Soylent Cal

President Calvin Coolidge (1923-29) was an ardent fan of science fiction writer Jules Verne. He and his close friend Charles Dawes spent hours on the south portico of the White House, silently smoking cigars and writing their own fan fiction. Dawes, inspired by the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, wrote a story called Planet of the Apes. (The lead character’s silence in the first half of the film was an homage to Coolidge’s famous reticence.) Coolidge himself wrote the futuristic thriller Soylent Green after a discussion of famine in China with Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover.

Neither tale was published until 1964, when an archivist at the University of Vermont found both stories among Coolidge’s papers. The president’s descendants optioned the stories to Hollywood, with the proviso that taciturn actor Charlton Heston star in both films. Heston also narrated a documentary about Coolidge and sci-fi, Soylent Cal.

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