The Diary of Anne Frank

by Mary Huelsbeck

While in Amsterdam last week for the Orphans Symposium, I had the chance to visit the Anne Frank House and Museum. Words cannot really describe the experience of visiting the house and seeing firsthand where Anne, her family, and four others hid from the Nazis during World War II.

The museum has a small exhibit focusing on the adaptation of the Anne’s diary into a play and then movie. Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the only one of the group to survive, was criticized by many who felt he “allowed” the play and movie to become “too sweet” and for “letting” the Jewish part of the story be minimized. While Mr. Frank never saw the play or movie – he could not bear to see either – he was very involved in the development of the play’s script and felt the play and movie captured the essence of Anne and her story. The exhibit also shows how much he corresponded with the actor, Joseph Schildkraut, who portrayed him in the play and in the movie.
The WCFTR has the papers of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, the husband and wife writing team that wrote the script for the play and the film. Among the correspondence in the collection are quite a few letters to and from Otto Frank who they developed a close friendship with. Goodrich and Hackett felt very honored and humble to have been chosen by Kermit Bloomgarden, whose collection the WCFTR also has, to write the play. They first wrote Mr. Frank on December 27, 1953 to introduce themselves and ask if they could send him questions from time to time; he responded positively on January 1, 1954. The correspondence that followed shows the development of their sincere affection for each other. Mr. Frank took the adaptation of Anne’s diary very seriously and was not afraid to be honest with Goodrich and Hackett – his letter to them on June 14, 1954 expresses his unhappiness with the first version of the play. He wrote “I am very much depressed and am feeling miserable to have to write to you that I do not believe that the play in its present form, especially the first part, does justice to the above mentioned subjects, though I appreciate many parts of it.” Goodrich and Hackett appreciated his candor and took to heart his concerns and suggestions when they re-wrote the play. They kept Mr. Frank apprised of everything concerning the production including the selection of the director (Garson Kanin), the cast, the set design, reviews of the play and much more.

The correspondence between Otto Frank, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett provides another dimension to the story of Anne Frank. Goodrich and Hackett knew the importance and the responsibility they had to get the stage and movie adaption of Anne’s diary just right. I doubt they could have done it without their correspondence and friendship with Otto Frank. Goodrich and Hackett went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award and a Writers Guild of America award for their adaptation of Anne’s diary.