TLS to actor Robert Montgomery
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Lincoln and Eisenhower -- On Television
EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D. (1890-1969). Thirty-fourth president of the United States. TLS. (“D. E.”). 2pp. 4to. Palm Desert, February 12, 1962. (Lincoln’s birthday!) On his engraved Gettysburg stationery. To the American film actor ROBERT MONTGOMERY (1904-1981).
I have read over the contract concerning the making of the Lincoln picture. John tells me that both you and NBC feel that I have made a firm commitment to go through with the affair in the event that my part of it was clearly understood and other features of the contract were satisfactory. While I had thought I had limited my commitment to a matter of 'I shall think it over and give you an answer after I know more about the details', I certainly don't want to be in a position of appearing to run out on my word. There are, however, several questions that I have and the first one is rather important to me.
1. To what extent do I have to appear in the picture and what is the amount of narration that I would have to do within range of the camera?
The reason for this question is that it brings up the matter of the amount of time I would have to give to the preparation for my appearance. I do not want to be in a position of having to memorize any 'part' beyond the extent of two or three brief sentences. This would mean that my narration would have to be off camera so that I might read the text. In my former experience what I assumed to be a two to two and a half hour chore stretched out finally to several days, of several hours each day, so naturally I am concerned.
2. Another and related question is the number of conferences or takes or rehearsals that might be involved. If too much of my time is involved, then I do not see how I could possibly go through with the project.
3. My third question is with respect to runs and re-runs. Is there an obligation on the part of NBC to tell me when a run or re-run is about to be carried out?
If NBC can give you a satisfactory letter in answer to these three questions -- such a letter in effect being an explanation of the first one -- I shall go ahead and sign, but must insist that the phrase reading 'will be commenced on a date convenient to you (meaning me) after April 15, 1962' means exactly what it says. I should think that under our present plans it would be unlikely that I could start before somewhere around May 15. I could, of course, have sent this letter directly to NBC (since I know you are on vacation) but I could not be certain of the spelling of the man's name whose signature appears at the bottom of the letter...
A popular and successful screen star, Montgomery also served as president of New York's Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, and as a trustee of the National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting, which supported an expanded public broadcasting system. He occasionally advised Eisenhower on projects involving broadcast productions, in this case, a half-hour program entitled Presidents on Presidents: Eisenhower on Lincoln, for which Eisenhower was to be narrator and moderator. A May 23rd revision of the January 31st contract referred to at the beginning of our letter was subsequently approved and signed by the former president. In fine condition.