Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Nat Pendleton, Admirer Of June

While annotating Nexus, page 9 [see item 9.7], I mentioned that Henry saw June with a wrestler name Jim Driscoll. I was unable to turn anything up about this manhandler, and wrote him off as obscure. In Robert Ferguson's Henry Miller: A Life, however, he devotes half of page 144 to a wrestler and Hollywood actor named Nat Pendleton, whom June had been seen dating while she was with Miller. Ferguson doesn't make note of his source for this information identifying Pendleton, but I get the impression that Jim Drsicoll is just a fictional name given to Nat Pendleton by Miller.

"Jim Driscoll" is mentioned a few times in Plexus as being one of June's admirers:

"Jim Driscoll, whom I have seen in the ring, is a wrestler with intellectual pretentions." (p. 394)

"[Arthur Raymond's] idol was Jim Driscoll, who had lately turned professional. Perhaps it was because Jim Driscoll had once studied to be an organist that he adored him so." (p. 406)

"Another [who lavished attention upon June] was the wrestler, Jim Driscoll." (p.591)

I've found no evidence on the internet that Pendleton studied the organ, but, according to this biography of Pendleton, he spoke several dialects and was not at all the dumb lug he was often portrayed as on film (see his filmography here; Pendleton [at left] as Eugen Sandow from The Great Ziegfeld, 1936 -- taken from this website).

Pendleton was born in Iowa but came to New York to study and begin his wrestling career. In 1920, he competed as a wrestler for the U.S. Olympic team and came home with a silver medal. He became a popular pro wrestler, which led to a few supporting roles in feature films in the mid-to-late 1920s, when June was hanging out with him. As Ferguson says in his book: "Pendleton had lately been having some success in films as a 'heavy,' and June may have hoped that he could help further her own acting career." (Henry Miller: A Life, p.144).

Ferguson also relates a story of Miller spying on June and Pendleton and then confronting his wife about the affair, similar to the incident depicted on page 9 of Nexus.

Miller likely fictionalized his name as "Jim" in honour of a Greek wrestler Miller admired called Jim Londos. Miller wrote about Londos in one of his earilest written sketches (a mezzotint I think).

19 Comments:

Anonymous Kreg said...

Interesting ... it seems Nat Pendleton played a wrestler in a 1938 film called Swing Your Lady. One of the film's writers was Joseph Schrank, — the husband of Bertha Schrank (a.k.a Tania in Tropic of Cancer) with whom Miller had an affair in Paris. Apparently, Miller was attracted to Bertha because she looked a lot like June. Wonder if Nat and Bertha ever met?

In any case, the film also starred Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan. An interesting mix of characters — I guess there really are only a few degrees of separation between people.

Here's a link with a quick write-up of the film including a still frame with Pendleton and Bogart: Swing Your Lady »

4:41 am  
Anonymous Pierre from Montreal said...

R.C., You are a marvelous « lit » detective! I’ve been trying to get to the source of this stormy affair for years, in all the literature I could find on Henry & June RE : « NEXUS », but to no avail. Happily, you’ve got it! Thank you so much!

3:13 am  
Anonymous Tony said...

Hi, just found this nice link. It is Henry Miller on mp3 reading from Colussos etc.

http://www.ubu.com/sound/miller.html

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Blogger RC said...

Thanks for the feedback, Kreg and Pierre. Keep it coming! Interesting Schrank-Pendleton connetion.

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