Benedict Cumberbatch Reads “the Best Cover Letter Ever Written”

In the 1930s, many a writer jour­neyed to Hol­ly­wood in order to make his for­tune. The screen­writer’s life did­n’t sit well with some of them — just ask F. Scott Fitzger­ald or William Faulkn­er — but a fair few made more than a go of it out West. Take the Bal­ti­more-born Robert Pirosh, whose stud­ies at the Sor­bonne and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Berlin land­ed him a job as a copy­writer in New York. This work seems to have proven less than sat­is­fac­to­ry, as evi­denced by the piece of cor­re­spon­dence that, still in his ear­ly twen­ties, he wrote and sent to “as many direc­tors, pro­duc­ers and stu­dio exec­u­tives as he could find.” It was­n’t just a request for work; it was what Let­ters Live today calls “the best cov­er let­ter ever writ­ten.”

Pirosh’s impres­sive mis­sive, which you can hear read aloud by favorite Let­ters Live per­former Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch in the video above, runs, in full, as fol­lows:

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat but­tery words, such as ooze, turpi­tude, gluti­nous, toady. I like solemn, angu­lar, creaky words, such as strait­laced, can­tan­ker­ous, pecu­nious, vale­dic­to­ry. I like spu­ri­ous, black-is-white words, such as mor­ti­cian, liq­ui­date, ton­so­r­i­al, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Sven­gali, svelte, bravu­ra, verve. I like crunchy, brit­tle, crack­ly words, such as splin­ter, grap­ple, jos­tle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowl­ing words, such as skulk, glow­er, scab­by, churl. I like Oh-Heav­ens, my-gra­cious, land’s‑sake words, such as tricksy, tuck­er, gen­teel, hor­rid. I like ele­gant, flow­ery words, such as esti­vate, pere­gri­nate, ely­si­um, hal­cy­on. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blub­ber, squeal, drip. I like snig­gly, chuck­ling words, such as cowlick, gur­gle, bub­ble and burp.

I like the word screen­writer bet­ter than copy­writer, so I decid­ed to quit my job in a New York adver­tis­ing agency and try my luck in Hol­ly­wood, but before tak­ing the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, con­tem­pla­tion and hors­ing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Though not known as an unsub­tle actor, Cum­ber­batch seizes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to deliv­er each and every one of these choice words with its own vari­ety of exag­ger­at­ed rel­ish. Though none of these terms is espe­cial­ly recher­ché on its own, they must col­lec­tive­ly have giv­en the impres­sion of a for­mi­da­ble mas­tery of the Eng­lish lan­guage, espe­cial­ly to the ear of the aver­age Hol­ly­wood big-shot. One way or anoth­er, Pirosh’s let­ter did the trick: accord­ing to Let­ters of Note, it “secured him three inter­views, one of which led to his job as a junior writer at MGM. Fif­teen years lat­er,” he “won an Acad­e­my Award for Best Orig­i­nal Screen­play for his work on the war film Bat­tle­ground.”

A World War II pic­ture, Bat­tle­ground was writ­ten at least in part from Pirosh’s own expe­ri­ence: a few years into his Hol­ly­wood career, he enlist­ed and made a return to Europe, this time as a Mas­ter Sergeant in the 320th Reg­i­ment, 35th Infantry Divi­sion, see­ing action in France and Ger­many. After the war he went right back to writ­ing and pro­duc­ing, remain­ing active in the enter­tain­ment indus­try until at least the 1970s (and in fact, his writ­ing cred­its include con­tri­bu­tions to such pro­grams that defined that decade as Man­nixBarn­a­by Jones, and Hawaii Five‑O). Pirosh’s was an envi­able 20th-cen­tu­ry career, and one that began with a suit­ably brazen — and still con­vinc­ing — 20th-cen­tu­ry adver­tise­ment for him­self.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hunter S. Thompson’s Ball­sy Job Appli­ca­tion Let­ter (1958)

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Incensed Let­ter to the High School That Burned Slaugh­ter­house-Five

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Let­ter of Advice to Peo­ple Liv­ing in the Year 2088

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads a Let­ter Alan Tur­ing Wrote in “Dis­tress” Before His Con­vic­tion For “Gross Inde­cen­cy”

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Albert Camus’ Touch­ing Thank You Let­ter to His Ele­men­tary School Teacher

“Stop It and Just DO”: Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Advice on Over­com­ing Cre­ative Blocks, Writ­ten by Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse (1965)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • YAHYA M ADAM says:

    This is for all have a dream to do what thing that can do to your goals just push your self to make that goals in your life just fight your dreams don’t do a thing that you can’t down because if you fall your hurt­ing your self or body to not fight the chal­lenges in this world thanks to this sto­ry.

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