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Odets a Gotham ‘Peach’

To the Editor:

Regarding your recent review of “The Flowering Peach” (Variety, March 21-27), I feel I should point out that Clifford Odets was here in New York almost continually from the time “The Big Knife” was produced (1949 at the then National Theater) until he returned to Hollywood in the late ’50s to write the screenplay of Thomas Mann’s “Joseph and His Brethren,” a project that never materialized. He had been, however, in Hollywood during most of the war.

It has been suggested that “The Flowering Peach” was an apologia and defense written as a result of his name-giving testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. I do not believe this is true. In fact, he gave me the beautiful first act of what eventually became “The Flowering Peach” shortly after I produced the 1952 revival of “Golden Boy” in 1952 — but before his appearance, I believe, before the HUAC.

In talking with Clifford at that time, it seemed to me that the play had more to do with his strange, conflicting and unrealized relationship with his father than with his HUAC testimony. Also, it must be remembered that the testimony was private and not widely publicized as, for instance, were Elia Kazan’s and even poor, dear Julie (John) Garfield, a complete innocent who was used simply because he was a movie star.

I do think, however, that Clifford’s testimony had a very profound effect on his whole existence, his whole being. He had been the great, heroic liberal voice of the ’30s. The aftermath of his testimony was so profound that I do not feel he was able to sit down immediately and write a play about it — not even subconsciously. In my mind, the pain of that secret, buried deep inside his spirit, destroyed him and created his illness — and eventually killed him.– Robert Whitehead

Whitehead produced the premiere of “The Flowering Peach” on Broadway in 1954.

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