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The pat hobby stories, p.10

The Pat Hobby Stories, page 10


The Pat Hobby Stories

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  "Sit down, Pat."

  "That Eric's got talent, hasn't he?" said Le Vigne. "He'll go

  places. How'd you come to dig him up?"

  Pat felt the straps of the electric chair being adjusted.

  "Oh--I just dug him up. He--came in my office."

  "We're putting him on salary," said Le Vigne. "We ought to have

  some system to give these kids a chance."

  He took a call on his Dictograph, then swung back to Pat.

  "But how did you ever get mixed up with this goddam Shaver. YOU,

  Pat--an old-timer like you."

  "Well, I thought--"

  "Why doesn't he go back East?" continued Le Vigne disgustedly.

  "Getting all you poops stirred up!"

  Blood flowed back into Pat's veins. He recognized his signal, his


  "Well, I got you a story, didn't I?" he said, with almost a

  swagger. And he added, "How'd you know about it?"

  "I went down to see Estelle in the hospital. She and this kid were

  working on it. I walked right in on them."

  "Oh," said Pat.

  "I knew the kid by sight. Now, Pat, tell me this--did Jeff Manfred

  think you wrote it--or was he in on the racket?"

  "Oh God," Pat mourned. "What do I have to answer that for?"

  Le Vigne leaned forward intensely.

  "Pat, you're sitting over a trap door!" he said with savage eyes.

  "Do you see how the carpet's cut? I just have to press this button

  and drop you down to hell! Will you TALK?"

  Pat was on his feet, staring wildly at the floor.

  "Sure I will!" he cried. He believed it--he believed such things.

  "All right," said Le Vigne relaxing. "There's whiskey in the

  sideboard there. Talk quick and I'll give you another month at two-

  fifty. I kinda like having you around."


  Esquire (December 1940)

  Pat Hobby, the writer and the man, had his great success in

  Hollywood during what Irving Cobb refers to as 'the mosaic swimming-

  pool age--just before the era when they had to have a shinbone of

  St Sebastian for a clutch lever.'

  Mr Cobb no doubt exaggerates, for when Pat had his pool in those

  fat days of silent pictures, it was entirely cement, unless you

  should count the cracks where the water stubbornly sought its own

  level through the mud.

  'But it WAS a pool,' he assured himself one afternoon more than a

  decade later. Though he was now more than grateful for this small

  chore he had assigned him by producer Berners--one week at two-

  fifty--all the insolence of office could not take that memory away.

  He had been called in to the studio to work upon an humble short.

  It was based on the career of General Fitzhugh Lee who fought for

  the Confederacy and later for the U.S.A. against Spain--so it would

  offend neither North nor South. And in the recent conference Pat

  had tried to co-operate.

  'I was thinking--' he suggested to Jack Berners '--that it might be

  a good thing if we could give it a Jewish touch.'

  'What do you mean?' demanded Jack Berners quickly.

  'Well I thought--the way things are and all, it would be a sort of

  good thing to show that there were a number of Jews in it too.'

  'In what?'

  'In the Civil War.' Quickly he reviewed his meagre history. 'They

  were, weren't they?'

  'Naturally,' said Berners, with some impatience, 'I suppose

  everybody was except the Quakers.'

  'Well, my idea was that we could have this Fitzhugh Lee in love

  with a Jewish girl. He's going to be shot at curfew so she grabs a

  church bell--'

  Jack Berners leaned forward earnestly.

  'Say, Pat, you want this job, don't you? Well, I told you the

  story. You got the first script. If you thought up this tripe to

  please me you're losing your grip.'

  Was that a way to treat a man who had once owned a pool which had

  been talked about by--

  That was how he happened to be thinking about his long lost

  swimming pool as he entered the shorts department. He was

  remembering a certain day over a decade ago in all its details, how

  he had arrived at the studio in his car driven by a Filipino in

  uniform; the deferential bow of the guard at the gate which had

  admitted car and all to the lot, his ascent to that long lost

  office which had a room for the secretary and was really a

  director's office . . .

  His reverie was broken off by the voice of Ben Brown, head of the

  shorts department, who walked him into his own chambers.

  'Jack Berners just phoned me,' he said. 'We don't want any new

  angles, Pat. We've got a good story. Fitzhugh Lee was a dashing

  cavalry commander. He was a nephew of Robert E. Lee and we want to

  show him at Appomattox, pretty bitter and all that. And then show

  how he became reconciled--we'll have to be careful because Virginia

  is swarming with Lees--and how he finally accepts a U.S. commission

  from President McKinley--'

  Pat's mind darted back again into the past. The President--that

  was the magic word that had gone around that morning many years

  ago. The President of the United States was going to make a visit

  to the lot. Everyone had been agog about it--it seemed to mark a

  new era in pictures because a President of the United States had

  never visited a studio before. The executives of the company were

  all dressed up--from a window of his long lost Beverly Hills house

  Pat had seen Mr Maranda, whose mansion was next door to him, bustle

  down his walk in a cutaway coat at nine o'clock, and had known that

  something was up. He thought maybe it was clergy but when he

  reached the lot he had found it was the President of the United

  States himself who was coming . . .

  'Clean up the stuff about Spain,' Ben Brown was saying. 'The guy

  that wrote it was a Red and he's got all the Spanish officers with

  ants in their pants. Fix up that.'

  In the office assigned him Pat looked at the script of True to Two

  Flags. The first scene showed General Fitzhugh Lee at the head of

  his cavalry receiving word that Petersburg had been evacuated. In

  the script Lee took the blow in pantomime, but Pat was getting two-

  fifty a week--so, casually and without effort, he wrote in one of

  his favourite lines:

  Lee (to his officers)

  Well, what are you standing here gawking for? DO something! 6.

  Medium Shot Officers pepping up, slapping each other on back, etc.

  Dissolve to:

  To what? Pat's mind dissolved once more into the glamorous past.

  On that happy day in the twenties his phone had rung at about noon.

  It had been Mr Maranda.

  'Pat, the President is lunching in the private dining room. Doug

  Fairbanks can't come so there's a place empty and anyhow we think

  there ought to be one writer there.'

  His memory of the luncheon was palpitant with glamour. The Great

  Man had asked some questions about pictures and had told a joke and

  Pat had laughed and laughed with the others--all of them solid men

  together--rich, happy and successful.

  Afterwards the President was to go on some sets and
see some scenes

  taken and still later he was going to Mr Maranda's house to meet

  some of the women stars at tea. Pat was not invited to that party

  but he went home early anyhow and from his veranda saw the cortge

  drive up, with Mr Maranda beside the President in the back seat.

  Ah he was proud of pictures then--of his position in them--of the

  President of the happy country where he was born . . .

  Returning to reality Pat looked down at the script of True to Two

  Flags and wrote slowly and thoughtfully:

  Insert: A calendar--with the years plainly marked and the sheets

  blowing off in a cold wind, to show Fitzhugh Lee growing older and


  His labours had made him thirsty--not for water, but he knew better

  than to take anything else his first day on the job. He got up and

  went out into the hall and along the corridor to the water-cooler.

  As he walked he slipped back into his reverie.

  That had been a lovely California afternoon so Mr Maranda had taken

  his exalted guest and the coterie of stars into his garden, which

  adjoined Pat's garden. Pat had gone out his back door and followed

  a low privet hedge keeping out of sight--and then accidentally come

  face to face with the Presidential party.

  The President had smiled and nodded. Mr Maranda smiled and nodded.

  'You met Mr Hobby at lunch,' Mr Maranda said to the President.

  'He's one of our writers.'

  'Oh yes,' said the President, 'you write the pictures.'

  'Yes I do,' said Pat.

  The President glanced over into Pat's property.

  'I suppose--' he said, '--that you get lots of inspiration sitting

  by the side of that fine pool.'

  'Yes,' said Pat, 'yes, I do,'

  . . . Pat filled his cup at the cooler. Down the hall there was a

  group approaching--Jack Berners, Ben Brown and several other

  executives and with them a girl to whom they were very attentive

  and deferential. He recognized her face--she was the girl of the

  year, the It girl, the Oomph girl, the Glamour Girl, the girl for

  whose services every studio was in violent competition.

  Pat lingered over his drink. He had seen many phonies break in and

  break out again, but this girl was the real thing, someone to stir

  every pulse in the nation. He felt his own heart beat faster.

  Finally, as the procession drew near, he put down the cup, dabbed

  at his hair with his hand and took a step out into the corridor.

  The girl looked at him--he looked at the girl. Then she took one

  arm of Jack Berners' and one of Ben Brown's and suddenly the party

  seemed to walk right through him--so that he had to take a step

  back against the wall.

  An instant later Jack Berners turned around and said back to him,

  'Hello, Pat.' And then some of the others threw half glances

  around but no one else spoke, so interested were they in the girl.

  In his office, Pat looked at the scene where President McKinley

  offers a United States commission to Fitzhugh Lee. Suddenly he

  gritted his teeth and bore down on his pencil as he wrote:


  Mr President, you can take your commission and go straight to hell.

  Then he bent down over his desk, his shoulders shaking as he

  thought of that happy day when he had had a swimming pool.


  Esquire (January 1941)


  The day was dark from the outset, and a California fog crept

  everywhere. It had followed Pat in his headlong, hatless flight

  across the city. His destination, his refuge, was the studio,

  where he was not employed but which had been home to him for twenty


  Was it his imagination or did the policeman at the gate give him

  and his pass an especially long look? It might be the lack of a

  hat--Hollywood was full of hatless men but Pat felt marked,

  especially as there had been no opportunity to part his thin grey


  In the Writers' Building he went into the lavatory. Then he

  remembered: by some inspired ukase from above, all mirrors had been

  removed from the Writers' Building a year ago.

  Across the hall he saw Bee McIlvaine's door ajar, and discerned her

  plump person.

  'Bee, can you loan me your compact box?' he asked.

  Bee looked at him suspiciously, then frowned and dug it from her


  'You on the lot?' she inquired.

  'Will be next week,' he prophesied. He put the compact on her desk

  and bent over it with his comb. 'Why won't they put mirrors back

  in the johnnies? Do they think writers would look at themselves

  all day?'

  'Remember when they took out the couches?' said Bee. 'In nineteen

  thirty-two. And they put them back in thirty-four.'

  'I worked at home,' said Pat feelingly.

  Finished with her mirror he wondered if she were good for a loan--

  enough to buy a hat and something to eat. Bee must have seen the

  look in his eyes for she forestalled him.

  'The Finns got all my money,' she said, 'and I'm worried about my

  job. Either my picture starts tomorrow or it's going to be

  shelved. We haven't even got a title.'

  She handed him a mimeographed bulletin from the scenario department

  and Pat glanced at the headline.




  'I could use fifty,' Pat said. 'What's it about?'

  'It's written there. It's about a lot of stuff that goes on in

  tourist cabins.'

  Pat started and looked at her wild-eyed. He had thought to be safe

  here behind the guarded gates but news travelled fast. This was a

  friendly or perhaps not so friendly warning. He must move on. He

  was a hunted man now, with nowhere to lay his hatless head.

  'I don't know anything about that,' he mumbled and walked hastily

  from the room.


  Just inside the door of the commissary Pat looked around. There

  was no guardian except the girl at the cigarette stand but

  obtaining another person's hat was subject to one complication: it

  was hard to judge the size by a cursory glance, while the sight of

  a man trying on several hats in a check room was unavoidably


  Personal taste also obtruded itself. Pat was beguiled by a green

  fedora with a sprightly feather but it was too readily identifiable.

  This was also true of a fine white Stetson for the open spaces.

  Finally he decided on a sturdy grey Homburg which looked as if it

  would give him good service. With trembling hands he put it on.

  It fitted. He walked out--in painful, interminable slow motion.

  His confidence was partly restored in the next hour by the fact

  that no one he encountered made references to tourists' cabins. It

  had been a lean three months for Pat. He had regarded his job as

  night clerk for the Selecto Tourists Cabins as a mere fill-in,

  never to be mentioned to his friends. But when the police squad

  came this morning they held up the raid long enough to assure Pat,

  or Don Smith as he called himself, that he would be wanted as a
  witness. The story of his escape lies in the realm of melodrama,

  how he went out a side door, bought a half pint of what he so

  desperately needed at the corner drug-store, hitchhiked his way

  across the great city, going limp at the sight of traffic cops and

  only breathing free when he saw the studio's high-flown sign.

  After a call on Louie, the studio bookie, whose great patron he

  once had been, he dropped in on Jack Berners. He had no idea to

  submit, but he caught Jack in a hurried moment flying off to a

  producers' conference and was unexpectedly invited to step in and

  wait for his return.

  The office was rich and comfortable. There were no letters worth

  reading on the desk, but there were a decanter and glasses in a

  cupboard and presently he lay down on a big soft couch and fell


  He was awakened by Berners' return, in high indignation.

  'Of all the damn nonsense! We get a hurry call--heads of all

  departments. One man is late and we wait for him. He comes in and

  gets a bawling out for wasting thousands of dollars worth of time.

  Then what do you suppose: Mr Marcus has lost his favourite hat!'

  Pat failed to associate the fact with himself.

  'All the department heads stop production!' continued Berners.

  'Two thousand people look for a grey Homburg hat!' He sank

  despairingly into a chair, 'I can't talk to you today, Pat. By

  four o'clock, I've got to get a title to a picture about a tourist

  camp. Got an idea?'

  'No,' said Pat. 'No.'

  'Well, go up to Bee McIlvaine's office and help her figure

  something out. There's fifty dollars in it.'

  In a daze Pat wandered to the door.

  'Hey,' said Berners, 'don't forget your hat.'


  Feeling the effects of his day outside the law, and of a tumbler

  full of Berners' brandy, Pat sat in Bee McIlvaine's office.

  'We've got to get a title,' said Bee gloomily.

  She handed Pat the mimeograph offering fifty dollars reward and put

  a pencil in his hand. Pat stared at the paper unseeingly.

  'How about it?' she asked. 'Who's got a title?'

  There was a long silence.

  'Test Pilot's been used, hasn't it?' he said with a vague tone.

  'Wake up! This isn't about aviation.'

  'Well, I was just thinking it was a good title.'

  'So's The Birth of a Nation.'

  'But not for this picture,' Pat muttered. 'Birth of a Nation

  wouldn't suit this picture.'

  'But not for this picture,' Pat muttered. 'Birth of a Nation

  wouldn't suit this picture.'

  'Are you ribbing me?' demanded Bee. 'Or are you losing your mind?

  This is serious.'

  'Sure--I know.' Feebly he scrawled words at the bottom of the

  page. 'I've had a couple of drinks that's all. My head'll clear

  up in a minute. I'm trying to think what have been the most

  successful titles. The trouble is they've all been used, like It

  Happened One Night.'

  Bee looked at him uneasily. He was having trouble keeping his eyes

  open and she did not want him to pass out in her office. After a

  minute she called Jack Berners.

  'Could you possibly come up? I've got some title ideas.'

  Jack arrived with a sheaf of suggestions sent in from here and

  there in the studio, but digging through them yielded no ore.

  'How about it, Pat? Got anything?'

  Pat braced himself to an effort.

  'I like It Happened One Morning,' he said--then looked desperately

  at his scrawl on the mimeograph paper, 'or else--Grand Motel.'

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