10 OCTOBER 1998, Page 32

Hemingway and friends

Sir: Felix Pryor's disclosures about the Hemingway forgeries (The men who faked Ava Gardner's bra', 3 October) is fascinat- ing. Pryor is clearly well informed about archives and memorabilia. The forgers claimed that their treasure trove came from the collection of the late Ricardo Sicre. Pryor debunks this claim and has some fun by sarcastically quoting from the auction- eers' Hello!-style description of Sicre's glamorous way of life. This sounds a little unfair to the late Mr Sicre. He was, in fact, everything this blurb says he was and the forgers were clever in inventing a prove- nance which was prima facie very plausible.

Pryor makes no reference to the CIA connection, which may be of interest. His list of fake autographs includes those of Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and many others whom I per- sonally recall sipping Sicre's J&B whisky (this concession for Spain made part of his fortune).

Pryor mentions a wad of Hemingway let- ters 'on paper headed "World Commerce Corporation" '. This company was founded by the late Frank Ryan, who was the OSS man in Spain during the second world war. It was a sensitive climate to operate in as Franco owed Hitler some favours. Ryan's successes were legendary. After the war, representatives and associates of the World Commerce Corporation were often former OSS executives such as McCloy and others from the original Yale fraternity. The late Ralph Sassoon was the London director. Jack Forrester was located in Paris and was J. Paul Getty's closest associate in the years I worked for Getty.

Ryan remained in Madrid and recruited Sicre there. The World Commerce Corpora- tion and other corporate entities of Ryan's played an important role in expanding American economic, political and intelli- gence interest in post-war Germany and Spain. In the late Seventies, Ryan was initi- ating similar informative commercial opera- tions in communist China. Maybe the 'col- lection' includes a billet-doux from Mao? Claus von Billow

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