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Title: Behind the Screen
Author: Goldwyn, Samuel
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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BEHIND THE SCREEN

SAMUEL GOLDWYN

[Illustration: MR. AND MRS. DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS

Internationally beloved and known to millions the world over.]



  BEHIND
  THE SCREEN

  BY
  SAMUEL GOLDWYN

  NEW [Illustration] YORK
  GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



  _Copyright, 1923,
  By George H. Doran Company_

  [Illustration]

  _Copyright, 1923,
  By The Pictorial Review Company_

  BEHIND THE SCREEN. I
  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



    TO THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY WHICH
    HAS BROUGHT ME SOME SUCCESS, A
    WORLD OF GOOD FRIENDS AND PLEASANT
    ASSOCIATES, AND, ABOVE ALL, THE
    SUPREME SATISFACTION OF DOING THAT
    WHICH I LOVE BEST TO DO, THIS BOOK IS
    DEDICATED. IN GRATEFUL APPRECIATION,
    I LIKEWISE DEDICATE TO THAT INDUSTRY
    MY SINCEREST EFFORTS FOR THE FUTURE.



AUTHOR’S NOTE


I want to acknowledge the co-operation of Miss Corinne Lowe in the
preparation of these articles. But for her enthusiasm, her patience,
and her splendid co-operation given me in every way, this series could
never have been written.

                        S. G.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
         _One_: IN WHICH IS FILMED THE BIRTH OF A NOTION              15

         _Two_: RECORDS THE SUCCESS OF AN IDEA                        23

       _Three_: MARY PICKFORD                                         30

        _Four_: FASCINATING FANNY WARD                                50

        _Five_: MARGUERITE CLARK MISSES FIRE AND EDNA GOODRICH
                  DOESN’T IGNITE AT ALL                               60

         _Six_: THE MISCHIEVOUSNESS OF MAE MURRAY                     73

       _Seven_: GERALDINE THE GREAT                                   81

       _Eight_: THE DISCOVERY OF CHARLIE CHAPLIN                      97

        _Nine_: STARS, STARS, STARS!                                 108

         _Ten_: THE MAGIC OF MARY GARDEN                             127

      _Eleven_: MAXINE ELLIOTT AND PAULINE FREDERICK                 137

      _Twelve_: A MARRIAGE OF TWO MINDS                              149

    _Thirteen_: THE REAL CHAPLIN                                     158

    _Fourteen_: JACKIE COOGAN AND “THE KID”                          169

     _Fifteen_: DOUG AND MARY                                        179

     _Sixteen_: RODOLPH VALENTINO                                    186

   _Seventeen_: ROMANTIC TRUE STORIES OF SOME SCREEN FAVORITES       196

    _Eighteen_: POLA NEGRI                                           212

    _Nineteen_: THE TWO TALMADGES                                    219

      _Twenty_: GOOD OLD WILL ROGERS                                 229

  _Twenty-One_: SOME AUTHORS WHO HAVE TRAVELLED TO HOLLYWOOD         235



ILLUSTRATIONS


  MR. AND MRS. DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS                          _Frontispiece_

                                                                    PAGE
  ELSIE FERGUSON                                                      16

  MR. GOLDWYN, MABEL NORMAND AND CHARLIE CHAPLIN                      17

  ALICE TERRY                                                         32

  BERT LYTELL                                                         33

  MR. GOLDWYN, DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS AND MARY PICKFORD                    48

  BARBARA LA MARR                                                     49

  CLARA KIMBALL YOUNG                                                 64

  MR. GOLDWYN ACTING AS HOST AND WAITER                               65

  LOU TELLEGEN AND GERALDINE FARRAR                                   88

  THEDA BARA                                                          89

  MABEL NORMAND                                                      112

  MAXINE ELLIOTT                                                     113

  MARY GARDEN AND GERALDINE FARRAR                                   128

  WILL ROGERS BIDS PAULINE FREDERICK GOODBYE                         129

  CHARLIE CHAPLIN                                                    160

  RUPERT HUGHES                                                      161

  JACKIE COOGAN                                                      176

  GEORGE FITZMAURICE                                                 177

  RODOLPH VALENTINO                                                  192

  MAURICE MAETERLINCK                                                193

  ERIC VON STROHEIM                                                  208

  “CHARLIE,” “DOUG” AND “MARY”                                       209

  CONSTANCE TALMADGE                                                 224

  NORMA TALMADGE                                                     225

  SAMUEL GOLDWYN AND SEVEN FAMOUS AUTHORS HE WON TO THE SCREEN       240

  GOUVERNEUR MORRIS                                                  241



BEHIND THE SCREEN



_Chapter One_

IN WHICH IS FILMED THE BIRTH OF A NOTION


It was something more than nine years ago that I walked into a little
motion-picture theatre on Broadway. I paid ten cents admission. As I
took my seat a player-piano was digging viciously into a waltz. Upon
the floor a squalid statuette lay under its rain of peanut-shells.

And all around me men, women, and children were divided between the
sustained comfort of chewing-gum and the sharp, fleeting rapture of the
nut.

Only a decade ago! Yet this was a representative setting and audience
for motion-pictures. Likewise typical was the film itself. For, as
were practically all productions of that day, this was only one or two
reels. And, faithful to the prevailing tradition, the drama of to-night
was Western.

I looked at the cowboys galloping over the Western plains, and in their
place there rose before me Henry Esmond crossing swords with the Young
Pretender, wiry young D’Artagnan riding out from Gascony on his pony to
the Paris of Richelieu, Carmen on her way to the bull-fight where Don
José waited to stab her.

Why not? Here was the most wonderful medium of expression in the world.
Through it every great novel, every great drama, might be uttered in
the one language that needs no translation. Why get nothing from this
medium save situations which were just about as fresh and unexpected as
the multiplication tables?

When I went into that theatre I had no idea of ever going into the film
business. When I went out I was glowing with the sudden realisation
of my way to fortune. I could hardly wait until I told my idea to my
brother-in-law, Jesse Lasky.

“Lasky, do you want to make a fortune?” With these words I burst in
upon him that evening.

Lasky, who was at that time in the vaudeville business, indicated that
he had no morbid dread of the responsibility of great wealth.

“Very well, then,” I continued. “Put up some money.”

“In what?”

“In motion-pictures,” I answered.

“Motion-pictures!” scoffed he. “You and I would be a fine pair in that
business--me, a vaudeville man, and you, a glove salesman! What do
we know about the game? Besides, how about the trust?”

[Illustration: ELSIE FERGUSON

Dignified stage star who lost none of her lustre on the screen.]

[Illustration: MR. GOLDWYN, MABEL NORMAND AND CHARLIE CHAPLIN]

His last words touched upon a vital issue in the screen industry
of that period. The truth of it was that motion-picture theatres
throughout the country were practically at the mercy of ten companies
which, for the privilege of showing pictures, collected a weekly
license fee of two dollars each, from fifteen thousand theatres. I
shall not enter here into the argument by which the combine justified
their taxation. I shall merely remark that the existent system
presented an obstacle worthy of consideration. However, all the way
home I had been preparing an answer to this protest of Lasky’s, and now
I eagerly put it forth.

“Give the public fine pictures,” I urged. “Show them something
different from Western stuff and slap-stick comedies and you’ll find
out what will become of the trust. And why should your entertainment
have to be so short? If it’s a good story there’s no reason why it
couldn’t run through five reels. I tell you the possibilities of the
motion-picture business have never been touched. We could sell good
films and long films all over the world.”

Eventually Lasky was convinced that my idea presented at least a good
betting proposition, and he agreed to add ten thousand dollars to the
equal amount which I put up, provided he be relieved of any active
management. Considering that in those days many of the two-reelers were
made for less than a thousand dollars, our original capital seemed not
only adequate to the immediate cost of production, but to a handsome
margin for recovery from a possible first failure. With this assumption
of strength we took our next logical step. We hunted for somebody who
would make our pictures for us.

It was natural that the first person of whom we should think in this
connection was Mr. D. W. Griffith. He was then directing for the
Biograph Company, one of the units of the motion-picture trust, and
he had already experimented with the longer picture in “Judith of
Bethulia.” Indeed, I wish to say right here that I lay no claim to
pioneer thought in realising that the screen was susceptible of longer
and more varied treatment, for, in addition to our American “Judith of
Bethulia,” one or two foreign pictures had heralded the new era. Any
possible credit to me, therefore, must be accorded to my conception of
the new sort of photoplay as a systematic performance rather than as a
sporadic spectacle. Indeed, I was to find out later that even this idea
was not an exclusive visitation. Lasky and I had supposed that we were
the only ones in the field, but it was not long before we discovered
that even previous to us another man had acted on the same idea.

But to go back to my interview with Mr. Griffith. I met him for lunch,
and I was impressed immediately by the personality which has since
lifted him into his place as the greatest of screen directors. Tall
and spare and quite stooped, Mr. Griffith’s figure suggests by its
very lack of erectness that reserve of energy which transforms him in
the studio to the tireless, almost demoniacal worker. His features are
clear-cut, and to the suggestion of the eagle in his profile the clear
blue eyes--eyes which you could never possibly mistake for gray even
across a room--contribute a final authority. These eyes while he is at
work, so people tell me, glow with enthusiasm, but during the chance
interview they join with the mouth in a look of amused observation.

With this expression he heard me make my proposition that day. When he
finally spoke it was to quench any hope that Mr. Griffith might ever
become associated with Lasky and me.

“A very interesting project,” he commented, “and if you can show me a
bank deposit of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars I think we might
talk.”

I did not betray the meagre conversational basis which I had to offer.
Instead, Lasky and I now approached a friend of ours, Cecil de Mille.
Mr. de Mille, although very little more than thirty years of age at
this time, was already known as a playwright of considerable skill. His
father had been Belasco’s partner and he himself had been associated
with the celebrated theatrical producer in writing “The Return of Peter
Grimm.” With all of his dramatic tradition and achievement Mr. de Mille
had one limitation. At this time he had never directed a picture. More
than this, he had never even seen one directed.

However, neither he nor we were daunted by this slight flaw in his
equipment. And after a day or two spent in the Edison studios Mr. de
Mille went out to California to “shoot” our first picture. For his
services he was paid one hundred dollars a week and was promised, in
addition, some stock in the company. When you reflect that to-day he
receives approximately five thousand dollars a week, together with a
large percentage of the returns on every production, it helps you to
realise that the jinnee of the screen has functioned almost as well as
did his ancestor of the “Arabian Nights.”

And in no place is the magic more apparent than in California.
When De Mille went out to Los Angeles to look around for a site,
Hollywood promised nothing of its present pomp. The vast studios, the
beautiful villas, the famous pleasure-places--all have arisen in
the past decade. It needs, indeed, only a flash-back from the Famous
Players-Lasky studios of to-day to our humble residence of nine years
ago to give you a complete sense of the growth of the industry.

The site which we finally selected was one floor of a livery-stable.
Here in this space, out of which had been created, in addition to the
studio, five small dressing-rooms, our director made that first film.
The elaborate sets were then undreamed of. Painted backgrounds achieved
their duties, and our scenic equipment consisted of four canvas wings
and two pieces of canvas. Likewise absent was the modern complicated
system of lighting. The sun was our only electrician in those days.
And with the aid of three or four men De Mille set to work in a studio
where the weekly pay-roll now numbers eleven hundred and fifty people.

Yet, in spite of such simplified conditions, it cost us forty-seven
thousand dollars to make that first picture. Nowadays that sum
is inadequate for any long production, but in those times it was
unprecedented. Of course the cost of the motion-picture rights of
our first drama accounted for this expenditure. This drama was “The
Squaw Man,” recently revived by Mr. William Faversham, and for it we
guaranteed royalty rights of ten thousand dollars. Ten thousand, and
our capital was only ten thousand more!

On the twenty-ninth of December, 1913, De Mille began making the
picture. But before he had even touched it I had got enough orders on
that unmaterialized merchandise to insure the production of the second
picture. I represented the executive end of our enterprise, and my
first move had been to make newspaper announcement of the fact that the
Lasky Company, as we had decided to call our organisation, was going to
produce a yearly series of twelve five-reel pictures, beginning with
“The Squaw Man.”

In New York I awaited results. Which would prevail--the trust or the
new kind of picture?

I was not kept long in suspense. Almost immediately theatre managers
and letters from theatre managers began to pour in. These functionaries
had been partially paralysed by the trust, and their quick response to
our announcement indicated just how eager they were for an opportunity
to regain their prestige. Although I had, of course, counted upon such
reaction, the swiftness and volume of those first orders overwhelmed me
with incredulous joy.



_Chapter Two_

RECORDS THE SUCCESS OF AN IDEA


I am compelled to say right here that life had not led me to expect
any such facility. For I had been a poor boy--poor and often homeless.
Of formal schooling I had practically none. At the age when most boys
take arithmetic and a roof and three square meals as a matter of course
I was fending for myself. When I got these things it was through odd
jobs in blacksmith-shops and in glove-factories. Sometimes, of course,
I did not get them at all. For example, I remember how once as a boy of
twelve I wandered for a whole week through the streets of London with
no more ardent guaranty of the future than a loaf of bread.

My early boyhood was spent in Europe and I was just fourteen when,
absolutely alone and with no friend or relative to greet me, I arrived
in New York City. From the city I went to Gloversville, N. Y., and
there, after about four or five years spent in a glove-factory, I
succeeded in persuading a firm that I could sell gloves. I can say
without arrogance of heart that I did sell them. But there was no
miracle of ease about this process. I travelled from coast to coast; I
often worked eighteen hours a day; I put over my product in districts
where it never sold before. As a result of all this I was making about
fifteen thousand dollars a year at the time when I chanced in upon
that little motion-picture theatre. I also owned stock in my company
and, thanks to an expanded income, I had been able to supplement my
fragmentary schooling by many lectures and concerts and by frequent
trips to Europe.

But, although at thirty I was a comparatively successful man, I was
not satisfied. I never had been satisfied. I can remember how when a
boy in the cutting department I used to walk by the leading hotel in
Gloversville and look at the “drummers” who cocked their feet up in the
big plate-glass window. How I envied them--those splendid adventurers
with their hats and their massive cigars both at an angle! For to
me they represented the everlasting romance of the far horizon. And
when at last I myself was admitted to this peerage I was sensible,
of course, of another, greater goal. I have made many mistakes in my
life, but I can honestly say that they were all results of an unceasing
effort on my part to reach the bigger thing just beyond.

But to return to my story. It soon became apparent that we needed
more money for the production of “The Squaw Man.” How were we going to
raise that necessary twenty-five thousand dollars? Our first approach
to the problem was a personal one. Lasky and I asked any number of
people we knew if they didn’t want some stock in the Lasky Company. But
all of them were skeptical. At last, however, we were able to borrow
the needed funds out of bank. De Mille resumed work on the picture,
and a few weeks afterward he returned to New York with the precious
merchandise. Meanwhile he had wired us that there was something wrong
with the film, but even this did not prepare me for my first glimpse of
the production upon which I had staked everything.

Buzz! In the silence of that deserted studio we heard the machine begin
its work. And then, as from a very far shore, I heard Lasky’s voice.

“We’re ruined,” he cried.

He was saying only what I myself had been too sick with horror to
exclaim. For, like a mad dervish, the home of the noble English earl,
together with all the titled ladies who moved therein, had jumped
across the screen. Time refused to stabilise them. They went right on
jumping. And with gathering despair we looked on what we supposed to be
the wreck of forty-seven thousand dollars.

That it was not a wreck was due to the aid of some one from whom we
had no right to expect it. At that time the late Sigismund Lubin
of Philadelphia was head of one of the ten companies which we were
fighting. Nevertheless it was to him I appealed for expert advice.
I took the roll of film over to Philadelphia, and with a largeness
of spirit which I shall never forget the old gentleman saved me, his
threatened rival, from utter ruin. He pointed out that the time-stop
was wrong. No, not an irremediable defect. In the joy of this discovery
I overlooked the hardship of his cure. Yet this was to paste by hand
new perforations on both edges of a film that was nearly a mile long.

The story of the beginning of the Lasky Company is now coming to a
close. To it I might add a thousand picturesque and amusing details,
but I realise that the chief interest of my reminiscences is focussed,
not upon the development of the motion-picture industry--dramatic
as that undoubtedly is--but upon the celebrated personalities with
whom my life has brought me into contact. I have delayed this long
the more vital communications because the transition from the former
impoverished photoplays to the elaborate spectacle of to-day involved
many producers and brought with it the rise of all our famous stars. To
give a real insight into the lives of Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin,
Norma Talmadge, Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Reid, Harold Lloyd, Mabel
Normand, and other famous screen artists obligates, in fact, the
background of photoplay history involved in the start of the Lasky
Company.

My last word here touches upon the reception of “The Squaw Man.” It
scored an immediate success. Our second play established us even more
firmly. This prosperity resulted logically in helping the overthrow of
the trust. Beaten upon by the wave of new photoplay methods, some of
its units were carried out to oblivion. Others rose to the surface only
through conformity to the agent of destruction.

It was during an interview with one of the first exhibitors who came
to my office that I heard the name of the man who, unknown to me, had
already embarked on the very same enterprise that I had.

“So you’ve got this idea of the long film too?” remarked this exhibitor.

If one of the Indians who greeted Columbus had said, “So you’ve landed
too?” the explorer would have felt probably as I did at that moment.

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

“Why,” said he, “haven’t you heard about the man that brought over
Sarah Bernhardt’s first picture and produced ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’--a
fellow by the name of Zukor?”

It was not until some months after this that I first met Mr. Adolph
Zukor, then head of the Famous Players Company. I should like to have
more space to devote to the eminent producer who, through years of
alternating competition and co-operation, has touched my life at so
many points, but I can pause only long enough for a few words. Mr.
Zukor, like myself, started in the world as a poor boy. Unlike me,
however, he started film-production with a background of experience.
He had owned for some years a number of motion-picture theatres, and
a more intimate dissatisfaction with available resources was back of
his break from tradition. When he attempted to get financial backing
for his project, however, he met with the same objections which I had
heard, and he has often told me how the theatrical manager whose aid he
attempted to enlist scoffed, “What do you want to show a long film for?
People are not going to have the patience to sit through more than a
thousand feet of film.”

I might marshal a great many adjectives and nouns to Mr. Zukor’s
credit, but I feel that I can suggest his fundamental character more
skilfully by recalling one incident. Several years after I had met him
we were coming home from some entertainment together when we saw a
blaze in the locality of the Famous Players’ studio which, unlike our
own, was situated in New York. We were soon to discover that it was the
studio itself. In it were thousands of dollars’ worth of undeveloped
negatives--many of them of Mary Pickford. Their destruction would have
meant financial ruin to Mr. Zukor. He himself realised this fully. Yet
the only words that he said, the words which he kept repeating all
through the crisis, were, “Oh, do you think anybody’s hurt?”



_Chapter Three_

MARY PICKFORD


It was some months after I first met our competitor that I received
my first impression of the most noted screen actress in America. As I
walked into Mr. Zukor’s office one evening I noticed a girl talking to
him. She was very small and her simple little navy suit contrasted with
the jungle of fur coat from which peeped another woman.

“They’ve offered me five hundred for the use of my name,” I heard her
say, “but do you really think that’s enough? After all, it means a lot
to those cold-cream people.”

I looked at the lovely profile where every feature rhymes with every
other feature. I listened to the lovely light voice. And I was struck
by the disparity between sentiment and equipment.

Yet somehow she did invest these words of mere commerce with a quality
quite apart from their substance. There was something in her tone,
something in the big brown eyes, which made you think of a child asking
whether it ought to give up its stick of candy for one marble or
whether perhaps it could get two. As I saw her slight figure go out
the door it was the appeal of her manner rather than the text of her
question which made me ask immediately who she was.

“What!” Mr. Zukor exclaimed. “Didn’t you recognise her? Why, that was
Mary Pickford.”

That was just about eight years ago. Miss Pickford was already a star,
and she was twinkling under the auspices of Adolph Zukor; for, early in
his career of producing, our competitor had been fortunate enough to
secure the services of that great pantomime artiste who has undoubtedly
contributed more than any other single person to his present eminence.

Mr. Zukor made Miss Pickford a star. This is a mere formal statement of
the case. In reality she made herself, for no firmament could have long
resisted any one possessing such standards of workmanship. I am aware
that here I sound suspiciously like the press-agent, who invariably
endows his client with “a passionate devotion to her work.” It is
unfortunate, indeed, that the zeal of this functionary has calloused
public consciousness to instances where the statement is based on fact.
All screen stars are not animated by devotion to work. Mary Pickford
is. To it she has sacrificed pleasures, personal contacts, all sorts
of extraneous interests.

Several years before I walked into the theatre which inspired me with
my idea, Mary Pickford was working under Mr. Griffith in the Biograph
Company, which, you will remember, was a unit in the trust. Then she
was not a star. She was getting twenty-five dollars a week, and the
most vivid reflection of those early days of hers is afforded by a
woman who used to work with her.

“How well I remember her,” this woman has told me, “as she sat there in
the shabby old Biograph offices. She nearly always wore a plain little
blue dress with a second-hand piece of fur about her throat.”

Not long ago I asked Mr. Griffith this question: “Did you have any
idea in those days that Mary Pickford was destined for such a colossal
success?” His answer was a decided negative.

“You understand, of course,” he immediately qualified, “my mind was
always on the story--not on the star. However, I can say this: It was
due to me that Miss Pickford was retained at all, for the management
did not care for her especially. To speak plainly, they thought she was
too chubby.”

I gasped at the impiety of the word. It was some time before I could
rally to ask him another question: “Then was there anything that set
her apart from other girls you were engaging at that time?”

[Illustration: ALICE TERRY

Wife of Rex Ingram, noted director whose work in “The Four Horsemen”
compelled unusual attention.]

[Illustration: BERT LYTELL

Who brought great stage tradition to the screen.]

“Work,” he retorted promptly. “I soon began to notice that instead of
running off as soon as her set was over, she’d stay to watch the others
on theirs. She never stopped listening and looking. She was determined
to learn everything she could about the business.”

While considering these remarks of the greatest screen director anent
the greatest screen actress, it is interesting to parallel them with
Miss Pickford’s comments upon Mr. Griffith. One evening not long ago
I was entertained at the Fairbanks home at a dinner including Charlie
Chaplin and Mr. Griffith. After the meal was served Doug took Mr.
Griffith out to see his swimming-pool. Mary and I were left alone,
and as we looked after the tall, bent figure of the director, I took
advantage of our solitude to ask her a question which had often
occurred to me. “Mary,” I asked her, “how did you ever come to break
away from Griffith?”

“Well,” she answered promptly, “it was this way: I felt that I was
getting to be a machine under Mr. Griffith. I got to be like an
automatic doll. If he told me to move my left foot I moved it. When he
said, ‘Look up’ I did that just as unquestioningly. So I make up my
mind to see if I could really do anything by myself.”

I doubt if Mr. Zukor himself realised at first the tremendous
potentiality of Mary Pickford. It was some months, indeed, before the
Famous Players starred her, and Mr. Zukor has often told me how during
that probationary time she used to say to him, “Oh, Mr. Zukor, if I
could only see my name in electric lights I’d be the happiest girl in
the world!”

When the great moment to which she had so long and so eagerly looked
forward finally did come, the scenario-writer of Mary Pickford’s own
life displayed a dramatic deftness of touch.

One day Mr. Zukor asked Miss Pickford if she would go out to dinner
with him that evening. She agreed, and he appointed the Hotel Breslin
on Broadway for their meeting. When they sat down at their table it was
still light. At last when dusk began to fall Mr. Zukor rose and went
over to the window.

“Come over here,” he called to the girl. “I want you to see something.”

Wonderingly she followed him. She looked out at the street where the
swift Winter darkness was dimming the familiar outlines, and then she
looked back to his face.

“What is it?” said she. “I don’t see anything.”

“Wait,” he commanded.

As he spoke the lights of many windows began to brush like golden
flakes against the blurred buildings. And then across the street at
Proctor’s there suddenly leaped in letters of frosty fire these words:

        +-----------------+
        |  MARY PICKFORD  |
        |                 |
        |       in        |
        |                 |
        | “Hearts Adrift” |
        +-----------------+

She had never suspected that she was to be starred in this play. And it
is not surprising that at the revelation of her success she burst into
tears such as have moved her audiences all over the world.

“Can it really, really be true?”--this might have been the subtitle of
that big scene in the drama of Mary Pickford’s life.

It was a moment after this first shock of incredulous joy that she said
to Mr. Zukor, “Oh, what will mother say when she hears this?”

Any one who knows Mary will not be surprised at this almost
instantaneous thought of her mother. I have met the average number of
daughters in my life and I can truthfully say that none of them ever
gave a mother such devotion as does she. Until the time Mary married
Douglas Fairbanks Mrs. Pickford was the one dominating influence in
her daughter’s life. In the vividness of this relationship you will
find perhaps the reason for one outstanding lack in Mary Pickford’s
life. There are many women who admire her. Of men pals, such as
Marshall Neilan, the celebrated director, she has a score. But to my
knowledge there is only one woman who has approached--and she very
tentatively--the position of intimate friend.

“Ma” Pickford, as she is known familiarly, is now her daughter’s
business manager. But in the old shabby days of the Biograph studio
her activities, although more limited, were equally pronounced. Every
single day she came with Mary to the studio and stayed with her until
she left. She watched every move she made. She gave her suggestions
about her work. She sat with the faithful make-up box while Mary was
on a set. In the Famous Players’ studio it was the same. Of course,
stage and screen supply numerous other instances of brooding maternal
solicitude.

I am now approaching a phase of the noted pantomimist’s career which
points to many adventures in which I myself have been involved. When
Mary Pickford first went with Mr. Zukor he paid her five hundred
dollars a week. Her success was so marked that before her contract
had expired he voluntarily raised this to a thousand dollars. After
this--but I am anticipating.

Whenever I saw Mr. Zukor looking homeless as a small-town man in
house-cleaning time I knew what was the matter.

“How much does she want now?” I used to ask him laughingly.

“We’re fixing up the contract,” he would answer with a significant lift
of the eyebrows.

It often took longer to make one of Mary’s contracts than it did to
make one of Mary’s pictures. Yet, strangely enough, the beneficiary
herself took no hand in the enterprise. The warfare of clauses was
waged entirely by her mother and her lawyer. Indeed, Mr. Zukor has
often told me that Mary Pickford had never asked him for a cent.

“Then how do you know she’s discontented?” I once inquired of him. “How
does she act?”

“Like a perfect lady,” responded Mr. Zukor stoically.

I made no comment, but I have always understood that one of the
advantages of being a perfect lady is that you can create a certain
atmosphere without creating the basis for any definite accusations.

During the time that this contract was being negotiated the newspapers
published an item to the effect that Charlie Chaplin had just signed a
new contract whereby he was to receive $670,000 a year. Right here was
where Mr. Zukor experienced a most acute manifestation of his periodic
disorder.

When the Chaplin contract was announced every film-producer knew
that Mary Pickford was negotiating a new contract, and I know of one
specific offer she received at fifteen thousand dollars a week.

On account of the pleasant relations that had always existed between
Mary Pickford and Mr. Zukor, however, she finally accepted the new
contract with him, in which Lasky and I joined with Mr. Zukor, as the
contract for ten thousand dollars a week, to apply on fifty per cent.
of the profits of the picture, seemed unusually large.

During this period of dissatisfaction she spoke to me one day about the
Chaplin contract. “Just think of it,” said she, “there he is getting
all that money and here I am, after all my hard work, not making one
half that much.”

This reminds me that, some time after the contract was made, Mary
Pickford started working on her first picture, entitled “Less Than
Dust,” and I saw more of her than I ever did before. As the enterprise
was so large we decided to have a separate unit for her, which meant
a separate studio that no one else worked in but Miss Pickford. As
there was trouble one day, and Mr. Zukor being away, I went over to
see her. Until that time any difficulties were always straightened out
with Mr. Zukor. While I was there she make this remark to me: “What
do you think? They all seem to be excited around here over my getting
this money. As a matter of fact, one of your officials said: ‘Watch her
_walk_ through this set. For ten thousand dollars a week she ought to
be running.’”

But to recur to the Chaplin contract: I was struck by the appeal in
these words about dollars and cents. Again she seemed to me like a
child, and this time all a child’s sense of injustice at what she
considered an ungenerous return for her services spoke in the big
brown eyes. If, indeed, my last paragraphs have cast the great screen
artiste in any doubtful light, I hasten to remind you that all her
tremendous professional pride was at stake in securing a concrete
reward. Certainly there can be no doubt--and I am sure Mr. Zukor would
be the first to admit this--that she was worth all the money she
ever received. In fact, there are many who will consider this a very
conservative statement.

Then, too, it will be remembered that my early impressions of Mary
Pickford were received from Mr. Zukor and that, although he has always
had the highest admiration for her both as a woman and as an artiste,
his interpretation of various episodes was doubtless affected by the
strain of financial adjustment. One memory of mine serves to establish
this point.

On a certain day when I met our rival producer for lunch he was wearing
what I had come to know as his “Mary” expression.

“What’s up now?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “She’s very balky over ‘Madame Butterfly,’” he
responded. “This morning she stopped acting because she said the shoes
weren’t right. In fact, nothing’s right about the whole play.”

Mr. Zukor attributed this mood to another crisis in wage fixation, but
I am quite sure that salary was, at the most, only a partial factor in
her dissatisfaction with that particular play. For not long ago she
confided to a friend of mine: “The only quarrel I can ever remember
having with a director was over ‘Madame Butterfly.’ It ought to have
been called ‘Madame Snail.’ It had no movement in it, no contrasts at
all. Now, my idea was to have the first scenes showing _Pinkerton_
teaching the Japanese girl some American game like baseball. But would
the director listen to me? Not a bit of it.”

Continuing with this same reminiscence, Mary Pickford spoke of
her friend Marshall Neilan. “Micky was playing with me in ‘Madame
Butterfly,’” she said. “And how well I remember the way we’d grouch
after we left the studio. We used to leave work in an old car that we
called Cactus Kate or Tuna Lil, and as we bumped into New York we’d
invent together all sorts of business that we thought might tone up
poor ‘Madame Butterfly.’ I was so impressed by Micky’s idea that I went
to Mr. Zukor and said: ‘Do you know you ought to make Micky Neilan a
director? He’d be worth at least a hundred and twenty-five dollars a
week to you.’”

I quote this last as a testimony to the almost unerring acumen which
Mary Pickford displays in her profession. Later on I myself engaged
Marshall Neilan for the Lasky Company, and he has developed into one
of the four or five great directors in the country. Incidentally I may
mention that the Goldwyn Company now pays him twenty-five thousand
dollars a picture, together with fifty per cent. of the profits. He
produces four pictures a year.

My first long talk with Mary Pickford was almost a year after I caught
my first glimpse of her in Zukor’s office. The conversation centred
almost entirely upon work, and I shall never forget my amazement as I
listened to her. There was no detail of film-production which she, this
girl, still in her early twenties, had not grasped more thoroughly
than any man to whom I ever talked. She knew pictures, not only from
the standpoint of the studio, but from that of the box-office. Back of
those lovely brown eyes, disguised by that lyric profile, is the mind
of a captain of industry. In appearance so typically feminine, Mary
Pickford gives to the romance of business all of a man’s response.
Certainly she would have had no trouble in filling a diplomatic post.
I realised this as, sitting with her one evening in the Knickerbocker
Hotel restaurant, where I had taken her to dinner, I heard her speak
for the first time of the Lasky studio. She was only twenty-two.

“I can’t tell you,” said she, “how I admire your photography.” And then
she went on to laud other features until I tingled with pride to think
that I belonged to such a superior organisation.

“It must be a wonderful pleasure to work in such a studio,” she
concluded in a voice soft as the southern wind.

Of course I may be mistaken, but it seemed to me that Mary was
conveying the impression that she would not be awfully offended if I
made her an offer from the Lasky Company. However, as this impression
was created after she had praised Zukor in the highest possible
terms--indeed, she always spoke well of him--it avoided all the
disadvantages of a direct statement.

I may mention incidentally that she did have offers from many
producers. Therefore when she was ready to make a new contract with
Zukor she had a very firm foundation of argument. “So-and-so’s willing
to give me so much. Also So-and-so”--this was the lever applied by her
mother and her lawyer.

There was another revelation made by that first evening. She and her
mother were living at the time in a little apartment on One Hundred and
Fifth Street. When I entered it I was never more surprised in my life,
for the room into which I was ushered contained only a few plain pieces
of furniture, and in its centre stood an inexpensive-looking trunk.

As I waited for Miss Pickford I wondered to myself, “What in the world
is this girl doing with her thousand a week?”

For you must remember this was no transient abode. Here in these
quarters, where Japanese ideas of elimination had been applied so
thoroughly, the famous star had been living for months. As I thus
speculated upon the destiny of Mary’s dollars the door opened and I
looked up to see a short, rather stout figure and a face where could be
traced some resemblance to that of the celebrity for whom I waited. It
was Mrs. Pickford.

She greeted me cordially and then she turned to the trunk. From it I
saw her take the gown her daughter was going to wear that evening, and
I could not help observing the simplicity of this garment. Many a girl
who makes fifty dollars a week would have considered it too plain for
herself.

On another occasion when Mrs. Pickford accompanied us to dinner I
heard the answer to my unspoken query in the meagre little room. She
was investing Mary’s savings. Most of these investments were made in
Canada, where Mary was born and brought up, and I was surprised to
learn the extent they had already attained.

I have spoken of the famous star as being, in reality, a captain of
industry. In the thrift to which I was introduced this first evening
you find a reinforcement of the statement. I was soon to discover that
waste of any kind offends Mary Pickford as much as it does John D.
Rockefeller.

But if Mary is controlled in her general expenditure, if she has never
been able to rebound from the fear of poverty impressed upon her by
the straitened days of her childhood and early youth, she displays no
similar restraint in one particular instance. Her family! Not only to
her mother, but to her brother Jack and her sister Lottie she has been
the soul of generosity.

In manner she is perfectly simple and unaffected. Unlike many other
screen actresses whom I have known, she does not act after working
hours. And when she is in the studio she is always courteous and
considerate. There on the set, where the soul-meter registers so true,
Mary Pickford never indulges in the spasms of ego which the afflicted
themselves are wont to call their temperament. Methodically as if she
were Mary Jones arriving in the office for dictation, she appears on
the Fairbanks lot.

There is absolutely no swank about her. An illustration of the quality
which has so endeared her to many other members of her profession is
found in a benefit performance given last year at Hollywood. Space was
limited and when the dressing-rooms were assigned no such poignant cry
of outraged property rights has been uttered since the little bear
whimpered, “Who’s been sitting in my chair?”

“What!” cried one of the motion-picture duchesses only just recently
elevated to the peerage. “Do you mean to say that I have to dress in a
room with three other people?”

Miss Pickford, however, whose audiences number twenty-five to this
other star’s one, sat down good-humoredly in a room with several other
performers.

“How jolly!” said she, according to report. “This reminds me of the
old days at the Biograph when I was getting twenty-five a week.”

If Miss Pickford has, indeed, any vanity, it is focussed more upon her
sense of being a good business woman than it is upon her ability as an
actress. All of her friends realise this, and Charlie Chaplin, upon
whose warm personal friendship with Douglas Fairbanks and his wife I
shall dwell in a later chapter, is very fond of teasing her upon this
one vulnerable point.

“Where do you get this idea that you’re such a fine business woman,
Mary,” Charlie asked her laughingly one evening.

“Why, I am,” she retorted indignantly. “Everybody knows it.”

“I can’t see it,” announced Charlie. “You have something the public
wants and you get the market price for it.

“And then,” recounts Charlie gleefully, “I wish you had seen Doug. He
looked as if he were going to hit me.”

A year or so ago I was at one of the big hotels in Hollywood with an
author making his first visit to the place. He looked around at the
dining-room with the faces of so many famous motion-picture folks, and
then he turned to me.

“I don’t see Mary and Doug,” he remarked. “Where are they?”

“No,” said I, “and if you live in Hollywood for a year you’ll probably
never see them--unless you go to their home.”

Poor chap! If he had gone to Switzerland and been told that the Alps
never came out he could not have looked more disappointed.

One evening I was invited to dinner at the beautiful home of Mary and
Doug in Beverly Hills. The idol of the screen, arrayed in a beautiful
evening gown, met me with a manuscript in her hand.

“Well, well, what are you doing?” I asked her.

“Oh,” she said, “I’m working on my story.”

We ate a dinner where the talk was all dedicated to pictures. Then as
soon as it was over Mary turned to me. “I’d like you to see my new
picture this evening,” she announced. “I’m awfully anxious to know what
you think of it and to find out if you have any suggestions to make.”

I smiled a little as I was led into the projection-room, where almost
every evening the star and her husband turn on their consistent diet
of amusement, for I realised that in this clever way Mary was going on
with her work under cover of entertaining me.

This incident is typical of the whole-souled concentration which I am
trying to point out. Every night after dinner the star and her husband
see some picture--either one of their own or that of somebody else. In
order to accomplish this they have installed in their home a machine
and, just as in the ordinary household you turn on the phonograph, one
of their men servants tunes up the silver-sheet. This home, by the way,
presents in its luxury a very different setting from the little room
where the star first entertained me, for since her marriage to Douglas
Fairbanks there has been a marked expansion in her mode of living.

At eight o’clock in the morning Miss Pickford appears in the studio.
It is often late in the evening when she leaves it. As to her working
environment, this has been so often reproduced that I shall pass
over the uproar, the glaring lights, the heat, the long waits, the
monotonous repetitions of every scene--all those features which make
a motion-picture day the most wearing in the world. Nor is the work
less exacting when she is not engaged in actual reproduction. For,
after the careful sifting of hundreds of stories, her final choice
demands innumerable preliminaries of costume, lighting, directing,
scenario-writing, and casting. And always, always she is thinking up
bits of business for her next play.

But, the reader may protest, you have given us Mary Pickford chiefly in
the terms of work. Can this be all? Is it merely a captain of industry
who, in the guise of the wistful, appealing, dark-eyed slip of a
girl, has played upon the heart-strings of the world? Decidedly not! On
the screen you can not humbug any of the people any of the time. The
camera shows, as the speaking stage does not, the fundamental quality
of the human soul. It has not deceived you, therefore, when you exclaim
involuntarily, “Isn’t she sweet?” the minute you see Mary’s face on the
screen.

[Illustration: MR. GOLDWYN, DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS AND MARY PICKFORD AT THE
STUDIO]

[Illustration: BARBARA LA MARR

Whose work in “The Eternal City” stamped her as an actress of stellar
size.]

Mary Pickford has a real sweetness of spirit. Furthermore, it is a
woman’s sweetness. You find it in the look she bends upon her mother,
in her greetings to those who work with her, in her love of children
and of animals. It was that which led her to write to Mr. Zukor when,
after their long career of contract-making, she finally left his
organisation, the most affectionate and appreciative of letters. It was
certainly that which made the first words I ever heard her utter seem
not just a commercial inquiry, but the appealing wonder of a child.

Not only this. She possesses all a woman’s capacity for lyric response
fused with her man’s capacity for epic response. The great romance of
Mary Pickford’s life is undoubtedly Douglas Fairbanks, and upon this I
shall touch when I come to speak of Fairbanks himself.



_Chapter Four_

FASCINATING FANNY WARD


Before I happened into Adolph Zukor’s office that evening, of which
I had spoken previously, when Mary Pickford was consulting him about
the proper recompense for her indorsement of the cold-cream, I was, of
course, already launched on my own adventures with the stellar world.

Through my account of the difficulties experienced by Mr. Zukor and
Mary Pickford in arriving at a mutual understanding of a satisfactory
wage, the reader may perhaps have gathered that the intercourse between
producer and star is often clouded by the individual view-point. A
story of my own contacts will not weaken that impression. In fact,
before the Lasky Company was six months old I had discovered that the
need for adjustment between these two supreme functionaries of the
motion-picture world covers a wide ground, where salary represents only
a limited space.

Among the first of the stars whom I engaged was Fanny Ward. It was
shortly after we made our first picture that I chanced to meet this
widely known actress in the elevator of the Hotel Claridge, New York.
Fanny was not in her first youth. There was nothing, however, except
her birth certificate to indicate this fact. If Ponce de Leon in his
search for the Fountain of Youth had seen her that day he surely would
have cried, “Ho, man, we’re getting warm!”

I was so struck by that air of youthful witchery which she has so
often conveyed on the screen that I ultimately asked her if she would
not make some pictures for us. Up to this time her fame had been
confined to the speaking stage. But she was at once enthusiastic about
the opportunity I presented to her, and in a short time we concluded
arrangements for her trip.

The vehicle which we selected for her was “The Marriage of Kitty.” But,
alas and alack! The vehicle was unequipped with shock-absorbers or even
ordinary springs. After some very rough going in California, during
which time Mr. de Mille had expressed by wire his dissatisfaction with
my newly found star, the picture was sent back East. And along with the
picture was shipped Fanny herself.

Almost immediately I was apprised of the latter fact. “Miss Ward
phoned you just now,” announced my secretary on an otherwise pleasant
morning. “She wants you to call her immediately.”

That I did not heed this request was due to a misplaced confidence
on my part in the healing quality of Time. When the actress finally
succeeded in seeing me I found that Time had done no more for Fanny
than it does for a fireless cooker. Instead of cooling it had merely
conserved those inner fires.

I had just ordered my dinner on that night when she consummated my
capture, and as I saw her bear down upon my table I resigned myself to
the inevitable. The inevitable was punctual. “You!” cried she, glaring
up at me: “what have you done?”

I was, however, given no time for this solicited autobiography.
Instantaneously the actress proceeded to enlighten me upon the one
predominant and vital activity of my career. “You have disgraced me
in the eyes of Hollywood and New York,” she asserted; “that’s what
you have done. Did I ask to go into pictures? Not much! I had a big
reputation on the stage, and then--you come along! You tell me what
a future I have in pictures; you persuade me to leave New York and
go to California, and now here I am, disgraced, absolutely made a
laughing-stock----”

I took advantage of this, her first pause. “There, there,” murmured I,
fully conscious of the limitations of my soothing technique, “what’s
the matter?”

“Matter!” she stormed. “Everything’s the matter. Your photography’s
rotten--absolutely no good. And as for your director--say, haven’t I
been on the stage some years--oughtn’t I to know something about the
game? And am I to be told what’s what by Cecil de Mille?” Et cetera. Et
cetera.

The dinner cooled. Not so, Fanny. For fully half an hour the outraged
star poured into my ears the tale of her wrongs in that far-away
studio. Only my assurance that I would look at the film, which had
arrived simultaneously with her, succeeded in stemming the flood-gates.

I did look at it, and my impression was much more favourable than I
had hoped. It seemed to me that she had screened well and I wired
to De Mille and Lasky to ask a second opportunity for Fanny. When
I communicated this decision to Miss Ward she was so happy and so
grateful for my intervention that I felt quite reckless about any
financial outcome.

As it happened, however, the Lasky Company was not penalised for giving
Fanny her second chance. The next play we assigned her was “The Cheat.”
This film did four things. Its court scene where Fanny dramatically
exposed the brand on her shoulder established her as an eminent
artiste of the screen. It provided a wonderful vehicle for Sessue
Hayakawa, the Japanese pantomimist, whom we engaged then for the first
time, and was indeed responsible for the rapidity for his ascent to
fortune. It also brought Cecil de Mille to the front. And to the Lasky
Company it meant a first real “knockout” after a number of moderate
successes. Everybody talked about “The Cheat,” Fanny Ward, and Sessue.

While making this play Miss Ward was the victim of a studio accident
which provided the source of innocent merriment for the entire screen
colony in Hollywood. When the cry of “Camera” was given Miss Ward got
into action on a rustic bridge spanning a pool. She was attired in a
costly ermine coat, a plumed hat, and a Paris gown. Sustained by the
consciousness of these assets, as well as by her usual dramatic fervor,
she began to trip across the edifice. For a few moments the tripping
was good. Then suddenly there was a creak of boards. The creak was
followed by a loud ripping noise, the bridge fell, and a moment later
the camera, that remorseless Boswell, had recorded Fanny sitting in the
pool below.

It was a somewhat inglorious attitude for any heroine, and Fanny was
not slow to realise it. Sitting there in her soaked ermine coat with
her plumed hat all awry, she relieved her feelings in a manner highly
satisfactory both to herself and to those about her.

“At last,” commented one of her fellow actors, hearing this outburst of
indignation, “we have seen it--the lake of fire and brimstone.”

But it was only a moment after this that the victim was laughing quite
as heartily as the spectators. Indeed, among the various tempers which
I have looked over in my career as producer, Fanny Ward’s variety
comes nearest to the ideal recognised as “lovable.” Not only is her
anger short-lived, but it is accompanied by such warmth of heart and
generosity of spirit and it is followed so swiftly by her infectious
laugh that one never remembers her stormy moods except with an
affectionate smile.

Certainly her residence in Hollywood did much to dispel the horror
which the mere mention of California evoked in the minds of many
screen performers of that day. Into that former community with its few
shops and its unpretentious homes Fanny moved with a suggestion of
Eastern pomp. Having been married to a wealthy man and being therefore
independent of her salary, she took the largest house in Hollywood and
filled it with a fine blend of gold plate, servants, and bric-à-brac.

This home became the rendezvous of the picture-making colony. If you
entered it on Sunday afternoon you found that forty-nine people had
preceded you. No hostess could have been more delightful and gracious.

Whatever may be later sources of inspiration in motion-picture
festivities those at Fanny Ward’s did not wander far from childhood’s
happy hour. Once, I remember, a donkey-party was tendered. On this
occasion Eva Tanguay did everything she could to sustain a famous
self-characterisation. She did a bit of comedy work for which this
nonsensical game offers such wide scope, convulsing us all with the
innocent blundering she so well knows how to simulate.

There was one personal prejudice of Fanny’s which is recalled with
amusement by all those who used to be invited to those parties. No
matter what she served her guests at dinner--lobster, or quail, or
turkey--she herself always ate frankfurters. Furthermore, she liked a
mob scene of these “hot dogs,” and I can see her now as she sat before
one of her famous gold platters heaped high with the incongruous fare.

Every other type of refreshment at the Ward home sprang from an equally
liberal source. Witness to this fact is supplied by a dinner given by
Fanny just previous to a discussion arranged by the Lasky Company,
the Famous Players, and the Triangle Company with a view toward a
merger of these organisations. A representative of one of the two rival
companies sat beside me while a relentless hospitality was being waged.
At last he turned to me pleadingly.

“For Heaven’s sake,” he whispered, “I want a clear head for our talk.
Won’t you tell that butler to stop filling my glass?”

“Butler!” I whispered back, almost congealed with horror. “Sh! That’s
Miss Ward’s husband.”

This husband, by the way, was Jack Deane, her leading man, whom she
married after coming to Hollywood.

Fanny’s expenditures began at home, but they did not stay there. She
made the same opulent gesture in the studio. Thus I remember that
when Percy Hilburn, the cameraman who used to film her, threatened to
leave us because we would not raise his salary from one hundred to two
hundred a week, the actress made up the extra amount out of her own
purse.

“What,” she exclaimed, “have Percy leave the place while I am here! A
man that can make you look as beautiful as he does me!”

There was, of course, a great deal in what she said. For an expert
cameraman can be as flattering as a pink sunshade. However, Fanny was
dependent upon his ministrations.

Her sustained ability to look young was especially definite in “Heart’s
Ease,” a Bret Harte story in which she played a seventeen-year-old
part. As Fanny’s own daughter was at the time just about this same age,
newspapers everywhere saw the opportunity for much good-natured fun,
and it was after such far-flung propaganda that her close friend Nora
Bayes greeted her with a sally I have never forgotten.

The famous comédienne just mentioned was opening up on a certain night
in the Orpheum Theatre at Los Angeles. Fanny gave a large dinner that
night, including Charlie Chaplin, Marie Doro, and De Wolf Hopper, and
after the dinner she asked me if I would not drive into Los Angeles
with her to Nora’s opening. I did so, and before the comédienne’s
appearance Fanny took me back of the scenes. Nora came down the stairs
to greet us and when she caught sight of her friend she cried, “Why,
Fanny Ward, I expected to find you with a rattle in your hand!”

For several years Fanny’s screen popularity continued. Then quite
gradually she began to go under an eclipse. Why was it? Perhaps she
may not have forgotten the proper dramatic mediums. More probably the
public failed in its former response to her type of acting. Be that
as it may, this decline in popularity--so tragically familiar in the
motion-picture world--left Fanny behind us, a pleasant memory. However,
the Lasky Company had always prided itself on fidelity to contract, and
we did not depart from this standard in our dealings with Miss Ward. It
was she who finally severed our business relations.

I have dwelt upon the career of Fanny Ward at this length, not only
because hers is one of the vivid and lovable personalities in the
screen world, but because the social atmosphere which she created forms
a cherished background for the recollections of many a screen star.
To-day if you find yourself in a crowd where Mae Murray, Tommy Meighan,
Mabel Normand, and other famous stars are gathered together, you are
sure to hear, “Oh, do you remember that evening at Fanny’s when she did
so and so?”



_Chapter Five_

MARGUERITE CLARK MISSES FIRE AND EDNA GOODRICH DOESN’T IGNITE AT ALL


Meanwhile, of course, I had been negotiating with various other stars.
Among this number was Marguerite Clark. Miss Clark, you remember, had
stirred the public deeply by her beautiful performance in “Prunella,”
and this success of the speaking stage resulted in a competition
between Mr. Zukor and ourselves for her services on the screen. Our
final compromise indicates how ably we lived up to the friendly-enemy
ideal of conduct.

“See here,” called Mr. Zukor over the phone, “I hear you’re negotiating
with Marguerite Clark. Now I want to tell you something. I’m going to
get her, no matter what I have to pay. So you’ll do me a favor if you
don’t bid me up any higher.”

I agreed to withdraw, but upon one condition only. The Lasky Company
had just secured the rights to Harold McGrath’s “The Goose Girl,” and
we had been thinking for some time that Marguerite would be ideal for
the part. My final understanding with my competitor accordingly was
that he should lend us the coveted star for this single picture. In
this arrangement, however, we reckoned without Marguerite herself.
“What, Marguerite go all the way out to California!” exclaimed the
star’s sister when I called at the Clark apartment that first evening.

An Astor or a Vanderbilt ordered to go out and hoe potatoes, a Russian
nobleman sentenced to Siberia--neither of these could have expressed
more profound emotion. Nor was the prejudice of Miss Clark’s sister an
isolated one. I quote this exclamation, indeed, as significant of an
almost universal obstacle I encountered in those early days. Stars did
not want to leave New York for California.

I soon suspected that in Marguerite’s case the prejudice was a more
deep-seated one than could be explained by climate or landscape.
The very morning after she agreed to go out to the Lasky studios a
young man in the employ of Mr. Zukor came to my office. His name was
Harold Lockwood and he will be remembered for his work in some of Mary
Pickford’s earlier stories, and later as a famous star for the Metro
Company.

After a little preliminary clearing of his throat the handsome Harold
suggested the purpose of his call. “Ahem,” began he, “I hear you’ve
engaged Miss Clark to do a picture for you?”

“Yes, yes, so I have,” retorted I, leafing over a pamphlet.

More pronounced symptoms of nervousness by Harold before he could
proceed. “Ahem--well--I just thought--of course you may not be looking
for anybody--but----”

We did not take advantage of Harold’s willingness to share Miss Clark’s
banishment, but there are numerous parallel situations where we found
the pressure more forceful. Sometimes, in fact, we have been obliged
to take a constellation in order to secure the services of the one
particular star which graced it. Our engagement of Blanche Sweet, of
Pauline Frederick, and later experiences with Geraldine Farrar--these
episodes to which I am coming presently--reveal the extent to which
some emotional preference influences the contract of the feminine star.

Well, Miss Clark did go to California and she made for the Lasky
Company its successful play of “The Goose Girl.” The performance was
not, however, devoid of friction. From the studio across the continent
to my office in New York came constant mutterings of disagreements
between Miss Clark and her director, Fred Thompson. Once I wired to De
Mille to ask him how the play was coming along, and his answer to the
telegram was as follows:

“Don’t know much about the play, but geese and photography both looked
great.”

I have mentioned that Marguerite’s sister met me that evening I went
up to her apartment. This sister, who was some years older than her
celebrated relative, was almost as constant a phenomenon as was Mary
Pickford’s mother. Indeed, many feminine luminaries of the screen
possess one of these adhesive relatives. There is nearly always a
mother or brother or sister or husband standing around back of the
screens to see that justice is administered.

There was one time when Mary Pickford’s supremacy was seriously
threatened by the success of this other Famous Players’ star. “Is Mary
jealous of Marguerite?” I asked Mr. Zukor at this period.

He shook his head. “No,” said he. And then he added swiftly, “But it
comes to the surface through Mrs. Pickford and Marguerite’s sister.”

From this remark I gathered that the two doughty supporters of opposing
causes used to look at each other about as pleasantly as did the
Montagues and Capulets. And if you possess any flair, like Landor, for
imaginary conversations, you can easily construct a dialogue between
the twain based on their respective claims to the most mail, the most
unappeasable demands of exhibitors, the most appreciation from Mr.
Zukor.

Yet Mary long outlasted her fair rival. Why was this? Marguerite Clark
was beautiful, she was exquisitely graceful, and she brought to the
screen a more finished stage technique and a more spacious background
than did Miss Pickford. My answer to this question, so often propounded
to me, applies not only to Miss Clark, but to all the other actresses
who have flashed, meteor-like, across the screen horizon. First of all,
she did not have Mary Pickford’s absorbing passion for work. Secondly,
she did not possess the other artiste’s capacity for portraying
fundamental human emotion. Simple and direct and poignant, Mary goes to
the heart much as does a Foster melody. Herein is the real success of a
popularity so phenomenally sustained.

Previous to engaging Miss Ward and Miss Clark, the Lasky Company had
secured the services of Blanche Sweet. The performance of this actress
in Griffith’s “Judith and Bethulia” had lingered in my memory, and
almost as soon as we organized I took Lasky to see that film. He was so
much impressed that we wired at once to De Mille to negotiate with Miss
Sweet, then working under Mr. Griffith in California.

From the first she did not seem satisfied with her new environment.
After some days, in fact, she came to me and begged that she be allowed
to leave us. She wanted to go back to New York.

[Illustration: CLARA KIMBALL YOUNG

Easily the screen’s most beautiful brunette, and whose eyes are known
the world over.]

[Illustration: MR. GOLDWYN ACTING AS HOST AND WAITER

John Bowers, Molly Malone and Will Rogers at the table. Chaplin is
serving root beer.]

“But why?” I pressed her.

After some hesitancy she finally confided the reason of her unrest.
Marshall Neilan, whom I have mentioned as playing with Mary Pickford,
had been unable to find work in Los Angeles and was taking the train
back East the very next day. The result of this conversation was that
I sent for Mr. Neilan, and so impressed was I by his intelligence that
I engaged him as a director at two hundred and fifty dollars a week.
His success was marked from the first and I have already indicated his
rapid ascent to fortune.

As to Blanche, who eight years later became Mrs. Marshall Neilan, it
was not until she began to work under Mr. Neilan’s direction that she
justified our expectations of her. I shall never, indeed, forget my
disappointment at seeing her first Lasky film.

“What!” thought I. “Can this be the same girl who was so effective in
that Griffith picture?”

It was my introduction to a recurrent tragedy in my career as producer.
Various times I have been attracted by Griffith successes only to find
that they could not thrive in another environment. Just like Trilby
when no longer confronted by the hypnotic baton of Svengali, so many of
the men and women who have worked under Mr. Griffith can not perform
when deprived of his inspiring force.

Meanwhile the Lasky Company had been expanding tremendously. Like an
octopus it clutched at all the landscape available in the vicinity of
the original livery-stable. New buildings kept going up. New people
were being added. So swift was the pace of progress that De Mille’s
brother William, whom we had sent out meanwhile as a scenario-writer,
frequently voiced his leading plaint. He liked to work by himself in
a little building away out in a field, but to save his life he could
not move that little building fast enough. “I wake up in the morning
after I’ve just staked a fresh claim,” he used to say, “and the doggone
studio has caught up with me in the night!”

A tremendous impetus was given to both Mr. Zukor and the Lasky Company
by an organisation of the distributers who had been handling our
films. About six months after Lasky and I went into business these
functionaries decided that in order to make themselves a real force
they would have to guarantee to theatrical managers throughout the
country a larger number of pictures. Their organization, under the name
of the Paramount Pictures Corporation, requisitioned one hundred and
four films a year, of which our company agreed to supply thirty-six.
As this was just three times the number we had planned to produce,
you will see the urgency of growth. It is equally evident why our
capitalisation now increased from the original twenty thousand to two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

But the domestic market by no means exhausted our outlet. Always I have
been penetrated by a sense of international possibilities in the film
industry. That this Esperanto of the stage could be communicated to
foreign countries--here was the idea which in the early Summer of 1914
sent me speeding to Europe.

I was interested in placing not Lasky products alone, for before
my departure Mr. Zukor had asked me if I would not look after his
interests also.

Until this time we had engaged in no concentrated drive of the sort.
For, although Mr. Zukor had a representative in London, the agency
waged only a haphazard, picture-by-picture campaign. Nor was my first
important interview pregnant with hope of more systematic sales.

Great Britain had always been active in picture-production and her
leading distributer was William Jury, who has since been knighted. Mr.
Zukor’s London representative arranged my meeting with this personage,
and from almost the minute I began talking to him I saw that Mr. Jury
believed that Britannia rules the films as well as the waves. After
he had listened to my enthusiastic praise of both Zukor and Lasky
products, he told me that no American company could possibly be as
great as I said we were going to be. To this I retorted that no one
so lacking in confidence in a product could possibly be able to sell
it. Having thus clarified our views, Mr. Jury and I parted. Almost
immediately afterward I helped finance Mr. J. D. Walker to handle both
Famous Players and Lasky Films in Great Britain. Under my contract
with him he was to take the output of both studios and to pay us ten
thousand dollars advance against sixty-five per cent. gross.

After this my progress was comparatively easy. Sweden, Norway, and
Denmark promised to buy all the pictures we made at something in the
neighbourhood of three thousand dollars each. I closed a deal with
Australia guaranteeing to take our complete output at thirty-five
hundred dollars a film; Germany put in the same large order at an even
higher rate--four thousand each; Belgium and Switzerland contributed
their quota, and although France represented our poorest customer, even
she did not withhold her mite.

Is it any wonder that as I rode from Berlin to Paris my head reeled
with the magnitude of our success? Could this really be I, the poor boy
who a short time before had wandered over these very countries with
hardly a sou in his pocket?

Yet mine was no miracle of success. I traveled in Europe day and
night. I pitted all my enthusiasm against many citadels of prejudice
and scepticism. When, indeed, I finally sailed from Liverpool I was
physically prostrated by the long strain of it all.

Even the triumph which I have just chronicled was doomed to only a
partial realisation. I could not anticipate, of course, on that Summer
day when, riding from Berlin to Paris, I counted up my thousands, that
in a few short weeks a bomb would explode in Sarajevo which would
change the map and the psychology and the industrial conditions of the
whole world. And I certainly could not foresee, therefore, the broken
contracts and the difficulty of obtaining ships to fulfil contracts
which followed the declaration of war.

While in Europe I was constantly on the lookout for actors, and one of
the results of my search was Edna Goodrich. Miss Goodrich had three
assets at this time. She was beautiful; she had created a sensation on
the London stage, and she had recently joined the famous recessional of
wives of the late Nat Goodwin. Eventually Miss Goodrich made a picture
for us at five thousand dollars, with the understanding that if it were
successful we should have the first option on her second venture.

Too bad for Miss Goodrich! Too bad for the Lasky Company! Almost the
minute De Mille started to work with her he wired me, “Goodrich too
cold.”

In the film world this is an epitaph. Nor did Miss Goodrich live down
her obituary. Time refused to thaw her, and I was then initiated into
the profound truth that many an actress whom individuality of voice
and beauty of colouring render glowing on the stage are absolutely
calcimined by the camera.

However, my interview with Miss Goodrich resulted profitably in
another way. While dining with her at the Carlton in London I was
introduced to a tall, broad-shouldered, manly-looking chap with a mop
of chestnut-brown curls. From the moment that I saw him I was struck
with Tommy Meighan’s possibilities for the screen, and when he came to
America I wired Lasky to look him over. We engaged him, and Tommy went
to California to make his first picture, “The Fighting Hope.”

“Tommy no good”; this was the telephoned verdict which De Mille
rendered after this initial performance. I was then in San Francisco,
and when I arrived in Los Angeles the defendant got to me before the
prosecutor.

“See here,” announced Tommy ruefully, “they say I’m no good around this
place, so I guess I’ll clear out. The Universal has made me an offer,
anyhow.”

“Do nothing of the sort,” I commanded. “Wait until I see your picture
first.”

My view of that picture convinced me that our chief director’s opinion
had been conceived too hastily. And the outcome of my intercession was
a very distinct gain. A year or so planted this star on terra firma.
To-day he is one of the most popular actors of the screen.

All this happened in 1914. The next year was one especially significant
in motion-picture circles. Among the events contributing to its
impressiveness was that Titanic conception of the silver-sheet, “The
Birth of a Nation.” This Griffith picture which, by the way, was the
first screen performance where two dollars a seat was asked, might also
have been called “The Birth of Numerous Stars.” Mae Marsh, the Gish
girls, perhaps a dozen luminaries who have since flashed across the
public consciousness, owe their success to parts in the giant canvas.

It was during this year that De Mille and I went to a dinner given to
Raymond Hitchcock, at Levy’s Café in Los Angeles. We were half-way
through when we were attracted simultaneously by a young man who had
just sat down at an adjacent table. One look at the clear-cut face and
we exclaimed in unison, “Isn’t he attractive! Wouldn’t he be wonderful
in pictures!”

He was wonderful in pictures. For his name was Wallace Reid. The very
next day we engaged him at a salary of one hundred dollars a week, and
it was not until this first meeting that we discovered he had already
worked at pictures under Mr. Griffith’s direction. The untimely death
of this gifted and attractive young man, whose future held so much of
promise, brought to his profession an irreparable loss.



_Chapter Six_

THE MISCHIEVOUSNESS OF MAE MURRAY


In this same eventful year the Lasky Company engaged another actress
whose name is now familiar to the motion-picture population of the
world. The Ziegfeld Follies of 1915 contained for the first time a
screen episode introduced for the presentation of an auto race. From
the moment when I saw Mae Murray romp across this incidental screen
I saw her possibilities. When I got in touch with her, however, I
discovered that several other producers had been inspired by the same
belief.

That our organisation was the lucky competitor was due to a very
advantageous connection which the Lasky Company had formed some time
previously. The chief concern of both Mr. Zukor and our organisation
was to get big stories, big plays, and to this end Mr. Zukor and I
engaged in a memorable skirmish over Mr. David Belasco. It is apparent,
of course, at first glance why the production of this, the most eminent
producer of the spoken drama, should have assumed such importance in
our eyes. Both of us felt that if we could only have the screen rights
to the Belasco plays we should be placed in an invulnerable position.

In our rival efforts Mr. Zukor had the first advantage, for he had
earlier formed a connection with Mr. Daniel Frohman, and through this
alliance he was enabled to get into direct touch with Mr. Belasco.
I, on the contrary, made all overtures through the great producer’s
business manager. In spite of Mr. Zukor’s lead, the result hung in the
balance for many days.

At last, just when I was beginning to despair, Mr. Belasco announced
that he would see me. How well I remember that day when with beating
heart I sat in the producer’s private office awaiting the decision so
vital to my organisation! It seemed an eternity that I listened for the
opening of a door, and when at last I heard it Mr. Belasco’s entrance
was as dramatic as that of a hero in one of his own plays. The majestic
head with its mop of white hair sunk a trifle forward, the one hand
carried inside of his coat--I can see now this picture of him, as
slowly, without a word, he descended the stair to greet me.

After I had gathered together my courage I began to talk to him about
De Mille and Lasky and our organisation, and he seemed impressed from
the first by my enthusiasm. I think he liked the fact that we were
all such young men. Indeed, he said so. And it was this, I am sure,
which influenced his decision. He made it that very day, and when I
went out of his door my head was swimming with my triumph. Mr. Belasco
had promised the Lasky Company the screen rights to all his plays.
For these rights, I may mention, we promised him twenty-five thousand
dollars advance against fifty per cent. of the profits.

I saw my esteemed but defeated rival at lunch on this very same day,
and when I told him the news his face grew white. It was, indeed, a
terrific blow. But a reversed decision would have meant even more to
me. For such plays as “The Girl of the Golden West” and “Rose of the
Rancho” merely helped to offset our leading competitor’s tremendous
advantage in the possession of such stars as Mary Pickford and
Marguerite Clark.

The promise of the Belasco plays influenced favorably many a screen
actor of the time, and it was, in fact, my assurance to Mae Murray
that she should play “Sweet Kitty Bellairs” which weighed against more
dazzling offers from other studios.

Before Mae departed for California she came to me with trouble clouding
that fair young brow. “I can’t do it,” said she.

“Can’t do what?” I inquired apprehensively.

“Why, this contract you’ve made with me; it says that I get one hundred
a week and that the company buys my clothes. Now I can’t trust anybody
else to pick out what I wear. Clothes are part of my personality and
I’d much rather have more salary and have the privilege of buying my
own wardrobe.”

I yielded the point and allowed her an extra one hundred a week to
cover this expenditure. Incidentally, I may remark that Mae could not
have saved many nickels from her allowance. There is a tradition that
one evening at the Hollywood Hotel the charming little actress changed
her evening wrap four times. I can not verify this legend, but I can
say that Mae never changes from bad to worse. She is regarded as one of
the most beautifully dressed women of the screen.

The clothes-cloud was dispelled from Mae’s horizon. Unfortunately,
however, more severe storms awaited her in California. First of all,
she was rent by the commands of a director whose conception of her
talents had nothing in common with Mae’s own.

“Be more dignified. Remember that you are a lady, not a hoyden”; this
was the spirit if not the substance of guidance.

At some such suggestion Mae would protest angrily. “But I’m a
dancer--that’s the reason I was engaged. And now you want to turn me
into something different. I tell you I’ll be an utter failure if you go
on like this.”

Mae’s anger, was, of course, perfectly justifiable. Her subsequent
successes have verified this fact. Without the infectious mad-cap
gaiety which she herself appraised so correctly from the first we
should never have had George Fitzmaurice’s great success, “On with the
Dance,” or “Peacock Alley.”

Miss Murray found another obstacle to overcome during those first
days. Fresh from a different medium she knew nothing of the workings
of the camera. This knowledge, so important in assuming the pose most
beneficial to oneself, was gradually imparted by a young chap in the
cast of her play.

“Say,” said he, “that guy’s giving you a raw deal. He’s trying to get
his friend on the set right and you can take what’s left of the camera.”

“But what shall I do?” asked she helplessly, “I don’t know how to stand
or look.”

“You watch me,” rejoined the good Samaritan. “I’ll put you wise.”

Right then and there he arranged a code by which to defeat the
operations of a cameraman who, according to report, did not administer
his lens with impartial fervour. If he put his finger to his left cheek
it meant, “Turn to the left”; to the right, and the gesture was equally
logical. From this point onward the system progressed to all the most
minute provisions for securing some of the coveted attention.

How to engross the most of the camera! I regret to say that here on
the roof of this ambition has been wrecked many a lofty nature. The
public does not realise as it watches the beautiful feminine star look
up at the handsome male star over the moonlit stile the warfare that
may possibly have occurred as to which should get the more advantageous
focussing. Nor does it interpret the moving subtitle, “Promise me
you’ll leave me,” which may accompany this scene, in its correct spirit
of “Promise me you’ll leave me--a little of the camera.” I have known
sweethearts strangely impervious to the higher point of view when
it came to this test. And I shall tell presently of a husband who
skirmished fiercely with his famous wife on this particular point.

Mae’s case was far from indicative of such unappeasable appetite. Her
struggle was only for a just share of the camera. Indeed, she has
too much respect for a good story ever to offend by insistence on an
individual prominence, which often destroys the story.

She did insist on another director and on claiming my promise of “Sweet
Kitty Bellairs.” Both wishes were gratified. But perhaps, in spite of
her avowed admiration for the workmanship of Jimmie Young, no director
ever really took with her until she met Bobby Leonard.

“Girls, girls,” she cried on the evening of the day after she had
first worked under Bobby, “I’ve got a great director at last!”

She was radiant. As she tripped across the lot to her dressing-room
her blue eyes danced exactly like those of the little girl who has
finally drawn the gold ring at the merry-go-round. Nor did her
gratification stop at the studio. For, as all motion-picture fans know,
she subsequently married Viking Leonard, and they have been engaged in
living happily ever since.

Again I realise that I seem to be piping the honeyed lay of the
press-agent. And once more I protest my innocence. Bobby Leonard and
Mae Murray have, like Doug and Mary, one of those marriages based on
an intense common interest. They are both absorbed in pictures and
together they work out direction, business, costuming, and all the
minor chores of creating a picture. It is undoubtedly due to this
co-operation that Mae’s achievements have broadened so notably in the
past few years.

I have told of Mae’s early struggles with objective light-heartedness.
She herself recounts them to-day with a full appreciation of their
humour. But there is another more vital approach to the subject. You
must consider that every picture is tremendously significant to the
screen actor involved. If it succeeds, well and good. If it is a “flop”
the proportionate damage to the actor’s reputation is infinitely
greater. I think I am safe in saying that if even such emphatic
successes as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, or Griffith were to
make two or three successive failures they would find the coming back
somewhat difficult. In fact, I have often heard Mr. Griffith remark, “I
simply can not afford to make a failure.”

In the light of such knowledge, the heartache of Mae’s first weeks on
the Lasky lot are instantly apparent. Here she was, fully conscious of
what that first picture meant in her career. And here at every step she
was met by circumstances pointing to failure. And such heartaches, such
beating of wings against barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding and
actual hostility--those palpitate through many of the disputes recorded
in this volume.



_Chapter Seven_

GERALDINE THE GREAT


In the early Winter of 1915 I went to the stage production of “Maria
Rosa.” Who that witnessed the same performance can ever forget the
creation of Mr. Lou Tellegen? That Latin lover whose ferocity showed
in every silken accent, in every gesture of panther-like, slim
body--to-day this lingers with me as among the most telling of dramatic
brush-strokes.

How distinctly I remember the first day that the young foreign actor,
who, previous to his triumph in “Maria Rosa” had been hailed as
“Bernhardt’s beautiful leading man,” came to my office! We were talking
about salary when suddenly Tellegen jumped up from his chair and walked
over to look at a photograph on the wall.

“Who is that?” he asked, peering at the face in the frame.

“Oh,” answered I, “don’t you know her? That’s Geraldine Farrar.”

“Oh, yes, the famous singer,” he responded, never taking his eyes from
the dazzling victorious face. “H’m--very, very beautiful, is she not?”
he mused.

I had hoped that he was perhaps permanently swept away from the theme
which he had relinquished so abruptly. I had, however, underrated Mr.
Tellegen’s powers of recuperation. A moment more and he was standing
before me with a light in his eyes very different from that evoked by
the abstract consideration of Beauty.

“Let us say a thousand dollars a week,” said he. “Certainly after all
my experience I ought to be worth that.”

Mention of Mr. Tellegen brings me logically to one achievement of my
life which I always survey with pride. The year and a half that had
elapsed since the production of “The Squaw Man” had brought almost
incredible improvements in both the manufacture and presentation of
photo-plays. The modern system of lighting had replaced our former
reliance upon the rays of the sun. More and more we had substituted
the carpenter for the scene-painter. As to the motion-picture theatre
itself, this of course presented an aspect very different from the
peanut-strewn area which in 1913 had suggested my great enterprise.

However, in spite of orchestral accompaniments and high-priced seats,
in spite of the growing ascendancy of such screen stars as Mary
Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, the motion-pictures were merely popular.
They were not fashionable. How to make them so, how to intrigue
that shy marginal group known as “the carriage trade”--here was the
challenge offered to the producer of 1915.

It was about this time that Morris Gest came to me and said: “I think
I’ve about got Geraldine Farrar to the point where she’s willing to
go into motion-pictures. What’s more, I believe she’ll come with you
instead of with Zukor, for the idea of California is attractive to her,
especially if she can go and come in a private car.”

After a smile at this approach to the situation on the part of Miss
Farrar I asked him, “But how does the famous prima donna look these
days?”

“Wonderful? More beautiful than ever,” retorted Gest.

On the first evening when Lasky and I called at Miss Farrar’s home we
found that Gest’s enthusiasm was not misplaced. As she swept into the
drawing-room to greet us we both thought we had never in our lives seen
any one so beautiful.

It did not take long to arrange matters between us. Miss Farrar agreed
to go to California for eight weeks to make three pictures--“Maria
Rosa,” “Carmen,” and “Temptation.” For these services she was to
receive twenty thousand dollars and, in consideration of the modesty
of the sum--she would have realised more for a concert tour of the
same length--we agreed to supply her with a special car to and from Los
Angeles, together with a furnished house, servants, and food during the
period of her stay.

On all such minor points Miss Farrar was immediately reasonable. Only
in one subject did she display any vital curiosity.

“Whom are you going to engage for my leading man,” she asked.

“Never mind. It will be somebody that you’ll like,” we assured her.

“But,” she urged, “you know it’s very important that my Don José should
be right. Otherwise the performance would be ruined.”

Again we assured her that she was sure to be satisfied with our
provision for this part.

“But who is he?” she insisted. “I want to know his name.”

We evaded this request. And we kept on evading it throughout our
subsequent interviews. This was not easy, for in every spare moment
the prima donna would plead with me, “Why won’t you tell me his name?”
It was almost the first question she asked after she stepped from the
special train bearing her into California.

So many people have asked me for my first impression of Geraldine
Farrar that I should like to interpolate here my response to that
frequent inquiry. If you can picture a flowering arbour and then
picture the subsequent surprise of finding inside of it a perfectly
good dynamo you will have conceived the full force of Miss Farrar’s
personality. At the time when I met her she was in her early thirties
and that beauty of lucent grey eyes and curving lips--the flowering
vigour of look which she doubtless inherited from some ancestress of
the Irish seas--was then at its height. Under this screen of physical
allure I felt from the very first moment the pulse of a mind restless,
eager, alert to every possibility of learning.

Indeed, the figure with which I started falls short of conveying
the full effect of Miss Farrar’s presence. Not only does she charge
the atmosphere with that mental vitality of hers, she creates the
impression always of cutting--cutting straight through any given
subject. If I had said, therefore, that the arbour concealed one of
those marvellous implements that cut, thrash, and sack the grain,
all in a single operation, I should have come nearer the ideal of
description.

Miss Farrar is, like Mary Pickford, a captain of industry. She has
the same masculine grasp of business, the same masculine approach
to work. The difference between them is construed not alone by the
immeasurably greater cultural equipment of Miss Farrar but by many
temperamental divergences. Whereas Mary Pickford’s manner and voice are
always marked by the feminine, almost childlike appeal to which I have
referred, the prima donna’s speech has a man’s directness of import.
She picks her words for strength, as might a Jack London sea-captain or
an Elizabethan soldier. And her utterance of these words reveals the
same strange compound of qualities I have noted elsewhere. It is an
enunciation both flowering and incisive.

The cantatrice’s entrance into Hollywood was an unprecedented one.
The Mayor of Los Angeles was there to welcome her to California.
So were five thousand school children. Cowboys in their chaps and
sombreros added their customary picturesqueness to the scene. Flowers
were everywhere. All Los Angeles reminded you of a festa day in some
Italian city. Nowadays we are so accustomed to spectacular personages
in the motion-pictures that it is hard to recapture for you the thrill
that shook the entire country when Geraldine Farrar, the queen of the
Metropolitan Opera House, came to California.

The night following Miss Farrar’s arrival we gave her a dinner at the
Hollywood Hotel. This dinner included among its two hundred guests, not
only the leading representatives of the screen colony, but a number of
distinguished sojourners. Among the latter may be mentioned Mr. John
Drew and Miss Blanche Ring.

At this dinner-party Miss Farrar turned to me almost at once with her
habitual question. “And now surely,” she pleaded, “you’re going to tell
me who is to be my Don José?”

De Mille and I exchanged a haggard glance. Many, many times had we
shuddered together over the thought, “What if she doesn’t like him?”
Our previous experience with stars had taught us not to minimise that
possible calamity.

“Tell me,” repeated our great planet. “Not another minute will I wait!”

I was just about to reply when I looked up. A tall young man
had entered the door and was now walking toward us. He was only
twenty-three. His evening clothes were by no means faultless, but the
face above them was flushed with excitement. The blue eyes shone. I had
never seen Wallace Reid look more like the beautiful and romantic young
man of the daguerreotype collection.

“There,” I whispered, watching her tensely, “there is your leading man.”

She had already noticed him and as he moved slowly toward us she never
took her eyes from his face. At last, just before he reached us, she
began slowly nodding her head. “Very good,” she whispered, and the
smile with which she said it lingered as she repeated the encomium.
“Very, very good.”

I do not need to dwell upon the relief afforded to us by that smile.
I venture to suggest, however, that it may have brought corresponding
heart’s ease to Wallace himself. For he was then young and
inexperienced and I have no doubt that for many days previous he, too,
had been quailing before that grim possibility, “What if she doesn’t
like me!”

A number of the screen people were inspired with awe of Miss Farrar’s
reputation. “I bet anything she’s up-stage,” several of them predicted
before meeting her. That evening disarmed all such fears. So simple
and friendly, so gay and unaffected, was the Metropolitan star that
everybody went away singing her praises. I soon found, indeed, that
the ancestry of the Irish seas had dowered her with more than that
flowering vigour of look and manner. She has the warmth of personal
approach, the ability to get along with folks of all descriptions, that
characterise the Irish race.

This element in her character was brought out particularly in the
studio. It was not long before everybody there, including “Grips”
and “Props”--the local terms by which are designated respectively
the electricians and the property men--were calling her “Jerry.”
This intimacy of reference was a token of real affection and it was
deserved, for she seldom passed the most humble worker in the studio
without a smile or a friendly word.

[Illustration: LOU TELLEGEN AND GERALDINE FARRAR

This photograph, it should be said, was taken some time ago.]

[Illustration: THEDA BARA

Original screen vampire, now retired as the wife of Charles Brabin]

When she arrived in Hollywood she didn’t know, of course, a single
thing about making a film. “What,” she exclaimed on her first day,
“why, I didn’t realize you had to make a single scene over four times.”
This freshness of view-point placed her in a situation ideal for
observation of the mental eagerness of which I have spoken. She asked
questions of everybody in the studio from De Mille to “Grips.” It was
wonderful to see the zest of her application to this new task, to
watch that perfect implement of a brain cut and thresh and assort its
selected subject.

There is no doubt about it. Geraldine Farrar enjoyed every minute of
those first eight weeks spent in the movies. She loved the atmosphere
of the motion-pictures. She liked the people in the cast. She told me
she thought De Mille was great. I can hardly express what this wide
area of satisfaction meant to me after eighteen months that had been
instructive chiefly in the hardship of pleasing any star, at any given
point.

So eager was Miss Farrar for her film day to begin that she used to
arrive at the studio every morning at eight o’clock. She was then all
made up for the set, and as this process is so much more exacting than
the average woman’s dab of powder and rouge, one knew she had risen not
later than six.

“H’m, where’s Mr. de Mille? Where’s everybody?” she used to ask.

Her manner was exactly that of a war-horse sniffing, “Here am I.
Where’s the war?”

And when she began to work nothing seemed to tire her. At four o’clock
in the afternoon, that hour when the average screen performer begins
to wonder if she’ll melt before she takes root or take root before she
melts, the great prima donna was as radiant with energy as she was
at eight o’clock in the morning. The explanation of this sustained
vitality lay deeper than her undoubted physical strength. She herself
voiced it one day during her second engagement with the Lasky Company.

She was then making “Joan the Woman.” It was during the most intense
heat of the California Summer. During this particular set she wore a
suit of armor which must have been about as soothing to her feelings
as wrist-warmers to a resident of Bombay. The set, which had been
called for one hour, was not actually taken until more than four
hours’ later. This wait, so characteristic of a studio day, was
rendered more oppressive by the thud of adjacent carpentry work and by
experimentation with the glaring electric lights.

While all this was going on a lady of the court of Charles VII. sat
with her make-up box on her knee and from time to time dabbed with
powder beads of perspiration rising above the surface of grease-paint.
This manifestation of warmth was not unprovoked. For the lady wore
a velvet dress with heavy trimming of fur and her head was engulfed
in one of those gigantic coiffures prescribed for mediæval times. No
wonder that as she administered her powder she made sweet moan about
the hardships of life on “the lot.”

“People that think this life’s easy,” she muttered at last, “let them
try it on a July day--let them wait around for hours all tucked up in
these hot-water bottles of clothes. Whew! Say, are they ever going to
start shooting?”

“Cut out your grouching,” retorted a more stoical fellow sufferer,
“look how Jerry’s taking it.”

“Jerry” presented, as a matter of fact, anything but a wilted
appearance. She was talking, now to this person, now to that. Her eyes
were sparkling, her white teeth flashed in a frequent smile. Piqued by
such revelations of fortitude, the first lady of the court walked over
to her.

“Won’t you tell me how you do it, Miss Farrar?” she asked. “Don’t you
ever mind anything; the heat or the long waits or anything?”

“Jerry” threw back her head and laughed heartily. “Not a bit of it,”
she answered, “I’m too much interested all the time to know what’s
happening on the outside of me.”

It was during the production of this same play that some gentlemen
of the court of Charles VII. availed themselves of a contemporary
solace. A long shot had been taken of the French court and it had
been taken, according to custom, four times. None of these occasions
had revealed anything wrong and it was only when De Mille “saw the
rushes”--the technical term describing a first view of the previous
day’s shots--that he discovered an anachronism which would have made
Sir Walter Scott’s offenses in this direction seem blameless.

“For Heaven’s sake,” he cried, “look at that! The gentlemen of the
fourteenth century are chewing gum!”

Miss Farrar whooped with merriment over this historical discrepancy,
and to-day the incident supplies her with a favorite motion-picture
story. I may mention casually that this mistake is eloquent with the
possibilities of waste involved in a single wrong performance of a
single extra performer.

In this case we used up a thousand feet of film and the hundreds of
dollars involved in wages, lights, and other expenses on a scene
which, of course, had to be entirely remade.

The eminent singing actress often showed back of the screens that
impulsive generosity which has endeared her to so many people. Once she
did not like the gown worn by a certain extra. Neither did the extra.

Quick as a flash Miss Farrar sent her maid to her residence in
Hollywood to obtain a costume from her own personal wardrobe. And
when she put this raiment into the extra’s hand it was for keeps. She
sometimes lent her fine jewels to people in the cast, and her frequent
“small” gifts to those about her were what most of us would call large.
Such donations were always performed with a certain splendour of
gesture that made one think of a mediæval prince taking off the gold
chain around his neck to give to somebody who had chanced to say, “What
a beautiful piece of jewelry you are wearing.”

If, indeed, Miss Farrar is a captain of industry, she belongs to that
particular branch which flourished in the Florence of the fifteenth
century.

While she was making “Maria Rosa” there befell Miss Farrar the great
romantic adventure of which the world has heard so much. As a result of
my interview with Mr. Lou Tellegen he was engaged by the Lasky Company
to go to Hollywood during the Summer of 1915. He was not playing in
Miss Farrar’s productions and it was not until after some days spent in
California that the two met.

Mr. Fred Kley was responsible for the introduction. Here at this
widely known figure of the film world I feel bound to pause for a few
words of tribute. Kley, who now occupies an important position in the
organization of the Famous Players-Lasky organization, had gone to
California with Cecil de Mille. He it was who had selected the original
site of the livery-stable, and after the Lasky Company moved there he
had attended to a wide variety of details.

He kept books--often on the back of stray envelopes; he hired extra
performers; he assembled properties, and when De Mille imported several
rattlesnakes for the production of “The Squaw Man” it was he, I
believe, who ministered to these pets. I am sure that Briareus with his
hundred hands never accomplished more than did honest, faithful, Fred
Kley with his limited equipment.

I shall give Mr. Kley’s own account of the introduction, for certainly
nothing could be more vivid. “Mr. Tellegen happened to be with me one
day,” he recounts, “when Miss Farrar, still in the Spanish costume she
had been wearing in ‘Maria Rosa’ walked across the lot. ‘I want to meet
Miss Farrar,’ said Mr. Tellegen, ‘Won’t you take me over?’ I did and
I’ve never seen anything like it before nor since. It was just as if a
spark came from his eyes and was met by one from hers.

“They began speaking in French right away,” adds he, “and of course I
couldn’t understand. But, believe me, there’s a whole lot in a tone,
and their tones gave them away as much as their eyes did. He walked
across the lot with her, then to her dressing-room. And after that
you’d see them together all the time just the minute they could get
away from a set.”

In the light of this personal experience of Geraldine Farrar, that
frequent question of hers “Who is to be my Don José” is invested with a
strange, perverse, almost sinister, quality of destiny. It was not the
Don José of her own life drama that she met in Lou Tellegen. It was the
Toreador. When she came to California her heart, according to rumour,
had not been untouched. But if this same rumour is to be credited
further, it had never before been subjugated. Like the heroine of the
drama and the opera with which she is so brilliantly identified, she
had always retained her supremacy in love. Like this same Carmen, she
surrendered at last, not to the most loving, but to the most conquering
type.

The last memory of the beautiful Farrar’s first visit to Hollywood
centers about the station from which pulled out her special train.

Tellegen had, of course, come down to see her off, and as the engine
steamed away on its long eastern course the actor could be seen running
along the platform beside the car from which his love still clung
to his hand. For many yards he raced along and it was only a sudden
acceleration of the engine that finally parted those reluctant hands.

A very different leave-taking from the one I shall record when several
Summers afterwards Geraldine Farrar again came to Hollywood, this time
to make pictures for the Goldwyn studio!



_Chapter Eight_

THE DISCOVERY OF CHARLIE CHAPLIN


While the Lasky Company and the Famous Players organizations were
taking their long and often competitive strides forward numerous other
motion-picture enterprises had been coming into prominence. Among these
was the Fox Company.

Some years ago William Fox bought the story, “A Fool There Was.” For
its leading rôle he engaged a very prominent actress. She disappointed
him at the last moment, and it was while he was at his wit’s end
to know how to replace her that he happened to go one day into his
casting department. There were several extras standing around in the
hope of picking up a day’s work, and among these Fox’s eye fell upon a
dark-eyed girl. He looked at her. He looked again. Finally he said to
his casting director, “I wish you’d have some tests made of that girl.
It seems to me she’s got possibilities.”

The tests were made. They were so satisfactory that the girl was cast
for the leading rôle of “A Fool There Was.” In it she scored such a
triumph that Fox bought immediately more similar vehicles for her. The
girl’s name was Theda Bara, and “A Fool There Was” was the first of the
vamp stories which for some time seemed to consume the motion-picture
industry.

Among producer, of a very different type, who had been waxing strong
during these first years of our development, was Mack Sennett. Sennett,
originally a chorus man earning five dollars a day, had been associated
with Griffith in the old Biograph studios. From these he departed with
only about five or six hundred dollars, and he produced his first films
without any studio at all. The cameraman overcame this fundamental
lack by focussing on people’s front lawns and on any other part of the
landscape which looked appealing. When at last his financial returns
justified it Sennett established a studio near Los Angeles.

Mack’s specialty had always been comedies, and among his early stars
was that noted screen comedian of another day, Ford Sterling. At the
time when the Lasky Company started, Sterling was getting a salary
phenomenal for that period. Yet, being a perfectly normal star, he kept
wanting more, and it was in an hour when Sennett feared he would not be
able to keep pace with these increasing demands that he cast about him
for some one to take Sterling’s place.

In this period of vigilance he chanced to go to Pantages’ in Los
Angeles. Among the acts of this performance, which represented
the second circuit--that employing the less costly talent of the
organisation--there lingered in his mind the work of one comedian.

Months afterwards when Sterling really seemed on the point of leaving,
Sennett thought immediately of the little comedian in the second
circuit. He did not know where he was. He could not even remember his
name. But he wired to an Eastern representative, “Get in touch with
fellow called Chapman or Chamberlain--something like that--playing
second circuit.”

The representative had a hard time locating the person thus vaguely
defined. At last, however, in a little Pennsylvania town the agent
caught up with Charlie Chaplin. He was getting fifty dollars a week for
his work in vaudeville, and when Sennett took him on at one hundred and
twenty-five he seemed stunned by his good fortune.

And did he make good at once in motion-pictures? Mack has told me that
he did not.

“It was days and days,” the latter relates, “before Charlie put over
anything real. He tried all sorts of make-ups--one of them I remember
was a fat man--and they were all about equally flat. The fact of it
was that for some time I felt a little uneasy as to whether my find was
a very fortunate one.”

It must be remembered at this point, however, that Chaplin encountered
at the outset of his screen career an almost inflexible conception of
humour. He himself has told me how he had to combat this prejudice in
creating his very first picture.

“I was a tramp in that story,” he recalls, “and they wanted me to do
all the usual slap-stick stunts. I had to beg them to let me play the
part my way. ‘If you want somebody to pull all the old gags,’ I said
to Sennett, ‘why do you hire me? You can get a man at twenty-five
dollars to do that sort of stuff.’ So at last they gave in to my idea.
This I had worked out very carefully. A tramp in a fine hotel--there’s
a universal situation for you. Hardly a human being that hasn’t
duplicated the feeling of being poor, alone, out of touch with the
gay crowd about him, of trying to identify himself somehow with the
fine, alien throng. So I did the little touches here of imitation--the
pulling down of shabby cuffs, the straightening of my hat, all the
gestures that gave a wider meaning to the characterization.”

Chaplin’s own account of his start is eloquent of the creative
imagination which has made him the supreme exponent of screen art.
This first picture was a success. Even so, there were those in the
Sennett studios who looked askance upon such advanced methods.

“They didn’t really appreciate Charlie in those early days,” so Mabel
Normand has often said to me. “I remember numerous times when people in
the studio came up and asked me confidentially, ‘Say, do you think he’s
so funny? In my mind he can’t touch Ford Sterling.’ They were just so
used to slap-stick that imaginative comedy couldn’t penetrate.”

When Chaplin went out to California to make his first pictures he found
the pantomimist just quoted a star in the Sennett organization. After
having been a model for Gibson and other noted illustrators, Mabel had
worked with Mary Pickford and Blanche Sweet in the Biograph studios.
She was still here when Sennett, meeting her on the street one day,
said, “How about going to California at a hundred dollars a week? I’ve
just got some backing for my company and I’m going to settle out there
in a short time.”

Mabel had been rendered incredulous by her salary at the Biograph. She
was so sceptical of there being any such salary as a hundred dollars a
week that Sennett’s backers, to whom he had referred her, thought she
was hesitating because of the insufficiency of the recompense. They
thereupon offered her twenty-five dollars more.

Not long ago my friend Edgar Selwyn, the theatrical producer and
playwright, said to me: “We hear so much about our successful stars as
they are to-day. Yet most of us are a great deal more curious to hear
the details of their earlier years.” With this in mind I am devoting a
short space to the Sennett studio of a former time, for, although these
days did not come under my direct observation, they have been described
to me so often by Mabel Normand and Chaplin and Sennett himself that
they seem almost like a portion of my own experience. Certainly, too,
such flash-backs are necessary to a complete participation in the
stories of my own immediate contacts with these two stars.

The older Sennett studio, like the stable which first cradled the Lasky
Company, presented a striking contrast to the modern film background
with its meticulous divisions of labour, its attempts to introduce
the efficiency methods of a business establishment. Everybody knew
everybody else; all the performers talked over in the most intimate
fashion the details of the day’s work; the stars could and did do all
such chores as cutting films.

Instead of a honeycomb of dressing-rooms, there was a communal space
where all the men put on their make-up; as to Mabel’s dressing-room,
this was a crude, boarded cubicle with the oil-stove familiar to
all the old-timers in California studios. Altogether, an atmosphere
informal and light-hearted as that which we imagine surrounding a group
of strolling players in Elizabethan times!

Every one knows the long rainy seasons which in California interrupt
those months of brilliant, unflagging sunshine. During such times the
rain would drip ceaselessly from the roof of Sennett’s projection-room,
and his actors, shivering from the cold dampness, used to gather
together after the day’s work around the one cozy spot in the
studio--the oil-stove in Mabel’s dressing-room. Here, by the hour
Chaplin, a slender little fellow of twenty-two or three, attired
unvaryingly in a checked suit, used to sit and talk with Mabel about
work, books, and life. They were great pals, these two, and whenever
Charlie wanted a raise he would go to Mabel and say, “Come now, you ask
Mack for me.”

Sometimes, according to those who worked with the pair, the friendship
was invaded by a little feeling of rivalry, especially on Chaplin’s
part. This was hardly strange, for Mabel’s talent as a comédienne was
undoubted, and to this gift she added not only her experience on the
screen but a very exceptional beauty. Of course the sentiment was
only fleeting, but every now and then something would bring it to the
surface.

One day when Chaplin entered the studio he found Mabel standing beside
the camera. Running over to Sennett, he asked the producer what it all
meant.

“Oh, nothing,” replied Mack. “Only I’ve asked Mabel to direct you
to-day.”

Chaplin said nothing, but for an hour or so he was quite evidently
ruffled. Before the end of the day, however, all irritation had
vanished in the boxing-bout which represented the favorite muscular
outlet of the two young comedians.

Charlie and Mabel, as will be remembered, appeared in many comedies
together. One of their scenes which the public was never permitted to
share involved a motor-cycle. On being asked if he could ride this
vehicle Charlie had replied promptly that he could.

“Now you’re sure you know how, Charlie?” Sennett inquired of him again
as on the day the scene was to be taken he confronted the comedian with
this modern mechanism.

“Why, of course I do,” maintained Charlie stoutly, “I used to cycle
all about London.” With no apparent trepidation he mounted the cycle.
Mabel jumped on behind him. An instant afterward those watching the
performance saw the two riders whirling down a steep hill with a fury
that made a nor’easter look cool and collected.

“Talk about Jock Gilpin’s ride!” laughs Mabel to-day as she tells the
story. “I knew from the moment we set out that Charlie hadn’t the least
idea in the world how to guide or stop that machine, and as the trees
and hills whizzed by us I closed my eyes. My only wonder was when and
how badly. At last it happened. When I opened my eyes again it was from
a long unconscious state. I had been dashed into a ditch at the side of
the road, and a little farther on they found the souvenirs of poor old
Charlie. You see,” she concludes, “he hadn’t realised that there was
any difference between a cycle and a motor-cycle.”

Just a little farther on I shall pick up the thread of Miss Normand’s
career where it became interwoven with my own professional interests.
In the meanwhile closing these glimpses of the Sennett studio in its
early days, I shall proceed to developments in the Lasky Company.

It had long been apparent to me that a merger of the Lasky and the
Famous Players organizations promised many benefits. It would put an
end to the costly competition for stars and stories and it would effect
a corresponding reduction in other expenses. To all such arguments,
however, Mr. Zukor turned a deaf ear, and it was not until 1916
that I succeeded in overcoming his reluctance. Then, under the name
of the Famous Players-Lasky Company, these two enterprises, which
only a few years before had launched out with a capital representing
conjointly less than one hundred thousand dollars, were incorporated at
twenty-five million!

It was a radiant day for me when the vision of this gigantic
unification, held so persistently for many months, finally took form.
But, as so often happens, the fulfilment of my most cherished dream
proved to be a weapon, turned against me. Mr. Zukor was the president
of the new organisation; I was chairman of the board of directors. I
shall not enter here into the differences which sundered us, both men
accustomed to domination, I shall merely relate that only a few months
after the formation of the new company I resigned my interests in the
Famous Players-Lasky organisation.

But before leaving this phase of my career I want to pay my heartfelt
tribute to the man whom I consider responsible for much of the success
won by Lasky films, Cecil de Mille!

Although I have had occasion to mention several instances where
his judgment was at fault, I have never once lost the sense of how
disproportionate these rare flaws were to the sum of his achievement.
As a matter of fact, De Mille is seldom wrong in his valuations of
either performer or story. Again and again his judgment proved superior
to both Lasky’s and mine. Then, too, he adds to the qualities which
make him a big director, a gift for personal relations which I have
seldom seen equalled. Farrar was only one of the many Lasky stars
who “got along” wonderfully with our chief director. The courteous,
self-controlled, kindly De Mille--who, indeed, could dislike him?

Certainly my own thought of him always reaches far beyond our mere
professional association. To me at a time when I most needed it De
Mille was a true friend, and the memory of his truth and loyalty
illumines one of the bitterest chapters of my life.



_Chapter Nine_

STARS, STARS, STARS!


Well, I left my company and I was then not quite thirty-five years
of age. I was accustomed to a life where every working hour was
inspired by the one thought, “How can I make the Lasky Company more
significant?” You can imagine, therefore, the terrible blankness of
those days following my resignation. Feverishly I cast about me for
a new outlet for my organising energy, and in the Autumn of 1916 I,
together with my friends Archie and Edgar Selwyn, the theatrical
producers, Margaret Mayo, and Arthur Hopkins, the theatrical producer,
founded the Goldwyn Motion Picture Company.

The beginning of this second film venture of mine involved conditions
very different from those which attended the start of the Lasky Company
three years before. Then the story was supreme and the Lasky Company
was successful without any really overshadowing personalities. True,
the field presented some great celebrities such as Mary Pickford,
but the emphasis was not placed upon the player to the degree which
afterward swayed the producer. Constantly this emphasis became more
irresistible, and by the time that I started the Goldwyn Company it was
the player, not the play, which was the thing.

Every theatre-owner in the country wanted personalities. Stars were
now made over night. New names came out in electric light almost every
evening. Obviously, therefore, the only guarantee for the success of
a new motion-picture organisation was the assemblage of a list of big
names.

Hence it was upon an array of planets that the Goldwyn Company
concentrated its initial energy. The first star we engaged was Mabel
Normand; the second, Mae Marsh; the third, Madge Kennedy. Add to these
such towering figures from other histrionic firmaments as Mary Garden,
Jane Cowl, and Maxine Elliott, and you will see why our competitors
were warranted in feeling a deep uneasiness. For the engagement of
these people was attended by enormous publicity. Newspapers featured
many of our stellar connections and, added to this, huge posters
blazoned with the names of our trophies carried promise of greatness to
every hamlet in America. The first thing that I did, in fact, was to
scatter these posters broadcast.

Perhaps at first I did not quite realise that in building up the Lasky
name I had been in reality creating a Frankenstein. Later, however,
the full force of this figure was to occur to me, for at every turn
I was met by the ruthless competition of the Famous Players-Lasky
Company. This was particularly acute in the engagement of stars.

Added to obstructions of bitter rivalry came a personal misfortune.
While playing hand-ball at the Athletic Club one day I broke my
ankle. This kept me away from our studio for three months and, as my
associates were inexperienced in picture-production, my absence meant
a loss to the company of thousands of dollars. It was, indeed, a
maddening situation for one attempting to launch a new business where
the odds were already sufficiently against him.

It would seem as if the Greek dramatists had not overdrawn things.
When the gods decide they want to make things hard for you, they are
thorough, they overlook no executive detail. The first Goldwyn film was
just being released when America announced her participation in the
War. Heretofore the conflict had spelled advantage rather than disaster
to the American producer, inasmuch as our films had become the rage
in all neutral countries. But with America’s precipitation came a new
set of conditions. These, oppressive enough to picture industries long
established, almost succeeded in crushing our new venture.

First on the list were transportation difficulties. We were now unable
to procure space on ships to move our products. This handicap was
accompanied by shortage of fuel, conservation of light, and scarcity
of labor. The second obstacle of this group became so acute that we
were sometimes obliged to use four studios in order to complete a day’s
production. Obviously, therefore, our only chance of survival lay in
removing our establishment from the Fort Lee studio, where we had been
operating, to a California one. This we did in the Summer of 1918.

Somewhat less than two years after America’s entrance into the War our
pay-roll was ninety thousand dollars. How to meet it--here was the
question which tortured every waking hour. At last I felt it incumbent
upon me, as the largest single stockholder in the company, and as the
individual in our group personally responsible for loans amounting to
eight or nine hundred thousand dollars, to lay the whole situation
frankly before my associates. With one accord they advised that the
company should go into the hands of a receiver.

I could not sleep that night when everything which I had been building
for the past years threatened to go down with the morrow. Money,
credit, my reputation as a producer--how, how was I to save them?
Spent by my vigil I arrived in my office the next morning.

Here after a talk with Mr. Schay, the controller of our company, it
seemed to me that the one reprieve of which I had thought during the
night was really available. The reprieve was this. We had branches in
twenty-five different cities. Each branch represented two or three
thousand dollars of ready money. By removing the total amount from all
of them we should be enabled to meet one week’s pay-roll.

“And how about next week?” asked the controller.

I shrugged my shoulders. But inside I was thinking fiercely that
something had to happen.

It did. The very next week the armistice was signed. From this moment
the entire complexion of the picture situation changed. Shipments to
Europe came about almost immediately. Other difficulties cleared away.
It was not long before the Du Ponts, of Wilmington, and other prominent
financiers invested seven million dollars cash in the Goldwyn Company.

With this new capitalisation all my financial struggles ended. To-day
the organisation which bears my name is one of the three largest
companies in the world.

One day, while the receivership was threatening, Mabel Normand came
up to my desk and handed me a long envelope. “What is this?” I asked
her.

[Illustration: MABEL NORMAND

Whom Mr. Goldwyn pronounces the greatest comédienne in the world.]

[Illustration: MAXINE ELLIOTT

As she appeared in “The Eternal Magdalene” in 1917.]

“My Liberty bonds,” she answered, “There are only fifty thousand
dollars worth of them, but if they will tide you over you may have
them.”

Those interested in the personality of Mabel Normand can receive no
more illuminating introduction to her than the incident just sketched.
There are a hundred tales of this characteristic response to any human
appeal clustering about the name of Mabel Normand. One which came
directly under my observation relates to a poor girl with a dependent
family. This girl was stricken with tuberculosis and, although Mabel
did not know her, she became interested in her condition through a
friend of hers. Immediately she went to see her, and when she left she
pressed something into the sick girl’s hand. It was only after she had
gone that the other realised what her caller had left. It was a check
for a thousand dollars.

Nor does Mabel wait for the large demand upon her sympathy. Gifts
from her come unprovoked as manna. She is likely to go out and buy a
hundred-dollar beaded bag for a stenographer in the organization, and
just as likely to invest a corresponding amount in remembering somebody
whom she has met once and happened to like.

I used to find it very hard to get Mabel to a set when the set was
early in the morning. Extras and other members of the cast would have
been waiting there for hours. The director would be fuming. At last
somebody would be sent to investigate the whereabouts of the missing
luminary. More than likely she would be found writing letters in her
dressing-room.

“But I don’t feel in the humour this morning,” she would sometimes say
to me, pleadingly. “How can I go down there and act that way?”

My associate, Mr. Abraham Lehr, made frequent attempts to correct
this habit of Mabel’s. He found himself forever frustrated--indeed
disarmed--by the charm of manner, the delightful playfulness which
Mabel possesses so abundantly.

Once, I remember, when she was exceptionally tardy, Lehr, met her in
the studio with his face fixed in lines of righteous indignation. She
approached him with one hand behind her back and the other uplifted in
a gesture of the gayest, most irresistible command.

“Wait,” cried she, “before you say anything!”

With that she brought forward a new and very beautiful photograph of
herself and presented it to him with a curtsey. On the photograph were
written these lines:

    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    When I’m late
    I think of you.

She watched him while he read these words and then, her big brown
eyes dancing with merriment, she said coaxingly: “That’s the reason I
was late, you see. I was thinking up something nice to write on your
photograph. I didn’t want to say just ‘Yours sincerely,’ or something
stupid like that.”

I do not need to say that Lehr’s face softened perceptibly or that he
forgot all about the judicial rebuke which he had evidently planned.
For the pictured collection of stage and screen celebrities which he
has had mounted under the glass top of his office-desk represents a
hobby, and this contribution of Mabel’s still occupies an honoured
place in the gallery.

I do not mean for a moment to convey the idea that Miss Normand is
an isolated example of tardiness. Many screen favorites heave in
sight as slowly as _Lohengrin’s_ swan. This is particularly true of
comedians. Chaplin, for example, often keeps his associates waiting for
hours--indeed, there are entire days when he is absolutely unable to
work. The fact of it is that the efficiency engineer will never be able
to control a picture studio.

Such an expectation is as vain as the belief that you could obtain a
poet’s best work by snapping your fingers over him and crying, “Come,
come, we want another sonnet and a gross of couplets before lunch.” For
the best screen acting is naturally inspirational.

True, some performers are able to turn on their emotional faucets
at any time. Mary Pickford, as I have related, rings up early every
morning. But then she is a systematised human being who presents in
temperament the opposite pole from Mabel Normand. The latter is a
creature of impulse. She never calculates the moment ahead for fear
that the moment itself might calculate something she liked better.
When she works she works hard, but she can’t do it in step with the
hour-hand.

Mabel has a really fine talent and she knows picture-production
from every angle. But the screen does not absorb all of her amazing
vitality. Eagerly she turns to people, books, gaiety, strange scenes.
She does not want to miss one glint of “this dome of many-colored
glass.”

The difference of degree in the attitude of Mary Pickford to pictures
and that of Mabel Normand is indicated by their varying response to
European travel. Chaplin once said to a friend of mine, “You know,
I was in Paris with Mary and Doug and often they really seemed lost
without their pictures.” Far from this state of mind, so familiar in
the American business man temporarily implicated with a gondola or a
ruined temple, is the eagerness with which Mabel Normand returned last
Autumn from her first trip abroad.

“Oh, how I enjoyed every minute of it!” she told me. “Pictures, music,
all the funny outdoor cafés, all the funny people!”

She has always been an inveterate reader. This, of course, is at
present one of the fashionable claims of the screen star, and in
some cases I am obliged to say that the claim rests on very flimsy
foundations. Right here, indeed, I feel compelled to anticipate by
telling a story illustrative of this point:

One day Charlie Chaplin went with me to a Los Angeles hospital where
a friend of mine was recuperating. Left alone in the corridor,
he wandered into a little sitting-room. It was filled with books
representing the most advanced taste in fiction, poetry, and criticism.

“Whose room is this?” asked Chaplin of the nurse hovering over the
scene.

Quite evidently she did not recognise him, for she replied without a
vestige of embarrassment, “Oh, this belongs to Mrs. Mildred Harris
Chaplin.”

Charlie’s face underwent a number of changes.

“Oh, indeed? And is she reading these books,” he finally inquired.

“Oh, no,” returned the nurse in a matter-of-fact tone. “The books she
really reads are in a little closet in her bedroom.”

Mabel Normand, however, does not regard books merely for their
furnishing value. She really gets into action on “literachoor.”

Many people who are generous with money and material possessions are
not equally so when it comes to that more difficult gift of time and
thought. No such limitation exists in Mabel’s nature. The thing which
makes her beloved is that going out of herself to others, that real
love of people irradiating her most casual contact.

Once, I remember, she was eating lunch in the Goldwyn studio
restaurant. The apple-pie struck her as being especially successful and
she asked to see the cook. A few moments later this functionary, an
ample old Irishwoman in a gingham apron and with her sleeves rolled up,
appeared behind the counter. Visibly she was overcome with awe at the
summons from the brilliant young star. It did not take Mabel long to
remove such oppressive sentiments. Only a moment and she had literally
vaulted over the counter and had grabbed the astounded old woman in her
arms.

“Bless your heart,” we heard her cry, “it’s the best apple-pie I’ve had
since I left home.” And as she left the scene she tucked one of her
inveterate bills into the cook’s hand.

Nor is her response to people merely an emotional one. It is practical
as well. She keeps a book in which are written the birthdays of all of
her friends, and she never fails to react to these dates with a letter,
a telegram, or a gift.

It was when she was in the Goldwyn studio that the death of Olive
Thomas occurred in Paris. Never have I seen such a passion of pity as
Mabel showed for the unfortunate girl, such a passion of indignation as
she expressed for those whom she believed responsible for the tragedy.
Nor did she stop there. The mother of Olive Thomas was in this country
and there was hardly a day when Mabel did not go to see her or take her
on a drive or send her some remembrance.

To a nature like this, so alive with human sympathy and understanding,
it is easy to forgive much.

There was one person from whom, so I always suspected, Mabel withheld
much of her usual kindliness. This was Madge Kennedy. I had engaged the
latter actress soon after making my contract with Mabel and the two
worked simultaneously, therefore, in the Fort Lee studio. That they
did not always work harmoniously is scarcely puzzling, for the fact
that they were both comédiennes represented perhaps the only likeness
between them. Indeed, that very similarity constituted in itself a
ground for conflict.

They each had the habit of slipping into the projection-room to look at
the rushes of the other. And the comment with which they greeted the
rival performances became fairly familiar to the studio.

“Hmph,” announced Mabel to her group, “she saw me do it and she quickly
did it first.”

“Hmph,” duplicated Madge to her group, “she saw me do it and she
quickly did it first!”

Mabel behind the screens is as full of pranks as she is on the screen.
Madge Kennedy’s professional manner, on the contrary, is decorous to
the point of primness.

My contract with Mabel Normand contained one clause providing that
she should pay half for the clothes worn in her stories and that the
company should pay the other half. Time went by, however, and brought
us no bill from the star for our share of her stage wardrobe.

“How’s this,” I asked her one day.

She looked very much embarrassed. “Well, you see,” she replied, “I’ve
ordered so many clothes that I don’t feel right about letting you pay
anything at all.”

It was quite true. She did order lavishly. Instead of buying one hat
at a time she bought twelve. With frocks and other accessories it was
the same. To be sure, there are other stars whose expenditures in
this direction are equally impressive. Pauline Frederick, for example,
once got an exemption of fifty thousand dollars from her income-tax on
the basis of an investment of that amount in her wardrobe. I am sure,
however, that only a few of this number would have been halted by any
such scruples as those revealed by Mabel Normand.

I had the same wardrobe arrangement with Madge Kennedy. In her case,
however, developments were slightly different. One day my studio
manager came to me in a towering rage.

“See here, Mr. Goldwyn,” he began truculently, “Miss Kennedy has been
ordering a whole lot of clothes----”

“Sure,” interrupted I. “They always are.”

“Yes, but she doesn’t need them for her picture. She needs them for her
Autumn--that’s what!”

It was with difficulty that I persuaded him of the fact that Miss
Kennedy would never be guilty of such an imposition. Indeed, my success
was only temporary. For almost every picture which she made revived
this supposition that Madge was ordering more clothes than she needed.

Madge Kennedy was always prompt on the set and was most conscientious
in her efforts to do good work. No moods, no sharp edges, obtruded
themselves into any business relation with her. I ascribe this to the
regularising influence of a very happy marriage. Obviously she was
very much in love with her husband, a young New York business man who
frequently drove over to the Fort Lee studio to take her back to town.

From a being so well disciplined as Madge you would expect the
relentless care with which she guarded her health. At any party she
was apt to go off unseasonably as an alarm-clock. Once, I remember, I
invited her to a dinner-party in Los Angeles to meet Mr. and Mrs. Rex
Beach. The dinner had just ended and the party had hardly begun when
Madge rose to depart.

“What!” exclaimed Pauline Frederick, another of the guests, “you don’t
mean to say you’re going?”

“Oh, yes,” replied Madge, “I told Mr. Goldwyn that if I came at all I
should have to leave early. You see, I have a call for eight-thirty in
the morning all made up.”

Pauline looked bewildered. In her mind there was absolutely no
connection between early to bed and early to rise. One of those rare
people who, like Edison and Bernhardt, thrive on a few hours’ sleep,
she never took 10 P.M. as anything more serious than the start of an
evening. Yet when she appeared in the studio the next morning her eyes
were glowing with health, her whole frame snapping with vigour. The
third member of the trio of feminine stars with which I began work in
the Goldwyn studio was Mae Marsh. One of the luminaries of whom I have
spoken in connection with “The Birth of a Nation,” Mae had also played
a leading rôle in Griffith’s “Intolerance.” Both of these performances
had inspired me with great confidence in her ability, and I looked
forward eagerly to her first Goldwyn venture.

I have spoken of my disappointment when Blanche Sweet, another Griffith
product, made her first picture for the Lasky Company. I was doomed to
the same experience now with Mae Marsh. She, too, seemed incapable of
any notable achievement when removed from the galvanising influence
of Griffith. To be sure, her Goldwyn pictures were not failures, but
comment on these pictures usually failed of any reference to Mae Marsh.

Take, for example, “Polly of the Circus,” the first vehicle we provided
for her. People spoke highly of the story, but Mae’s work in it created
no flurry of excitement. I was not, however, discouraged by this
initial experience, for it often happens that the very story which you
suppose exactly adapted to a performer’s personality fails to evolve
her best. So it was with unimpaired belief in her more sensational
possibilities that I made preparations for “The Cinderella Man.” These
included the engagement of George Loan Tucker, the celebrated director
of “The Miracle Man.” Here again Mae failed to strike twelve. For the
comedy which brought Tom Moore’s acting into such bold relief again
evoked only lukewarm appreciation of its star, Mae Marsh.

I can not say that Mae’s presence in the studio was invariably a
sunny one. She had a habit of balking at something which the director
suggested, and the terms of her objection were always the same.

“Oh,” she would say rather scornfully, “that isn’t at all what Mr.
Griffith would do. He would do so-and-so.”

Naturally such continued harping upon the one standard of artistic
merit did not exactly enlist the sympathy of the director thus reminded
of his limitations. Friction marked all subsequent relations between
the two.

There was one type of service in the Goldwyn studios which did inspire
her admiration. It was the thing removed from her own special sphere of
activity. She always liked the director assigned to the other stars.
She had a corresponding esteem for their stories.

Right here I wish to introduce one of the thorny elements of any
film-producer’s life. First of all, he buys at the advice of his
editorial staff some particular story. The purchase is made, of
course, with some one star in mind. But when the story is submitted
to that star there is hardly a chance in a hundred that she will like
it. Sometimes she may be convinced of its merits. In other cases she
remains obdurate. Either termination involves, of course, precious time
and money.

Mae Marsh was not, as I shall establish later, distinguished by her
captiousness in this regard. But she was exceedingly able in the
performance of rejecting scenarios.

“I don’t like this--it doesn’t suit me,” she would report after reading
something our editorial department had just bought for her. We would
then concede a new scenario, only to have it dismissed in the same
arbitrary fashion.

In this way weeks went by, weeks during which of course her salary of
more than several thousands was being regularly paid to her. Was it any
wonder that I began to feel uneasy as a man who sees his meter jumping
while his cab remains perfectly motionless?

In the beginning of these reminiscences of mine I said that it was
always the far horizon which had haunted me. While I was with the Lasky
Company I had tried always to march in its direction. Now that I was
head of the Goldwyn Company I was determined upon really catching up
with it. Far from limiting myself to those who, like Mabel Normand and
Mae Marsh, were representative screen stars, I reached out toward the
far lights of opera and the legitimate drama. To draw to the screen the
most finished histrionic ability, the names of deepest import in the
world of art--to this ambition may be traced the great disasters of my
professional career.



_Chapter Ten_

THE MAGIC OF MARY GARDEN


While I was still with the Lasky Company I had been attracted by the
reputation of Mary Garden, the most consummate of “singing actresses”
(I borrow the phrase from that famous musical critic, H. T. Parker
of Boston), and at the beginning of the War I wired our London
representative to see her. She was then in Scotland, where she was
connected with a hospital for war-relief, and all efforts of our
organisation to interest her in pictures failed absolutely. She refused
to leave her humanitarian work. When, however, two or three years after
this she came to America to sing in opera, I was prompt to get in touch
with her.

My first talk with the celebrated artiste was at her apartment at the
Ritz. As she swept in upon me I remember thinking that she looked even
taller than she does on the stage. With her clear blue eyes and her
finely modelled features and her heroic mould, a real Valkyr! Not for
one moment did she suggest any of those rôles to which her exquisite
art lends itself. _Thais_, _Melisande_, _Louise_, _Le Jongleur_--I
thought of these and was bewildered. I had never realised before how
completely the mind can transpose the entire meaning of a face.

Here in her apartment away from the footlights Miss Garden’s
countenance expressed a keen intelligence directed toward the problems
of the day. For a long time we talked about the War, and I was amazed
at her grasp of every industrial and economic phase of the conflict.
Her wide range of information, together with the vivid, forceful
phrases in which she expressed it--these made it hard for me to realise
that I was really talking to a prima donna, she who even in her
business transactions is supposed to distil an atmosphere of feminine
romance and caprice. If I had heard Miss Garden that evening without
knowing who it was I should have thought I was listening to some
keen-witted, able woman journalist.

So engrossed were we both in the impersonal that it was at least an
hour before I attacked the real purpose of my call. When I finally
broached the subjects of pictures I told her, of course, how eager
the Goldwyn Company was for the honour of first presenting her on
the screen. She responded to this tribute very graciously. There was
quite evidently not one moment’s doubt on her part that she could do
pictures. Her only misgiving, frankly revealed, was that I might not
pay her enough to justify her in making them.

[Illustration: MARY GARDEN AND GERALDINE FARRAR

Whispering gossip in Mr. Goldwyn’s ears.]

[Illustration: WILL ROGERS BIDS PAULINE FREDERICK GOODBYE

As she leaves Culver City, California, for a vacation in New York.]

I must say that for some time I, too, shared this misgiving. For the
sum on which she stood firm was a hundred and fifty thousand dollars
for ten weeks’ work.

However, a discussion of the matter with my associates, Edgar Selwyn,
Arthur Hopkins, and Margaret Mayo, brought out the fact that they were
all in favour of engaging her even at that sum. I took their advice,
and, triumphantly conscious that I was taking Miss Garden from the
numerous other film-producers who had been competing for her services,
I signed my name to the enormous contract. The news that Mary Garden
was at last to appear in pictures created a sensation throughout
the country and, as the newspapers carried the story in big type,
the Goldwyn Company profited by an enviable publicity. Seeing the
importance attached to her appearance, I grew more and more hopeful
that in the celebrated operatic star I was going to offset the various
hardships attending my foundation of the Goldwyn Company.

Naturally it was “Thais,” the most widely known of her operatic rôles,
which suggested itself as her first vehicle. This story, although
uncopyrighted in America, obligated the purchase of foreign rights, and
I paid M. Anatole France, its author, ten thousand dollars for these.
In so doing I felt sure that the French exhibitors alone would more
than return my expenditure. Just how little this belief was realised is
brought out by the conclusion of this episode.

No sooner had the actual production of “Thais” begun than I was beset
by grave fears. Miss Garden, feeling rightfully that her operatic
presentation of the rôle was authoritative, did not recognise the
difference of medium involved, and her first days on the set showed
her, as the studio people expressed it, “acting all over the place.”
That which was art in opera was not art on the screen, where the secret
of achievement is emotional restraint. Watch Charlie Chaplin, the great
exponent of motion-picture art, and you will see that he gets his
effects by suggesting rather than by presenting an emotion.

Those days when we were producing “Thais” remain with me as among
the most troubled of my history. Harassed by financial adjustments
and by production difficulties, assailed by complaints of scenarios
and directors from my various stars, I now had this supreme anxiety
regarding the outcome of my enormous investment in Mary Garden. Indeed,
I was constantly called upon to mediate between the singer and her
director.

The death of “Thais” was almost the death of Mary Garden. She had
fought bitterly the scenario’s departure from the original text here
in this scene. She asserted that the screen version, presenting as it
did the triumph of _Thais_, the woman, over _Thais_, the saint, was an
intolerable falsification. And she could, indeed, hardly be persuaded
to act in it at all.

When she saw the rushes of this scene, which so violated her artistic
conception, her rage and grief knew no bounds. “I knew it!” she cried.
“Oh, I knew it! Imagine me, the great _Thais_, dying like an acrobat!”

A moment later she rushed from the projection-room down to the office.
Here she found Margaret Mayo. “Did you see it,” she stormed to this
other woman. “That terrible thing? Did you see the way they made me
die? Imagine a saint dying like that!”

The actress looked her up and down and then she responded in a tone of
studied insolence, “You would have a hard time, Miss Garden, proving to
any one that you were a saint.”

Some time later when I came up on the set I found Miss Garden weeping
hysterically. “Oh,” said she, “that terrible woman! Have you heard what
she just said to me.”

Miss Garden never forgave this gratuitous insult.

At last, after such stormy sessions, “Thais” was completed. The
finished picture was not reassuring. But, even though I recognised its
shortcomings, I still hoped that Mary Garden’s name would carry the
production to triumph. If it went over it meant a lift from the deep
trough of the sea in which the Goldwyn Company had been weltering. If
it failed--but I did not dare allow myself to dwell upon this.

       *       *       *       *       *

With the full sense of that evening’s significance, I went to the
opening of “Thais” at the Strand Theatre in New York. A woman friend of
mine went with me and as we walked out of the theatre her face told me
everything. “Oh,” she said, her eyes filling with tears, “I just hate
to tell you--knowing how much it means to you--but--well, you can see
for yourself how they took it.”

I had indeed seen it--the heart-breaking coldness with which that
first New York audience had received the picture on which I had
staked so much. Even then, however, I did not realise the enormity
of the failure. I did this only when a day or so later telegrams
began pouring in from cities all over the country where “Thais” had
appeared simultaneously with New York. These telegrams rendered, with
few exceptions, the same verdict as the metropolis. Nor were foreign
countries more enthusiastic.

Miss Garden herself was quite as overwhelmed by this failure as was
the company. It had certainly been through no lack of diligence on her
part that the story went as it did, for she had arrived at the studio
early each morning and was often the last to leave it.

Certainly we were most unwise in selecting for her first picture a
story in which her operatic tradition was so ingrained. This was
brought out by the comparative success of her second film, “The
Splendid Sinner.” Had this only been produced first we should have done
on it three or four times the business which we actually did. As it
was, “Thais” had been such a complete “flop” that exhibitors had their
fingers crossed when it came to Mary Garden.

The Garden experience cost the Goldwyn Company heavily.
Disastrous as it was, however, it did not compare with the
two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar contract which the Famous
Players-Lasky organization made with the late Caruso. I was at
Graumann’s Theatre in Los Angeles when the first of the two pictures
involved in this contract was released, and its reception was even more
virulent than that accorded “Thais.” After playing two days it was, in
fact, hissed off the stage. What was more, this experience was echoed
all over the country. Nor was a rival’s venture with the beautiful Lina
Cavalieri more productive of confidence in the wisdom of transplanting
the operatic star to the screen firmament.

Aside from the unfamiliarity of the stage and operatic star with the
medium of motion-pictures, a difficulty enhanced by the arrogance
with which they usually approach the new field, there is another
fundamental obstruction in the path of the film-producer who exploits
them. Although their names may be on the lips of every inhabitant of a
large city, many a small town knows them not. Main Street, which counts
enormously in pictures, is apt to be much more familiar with some
comparatively obscure film actress than with Farrar or Garden. This
fact was brought home to me when, some months after signing my contract
with Miss Garden, I was talking with a small-town exhibitor who had
come with his lawyer to see me about signing a contract for Goldwyn
films.

“Ah,” remarked the lawyer, looking at some photographs on my desk, “I
see you have engaged Mary Garden. That ought to be a great card.”

“Mary Garden!” exclaimed the exhibitor at this point. “Why, what’s
new about her. I showed her five years ago and charged five cents
admission.” Evidently he had confused the prima donna with Mary
Gardner, a screen actress.

One of the incidents which stands out from that Winter in the Fort
Lee studio was the meeting which I effected between Mary Garden and
Geraldine Farrar. The two rivals had never been introduced. But neither
apparently had found acquaintance necessary to the formation of a firm
opinion. In the days when Miss Farrar used to be working in the Lasky
studio I would sometimes talk to her while De Mille was taking other
scenes. The conversation usually drifted toward people, and its current
bore us almost inevitably to Mary Garden. It was quite patent, however,
that the fascination which this theme seemed to possess for Geraldine
was that of professional rivalry, which always exists, and the greater
the prima donnas the more vehement the feeling.

When I came to meet Miss Garden I found the sentiment strikingly
reciprocal. Yet on that famous day when I brought Miss Farrar over to
the Fort Lee studio to meet her rival I wish that the world might have
shared with me the effusiveness of that greeting. Never were two women
more glad to see each other. The affectionate cadences of their voices,
the profound appreciation of the privilege of this moment expressed
by each--these ended at last in a farewell kiss. But the kiss, I
discovered later, had worked no psychological change. Both felt exactly
the same after the meeting as they had before.

My experience with Miss Garden was costly. It was not, however, so
ill-fated as was the Goldwyn Company’s engagement of Maxine Elliott.

With this episode I shall begin my next chapter and shall follow it
with the story of Pauline Frederick, the Goldwyn Company’s engagement
of Geraldine Farrar, and with my memories of Charlie Chaplin.



_Chapter Eleven_

MAXINE ELLIOTT AND PAULINE FREDERICK


It was one day just after the Goldwyn Company’s inception that Arch
Selwyn and Roi Cooper Megrue came to me in great excitement. “Maxine
Elliott’s arriving to-morrow from England,” announced Megrue.

“Yes, Sam,” added Selwyn, “and we think it would be a great thing if
you signed up with her. Right this minute the Shuberts are after her
for pictures.”

When, a few days later, Miss Elliott came to my office I thought I had
never seen a human being more radiantly lovely. When I considered, too,
that in addition to this glorious beauty she had a reputation for these
looks in every hamlet in America, the one anxiety which assailed me
was, Can I possibly get her away from the other fellow? As a matter of
fact, I did secure her only after long arduous negotiations.

Never was a picture surrounded by more care than Miss Elliott’s first
production. Irvin Cobb and Roi Cooper Megrue wrote the story. Both
names should have assured the excellence of the vehicle, Alan Dwan, one
of our most celebrated directors, assumed charge of the production.
Hugo Ballin, the portrait-painter, designed the sets. In spite of all
this perfection of detail, “Fighting Odds” was an abject failure.
Never, indeed, was any Goldwyn film criticised so ferociously as this.
Not only did we lose on the picture itself, but the “flop” was so
conspicuous that it resulted in the cancellation of other pictures of
ours.

All this was far from heartening to further performance, yet in the
midst of the storm called forth by her first picture Miss Elliott was
busy on her second. She was now under the direction of Arthur Hopkins,
who, although he had been studying studio methods for some months, had
never before assumed full sway of a production. Probably nothing on
the screen was more amusing than that inner drama of inexperience and
bewilderment revealed in the making of this second picture.

One day Miss Elliott, her throat swathed in yards of tulle--a
protective measure of which she, like Bernhardt, often availed
herself--was wheeling around and around on the set.

“Good gracious!” whispered somebody impishly as she looked at this
futile and pathetic whirling of the statuesque woman, “isn’t she ever
going to run down?”

Poor Miss Elliott, she evidently didn’t know what to do when she
stopped turning! And I doubt if Mr. Hopkins was more inspired!

At this point the reader may wonder why I, a producer of experience,
would confide so much in two people who had so little screen
experience. The answer to this is that I have always wanted to enrich
motion-pictures by assured talent from outside fields. This involved
experimentation, and it was natural that a few of my experiments should
fail. Others, on the contrary, have proved the wisdom of bringing in
new blood.

That Mr. Hopkins, a theatrical producer of such merit and reputation,
did not justify my selection of him was due to his indifference to
the new environment. He never regarded pictures seriously, and after
directing the Maxine Elliott story he came to me and told me that he
could not get his mind sufficiently detached from the stage ever to be
successful in a studio.

A beauty of the stage with whom I had a more fortuitous contact was
Pauline Frederick. Miss Frederick was with Zukor when I founded the
Goldwyn Company. That she transferred to me was due to her husband,
Willard Mack, the playwright and actor. Coming up to me one night at
the Directors’ Ball at the Biltmore, he said:

“See here, Sam, Polly’s contract with Famous is just about to expire.
How about it, anyway? Now I’d like to see her go with you, for you’re a
young company and I’m sure you would take a bigger interest in her.”

I fell in immediately with this line of thought, and some evenings
later he phoned me to see him at the Lyceum Theatre, where he was
then appearing with Lenore Ulric in “Tiger Rose.” When I got to his
dressing-room I found Miss Frederick there. Together we three discussed
the possibility of the star’s transference to the Goldwyn Company, and
after some weeks of conference the possibility crystallised into a fact.

Needless to say, Mr. Zukor did not take the news of her deflection any
too kindly. For at this time Miss Frederick’s large American following
was reinforced by great popularity in other countries. In England,
for example, she was as much of a drawing-card as was Mary Pickford.
In his irritation at her loss it was, I suppose, quite natural for my
competitor’s sentiment to overflow to me. Normal or not, it certainly
did so. Meeting me at a ball soon after the news of the contract came
out, Mr. Zukor began overwhelming me with reproaches for my treacherous
conduct in weaning his star away from him. In vain I explained that
the advance had been made from her side, not from mine. He refused to
believe me. Finally the discussion became so heated that Alice Joyce
came running over to us.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen!” said she laughingly, “I don’t know anything in
the world worth so much discussion--especially a motion-picture star!”

At this time we were just on the point of moving our studio from Fort
Lee to California. This involved, of course, moving Miss Frederick.
A gentle theory this, but its execution threatened danger. For Miss
Frederick was devotedly attached to her husband and he was playing in
New York.

I am not overrating the emotional pressure of this situation. Compared
to Pauline Frederick Mrs. Micawber gave a wavering brand of devotion.
She never would desert Mr. Mack--not for an hour. I have related that
the first time I talked to her regarding a change, I found her in her
husband’s dressing-room. This was no coincidence. It was a habit. After
working hard all day on the set, she spent every evening back of the
scenes with Mack.

In consideration of such strongly marked feeling on her part I
obviously was compelled to do something about Mack. The fact of it
is that, far from wanting him on the basis of agreeable surroundings
for his wife, I was most anxious to shift him from theatrical work to
our organisation. A playwright of skill, an actor of experience--why
should I not have supposed that he would be a valuable addition to the
Goldwyn Company?

The position which I offered him finally was head of the scenario
department. Although he was making more on the stage, he accepted
my appointment at five hundred dollars a week, for the salary was
accompanied by the promise that if he made good I would raise his
salary and give him a long-term contract. He started his new duties in
the Fort Lee studio and they were achieved so satisfactorily that we
transferred him together with his wife to the California establishment.
Thereby hangs a tale.

In the old days when Zukor and I used to exchange confidences regarding
our respective disagreements with various screen performers, he was
always emphatic in his praise of Pauline Frederick. “Now, there’s a
girl that anybody could get along with,” he would say. “Easy to handle,
likes her stories, always on time on the set.” So consistent were his
comments on the model star that I looked forward to Miss Frederick’s
presence in my studio much as does a motorist to a stretch of glossy
asphalt after innumerable rough detours.

Alas for such expectations! By the time that “teacher’s pet” reached me
she had begun to share some of the characteristics of less exemplary
performers. That this was so may be traced chiefly to her husband’s
position in the studio. For it was on the question of scenarios that I
found her most captious.

“I don’t like this story!” she would say to me after reading something
that I had considered especially suited to her.

“What don’t you like about it?”

She was always able to assign a reason, but underneath this alleged
objection I discovered gradually the vital source of prejudice. The
rejected scenario had not been written by Willard Mack!

There was, too, another cause for the beautiful star’s departure from
that ideal course of conduct hymned by Zukor. In the Summer following
my formation of the Goldwyn Company I had engaged Geraldine Farrar. The
latter and Pauline Frederick met in the Fort Lee studio. From that time
forth the business of picture-production became more complicated.

“Of course,” Miss Frederick would say, “this story is nothing so good
as the one you’ve given Geraldine Farrar.”

Miss Farrar, on the other hand, seemed to assume that Mack’s position
in the editorial department gave Pauline a decided advantage in the
choice of scenarios. Between two such fixed and divergent view-points
there was only one course to steer. This was a Machiavellian one.

“I don’t like this story,” began Pauline one day.

“Very well,” retorted I equably, “we’ll give it to Miss Farrar. She
wants it badly.”

Mysteriously, magically, these words seemed to overcome my star’s
objections. She not only took the story, but ran away with it.

Meeting with such marked success in one direction, I was encouraged to
extend the application of my guileful principle. The very next story,
I showed Miss Farrar I accompanied with the confidence that Pauline
Frederick was crazy to get it. Magic again! Here was the one scenario
at which my prima donna never demurred.

The passage of time has enabled me to smile at such incidents. Then,
however, I was less susceptible to the humour of the situation. This
was hardly strange. For here was I attempting to do a big, constructive
piece of work and at every turn I was met by trivial jealousies,
trivial obstructions.

The worst of it is that the star’s warfare against a scenario does not
end the struggle. Once he or she has been persuaded of its merits the
director is next called in. Often, of course, this personage thinks
that the one obstacle in his career of authorship is lack of time.
Consequently when the drama is put into his hands he starts to rewrite
it. The result is that before long star, director, and editorial
department are embroiled in a long and bitter conflict. Naturally, in
these days of which I am speaking the case was appealed to me by each
of the combatants.

The wear and tear of all this are felt by the scenario as well as by
the producer. Is it any wonder that of the original story bought by the
editorial department, perhaps one idea survives the general assault?
For by the time that you have wheedled your actress into accepting
“Mary Had a Little Lamb” the director decides that a goat possesses
infinitely greater revenues of humour. Then the editorial department,
conceding the goat, insists on an alteration in the type of heroine.
She becomes “Hildegarde, the girl with a punch.” After this everybody
thinks up so much business for the goat while he is on the road that,
of course, he never gets to school at all. He probably lands at Coney
Island or, better still, in the lobby of a fashionable hotel. Of one
thing at least you may be certain: the terminus will be some place
where Hildegarde can wear all her latest Paris gowns and wraps.

If I had really submitted “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to some of my stars
I think it would have been accepted more readily than many more mature
dramas. For Mary was very young, and if there is one thing upon which
the average screen performer insists it is a youthful part. In real
life she herself may be the mother of an eighteen-year-old girl. No
matter! On the screen she must appear “teenful.”

I remember one such experience in connection with Pauline Frederick.
She had read a story in which she was very anxious to appear. The
heroine of that story was a girl in her teens. Mr. Lehr had a long
talk with her in which, as gently and diplomatically as was possible,
he pointed out that such an extremely youthful rôle would accentuate
rather than diminish the discrepancy between her own age--not that this
was formidable--and that of the screen heroine. She looked a little
crestfallen at first. Then with a very sweet smile she yielded.

“Ah, well,” she sighed, “I suppose you’re right!”

One of the most amusing bases of rivalry in my studio was that of
orchestral accompaniment. A word of explanation is required at this
point. When Miss Farrar first came to make pictures for the Lasky
Company we provided a small orchestra for her inspiration on the set.
This unprecedented luxury, now an almost universal feature behind the
screen, was thereupon exacted by other performers. Furthermore some of
them did very accurate bookkeeping on the subject.

One day Pauline came to me with a very injured expression. “I’m not
pleased!” announced she.

I believe I managed to act as if I were meeting an entirely fresh
situation. “Well, well,” asked I, “what’s the trouble now?”

“Why, it’s this: How can you expect me to do my best work--I ask
you--how can you expect it? I have only one violin--one poor little
violin----”

“But, Miss Frederick,” I interrupted her, “you had no music at all
while you were with Zukor. How about that? Yet you were doing your best
work there.”

She reflected for a moment, and I saw then that I had not reached the
root of the matter. This was quite evidently the fact that Geraldine
Farrar had two or three violins. I tried to point out that the latter’s
operatic tradition demanded this excess of string stimulation, but
I was not successful. The number of pieces each actress should have
became, in fact, one of those absurd bones of contention on which I,
as a producer, was compelled to throw away much vital energy. Finally
my studio became a three-ring band. When I entered it in the morning I
wandered from the jazz selections which were toning up Mabel Normand’s
comedy to the realm where sad waltzes deepened Pauline Frederick’s
emotional fervour. The circle was surrounded by the classic themes
infolding Geraldine Farrar. It was hardly strange that outsiders used
to gather every day to share in these free airs.

When not guarding her studio rights Miss Frederick is the most
delightful of women. I have told in a previous chapter of her gift of
getting along with only a few hours’ sleep. This same vitality sparkles
in every look of her eyes, in every sentence she utters. It leads her
to a deep interest in literature--she is one of the best-read women I
have ever known--and to a hundred phases of human activities outside
her own province. Altogether, a magnetic and bracing and colourful
human being!



_Chapter Twelve_

A MARRIAGE OF TWO MINDS


While I was having difficulties with Pauline Frederick I was not
enjoying an untroubled business relationship with the star whose
supposed advantage she so much resented. Earlier in my story I have
told of how Geraldine Farrar’s first invasion of our field brought to
our ears nothing but delighted comments on her director, her stories,
and her general environment. Sadly I am now compelled to ascribe
this first fine, careless rapture to her inexperience in pictures.
For when she came to work for the Goldwyn Company she had acquired
enough information about the screen to make her critical of stories,
directorship, and various other production details.

Now, too, a personal element in her life contributed to her attitude
toward pictures. For since she worked on the Lasky lot she had married
Lou Tellegen.

At the same time that Pauline Frederick was discontented with
any scenario not written by Willard Mack, Geraldine Farrar was
discontented with any leading man who was not Lou Tellegen.

The second Summer of her engagement with us we deferred to this
longing. We brought Mr. Tellegen on to play with his wife. He did more
than that. He frequently played against her.

About this time, I believe Mr. Howard Dietz, the brilliant young chief
of my publicity department, gave out an interview with Tellegen to the
effect that he was delighted to be back in pictures, particularly when
under such ideal conditions and when they afforded him the opportunity
of playing with Miss Farrar, who “was as excellent an artiste as she
was a wife.” This sentiment warranted a smile from those who saw how he
embraced that privilege.

To be concrete: While they were playing together on a set Tellegen
would frequently try to arrogate to himself the most advantageous
focussing of the camera.

He was apt to become sulky if this campaign was frustrated, and, seeing
this, we hit at last upon a harmless method of humouring him.

“Take him that way,” we whispered to the director, “and then we’ll
throw away the negatives. The ones we’ll keep will be those where
Farrar is played up.”

He was almost equally insatiable of “close-ups.” “You haven’t made a
single one of me yet,” he would complain after a careful computation
of his wife’s advantages in this respect.

And she, the beautiful Farrar, hitherto so much the conqueror in
love--did she realise the rivalry, the antagonism back of these
efforts? She certainly did. Time and again she tried to bring him into
the conspicuous position he so much desired. When she failed her look
was all for the pain of his hurt, not for that which she might so
reasonably have felt at such an attitude on the part of a beloved human
being.

Tellegen did not seem much more appreciative of her off the set. Often
when they were lunching together, for example, you overheard some
teasing reference on his part to the fact that she was some years older
than he. She never replied angrily to such remarks. Indeed, the general
criticism of her behaviour was that she was entirely too nice for him.

“Watch him! He’s as sure of her as he is of the ice-man coming around.
Why doesn’t she make him wonder a little?” So remarked one of a group
watching the famous pair as they sat together one day in the studio
café. The objection was well taken. Geraldine was bending toward her
husband with her accustomed look of rapt absorption. She was talking
to him eagerly with a frequent flash of the perfect white teeth. He,
on his part, was silent, absent-minded, even a little sulky. When he
answered her at all it was in monosyllables.

Time and again, in fact, studio folks beheld this metamorphosis of
the romantic and ardent lover of another California Summer into the
indifferent husband of this. And when it came time for the great prima
donna to leave, what a saddening contrast to that former day when
Tellegen had run madly beside the train bearing his love toward the
East! A recent Summer Miss Farrar stood beside her special train. The
fourteen personal attendants she had brought with her were running
hither and thither with her baggage and possessions. She, however,
seemed to know nothing of what was going on around her. For Lou
Tellegen stood before her, and she was looking into his eyes.

At last, just before the train started, she threw her arms about him.
All her dread of separation was in that embrace. You could see what it
meant to her to leave him even for a few weeks. And he? Listlessly,
with hardly one responsive gesture, he stood encircled by his wife’s
arms.

Yet such apparent indifference never seemed to quench the fire
kindled by that first glance of Tellegen’s on the Lasky lot. It was
almost unbelievable--the reckless lengths to which she, this careful,
methodical business woman, was driven by one despotic emotion. I am
giving now what was perhaps her most tempestuous departure from usual
standards.

During her second Summer with the Goldwyn Company, she had insisted
that her husband’s name appear on the bill-boards in connection with
her own. For some reason, however, the requested mention of Tellegen
did not appear. When Farrar became aware of this omission, what did she
do but take an automobile all through Los Angeles and tear down with
her own hands every offending poster. I admit that I was infuriated.
She, when I called her up over the phone, was scarcely more serene, and
for some time it was a case of Farrar _versus_ Goldwyn.

At this moment she was in the midst of a second picture, and she made
prompt use of that advantage. “Very well,” she threatened, “if you will
not feature Mr. Tellegen’s name I am going to stop work right in the
middle of this new picture!”

“All right,” retorted I, “you do that and I am going to show the first
part of the picture and then announce on the screen that at this point
Madame Farrar would not proceed because the producer did not feature
Lou Tellegen’s name.”

Lost to all consideration of business values as she then seemed, this
threat succeeded. She went on with her story.

Strange is the parallel experience of those two rivals of the Goldwyn
studio, Geraldine Farrar and Pauline Frederick. For each is now
separated from the man for whom she once so turbulently set aside her
own interests. Nor does the parallel stop there. Lou Tellegen was at
the very most only a moderate film success. The good looks which first
caused such a flurry among the feminine portions of his stage audiences
never carried well on the screen. Likewise, in a different sphere,
Willard Mack failed to live up to his stage tradition. His stories
were never really good picture material, and to Pauline Frederick’s
insistence upon appearing in them I ascribe the fact that her Goldwyn
dramas were not so successful as those made by Mr. Zukor.

She herself slowly awoke to such realisation. In those California days
when her New York romance with Mack was beginning to ebb--and it did
ebb rapidly--she saw her mistake. But it was then a little too late.

My memories of the great Metropolitan opera-singer close with the year
1919 in a way that reveals the bigness, the sweep of mind and spirit
that distinguish Geraldine Farrar. At this time I had a contract with
her providing a salary of one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars
for twelve weeks of annual service. The contract had still two more
years to run when, very regretfully, I went to Miss Farrar and asked
if she did not think it might be better to stay off the screen for
a year. Gently as I could do so I added that very often a star’s
popularity went under a temporary eclipse and that a limited absence
from films did much to restore the public demand.

The reason back of this difficult approach was, of course, that lately
her pictures had not been drawing. She was prompt to perceive my
meaning, and with head up she took it.

“Very well!” said she promptly in her familiar tones that are both
flowering and incisive. “Only don’t you think that perhaps it would
be better to quit entirely? If you think so, say so, Mr. Goldwyn, and
we’ll tear up the contract now and here.”

It was hard to tell her, but I did, that I thought this course might be
wiser for us both. Thereupon, without another word and with the most
gallant look in the world, she destroyed the contract which meant two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

Of course she saw that it was infinitely better to be remembered by the
pictures of her prime than to go on to a lustreless close. Here was
another evidence of that reliable business judgment which nothing but
her infatuation for Tellegen ever dimmed. But even though self-interest
might have pointed to this conclusion, her utter lack of resentment,
her failure to voice a single reproach of me, made this an experience
absolutely unique in my career.

My valedictory regarding Madame Farrar is that her word is as good as
her bond. This characteristic fits in with that business morality which
makes her hate to lose a single hour of her time. I never knew anybody
with a keener sense of responsibility to the clock. When she first came
to make pictures with the Lasky Company we provided her with a room in
the studio where she could practice her music. The Goldwyn Company made
the same provision for her. In this way she utilized the long waits
between sets.

More than this. Every day of her time was so arranged months beforehand
that not a break occurred in the links of industry. On the day that she
stopped grand opera she started to make records for mechanical players;
from her records she went straight to California, and the day that she
returned from California she went on a concert tour. This programme
went on for years.

I have already indicated that the prima donna’s last pictures were not
a financial success. Fully conscious of the surprise that this later
information may create in the minds of many people, I am going to add
that even her first films, executed when she was in the prime of her
beauty and at the height of her operatic fame, were not dazzlingly
remunerative. Her “Joan the Woman,” a great artistic achievement,
brought no commensurate financial returns. The fact of it is that
Geraldine Farrar’s chief value to the picture-producer lay in the
publicity she brought rather than in the films she sold.

Not for a moment does this fact reflect upon the great Farrar. If
reflection there be at all, it is upon the small town where, as I
have asserted, some obscure little motion-picture actress may have a
following which the world’s greatest singer can never hope to enroll. I
can not emphasise this point too strongly.



_Chapter Thirteen_

THE REAL CHAPLIN


Although I had heard much of Charlie Chaplin from various friends we
shared in common I did not meet him until after I had been in the
industry for two years. That first sight of him surprised me as much as
it always does those who know only the familiar comedian of the black
moustache and baggy trousers. A slender fellow; smooth-shaven; waves of
crisp black hair; dark blue eyes that have that peculiar smoky quality
of the Autumn hills--here is the catalogue of his outward self. But of
course you can not compress into a catalogue the charm of his face.
There is a charm there--even beauty. In this connection, indeed, I
remember Chaplin’s telling me laughingly that his mother once protested
indignantly at his make-up.

“Why do you want to make yourself look hideous,” said she, “you who are
so beautiful?”

But although his contours are satisfactory and his eyes exceedingly
handsome, the real interest of Chaplin’s face lies in its perpetual
and sensitive absorptions. He seems always listening. Even when he is
talking most animatedly he is watching you, wondering about you, quite
evidently trying to fit you and your words into some pattern. When you
yourself are talking, you get the full force of this vivid listening.

Mack Sennett has often spoken about this characteristic message of his
face as it was revealed to him during Chaplin’s first studio days.
“He’d sit there for hours,” records Mack, “just staring at people. I
couldn’t make out what he was thinking about.”

Since that first meeting of ours acquaintance has developed into a
friendship which I certainly count one of the privileges of my life.
From that friendship it is hard to detach myself for an objective
survey of the gifted pantomimist. Even had I not been so close to him I
should find formidable the task of analysis. For Chaplin is a maze of
contradictions, and no sooner have you affixed to him any one attribute
than lo, the next moment has swept it away!

Chaplin loves power--as no one else whom I have ever met he loves
it. Money contributes to this sense. Therefore he sticks out for his
large contract and therefore he saves a great deal of his earnings.
But it affords him just as much consciousness of power to think that
he, Chaplin, can afford to walk away from those assembled actors and
stage-hands. Ergo, he does that.

I have often been asked if Chaplin is amusing when away from the
screen. He is--thoroughly so. His mimicry is delightful. His dancing
is perhaps even more so. To see Chaplin improvising a London street
scene with William de Mille; to hear him deliver the speech of a
Jewish manufacturer at a banquet where he had been presented with
a loving-cup; to watch his imitations of some fashionable rhythmic
dancer--at one of these last performances he carried a cuspidor as a
Greek vase and concluded by deftly catching it in the crook of his
knee--such are the memories of Charlie treasured by those who know him.

I always like to think of the day when he got back from Europe. He
came straightway to my office to see me, and I never heard anything so
infectious as those descriptions of his triumphal tour. When he came to
the story of his decoration with the Legion of Honour he reached a high
peak in that imitative narrative of which he is such a perfect master.

Yet here again you are faced by another of those contrasts which
bewilder the biographer. There are certain days when, instead of
drollery and pungent narrative, he presents a well of unfathomable
silence. On such days he runs away from his studio and from
everybody. For hours he will sit motionless in his room. Or perhaps,
starting off alone, he will wander into an orange-grove or tramp
through the hills around Hollywood.

[Illustration: CHARLIE CHAPLIN

The foremost figure of the entertainment world. The best known of all
artists.]

[Illustration: RUPERT HUGHES

Now as ardent a screen director as he is an author.]

He suffers at such times--undoubtedly. But make no mistake. The
blackness of the universe, the torturing puzzle of existence, which
sometimes engulf so many of us, are never repudiated by Chaplin. He
does not desire madly to lose himself in somebody or something apart
from his own life. He would not in his most tortured moment shift
places with the merriest. No, for the blackness is his blackness.
And what he wants is experience, no matter whether that be happiness
or pain. This hunger for a high measure of sensation is found in his
horror of old age. With a kind of fierce rebellion he looks into a
neighbouring glass at the streaks of grey in his hair. “Ugh!” he will
shiver. “To think the time is coming when I shan’t be young any more!”

His reaction to life is, you see, intensely personal, intensely
emotional. Nothing is more persuasive of this than is his interest in
certain impersonal topics. Chaplin loves to talk about government and
economics and religion. Mention of a new “ism” or “ology” brings him
loping from the farthest corner of a room. When Rupert Hughes came out
to Hollywood he and Charlie were much given to what somebody calls
“topics--just topics.” Nothing could have been more illuminating.
While Hughes conducted his side of the discussion in a spirit of
dispassionate inquiry, the less scientifically trained mind of the
comedian struck out with a poet’s frenzy at everything which he did not
like. One could see it was not really abstract truth which he desired.
It was the theory which most successfully represented his own prejudice.

His prejudice is against anything which interferes with his
own personal freedom. The censor, the income tax, any supposed
obstruction--these are hateful to him in the degree to which they
infringe upon that coveted sense of power.

One day when I first came to know Chaplin well, he was with me in my
apartment at a Hollywood hotel. While we were talking the telephone
rang. Charlie looked terrified.

“What do they want you for?” I asked exceedingly amused.

“A guest,” he answered with a grin. “Mrs. X---- asked me for dinner
to-night. I promised I’d be there and then found out she had asked a
whole lot of people. So you won’t catch me going.”

This was my introduction to Charlie’s most notorious social failing.
Often thereafter I witnessed his struggles against being taken into
custody. Less frequently I was one of a group of indignant people
waiting for a Chaplin who had promised to come and never did show up at
all.

Not long ago a friend of mine asked him why he so hated to make or keep
an engagement.

“I don’t know,” answered Charlie. “I suppose, though, it’s because I
hate to feel that I have to do anything at a certain time. It just
destroys my pleasure in doing it.”

At this my friend suggested, “Ah, Mr. Chaplin, but don’t you think that
is because ’way down deep you don’t feel quite free? The person who is
conscious of real freedom doesn’t fret at any such superficial bondage.”

He looked at her eagerly, delightedly--just as he always does when
confronted by a new theory. “Why, I never thought of that, but I
believe it’s true,” he assented. “You see,” he added, “when I was a
young boy I never was free. I was always the one who had to stay at
home. My brother Sydney didn’t hang around as I did. He went off to
Australia.”

Then for the first time I suspected what was responsible for Charlie’s
love of power. Those early years of his in London when, the son of poor
vaudeville artists, he experienced hunger and tragedy and the constant
terror of the next day, have driven far into his brain. No prosperity
can quite rid him of fear. That is why he wants to assure himself in
every way of his present strength. For what is it but fear which makes
a man conscious always of the thickness of his armour, the sharpness of
his weapons?

There was one engagement of his which Charlie did keep. When Claire
Sheridan, the English sculptress, came to California she expressed
immediately a desire to meet Chaplin. My friend Abram Lehr thereupon
invited the comedian to a dinner given for the handsome author of “From
Mayfair to Moscow.”

“And don’t you dare fail me this time!” admonished Mr. Lehr as he
proffered the invitation.

Charlie not only obeyed; he obeyed in a dinner-coat. From the first, so
Lehr reports, the two seemed entirely satisfied with each other, and
that occasion led to the friendship upon which Mrs. Sheridan dwells so
glowingly in her “American Diary.”

Charlie is well liked by the average woman. Indeed, most people are
attracted to him. Why should they not be? His drollery, his quick and
vivid response to the moment, his friendly, boyish smile, the manner
which makes you feel at first meeting as if you had known him all your
life--these would lead the usual person to pick him out in a roomful of
distinguished people. And all this quite apart from the glamour of his
reputation.

He makes another appeal. The first time I ever met him I felt sorry
for him. The humour of it, that I should want to help him--this young
charming Fortunatus--struck me almost at once. But I could not help it.
Afterwards I found that nearly every one else shares this feeling.

Of course exactly the same thing is operative on the screen. For
Chaplin owes his supremacy as much to the tears as to the laughter of
the multitude.

This pathos of his comes from an enduring isolation. He is, and I think
always will be, a lonely figure. Beloved by many, applauded by all,
he is merely with--never of--the crowd--not though he gives it back
gesture for gesture and laugh for laugh. Not misleading, the look of
listening which so much impressed me the first time I met him! For
early in life Chaplin took his seat in the parquet of life and ever
since he has been watching the rest of us actors unfolding our drama.
Do not be deceived because sometimes he vaults over the footlights
and behaves just like the performers. Even when he is at his merriest
pranks, even when he is talking most confidentially and affectionately
to his friends, he is still the onlooker, detached from the rest of us
by I know not what fastnesses of spirit.

The most intimate of Charlie’s friends in Hollywood are Douglas
Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. He goes over to their house frequently,
and the three talk pictures hard and fast. Chaplin, of course,
frequently sees in the creations of the other two an opportunity for
characteristic suggestions.

When, for instance, he saw the moated castle in “Robin Hood” he said
to Fairbanks: “Wonderful, Doug! Just think what I would do with that
drawbridge on Sunday morning! I’d let it down so I could take in the
Sunday papers and the milk-bottles and then draw it up tight so that
nobody could get at me all the rest of the day.”

One time I asked Charlie who was his favourite screen actress. “I
think Mary Pickford,” he answered unhesitatingly. “You see there’s a
wonderful quality about her--it’s that more than her acting.”

Unlike almost every other screen actor, Charlie does not work from a
script. When he starts a new story he is apt to come into his studio
and say, “Build me a kitchen and a dining-room.” He has at this moment
perhaps only the germ of an idea. But day by day he develops it, and as
he does so his scenario-writer puts down each scene. This method has
often been described, and I touch upon it here only for its value in
revealing his psychology. A scenario would undoubtedly irk him as much
as would a social engagement. Always, always, Chaplin must be assured
that he is free, that his individuality has scope for its spontaneous
play.

His emotionality is never more apparent than when he is at work. Often
he becomes exhausted in his efforts to inspire one of his company with
the desired emotion. “Heavens!” he will cry, “It’s enough to break your
heart--such stupidity!” When he sees the rushes, anger and despair are
apt to break from their leashes and run away with the projection-room.
Often, however, these emotions are directed quite as much toward his
own part in the performance as toward that of others. Charlie has, in
fact, that capacity for being dissatisfied with his own work which is a
part of every great artist.

The world at large does not seem to know much about Charlie’s brother
Sydney. Yet he is a very real brother and Charlie has a very real
affection for him. He himself is an excellent comedian with only
one disadvantage--he is the near relative of a great comedian. This
relationship, I may add, could never be detected from a casual glance
at the two, for Syd Chaplin is rather tall and rather blond and his
features are much more sharply cut than are those of his brother.

Syd, by the way, possesses a very ready wit. Once when dining with Mary
and Doug he listened to the latter’s statement that the costumes for
“Robin Hood” had cost a hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars.

“Hmph!” commented Syd, “I should call that ‘Robbin’ Doug.’”

It was after completing his $670,000 contract with the Mutual
Film Company that Charlie made with the First National Company a
million-dollar deal calling for eight two-reel pictures. This did not
sound difficult. The comedian expected to complete the order in a year.
Instead, he has only just recently finished the last of the National
Film pictures.



_Chapter Fourteen_

JACKIE COOGAN AND “THE KID”


The few superfluities which appeal to Charlie Chaplin must have some
association of romance. For example, he is very fond of mangoes, and
every evening that a certain Los Angeles café has this delicacy the
manager calls up Chaplin’s house. When Charlie sits down in front of a
glass of this exotic fruit he is positively radiant.

“Lovely musty odor!” he will comment. To him the delicacy calls up
visions of long-robed, wide-sleeved Eastern men, of caravans winding
threadlike across the desert, and of incense rising in fretted temples
from the feet of golden gods. Every bit of him goes out to meet this
glamourous suggestion just exactly as every bit of him goes out to meet
the broad, rollicking humor of the derby pulled off by the string.

Domesticity does not fit into my conception of his character. He is
too individual, too much oppressed by threat of routine, to sustain
any such close relationship. One can as easily imagine De Musset
or Verlaine mowing the front lawn of his suburban home as Chaplin
responding contentedly to like conditions.

My association of his name with these two great French poets is not
accidental. For Chaplin is not a mere comedian. He is a poet--the
great poet of the screen. His fierce rebellions against man-made
fetters which would trammel the individual soul in its progress toward
complete expression, his sensitiveness to impression, his strange
combination of emotionality and complete detachment--these ally him
in spirit with the youngest and fieriest of bards. Surely, too, his
professional achievement is consistent with this spirit. For Chaplin
has brought from the borderland of the subconscious mind those emotions
which he sets before you. In that single small figure with the baggy
trousers and the flopping shoes he reveals the loneliness and frailty,
the lurking irresponsibility, the fears and aspirations--all the
intermingled pathos and humour of the universal soul.

“Shoulder Arms,” for example. Here Chaplin bears for you the real
Everyman at war. Stripped of his bombast and fine speeches, of the
brave front which he presents to his fellows, the soldier stands stark
before you. It is a poet’s realisation of those things buried beneath
the surface of garb and manner and every-day speech, and it is all of
a poet’s concrete expression of them.

One evening while I was dining with Chaplin in Los Angeles a very
smartly dressed woman leading a small boy by the hand entered the
restaurant. The moment that the latter caught sight of the comedian he
rushed over to him and threw his arms about Chaplin’s neck. There was a
look of rapture in the big brown eyes which I have never forgotten.

After the enthusiasm of this greeting had ebbed away Charlie introduced
the pair. It was Jackie Coogan and his mother. When they had moved on
from our table Chaplin turned to me.

“There’s a boy you ought to have,” he commented. “He’s a great actor.”

Possibly Chaplin never shone more brightly in any human relationship
than he has in his association with Jackie Coogan. The tremendous love
and tenderness which he expressed for “The Kid” on the screen had, in
fact, a source of actual feeling. He really loved and does love this
small boy. As to the latter, I have already indicated in my account of
his greeting how touchingly Jackie returns this affection.

If you ask the tiny star to-day who is his best friend his answer is
prompt: “Charlie Chaplin.” Equally loyal is the professional sting he
gives to his friend. One day somebody asked him who was the greatest
living actor.

“Charlie Chaplin, of course,” he retorted.

“And who is the second greatest?” persisted his interviewer.

“Jackie Coogan,” he answered with all the serenity of the critical mind
that is unshaken by any personal consideration.

“And the third?”

“Oh,” said he, obviously somewhat impatient with the doggedness of this
research, “I have told you the two greatest. What does it matter about
the third?”

Even in that first casual greeting with this gifted boy I was struck by
the perfect unconsciousness which sets Jackie apart from the ordinary
stage child. He didn’t seem to realise in the least that he was a
famous personage, and I hear that it has been kept from him always--the
enormity of his earnings, the fact that he, a lad not quite eight
years old, has already earned almost a million dollars. Certainly that
evening he was just a kid radiant at seeing the grown-up who had played
games with him much more absorbedly than any other small boy could have
done. Indeed, I have always been told in Hollywood by people who knew
the Coogans well that he is first of all a real boy possessing perhaps
even more than the average boy’s affinity with dirt.

Not long ago a friend of mine dropped in to see the small star. It was
during the production of “Oliver Twist,” and the set was pre-empted
by some older members of the company. For a time Jackie, attired in
blue overalls, listened to the director’s voice and watched the rival
talent. Then, going over to his father, he caught the other’s hands and
looked up appealingly into his face.

“Oh, Daddy,” he pleaded, “I’m not getting any kick out of this. Mayn’t
I go outside and play?”

When this permission was granted Jackie availed himself of an
opportunity to assemble his favourite playthings. These consist of a
hammer, some old nails, and a plot of ground outside the studio. Here
for half an hour the juvenile actor, who might recruit the most costly
electrical toys--these have been showered upon him by people all over
the world--squatted on the ground and hammered his beloved nails into
stray pieces of wood.

While he was thus occupied the friend I have mentioned happened to
refer to the gold chain she was wearing as looking like a royal
decoration. “The Order of the Golden Fleece,” she added laughingly to
the group of older people watching with her over Jackie’s recreation.

He stopped his hammering for an instant and quickly, with a look of
most eager intelligence, he lifted his eyes to her face.

“The Golden Fleece,” he repeated. “Oh, I know all about that. It’s what
Jason sailed after.”

I quote this to show the information already at the command of this
astounding lad. All I have heard from Chaplin and from others convinces
me, in fact, that his histrionic ability is accompanied by one of those
childish minds which work in all directions, which positively have to
be held back from learning too much.

One incident in connection with the production of “The Kid” throws
into relief Chaplin’s feeling for his small co-star. He was directing
the child in a particularly affecting scene when suddenly he turned to
Jackie’s father.

“You direct him--I can’t stand it!” he said, turning away quickly. The
child’s tears, even though histrionic ones, had been too much for the
high-strung, emotional Chaplin.

Charlie’s devotion to Jackie Coogan is explicable to me after one
glimpse of the child. So, too, are the words of a certain woman I know.
“There is something about that boy,” says the latter, “that always
makes me feel like crying. I don’t know why, for he seems so gay and
happy.” I myself caught in an instant that same touching, even solemn,
quality. What is it? Perhaps because in those wide childish eyes one
feels a wisdom brought from some other world and not yet dimmed by that
of this.

I feel that I can not bring my recollections of Chaplin to a close at a
point more deeply significant of his artist’s nature than the account
of my own preview of “The Kid.” When he finished with this picture,
attended as it was by his conflict with Mildred Harris, he was in an
abysmal state.

“Sam,” said he one day, “I wish when you have nothing else to do you’d
come over to my studio and look at my new picture. I’d like to get your
opinion of it--advice, too, if you have any to offer.”

“What do you think of it?” I asked him.

“Rotten!” he answered. “I’m awfully discouraged over it.”

I had heard such comments from him before on similar occasions, for by
the time that he has finished a story he has so completely lost all
sense of perspective that nobody can convince him that the production
has one glimmering ray of merit. Consequently I attached no importance
to this mood of his. Putting down his words to the divine discontent of
genius, I went over that very day with Gouverneur Morris to see “The
Kid.”

Even my prejudice in favour of anything that Charlie does did not
prepare me for this supreme manifestation of his artistry. Just as the
world was afterward to do, Morris and I laughed and cried and gasped
as the wonderful story unrolled before us.

As for Charlie, he looked at us unbelievingly. He simply could not make
himself understand that we were not feigning this appreciation.

“Charlie,” I said after it was all over, “if you never had done or
never should do another picture your name would go down into history as
the creator of ‘The Kid.’”

With that peculiarly eager, wistful expression of his he looked at me.
“You really think it’s good then?” he asked. “You’re not just saying
this to make me feel encouraged?”

“If you don’t believe me,” I answered, “I’ll call in a few others to
help convince you. I tell you,” I added, “let me do something, won’t
you? Let me give a dinner over at my studio and then we’ll show them
‘The Kid.’”

Very reluctantly he agreed. I thereupon sent out invitations, and I
don’t suppose there was ever a more brilliant constellation of names
represented at any Hollywood celebration than that afforded by this
preview of “The Kid” at the Goldwyn Studio. Among authors we had Sir
Gilbert Parker, Somerset Maugham, Elinor Glyn, Edward Knoblach, Mrs.
Gertrude Atherton, Rupert Hughes, Rex Beach, and Rita Weiman. Among
the many famous personalities of the screen were Elsie Ferguson and
Pauline Frederick. As this group began to concentrate upon the picture,
Charlie, who had been intensely nervous throughout the course of the
dinner, seemed stricken with terror.

[Illustration: JACKIE COOGAN

Now earning five hundred thousand dollars annually and not ten years
old.]

[Illustration: GEORGE FITZMAURICE

This most noted of artistic directors, guiding Wallace Reid (at piano)
through a scene in “Peter Ibbetson.”]

I have attended many previews in my life, but never have I seen
anything like the enthusiasm with which “The Kid” was greeted by these
distinguished people of pen and screen and stage. Tears streamed down
the faces of many of the women and some of the men. Shouts of laughter
were interspersed with cries of applause. Yet still little Chaplin
sitting here beside me, could not believe in the miracle of success.

“Do you really think they like it--are you sure it’s going over?” he
would whisper to me from time to time.

I doubt if he was convinced even after the performance when many of
the women went up and threw their arms about him and when even the men
forgot Anglo-Saxon reserve in their congratulations.

One amusing glint from this evening is struck by a word of Elinor
Glyn’s. During the course of the dinner she happened to tell us all
that she had never in her life seen more than one picture. But when at
the end of the evening a newspaper man present asked Mrs. Glyn how
she liked “The Kid” she answered with prompt soulfulness, “The finest
picture I ever saw in my life.”

I have no doubt that by this time she had persuaded herself of broad
facilities of comparison.



_Chapter Fifteen_

DOUG AND MARY


As I have already mentioned, Charlie’s closest friends in the film
colony are Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Regarding the former
of these two, I may say that I have never had the same opportunity to
observe him professionally as that which favoured me in the case of his
famous wife. It is natural, therefore, that I should think of him first
as the adoring husband.

That he is very deeply in love with Mary no one who sees them together
can doubt for an instant. Not by any means a self-effacing person, he
is nevertheless always trying to turn the spotlight upon her and her
achievements. Of the latter he is inordinately proud. It seems to me,
in fact, that he is almost as much in love with Mary’s pictures as he
is with Mary herself.

I recall that once I attempted to talk to him about a certain picture
of his. “You were splendid in that scene,” I began.

“Glad you liked it,” he interposed politely but carelessly. And then,
his eyes glowing at the approach of a really significant subject, he
asked, “Have you seen Mary’s new picture yet?”

I shook my head.

He looked at me almost reproachfully. “Oh, it’s great--best thing she’s
ever done!”

Feebly I tried to turn back the conversation into its original channel.
“You certainly were great in that scene with the----”

“Oh, yes, but Mary,” he interrupted again; “my how that girl does know
how! She has the sure instinct.”

Et cetera, et cetera. Regarding his wife’s superior talents, Fairbanks
is as consistently uplifted as a wall-motto. He is no less sensible
of those attributes of hers which are not directly connected with the
screen.

“Mary has so much common sense, hasn’t she?”--friends of the celebrated
pair have heard Doug say this time and again.

As to Mary, I have already stated my certainty that Douglas Fairbanks
represents the great romance of her life. To see her with him is to see
Mary at her best. She never calls him “Doug”--indeed, I have an idea
she doesn’t much like to hear his name thus shorn by other people--and
somehow into her utterance of that “Douglas” you find, no matter how
casual the speech, the way she really feels about him.

Mary Pickford, according to her most intimate friends, fell in love
with Douglas Fairbanks the first time she saw him--fell in love in
terms on which she had never known it. As years have gone by this
first mad infatuation has been directed by real understanding, by
the closeness of their professional interests--most of all by a
solemn gratitude on her part for the care with which he so constantly
surrounds her.

Only last October when Douglas and Mary came on to New York for the
openings of their latest pictures I had dinner with the two.

“Mary,” said I when for a moment Fairbanks left us together, “you’re
looking wonderful. It seems to me you are ten years younger than when I
last saw you.”

“Yes,” replied she, “and it’s all due to Douglas. He’s as wonderful a
husband as he is an actor. Always, always, his first thought is of me
and you know what that means to me.”

I did know. I remembered the gallant battling little figure of Famous
Players days, of how she had always protected others--her mother and
her family--and I was touched by the thought that now this great gift
of protecting love was hers.

When I first met Mary she was married to Owen Moore. Regarding this
marriage, Mack Sennett has told me an interesting story.

“Mary and Moore were working together in the Biograph when Griffith
and I were there,” said he, “and I don’t think they ever once thought
of each other in any sentimental light--not until the rest of us put
it into their heads. But you see it was this way: She was such a
sweet-looking girl and he was such a sweet-looking boy--Owen Moore
used to make you think of a kid whose mother had scrubbed his face and
brushed his hair and got him all tidy for school--well, altogether they
seemed to the rest of us so exactly suited that we got to teasing them
about each other. We’d go up to Mary and say, ‘Why don’t you and Owen
get more friendly?’ and then we’d go after Moore in the same way about
her.”

It will be seen from this that Mary’s first marriage was not a case
of spontaneous combustion. It represents only a girl and boy fancy
and that stimulated much after the fashion that brought Shakespeare’s
_Beatrice_ and _Benedict_ together.

One thing which always impressed me about this phase of Mary’s life
was that, no matter what the differences which severed Owen and her,
she always spoke of him with great kindness and affection. With him it
was the same. I never heard Owen Moore say anything of his former wife
which was not admiring. As to their differences, I have heard people
say sometimes that all would have been well had it not been for Mrs.
Pickford’s determined efforts to keep them apart. Even though this
original assumption were true, I do not share the conclusion. I do not
even ascribe the break to certain temperamental defects of Moore’s.
To me it is explained by Sennett’s story, showing, as it does, that
the match came through the prompting of others rather than through any
irresistible attraction.

Undoubtedly Mary’s romance with Doug has been sustained by their
solidarity of interest. He is as much immersed in pictures as she
is. He has also the same capacity for hard and regular work. I heard
several remark that when Doug and Mary got back from their famous visit
to Europe he walked around the Fairbanks lot looking as happy as an
American boy who has got back to baseball after a trying experience
with musty churches and interminable art-galleries.

“Nothing like system--a regularised life!” he confided at intervals to
those about him.

Socially Fairbanks is just as full of dash as he is on the screen. He
is a delightful mimic. He talks well and he talks with great emphasis.
Frequently he tosses off a phrase distinguished for verbal nicety or
real wit. For it must be remembered that Douglas Fairbanks brings to
his profession a much greater educational and cultural equipment than
the average screen performer.

Doug likes to surprise by his remarks. Occasionally when listening
to him I have had the feeling that he was opening one of those paper
favours--first the snap as he tears it apart and then the whimsical
paper cap. For example, he once said, “Yes, ‘The Three Musketeers’ was
all right, but there were two miscasts. One of them was _D’Artagnan_.”

Did he really mean it? Perhaps he did; perhaps he really thought, as
he afterward explained, that _D’Artagnan_ should have been a “thin,
spidery little fellow.” However, that one should have been in any doubt
is sufficient comment. Indeed, it must be admitted even by one who has
genuine respect for his big achievements and an equally genuine liking
for his personality that Doug sometimes has the air of saying things
for effect. Certainly he is more self-conscious, more mannered then is
Mary Pickford.

To grasp the essence of Fairbanks it seems to me that you must think of
“Sentimental Tommy.” As he works out his gigantic historical films he
is exactly like Barrie’s boy hero playing with _Corp_ and _Shadrach_
in the den. There is no doubt about it. He thoroughly believes that
he is in truth _Robin Hood_ or _D’Artagnan_. To him, therefore, work
is one long engrossing game of make-believe; and if “Sentimental
Tommy’s” “methinks”--that one magical utterance which changed the
entire atmosphere from the literal to the romantic--sometimes pursues
Fairbanks to the drawing-room one can forgive this self-dramatisation
to the man who has given us such unforgettable pictures of ages far
removed from our own.



_Chapter Sixteen_

RODOLPH VALENTINO


When in Hollywood about four years ago I learned to know by sight
a young man who frequently stood around in the lobby of the Hotel
Alexandria. He was very dark and slim, and his eyes had the sombreness
of the Latin. I was especially struck by the grace of his walk and
of his gestures. Even when he leaned up against a cigar-case he did
it with a certain stateliness, and you felt that the column of some
ruined temple overlooking the Mediterranean would have been much more
appropriate than his present background.

Quite evidently he was looking for a job. In fact, before I was
introduced to him I heard him approaching various people in the
industry.

“Anything doing to-day?” “Have you finished casting So-and-So?” “When
do you start shooting?” These questions, so familiar in the lobby of a
Hollywood hotel, were made more touching in his case by a very naïve
manner, by a slightly foreign accent. He always looked so eager when he
put the question and so disappointed when he got the answer.

Not long ago when I was in Hollywood I saw this same young man at a
near-by seashore resort. On this day he was in a bathing-suit, and he
was leading three police-dogs. The dogs were not a protective measure,
but certainly the scene that day might have warranted some sort of
guard. For as the young man walked out toward the waves, as the sun
shone on his swarthy skin, the hundreds of women and girls who had come
to Long Beach pressed onward for a more satisfactory glimpse of the
bather. And as they did so an awed whisper passed through the feminine
multitude.

“That’s he--that’s Valentino.”

In all film history, replete as that is with instances of meteoric
success, there has been nothing quite so swift as the rise of this
young Italian pantomimist, Rodolph Valentino. The beginning of the
breathless ascent may be traced to a reception given one afternoon by a
certain Mr. Cole, a painter living in Hollywood. To this reception came
Rex Ingram, then lately returned from overseas service in the Flying
Corps. Came also in company with Paul Troubetsky, Rodolph Valentino.
At this point I shall allow Mr. Ingram to tell the story just as he
related it to me one evening last Summer while we sat chatting on the
porch of Mae Murray’s and Bobby Leonard’s home at Great Neck.

“I was attracted at once by Valentino’s face and by his remarkable
grace of movement,” said Ingram, “and I made immediately a mental note
of him. There’s a fellow, thought I, who would be great in pictures,
and if I get my job of directing back I’m going to use him. I was
pretty confident then, you see, that this experiment was due for
the very near future. Little did I think that months--yes, almost a
year--would go by and find me just as idle as I was that day when I
walked into Mr. Cole’s reception.

“I wasn’t remembering much about Valentino in those days, I can tell
you. I was so poor that I had to hock all the civilian clothes I had
left behind me in my storage-trunks. This left me nothing but my
uniform, and the uniform proved, as it did to so many other ex-service
men, anything but a talisman. The only effect it seemed to produce
was to prejudice any possible employer against me. At last--of course
that’s the way it always happens--I had two jobs offered to me at
once. In the meantime, though, I had been obliged to give up my little
two-dollar room. In fact, when I got my double offer I was owing two
months’ rent for it.

“The job I chose was with the ----. No sooner had I started to work
than I discovered Valentino was on the same lot under Holubar. This
second contact with the young foreigner deepened my confidence that
he would be a great success on the silver-sheet, and when ‘The Four
Horsemen’ came along I thought of him immediately.

“Of course it was obvious that he was the exact type for the young
tango-dancer hero of the story. Even after I started work with him,
though, I had no idea how far he’d go--not at the very first. But
when we came to rehearsing the tango, “Rudy” did so well that I made
up my mind to expand this phase of the story. I did this by means of
a sequence in a Universal picture I had made several years before.
The sequence showed an adventurous youth going into a Bowery dive and
taking the dancer after he had first floored her partner. Bones and
marrow, I transposed this action to South America--yet only a few of my
wise Universal friends recognised it.

“This bit of acting not in the book gave Valentino a chance for one of
his showiest pieces of work. I rehearsed it very carefully for three
days right on the set, and I think the result showed it.”

At this point in the director’s story I asked him if he thought, as so
many people do, that Valentino was a mere flash in the pan.

“By no means,” rejoined he promptly; “he’s very ambitious and earnest,
and if he doesn’t take what the fans say too seriously he will live a
long time as a picture idol--provided, of course, that he is kept in
good stories and has a capable director.”

Here at this point I can not refrain from quoting the most famous
of directors on the subject of the present-day idol. In talking to
Griffith one day I asked him what he thought of Valentino.

“I declare I don’t know,” replied he; “all the time I was looking at
him in ‘The Four Horsemen’ I kept asking myself, ‘Is this fellow really
acting or is he so perfectly the type that he doesn’t need to act?’”

The existing impression that this famous novel afforded Valentino his
first part in pictures is erroneous. Not only had the young Latin
worked with Holubar, as Ingram mentioned, but he had been cast with
Mae Murray by Bobby Leonard. And, of course, he had rounded out his
experience as an extra. Had it not been, however, for Rex Ingram and
for the materialisation of a story so exactly adapted to his type,
Valentino might still be standing around in the lobby of some Hollywood
hotel--one of the thousands of young men and women whose hearts are
suffocating with that one cry, “The chance! If only they’d give me the
chance!”

“Hail, Czar of Hollywood!”--thus some woman addressed Charlie Chaplin
not long ago.

“Oh, no,” smiled Charlie, “that no longer. Valentino is the present
ruler.” And then he went on to say, “I like the fellow, you know. He’s
got a lot of colour and charm. I went around to see him the other
day and it just delighted me to see him stepping about on his thick
beautiful rugs among his gorgeous bric-à-brac and his incense-burners.
They seemed to suit him, you know, and he was so pleased with all his
new splendour--just like a child.”

There is Chaplin for you--always delighted with the colourful, the
pictorial, the thing which sets his imagination going.

In line with Charlie’s approval come the words of another man I know,
a man well-read, cultured, and charming. “Any one who thinks Valentino
is an illiterate young foreigner with a handsome face and a talent for
dancing is mistaken”--so protests this witness. “I know him well and I
am always interested in his comments on life and work. You’ve got to
remember that ‘Rudy’ doesn’t come from the lower classes in Italy. His
father was a scientist and his family connections are with professional
people.”

“The Four Horsemen” carried not only Valentino high into the ether
of popular success. Although Rex Ingram had made successful pictures
before this, he had never so thoroughly demonstrated his capacity for
that difficult union of finely knit narrative and sweep of vision as
did he in Ibañez’s masterpiece. To my mind the skill with which the
personal element is presented against the background of great epic
disaster places Ingram in the very foremost rank of screen directors.
As for Alice Terry, her rôle of the wife in the story afforded her
the first satisfactory avenue for that exquisite something which
differentiates her.

The story of Alice Terry has the same fairy-tale quality as Valentino’s
own. Like him, she had worked hard as an extra for many years, and the
hard work had resulted in little recognition. However, discouraging as
had been her experience, it was not without results. For Rex Ingram
happened to see her in New York when, as a girl still in her mid-teens,
she played with Bessie Barriscale in “Not My Little Sister.” The
promise which she gave impressed the young director almost immediately.
When, indeed, he moved from New York to the Coast he welcomed the fact
that she, too, had shifted from East to West. Had it not been for the
War, in fact, Alice Terry would probably have been his leading lady
some years before.

When Ingram on his return from overseas service finally located the job
which put a roof once more over his head and civilian clothes again
upon his back, he was to resume his slight acquaintance with Miss
Terry. For she came to his office then and applied for a position as
script girl, the functionary who, working on the set, chalks off the
scenes as they are made and notes the new ones extemporised.

[Illustration: RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The most talked-of personality the screen has ever known.]

[Illustration: MAURICE MAETERLINCK

Who journeyed from Paris to Hollywood for Mr Goldwyn.]

He looked at her in amazement. “What,” cried he, “you don’t mean to say
that you’ve given up acting, do you?”

She looked at him somewhat sadly. “Oh, dear, yes,” she replied. “I
did that some time ago. It was too discouraging--I wasn’t getting any
place, you see. No matter how hard I worked nothing seemed to come
of it. And of course being an extra or getting some bit now and then
doesn’t keep you. So I decided I’d just get a regular job.”

“And what have you been doing since?” inquired Ingram.

“I’ve been working in the cutting-room,” replied she, “and that was
fine--I mean it was fine--knowing just what you were going to get each
week. But the ether commenced to get into my lungs and that’s why I’m
looking around for something else.”

Ingram promised to give her the desired position in the picture
following “Shore Acres.” However, something changed his plans and
instead he cast her for a wild and woolly Drury Lane melodrama called
“Hearts Are Trumps.” To his surprise she seemed loath to accept this
chance of returning to the screen.

“Oh, no, I don’t want to try--I’ve given it all up, you see,” she kept
protesting in a way that showed how completely previous discouragements
had shattered her self-confidence.

But he finally succeeded in overcoming her fears, and since then she
has been his leading woman in every story except “Trifling Women.” It
was not, however, until the appearance of “The Four Horsemen” that
Alice Terry, the girl who, heartsick from her discouragements on the
set, had wanted to retire to the comparative obscurity of script work,
won the wide recognition which her beauty and her screen personality
had so long deserved.

All this I have just related I heard from Miss Terry, now Mrs. Rex
Ingram, on the same evening when Ingram told me of his experience with
Valentino. On this same occasion she and her husband mentioned that her
next appearance will be in John Russell’s “Passion Vine.” In this her
support will be Ramon Navarro, another dancer from whom Ingram predicts
a success which may even duplicate that of Valentino.

Anent both Valentino and Navarro, Ingram made an interesting
observation. “A good dancer,” said he, “frequently makes a good screen
actor. Why? Because he has both poise and repose, and I don’t know any
better start than these.”

In this connection do not forget that Chaplin is one of the most
graceful of dancers. Although not a professional, he might easily have
become so.



_Chapter Seventeen_

ROMANTIC TRUE STORIES OF SOME SCREEN FAVORITES


Another film triumph won only after a long siege of the citadel is that
of Von Stroheim. Born of an old and distinguished Viennese family,
the Baron von Stroheim was in another day one of those pictorial
young officers who swaggered about the Ring Strasse, partook of café
mélanges and fancifully whittled cakes at the smart confectioners’
on the Graben, sunned themselves where the bands play “The Beautiful
Blue Danube” and other Strauss waltzes--in brief, lent themselves to
that atmosphere, at once sprightly and sentimental, which made the
fascination of prewar Vienna. Perhaps he lent himself to it somewhat
too thoroughly, for he always smiles when you ask him how he first
happened to come to this country. And the smile seems to hint at some
youthful escapade.

When he arrived in this country he had no more equipment for making
his own livelihood than is suggested by this background of frivolity,
of leisure, and of rigid caste etiquette. Yet he was penniless now.
Soda-fountain attendant and groom in a stable--these two jobs are only
a few of the milestones passed in the wanderings of Von Stroheim from
his hereditary environment. He was, in fact, almost starving when
Griffith’s war-pictures presented to him an opportunity. His Austrian
uniform, his scars, his typical Teutonic appearance--all these were
utilised in a screen presentation of the hated German officer.

After the vogue of the war-picture had passed, however, Von Stroheim
found himself in a plight almost as bad as that from which these
pictures had delivered him. No use to him now was the uniform, the
scars, the typical Teutonic appearance! Quite the reverse. For days he
would sit in those depressing anterooms which guard the presence of
the great. I used to see him in the Goldwyn Studios and, remembering
with admiration his work in the war-pictures, I wished only that the
change in popular taste had not prohibited my employment of him in a
characteristic rôle.

“I knew all the time that I had something in me which might be valuable
to the screen,” so he himself told a friend of mine in reference to
this period, “but I couldn’t get myself over. I lacked the American
push. I took no for an answer far too easily, and so I might still be
sitting around in dingy anterooms had not something happened to me.
I became deeply infatuated with a girl. But she said to me, ‘No--not
until I see if you can ever make good.’ Then for the first time in my
life I made up my mind to succeed.”

The rest of his story is known by those who follow the history of
screen celebrities. He had long been fired by an idea for the screen.
Maddened by his inability to get an audience for this idea, the
erstwhile Viennese aristocrat resolved upon forceful measures. He
literally broke into Laemmle’s room in a hotel, and with all the fire
of desperation set forth his great ideas. The result was “Foolish
Wives.” This picture, notable--even notorious--among screen folk for
the tremendous costliness of its production, is also set apart by the
fact that Von Stroheim’s activities in it were three-fold. He wrote the
scenario, he directed it, and he took the leading part. His subsequent
work shows the same correlation.

The first time I ever saw this picturesque figure away from the studio
was at a café where he was the object of concentrated attention on
the part of the other diners. Men glared at him; women whispered to
each other, whispered as if an ogre had suddenly walked in upon the
feast. “There’s Von Stroheim--look at him; oh, isn’t he too horrid!” I
understood then why I had so often heard him called “the most hated man
on the screen.”

He must have been conscious of the antagonism of these strangers
surrounding him, but if he was he gave no sign. Unconsciously as if the
many hostile eyes had been directed toward some other person, he went
on talking to the woman who was with him. Was he really insensitive or
did he command his face to be a mask?

Afterward I heard that Von Stroheim is quite aware of the personal
odium with which his professional characterisations of brutal German
officer and villainous foreign aristocrat have surrounded him. Some
say, indeed, that he cherishes this reputation, that not for worlds
would he lift his finger to soften the hated impression. Yet as against
this I have heard what Von Stroheim has said to his intimate friends.

“When Elliott Dexter goes into a café or some other public place,” he
once remarked, “people exclaimed delightedly. ‘There he is--oh, isn’t
he charming!’ But when I come in it’s ‘Ugh, there’s Von Stroheim’; and
if it’s a man who notices me he’s very likely to start off my name with
a curse. I must say it hurts a little--in fact, it often makes me feel
very disappointed in the American people--to think that they can be so
childlike as to confuse me, Von Stroheim, the man, with Von Stroheim,
the actor, to imagine that because I play the parts I do I must be that
kind of a man.”

Of course this confusion itself is a testimony to the excellence of
his work, to that dramatic insight which had made numerous fellow
professionals regard him as the most finished actor on the screen--with
the exception of Chaplin, to whom, of course, because of the different
character of their plays, he can scarcely be compared. As to his
personal manner this has all the traditional grace of the cultured
Continental. But there is more to Von Stroheim than the clicking of
heels, the bows, the gestures, the precise phrasing with its slightly
foreign accent, the air of attention which isolates the person to
whom he is talking from all the world. There are many products of
this mould, and, though over the American mind they usually exert
the fascination of strangeness, such mannerisms do not explain the
arresting quality of his personality. This lies in an expression which,
both sad and gay, thoughtful and vivacious, reproduces the blend
achieving the charm of his own Vienna.

Ex-nobleman and present film star! Surely no story on the screen could
present greater contrasts of fortune than this story behind the screen.
He himself is thoroughly conscious of it, and one day, sitting in his
shirt-sleeves in his office, he remarked to some one I know, “Strange,
strange, what America does for you! Do you know that if my old self,
the Von Stroheim of Austria, were to have met my present self, the Von
Stroheim of Hollywood, he would have fought a duel with him? For I’m
everything now that I was brought up to despise.

“When I was a young man at home I remember that one day at the
dinner-table I unhooked the high collar of my uniform--just the top
hook, you understand--because the day was so warm and the collar so
tight. My stern old father glared at me across the table and then he
sent me away from the room. ‘Low-born,’ ‘vulgarian’--these were some of
the words he hurled at me as I went out. And now, behold! I sit here
without any collar and in my shirt-sleeves, and when I go home to-night
I shall sit down to dinner without putting on either collar or coat. My
wife doesn’t mind--neither do I. There you are.”

Because of his own struggles Von Stroheim is often exceedingly kind
to those trying to get a foothold in the profession. Mae Busch, for
example, speaks glowingly of Von Stroheim’s helpfulness and says that
it is to him she owes the chance which proved a turning-point in her
career. The mention of Mae carries me to one of the most forceful
examples of the fact that few screen careers are achieved without
experiencing reverses.

In about the second year of the Lasky Company’s existence, Mae Busch,
a little Australian girl with big hazel eyes fringed by incredibly
long lashes, was acting in one of Lasky’s vaudeville companies. For
some reason or other she bolted the show in Los Angeles, and soon
after this she made her first appearance in pictures as one of Mack
Sennett’s famous bathing girls. While she was in Sennett’s organization
she became involved in a drama of love and jealousy and revenge which
had nothing to do with screen performance. The situation, familiar to
many of the Hollywood colony, resulted temporarily in her professional
overthrow. A pathetic little figure, she wandered from studio to studio
in search of work. Unable to find it, she finally married. Perhaps,
as one of her friends has suggested, the marriage was the result of
gratitude on her part to the man who did not let the world’s desertion
shake his love for her.

Be that as it may, the marriage proved disastrous, and for some years
the pretty little Australian girl went down under the deep waters
which have submerged so many others in the profession. Poor, unhappily
married, the victim of several severe illnesses, who would have
believed that Mae Busch would ever come back?

Those who found this belief difficult did not reckon with the mettle
which is her distinguishing quality. One day she said to herself--this
is the story as she tells it--“This has got to stop. Others are
getting away with it. Why not I?” This crystallisation brought her to
Von Stroheim, who gave her a part in “Foolish Wives.” Small as the part
was, she made it stand out. Von Stroheim praised her work. So, too, did
no less a person than Charlie Chaplin. The latter, in fact, promised
her a big part in his next picture.

It was about the time when she had come to an agreement with Chaplin
and the Goldwyn Company was absorbed in the problem of finding an ideal
_Glory Quayle_ for its production of “The Christian.” This search is
an answer to those who complain that the picture organisations are
content with inferior dramatic talent and with types falling short of
any real characterisation. We literally sifted the country for Hall
Caine’s heroine. Beautiful and near-beautiful, famous and obscure, East
and West, young and middle-aged--all were represented in those four
thousand women of whom we made tests.

Of course everybody in the industry had heard of our search, but it was
not until the contest had been going on for some time that the idea of
entering it occurred to Mae Busch. When she did finally come to the
studio she has often said that it was with no expectation of being
victorious. Nobody was more surprised than she herself when out of
those four thousand applicants we chose her for _Glory Quayle_!

How did she do it! This is the way she herself tells of the experience:
“When they told me I’d have to be a fourteen-year-old girl in one test
I just almost swooned. Imagine me--after all I had been through--trying
to look a kid like that. But I thought to myself, “Well, you’re here
now and you might as well stay by.” So I put on the short dress
and--funny!--I guess I was just in the mood for it--but when I stood in
front of that camera I got to feeling just exactly the way I did when I
was a youngster out in Australia. Of course,” she adds quickly, “there
was a great deal in this. I didn’t really care whether I won out or
not--I mean I wasn’t all keyed up and nervous about it--for, you see,
Charlie had promised me that part and so I didn’t have everything at
stake.”

These last remarks draw attention to one of the acid experiences of
the screen performer. No matter how often he or she has been subjected
to these tryouts, the latest challenge always seems to make them feel
as uneasy as the first. They become rigid with fear of what the new
director may think of them and so, naturally, defeat the very results
they so much desire.

In speaking of Mae Busch, Charlie Chaplin once said, “I always remember
Mae at a party one evening when she suddenly thumped herself on the
chest. ‘It’s here,’ she said fiercely, ‘something inside me--something
I’ve got to get out!’ That impressed me a whole lot,” added he, “for I
haven’t heard so awfully many screen actresses in my time complaining
of any inner weight of talent oppressing them.”

It was, of course, this real fire of histrionic energy which burned
down every obstacle before it. That together with all the suffering she
had undergone counts enormously in her work on the screen and removes
her many degrees from the puppet types which have cast discredit upon
the profession.

The moment you meet Mae you recognise her as “good copy.” This is so
because she is perfectly natural, and being natural with her means
saying exactly what she thinks. She says it graphically, pungently,
often slangily, so that almost every sentence she utters lingers in
your mind as a vivid picture of some phase of experience. Far from
being a highbrow herself, she is one of those vivid types in which the
real highbrow delights.

Another screen performer who sailed a few choppy seas before coming
into port is that delightful young comedian, Harold Lloyd. The first
time I ever met Lloyd was at a dinner at which Chaplin was also
present. The latter was talking on one of his favourite themes,
religion or economics--I forget which--and his words, always clipped
just enough to reveal his English birth, were coming thick and fast.
I noticed that as he spoke a rather tall, rather serious-looking young
fellow, who was one of a group in an opposite corner of the room, was
looking at him wonderingly, almost wistfully. He himself was not saying
a word.

“Who is that chap over there?” I asked of the man next to me.

“Oh, don’t you know him? That’s Harold Lloyd, the comedian.”

“Quiet fellow, isn’t he?” I remarked. “I’ve hardly heard him say a
word.”

“He’s usually like that at parties,” replied the other man. “I’ve been
around with that boy a lot and I’ve never once seen him cut up like
Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. He says he doesn’t feel that way when
he isn’t on the set--that it isn’t until he gets on the old horn-rimmed
spectacles and the rest of the make-up that his comedy catches up with
him.”

“What sort of a chap is he, anyhow?” asked I a few moments later.

The answer was prompt and incisive. “The nicest, kindest, most
wholesome, most sincere young fellow in Hollywood. Harold Lloyd--why,
he’s the sort of kid you’d just sit around and pray your daughter would
marry!”

I hasten to say that there is nothing eccentric about the view of
Lloyd just presented. All that I have since heard of the brilliant
young comedian corroborates this first glowing account. When later on,
too, I came to have a long talk with him any vestige of the scepticism
normally induced by such universal praise vanished.

When I had this talk there was no trace of the silent young man who
had first aroused my curiosity. In fact the shyness which sometimes
overwhelms him at a party disappears entirely in a tête-à-tête or in
a small group of friendly spirits. Then he talks a great deal. He
expresses himself well and every word has a drive, the drive of his
tremendous earnestness.

Lloyd, I think, would make a poor subject for psychoanalysis. He
seems to have no complexes. He probably never caught any colds in his
subconscious. A fine balance is the outstanding effect of his whole
personality.

He is very much interested in athletics. He is a fine amateur boxer,
and I suppose he gets more fun out of his swimming-pool than out
of almost any other possession of his. In this he presents a great
contrast to Chaplin, who doesn’t care for Hollywood’s “chilly pools” as
he calls them.

If you go to Lloyd’s studio you find almost everybody calling him
“Speed.” Even the youngsters on the lot make use of this nickname.
These latter all seem to love him, and he is often followed by such a
troop that he resembles the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

There is a great deal of the old-fashioned gentleman about this lovable
young fellow. He is so earnest about his work, so determined that
he is going to do everything which will make him a better actor, so
modest of his achievements, and then, too, he has all the old-fashioned
reverences. Mother, country, religion--all the unities so often exposed
nowadays to the critical mood--are accepted by Lloyd unquestioningly.

“I can’t understand how any man could ever dissect his own mother’s
character,” he once said in speaking of somebody who had engaged in
this modern pastime. “After all--whatever she does, whatever her
faults--she is your mother.”

No rebel, not in the least degree introspective, Lloyd is essentially
a thoughtful person. He has been made more so by the accident--an
explosion in his studio--which so nearly cost him the loss of his
sight. Nowadays when he loses his perspective he tells me that he often
visits a hospital.

“I go into that grim white place,” says he, “and I put myself back into
those weeks and months when I lay with a bandage over my eyes, when
everything that I had or wanted--youth and success and work--seemed to
be vanishing, and I think I can see--what does anything else matter?”

[Illustration: ERIC VON STROHEIM

Who spent one million dollars on “Foolish Wives”. He is a prominent
villain on the screen.]

[Illustration: “CHARLIE”, “DOUG” AND “MARY”

The famous trio at play after a strenuous day at the studio.]

It is due to the old-fashioned gentleman in Lloyd that he will tolerate
no suggestion of anything broad, anything Hogarthian in his comedy. One
day one of his advisors came to him and said, “I’ve got it, Speed, a
bit of business that will go over big!”

When he heard what it was Lloyd retorted promptly, “Not on your life!
If I can’t be funny and clean, too--why, then I’ll decide to be just
clean.”

This year Lloyd tells me he expects to make about a million dollars.
Yet it was not so many years ago when, according to his own amused
word, his most cherished ambition was to be able to buy a silk shirt.
His start toward this goal is as original as anything offered in the
annals of motion-picture success.

When just a youngster out of high school Lloyd came to Hollywood with
the intention of going into motion-pictures. Motion-pictures, however,
seemed to have an equally firm intention of keeping him out. Every
studio to which he applied turned him down, and finally he hit upon a
unique “open sesame.” Noticing that everybody who was in costume passed
through the forbidden portals without challenge, Harold decided that
there was nothing obligatory about a sack coat. So he got himself a
costume, and from that time forth he has stayed on the inside.

While working as an extra in one of the studios he met another young
extra named Hal Roach. After some time the two of them, with only
several hundred dollars to sustain their resolution, decided to go into
business for themselves.

“I wasn’t any meteor, I can tell you that!” comments Harold in relating
his experiences of these early days. “But we did succeed in selling a
few pictures the first year. The next we sold more. Still, that limited
success of ours did not seem to get me much nearer to the silk shirt.
The fact of it is that we were terribly poor in those days, for every
cent we made we put back into our pictures.”

This indomitable desire to improve his films makes every one feel
that even “Grandma’s Boy,” that story where his irresistible comedy
is developed from the most vital psychological situation he has yet
chosen, is merely a starting-point in the triumphs of characterisation
that await him. Anent this picture of his, Lloyd told a friend of mine
that the tribute to “Grandma’s Boy” which he most appreciated came from
Charlie Chaplin.

“Charlie wrote to me as soon as he saw it,” he confided to this
friend, “and what do you suppose he said? Why, that the story was
an inspiration to him to do his own very best work, to be contented
with nothing else for himself.” And then, his dark eyes glowing with
pleasure, he added, “Just fancy what that meant to me--coming from
Chaplin!”

Lloyd is an ardent admirer of Charlie’s work. Also of his personality.

Harold Lloyd is to-day one of the five or six greatest drawing-cards of
the screen box-office. From him I proceed logically to another name in
this limited peerage--that of Norma Talmadge.

My introduction to the work of this, the greatest emotional actress
of the films, came about in a way that was altogether personal and
exceedingly sentimental.

One day I went up to the office of Joe Schenck, a theatrical man, who
had been associated with Loew and Zukor in their earlier theatrical
ventures, and whom I had known for some years. When I found him the
first thing he did was to point out a velvet box on his desk. It was
open, and inside curled a beautiful bracelet.

“Hmph!” exclaimed I, “what’s all this?”

“It’s a present,” retorted he. “Do you know I’m engaged to be married?”

“Well, well!” answered I. “This is news. Who’s the unfortunate lady?”

“Come around to the Rivoli to-night,” he responded with a look brimming
over its pride and happiness, “and I’ll show you her work. Her name is
Norma Talmadge.”



_Chapter Eighteen_

POLA NEGRI


One of the most interesting experiences I had during a recent trip to
California was my meeting with Pola Negri, the famous Polish star who
was recently brought to this country by Famous-Players.

I was introduced to Miss Negri at a dinner given by Mr. and Mrs.
Fitzmaurice. Practically every one of importance and reputation in the
film colony, including Miss Negri and Charlie Chaplin was present.

It was on this occasion to which I had long looked forward that an
amusing incident occurred that gave me an illuminating insight into her
character.

During the course of the dinner Mrs. Fitzmaurice remarked:

“I saw some of your work in ‘Bella Donna’ to-day, Miss Negri. You
looked very charming.”

“I know I am charming,” replied Pola. “I consider my work great, as I
am a great artist.”

She realises she is a true artist and a great one, and always lives up
to this knowledge.

I was tremendously impressed with the beauty, ability, and intelligence
of this gifted woman. She is one of the few motion-picture stars who is
well-read enough to discuss any subject intelligently. She typifies in
real life, everything she seemed to be in “Passion” and “Gypsy Love,”
the two European-made pictures that served to introduce her to the
American public and pave the way for her American debut.

It was probably this superior intelligence plus an unusual experience
and training under Max Reinhardt, Ernest Lubitsch, and other
continental theatrical geniuses that influenced Ben Blumenthal, an
American friend of mine, to offer her a salary over 200,000 dollars a
year to make pictures for him. He told me that when she started with
him in Berlin she was earning 2000 marks.

I was very much interested to hear that she came to Berlin from Warsaw,
where she had been both a dramatic actress and a motion-picture star.

It was this same American friend of mine who was responsible for her
American trip, which was carefully planned and press agented by one of
the most elaborate campaigns ever conducted for any one star.

Amusing little anecdotes told me by John Flinn, a special
representative of Famous-Players who was delegated to accompany her on
the trip from New York to California, serve to show her tremendous
sincerity as well as interesting side-lights on her character.

One of the most amusing of these stories relates the attempts of Miss
Negri to teach her maid Lena, in the astute spending of the strange
American coins, which had proved very puzzling to both maid and
mistress.

Miss Negri finally sketched each coin from the five cent piece to the
silver dollar, placing opposite each silver piece its equivalent in
German money.

The first morning on the train, Mr. Flinn told me, the star gave Lena a
five dollar bill to pay for her breakfast. Lena came back triumphantly
with the breakfast, but no change. When asked what had happened to the
three dollars and forty-five cents change, the maid replied with great
pride that she had given it to the waiter as a tip.

An amusing sequel to this story happened in the hotel at Los Angeles at
the time of Miss Negri’s arrival.

As she was busy with photographers and newspaper interviewers, Lena
attended to the placing of the trunks.

When Pola reached her suite and smiled on the assembled porters, she
was greeted with frowns.

“Did you teep them?” she inquired of Lena, having learned enough about
America by this time to interpret the bad humour of the porters
correctly.

Lena nodded emphatically.

“What you geev them?” inquired her mistress.

“The piece with the cow on,” replied Lena.

Hastily consulting her chart Pola discovered to her chagrin that the
maid had given the porters each a Buffalo nickel. It took but a moment
to change the frowns to smiles with a different kind of gratuity.

Miss Negri was anxious to come to America, because it seemed to her,
like to every other foreigner, to be the Land of Promise. Also, America
was the place where she would again see Charlie Chaplin.

Her first meeting with Chaplin has always interested me. It happened
during Charlie’s last European trip, over a year ago. He had arrived
in Germany one afternoon, and at dinner time had gone to the Palais
Heinroth to dine. No one recognised him at first, until Al Kaufman, an
American film executive came in with a large party given in honour of
Pola Negri. Chaplin was invited to join them, introduced to Pola, and
given a seat by her side.

He could speak no German, she no English. In spite of this difficulty
it was plain to see that a mutual admiration sprang up between them.
That night they met again at a friend’s.

Mr. Blumenthal, knowing he was to take Miss Negri to America, arranged
to have photographers take pictures of Charlie and Pola. This created a
sensation in the hotel, where the pictures were taken.

A large crowd gathered to watch the farewell outside the hotel, for
Charlie was leaving the city that day.

As “Good-byes” were being said, Mr. Blumenthal said to Pola, “Give
Charlie a kiss.”

And Pola did, while the cameras clicked, and a dozen or more
impressions were made.

“Good-bye until we meet in Los Angeles,” she said.

The following week this incident was featured in a London paper as
“Chaplin’s welcome in Germany.”

It was apparent in the ensuing days that the impression Charlie made
on her was not a fleeting one. Her mind was already set on seeing him
again. It was plain that she thought of him always, and part of her
eagerness to reach America was due to this interest.

Therefore, it is not at all unusual that this interest should develop
into a beautiful romance when she met him again in California.

I saw these artists together a great deal during my visit there. In
fact they are inseparable.

A great many people have asked me if I think they will marry. Judging
the depths of a woman’s feelings and her intentions from the way she
acts, which of course, is not an easy thing to do, I believe Miss Negri
intends to marry Charlie.

While Chaplin does not admit he is in love, I have never seen a man so
devoted to a woman as he is to Pola. In fact I think she is the one
woman who has ever interested him completely. Stories are circulated
to the effect that Miss Negri announces her engagement to Chaplin in
the morning papers and Charlie denies it in the evening papers and vice
versa. I know these are not authenticated or authorized by either of
them, for they are both sincere.

Both are great artists, and therefore misunderstandings are bound to
happen. Whatever I am asked about the combination I say it is a great
one, but that there exists perhaps a little too much temperament.

At the present moment, however, Miss Negri’s career is occupying her
most vital thoughts. I believe that she, like every great artist, puts
her career before her personal desires, no matter how strong they
may be. She is working to establish her American reputation as she
established her European one, with a thoroughness and intensity coupled
with tireless energy and indefatigable attention that makes her an
extremist in everything.

I learned at the studio that if she has music to work with she will be
satisfied with nothing less than ceaseless playing of funeral dirges
throughout the entire day. She is known to make twice as many scenes
each day as is normally required. Her first day at Famous-Players
studio was a record breaker. She made thirty-nine scenes, whereas
twelve scenes are considered a good day’s work. She not only learns her
own rôle, but the rôles of all the others acting in the picture with
her.

She objects strongly to visitors being brought to the “set” where she
is working. It interferes with her mood, she declares, and she is
right. The making of moving-pictures is a business, just as the making
of steel, or the growing of flowers, or the sculping of a great statue,
and there is no reason for it being made a curiosity shop.

If she studies fashions, she studies them with this same indefatigable
zeal that marks her every effort. She has every fashion magazine
published in Europe and America, and pores over them for hours. She is
an incurable enthusiast in everything she does.

There is probably no other woman in pictures to-day who is endowed with
more of the basic elements required to make a great dramatic actress
than Pola Negri.



_Chapter Nineteen_

THE TWO TALMADGES


I accompanied Schenck to the Rivoli to see his fiancée on the screen,
and I was very forcibly struck with the beauty and talent of Miss Norma
Talmadge.

“Very lovely--very gifted,” was my verdict as we left the theatre.

“Isn’t she, though?” he responded eagerly. “I tell you that girl is
bound to go far.” He hesitated for a moment, and then turning toward me
abruptly he asked, “How about it, Sam? Wouldn’t you like to have her
for your company? She’d come with you for a thousand a week.”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry, Joe,” I replied, “but you know what
the situation is. It’s the big name that counts nowadays, and Miss
Talmadge, beautiful and talented as she is, hasn’t enough fame for a
man trying to put over a new company. But why don’t you try Zukor? He’s
better established and could afford to take a chance.”

“No,” answered he, “I might as well tell you that he’s turned her down
already.”

This dialogue was destined to be an illuminating comment upon both my
competitor and myself. In refusing to heed the knock of opportunity
we both lost many thousands of dollars. Indeed, I might as well admit
here, in these annals of a life so crowded with errors of judgment,
that in my case Opportunity was lenient. Once again, a year or so after
this episode, she again knocked at my door. And once again I was deaf
to the golden visitor.

On this second occasion Schenck, who had in the meanwhile married Miss
Talmadge, came to me with a proposition.

“Sam,” announced he, “I’ve started producing Norma’s pictures and of
course I realise that I’m not so awfully experienced. Now, what I want
to know is this: Won’t you let her work over in your studio and get the
benefit of your advice? If you do I’ll give you twenty-five per cent.
of the receipts of her pictures.”

I hesitated for a moment and then I told him I didn’t see my way clear
to any such arrangement. I was too busy, I explained, to give her the
attention meriting any such returns. Nowadays in looking down the long
road over which I have come I often pause at this point. For I realise
to-day that had I accepted this offer I should have made enough to
balance many costly experiments.

The realisation of my blunder came to me not long afterward when I was
dining with Schenck at his home. After dinner we sat talking together
in the living-room, and it must have been almost midnight when the door
was flung open and Miss Talmadge stood before us. Her eyes were shining
with excitement; the cheeks above the full collar of her gorgeous
evening wrap were the color of a Jacqueminot rose. Never in all my life
have I seen a more vivid apparition of beautiful, victorious youth.

There was only a second for me to record that impression, for Miss
Talmadge just hesitated there on the threshold, and then with a
tumultuous gesture she threw herself into her husband’s arms.

“Oh, Daddy,” she cried, clinging to him and looking up into his eyes,
“I could hardly wait until I got home to tell you! They all said I drew
bigger crowds than Clara Kimball Young. Think of it! Oh, isn’t it just
too wonderful! I’m the happiest girl in the world.”

I had heard from Joe previously that his wife was making personal
appearances that evening at the Loew theatres; but I was certainly as
unprepared for the result as was the heroine of the incident herself.
For in those days the beautiful Clara Kimball Young was one of the
most popular women on the screen, and the announcement that she was
going to make a personal appearance at any New York theatre was almost
equivalent to calling out the police reserves.

But, struck as I was by the professional significance of her
speech, I was even more impressed by its personal bearing. It was
so evident--Miss Talmadge’s eagerness to share any triumph with her
husband--she was so exactly like a child returning to its home with the
ten gilt stars won from her recitations in geography or history--that
all later memories of her are overshadowed by this one touching
revelation of the real Norma Talmadge.

To understand the woman whose glowing attitudes have so enriched
screen art you must think of her, not as a single figure, but as part
of a pattern. True, her career is the most brilliant thread in this
tapestry, but it is dependent for its brilliance and effect upon the
somewhat less glittering but equally firm threads of its background
and intermingling figures. The fabric of which I speak is family life.
This includes not only Miss Talmadge’s husband, but her mother and two
sisters. They would appear as a unit in any field of endeavour, but,
as it happens, pictures have supplied the hand weaving them into their
fixed and arresting design.

As a very young child, so Schenck has told me, Norma displayed her
histrionic gifts. The talent was promptly encouraged by her mother, and
it was undoubtedly due to Mrs. Talmadge’s influence that her eldest
daughter entered the employ of the old Vitagraph Company. Unlike many
others whose names have added lustre to the screen, Miss Talmadge was
never an extra performer. At the very first she was given a small
part. Yet at this time she was a girl in her early teens. Young as
she was, however, she contrived to have a sister even younger. This
sister, Constance, used to come to the studio with her almost every day
and, wide-eyed over the importance of her more mature relative, would
fasten Norma’s frock and help her put on her make-up. At last this
career of self-effacement was rewarded by a chance for more individual
enterprise. Constance became an extra in the Vitagraph studios.

On the part of neither Norma nor Constance is there any effort to
suppress these humble days from the stranger’s consciousness. Quite
the contrary. Once they were dining at the Ritz with a friend of mine
who has decidedly less command of this world’s resources than have the
Talmadge girls.

“Oh, how wonderful!” exclaimed this friend. “Think of being able to
order like you, Norma--without ever looking at the expense side of the
menu!”

Miss Talmadge laughed merrily. “Well,” she retorted, “it hasn’t always
been like this, has it, Constance? Remember the old Vitagraph days
when we always had to eat inside a quarter? It wasn’t a question with
us of soup to nuts, but of soup or nuts.”

I happened to be at a dance several years ago which was attended by
both the sisters. Norma Talmadge took that evening only several turns
about the room. Constance, on the other hand, danced every number. I
myself was lucky enough to benefit by this protracted exercise and as I
did so I caught over Constance’s shoulder the eyes of Norma following
her sister’s figure through the ebb and flow of dancers. The quality
of that glance will always linger with me. Why, indeed, should it not?
For here she was--young, beautiful, an idol of the screen--and she was
surveying this sister only a few years younger with the fond, admiring
glance which some dowager might bestow on one of the younger generation.

My interest was so piqued by this matter of the self-appointed
wallflower that I asked a close friend of the Talmadges if this were a
habitual attitude of Norma’s.

“Oh, dear, yes!” replied she. “Norma’s always like that. Very seldom do
you find her dancing more than several times an evening. What she just
loves is to think of Constance as the belle of the ball.”

[Illustration: CONSTANCE TALMADGE

Dainty sister of Norma and Natalie and aunt of Buster Keaton’s
solemn-faced baby.]

[Illustration: NORMA TALMADGE

In private life, Mrs. Joseph Schenck. A noted screen leader.]

“And how about Natalie?” I asked.

“Indeed, yes. Norma and Constance are as devoted to her as they are to
each other, and they all three unite in worshipping their mother.”

“A close corporation,” I commented. “Yet Buster Keaton and Joe
Schenck seem to come in for almost as high dividends as the original
stockholders.”

“Of course,” assented my informer, “a Talmadge-in-law is all right
so long as he is also an in-picture. For you’ve got to remember that
pictures are the leading interest of the whole family. In fact, I think
that was largely the trouble between Constance and her husband. He was
not only outside the profession, but I understand that he objected to
Constance going on with her work on the screen.”

I have been told by those who have worked with Miss Norma Talmadge on
the set that, in contrast to her sister Constance, who is exceedingly
even-tempered, she displays many of the characteristics popularly
associated with a great emotional actress. Gusts of impatience followed
immediately by the most radiant, sunshiny laughter; flurries of
annoyance; ripples of amusement--these are the manifestations of a
nature which, in the words of one admirer, is “as big and sweet as all
outdoors.” Thoroughly consistent with such a nature is Miss Talmadge’s
type of generosity. This functions more conspicuously through some
concrete human appeal than through official solicitation. Testimony to
this is offered by a letter from Joe Schenck to a friend of mine.

The letter, written by Schenck while he and Miss Talmadge were on a
recent visit to Germany, records how Norma was followed by a beggar
in the streets of Berlin. Old and emaciated and dirty, he fell on
his knees before the radiant young American and begged her for help.
Miss Talmadge thereupon emptied the entire contents of her purse into
his hands. “It was a nice little gift,” commented Miss Talmadge in
reporting the incident to her husband, “but it made me happy to do it,
for I never saw a human being so grateful as he was.”

“And how much did you happen to have in your bag?” questioned her
husband.

“Oh, it was all of a thousand marks,” answered she.

Her husband rocked with merriment. “And do you realize that you gave
him all of twenty-five cents?” he said.

Miss Talmadge, so Schenck wrote, was aghast at this disclosure of her
cramped style in benevolence. “And, pressed as she was for time,” he
concluded, “nothing would do but that she should go out early the next
morning and hunt the fellow she had wronged by her twenty-five-cent
donation. When she did find him--believe me, he got something real.”

From a being so swayed by the claim of the moment--a being, too, so
young and beautiful--you would predict perhaps a less stable domestic
situation. Mr. Schenck, one of the finest men I have ever known is some
years older than his wife and, in addition to this, he is what is known
as a practical type. Yet Miss Talmadge’s devotion to him is one of the
salients in her life. The evening when she could hardly wait to tell
him of her triumph over Clara Kimball Young is, indeed, indicative of
her whole attitude. Everything, both in pictures and out, is talked
over with Mr. Schenck, and her manner when she is with him reflects
always that deep content which an emotional nature feels often in
stability.

Yet Mr. Schenck represents much more than a mooring for this brilliant
personality. Remembering his efforts in her professional behalf
from the moment when he so proudly showed me that bracelet on his
office desk; acquainted, too, with the absolute devotion which he has
subsequently given to her career, I often wonder how it would have
fared with Miss Talmadge had this element in her life been lacking.
Certainly she would have risen by sheer force of her talent and her
beauty and her enthusiasm without any such concentrated interest. But
I very much doubt if her ascent would have been either so swift or so
dazzling had this one great constructive force been absent.



_Chapter Twenty_

GOOD OLD WILL ROGERS


It is a far cry from the greatest emotional actress of the films to
one of the world’s most infectious comedians. Yet I have set aside
chronological considerations in order to save for last my recollections
of a man whose comedy touches brightened the Goldwyn lot almost as much
as they did the Goldwyn screen.

It was Rex Beach and I who brought Will Rogers into pictures. After our
approach he confided to us that he had been somewhat mystified by the
delayed recognition of his talents on the part of the picture world.

“I used to think it was funny,” said he in his own inimitable way.
“Here motion-pictures were booming along. They were getting in trained
dogs and trained cats and grand-opera singers and everybody in the
world but me. I couldn’t make it out, and now after all these years you
fellows have come to.”

Rogers still loves to dwell on these fictitious pangs of a slighted
talent, and he always adds, “Well, there was a movement on foot for
making fewer and worse pictures and so they hired me.”

Certainly if his coming into picture activities was the result of any
such urge, we were woefully misled. For his “Jubilo” was one of the
best pictures ever produced by the Goldwyn Company.

Around his selection for the chief character of this story Will weaves
one of his choicest monologues. “Sam had bought a tramp story,” he
relates, “and he was looking around the lot one day for somebody who
could play the tramp. Well, he happened to see me in my street clothes
and he said, ‘There is the very fellow to play the tramp!’ Of course,”
he adds, “I love to play a tramp--you can act so natural and never have
to dress for it.”

Whether this story is historically correct or not it does bring out
one of Will’s claims to distinction in the Hollywood community. An
old slouch hat pulled down over his eyes and some kind of nondescript
trousers uncreased as a child’s brow--this is his inveterate costume.
Clad in this wise, he used to stand around the Goldwyn lawn and,
surrounded by a crowd of cowboys and extras, would amuse himself by
throwing the lariat at our “Keep off the Grass” signs.

The reader may imagine what a personality like this did for a studio
somewhat overcharged with the artistic temperament. Temperament itself
seemed to find relief in those droll remarks with which Rogers meets
almost every issue of the day. Numerous times I saw Miss Farrar and
Miss Frederick talking with the comedian, and both gave every sign of
an unshadowed enjoyment in his conversation. It was one of the two, I
think, who asked Will one day whether he liked pictures as well as he
did the stage.

“Oh, sure,” drawled he with the unsmiling face which always makes his
verbal twist the more irresistible. “Why, up to the time I went into
pictures I had never annoyed more than one audience at a time. This is
the only business in the world where you can sit out front and applaud
yourself. Now I was getting to that place on the stage where that
feature appealed to me.”

Incidentally, one of Rogers’ most amusing memories of the stage
implicates Miss Farrar. I shall let him sketch this with his own
pungency of style. “I made one picture _Doubling for Romeo_,” he
relates. “The reason we made it was that we could use the same costumes
that Miss Geraldine Farrar and a friend of hers (at that time) had
worn in some costume pictures--all these Shakespearian tights and
everything. I don’t say this egotistically, but I wore Geraldine’s.”

There may be those in the screen world who are overridden by emotions,
who are played upon by gusts of alternate personal attraction and
repulsion. Not so Rogers. He is essentially a home man, and the first
thing he did when he came to Hollywood was to invest the savings
of years in a house for his family. This residence of Bill’s is on
Beverly Hills, and its location imposed upon its owner a heavy social
responsibility.

“You know,” I heard him telling somebody the other day, “my principal
occupation in California is not making pictures--it is official guide.
I live on the same hill as Uncle Doug and Aunt Mary--only I live much
lower down the hill than they do--in fact, I live at the foot of the
hill in a swamp. It’s right at the forks of two streets, and all I do
all day long is to tell tourists where Mary Pickford lives. I will be
out in the yard going through my daily work--maybe licking my second
kid--when some Iowa car will drive up and say, ‘Can you tell us where
Mary Pickford lives?’ So I stand and point it out--just point and say,
‘Mary Pickford lives right up there.’

“You want to know why I came back to the stage for a while--why, just
to get a rest. I was so tired pointing. Now, I have played for every
charity affair that was ever held in Los Angeles, and their people are
very appreciative, so when I die they are going to give me a benefit
and take the money and erect a statue of me with the arm pointing
toward Mary’s and a sign on it, ‘Mary Pickford lives right up there.’”

There is nothing waspish about Rogers’s fun-making. Such a quality
of humour as his implies, in fact, a true sense of life’s values, a
very wise and mellow spirit. Nothing shows this more clearly than a
communication I received from him not very long ago.

“Dear Sam,” it read, “when you first announced that you were going to
write this book of memoirs I must say it didn’t create much of a stir
in movie circles till they learned what memoirs were. Then when they
found it meant truths, everybody, including myself, commenced to get
leery and wondered if you were going to remember _everything_. Now,
I don’t know what you are going to put into this catalogue of yours,
but I do hope for the salvation of the Infant Industry you don’t tell
all--especially not what some of my pictures grossed.

“But if you’ve got to say something about me, say this--they were the
two happiest years of my life that I spent on the old Goldwyn lot. We
had some great troops there in those days--all of them good fellows.
There was Miss Frederick, whom everybody that ever met her liked; Miss
Madge Kennedy, than whom we have no sweeter character of stage or
screen; Mabel Normand, the ‘kidder’ and good fellow, friend of every
soul on earth, whose quiet and not-seen charity has helped many a poor
soul in need; Tom Moore, as good an Irishman as ever lived, and not
stuck on his looks either.

“Also say this: I made in the two years I was on the lot twelve
consecutive pictures--all with one director, Clarence Badger. That,
I think, is a record--to be with the same director. And if there is
anything worth while in any of them, it was certainly due to his
efforts, as I am no actor. But he is patient, capable, and the finest
man I ever met.”

I have saved this communication because nothing else could reveal
more forcibly the tolerance, the modesty, and the quick appreciation
of anything good in us frail mortals which form the source of Will
Rogers’s ever-welling humour.



_Chapter Twenty-one_

SOME AUTHORS WHO HAVE TRAVELLED TO HOLLYWOOD


From previous chapters of mine it is evident that Mr. Emerson’s
suggestion about hitching your wagon to a star is fraught with certain
dangers. I had harnessed the Goldwyn Company to that steed, and my ride
had been anything but a smooth one. Is it any wonder, indeed, that
after the various disappointments attending my exploitation of “big
names,” I began to distrust the wisdom of my course? Gradually there
grow up within me a belief that the public was tiring of the star and
a corresponding conviction that the emphasis of production should be
placed upon the story rather than upon the player. In the poverty of
screen drama lay, so I felt, the weakness of our industry, and the one
correction of this weakness which suggested itself to me was a closer
co-operation between author and picture-producer.

In 1919 this idea eventuated in an organization for which I must claim
the virtue of absolute novelty. This organisation, under the name of
“The Eminent Authors,” included such popular American writers as Rex
Beach, who assisted me in the development of my literary fusion; Mrs.
Gertrude Atherton, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Rupert Hughes, Basil King,
Gouverneur Morris, and Leroy Scott. Under the terms of my contract
with each individual of the group the author was to come to Hollywood
to write in direct co-operation with the Goldwyn studios.

So great was the publicity attending this movement for the production
of more inspired screen dramas that the Famous Players-Lasky Company
followed our lead by organising a similar literary service. Whereas,
however, we had been content with local talent, our competitors
imported their authors from Europe. Elinor Glyn, Sir Gilbert Parker,
Edward Knoblock, Arnold Bennett--these were the high spots in the rival
camp. When you consider that Gene Stratton-Porter and Zane Grey had
both been signed up by other California producers and that ultimately
Kathleen Norris, Rita Weiman, and Somerset Maugham joined the cohorts
of the pen, you will see why Hollywood was temporarily transformed from
a picture colony to a picture-book colony.

Among all the literary names which have impressed Hollywood tradition
that of Elinor Glyn is undoubtedly the most spectacular. One evening
before dining at the Fairbanks home Douglas took me out for a walk
through his beautiful grounds. As we came to the famous swimming-pool
I caught sight of a woman seated on one of the stone benches and
gazing pensively into the water. The evening sun caught in reddish
hair--whether these tresses are a gift or an acquirement is often a
theme of speculation--and in girlish folds of sea-green chiffon. And as
the woman lifted her eyes I saw that these, too, were sea-green.

“That’s Elinor Glyn,” whispered Fairbanks; “she’s dining with us
to-night.”

In a spirit of great curiosity I began my conversation with the
Circe-looking woman to whom sun and pool and sea-green chiffon lent an
atmosphere of which she herself was perhaps not altogether unconscious.
She was exceedingly gracious and cordial, but as she talked I could not
help making a few inward observations on her manner of speaking. She
has the trick, so I found, of convincing you that her voice is some
far-away, mysterious visitant of which she herself supplies only a
humble and temporary instrument of escape.

For example, when she remarked, “Isn’t this pool beautiful?” it sounded
like some lonely Buddha’s prayer echoing down through the ages from the
far heights of Tibet.

After the dinner was over our host and hostess offered their customary
method of release from “the cares that infest the day.” Pictures
were turned on, and in this case the selection happened to be Mrs.
Glyn’s story, “Her Husband’s Trademark,” in which Gloria Swanson took
the leading rôle. I can truthfully say that never in my life have I
enjoyed any film so heartily. This was due, not to the character of the
performance, but to the remarks which garnished its entire unfoldment.

“See that frock,” whispered the author eagerly as, sitting beside me,
she pointed to one of Gloria’s creations; “I designed that gown.”

Another second and she was calling attention to the finish of a certain
setting. “Do you see that? An exact copy of my rooms in London. Do you
suppose they would have known how to arrange a gentlewoman’s rooms if
it hadn’t been for me?”

But there were other times when this robust major of
self-congratulation shifted to a minor chord. “Ah, how terrible,
how shocking!” I heard her moan several times. “All wrong, all
wrong--they’ve ruined that scene. I might have known it. I was away
that day, you see.”

Verily that evening the “silent drama” renounced its salient
characteristic!

Apropos of this incident, it may be interesting to learn that Mrs. Glyn
took the greatest personal interest in Miss Swanson. True, her first
comment upon this screen celebrity, a comment quoted uproariously by
many of the picture colony, indicated that she found Gloria lacking in
that subtlety which she considered essential for the portrayal of her
heroines. If that comment was made and not merely attributed to the
author, her later attitude to Miss Swanson would seem to reflect the
joy of any creator in the challenge offered by apparent intractability
of material. Be that as it may, I am informed that Mrs. Glyn started in
with a right good-will upon the task of guiding the young actress in
her literary taste, her clothes, her deportment, and her speech.

During that Summer when I first met Mrs. Glyn I had a house on the
beach in California. Here I did a great deal of entertaining, and among
these entertainments a dinner which I gave for Nina Wilcox Putnam
represents the enthusiasm with which Hollywood took up the game of
authors. For Elinor was only one of the many writers who mingled that
evening with the luminaries of screen and stage. That she was not
the most retiring of her craft is a statement bound to be accepted
immediately by those familiar with her talent for being a dinner-guest.
As a matter of fact, Mrs. Glyn is one of the greatest social assets
I ever knew. Not only may she be relied upon always to wear the most
exquisite of gowns, but her narratives and her comments usually keep a
whole roomful of people in an uproar of mirth.

That evening I discovered that she is an ardent believer in the
transmigration of souls, and her theories regarding the former bodily
tenements of some of the individuals present caused constant flurries
of laughter. I think her psychic inquests began with Mrs. Kathleen
Norris. For a long time she fixed upon this celebrated author a gaze
which informed the rest of us how completely she had retired into
realms where we could never follow her. Then abruptly, with the
familiar effect of a voice which had journeyed far, far before it chose
Elinor Glyn for its channel, she said:

“Now I know--centuries ago you were a man--strong, valiant, resolute.
I see you leading your armies--bravely you led a forlorn hope. Perhaps
at the last they turned against you--they stabbed you, who had brought
them to the heights of victory.”

We had hardly convalesced from this revelation of Mrs. Norris’s
masculine and unfortunate past when the psychic Boy Scout began to turn
up old trails in Charlie Chaplin’s consciousness.

“An old, old soul,” she pronounced, emerging from the same sort of
trance which had redeemed Mrs. Norris’s former earthly abode from the
mists of obscurity. “You--you were a princess. Thousands of years
ago you reigned over many in some far Eastern land. You loved the music
played by your slaves on their stringed instruments, the soft scent of
flowers brought to you by the winds, the moonlight as it fell on the
oars of your galleys----”

[Illustration: SAMUEL GOLDWYN AND SEVEN FAMOUS AUTHORS HE WON TO THE
SCREEN

 Left to right standing: Leroy Scott, Gouverneur
      Morris, Samuel Goldwyn, Rupert Hughes.
      Sitting: Gertrude Atherton, Katharine
      Newlin Burt, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and
      Rita Weiman.
]

[Illustration: GOUVERNEUR MORRIS

One of the noted authors won to the screen by Mr. Goldwyn.]

Charlie may have had a number of similar tastes back in that remote
incarnation of his, but I don’t think they were brought to light. For
the roars of merriment which greeted this presentment stilled the
voice of the seer. To this laughter Charlie himself contributed most
heartily. In fact, I don’t believe any one ever laughed at Chaplin
quite so hard as Chaplin laughed that evening at Elinor Glyn.

Regarding the introduction of these two an amusing story is current
in California. It is reported that on this occasion Mrs. Glyn said to
the comedian, “Dear, dear, so this is Charlie Chaplin! Do you know you
don’t look nearly so funny as I thought you would?” To this reassuring
message Chaplin is said to have responded promptly, “Neither do you.”

To go back to my dinner. After Mrs. Glyn had concluded her report
upon previous abodes of the ego, our conversation drifted toward the
profession engrossing our present incarnations. Pictures! The topic
was started, I believe, by Miss Elsie Ferguson, who at that time was
working with the Famous Players-Lasky Company. To her announcement
that she did not like her leading man of the moment, Mrs. Glyn turned a
swiftly sympathetic ear.

“My dear,” said she, “what do they know about soul, about art, about
poetry? Blind, absolutely blind! The other day I took the loveliest
young man to see them--he had the most beautiful eyes--but they didn’t
see it--they didn’t appreciate it.”

This verdict regarding my competitors’ callousness to the finer issues
of life is not to be taken too seriously. For Mrs. Glyn was then in the
midst of that period of disillusionment which seems almost inevitable
in the career of the author who tries to adapt his manuscripts to the
screen. Out of the depths of my own experience I can speak of the
friction which arises among author, producer, star, and director.

I thought that I had encountered some eminent difficulties before I
organised the Eminent Authors; but when the Goldwyn Company introduced
this literary faction in the fold, I was to look back on other days
as being comparatively placid. This fact does not reflect upon the
personalities of those writers whom we engaged. Socially, each one
of them is a delightful being; but when the tradition of the pen ran
athwart the tradition of the screen I am bound to say that I suffered
considerably from the impact.

The great trouble with the usual author is that he approaches the
camera with some fixed literary ideal and he can not compromise with
the motion-picture view-point. He does not realise that a page of Henry
James prose, leading through the finest shades of human consciousness,
is absolutely lost on the screen, a medium which demands first of all
tangible drama, the elementary interaction between person and person
or person and circumstance. This attitude brought many of the writers
whom I had assembled into almost immediate conflict with our scenario
department, and I was constantly being called upon to hear the tale
of woe regarding some title that had been changed or some awfully
important situation which had either been left out entirely or else
altered in such a way as to ruin the literary conception.

Nor did this end the difficulty. For often the author and the star
became hopelessly entangled in similar controversies. This latter
situation is deftly suggested by Will Rogers when he says, “I was on
the lot the last year of the reign of the Eminent Authors and, while
I helped spoil none of their stories, I made various ones for the
near-Eminents and lost the friendship of every living one of whose
stories I made. So now,” adds Will, “I have made Washington Irving’s
_Ichabod Crane_. I am off all living authors’ works--me for the dead
ones!”

Undoubtedly the warfare which so frequently wages between star and
author is to be attributed many times to the inflexibility and
prejudice of the former. Thus I remember hearing Miss Rita Weiman tell
of an interchange of thought between Nazimova and herself regarding the
production of a certain story in which the one figured as author, the
other as actress.

“I hope the time is coming,” concluded Nazimova haughtily, “when the
great actress may find great stories.”

“Ah, yes,” rejoined Miss Weiman, “I hope, too, the time is coming when
the star may write her own stories.”

In contrast to this attitude of the Russian actress is the humility
which Norma Talmadge displayed in her interpretations of Benavente’s
“The Passion Flower.” I have been told that everybody, including her
husband and her director, advised against the screen preservation of
the drama’s tragic end. They urged upon her the fact that the picture
audience demands a happy ending and that she would lose thousands of
dollars by adhering to the story. By all such practical arguments she
was absolutely unaffected.

“No,” said she firmly, “this is the story of the greatest living
playwright. He knew what he wanted to say and who am I to spoil a great
man’s story?”

Among the writers whom the Goldwyn Company brought to Hollywood Rupert
Hughes was notably successful. His story of “The Old Nest,” grossed
our organization nearly a million dollars, and since the production
of this tale he has been actively engaged on our lot as both author
and director. For both Mr. Hughes and his wife I feel a warmth of
friendship quite independent of the profitableness of our business
association, and some of the happiest hours of my life have been spent
in their home. They, together with Mr. and Mrs. Rex Beach, represent
two of my most valued associations.

Mr. Hughes’s success in photoplays is to be ascribed to his prompt
recognition of the gulf between those two channels of expression,
literature and screen, and to his determination to master both
the technicalities and spirit of the latter. In addition to this
receptiveness of mind he has a capacity for work which I have never
seen excelled. Many times I have known him to arrive in the studio
early in the morning, direct all day, go home that evening to work on
a scenario, and then, after perhaps a dinner or a dance, write several
chapters of his new novel.

Mrs. Glyn showed much the same zeal in her co-operation with the
Famous Players-Lasky Company. Unlike numerous authors who have invaded
Hollywood, she was not easily diverted from the set. So excessively did
she superintend every detail of production that “Grips” and “Props”
longed, so they say, for a more casual type of literary lady.

“She ain’t a bit like them other authoreens we’ve had around here,”
one of the manual assistants is reported to have grieved. “They’ll go
off and leave you alone. But she--sure an’ it’s twelve times this day
she’s had me move that one bloody bureau in the set and still she ain’t
satisfied.”

I have quoted Mrs. Glyn’s remark anent the “beautiful young man” in
whose behalf she had made such unavailing efforts with the Famous
Players-Lasky Company. From all I have heard this story represented
with her a habitual type of altruism. I am told that every now and
then while she was working in the studio she would approach some
good-looking chap whom perhaps she had never seen before.

“My dear boy,” she was likely to address him, “you’re really very
charming, you know. Now I want you to take the leading part in my new
story.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Glyn,” the other would falter, “but you see So-and-So
is already cast for that part.”

“Oh, what a shame!” would rejoin the author. “But surely you’ll take
the second part--in _my_ play?”

Torn between pleasure at this avidity of interest and the pang
inflicted upon any handsome actor by the supposition that he could
possibly appear in a secondary rôle, the Adonis of the hour would then
probably retreat to some lonely grotto where he could meditate upon the
embarrassment of great beauty.

In one of the most amazing encounters of beauty and the author, the
late Wallace Reid was cast for the leading part. Friends of Reid report
that one day while he was coming off the set he was hailed by Mrs. Glyn.

“My dear boy”--thus she is said to have greeted him--“you’re really
very wonderful to look at. And, besides, you know you have--It.”

“It?” Reid murmured confusedly, wondering perhaps what his press-agents
and admirers could possible have overlooked. “What do you mean, Mrs.
Glyn?”

“Oh, that is my word. It!” she repeated in that contralto voice which
soughs through Mrs. Glyn like the lonely wind through the pine-trees.
“Don’t you see, that one syllable expresses everything--all the
difference there is between people. You either have It or you haven’t.”

Reid was still considering himself in this new light of special
privilege when he noticed that the writer’s brows were puckered.

“Yes,” he heard her reflect after a moment of such pained scrutiny,
“you have It--but, ah, my dear boy--your boots and your hair! If I
could only send you to my London bootmaker and have some one wise cut
your hair!”

Although I do not vouch for the authenticity of this tale, I do say
Mrs. Glyn’s part in it is thoroughly consistent with several other
incidents of which I have first-hand knowledge. Does she really mean
such things or does she say them for effect? I myself believe that she
plans her personality quite as carefully as she does her stories. When,
for instance, arrayed in the most superb evening attire and accompanied
by the handsomest man she has been able to find in the assemblage, Mrs.
Glyn sweeps slowly through a ball-room; when she murmurs soulfully,
“Orange, orange, how I love it! Often I sit in a room by myself and
think orange. I fill my whole soul with its beautiful, warm rays--I
drink them down into my heart--ah, orange!”--then she is showing her
supreme ability, not only as the writer who can tell a popular tale,
but as the writer who knows how to get herself constantly before the
popular mind. I once said of her that she was a great showman, and
when she heard my comment she was exceedingly gratified.

But underneath all this pageantry of manner is a heart overflowing with
the warmest interest in her fellow beings. One of the waitresses at
the Hollywood Hotel, where Mrs. Glyn lived for some time, once said to
me, “Of all the people I ever waited on Mrs. Glyn was the nicest and
kindest and most considerate. I never knew her to be cross--not even at
breakfast.”

And, after all, the only trustworthy epitaph is composed by the person
who serves us our breakfast.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was after this flock of authors had alighted in Hollywood that M.
Maurice Maeterlinck came to America. He brought with him the pretty
little wife who had supplanted in his affections Mlle. Georgette le
Blanc. Also, a lecture. Neither of these impedimenta prepossessed this
country in his favour. Most Americans were ranged solidly with Mlle.
le Blanc, abandoned at the peak of fame to which she had faithfully
encouraged the Belgian author. As to his lecture, the delivery of this
in English, a language of which M. Maeterlinck knew scarcely a word,
still lives in the memory of many New Yorkers who went to pray and
stayed to laugh.

In spite of the criticism attached to Maeterlinck’s visit to the
United States, there was so much publicity inherent in this criticism
that I felt the Goldwyn Company might benefit through a professional
association with the distinguished foreigner. So, arranging an
interview through M. Maeterlinck’s American manager, I had my first
talk with the visiting author in the Goldwyn’s Company’s New York
offices.

As he entered I was struck by the placidity of that rather large
face. It was round and calm as a lake on a still August day. All our
conversation was conducted through an interpreter, and in this manner I
gathered that M. Maeterlinck viewed the cinema with enthusiasm and was
confident that he would be able to convert his art to its uses.

“Very well, M. Maeterlinck,” responded I, “I am anxious that we should
procure exclusive rights to your works, and I am willing to make the
same contract with you that I have previously made with Mary Roberts
Rinehart.”

The Belgian lifted his eyebrows in childlike bewilderment. It was quite
evident that the name of our American novelist aroused no slumbering
chord of memory.

“The same then as Gertrude Atherton’s,” I ventured.

This effort at impressiveness failed as ignobly as my first. Indeed,
mention of all the writers we had assembled called from him only that
vacant smile, that politely groping gaze of a man being addressed in
Choctaw or Sanskrit.

It is sad but it is true that the eminence of our Eminent Authors had
never been detected by M. Maeterlinck. He had not heard of a single
name on our fist.

“Very well, then,” I surrendered at last: “I mean I’ll give you ----
thousand dollars.”

And then at last M. Maeterlinck’s face beamed with intelligence. The
dollar was one contemporary American author with the works of which
he seemed thoroughly familiar. Indeed, I am compelled to record that
invariably in all our subsequent intercourse the utterance of this word
dollar acted very much as a pebble thrown upon that lake-like expanse
of countenance. It created widening circles of comprehension and cheer.

Apart from the work which we hoped M. Maeterlinck might do for us, we
featured him in a brilliant publicity scheme. We procured a special car
for him and on this we sent him and his pretty little wife speeding
to California. The verb used here is rather misleading. As a matter
of fact, the lingering element in his journey was the essence of our
calculation. For at every city and important town the special train
stopped and the populace was afforded a glimpse of the celebrated
author. Needless to say, the advertising which we obtained through the
news columns of papers in visited localities was quite overwhelming.

When M. Maeterlinck finally arrived at his destination his train of
thought proved even more halting than the one which had brought him.
From this latter, indeed, he never landed at all--not on the screen.
His first attempt at camera material revolved about a small boy with
blue feathers and, as I remember, a feather bed. While admitting the
importance of “trifles light as air,” the scenario department rejected
this absolutely.

“Write us a love-story, Monsieur,” suggested my associate, Mr. Lehr,
“You see for some reason or other the fairy-story has never been
popular on the screen.”

Mr. Lehr’s information, I may interpolate, is rooted in professional
fact. The screen adaptation of M. Maeterlinck’s most popular fairy-tale
was, for example, not a success. As for financial returns it was
certainly not the “blue bird for happiness.”

The foreign author thereupon set himself to a less fanciful theme. This
time he submitted a love-story, but alas! the type was anything but
censor-proof. When we called his attention to this flaw he looked at us
with a pained, bewildered, almost shocked expression.

“You ask me to write a love-story,” he remonstrated, “and then you
object because my hero or my heroine is married. Yet how can you write
about love when you have no triangle?”

And I don’t think we were ever quite successful in shaking him from
this Continental orthodoxy. I dare say he will always think of two
parallel lines as exceedingly provincial.

While he was in Hollywood M. Maeterlinck had a home with a tennis-court
in the rear. To this court clings one of the most cherished memories
of Hollywood, for on it frequently appeared Mme. Maeterlinck, and on
Mme. Maeterlinck always appeared, not a skirt, but bloomers. She is a
charming little dark thing, years younger than her husband, this Mme.
Maeterlinck. The pair seemed always very happy together, but one day
I heard something which opened up an inevitable vista before me. On
that day the American manager of the foreign author came to Mr. Lehr
and asked him if there was not some employment in the studio for Mme.
Maeterlinck.

“Why, no,” responded Mr. Lehr; “I can’t think of a thing she would do.”

“Not some little job?--it really doesn’t matter how small,” urged the
other.

“But, my dear fellow, why should the wife of M. Maeterlinck be wanting
any kind of a job?” questioned my associate, still untouched by this
new plea for Belgian relief. “Her husband is far from poor, you know.
Hasn’t he an estate and investments abroad--those and all the royalties
he is getting? Besides, of course, he have given him an advance on his
contract with us.”

The manager shrugged and then he smiled--a sapient smile. “To be sure.
But madame--well, there are times perhaps when she longs for a little
money of her own so she can snap her fingers at Monsieur.”

This dialogue, taken in connection with other phases of my association
with Maeterlinck, persuades me that this creator of reverent prose and
mystic drama is afflicted with the same economic fixation--I borrow the
term from psychoanalysis--which manifests itself so often among those
whom some art has enriched. Screen stars and actresses, comedians and
tragedians, singers and writers--often in thinking over those whom
I have met I have been struck by the number who would be capable of
instructing Benjamin Franklin in the ways of thrift.

I remember that once I asked a man who had long been associated with
Ben Turpin, the widely known cross-eyed comedian, what sort of chap
Turpin really was.

“Well,” said he laughingly, “he’s this sort of a chap. He makes a lot
of money and he keeps almost as much. He has an unpretentious little
home manned with not more than one servant, and in the home there is
a suite of parlour furniture. It’s gilt, I think--anyway it’s quite
showy, and the Turpins are very much concerned over its welfare. They
keep it covered up except when somebody calls, and even then they’re
not reckless. For they say that when the door-bell rings some one
always peeps out of the window to see who is there. If it’s a stranger,
off come the furniture-coverings. But if it’s a friend, the insurance
is kept on.”

This amusing story is always linked in my mind with the one which Will
Rogers is fond of telling on Chaplin. “A girl went riding up in the
Hollywood mountains,” says he, “and was thrown and lost for two days.
When it was thought they weren’t going to find her, Charlie offered a
reward of a thousand dollars in all the papers. It looked at that time,
mind you, as if they weren’t going to find her. But they did. So the
people that found her offered five hundred of the thousand to anybody
that would find Charlie.”

For me one of the most amazing revelations regarding M. Maeterlinck
concerns his indifference to music. It was in this country and while
he was with the Goldwyn Company that he heard for the first time a
rendition of the opera “Pelléas et Mélisande.” One of my publicity men
sat near him in his box at this performance, and he reported that from
the large placid face those ethereal strains which Debussy wove about
his own play drew not a sign of response. It was quite evident that the
Belgian author perhaps considered Dr. Johnson somewhat too broad-minded
when he said that music was a sound more agreeable than other noises.

When I was in England several years after the formation of the Goldwyn
Company I made a memorable call upon another playwright whose pen moves
in a different tempo from that of Maeterlinck. I had long been an
admirer of Mr. Bernard Shaw and, in spite of the fact that the quality
of his plays rather repudiates the suggestion of screen adaptation, I
was interested in conducting the experiment.

Mr. and Mrs. Shaw entertained me at their London apartment with much
brilliant talk and the inevitable tea. The playwright’s wife, a very
cordial hostess indeed, is one of those fresh-coloured, vigorous
types of womanhood which you meet at every turn of Hyde Park. She was
deeply engrossed that day in the Irish question, and her sympathies
were brought into relief by a call from Sir Horace Plunkett, then just
returned from a visit to the United States.

I recall that during the course of the talk Mrs. Shaw told a story of
an Irish lad sentenced to be hanged in the Tower for his revolutionary
activities. Before his execution they came to him and promised that if
he would give the authorities information regarding certain leaders
in the movement his life would be spared. To this the lad, only about
eighteen years of age, replied, “Gentlemen, you are wasting your time
and mine.”

Mrs. Shaw quoted this speech with great fire. “How,” she concluded,
“can you conquer a people with a spirit like that?”

When we drifted away from the Irish situation Mr. Shaw and I had a
chance for a talk about motion-pictures. To my surprise I learned
then that he was a picture enthusiast. He told me that there were two
people whose films he never missed--Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford.
Regarding the former, he was especially enthusiastic. I found, in fact,
that he was as familiar with Chaplin’s work as am I myself.

The affectionate courtesy displayed toward each other by the playwright
and his wife is bound to impress any one familiar with some of Shaw’s
iconoclastic utterances upon the domestic situation. Certainly the
atmosphere surprised me. The pair did not address each other as
“Father” and “Mother,” but, aside from this failure, they seemed to be
as tolerant and contented and settled as a hardware merchant of Topeka
and his wife.

Toward the latter part of the afternoon I saw Mr. Shaw look frequently
at his wrist-watch. Ultimately he mentioned that he was due to deliver
a lecture that evening.

“And have you decided yet what you are going to speak about?” queried
Mrs. Shaw when at last her husband rose to depart for this engagement.

“Not yet,” he retorted; “I dare say I shall decide on the platform.”

I always think of Mr. Shaw as he looked when he made this reply. His
eyes, which are, I think, the clearest and most living blue I ever saw,
so sparkled with merry perversity, his figure was so erect and spare
and vigorous--there was so much spring in both face and physique--that
he seemed to me--this man past middle age--the very embodiment of
electric youth.

I suppose that he had that same expression of merry perversity when
on the following day he told a newspaper reporter who called upon him
to learn the outcome of his conversation with me, “Everything is all
right. There is only one difference between Mr. Goldwyn and me. Whereas
he is after art I am after money.”

Whatever the explanation, Mr. Shaw never came to America, nor did he
do any work for the Goldwyn Company. I was no more fortunate in the
result of my call upon Mr. H. G. Wells. He, like Mr. Shaw, had me at
his home in London for tea. Here, however, the conversation focussed,
not upon Ireland, but upon India, a direction determined by the fact
that a young East-Indian was calling upon the author that afternoon.

The foreigner was very earnest in his expressions of admiration for
Mr. Wells’s “Outlines of History,” and it was indeed a privilege
to me, who had just read this presentment of history, to hear such
first-hand comments by both the author and a representative of that
mellow civilisation which Mr. Wells has compared so favourably with our
Western achievements.

During the course of this conversation the Indian told the author that
no other English writer held so high a place in his country as the one
occupied by Mr. Wells. Although the latter must have spent many hours
of his life in listening to similar tributes, he responded to it as
gratefully as if this were a fresh experience.

When we came to talk of pictures I suggested to Mr. Wells that he visit
California and write some stories for our company.

“Oh,” said he, “I should like to come, for I know I should enjoy the
California sunshine and meeting Charlie Chaplin. The only trouble with
me is that I never could write on order. I haven’t been able to do it
for magazines or publishers and I should certainly fail abjectly when
it came to doing it for the screen.”

I thereupon urged him to come to California as my guest, look over the
situation. But, although I assured him that such a visit would leave
him perfectly free to decide whether or not he cared to enter the
picture lists, Mr. Wells did not accept my invitation.

As I left his home that day I remembered suddenly that twenty-five
years before, I, who had just been entertained by the most celebrated
of the younger English novelists, had wandered without home and
without money through these very London streets. There was no
self-congratulation in that swift contrast of present and future, but
there was a deep wonder at the mysterious flux of life.

Another feeling dominated this wonder. It was my gratitude to the work
which has so shaped and coloured my destiny. To motion-pictures I owe
all the wide range of contacts which have made up to me for a boyhood
handicapped by so many unfavourable circumstances. To it I owe also
the greatest blessing which can befall any one of us--an impersonal
interest so vivid and compelling that it survives any personal grief or
maladjustment.

Almost every one who has been connected with picture-production
understands the fascination which it exerts. I always think, indeed, of
the answer which Charlie Chaplin once made to somebody who asked him
what he most wanted from the future.

“More life,” said Chaplin promptly. “Whether it comes through pictures
or not--more life.” And then he added half sadly, “Still I can’t think
of myself out of pictures. Whatever I do, I find myself wondering,
‘Now, will that be good for my work or not?’”

Although, in comparison with this great creative artist, my own sphere
is so humble, my understanding of this one dominating interest is
sufficiently complete to justify me in applying his words to myself.
Like Chaplin, I can not think of myself out of pictures. For to do that
would be to turn my back on the far horizon which has always called me
to it.

In the ten years since I entered that little Broadway motion-picture
theatre with its static Western drama, its player-piano, and its
far-flung peanut-shells, giant changes have taken place. Then
film-production attracted few men and women of real intellectual
capacity. To-day we see a former member of the United States Cabinet
presiding over its destinies. Then the motion-picture theatre was as
sporadic as it was stunted and disfigured. To-day the smallest hamlet
puts up its first motion-picture theatre at the same time that it
erects its first church, and in the larger communities costly edifices
have followed in the wake of the costly picture. Eight years ago the
twenty thousand dollars which the Lasky Company expended upon “Carmen”
was considered a vast sum. To-day the Goldwyn Company is investing
nearly a million in its production of “Ben Hur.”

With the development of our industry has come a corresponding
development in the life of the country. Motion-pictures are, in truth,
the magic travelling carpet on which those in the most remote village
may fly to distant lands, to other ages, to realms of romance hitherto
denied them. No other agency, not even the automobile, has combated so
successfully the isolation of the rural communities. When I think of
the glow which pictures have brought to so many lustreless lives all
through the world, I am tempted, indeed, to overlook all the defects of
the industry and to dwell only upon its perfections.

Yet defects there certainly are. Undoubtedly the ten years to come
will do much to remove them. My own faith in the next decade is a firm
one, and to this new era of expansion I wish to dedicate whatever of
ability, whatever of judgment I have gained from the experiences set
down in these chapters.


THE END



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

Some simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left
unbalanced.

Illustrations in this eBook have been positioned between paragraphs
and outside quotations. In versions of this eBook that support
hyperlinks, the page references in the List of Illustrations lead to
the corresponding illustrations.





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