John Andre or possibly his brotherAndre sketched this self portrait the morning of his executionThe execution in Tappan, NY
12 years ago today I had an agent at William Morris.
When people talk about letting go of the prior year - - It will come as no to surprise to anyone that I have a problem letting go of 1986 much less last year. I was flipping through some old diaries when I came across notes of a phone call with a production executive at United Artists in early December of 1997. I can see how excited I was by the writing on the page. Clear, easy to read and very detailed. Unlike any notes I had taken before or since.
There was interest in a screenplay I had written about Major John Andre. A man who came very close to winning the American Revolution for the British. And had it not been for some very bizarre twists of fate and two bumbling yokels right out of a Laurel & Hardy comedy - - he would have pulled it off. And we would be a very different country today. Probably one with a national health care system.
John Andre (1750-1780) was always the British spy in American history who was snotty, rude and probably a homosexual sleeping with his boss, General Henry Clinton. While preparing a National Park Service presentation on the American Revolution from the British point of view...I found someone else.
A man of social graces to be sure but also a man who was well liked by almost everybody who met him. No small task when he was making a meteoric rise up the British Army's chain of command. By the age of 30, he was a major and head of Intelligence for Clinton in New York. The position carried the rank of colonel but he was held back due to lack of funds to pay for the commission.
To make a long story and a 155 page screenplay short - - That's poor Major Andre you see up there hanging from the gibbet. He made the unfortunate error of traveling behind American lines dressed as a civilian and hiding plans to West Point in his sock. These two mistakes were at the insistence of Benedict Arnold who was selling his services to the British for roughly $3,000,000 in today's currency and a general's commission.
I even have some sympathy for Arnold. A pushy loyalist wife, Peggy Shippen and a congress who refused to reimburse him for out of pocket expenses. That alone would piss me off to no end not to mention he was, hands down, Washington's best general on the field.
I started the story in 1988. I followed Andre and Arnold everywhere. I have boxes of tapes, photographs, music of the period, books on the culture and graces...It was my passion for years. Sadly my development executive was fired. I was told I'd hear from Lindsay Doran who was running UA. Sadly, she was fired. Soon afterwards, very sadly, William Morris fired me. They never did like it was 155 pages.
I had passion for the writing, the period, the music, the art. Passion for the people who were long gone but were in my heart everyday. And I remember that passion when I see those notes that were written 12 years ago. I reckon five...maybe six people read, "Major Andre: Soldier Lover Spy" Last month 45,000 of you read The Trad. I just wanted to say thank you for keeping the passion going.