Brecht and Lion Feuchtwanger

Bertolt Brecht's 100th Birthday Anniversary

Feuchtwanger Memorial Library

University of Southern California

Bertolt Brecht and Lion Feuchtwanger met in March 1919, when Brecht was only 21 and Feuchtwanger already established as a well-respected playwright. In 1924 the two collaborated on the play Leben Eduards des Zweiten von England (Edward II in English translation); in 1925 they wrote Kalkutta, 4. Mai which was a revision of Feuchtwanger's play Warren Hastings originally written in 1915.

In 1942 when Brecht and Feuchtwanger were both living in Southern California, the two collaborated on a third play, titled "The Visions of Simone Machard" dealing with a young French girl active in the resistance. The two friends agreed that Brecht would hold the rights for the play and Feuchtwanger would retain rights for the novel that he intended to write about the main character. When Samuel Goldwyn read Feuchtwanger's novel Simone in 1944 he wanted the story for MGM. Due to both personal and global circumstances the film was never made - the actress, Theresa Wright, Goldwyn wanted to play the teen-aged protaganist became pregnant and before she could resume acting, France became liberated virtually eliminating interest in a French resistance movie. Luckily, both Feuchtwanger and Brecht were paid for the film rights, even though the film was never made. Generously, Feuchtwanger gave Brecht $20,000 of the $50,000 payment from MGM.

Simone Machard

In Brecht's journal entry for January 3, 1942, from he describes working with Lion Feuchtwanger on Simone Machard:

"work every morning with L[ion] F[euchtwanger] on the Visions of Simone Machard, the collaboration is going well and is like a holiday after the film work, although f[euchtwanger] wants to have nothing to do with technical and social aspects (epic portrayal, a-effect, characters made up of social rather than biological ingredients, class conflicts built into the story and so on), and tolerates all that merely as my personal style, after i had completed the structure of the play, with him keeping an eye on naturalistic probability (it ought to be a catering establishment, the cash value of the petrol was too little to be seriously worth fighting for etc), i wrote the scenes at home and then corrected them with him. he has a feeling for structure and appreciates linguistic refinements, is also capable of making poetic and dramaturgical suggestions, knows a lot about literature, pays attention to arguements and is pleasant to deal with, a good friend."

Bertolt Brecht Journals. Translated by Hugh Rorrison; edited by John Willett. New York: Routledge, 1993, p. 275.

Brecht and Feuchtwanger's close friendship can be seen in their correspondence. Two examples of letters from Brecht to Feuchtwanger from the Feuchtwanger Archive are included in this exhibit.

In the first letter from November 1940, Brecht expresses his relief to receive Feuchtwanger's letter and learn of his successful escape from Europe. Brecht asks Feuchtwanger for his help to procure immigration visas to enter the United States for himself, his family, and collaborator, Grete Steffin.

The second letter was written in 1955 after Brecht has returned to Europe. In this letter Brecht tells Feuchtwanger that the English Stage Society has expressed interest in producing his Galileo. Brecht asks Feuchtwanger to call Charles Laughton to learn if the actor is interested in performing in a British production of Brecht's play.

After Brecht's death on August 14, 1958, Feuchtwanger described his friendship and working relationship with Brecht on several occasions. Just two months before Feuchtwanger himself died, he was asked to by the BBC to contribute to a Brecht program in production.
Feuchtwanger's essay.

This exhibit was created by Marje Schuetze-Coburn, Feuchtwanger Librarian, at the University of Southern California.

February 1998.

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