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Lot 7: Rare Autograph Letter Written by Composer George Antheil from Famous Bohemian Grove
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Rare Autograph Letter Written by George Antheil from Bohemian Grove: “One meets fabulous people on every hand. You’ll never believe it all…”********** ANTHEIL, GEORGE. (1900-1959). Avant-garde American composer. ALS. (“George (Antheil)”). 2pp. 8vo. Monte Rio, California, July 17, 1955. On illustrated Bohemian Grove stationery to Johnny (likely film composer, song writer and conductor JOHNNY GREEN, 1908-1989; best known for his songs “Body and Soul” and “Out of Nowhere”). ********** “I had to take a brief vacation here directly after coming home to Hollywood from N.Y. – somewhat later than I had originally believed. I hope that after I arrive back from here that you, Bonnie and Böski and I can get together at our home for dinner. This is a fabulous place. Upon my honor I’ve just finished talking [sic] a long walk with one of my previous friends of the Grove, –Junius S. Morgan! I am giving one of our camp lectures (on opera!) here on Wednesday; and this series of lectures will be concluded with one by Secretary Dulles. President Eisenhower is a member of the Bohemians, but of course, not present now. One meets fabulous people on every hand. You’ll never believe it all until someday, some summer, as my guest, you’ll see for yourself. Please do reserve time for us in early August, or late July – I’ve a new tape machine (very good one) and a tape of my new opera The Wish, the U.S. nomination for the Prix Italia. I want very much to play it especially for you and Bonnie and, if you like Capital of the World there is a bare chance that you will like it. I loved your concert – I was present. Yours devotedly…”********** As a young composer, Antheil pursued modernist composition in Europe. In Berlin, he met the woman who would become his wife, Hungarian-born Elizabeth “Böski” Markus (1902-1978), the bohemian niece of Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler. In Paris, the couple lived in apartments above Sylvia Beach’s famed bookstore Shakespeare and Company and mingled with writers and artists such as James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Pablo Picasso, Erik Satie, and Ezra Pound. At Antheil’s Paris debut, his performance of his compositions resulted in a riot. During these heady days he composed his best-known work, the Ballet Mécanique, and his Transatlantic became probably the first American opera ever to receive a major production in a foreign country. His years in Europe came to a close, however, when the Nazis made Germany an unwelcome place for avant-garde composers. Returning to the U.S. in the 1930s, Antheil began working in Hollywood, composing more than 30 film scores, including The Plainsman, Angels over Broadway, In a Lonely Place, and the 1955 film Dementia. His opera The Wish was composed in 1954 and the orchestral work Capital of the World Suite in 1955. ********** In addition to his career as a composer, Antheil, the “bad boy of music,” was a journalist, mystery writer, inventor of a torpedo (with the assistance of Hedy Lamarr!), kept a syndicated lonely hearts column, and was a military analyst in the press and on radio. ********** During the 1930s, Johnny Green composed the Jazz standards “Body and Soul” and “Out of Nowhere” as well as the theme song to the cartoon Betty Boop, while working as an arranger and accompanist for Ethel Merman, James Melton and Gertrude Lawrence at Paramount Pictures. In addition to touring with his own orchestra, he composed works for big band conductor Paul Whiteman, made popular recordings, headlined an orchestra at New York’s St. Regis Hotel, performed frequently on the radio, and, during the 1940s, composed works for Hollywood films. From 1949 to 1959, he served as the music director for MGM, working on such Academy Award-winning scores as An American in Paris, Easter Parade, Oliver!, and West Side Story. ********** Our letter mentions Green’s third wife, actress Bunny (Bonnie) Waters (1916-1992), a member of MGM’s “Glamazons,” a group of six-foot tall showgirls. Their marriage lasted from 1943 until his death. ********** The Bohemian Grove encampment, an exclusive yearly gathering amongst the redwoods outside the Sonoma County town of Monte Rio, California, was begun by a group of artists in 1872. Often cited by conspiracy theorists as a secret society for powerbrokers, the club has counted among its members, scions of industry, presidents, politicians, artists, writers, and composers including Mark Twain, Jack London, Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller, Robert Oppenheimer, Karl Rove, Hunter S. Thomson, and Oscar Wilde. Bohemian Grove traditions include an opening ceremony featuring the “cremation of care” at the Owl Shrine and amateur theatrical productions, often done in drag, as the club admits no female members. In 1952, Antheil published a wind quintet entitled Bohemian Grove at Night. ********** Our letter mentions several prominent Bohemians including American soldier, NATO commander and 34th president of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969); John Foster Dulles (1888-1959) who, at the time of our letter, was Eisenhower’s secretary of state, and Junius Spencer Morgan III (1892-1960), grandson of financier J.P. Morgan and himself an American banker. Morgan was married to the daughter of Boston composer Frederick Converse. ********** Several letters Antheil wrote to Green in 1955 are in the collection of the Library of Congress. ********** With a single file hole in the upper margin of each page, one of which lightly affects two letters of one word. Bearing a purple ink date stamp with a blue ink initialed (“JG”) autograph notation that it was “Answered by hand” on September 7, 1955, probably written by Johnny Green. Folded and in very good condition. Rare.