Stein supports the production in Paris of "Carmen – GI version," a U.S. army troop entertainment show put on by soldiers for army soldiers. The story of this show is revealed by its surviving members. Joe Pollock [the Mr. Pollock of Stein’s letter], a retired Philadelphia High School principal and member of the 63rd Infantry Division, along with others in the 63rd, put together a show "right after the military madness of World War II ended in Europe... [when] peace caught them unawares in the south German town of Tuberbischofsheim." Pollock recalled, "While we were waiting to get shipped to the Pacific to fight the Japanese [which they never did get to], El Stinko and me and a few other malcontents decided to put on a show to entertain the guys.
Stein writes to American Captain Rago at the office of the Military Attaché, American Embassy.
She introduces the Captain to the show's writers and stars in order to get the US military to support the show's production in Paris and the US. "This is to introduce Pollack and Carmen of the Carmen show. I saw it the other night and I think they do get the indecency, the gaiety, and the sadness, and I think it is very important that it should be given again in Paris and America, but they have plans but they want a little conversation and suggestion and I am sending them to you because I think you can give them some of both, w/ pleasure ." Signed, "Always, Gertrude Stein." With holograph envelope that was most probably hand delivered. Tape stains on verso at corners and one small corner tear.
Our letter is paired with a print of the well known photograph by Cecil Beaton of Stein with her life partner Alice B. Toklas taken in 1938, in a wallpapered room, at 5 rue Christine, Stein's second salon in Paris.
The story is told by John Corr in a news article dated 10-23-1987 and titled , "A Tough Act To Follow," for the "Philadelphia Inquirer" . Corr reports what veteran soldiers told him about Gertrude Stein. "Literary salon-keepers Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas caught the show in Paris and invited producer Pollock and a few others for ‘tea and gingerbread’. The Stein-Toklas appraisal of the performance was a rave: ‘Killing, Killing, Killing’." The soldiers described the Carmen show. "That slapped-together show ran for seven months, and was the big hit of the 1945 European Theater season." When Pollock met with Corr and a half dozen other survivors in Philadelphia in 1987, Corr reported that it was the "first full-scale reunion of the cast of "Carmen – GI version, circa 1945." Included in the cast was jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd. The performers said they just wanted to get out of the pup tents and mud, so they started this show. "We were supposed to do just three shows at the town hall in Tuberbischofsheim... then somebody from division saw the act, and, first thing we knew, we were on the road," one of the performers told Corr. On the road meant 143 shows in seven months in Germany, France and Italy. The performers told Corr the show was mostly burlesque, with hilarious, irreverent acts, and gave them all a cheerful camaraderie. Stein likely wrote our letter in 1945 after she went back to Paris from Culoz. She left Culoz in December of 1944. In a published letter from Stein to Carl Van Vechten ("The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Carl Van Vechten 1913-1946" by Edward Burns) postmarked 3 Jan. 1945, Stein says they had just moved back to Paris. Our research did not reveal additional information about Captain Rago, Stein’s correspondent.
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