RARE LITTLE-KNOWN STEINBECK “REVISED FINAL” SCREENPLAY WITH THE WORKING TITLE OF “THE TIGER, ” DATED ONLY ONE MONTH BEFORE THE FINAL SHOOTING SCREENPLAY TITLED VIVA ZAPATA!
STEINBECK, John. The Tiger [i.e. Viva Zapata!]. Screenplay. (Los Angeles): Twentieth Century-Fox Film, April 12, 1951. Quarto (8-1/2 by 11 inches), original printed red wrappers, mimeograph manuscript in typescript on rectos only, bound with brads as issued. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $9000.
Rare April 12, 1951 “Revised Final” screenplay of “The Tiger”—the only known revised final screenplay to contain this working title of the 1952 Oscar-winning film, Viva Zapata!—which earned Steinbeck and star Marlon Brando Oscar nominations, culminating years of Steinbeck’s intense struggle to complete a screenplay on the life of Zapata, fondly known as “The Little Tiger,” and revered by Steinbeck “as one of the greatest men who ever lived.” This exceptional screenplay printed with “Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation,” “Revised Final” and “April 12, 1951” on the original front wrapper, along with “Revised final” and “April 12, 1951” on the title page, is dated far closer to the film’s premiere than an early May 13, 1949 version, with a working title of “Zapata, the Little Tiger,” and only one month before a final shooting screenplay, titled Viva Zapata! and dated May 16, 1951, this rare April 12 screenplay offering important insight into Steinbeck’s creative process, as well as the input of director Elia Kazan and producer Darryl Zanuck.
This "Revised Final" screenplay, titled The Tiger and dated "April 12, 1951 on the front wrapper and title page, is one of the only known "Revised Final" screenplays with this working title. The only other known final screenplay with a working title is an early one dated May 13, 1949 and titled, Zapata, the Little Tiger. This rare April 12, 1951 screenplay—much closer to the film's release date—precedes the final shooting screenplay that is dated May 16, 1951 and titled, Viva Zapata!—the film's title upon release. Steinbeck's fascination with the heroic Mexican leader Emiliano Zapata spanned decades, beginning in the early 1930s when, "compelled by his own curiosity… [he] began taking trips to Mexico to compile an oral history of Zapata," who was affectionately known as "the Little Tiger." During the early 1940s Steinbeck's research continued in Mexico as he sought eyewitness information about "the man he revered as 'one of the greatest men who ever lived… Steinbeck continued to return to Mexico for short periods, especially between July and November 1948" (Railsback & Meyer, 411). Despite his diligence, however, Steinbeck struggled with the screenplay. "The more false starts he made, the more frightened he became." By the fall of 1949 he was "still struggling with Zapata… Nearly all his writing time over the past few years had been spent on Zapata" (Benson, 626-28, 650).
Any screenplay version of Viva Zapata!, especially one such as this, offers considerable insight into Steinbeck's writing process, as well as the influence of the film's director, Elia Kazan, and producer Darryl Zanuck, who both assisted Steinbeck in crafting a screenplay after so many years of intense labor. When Zanuck assigned an experienced scenarist, Jules Buck, to move the project toward completion, Buck recalled how he "was taken aback when he was given a stack of paper some three or four inches thick. 'It was,' Buck remembers, 'a very definitive breakdown of the revolution, the causes— it was magnificent— and of Zapata, the history. A master's degree is what he had, together with a Ph.D" (Benson, 653-4). On achieving a draft both Zanuck and Kazan "thought could be shaped into a shooting script," Steinbeck and Kazan "put in an intense two months on the script, Kazan sitting at the typewriter, asking Steinbeck for new or revised dialogue" (Schickel, Elia Kazan, 237-8). Viva Zapata!, which premiered in early 1952, is widely considered "Steinbeck's towering achievement in film."
To critic Robert Morseberger, Viva Zapata! is "'unquestionably Steinbeck's finest work in the genre… When it finally appeared on the screen in 1952, it was the culmination not only of 20 years of study, but also Steinbeck's apprenticeship in writing for Hollywood…Unlike F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway… Steinbeck had great successes on the big screen… Over the course of his career, Steinbeck was three times nominated for the screenwriting Academy Award, while his films, more generally, garnered 25 Academy Award nominations, ultimately winning four… On the film's release, with Marlon Brando in the lead, Viva Zapata! electrified audiences. It earned Steinbeck an Academy Award nomination for best story and screenplay; Marlon Brando earned an Oscar nomination for best actor, while Anthony Quinn actually won the Oscar for best supporting actor. Indeed, Morseberger ranks Viva Zapata! as one of the four 'most memorable films… placing it in the elite company of High Noon, Singin' in the Rain and The Quiet Man" (Price, "Champion of the Common Man," in Bloom, John Steinbeck, 47-48). Original front wrapper printed, "Property of Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. Return to Stenographic Department," with printed title and date of "The Tiger. April 12, 1051," along with printed "Revised Final" at upper right, printed numbers "255" at upper left and "42" at lower right." Initial leaf (with corresponding number "42") stating: "This script is loaned to you… A charge of $5.00 will be made if it is not returned within a reasonable length of time to Room 14 Old Administration Building, or Production Office," with receipt at lower half removed. Title page with "Revised Final, April 12, 1951" at lower right. Penciled annotations in an unidentified hand: "Played by Marlon Brando" (3); "Brando," "Anthony Quinn" (6); "Played by Joe Wiseman," "Played by Margo" (10); "Played by Jean Peters" (20). Penciled signature to rear leaf verso.
Screenplay near-fine, with text fine, light edge-wear to original wrappers.