Readers of the Speicher cybernews of November 1997, upon reaching the listing for “Whispering Smith”, read beneath the review a letter by another cybernews subscriber stating that information was unknown about film versions of other, specific Frank Spearman stories. It read:

This film is one of at least five films based on the Frank Spearman Whispering Smith story.

Frank Spearman lived in Hollywood during the 1920’s and 1930’s.  We also know that Ayn Rand was working (also in Hollywood) on what appears to be a synopsis of Spearman’s “Held for Orders”, possibly for Cecil B. DeMille, in 1927 .  It is the first entry in her published journal! In that year a silent film, “The Yellow Mail,” was produced based on the best story from that book.

Might Ayn Rand have ever met Frank Spearman? Did Cecil B. DeMille produce “The Yellow Mail”? Did Ayn Rand have any involvement? We don’t know.

We do know that in the late 1940’s Ayn Rand began a determined, unprecedented search, involving her publisher and search firms, for Frank Spearman books.  We don’t know why.  Several of his books were discovered last year among her effects, including correspondence related to the book search.

I had no advance knowledge that this report would appear with my reviews, and if I had, I would have included the following information, which I submitted to the author of the remarks and to other interested parties a half-hour after I read about the “unknown” information.  Although I submitted it to the cybernews for inclusion in a subsequent edition, this information has not appeared in the cybernews as of this date.  Here is the reply that I wrote upon reading the inserted comments:

The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Motion Pictures, 1912-1939, published by the Library of Congress, has no listing for “The Yellow Mail.” (Had there been, the producer may have been listed therein.)  There are, however, several listings for which Frank Hamilton Spearman (that’s how it is spelled out there):

Lightning Express. (Serial) [1930]
Love Special. 1921
Nan of Music Mountain. 1917
Night Flyer. 1928
Runaway Express. 1926
Whispering Smith. 1926
Whispering Smith Rides. (Serial) [1927]
Whispering Smith Speaks. 1935

A story from “Held For Orders” was made into a movie, and the year was 1928.  The copyright catalog states that “The Night Flyer” was from Spearman’s story “Held For Orders.” James Cruz produced for James Cruz Productions, and had Walter Lang direct.

The 1926 “Whispering Smith” was “Presented by John C. Flinn,” and “Released by Producers Distributing Corp.” “Directed by George Melford.” DeMille had been releasing through PDC (for “Volga Boatman,” 1926, and “Road to Yesterday,” 1925, possible others), but had already gone to Pathe Exchanges for “The King of Kings,” before which Rand had no association with him.

The 1927 serial was copyrighted by Univeral and directed by Ray Taylor.  “The Lightning Express” is also from Universal and directed by Henry MacRae.

It would have been possible for “The Yellow Mail” to have been filmed and yet released with a different title.  However, all of the Spearman titles listed in the movie copyright catalog during the period of Rand’s scenario seem accounted for.

The following should be taken as caveat: the copyright catalog may have failed to incorporate a listing; the film may not have been copyrighted; a film might have been made but Spearman’s name not placed on the copyright registration, in which case it would not be in the copyright catalog index under his name (the fact of Spearman being credited within the film is irrelevant to whether the name would be on the formal registration); the film was made, copyrighted and Spearman’s name on the registration, but the indexers failed to put that particular title with Spearman’s others on his name entry.

The Cecil B. DeMille Estate may have documents about all stories worked on regardless of whether they advanced beyond preproduction.