30 Octobre Henri Cartier-Bresson is in town and films the Brigade


October 30

Robert Merriman’s diary pages for October 30, 1937


Dave Doran, Jose Varela, Captain Alfredo Balsa, and John Gates, December 1937, ALBA PHOTO 11-0997, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman continues with activities on the evening of October 28 when they had an impromptu fiesta with songs.     Three birthdays were on this day, Crespo, Capt. Abad Garcia, and a Captain “Baltea” who probably is Captain Balsa.   There was singing of flamenco, Classical Spanish and “darky” songs.  This shows that even politically advanced and intelligent people would revert to anachronistic descriptions of negro music.   While Copic tried to flatter Major Crespo, Crespo turned around and looked for Merriman and Doran to flatter him and say what a great job he had done in the rear at Quinto.   Merriman is clearly never going to be friends with Crespo, even on his birthday.

Hoff in Cartier-Bresson

Harold Hoff on an anti-tank gun in Cartier-Bresson’s film. Chris Brooks says this is a 45mm AT gun.  Clip from “With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-38)”, copyright ALBA.

Henry Cartier-Bresson

Henry Cartier-Bresson in Quinto, ALBA PHOTO 11-0852, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the evening of the 28th of October, Herb Kline, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Jacques Lemaire arrived to shoot a film.  This was discussed on October 10 in merrimandiary.com but clearly that was too soon.   Cartier-Bresson’s film is copyrighted by the Abraham Lincoln Brigades Archives and clips have been shown variously on the web.  Many of the scenes were staged on the parade grounds in Quinto and Merriman reveals here that he also staged some of the scenes which involved medical units and ambulance evacuations.  The writer’s father took part in the movie and was seen in some of the parade ground scenes.

Quinto Church

A clip from Henri Cartier-Bresson’s film “With the American Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-1938)” (copyright ALBA)… Quinto Church.

Merriman is taken with Cartier-Bresson’s wife, Ratna Mohini, who was from Java.  She is not impressed with war or soldiers and must have been quite outspoken.   In a sentence which may or may not be transcribed correctly, Dave Doran acquainted her with the class basis of war.  The diary is clear that the filming took place on October 29 and was completed in one day’s filming.

Robert Minor and two others

Robert Minor and Russian Woman and her husband, ALBA PHOTO 11-0770, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the 29th, Bob Minor shows up with a “pretty Russian woman” and her husband who was doing assignments for the Russians.  There is a photograph of the three of them in Quinto.



Joe Taylor

Evening sing along filmed with burning lye to get light. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “American Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-38)”, Copyright ALBA


Vladimir Copic singing, from Henri Cartier-Bresson’s film (ibid)

In the evening of the 29th, Copic held another sing along for the movie by Cartier-Bresson and two frames of the movie show American Joe Taylor singing with a guitar being played and on the right, Vladimir Copic singing heartily.   Dave Doran viewed the event as historical, which it certainly was.  Ivan Rujevic (John Gerlach) agreed and thought it was unfortunate that Merriman was sick and was not available to be filmed.  However, the final cut of the film has a significant section with Merriman in it and he is speaking to the troops in front of a church in Quinto.

In the rest of the 30 October pages, Merriman gets back into Brigade Politics and reveals that Comrade Ivan doesn’t believe that Merriman is doing the work of a Chief of Staff.  Ivan believes that his “department” supports Crespo over Merriman.  The vote of confidence must have disturbed Merriman.

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