A Letter To A Fan


In 1970, John Firca wrote a fan letter to Helen Mack. She responded with a letter (see the copy on the "Deleted Scenes" page). Recently John was located by a friend of mine, Ann Gallon. Of course this was quite amazing, as it has been 34 years since that letter was written and that Ann got lucky on her first try. The following is an excerpt from John's e-mail to me. I hope you enjoy it.


March 20th, 2004

Hello Daryl Curtis,

This e mail is sent in response to your inquiry about john firca. Yes i am the same john firca who wrote to Helen Mack and whose letter you have now posted on your web site. I am sorry not to have answered you in the first instance but i did not find Ann Gallons name on Helen's site and therefore did not know she was your associate.

I began collecting autographs of early film stars when I was a teenager about 15-19 years old. I realized that so many of my favorite silent and early talkie stars were yet alive and attempted to located them. Many were difficult to find - as was Helen Mack.  I would go to the library and  spend hours looking through old New York Times index searching for clues as to their whereabouts  or utilized a host of other reference materials. There was no internet then and it was quite an adventure.  As you say, most of these stars were forgotten, yet in their time they were major actors and actresses.  My teen years was a time when National Directory Assistance was free and I would constantly call it to pursue another  lead. So Ann Gallon turned the tables on me when she tracked me down and I got a taste of  how it feels to be on the receiving end! Thank you Ann! You did a good job!  

Once I contacted a cemetery to obtain the address of actress May Allison from the silent era.  Her late husband died in the 1920's and was editor of Photoplay  magazine. The cemetery told me she owned the plot and gave me her address and I contacted information who gave the telephone number. I always had to use ingenuity to find people. It was all quite interesting and educational.  I had mostly wonderful responses. I think that being a teenager helped too!

I first saw Helen Mack in "Son of Kong" (of  course!) but later found her delightful in other films.  I decided to write her but had no idea where she was living.  After some research I discovered that she had last married radio producer Tom McAvity in 1942 (I believe that the date may have been 1940 - D.C.) and that she had a son from that marriage. (From her first marriage to Charles Irwin, FOX West Coast Theatre executive in 1935, she also had a son.)

In addition , from my notes at the time, I determined she was living in New York City , looked her up in the Manhattan telephone directory and found her listed under McAvity.  I telephoned her and had a receptive and friendly chat. It was a typical fan-to-star conversation in which I expressed my admiration etc. She was quite impressed that I was only 18 years old at the time. She was a pleasure to talk to and most gracious.  I explained that I had a music sheet from her film, "College Rhythm", with her picture on it and asked if she would autograph it for me. She agreed. I sent it to her and she signed it and answered my questions in the letter you now possess.  The date of that letter is JUNE, 1970.  Later, Lanny Ross, who also appeared in the film, signed it also.  Helen said she would try to find a  photo for me but I never heard from her again. I was preparing to leave New Jersey for college in North Carolina and am sad to say that is all the contact I had with Helen Mack.

 I am now 52 years old and have been sorting through things and thus in 2002 I sold the letter you possess.  My kids are not interested in these old stars  and I thought the letter would end up in the hands of a collector who would cherish it and give it new life. I am happy its journey brought it to you.  I am happy too that the questions I asked Helen Mack has historical value and is being used to pay tribute to her on your wonderful website.

Nothing could make me happier than seeing the work you have accomplished honor her. I am certain her family is excited as well.  My college background is history and I am impressed with what you have accomplished.  If you wish a copy of the autographed music sheet that Helen signed, send me your address and I will go to Kinkos and color copy it for you.  I am living here in New Jersey yet. If you need any further information please contact me. Good luck in your work and thank you for your efforts. I know that Helen Mack would be proud of you too!  

John Firca