In 1942, while walking home to the Surrey village of Foxton after visiting a longtime friend, retired British tradesman James Blunt was startled to find a weatherbeaten-looking diary book in the woods near his backyard.
Chance Encounter Part #1He was further surprised to find the diary contained dozens of entries made in a handwriting eerily resembling his own; what truly shocked him, however, was that the content of these entries described the life of another James Blunt living in a Britain under Nazi occupation and were dated September of 1944 through March of 1945. Convinced he was having a mental breakdown, Blunt immediately sought psychiatric help.
But in reality Blunt had come briefly in contact with a parallel world in which the Nazis had succeeded in invading and conquering Great Britain in 1940. British journalist and author H.V. Morton, intrigued by Blunt's experiences, began to investigate further; his inquiries led to the publication of the biography I, James Blunt in 1943. Morton's book was an instant bestseller in Great Britain and also enjoyed considerable popularity in the United States and Canada. Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer bought the film rights to Morton's book in 1945; in 1948 MGM's movie adaptation of Blunt would play to packed audiences at movie theaters worldwide.
The discovery of the diary by Blunt's counterpart in the Nazi-occupied parallel Britain would serve as the chief catalyst for a global surge of interest in the subject of alternate history and the concept of parallel (or "mirror") universes; by 1954 some four dozen government, academic, and corporate agencies were actively researching ways to make contact with these alternate worlds. James Blunt would serve as a consultant to one such project at Oxford until he died in 1965 at the age of eighty-two. In 1983, as part of ceremonies marking the centennial of Blunt's birthday, Oxford would rechristen its main physics laboratory Blunt Hall.
In 1942, James Blunt met H.V. Morton for the first time at Blunt's Surrey home; Blunt had initially been reluctant to agree to Morton's interview request but changed his mind after being persuaded Morton was genuinely interested in the story of the journal of Blunt's mirror universe counterpart.
Chance Encounter Part #2Over the course of the next two months Blunt and Morton would have dozens of additional interviews, the transcripts of which would form the basis of Morton's 1943 biographical work I, James Blunt. The book was an instant best-seller throughout the English-speaking world and won Britain's top literary honor in 1944; as Allied troops drove the Germans back across Europe following the D-Day invasion, Blunt would also become highly popular in France, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, and Italy.
In fact, by the time Blunt died in 1965 Morton's book would be translated into more than a hundred foreign languages; Morton would also act as co-writer of the script for MGM's 1948 film adaptation of Blunt. While an official German-language edition of the book wouldn't be available until 1990, bootleg translations of it were circulating in East Germany as early as 1959 and would become collector's items after the Berlin Wall fell.
In 1943, H.V. Morton's biography of James Blunt was first published in Great Britain; a month later it was released in the United States and Canada, and by mid-July it would be a best-seller in Australia and New Zealand. I, James Blunt went on to win Great Britain's most prestigious national book award in 1944, and a year later Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer bought the movie rights to Blunt.
Chance Encounter Part #3The fruits of Mayer's efforts to bring the book to the silver screen would bear fruit in 1948 with the release of MGM's adaptation of I, James Blunt starring Cecil Kellaway in the title role and Walter Pidgeon as H.V. Morton. (The real Morton had a cameo role in the movie as a village pubkeeper.)
At the 1949 Academy Awards Blunt would win Oscars in four of the seven categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture. The movie's true legacy, however, would be as a vehicle for stirring public interest in the concept of parallel or "mirror" universes; over the next six and a half decades following Blunt's release generations of physicists the world over would credit the film with being a formative influence in their choice to make the study of alternate universes their life's work. Blunt himself saw the movie more than a hundred times, the final time coming less than a week before his death in 1965 at the age of 82.