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Words

Here’s the story: In 1934, a twenty-five-year-old named Robert Pirosh quit his well-paying but tedious job as a copywriter in New York and moved to Hollywood, hoping to kickstart his dream career as a screenwriter. Arriving in California, Pirosh compiled the names and addresses of as many top studio execs as he could, then proceeded to send each of them what is without doubt one of the most colorful, creative, and irresistible cover letters ever produced. This document secured him three interviews, one of which would land him a job as a junior writer at MGM. And as they say, the rest is history: Pirosh would go on to win the Oscar for best original screenplay for his 1949 war drama Battleground, but his other masterpiece — the one which first set him on his path to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre — is reproduced in full below:

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “v” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words. May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

__________

The 1934 cover letter sent by Robert Pirosh to Hollywood executives.

I took the above picture a few minutes ago.

Read on:

  • Mark Twain’s hilarious, furious letter to a snake oil salesman
  • J.R.R. Tolkien’s smart, sharp letter replying to a Nazi publisher
  • Ernest Hemingway’s first letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald

Robert Pirosh