The Man Stalin Killed. George Sherman.
The Man Stalin Killed.
The Man Stalin Killed.
The Man Stalin Killed.

The Man Stalin Killed.

Hollywood, CA, 1959–1960. 4to film-script (11.5” x 8.5”), plastic spiral spine, acetate front-cover with label reading, “Copy for Breakdown / Trotsky.” 111 pp. of typescript, with 5 pp. of recommended changes in pen on versos of last 5 pp. of the script.

A compelling, unrecorded film-script for a movie-that-never-was dramatizing the infamous assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico, with twenty-nine recommended changes in manuscript.

In 1958, Hollywood director of low-budget Western films George Sherman (1908–1991) was in Mexico shooting the movie The Last of the Fast Guns (1958) when a journalist offered to introduce him to Leon Trotsky's widow. Upon their meeting, Natalie Trotsky related to Sherman the horrific story of her husband’s assassination in 1940, including how his assassin attacked him with an ice pick in their home, the long wait while doctor’s attempted to save his life, and his death on Aug. 21. When Sherman indicated an interest in making a movie about Trotsky’s death and the affair between her husband’s young secretary Sylvia Ageloff and Ramón Mercader (1913–1978, AKA Jacques Mornard), Trotsky’s assassin, Natalie shared all her relevant materials with Sherman, including unpublished police photographs of Mercader’s capture and Trotsky’s autopsy. Sherman returned to Hollywood with these materials, wrote a screen-play, and began fundraising. Louella Parsons’s announced the project in her newspaper column in April 1960, noting that Eli Wallach (1915–2014)—who played Tuco (‘the Ugly’) in Sergio Leone’s beloved movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)—was set to play Trotsky and Richard Basehart (1914–1984) was nearly confirmed to play the young reporter covering the murder in the movie. Sherman commented to Parsons: "we expect the Trotsky drama to develop into a dramatic bombshell." Ultimately, however, the movie was never made.

The script opens in Mexico City with a failed attempt on Trotsky’s life—and the specter of Stalin fittingly haunts the rest of the script. The movie culminates with Trotsky’s murder at the hands of his ice-pick-wielding assassin Jacques Mornard. Part of the scene reads as follows:

TROTSKY sits in his chair in front of the broad, rough-hewn table…

In the meantime, behind TROTSKY, with fearful glances, in his direction, MORNARD has placed the coat on a small table behind TROTSKY’s back. Now he is sliding the ice-axe out of the pocket. It catches on the lining.

CLOSE SHOT — MORNARD’S HANDS as he tries to free the axe.

TROTSKY coughs. MORNARD’S hands freeze.

CLOSE SHOT — MORNARD’S FACE as he sweats with fear.

MED. SHOT — TROTSKY as he reads on, unaware of what is going on behind him.

MORNARD succeeds in sliding out the axe. He comes up quietly behind TROTSKY. He raises the axe. He is about to bring it down.

MED. SHOT — NATALIA in the living room, on her way to the study with a pitcher of ice water and a glass.

A terrible cry of agony in TROTSKY’S voice, causes her to drop the tray.

[…]

As TROTSKY, on his feet, grapples with MORNARD. TROTSKY’S face is covered with blood.…

The script is brought to a close with Trotsky’s funeral. The final text to appear in the movie reads: “Trotsky died murdered, from one day to the next, because they had planned vengeance sooner or later. He thought he would live happy under the protection of Mexico’s hospitable sky.”

Whether this copy of the script was Sherman’s or belonged to another party involved with the project is unclear, but there are twenty-nine “changes if possible,” in manuscript on the versos of the final five pages of the script.

Sherman's widow, actress Cleo Ronson Sherman, held onto the materials the project generated, including what Trotsky's widow had given him, in hopes that the film would be made some day. The police photographs Sherman obtained from Natalie Trotsky were eventually acquired by Princeton University.

No copies recorded in OCLC.

REFERENCES: Mellby, Julie L. Leon Trotsky, George Sherman, and Eli Wallach at princeton.edu; Parsons, Louella. The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California, 12 Apr 1960), p. 23.

CONDITION: Very good, moderate wear and soiling.

Item #6481

Price: $2,500.00

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