Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Albert E. Hemsing
I could not have come back at a worse moment. Congress had just slashed State's information budget to shreds. Along with several dozen others, I got the sack in June 1947. A demobilized colonel got my job.
Begins Teaching At CCNY Film Institute
New York and the entire country were in the midst of the post-war recession. I determined to stay in motion picture work but could find no job. That Fall I began to teach at the CCNY Film Institute and, together with a leading labor-lawyer, organized a film co-op for unions and other non-profit organizations. Incidentally, I found that I loved teaching. Hans Richter, who had taken over from Jacoby as the Institute's director, became a life-long friend. He was the avant-garde painter and surrealist filmmaker—of among others, “Dreams That Money Can Buy.”
A film I made for the CIO Textile Workers, “Union At Work,” caught the eye of Harry Martin, President of the American News- paper Guild. Actually, he read an article of mine first. I had used the Saturday Review of Literature to chastise American labor for its inattention to the film as a vehicle of education and public relations.
1951: Offered Position With Marshall Plan FilmDivision in Paris
Anyway, Harry was in Paris at that time, early 1951, on leave from the Guild to work with the Marshall Plan. He headed the rather ambitious ECA labor information program directed to Europe's huge trade union membership.
My first inkling of all this was a telephone call from Washington: did I “want to go to Paris to make labor films for the Marshall Plan?” My answer was something like “thanks, but no thanks.” I felt that my four years in government had been enough.
But, when I reported the phone call to Esther that evening, guess what she said: “What, you turned down Paris!” So, we went to Paris. I remembered whom to call back in Washington only because he had the wonderful name of Ward Melody. To go to Paris, Esther gave up what might have developed into a real career at the New York Times. We did not foresee it at the time, but this was to be the first of several such sacrifices on her part.
We left for Paris in August 1951, on the Ile de France, first class. The Marshall Plan believed in supporting the use of “foreign bottoms.” Esther's mother was quite inconsolable at the shipboard farewell. Having fled the Ukraine at age 15, alone, she could not imagine why any sane person would want to go back “there.” My parents probably shared that sentiment, but left it unspoken. Also unspoken was the fact that my mother's heart was giving out, and that ours might be a final farewell.