Author & Hollywood screenwriter Elliot Paul converts to Orthodoxy

Photo from the Abilene (TX) Reporter-News, April 7, 1958

On March 5, 1958, the New York Times ran the following article:


Elliot Paul, in Hospital, Joins Greek Orthodox Church

PROVIDENCE, R.I., March 4 (AP) — Elliot Paul, author, became a member of the Greek Eastern Orthodox Church today in bedside ceremonies at the Veterans Administration Hospital here.

Mr. Paul is seriously ill with arteriosclerosis and heart disease. When he entered the hospital a few weeks ago, he listed his religion as “agnostic.” He was born in Malden, Mass., a member of a Congregational family.

The 68-year-old author said his desire for conversion came from his admiration for Greek Orthodox friends whose faith and warmth appealed to him.

Elliot Paul lived a fascinating life. He worked as a journalist, authored novels, and later wrote ten Hollywood screenplays, most notably Rhapsody in Blue. His friends included the famed novelists James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. He was a huge fan of jazz, moonlighting as a pianist and writing the screenplay for Billie Holliday’s only acting role. Paul was married (and divorced) five times, and, as the Times indicates, he identified as an agnostic until the very end of his life.

And it was the very end — just a month after joining the Church, Paul died of his ailments. His obituary in the Bridgeport Post offers a bit more detail on his conversion: “After his hospitalization, Paul mentioned his desire to enter the church to the hospital Protestant chaplain, Rev. Frank S. Hall. The chaplain notified the Very Rev. John A. Limberakis, pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.”

The obituary also re-emphasized that the biggest factor in Paul’s conversion was the faith and love of his Orthodox friends. It’s a reminder that quiet example and loyal friendship can be just as effective as overt evangelization.

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