Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The Sunday Table: The Well of Loneliness
You never know what the Sunday Table is going to turn up. This time, it's a surprising edition -- bound in leather & marbled paper binding -- of Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness. In Danish. (With a typo on the spine.)
Have I read The Well of Loneliness? I have not. I started trudging through it many years ago, but never got to the end. Will I ever read it in Danish? I would say no.
But it gives me an excuse to tell a story, maybe apocryphal, maybe not, of how Loneliness fared in Hollywood. The book was a hot property in 1928, when it was published. It was banned in Boston, so there was much scandal around it, and many headlines, and no publicity is bad publicity, as Oprah herself would admit. Thus Radclyffe Hall's painful story of a woman who loves a woman came to the attention of Samuel Goldwyn, who had been recently forced out of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and had hung out a shingle of his own. (A shingle that would later produce Wuthering Heights, The Little Foxes, and The Best Years of Our Lives.)
From what I understand, Goldwyn wanted to snap up the rights to Hall's book before any of his competitors could get to it.
"Mr. Goldwyn," says his factotum, "it's a real sad story."
"That's okay," says Goldwyn.
"Sir," says his flunky, "it was banned in Boston."
"I don't care," says Goldwyn.
"Sam," says his flack, "it's about a lesbian."
"So," says Goldwyn, "in the movie, we'll make her American."
If only he had made her a Dane!