Hollywood Shorts: An Old Spanish Custom

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 Old Spanish Custom
“Hello. Central Casting?”
“This is Ed Spencer at Beaux Arts Studios.”
“Yes, Mr. Spencer.”
“Have you any idea where we can get in touch with a character actor named Ramon Fernandez? What agent manages him? He’s pure Castilian. We want him to supervise. I understand he has also directed some very good shorts.”
“Call you right back, Mr. Spencer.”
The entire staff at the Beaux Arts Studios was very much perturbed over the filming of a Spanish version to a successful motion picture, and there were numerous reasons to warrant their anxiety. The predominant one was to insure pure Spanish speech, the last opus to reach Madrid having been laughed at on account of its diction, phraseology, and style.
In answer to their producer’s harsh criticism, the whole staff had “passed the buck,” scattering blame ruthlessly. But each had sworn, in his own heart, that if the Chief overlooked the malfeasance, he, as a committee of one, would never allow it to happen again.
“Hello. Central Casting calling Beaux Arts Studios.”
“We’ve located your Spanish supervisor.”
Mr. Ramon Fernandez was summoned, and after much questioning, was handed a contract which pleased him exceptionally. He was immediately given a beautifully equipped office, made very comfortable, and promptly forgotten.
Weeks passed.
Baffled and afraid of offending, Mr. Fernandez reported punctually at nine in the morning and never thought of leaving before five in the afternoon, during which time he daily tried to gain an audience with some executive.
“In conference,” the secretaries invariably informed him but assured him not to worry. “Everything is continually getting postponed here,” they consoled with simple understanding.
A little humiliated, Mr. Fernandez did his best to smile, accepted the faineancy, collected his checks regularly, bearing up quite well. The financial reimbursement seemed to quell his pride. Neat figures in his bank book were consoling.
Three days before his contract expired, he decided to demand an audience with someone—anyone. Many long hours he sat on a hard bench, watching three different doors for a possible chance to accost human authority.
The three days were spent in the same posture, on the same hard bench, reading the same magazines, absorbing nothing from their pages, feeling like an office statue.
Accepting his last check from the dumb cashier, he left the lot in wonderment, possessing a stronger belief in Santa Claus and a weaker belief in human nature.
Weeks went by.
Again Mr. Fernandez received a hurry call from the same studio. He was informed that a Spanish version of a motion picture was to be made. The purity of speech must be supervised. Did he speak Spanish?
Buckling his astonishment within, Mr. Fernandez said, “I do,” as meekly as a groom.
“An, then you are our protector,” this new executive complimented and drew a contract.
Mr. Fernandez occupied the same beautiful office, came and went as he had formerly done, and collected his checks promptly as before. Three days before the expiration of his contract, he read the same old magazines while waiting in the same position, watching the three important office doors, sitting on the hard bench like a statue.
In a mental fog, he approached the cadaverous cashier, accepted his last check, and sauntered out of the studio gate as wide-eyed as a released prisoner.
Weeks passed.
A hurry call to the Beaux Arts Studios caused Mr. Fernandez to speculate whether or not they were going to ask him to give part of the money back. Bravely he decided to be mute, and if necessary, allow them to sue. But when he heard the reason for the summons, he commenced to doubt his mental equilibrium. A sudden dizziness enveloped him. Was he fainting?
A powerful executive smiled but spoke sincerely, carefully, as if he would impart his secret to no one else.
“We are about to make a Spanish version of a motion picture,” he informed confidentially. “Now we are very, very particular in seeking someone who speaks the language purely. Do you—“
“Wait!” the Spaniard interrupted.

Ramon Fernandez

Rising to his full height, he moved forward, extracting his credentials. He spread the lesser ones about the edge of the desk, and like a map, unfolded his diploma from the University of Barcelona, signed by the king.
As if he could absorb fluently, the producer scrutinized the prized document, then lifted his eyes questioningly.
“All very good,” he said skeptically, “but do you speak Spanish?”

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Hollywood Shorts: Glamor Afar

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.
*    *    *
Glamor Afar
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.”
“I’m sure!”
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.

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Hollywood Shorts: It Stinks

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.
*    *    *
It Stinks
“It stinks!”
“It does not stink! I guess I know when a thing stinks!”
A motion-picture scenario conference was in session.
Horatio Van Elf was responsible for the first outburst. Of course, if any of the Van Elfs had heard it, they certainly would have been horrified at such ribaldry. His Bostonian mother would have been shocked, had she heard the expression at any time since his birth, at which moment, she had given him the noble name of Horatio. But as he was now in his forty-fourth year, wizened and sarcastic, it was a long stretch back to the moment of his christening. Nor had his mother ever dreamed that Horatio would serve as gag man in the scenario department of a motion-picture studio.
Seven members sat about a long conference table. Five of them were watching Horatio and Edgar glare at each other, eagerly hoping that the outburst would develop into a long argument which might ease the mental effort from the toil of story writing.

“What a crabby killjoy you are, Horatio.” Edgar spat at the cuspidor disgustedly. “Always puncturing anybody’s idea-bubble, with that lousy pet line of yours, before it gets the slightest chance for life. Order!” he yelled.
Edgar Savage was the scenario chief and could yell back at anyone. Plus his position, he was proud of several brain children in the form of what he called original stories, which were declared boxoffice successes.
“Furthermore,” Edgar continued with some dignity, “that pet line used to be funny when you first pulled it. Now it’s shopworn. Get somethin’ new.” After snapping his black eyes around the table, he concluded commandingly: “Now let’s have quiet an’ get going. Am I right, boys?”
“Right as hell, Edgar!” Ham Edwards exclaimed through uneven gold. “Somebody’s goin’ tuh give Horatio a permanent wave sometime for that crack of his.”
Ham Edwards was a short, squint-eyed, canny individual who always wore a tattered straw hat when in conference—for luck, he declared. But in reality it afforded him an opportunity to lean back in his comfortable chair with the luck hat over his eyes, and while assuming the attitude of thinking, to snatch a nap of forty winks many times during the long afternoons. He was second in command; was also a successful writer, even if his stuff was drivel. The name Ham had stayed with him since his acting days, when he had been much younger and less rotund.
“Now listen, an’ get it, Horatio!” Jay chimed in, a thin, red-haired man of forty-two—a lesser light, fearful of his job. “We

chair, with one foot dangling against the water-cooler drain bucket.
“Now all of you pipe down!” Edgar demanded. “Whatcha think this is, an arena? We just gotta turn in a Special, the boss wants to call it. We’ll be lucky if we get even a lousy idea before night, the way you’re actin’. Furthermore, the boss’ll break up this staff, surer ‘n hell he will, if we don’t have somethin’ to offer. Most any minute he’ll be askin’ for an outline. Now everybody get quiet while I think!”
Horatio just had to say: “What with?”
Edgar’s eyes snapped fire. His hands drummed an exasperating tattoo on the table.
“No more cracks, Horatio, or so help me, I’ll go stool pigeon an’ inform the boss.” Thinking better of his remark on exposé, Edgar temporized, “About your sneakin’ out on us whenever that blonde stenographer passes our door to go nose powderin’. Now quiet! Everybody think!”
Violent silence ensued.

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Hollywood Shorts: Gorgeous

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.
*    *    *
Flash was a high-powered publicity man. Hardly anyone knew his last name. Anyway it was seldom voiced. He was called the maker of stars. Lived up to his name too, excepting one particular prophecy. Liked by everyone, he moved into any room with a hot-cha-cha expression, snapped his fingers, asked, “Have you heard this one?” and he fun began.
In the throes of a lively New York City sojourn, he entered a drawing room one day at cocktail time and began: “Hot-cha-ch—” But he left the last syllable forever unexpressed. Standing captivated by a striking platinum blonde, he mumbled: “China-blue eyes.” With top speed, he found her name to be Navine Hayden.
“Gorgeous!” he whispered after his introduction.
Exploitation details flashed like lightning through his mind as he basked in the intoxication of her presence. Later, on a moonlit veranda, he emphasized and amplified his ideas.
“I’m christening you Gorgeous from now on,” he assured her, and in a delicious fog of fancy, prophesied: “I’m putting you over with that.”
The world for which he considered himself fitted had suddenly started paying him dividends.
“Yep. Gorgeous!” he pronounced meditatively, as his mind shot months ahead. “Little lady, we go travelin’ from this moment!”
Spellbound, he watched her china-blue eyes, watched the luscious lips chatter on to him as if they had known him always and watched a golden sheen highlight the waves in her hair, as a new moon ricochets across a golden sea.
She came to the Coast, heralded as extensively as any girl from a glorified list of the Follies. Yet the half of her charm was never told. Her presence in any room was compelling. She could perceptibly change any corner of a rust-colored world.
Screen and sound tests were made, pronounced exceptional. Then a contract was drawn with special options.
“The find of a lifetime,” close friends whispered to Flash. “Why, you’ll collect a hot million before you’re through managing her.”
To such speculation, Flash always replied with a humorous, miserly rubbing of the palms to satisfy them, and wiggled his eyebrows comically. The flippant attitude only concealed a different ambition within, and a deep sun-tan camouflaged what might have otherwise appeared as a flushed countenance. Doubly inspired by the spirit of such compliments, he would retire to his office, where he made his typewriter sing in issuing forth colorful words that might proclaim a new star in the celestial heavens of Hollywood.
“You’re over!” he often mumbled like a ventriloquist whenever very near to her, regardless of surroundings.
But now and then, after such terse mumblings, he would snap his fingers as if sealing his conviction. Then feeling strangely uncertain, he would relax with a smile and shake his head, as if blocking out some gauzy vision which he could not fathom.

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Hollywood Shorts: Exit Alley

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.
*    *    *

“Hey, fellas,” he urged, “here comes Dizzy! the rib is on! Give it to him plenty.” He nudged the extra girl by his side, explaining: “Watch for the fun! This guy’s a crazy lug. He looks like the monkey Darwin wrote about.”
“What’s it all about?” the girl in Fatima costume inquired.
“That’s right. You’ve been away on location too long to know. Well, there’s somethin’ amongst us. Get a load of the wizened bit of humanity that’s makin’ an entrance.”
It was a hot sultry day in July. The restaurant was the coolest spot which actors, managers, grips, electricians, gaffers, and cameramen could find. Whether finished with food or not, they selfishly lingered at the tables under the breeze of the electric fans.
Mr. Banks entered the cafe, remained by the cashier’s desk a moment while casting his eyes newfoundlandly about, imploring courtesy from any finished diner. His little stature of five foot two sagged in the middle, and his starched collar wilted with the moments as he moved his straw hat mechanicallyl before his face.
“There’ll be loads of laughs in a minute,” Ben Whispered to the Fatima girl. “It’s a riot to watch him every day at lunch time. He’s terribly nearsighted. When he spots a chair and goes for it, one of the gang sneaks over and sits in it.”
“What does he do?”
“Oh, he apologizes all over the place for his mistake, wipes his glasses, and tries again. Then we repeat on him. Sometimes he makes an exit to cover up his embarrassment.”

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