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.
From the bench, a dignified judge scanned the faces of the witnesses in an interesting case. At times, he expelled a sigh, as if human relations were still an astonishing problem to him.
Two girls sat side by side, exchanging innocent glances in regard to the testimony. When testifying, neither told the whole truth, nor revealed all the information about the case. The judge seemed prejudiced, and the girls apparently knew it.
A short two years before, the two girls had emerged from a motion-picture theater in Hoboken, New Jersey, very much inspired by the performance of a star. This evidence was never introduced in court—a secret known only by them and a housekeeper.
“I’m going to marry that actor,” the ambitious one had said to her companion on the way home.
“What makes you talk that way, Belle? You’re crazy! Like as not he wouldn’t give you a second look if you were in Hollywood. And if he did, it might be one of those things that turn out to be a terrible mistake.”
“Just the same, I’m going to marry him if it’s the last thing I do in my life.”
“Gee, Belle! You oughtn’t say that. It might come true. What if it shouldn’t be like you imagined it would? You can’t never tell what a man is like at a distance, and Mom says you can’t be sure anyway.”
Her sound conviction caused silence. The two strolled on home meditatively.
That night, the apprehensive one informed the housekeeper of the strange desire of her companion: and that lady, as diplomacy dictated, came forth with some good sound advice about men. First she quoted, “All is not gold that glitters,” said, “Be careful, my dear,” and continued voicing many well-learned bits of philosophy regarding human relations, but none of her advice did any good.
Belle saved her money carefully. When she had accumulated the railway fare to the Coast, and a reasonable surplus as a vacation fund, she started west for Hollywood, glamor, and marriage.
The concentration upon her desire was so powerful that, Cinderella-like, ways and means fell into line as easily as magic words produce the unattainable in fairy tales.
Two invitations to Mayfair presented a problem. Which was the most advantageous? Which might place her in the continual line of vision of the star she intended hitching her wagon to?
Fate decreed, or was she riding the waves in the wake of her own billowy thinking?
Amid a brilliant gathering, two large parties were seated at adjacent tables, easily boasting of celebrities which most of the world had never seen in the flesh.
Through an avenue of bodies, a lovely girl compelled the attention of a handsome star. Momentary glances continued as the evening wore on. Casual turns of the head, by the hero, resolved into a steady gaze through the smoke tendrils from his cigarette. On the dance floor, a haunting face loomed like a dramatic vision at every turn, ever-fading through the mass of
A little over an hour later, an Arizona correspondent rushed to a telegraph office with rare news of the elopement and marriage of a famous star to an unknown Miss from Hoboken.
Columnists, all over the country, had their say, speculating, none too subtly, on the successful outcome of such a union.
On hearing the news, Hollywood went agog. The sinuous path of calumny wound its way snake-like to all listeners.
Months passed. The news got about that the actor was tiring of his new wife from Hoboken.
Comfortably established in a “guilted cage,” the ambitious little girl bore up as best she could. At breakfast she met a drunken husband, sat across from a sullen countenance at lunch, and encountered silence and mumblings at the evening meal until her hero needed the aid of the butler to be carried to bed. Her friend from Hoboken and the housekeeper come to the Coast for a visit, but they brought no consolation.
“And so this unbearable situation is at an end,” her attorney attested with a few meager she had told him. “And now she seeks a divorce because she realizes that her marriage has resolved into a mistake.”
The kind-faced judge signed a bill for divorcement and give her custody of the mistake.