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 “Lem Bardi, Unlimited” from that 1926 collection.
Lem Smith had changed his name!
But it didn’t matter. Hollywood had not formally met the actor yet, anyhow.
In his own egotistic mind he was the one and only juvenile for the screen. Thus his sudden departure from Texas for Cinemaland.
He had written Harold Lloyd and Tommy Meighan that he was coming. But he supposed they were busy working and couldn’t get away from the studio, as they had not greeted him upon the arrival of the train.
As Lem walked up from the station he passed a sign which read: “Cards Printed. 50c Per Hundred.”
Twenty minutes later Lem was carefully holding a smalls stack of cards bearing the inscription:
“Lem Bardi, Unlimited.”
Lem was a wise guy. He inquired the way to Hollywood. A newsboy directed him west, but Lem was a wise guy to city fellows, so he went east.
He got on the wrong car.
Lem was a wise guy!
Two hours later Lem had his first view of the film village. But there were no celluloid friends in sight. At least none of the stars were out. Lem knew them all.
Lem strolled down the boulevard nonchalantly.
He stopped to gaze into a window.
Jackie Saunders spoke to him. She told him to get off her foot!
Lem went on down the boulevard with mouth agape and eyes wide with wonderment. He still carried his much-used suitcase.
Finally he grew tired of walking and began to search for a suitable hotel, or stopping place, as he termed it. He wouldn’t pay rent for long—he would own a large home soon. Just as soon as he got his contract for twelve pictures.
Lem came to a nice boarding house on Vine Street near Hollywood Boulevard. He presented his card to the landlady, who asked the meaning of it.
“What are you, a press agent?”
“Madam,” he said sternly, “I am one of the greatest juveniles in the business.”
The landlady nodded. She knew the kind. She raised the rent ten dollars a month.
“Your rent will be sixty a month,” she said calmly.
Lem was a wise guy.
The next morning, Lem arose at his usual hour, five-thirty. As he went down to breakfast, he met two other boarders coming in from a party.
They told him he’d better get to bed and get some sleep.
Lem went out to a coffee shop and ate Grape-Nuts and cream while inhaling dust raised by an energetic bus boy who insisted upon sweeping out.
He wandered up and down the deserted boulevard until nearly nine o’clock.
His wanderings brought him to the door of the De Luxe Booking Offices, an office where Dave, the fat little casting director, reigned supreme.
Dave wasn’t in—just yet. Dave seldom appeared before ten or ten-thirty.
Dave’s assistant was kept busy answering the phone and telling extras and minor part actors where to report.
Finally Dave came in, or rather he rushed in, without once glancing at those in the reception room.
Lem gave his card to the office boy, who later wandered into Dave’s office.
After another hour Lem was granted an interview with Dave, who was still laughing over the card.
Lem’s card had put Dave in a good mood.
Lem told Dave what a great actor he aspired to be. How he could give Barrymore lessons. And for character parts—if he ever did them, Ernest Torrance would be looking for a job.
Dave laughed until his sides ached and tears dropped from his small squinty eyes.
When Lem had finished, Dave pushed a contract before him, which placed Lem under personal guardianship of Dave for a period of one year.
Lem was a wise guy.
He signed it.
“Now, Mr. Lem Bardi, Unlimited, if you will go into the next room, you will find there a Miss Lee. Tell her the story you just told me.”
“Why?” asked Lem.
“I always keep a complete record of all the people I handle for reference,” stated Dave.
Lem arose majestically and strode into the next room. He told his story even better to Miss Lee, who took it down word for word in shorthand.
At the end of the first week Lem had not worked at any studio. He began to think Dave was not the booking agent he was represented to be.
But on Saturday of the first week, Lem received a check for one hundred dollars—for services rendered. He was puzzled.
He had not rendered any services—that he knew of.
Lem got Dave on the ‘phone.
“My dear Mr. Bardi, your life story, which you dictated to Miss Lee, was sold to the Royal-Art studios and they are going to make a series of Lem Bardi comedy-dramas in two reels each.
“Now, if you will drop in every week and dictate a story of your adventures to Miss Lee, you will receive a check every week. How does that sound to you?”
“All right, but I wanted to be an actor,” insisted Lem stubbornly.
“Why be an actor, when you can become one of the world’s greatest scenario writers?”
Lem didn’t answer.
“Say, listen, I’ve got a great story for next week,” he blurted out finally.
“Come right down and give it to Miss Lee.”
Lem has just finished the last story of the series. He never worked in a picture, but he still believes he can give Barrymore lessons.
He also says that he is the only worry that Rupert Hughes has now.
On the second contract he signed with Dave, Lem changed the figures to $250 per week. Dave didn’t laugh this time. But he didn’t say anything.
Lem was a wise guy.