Letter to Jane Eakin On Growing Old and Stale

In the summer of 1963, Uta wrote to her friend Jane Eakin in Paris. Jane was an American painter whom Uta had met in Paris in 1950. They became close friends in a group including Mary Mathews (nicknamed “La”) and Margaret Stark who was also a painter. In a letter written to Jane (August 10, 1962), Uta talks about throwing out old letters including some from her first husband, José Ferrer, Mary Mathews’s husband George (an actor, nicknamed “Porgie”)... here’s how she continues:

I’ve gradually made order in my house and thrown out ALMOST everything, but in order to do it I had to go through everything and look and read and burrow and scrounge and this was boring, tedious and sometimes painful! I’ve kept things like 3 letters of JosieJosé instead of stacks and stacks, 6 letters of my father which were extraordinary instead of 2000, 12 letters from Herbie instead of the thousands, only a FEW juicy love letters from odd fellows which are a riot, a few of Porgie’s best ones, ditto for Mary Welch, etc.
And then the REAL problem arose:- YOUR letters. Right after I left Paree in ’50 and then for a few years afterward, you wrote me such marvelous letters that I can’t describe it and so far I have only been able to part with a couple of them. The only thing that hurts a little (in relation to myself) is being made aware of the WILLINGNESS at that age to explore personal and creative problems UNSELFCONSCIOUSLY and continuously SEARCHINGLY! Oh boy, oh, boy! How exciting! I think we (I don’t mean you - but most we’s) THINK we’re getting mature because we stop questioning and challenging and that’s how people grow old (stale) too soon. Someone like Berthold [Viertel, Austrian screenwriter and director] or my Pop were young in their late sixties just because this never stopped.

La earned her nickname on the first day of school in South Carolina. There were three girls named Mary in the class, and the teacher pointed to them in turn saying “You’re Mary Lou,You’re Mary Lee, and you’re Mary La.” So Mary La (La for short) got her name.

Uta Hagen

Born in Germany, Uta Hagen moved to Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of six. With the exception of several interruptions for study in Europe, Ms. Hagen received most of her schooling in Madison, her home until age sixteen. After training briefly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, she made her professional debut in 1937 in Dennis, Massachusetts, as “Ophelia” in Eva Le Gallienne’s production of Hamlet.

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