When you read the letter, remember that Betty MacDonald had just lived through two dizzying years of early success. The Egg and I set a new record for book publishing sales and the Hollywood motion picture version was bringing in audiences to movie theaters all across the country. Betty had met with many celebrities, including her idol, Fanny Brice. She had completed two national book tours; had given countless speeches and was frequent guest on radio talk shows. Toasted by the governor of Washington; filmed with the mayor of New York City; Betty had even joked around with Winston Churchill!
With the rewards came unforeseen repercussions and reprisals, however. Fame exacted a heavy toll on her privacy and she was now on the receiving end of professional and petty jealousy. In interviews and articles, Betty revealed that she was hurt, bruised, and confused by the actions of jealous people. Fame and success also brought legal problems. When Betty wrote the following letter, she was already embroiled in her first libel suit and would continue to battle lawsuits for the next four years. But even with the roller coaster highs and lows of stardom, Betty managed to send amusing letters to her friends and colleagues. Hope you like it! - Cathy B., member of FOBM
Ed. Note - "Hazel" was the creation of cartoonist Ted Key. His single panel cartoon featuring the wry and bossy maid also inspired a TV show of the same name, starring Shirley Booth as Hazel (NBC 1961-63; CBS 1963-4). To learn more about Hazel and Ted Key, click here.
Text of letter follows. -Ed.
September 5, 1947
626 Briarcliff Road
Upper Darby, Pa.
Dear Hazel :
Undoubtedly you and Ted Key have been referring to me of late
as that "ungrateful bastard". I don"t know about Ted, but
certainly you should understand why I have taken so long to
thank you for the wonderful book and picture.
You see Hazel, in spite of myself I seem to be running an
establishment which is a cross between a rest home and Grand
Central Station. All my family and friends are as brown as nuts
and ruddy with health, while I am dead tired and as white as a
grub because I have not been out of the kitchen since April.
"I"m a genius" I keep screaming and my family says, "Just get on
with the cooking and let's not be temperamental".
We all love the book so much and couldn"t decide which was our
favorite picture of you. I think it is "Closing in for the Kill"
or "Gracious Living". I had the picture framed and have it
hanging right above my typewriter and I find you very inspira-
tional, especially when I am working on my new book and get
bogged down and a little stuffy.
Tell Ted that his two nieces, Gloria and Susan, came to call on
me. They stayed all afternoon and we had tea and they told me
quite a bit about their family's private business, such as how
much it was going to cost at camp and what a gyp it was, con-
sidering the fact that they had to bring their own sleeping bags.
They promised they would come again as soon as school started
and I am certainly looking forward to it.
There is going to be a meeting of the Great Books Club here in
Seattle today. I understand their slogan is "more Aristotle and
Plato and less Betty MacDonald". I am going down and confront
Thank you again, dear Hazel, for the beautiful picture and the
wonderful book and tell Ted that I am hurrying to finish my
next book so I can come back and see him, and of course you.
Lots of love,