The other day, I wrote the following to a member concerning my initial reaction to, and criticism of, Simon Callow's Hello Americans (which I do like far more than The Road to Xanadu), and the member suggested that I pass this part of it along here:
"[In Callow's Hello Americans] I was pleased to see the name
of Robert "Bob" Meltzer, a Mercury writer and
factotum, who stayed with Welles through the
Brazillian ordeal, and appears as "a steward" in
JOURNEY INTO FEAR. I had casually wondered who he was [in the past]. Callow refers to him thirteen times in his book's
first 200 pages, ambiguously suggesting the inevitable
'falling out' with Welles by printing at length some
weird PR copy that Meltzer sent back to RKO from Rio [in regard to the strengths of various players in IT'S ALL TRUE.]
Callow's last reference to Meltzer coincides with a
snide description of Welles' 4-F Draft exam, in which
he records the fact that both Meltzer and Richard
Wilson had donned the uniform and were "directly
[involved] in fighting the [w]ar" (p. 188).
"Fair enough, yet with all Callow's resources, and
his meticulous recording of detail, having denoted a
real fighter against fascism, might he not have noted
(something which accidentally caught my attention
years ago) that Robert Meltzer happened to die on June
6, 1944? Might he not have found someone's reaction
to Meltzer's death, if not that of Welles himself?
"Really difficult stuff, you say.
"I simply was prompted (just now, in fact) to google
the IMDb for the name of 'Robert 'Bob' Meltzer,' and
came up with the following information:
"'Killed in action during the Battle for Brest on 6
"'Was posthumously named and blacklisted during the
U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities
"'After World War II, the Writers Guild of America
created the Robert Meltzer Award, originally meant to
honour writers who had been killed in the war. The
award was withdrawn in 1951 when Meltzer was
blacklisted, but was re-established in 1991 'in
recognition of a singular act of courage in defense of
freedom of _expression and the rights of the writer.'
"Now there's a real story!
"No nonsensical Black Dahlia speculation [two pages+ of that], no sexual morsels for Callow's base, but a real subject for
research which would have been at the heart of his
positive thesis for his second volume [that Welles turned many of his prodigeous talents and energies in the years covered to idealized political crusades]. Alas, with my
limited resources, my five minutes of scholarship hits
a cold trail after that. References mentioning
"McCarthyism" or "Black Lists" now are being
vandalized on google by gibberish entries, which I
presume emanate from the Right Wing."
Since writing the above to my friend, I did find an additional bit of interesting information in Callow about Meltzer. After coming back from Brazil, and before entering the Army, Meltzer produced Welles' Ceiling Unlimited show for Lockheed, for which Arthur Miller was hired to provide some of the scripts.
A particular irony, which Callow would have savored, is that Welles presented "A D-Day Special" for his Orson Welles Almanac, on June 7, 1944. In it, besides the introductions and close (which maddeningly skips in my copy), he plays an intrepid war correspondent who flies in a plane with the first wave of paratroopers, watching them leap into France on the morning of June 6th. All 18 troopers on board jump, except one whose harness becomes snagged. The correspondent (Welles) reports by short wave that the soldier is told, there will be other things for him to do.
Finally, I discovered that there is "A Testimonial to Robert Meltzer" by Welles at the Lily Library (B.5, f. 13). Given the tragic death of the Recife fisherman while filming IT'S ALL TRUE in Rio harbor, where Meltzer was present, I would expect that Meltzer's death would have been a kind of omen to Welles, and fit a pattern, perhaps.
Does anyone else here know anything about Bob Meltzer?