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The pat hobby stories, p.6

The Pat Hobby Stories, page 6

 

The Pat Hobby Stories
 


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'Hear you want to go on some sets,' said Pat, 'You friends of Jack

  Berners?'

  'Acquaintances,' said the youth. 'May I present you to my uncle:

  Sir Singrim Dak Raj.'

  Probably, thought Pat, the company was cooking up a Bengal Lancers,

  and this man would play the heavy who owned the Khyber Pass. Maybe

  they'd put Pat on it--at three-fifty a week. Why not? He knew how

  to write that stuff:

  Beautiful Long Shot. The Gorge. Show Tribesman firing from behind

  rocks.

  Medium Shot. Tribesman hit by bullet making nose dive over high

  rock. (use stunt man)

  Medium Long Shot. The Valley. British troops wheeling out cannon.

  'You going to be long in Hollywood?' he asked shrewdly.

  'My uncle doesn't speak English,' said the youth in a measured

  voice. 'We are here only a few days. You see--I am your putative

  son.'

  II

  '--And I would very much like to see Bonita Granville,' continued

  the youth. 'I find she has been borrowed by your studio.'

  They had been walking toward the production office and it took Pat

  a minute to grasp what the young man had said.

  'You're my what?' he asked.

  'Your putative son,' said the young man, in a sort of sing-song.

  'Legally I am the son and heir of the Rajah Dak Raj Indore. But I

  was born John Brown Hobby.'

  'Yes?' said Pat. 'Go on! What's this?'

  'My mother was Delia Brown. You married her in 1926. And she

  divorced you in 1927 when I was a few months old. Later she took

  me to India, where she married my present legal father.'

  'Oh,' said Pat. They had reached the production office. 'You want

  to see Bonita Granville.'

  'Yes,' said John Hobby Indore. 'If it is convenient.'

  Pat looked at the shooting schedule on the wall.

  'It may be,' he said heavily. 'We can go and see.'

  As they started toward Stage 4, he exploded.

  'What do you mean, "my potato son"? I'm glad to see you and all

  that, but say, are you really the kid Delia had in 1926?'

  'Putatively,' John Indore said. 'At that time you and she were

  legally married.'

  He turned to his uncle and spoke rapidly in Hindustani, whereupon

  the latter bent forward, looked with cold examination upon Pat and

  threw up his shoulders without comment. The whole business was

  making Pat vaguely uncomfortable.

  When he pointed out the commissary, John wanted to stop there 'to

  buy his uncle a hot dog'. It seemed that Sir Singrim had conceived

  a passion for them at the World's Fair in New York, whence they had

  just come. They were taking ship for Madras tomorrow.

  '--whether or not,' said John, sombrely. 'I get to see Bonita

  Granville. I do not care if I MEET her. I am too young for her.

  She is already an old woman by our standards. But I'd like to SEE

  her.'

  It was one of those bad days for showing people around. Only one

  of the directors shooting today was an old timer, on whom Pat could

  count for a welcome--and at the door of that stage he received word

  that the star kept blowing up in his lines and had demanded that

  the set be cleared.

  In desperation he took his charges out to the back lot and walked

  them past the false fronts of ships and cities and village streets,

  and medieval gates--a sight in which the boy showed a certain

  interest but which Sir Singrim found disappointing. Each time that

  Pat led them around behind to demonstrate that it was all phony Sir

  Singrim's expression would change to disappointment and faint

  contempt.

  'What's he say?' Pat asked his offspring, after Sir Singrim had

  walked eagerly into a Fifth Avenue jewellery store, to find nothing

  but carpenter's rubble inside.

  'He is the third richest man in India,' said John. 'He is

  disgusted. He says he will never enjoy an American picture again.

  He says he will buy one of our picture companies in India and make

  every set as solid as the Taj Mahal. He thinks perhaps the

  actresses just have a false front too, and that's why you won't let

  us see them.'

  The first sentence had rung a sort of carillon in Pat's head. If

  there was anything he liked it was a good piece of money--not this

  miserable, uncertain two-fifty a week which purchased his freedom.

  'I'll tell you,' he said with sudden decision. 'We'll try Stage 4,

  and peek at Bonita Granville.'

  Stage 4 was double locked and barred, for the day--the director

  hated visitors, and it was a process stage besides. 'Process' was

  a generic name for trick photography in which every studio competed

  with other studios, and lived in terror of spies. More

  specifically it meant that a projecting machine threw a moving

  background upon a transparent screen. On the other side of the

  screen, a scene was played and recorded against this moving

  background. The projector on one side of the screen and the camera

  on the other were so synchronized that the result could show a star

  standing on his head before an indifferent crowd on 42nd Street--a

  REAL crowd and a REAL star--and the poor eye could only conclude

  that it was being deluded and never quite guess how.

  Pat tried to explain this to John, but John was peering for Bonita

  Granville from behind the great mass of coiled ropes and pails

  where they hid. They had not got there by the front entrance, but

  by a little side door for technicians that Pat knew.

  Wearied by the long jaunt over the back lot, Pat took a pint flask

  from his hip and offered it to Sir Singrim who declined. He did

  not offer it to John.

  'Stunt your growth,' he said solemnly, taking a long pull.

  'I do not want any,' said John with dignity.

  He was suddenly alert. He had spotted an idol more glamorous than

  Siva not twenty feet away--her back, her profile, her voice. Then

  she moved off.

  Watching his face, Pat was rather touched.

  'We can go nearer,' he said. 'We might get to that ballroom set.

  They're not using it--they got covers on the furniture.'

  On tip toe they started, Pat in the lead, then Sir Singrim, then

  John. As they moved softly forward Pat heard the word 'Lights' and

  stopped in his tracks. Then, as a blinding white glow struck at

  their eyes and the voice shouted 'Quiet! We're rolling!' Pat began

  to run, followed quickly through the white silence by the others.

  The silence did not endure.

  'CUT!' screamed a voice, 'What the living, blazing hell!'

  From the director's angle something had happened on the screen

  which, for the moment, was inexplicable. Three gigantic

  silhouettes, two with huge Indian turbans, had danced across what

  was intended to be a New England harbour--they had blundered into

  the line of the process shot. Prince John Indore had not only seen

  Bonita Granville--he had acted in the same picture. His

  silhouetted foot seemed to pass miraculously through her blonde

  young head.

  III

  They sat for some time in the guard-room before word could be

  gotten to J
ack Berners, who was off the lot. So there was leisure

  for talk. This consisted of a longish harangue from Sir Singrim to

  John, which the latter--modifying its tone if not its words--

  translated to Pat.

  'My uncle says his brother wanted to do something for you. He

  thought perhaps if you were a great writer he might invite you to

  come to his kingdom and write his life.'

  'I never claimed to be--'

  'My uncle says you are an ignominious writer--in your own land you

  permitted him to be touched by those dogs of the policemen.'

  'Aw--bananas,' muttered Pat uncomfortably.

  'He says my mother always wished you well. But now she is a high

  and sacred lady and should never see you again. He says we will go

  to our chambers in the Ambassador Hotel and meditate and pray and

  let you know what we decide.'

  When they were released, and the two moguls were escorted

  apologetically to their car by a studio yes-man, it seemed to Pat

  that it had been pretty well decided already. He was angry. For

  the sake of getting his son a peek at Miss Granville, he had quite

  possibly lost his job--though he didn't really think so. Or rather

  he was pretty sure that when his week was up he would have lost it

  anyhow. But though it was a pretty bad break he remembered most

  clearly from the afternoon that Sir Singrim was 'the third richest

  man in India', and after dinner at a bar on La Cienega he decided

  to go down to the Ambassador Hotel and find out the result of the

  prayer and meditation.

  It was early dark of a September evening. The Ambassador was full

  of memories to Pat--the Coconut Grove in the great days, when

  directors found pretty girls in the afternoon and made stars of

  them by night. There was some activity in front of the door and

  Pat watched it idly. Such a quantity of baggage he had seldom

  seen, even in the train of Gloria Swanson or Joan Crawford. Then

  he started as he saw two or three men in turbans moving around

  among the baggage. So--they were running out on him.

  Sir Singrim Dak Raj and his nephew Prince John, both pulling on

  gloves as if at a command, appeared at the door, as Pat stepped

  forward out of the darkness.

  'Taking a powder, eh?' he said. 'Say, when you get back there,

  tell them that one American could lick--'

  'I have left a note for you,' said Prince John, turning from his

  Uncle's side. 'I say, you WERE nice this afternoon and it really

  was too bad.'

  'Yes, it was,' agreed Pat.

  'But we are providing for you,' John said. 'After our prayers we

  decided that you will receive fifty sovereigns a month--two hundred

  and fifty dollars--for the rest of your natural life.'

  'What will I have to do for it?' questioned Pat suspiciously.

  'It will only be withdrawn in case--'

  John leaned and whispered in Pat's ear, and relief crept into Pat's

  eyes. The condition had nothing to do with drink and blondes,

  really nothing to do with him at all.

  John began to get in the limousine.

  'Goodbye, putative father,' he said, almost with affection.

  Pat stood looking after him.

  'Goodbye son,' he said. He stood watching the limousine go out of

  sight. Then he turned away--feeling like--like Stella Dallas.

  There were tears in his eyes.

  Potato Father--whatever that meant. After some consideration he

  added to himself: it's better than not being a father at all.

  IV

  He awoke late next afternoon with a happy hangover--the cause of

  which he could not determine until young John's voice seemed to

  spring into his ears, repeating: 'Fifty sovereigns a month, with

  just one condition--that it be withdrawn in case of war, when all

  revenues of our state will revert to the British Empire.'

  With a cry Pat sprang to the door. No Los Angeles Times lay

  against it, no Examiner--only Toddy's Daily Form Sheet. He

  searched the orange pages frantically. Below the form sheets, the

  past performances, the endless oracles for endless racetracks, his

  eye was caught by a one-inch item:

  LONDON. SEPTEMBER 3RD. ON THIS MORNING'S DECLARATION BY

  CHAMBERLAIN, DOUGIE CABLES 'ENGLAND TO WIN. FRANCE TO PLACE.

  RUSSIA TO SHOW'.

  THE HOMES OF THE STARS

  Esquire (August 1940)

  Beneath a great striped umbrella at the side of a boulevard in a

  Hollywood heat wave, sat a man. His name was Gus Venske (no

  relation to the runner) and he wore magenta pants, cerise shoes and

  a sport article from Vine Street which resembled nothing so much as

  a cerulean blue pajama top.

  Gus Venske was not a freak nor were his clothes at all extraordinary

  for his time and place. He had a profession--on a pole beside the

  umbrella was a placard:

  VISIT THE HOMES OF THE STARS

  Business was bad or Gus would not have hailed the unprosperous man

  who stood in the street beside a panting, steaming car, anxiously

  watching its efforts to cool.

  'Hey fella,' said Gus, without much hope. 'Wanna visit the homes

  of the stars?'

  The red-rimmed eyes of the watcher turned from the automobile and

  looked superciliously upon Gus.

  'I'm IN pictures,' said the man, 'I'm in 'em myself.'

  'Actor?'

  'No. Writer.'

  Pat Hobby turned back to his car, which was whistling like a peanut

  wagon. He had told the truth--or what was once the truth. Often

  in the old days his name had flashed on the screen for the few

  seconds allotted to authorship, but for the past five years his

  services had been less and less in demand.

  Presently Gus Venske shut up shop for lunch by putting his folders

  and maps into a briefcase and walking off with it under his arm.

  As the sun grew hotter moment by moment, Pat Hobby took refuge

  under the faint protection of the umbrella and inspected a soiled

  folder which had been dropped by Mr Venske. If Pat had not been

  down to his last fourteen cents he would have telephoned a garage

  for aid--as it was, he could only wait.

  After a while a limousine with a Missouri licence drew to rest

  beside him. Behind the chauffeur sat a little white moustached man

  and a large woman with a small dog. They conversed for a moment--

  then, in a rather shamefaced way, the woman leaned out and

  addressed Pat.

  'What stars' homes can you visit?' she asked.

  It took a moment for this to sink in.

  'I mean can we go to Robert Taylor's home and Clark Gable's and

  Shirley Temple's--'

  'I guess you can if you can get in,' said Pat.

  'Because--' continued the woman, '--if we could go to the very best

  homes, the most exclusive--we would be prepared to pay more than

  your regular price.'

  Light dawned upon Pat. Here together were suckers and smackers.

  Here was that dearest of Hollywood dreams--the angle. If one got

  the right angle it meant meals at the Brown Derby, long nights with

  bottles and girls, a new tyre for his old car. And here was an

  angle fairly thrusting i
tself at him.

  He rose and went to the side of the limousine.

  'Sure. Maybe I could fix it.' As he spoke he felt a pang of

  doubt. 'Would you be able to pay in advance?'

  The couple exchanged a look.

  'Suppose we gave you five dollars now,' the woman said, 'and five

  dollars if we can visit Clark Gable's home or somebody like that.'

  Once upon a time such a thing would have been so easy. In his

  salad days when Pat had twelve or fifteen writing credits a year,

  he could have called up many people who would have said, 'Sure,

  Pat, if it means anything to you.' But now he could only think of

  a handful who really recognized him and spoke to him around the

  lots--Melvyn Douglas and Robert Young and Ronald Colman and Young

  Doug. Those he had known best had retired or passed away.

  And he did not know except vaguely where the new stars lived, but

  he had noticed that on the folder were typewritten several dozen

  names and addresses with pencilled checks after each.

  'Of course you can't be sure anybody's at home,' he said, 'they

  might be working in the studios.'

  'We understand that.' The lady glanced at Pat's car, glanced away.

  'We'd better go in our motor.'

  'Sure.'

  Pat got up in front with the chauffeur--trying to think fast. The

  actor who spoke to him most pleasantly was Ronald Colman--they had

  never exchanged more than conventional salutations but he might

  pretend that he was calling to interest Colman in a story.

  Better still, Colman was probably not at home and Pat might wangle

  his clients an inside glimpse of the house. Then the process might

  be repeated at Robert Young's house and Young Doug's and Melvyn

  Douglas'. By that time the lady would have forgotten Gable and the

  afternoon would be over.

  He looked at Ronald Colman's address on the folder and gave the

  direction to the chauffeur.

  'We know a woman who had her picture taken with George Brent,' said

  the lady as they started off, 'Mrs Horace J. Ives, Jr.'

  'She's our neighbour,' said her husband. 'She lives at 372 Rose

  Drive in Kansas City. And we live at 327.'

  'She had her picture taken with George Brent. We always wondered

  if she had to pay for it. Of course I don't know that I'd want to

  go so far as THAT. I don't know what they'd say back home.'

  'I don't think we want to go as far as all that,' agreed her

  husband.

  'Where are we going first?' asked the lady, cosily.

  'Well, I had a couple calls to pay anyhow,' said Pat. 'I got to

  see Ronald Colman about something.'

  'Oh, he's one of my favourites. Do you know him well?'

  'Oh yes,' said Pat, 'I'm not in this business regularly. I'm just

  doing it today for a friend. I'm a writer.'

  Sure in the knowledge that not so much as a trio of picture writers

  were known to the public he named himself as the author of several

  recent successes.

  'That's very interesting,' said the man, 'I knew a writer once--

  this Upton Sinclair or Sinclair Lewis. Not a bad fellow even if he

  was a socialist.'

  'Why aren't you writing a picture now?' asked the lady.

  'Well, you see we're on strike,' Pat invented. 'We got a thing

  called the Screen Playwriters' Guild and we're on strike.'

  'Oh.' His clients stared with suspicion at this emissary of Stalin

  in the front seat of their car.

  'What are you striking for?' asked the man uneasily.

  Pat's political development was rudimentary. He hesitated.

  'Oh, better living conditions,' he said finally, 'free pencils and

  paper, I don't know--it's all in the Wagner Act.' After a moment

 
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