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The pat hobby stories, p.2

The Pat Hobby Stories, page 2

 

The Pat Hobby Stories
 


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think I haven't got it?'

  'Oh, you've got it all right,' Gooddorf howled. 'You've got it--

  but it isn't what you think it is.'

  He came back to the table, sat down and addressed Pat.

  'Do you know what I thought that date meant? I thought maybe it

  was the date Helen and I first fell for each other. That's what I

  thought. And I thought she was going to raise Cain about it. I

  thought she was nuts. She's been married twice since then, and so

  have I.'

  'That doesn't explain the note,' said Pat sternly but with a sinky

  feeling. 'You admit you killed Taylor.'

  Gooddorf nodded.

  'I still think a lot of us did,' he said. 'We were a wild crowd--

  Taylor and Bronson and me and half the boys in the big money. So a

  bunch of us got together in an agreement to go slow. The country

  was waiting for somebody to hang. We tried to get Taylor to watch

  his step but he wouldn't. So instead of cracking down on him, we

  let him "go the pace". And some rat shot him--who did it I don't

  know.'

  He stood up.

  'Like somebody should have cracked down on YOU, Pat. But you were

  an amusing guy in those days, and besides we were all too busy.'

  Pat sniffled suddenly.

  'I've BEEN cracked down on,' he said. 'Plenty.'

  'But too late,' said Gooddorf, and added, 'you've probably got a

  new Christmas wish by now, and I'll grant it to you. I won't say

  anything about this afternoon.'

  When he had gone, Pat and Helen sat in silence. Presently Pat took

  out the note again and looked it over.

  '"So why not shut up?"' he read aloud. 'He didn't explain that.'

  'Why NOT shut up?' Helen said.

  A MAN IN THE WAY

  Esquire (February 1940)

  I

  Pat Hobby could always get on the lot. He had worked there fifteen

  years on and off--chiefly off during the past five--and most of the

  studio police knew him. If tough customers on watch asked to see

  his studio card he could get in by phoning Lou, the bookie. For

  Lou also, the studio had been home for many years.

  Pat was forty-nine. He was a writer but he had never written much,

  nor even read all the 'originals' he worked from, because it made

  his head bang to read much. But the good old silent days you got

  somebody's plot and a smart secretary and gulped benzedrine

  'structure' at her six or eight hours every week. The director

  took care of the gags. After talkies came he always teamed up with

  some man who wrote dialogue. Some young man who liked to work.

  'I've got a list of credits second to none,' he told Jack Berners.

  'All I need is an idea and to work with somebody who isn't all

  wet.'

  He had buttonholed Jack outside the production office as Jack was

  going to lunch and they walked together in the direction of the

  commissary.

  'You bring me an idea,' said Jack Berners. 'Things are tight. We

  can't put a man on salary unless he's got an idea.'

  'How can you get ideas off salary?' Pat demanded--then he added

  hastily: 'Anyhow I got the germ of an idea that I could be telling

  you all about at lunch.'

  Something might come to him at lunch. There was Baer's notion

  about the boy scout. But Jack said cheerfully:

  'I've got a date for lunch, Pat. Write it out and send it around,

  eh?'

  He felt cruel because he knew Pat couldn't write anything out but

  he was having story trouble himself. The war had just broken out

  and every producer on the lot wanted to end their current stories

  with the hero going to war. And Jack Berners felt he had thought

  of that first for his production.

  'So write it out, eh?'

  When Pat didn't answer Jack looked at him--he saw a sort of whipped

  misery in Pat's eye that reminded him of his own father. Pat had

  been in the money before Jack was out of college--with three cars

  and a chicken over every garage. Now his clothes looked as if he'd

  been standing at Hollywood and Vine for three years.

  'Scout around and talk to some of the writers on the lot,' he said.

  'If you can get one of them interested in your idea, bring him up

  to see me.'

  'I hate to give an idea without money on the line,' Pat brooded

  pessimistically, 'These young squirts'll lift the shirt off your

  back.'

  They had reached the commissary door.

  'Good luck, Pat. Anyhow we're not in Poland.'

  --Good YOU'RE not, said Pat under his breath. They'd slit your

  gizzard.

  Now what to do? He went up and wandered along the cell block of

  writers. Almost everyone had gone to lunch and those who were in

  he didn't know. Always there were more and more unfamiliar faces.

  And he had thirty credits; he had been in the business, publicity

  and script-writing, for twenty years.

  The last door in the line belonged to a man he didn't like. But he

  wanted a place to sit a minute so with a knock he pushed it open.

  The man wasn't there--only a very pretty, frail-looking girl sat

  reading a book.

  'I think he's left Hollywood,' she said in answer to his question.

  'They gave me his office but they forgot to put up my name.'

  'You a writer?' Pat asked in surprise.

  'I work at it.'

  'You ought to get 'em to give you a test.'

  'No--I like writing.'

  'What's that you're reading.'

  She showed him.

  'Let me give you a tip,' he said. 'That's not the way to get the

  guts out of a book.'

  'Oh.'

  'I've been here for years--I'm Pat Hobby--and I KNOW. Give the

  book to four of your friends to read it. Get them to tell you what

  stuck in their minds. Write it down and you've got a picture--

  see?'

  The girl smiled.

  'Well, that's very--very original advice, Mr Hobby.'

  'Pat Hobby,' he said. 'Can I wait here a minute? Man I came to

  see is at lunch.'

  He sat down across from her and picked up a copy of a photo

  magazine.

  'Oh, just let me mark that,' she said quickly.

  He looked at the page which she checked. It showed paintings being

  boxed and carted away to safety from an art gallery in Europe.

  'How'll you use it?' he said.

  'Well, I thought it would be dramatic if there was an old man

  around while they were packing the pictures. A poor old man,

  trying to get a job helping them. But they can't use him--he's in

  the way--not even good cannon fodder. They want strong young

  people in the world. And it turns out he's the man who painted the

  pictures many years ago.'

  Pat considered.

  'It's good but I don't get it,' he said.

  'Oh, it's nothing, a short short maybe.'

  'Got any good picture ideas? I'm in with all the markets here.'

  'I'm under contract.'

  'Use another name.'

  Her phone rang.

  'Yes, this is Pricilla Smith,' the girl said.

  After a minute she turned to Pat.

  'Will you excuse me? This is a private call.'

  He got it and walked out, and along the corridor. Fi
nding an

  office with no name on it he went in and fell asleep on the couch.

  II

  Late that afternoon he returned to Jack Berners' waiting rooms. He

  had an idea about a man who meets a girl in an office and he thinks

  she's a stenographer but she turns out to be a writer. He engages

  her as a stenographer, though, and they start for the South Seas.

  It was a beginning, it was something to tell Jack, he thought--and,

  picturing Pricilla Smith, he refurbished some old business he

  hadn't seen used for years.

  He became quite excited about it--felt quite young for a moment and

  walked up and down the waiting room mentally rehearsing the first

  sequence. 'So here we have a situation like It Happened One Night--

  only NEW. I see Hedy Lamarr--'

  Oh, he knew how to talk to these boys if he could get to them, with

  something to say.

  'Mr Berners still busy?' he asked for the fifth time.

  'Oh, yes, Mr Hobby. Mr Bill Costello and Mr Bach are in there.'

  He thought quickly. It was half-past five. In the old days he had

  just busted in sometimes and sold an idea, an idea good for a

  couple of grand because it was just the moment when they were very

  tired of what they were doing at present.

  He walked innocently out and to another door in the hall. He knew

  it led through a bathroom right in to Jack Berners' office.

  Drawing a quick breath he plunged . . .

  '. . . So that's the notion,' he concluded after five minutes.

  'It's just a flash--nothing really worked out, but you could give

  me an office and a girl and I could have something on paper for you

  in three days.'

  Berners, Costello and Bach did not even have to look at each other.

  Berners spoke for them all as he said firmly and gently:

  'That's no idea, Pat. I can't put you on salary for that.'

  'Why don't you work it out further by yourself,' suggested Bill

  Costello. 'And then let's see it. We're looking for ideas--

  especially about the war.'

  'A man can think better on salary,' said Pat.

  There was silence. Costello and Bach had drunk with him, played

  poker with him, gone to the races with him. They'd honestly be

  glad to see him placed.

  'The war, eh,' he said gloomily. 'Everything is war now, no matter

  how many credits a man has. Do you know what it makes me think of?

  It makes me think of a well-known painter in the discard. It's war

  time and he's useless--just a man in the way.' He warmed to his

  conception of himself, '--but all the time they're carting away his

  OWN PAINTINGS as the most valuable thing worth saving. And they

  won't even let me help. That's what it reminds me of.'

  There was again silence for a moment.

  'That isn't a bad idea,' said Bach thoughtfully. He turned to the

  others. 'You know? In itself?'

  Bill Costello nodded

  'Not bad at all. And I know where we could spot it. Right at the

  end of the fourth sequence. We just change old Ames to a painter.'

  Presently they talked money.

  'I'll give you two weeks on it,' said Berners to Pat. 'At two-

  fifty.'

  'Two-fifty!' objected Pat. 'Say there was one time you paid me ten

  times that!'

  'That was ten years ago,' Jack reminded him. 'Sorry. Best we can

  do now.'

  'You make me feel like that old painter--'

  'Don't oversell it,' said Jack, rising and smiling. 'You're on the

  payroll.'

  Pat went out with a quick step and confidence in his eyes. Half a

  grand--that would take the pressure off for a month and you could

  often stretch two weeks into three--sometimes four. He left the

  studio proudly through the front entrance, stopping at the liquor

  store for a half-pint to take back to his room.

  By seven o'clock things were even better. Santa Anita tomorrow, if

  he could get an advance. And tonight--something festive ought to

  be done tonight. With a sudden rush of pleasure he went down to

  the phone in the lower hall, called the studio and asked for Miss

  Pricilla Smith's number. He hadn't met anyone so pretty for

  years . . .

  In her apartment Pricilla Smith spoke rather firmly into the phone.

  'I'm awfully sorry,' she said, 'but I couldn't possibly . . . No--

  and I'm tied up all the rest of the week.'

  As she hung up, Jack Berners spoke from the couch.

  'Who was it?'

  'Oh, some man who came in the office,' she laughed, 'and told me

  never to read the story I was working on.'

  'Shall I believe you?'

  'You certainly shall. I'll even think of his name in a minute.

  But first I want to tell you about an idea I had this morning. I

  was looking at a photo in a magazine where they were packing up

  some works of art in the Tate Gallery in London. And I thought--'

  "BOIL SOME WATER--LOTS OF IT"

  Esquire (March 1940)

  Pat Hobby sat in his office in the writers' building and looked at

  his morning's work, just come back from the script department. He

  was on a "polish job," about the only kind he ever got nowadays.

  He was to repair a messy sequence in a hurry, but the word "hurry"

  neither frightened nor inspired him for Pat had been in Hollywood

  since he was thirty--now he was forty-nine. All the work he had

  done this morning (except a little changing around of lines so he

  could claim them as his own)--all he had actually invented was a

  single imperative sentence, spoken by a doctor.

  "Boil some water--lots of it."

  It was a good line. It had sprung into his mind full grown as soon

  as he had read the script. In the old silent days Pat would have

  used it as a spoken title and ended his dialogue worries for a

  space, but he needed some spoken words for other people in the

  scene. Nothing came.

  "Boil some water," he repeated to himself. "Lots of it."

  The word boil brought a quick glad thought of the commissary. A

  reverent thought too--for an old-timer like Pat, what people you

  sat with at lunch was more important in getting along than what you

  dictated in your office. This was no art, as he often said--this

  was an industry.

  "This is no art," he remarked to Max Learn who was leisurely

  drinking at a corridor water cooler. "This is an industry."

  Max had flung him this timely bone of three weeks at three-fifty.

  "Say look, Pat! Have you got anything down on paper yet?"

  "Say I've got some stuff already that'll make 'em--" He named a

  familiar biological function with the somewhat startling assurance

  that it would take place in the theater.

  Max tried to gauge his sincerity.

  "Want to read it to me now?" he asked.

  "Not yet. But it's got the old guts if you know what I mean."

  Max was full of doubts.

  "Well, go to it. And if you run into any medical snags check with

  the doctor over at the First Aid Station. It's got to be right."

  The spirit of Pasteur shone firmly in Pat's eyes.

  "It will be."

  He felt good walking across the lot with Max--so good that he

  decided
to glue himself to the producer and sit down with him at

  the Big Table. But Max foiled his intention by cooing "See you

  later" and slipping into the barber shop.

  Once Pat had been a familiar figure at the Big Table; often in his

  golden prime he had dined in the private canteens of executives.

  Being of the older Hollywood he understood their jokes, their

  vanities, their social system with its swift fluctuations. But

  there were too many new faces at the Big Table now--faces that

  looked at him with the universal Hollywood suspicion. And at the

  little tables where the young writers sat they seemed to take work

  so seriously. As for just sitting down anywhere, even with

  secretaries or extras--Pat would rather catch a sandwich at the

  corner.

  Detouring to the Red Cross Station he asked for the doctor. A

  girl, a nurse, answered from a wall mirror where she was hastily

  drawing her lips, "He's out. What is it?"

  "Oh. Then I'll come back."

  She had finished, and now she turned--vivid and young and with a

  bright consoling smile.

  "Miss Stacey will help you. I'm about to go to lunch."

  He was aware of an old, old feeling--left over from the time when

  he had had wives--a feeling that to invite this little beauty to

  lunch might cause trouble. But he remembered quickly that he

  didn't have any wives now--they had both given up asking for

  alimony.

  "I'm working on a medical," he said. "I need some help."

  "A medical?"

  "Writing it--idea about a doc. Listen--let me buy you lunch. I

  want to ask you some medical questions."

  The nurse hesitated.

  "I don't know. It's my first day out here."

  "It's all right," he assured her, "studios are democratic;

  everybody is just 'Joe' or 'Mary'--from the big shots right down to

  the prop boys."

  He proved it magnificently on their way to lunch by greeting a male

  star and getting his own name back in return. And in the

  commissary, where they were placed hard by the Big Table, his

  producer, Max Leam, looked up, did a little "takem" and winked.

  The nurse--her name was Helen Earle--peered about eagerly.

  "I don't see anybody," she said. "Except oh, there's Ronald

  Colman. I didn't know Ronald Colman looked like that."

  Pat pointed suddenly to the floor.

  "And there's Mickey Mouse!"

  She jumped and Pat laughed at his joke--but Helen Earle was already

  staring starry-eyed at the costume extras who filled the hall with

  the colors of the First Empire. Pat was piqued to see her interest

  go out to these nonentities.

  "The big shots are at this next table," he said solemnly,

  wistfully, "directors and all except the biggest executives. They

  could have Ronald Colman pressing pants. I usually sit over there

  but they don't want ladies. At lunch, that is, they don't want

  ladies."

  "Oh," said Helen Earle, polite but unimpressed. "It must be

  wonderful to be a writer too. It's so very interesting."

  "It has its points," he said . . . he had thought for years it was

  a dog's life.

  "What is it you want to ask me about a doctor?"

  Here was toil again. Something in Pat's mind snapped off when he

  thought of the story.

  "Well, Max Leam--that man facing us--Max Leam and I have a script

  about a Doc. You know? Like a hospital picture?"

  "I know." And she added after a moment, "That's the reason that I

  went in training."

  "And we've got to have it RIGHT because a hundred million people

  would check on it. So this doctor in the script he tells them to

 
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