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The pat hobby stories, p.8

The Pat Hobby Stories, page 8

 

The Pat Hobby Stories
 


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something else.'

  'What is it?' persisted Pat. 'If I got to be protected against

  something I got a right to know what it is.'

  Near the false front of a warehouse a battery of cameras were

  getting into position. George Hilliard came suddenly out of a

  group and toward Pat and putting his arm on his shoulder steered

  him toward the actors' dressing tent. Once inside he handed Pat a

  flask.

  'Have a drink, old man.'

  Pat took a long pull.

  'There's a bit of business, Pat,' Hilliard said, 'needs some new

  costuming. I'll explain it while they dress you.'

  Pat was divested of coat and vest, his trousers were loosened and

  in an instant a hinged iron doublet was fastened about his middle,

  extending from his armpits to his crotch very much like a plaster

  cast.

  'This is the very finest strongest iron, Pat,' Hilliard assured

  him. 'The very best in tensile strength and resistance. It was

  built in Pittsburgh.'

  Pat suddenly resisted the attempts of two dressers to pull his

  trousers up over the thing and to slip on his coat and vest.

  'What's it for?' he demanded, arms flailing. 'I want to know.

  You're not going to shoot at me if that's what--'

  'No shooting.'

  'Then what IS it? I'm no stunt man--'

  'You signed a contract just like McCarthy's to do anything within

  reason--and our lawyers have certified this.'

  'What IS it?' Pat's mouth was dry.

  'It's an automobile.'

  'You're going to hit me with an automobile.'

  'Give me a chance to tell you,' begged Hilliard. 'Nobody's going

  to hit you. The auto's going to pass over you, that's all. This

  case is so strong--'

  'Oh no!' said Pat. 'Oh no!' He tore at the iron corselet. 'Not

  on your--'

  George Hilliard pinioned his arms firmly.

  'Pat, you almost wrecked this picture once--you're not going to do

  it again. Be a man.'

  'That's what I'm going to be. You're not going to squash me out

  flat like that extra last month.'

  He broke off. Behind Hilliard he saw a face he knew--a hateful and

  dreaded face--that of the collector for the North Hollywood Finance

  and Loan Company. Over in the parking lot stood his coupe,

  faithful pal and servant since 1934, companion of his misfortunes,

  his only certain home.

  'Either you fill your contract,' said George Hilliard, '--or you're

  out of pictures for keeps.'

  The man from the finance company had taken a step forward. Pat

  turned to Hilliard.

  'Will you loan me--' he faltered, '--will you advance me twenty-

  five dollars?'

  'Sure,' said Hilliard.

  Pat spoke fiercely to the credit man:

  'You hear that? You'll get your money, but if this thing breaks,

  my death'll be on your head.'

  The next few minutes passed in a dream. He heard Hilliard's last

  instructions as they walked from the tent. Pat was to be lying in

  a shallow ditch to touch off the dynamite--and then the hero would

  drive the car slowly across his middle. Pat listened dimly. A

  picture of himself, cracked like an egg by the factory wall, lay a-

  thwart his mind.

  He picked up the torch and lay down in the ditch. Afar off he

  heard the call 'Quiet', then Hilliard's voice and the noise of the

  car warming up.

  'Action!' called someone. There was the sound of the car growing

  nearer--louder. And then Pat Hobby knew no more.

  IV

  When he awoke it was dark and quiet. For some moments he failed to

  recognize his whereabouts. Then he saw that stars were out in the

  California sky and that he was somewhere alone--no--he was held

  tight in someone's arms. But the arms were of iron and he realized

  that he was still in the metallic casing. And then it all came

  back to him--up to the moment when he heard the approach of the

  car.

  As far as he could determine he was unhurt--but why out here and

  alone?

  He struggled to get up but found it was impossible and after a

  horrified moment he let out a cry for help. For five minutes he

  called out at intervals until finally a voice came from far away;

  and assistance arrived in the form of a studio policeman.

  'What is it fella? A drop too much?'

  'Hell no,' cried Pat. 'I was in the shooting this afternoon. It

  was a lousy trick to go off and leave me in this ditch.'

  'They must have forgot you in the excitement.'

  'Forgot me! _I_ was the excitement. If you don't believe me then

  feel what I got on!'

  The cop helped him to his feet.

  'They was upset,' he explained. 'A star don't break his leg every

  day.'

  'What's that? Did something happen?'

  'Well, as I heard, he was supposed to drive the car at a bump and

  the car turned over and broke his leg. They had to stop shooting

  and they're all kind of gloomy.'

  'And they leave me inside this--this stove. How do I get it off

  tonight? How'm I going to drive my car?'

  But for all his rage Pat felt a certain fierce pride. He was

  Something in this set-up--someone to be reckoned with after years

  of neglect. He had managed to hold up the picture once more.

  PAT HOBBY'S PREVIEW

  Esquire (October 1940)

  I

  'I haven't got a job for you,' said Berners. 'We've got more

  writers now than we can use.'

  'I didn't ask for a job,' said Pat with dignity. 'But I rate some

  tickets for the preview tonight--since I got a half credit.'

  'Oh yes, I want to talk to you about that,' Berners frowned. 'We

  may have to take your name off the screen credits.'

  'WHAT?' exclaimed Pat. 'Why, it's already on! I saw it in the

  Reporter. "By Ward Wainwright and Pat Hobby."'

  'But we may have to take it off when we release the picture.

  Wainwright's back from the East and raising hell. He says that you

  claimed lines where all you did was change "No" to "No sir" and

  "crimson" to "red", and stuff like that.'

  'I been in this business twenty years,' said Pat. 'I know my

  rights. That guy laid an egg. I was called in to revise a

  turkey!'

  'You were not,' Berners assured him. 'After Wainwright went to New

  York I called you in to fix one small character. If I hadn't gone

  fishing you wouldn't have got away with sticking your name on the

  script.' Jack Berners broke off, touched by Pat's dismal, red-

  streaked eyes. 'Still, I was glad to see you get a credit after so

  long.'

  'I'll join the Screen Writers Guild and fight it.'

  'You don't stand a chance. Anyhow, Pat, your name's on it tonight

  at least, and it'll remind everybody you're alive. And I'll dig

  you up some tickets--but keep an eye out for Wainwright. It isn't

  good for you to get socked if you're over fifty.'

  'I'm in my forties,' said Pat, who was forty-nine.

  The Dictograph buzzed. Berners switched it on.

  'It's Mr Wainwright.'

  'Tell him to wait.' He turned to Pat: 'That's Wainwright. Better

  go o
ut the side door.'

  'How about the tickets?'

  'Drop by this afternoon.'

  To a rising young screen poet this might have been a crushing blow

  but Pat was made of sterner stuff. Sterner not upon himself, but

  on the harsh fate that had dogged him for nearly a decade. With

  all his experience, and with the help of every poisonous herb that

  blossoms between Washington Boulevard and Ventura, between Santa

  Monica and Vine--he continued to slip. Sometimes he grabbed

  momentarily at a bush, found a few weeks' surcease upon the island

  of a 'patch job', but in general the slide continued at a pace that

  would have dizzied a lesser man.

  Once safely out of Berners' office, for instance, Pat looked ahead

  and not behind. He visioned a drink with Louie, the studio bookie,

  and then a call on some old friends on the lot. Occasionally, but

  less often every year, some of these calls developed into jobs

  before you could say 'Santa Anita'. But after he had had his drink

  his eyes fell upon a lost girl.

  She was obviously lost. She stood staring very prettily at the

  trucks full of extras that rolled toward the commissary. And then

  gazed about helpless--so helpless that a truck was almost upon her

  when Pat reached out and plucked her aside.

  'Oh, thanks,' she said, 'thanks, I came with a party for a tour of

  the studio and a policeman made me leave my camera in some office.

  Then I went to stage five where the guide said, but it was closed.'

  She was a 'Cute Little Blonde'. To Pat's liverish eye, cute little

  blondes seemed as much alike as a string of paper dolls. Of course

  they had different names.

  'We'll see about it,' said Pat.

  'You're very nice. I'm Eleanor Carter from Boise, Idaho.'

  He told her his name and that he was a writer. She seemed first

  disappointed--then delighted.

  'A writer? . . . Oh, of course. I knew they had to have writers

  but I guess I never heard about one before.'

  'Writers get as much as three grand a week,' he assured her firmly.

  'Writers are some of the biggest shots in Hollywood.'

  'You see, I never thought of it that way.'

  'Bernud Shaw was out here,' he said, '--and Einstein, but they

  couldn't make the grade.'

  They walked to the Bulletin Board and Pat found that there was work

  scheduled on three stages--and one of the directors was a friend

  out of the past.

  'What did you write?' Eleanor asked.

  A great male Star loomed on the horizon and Eleanor was all eyes

  till he had passed. Anyhow the names of Pat's pictures would have

  been unfamiliar to her.

  'Those were all silents,' he said.

  'Oh. Well, what did you write last?'

  'Well, I worked on a thing at Universal--I don't know what they

  called it finally--' He saw that he was not impressing her at all.

  He thought quickly. What did they know in Boise, Idaho?' I wrote

  Captains Courageous,' he said boldly. 'And Test Pilot and

  Wuthering Heights and--and The Awful Truth and Mr Smith Goes to

  Washington.'

  'Oh!' she exclaimed. 'Those are all my favourite pictures. And

  Test Pilot is my boy friend's favourite picture and Dark Victory is

  mine.'

  'I thought Dark Victory stank,' he said modestly. 'Highbrow

  stuff,' and he added to balance the scales of truth, 'I been here

  twenty years.'

  They came to a stage and went in. Pat sent his name to the

  director and they were passed. They watched while Ronald Colman

  rehearsed a scene.

  'Did you write this?' Eleanor whispered.

  'They asked me to,' Pat said, 'but I was busy.'

  He felt young again, authoritative and active, with a hand in many

  schemes. Then he remembered something.

  'I've got a picture opening tonight.'

  'You HAVE?'

  He nodded.

  'I was going to take Claudette Colbert but she's got a cold. Would

  you like to go?'

  II

  He was alarmed when she mentioned a family, relieved when she said

  it was only a resident aunt. It would be like old times walking

  with a cute little blonde past the staring crowds on the sidewalk.

  His car was Class of 1933 but he could say it was borrowed--one of

  his Jap servants had smashed his limousine. Then what? he didn't

  quite know, but he could put on a good act for one night.

  He bought her lunch in the commissary and was so stirred that he

  thought of borrowing somebody's apartment for the day. There was

  the old line about 'getting her a test'. But Eleanor was thinking

  only of getting to a hair-dresser to prepare for tonight, and he

  escorted her reluctantly to the gate. He had another drink with

  Louie and went to Jack Berners' office for the tickets.

  Berners' secretary had them ready in an envelope.

  'We had trouble about these, Mr Hobby.'

  'Trouble? Why? Can't a man go to his own preview? Is this

  something new?'

  'It's not that, Mr Hobby,' she said. 'The picture's been talked

  about so much, every seat is gone.'

  Unreconciled, he complained, 'And they just didn't think of me.'

  'I'm sorry.' She hesitated. 'These are really Mr Wainwright's

  tickets. He was so angry about something that he said he wouldn't

  go--and threw them on my desk. I shouldn't be telling you this.'

  'These are HIS seats?'

  'Yes, Mr Hobby.'

  Pat sucked his tongue. This was in the nature of a triumph.

  Wainwright had lost his temper, which was the last thing you should

  ever do in pictures--you could only pretend to lose it--so perhaps

  his applecart wasn't so steady. Perhaps Pat ought to join the

  Screen Writers Guild and present his case--if the Screen Writers

  Guild would take him in.

  This problem was academic. He was calling for Eleanor at five

  o'clock and taking her 'somewhere for a cocktail'. He bought a two-

  dollar shirt, changing into it in the shop, and a four-dollar

  Alpine hat--thus halving his bank account which, since the Bank

  Holiday of 1933, he carried cautiously in his pocket.

  The modest bungalow in West Hollywood yielded up Eleanor without a

  struggle. On his advice she was not in evening dress but she was

  as trim and shining as any cute little blonde out of his past.

  Eager too--running over with enthusiasm and gratitude. He must

  think of someone whose apartment he could borrow for tomorrow.

  'You'd like a test?' he asked as they entered the Brown Derby bar.

  'What girl wouldn't?'

  'Some wouldn't--for a million dollars.' Pat had had setbacks in

  his love life. 'Some of them would rather go on pounding the keys

  or just hanging around. You'd be surprised.'

  'I'd do almost anything for a test,' Eleanor said.

  Looking at her two hours later he wondered honestly to himself if

  it couldn't be arranged. There was Harry Gooddorf--there was Jack

  Berners--but his credit was low on all sides. He could do

  SOMETHING for her, he decided. He would try at least to get an

  agent interested--if all went well tomorrow.

  'What are you doing tomo
rrow?' he asked.

  'Nothing,' she answered promptly. 'Hadn't we better eat and get to

  the preview?'

  'Sure, sure.'

  He made a further inroad on his bank account to pay for his six

  whiskeys--you certainly had the right to celebrate before your own

  preview--and took her into the restaurant for dinner. They ate

  little. Eleanor was too excited--Pat had taken his calories in

  another form.

  It was a long time since he had seen a picture with his name on it.

  Pat Hobby. As a man of the people he always appeared in the credit

  titles as Pat Hobby. It would be nice to see it again and though

  he did not expect his old friends to stand up and sing Happy

  Birthday to You, he was sure there would be back-slapping and even

  a little turn of attention toward him as the crowd swayed out of

  the theatre. That would be nice.

  'I'm frightened,' said Eleanor as they walked through the alley of

  packed fans.

  'They're looking at you,' he said confidently. 'They look at that

  pretty pan and try to think if you're an actress.'

  A fan shoved an autograph album and pencil toward Eleanor but Pat

  moved her firmly along. It was late--the equivalent of' 'all

  aboard' was being shouted around the entrance.

  'Show your tickets, please sir.'

  Pat opened the envelope and handed them to the doorman. Then he

  said to Eleanor:

  'The seats are reserved--it doesn't matter that we're late.'

  She pressed close to him, clinging--it was, as it turned out, the

  high point of her debut. Less than three steps inside the theatre

  a hand fell on Pat's shoulder.

  'Hey Buddy, these aren't tickets for here.'

  Before they knew it they were back outside the door, glared at with

  suspicious eyes.

  'I'm Pat Hobby. I wrote this picture.'

  For an instant credulity wandered to his side. Then the hard-

  boiled doorman sniffed at Pat and stepped in close.

  'Buddy you're drunk. These are tickets to another show.'

  Eleanor looked and felt uneasy but Pat was cool.

  'Go inside and ask Jack Berners,' Pat said. 'He'll tell you.'

  'Now listen,' said the husky guard, 'these are tickets for a

  burlesque down in L.A.' He was steadily edging Pat to the side.

  'You go to your show, you and your girl friend. And be happy.'

  'You don't understand. I wrote this picture.'

  'Sure. In a pipe dream.'

  'Look at the programme. My name's on it. I'm Pat Hobby.'

  'Can you prove it? Let's see your auto licence.'

  As Pat handed it over he whispered to Eleanor, 'Don't worry!'

  'This doesn't say Pat Hobby,' announced the doorman. 'This says

  the car's owned by the North Hollywood Finance and Loan Company.

  Is that you?'

  For once in his life Pat could think of nothing to say--he cast one

  quick glance at Eleanor. Nothing in her face indicated that he was

  anything but what he thought he was--all alone.

  III

  Though the preview crowd had begun to drift away, with that vague

  American wonder as to why they had come at all, one little cluster

  found something arresting and poignant in the faces of Pat and

  Eleanor. They were obviously gate-crashers, outsiders like

  themselves, but the crowd resented the temerity of their effort to

  get in--a temerity which the crowd did not share. Little jeering

  jests were audible. Then, with Eleanor already edging away from

  the distasteful scene, there was a flurry by the door. A well-

  dressed six-footer strode out of the theatre and stood gazing till

  he saw Pat.

  'There you are!' he shouted.

 
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