How Do You Describe A Person Who Was:

Psychoanalyzed by Sigmund Freud,

Slandered by Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso,  

Cuckolded by E.E. Cummings,

The Impresario of Modern Art & Letters in The 1920s and T.S. Eliot's First US Champion, 

Built a $300 Million Modern Art Collection

And, was Declared Officially Insane? 

Two Words: SCOFIELD THAYER ~ View Film Trailer Below

Film Overview

Andrew Carnegie. Henry Ford. Steve Jobs. Pioneers who rocked our world. Scofield Thayer was among them. With his magazine The Dial, he introduced provocative writers and artists to an eager America in the 1920s.  In less than a decade, he transformed American culture and left a legacy that lives today. Yes, he was that important. So why don’t you know about him?

Scofield Thayer (1889-1982) was a wealthy, eccentric arts patron who edited and published The Dial, the first American magazine to promote Picasso, Matisse and Klimt and to publish T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings and Ezra Pound. He assembled a collection of modern art that’s now a highlight at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.   He was psychoanalyzed by Sigmund Freud in Vienna.

And he did most of that in just six years (1920-1926).

A wild man?

In his first year at The Dial, he spent $100,000 (that’s $1.2 million in 2017 dollars).

He once pulped an issue because he found a single punctuation mistake.

When his wife fell in love with Cummings, he blessed them.

And then Thayer disappeared — when he was 37 and at the height of his brilliant career, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The Dial closed in 1929, and he retreated into a world of his own, surrounded by caretakers.

Scofield Thayer has been a footnote in the history of the transformation of culture in America for almost a century. In this movie — the first about him — we’ll finally tell his story. 

The film’s release will coincide with the eagerly anticipated opening of Obsession: Nudes by Schiele, Picasso and Klimt from the Scofield Thayer Collection July-October 2018 at The Met Breuer.

Editor's Note

1913 -  A moment in time. In Paris, Stravinsky’s ballet Rite of Spring raised a riot.

1913 -  That year Manhattan celebrated the opening of Grand Central – the largest railroad station in the world – and the Woolworth Building – the world’s tallest. But the same city that year rejected the art on display at the Lexington Avenue Armory – mocking a Cubist work by Marcel Duchamp in The New York Times as an explosion in a shingle factory and Blue Nude by Henri Matisse as repellent. An old artistic world was dying but America was not yet ready for the cultural shock of the new.

Modernism They Called It: A Break With The Past.

This new art and literature rebuking the nineteenth century artistic values of realism and perspective stormed out of the old world in the years before World War I but met with resistance in the new.

Enter Scofield Thayer - The Man Who Brought Modernism to America. He Became Its Midwife - And Shaped The Taste of a Nation.

1913.  Thayer graduated from Harvard, and went to Oxford – where he befriended and was influenced by modernist American-born poet T.S. Eliot.

Back in the U.S. after World War I, Thayer and a partner, James Sibley Watson, Jr., bought a magazine - The Dial - determined to make it a platform for introducing modernism to America. The first issue appeared in January 1920 with poetry by E.E. Cummings and Carl Sandburg and artwork by sculptor Gaston Lachaise.

Thayer’s Dial Became The Best and Most Influential Literary and Artistic Periodical in the Country Bar None.

He was the first editor in America to publish two of the seminal poems of the twentieth century – Eliot’s The Waste Land and Ezra Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.

And from the vantage point of Vienna – where he settled in 1922 to be psychoanalyzed by Sigmund Freud and from where he continued to edit – he brought the edgy drawings of Schiele and Kokoschka, essays by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and stories by Thomas Mann  and Arthur Schnitzler to the attention of an American crowd. The circulation of The Dial - 25,000 at its height -  does little justice to its influence and reach.

It Was The Vehicle for Literature and Art in One of the Most Creative American Decades.

With a talented editorial team – poet Marianne Moore and culture critic and Harvard classmate Gilbert Seldes – Thayer injected the literary genius of William Butler Yeats, E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence and the vision of artists such as Picasso, Chagall, Bonnard, Munch and Matisse into the nation’s bloodstream – turning former local philistines into champions of modernism eager to spread the word.

1929: And Wall Street crashed.

The Dial was shuttered after nine brilliant years in print. It had paved the way for the founding of MoMA – America’s first museum of modern art.


The Film Tells the Story of this Extraordinary Man’s

Unknown Influence on America.

Production Team

Producer/Executive Producer

Caroline A. Camougis is a seasoned documentary filmmaker, and has served as an executive or associate producer on many films, most recently on Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle. Other notable films include The Yes Men Fix the World, which was named Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival, and the award-winning The American Ruling Class, which set a record for DVD sales in the educational market. An expert in the nonprofit sector, Ms. Camougis is also the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Delphi Partners, a leader in philanthropic advisory services. As such, she is a frequent presenter at industry conferences and has been featured or quoted in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Kiplinger’s Retirement Report as well as in trades such as The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Nonprofit Times. Previously, she held senior positions at Citigroup, Newcom Link and Lotus Development Corporation. A graduate of Wellesley College, Ms. Camougis currently serves on several nonprofit boards, including IndieCollect, a collaborative project with leading archives such as the Library of Congress and the Academy Film Archive, to preserve independent American films.


Libby Handros began her career over twenty-five years ago at The Press & The Public Project, joining the team that produced the ground-breaking Inside Story, the first regularly scheduled examination of the American Press ever to appear on television. The nationally broadcast series hosted by Hodding Carter aired weekly on PBS for five years and won every major television journalism award. Ms. Handros has gone on to develop and produce over one hundred hours of prime -time programming on a wide array of subjects – public policy, news, sports, history, international affairs, education and the movies. Her latest film with Mr. Kirby, Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle, was dubbed "Rollicking" by The Phoenix and "Sober, light-hearted, even wacky" by the Associated Press. A graduate of Wellesley College, Ms. Handros sits on the Board of The Irondale Theater in Brooklyn, NY.


John Kirby’s feature debut was The American Ruling Class, a dramatic-documentary- musical starring Lewis Lapham, at the time, the editor of Harper’s Magazine. The film played in theaters and won prizes in festivals all over the world. It was dubbed "Astonishing" by The London Observer, "Divine Madness" by The Montreal Mirror, and was hailed by luminaries from Bill Moyers and Studs Terkel to Peter Wintonick. Mr. Kirby has directed, edited and consulted on dozens of documentaries and nonfiction series. A graduate of New York University, Mr. Kirby’s extensive editorial credentials include the Emmy-winning Thug Life in D.C., and Gladiator Days, a long-playing cult classic, both for HBO. His latest film, Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle ran theatrically in (among other places) Lincoln Center in New York and the Brattle in Boston and was a selection and prize-winner at dozens of festivals including the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.


Lewis Lapham, founder and editor of Lapham’s Quarterly, was for thirty years editor of Harper’s Magazine, and won numerous awards including the National Magazine Award. He was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame in 2007. He is the author of thirteen books including Money and Class in America, Theater of War, Gag Rule, Pretensions to Empire, and, most recently, Age of Folly. The New York Times has likened him to H.L. Mencken; Vanity Fair has suggested a strong resemblance to Mark Twain; and Tom Wolfe has compared him to Montaigne. He produced a weekly podcast: The World in Time for Bloomberg News. Lapham is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A native of San Francisco, he was educated at Yale and Cambridge.


Peter Foges is an award-winning television producer and writer. Born in London he co-wrote The Ten Year Lunch (Oscar winner, Best Documentary, 1988). Programs he has produced, directed and written have won 5 Emmys, three Overseas Press Club awards as well as BAFTA awards, Ace Awards and Gold Medals at the Houston and Arizona Film and Television Festivals. He worked on the staff of the BBC as a correspondent, anchor, producer and executive for 20 years. He was executive producer of  The David Frost Show in 1976, director and producer of over 15 hour long-form prime-time documentaries - and was the BBC TV Bureau Chief in New York from 1979 to 1985. He then executive produced Adam Smith's Money World for 15 years - voted "the best show of its kind on U.S. television." He attended Harvard University as a graduate John F. Kennedy Memorial Scholar (the UK equivalent of a Rhodes Scholar).

Consulting Producer

James Dempsey is the author of The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer (2014) and is currently at work on the exhibition catalogue of Obsession: Nudes by Schiele, Picasso, and Klimt from the Scofield Thayer Collection opening in July 2018 at The Met Breuer. While researching Thayer, he unearthed a previously unpublished poem of Thayer’s friend, E.E. Cummings. Dempsey has written several books (fiction and nonfiction) and numerous articles for both academic and general audiences. An award-winning journalist (Associated Press and United Press International), he is an instructor in the Humanities and Arts Department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he teaches writing and literature. Dempsey is currently at work on a book about noted poet Stanley J. Kunitz, United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner.