Back to Barry Storm.
I was swindled by red movie makers. 1954. Only one hundred copies were printed (GD).
Aside from I Was Swindled By Red Movie Makers Barry Storm's account of this series of events can be found in much shorter versions in three of his other works: the 1953 and 1967 editions of Thunder Gods' Gold and in Book II, The Mountains That Were God from Tales of the Southwest. Of the three, Tales of the Southwest offers the most complete account, and the 1967 edition of Thunder Gods' Gold more than the very brief No Credit section in the 1953 edition. For the full story, however, it is still best to turn to I Was Swindled By Red Movie Makers.
Very briefly stated, Storm sold an option on Thunder Gods Gold to Columbia Pictures in 1948 for $500, then the full rights later that same year for $4,000. Of these amounts, about $1,000 went to his agent, whom he later fired and accused of fraud and misrepresentation. He also received $200 for one week of work as a consultant for Columbia in late April 1948. Columbia made the film in late 1948, even spending ten days filming on location in Arizona in late November and early December. In May 1949 Columbia Pictures released the movie Lust for Gold based on Storm's Thunder Gods Gold. It stared Glen Ford, Ida Lupino, Gig Young, and Will Geer. In 1950 Columbia Pictures paid Barry Storm $5,000 to settle a suit he brought against them for any damage his reputation may have suffered from being portrayed as the grandson of Jacob Waltz in Lust for Gold.
So what happened? Storm claimed he hadn't known that Columbia intended to portray him in the film as the grandson of Jacob Waltz. He said he'd been intentionally misled, believing the movie was to be filmed in a semi-documentary fashion glorifying modern prospecting methods and mining. He maintained that he had been cheated by agents, lawyers, screenwriters, the film's producer and director, and the executives running Columbia Pictures. In addition, he strongly objected to the hyped studio ads for the movie claiming the film contained clues to twenty million dollars in gold. He was also angered by the misleading letter shown at the start of the film from the governor of Arizona, a letter vouching for the authenticity of everything portrayed in the film. And what about the film itself? Terrible, melodramatic, full of misinformation and a portrayal of Storm that was hardly flattering.
Storm puts it like this in the No Credit section on page 166 of the 1953 edition of Thunder God's Gold. "Lust for Gold, the Columbia movie adaptation, turned out to be ridiculously different from the much-publicized episodic semi-documentary which I was lead to believe was being filmed according to one script furnished me while a different story line was actually being shot. For in spite of the pseudo-certification procured by Columbia I am neither the Dutchman's grandson nor the half-witted dope, without prospecting or historical knowledge, displayed by an actor in my name, and without my previous knowledge. And any mining man knows the impossibility of twenty golden millions being found in any mine tunnel, no matter how rich the veins. I personally object to an actor like Will Geer jerking a derisive thumb at the distorted movie simulation of actual field evidence as Spanish miners' signs while mouthing studio-written dialogue designed to indicate them as so much baloney." So Storm sued, see his press release and his lawyer's letter to Columbia, below.
Storm wrote this extraordinary pamphlet in 1954 to tell his side of the story, and, I think, to explain to himself how things had gone so wrong. It is addressed to "Dear Mr. & Mrs. American:" and the first paragraph reads "This is an expose. A communist expose! Because you, yourself, are involved, as we'll presently see, it will stun you, horrify you, outrage you. But the scandal of it will also be a lesson about one of the most potent ways in which the communist conspiracy has successfully colored your thinking, has lead you around by the nose. The purpose is your own destruction." But how did Storm arrive at these charges? How did he get from his anger in 1949 over the treatment he received from Columbia Pictures, their damaging and fictitious portrayal of him as a hapless prospector and the grandson of the notorious Jacob Waltz, to these charges?
A quote from what serves as a preface to this booklet shows the trajectory of his thinking: "Barry Storm, former Phoenix writer-prospector, author of Thunder God's Gold, factual story of America's best known lost mine tradition, was victimized by illegal movie makers who procured his screen rights by a confidence game and involved him without his knowledge in a commie anti-mining propaganda movie. His own townspeople turned on him for seeking to protect his own good name and cause the movie to be changed to indicate its true status. In spite of continual persecution by those people and red movie makers who made fortunes from the destruction of his life, he finally traced the picture back to the communist conspiracy which spawned it, exposed the propaganda movie for what it is in the 1953 edition of the same book from which it was supposed to have been adapted intact, and turned in the evidence he had gathered to these subversive activities to government authorities."
His great insight came when he "discovered" he was the victim of a plot sustained and directed by some of the Communists in Hollywood and their willing associates - they were behind his portrayal in Lust for Gold. So in the first eighteen pages of I Was Swindled By Red Movie Makers Storm lays out his analysis of the Communist threat to "metallic civilization" and the propaganda and smear tactics used to destroy reputations and public trust in institutions and laws. The rest of the work presents a mixture of news clippings, articles, documents, and letters, that chronicle how he was an unsuspecting victim not just of underhanded business practices, but also of an elaborate Communist plot to subvert America's faith in all things American; in this case, prospecting, prospectors, and the mining industry. Indeed, in good Fifties fashion, once Storm awakened to this danger and saw the truth behind what really happened to him he felt he needed to wake us up, to tell us in his pamphlet that we, too, were being lied to and manipulated by people who were really our enemies, enemies bent on destroying us from within. "I was swindled by red movie makers only once. But you are being victimized by them every day!"
Well, what can one say? Reading the evidence presented in the pamphlet it is clear that he was right on some key issues; see the letter from his second lawyer to Columbia Pictures on these points, reproduced below. Storm does document to some extent that his reputation and his business were ruined, that he felt lied to and harassed, and that he had been subjected to public ridicule. All of this, on top of the fact that he loathed Lust for Gold once he saw it. It is sad to see how high his expectations were for the movie and how he hoped it would promote his prospecting and writing career. It is equally sad to see how devastated and embarrassed he was when it was released. So the studio certainly didn't pay him enough and clearly strung him along, but it must be said that a lot of the blame, finally, rests with him. His lack of judgement and overblown expectations played no small role in his disappointment. At some point this little drama even starts to look a little like a hustler being hustled by the pros - he was out of his league. As for the rest of it, yes, at that time there was a lot of outrage over purported Communists in Hollywood and Storm did run across articles that named some, some of the very ones he had been dealing with at the studio, even one who starred in Lust for Gold. So he put two and two together and got a conspiracy.
This is how Storm puts it in 1958 in Tales of the Southwest and 1967 in Thunder Gods God's Gold: The Mountains That Were God. On page 22 of the latter, "The alleged "Lust For Gold" movie facts, under fraudulent seal of the state of Arizona as historical truth, including my own identity as the non-existent bastard "Dutchman's grandson," a malicious libel, are all paraphrased communist agitational anti-mining and other propagandas. These were secretly filmed, mostly in California beyond my knowledge, while I was deliberately misinformed by the Columbia Pictures own "Superstition Mountain," "Bonanza" stories of making a factual, on-location movie from a Thunder Gods Gold script which had been sent me by mail. What few near-location sequences were later filmed off the Apache Trail as "Greed" gave no indication of what the total show was to be."
I think what Storm means is that Columbia never showed him a copy of the final script, maybe even hid it from him, and, after all, he was only familiar with earlier versions of the script and the ten days of on-location filming. He had no idea the final version would turn out as it did. Much of Lust for Gold is told as a story within a story and was not filmed on-location. This is the part Storm seems to claim he was unaware of, this and the bogus relationship postulated between Storm and Jacob Waltz. If you have seen the movie, however, this is a little hard to fully believe. The Arizona segments clearly center on the Barry Storm character and one would assume his connection with Waltz was apparent to anyone there during the filming. Equally apparent would have been the fact that he was being portrayed as a very poor prospector, another of Storm's big complaints. But perhaps Storm wasn't clued in. See the letter from S. Sylvan Simon for the studio's line on this key issue.
Anyway, Storm continues on page 22, offering up his Communist explanation. "The Columbia Pictures Vice President, Lester W. Roth, who signed the movie rights contract to "Thunder Gods Gold" was later identified by the California Committee on Un-American Activities (Fourth Report) as Chairman of an international communist front. S. Sylvan Simon, the Producer, and George Marshall, the Director, were identified respectively as a communist front Chairman and a hard-core Communist party liner. The Communist Control Act of 1954 , Section V, defines all collaborating actors and "Lust For Gold" associates as just that. I wouldn't care to be included if I had a large interest in such a commie fraud and its multi-million dollar unjust enrichments."
Some more. "The movie opened with the murder of a famous writer-explorer (who looked suspiciously like the author) by a Pinal County Deputy Sheriff which never occurred. The deputy sheriff turned out to be a notorious communist, Will Geer. Harry Cohn's handpicked pal, S. Sylvan Simon, was a Los Angeles commie front big wheel according to the Fourth Report of the Senate Fact-finding Committee on Un-American Activities in California...But director George Marshall is named as a hard-core party liner, still affiliated with our hero, Glenn Ford, who it was announced...is to be directed by him...three and a half years after the Communist Control Act of 1954!...And the poor author, after years of prospecting which cost him a small fortune...was characterized by the movie likeness of the Pinal County sheriff as not a prospector who was accused of the murders the deputy sheriff was committing. In fact, the whole factual story they were supposed to have been filming was cleverly paraphrased by one item of communist propaganda after another, one fraud after another."
"When this movie was supposed to have been halted by a March 1950 settlement agreement in compromise of the author's proposed million dollar damage suit...the libelous and fraudulent exhibitions were continued without my knowledge or consent for years afterwards by the most hideous example of personal and professional treachery I've ever encountered. And, of course, the lawyer's sidetracking of the damage suit into a compromise settlement at the time turned out to be another fraud to hide the previous frauds and the use of propaganda needed by commies. The violations were discovered in Texas in 1955 and resulted in another libel action..."
I can't leave this story without mentioning something else. In reading I Was Swindled By Red Movie Makers the reader cannot overlook just how wacky Storm became when dealing with this episode; and it lasted, he was still fuming in 1967. At the time, 1949-1950, it seems he just could not understand why things went the way they had, but he keep digging, getting documents, rifling his lawyers office, etc., until a few years later he hit on it - the Communists. At a couple of points in I Was Swindled By Red Movie Makers one realizes that there is more to this than Storm just picking up on the news in the early Fifties that there were suspected Communists in Hollywood. It was very personal, he felt he was their target. As he puts it, it was they who "swindled him and ruined his life." But it goes even deeper than this, there is real paranoia here. He says that it was they who also tried to brainwash him - and he means that literally.
He says, "Finally, he was driven from Phoenix by continuous assaults and stage transmitter designed to brainwash him into compliance with communist movie makers and drugging with the hypnotic choral (sic) hydrate to make the brainwashing work." And "The malicious actions of everyone I had formerly accounted a friend, made effective legal action impossible, finally ruined by(sic) businesses and bankrupted me. The movie communists--not without lines into Phoenix--had counted well upon the advertising value of the movie to a self-seeking tourist resort town. Under these financial circumstances--and while I was being persecuted over a half-dozen states by this un-American alliance of communist movie makers and left-wing business interests, while everything communist was attempted on me from outright murder to brainwashing with dog-whistle stage sound transmitters as I slept--it took years instead of months to finally trace "Lust for Gold" to the communist conspiracy behind it, to expose the movie for what it was in the 1953 edition of "Thunder God's Gold," obtain sufficient evidence and inform the proper Federal authorities." What are we to make of his state of mind when he believed this?
There are many ironies in this sorry episode. The best one is that Storm would be so offended by a false characterization of himself. It is true that the film depicts him as a little slow and as the grandson of Jacob Waltz. But what of Jacob Waltz? The scurrilous and fanciful portrait of Waltz, played in the film by Glenn Ford as a miserable killer and thief, is a characterization based largely on Storm's book. Storm, however, never really seems upset that the film portrays Waltz like this, only that he is said to be related to him. Storm's outrage is one of the great ironies in Lost Dutchman lore and fitting poetic justice. He has little room, it seems to me, to be complaining about the consequences of artistic license. But maybe this poetic justice looks a little sad when compared to the damage Storm claimed this did to him over the following years. From an ad in Tales of the Southwest for this work: "Illustrated expose of commie movie propagandists spearheading a secret drive to destroy the United States as based upon the fraudulent simulated 'documentary' motion picture 'Lust for Gold' and other lesser examples. Designed to make easy of recognition communist propaganda in film form. As hot as a Congressional investigation! ...Tax deductible as a contribution to Storm's Subversive Exposures, a publisher's subsidiary." Don't mess with Barry.
Three important documents Storm provides the reader --
1. Storm missed the movie's special premiere in Phoenix , to which he says he was not invited, as well it seems the movie's run in Phoenix, so he drove to Los Angeles to view it. Upon his return to Phoenix he wrote the following press release.
"SEES OWN MOVIE, WANTS LAWYER
Barry Storm, Phoenix author of "Thunder Gods Gold," a history of Arizona's famed Lost Dutchman gold mine region, disclosed today that he was shopping for legal talent to fight a million dollar damage suit against Columbia Pictures for falsely portraying him as a grandson of the murderous, seducing, gold-squandering "Dutchman" of pioneer days in the movie version, "Lust For Gold." Storm contends that purchase of movie rights to his book did not include any license to depict him in a false and damaging identity for the purpose of movie sensationalism, to act against public policy and perpetuate a historical fraud in his name for studio profits or to otherwise invade his privacy, cheapen his character and cause widespread public humiliation by advertising as historical facts the untruths attributed to him in the movie.
"I was taken in by much ado about using my material for filming an accurate, on-location lost mine documentary," Storm explained. "But what came out of the studio mills is as much Hollywood corn as the rest of this sensational fiction about twenty millions in gold designed to excite the cupidity of uncounted millions for the profit of Columbia Pictures. The impact of seeing my material distorted finally into such a public fraud was stunning. Beside the personal damage, who now could possibly take seriously anything of a factual nature that I might write in the future? That effectively nullifies a professional reputation built by many years of hard research work." In a word, writer Storm, is mad!"
2. And his second lawyer's (Herbert Finn) letter, dated January 3, 1950, addressed to Columbia Pictures Corporation.
"I have been retained by Mr. Barry Storm to represent him and his interests arising out of his recent business dealings with you.
Mr. Storm sol(sic) the rights to a non-fiction work known as THUNDER GOD'S GOLD to Columbia Pictures subject to the usual releases and the story there embodied was later filmed as LUST FOR GOLD. The contract between you and Mr. Storm permitted you to adapt and make use of the material in the book in almost (sic) manner you so desired.
Subsequently and for reasons unknown to Mr. Storm, and without his specific consent or knowledge, you portrayed him as the grandson of Jacob Walz. Worse yet the picture was authenticated by the most reputable personages and widely advertised as being absolutely true.
Unfortunately, Mr. Storm has suffered from this misrepresentation as to his descent. As you may know, Walz, known locally as the "Dutchman", has a statewide reputation as an exceedingly disreputable and loathsome character. Had the picture been issued without the insistence on its veracity there might not have been the great damage that now exists. As it stands Mr. Storm's local reputation has vanished and therefore his means of livelihood have dried up.
The fact of the matter is that prior to the picture Mr. Storm was never represented nor did he ever claim to be the grandson of Walz. Now with his grandparentage apparently authenticated he is caught betwixt and between. One group suspects him of outright fraud because he denies his relationship. The other group calls him fraudulent because of the representations in the motion picture.
It is my opinion that the releases granted by Mr. Storm to Columbia pictures do not absolve Columbia of liability and of responsibility for damages suffered by Mr. Storm. It is a well accepted principle of law that one cannot release a tortfeasor from liability for the future performance of a tort.
Notwithstanding any legal problems involved I do not believe that Columbia Pictures would wish to be put in the position of profiting greatly through the discomfiture or even the impoverishment of the original author of the book.
What I believe would be a fair settlement of this claim would be some sort of monetary compensation for Mr. Storm's damages, in a sufficient amount to place him once more in position to earn a living, together with assurance that he will not be in any way prejudiced in his writing career by these various ahppenings(sic). Our object is to place Mr. Storm in the position which he might have occupied had he not been subjected to the consequences of the peculiar representations made in LUST FOR GOLD.
I should like to point out that Mr. Storm has earned an average of $10,000.00 a year from sources interested in prospecting and treasure hunting. The basis on which he was able to sell his services was his honesty and his reputation for absolute authenticity. This income is not(sic) longer available to him as a result of LUST FOR GOLD. It would seem as if this income, which was based on a reputation won through ten years of hard and earnest endeavor, is now completely lost for all time.
The tragic part of all this is that in ordinary circumstances the picture would have been of inestimable value in furthering Mr. Storm's career.
I would appreciate some word at your earliest convenience so that we can arrange this matter to our mutual satisfaction."
3. Finally, the letter from S. Sylvan Simon, the producer, to Storm, dated July 13, 1949, in response to Storm's initial letter after viewing Lust for Gold.
With reference to your letter of June 25, 1949, I am hastening to answer it because I found it upon my return from a short vacation.
I was most unhappy to read of your concerns because it was always my intention that this picture should be made with a great spirit of friendly cooperation between us. As a matter of fact, it was to that end that I had you come to Hollywood during the writing of the story, and that was why I had my assistant, Earl McEvoy, give you the script in Phoenix. When I asked you for your comments on the script, when I arrived in Phoenix on Thanksgiving Day, you said you thought the story was just great. In fact, I remember various members of the cast and crew told me that in conversations with you you had made the same comment.
The script very definitely showed you as representing yourself as the grandson of Jacob Walz, and you should bear in mind that the script specifically represents Walz as having been married and having been left by his wife and daughter, so a relationship could be established. I believe you were on the set in Phoenix almost every day, about ten days of shooting. Prior to that you were with Earl every day looking for locations, and on none of these occasions did you ever bring up this point.
As far as your reputation as a writer is concerned, Barry, I think that this picture will be invaluable for you because it will be seen by so many people who might be potential buyers of your forthcoming books. However, just between us, I don't think the picture is going to show a great deal of profit, if any, because of its high negative cost.
As for my personal feelings, you know I have the greatest respect for your ability, and I was seriously thinking of contacting you with reference to the dude ranch story you had mentioned to me.
I am so deeply concerned over your being distressed about this matter that I would welcome the opportunity to talk about it with you personally here in Hollywood. I would be glad to assume any expense involved in your coming here to talk the matter over."
Just when you think you have seen all of Storm's tricks something new pops up. Take a close look at these two covers! The top one's "carefree spirit of show business" is mostly covered with a black pattern that makes it hard to make out just what is there. The second one, however, has not been printed over. Here, it is very clear that the "carefree spirit" shackled to the post is a naked woman. This raises any number of questions, like, who did the censoring?, when?, how many got out uncensored?, not to mention, who was the model? Whatever the answers, we now know there are two versions - censored and uncensored!
Doug Stewart. © 1994-2012.