Bernard Smith (editor)

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Bernard Smith (September 20, 1907 - December 21, 1999) was an American literary editor, film producer, and literary critic. He is best remembered for his work at the Knopf publishing house, where he edited B. Traven, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, and Langston Hughes.

He attended City University of New York, and in 1928 began working for Alfred A. Knopf, where he was eventually made simultaneously editor-in-chief and managing editor. There Smith was Traven's first American editor, and took a free hand in revising Traven's initially rough English.

In 1939 Smith published his Forces in American Criticism, a historical and critical survey of American literature and literary criticism from a Marxist perspective. Smith, though never a Communist Party member, was a committed Marxist; but the book was undogmatic and was well received in the mainstream literary academy, including favorable notice from critics such as Austin Warren. He collaborated with Malcom Cowley while working for the New Republic in his early 20s.

Smith moved in 1947 to Hollywood, where he worked in the film industry, first for Samuel Goldwyn as a script editor. In 1950 he became an independent producer, producing such Hollywood films such as Elmer Gantry and How the West was Won. In 1963 he partnered as a producer with director John Ford, making films such as Cheyenne Autumn.

In 1994 Smith published a memoir, A World Remembered: 1925-1950, which has been used academically as an autobiography supporting historical texts. It was dedicated to his granddaughter, whom he encouraged to study history. He edited volumes including The Democratic Spirit: A Collection of American Writings From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1941), Books That Changed Our Minds, and The Holiday Reader with Philip Van Doren Stern. His work also included studies published in the 1940s of the painters Moses Soyer and David Burliuk. Smith's brother, Emil Smith was a biologist and UCLA professor Emeritus credited with having his work with plasma. [1] Emil is survived by his two sons, Geoffrey Smith, a Harvard graduate and current doctor at UCLA [2] and J. Donald Smith (Columbia, University of Chicago, Dartmouth, New England Gilbert and Sullivan Society) [3]

Smith's wife, Frances, initially withdrew from college as a result of her parents' devastation from the Great Depression. Smith later graduated from UCLA with a double degree in History and Italian, and ran various New York City art galleries, collecting a considerable private art collection of and for the family. Their son, Frederic Smith, graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, Princeton, Cambridge and USC School of Law ( after serving in the Vietnam War. Smith was later arrested for his involvement in the 1960s anti-war protests in Washington, DC. Frederic later worked as Los Angeles-based contract attorney before resigning from the practice in the 1990s. and

Frederic married Pamela Withey, a trial lawyer in the Los Angeles area of Pasadena. who attended University of CA at Berkeley ( the 1960s. Withey supported herself through college and law school as a waitress, finally earning a law degree at Loyola in Los Angeles in 1977. Pamela's father, John "Jack" Withey was an accomplished mathematician, piano player, and captain in WWII. He graduated from Yale Phi Beta Kappa before struggling with alcoholism and dying of a brain aneurysm when Withey was 15 years old. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in VA [4]

During and after Withey's death in 1966, wife Elsie Withey supported their four children (Margaret, deceased, Michael, a trial attorney in Seattle, WA [5], Patricia and Pamela) by working as a school teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District for 40 years, before dying of smoking related complications in the late 1980s, while supported by a public pension and retiree healthcare plan negotiated by the teachers' union.


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