Jimmy Starr began his career in Hollywood in the 1920s, writing the intertitles for silent shorts for producers such as Mack Sennett, the Christie Film Company, and Educational Films Corporation, among others. He also toiled as a gossip and film columnist for the Los Angeles Record in the 1920s and from 1930-1962 for the L.A. Herald-Express.
Starr was also a published author. In the 1940s, he penned a trio of mystery novels, the best known of which, The Corpse Came C.O.D., was made into a movie.
In 1926, Starr authored 365 Nights in Hollywood, a collection of short stories about Hollywood. It was published in a limited edition of 1000, each one signed and numbered by the author, by the David Graham Fischer Corporation, which seems to have been a very small (possibly even a vanity) press.
Here’s “Just a Girl in Pictures” from that 1926 collection.
JUST A GIRL IN PICTURES
(A Life Story)
Yes, that’s what I was—just a girl in pictures. And the accent was on the just. But all of this was three long years ago.
Now I’m a real star and have a press agent all my own n’everything. I know you’ve seen me on the screen and you will try to figure out who I am.
Well, I’ll tell you about myself—as much as I dare. I’ve only been a star about—well, it’s nearly two and one-half years now.
Maybe I’m a brunette and maybe I’m a blonde—I’ve been both. And this is about all I’d better tell—right now. I promise you a lot of intimate stuff in the story which follows, but I must use fictitious names.
It was just three years ago this June that I kissed Mother and Dad goodbye on Pier Number Nine of the Pacific Steamship Company, San Francisco. I had just finished at a girls’ school in San Raphael that year, and having nothing to do—I got the movie craze.
I begged Mother to write her friend Betty in Los Angeles and ask if I could spend a month or so with her. And at the same time try my hand at being an actress. Mother and Dad were both good sports and they decided to let me try it—for a little while, at least.
Betty Thorne, Mother’s friend, was a bit older than myself, but she knew the ropes and could put on make-up to perfection. She even looked younger than I at times. And then too, she was a divorcee, which made it more interesting.
I noticed three very good-looking chaps on the boat together and I decided that I was going to have a very pleasant trip. I wandered down to the ballroom—so did they. I knew I was in for a good time.
An hour passed and I was calling them by their first names. I had the instinct of the modern flapper, you see. They, too, were moving to Hollywood for a try at clicking cameras and the vamps of Movieville.
One of them, Harry was his name, always wanted to share his troubles with everyone. So I nick-named him Big-Hearted. He had a gift of gab that would make a press agent turn green with envy. And funny! That boy was a five-reel comedy all by himself. What a laugh he was! And he always laughed at his own jokes, which I later learned was the habit in Hollywood.
I had these three would-be Romeos all the way down. they say there’s three women to every man. Well, I cheated eight women out of a good old time for a day and a night anyway. I’m terribly selfish,—especially with men. I love ’em all—but not too much.
About ten-thirty the next morning, after dancing and flying around most of the night, we saw San Pedro and Wilmington. And as we docked we saw a crowd on a much smaller boat going to Catalina. Immediately Harry wanted to go.
The gang-plank was shoved on board and then came the fun of everybody trying to get off at once. This, I believe, is one of the rules of sea-going etiquette.
Finally, after being bounced from one side to the other, I found myself standing on one of Harry’s newly polished oxfords. I know he was most delighted to find me there. I could tell by the strange expression on his handsome face.
As I was standing there gazing into his deep brown eyes and giving him my address—as if I didn’t think I should—Betty gushed up and smeared lip-stick all over my face.
Al, one of the three, upon seeing Betty, immediately ceased to hunt for my baggage and dashed over for an introduction. I gave it, very coldly, but he warmed up to Betty and before I knew it he was thanking her for a dinner invitation that night.
I finally persuaded Harry to gather all the redcap boys together and have them commence a systemic search for my trunk and a small hand grip. After another half-hour Al, Harry, Paul, Betty and I, piled into her new sport roadster. She informed me she had bought this by saving her alimony for a couple of months. Aren’t ex-husbands the nicest things? She also told me she still went out with him. It’s quite the fashion in HOllywood.
She drove to Los Angeles as if there were a dozen speed cops after her. It’s a wonder there wasn’t. Harry suggested that we go not over fifty because if we did the motor cops didn’t have any kind of a chance. And besides, it wasn’t the sporting thing to do.
Los Angeles greeted me very warmly. It was about 100 in the shade and there wasn’t any shade. Daddy, what a heat! I had to keep my compact case open and a powder puff on my nose every block. Betty drove through traffic as if she were the mayor or the fire department. Anyway, Paul got so nervous he suggested we stop to get something to drink.
Harry said he didn’t have another prescription left and that he didn’t know any doctors in Los Angeles—yet. This brought a laugh from Betty, and she flashed him a look that plainly meant she had something home.
It seemed miles and miles to Hollywood, but it was a pretty drive, and Al nearly fell out two or three times looking at pretty girls who, he declared, were all bathing beauties.
Betty stopped suddenly in front of the darling-est bungalow on Gower Street, just a tiny way from Sunset Boulevard. It was right near five or six studios. What luck! This would be very convenient for the producers to come right up to my present home and sign me for a thousand a week or so.
Betty’s maid and general fluey, Anna Wong, came out to greet me. What a keen looking thing she was. Harry said she must be nutty, because she had almond eyes.
Ten minutes later Al was busy with a cocktail shaker and Harry was standing around with his mouth watering. Paul was selecting the new jazz records from a high stack on the table, and playing them as fast as the phonograph would turn ’em out.
Betty’s home was the cutest thing. Chinese rugs, tinted walls, with autographed photos of the handsomest leading men, floor lamps with batik drapes, over-stuffed chairs, divans and the most perfect sun-porch in the back, which used as a breakfast room. And our bedroom was old ivory and blue.
“Well,” I said, flopping down in a big comfy chair, “When do I start work?”
“Oh, forget about that for a couple of days,” she replied. “I’ll get a real nice girl for Paul and we’ll all go around and show the boys the town.”
“But, right now, Betty,” put in Harry, “I think we had better find some place to hang our hats for the time being.”
“Oh, I can fix it for you,” Betty smiled at him. “There’s a real nice reasonable place around the corner from here on the Boulevard. Mrs. Palmer runs it.”
“The best thing I know about that is—it’s reasonable,” said Al, draining his glass.
“Well, what do you say we visit Mrs. Palmer now?” Paul suggested, after having played all the jazz tunes he could find.
“Come on,” Betty commanded, getting her flapper’s hat. “I’ll drive you over and introduce the gang.”
So again we climbed aboard Betty’s bus and buzzed around the corner.
Mrs. Palmer was a nice stout old lady, who admitted she had been quite pretty in her younger days. Anyway, she was awfully pleasant and I could see she took a liking to the boys at once.
Paul was the one who made a hit with her. And before Betty and I left, she was asking him what he liked for breakfast.
We left them with a promise to be around for dinner that evening. Betty then went right into the heart of Hollywood to a large market. This was my first real glimpse of the greatest movie village in the world. I had expected to see all the stars standing around talking to each other. But now there wasn’t one—that I recognized. And all I saw was a cheap comedy company coming in from location.
Betty purchased a dozen lamb chops and some other necessities, which are always needed for dinner. Thank goodness,I knew nothing of the kitchen art. I think it is such a bother. And if you don’t know how to cook, it’s a cinch no one will ask you to even try. So I’m perfectly safe from performing any food antics. The man who slips a permanent band on my finger will have to have enough jack to hire a gas stove expert to feed him.
The dinner was a success. There wasn’t a chop left. The boys looked well in their Tuxes, and we planned to visit a roadhouse or two. Al had, at least, another handful of oil on his hair.
Betty loaned me a white satin gown for the evening, as my trunk hadn’t arrived yet. It was embroidered in yellow wool.
She had on a darling canton crepe with a full skirt that showed an uneven hem. And it was trimmed with blocks of black satin outlined with black silk floss.
Just as we were having coffee, Dolly, the girl Betty had fixed for Paul, dashed in. Gee, she was cute. Black bobbed hair, dark eyes and crimson lips which made her pearl-like teeth shine like diamonds.
She was wearing a one-piece suit of apricot and cream corded silk, with a cape and the loose neck effect. Awfully clever.
Paul awoke at once from a sort of daze and began to spiel out his line. I could see Dolly was taken up with him, too. Well, that being the case, I was cinched to have either Al or Harry. Betty and I would have to fight that out.
Well, I won. I got Harry. And we all started. Dolly had brought her big touring car. Thank goodness—I was wondering how six of us would fit in Betty’s gasoline wagon.
We all decided the Plantation would be the place—or rather Betty and Dolly decided the boys would do the honor of paying the cover charge there.
Harry laughed so hard at his own jokes he was all tired out when we arrived.
Paul was busy with Dolly. I’ve got to hand it to him—he has an original line of chatter. And Dolly fell for it. A girl’s life is just one fellow after another.
By ten o’clock the big eggs started coming in. Betty was busy saying hello and pointing them out to me. I was in heaven. Then she introduced me to a couple of casting directors, who very politely told me to visit them in the next day or so. I promised hopefully.
“Vell, little girl. Vare have you been all my life?”
“San Francisco,” I replied smilingly.
“Vell, dot’s nice. Frisco is a swell place—to get away from,” he said, lighting a cigarette. “Drop down and see me. I’m casting for Clary Clinton at the Cinema Studio.”
“I’d be delighted,” I said.
“Oh, I’d be delighted to have you,” he says, mocking my speech.
After he had gone, Betty warned me quietly not to be too nice to the dummies who invited me to come and see them.
“You know, dearie,” she said, “you’re doing them a favor. You don’t have to be nice to them. Up-stage ’em a bit. It’s always done, and they expect it. If you’re nice to them, they’ll know you’re a hick.”
“Yeh,” put in Harry. “The next one that comes up, just bang him over the head with a ginger-ale bottle, and he’ll think you’ve been here for a couple of years.”
By twelve o’clock we were nearly all danced out. So again we hopped into Dolly’s four-wheeled roller and departed for a Hollywood cafe, a place where all successful parties end. After dining at a regular cafe, one must go there to fill up and really get something to eat.
Two-thirty found Betty, Dolly and myself alone at the bungalow. Betty had persuaded Dolly to stay oer night so they could outline a plan of action to get me into pictures.
We all piled into Betty’s big double bed and discussed my chances as an actress until nearly three-thirty.
By then we had decided that I should go around with them in the morning and learn the ropes of hitting the studios. I was so excited I hardly could believe it all. So I really was going to be pictures! It sounded awfully easy—too easy, in fact, to be true. With all sorts of sweet thoughts of fame and success, I finally dropped off.
Morning came suddenly—just like all mornings in Hollywood. And I had the chance to try out Betty’s trick breakfast room. Even if Anna Wong was a chink, she was a darn good American. Gee, what a breakfast!
I phoned Harry and told him I was going out to try my hand at landing a starring job.
“That’s the frog’s tonsils,” he said. “I’ll phone you tonight and let you know what company I’m writing funny stuff for.”
“What’s Al and Paul gonna do?” I asked.
“Oh, Al’s going to be an actor and Paul wants to write scenarios, or something that sounds like that.”
“Well,” I continued, “you tell Al I’ll have him as leading man in my own company and Paul write the scenarios if he’ll keep Dolly out of his mind long enough.”
With that I hung up and joined the girls, who were waiting to start on a tour of the casting offices and blase studio employees.
The first studio we breezed into was the Superba Film Corporation. Bennie, the fat little casting director, greeted Betty and Dolly with smiles.
There was the usual mob hanging around the office waiting for anything that might turn up. Dolly informed me the hangers-on admitted they were all very versatile and could play any part from leading man to butler.
It seemed to me they would all fit very well in a prize-fight or something in the shipyards.
I discovered Bennie looking at me with a far-off gaze like I was on some mountain and he was trying to see how I did my hair by looking at my ankles.
Betty introduced us.
I smiled at him, and he said:
I wished I had that ginger-ale bottle Harry spoke of.
“Hello,” I returned weakly.
“Listen,” interrupted Dolly breezily, “what have you for tomorrow?”
Bennie looked at some pages on his desk.
“Got a society scene with Allen tomorrow. Sport clothes,” he said.
“We’ll take it,” Betty said quickly.
“Now, just you wait a minute. I think I’m all cast for that.”
“You’re a liar if you say so”—from Dolly.
“I’ll give you ten per cent for the three of us—if we get ten a day,” said Betty.
Bennie woke up and was all business.
“All right,” he whispered quietly. “Nine in the morning. Sport clothes and made up.”
With that we departed. I could hardly believe I was to work in pictures in the morning. It all seemed like a dream. And I was afraid I’d wake up any minute.
We hopped into Betty’s highway bug and hit it for the Royal-Art Studios. There we met discouragement. Not a thing doing. Everyone was between pictures. It’s a habit out here. The fact that there was no work caused the casting director to be awfully nice. He was an Englishman, I think. If he wasn’t he must have gone to a valet’s school and learned to drop his H’s.
We were again gliding down the boulevard.
“Let’s go see the guy I met last night at Cinema Studio. What’s his name?” I says.
“Uh—Lou,” muttered Dolly. “That’s a good suggestion. Let’s go see old fish eyes.”
Betty turned around as if she had the only automobile. A flivver did a shimmy and quivered all over the street before he missed us. Betty got so excited she slipped the gears into reverse, and we landed on the sidewalk, barely missing a fat old lady with a lot of groceries.
She was now so fussed she took us to lunch instead of the Cinema Studio. I was a bit disappointed, but still we had all afternoon.
Musso Frank’s cafe was just full of picture people and during our forty-five minutes there I met a great many actors and actresses. It seemed as though Betty and Dolly knew everyone.
But life in Hollywood is so Bohemian it really doesn’t take long to be on speaking terms with nearly all of the movie folk. I was just wild about the place.
Everyone was so clever and original. It was just one laugh after another. If they could only make their comedies as funny as they really are—there would be a lot more comedians’ millions in the bank.
After lunch and we had finished our cigarettes, Betty claimed she was able to drive. So we left for the Cinema Studio and fish-eyed Lou.
He was busy when we arrived, so we flopped down with the rest of the hams and waited. Finally he came beaming upon us.
“Hello, kid,” I greeted him.
You should have seen the look on Dolly’s and Betty’s faces. I almost laughed. Lou was so surprised he forgot what he was about to say.
“How is you, baby,” he gulped out at last.
“Fine. What’s new—when do I put on the grease paint?”
Dolly and Betty were speechless.
“Come on into my office, and ve’ll talk things over,” he said politely.
“While you’re in there, dear,” Betty said, “we’ll run across the street to the comedy lot. Be careful now,” she whispered quickly.
I followed Lou into his office.
“Vhat’s your name, now,” he commenced.
I told him.
“Ah, a very nice name, but no good for pictures,” he stated, business-like. “Now, you’re new down here, and I want to see you get in right. And I’m the guy that can do it. Just this afternoon I got a new script and there’s a girl in it you’d fit like a glove.”
“Well,” I says, “spill your line, little one, I”m listening.”
“Er—that is, my dear, I can get you the part. It’s good for six veeks’ voik, and it’ll make you. You von’t have to look for a job after you this bit. They’ll be calling for you in big cars.”
“Vell,”—he was floundering—“if you’ll come up to my apartment this evening I’ll tell you more about it and if you vant to get in pictures bad enough—I’ll see that you does.”
Bad enough was good. But I was a good girl.
I waited some moments before answering. I didn’t know whether to risk it or not. I wasn’t looking at him, but I could tell that he was anxiously watching me.
Finally I told him I would. There was nothing wrong in that. I could easily break out at the last minute if I wanted to. And this was would give me more time to think the idea over.
He nodded. “You’re a vise girl. I’ll see you tonight then, baby?” he said, writing his address on a card and handing it to me.
I left him then, and with this thought in my mind I wandered down the wrong hall. Suddenly a tall, handsome man stopped me.
“Pardon me,” he said, “but would you mind coming into this office—just for a moment?”
I studied him for a second and then went in.
“Perhaps you will think this is a bit strange. But I couldn’t help overbearing part of the conversation which just passed between you and Lou—the door was open.”
I turned crimson at his words and said nothing, waiting for him to go on.
He was sitting on the top of a stenographer’s desk and I in a swivel-back chair which made me feel as if I should be thrown to the floor any moment.
A half passed, and then this tall young man slipped me through a side door onto the street. Betty and Dolly were waiting in the machine.
“Well,” exploded Betty. “You hard-boiled egg. Tell us about it. Did you have any luck?”
“I’ll tell you all about it—when we get home.”
“Gee, I hit a lucky strike,” Dolly began excitedly. “Three weeks with Mary Munson on a special comedy—and I get screen credit, too.”
“That’s great!” I said enthusiastically.
“What do you think you are—a press agent?” asked Dolly laughingly.
Betty slid recklessly around the corner and stopped suddenly in front of the bungalow. We climbed out and danced gayly up the steps. It hadn’t been a bad day. We all had a job for tomorrow anyway. And it would give me experience in the line of make-up and how to act on the set.
Betty had Anna Wong make some lemonade. Dolly called up Paul and asked him to come over and bring the boys. Paul said he expected Al and Harry home any minute and then they would come right over.
Another half hour passed and we were all together. We all sat around in a circle while Betty told the boys our experiences and then I had to tell what had happened while I was with Lou.
“Now, here’s where I come in,” I said, as Betty finished. “Lou asked me to come up to his apartment tonight and we would talk over a contract and a part in this new picture.”
“You’re not going?” they all voiced at once.
“Yes, I told him I’d be there.”
They all gasped. Harry was the first to speak:
“You don’t know what it means?”
“Sure I do. But I’m gonna fool him.”
“How?” they all said together.
“I won’t tell you until it’s all over, but I can do it.”
Harry seemed worried.
That being all they could get out of me, Paul started the phonograph again and he and Dolly danced. Harry tried to drown his thoughts in lemonade.
Al suggested we go down town for dinner. The idea took. The boys went home to dress, while Dolly dashed off to change and I started to unpack my trunk, which had finally arrived.
Dolly drove us down town and we had a splendid dinner at Lafayette’s. Then I started for Lou’s apartment. Harry suggested they all wait while I went up, and if I didn’t come out in due time, they would go up and get me.
Lou greeted me with open arms, but I paid no attention to them. He thought he was all fixed for a grand old time, and I let him think it.
He handed me a cocktail.
I tasted it.
“O-oh,—hell!” I shouted at him. “Haven’t you got anything better than this?”
“My God, girl!” he cried, “I paid eighteen dollars a quart for that.”
“It’s terrible; I can’t drink poison. I thought you wanted to put on a party?”
“Say, listen, kiddie, don’t be so hasty. Take off your hat and stay avile.”
“Well, I can’t get cock-eyed on this stuff. Got any better?”
At last he was beaten. This was the first time anyone had really handed it to him. He was all fussed; he didn’t know what he was up against. I nearly laughed in his face.
“Listen, baby,” said he, trying to put his arm around me. “You’re a great kid; ve’ll get along svell. Vant to be my sweet mama?”
“Not when you have me booze like that,” I stated coldly, pushing him away. “When do I get the contract?”
“Vhen you park your trunk up here.”
“Don’t make me laugh, you cheap booze hound. You can’t be so much, or you wouldn’t buy poison like that,” I flung at him.
“Listen, baby,” he pleaded.
“Aw, I haven’t time. I gotta go,” I said, walking calmly to the door.
“But, baby, don’t you vant the contract?”
“Well, I haven’t any trunk with me tonight.”
“You don’t need it; I’ll trust you—and I’ve got a nice contract here.”
“Lou,” I said firmly, “you’re a pretty shrewd guy, but you’ve got to go some to get by with this little sister. And I don’t think you can make the grade. Goo-night!”
“Vait—vait, baby!” he cried. “Just a liddle minute—can’t ve play a liddle bit?” Lou rolled those darlingly dangerous fish-eyes rather—what-you-call-it? Subtly, yes that was it.
And before I could say Jack Robinson or Erich von Stroheim, Lou had his short digits around my waist, giving me one of those so-called California Bear Hugs. Well, I tittered girlishly, tickled his stubby chin and not too gently, mind you, pushed him in the face.
Still he persisted, so give a “Red” Grange grunt and commenced to prepare for that ten-yard dash across the goal for plain and fancy freedom.
Lou had evidently taken determination lessons from some of the best casting directors in Hollywood. He never even fluttered a burnt-off eye-lash. I squirmed and squealed a sheba’s squeak, made a Douglas Fairbanks leap—and was free!
I didn’t mean to do it—but I stuck out my tongue, still keeping my schoolgirl habits and complexion.
I opened the door and flew down the stairs and was gone before he had time to think up something. I danced gayly around the corner to the waiting bunch.
“Well?” they greeted me.
“Drive me home and I’ll tell you the biggest laugh of the season,” I said, getting into the car.
“Did you get the contract?” Harry asked.
“I’ll tell you about it when we get home.”
Again we were back in the little bungalow. They all hurriedly sat down, anxious for my story.
I told them everything that happened and how I had the laugh on Lou.
“Gee, what a dirty trick,” said Dolly. “You’ve fixed yourself for good. You’ll never work at that studio now. And Lou will do his darnedest to keep you from getting work anywhere. you shouldn’t have told him you’d go up there at all.”
“Shouldn’t I?” I asked her with a twinkle in my eyes. “Well, now listen, I’ll tell you the rest.”
This brought them to attention again.
I told them about the nice tall fellow who called me into his office after I had talked with Lou, and how he had overheard our conversation.
“Well?” put in Betty anxiously, when I stopped.
“This fellow—Thompson is his name—told me I was made for the part—whatever it is—and after I told him where I came from and all about myself, he called in a stenographer and had her make out the contract for a hundred a week—and six weeks’ work!”
“What!” they all gasped.
“Here is the contract,” I answered them, reaching for my vanity case on the table and showing it to them.
They all had to look at it to believe the story.
“And that’s why I pulled the funny gag on Lou. When I told him I would come up, I had no idea I would. But after Thompson talked to me, I thought I’d go up and kid the darling boy along.”
“Some wise girl,” Harry shouted.
Well, they just couldn’t get over talking about it. And I guess I had to tell them the same story three times.
The boys left early, stating that they had to get busy on the job-hunting proposition. Dolly drove them around and then went home. She promised to meet us in the morning at the studio, and we’d make up together.
Betty and I lay awake half the night talking, I was so excited.
It was seven o’clock when she awoke me, but I didn’t mind. I was an actress, and my art called me early. We hurried through breakfast and over to the studio.
There we met Dolly, and the assistant director gave us a dressing room. At eight-forty-five the two girls shoved me into a large enclosed stage with fierce lights. They were blinding and made you look purplish. I was thrilled.
It was a drawing room scene. Afternoon tea was being served,—it was not yet nine-thirty in the morning. I was disappointed that the director was just an ordinary man. I had imagined he would be a massive person with a terrible voice, which frightened you when he spoke. But no, he was very quiet and very nice.
He looked us over carefully. Finally he told us that our make-up and clothes were O. K.
What a relief!
By noon all I had done was stand and talk and smile to a nice extra while the camera clicked away. At first I didn’t know what to talk about. But the boy kept up the conversation. He asked me how many pictures I’d worked in and all that sort of thing.
The next scene was where the hero came into the room. We all had to cast admiring glances toward him, while talking to the others. This wasn’t hard to do, and I was getting a big kick out of it.
It was all so very interesting I didn’t have a dull moment. The others seemed quite bored when they weren’t acting and they wandered around, or sat on boxes and smoked.
The afternoon went awfully fast, and before I realized it we were getting our checks and paying Bennie his ten per cent, which was quite against the rules of the studio. But Bennie claimed he had to live. We all agreed it must be pretty good living.
We were called back for a short scene the next day. By the time this was over, I was quite a picture actress. I had written my parents all about it and what picture they could see me in.
Mr. Thompson called on the phone and told me I started with him on Monday morning, at nine sharp.
This was Wednesday. Betty and I did some shopping, went to a couple of matinees and spent a day at the beach with the boys.
Sunday she taught me how to make up by myself, and all the intricacies of the game. I was very much excited and upset. I really didn’t sleep at all. Betty made me calm down and said I’d be nervous on the set and that anything a director hates is a nervous woman.
Monday morning came. I was so afraid I would be nervous that I really was. Mr. Thompson was waiting and he escorted me to a private dressing room. He watched me make up and then left while I changed into a party gown.
He had explained that was to be the little sister of the hero and was wronged by the villain. The idea seemed as old as the hills to me, but he said they were putting it over a new way.
I met him at the entrance to the stage. He took me in and introduced me to the director, Mr. Leslie.
I heard him say: “Thompson, you’re a wonder. That girl was made for the part. But can she act?”
I didn’t hear the reply, but by noon I hadn’t been fired yet, so I guessed everything was O. K.
In the afternoon they took a few long shots and I got by just fine. Before I left that evening, Mr. Leslie gave me the story to read, so I would be familiar with the part, and he said he was going to make an actress out of me. Which added to my hopes immensely.
The next day the hard scene came. I became nervous, or self-conscious, after I had failed to register as Mr. Leslie desired. He didn’t get excited as I thought he would, but was very kind and tried so hard to make me go through the action naturally. But I was all upset and just couldn’t work. He finally gave it up, and told me to go home and rest.
I walked sadly up the street thinking of what a mess I had made of myself. I had been a fool to take the job without any more experience than I had. I was wasting their time and money.
When I reached Betty’s I had decided to tell them in the morning to get someone else; that I’d go back to haming where I belonged.
I told Betty all about it, and had a good cry on her shoulder. She said to go back and try real hard in the morning and then if I didn’t make good, why I’d better tell them I wasn’t fit for the part.
I retired about nine, as Betty was going over to a friend’s house. She begged me to go, but I declined, saying that I wanted to be alone and for her to go on without me.
I lay and tossed restlessly for more than an hour, trying to think of some way out of the position in which I had willingly—too willingly—put myself.
Then came the grand idea! I hurried up and dressed and rushed over to the studio, taking my script with me. Old Pop White was the watchman. I told him that I wished to rehearse my scene on the stage, using the set when no one was around.
It was against the rules, he said. But he had taken a liking to me, and said that he would do anything he could to help me keep the part.
He led me along the dark halls to the big stage. There was a single light burning. Just enough for me to see the set—dimly.
He left me and went back to his station at the front entrance.
I read the lines of the script, took my position and went through the action. I realized I was very stiff even when I was alone. I tried it again, but with the same effect. There seemed to be something lacking in the script.
I then tried it my own way, getting over the same idea—and quite a bit more effective—I thought.
Well, I went through it this way a number of times, until I was satisfied I had the idea firmly in my mind. In the morning, if I failed to do the way Mr. Leslie said—which I expected I would—then I would suggest doing it the way I had just practiced. Then . . .
Well, if I failed then—I was through. It would be the final test. I would say good-bye to me career—for the present.
I thanked Pop White and walked back home slowly. I walked with a better, a higher spirit, than I had in the afternoon. Somehow I just felt that my way was right, and that I would win out in the end.
I reached home and was almost asleep when Betty came in. I told her nothing of what had happened since she left.
Morning came. And the old fear returned. After all I had promised myself the night before, I went through the studio entrance down-hearted.
Mr. Thompson and Mr. Leslie both greeted me warmly, which kind of cheered me up. There was nothing for me just yet, so I sat down on a lamp box and went over my lines again.
Near eleven o’clock I was called to step into position. Oh, how I dreaded it! I did want so much to make good, and now I had that creepy feeling again.
“Now, will you use your own words—this time?” said Mr. Leslie quietly.
I stared at him. “My own words?” I muttered.
“Yes, please take this very slowly at first, so I may see how this works out. We’re changing a scene or two.” He walked closer to me.
“My own words?” I mumbled again, not quite sure I had heard right.
“Yes,” he said again. “Now go through this by yourself first. I want to be sure you get this. Now just like you did last night.”
“Last night!” I gasped.
“Now please don’t get excited. Everything is all right,” he said soothingly.
“But Mr. Leslie,” I stuttered. “How—how did you know?”
“My dear child, do I have to tell you now?”
“No-o-o,” I shook my head.
“Well, now will you go on?” he asked.
And I went through the action with a break Something had suddenly taken hold of me and given me fortitude. When he said he knew I had been at the studio the night before my knees almost gave way.
After I had gone through the scene twice, they took it with the villain, and then we did it two more times with two big cameras clicking near us.
Mr. Leslie O. K.’d all the scenes and told me to rest awhile.
After some time, when they were arranging the set, he came over to me and congratulated me on my work.
I asked him how he knew I had rehearsed by myself last evening.
“Mr. Thompson seemed to think yesterday that there was something wrong with the story. So last night he decided to write your scene over again, and he was sitting over in the corner writing when you came in and did the scene he was trying to fix up.”
“Oh-oo-o,” I cried.
“And you did it to perfection. He told me about it when I came to work this morning. Now do you see why I asked you to do it the way you wanted to?”
“Yes,” I murmured weakly, thinking what a grand man Mr. Thompson was.
He came up to me just then, and Mr. Leslie left for his position beside the camera.
“Well, little girl,” he said, “you made the grade after all, didn’t you?”
I tried to thank him and tell him how grateful I was, but I couldn’t say all I wanted to. But he seemed to understand anyway. He was that kind—awfully understanding—and nice.
“It was past midnight, young lady, when you did a great piece of acting. So you may write in your diary that your screen career started at midnight, June fourteenth, nineteen twenty-three.”
This has been a long story, but you know now how I started—just plain luck!
Maybe some of you have figured out who I am—I hope so, because it’s so much fun to find these things out that way.
Oh, I suppose you want to know what happened to Dolly and Betty and the boys.
Well, I saw Dolly just a week ago and Paul and she were just crazy over their new baby. And Betty, she’s married again—but from what I hear she’s thinking of getting some more alimony. So that leaves Al and Harry.
Dear old Harry! He came up the other night and proposed for the—well, it’s been a good many times.
Al’s got a good stock job as leading man for a very good comedy company, with plenty of publicity.
Oh, yes, there’s more about Dolly and Paul. I got excited about the baby. Dolly is playing leads now—right across the street from me. And Paul has sold at least a dozen of his scenarios.
And there’s more about Harry. He’s had three jobs since I first met him—they’ve all been good, but this last one—well he just got that. I don’t know if he’s gonna like it or not. He says it’s the best of all.
Well, if he doesn’t like it, he can get a divorce and I’ll buy a roadster with the alimony.