1939 – Lester Dent and Hollywood

The first mention of a Doc Savage movie in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at Columbia, Missouri is in a letter dated August 26, 1937. John Nanovic mentions that he and Cap Shaw have been looking over Doc Savage stories agreeable to certain movies company inquiries. Nanovic notes that Shaw reports Columbia has selected one of the stories.
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_f6

On April 18, 1939, John Nanovic writes to Lester Dent about Doc Savage radio, movie, and other rights. Henry Ralston is asking Dent to send them a letter stating that he will receive a ten percent commission on any rights they sell. Nanovic notes that there are no prospective buyers at present. William De Grouchy is mentioned as the prime mover on this item. Based on comments about The Shadow, it is likely the item Street & Smith has in mind is the Doc Savage Comic. The first issue was printed 1940.
Source: WHMC Folder CA5115_13

Two days later on April 20, 1939, Dent’s agent, Willis Kingsley Wing writes about the Doc Savage movie. So far there is no news.
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_7

In a letter dated May 15, 1940, Viola Irene Cooper writes Lester Dent in response to a previous letter. Ms. Cooper is an agent and expresses her joy over a 90-day agency option for Doc Savage. This is all pertaining to movie rights for Doc Savage. Cooper notes that she received a letter from Street & Smith executive Henry Ralston and spoke with him on the phone earlier in the day.

Cooper explains that she has a special client that is looking to bankroll a series of films on one character. The financier is Charles L. Gett and while he is currently in Hollywood, he operates out of New York City. The outfit she is talking about is interested in backing the movie rather than producing it.
Source: WHMC Folder CA5115_13

May 29, 1939 – Dent’s agent, Willis Kingsley Wing, writes asking about a Doc Savage comic strip. Wing states nothing can be published before fall. Wing also mentions that there is no news on the movie situation.
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_7

June 27, 1939 – John Nanovic writes Dent about an effort to sell Doc Savage radio rights. Nanovic states that Dent owns the movie, comic strip, and radio rights. He also states Street & Smith owns “Doc Savage” and “Kenneth Robeson.”
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_7

June 27, 1939 – William G. Bogart writes Dent about the plot for “The Spotted Men.” He mentions Nanovic told him Dent would be going to Hollywood soon.
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_7

The La Plata Home Press carried an article in the Thursday, July 6, 1939, edition titled “Lester Dent Leaves For Hollywood, Calif.” The paper reports Lester Dent is headed to Hollywood on business. His wife, Norma, and secretary Evelyn Coulson are also going. Dent said he will stop in Colorado for a week to finish a story he is writing.

Two weeks later, Dent writes to Harold A. Davis on July 21, 1939, from the Hollywood Plaza Hotel in Hollywood, California. Dent states they will be in Hollywood for another two weeks before returning to Missouri. Source: WHMC Folder C3701_8

Lester Dent writes to William G. Bogart in a letter dated July 24, 1939, from the Hollywood Plaza Hotel. Dent states they will be in Hollywood for another two weeks before returning to Missouri. Source: WHMC Folder C3701_8

The Macon Chronicle Herald, Saturday noted the return of Dent on August 12, 1939, in an article with the title “Lester Dent and Wife Return From Trip.” The Dents returned from their trip to Hollywood. The article notes places Dent visited but says nothing about a movie.