it extensively. In the Soviet Union, the government sponsored the production of films, and authorized filmmakers had access to abundant resources. He found Marlene Dietrich dull and Greta Garbo stupid. [4] H. [17]
On April 14, 1947, Eisenstein’s American friends and journalists gathered at Boston’s Kenmore Hotel to take part in an open call with the great director. [18] The clips of the articles are preserved in Dana, Additional Papers. But it was a long and terrible task to get Eisenstein to leave Mexico. They do not remain if they remain what they were […]
Individualism has no place in Hollywood. Not altogether surprisingly, then, the first article in English on Eisenstein’s approach to cinema was entitled “Mass Movies” (1927). I cannot thank you enough for the help with material, which you gave me. They have some of the still pictures, and also a copy of the legal documents under which the enterprise is being conducted […] Please answer by airmail if you are at all interested, because if I cannot raise this additional money, I shall have to cut short Eisenstein’s program, and I must know as soon as possible. It took him 17 days to reach New York, where he showed several parts of the new film material to friends. On November 2, 1931, he wrote to Harry Dana, asking him “to come in for any amount” if the proposition appealed to him. “The entire matter concerning Eisenstein and Sinclair is being handled” by Mr. Danashevsky was arrested, accused of sabotage, and sentenced to death by firing squad. Although the episode has been amply documented in Sergei Eisenstein and Upton Sinclair: The Making and Unmaking of “¡Que Viva Mexico!” and analyzed from multiple angles in numerous articles and books, an important voice has been missing from the discussion up to this point: that of Professor Henry (Harry) Wadsworth Longfellow Dana. Eager to discuss his work as well as to learn about developments beyond his country’s borders, Eisenstein willingly entertained his visitors. Over the years, various films were made from Eisenstein’s Mexican footage. Hollywood, giant offspring of capitalism and commercialism, the subjugator of the individualist and enforcing a system of collectivism beyond anything yet attained in communistic Russia […] devoting its energies and experience to supplying agreeable entertainment as a commodity to a self-satisfied world in its moments of pastime and mental inactivity. I know that terroristic and underhanded intrigue is not for me. Deeply interested in the phenomenon of collective behavior, Eisenstein studied it with the precision of a scientist. Cinema history records the names of many foreign directors brought to Hollywood on the strength of personal achievements in their native environment. [2]
Revolution Frees Sergei Eisenstein 
Harry Dana’s personal interest in the Soviet experiment and professional interest in Russian theater brought him to Russia in 1927, where he met and befriended Sergei Eisenstein. Images of Lenin and of a Soviet May Day parade, red flags flying, were prominently featured. It would be the final exchange between the two men. You have explained this process often. EISENSTEIN LOOSE [sic] HIS COMRADES CONFIDENCE IN SOVIET UNION STOP HE IS THOUGHT TO BE DESERTER WHO BROKE OFF WITH HIS OWN COUNTRY STOP AM AFRAID THE PEOPLE HERE WOULD HAVE NO INTEREST IN HIM SOON STOP AM VERY SORRY BUT ALL ASSERT IT IS THE FACT STOP. Film was for him a pedagogic tool, one that could foster new ways of thinking. Sinclair suspected that Seymour Stern was behind the summons to demonstrate. On November 21, 1931, Sinclair received a telegram directly from Stalin expressing concerns about Eisenstein. That’s their fault. Bogdanov, the message went on, to whom the letters had been transferred and who would soon offer his comments. Sinclair, sympathetic to Soviet ideals, set about helping the filmmaker. [15] “In Old Mexico,” The New York Times, September 25, 1933. Eisenstein’s artistic vision and provocative, daring mind entranced his foreign guests. Evidence suggests that Sinclair tried his best to resolve the crisis while honoring his commitments and remaining true to his principles. Monosson of the Amkino Corporation, New York, which has just agreed to put $25,000 into the picture in its last stage, that is for the cutting and synchronizing. When the controversy over the film reached its peak in the summer of 1933, Harry Dana found himself in the middle of an extensive exchange between Upton Sinclair and Seymour Stern, co-editor of Experimental Cinema, an international film quarterly published out of Hollywood between 1930 and 1934. And so it was. He wrote multiple letters and articles, published a 48-page pamphlet that included Eisenstein’s original scenario as well as a summary of “Sinclair’s treachery towards Eisenstein,” and organized protests against Thunder Over Mexico. His vision of the film focused on the social structures in America responsible for the tragedy; Paramount wanted a commercial thriller wrapped around a love story. He had longed to visit the world’s movie capital, experiment with the latest technologies, and converse with D. In short, the embodiment of every fundamental taboo of Hollywood. Backing Sergei Eisenstein after Paramount had cancelled his contract required courage, and Craig had it. Ignoring his letter would have been politically unwise. Then, the guests “were entertained by Mr. On the day of the Harvard lecture, a luncheon in Eisenstein’s honor was held at Boston’s Hotel Vendome. Eisenstein later confided to a friend that his intent had been malicious, an expression of his pain and fury. Despite the agreement, there was more drama at Laredo: customs officers discovered several portfolios of pornographic drawings by Eisenstein in luggage that officially belonged to Upton Sinclair. Fred Danashew appealed to Sinclair for help, and the author readily obliged. A perfectionist by nature, Eisenstein produced more and more “takes” from different angles. H. American pictures are pattern-made. Sinclair’s younger brother, Hunter Kimbrough, was named to manage the project. [3] See Alfred Richman, “Serge M. The idea of adapting Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy seemed to please both the Soviet artist and the studio. At the end of the letter, Dana suggested that, at the least, Sinclair send Eisenstein a copy of the original footage so that Eisenstein could cut his own version of the film. However, the production of ¡Que Viva México!, as Eisenstein called the film, encountered a number of unexpected problems. L. It appears that I wrote you that long letter and could not even get across to you the elementary fact that I have no authority at all over what is done in the matter of the picture. At some point between the middle of January and the beginning of February 1932, after several rounds of conversation with his wife and the other investors, Sinclair ended film production on ¡Que Viva México! Sinclair, exhausted, had no desire to see Eisenstein. L. B. The next day, The Boston Globe reported:
Mr. He and his friends felt they were surrounded if not by bandits, then by lunatics. L. But one consideration held him back: “[M]y interest in Soviet Russia. Barr (who later became the first director of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art), and journalists Louis Fischer, Alfred Richman, and Joseph Freeman. Even though he supported Eisenstein and his venture wholeheartedly, he felt that investing in art with the expectation of profit inevitably culminated in the exploitation of the artistic creator:
The financial backers speculate on a chance, but the moment things don’t work out well, they are faced with the terrible temptation of bringing pressure so as to get their whole profits as though there had been no element of chance. John Reed, a prolific journalist who wrote for the magazine and had participated in and covered the Russian Revolution, was known to Eisenstein as well as to Dana, who was a graduate student at Harvard when Reed was an undergraduate. The original crew was acknowledged: Eisenstein was credited as director, Grigori Alexandrov as author of the screenplay, and Edward Tisse as cameraman. E. Marie Seton visited Dana at Longfellow House in February 1950, after which she wrote:
Harry, I really enjoyed myself enormously staying with you for three days. Sinclair found a few more private investors, but the wealthy friends to whom he had appealed, including Dana, largely refused to become involved, offering a variety of excuses. Even though the contract had already been signed, Amkino abruptly withdrew its $25,000 pledge to the Mexican film because Moscow’s Soyuzkino film studio (later known as Mosfilm), and especially its director Boris Shumyatsky, “considered Eisenstein’s prolonged absence a potentially dangerous precedent.” Sinclair, aware that he could sue Amkino for breach of contract, wrote to its representative, comrade Smirnov:
I wish to say at once that there can be no question of a lawsuit upon my part, because I would never make it possible for the capitalist newspapers to publish an attack upon Soviet Russia emanating from me. W. [3] In his “Revolution in the World of Make-Believe” (1930), Harry Dana recalled:
My friends had already seen Eisenstein’s famous film about the Armored Cruiser Potemkin and now wanted to meet the film wizard himself and if possible to see the film called “October” that he has made for the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the film that is to be shown soon in Boston under the title, “Ten Days That Shook the World.”
“What? The shoot took almost three times longer than planned at twice the budget, and still it was not complete. Sinclair replied immediately in a letter defending Eisenstein and explaining that work on the film had been prolonged due to the difficult conditions of production. But Smirnov of Amkino came out here, and I said to him in the midst of a long wrangle: “One thing I want to get clear. Gone is the praise of the individual’s artistic vision; instead, Dana celebrates the accomplishments of the “collective,” adhering to standard Soviet rhetoric of lamentable “formalism” and laudable “socialist realism”:
After the lapse of eight years without any finished production for the screen,Sergei Eisenstein has at last freed himself from the aesthetic bonds of some of his earlier formalistic mannerism and he succeeded in giving as much socialist realism as is possible to so old a subject. Paramount claimed that the termination was by mutual agreement. Eisenstein labored over the raw footage tirelessly, but he had never before been constrained by market-driven limits on time and money. Although the film was a critical success, its veiled condemnation of German Nazism prompted Stalin to pull it from distribution after he entered into a nonaggression pact with Hitler in 1939. The next morning, The Boston Globe Daily, the Boston Traveler, and The Christian Science Monitor saluted “Russia’s Ace Film Director,” who had spoken live from Moscow to Boston. There is no arguing with the Crowd. Harry Dana collected all the newspaper clippings about Eisenstein and his work that he could find in the United States. The story of Eisenstein’s Mexican-American journey poses a number of fundamental ethical questions about art production and mutual misunderstandings among passionate, thoughtful, good-hearted people in the face of a complicated historical situation. See the purchase contract, May 10, 1939, in Geduld and Gottesman, Eisenstein and Sinclair, 423–424. Amkino Corporation and Amtorg intervened. It read, in part:
Evidently the telegram was his final attempt to reach any sort of international compromise, for on August 26, 1932, Sinclair wrote to a friend, “apparently the Soviet government is not very much interested in the production […] I have now had to give way, and consent to the picture being marketed in Hollywood.”
Enters Harry Dana, Further Left
Eisenstein’s footage was cut and released as Thunder Over Mexico by American film producer Sol Lesser in 1933. The editing of the film reportedly followed Eisenstein’s screenplay notes. Both wrote letters to Sinclair full of recriminations, and Mrs. Dana, “Revolution in the World of Make-Believe,” Boston Evening Transcript, March 1, 1930, 6–7. After they received Stalin’s telegram, the Sinclairs agonized over the political consequences of the Mexican project. While he agreed that artistic license was sacrosanct, Sinclair reminded Dana that the legal rights of investors ensured the proper conduct of business. [10]
The “masses” was a term circulating in early 20th-century popular culture. Hamilton Fish was chairman of the House Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities and Propaganda, and his main concern was the introduction of Soviet propaganda films to the United States. Clifford Howard offered his analysis. No less a person than Stalin so notified Upton by cable. […] An irresistible force meeting an immovable body,” wrote journalist Clifford Howard in the August 1930 edition of the avant-garde cinema journal Close Up. [8] His questions would prove prophetic. “They still want to see me. Stalin’s telegram about Eisenstein was, in fact, his answer to Sinclair’s petition on behalf of Danashevky. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potyomkin), released worldwide in 1925, catapulted the filmmaker to celebrity. [12] See Mary Craig Sinclair, Southern Belle: A Personal Story of a Crusader’s Wife (New York: Crown Publishers, 1957). A review in The New York Times explained that Eisenstein had shot no fewer than 285,000 feet of film in Mexico, which Lesser had initially reduced to 40,000, from which he produced a “commercial length feature” of a little over 7,000 feet. The most dynamic individualist in the history of motion pictures. Van Wienen, American Socialist Triptych: The Literary-Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair, and W. “Illusions ought always to be destroyed,” he said, “The truth is better.” [6]
Eisenstein delivered his Harvard lecture on Monday, May 26. Sinclair discussed various possibilities for editing the film with Amkino. Few researchers have noted, however, that the telegram did not arrive out of the blue. Eisenstein Goes to Hollywood
From Boston, Eisenstein continued his journey to Hollywood. L. In short, whereas Hollywood sought to entertain the crowd, Eisenstein hoped to instruct the masses, who became the primary protagonist in his films. Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, Part I, was to screen at Boston’s Kenmore Theatre the following day. The letter ended on an emotional note:
How many more things would I have to tell you about your “great” artist before I made you begin to realize that I might have some difficulty in persuading the investors and their trustees and their lawyer to place their property again in his hands, or to rely upon any promises he made? Eisenstein asked if he could visit Sinclair to explain the situation in person; he still hoped to edit his film. Mary Craig Sinclair took a more philosophical approach:
With all our sorrow over it, I am glad it happened. Does Moscow want this picture?” The answer was, “Moscow does not want this picture.” You beg me in your letter to arrange for a Russian cutting as well as a Hollywood cutting. […] I am wondering whether you would give me your assistance.”
At the beginning of her career, Seton, then a young arts correspondent with The Manchester Guardian, had developed an interest in the socialist movement. I do not suppose there is any use in telling you anything more, and perhaps I am yielding to weakness in answering your various statements. Dana, “The New Eisenstein Film,” unpublished manuscript, in Dana, Additional Papers. I am sure that you will appreciate this.”
In a prompt but brief reply on July 30, Dana thanked Sinclair for “taking all the pain” of his lengthy vindication but dismissed it as akin to “the hysteria of the bourgeois feeling fear of the revolutionary worker.” He concluded:
Just as in 1917 you abandoned socialism to support the World War, so it seems as though you now were abandoning the rights of the creative artist to support the rights of the investors. Then, in 1958, Jay Leyda compiled and released all the donated film material in a 255-minute feature titled Eisenstein’s Mexican Films: Episodes for Study. Rockefeller asked Rivera to remove Lenin’s likeness. On April 26, 1950, Harry Dana died in his sleep, like Eisenstein the victim of a heart attack. Upton was becoming a buffer between Eisenstein and his country. Marie Seton published her biography of Eisenstein in 1952. One of two things — either they “go Hollywood” or they go home. His individualism has shown itself capable of self-discipline and of collaborating with others in the collectivist art of a complicated modern sound film to which the cooperative habits of a collectivist society lend the best opportunity. Eisenstein who, in the space of an hour or so, answered approximately 100 questions about Russia, Russian movies, the Russian soul and his own business”:
“You destroy illusions about Russia,” one woman told him. Although Rivera was paid in full for the fresco, it was demolished early in 1934.  [16]
Dana used the “Battle of the Rockefeller Center” to remind Sinclair that he, himself a great artist, should shield artists’ rights from capitalist incursions. Her father was a well-known lawyer who also owned a former plantation. Among his personal papers is a letter dated August 1, 1933, confirming that the Amkino Corporation had received from him copies of his and Sinclair’s letters. Updating Dana on the film’s progress, Sinclair concluded:
If there is anything else you would like to know, you may write me at once, or you might call upon Mr. Communism makes too many rascals, or rather it gives too many rascals a chance to rationalize it. Naturally, Russia does not want the outside world to think her artists are deserters. For various perspectives, see, e.g., Marie Seton, Sergei M. Y.: The Overlook Press/ Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc. Sinclair was shocked. [10] Louis Fischer, “Mass Movies,” The Nation (November 9, 1927). His only “refuge” during his California sojourn was Charlie Chaplin. For Sergei Eisenstein and Harry Dana, the Mexican film became an incurable wound; for Upton Sinclair, a nightmare. “Am I supposed to be ignorant of what Communist demonstrations are and what they lead to?” asked Sinclair. ¤
Feature image: Marie Seton, Sergei M. Eisenstein returned to Moscow, but the film reels never followed. [16] Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution (London: Reaktion Books, 1997), 144. Yet, of all persons in the world, Hollywood has opened its gates to Eisenstein. On July 20, 1933, Harry Dana wrote to Sinclair, warning him that his reputation was at stake not only in the United States but also throughout the world. The picture was to be apolitical, and all negative and positive prints, as well as the story, were to be the property of Mrs. [18] Less than a year later, on February 9, 1948, Sergei Eisenstein died of a heart attack. [13] Mark W. Sinclair; she could market them in any manner and for any price she chose. Then, “in the name of freedom of art,” audiences would have access to both versions: the one cut by Sol Lesser in Hollywood and the one cut by Eisenstein in Moscow. […] I have every reason to be convinced of Eisenstein’s complete loyalty to Soviet Russia. [8] Clifford Howard, “Eisenstein in Hollywood,” Close Up (August 1930), 139. Or, what will Hollywood do to Eisenstein? Without wishing to do so, Sinclair had prompted it. Critchlow, When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 19. I might have left the Socialists and gone to the Communists. But even if he were disloyal, Amkino cannot strike at him through me. He preferred the Marxist term the “masses,” distinguished from the chaotic “crowd” or malicious “mob.” The masses held the revolutionary potential to improve society, but to realize this potential, they needed to be enlightened, educated, organized, and uplifted. Upton Sinclair, who was a neophyte in film production, questioned the process but not the project. Amkino thanked Dana for his kind assistance. I wish I could have just gone on staying. Back in Hollywood, Eisenstein told Charlie Chaplin that he still hoped to make an American film. Still enthusiastic, he set about soliciting additional funds. Rivera refused, but he offered to add an American historical leader, perhaps Abraham Lincoln. Dana, who made important source material available to her shortly before his death. Then, as he noted later, “the revolutionary tempest” freed him from the inertia of the course. This was Sinclair’s second marriage — the happy one — which lasted for 48 years, until Craig’s death. On October 26, he had written to Stalin. It is likely that Sinclair’s letter saved Danashevsky. Mrs. Some news came to him through a new friend, Jay Leyda, a prominent American film historian who had studied with Eisenstein in the Soviet Union from 1933 until 1936. It is of the very greatest value. Well, that is exactly what I proposed to Smirnov and his answer was delivered with contempt: “Moscow would scorn to enter into competition with Hollywood.”
Of course, he could save his reputation by giving the whole sorry story to the press, Sinclair remarked; the publicity would be stellar advertisement for Thunder Over Mexico. He was observing the 18th Amendment, he announced, but in fact he did not like alcohol. But now I know that the end does not justify the means. We did not until we were told by certain Russian officials. DECEMBER 7, 2018

IN THE SPRING of 1930 the experimental Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein left Stalin’s Soviet Union for Hollywood, at the invitation of Paramount Pictures, with a stop on the East Coast, where he was fêted by the leading artists and leftists. The government poured money into its prospective Soviet Hollywood. There are no previous letters between Sinclair and Dana among Dana’s personal papers at the Harvard archive or the Longfellow House. At the same time, however, an unbridgeable gulf separated the Soviet maverick from the American film industry. Then, on June 17, 1930, Major Frank Pease, head of the Hollywood Technical Directors Institute and self-styled “professional American patriot,” gave it an arctic blast. Upton Sinclair wrote another long letter to Dana on August 2, 1933. W. He was not interested in traditional narrative. H. At Laredo, Texas, Eisenstein and his crew were denied a reentry visa into the United States. I will care for it and use it to the utmost purpose. It wants what it wants. Pease, a native of New England, had lost his right leg in World War I. And Harry Dana hosted the celebrity at his family’s Longfellow House. For the man who condemned “capital throttling art,” Dana opined, the crisis tested Sinclair’s very integrity. She became acquainted with a number of Soviet theater and film directors, developing an especially close relationship with Eisenstein. The relationship between him and the studio had cooled considerably since his arrival. W. Eisenstein did not request a salary, but he did ask that his team’s travel expenses be covered, and he reserved the right to show the film in the Soviet Union free of charge. After receiving an education at the Mississippi State College for Women and the Gardner School for Young Ladies in New York, she had intended to become a writer. He was 50 years old. Finally, I note with a little amusement, not unmixed with “sadness,” that you are one more of these persons who have advised me and my friends to pour out money without limit in behalf of Eisenstein; but when I tell you that I am stranded and suggest that you lend me some money to help pay the storage charges on the negative which Eisenstein will some day have a chance to cut, you do not even mention the subject! [7]
Eisenstein presented ideas that were new to the film industry. In addition to being an intellectual misfit in Hollywood, Eisenstein disregarded its social norms. On top of it all, Sinclair was increasingly forced to communicate directly with the Soviets, represented in the United States by Amkino and Amtorg, the Soviet purchasing commission. Dana wearing a Cossack outfit at the Longfellow House; Courtesy National Park Service, Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site. We want no more red propaganda in this country. […] What becomes of them? Widely circulated across the United States, it resonated with disgruntled Americans who sought scapegoats for the woes of the Great Depression. Eisenstein was, in Pease’s words, “a ‘Jewish Bolshevik’ whom the successful Jews of Paramount had imported to make ‘propaganda films.’” The hysteria this campaign sparked brought the so-called Fish Committee to Los Angeles in October 1930. “What will Eisenstein do to Hollywood? [5] Dana, “Revolution in the World of Make-Believe,” 2. Cinema’s role was to do just that, to serve as a tool for social edification. In his homeland, Danashevsky was tapped to oversee an ambitious project, the construction of the Soyuzkino film studio. It strained relationships within the leftist movement in the United States and reverberated at the highest levels of power in the Soviet Union. Griffith. Stalin later approved Part I of Eisenstein’s epic film about Ivan IV of Russia, titled Ivan the Terrible, but he halted production on Part II, which remains incomplete. Eisenstein fell in love with Mexico and its people. The drawings disgusted him, but he also could not understand why the great filmmaker had acted so rashly; after all, his own work could have been confiscated along with the offending illustrations. If he could not retain control over his own artistic product, Rivera declared, he would prefer that it be destroyed. He had in mind a project about Mexico, a country that had intrigued him since his early days in the theater, when he helped stage a performance based on Jack London’s story “The Mexican.” Chaplin suggested that Eisenstein reach out to Upton Sinclair, muckraker, writer, and devoted socialist. Lasky, one of the founders of Paramount:
If your Jewish clergy and scholars haven’t enough courage to tell you, and you yourself haven’t enough brains to know better or enough loyalty toward this land, which has given you more than you ever had in history, to prevent your importing a cut-throat red dog like Eisenstein, then let me inform you that we are behind every effort to have him deported. On November 24, 1930, she and the Soviet filmmaker signed a new contract. Eisenstein held his tongue even though he knew that Paramount planned to publicly cancel his contract the next morning. Charged with depicting modern social and scientific progress, Rivera centered his allegory on the image of Man as Worker, caught between two conflicting worlds: decaying Capitalism at his right and exultant Communism at his left. Eisenstein was to return to the West Coast and, from there, depart for the Soviet Union. [14] Stalin’s telegram to Sinclair is referred to in nearly all articles and books on the subject of ¡Que Viva México! [19] Seton bought 16,000 feet of negative for $3,500.00 from the Mexican Picture Trust. His mother, a member of the Russian bourgeoisie, was a woman of independent means. In 1928, after investigating the case thoroughly and interviewing its key participants and witnesses, Sinclair wrote a documentary novel titled Boston (1928), in which Dana is mentioned several times. [9]
Eisenstein and Hollywood held substantially different views of the “crowd,” a concept to which Howard had alluded. Eisenstein,” The Dial (April, 1929), 311–314, and Mike O’Mahony, Sergei Eisenstein (London: Reaktion Books, 2008), 82–85. She agreed to put up $25,000 so that Eisenstein could, within three to four months, make a film about Mexico true to his own artistic vision. [6] “Rin-Tin-Tin Seems Interested,” Boston Herald, May 27, 1930. W. In 1929, he organized the right-wing National Film Committee of American Defenders and, in April 1930, came to prominence when he sent a telegram to President Herbert Hoover demanding that All Quiet on the Western Front, Universal’s adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, be banned because it threatened to turn American youth into “a race of […] slackers, and disloyalists.” [11]
Pease produced a 24-page booklet titled Eisenstein, Hollywood’s Messenger from Hell. Dana explained why he had declined Sinclair’s invitation to invest in the Mexican project. Finally, Eisenstein’s former assistant Grigori Alexandrov obtained access to the available footage and produced his version of Que Viva Mexico [sic] in 1979, and in 1998, another Russian filmmaker, Oleg Kovalev, created a documentary titled Sergei Eisenstein — Mexican Fantasy. Even though it was resisted in some Western circles as blatant Soviet propaganda, the film was acclaimed for its experimental editing, unusual camera angles, and its dramatic use of groups of people. In a letter to another friend, she reflected even more broadly: “Life is not an open book, and so we turn its pages by an excruciating effort and read — each according to his needs as well as according to his intelligence.”
The author is deeply grateful to Linda Smith Rhoads for her invaluable advice on this article. After devoting his technical expertise to the Red Army for two years, Eisenstein made set designs for the avant-garde theater, directed, and, finally, began experimenting with cinema as a new art form. The following year, Mrs. They owe this solely to our efforts, and we thought they would be ready to do the fair thing about the picture. Following the family tradition, Eisenstein studied engineering, with a concentration in architecture. Once in the United States, Eisenstein dawdled. He asked that the government investigate the case and that clemency be extended to Danashevsky. Sinclair, of course, took her brother’s side. Eisenstein, who has been declared the best photoplay director in the world by no less an authority than Douglas Fairbanks, lectured last night at the Baker Library, Harvard Business School […] An audience, which filled every seat and stood in the aisles[,] proved enthusiastic […] The Russian director is a particularly vital, intensely interesting man. No matter! 1999); Anthony Arthur, Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair (New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2007); and Masha Salazkina, In Excess: Sergei Eisenstein’s Mexico (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). He openly acknowledged her contribution to his work as his main editor and interlocutor. [1] Dana, a professor of comparative literature and the grandson of two renowned American writers, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Richard Henry Dana Jr., was a lifelong pacifist and political activist. Sinclair shared the extent of her concerns with Theodore Dreiser:
[H]ere is a fact or two, without any of the mass of details. Artists from the West traveled to Moscow to pay homage to the rising star of avant-garde cinema. Four Characters in Search of Integrity
Sergei Eisenstein returned to a Soviet Union that had changed a great deal while he was absent, and he found that he could no longer accommodate himself to the “general line.” His attempts to shoot new films were rebuffed, so he took refuge in his teaching at the State School of Cinematography (VGIK) and in writing his theoretical essays, activities neither the government nor his colleagues appreciated. Leyda shepherded Eisenstein’s theoretical works into publication abroad, to the edification of future generations of filmmakers and film scholars. [11] Donald T. Among them were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis, art historian Alfred H. Stern, who had befriended Eisenstein in Hollywood, did everything in his power to persuade, even force, Sinclair to send the footage to Eisenstein. W. Harry Dana joked that when Eisenstein talked, “his brain as well as his hair seemed to be vibrating with electricity.” [5]
On May 15, 1930, Dana received a telegram from Amkino Corporation, which had been founded in New York City in 1926 to distribute Soviet films in the United States, informing him that Eisenstein had arrived in New York and asking for his help in arranging a speaking engagement at Harvard. And Eisenstein, on his part, has come to Hollywood, of all places in the world the least in accord with his ideals and purposes and philosophy. Descended from an upper-middle-class Russian family from Riga (now the capital of independent Latvia), Eisenstein was fluent in English, French, and German. Bring them!” [4]
In showcasing the talented, urbane Eisenstein, government bureaucrats hoped to win respect for the Soviet system. He “misbehaved,” chatting with butlers at dinners given in his honor and refusing to drink. [9] Howard, “Eisenstein in Hollywood,” 140–141. His attempts to become a journalist and a Hollywood scriptwriter were unsuccessful. From one point of view, Eisenstein’s creative energy, entrepreneurial spirit, and innovative ideas should have drawn him close to Hollywood’s elite. In addition to Sol Lesser’s 1933 Thunder Over Mexico, they include Death Day (1934), also released by Sol Lesser; Time in the Sun (1940), by Marie Seton; [19] a series of five educational shorts titled Mexican Symphony (1941), produced by Bell & Howell. Both Dana and Sinclair had been active in the Sacco and Vanzetti defense campaign, where their paths may have crossed. In November 1949, Dana received a letter from Marie Seton, a British theater and film critic. The venture was a colossal disaster. Geduld and Ronald Gottesman, eds., Sergei Eisenstein and Upton Sinclair: The Making and Unmaking of “¡Que Viva Mexico!” (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970), in which a number of the letters quoted in this essay are reproduced. The most puissant protagonist of social education by means of the screen. “Let Sinclair, the Puritan, explain that one!” Eisenstein chuckled. “LETTER RECEIVED,” it announced at the outset. In his letter, he boasted that he had been working with the great Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein on an extraordinary project that would become “a revelation of the moving-picture art.” He then went on to make a plea on behalf of a friend of Russian origin, the film technician Fred Danashew. Dana was pleased that “Eisenstein seemed at home in the setting of Boston society.” The occasion was temporarily marred by a Hollywood stunt, a staged encounter between the filmmaker and the Warner Brothers’ canine sensation Rin Tin Tin. Not until 1938 was he allowed to produce another historical film, Alexander Nevsky. More Americans?” was Eisenstein’s characteristic reply, whimsical, but cordial. Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Harry Dana, and Jay Leyda talked to Eisenstein. Upton and Mary Sinclair Enter Stage Left
Mary Craig Sinclair (1883–1961), known as Craig at home, grew up in Mississippi.