Thirteen years before screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. was jailed for refusing to cooperate with a House committee investigating Communism in the film industry and became known as one of the Hollywood Ten, he was traveling between countries that appeared to him to be worlds apart. Lardner was nineteen years old and fresh out of college in 1934, beginning his trip with an eye-opening tour of the Soviet Union. No doubt Lardner was an idealist during his summer abroad—he had joined a socialist club at Princeton University before he went to Russia—but the belief that Communism could improve the lives of people outlasted his youthful impressions. To Lardner, this faraway country was a land of economic growth; there was building construction everywhere. Contrary to reports back home—especially in the Hearst press—people actually smiled in Russia.
The young traveler's father, Ring Lardner Sr., was a nationally wellknown author whose satirical writings on sports subjects appeared frequently in Hearst's magazines and newspapers; he died shortly before his son's trip abroad. The senior Lardner's name and fame created both a shadow and a guiding light over his son. His life was a great influence on the son's decision to pursue writing, but his death seemed to have hastened his son's desire to explore new ideas and make it on his own. Lardner remembered his father as being apolitical and sometimes willing to compromise princi