Saturday, January 27, 2007

Miller On The Cannes Jury, 1960 (PT. 2)

“I’m excited by film. It’s one of the freest, most effective means of expression. Especially in the realm of dream and fantasy! What wonders, what joys it may hold in store for us! Some day film may replace literature.”
(Henry Miller, quoted in Henry Miller, Happy Rock by Brassai [1], p. 30)

The president of the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, Georges Simenon, suggested that Henry Miller spent more time playing Ping-Pong than watching films, as was his obligation as a member of the jury (see previous post). Miller, 69, complained to his friend Brassai of his exhaustion at viewing so many long films in poorly ventilated halls.

“I deplore the sadness, the excessive length of so many films--two or even three hours of viewing—for the most part slow, incoherent, weepy, morose.” ([1], p. 60) Were it not for the exciting feeling that he was entering “a new era” in his life, Henry admitted that just five years ago he would have considered a full day of film-viewing “a tremendous waste of time.” ([1], p. 31).

But Miller also fancied himself an “old film buff” ([1], p. 30). Though not thoroughly impressed with that year’s line-up, a few of the cinema selections made an impression on him:


Miller observed the fact that films from different countries tend to have their own temperament and atmosphere: “Everything from the north is slow, heavy, sometimes childish. The Slavic films, though often bad, are always full of humanity.” ([1], p. 60).


"Set in medieval Sweden, it is a revenge tale about a family's response to the murder of their daughter."(continue reading this synopsis at Wikipedia).

Miller: "The Virgin Spring is very spare, very strong, based on an old ballad. It's the story of a young girl who is carrying candles to the Virgin Mary. On the way to the church, she is raped and murdered by three shepherds. The rape scene in the forest is of an almost unbearable brutality. I've never seen anything like it. But the film is more poetic than realistic, and very pure, almost chaste, in spite of the rape." ([1], p. 86)

The Virgin Spring was given recognition for direction at Cannes, known as the 'Special Homage' (ref) or 'Special Mention' (which, as far as I can tell, is a verbal acknowledgement instead of a physical award).


"Just between us, " confided Miller to Brassai, "no actor or actress seems to deserve the prize. Oh well, yes, perhaps Melina Mercouri." ([1], p.84). In Never On Sunday, Mercouri played a vivacious, free-spirited Greek prostitute. [view a clip of the film on YouTube]. Miller's appreciation was shared: Mercouri was awarded a Best Actress prize at Cannes.


According to Henry Miller: A Life (Robert Ferguson), Kagi was Henry's favourite film (he had voiced his approval to the editors of the Henry Miller Literary Society) (p. 337). The film revolves around "an aging lecher whose strategy is to restore his virility by making himself jealous" -- read this contemporary account of the Cannes screening in Time magazine.

Kagi was awarded a Jury Prize at Cannes, as was Antonioni's L'Avventura.


The winner of the big prize at Cannes, the Palme D'Or, was Fellini's La Dolce Vita. According to the memoirs of Georges Simenon, the jury had been split between this film and Antonioni's La Notte. "I am enthusiastic over La Dolce Vita," writes Simenon, "which has created something of a scandal. Thanks to the vote of Henry Miller, who doesn't have an opinion and has decided to vote as I do, and one other juror, La Dolce Vita wins." (Intimate Memoirs by Georges Simenon, p. 476).

A few days before this conclusion, Henry spoke to Brassai about the film: "Fellini's film also lasts three hours, but it doesn't seem long. It moves faster than the others, is teeming with characters and events. You hardly ever get bored with it." ([1], p. 60). "What is marvelous in this film is the satirical depiction of the tabloid press. The obsessive presence of the pack of paparazzi in every circumstance." ([1], p. 61).

About La Dolce Vita: IMDB, Wikipedia, Roger Ebert. View clips from La Dolce Vita on YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, and the famous fountain scene.Here's a list of all films in competition at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. And the films that won. Here's the same kind of information at IMDB, but with links to all films and people, including the jury members.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Miller On The Cannes Jury, 1960 (PT. 1)

Part One of this post focusses on Miller's context in relation to the event of Cannes. Part Two will focus more specifically on Miller's relation to the films.

Henry Miller sat on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival in 1960; one of five writers on the panel. In February 1960, he had been recruited by writer Georges Simenon ( "[I]t was at his insistence that I gave in," Miller told Brassai in Henry Miller, Happy Rock [1], p. 30). Simenon was that year's jury president. Miller had first heard of the "literary 'phenomenon'" of Simenon [seen at left] while he was at Big Sur, and had occassionally written to him over the years, though they never met. Miller was the most favoured of the collection of "good friends" whom Simenon had recruited to fill the jury (Intimate Memoirs by Georges Simenon, p. 475 [2]).

Miller admitted to the Paris Review (and to Brassai, [1] p. 30) that he was a "dubious choice" for the Cannes film jury because he hadn't seen many films in the previous 15 years. He assumed that the nomination was more of a tribute to his work as a writer than his cinema expertise. Miller, however, may have seemed an ideal choice to the organizers due to the prevelant subject matter at that year's fest: "Boosted in advance by popular press as having the most scandalous collection of films ever presented in a festival," wrote Cynthia Grenier of Film Quarterly (Film Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4, Summer 1960, p.15 [3]) ... "incest, rape, voyeurism, homosexuality and the seduction of a 12-year old."

Henry left for Europe on April 4, 1960 [ref]. He was excited about going, but for reasons other than reviewing films. He was thrilled by the opportunity to travel again: "From now on, I want to travel. Cannes is only the first milestone." ([1] p. 32). Before arriving at Cannes, he planned to meet Alfred Perles in Rome and make a few other stops in various European countries before arriving at Cannes. According to Ferguson's Henry Miller: A Life [4], Miller also took this opportunity to escape his decaying relationship with Eve McClure at home in California. Upon his arrival at Cannes, divorce papers were waiting for him (as was a mistress named Caryl Hill Thomas, but that is all part of another story). ([4] pps. 336-337). (see also Always Merry And Bright by Jay Martin, p. 453).

The 13th annual Cannes Film Festival was held from May 4 - 20, 1960. Henry refused to stay at the elegant Carlton hotel with the others. "[N]ot for a million dollars do I want to stay in that palace beseiged by journalists and photographers." Instead, he was put up at the Hotel Montfleury, "away from all the hubbub. But even here I'm harrassed" ([1] p. 37).

Besides the necessary viewing of films, Miller was also obligated to attend formal events as a member of the jury. He went to them, including a luncheon with the mayor of Cannes, but refused to wear a tuxedo. "At seventy years old, I'm not about to start wearing one" ... "Miller without a tuxedo, or no Miller." ([1] p. 37). Simenon backed Henry up on this stance.

Henry was often in the company of his old friend Brassai during this stay in Cannes. Brassai was fond of the festival, having been awarded a Most Original Film award by the Cannes jury in 1956 (Tant qu'il y aura des bêtes). Miller hoped before he'd arrived to meet Pablo Picasso, an acquaintance of Brassai's. "To know Picasso! Of course, that's one of my greatest desires," said Henry ([1] p. 85). But Henry's busy schedule left little room for a visit to Picasso (until later, when it was over). He also failed to meet any of the young European starlets he'd been promised, such as Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren. "I've been served nothing but widows," complained Miller to Brassai, "And middle-aged ones." ([1] p. 61)

"At first, it was terrible!" said Miller of the experience. "In fact, I almost handed in my resignation. Oh, the films were all right. Four hours a day of viewing doesn't exhaust me. But everything around it!" ([1] p. 37). Then, a few days later:

"I'm exhausted by the length of the films shown in poorly ventilated halls -- and I don't have any elbow room. Since I've been in Cannes, I haven't been myself." ([1] p. 61).

Despite Miller's complaints, Georges Simenon noted in his memoirs that Henry "look[ed] at only a few films and spen[t] most of his time playing Ping-Pong, which he loves." ([2] p. 475).

Caryl Hill joined Henry mid-way through the festival. The awards were handed out and the Cannes Film Fest came to a close on May 20th. The event had a "generally lack-lustre atmosphere," reported Cynthia Grenier. "Something went wrong with this festival. Perhaps it was too long; perhaps the absence of the usual glamourous stars." ([3] p. 15).

The following Sunday, Henry left Cannes with French actor Michel Simon for a visit to La Ciotat, followed by visits to Lawrence Durrell and other people and places in Europe.

The middle photo of Brassai [left] and Henry Miller [right] was taken by Yoshi Takata at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, and was published in Henry Miller, Happy Rock.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Annotated Nexus - Page 21

21.0 Miller reminisces about a long visit he once had with a lawyer named John Stymer; the visit was under the pretext of a business call for his father's tailoring business, but was really just an excuse to socialize.

21.1 Day such as this
A cold winter's day as described in 20.5. Miller goes into flashback, to a time when he would "gather together a batch of samples in order to sally forth and call on one of my father's customers." Miller worked for his father's tailor shop from 1912 to 1917. On page 29, Miller declares (within this flashback) that he has a wife. He married Beatrice in June 1917. The period spoken of, then, must be the winter of 1917-18: the tail end of his time working for his father.

21.2 father
Heinrich "Henry" Miller (1865-1941).

21.3 customers

21.4 John Stymer
Miller decides to drop in on Stymer because "with him the day might end, and usually did end, in most unexpected fashion." And that it does, as we will see over the next 15 pages.

Of John Stymer, Miller writes that he was "forever telling us that he would become a judge one day" ... "A lawyer, like any lawyer." I've yet to look into whether Stymer was a real person or not, or whether this was his real name. I've mentioned in a previous post that I believe this is the same man Miller calls Dyker in Black Spring (p. 121, Grove Press paperback). I will compare the similarities between the two characters in another post.

On this page, Stymer is busy with his head buried in a "mass of papers." Stymer gives Henry a dollar for a coffee while he waits, but begs him to return because he wants to "chat."

21.5 farting
"A foul smell pervaded the office, due to his inveterate habit of farting--even in the presence of his stenographer," says Miller of Stymer. I mention this here because I wondered if this was a significantly early use of the word and concept of "farting" in literature. According to Wikipedia, there are several earlier precedents, including James Joyce and Emile Zola.

Miller had in fact employed the term years earlier in Tropic Of Cancer: if you care to look them up, references to literal farts (not including metaphors) can be found on pages 80, 193, and 272.

21.6 buy a paper
Could have been one of 12 possible New York City newspapers circulating at the time. Henry breaks the one dollar bill by purchasing a paper: "Scanning the news always gives me that extrasensory feeling of belonging to another planet."

<--- previous page 20 . next page 22 --->

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Miller-Girodias Correspondence

Yet more Millerania is up for sale by Manhattan Rare Books. I quote:

"Eleven autograph letters signed and two postcards signed; all written to Maurice Girodias. WITH: Ten typed carbon copy letters from Girodias to Miller and five copies (four in carbon) of letters from Girodias, Claude Gallimard, E.C. Brun-Munk, William Burroughs, and Frank MacShane recommending Miller for the Nobel Prize. Housed in custom slipcase and chemise. $12,500."

The website's description of this lot contains several quotes taken from these letters, circa 1973-78:

Girodias, from his letter to the Nobel Prize committee:
“that formidable example of freedom of mind and heart has given its momentum to many writers’ work, to many minds’ opening, to many changes of attitude”

Miller, to Girodias, in response:
“I don’t know how to thank you for that marvelous letter… I hope they take it to heart!”

Miller, on how to conduct his campaign for the Prize, and who else to contact:
"Make sure when you write them that they do not publicize my name!"

"Above all, Samuel Beckett and Graham Greene you should include. I didn’t know Greene read me!"

"[I have] now written over 125 people here and abroad… [and] nearly all I write are favorably inclined."

Miller, on losing the Prize:
"I can’t become ‘respectable’ even if it means losing prize."

"I was hoping to get it only for 1979. Happy my favorite writer I.S. [Isaac Singer] got it this year."

Miller, complimenting the written work of Girodias:
"Bravo! You made it, yes indeed. You have a wonderful full, sensuous et sensible touch. I can hardly believe I am reading Maurice Girodias at times. It makes me happy for you. At last you found the way, found yourself. Congratulations!!"

Miller, on his lack of financial success:
"We are always sailing close to the wind, too close for my taste—especially after all I have had published."

Miller, on his health and productivity:
"My sight is very poor now and I have to conserve it."

"I have arthritis of the hip. It’s lamed me—and always hurts like the devil. I hope I hadn’t seemed to put on any airs—of authority or what not. I have nothing to do with the elderly—I shun them."

"My spirit is OK but age is taking toll of my body. Nothing to do about it."

"I have begun to make W.C.’s [watercolors] again, since I have about written myself out."

I have previously written about Miller and the Nobel Prize.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

'Nexus' Typescript Pages

Here are some more original typescript pages up for sale by Manhattan Rare Books: this time a "fragment" from Nexus. These pages are numbered 46-60: they are actually Chapter 3 in the published Nexus (pps 36-46 in the Grove Press 1997 paperback edition).

The website makes no mention where these pages came from, but I would assume the source is the same as the Stand Still Like The Hummingbird pages: from the collection of his Danish publisher, Hans Reitzel.

This copy doesn't include any editorial corrections; only corrected typos and a couple of proofed spelling errors. The batch is being offered for US $2700.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Hummingbird" Typescript Pages

Manhattan Rare Books has posted several typescript pages from the essay Stand Still Like The Hummingbird (from the collection of the same name) on their website, complete with Miller's hand-made corrections and margin notes. There are 15 pages in total. Each page can be expanded on the website by clicking on it.

[Page 15 at left; Page 1 at right]

Here are details taken directly from the website:
"This manuscript is believed to have been sent to Miller's Danish publisher, Hans Reitzel, and includes Miller's handwritten note to Reitzel on the title page, "Note! Sorry about corrections but think they are clear. This is the third writing- couldn't do it a fourth time. H.M." With Miller's inked stamp ("Henry Miller / Big Sure, California") on the first page. Dated 20 December, 1959 on last page."

This collection is selling for US $3000.

Also on view are 15 pages from Nexus (which I'll post about next).

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Customers At The Tailor Shop

Henry Miller's The Tailor Shop (from Black Spring) recounts his time working in his father's tailor shop at 5 W 31st Street in New York. Details about the shop and Miller's experiences will come later. With this posting, I simply intend to list the notable and obscure men who crossed Miller's path as customers at the tailor shop during this time period (approx. 1912 to 1917).

Henry's job often involved the social side of the business: collecting debts, making deliveries, selling door-to-door, and just generally tending to customers face-to-face. A half-dozen tailors worked in the shared shop and kept their own clients; Miller still met and assisted many of them.

The majority of these customer names are drawn from The Tailor Shop (in Black Spring), though some are mentioned in other Miller works. I will update this list as I come across these names. (see sources at bottom)


John Barrymore ([2] 33)
Hard-drinking star of the Barrymore acting family. Used to drink on occassion with Miller's father.

David Belasco ([2] 33)
Important figure in the history of Broadway theatre; was another tailor's customer, but Henry helped with his outfitting.

Albert F Bendix ([1] 2-4)
Miller's favourite of three old crusty Bendix brothers; this one fussed about vest buttons and left Henry his dotted vests when he died.

H.W. Bendix ([1] 1-3)
The "grumpy" one of the Bendix brother; too mean and proud; an "old buzzard."

R. N. Bendix ([1] 2-3)
The brother with no legs, whom Henry never actually met except as a name in the ledger.

Guido Bruno ([2] 35)
A celebrity bohemian publisher of the Greenwich Village scene; brought his good friend Frank Harris into the shop.

Paul Dexter ([1] 13+)
Dapper, lovable man from Indiana who dressed for success but failed due to his drinking; drowned in a foot of water.

Mr. Dyker ([1] 43)
A very busy man who was determined to become a lawyer but was having trouble with a teenaged mistress. I believe this is the same man named John Stymer in Nexus (see below).

Frank Harris ([3] 43)
Rogue-ish writer and publisher who had many associations with the most famous writers of his day; the first real writer that Henry met. While offering Harris a loud blazer to try on, Harris remarked: "I'm not a minstrel, I'm just a writer."
Hendrix ([5] 82)
"Old man" Hendrix, who lived in a mansion "with a retinue of liveried servants. What a testy bugger he was, even when his liver gave him no trouble!"

Tom Jordan ([1] 34-36, 39, 42)
Miller mentions this man several times as someone to whom he must say Good Morning but can't, because his mind is still on the writing he was doing in his head during his walk to work. Jordan has stains on his fly and is in the company of a woman fixing her garter. There is also a reference in Tailor Shop (p 42) to Miller's father coming home drunk with Jordan, a fight ensuing between mother and father, then his father taking Jordan "to bed with him."

Julian Legree ([1] 6, 10, 19, 33)
A matinee idol (a "good egg") who always wore gray suits; a frequent drinking companion of his father's. According to [2] p. 33, this is actually an actor named Julian L'Estrange.

Tom Moffatt ([1] 8-11)
This customer never paid his bills, which led to an all-out billing and accounting war between he and Miller's father.

Walter Pach ([3] 43)
Artist and modern art critic; Miller felt too intimidated to mention that he had read Elie Faure's History Of Art, which Pach had translated (History Of Art is on Miller's list of 100 books that influenced him the most).

Boardman Robinson ([3] 43)
An illustrator and politcal cartoonist, who apparently did a bit of writing. In Miller's Paris notebooks (as ref'd in [3]), Henry recounts visiting Robinson's studio once and asking him how one becomes a writer. (the answer: "Why, as far as I know, you just write.")

John Stymer ([4] 21-46)
This client from Nexus is the one I believe is referenced as "Dyker" in The Tailor Shop. His story comprises chapter two of Nexus, in which the busy, chronic masturbator locks Henry (who was on a business visit) into a whirlwind, unending conversation which ends awkwardly with a sleepless night at his home and a proposition that he and Henry go into a writing arrangement together: he with the subject matter and Henry with the writing talents.

Baron Carola von Eschenbach ([1] 18-23)
An eccentric customer who had posed as a baron in Hollywood; he befriended the tailoring staff to a degree that Henry wanted to put him up at him home when "the baron" was broke and suffering from syphillis -- Henry's wife forbade it.

Until I locate the originating sources of some of some these names, I have included the Miller biographies in which they are credited as being customers at the shop. Since The Tailor Shop appears in a few collections, I have given pages numbers that correspond to the singular story itself, not the varying editions in which they appear.

[1] The Tailor Shop (Henry Miller)
[2] Henry Miller: A Life (Robert Ferguson)
[3] Always Merry And Bright (Jay Martin)
[4] Nexus (Henry Miller)
[5] Big Sur And The Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (Henry Miller)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Orwell Visits Miller At Villa Seurat

At the end of December 1936, George Orwell paid Henry Miller a visit at his Paris home at 18 rue Villa Seurat. (see my previous posting about the history of their relationship to understand the context of the visit).

The two main published sources of information regarding this visit are:
[1] Alfred Perles in My Friend, Henry Miller (Part III, Chapter 7). Perles gives a first-hand account of the visit, having apparently been there at the time;
[2] George Orwell in Inside The Whale (beginning of Chapter 3).

En Route To Spain
George Orwell (at left, in 1936) departed for Spain from England in December 1936 on the pretext of writing newspaper articles about the Spanish Civil War. His sympathies were with the Socialist Republicans against what he regarded as a Fascist Nationalist uprising under Franco. Ever since Orwell had reviewed Tropic Of Cancer in the New English Weekly a year earlier, he and Henry Miller had exchanged a few letters. Miller's last letter to him before the visit was in October 1936.

According to D.J. Taylor's Orwell: The Life, Orwell "probably set out on 23 December." (p.200). He enlsited with the POUM militia on December 30th (ref) which he had done almost immediately upon arrival in Spain, so a visit to Miller probably occured somewhere between Dec 24 - Dec 28, 1936.

"When I had passed through Paris on my way to Spain it had seemed to me decayed and gloomy, very different from the Paris I had known eight years earlier, when living was cheap and Hitler was not heard of." [Orwell, [3] Homage To Catalonia, p. 220 - Penguin paperback, 1968 (full text here)]. According to Dearborn's Happiest Man Alive, Orwell came to Paris to "collect some travel documents" (p. 191).

A Visit With Henry Miller
Alfred Perles [1] writes that Orwell arrived in the morning: "a tallish emaciated Englishman walked into Miller's studio and introduced himself as George Orwell." (p. 129). Perles claims that Orwell came to "enlist [Miller's] sympathy for the Spanish Republican cause." (p. 130).

Miller and Orwell engaged in a conversation that afternoon that seems to have revolved around their differences of opinion on whether one should fight for Peace (Orwell) or take a pacifist position for Peace (Miller): "Both were peace-loving men but, whereas Miller manifested his love of peace by refuing to fight for any cause, Orwell has no reluctance to engage in war, if the cause ere, in his opinion, a just one." [1]

Orwell writes that Miller had "no interest in the Spanish war whatsoever. He merely told me in forceable terms that to go to Spain at that moment was the act of an idiot" [2] (especially if one acted out of a "sense of obligation"). Orwell paraphrases Miller's countering thoughts: "Our civilization was destined to be swept away and replaced by something so different that we scarcely regard it as human" [2].

According to Perles, however, "Miller did not try, of course, to win Orwell over to his way of thinking or even to disuade him from going to Spain." [1] Orwell explained (acc. to Perles) how an "indelible mark" [1] was left on him from his unpleasant experience with the police force in India and all of the suffering he had witnessed. Miller understood how this gnawing guilt motivated Orwell, but wondered why he "chose to punish himself still further" [1] by going to Spain, when, in Miller's eyes, he had already suffered enough.

"To this Orwell made the classic reply that in such momentus situations, where the rights and the very existence of a whole people are at stake, there could be no thought of avoiding self-sacrifice. He spoke his convictions so earnestly and humbly that Miller desisted from further argument and promptly gave him his blessings." [1]

A Jacket For The Cause

Before Orwell left to catch his train from the Gare d'Austerlitz to the Spanish front, Miller offered him a corduroy jacket. "'I can't let you go to war in this beautiful Savile Row suit of yours. Here, let me present you with this corduroy jacket, it's just what you need. It isn't bullet-proof but at least it'll keep you warm. Take it, if you like, as my contribution to the Spanish republican cause.'" [1] These are the formal words that Perles put into Henry's mouth; in an interview with Kenneth Turan in 1977, Miller quotes himself this way: "Change that coat, you're going to war, let me give you one of my old corduroys or something." Orwell accepted the coat but corrected Miller by telling him that his suit was actually from Charing Cross Road. [1]
As it turns out, the militia that Orwell would soon join wore corduroy breeches [3] (p.12).

This entire anecdote was written about in less detail in The Atlantic Monthly in 1995.

Below is a photograph of Orwell (circled) in Spain just three months later. On May 20th, 1937, Orwell was shot in the throat in Spain (he recovered). With his militia outlawed and targeted by the Communist police, Orwell had to esacpe back to England in the summer of 1937.

Miller and Orwell continued to stay in touch for the next decade or so. According to Miller in an interview with George Wickes in 1962, he met Orwell "maybe two or three times on [Orwell's] visits to Paris." There is no other record that I know of regarding a second visit.

Miller Letter To Orwell, August 1936

Here's a fragment of a letter from Henry Miller to George Orwell in August 1936. This excerpt was published in Orwell: Wintry Conscience Of A Generation by Jeffrey Meyers. In it, Miller begins with his reaction to Orwell's novel Down And Out In Paris And London, in which Orwell had documented his experiences with poverty in those cities:

"It's almost fantastic; it's so incredibly true! How you ever held out for so long is beyond me .... Did you ever get to China? It's a pity you couldn't have had another section on down and out in Shanghai. That would be the coup de grace!"
[p. 107]

Miller has stated in an interview: "I was crazy about [Orwell's] book Down And Out In Paris And London; I think it's a classic. For me it's still his best book."
[Int. w/ George Wickes, 1962, Paris Review; quoted from Conversations With Henry Miller, p.56]