Biden versus Trump- their first 15 months! April 1, 2022- Richard J. Garfunkel

At the end of March, 2018, 15 months into the Trump administration, the amount of jobs created were 2,931,000 or 188,700 per month. That was lower than the last year of the Obama Administration and lower than any of the last three years of that same administration. By the end of February of 2018, the unemployment rate 4.4% or approximately .3% lower than in 2016. That is also with the $2 trillion tax signed into law. In fact, In fact in the first three years of the Trump Administration the unemployment rate dropped from 4.7% to 3.5%, a 1.2% decline.  When Trump left office the unemployment rate was 6.9%, it is now 3.6%. In June of 2009, the unemployment rate from the Bush-Derivative Great recession had ballooned to 10%. When Obama left office it was 4.7%, a decline of 5.3% or cut by more than 50%.

The growth of the GDP in 2017 was 2.33%, way below the projected 4-5% that was predicted by the Trump economic team.  Wages grew at 2.5% in 2017. Also, the price of a gallon of gasoline, before the Trump Pandemic, topped out at an average of $2.90 in May of 2019.That was the highest price in five years. That was before the surge in demand and the war in the Ukraine.

As of April 1st of 2022, in the last 15 months of the Biden Administration there were 7,976,000 jobs created or a monthly average of 531,700. The unemployment rate was 3.6% or 18% lower than the Trump Miracle first 15 months.

Wages grew at 4.4%, the fast growth since 1983, and the GDP for all of 2021 grew at 5.7% or almost 2.5 times the Trump growth rate of 2.33%. The last quarter of 2021 grew at 6.9%. Both annually and in the last quarter, this was the greatest increase in the GDP in over 30 years.

According to a 2017 survey, many large corporations said that they didn’t need the money from the Trump administration’s tax cuts. They were sitting on a record $2.3 trillion in cash reserves, double the level in 2001

.Instead of using the money from tax cuts to increase production, create more jobs, or raise wages, the CEOs of Cisco, Pfizer, and Coca-Cola instead planned to use the additional cash to pay dividends to shareholders. The CEO of Amgen would use the proceeds to buy back shares of stock. As for the tax cut and jobs act of 2017, according to a study by the Booking’s Institute, May, 2020- the Trump Tax Cut did not pay for itself, nor is it likely to do so in the future.

Accordingly in January of 2021, the real unemployment was 25.5% or 15%.

Eddy Rickenbacker, America’s WW I, “Ace of Aces!” by Richard J. Garfunkel April 12, 2022

My grandfather, John Kivo, who was a pioneer regarding commercial flight was a great admirer of Eddie Rickenbacker, who made his name in racing, was the most famous American flier from WWI, who eventually ran and owned the Indianapolis Speedway, along with founding Eastern Airlines.

John Kivo was born in Yasi, Romania in the early 1884 and immigrated to the United States two years later with his family. His older brother had escaped the draft into the Russian Army during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, when many Jews left Romania and headed to other parts of Europe and eventually America. He was young, there was a price on his head, and getting out of the country was critical.

As my grandfather prospered, he started to fly commercially and was a very early investor in Pan American Airways. Since like all Americans of that era, he admired speed and racing heroes like Barney Oldfield, who was a pioneer in the field of auto racing and exhibitions of speed racing. Because my grandfather had met Eddy Rickenbacker a number of times, I was always interested in his career.  

Edward Rickenbacker, who was born in 1890, was from Ohio, like Oldfield and was the third child to Swiss German-speaking immigrants. Growing up in the little house, Eddy had the “privilege” of “working long hours before and after school. His life-long love affair with speed and machines also began in his early years. He and his Horsehead Gang buddies constructed “pushcarts” in a kind of precursor to the Soapbox Derby. About the time of the Wright Brothers first heavier-than-air flight, Eddie famously tried to “fly” a bicycle outfitted with an umbrella off his friend’s barn roof. Another time, he tried to design a perpetual motion machine. His father berated him for wasting his time on an invention that had no purpose. One today would call Rickenbacker a “dare devil” who seemed to do all sorts of things and adventures that put his life and limb at risk!

In his first automobile race Rickenbacker failed to finish after crashing through an outer fence. Nevertheless, his passion for speed was confirmed. That summer he went on to win most of the dirt track races he entered, including five of six at Omaha’s Aksarben Festival in October. When he burst onto the scene newspapers misspelled his name as “Reichenbaugh,” “Reichenbacher,” or “Reichenberger,” before settling on “Rickenbacher,” and sometimes “Richenbacher” or “Rickenbacker.

The month before, while he had been in Los Angeles, Rickenbacker had had two chance encounters with aviators. Glenn Martin, founder of Glenn L. Martin Company and more recently with Wright-Martin Aircraft, gave Rickenbacker his first ride aloft. Major Townsend F. Dodd was stranded with his plane in a field and Eddie diagnosed a magneto problem. Dodd later became General John J. Pershing‘s aviation officer and an important contact in Rickenbacker’s attempt to join air combat.

In late May, 1917, a week before he was to race in Cincinnati, Rickenbacker was invited to be chauffeur for General John J. Pershing. By mid-June, he was “somewhere in France,” driving Army officials between Paris and A.E.F. headquarters in Chaumont, between headquarters and various points on the Western Front.

Rickenbacker was given a rank of Sergeant First Class but did not drive for General Pershing. He mostly drove for Major Dodd, whom they had met in late 1916. Once again, Rickenbacker made an important connection by repairing a superior’s broken-down car, famously by fashioning a bearing of babbitt metal in a sand mold at a country mechanic’s shop for Lieutenant Colonel Billy Mitchell. Mitchell, a rising officer in the aviation section of the Army’s Signal Corps, was impressed. He was just the man Rickenbacker needed to ingratiate in order to get flight training, still his main goal. Mitchell would become famous for demonstrating the importance of air power. He created a sensation when he used “banned” tactics in a bombing exercise regarding captured German warships and obsolete American naval ships in the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia and eventually Cape Hatteras. Eventually he was the subject of a famous court-martial case held in 1925.  This case was made into a movie, starring Gary Cooper as Mitchell. On the Board of Inquiry, regarding the court-martial, amongst the “jurors” was the young General MacArthur and Colonel Thomas Lanphier Sr. He was eventually convicted. Col. Lanphier’s son, Thomas Jr, was the lead pilot of a P-38 Lightning, whose group intercepted and shot down the plane carrying the Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Mitchell, who died in 1939, at the age of 56, also was one who predicted that someday the Japanese would bomb Pearl Harbor. The B-25 Mitchell bomber was named after Brigadier General Mitchell, and 16 of those planes were used on the famous Jimmy Doolittle raid of Japan in 1942

For Rickenbacker, it was a chance encounter with Captain James Miller on the Champs-Elysees that put him on the track to become a fighter pilot. Miller asked Rickenbacker to be the chief engineer at the flight school and aerodrome he was establishing at Issoudun. Rickenbacker bargained for the chance to learn to fly at the French flight school outside Toul. He received just five weeks of training, twenty-five hours in the air, in September, 1917. Then he went to Issoudun to start constructing the US Air Service’s pursuit training facility,

American aviation cadets—college men—were just beginning to arrive for their flight training. Rickenbacker resented their cocky attitude. They scorned his rough manner and speech. During the next three months, Rickenbacker stole moments from his work to continue his flight training, standing in at the back of lectures and taking aeroplanes up on his own to practice new maneuvers. He would eventually earn the respect of the aviators, but for now he had just one ally among the cadets, Lieutenant Reed Chambers. In January, 1918, Rickenbacker finagled his way into getting released to gunnery school, the final step on his road to becoming a pursuit pilot.

In February and March, Rickenbacker and the officers of the nascent 1st Pursuit Group completed advanced training at Villeneuve-les-Vertus Aerodrome. There the young lieutenant came under the tutelage and mentorship of Major Raoul Lufbery, whom Rickenbacker would credit for his success in the air. “All I learned, I learned from Lufbery,” he would say Lufbery took him and Douglas Campbell on their first patrol “over the line” even before their Nieuport 28s were outfitted with machine guns. By now Rickenbacker had earned the respect of the other fliers, who had begun calling him “Rick.”

Both squadrons relocated to Toul, in the St. Mihiel sector, where Rickenbacker had begun his training with the French seven months earlier. Now the American air service had its own aerodrome, Gengoult, nearby. Before beginning their patrols each of the two squadrons chose an insignia to paint on its planes. The 95th chose a kicking mule. The 94th chose an Uncle Sam stovepipe hat, tipped inside a surrounding circle. One officer remarked, “Well, I guess our hat is in the ring now!”  And the squadron became known as “The Hat-in-the-Ring Gang.”

Rickenbacker made his first sortie with Reed Chambers on April 13, which almost ended in disaster when both became lost and Chambers had to make a forced landing. Flight commander David Peterson called Rick a “bloody fool for flying off in a fog.” Two weeks later, on April 29, 1918, Rickenbacker shot down his first enemy plane. On May 28, he claimed his fifth victory to become an ace. Rickenbacker was awarded the French Croix de Guerre that month for his five victories. This success did not mean the end of difficulties, however. Several times he almost fired on friendly planes. He nearly crashed when the fabric on his Nieuport’s wing tore off in a dive. He mourned the death of Lufbery. And his guns kept jamming whenever he went in for the kill.

Rickenbacker did get in the air in time for the St. Mihiel offensive based out of Rembercourt Aerodrome, beginning Sept. 12. By this time, the 94th and the others squadrons of the 1st Pursuit had converted from their agile but temperamental Nieuports to the more rugged, higher-powered Spad XIII. The new machine fit Rickenbacker’s style of attack to a tee. He made his first kill on September 14 against a Fokker D-VII, and another the day after that. As Rickenbacker’s performance was rising, the 94th Squadron’s was still disappointing after a sluggish summer at Chateau Thierry. Major Harold Hartney, commander of the 1st Pursuit Group since late August, wanted new leadership to spark the Hat-in-the-Ring Gang (later an early symbol of the NY Yankees) to its former greatness. He chose Lieutenant Rickenbacker over several other captains to become the new commander of the 94th Squadron.

Rickenbacker went to right work turning his men “back into a team.” He gathered his pilots and exhorted them to stay focused on their mission: shooting down enemy planes. Reminding the mechanics that he was one of them, he stressed the crucial importance of their work. Above all, to underscore his point, the next morning Rickenbacker took a solo patrol over the line and shot down two enemy planes.

Building on the leadership skills he had first developed with Maxwell in 1915–1916, Rickenbacker turned the 94th Squadron into a winning team. Rickenbacker was determined to “blind the eyes of the enemy” by taking out his observation balloons. The giant gas bags appeared so temptingly easy to bring down but were in fact heavily guarded and extremely dangerous to attack. He led planning sessions for multi-squadron raids of as many as fourteen planes. One reporter likened him to a big time football coach, “boning up for the season ahead” with “conferences on methods, blackboard talks, and ideas for air battle tactics.” All the planning didn’t guarantee success.

Rickenbacker himself was credited with bringing down five balloons, far fewer than the air service’s most prolific balloon-buster, Frank Luke of the 27th Aero Squadron. Rickenbacker inculcated the squadron with his new principles of engagement, first germinated while confined in a Parisian hospital. Never attack unless there is at least 50–50 chance of success; always break off an engagement that seems hopeless; know the difference between cowardice and common sense. He continued to fly aggressively, but with a calculated caution. What the sportswriter had written about Rickenbacker the race car driver still applied: “the most daring and withal the most cautious”[ fighter pilot in the 1st Pursuit Group. He also flew more patrols, more hours in the air, than any other pilot in the service, a total of 300 combat hours. He brought down 15 aircraft in the final six weeks of the war, bringing his total victories to 26 and making him The United States. “Ace of aces,” for the war.

The military determined ace status by verifying combat claims by a pilot, but confirmation, too, was needed from ground witnesses, affirmations of other pilots, or observation of the wreckage of the opposing enemy aircraft. If no witnesses could be found, a reported kill was not counted. It was an imperfect system, dependent on the frailties of human observation, as well as vagaries of weather and terrain. Most aces’ records are thus ‘best estimates’, not ‘exact counts’. Nevertheless, Rickenbacker’s 26 victories remained the American record until Richard Bong‘s 40 kills in World War II.

Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross a record eight times. One of these awards, regarding his victories in the air above Billy, France, was converted in 1930 to the Medal of Honor. It was awarded to him in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. He was also awarded the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre by France. (See Honors and Awards below.) In 1919, Rickenbacker was discharged from the Army Air Service with the rank of captain, which he had obtained sometime in October.

Rickenbacker was received home as a war hero. At the Waldorf-Astoria, six hundred “friends and admirers, including Secretary of War Newton Baker and his mother, shuttled in from Columbus, Ohio cheered him and toasted him and shouted and sang to him. On the streets, he described getting mobbed by souvenir seekers, tearing buttons and ribbons off his uniform.

After the Liberty Bond tour, Rickenbacker was released from the army with the rank of Major, which he never used. He felt the rank of captain was the only one that was “earned and deserved.” He was often referred to as “Captain Eddie” or just “the Captain” for the rest of his life.

Rickenbacker had a name he could capitalize on in any business he chose. He had already told a reporter, “There is no comparison between the auto and the air. I am through with the automobile and I stand ready to place my skill and talents in flying.” As early as December 1919, Rickenbacker had begun discussing with Reed Chambers the possibility of a joint venture in aircraft manufacturing. But the way forward was not apparent. Airlines did not yet exist. Performance and safety were still a concern. “Aeroplane” was still the preferred spelling. Rickenbacker resorted to his promotional abilities to spur public and governmental enthusiasm, but his efforts did not always pay off. In 1920 and 1921 he made four transcontinental crossings, twice in Junkers-Larsen JL-6s and twice in De Haviland DH-4s. In the course of these four trips, he underwent seven crack-ups, nine near misses, and eight forced landings in cornfields and the like.

Rickenbacker spent the first eight months of 1921 traveling the Golden State, promoting the Sheridan and opening new dealerships there. He often traveled between cities by plane, a leased Bellanca.

Rickenbacker Motor Company marketed its vehicle as “A Car Worthy of Its Name.” It was a high-quality mid-priced car, “up to the minute in every detail,” with models ranging from about $1500 to $2000. The Rickenbacker was selected to make the first transcontinental radio tour in June 1922, because it “offers the least resistance to radio because of vibration.” 

Rickenbacker met Adelaide Frost Durant in Los Angeles before the war. She was married to Clifford Durant, hard-partying son of Billy Durant of General Motors fame and racing competitor of Eddie Rickenbacker. Cliff was also an abusive husband. Adelaide chose to get a hysterectomy to ensure she would bear him no children. Her father-in-law stepped in to allow her to live independently, buying her a comfortable home and giving her $220,000 in equities (half of the value in GM stock). Eventually Rickenbacker married Adelaide Durant.

On November 1, 1927, Rickenbacker bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which he operated for nearly a decade and a half, overseeing many improvements to the facility. Once the Speedway operations were under control, Rickenbacker looked for additional opportunities for entrepreneurship, including in sales for the Cadillac division of General Motors, and for various aircraft manufacturers and airlines. After the 500-mile (800 km) race in 1941, Rickenbacker closed the Speedway due to World War II. Among other things, holding the race would have been a waste of valuable gasoline, rubber, and other resources. In 1945, Rickenbacker sold the racetrack to the businessman Anton (Tony) Hulman, Jr.

Rickenbacker kept his fingers in the automotive pot and capitalized on his General Motors connections through his wife, former daughter-in-law of Billy Durant. On November 1, 1927, Rickenbacker purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Carl Fisher for $700,000. He deemed the income (he gave himself a salary of $5,000 a year) and public relations opportunities more valuable than the $700,000 in additional debt he incurred. In January, 1928, Rickenbacker became assistant general manager for sales at GM its Cadillac and LaSalle models. Later in the year, he took out another loan, this time for $90,000 to buy the Allison Engine Company, and earned a significant amount on the resale to GM. Rickenbacker did much the same thing with Bendix Corporation soon after. Lewis believes Rickenbacker kept some aspects of the transaction secret, saving him taxes and allowing him to pay back his debt.

By mid-1929, Rickenbacker had returned his focus to aviation. He convinced General Motors to purchase Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America, the designer of fighter planes he once faced on the Western Front. As compensation for his advice, Rickenbacker was made FACA’s vice president for sales. Rickenbacker chose not to follow the aviation company when it relocated its headquarters to Baltimore in 1932. He was quickly hired as vice president for governmental relations at American Airways (of American Air Transport), an essential function as at a time when all airlines were both subsidized and heavily regulated by the government. Ten months later, Rickenbacker separated from AAT and returned his attention to GM, prodding the auto maker to purchase North American Aviation, a company he had previously convinced American Air Transport to purchase. The deal went through and Rickenbacker was made vice president for public affairs in GM’s latest aviation venture, starting in June 1933. NAA was the parent company for Eastern Air Lines, Curtiss-Wright Corporation, and Trans World Airlines. Rickenbacker positioned himself to become general manager of Eastern Air Lines when the position opened up at the start of 1935.

Rickenbacker was adamantly opposed to President Franklin Roosevelt‘s New Deal policies, seeing them as little better than socialism. For this, he drew criticism and ire from the press and the Roosevelt administration, which ordered NBC Radio not to allow him to broadcast opinions critical of Roosevelt’s policies after Rickenbacker had harshly denounced the president’s decision to rescind existing mail contracts in 1934 and have U.S. Army Air Corps pilots carry the air mail. At the time, Rickenbacker was vice president of one of the companies affected, Eastern Air Transport. When a number of inexperienced, undertrained Army pilots were killed in crashes soon afterward, Rickenbacker stated, “That’s legalized murder!”

Rickenbacker’s most lasting business endeavor was his longtime leadership of Eastern Air Lines. Through the 1920s, he had worked with and for General Motors (GM): first as the California distributor for its new car, the short-lived Sheridan, then later as a marketer for the LaSalle, and finally as vice president of sales for their affiliate, Fokker Aircraft Company. He persuaded GM to purchase North American Aviation, a conglomerate whose assets included Eastern Air Transport. GM asked him to manage Eastern, beginning in 1935. With the help of some friends, Rickenbacker merged Eastern Air Transport and Florida Airways to form Eastern Air Lines, an airline that eventually grew from a company flying a few thousand miles per week into a major airline. In April 1938, after learning that GM was considering selling Eastern to John D. Hertz, Rickenbacker met with GM’s Chairman of the Board, Alfred P. Sloan, and bought the company for $3.5 million.

Rickenbacker also scripted a popular comic strip called Ace Drummond from 1935 to 1940. He worked with aviation artist and author Clayton Knight, who illustrated the series. The strip followed the adventures of aviator Drummond. It was later adapted into a film serial and radio program. Between 1935 and 1940, Knight and Rickenbacker also did another King Features comic strip, The Hall of Fame of the Air, depicting airplanes and air battles in a fact-based series about famous and little-known aviators. This strip was adapted into a Big Little Book, Hall of Fame of the Air (Whitman Publishing, 1936)

He oversaw many radical changes in the field of commercial aviation. He negotiated with the U.S. government to acquire air mail routes, a great advantage to companies in need of business. He helped develop and support new aircraft designs. Rickenbacker bought the new, large, faster airliners for Eastern Air Lines, including the four-engine Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-4. Rickenbacker personally collaborated with many of the pioneers of aviation, including Donald W. Douglas, the founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company, and the designer and builder of the large, four-engine airliners, the DC-4DC-6DC-7, and DC-8 (its first jet airliner).

Rickenbacker promoted flying to the American public, but, always aware of the possibility of accidents, he wrote in his autobiography, “I have never liked to use the word ‘safe’ in connection with either Eastern Air Lines or the entire transportation field; I prefer the word ‘reliable’.” Rickenbacker often traveled for business on Eastern Air Lines flights. On February 26, 1941, he was a passenger on a Douglas DC-3 airliner that crashed just outside Atlanta, Georgia. Rickenbacker suffered grave injuries, being soaked in fuel, immobile, and trapped in the wreckage. In spite of his own critical wounds, Rickenbacker encouraged the other passengers, offered what consolation he could to those around him who were injured or dying, and guided the survivors who were still ambulatory to attempt to find help. The survivors were rescued after spending the night at the crash site. Rickenbacker barely survived. This was just the first time that the press announced his death while he was still alive.

In a dramatic retelling of the incident, Rickenbacker’s autobiography relates his astonishing experiences. While he was still conscious but in terrible pain, Rickenbacker was left behind while some ambulances carried away bodies of the dead. When Rickenbacker arrived at a hospital, his injuries appeared so grotesque that the emergency surgeons and physicians left him for dead for some time. They instructed their assistants to “take care of the live ones.”[76] Rickenbacker’s injuries included a fractured skull, other head injuries, a shattered left elbow with a crushed nerve, a paralyzed left hand, several broken ribs, a crushed hip socket, a pelvis broken in two places, a severed nerve in his left hip, and a broken left knee. Rickenbacker’s left eyeball was also blown out of its socket.

It took many months in the hospital, followed by a long time at home, for Rickenbacker to heal from this multitude of injuries and to regain his full eyesight. Rickenbacker described his terrible experience with vivid accounts of his mental state as he approached death—emphasizing the supreme act of will that it took to stave off dying. Rickenbacker’s autobiography reports that he spent ten days at the door of death, which he illustrated as “having an overwhelming sensation of calm and pleasure”.

Rickenbacker supported the war effort as a civilian. While initially supporting the isolationist movement, Rickenbacker officially left the America First organization in 1940, having only been a nominal member of it for a few months. From this point on he took an outspokenly pro-British stance. He was inspired by “England’s heroic resistance to relentless air attacks” from the Luftwaffe‘s campaign against the island of Great Britain in 1940 during the Battle of Britain, and wrote at that time: “Should these gallant British withstand the terrific onslaught of the totalitarian states until the summer of 1941, it is my sincere conviction that by that time this nation will have declared war.” Rickenbacker was one of a few celebrities who took part in campaigns to rally his fellow World War I veterans to the British cause before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1942, he toured training bases in the southwestern United States and in England. He encouraged the American public to contribute time and resources, and pledged Eastern Air Lines equipment and personnel for use in military activities. Under Rickenbacker’s direction Eastern Air Lines, along with other air lines such as Pan American Airlines, provided the means of war to British forces and flew munitions and supplies across the North Atlantic Ocean to the British.

Rickenbacker inspected troops, operations, and equipment, and served in a publicity function to increase support from civilians and soldiers. In 1942, with a sweeping letter of authorization from Henry L. StimsonU.S. Secretary of War, Rickenbacker visited England on an official war mission and made ground-breaking recommendations for better war operations. He worked with both the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces on bombing strategy, including work with Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris and General Carl Andrew Spaatz.

One of Rickenbacker’s most famous near-death experiences occurred in October 1942. Stimson sent him on a tour of air bases in the Pacific Theater of Operations to review both living conditions and operations, but also to deliver personally a secret message of rebuke to General Douglas MacArthur from the President for negative public comments MacArthur had made about the administration and disparaging cables sent to Marshall. After visiting several air and sea bases in Hawaii, Rickenbacker was provided an older B-17D Flying Fortress (AAF Ser. No. 40-3089) as transportation to the South Pacific. The bomber, (with a crew of eight) strayed hundreds of miles off course while on its way to a refueling stop on Canton Island and was forced to ditch in a remote and little-traveled part of the Central Pacific Ocean.

The failure in navigation has been ascribed to an out-of-adjustment celestial navigation instrument, a bubble octant that gave a systematic bias to all of its readings. That octant reportedly had suffered a severe shock in a pre-takeoff mishap. The pre-takeoff mishap occurred during the first attempt to take off in a different bomber, but the landing gear’s brakes seized mid-takeoff. They kept the same damaged bubble octant on a different plane, which caused the navigational failure. This unnecessary ditching spurred on the development of improved navigational instruments and also better survival gear for the air crewmen. The B-17’s aircraft commander, former American Airlines pilot Captain William T. Cherry, Jr., was forced to ditch close to Japanese-held islands but the Americans were never spotted by Japanese patrol planes, and were adrift on the ocean for thousands of miles.

For 24 days, Rickenbacker, Army Captain Hans C. Adamson, his friend and business partner, and the rest of the 8 crewmen drifted in life rafts at sea. Rickenbacker was still suffering somewhat from his earlier airplane crash, and Capt. Adamson sustained serious injuries during the ditching. The other crewmen who were in the B-17, named Bartek, Reynolds, Whittaker, Cherry, Kaczmarczyk, and De Angelis, were hurt to varying degrees. The crewmen’s food supply ran out after three days. Then, on the eighth day, a seagull landed on Rickenbacker’s head. He warily and cautiously captured it, and then the survivors meticulously divided it into equal parts and used part of it for fishing bait. They lived on sporadic rain water that fell and similar food “miracles”, like fingerlings that they caught with their bare hands.

Rickenbacker assumed leadership, encouraging and browbeating the others to keep their spirits up. One crewman, Alexander Kaczmarczyk, was suffering from dehydration. He drank sea water, knowing it was a bad idea. He died and was buried at sea. The U.S. Army Air Forces and the U.S. Navy‘s patrol planes planned to abandon the search for the lost B-17 crewmen after just over two weeks, but Rickenbacker’s wife persuaded them to extend it another week. The services agreed to do so. Once again, the newspapers and radio broadcasts reported that Rickenbacker was dead.

The seven split up. Cherry rowed off in the small raft and was rescued on day 23. Reynolds, De Angelis, and Whittwaker found a small island, close to another, inhabited one. The natives of the second one were hosting an allied radio station, so all was good for the men. Reynolds was extremely close to death. A U.S. Navy patrol OS2U-3 Kingfisher float-plane spotted and rescued the 3 survivors on November 13, off the coast of Nukufetau in Tuvalu. All were suffering from hyperthermiasunburndehydration, and near-starvation. Rickenbacker completed his assignment and delivered his message, which has never been made public, to General MacArthur.

Rickenbacker had thought that he had been lost for 21 days and wrote a book about this experience titled Seven Came Through, published by Doubleday, Doran. It was not until later that he recalculated the number of days, and he corrected himself in his autobiography in 1967. The pilot of the plane that rescued the survivors, Lieutenant William F. Eadie, USN, was awarded the Navy’s Air Medal for his actions during the rescue. The story was also recounted in Lt. James Whittaker’s book We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing, published in 1943. The story of Rickenbacker’s ordeal has been used as an example for Alcoholics Anonymous when the first of their Twelve Traditions was formulated: “Our common welfare should come first. Personal recovery depends upon AA unity.”

Still determined to support the U.S. war effort, Rickenbacker suggested a fact-finding mission in the Soviet Union to provide the Soviets with needed technical assistance for their American aircraft. Rickenbacker approached Soviet diplomats, and avoided requesting help from President Franklin Roosevelt, due to their prior disagreements. He scheduled resumption of his tour of American air operations in the Far East, interrupted by his ordeal in 1942, while he awaited approval of his visit from the Soviets. With Stimson’s help and by trading favors with the Soviet ambassador, Rickenbacker secured unlikely permission to travel to the Soviet Union. The War Department provided everything Rickenbacker needed, including a highly unusual letter stating that the bearer was authorized to “visit … any … areas he may deem necessary for such purposes as he will explain to you in person”, signed by the Secretary of War.

Rickenbacker’s trip in the spring and summer of 1943 took him along the South Atlantic air route that Eastern Air Lines had helped pioneer in 1941, traveling to Cairo in an AAF C-54 provided him by Gen. Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the United States Army Air Forces. He made observations about conditions at every stop and reviewed American operations with a critical eye, forwarding reports to authorities. From Cairo he traveled by C-87 to India to experience the Hump airlift into China, on which he reported unfavorably to Arnold after his return to the United States. Continuing over the Hump to China himself, Rickenbacker was impressed by the determination of the Chinese people but disgusted with the corruption of the Kuomintang government. Reaching Iran, he offered to bring along an American officer to the Soviet Union, although approval of the request delayed Rickenbacker’s party several days.

In the Soviet Union, Rickenbacker observed wartime conditions, the extraordinary dedication and patriotism of the populace, and the ruthless denial of food to those deemed unproductive to the war effort. He befriended many Soviet officials and shared his knowledge of the aircraft they had received from the United States. He was lavishly entertained and recalled attempts by NKVD agents and officials to get him intoxicated enough to disclose sensitive information.

Rickenbacker’s mission was successful. He discovered that a commander of Moscow‘s defense had stayed at Rickenbacker’s home in 1937, and personal connections like this and the respect the Soviet military personnel had for him greatly aided his information-gathering. He learned about Soviet defense strategies and capabilities. In the distraction resulting from the outbreak of the Battle of Kursk, he saw a map of the front line showing the locations of all major Soviet military units, which he did his best to memorize. He also persuaded his hosts to give him an unprecedented tour of the Shturmovik aircraft factory. However, comments made by Rickenbacker during his trip alerted the Soviets to the existence of the secret B-29 Superfortress program.

Rickenbacker observed some traces of capitalism (for example, people were allowed to grow food and sell their surplus) and predicted that the Soviet Union would eventually become a capitalist nation. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill interviewed Rickenbacker about his mission. In the U.S., Rickenbacker’s information resulted in some diplomatic and military action, but President Roosevelt did not meet with Rickenbacker. For his service in support of the war effort, Eddy Rickenbacker received the Medal for Merit, a decoration for civilians in service to the United States government equivalent to the military Legion of Merit. For his service in support of the war effort, Rickenbacker received the Medal for Merit, a decoration for civilians in service to the United States government equivalent to the military Legion of Merit.

Rickenbacker’s main home was outside New York City. Rickenbacker was also an avid golfer, often playing at the Siwanoy Country Club course near his home in Bronxville. He is one of a very select few Club members who were granted honorary lifetime membership at Siwanoy. (By the way, I passed Siwanoy CC hundreds of times while I lived in Mount Vernon, NY.)

Rickenbacker owned a winter home in Coconut Grove, Florida, near Eastern Air Lines’ major maintenance and administrative headquarters at Miami International Airport. For a time, Eastern was the most profitable airline in the postwar era. During the late 1950s, however, Eastern Air Lines’ fortunes declined, and Rickenbacker was forced out of his position as CEO on October 1, 1959. Rickenbacker also resigned as the Chairman of the Board on December 31, 1963, at the age of 73. After that, Captain and Mrs. Rickenbacker traveled extensively for a number of years.

In the 1960s, Rickenbacker became a well-known speaker. He shared his vision for the future of technology and commerce, exhorted Americans to respect the adversary, the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but still uphold American values. Rickenbacker endorsed many conservative ideas, which put him at odds with many regarding the current and future needs of all Americans.

Captain Rickenbacker suffered from a stroke while he was in Switzerland seeking special medical treatment for Mrs. Rickenbacker, and he then contracted pneumonia. Rickenbacker died on July 23, 1973, (age 83) in Zürich, Switzerland. A memorial service was held at the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church with the eulogy given by Lt. General Jimmy Doolittle, and then his body was interred in Columbus, Ohio, at the Green Lawn Cemetery. At the time of his death, he was the last living Medal of Honor recipient of the Air Service, United States Army.


Let’s talk about the real economy, the one before the Pandemic! Richard J. Garfunkel January 2022

Trump’s pre-pandemic record

Trump’s record offered little legitimate grounds for boasting before the pandemic. The persistent growth in output and decline in the unemployment rate during his first three years extended trends in the recovery from the Great Recession that he inherited from President Barack Obama.

Growth accelerated in early 2018 following Trump’s sole major legislative achievement, the tax cuts he and Congressional Republicans enacted. But that didn’t last long with the economy already near full employment, and the budget deficit swelled. A temporary surge in investment resulted mainly from higher energy prices.

“It provided no long-term benefit,” wrote Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics The counter-productive tariff wars Trump initiated quickly offset any short-term benefit from the tax-cuts and the administration’s deregulation push. That’s why Trump, to avoid further damaging the economy in his re-election year, called a truce with China in January without obtaining the structural reforms he had demanded from Beijing. Trump earlier threw away leverage by abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership with allies that the Obama administration had negotiated. (The NAFTA re-structuring was a sham and if Trump would have won re-election he would have ended the tariff War and declared victory!)

By the way, because of the insipid, misdirected, politically-inspired Tariff War, direct farm aid has climbed each year of Trump’s presidency, from $11.5 billion in 2017 to more than $32 billion this year — an all-time high, with potentially far more funding still to come in 2020, amounting to about two-thirds of the cost of the entire Department of Health and Human Services. Trump’s “very serious policy mistakes,” Zandi said, were his attacks on international and domestic institutions. They include “actively trying to undermine” the Fed’s independence. Financial markets vs. the real world. (Pressuring to low interest rates without a recession or the need for a recovery.

Trump can accurately point to above-average financial market gains. Through November the S&P 500 had risen by an average of 14.34% per year during his term, slightly more than the 12.43% under Obama. (a little inaccurate because, Obama faced five months of the Bush 43 Great Recession when the DJIA went from 8200 to 6600, and then rebounded to almost 20,000 at the end of his second term – a tremendous rebound!)

But those gains have largely been driven by rock-bottom interest rates, which drive investors into stocks in search of higher returns. And the benefits of those gains accrue largely to the most affluent Americans who own most of the stocks. (Also on the subject of jobs, even with the economy on steroids, Trump created 19% less jobs in his first three years than Obama in his last three!)

The President can also cite a higher-than-average 3.32% annual gain in real per capita disposable income. But that average conceals the extent of those gains that flowed to the affluent, who benefited disproportionately from his tax cuts.

As a candidate in 2016, Trump championed the beleaguered blue-collar workers he called “the forgotten Americans.” His policies have not closed the gap between them and economic elites. (also, every recovery from recession, since WWII was started by domestic home sales, hiring countless domestic, blue collar workers. The Derivative Bust, brought on the Great Recession which was caused by a glut of 1,000,000 homes, either abandoned or with under- water mortgages.)

Through the third quarter of 2020, Mark Zandi of Moddy’s, says, the least wealthy 50% of Americans own just 1.9% of the nation’s net worth, while the top 1% own 30.5%. The surging pandemic promises make that disparity worse before Trump leaves office. (the last 15 months before the 3rd quarter of 2019 and before the Pandemic, the GDP grew at less than 2%.)

When the Labor Department issues the final monthly jobs report of his presidency in early January, Zandi expects it to show a renewed decline in employment. In the first quarter of 2021, as Trump yields power to Biden, the Wall Street firm JPMorgan predicts that economic output will shrink. (Job losses, including the 6.6 million created in the first three years, now lost, will approach or exceed 12 million. (That is the only time in the last 12 presidencies that jobs were lost since Hoover!)

Where’s the Money?

 In 2019, the Federal Reserve published its 40 years (since 1980) evaluation of Asset Allocation. In those 40 years, $21 trillion went to the 1% and $900 billion was lost by the bottom 50%! If one added $4 trillion that was also transferred to the next 3-4% of the top earners, the total transference would be about $25 trillion. As anyone can see, $25 trillion is a lot of money! It basically reflects the Republican incurred deficits (Recessions and recoveries) since the end of Bill Clinton’s 2nd term, when the National Debt stood at $5 trillion. It is now about $30 trillion.

The top bracket from John Kennedy to Ronald Reagan was 70%. All of these billions earned over the past 40 years were taxed at a lot less. From Reagan’s 28% for the top bracket through Donald Trump’s 37%, the average could be around 35%. Let us not forget the three disastrous tax cuts from Reagan to Bush 43, to Trump.

Therefore, in the most simplistic fashion, if the government had taxed, over the past 40 years, at the Kennedy Tax Rate, the revenues would have been $17.5 trillion. But, since those $25 trillion were taxed at about half the rate, the revenues dropped to $8.75 trillion. If we divided that difference by 40 years, we would come up with a differential of $220 billion per year. That works out to $2200 for 100 million families. If that $2200 had been put in a tax deferred annuity for 40 years, at the average rate of 5%, those families would have had $256,000. But, if that money had been spent each year on infrastructure, school construction, affordable housing, healthcare and better jobs, we would not be in horrible position that we are in today. We would have had more tax revenues and less debt.

June 5th, 2022

The last time I looked unemployment was at 3.6% and heading downward, On December 1, 2017 it was 4.1% after 80 straight months of recovery. In 2017, there were 2 million jobs created, so far, in 2021, after 11 months the total is 5.1 million. Let us remember in 2017, there was no COVID and a big, expensive tax cut, which would inflate the National Debt $3 trillion before the Pandemic.

What’s True

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in fall 2019 — the lowest rate in about 50 years, since December 1969.

What’s False

No evidence showed Trump or his administrations fiscal or regulatory policies caused the 50-year low. Rather, the unemployment rate was steadily declining as part of the country’s overall recovery from the Great Recession before he took office.

The American economy expanded an annualized 6.9% on quarter in Q4 2021, much higher than 2.3% in Q3 and well above forecasts of 5.5%. It is the strongest GDP growth in five quarters with the biggest upward contribution coming from private inventories (4.9 percentage points), namely motor vehicle dealers as companies had been drawing down stocks since the beginning of 2021. Personal consumption increased 3.3%, pushed higher by a 4.7% surge in services spending, namely health care, recreation, and transportation. Fixed investment rebounded by 1.3%, led by intellectual property products that was partly offset by a decrease in structures. Residential investment however, continued to decline and was down 0.8%. Meanwhile, net trade made no contribution to growth as exports jumped 24.5% led by consumer goods, industrial supplies, foods, and travel; and imports went up 17.7%. Considering full 2021, the economy advanced 5.7%, the most since 1984. Under Trump, never broke 3% in the first three years, until it plummeted 36% from January to July 2020! The Trump Economic Miracle.

There was no Trump Economic Miracle! Just the greatest loss of jobs in 4 years since Hoover, record deficits and the rich getting richer as the billionaire class exploded.





Life Imitates Art: the Life and Loves of Greta Garbo March 15, 2022

Garbo was born Greta Gustaffson in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1905, to working class, impoverished people who could have been thought of at the time as peasants. She was loved by her parents and she loved them. Her father died when she was a teenager, most probably because they couldn’t afford him proper healthcare. She was a shy, day-dreaming young girl, who never attended high school. This was not unusual for girls who needed to work to support their families. Her uncle had said, “Greta was different from any other kids I knew!” Often she hid under a table and he asked her “what she was she thinking of darling?” His niece answered, “I am thinking what I want to do when I am grown!”

She, like many of her friends and peers, escaped the doldrums of their lives by going to the movies, which were quite primitive in that era. She was a student of the dramatic arts and came under the tutelage of the Finnish-Jewish film director Mauritz Stiller, who had immigrated to Sweden. He was an imposing personality, tall, ruggedly, handsome and he rose to prominence in the Swedish film industry at the time of Victor Sjosrtrum. They would be the dominating figures in that industry until Ingmar Bergman in the 1940s.

He saw something in her that even his cameraman who filmed her screen test did not see. Her hair was short, brown and to a degree unkempt, her clothes were plain, without any style and she was certainly not svelte. After her screen test, which she thought she failed, Stiller was incredibly impressed, and offered her a contract. He was a charismatic and dynamic director in the nascent Swedish film industry. He saw something in her that no one else seemed to see. Stiller would always look for new personalities to star in his films. He asked her to lose 20 pounds, taught her how to dress, to act, how to emote and generally how to handle herself.

After some local success in four Swedish films, Stiller contacted MGM and Louis B. Mayer, who was always looking for talent from Europe. It seems Mayer wanted Stiller to come to direct in Hollywood and his disciple and discovery, the newly named Great Garbo was almost a “throw in” regarding the “package” to go to America. So when the contract was signed in November of 1924 in Berlin, Louis B. Mayer told her that in America the public didn’t like fat women. When she heard the translation, she shrugged her shoulders. Interestingly, she wasn’t then very heavy at all.

Stiller and Garbo took the SS Dratningholm out of Goteborg, Sweden. It was the first time either of them had been on an ocean liner. Eventually they docked in NYC, checked into the Commodore Hotel for a two month summer stay in very hot weather. They were never used to the heat of an NY summer, and with limited language skills, life in NYC was not a happy time.

Eventually, after sitting around in NYC they finally headed to Los Angeles. After more than two months in Los Angeles, she was finally noticed by the young Hollywood “genius” Irving Thalberg, who had an excellent reputation regarding taste and talent. She was incredibly naïve, not educated, her movements were clumsy, her feet were considered big, but they really weren’t, and her teeth needed to be fixed. She giggled, laughed loudly and wore cheap clothes. That is what she had. In Garbo’s time, Los Angeles in the mid 1920’s, was smaller than Stockholm, not abounding with culture and was basically a “company” town. Finally, when her screen test was noticed, her hair was changed, a small blemish was removed from her forehead and her nearly perfect teeth were capped and made better.

In “Torrent,” her first film for MGM in 1926, the well-known writer Joseph Alsop, later wrote in 1935 about her hideous clothes, the insipid plot and her beautiful face. Not long after, she was cast in her second film, “The Temptress,” and she received raved reviews. By the next effort, “Flesh and the Devil” with her eventual lover, John Gilbert, her star never faded and audiences were mesmerized by her beauty. It seemed the plots didn’t matter.

Garbo was something new and unique for Tinseltown. She was taller than most women of her day and broad-shouldered. In that day, most women stars were petite, pensive and reserved. America’s sweetheart was the demure Mary Pickford. Garbo seemed to combine a sensual with a spiritual essence, and an androgynous aspect to her mannerisms. She was attractive to both men and women. There was a detachment about her, a wariness, almost a feeling of aloofness. All through her later career, just the movement of her face would evoke a kind attractiveness never found before or since. It created an instant magnetism. She almost got the lead in her first picture in America, “The Torrent” by accident. The Director, Monta Bell was captivated by her screen test and the lead who was chosen, Alma Rubens fell ill. Her co-star was Ricardo Cortez, another Hollywood answer to Ramon Navarro and Rudolph Valentino. This so-called labeled Latin Lover, was actually born in the Bronx, originally acted under the name of Jack Crane, but was born Jacob Krantz. Cortez/Krantz had attended Dewitt Clinton HS, had been a boxer and a runner on Wall Street. After his career fizzled before the 2nd World War, he went back to Wall Street as a successful broker.

With her first film, “The Torrent,” behind her, she was cast quickly cast in “The Tempest.” Her cameraman, William Daniels was the real star. He learned how to light up her face, so it would appear to glow. He had met her on the set of “The Torrent,” and treated her with great care. He created great high, lighting angles on her face so that her long eyelashes would be seen as shadows on her cheeks. This would become a hallmark of her allure.

Again, the public flocked to see her play the “vamp” in the more successful “Tempest!” At this time in her very, early career, she was already complaining about her treatment by MGM. To her friends in Sweden, she wrote that the film was rotten. But when it opened, in 1926, at the Capitol Theater in NYC, she was acclaimed by the reviewers who basically ignored the story. The famous playwright, critic and author, Robert Sherwood, who would be FDR’s last speech writer in 1945, wrote of her as the official “Dream Princess,” and spoke of the “efficacy of her allure.” In NYC, The NY Times, the Herald Tribune and the Mirror were ecstatic about her. Unfortunately, after “The Tempest” her mentor and most probably her first lover, Mauritz Stiller, who was replaced as the director on “The Tempest,” by Fred Niblo, was basically through in Hollywood. He left as a failure, returned to Sweden, became quite ill and died not long after in 1928. She worked insanely hard. She wrote to her great Swedish friend, Mimi Pollak that she was up at 6 am- was at the studio at 9 am and home by 6 or 7pm, exhausted and into bed. She was exhausted. She rarely went out, had no energy left to meet and converse with other film people and had no desire for small talk.

During the filming, she startled by the report of the death of her year older sister Alva from cancer. She had wanted to go home to see her when there were reports of her illness, but the studio would never let her have the time required. This, with her earlier disputes over her contract, added to her distaste with Hollywood and the studio system. That distaste would never abate. Later in 1948, Cecil Beaton would reports what she had written, “What a waste of my best years of my life- always alone it was so stupid not being able to partake more. Now I am just a gypsy, living a life apart.

Her 3rd film, “Flesh and the Devil,” made 11 months later, clicked, made money, and even though the plot was insipid and Garbo’s acting was a letdown, the public was fascinated by the love scenes and the whispered romance between Garbo and the 29 year old John Gilbert fed the audience’s appetite.

In “Flesh and the Devil,” she is again cast as the “vamp,” and all men as her prey. Eventually two of her lovers (noblemen) fight a duel over her, and as the unfaithful wife of an Austrian Count, she falls through the ice and drowns. In a review by the critic of New York Herald Tribune, the two lovers, John Gilbert and Garbo were ecstatically praised. “Never before has John Gilbert been so intense in his portrayal of a man in love, never before has a woman so alluring, with a seductive grace that is far more potent than mere beauty, appeared on the screen. Frankly, never in our screen career have we seen seduction so perfectly done!” Her star was soaring and all around her knew it.

Gilbert and Garbo were an item-talk of marriage that began in earnest regarding their closeness, but it never happened. In fact, she was not interested in marriage or Gilbert. Gilbert had become almost bellicose. He drank, he threatened her, called her incessantly, but the romance had cooled. He blamed her mentor, Mauritz Stiller, but it wasn’t really Stiller. Eventually, he calmed down, their “romance” became a matter of companionship, then friendship, and eventually she moved on. It didn’t happen overnight. They remained in each company, he designed his home to impress her with Swedish art, beautiful furniture and many hideaways for her. He wanted her to be his hostess for his many Sunday invitees. She wasn’t really impressed with his home, the décor, or his attempt to rely on her as his hostess. She certainly wasn’t interested in serving his company!

Many years later, when Gilbert was dead and his memory was fading, Garbo was asked about her romance with him. “There never was a romance,” she answered, “and now I wonder what I ever saw in him.” Was this just cruelty or her idea that whatever intimacy they had was a matter of convenience?

Eventually, Garbo would make demands on the studio of who could come on the set, intrude on her privacy, how she could be treated, the type of films she would accept, and who would direct her. This was unique in this male-dominated era. Along the way, she had lovers from probably Stiller to certainly John Gilbert and very possibly a number of women. It seems she knew little from love or romance, no less anything else. She considered sexual intimacy as a necessity, the urge and activity of the moment. She trusted no one, hated Hollywood and all who supported the studio system, especially the publicity machine. She was not well-read, but was curious. She was never surrounded by thoughtful, introspective people. The Hollywood literati had no influence on her at all. She had no connection with any part of that community. Her social habits were simple and it was dominated by her working on the scripts, getting to the studio on time and leaving every day at 5 pm.

“Flesh and the Devil,” made her an immediate star, hounded by everyone, including the paparazzi of her day, which were insatiable. No one had ever attracted this kind of attention. Every person she saw, with every relationship she had- the questions never ceased. The demands never relented. She refused to be photographed, she would sign nothing, because everything thing she touched, even a cigarette butt, was immediately re-sold on the open market. Once she signed a picture for the director George Cukor, who begged for one. Surreptitiously, a visiting reporter took a picture of it while Cukor had gone in another room and it wound up immediately in the press. The hunt for news about her life was insatiable.

What really elevated Garbo from just a mysterious beauty and charismatic movie personage to a respected actress was the making of the silent movie version of “Anna Karenina,” by Leo Tolstoy. During the filming she became sick with pernicious anemia, the effort was delayed for five weeks and eventually what had been filmed was scrapped, the cast and the director were fired. It was a $200,000 disaster. After her recovery, aided by a different diet, and the help of a Swedish doctor, the shooting began under the direction of Edmund Guilding, a Brit who seem to understand what was needed. The new title was, “Love,” and the studio hired John Gilbert to play the role of Count Vronsky. All the unpleasantness of the past: the contract disputes, the walkout of Garbo, her physical illness and the tempestuous problems and relationship with Gilbert were seemingly forgotten. Garbo excelled way beyond her beauty, charm and charisma with an excellent, understated performance.

Ironically, she wasn’t unavailable to people. She had friends and visited them often. She was constantly invited to small gatherings, but became wary of others who had been invited without her knowledge. Often she would beg out of an invitation at the last moment. She got along with people on the set, but didn’t like an “open set,” and therefore, few people had access to the filming of her scenes. Often people would view her through a hole in a separating, drawn curtain. Again, every day she was well-prepared, always on time and very business-like. Often there were many re-takes, because many of her directors wanted each scene perfect. These re-takes had virtually nothing to do with Garbo or how she reacted to direction. The cameramen knew how to photograph her, reflective of close-ups, whether she was sitting or standing or the trick of catching her facial movements.

Meanwhile the nascent American career of her mentor, Mauritz Stiller, took a turn for the worse. His health deteriorated. He had gone Paramount and they did not renew his contract. His final effort “The Street of Sin,” with the great German star Emil Jannings was not a success. He would leave for Sweden, he returned to the theater there, had some short term successes, but was diagnosed with Tuberculosis, the leading killer of the day, and eventually succumbed to the disease at age 45. Garbo would never see him again.

The picture, “Love,” was a great success, the famed writer Frances Marion had changed the ending of the Tolstoy classic, and the audience was happy that after Karenina’s death, Anna was re-united with her child and her great love, Count Vronsky. The profit to MGM was enormous, over $500,000 and it was 50% greater than the very successful “Flesh and the Devil!”

During this period the “Jazz Singer,” with the dynamic Al Jolson, became an incredible success, but, not all the studios were ready to drop their making of silent films. Even the “Boy Genius,” the real brains at MGM, Irving Thalberg, was not sure that it wasn’t a fad. As said, “Who wants to hear actors talk?” Both Thalberg and Mayer believed that the role of the silent films was not finished. They added sound backgrounds to their new productions, and assumed, incorrectly that the new wind blowing in with talking movies would abate. Also, let us not forget that many of their “stars” were foreigners, who’s English was certainly not perfect, including their now greatest star Greta Garbo. She still had many problems with English and often spoke in a combination of English, Swedish and German. She never really learned proper English grammar.
In “The Kiss,” her last talking film in late 1929, she was starred alongside Conrad Nagel and the young Lew Ayers. Ayers, who would become a major star in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” was placed in “The Kiss,” with Garbo. They had never been even introduced. Later he would say, “I would study her face as she sat there… and no one could tell whether she was plotting a murder, dreaming of her native Sweden, or figuring up her income tax!” He thought she was a wonderful artist, who he found very warm, polite, gracious, lonely and distant women. Though the film was mediocre, she was lionized again by Robert Sherwood. He would write that “we have compared her to Duse, Cavallieri, Mrs. Sidon, Helen of Troy and Venus, and then ground our teeth because we hadn’t made it (the comparison) strong enough! He went on to say that that she was “the best actress in the world.”

As she gravitated to “talking” movies, unlike many of the other great stars who failed, like the Gish sisters, John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks Sr, Mary Pickford, her popularity continued to grow, Even the great Chaplin fell from favor. Others like Valentino, Gilbert, Wallace Reed, and Jeanne Eagles, were dead before the “Jazz Singer” exploded on the public, marking the foreshadowing of the death of the silent film era. She would make five more silent films, ending with “The Kiss” in 1929.

Historically, when one reads the original reviews of her films, and even many of the later retrospectives on her, most reviews were negative. Innately the problem in the 1920’s and 1930’s was that the scripts were quite poor. Even decent material was constantly cut up, shortened and significant roles were cut or changed.

After her first talking picture in 1930, based on Eugene O’Neill’s play, “Anna Christie,” (Garbo talks!) success followed success. She seemed to even out act her co-star the great Marie Dressler. The critic’s raved about her performance-as one critic wrote, “The voice that shook the world!” He went on to write, “its Greta Garbo’s, of course, and for the life of me I can’t decide whether it is a baritone or a bass. She makes it heard for the first time on the screen and there isn’t another like it.” In reality, “Anna Christie,” by Eugene O’Neill was not one of his best works and the original story was completely distorted, as were the characters. Most reviewers swooned over Garbo’s style and sensuality. As for the picture, later perspectives were much worse. Many of the supporting players were weak and their parts were almost meaningless. Both co-stars, Marie Dressler and Charles Bickford, who were quite talented in their own right, were basically under-utilized.

After “Anna Christie,” other hits enthralled her legion of fans. In the same way, in “Anna Karenina,” the role of her “jilted” husband, Karenina, played by Basil Rathbone (later of Sherlock Holms fame) was panned. He was way too wooden. In “Camille” where she excelled, everything went wrong. The script was flat, the sets were grotesque, but the direction by George Cukor (a woman’s director) had a light-handed touch which gave her the latitudes she needed. Even the critics disliked Lionel Barrymore, who they thought was under-whelming. As for her lover, Robert Taylor, he was described as a wax dummy in a store window. The picture was only 74 minutes old, but it was another sensational box office hit. Later, it was reshot in German for overseas distribution with eight minutes added and it was even more successful. Ironically the author of the play, Eugene O’Neill never saw the movie.

Garbo was quickly teamed up with Clark Gable in October of 1931, in “Susan Lenox, Her Fall and Rise.” Again many of the critics panned it, the censors didn’t like it, but the audiences loved the electricity of the rugged, new type of American male in the body of Clark Gable and Garbo. In a sense it was a typical MGM tear jerker, regarding a young girl’s being forced into a marriage by her father that she neither wanted, nor would give in to. Meeting Clark Gable, they have an affair, she finds someone else, and eventually tracks Gable down and they begin a new life together.

As for “Grand Hotel,” it had a fantastic cast, which included John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Berry, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone and Jean Hersholt. The scenes with the Russian ballerina, played by the 26 year old Garbo and the 50 year old Barrymore, a German Baron, turned into jewel thief are priceless. Garbo is entranced by Barrymore. He gives her almost a desire to live and perform. Of course, unaware of his sudden death, she leaves the hotel with the hope that this new life with him with will be her renewal. By the way, rest of the cast were excellent. Originally, John Gilbert had been thought of in the role of the Baron. He had been in a number box office failures, turned to drink after his divorce from his quickie marriage to Ina Claire (who later would be Garbo’s love-interest rival in “Ninotchka.”) But, he was despised by Louis B. Mayor and his career was allowed to wither, as he self-destructed. The myth about his speaking voice being inadequate, was just a myth.

In 1932, her five year contract ended and she decided once again to visit her native Sweden. Despite threats by MGM, through Louis B. Mayer and Thalberg, she had never signed a contract extension. The media machine of Hollywood and its character assassins, Louella Parsons, Sidney Skolsky and others like Walter Winchell started their attacks on her. Why was she here? She should be deported because she has no job nor contract, therefore her visa should be revoked. She shouldn’t be allowed to take money out of the country and maybe these foreigners should all be deported who won’t become citizens.

Aside from this xenophobic clamor, the First National Bank of Beverly Hills collapsed and closed during the last crisis of the inept Hoover Administration. She had lost a considerable amount of money in the stock market crash of October 1929, but now most of her assets were in jeopardy, along with the bank accounts of many Hollywood luminaries. As she set sail on the SS Gripsholm, the question of her lifetime savings was in doubt. Eventually, she arrived in Goteborg, was treated like a conquering hero and started a long stay, despite the blustering of the MGM executives, who were starting to worry that they lost their greatest star and revenue producer. After a number of months, a new contract was offered, she was to do a film on the life of the controversial 17th Century Queen Christina of Sweden and her salary would rise to $400,000 per picture. She had to re-apply for a visa, undergo a physical, comply with other regulations under our strict immigration laws and in July of 1933 she headed back to San Francisco by a freighter, the SS Annie Johnson. It was a small ship, with few passengers, the crew treated her wonderfully on her five week trip across the Atlantic, which went through the Panama Canal and up to San Diego where she disembarked, as her luggage sailed on to San Francisco. As usual she wanted to avoid the “feeding” frenzy at the dock in San Frisco.

After an absence of a year, Garbo would finally make “Queen Christina.” It opened on December 26, 1933 at the Astor Theater in NYC. The only leading man that was available and who didn’t turn the part down, was John Gilbert. Others were asked, like Leslie Howard and Ronald Colman, who were great stars and established stage actors, but who feared their part in the picture opposite Garbo. John Gilbert, who announced his retirement in 1933 and was working at the Fox Studios, was worn out and frankly finished as a big draw or even as a star. Garbo insisted that he be casted as her lover. Garbo was top billed, and though the film was a critical success it did not revive Gilbert’s flagging career. Interestingly, Garbo had screen tests with the young Laurence Olivier and found him unsuited for the role. Gilbert was given another opportunity by Columbia Pictures, for which would be his final chance in “The Captain Hates the Sea.” He gave a capable performance, but he was an alcoholic and he would only get worse. He suffered a heart attack in December of 1935 and a few months later in early 1936 he suffered a second and fatal attack. He was only 38. It was like the end of “King Kong,” when it was said, “that beauty killed the beast.” Gilbert had four unsuccessful marriages, each lasting less than three years, but none of these attractive women filled the place in his heart and psyche as Greta Garbo. Did she love him? It is hard to tell, but she liked him and didn’t wish to be controlled by him, or it seems, any other man.

Aside from the huge monetary success of “Queen Christina,” the fictional story of the Swedish Queen horrified Garbo. She thought that her country would be deeply offended when they saw the film. She said, “I often wake up and think with horror about the film coming to Sweden.” But, ironically it was a great success in her home country. The film goers there suspend reality like they did in the states.

Another factor appeared in Hollywood in 1934, with the rise of the power of the Production Code, chaired by an ultra-conservative, Joseph Breen. He became the arbiter of moral rectitude and along with the Catholic Church’s objection to the subject content in many films, he became the Lord High Censor. Aside from these factors, which cast a pall over any idea of realism, no less creativity, Garbo’s films in the South, the Bible Belt and in small Midwestern towns had been falling in revenue for years. They were too sophisticated and challenging to the narrow views of both the Baptists (Evangelicals of that day) and the male-dominated culture.

It would be another year, before her next film, “The Painted Veil,” would be released. There would be only four more films: the remake of Tolstoy’s “Anne Karenina,” with Fredric March, “Camille,” with Robert Taylor, “Conquest,” with Charles Boyer, “Ninotchka,” with Melvyn Douglas and the last film, “Two-Faced Woman,” again with Melvyn Douglas. According to the critics, she was luminous in “Anna Karenina” and “Camille” and the films were great successes. In “Conquest,” as Napoleon’s mistress Countess Marie Waleska, she seemed tired and the film never really resonated with her public. It incurred a great loss at the box office. The censors forced it to be cut to pieces.

With respect to both “The Painted Veil” and “Conquest”: the studio heads at MGM had to struggle with Breen who seemed to answer to no one else. Even if stories were classics that had been accepted by the public for generations, it was up to Joseph Breen what people could see. Any clue that Marie Waleska was actually Napoleon’s mistress and had his child seem to be too harsh for American sensitivities.

As for “Camille,” based on the character of the French courtesan, Marguerite Gaurtier from an 1848 novel, “La Dame aux Camelias,” by Alexander Dumas, it faced many challenges from the Breen office. Many great actresses, from Sarah Benrhardt to Eleanore Duse, Eva Le Gallienne, Alla Nazimova and then Garbo had played her since the novel was turned into a play in 1852. Her story had even been turned into the classic opera, “La Traviata,” by Giuseppe Verdi.

So, after many personal successes, despite inadequate scripts, poor casting and often wooden performances by her co-stars, her career, in her 2nd to last film, would actually reach its summit. With “Ninotchka.” The script was great, there were no shipwrecks, ambiguities, or any sustained passage of vulgarity. The film was funny and promoted with the phrase, “Garbo laughs!” The film was witty, polished and civilized. Ironically, in the film, none of the names were actually Russian. It was pure fantasy, but it clicked then and today. It was pure satire, making fun of everything from Stalin’s Russia to the expatriate communities in the Paris fantasy world. Eventually, her last film with MGM, was part of a two picture contract with Melvyn Douglas. The film, “Two Faced Woman,” was a failure. The studio attempted to make Garbo into an all- American girl and it went nowhere. Even she knew it was a disaster, as did the critics of that day and today! Part of the problem was again with Louis B. Mayer, an arch Republican, who disliked her co-star Melvyn Douglas, an outspoken Democrat, liberal and opponent of fascism. MGM never took on the Nazis or fascism like most of the other studios, aside from Warner Brothers. He actually tried to bribe him into silence by promising better parts for his wife, Helen Gahagan, (She was a bright gal from New York, who attended the Berkeley-Carroll School and Barnard College. She was an actress and opera singer, a political activist, was elected to Congress, served from 1944-51, and was defeated by Richard Nixon in 1950, for the Senate in California.)

The film was basically a silly comedy and there were some parts that Joseph Breen, the blue-nose, head of the Production Code objected to, but, it was cleared. That wasn’t the end of its problems. Then Archbishop Francis Spellman, head of the NY Catholic Diocese started a one-man crusade to bar the film. The Catholic Legion of Decency condemned the film and it was downhill from there onward. It was actually banned in some NE cities and eventually MGM pulled it from the theaters and re-shot some of the scenes. Eventually it was cleared by the Legion of Decency. Again, this was a foreshadowing of what was to become, regarding the mood of the country. In Hollywood’s eagerness to remove all the traces of European decadence, it became Garbo’s undoing.

Thus, the most outstanding of her films of the post silent era were, “Mata Hari,” “Camille,” “Anna Karenina,” “Grand Hotel,” “Conquest,” “Queen Christina,” “As You Desire Me,” and finally “Ninotchka.”Though no one really knew it at the time, even Garbo, her career was over in 1941. The pre-WWII Hollywood was changing and changing fast. Many stars were involved in war work. A number were drafted or volunteered to serve. Even the writers, the directors and the some of the big-time executives followed the call to duty. The theme of the movies changed to patriotism, the home front, and action.

Garbo felt there was no audience for her style of film or the roles she played. She was probably quite correct. She never was really part of the Hollywood scene, the gossip, the publicity, the lack of privacy or even the active foreign colony of stars. Basically, she despised the inner workings of Hollywood and never was really part of the machinery of the industry. Garbo even asked her salary to be cut in half regarding the war effort. There was even one report that LB Mayer gave her a check for either $80,000 or $200,000 (depending on the source) and she handed it back, saying she didn’t earn it. Basically, she was well-off enough to say goodbye.

It is said about her that she came along after the chaos of WWI and the she vanished from the silver screen forever in the early months of WWII. She came into a world that had been made for her, that was wanting of another hero or goddess to appear with all the tools at her command: power, majesty, and splendor. In the audience’s eyes all those things were beyond the range of human aspiration. She could enslave men with a smile or destroy with a glance. Women were not jealous of her, because she was much more beautiful than they would dare to be; men did not desire her, because she was clearly beyond the reach of human desire, even though on the screen she went through the motions of love-making.
On the screen, her early wannabe lovers from Gilbert, to Conrad Nagle, Lars Hanson, and John Mack Brown seemed ridiculous, as every man thought he could do better With this in mind, she became the star above all stars, a transcendental figure. As the war interrupted life all over the planet, it obviously changed hers. Her ability to travel back and forth to the continent ended. She eventually moved from her small, utilitarian home in Hollywood to New York. She was offered many roles during the war, but either she wasn’t interested or the financing collapsed. In a sense, she was neither eager for work, nor disappointed that the right property didn’t appear. She was not in need of money, and every door was opened to her. After the war, she was offered and rejected the role of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.” It was filled, very successfully by Gloria Swanson, who in actuality, was a faded star of the silent film era. Her butler was played by another silent film standout, the actor Erich von Stroheim, who was a leading director in that earlier period. Of course, like all things in Hollywood, nothing is often what it seems. Von Stroheim was not a Junker, which was a member of the landed nobility in Germany (Prussia), signified by the “von.” He was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in Austria, the son of middle class observant Jews. The production of the 1950 hit, “Sunset Boulevard,” was ironically the “swan song” of both of those veterans of the silent era.

During the war, she like others helped with the war effort. It was rumored that she helped facilitate the rescue of the Danish Jews to Sweden. But, stateside, she was accused by some of not being patriotic enough. She was one of three major stars, including Chaplin and Cagney, who failed to show up at the Hollywood Canteen, where men and women in uniform were entertained by the people from the movie industry. As for Cagney, he was a very private person, not unlike Garbo, and his reasons for not showing up are not generally known. With Chaplin, I have no idea, but he became such a politically, controversial person that he may have felt that his notoriety would upstage the effort. Obviously, an appearance by Garbo would have had the same riotous effect. Some right-wing, nativists even called for her to be deported if she didn’t approve of our country.

In 1946, Billy Wilder said, I don’t think that she’ll make another picture!” He added, “She’s is frightened of pictures as she is of personal appearances and everything that brings her in contact with people.” Let us never forget that her experiences with the curious, the fanatics, and the public in general, was scary and threatening. Many times out in the public she had her clothes ripped at, buttons torn off as she was often threatened by the over-zealous. Her time with people was never pleasant, almost always exploited and often dangerous.

After the war, and when normal traveling became available, she sailed back to Sweden on the SS Gripsholm and was welcomed like a returning hero. The trip was a mixed blessing with the seeing old friends and her family, along with having to deal with a public that was as bad as the worst public spectacles in America. Everyone wanted a piece of her. Her safety and sanity was constantly compromised.

In the frenetic days after the war, she became probably the first Jet-setter, before even jets. But by 1947, Hollywood’s “witching hour” had arrived with the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). Their noxious efforts started first with their interview with a group called the Motion Picture Alliance, composed of people like John Wayne, Adolph Menjou, Hedda Hopper, Gary Cooper, Ward Bond and Walt Disney. They became the Committee’s first “friendly witnesses.” Many of them did not like the preponderance of Jews in Hollywood, especially those in the Screen Writers Guild and others who were fierce anti-Communists. Menjou and Disney had strong reputations of being anti-Semitic. Many friends of Garbo’s were attacked, threatened and blacklisted. It seemed that anyone who was a Democrat according to Menjou and some of the others, were socialists or communists. Even Ronald Reagan, the President of the Screen Actors Guild, was rumored to be a secret FBI informer (R-10). It wasn’t an easy time for the pre-war liberals, the people that advocated a second-front or the foreign community of Hollywood, especially people like Garbo, who didn’t go along with the studio line. In truth, Garbo was hardly political, but when she heard FDR’s speech regarding Italy’s Declaration of War against France, “on this tenth of June, 1940, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor,” she openly cried. No one had ever witnessed this reaction by her before. In the years after the war, a few interesting projects came her way, but again they had no real appeal for her. There was talk of her playing Saint Joan, from George Bernard Shaw’s play. But many thought she was too old. These ideas just seemed to be gambits created from wishful thinking. She changed apartments in NYC a few times, had a well-publicized affair with the famous conductor Leopold Stokowski, driving his second wife to the divorce courts. There was a possible romance with the author, of “All Quiet of the Western Front,” Erich Maria Remarque. She was helped financially, spiritually and health wise by the famous German-born, nutritionist and self-help author, Gayelord Hauser. They were close and friendly until the end of his life. She was definitely linked to the Russian-born financier, theater producer and millionaire George Schlee and his wife the Russian fashion designer and icon, Valentina. It was assumed that this interesting arrangement was some sort of ménage a trois. Nothing could be further from the truth. He served as her companion, he traveled with her and became her very trusted advisor for 20 years. As for his wife Valentina, she strongly indicated, after her husband’s death in 1964, that she despised Garbo. They actually lived in the same building, on different floors and after her husband’s death she had everything destroyed in their apartment that was related to Garbo. She supposedly brought in a priest to exorcize her apartment. She arranged with the building to never be in the same elevator with Garbo.

In the immediate years after the war she kept busy. In 1948, “Ninotchka” was re-released over the objections of the Soviet Union and it was very popular, especially, in Europe. She went to the theater with Tennessee Williams to see “Streetcar Named Desire,” and he tried to interest her in a project that was on his mind. Leland Hayward took her to see, “Mr. Roberts,” and the British producer Alexander Korda tried to interest her in Jean Cocteau’s “The Eagle has Two Heads!” Nothing seem to move her in any direction.

The closest she came to returning to the film was a project suggested by the producer Walter Wanger. She seemed interested the “Duchesse de Langeais,” or with its Americanized name, “The Lover and Friend.” Screen tests were started, but the cameraman died of a heart attack. The famous James Wong Howe was brought in and she seemed quite content and serious about the project. Unfortunately, the complex financial arrangements never worked out. American banks would not arrange the funding until the Italian financiers made a commitment. They thought the same. Howard Hughes refused to put up the whole $500,000 and her potential co-star James Mason was unhappy with his guarantees. Even the distribution rights were never finalized. In other words, Garbo was paid for her two horrible weeks in Rome, fighting off the paparazzi and that was the last time anything developed. Basically, she didn’t want to go through the effort and bother.

As for her social life, Garbo also had a rumored affair and a long-time association with the famous photographer and set and costume designer Cecil Beaton, who was bi-sexual, known early on as an anti-Semite, and later became famous for his work on “Gigi” and “My Fair Lady.” I am sure that Garbo, who had many Jewish friends, from her mentor Mauritz Stiller, to her Swedish confidante, Mimi Pollak and Salta Viertal, an Austrian-American actress screen writer and political activist, knew nothing of Beaton’s past. He wanted to marry her, and she wanted no part of marriage. In a sense, she laughed at him, but their on and off again friendship lasted for many years. In the early biographies of Garbo, he is hardly mentioned. But, when his massive letters to her, along with her responses, were posthumously published by Hugo Vickers, who handled his literary estate, his long-term infatuation with her was revealed. Many have wondered, in the years after his biographical letters were published in his memoirs, whether what he said was true. Most of the people who knew him well could not believe that he could have had any intimacy with her, no less anyone else. In fact, the specter of it was laughable to many!

She, for sure, didn’t write him off, and they often met, but his nemesis was George Schlee, who was always around her as a buffer, an adviser, and her guardian. All the men in her life, from Stiller to Gilbert, Beaton, Hauser, Schlee and others were smitten by her. Even though her co-stars were intimidated by her, startled by her demand for privacy and her formality, they respected her professionalism and her kindness. In fact, few, if any, had anything, but the highest praise. She had a unique and unequalled allure, even among the most beautiful women in the artistic world that was unique. The question was, who could not be charmed by this remarkable creature?

As for the women in her life, there were many. She was said to have liaisons with the actress Louise Brooks, Lilyan Tashman and even Marie Dressler. She had a great friend in Mimi Pollack, from her days in Sweden, and it was said, a long, on and off, friendship and possibly an affair with the poet, writer and social butterfly, Mercedes de Acosta, who was introduced to Garbo by her very close friend Salka Viertel in 1931. She had 181 letters from Garbo, but only a portion of them were permitted to be revealed by the Garbo estate, and none, it was said, reflected any romantic content.

De Acosta was also in a long-term arrangement with the dancer Isadora Duncan, along with later arrangements with Alla Nazimova, Eve la Gallienne and Marlene Dietrich. Garbo’s friendship, after the publishing of de Acosta’s book, “Here Lies the Heart,” soured dramatically. But, Cecil Beaton believed that de Acosta was a true friend and devoted to her. Again, Mercedes de Acosta was a strange, demanding and insatiable character. She was certainly smitten by Garbo, her stories of meeting her, or being in the same city with her have been questioned for accuracy. In fact, either these assertions were a matter of confusion or fabrication. She may have been the ultimate groupie or camp follower. Reflective of many accounts, Garbo was often dodging her when she was with others. Garbo’s celebrity was unprecedented for her time or almost any time after. What was real celebrity before the movies? Who knew what anyone looked like? Even some of the stars of the Silent Era were never insanely recognizable. Most of the luminaries of that era were in their own world, their own social colonies and believed in their own press clippings. Many of the foreign stars were divided into three groups. The British, who were mostly well-trained, stage actors, very confident in themselves and obviously well-versed in their own language. In a sense they were almost like distant cousins to most Americans. The second group were refugees, often intellectuals and artists who could never return home to the discrimination, the politics or war. Their earlier lives were gone, often forever. The last group were people like Great Garbo. They were neither refugees, nor were they fluent in the language. They were “discoveries” who were hired until they were no longer useful. They had no special skills, especially those from the Silent Era. The ones who remained rarely became stars, but wound up being bit players, character actors, or just pieces to be moved around. Many foreign stars, as soon as their contracts expired and were not renewed, moved back to their native countries before and after the WWII.

In reality, Garbo was easily bored, never really well read, and was hardly, if at all, interested in Hollywood after she left, or the movies in general. In fact, she knew virtually nothing about Hollywood’s post-war directors. She liked to take long walks, with friends like Cecile de Rothschild, was never inhibited about her body, often swam in the nude, and loved taking long walks on the beach. She did like California, but craved the isolation and anonymity she could only experience in New York. In a sense, she could get lost in the crowd. Rarely did anyone in NYC bother her on the street. She shopped like any normal person, she had her friends and intimates. She liked to collect antiques, and eventually displayed them in her apartment.

She traveled constantly from NYC, to London, Venice and Cannes. Yes, she was around people who were her idolaters. In a sense, she was a combination of Queen Christina, the dancer in Grand Hotel and the tragic Anna Karenina. With the advice and counsel of Gayelord Hauser, she invested in real estate in California and divested herself of property in Sweden. This proved quite fruitful and her economic independence was made quite secure.

In her later years, she outlived all her intimates, remained alone and continued to pick and choose who she wished to see. She was successfully treated for breast cancer and was receiving dialysis in the last years of her life. She had always been affected by gastro-intestinal illnesses, which many speculated had come from dieting. In the 20th Century, no one achieved her fame, notoriety and interest for a longer period of time. From her first film in 1926 until her dying day, people, all over the world were interested in her, what she did and where she went. In the age before film, no one was really recognizable. Almost anyone monarch could almost walk the streets in anonymity. As the movies brought remarkable notoriety and identification to all who were featured, Garbo’s face and fame transcended everyone. Even the greatest stars came and went. In our time, Marilyn Monroe’s fame lasted about 10 years. Who really cared about Liz Taylor and Richard Burton for more than a few years? Certainly Fred Astaire was famous for decades, but who cared where he went, who he ate dinner with or who he slept with? Hardly anyone! Garbo’s film career was relatively short, 28 films, squeezed into 19 years. Most of the films were hardly great, and for sure, without her they would be long forgotten.

Her estate was well handled by George Schlee and others. After her death, she left about $32 million in market securities and art to her niece.

The Golden Age of Hollywood, What and Who Will be Remembered! Richard J. Garfunkel May 14, 2020

From 1920 through 1940 was probably considered Hollywood’s Golden Age. In the early part of this era, Hollywood had come of age with the change from dominance of the Director, to that of the Star. The early films were dominated by directors from DW Griffith to stage directors from the theater to foreigners, like Erich von Stroheim (in actuality, his name was Erich Oswald Stroheim, and he was Jewish and not a Junker), who’s masterpiece was Greed and others as Joseph von Sternberg to the great comic directors Max Sennett and Charlie Chaplin.

The Hollywood Moguls, who ran the major studios: MGM, Paramount, Columbia, and Warner Brothers, went through a consolidation period and by the mid to late 20’s their ownership was securely in place. People like Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, Adolph Zuckor, and Harry Cohn, became household names. Other competitors would come into the business like United Artists, as stars Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, the lighting personnel and all the others. Of course, beyond Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks there was the concerted effort to import Europeans to Hollywood, The greatest of those, Charlie Chaplin, along with film producer and director, DW Griffith decided to make their own movies. Smaller firms would eventually emerge like RKO, Universal, International along with independent producers; the most notable being Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer’s son in law, David O. Selznick of Gone With the Wind fame. Eventually the last big player to emerge was 20th Century-Fox.

Thus, the Golden Age went from the dominance of the Director to the rise of the Hollywood Star. The studios decided to make stars of actors, sign them to long-term contracts and use them as they wished. In this way, they had much greater control of their industry. The Director became a hired hand, just like the writers, and all the other components of making films, from the camera operators, to the film editors, was Rudolf Valentino, and others like Vilma Banky, and Ramon Navarro. In the same vein, other American stars of that era were Buster Keaton, John Barrymore, Lon Chaney, and Lilian Gish. Eventually, one star would preempt and eclipse all the others, foreign and native born, Greta Garbo. She would be a major star in both eras of the Golden Age.

As the Silent Era basically ended in 1927 with The Jazz Singer, and its dynamic star Al Jolson. The Sound Era, of Talking Pictures would kill off almost all the great stars of the silent era, including the Gish sisters, Mary Pickford, Fairbanks, Navarro (Valentino had died in 1926 at age 31), John Gilbert, Lon Chaney and many, many others, who were unable to have the proper speaking voice, unable to read lines, or had heavy foreign accents. The ones who remained were mostly stage actors, with great voices like Ronald Colman, John Barrymore, Leslie Howard, and others who were able to speak well and deliver their lines, like Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy, Mary Astor, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Carol Lombard, William Powell, and Boris Karloff.

Thus, the Golden Era of twenty years could be divided into two distinct eras; 1920 to 1929 and 1930 to 1940, when WWII started to change the whole dynamic of Hollywood. In the latter era scores of Jewish and other European refugees flocked to both America and Hollywood.

The beginning of the New Age and thus the eventual decline of Hollywood and the studio system would probably have begun with Casablanca which featured mostly foreign actors, aside from the main star, Humphrey Bogart, which included; Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Sidney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, and European refugees: most notably, Madeleine Lebeau, Leonid Kinsley, Curt Bois, SZ Sakall, Marcel Dalio, Ludwig Stossel, Wolfgang Zilzer and their Director, Michael Curtiz ( a Hungarian Jew, born Mano Kaminer).

Historically, the most profitable era of Hollywood’s Golden Age expanded exponentially as the talking movies emerged in the period from 1928 through 1930. The Hollywood studios also began to build and buy up the existing inventory of movie theaters. This allowed hundreds, if not thousands, of “in-house” outlets for immediate distribution of films. But, in the postwar era that would change dramatically. Eventually United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.,(1948) (also known as the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948,) a landmark United States Supreme Court antitrust case decided the fate of film studios owning their own theatres and holding exclusivity rights on which theatres would show their movies. It would also change the way Hollywood movies were produced, distributed, and exhibited. The Supreme Court affirmed (a District Court’s ruling) in this case that the existing distribution scheme was in violation of the United States antitrust law, which prohibit certain exclusive dealing arrangements. In plain language, the studios were force to sell the theaters.

The case is important both in U.S. antitrust law and film history. In the former, it remains a landmark decision in vertical integration cases; in the latter, it is responsible for putting an end to the old Hollywood studio system. Another earlier ruling, emerged from the contractual system used universally in Hollywood. Industry lawyers in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s took the position that an exclusive personal services contract should be treated as suspended during the periods when the artist was not actually working. Since no artist could be working every single day (that is, including holidays and weekends), this interpretation meant that two, or later seven, years of actual service would be spread over a much longer calendar period, thus extending the time during which the studio system had complete control of a young artist’s career.

In response, actress Olivia de Havilland filed a lawsuit on August 23, 1943 against Warner Bros. which was backed by the Screen Actors Guild. The lawsuit resulted in a landmark decision of the California Court of Appeal for the Second District in De Havilland’s favor on December 8, 1944. In a unanimous opinion signed by Justice Clement Lawrence Shinn, the three-justice panel adopted the common sense view that seven years from the commencement of service means seven calendar years. Since De Havilland had started performance under her Warner annual contract on May 5, 1936 (which had been renewed six times pursuant to its terms since then), and seven calendar years had elapsed from that date, the contract was no longer enforceable and she was free to seek projects with other studios.

Another earlier case served to erode the almighty power of the studios. Bette Davis, a major star under contract to Warner Brothers, was unhappy with the type of pictures she was forced to make by the studio. She also felt that to advance in her career meant being offered good scripts with talented directors. However, in the studio era of Hollywood, actors had very little control about what films they were offered. In 1936, she left in protest and went to England on a two film deal. The studio, however, procured an injunction against her for having left the States to do films in England. She fought back by taking them to court. Unfortunately, she lost the battle — yet, all the more remarkably, rather than being blackballed by the studio, from then on she started getting the kind of parts she felt she deserved. The power of the studios wasn’t broken, but the ability of major stars to balk at what they were assigned, go into voluntary retirement, for a time, or create adverse headlines, started the erosion of studio power.

As this Golden Age continues to fade into the past, movies made before WWII are now over 80 years old. The original audiences for those films are mostly gone, and the generation of their children is aging quickly. Most of the Baby Boomers who were born right after WWII and grew up with those movies and the star system, are in their 70s. Their grandchildren will be mature almost 100 years after the start of WWII. With that in mind, will this generation care about these movies?

What then will be the memorable films that this new generation watches? Will they ignore almost all the black and white films? Will they reject the films that showed American Blacks, Italians and other ethnics in deprecating roles? What will their feelings be about the films which ignored the reality of the rise of fascism in Europe? Almost all the studios ignored the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany and the abuse of their Jewish population, except Warner Brothers. Even the mere mention of Jews being victims in Germany were removed from films like, Mr Skeffington. Great films like, Gone With the Wind along with others about the antebellum era like, Jezebel, The Little Foxes, The Little Rebel, Young Abe Lincoln, Showboat seem to have denigrated the incredible abuse and brutality of slavery. In fact, it basically ignored one of the greatest crimes in history. Almost all the roles in Hollywood offered to Black Americans were in subservient roles, as: maids, servants, street cleaners, porters, etc. In truth, those were the jobs that most Blacks were allowed to have. They weren’t the only groups who were stereotyped.

Of course, there were many great films in that era, which culminated in their most memorable year, 1939, with pictures like the afore mentioned Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dark Victory, Gunga Din, Ninotchka, and Goodbye Mr. Chips. Many of these same films are still quite enjoyable, certainly well made, and to a degree, relevant. As for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it was an enjoyable film that was hardly realistic, but it certainly sent a message. Let us not forget that in 1938, and other years there were some wonderful films, but are they really relevant to audiences 80 to100 years distant, in the 21st Century? Are they mostly a stylized, unrealistic, and romantic view of life in America, which distorted the world as it really existed? As WWII changed the reality of thinking around the world, one very stark, and realistic Hollywood film, The Grapes of Wrath, released in in 1940, comes to mind. No other film of that period so graphically illustrated the desperation of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that devastated Oklahoma and the heartland of America.

There have been countless books on that era and the major films from the beginning of the modern era of movies until our entry into WWII. Of course, not long after this Era started to wane, two films came forward that are widely accepted as the best of the best, Citizen Kane (1941) and Casablanca (1942). Both films were quite different from each other. One, Citizen Kane, came from a complete upstart and newcomer to Hollywood, the Boy Genius, Orson Welles. The other, Casablanca, was a pure creature of the studio system from Warner Brothers. No two films of that Era could be so completely different. As for Casablanca, it was dominated by stars with a remarkable cast, bolstered by scores of European refugees. It created a character in Humphrey Bogart, which had been evolving from the Maltese Falcon and High Sierra, both released in 1941. He became the prototype of an anti-hero, the cynical, tough, vulnerable, world-weary, character whose honesty and personal motives were ones to be questioned. After Casablanca, and with over twenty years’ experience as an actor, he would become, at age forty-three, the most enduring star of the postwar era and the 2nd half of the 20th Century. As for the Citizen Kane, its creator and major star, Orson Welles, at age 25, was truly a wunderkind. But, no matter how interesting and brilliant he was, he would never reach that same level of artistic and dramatic achievement and notoriety. By the way, Citizen Kane was made outside the major studios on the lots of RKO Pictures.

As for the stars of the 2nd half of the Golden Era, the ones who come to mind, who I think will be remembered are; Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire. There are some other marvelous stars, which include, Paul Muni, Frederic March, Ronald Colman, Leslie Howard, Gary Cooper, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, William Powell, Carol Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Gary Grant, Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Olivia De Havilland, Joan Crawford, and John Barrymore. Interestingly, a star of the later 1940s and the 1950’s, Gene Kelly, has stated, that in the future, only Fred Astaire will be remembered. He may have a point.

TE Lawrence; the Man, the Myth and the Ongoing Mystery April 1, 2022 Richard J. Garfunkel

In the immediate years after WWI the exploits of TE Lawrence or “Lawrence of Arabia” brought incredible fame to this most interesting, complex and troubled individual. Even the British public knew nothing of him during the war. His fame grew tremendously after the publishing of his exploits in the American press by Lowell Thomas, a journalist and newspaper man who, with his cameraman, took many films during parts of the Desert War. He led and organized the British effort (almost alone) and their Arab allies against the Turkish Empire. His story was enhanced by his autobiographical book, the remarkable “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.”

“The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” tells of his experiences during the Arab Revolt of 1916–1918, during the days when Lawrence was based in Wadi Rum in modern day Jordan as a member of the British Forces of North Africa. With the support of Emir Feisal and his tribesmen, he helped organize and carry out attacks on the Ottoman forces from Aqaba in the south to Damascus in the north. Many sites inside the Wadi Rum area have been named after Lawrence to attract tourists, although there is little or no evidence connecting him to any of these places, including the rock formations near the entrance now known as “The Seven Pillars”.

Speculation surrounds the book’s dedication, a poem written by Lawrence and edited by Robert Graves, concerning whether it is to an individual or to the whole Arab people. It begins, “To S.A.”, possibly meaning Selim Ahmed, a young Arab boy from Syria of whom Lawrence was very fond. Ahmed died, probably from typhus, aged 19, a few weeks before the offensive to liberate Damascus. Lawrence received the news of his death some days before he entered Damascus

I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands, and wrote my will across the sky in stars.
To earn you freedom, the seven Pillared worthy house that your eyes might be shining for me, when I came.

 Death seemed my servant on the road, ’til we were near, and saw you waiting: when you smiled and in sorrowful, envy he outran me, and took you apart: Into his quietness.

 Love, the way-weary, groped to your body, our brief wage, ours for the moment. Before Earth’s soft hand explored your shape, and the blind, worms grew fat upon, your substance

 Men prayed me that I set our work, the inviolate house, as a memory of you, but for fit monument I shattered it, unfinished: and now, the little things creep out to patch themselves hovels, in the marred shadow of your gift.

 The original book was written a few times, it was first completed in 1922 and first published in 1926. Winston Churchill was quoted in an advertisement for the 1935 edition, saying: “it ranks with the greatest books written in the English language. As a narrative of war and adventure, it is unsurpassable.”

Along with the fame of the “Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the 1962 film, “Lawrence of Arabia,” is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. In 1991, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1998, the American Film Institute placed it fifth on their 100 Years…100 Movies list of the greatest American films. It ranked seventh on their 2007 updated list. In 1999, the British Film Institute named the film the third-greatest British film of all time. In 2004, it was voted the best British film of all time in a Sunday Telegraph poll of Britain’s leading filmmakers.

The film cost was estimated at $15 million, it was nominated for ten Academy Awards and it received seven Oscars. Historically it is inaccurate and very incomplete, but like Lowell Thomas’s productions, that reality did little to devalue its marketability and entertainment value.

With that in mind, many think that the book, which the film is somewhat based on, is more like novelized history, and the film is certainly more fiction than fact. It covers two years of the life of TE Lawrence. Only three of the characters depicted are real (Lawrence, General Allenby and Sheik Auda) and for sure, no one knows why Lawrence is in Cairo in the beginning of the war. In fact, no one knows why he is uniform, nor where his great influence comes from, and who he really is. In fact, who really is TE Lawrence, what were his real aims, what does he believe and was he really a hero to the Arabs, an agent for the British imperialist government, or a man attempting to find himself? No one really knows his real interests, his sexuality, who are his friends and why he is so powerful and influential.

The real life and legacy of Thomas Eliot Lawrence or TE Lawrence or as he was known by history, as Lawrence of Arabia, is shrouded by clouded history, controversy, lies, lost records, suppressed state secrets and fantasy.  This most secretive and mysterious of men was one of the most famous of the first 3rd of the 20th Century and even the cause of his death, due to injuries on a motorcycle in May of 1935, is questionable. Mystery surrounds him from his emergence in college, from a background even he doesn’t really know.

He was the illegitimate second son of Thomas Chapman and Anglo-Irish squire and heir to a Barony, who left his wife and four daughters, abandoning much of his wealth and position to run away with a household nursemaid named Miss Sarah Lawrence. Even her last name is not really known and it could have been Junner or Maden and she could have been illegitimate herself. Chapman changed his name to hers and fathered five sons. His second son, Thomas Eliot, known as Ned, never knew that his father never re-married until he was in his teens. It certainly must have come of a shock to young Ned, in this post-Victorian Age, to learn that his parents weren’t married and that Lawrence wasn’t his father’s name, nor even his mother’s.

As for his father Thomas Chapman, he was descended from an old English family whose ancestors were cousins of Sir Walter Raleigh. As for his wife, Edith, she was called a “Holy Viper” who was an insanely religious shrew who made the gentile Chapman’s life miserable. She was so fanatical in her evangelicalism that she considered any form of amusement a sin, prayed three times per day, and never spoke without her conversation dominated by biblical quotations. She was an insanely strict parent, treated her daughters brutally and eventually made life so miserable for her husband. Thus, Thomas Chapman just ran away.

TE Lawrence grew up in Wales where his parents took on their new lives. Because of his birth in August of 1888, and even though he only lived a year in Wales, before his parents moved to Kirkcudbright Scotland, to continue to hide their identities, he was later able to accept a scholarship to Oxford reserved for qualified students born in Wales.

An early biography of Lawrence, written in 1924, by the famed American writer and journalist Lowell Thomas (1892-1981-in the movie, his character is the fictional Jeremy Bentley, played by Arthur Kennedy) tells little of his early life, because Lawrence was so secretive. It is said that with Lowell Thomas, Lawrence treated reality and the truth selectively. Later biographers, the famed Robert Graves (1895-1985, the author of “I Claudius”) and Sir Basil Liddle Hart (1895-1970, the renowned military theorist, expert and historian) were not created as cavalierly by Lawrence.

Over the years with the addition of other children, the Lawrence family moved quite a bit, including a long stay in Normandy, which TE Lawrence really considered his home. He and his brothers all attended the Oxford High School, and Ned, as he was known to his family, and earned a (Welsh) scholarship to Jesus College at Oxford. Ironically he loved Normandy, but despised the French.

TE Lawrence’s mother was also highly religious and an adherent of Calvinistic Protestantism. Though she dearly loved her sons and lived vicariously through their exploits, she could be insanely strict, meted out corporal punishment, and seemed to “beat herself up” over her matrimonial sin. This legacy of religious dogma seemed to affect his ideas of personal discipline, of which he exercised throughout his youth. He would go for days without eating or even sleeping. His mother saw this self-imposed regimen as a foreshadowing of his divine mission in his life.

Before entering Oxford, he would forgo an early interest in math to focus on history. In the summers before Oxford, he would spend countless days on bicycle trips to old castles and burial sites in Scotland, Wales and France. At times, some of these ventures would be with friends or alone. He was seriously interested in ancient artifacts and grave stone rubbings.

At Oxford, his great interest had morphed into the world of the Crusades, regarding knights, castle battles, legends, and chivalry. He decided, in the summer of 1908, to make the castles of the Crusaders the subject of his senior thesis, which was a new option regarding his final Oxford exam. He went on a three month cycling tour of France, He went alone with a camera and the trip covered over 2000 miles. At Oxford, he started to be groomed by David George Hogarth, (1862-1927) an author, archeologist, orientalist, (later a naval officer and intelligence officer during WWI) and then the keeper of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. This influence of Lawrence was fostered by a recurrent British philosophy of Empire sustained a modern day “Round Table.” This association was described by Leonard Curtis in his strange periodical “Round Table,” combined with a study group, which played a role in British imperial affairs, has never been adequately analyzed or described. Many of these advocates were racists, xenophobes and Francophiles. Their main objective, reflective of Lord Alfred Milner’s (Viscount Milner, 1854-1925, colonial administrator) teachings were “Federation and Imperialism,” a basic union of all the white people in the Empire.

Lawrence was to be a new recruit to what was called “The Great Game,” (spying, as made most famous by Sidney Reilly (1873-1925?), called the Ace of Spies, who was born as Salomon Rosenblum in Russia. Reilly, almost a “Soldier of Fortune,” was finally commissioned by MI6 Head Mansfield Smith-Cummings (1859-1923) in 1918, (He was the prototype for Ian Fleming’s James Bond) Lawrence became a very willing disciple of David Hogarth’s intrigue and interests.

As for Lawrence, his military education didn’t start with the teachings of Carl von Clausewitz,     (Prussian general and military theorist, 1780-1831) but went back to Napoleon, all his campaigns, all the information on his tactics, and the writings about how they succeeded. He worked his way back to the tactics of Proscopius a Byzantine military thinker, (circa 560 CE) who advocated indirect means for avoiding pitched battles and described the hit and run tactics that broke the morale of the Gothic lancers and archers. This research by Lawrence seems to be the beginning of his potential career as an intelligence agent. This research not only sharpened his mind, but his hikes and long, lonely bicycle trips also tested his body with physical deprivation.

In 1909, he felt that he had to travel to Syria (which was still controlled by the fading Ottoman-Turkish Empire) to see the ancient ruins of the Crusader castles and battlements that had been built there. To travel there safely he needed and sought what was termed “Iradehs,” or safe conduct passes. The first part of his journey was to Palestine was where he didn’t need any special type of papers. He also carried with him a very powerful Mauser pistol, nicknamed the broom handle, a forerunner of what would be a submachine gun. He hired a Christian-Arab guide as he headed north to the Sea of Galilee. As he was amazed at the contrast of the wild unbroken vast tracts of dessert, he said “the sooner the Jews farm the land, the better!”

When he finally arrived in Beirut, these “papers” had never reached the British Consulate. He had taken some rudimentary lessons in Arabic before he left, so he could basically communicate regarding the bare necessities. Eventually, he did receive a less authoritative letter of safe conduct. The trip, which was reported in various accounts, involved a few violent attacks by robbers and brigands which threatened his life. Many of these incidents were reported differently and some contained critical inconsistencies. But with all his adventures, he returned in mid-October for his final year at Oxford.

As Germany, France and Russia began to take advantage of the decline of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire, Britain started to take sharp notice of both the vulnerability of the Suez Canal to potential, alien forces in Syria and Mesopotamia, along with the discovery of oil. As the power of the Ottomans started to wane, France seized Algeria in 1830 and Tunisia in 1881, Britain occupied Egypt in 1882 and then the Sudan, Austria-Hungary annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy seized Libya and whatever Balkan provinces that they had left broke away. For nearly 400 years the Ottoman Empire’s dominion of the Arab World had extended without a break from Algeria to the Persian Gulf and from Aleppo (modern Syria) to the Indian Ocean. The last absolute Sultan, Abdul Hamid, who came to the throne in 1876, saw the North African part of his empire being carved away. As a result of this continual erosion, in desperation, he began a rule of intense repression, involving spies, informers everywhere, massive arrests, torture and brutal treatment of minorities; Armenians, Kurds, and others. This led to rife corruption throughout their fading empire. The question going forth to the Arab population of their empire, would they be next?

Lawrence would start to develop his language skills and the mastery of the historical background and politics of the region along with intelligence work at the archeology dig at Carchemish along the Western Bank of Euphrates River in both Turkey and Syria. At the same time a bridge was being constructed by German engineers to enable the Berlin-Baghdad Railway to further go into Ottoman-dominated Arabia. Between 1911 and 1914, under the direction of his mentor, David Hogarth, work on this dig continued. In 1911, Hogarth was in the field himself. R. C. Thompson, and later T. E. Lawrence would be there from 1912 to 1914. The excavations would eventually be interrupted in 1914 by World War I, and then eventually ended in 1920, with the Turkish War of Independence. These expeditions uncovered substantial remains of the Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods, including defensive structures, temples, palaces, and numerous basalt statues and reliefs with Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions. During this period of time, Lawrence would send many shiploads of pottery back to the museum at Oxford. Eventually, the British Museum would ask for their share of the cultural remains of ancient Babylon.

Of course, more problems arose at the dig, especially with disgruntled Kurds and Arab workers along with unhappy Turks, who were leery of the Brits. Both Lawrence and his partner Leonard Wolley, (1880-1960), another intelligence officer, were able to defuse a riotous event regarding workers and their murderous threats to six German engineers.

The Turks were getting concerned about their (the British) real role in the region and Lawrence was encouraged to publish a paper (a white wash) regarding their archeological efforts. They returned to Britain and as Lawrence was completing, “The Wilderness of Zin,” war was declared.

While Lawrence was on this information mission, covered by the dig at Carchemish, an American, William Yale, (a descendent of Elihu Yale, the founder of Yale College) who was working for ESSO (Standard Oil), came in contact with Lawrence. It seems Yale was also looking for information, but found out none from Lawrence. He had been assigned to map out regions of the Negev and Sinai. Later on, during the war Yale was a member of the United States State Department and had a curious habit of turning up in places where Lawrence was assigned. (He would serve in the American State Department for many years and live to 1975.)

When the war broke out, while Lawrence worked on the (white wash) paper at Whitehall, he turned to his mentor David Hogarth for an appointment in the Intelligence Section of the Military Operations Sector.  Later, he and a few colleagues were posted to Cairo (seen in the film, “Lawrence of Arabia.”) Both Wolley and Lawrence wound up in the Intelligence Sector, as they wished, and they were assigned to the Egyptian War Office, dealing with the Sinai Project. How he gets transferred into this war zone is never really made clear. Certainly knowledge of his education and skills were beginning to be known.

Interestingly, in the early days of the war as a Subaltern (2nd Lieutenant) with three months seniority, he was not only crafting plans that were considered by Lord Kitchener (Herbert Kitchener 1850-1916, British High Command, lost is the sinking of the HMS Hampshire in 1916 on his way to a conference with Tsar Nicholas II) and was being asked his opinion on conditions in the Turkish sectors of Mesopotamia. It was during these early days, in the coming campaign against the Turks, the idea emerged of the “Arab Revolt.” Ironically, the British-Indian government feared the creation of a large Arab Nation more than that of the Turks, especially with regards to their long-term security from the Russians. Also, there were over 70 million Muslims living on the Indian sub-continent.

While this was happening Lawrence and others were setting up an intelligence network. For a time they all wondered whether there would be real action in the Turkish-dominated Levant. That time would not be long in waiting, as Turkey entered the war by attacking Russia.

It was in this period, before the Arab Uprising, that Lawrence became known for driving large motorcycles and for his scruffy (non-military) appearance. This was part of his general refusal to comply with established rules of conduct for young British officers. He often forgot to put on a hat, wear a belt and even salute. (One could see that emphasized in the film.)

Lawrence as an intelligence officer was first sent on a special mission to relieve the encircled British force of colonials (Indians) and British troops in Mesopotamia under the command of General Charles Vere Townsend, who had himself and 12,000 of his command boxed in by the Turkish commander Khalil Pasha. Lawrence was instructed to try to bribe Khalil with 1,000,000 pounds Sterling, but even when he upped the payment to over 2 million, it was rejected. In the midst of the negotiations, General Townshend surrendered his beleaguered and starving forces.

As for the disaster of the siege of Kut and General Townsend, the Anglo-Indian Command were strangely annoyed at the Lawrence Mission. They thought the idea of bribing the Turks to free Townsend’s surrounded army was dishonorable. Aside from their criticism, Lawrence and Audrey Herbert (1880-1923, later a Colonel) proceeded with their negotiations and were able to manage the release over 1000 wounded soldiers in exchange for non-wounded, Turkish military prisoners, but all else though failed.

Of the 11,000 soldiers taken prison after the surrender, over 5000 died on route to prison camps, as almost 26,000 others died in earlier and futile attempts to relieve Kut. General Townsend was interned, in relative comfort for the rest of the war and lived until 1924.

Lawrence would write a scathing account cataloguing the mismanagement that led to the tragedy at Kut. It was so truthful and brutal, that many parts of it were suppressed, Both Gallipoli and Kut were the result of muddled leadership and poor planning.

Eventually, Lawrence would be assigned to the role in instigating the Arab revolt against the Turks. Of course, contemporary views show him as a champion of the Arabs and an advocate for their freedom. He is depicted as trying to bring an end to the fratricidal rivalries among the various Arab Tribes and weld them together as a nation. That seems to be part of the overall myth of Lawrence.

In the beginning of 1916, Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca (A descendent of the Prophet.) and his sons- were encouraged by British promises regarding support for an independent Arab Kingdom-which would include parts of Lebanon and Syria, assuming an Allied victory. Hussein had been held as a virtual prisoner in Constantinople for seventeen years, before he was sent to Mecca as Sherif. He was the only Arab Leader of high religious standing. He knew most of the Turkish leaders of the Ottoman Empire as he was the only Arab leader known to Muslims outside of Arabia. He was the most critical individual, regarding the role of accepting British support in any uprising against the Turks, especially countering Sultan Hamid’s call for Jihad, or religious war against the infidels (the Allies.) This fear of jihad was quite real, because, as I earlier noted, the British ruled over 70 million Muslims in India.

For these reasons, Lawrence considered Hussein as the only possible candidate for this role. In 1916, he wrote a long memorandum, “The Conquest of Syria.” It was a remarkable description of Britain’s war aims, the consequences of the Arab Revolt, its emerging politics, its strategy and tactics, as well as the post war aims of Britain. Also let us not forget, Lawrence is only 28 years old and still a low-ranked officer. Who other than Lawrence was capable of these efforts? It seems, no one!

With that in mind, his commitment was complete and his success was in kind. The characters of Hussein (Hussein bin Ali al Hashim, 1854-1931, was the 37th direct descendent of Muhammad, the Prophet.) and his son Feisal are quite confused in the film. Feisal (played by Alec Guinness in the film) linked himself to Lawrence for the rest of the “Arab Revolt.” Feisal resisted the entreaties of Colonel Edouard Bremond, (1868-1948), Frances’s early counterpart to Lawrence. Bremond was a professional soldier in the middle of an outstanding career. He was a graduate of famous St. Cyr military academy and served in Morocco and Algiers. He was abrupt, patronizing, and jealous of his reputation. He was in favor of sending in large numbers regular French and British troops to confront the Turks, because of the limitations of the Bedouins in confronting regular soldiers. This was certainly part of the French post-war plans to occupy parts of old Ottoman Empire. Lawrence was bitterly opposed to this, because he believed if foreign troops (infidels) entered the fight the Bedouins would immediately desert. Bremond would be a rival of Lawrence’s for the rest of his life. They both actively disliked each other.

Feisal rejected peace overtures with the Turks and aside from some minor disagreements with Lawrence, remained loyal to him until the end of the war. But, eventually in 1921, he was completely disillusioned and turned quite bitter over his treatment by both the British and the French.

Of course, there would be many complications regarding the relationship between Lawrence and Hussein and his sons. In his account of the “Revolt,” in his “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” he describes his missions to Khartoum, Cairo, Jeddah and the problem of resisting a Turkish counter-attack from Medina on Mecca, the center of the Arabian rule, which would destroy the “Revolt.” This is how he summed up his mission. “The Sherif of Mecca was aged (he was in his 60s). I found (his sons) Abdullah too clever, Ali too clean and Zeid too cool. Then I road upcountry to Feisal and found him to be the leader with the necessary fire and yet with reason to give effect to our science. His tribesmen seemed sufficient instrument and the (surrounding) hills to natural advantage.”

In fact, Feisal (played by Alec Guinness in the movie is in reality, closer to the fictional character of Sherif Ali Played by Omar Sharif. One never sees Hussein.) With that in mind, according to Lawrence, his superiors were quite thrilled over his positive news regarding his ability to use Hussein’s sons in a productive matter. He was then sent back to the camp of Feisal. Ronald Storrs, (1881-1955, later a career diplomat, future military Governor of Jerusalem & Judea from 1920-6 and a WWII Member of the Arab Bureau) wrote that “Lawrence of Carchemish, Cairo and of any other place for a little while, became permanently, Lawrence of Arabia.” In fact, Lawrence was significantly much more important than a lowly, newly commissioned Subaltern (2nd Lieutenant). He was, in actuality, a very powerful force, sent to Cairo because of his high intelligence, great experience, and knowledge of the language and the customs of the Arab World, along with his unparalleled brilliance.

The remaining question was, who was he really? Who informed his superiors? In a fictional part of the movie, General Allenby is looking over his file and notes that he is well-educated. That did not happen and he met General Allenby much later.

One of the suggested tactics was the cutting of the critical Hedjaz Rail Line, which could eventually destroy the Turkish civil government that depended solely on its lifeline of relief and supplies. This was not the easy task described in the film, “Lawrence of Arabia.” The line was guarded by thousands of troops and it would take almost a year of planning and preparation. Preventing this action was the eventual inability to dislodge the Turks from their stronghold at Medina.

At this time, the secret Sykes-Picot treaty was drawn up and signed. This treaty would eventually grant Britain control and hegemony over Mesopotamia (Iraq) among other concessions that would include where modern Jordan is, along with Kuwait and territories southward. It would also create an internationalized Palestine with Britain in control of the ports of Accra and Haifa. The French, with ancient claims going back to the Crusades would get absolute control of Lebanon and Syria. As for the Sykes-Picot Treaty and the equally secret Hussein-McMahan correspondence in which British promises to the Sherif of Mecca, they are set out clearly in conflict. For sure, there were many Brits, including Lawrence, who were opposed to any presence by the French. Lawrence remained a committed Francophobe his whole life.

The Sykes-Pico Treaty was a secret document created by two career British and French diplomats. Sir Mark Sykes (1879-1919, a Baronet) and Monsieur Georges-Picot (1870-1951, a diplomat and lawyer) drew up an agreement dividing the choicest parts of the Ottoman Empire amongst Britain, France and Russia, leaving little worthwhile for the Arabs. Lawrence was well aware of the details of this agreement. How does a lowly, newly appointed, Subaltern of 28 years old know of this secret arrangement? He is certainly much more influential than his rank. Lawrence keeps this secret from Feisal and for sure, his father Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca, the titular head of the Arab-Muslim world.  He knew that if the Arabs discovered what has happened they will stop fighting.

The agreement was kept secret until the Bolshevik revolution, when the new Soviet government in Russia, revealed all the secret treaties and arrangements made by the former Tsarist regime. The Turks, seeing a chance to end the “Revolt,” hasten to tell the Arabs that Britain has betrayed their cause and to offer them peace terms. The Arabs are tempted to end their campaign, but when King Hussein questions the British, they deny that any such agreement exists. The British reaffirm their promise to free the Arabs. Lawrence and his mentor David Hogarth work to undermine the treaty, not because it betrays the Arabs, but because it lets the French into their plans for Arab Dominion. There were many parts to the agreement, including a way to convince the Zionists that an opportunity was at hand to at last realize their dream of a Jewish Homeland in the traditional Holy Land. In truth, no matter how it was to be interpreted, the Arabs were left with very little. There is no doubt that at the time, and in retrospect, if Hussein had known of the reality of the treaty, the “Arab Revolt” would have collapsed immediately. The Arabs would have known that there was no benefit in helping defeat the Turks. It meant exchanging one master for another. Without the revelation by the new Soviet government, there is no reason to believe the details of the Treaty would have ever been revealed. Of course, Lawrence being the agent that he was, knew all about the Turkish offers down to the last detail, because he looked at the files in Feisal’s office when he wasn’t there. The British often intercepted telegrams between Hussein and Feisal. They often doctored them to suit their purpose and policies, and then delivered the revised versions.

Feisal, of course, was disturbed by what the Turks told him, passed the letters to his father, Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca, who responded, “A British promise is as good as gold. No matter how hard you rub it, it still shines.”

The reality is quite different. Lawrence’s main task, according to his own papers was to bring the Arabs firmly under British control and make certain the tribes remained jealous of each other and divided. His paper of 1916, “The Politics of Mecca,” makes that quite clear. Part of his actions and beliefs were his fanatical opposition to any French hegemony in Syria. Also, in this piece, he is hardly seen as the future savior of the Arab People, as depicted in the film.

In one part he writes, “The Arabs are even less stable than the Turks, If properly handled they would remain in a state of political mosaic, a tissue of small jealous principalities, incapable of cohesion and yet always ready to combine against an outside force.” How correct he was. This reality would remain true for the next 100 years. He continued, “The alternate to this seems the control and colonization of a European Power other than ourselves, which would inevitably come in conflict with the interests we already possess in the New East.” This certainly reflected their keen interest in oil and the future security of the Raj in India.

Lawrence understood that to curry favor and trust with the Arab leadership he had to immerse himself in their culture. Evidence suggests that Lawrence wore Arab dress and behaved as a Bedouin for reasons aside from love or admiration for the Arabs, is to be discerned in his written piece, “Twenty-Seven Articles,” a manual for British political officers in how to handle Arabs. This detailed pamphlet shows with sincerity that that he adopted an Arab pose to win their trust and to be better able to direct their actions in concert along with the avenues that were parallel and most beneficial to Britain. He immersed himself in everything Arabic, including diet, habits, likes, dislikes, conduct, the nuances of language, etc. He believed that one’s success will be proportionate to the amount of mental effort one could commit.

In March of 2017, after a long bout of dysentery and a high fever, he claims to have re-thought the strategy of the war. He believes that the attack and the capture of Medina, the Turkish stronghold, would be foolish, especially with regards to the loss of men and material. Better let them remain stuck with their supply lines under constant attack.

Such a strategy would leave 12,000 Turks stranded and impotent, unable to move and harm the Revolt. The strategy was to convince the Turks to continue to supply a besieged garrison. In most cases his plans were developed over months as was his strategy of constant harassment, but not the destruction of the railway. Without the cooperation of Abdullah (Hussein’s son) he formed a small force of 300 or so men and attacked the rail station at Aba el Naam. In doing so with two machine guns, one mountain gun and a howitzer he was able to destroy the main building, the water supply, rail cars disable a locomotive, as they severed the telegraph line and the tracks. The 200 men at the station fled into the hills.

It took Lawrence 48 hours to get back to Abdullah’s camp. There was no love-loss between the two of them in the least. As soon as he got there, he set out once again to make a second attack on the railway. These were his first attempts at offensive patrols in force. The hit and run tactics developed in the desert were not novel and had been used for centuries before WWII. Since that time these tactics have been used routinely with freedom fighters, guerrillas and terrorists throughout the world.

Eventually, in April, of 1917, Lawrence would meet Auda, (1874-1926) the leader of the Abu Tayi Tribe, a section of the Howeitat Bedouins. This desert warrior was unique in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. He was fierce, had personally killed countless Arabs (possibly 75+), no less Turks.

He even knocked out his front false teeth that had been made by Turks to show his loyalty to the revolt. Auda (played by Anthony Quinn in the film, was one of the few real characters, aside from Lawrence and Allenby.)

Lawrence was long intrigued by Auda’s romantic image as the toughest of the Hejaz Chieftains. In a long, detailed, dispatch sent by Lawrence, Auda was well-described as the finest fighting force in Western Arabia. With the enthusiastic support of Auda, along with Mira as-Shalan, the long-time head of the Ruala Bedouins, Lawrence planned his attack on Aqaba. Auda’s support convinced Feisal that this audacious assault could work. With Feisal’s growing army, tensions arose within the ranks and the tribal leadership. Even the majority of the tribes were not enthusiastic about a frontal assault, hundreds of miles away across the arid desert.

Feisal, for this effort, relied instead on the nucleus of his bodyguard and then added other tribes, like regiments commanded by the hereditary rulers. This army was constantly changing. While the British command was still pressing on an attack on Medina along with a major attack on the Hejaz rail lines, Lawrence wanted to attack Aqaba from the rear, which was not defended by their big guns facing the sea. Feisal had previous blocked the plan, but with the arrival of Auda, he agreed. Lawrence changed the equation with the promise of glory and limitless wealth. With this Auda became his most enthusiastic ally. Gold was never unimportant to these leaders. They craved it and it bought a lot of effort, especially from their followers. As this was discussed, Lawrence convinced Auda that the attack was really the tribal leader’s own creation. Of course, many tried to take responsibility for the idea.

Lawrence, Auda and Nasir the exiled Sherif of Medina started toward Aqaba with 40 camel men on a mission which would make Lawrence famous. They carried few supplies, no machine guns, no heavy equipment and 20,000 British gold Sovereigns. The desert route was long and difficult and he had no orders from the High Command. He circumvented his immediate superior Colonel Charles Joyce (1878-1965), but he wrote to Colonel Gilbert Clayton (1875-1929) in Cairo and said he was taking on this effort on his own responsibility. This on its face is quite remarkable. It was on this march that he meets the two (seen in the film) young Bedouin boys, who become his servants.

In the long, hazardous, ten day trip from their starting point in Wejh- the lack of water started to become acute. During this effort, Lawrence and Auda crossed the Hejaz railway at the Wadi Deraa and blew up the rails. The rest of the journey was uneventful except for the famous story of Lawrence going back to rescue a man, Gasim, from certain death, who had fallen from his camel. Eventually they reached Auda’s camp and security. While there, for some unexpected reason Lawrence left for a mysterious and controversial reconnaissance in Syria on the 14th of June. Some reports said he was two weeks, other said he never left and there was always some historical doubt about the event. But, none in his camp, or even in the British Army, knew that Lawrence was really a secret agent. When he was gone he met with Syrian Nationalists in the outskirts of Damascus. This action was denied by an Arab historian, but Sir Reginald Wingate (1861-1953, future Baronet and a later High Commissioner in Egypt) recommended him for the Victorian Cross. It eventually was denied, because no British officer witnessed the effort. During his absence Auda raised a considerable fighting force of several hundred men. Three days later, after Lawrence’s a diversion to draw attention away from Aqaba, they attacked a railway to the North. One hundred tribesmen, with Lawrence Auda and his nephew Zaal, struck at the railroad between Amman and Deraa. It was at Deraa where Lawrence was supposedly attacked and abused by the Turkish Bey (played by Jose Ferrer in the movie.)

As for this singular reconnaissance, which was questioned by some, Lawrence talks little about it in his book, “The Seven Pillars…” But, aside from the questions, his own dispatches seem to corroborate the effort along with his diary.

The secrecy and the apparent discrepancies in Lawrence’s various accounts of this and other exploits, can be explained on the ground of secrecy. The evidence is deeply conflicting, but in the light of what is known about Lawrence’s courage and endurance, it seems not unreasonable.

Also, all should understand, who is the now “captain,” and where does his authority come from and why is no one really questioning what he does and the authority he commands?

In an effort to protect important wells from destruction from the Turks, they took on a small Turkish force, which eventually alerted an enemy battalions. The battle was turned by a mad charge by Auda, which was followed by Lawrence, who was thrown from his own camel and knocked senseless while the battle was won. It seems that in the chaos of the charge, Lawrence shot his own camel, causing his fall and injury. With the loss of two Arabs, the Turks incurred over 300 deaths and surrendered over 160 men. Terms of surrender were sent to other Turkish outposts and they were accepted. The eventual fall of Aqaba, two months after Lawrence and Audo had left Wejh, which occurred on July 6th, was a fait accompli. Aqaba was cut off with no relief from the sea and no supplies. There was no real charge, as depicted in the film, the defenders had no choice and the garrison of a few hundred Turks surrendered. Thus, every port on the Red Sea was now in the British naval control. This outstanding victory would eventually make Lawrence a household name all over the world. It was an audacious effort, almost without parallel in modern times.

With that reality of this victory at hand, there was no way to alert British HQ in Cairo about this amazing and totally unexpected occrance. To get the information to Cairo, Lawrence and eight others (not his two servant boys in the film) headed across 150 miles of Sinai Desert. They wound up on the eastern side of the Suez Canal, found an abandoned set of building, abandoned because of the plague, were able to find a working phone, and finally reached an operator who understood what he was talking about. A launch was sent to cross the canal, and they headed to Suez City. Lawrence caught a train to Ismailia which was a connecting station to Cairo.

Upon arriving in Cairo, he made his way too his barracks, changed his Arab garb to an old uniform and headed to British Headquarters where he first meets General Edmund Henry Allenby (1861-1936, later 1st Viscount Allenby.) Lawrence had never met him before. (In the film, he went into an officer’s bar in Arab dress with his surviving Arab servant boy. This never happened.)

It seems that Lawrence had a great deal of authority and he was able to ask for and obtain 200,000 pounds in British gold Sovereigns from General Allenby (there was no personage named Dryden- played by Claude Rains who would certify the request.) In 1917, that money would be equivalent to over $16 million today. Gold opened a lot of doors in the Bedouin World of that era, as it would today.

Lawrence would eventually return to his joint command (with Feisal) of his Desert Army. There he would plan his next effort with more arms at his command and. of course. the gold. The Battle of Tafileh, on the 25th January of 1918, was a heavy engagement with three Turkish battalions of 900 men and officers and a company of cavalry. It was the only major battle Lawrence fought in during WWI. A force of a few hundred soldiers, under the nominally, joint command of Feisal’s younger brother Zeid, Jafaar Pasha Al-Askari with Lawrence, they entered the town of Tafileh. In a classic battle of small feints, strategic withdrawals, and a flanking action, the Turkish regulars broke from their well-defended lines, faced a flanking movement featuring machine guns during their retreat and were basically routed and cut down. Over 200 Turks surrendered, many were wounded and died because of the lack of any medical assets and the vast majority were killed.

In short, according to the media of the time and the famous movie about these two years of his life, “Lawrence’s war appears to be glamourous and adventurous and exciting because, as war go, it was just that, and Lawrence made the best of it. For two years he lived and fought with the Arabs.

He wore Arab clothes, went barefoot, ate Arab food, and suffered Arab fleas. He had malaria, dysentery and boils. It was a rough, rough life.” (From the very authoritative book, “The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia,” by Phillip Knightley and Colin Simpson.)

According to Tom Beaumont, who fought with Lawrence, “There was not thought of changing or undressing at night! We slept in a hollow made in the sand with a blanket or two for cover. It was four months before we could get a change of clothes. Shaving was win a tin of water for ten men. We used aviation petrol to wash clothes. Lawrence was incredibly tough and made a point of doing anything the Arabs could do and doing it better. He could ride a camel faster than most of them. He could run alongside and swing into the saddle- about nine feet from the ground- while it was moving. He could do it easier than most Arabs. The Arabs accepted him because of feats like this. He knew how to get along with them. They would follow him anywhere.”

Sir Major Hubert Young (1885-1950, soldier and Liberal politician) who knew Lawrence from his days at the dig at Carmemish noted that “Lawrence was absolutely without fear and very hard on himself, but he also never knew much about the regular army.” (Lawrence was not a product of a military background in the least.) Young, himself could not forgive Lawrence for his hated of the army and it rules, regulations and tradition. But, he understood that “he was a tireless and inspired, if somewhat unrealistic leader who won the respect of Arab and British soldiers alike, because of his utter disregard of danger and his readiness to endure not merely discomfort, but the worst kinds of hardship.”

During February, Lawrence was introduced to the American journalist and adventurer, Lowell Thomas (the character of the American Jeremy Bentley in the movie). This meeting and their subsequent run-ins in Arabia were later to have a profound effect on Lawrence’s life, regarding the incredible notoriety that would come to him, along with the legend that still persists. It would also effect the perception of him that was basically a secret to almost 100% of the British public. There was virtually no Allied propaganda about the “Arab Revolt” and the War in the Desert. Throughout the war, the British government had no clue how to present their effort, utilized no positive propaganda, and through incredible censorship, little was known by the public of the details of almost anything, especially the role of Lawrence from 1914 through 1918. As for Americans, few even knew of the WWI British contribution of “blood and treasure,” Most thought the French, their traditional allies, were doing all the fighting and dying. In fact, Lawrence was virtually unknown, except to his peers and superiors.

In the spring, after a very difficult period of personal introspection and self-doubt, he was re-vitalized and master-minded a major new offensive against the Hegaz Line and a direct attack on the Turkish stronghold of Damascus (the capital of modern Syria.) He continued with his inability of delegating command and personally led numerous raids on the Hegaz rail system. As new and more modern equipment moved into the theater of operations, Lawrence was able to effectively use planes and armored cars. But, success and the vision of victory, was not without emerging problems. Morale amongst his Arab army was dropping. Like all soldiers, the wear and tear, the deprivation, and the fear of surviving the war was creeping into both the ranks and the leadership. German clandestine efforts to divide the Arab leadership was having a subtle, but obvious effect.

Feisal and his father, Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca were in the midst of a growing rift over policy, the direction of their actions and who would lead in the future. The specter of the reality of the Sykes-Picot Treaty, which had been denied for years by the British authorities was weighing heavily on the minds of the Arab leadership. Feisal offered his resignation, but both Allenby, with Lawrence’s initiation and prodding, were able to convince him to rescind his action at this critical juncture. Lawrence was able to doctor a half-hearted, apologetic letter from Hussein to his son and make it more conciliatory.

Lawrence would facilitate the attack on Damascus by isolating Deraa by blowing up a key bridge and destroying rail lines which would prevent further Turkish reinforcements. But, no matter what one did to the rail lines, Turkish retreat to Damascus continued unabatedly.

After a series of land and air attacks, Lawrence and Auda, with a body of irregular troops caught up with a retreating column of Turkish and German troops at a village called Tafas. At that small village occurred what has been termed the “Massacre of Tafas,” The Turkish commander was reported to have murdered 20 small children and 40 women. According to “The Seven Pillars…” The Arabs reacted with uncontrolled rage. Talal, one of the local Chieftains (who led the charge in the movie and was cut down by Turkish marksman) flung himself at the column, along with Lawrence and the others. It was reported that Lawrence gave the implicit directive, “take no prisoners!” The scope of the massacre at Tafas and the destruction of the Turkish and German column were never covered in the official papers of the campaign, very possibly, because of extreme censorship, but it is mentioned extensively in “The Seven Pillars….”

Of course, aside from the horror of war and the brutality of violent death exercised on both sides of any conflict, countless war crimes have been ignored even from when the Geneva Convention outlined rules of the conduct of belligerents in the modern era.

Official records reflect that this large contingent of Turkish troops were prevented from helping in the defense of Damascus. There is no real evidence that they were the “walking wounded” as depicted in the film or even in Lawrence’s book, “The Seven Pillars….” In the film it certainly shows graphically the slaughter of innocents in the village of Tafas. Of course, like many other debated accounts, Lawrence’s description of what occurred has been disputed from different sources, especially from the French who were rivals of the British and from their field leader officer, Captain Eduard Bremond, who despised Lawrence. For sure a massacre of some kind did take place, but a Jordanian historian has presented evidence that the initial slaughter by the Turks was exaggerated by Lawrence in an attempt to justify the orgy of killing of the Turkish column. That seems completely insincere. In other words, so small of a massacre only deserves a reaction in kind?

Historically, in the official account of the Allenby Campaign, “The Advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force,” which was produced shortly after the war from headquarters in Cairo by the British government press and the Survey of Egypt, there is only a brief, but laudatory mention of Lawrence, with hardly any hint of his political importance.

Thus ended the saga of Lawrence and his most pivotal role in the War in the Desert, the Arab Revolt. His fame would explode diametrically, in the days after the war, and would not be superseded by any soldier in the 100 years since the end of that conflict.

What was the consequence of sea changes in the Middle East? In a faraway retrospect, on the day Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops in 1973, the British writer James Fenton founded a framed quotation on a wall of the abandoned and looted American Embassy: “Better to let them do it imperfectly than to do it perfectly yourself, for it is their country, their way, and your time is short.” The words were from T.E. Lawrence. That quote is from The Assassin’s Gate, America in Iraq by George Packer.

Finally, in 1927 after the publication of the masterful, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” trade editions of “Revolt in the Desert,” were published. It was a shortened and more commercial edition of “The Seven Pillars.” George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The most spectacular and mysterious figure of modern times, he relates on of the strangest stories written.” Shaw went on, “he exploded the Turkish Dominion in Arabia. Je united under himself tribes and nations which had not joined together since the last Crusade: he led them to victory- the white genius of the desert legions!”

In England, a serialization of “Revolt” had begun in the Daily Telegraph two months before the book was published. Advance orders exhausted three printings at a price four times that of a novel. Incredible praise was heaped on the book. One reviewer in the Times, wrote, “The description of that last crescendo of confusion and fury and fighting of desperate adventure and hair breadth escapes and at the culminating triumph at Damascus, is a masterpiece. It is a marvelous record, clear, incisive, utterly unsentimental, burking nothing.” There were many more glowing reviews from the Morning Post, The Daily News, The Westminster Gazette, The Times Literary Supplement and many more. It quickly became a best seller in Britain and America. Of course, all this happened while he was posted to Karachi with his pseudo name, as he attempted to run away from the fame, notoriety and incessant clamor and intrusion on his life. In fact, he would never really escape.

Thus, these last fifteen years of Lawrence’s life were a mixture of many, many myths, rumors, accusations, his need to escape, his effort to finish his book, efforts to live quietly, and his strange re-enlistments into both the Army and the Royal Air Force with fictitious identities.

He certainly developed dependencies on powerful friends like George Bernard Shaw and his wife, Winston Churchill, Thomas Hardy, Basil Liddle-Hart, Nancy Astor, and with many others, some from his days in the desert during WWI, along with others who served with him in the military. The question arises, why cannot he deal with reality, his notoriety, the clamor of people, in the post war world? What is he suffering from?

Is it mental, physical or psychological? The effect of the war, his own identity and legitimacy, his height, his health, fear of the media, his lack of resources, his sexuality and possibly post-traumatic stress syndrome are all part of his continuing anxieties.

Since Lowell Thomas’s book in 1924, there been many unauthorized and authorized books on the life of Lawrence. Many theories about who he was and his motivation have come and gone. Many of the later books had the blessing of the Lawrence Trust, ministered by his brother Professor AW Lawrence.

Lawrence has been insanely described as a sadistic deviate for whom the Arab uprising against the Turks was an opportunity to prey on others, or as the most generous man who ever lived; as a fraud who took credit for what others accomplished in Arabia, or as the only important military mind to emerge from World War I. Almost all who knew him during and after the war seems to have been convinced that he was a remarkable “genius,” though they rarely agreed as to what sort. He was impossible to pin down!

For Robert Graves and George Bernard Shaw, he was one of the important writers of the century, while his service mates in the R.A.F. during the 1920’s and 1930’s remember him as the best mechanic, or boat designer they ever knew. George Bernard Shaw’s wife described him as the most kind and decent man, a sort of saint. While, for a decade, the British Foreign Office had troubled dreams about his “real” ambitions, and breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally killed in a motorcycle accident. It is like the powers wanted him to disappear as much as he did himself.

Others like the author John E, Mack have written that “After one reads Lawrence’s idiosyncratic masterpiece, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” and the moving letters he wrote later on, it becomes clear that Lawrence was not so much a master of these spectacular effects—a “confidence man” Because, in a way his life was so fragile, so precarious, he could be, indeed he had to be, anybody at all. And because he was brilliantly sensitive and intelligent, all his “any bodies” were superbly convincing. Lawrence suspected, therefore, that his legend was merely his own illusionary sense of what he accomplished, multiplied beyond reason, and‐that the only course for him was to submerge himself below the surface of the legend, which he did, or half did, as a “secular monk” (his phrase) in the ranks of a peacetime army.

John Mack’s “A Prince of Our Disorder” is the first Lawrence biography that avoids these obvious snares and traps by addressing itself without prejudice to the man who gave rise to the legends and, finally, was overwhelmed by them. According to one reviewer, “Mack has tracked down virtually everyone who knew Lawrence, including many desert sheiks who fought at his side in Arabia, and he has gotten onto tape or in letters competing versions of crucial events, as well as memoirs of private encounters, personal impressions, etc. Wherever possible, in the period up through the Arab Revolt, he has given precedence to often unpublished contemporary accounts over later reminiscences, so as to avoid the distorting influence of Lawrence’s reputation.” With that in mind, reflective of the background of his effort, “Mack seems to establish beyond a doubt, that Lawrence’s description of the revolt in ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ is largely accurate.

He carefully circumscribes Lawrence’s diplomatic role at Versailles and, later on, when he helped Winston Churchill to rectify the mess the peace conference had made of the Middle East. He underscores Lawrence’s perverse impulse to create the appearance of secrets where, often, none existed, so that the “secret lives” that have delighted legend mongers for the past 50 years are seen to be a sort of joke Lawrence managed to play, finally, on himself.”

The “Lawrence Saga,” never ends, even in death from a reported motorcycle accident. In the same way, as mysteries and legend enveloped his life, there were questions of how it came about, was it really an accident or was it staged?

At least three theories have been put forth, if the crash was not an accident.  (Courtesy of “A Biography of T.E. Lawrence,” by Michael Yardley.)

  1. The crash was a quasi-suicide in which Lawrence had little left to live for and he made a deliberate decision to sacrifice his life to save the boys on the bicycles that were on the road in front of his speeding motorcycle/
  2. The accident was faked so that Lawrence could retire in peace, perhaps to Morocco. The only evidence of this extraordinary conspiracy is that none of the photographs taken of Lawrence in his coffin came out.
  3. That Lawrence was murdered (and here it lies in the realm of spy fiction!
  4. The British Intelligent Service feared his connections with Mosley’s Blackshirts, or because of his intentions to make public his RAF memoirs.
  5. The Germans, to prevent Lawrence from taking over the re-organization of Britain’s Home Defenses.
  6. The French or their agents in revenge for Lawrence’s anti-French activities.
  7. Zionists for reasons that are confused as they are unlikely.
  8. Bolshevik Russian agents because of Lawrence’s activities of an arch spy olf the world.
  9. Agents of an Arab Government
  10. The IRA, because Lawrence took a keen interest in Irish Republicanism and once had refuse Michael Collin’s offer a a brigade in the Free State Army
  11. Persons unknown because of the new secret work which Lawrence was about to or had already, become involve.

Most of these theories are pure speculation and almost impossible to believe. It is far more likely that his death was a result of high speed and an accident. But, there are many inconsistencies with conflicting statements about the accident, the speed he was going, the condition of the motorcycle, a mysterious car and the extraordinary secrecy and security precautions taken. Why was a policeman by his bed in the hospital?

Thomas Eliot Lawrence, known to history as the legendary “Lawrence of Arabia,” lived and died in the thralls of mystery, myth, secrecy and incredible notoriety. Will anyone really know the true story?


“The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia,” Phillip Knightley and Colin Simpson, 1969

“A Biography of T.E. Lawrence,” Michael Yardley, 1987

“Lawrence of Arabia,” Jeremy Wilson, 1990

“The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence, 1926