Hollywood Shorts: Screwy

Charles Ray was a popular juvenile star in the 1910s and ’20s, but by the ’30s, his career was on the rocks, and he turned to writing. Here’s “Screwy,” the final tale from his book, Hollywood Shorts, a collection of short stories set in Tinseltown.
*    *    *
“My, your cigar makes a red glow in the darkness.”
“So does your cigarette, Helen.”
“Let’s quit the stalling, Bert. Why did you get me up here?”
“You ought to know.”
“I don’t.”
“You have a pretty good idea.”
“Now don’t try to frighten me!”
“Don’t tell me that you could be frightened.”
“What should I say?”
“Say what you feel.”
“I feel like a drink.”
“Help yourself, if you can find it in the dark.”
“You’re not a very nice host.”
“Here, I’ll pour it for you.”
“You avoided my question.”
“Did I?”
“Listen, Bert, I heard a gun shot in the hall.”
“That was a motor exhaust in the street.”
“You’re lying. Now I am getting frightened.”
“Don’t be silly. Turn on the lights.”
“I won’t!”
“Then I will!”
“If you move from this divan, you’ll regret it!”
“Listen to me, it’s time I know why you got me here.”
“You’ll find out when the time comes.”
“That time is now!”
“No, it isn’t.”
“This has gone far enough!”
“And don’t talk in grunts.”
“I’ll talk plenty when the mug gets here!”
“Bert, have you gone mad? I’m being held for—“
“You are.”
“This is an outrage. I have a gun in my bag!”
“But you won’t use it.”
“What makes you think I won’t?”
“Because your father is the mug I’m waiting for.”
“I always knew you were a cad!”
“Those are silly words.”
“These aren’t. Get a load of this!”
“Well, you ought to be careful about empty guns.”

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Hollywood Shorts: Murder at the Studio

Charles Ray was a popular juvenile star in the 1910s and ’20s, but by the ’30s, his career was on the rocks, and he turned to writing. Here’s another in a series of offerings from his book, Hollywood Shorts, a collection of short stories set in Tinseltown.
*    *    *
Murder at the Studio
Violent lightning flashes through the drawing-room windows reveal the snarled face of the maniac outside in the rain.
A figure is seen at a secret panel behind the fireplace, listening.
“Well, Chief, an actor has just pulled a fast one on us. Yes, this is Moriarity talkin’. Yes, I’m in the house now. Dugan is with me. Somethin’ has happened. So I thought I’d better give you a buz quick.”
“Okay, let’s have it.”
“Well, we came here as planned. Entered through the kitchen. There’s a housekeeper carin’ for the place. Nobody else on the premises. We tell her to keep shut. Then we ease into the drawin’ room and—“
“What’s the long detail for?”
“But I’m tellin’ yuh. Purty soon we hears a latch key at the front door and take positions on the back swing of it. When he closes the door, we surprise him plenty.”
“Let’s have it faster.”
“Yeah. So he says: ‘Guess the jig’s up,” or somethin’ like that. I agree, with my gat on him. He says that he’s been expectin’ it, but that it hasn’t turned out just like he imagined it was goin’ta. So I say, ‘Come on, let’s get goin’,’ and he says, ‘Wait till I get a coat.’ Then he starts upstairs. Dugan is quick to foller him.”
A man dressed like a chief passes a gun to the fiture at the secret panel by the fireplace and disappears. The shadowed figure with the gun closes the panel, then moves mysteriously into the drawing room behind the screen.
“But, Chief, I am explainin’ it fast. Half-way up the stairs the actor turns and says: ‘Listen, I surrender. Don’t like boy scouts. You both have your gats out. All I want is an overcoat. It’s rainin’ like hell, you know. Have a drink. You’ll find a decanter in the library.’ Well, we relax, Chief, but we don’t take no liquor. All at once we hear a shot comin’ from upstairs. Then we hear a body fall with a thud to the floor—“
The Chief laughs derisively.
“Yeah, I know we ought to be ashamed. If you could only see me now, you’d see how ashamed I look. So I thought if I came clean with the story, you wouldn’t laugh Dugan and me off the pay roll. It’s suicide, I tell yuh! We just heard a shot a second ago. Then I grab the ‘phone an’ waste no time in reportin’. No. No. Yes, I know we shoulda. I never thought to look upstairs. I’ll do it now an’ report again.”
*          *          *          *
Laying aside his manuscript notes, the author lit a cigarette and watched the smoke wind sinuously toward the ceiling on the even fog of the room. Then he drew his typewriter toward him and began to feel out the succeeding episode int he scenario continuity. Rapidly he wrote his inspirational twist:


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Hollywood Shorts: As Told at the Masquers Club

Charles Ray was a popular juvenile star in the 1910s and ’20s, but by the ’30s, his career was on the rocks, and he turned to writing. Here’s another in a series of offerings from his book, Hollywood Shorts, a collection of short stories set in Tinseltown.
*    *    *
As Told at the Masquers Club
“Aw, give ‘im the works, boys. He’s nuts!”
“Harold, you’re crazy! You’re going soft-hearted, or soft-headed, I can’t tell which!”
“Why don’t you put your altruistic theories into practice? You’re daffy as a loon, and someday they’ll drive up and take you for a ride—to a place with a tall iron fence.”
At the Hollywood actors’ club, a small group were seated in the lounge kidding Harold Wild.
Harold was an actor of prominence. His friends understood his place on the screen and his excellent portrayals, but not his multivocal rantings on the conventionalism of life which, as he averred, kept people from being themselves—their real selves.
“It’s a silly old world,” he often contended. “It’s human beings that make existence so miserable.”
Harold Wild was not a character that his name might imply. But he made himself very obnoxious around the club with his theoretical chatter, and so they avoided him—called him “Softy” Wild.
Weeks passed.
Gradually his friends noticed a great change in him. A little caused him to give in and tell a story concerning himself.
One stormy night, while driving along Hollywood Boulevard in the warm confines of his roomy sedan, he was speculating seriously on why it was, in such a nasty rain, that a man could not throw open his car door and offer a lift to any woman in need.
Conventionalism is the answer, he sneered. He had passed up three women at crossings in the last four blocks. Silly conventionalism was the curse of the human family, he thought, stifling a world which might otherwise be a happy playground. What an infantile existence this life really was!
And so he argued on until conscience demanded action. A firm conviction gave him peace of mind: at the next intersection he would do this chivalrous thing without thought of race or age. No one could accuse him of being a masher. His attitude would show that it was all purely an impersonal gesture.
The red light of the traffic signal bloomed into prominence through the veil of mist on his windshield. Slowly he eased his car nearer to the curbing, and through the rivulets of water streaking the glass door, saw a sight which made his soul vibrate with compassion.
“What a crime!” he mumbled.
Sitting on a bus bench in a miserable attitude, a woman was trying to house herself waterproof by holding a newspaper roof-like over her head. Pathetic, he thought sincerely, and threw his car door open in welcome.
“Madam!” he shouted quite reverently. Then he stammered: “I’d like to—would you—it’s just my way of—“
The rush of rain down his coat sleeve demanded simplicity, and he intelligently succumbed.
“May I have the privilege of giving you a lift?” he achieved without stuttering.
Dropping the soggy newspaper, the girl rose and skipped the distance to the car quickly, entering with a mumbled “thanks.”
The signals changed. The traffic moved on. Harold Wild cleared his throat and expressed his elation.
“I’m very happy that you accepted my offer of a lift. This conventional business is silly, isn’t it? Now if you’ll just tell me your destination, I’ll not even bother you with conversation.”
“I can’t see very well,” she mumbled, peering through the glass. “It’s only a few blocks. I suppose I had better watch closely and tell you when to stop.”

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Hollywood Shorts: Unseen Faces

Charles Ray was a popular juvenile star in the 1910s and ’20s, but by the ’30s, his career was on the rocks, and he turned to writing. Here’s another in a series of offerings from his book, Hollywood Shorts, a collection of short stories set in Tinseltown.
*    *    *

Unseen Faces


BOOTH FIVE: “You can’t rhyme anything with orange.”
“Yes, I can, honey. Syringe.”
“That’s stilly. Bet you can’t rhyme itsy-bitsy.’
BOOTH THREE: “Let’s play ‘As-low-as.’ You start it.”
“Well, I feel as low as an empty bottle.”
BOOTH SIX: “Boy, that’s low!” a drunk chimed in.
BOOTH FIVE: “Bet you can’t rhyme itsy-bitsy.”
“Wanta get me thrown out?”
BOOTH SIX: “Sure!”
BOOTH THREE: “I feel as low as a hiccup starts. Top that!”
“I feel as low as a gum wrapper in the subway.”
“Oh, cellophane!” the drunk humored.
BOOTH TWO: “An’ me with my pants down.”
“An’ then wad he say?”
BOOTH FIVE: “You can too, rhyme itsy-bitsy!”
BOOTH FOUR: “I just love champagne, don’t you?”
“Yeah. Waiter, two beers!”
BOOTH SIX: “Louse!”
BOOTH FIVE: “Go on, rhyme itsy-bitsy.”
BOOTH THREE: “As low as an elephant’s trunk.”
“As low as a dachshund’s pup.”
BOOTH SIX: “Oh, how low!”
BOOTH ONE: “Whaddya want for nuthin’?”
“Whaddya got?”
“That ain’t no way to act!”
BOOTH THREE: “As low as a torch-song’s wail.”
“As low as Moanin’ Low!”
BOOTH SIX: “Oh, remorse!”
BOOTH ONE: “I thought you said you liked me?”
“Whaddya expect in a restaurant?”
BOOTH SIX: “That’s dirty!”
BOOTH FIVE: “If you rhyme itsy-bitsy.”
BOOTH TWO: “So I says: Why should I?”
“An’ then wad he say?”
BOOTH FIVE: “Please rhyme itsy-bitsy for little girl?”
BOOTH SIX: “Rhyme bitsy for her, or I’ll go nuts!”
BOOTH THREE: “As low as an auto horn’s honk.”
“As low as a horse’s—“
BOOTH SIX: “Oh, be careful!”
BOOTH THREE: “A horse’s hoof.”
BOOTH SIX: “Oh, relief!”
BOOTH FIVE: “I will if you rhyme itsy-bitsy.”
BOOTH SIX: “Oh, rhyme itsy-bitsy!”
BOOTH THREE: “As low as an ant’s antennae.”
“As low as a flea’s Uncle Peter.”
BOOTH SIX: “There must be a mistake!”
BOOTH THREE: “As low as a thermometer’s bottom!”
BOOTH SIX: “Oh, I can’t take it!”
BOOTH FIVE: “Gotta rhyme itsy-bitsy!”
BOOTH TWO: “So I says: You’re no gentleman!”
“An’ then wad he say?”
BOOTH ONE: “Can’t, got to powder my nose.”
“Can’t you do two things at once?”
BOOTH SIX: “Oh, I’m passin’ out! Waiter!”
BOOTH FIVE: “No itsy-bitsy for little girl?”
BOOTH TWO: “No break at all, huh?”
“An’ me with my pants down.”
BOOTH SIX: “Waiter! Here’s somethin’ f’r you. Now you do somethin’ f’r me. Rhyme itsy-bitsy for Booth Five, an’ gimme a report on the gender sittin’ in Booth Two.”

Hollywood Shorts: An Actress and How

Charles Ray was a popular juvenile star in the 1910s and ’20s, but by the ’30s, his career was on the rocks, and he turned to writing. Here’s another in a series of offerings from his book, Hollywood Shorts, a collection of short stories set in Tinseltown.
*    *    *
An Actress and How
Back in Indianapolis, Grace Nome made the mistake of stating that she wanted to be an actress the worst way. The remark caused so much kidding that it ultimately drove her to Hollywood.
Three days in the film city brought discouragement. She emerged from a studio casting office with a weaker desire to show the folks back home.
“It’s tough that there isn’t any work,” a youth whispered while making an exit from the same building. “Well, don’t let it get you down,” he concluded with a weak smile.
“Oh, I’ll be all right,” Grace brightened confidently. “I’m predestined, if you know what I mean.”
Lifting his eyebrows, the boy grimaced and mumbled: “Yes, I’ve heard the expression before.”
The strident noise of bad brakes impinged on their ears, and a dilapidated Ford vibrated inelegantly to the curb before them.
“Hi, Harry!” the occupant shouted. “Here comes Personality Jimmie!” Bounding from the car, a boy thumbed six tickets, then kidded brazenly: “Oh, oh, didn’t mean to muscle in. Why, Harry, were you with this young lady?”
His friend turned to the strange girl.
“Guess you’ll have to help me out, Miss—Miss—“
“Grace Nome is my name.”
“Mine is Harry Wyatt, and this would-be comic intruder is Jimmie Hagel. Don’t mind him. He’s a nut, a goof, and a swell guy all rolled into one. He swears he’s funny—you know, funny like a comedian.”
Jimmie guffawed. “Why, I’m a comic, and you know it.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. You haven’t even got a one-day job.”
“Yeah, but I’m on my way to Paramount with hope and—“
“Oh,” Grace broke in, “will you tell me the location of Paramount Studios?”
“Hop in, Miss Nome. If you can stand this rattletrap fliv of mine, be there in three or four minutes. The ol’ buggy’s perky, has the shakes, but it’s sure.”
“I don’t want to intrude.”
“No trouble. Just look at that Class car, rarin’ to go! No foolin’, it has Class A inscribed on the motor. Just let me introduce you to the Baron. Hi Baron, this is Miss Nome. Miss Nome—the Baron. Barren of polish, barren of paint, barren of—“
“I can’t take it,” Harry groaned. “Jimmie, not in my financial mood. I’ll ride with you, if you’ll promise not to pun.”
“Not a pun in a carload. Hop in. I promise to keep the trap closed until I get a refusal from Paramount.”
In a few moments the three were crammed into the almost unupholstered seat, jogging zigzag and bouncy along Hollywood Boulevard. Eying the blonde beside him, Jimmie voiced his thoughts.
“You’re new, aren’t you, Miss Nome? Haven’t you seen around on the daily hunt. Bucking this extra list is tough sleddin’. What luck do you expect to have in the big bad film city?”
“Don’t answer him, Miss Nome. He’s crazy. Now, Jimmy, tell me why you rushed up with all that enthusiasm about tickets? What were they for?”
“The gamblin’ joint that’s openin’ tonight. I got six. Everybody’ll be there, ’cause they know the police won’t let it stay open long. I’m makin’ up a party. Wanna go?”

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