In the Thirties, Gabriel Pascal, the well-known film producer, met Meher Baba in Zurich, Switzerland. On his alphabet board, Baba nicknamed Gabriel his "Phoenix" and sometimes his "Black Panther”. He engaged Gabriel’s interest in producing the famous film on reincarnation, and Pascal worked on the script with Carl Vollmoeller, author of the mime play The Miracle in which Norina Matchabelli played the role of the Madonna. Later, in Hollywood, Gabriel tried to interest his screen writer friend, Hy Kraft, in working on the script. An interesting outcome to this project is described by Valerie Pascal in her book "The Disciple and His Devil.":*
In 1933**, Baba had come to the United States to spread his "message", and stayed in a house in the Hollywood hills. It was there that Hy Kraft, finally persuaded by Gabriel, met Baba. Kraft had a strong prejudice against phony mystics and he suspected Baba of being one.
Instead he was shaken by his meeting with Baba. "There was a tremendous power emanating from that man," Hy told me later. He couldn't say "no" to Baba and was engaged to write the script for the film on reincarnation. But when the time came to leave for India with Baba and Gabriel, he shook himself awake from the "Eastern maze" and refused to go.
Nothing came of the reincarnation film and Gabriel was stranded in India. A more realistic man would have despaired, but Gabriel welcomed the opportunity. He put on pilgrim garb and accompanied Baba along the dusty roads of India, visiting the holy places . . .
The pilgrimage in India and then his stay in Baba's Ashrama, was an experience Gabriel remembered with nostalgia.
"For the first time in my life I was really free," he told me. "I was poor and my poverty was pure, as I desired nothing."
In time desires returned, and about a year later Gabriel reappeared in the Western world, though he never gave up the thought that one day he would return to India and become a monk. His farewell gift from Baba was a pair of sandals, once worn by the master himself. The sandals and a small weather-beaten suitcase were all the luggage Gabriel had when he was put ashore in San Francisco by a sea captain he had befriended in Bombay.
Gabriel went to the St. Francis Hotel, where he knew the Italian manager. It took some time for the manager to recognize his old customer in the bearded Hindu. Gabriel, as always, chose the best room.
As a man of intuition, Gabriel sensed that soon a great change was to come in his life ― but where and how? He decided to try Hollywood again.
The manager of the hotel was firm. Gabriel must leave his one and only suitcase in lieu of unpaid bills. He offered Baba's sandals in settlement.
"You have to realize," Gabriel said, "That those sandals are worth millions of dollars. They belonged to a seer in India. I tell you they will bring luck and you are fortunate to have them for my stinky little hotel bill." And as he talked, his dark eyes above his beard vibrated with the power of the Yogis.
Overwhelmed by the magic sandals, the manager, being Italian and superstitious too, let Gabriel go.
When, years later, Gabriel came back to the St. Francis with plenty of money to collect his sandals, the manager was no longer there. Having become a multimillionaire shareholder in a big company, he kept the lucky sandals in a safe-deposit box. He refused Gabriel's money but permitted him to see the sandals once more. The butler brought them in. The worn, cowhide sandals, the work of an Indian village cobbler, were lying on a solid gold platter. [An interesting footnote to this is that Pascal was in financial difficulties to the very end of his life. Then after his death, his property, My Fair lady, was worth millions. — F.F.]
*Reprinted by special permission of McGraw-Hill Publishers of The Disciple and His Devil, by Valerie Pascal.
**December 18, 1934 to January 7, 1935 is correct and the address was 1840 Camino Palmero-webmaster.