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The pat hobby stories, p.4

The Pat Hobby Stories, page 4

 

The Pat Hobby Stories
 


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tell that the structure wasn't Pat's? Katherine Hodge would say

  nothing, for fear of implicating herself. They were all guilty but

  guiltiest of all was Ren Wilcox for refusing to play the game.

  Always, according to his lights, Pat had played the game.

  He had another drink, bought breath tablets and for awhile amused

  himself at the nickel machine in the drugstore. Louie, the studio

  bookie, asked if he was interested in wagers on a bigger scale.

  "Not today, Louie."

  "What are they paying you, Pat?"

  "Thousand a week."

  "Not so bad."

  "Oh, a lot of us old-timers are coming back," Pat prophesied. "In

  silent days was where you got real training--with directors

  shooting off the cuff and needing a gag in a split second. Now

  it's a sis job. They got English teachers working in pictures!

  What do they know?"

  "How about a little something on 'Quaker Girl'?"

  "No," said Pat. "This afternoon I got an important angle to work

  on. I don't want to worry about horses."

  At three-fifteen he returned to his office to find two copies of

  his script in bright new covers.

  BALLET SHOES

  from

  Ren Wilcox and Pat Hobby

  First Revise

  It reassured him to see his name in type. As he waited in Jack

  Berners' anteroom he almost wished he had reversed the names. With

  the right director this might be another It Happened One Night, and

  if he got his name on something like that it meant a three or four

  year gravy ride. But this time he'd save his money--go to Santa

  Anita only once a week--get himself a girl along the type of

  Katherine Hodge, who wouldn't expect a mansion in Beverly Hills.

  Berners' secretary interrupted his reverie, telling him to go in.

  As he entered he saw with gratification that a copy of the new

  script lay on Berners' desk.

  "Did you ever--" asked Berners suddenly "--go to a psychoanalyst?"

  "No," admitted Pat. "But I suppose I could get up on it. Is it a

  new assignment?"

  "Not exactly. It's just that I think you've lost your grip. Even

  larceny requires a certain cunning. I've just talked to Wilcox on

  the phone."

  "Wilcox must be nuts," said Pat, aggressively. "I didn't steal

  anything from him. His name's on it, isn't it? Two weeks ago I

  laid out all his structure--every scene. I even wrote one whole

  scene--at the end about the war."

  "Oh yes, the war," said Berners as if he was thinking of something

  else.

  "But if you like Wilcox's ending better--"

  "Yes, I like his ending better. I never saw a man pick up this

  work so fast." He paused. "Pat, you've told the truth just once

  since you came in this room--that you didn't steal anything from

  Wilcox."

  "I certainly did not. I GAVE him stuff."

  But a certain dreariness, a grey malaise, crept over him as Berners

  continued:

  "I told you we had three scripts. You used an old one we discarded

  a year ago. Wilcox was in when your secretary arrived, and he sent

  one of them to you. Clever, eh?"

  Pat was speechless.

  "You see, he and that girl like each other. Seems she typed a play

  for him this summer."

  "They like each other," said Pat incredulously. "Why, he--"

  "Hold it, Pat. You've had trouble enough today."

  "He's responsible," Pat cried. "He wouldn't collaborate--and all

  the time--"

  "--he was writing a swell script. And he can write his own ticket

  if we can persuade him to stay here and do another."

  Pat could stand no more. He stood up.

  "Anyhow thank you, Jack," he faltered. "Call my agent if anything

  turns up." Then he bolted suddenly and surprisingly for the door.

  Jack Berners signaled on the Dictograph for the President's office.

  "Get a chance to read it?" he asked in a tone of eagerness.

  "It's swell. Better than you said. Wilcox is with me now."

  "Have you signed him up?"

  "I'm going to. Seems he wants to work with Hobby. Here, you talk

  to him."

  Wilcox's rather high voice came over the wire.

  "Must have Mike Hobby," he said. "Grateful to him. Had a quarrel

  with a certain young lady just before he came, but today Hobby

  brought us together. Besides I want to write a play about him. So

  give him to me--you fellows don't want him any more."

  Berners picked up his secretary's phone.

  "Go after Pat Hobby. He's probably in the bar across the street.

  We're putting him on salary again but we'll be sorry." He switched

  off, switched on again. "Oh! Take him his hat. He forgot his

  hat."

  PAT HOBBY AND ORSON WELLES

  Esquire (May 1940)

  I

  'Who's this Welles?' Pat asked of Louie, the studio bookie. 'Every

  time I pick up a paper they got about this Welles.'

  'You know, he's that beard,' explained Louie.

  'Sure, I know he's that beard, you couldn't miss that. But what

  credits's he got? What's he done to draw one hundred and fifty

  grand a picture?'

  What indeed? Had he, like Pat, been in Hollywood over twenty

  years? Did he have credits that would knock your eye out,

  extending up to--well, up to five years ago when Pat's credits had

  begun to be few and far between?

  'Listen--they don't last long,' said Louie consolingly, 'We've seen

  'em come and we've seen 'em go. Hey, Pat?'

  Yes--but meanwhile those who had toiled in the vineyard through the

  heat of the day were lucky to get a few weeks at three-fifty. Men

  who had once had wives and Filipinos and swimming pools.

  'Maybe it's the beard,' said Louie. 'Maybe you and I should grow a

  beard. My father had a beard but it never got him off Grand

  Street.'

  The gift of hope had remained with Pat through his misfortunes--and

  the valuable alloy of his hope was proximity. Above all things one

  must stick around, one must be there when the glazed, tired mind of

  the producer grappled with the question 'Who?' So presently Pat

  wandered out of the drug-store, and crossed the street to the lot

  that was home.

  As he passed through the side entrance an unfamiliar studio

  policeman stood in his way.

  'Everybody in the front entrance now.'

  'I'm Hobby, the writer,' Pat said.

  The Cossack was unimpressed.

  'Got your card?'

  'I'm between pictures. But I've got an engagement with Jack

  Berners.'

  'Front gate.'

  As he turned away Pat thought savagely: 'Lousy Keystone Cop!' In

  his mind he shot it out with him. Plunk! the stomach. Plunk!

  plunk! plunk!

  At the main entrance, too, there was a new face.

  'Where's Ike?' Pat demanded.

  'Ike's gone.'

  'Well, it's all right, I'm Pat Hobby. Ike always passes me.'

  'That's why he's gone,' said the guardian blandly. 'Who's your

  business with?'

  Pat hesitated. He hated to disturb a producer.

  '
Call Jack Berners' office,' he said. 'Just speak to his

  secretary.'

  After a minute the man turned from the phone.

  'What about?' he said.

  'About a picture.'

  He waited for an answer.

  'She wants to know what picture?'

  'To hell with it,' said Pat disgustedly. 'Look--call Louie

  Griebel. What's all this about?'

  'Orders from Mr Kasper,' said the clerk. 'Last week a visitor from

  Chicago fell in the wind machine--Hello. Mr Louie Griebel?'

  'I'll talk to him,' said Pat, taking the phone.

  'I can't do nothing, Pat,' mourned Louie. 'I had trouble getting

  my boy in this morning. Some twirp from Chicago fell in the wind

  machine.'

  'What's that got to do with me?' demanded Pat vehemently.

  He walked, a little faster than his wont, along the studio wall to

  the point where it joined the back lot. There was a guard there

  but there were always people passing to and fro and he joined one

  of the groups. Once inside he would see Jack and have himself

  excepted from this absurd ban. Why, he had known this lot when the

  first shacks were rising on it, when this was considered the edge

  of the desert.

  'Sorry mister, you with this party?'

  'I'm in a hurry,' said Pat. 'I've lost my card.'

  'Yeah? Well, for all I know you may be a plain clothes man.' He

  held open a copy of a photo magazine under Pat's nose. 'I wouldn't

  let you in even if you told me you was this here Orson Welles.'

  II

  There is an old Chaplin picture about a crowded street car where

  the entrance of one man at the rear forces another out in front. A

  similar image came into Pat's mind in the ensuing days whenever he

  thought of Orson Welles. Welles was in; Hobby was out. Never

  before had the studio been barred to Pat and though Welles was on

  another lot it seemed as if his large body, pushing in brashly from

  nowhere, had edged Pat out the gate.

  'Now where do you go?' Pat thought. He had worked in the other

  studios but they were not his. At this studio he never felt

  unemployed--in recent times of stress he had eaten property food on

  its stages--half a cold lobster during a scene from The Divine Miss

  Carstairs; he had often slept on the sets and last winter made use

  of a Chesterfield overcoat from the costume department. Orson

  Welles had no business edging him out of this. Orson Welles

  belonged with the rest of the snobs back in New York.

  On the third day he was frantic with gloom. He had sent note after

  note to Jack Berners and even asked Louie to intercede--now word

  came that Jack had left town. There were so few friends left.

  Desolate, he stood in front of the automobile gate with a crowd of

  staring children, feeling that he had reached the end at last.

  A great limousine rolled out, in the back of which Pat recognized

  the great overstuffed Roman face of Harold Marcus. The car rolled

  toward the children and, as one of them ran in front of it, slowed

  down. The old man spoke into the tube and the car halted. He

  leaned out blinking.

  'Is there no policeman here?' he asked of Pat.

  'No, Mr Marcus,' said Pat quickly. 'There should be. I'm Pat

  Hobby, the writer--could you give me a lift down the street?'

  It was unprecedented--it was an act of desperation but Pat's need

  was great.

  Mr Marcus looked at him closely.

  'Oh yes, I remember you,' he said. 'Get in.'

  He might possibly have meant get up in front with the chauffeur.

  Pat compromised by opening one of the little seats. Mr Marcus was

  one of the most powerful men in the whole picture world. He did

  not occupy himself with production any longer. He spent most of

  his time rocking from coast to coast on fast trains, merging and

  launching, launching and merging, like a much divorced woman.

  'Some day those children'll get hurt.'

  'Yes, Mr Marcus,' agreed Pat heartily, 'Mr Marcus--'

  'They ought to have a policeman there.'

  'Yes. Mr Marcus. Mr Marcus--'

  'Hm-m-m!' said Mr Marcus. 'Where do you want to be dropped?'

  Pat geared himself to work fast.

  'Mr Marcus, when I was your press agent--'

  'I know,' said Mr Marcus. 'You wanted a ten dollar a week raise.'

  'What a memory!' cried Pat in gladness. 'What a memory! But Mr

  Marcus, now I don't want anything at all.'

  'This is a miracle.'

  'I've got modest wants, see, and I've saved enough to retire.'

  He thrust his shoes slightly forward under a hanging blanket, The

  Chesterfield coat effectively concealed the rest.

  'That's what I'd like,' said Mr Marcus gloomily. 'A farm--with

  chickens. Maybe a little nine-hole course. Not even a stock

  ticker.'

  'I want to retire, but different,' said Pat earnestly. 'Pictures

  have been my life. I want to watch them grow and grow--'

  Mr Marcus groaned.

  'Till they explode,' he said. 'Look at Fox! I cried for him.' He

  pointed to his eyes, 'Tears!'

  Pat nodded very sympathetically.

  'I want only one thing.' From the long familiarity he went into

  the foreign locution. 'I should go on the lot anytime. From

  nothing. Only to be there. Should bother nobody. Only help a

  little from nothing if any young person wants advice.'

  'See Berners,' said Marcus.

  'He said see you.'

  'Then you did want something,' Marcus smiled. 'All right, all

  right by me. Where do you get off now?'

  'Could you write me a pass?' Pat pleaded. 'Just a word on your

  card?'

  'I'll look into it,' said Mr Marcus. 'Just now I've got things on

  my mind. I'm going to a luncheon.' He sighed profoundly. 'They

  want I should meet this new Orson Welles that's in Hollywood.'

  Pat's heart winced. There it was again--that name, sinister and

  remorseless, spreading like a dark cloud over all his skies.

  'Mr Marcus,' he said so sincerely that his voice trembled, 'I

  wouldn't be surprised if Orson Welles is the biggest menace that's

  come to Hollywood for years. He gets a hundred and fifty grand a

  picture and I wouldn't be surprised if he was so radical that you

  had to have all new equipment and start all over again like you did

  with sound in 1928.'

  'Oh my God!' groaned Mr Marcus.

  'And me,' said Pat, 'all I want is a pass and no money--to leave

  things as they are.'

  Mr Marcus reached for his card case.

  III

  To those grouped together under the name 'talent', the atmosphere

  of a studio is not unfailingly bright--one fluctuates too quickly

  between high hope and grave apprehension. Those few who decide

  things are happy in their work and sure that they are worthy of

  their hire--the rest live in a mist of doubt as to when their vast

  inadequacy will be disclosed.

  Pat's psychology was, oddly, that of the masters and for the most

  part he was unworried even though he was off salary. But there was

  one large fly in the ointment--for the first time in his life he

  began to feel a loss of identity
. Due to reasons that he did not

  quite understand, though it might have been traced to his

  conversation, a number of people began to address him as 'Orson'.

  Now to lose one's identity is a careless thing in any case. But to

  lose it to an enemy, or at least to one who has become scapegoat

  for our misfortunes--that is a hardship. Pat was NOT Orson. Any

  resemblance must be faint and far-fetched and he was aware of the

  fact. The final effect was to make him, in that regard, something

  of an eccentric.

  'Pat,' said Joe the barber, 'Orson was in here today and asked me

  to trim his beard.'

  'I hope you set fire to it,' said Pat.

  'I did,' Joe winked at waiting customers over a hot towel. 'He

  asked for a singe so I took it all off. Now his face is as bald as

  yours. In fact you look a bit alike.'

  This was the morning the kidding was so ubiquitous that, to avoid

  it, Pat lingered in Mario's bar across the street. He was not

  drinking--at the bar, that is, for he was down to his last thirty

  cents, but he refreshed himself frequently from a half-pint in his

  back pocket. He needed the stimulus for he had to make a touch

  presently and he knew that money was easier to borrow when one

  didn't have an air of urgent need.

  His quarry, Jeff Boldini, was in an unsympathetic state of mind.

  He too was an artist, albeit a successful one, and a certain great

  lady of the screen had just burned him up by criticizing a wig he

  had made for her. He told the story to Pat at length and the

  latter waited until it was all out before broaching his request.

  'No soap,' said Jeff. 'Hell, you never paid me back what you

  borrowed last month.'

  'But I got a job now,' lied Pat. 'This is just to tide me over. I

  start tomorrow.'

  'If they don't give the job to Orson Welles,' said Jeff humorously.

  Pat's eyes narrowed but he managed to utter a polite, borrower's

  laugh.

  'Hold it,' said Jeff. 'You know I think you look like him?'

  'Yeah.'

  'Honest. Anyhow I could make you look like him. I could make you

  a beard that would be his double.'

  'I wouldn't be his double for fifty grand.'

  With his head on one side Jeff regarded Pat.

  'I could,' he said. 'Come on in to my chair and let me see.'

  'Like hell.'

  'Come on. I'd like to try it. You haven't got anything to do.

  You don't work till tomorrow.'

  'I don't want a beard.'

  'It'll come off.'

  'I don't want it.'

  'It won't cost you anything. In fact I'll be paying YOU--I'll loan

  you the ten smackers if you'll let me make you a beard.'

  Half an hour later Jeff looked at his completed work.

  'It's perfect,' he said. 'Not only the beard but the eyes and

  everything.'

  'All right. Now take it off,' said Pat moodily.

  'What's the hurry? That's a fine muff. That's a work of art. We

  ought to put a camera on it. Too bad you're working tomorrow--

  they're using a dozen beards out on Sam Jones' set and one of them

  went to jail in a homo raid. I bet with that muff you could get

  the job.'

  It was weeks since Pat had heard the word job and he could not

  himself say how he managed to exist and eat. Jeff saw the light in

  his eye.

  'What say? Let me drive you out there just for fun,' pleaded Jeff.

  'I'd like to see if Sam could tell it was a phony muff.'

  'I'm a writer, not a ham.'

  'Come on! Nobody would never know you back of that. And you'd

  draw another ten bucks.'

 
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