There was something aspirational and heart-warming when I accidently came upon a letter of Robert Pirosh–an American screenwriter whose work for the war movie Battleground won him an Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay in 1949. As a someone who is about to exit from higher education and enter into this perplexing uncertain world, I’m reminded by his letter that he too was also scared, anxious about his future yet he persisted.
In 1934, after he decided to quit his well-paid job in a New York advertising agency, he bravely went to Hollywood to fulfill his dreams as a screenwriter without knowing any single person in the movie industry. Once he arrived, he gathered all the names and addresses of movie producers, directors, and studio executives he could think of and sent them a letter that he had written about his interests of being a screenwriter. His letter was engaging, concise, and the arcane words that he chose stunned me, showing his immense creativity and intelligence. Not too long ago I read an article about one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, saying that if our talents want to be discovered, we must not wait for people to come around but we must knock on doors to get to where we aspire to be. What Robert Pirosh did was the true embodiment of what Gilbert said.
I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grappler, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.
I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.
I have just returned and I still like words.
May I have a few with you?
385 Madison Avenue
As I was doing a research about Pirosh’s life and work, I found a picture of humorous letter typed by Sidney Sheldon congratulating Robert Pirosh for the Academy Award that he won. Here is the letter:
For more heart-warming collections of forgotten letters, treat yourself by visiting Shaun Usher’s wonderful website Letters of note or if you prefer the physical book, I would recommend to check it out from your nearest (Public Library).