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THE MIKE WALLACE INTERVIEW
Guest: Salvador Dalí
Saturday, April 19, 1958
WALLACE: Good evening… Tonight we go after the story of an extraordinary personality. He’s Salvador Dalí, the great surrealist painter who sees the world through surrealist eyes. If you’re curious to hear Salvador Dalí talk about decadence, death and immortality, about his surrealist art, his politics and his existence before he was born, we’ll go after those stories in just a moment. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Parliament.
WALLACE: And now to our story. Salvador Dalí is a self-confessed genius with an ingenious flair for publicity. An internationally renowned modern artist, he’s also designed fur lined bathtubs, he’s lectured with his head enclosed in a diving helmet and he claims that at the basis of his ideas are, as he puts it, cauliflowers and rhinoceros horns.
WALLACE: He paints like this; here you see perhaps his most famous work. It’s called “Persistence of Memory“. In contrast to this dream like picture; here is Dalí’s surrealistic commentary on the horrors of war. It’s called “The Face of War“. And now an example of Dalí’s latest phase, “The Crucifixion” showing his current preoccupation with religious subjects. Now let’s try to find out some more about the enigma of Salvador Dalí.
WALLACE: Dalí, first of all let me ask you this, you’re a remarkable painter and you’ve dedicated your life to art, in view of this, why do you behave the way that you do? For instance, you have been known to drive in a car filled to the roof with cauliflowers. You lectured, as I mentioned, once with your head enclosed in a diving helmet and you almost suffocated. You issue bizarre statements about your love for rhinoceros horns and so on. You’re a dedicated artist, why do you or why must you do these things?
DALI: Because for this kind of eccentricities correspond with more important and the more tragical part of my life.
WALLACE: The more important and the more) tragical part. I don’t understand.
DALI: The more philosophical.
WALLACE: Well, what is philosophical about driving in a car full of cauliflowers or lecturing inside a diving helmet?
DALI: Because discover and make one tremendous speech, a most scientific in the Sorbonne in Paris… of what my discovering of the logarithmic curve of cauliflower.
WALLACE: The what?
DALI: Logarithmic curve of cauliflower.
WALLACE: Oh yes, the “logarithmic curve”… yes…
DALI: And if in time the logarithmic curve in the horns of rhinoceros — in this time discover, this is a symbol of chastity, one of the most powerful symbols of modern times.
WALLACE: Chastity is one of the most powerful symbols of modern times?
DALI: In my opinion it is the more… urgent and the more dramatic because the chastity represents the force of spirit… chaste in any religion, you know because of promiscuity, the people make love, there is no more the spiritual strength, no more the spiritual thoughts.
WALLACE: Well, we’ll get to your spirituality your increasing spirituality over the years in just a moment. About lecturing with your head enclosed in a diving helmet, why? why?
DALI: Because I think there is nothing like it. The audience understand Dalí when penetrate in the bottom of the sea…
WALLACE: What’s that?
DALI: In the bottom of subconscient mean… sea… In– inside the sea.
WALLACE: Yes, down in the sea?
DALI: In the depth of the sub-conscious.
WALLACE: In the depth of the sub-conscious?
DALI: Exactly. The sea is one very clear symbol for arriving this stage of…
WALLACE: We try to understand in all seriousness… We try to understand you and you try to explain but earlier this week you told our reporter, “I like to be a clown, a buffoon, I like to spread complete confusion.” Before we were on the air, you said to me. “Ask embarrassing questions, ask embarrassing questions.” Why?
DALI: Because incidentally, make one movie in France, only it is movie of myself dance Charleston and my friends look this piece of movie at all, Dalí in this part is much better than Charlie Chaplin. For me is very interesting…
WALLACE: Well are you…
DALI: …because you see in Dalí is one marvelous painter, in living time is one marvelous clown… much more interesting for everybody.
WALLACE: You want to be a marvelous clown as well as a marvelous painter?
DALI: If it is possible, live two together is very good, you know. Charlie Chaplin is one genial clown but never painted like Dalí, Charlie Chaplin’s living times paint masterpieces. Or is thousand times much more important to Charlie Chaplin.
WALLACE: Well now wait. Wait. Despite your hi-jinks, time and again you have called yourself a genius and you’re very serious about this. Now you want to be evidently, you want to be a genius in two fields. First of all, you have called yourself a genius?
DALI: In many different fields, you know.
WALLACE: What else besides an artist?
DALI: The most important in my life, modern clown, modern painting, modern draftsmanship is my personality.
DALI: My personality?
WALLACE: Oh yes.
DALI: My personality is more important than any of these little facets of my activities.
WALLACE: In other words, what is most important to you…
DALI: Is my personality.
WALLACE: …is expressing Dalí, not the painting, not the clowning, nothing but…
DALI: The painting, the clowning, the showmanship, the technique – everything is only one manner for express the total personality of Dalí.
WALLACE: I see, I see. Let’s take a look at one of your major paintings, Dalí. It’s called “Sleep”. There it is now on the monitor. What’s the point of this picture? Is there any point?
DALI: This is very important because myself work constantly in the moment of sleep… Every of my best ideas coming through my dreams and the more Dalían activity consists in this moment of sleep.
WALLACE: In other words, you conceive a good deal of your…
DALI: The most important things happen in the moment of myself in sleep.
WALLACE: I was going to ask if there was any major theme, any powerful idea which inspires all your work, could you tell us what it was? Evidently what it is, is simply an expression of Dalí, period. There is nothing more in it or am I wrong?
DALI: No, Dalí. Of course, the cosmogony of Dalí.
WALLACE: The what?
DALI: Cosmogony of Dalí.
WALLACE: What is the cosmogony of Dalí? What does that mean?
DALI: This is in advance of a new nuclear physics, because every of my paintings, everybody laugh in the moment of look for the first time but almost after twelve years every scientific people recognize the area of this painting is one real prophecy in the moment of painting my soft watches, the more rigid object for everybody, and myself paint these watches in the soft Camembert– everybody laugh. The last development of nuclear physics proved to a new conception of space-time is completely flexible. Now it is in microphysics the time brought in reverse and this proved that this object of completely surrealistic approach of so watches for what is completely true and scientific…
WALLACE: Dalí, I must confess, you lost me about half way through and I’m not sure I’m not sure that we can let me try it another way.
What does a painter, what does any painter contribute to the world and to his fellowmen? Any painter, not just Dalí. What does a painter contribute?
DALI: Every painter paints the cosmogony of himself.
WALLACE: Of himself, and it’s as simple as that? Which contains…..
DALI: Raphael paint because of the cosmogony of Raphael. Raphael is the Renaisance period. Dalí paint the atomic age and the Freudian age nuclear things and psychologic things.
WALLACE: Which contemporary painters, if any, do you admire?
DALI: First Dalí, after Dalí, Picasso, after this, no others.
WALLACE: Of these, Dalí and Picasso are the only two that really excite you?
DALI: The two geniuses of modern painting.
WALLACE: The two geniuses of modern times are Dalí and Picasso? In your autobiography, you wrote this, you said, “I adore three things, weakness, old age and luxury.” Why?
DALI: Because luxury is one product of monarchy, and myself every day becoming more monarchy, not in a political way because never is Dalí interested in political… but…
WALLACE: In politics.
DALI: In the philosophical and cosmological…
DALI: Yes, because in the modern sense, the new discoveries of chromosomes and physics and biology, everything through the monarchy is the most luxurious things in life…
WALLACE: The most luxurious, all right. Now, old age…
DALI: …and the most perfect.
WALLACE: And the most perfect? And old age? Why do you adore old age?
DALI: Because the little young peoples completely stupid, you know.
WALLACE: Young people are stupid?
DALI: They all only believe geniuses are old people (like) Leonardo de Vinci or arrive at some real achievement.
WALLACE: And weakness, why do you adore weakness?
DALI: Because in the modern physics everything is weak, every proton and neutron is surrounded of weakness, of nothing. In this moment the most fantastic thing in physics is le anti-matter. Every new physician talk about anti-matter, and Dalí paint, 20 years ago, le first anti-matter angels.
WALLACE: You write in your biography that death is beautiful. What’s beautiful about death? Why is death beautiful?
DALI: This is one feeling everything is erotic in my opinion.
WALLACE: Everything is what?
DALI: …is ugly, in the middle of everything ugly so arrive the feeling of death, everything becomes noble and sublime.
WALLACE: Oh, in other words, life is erotic and therefore ugly. Death is not erotic but sublime, therefore beautiful?
DALI: And beautiful. You know for instance, you, Micky Wallace, now is you a little good pay, a little handsome, but essentially, you becoming death, everybody tips his chapeau to you, you become fantastic man, everybody respects you a thousand times much better.
WALLACE: Is this by way of a suggestion?
DALI: Exactly. See you make one strip tease, you become ugly in one second.
WALLACE: Oh, I agree, I agree. Tell me this, what do you think will happen to you when you die?
DALI: myself not believe in my death.
WALLACE: You will not die?
DALI: No, no believe in general in death but in the death of Dalí absolutely not. Believe in my death becoming very — almost impossible.
WALLACE: You fear death?
WALLACE: Death is beautiful but you fear death?
DALI: Exactly… because Dalí is contradictory and paradoxical man.
WALLACE: Well yes indeed, Dalí is paradoxical and contradictory but why — why this fear of death? What do you fear in death?
DALI: Because there is no sufficient convenience of my faith in religion. In the moment of myself believe more?
WALLACE: You’re not sufficiently convinced of your faith….
WALLACE: …in religion. Well now I spoke with you about a year ago and we talked about religion, and you said that as the years go by, you embrace Roman Catholicism more and more with your mind but not yet completely with your heart.
DALI: This is true.
WALLACE: Why not?
DALI: Because…perhaps it is my early intellectual training and information. But now every day is more approach of this real feeling of religion. Just one month ago– is one tremendous operation of appendix – a broken appendix. After this operation becoming three times more religious than before.
WALLACE: How old are you Dalí?
DALI: Never remember exactly, but 54 or 53 or something.
WALLACE: Are you formally involved with your religion? Do you go to church a good deal – do you pray – do you…
DALI: Every day more, but is no sufficient…
WALLACE: Not sufficient… Have you ever had a supernatural vision?
DALI: Visionary things – but no supernatural.
WALLACE: No supernatural. An article about you – you mention your fear of death. An article about you in Life magazine once said that you’re afraid of almost everything from ocean liners to grasshoppers. The article said you won’t buy shoes because you don’t like to take off your shoes in public. And that when you go out you carry a little piece of Spanish driftwood which you keep to ward off evil spells.
DALI: Yes, because remind very very superstitious but this is- I’m sure is is common of every Spanish people, you know. Spanish people is very superstitious.
WALLACE: Do you know anything about politics at all? You say you don’t care about them. Do you know anything about them? Do you know, for instance who the prime minister of Great Britain is?
DALI: Yes, but no – not particularly care of this. Because, for me the important thing is look – the philosophical event of every moment. And now is absolutely sure for instance, monarchy is restored in Spain very shortly.
WALLACE: You think it will be?
DALI: Prince Juan Carlos and Franco agree on its restoration. Is absolutely convincing the monarchy coming back in France very shortly after one military mayor or perhaps one De Gaulle or another….
WALLACE: Do you know – do you know who the Vice President of the United States is? Can you name him…
DALI: Mr. Nixon. Yes, yes – but, but what is possible now – what is possible perhaps tomorrow you put this in quick question and…
WALLACE: And you will answer… What do you enjoy doing most? Do you like to talk, to paint, to eat, to think? What, what do you like to spend your time doing, Dalí?
DALI: My manner of expend my time – is the more joy, the more delightful is becoming every day – a little more – Dalí.
WALLACE: A little more Dalí.
DALI: Because in the beginning of my life, you remember in like at becoming a Napoleon…
WALLACE: First you wanted to be a cook – first you waited to be a cook, then you wanted to be a Napoleon.
DALI: Cook and woman – one woman cooking.
WALLACE: You wanted to be a woman, cooking?
DALI: Exactly … a woman cooking. Second, like of becoming Napoleon.
DALI: A little one like it becoming Dalí. And now is every day more Dalí.
WALLACE: In a moment I’d like to ask you about an extraordinary power which you claim that you have. You’ve written that you can remember your thoughts and your feelings before you were born.
And I’d like to know what those thoughts and feelings were. And we’ll get Salvador Dalí’s answer in just sixty seconds.
WALLACE: Now then, Dalí – you said that you can remember not only things that happened to you in your infancy, but even your feelings before you were born. What were they? What did you think about? What did you feel?
DALI: Well I remember very clearly many mansions. How so – not only in black and white but in glorious technicolor….technicolor.
WALLACE: I see, and what specifically.. What were some of these things?
DALI: At some phosphorous and x-luminous-x…..I told these visions to Doctor Freud in London. Freud tell me that it is absolutely true – is the region of intra-uterine memories. Probably my position – fetal position, my pupils is very hurt by my hands. Depend on my position.
WALLACE: Was it – well, what was it like? Was it, was it pleasant before you were born?
DALI: Ah – it was completely paradise.
DALI: From this moment the more divine nature – in the moment of born is the moment of the paradise is lost. This is an ethereal …
WALLACE: Well, under those circumstances I find it difficult to understand your fear of death. If the moment of being born was paradise-lost, perhaps death, for you will be paradise-regained. And therefore I would think that you would….
DALI: This is my hope. But is not absolutely sure. This is the trouble. You see, the death is again the regain of this paradise – this is excellent, but is not, not sure.
WALLACE: Do you, do you enjoy yourself as you live. Do you like yourself? You think – you say that you are a genius. Certainly you have had…
DALI: I enjoy my life every day more.
WALLACE: You do…
DALI: Every week more. Because of Sir Dalí – and my admiration for Dalí is becoming tremendous.
WALLACE: Yes, What kind of dreams do you have? What are they about, Dalí?
DALI: Every time is very agreeable and creative. The last dreams is about the anti-matter angels. Perhaps for five months only dream about archangels, angels, kings and the most beautiful spectacular.
WALLACE: You seem to be a mild-mannered man. Are you?
DALI: I don’t understand – mild?
WALLACE: Are you, are you a mild man? Are you a pleasant man to deal with? Are you a friendly man? You seem to be a mild man.
DALI: Everybody love Dalí very much.
WALLACE: Everybody loves Dalí.
DALI: But they pick on him.
WALLACE: But your paintings – they’re frequently violent. And you’ve written, that in your private life you have had sudden impulses to injure people. As a child you kicked people – you threw a friend off a rocky ledge. As an adult you confessed that you once kicked a legless beggar along the street.
DALI: Exactly. But this is my adolescence period. Now becoming much more quiet in these kind of sadistic things.
DALI: As a contrary – after my religious feelings becoming more strong – these sadistic things of my adolescence disappeared almost completely.
WALLACE: Is that so? And, and when you were a young man, too, you used to try to hurt – you were masochistic as well as sadistic. You used to try to hurt yourself… you’d bind your head until it hurt, because you felt that you could be more creative that way. You do not need that…..
DALI: No – now every of this has disappear because every of my libido now is simply made in religion and the mysticism.
WALLACE: Well, there’s one story about yourself I’d like to ask you about before you go. When you were courting your wife, Gala you did an unusual thing. As you’ve described it, you smeared your body with your own blood from a cut. You tore your clothes and then you rubbed a jar of evil-smelling fish glue all over yourself. And you planned to present yourself this way in front of your future wife. Why did you do that?
DALI: Because in this moment of weakness in this moment Dalí is true is almost crazy before met Gala. My, my brain is very close of one sick pathologic brain.
WALLACE: Your brain, yes…
DALI: In this moment liked seduct Gala in the most terrific manner. I believe from the smell is a more attractive manner for seduct Gala. Gala becoming in love with me appears as probably the real … Gala created the real mysticism or the real clacissism of my adult life.
WALLACE: And you have been married now to Gala for how many years?
DALI: Oh perhaps 20 or more,but is still in love with Gala – more than in the beginning. That is something that nobody believe. Also – Dalí never make love avec one other woman than Gala.
WALLACE: In 20 years.
DALI: And the people never believe because – everybody….
WALLACE: Why – why shouldn’t we believe? It’s the most sensible thing in the world.
DALI: Yes, but there is no… you should believe – it’s very frequent. But the other people don’t think it’s very exceptional.
WALLACE: Well I don’t think perhaps as exceptional as…
DALI: And now my obsession is the chastity, because….
DALI: …is more important for religious belief.
WALLACE: Dalí, I certainly thank you for coming and spending this time. I’m looking forward to the publication of your new book, “Dalí” which will be published in the Fall and I understand will have a good many color plates of your paintings in it. Thank you Dalí.
WALLACE: To those who raise eyebrows or look down their noses at him, Salvador Dalí bristles his remarkable moustache with equal disdain. As he puts it, “I cannot understand why human beings should be so little individualized. Why they should behave with such great collective uniformity.” He says, “I do not understand why, when I ask for grilled lobster in a restaurant, I’m never served a cooked telephone.” I’ll be back in a moment with a special announcement about future plans.
WALLACE: Tonight’s interview ends my series which started a year ago for the Philip Morris Company, the makers of Philip Morris, Parliament, and Marlboro cigarettes and I want to thank the Philip Morris Company, sincerely, for helping me to bring you these programs.
WALLACE: Next Sunday evening – next Sunday evening at ten o’clock Eastern Daylight Saving Time, on many of these stations, I’ll start a new interview series devoted to the theme of Freedom and Survival. The series will be produced in cooperation with the Fund for the Republic and will be designed to encourage public discussion of freedom and justice. We’re going to talk about the problems of the individual in his relationship to big government, big business, and big labor.
WALLACE: We’re going to examine the growing power of political parties and pressure groups, we’ll talk about the responsibility of our mass media…newspapers, magazines, motion pictures and television. We’ll discuss these issues with such men as Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, Aldous Huxley, author of “Brave New World”, industrialist Cyrus Eaton. Next Sunday night on the first program, we’ll open the series with an examination of religious skepticism.
WALLACE: Of the conflict between church and state, of religion and morality in American life. Our guest, you see him behind me, will be one of the world’s leading religious thinkers, the Protestant theologian, Doctor Reinhold Niebuhr. We’ll ask Doctor Niebuhr why he charges that our current religious revival is essentially meaningless. We’ll find out why Doctor Niebuhr says that religion can never abolish injustice and evil in society. That’s next Sunday at ten on many of these stations. Until then, Mike Wallace – goodnight.
ANNOUNCER: The Mike Wallace Interview has been brought to you by the new high filtration Parliament. Parliament – now for the first time at popular price.
Thanks To: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/