No Script, No Deal!

Linus Pauling in his office at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, 1976.

Linus Pauling in his office at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, 1976.

“If my films don’t show a profit, I know I’m doing something right.”
– Woody Allen

Much has been said about Linus Pauling’s sense of showmanship. He’s been credited as a great lecturer by his proponents and as a camera-hound by his critics. It is true that he often used the press and his notoriety for his own purposes – to fight accusations of Communism and to force policy changes in the White House – but for Pauling, science came before popularity.

At 10:00 a.m. on Monday, 12 July 1976 I had a phone call from Patricia Crown, who said that she was calling for Woody Allen. She asked if I would be willing to come to New York to appear in a scene in a movie that Woody Allen is making. It is a picture as yet untitled, designed for a general audience. The scene involves a movie theater, where a number of people of professional type are in line before the box office to see “The Sorrow and the Pity.” While they stand in line they are discussing me, perhaps in a derogatory way, and arguing with Woody Allen. Then he is to say “Why should we argue when the person who knows more than anyone else about the matter is just coming around the corner?” She said I would then give them some information.

I said that I couldn’t decide without seeing the script. And her reply was that the script had not been written for this part of the movie and would not be unless I agreed to come. I said that I liked Woody Allen, but felt that I should not do this job. The shooting will go on through the end of July and the first week in August.

(Linus Pauling note to self, 1976. As quoted in Mead, Clifford and Thomas Hager. Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2001. 234.)

In 1977, Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall debuted. It met with commercial and critical success, winning four Academy Awards that year, including Best Picture. Pauling’s daughter, Linda, was furious that her father had passed up the chance to participate in a Woody Allen movie. Pauling, however, remained unperturbed.

For Pauling, the spotlight was a tool to inform the public. He had used the press on a continual basis for decades to speak on civil rights, equality, and peace. He did not, however, have any desire to engage in the business of entertainment. It is true that he could be charming and funny in front of an audience when he had to, but that wasn’t where he wanted to be. In the end, Linus Pauling would always been happier in his laboratory than in front of a camera.

To discover more “facets of Linus Pauling,” check out Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker, now available in paperback from Oregon State University Press.

For more information on Linus Pauling, visit the Oregon State University Special Collections website.

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