s a champion of humanity, Stuart Cummings Ripley, as did many intellectuals of his time, opposed the overthrow of Spain's leftist Republican government by fascist Francisco Franco's Nationalist Army. The opposing political forces were labeled the Popular Front (leftist and Communist elements) and the right wing fascists called the National Front.
An intellectual, Ripley cared little for labels. His ideology, grounded in emotion and a sense of morality, nevertheless labeled him as a Communist and haunted him until his death in 1964.
In 1936 through 1939, as a free-lance war correspondent for the Ashtabula,
Ohio, Star Beacon, Ripley covered the conflict from a leftist
viewpoint, which angered his editor, T. Gordon Fipps, who in
1939 blocked a Pulitzer award for Ripley's reportage on Francisco
Franco's manifesto, which sought to justify the rebellion; France's
announcement of non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War and
the closing of France's border to prevent volunteers crossing
into Spain; the siege of Madrid by Nationalist forces; the first
bombings of open cities by the Condor Legion, a Luftwaffe squadron.
Ripley traveled with U.S. volunteers fighting Franco's fascists.
In December 1937, while the war in Spain continued, the first
U.S. volunteers returned from fighting organized a formal group
named Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB).
Earnest Hemingway introduced Ripley to Lillian Hellman, renowned author of The Children's Hour (1934) and The Dark Angel (1935), who had accompanied Hemingway to Spain to write about the war. Romantic sparks flew between the two and soon frequent trysts in Ripley's modest quarters followed. A free spirited liberal, Hellman ignored the womanizing and frequent carousing bouts of Ripley and Hemingway, calling her Ripley affair "temporary passion in a temporary time." Under Hellman's tutelage, Ripley wrote Anatomy of Rebellion, briefly considered the definitive history of the Spanish Civil War, but now mostly forgotten.
With a keen eye for human interest stories,
Ripley wanted a closer look at the U.S volunteers of the Lincoln
Brigade and began to bunk with Errol Flynn and Victor McLaughlin
who Ripley later said lived every day in the fashion of their
swashbuckling movie personae. In spite of fabled drunken high
jinks of the three in the Cantinas of Catalonia and Aragon,
Ripley received only a one line mention in Errol Flynn's book,
My Wicked, Wicked Ways and no mention in McLaughlin's memoir,
Soldier of Fortune.
Ripley took a short hiatus from the War in Spain, flying to England to cover Neville Chamberlain's triumphant return from his Berlin conference with the German Führer, which ended on September 30, 1938. He waved the statement reporting the conference results when he stepped off the plane. He later read the following to a cheering crowd in front of 10 Downing St. "My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time." [Excerpted from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer, 1960.]
Neville Chamberlain and friend, 1938.
It was rumored that Ripley had been implicated as one of the
planners in a 1939 failed assassination attempt against British
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, hated by the left for his
sympathetic stance toward fascists - Hitler and Mussolini in
general and Franco in particular. In 1940, the U.S. Congress
launched an inquiry, probing Ripley's alleged role in the plot,
but by then W.W. II seemed imminent and it fizzled.
On February 27, 1939, Neville Chamberlain
recognized General Franco's government. In response to a scathing
rant on the subject by Ripley, T. Gordon Fipps ordered his immediate
return, threatening loss of pay and black listing in the industry.
Ripley returned to the U.S. just fifteen days before Franco
announced the end of the Spanish Civil War, April 1, 1939.
France and Britain breathed mutual sighs of relief, judging
their policies of appeasement as successful. That all changed
Back in the U.S., Ripley bit his tongue and traveled to the southwest corner of Ohio, Fipps having thrown him a bone, for freelance coverage of the Wabash Grange of The Patrons of Husbandry. While the assignment itself was pedestrian, it led to the basis of one of Ripley's three off-Broadway stage plays, Sweet Sweat (1948).