My Travels With Clara

Review by Willard Manus

In 1750 the French painter Jean Baptiste-Oudry was invited by King Louis XV to paint a portrait of Clara, the Indian rhinoceros which had been brought to Versailles as part of a world tour introducing her to people who had never seen a rhinoceros before. Oudry, delighted and amazed by what he saw, painted a life-sized portrait of the five-thousand-pound, horned creature, a copy of which is reproduced in MY TRAVELS WITH CLARA, a delightful book for children written by Mary Tavener Holmes and illustrated by Jon Cannell.


Getty Publications has published CLARA to supplement the museum's exhibition of Oudry's Painted Menagerie from May 1 to September 2 (which, of course, features the artist's portrait of Clara).

Clara's story is a fascinating one--orphaned at a young age, adopted as a pet, sold to a Dutch sea captain, who put her aboard his ship and sailed with her for six months to Europe, where he took her on tour. Ensconced in a specially built wagon drawn by eight horses, Clara made a grand procession around the continent, causing a sensation all along the way.

The huge, sloppy, good-natured beast inspired not only artists like Oudry but clockmakers, ceramicists and ornamenters (hairstyles in the shape of rhino horns were all the rage).

Clara's life and adventures as a rhino superstar are recounted vividly by Holmes and Cannell. Their 32-page book has 33 color illustrations which will surely delight any child above the age of eight. Hardcover, $17.95, call 800-223-3431 or visit THE MARXIST AND THE MOVIES

Paul Jarrico was never an A-list Hollywood screenwriter, though he did work steadily in the studio system in the 30s and 40s, ringing up credits for such films as No Time to Marry, Tom, Dick and Harry, The Search and The White Tower. Jarrico did come to notoriety, though, in the 50s when he and fellow members of the Hollywood Ten were investigated, blacklisted and even jailed because of their leftwing convictions. It was a dark, low time, with FBI and other government agents sneaking around Hollywood, self-styled, scurrilous patriots publishing lists of so-called subversives, friends informing on friends in order to save their skins.

Those shameful days come to life in the pages of THE MARXIST AND THE MOVIES, A BIOGRAPHY OF PAUL JARRICO BY Larry Ceplair (professor emeritus of history at Santa Monica College and author five other movie books). Working from the late Jarrico's personal archive and from Congressional records, interviews with those who knew him,and other sources, Ceplair has honored his subject with this well-documented and worthy book.

Jarrico was an admitted Communist, a believer in the Soviet Union and Stalinism (until he finally shed those illusions in the late 50s). There was nothing criminal or illegal about this. America was supposed to stand for freedom of thought and belief. The charge against the Hollywood Ten was that they were trying to slip subversive ideas into mainstream movies. It was a preposterous notion, of course. The film industry was just that--a big business which did not permit the writer to control his material (or the copywright). Once a script was purchased it passed through dozens of hands and was rewritten, not only by other scenarists, but by the producer, director and even the actors. Nothing has changed in that regard even today.

Jarrico and the Ten were raked over the coals as part of a conscious, cynical decision on the part of the U.S. government to discredit and destroy the Left. It was largely successful in that regard, although, as Ceplair points out, "the atmosphere regarding the blacklist has completely changed. The new generation of writers and film-oriented people admired the blacklistees and wanted to tell their story sympathetically."

Jarrico was in the forefront of the struggle to restore screen credits to blacklisted writers who had survived the Red Scare by selling scripts under other names. He was cited for this work on Oct. 27, 1997, the night of a "Hollywood Remembers the Blacklist" celebration. "The Guilds have come a long way since they failed to protect the Hollywood Ten and the Hollywood hundreds," Jarrico said in his speech. "What you...have reaffirmed tonight is the guiding principles of unionism: that an injury to one is an injury to all."

The next day, Jarrico fell asleep at the wheel of his car while returning to his home in Ojai. He crashed into a tree and died instantly. A memorial was held at the Writers Guild Theatre a month later. He was given the Guild's Robert Meltzer Award for "a singular act of courage in defense of freedom of expression and the rights of writers." (University Press of Kentucky, $40. cloth)