Synopsis of the rest of The Last Tycoon
by Edmund Wilson


Soon after his interview with Brimmer, Stahr makes a trip East. A wage-cut has been threatened in the studio, and Stahr has gone to talk to the stockholders—presumably with the idea of inducing them to retrench in some other way. He and Brady have long been working at cross-purposes, and the struggle between them for the control of the company is rapidly coming to a climax. We do not know about the results of this trip from the business point of view, but, whether or not on a business errand, Stahr for the first time visits Washington with the intention of seeing the city; and it is to be presumed that the author had meant to return here to the motif introduced in the first chapter with the visit of the Hollywood people to the home of Andrew Jackson and their failure to gain admittance or even to see the place clearly: the relation of the moving—picture industry to the American ideals and tradition. It is mid—summer; Washington is stifling; Stahr comes down with summer grippe and goes around the city in a daze of fever and heat. He never succeeds in becoming acquainted with it as he had hoped to.

When he recovers and gets back to Hollywood, he finds that Brady has taken advantage of his absence to put through a fifty percent pay—cut. Brady had called a meeting of writers and told them in a tearful speech that he and the other executives would take a cut themselves if the writers would consent to take one. If they would agree, it would not be necessary to reduce the salaries of the stenographers and the other low—paid employees. The writers had accepted this arrangement, but had then been double—crossed by Brady, who had proceeded to slash the stenographers just the same. Stahr is revolted by this; and he and Brady nave a violent falling-out. Stahr, though opposed to the unions, believing that any enterprising office-boy can make his way to the top as he has done, is an old-fashioned paternalistic employer, who likes to feel that the people who work for him are contented, and that he and they are on friendly terms. On the other hand, he quarrels also with Wylie White, who he finds has become truculently hostile to him, in spite of the fact that Stahr was not personally responsible for the pay—cut. Stahr has been patient in the past with White's drinking and his practical jokes, and he is hurt that the writer should not feel toward him the same kind of personal loyalty—which is the only solidarity that Stahr understands in the field of business relations. “The Reds see him now as a conservative—Wall Street as a Red.” But he finds himself driven by the logic of the situation to fall in with the idea which has been proposed and is heartily approved by Brady, of setting up a company union.

As for his own position in the studio, he had in Washington already thought of quitting; but, intimately involved in the struggle, ill, unhappy and embittered though he is, it is difficult for him to surrender to Brady. In the meantime, he has been going around with Cecilia. The girl in a conversation with her father about the attentions Stahr has apparently been paying her, has carelessly let Brady know that Stahr is in love with someone else. Brady finds out about Kathleen, whom Stahr has been seeing again, and attempts to blackmail Stahr. Stahr in disgust with the Bradys abruptly drops Cecilia. He on his side has known for years—having learned it by way of his wife's trained nurse—that Brady had had a hand in the death of the husband of a woman with whom he (Brady) had been in love. The two men threaten one another with no really conclusive evidence on either side.

But Brady has an instrument ready to his hand. The man whom Kathleen has married—whose name is W. Bronson Smith—is a technician working in the studios, who has been taking an active part in his union. It is impossible to tell precisely how Scott Fitzgerald imagined the labor situation in Hollywood for the purposes of his story. At the time of which he is writing, the various kinds of technicians had already been organized in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; and it is obvious that he intended to exploit the element of racketeering and gangsterism revealed in this organization by the case of William Bioff. Brady was to go to Kathleen's husband and play upon his jealousy of his wife. We do not know what Fitzgerald intended that these two should try to do to Stahr. Robinson, the cutter (see the notes on this character), was originally to have undertaken to murder him; but it seems more probable from the author's outline that Stahr was to be caught in some trap which would supply Kathleen's husband with grounds for bringing a suit against Stahr for alienation of his wife's affection. In Fitzgerald's outline below, the theme of Chapter VIII is indicated by the words, “The suit and the price.” This is evidently partly explained by the following note of material which Fitzgerald intended to make use of, though it is impossible to tell how it was to be modified to meet the demands of the story: “One of the——brothers is accused by an employee of seducing his wife. Sued for alienation. They try to settle it out of court, but the man bringing suit is a labor leader and won't be bought. Neither will he divorce his wife. He considers rougher measures. His price is that——shall go away for a year.——'s instinct is to stay and fight it, but the other brothers get to a doctor and pronounce death sentence on him and retire him. He tries to get the girl to go with him, but is afraid of the Mann Act. She is to follow him and they'll go abroad.”

In any case, Stahr is to be saved by the intervention of the camera man, Pete Zavras, whom he has befriended at the beginning of the story, when Zavras had lost his standing with the studios.

In the meantime, Stahr is now seriously ill. He and Kathleen have been “taking breathless chances. “ They have succeeded in having “one last fling, “ which has taken place during an overpower' ing heat wave in the early part of September. But their meetings have proved unsatisfactory. The author has indicated in an early sketch that Kathleen was to “come of very humble parents”—her father was to have been the captain of a Newfoundland fishing smack; and in another place he says that Stahr has found it difficult to accept her as a permanent part of his life because she is “poor, unfortunate, and tagged with a middle—class exterior which doesn't fit in with the grandeur Stahr demands of life. “ It is possible that the labor conflict in which her husband has become involved was intended to alienate her and Stahr. Stahr is now being pushed into the past by Brady and by the unions alike. The split between the controllers of the movie industry, on the one hand, and the various groups of employees, on the other, is widening and leaving no place for real individualists of business like Stahr, whose successes are personal achievements and whose career has always been invested with a certain personal glamor. He has held himself directly responsible to everyone with whom he has worked; he has even wanted to beat up his enemies himself. In Hollywood he is “the last tycoon. “

Stahr has not been afraid, as we have seen in the conference in Chapter III, to risk money on unpopular films which would afford him some artistic satisfaction. He has had a craftsman's interest inthe pictures, and it has been natural for him to want to make them better. But he has been “lying low” since the wage—cut and has ceased to make pictures altogether. There was to have been a second series of scenes showing him at a story conference, at the rushes and on the sets, which was to have contrasted with the similar series in Chapters III and IV, and to have shown the change that has taken place in his attitude and status.

He must, however, stand up to Brady, who he knows will stop at nothing. He evidently fears Brady will murder him, for he now decides to resort to Brady's own methods and get his partner murdered. For this he apparently goes straight to the gangsters. It is not clear how the murder is to be accomplished; but in order to be away at the time, Stahr arranges a trip to New York. He sees Kathleen for the last time at the airport, and also meets Cecilia, who is going back to college on a different plane. On the plane he has a reaction of disgust against the course he has taken; he realizes that he has let himself be degraded to the same plane of brutality as Brady. He decides to call off the murder and intends to wire orders as soon as the plane descends at the next airport. But the plane has an accident and crashes before they reach the next stop. Stahr is killed, and the murder goes through. The ominous suicide of Schwartz in the opening chapter of the story is thus balanced by the death of Stahr. In the note that Schwartz had sent him, he had been trying to warn him against Brady, who had long wanted to get Stahr out of the company.

 

Stahr's funeral, which was to have been described in detail, is an orgy of Hollywood servility and hypocrisy. Everybody is weeping copiously or conspicuously stifling emotion with an eye on the right people. Cecilia imagines Stahr present and can hear him saying “Trash!” The old cowboy actor, Johnny Swanson, who has been mentioned at the beginning of Chapter II and for whom in his forlorn situation Cecilia has later had the idea of trying to do something at the time of her visit to her father's office, has been invited to the funeral by mistake—through the confusion of his name with someone else's,—and asked to officiate as pall—bearer along with the most intimate and important of the dead producer's friends. Johnny goes through with the ceremony, rather dazed; and then finds out, to his astonishment, that his fortunes have been gloriously restored. From this time on, he is deluged with offers of jobs.

In the meantime, a final glimpse of Fleishacker, the ambitious company lawyer, a man totally without conscience or creative brains, was to have shown him as prefiguring the immediate future of the moving—picture business. There was also to have been a passage toward the end between Fleishacker and Cecilia, in which the former, who has been to New York University and who was perhaps to have tried to marry Cecilia, was to have attempted a conversation with her on an “intellectual” plane.

Cecilia, on the rebound from Stahr, has had an affair with a man she does not love—probably Wylie White, who has been after her from the first and who represents the opposition to Stahr. As a result of the death of Stahr and the murder of her father, she now breaks down completely. She develops tuberculosis, and we were to learn for the first time at the end that she has been putting together her story in a tuberculosis sanitarium. (See the first of the fragments under Cecilia.)

We were to have had a final picture of Kathleen standing outside the studio. She has presumably separated from her husband as a result of die plot against Stahr. It had been one of her chief attractions for Stahr that she did not belong to the Hollywood world; and now she knows that she is never to be part of it. She is always to remain on the outside of things—a situation which also has its tragedy.

Scott Fitzgerald's notes for The Last Tycoon
(from Edmund Wilson's edition)

Chapter I

The author has written at the top of his last draft of the first chapter, as given here:

Rewrite from mood. Has become stilted with rewriting. Don't look [at previous draft]. Rewrite from mood.

Page 20. Fitzgerald's first sketch for the end of the chapter perhaps conveys his idea more completely than he had succeeded in doing in this draft:

This will be based on a conversation that I had with——the first time I was alone with him in 1927, the day that he said a thing about railroads. As near as I can remember what he said was this:

We sat in the old commissary at——and he said, “Scottie, supposing there's got to be a road through a mountain—a railroad, and two or three surveyors and people come to you and you believe some of them and some of them you don't believe, but all in all, there seem to be half a dozen possible roads through those mountains, each one of which, so far as you can determine, is as good as the other. Now suppose you happen to be the top man, there's a point where you don't exercise the faculty of judgment in the ordinary way, but simply the faculty of arbitrary decision. You say, 'Well, I think we will put the road there,' and you trace it with your finger and you know in your secret heart, and no one else knows, that you have no reason for putting the road there rather than in several other different courses, but you're the only person that knows that you don't know why you're doing it and you've got to stick to that and you've got to pretend that you know and that you did it for specific reasons, even though you're utterly assailed by doubtsat times as to the wisdom of your decision, because all these other possible decisions keep echoing in your ear. But when you're planning a new enterprise on a grand scale, the people under you mustn't ever know or guess that you're in any doubt, because they've all got to have something to look up to and they mustn't ever dream that you're in doubt about any decision. Those things keep occurring.”

At that point, some other people came into the commissary and sat down, and the first thing I knew there was a group of four and the intimacy of the conversation was broken, but I was very much impressed by the shrewdness of what he said—something more than shrewdness—by the largeness of what he thought and how he reached it at the age of twenty—six, which he was then.

So I think that this last episode will be when Stahr goes up and sits with the pilot up in front and rides beside the pilot, and the pilot recognizes in Stahr someone who in his own field must be just as sure, just as determined, just as courageous as he himself is. Very few words are exchanged between Stahr and the pilot—in fact, it is an episode that we may see entirely through the eyes of Cecilia peeping in, of the stewardess reporting to Cecilia what she saw peeping through the cockpit, or Schwartz still trying to get to Stahr before they get to Los Angeles. It is quite possible that we may not be alone with Stahr through this entire episode down to the very end, but at the very end I want to go into that strong feeling that I had in that undeveloped note about the motor shutting off and the plane settling down to earth and the lights of Los Angeles, and for a minute there, I want to give an all—fireworks illumination of the intense passion in Stahr's soul, his love of life, his love for the great thing that he's built out here, his, perhaps not exactly, satisfaction, but his feeling certainly of coming home to an empire of his own—an empire he has made.

I want to contrast this sharply with the feeling of those who have merely gypped another person's empire away from them like the four great railroad kings of the coast… or the feeling that——would have. He's not interested in it because he owns it He's interested in it as an artist because he has made it, and mixed up with his great feeling of triumph and happiness there must inevitably be a feeling of sadness with all acts of courage—a feeling that it is to someextent a finished thing, and doubt as to the next step as to how Ear he can go.

After the plane comes down, it may be best to finish the chapter with that fireworks—repeat my own fear when I landed in Los Angeles with the feeling of new worlds to conquer in 1937 transferred to Stahr, or it may be best to end with a cacophony of a rival.

Chapter II

Page 24. Fitzgerald had written Only fair opposite the paragraph which begins, “Robby'll take care of everything when he comes,” Stahr assured Father. This was to have been the first appearance of a character who was to play an important role, and the author wanted presumably, at this casual introduction, to give a sharper impression of him. His notes on Robinson will be found below among the preliminary sketches for the characters.

Chapter III

This chapter had not been cut and organized to the author's complete satisfaction. It is given here as it stands in the manuscript, with only a few changes to make it self—consistent.

In the manuscript, the passage on page 46 reads as follows:

Probably the attack was planned, for Popolos, the Greek, took up the matter in a sort of double talk that reminded Prince Agge of Mike Van Dyke, except that it tried to be and succeeded in being clear instead of confusing.

The author had written a scene with which he was dissatisfied, in which the Prince had encountered Mike Van Dyke, the old gagman; but the double talk, of Mike Van Dyke was intended to figure in some other place. The passages that deal with it follow:

“Hello, Mike,” said Monroe. He introduced him to the visitor: “Prince Agge, this is Mr. Van Dyke. You've laughed at his stuff many times. He's the best gag—man in pictures.”

“In the world,” said the saucer-eyed man gravely, “—the funniest man in the world. How are you, Prince?…”

Immediately the Prince found himself engaged in conversation with Mike Van Dyke. He answered politely without quite getting the gist of his words. Something about the commissary, where Mr. Van Dyke thought he had seen the Prince trying to order what sounded like “twisted fish and acat's handlebar,” though the Prince was certain he misunderstood.

He tried to explain that he had not been to the commissary, but by this time they were so far into the subject that he thought the quickest way was to admit that he had, and merely parry Mr. Van Dyke's mistaken statements as to what he had done there. Mr. Van Dyke was not so much insistent as convinced, and he seemed to talk very fast….

The Prince was introduced to Mr. Spurgeon and to Mr. and Mrs. Tarleton, but he was now so involved in the conversation with Mr. Van Dyke that he heard himself stammering, “I'm glad to meet me,” because he was explaining to Van Dyke that he had not seen Technigarbo in Gretacolor. Again he had misunderstood. Was his name Albert Edward Butch Arthur Agge David, Prince of Denmark? “That's my cousin,” he almost said, his head reeling.

Stahr's voice, clear and reassuring, brought him back to reality.

“That's enough, Mike—That was 'double—talk,” he explained to Prince Agge. “It's considered funny here in the lower brackets. Do it slow, Mike.”

Mike demonstrated politely.

“In an income at the gate this morning—” He pointed at Stahr. “—or did he?”

Baffled, the Dane bit again.

“What? Did he what?” Then he smiled: “I see. It is like your Gertrude Stein.”

Chapter IV

Fitzgerald has the following note on the episode with the director at the beginning of this chapter:

What is missing in Ridingwood scene is passion and imagination, etc. What an extraordinary thing that it should all have been there for Ridingwood and then not there.

Chapter V

Page 97. After the words, And so he had learned tolerance, kindness, forbearance, and even affection like lessons, the author has written for his own guidance: (Now the idea about young and generous).

Note following the section that ends on page 98:

This may not be terse and clear enough here. Or perhaps I mean strong enough. It may be the place for the doctor's verdict. I would like to leave him on a stronger note.

Two Outlines

The following letter and outline throw some light on the course of the story and show how it developed and changed from the author's first conception of it.

A letter written by Fitzgerald, September 29, 1939, explaining his original plans for the novel to his publisher end to the editor of a magazine in which he hoped to serialize it:

The story occurs during four or five months in the year 1935. It is told by Cecilia, the daughter of a producer named Bradogue in Hollywood. Cecilia is a pretty, modern girl, neither good nor bad, tremendously human. Her father is also an important character. A shrewd man, a gentile, and a scoundrel of the lowest variety. A self-made man, he has brought up Cecilia to be a princess, sent her East to college, made of her rather a snob, though, in the course of the story, her character evolves away from this. That is, she was twenty when the events that she tells occurred, but she is twenty-five when she tells about the events, and of course many of them appear to her in a different light.

Cecilia is the narrator because I think I know exactly how such a person would react to my story. She is of the movies but not in them. She probably was born the day The Birth of a Nation was previewed and Rudolf Valentino came to her fifth birthday party. So she is, all at once, intelligent, cynical, but understanding and kindly toward the people, great or small, who are of Hollywood.

She focuses our attention upon two principal characters—Milton Stahr and Thalia, the girl he loves.

In the beginning of the book I want to pour out my whole impression of this man Stahr as he is seen during an airplane trip from New York to the coast—of course, through Cecilia's eyes. She has been hopelessly in love with him for a long time. She is never going to win anything more from him than an affectionate regard, even that tainted by his dislike of her father.

Stahr is overworked and deathly tired, ruling with a radiance that is almost moribund in its phosphorescence. He has been warned that his health is undermined, but, Being afraid of nothing, the warning is unheeded. He has had everything in life except the privilege of giving himself unselfishly to another human being. This he finds on the night of a semi-serious earthquake (like in 1935) a few days after the opening of the story.

It has been a very full day even for Stahr—the burst water mains, which cover the whole ground space of the lot to the depth of several feet, seem to release something in him. Called over to the outer lot to supervise the salvation of the electrical plant (for he has a finger in every pie of the vast bakery), he finds two women stranded on the roof of a property farmhouse and goes to their rescue.

Thalia Taylor is a twenty-six-year-old widow, and my present conception of her should make her the most glamorous and sympathetic of my heroines. Glamorous in a new way, because I am in secret agreement with the public in detesting the type of feminine arrogance that has been pushed into prominence in the case of——, etc. People simply do not sympathize deeply with those who have had all the breaks, and I am going to dower this girl, like Rosalba in Thackeray's Rose and the Ring, with “a little misfortune.„ She and the woman with her (to whom she is serving as companion) have come secretly on the lot through the other woman's curiosity. They have been caught there when the catastrophe occurred.

Now we have a love affair between Stahr and Thalia, an immediate, dynamic, unusual, physical love affair—and I will write it so that you can publish it. At the same time I will send you a copy of how it will appear in book form somewhat stronger in tone.

This love affair is the meat of the book—though I am going to treat it, remember, as it comes through to Cecilia. That is to say bymaking Cecilia, at the moment of her telling the story, an intelligent and observant woman, I shall grant myself the privilege, as Conrad did, of letting her imagine the actions of the characters. Thus, I hope to get the verisimilitude of a first person narrative, combined with a Godlike knowledge of all events that happen to my characters.

Two events beside the love affair bulk large in the intermediary chapters. There is a definite plot on the part of Bradogue, Cecilia's father, to get Stahr out of the company. He has even actually and factually considered having him murdered. Bradogue is the monopolist at his worst—Stahr, in spite of the inevitable conservatism of the self-made man, is a paternalistic employer. Success came to him young, at twenty-three, and left certain idealisms of his youth unscarred. Moreover, he is a worker. Figuratively he takes off his coat and pitches in, while Bradogue is not interested in the making of pictures save as it will benefit his bank account.

The second incident is how young Cecilia herself, in her desperate love for Stahr, throws herself at his head. In her reaction at his indifference, she gives herself to a man whom she does not love. This episode is not absolutely necessary to the serial. It could be tempered, but it might be best to eliminate it altogether.

Back to the main theme: Stahr cannot bring himself to marry Thalia. It simply doesn't seem part of his life. He doesn't realize that she has become necessary to him. Previously his name has been associated with this or that well-known actress or society personality, and Thalia is poor, unfortunate, and tagged with a middle-class exterior which doesn't fit in with the grandeur Stahr demands of life. When she realizes this she leaves him temporarily, leaves him not because he has no legal intentions toward her but because of the hurt of it, the remainder of a vanity from which she had considered herself free.

Stahr is now plunged directly into the fight to keep control of the company. His health breaks down very suddenly while he is on a trip to New York to see the stockholders. He almost dies in New York and comes back to find that Bradogue has seized upon his absence to take steps which Stahr considers unthinkable. He plunges back into work again to straighten things out.

Now, realizing how much he needs Thalia, things are patched up between them. For a day or two they arc ideally happy. They aregoing to marry, but he must make one more trip East to clinch the victory which he has conciliated in the affairs of the company.

Now occurs the final episode which should give the novel its quality—and its unusualness. Do you remember about 1933 when a transport plane was wrecked on a mountain-side in the Southwest, and a Senator was killed? The thing that struck me about it was that the country people rifled the bodies of the dead. That is just what happens to this plane which is bearing Stahr from Hollywood. The angle is that of three children who, on a Sunday picnic, are the first to discover the wreckage. Among those killed in the accident besides Stahr are two other characters we have met. (I have not been able to go into the minor characters in this short summary.) Of the three children, two boys and a girl, who find the bodies, one boy rifles Stahr's possessions; another, the body of a ruined ex-producer; and the girl, those of a moving picture actress. The possessions which the children find, symbolically determine their attitude toward their act of theft. The possessions of the moving picture actress tend the young girl to a selfish possessiveness; those of the unsuccessful producer sway one of the boys toward an irresolute attitude; while the boy who finds Stahr's briefcase is the one who, after a week, saves and redeems all three by going to a local judge and making full confession.

The story swings once more back to Hollywood for its finale. During the story Thalia has never once been inside a studio. After Stahr's death as she stands in front of the great plant which he created, she realizes now that she never will. She knows only that he loved her and that be was a great man and that he died for what he believed in….

There's nothing that worries me in the novel, nothing that seems uncertain. Unlike Tender is the Night, it is not the story of deterioration—it is not depressing and not morbid in spite of the tragic ending. If one book could ever be “like” another, 1 should say it is more “like” The Great Gatsby than any other of my books. But I hope it will be entirely different—I hope it will be something new, arouse new emotions, perhaps even a new way of looking at certain phenomena. I have set it safely in a period of five years ago to obtain detachment, but now that Europe is tumbling about our ears this also seems to be for the best. It is an escape into a lavish, romantic past that perhaps will not come again into our time.

This Diagram is the Last Outline Made by the Author

 

EPISODES

 

 

 

 

A

I. The plane.

June 28th

 

Chapter
(A)
Introduce Cecilia, Stahr, White, Schwartz.

Act I
June

 

2. Nashville.

 

 

(The Plane)
6, 000

 

3. Up forward. Different.

 

6000

STAHR

B

4. Johnny Swanson—Marcus leaving—Brady.

July 28th

 

Chapter (B) Introduces Brady, Kathleen, Robinson and secretaries. Atmosphere of night—sustain.

Act II
July—early August
(The Circus)
21,000
STAHR and KATHLEEN

 

5. The earthquake.

 

 

 

6. The back lot.

 

3000

C

7. The camera man. Stahr's work and health. From something she wrote.

July, 29th

 

Chapters (C&D) are equal to guest list and Gatsby's party. Throw everything into this, with selection. They must have a plot, though, leading to 13.

 

8. First conference.

 

 

 

9. Second conference and afterwards.

 

 

 

10. Commissary and idealism about non—profit pictures. Rushes. Phone call, etc.

 

5000

D

11. Visit to rushes.

 

 

 

12. Second meeting that night. Wrong girl—glimpse.

 

2500

E

13. Cecilia and Stahr and ball.

August 6th

 

Chapter (E) Three episodes. Atmosphere in 15 most important. Hint of Waste Land of thehouse too late.

 

14. Malibu seduction. Try to get on lot. Dead middle.

 

 

 

15. Cecilia and father.

 

 

 

16. Phone call and wedding.

 

6000

F

17. The dam breaks with Brimmer.

August 10th

 

Chapter (F)
This belongs to the women. It introduces Smith (for the first time?)

Act III
Augusts—early Sept (The Underworld)
11,500
THE STRUGGLE

 

18. The cummerbund—market—(The theatre with Benchley).

August 20th

 

 

19. The four meet. Renewal. Palo mar.

 

5000

 

20. Wylie White in office.

 

 

G

21. Sick in Washington. To quit?

August 28th—Sept. 14th

 

Chapter (G) The blow falls on Stahr. Sense of heat all through, culminating in 25,

 

22. Brady and Stahr—double black—mail. Quarrel with Wylie.

 

 

 

23. Throws over Cecilia, who tells her father. Stops making pictures. A story conference—rushes and sets. Lies low after cut.

 

 

 

24. Last fling with Kathleen. Old stars in heat wave at Encino.

 

6500

H

25. Brady gets to Smith. Fleishacker and Cecilia.

Sept. 15th—30th

 

Chapter (H)
The suit and the price.

Act IV (The Murderers)
7,000
DEFEAT

 

26. Stahr hears plan. Camera man O. K. Stops it—very sick.

 

 

 

27. Resolve problem. Kathleen at airport; Cecilia to college.

 

7000

I

28. The plane falls. Foretaste of the future in Fleishacker.

Sept. 30th—Oct.

 

Chapter (I)
Stahr's death.

Act V
October (The End)
4,500
EPILOGUE

 

29. Outside the studio.

 

 

 

 

30. Johnny Swanson at funeral.

 

4500

 

 

 

 

 

 

51, 000

CECILIA

The first of the following fragments was originally written to stand as an introduction to the story; but Fitzgerald decided to discard it because he was afraid it would make the opening too depressing. The picture of Cecilia in the tuberculosis sanitarium was, however, to appear at the end of the book.

We two men were fascinated by that young face. A few months ago, we had made a short trip to the canyons of the Colorado as if for a last gape at life; now back at the hospital this girl's face in the sunset, and with the fever, seemed to share some of the primordial rose tints of that “natural wonder.”

“Go on tell us,” we said. “We don't know about such things.”

She started to cough, changed her mind—as one can.

“I don't mind telling you. But why should our friends, the asthmas, have to hear?”

“They're going,” we assured her.

We three waited, our heads leant back on our chairs, while a nurse marshalled a flustered little group that must have heard the remark—and edged them toward the sanitarium. The nurse cast a reproachful glance back at Cecilia as if she wanted to return and slap her—but the glance changed its mind and the nurse hurried in after her flock.

“They're gone. Now tell us.”

Cecilia stared up at the brilliant Arizona sky. She regarded it—the blue air, which to us had once stood for hope in the morning—not with regret but rather with the cocksure confusion of those the depression caught in mid-adolescence. Now she was twenty-five.

“Anything you want to know,” she promised. “I don't owe them any loyalty. Oh, they fly over and see me sometimes, but what do I care—I'm ruined.”

“We're all ruined,” I said mildly.

She sat up, the Aztec figures of her dress emerging from the Navajo pattern of her blanket. The dress was thin—gone native for the sun country—and I remembered the round shining knobs of another girl's shoulders at another time and place, but here we must all stay in the shadow.

“You shouldn't talk like that,” she assured me. “I'm ruined, but you're just two good guys who happened to get a bug.”

“You don't grant us any history,” we objected with senescent irony. “Nobody over forty is allowed a history.”

“I didn't mean that. I mean you'll get well.”

“In case we don't, tell us the story. You still hear this stuff about him. What was he: Christ in Industry? I know boys who worked on the Coast and hated his guts. Were you crazy about him? Loosen up, Cecilia. Something for a jaded palate! Think of the hospital dinner well face in half an hour.”

Cecilia's glance suspected, then rejected our existence—not our right to live, but our right to any important feeling of loss or passion or hope or high excitement. She started to talk, waited for a tickle to subside in her throat.

“He never looked at me,” she said indignantly, “and I won't talk about him when you're in this mood.”

She threw off the blanket and stood up, her center-parted hair falling from her wan temples, ripples from a brown dam. She was high-breasted and emaciated, still perfectly the young woman of her time. Superiority was implicit in her heel taps as she walked through the open door into the corridor of the building—our only road to wonderland. Apparently Cecilia believed in nothing at present, but it seemed she had once known another road, passed by it a long time ago.

We were sure, nevertheless, that some time she would tell us about it—and so she did. What follows is our imperfect version of her story.

***

This is Cecilia taking up the story. I should probably explain why I spent so much of the summer hanging around the studio. Well, for one thing, I was too big to keep out now and I knew how to do it without bothering people. Secondly, I had had a difference with Wylie White about who had the say about my body, so there was a man named X whom I didn't intend to marry who was playing the man who almost got the girl in three pictures at once and had to be on the lot. And thirdly, most important, I had nothing else to do. (Fourth, with description of Hollywood boys.)

***

[Cecilia and Kathleen]

She wore a little summer number from Saks, about $18. 98, and a pink and blue hat that had been stepped on on one side. Her nails were pale pink, almost natural, and her hair you couldn't be absolutely sure of. She was polite and rather overwhelmed. X spent some time trying to convey who I was, but kept bumping against the flat fact that Kathleen Moore had never heard of my father.

“I've been looking for a job,” she said.

“What kind of a job?”

“I've been going through the advertisements. What is a swami?”

X explained—it was very interesting.

“He was the most encouraging,” Kathleen said. “But I'm afraid it wouldn't do—that filthy towel about his head.”

***

Father used to have great scraps with the Jews over Jewish and Irish tricks. The Jews claimed he always oversold his points. Father thought be was just right. For instance, [his] weeping trick.

STAHR

Stahr's day would begin often enough right in the studio. Since his wife's death, be frequently slept there; his suite contained a bath and dressing-room, and his divan made a bed. With the immense distances of Los Angeles County—three hours a day in an automobile is not exceptional—this was a great saving of time.

***

Never wanted his name on pictures—“I don't want my name on the screen because credit is something that should be given to others. If you are in a position to give credit to yourself, then you do not need it.”

***

I want to tell also of his great failing of surrounding himself with men who were very far below him. However, this, may have been because of a sureness about his health, because he felt in his 20's that he himself was able to keep a direct eye on everything, and, therefore, would have been hindered rather than helped by men who were positive-minded supervisors. His relation with directors, his importance in that he brought interference with their work to a minimum, and while he made enemies—and this is important—up to his arrival the director had been King Pin in pictures since Griffith made The Birth of a Nation. Now, therefore, some of the directors resented the fact that he reduced their position from one of complete king to being simply one element in a combine. His interest in the lot itself is important, his utter democracy, his popularity with the rank and file of the studio.

However, this is not really thinking out Stahr from the beginning. I must go back into his childhood and remember that remark of his mother: “We always knew that Monroe would be all right.”… Remember also that he was a fighter even though he was a small man—certainly not more than 5' 6 ½", weighing very little (which is one reason he always liked to see people sitting down), and remember when the man tried to get fresh with his wife at Venice how he lost his temper and got into a fight…. He must have been a scrapper from early boyhood, probably a neighborhood scrapper. Remember also how popular he was with men from the beginning in a free and easy way, that is to say, as a man that liked to sit around with his feet up and smoke and “be one of the boys.” He was essentially more of a man's man than a ladies' man.

There was never anything priggish or superior in his casual conversation that makes men uneasy in the company of other men. He used to run sometimes with a rather fast crowd of directors—many of them heavy drinkers, though he wasn't one himself. And they accepted him as one of themselves in a “hale fellow, well met” spirit—that is: in spite of the growing austerity which overwork forced on him in later years, Stahr never had any touch of the prig or the siss about him, and I think this was real and not an overlay. To that extent he was Napoleonic and actually liked combat—which leads me back to the supposition that probably he was a scrapper as a boy and had always been that way. If, after he came into full power, he sometimes resorted to subterfuge to have his way, that was the result of his position rather than anything in his nature. I think, by nature, he was very direct, frank, challenging. Try to analyze what his probable boyhood was from the above.

This chapter must not develop into merely a piece of characteranalysis. Each statement that I make about him must contain at the end of every few hundred words some pointed anecdote or story to keep it alive. I do not want it to have the ring of an analysis. I want it to have as much drama throughout as the story of old Laemmle himself on the telephone.

***

Stahr knew he had a working knowledge of technics, but because he had been head man for so long and so many apprentices had grown up during his sway, more knowledge was attributed to him than he possessed. He accepted this as the easiest way and was an adept though cautious bluffer. In the dubbing—room, which was for sound what the cutting-room was for sight, he worked by ear alone and was often lost amid the chorus of ever newer terms and slang. So on the stops. He watched the new processes of faking animated backgrounds, moving pictures taken against the background of other moving pictures, with a secret child's approval. He could have understood easily enough—often he preferred not to, to preserve a sensual acceptance when he. saw the scene unfold in the rushes. There were smart young men about—Reinmund was one—who phrased their remarks to convey the impression that they understood everything about pictures. Not Stahr. When he interfered, it was always from his own point of view, not from theirs. Thus his function was different from that of Griffith in the early days, who had been all things to every finished frame of film.

***

It is doubtful if any of these head men read through a single work of the imagination in a year. And Stahr, who had no time whatever to read and must depend on synopses, began to doubt that any of his supervisors read more than what was ordered; he doubted that his casting people (note for a character here) covered the range he would have wanted them to. A show played a year and a half in San Francisco—the specialty in it was discovered only after it reached Los Angeles, where young teats drew a tired sabled audience, and the specialty was in a boom market within a week. And had to be paid for against important budgets where alertness would have bought it for nothing.

***

In order to forgive Stahr for what he did that afternoon, it should be remembered that he came out of the old Hollywood that was rough and tough and where the wildest bluffs hold. He had manufactured gloss and polish and control of the new Hollywood, but occasionally he liked to tear it apart just to see if it was there.

***

But now as he stood there and the orchestra began to play and the dancers stood up, a sentence spoke in his mind that surprised him: “I am bored beyond measure,” it said.

Even the words did not sound like him. “Beyond measure” was theatrical, he wondered if he had read it recently. He did not go out often enough to be bored or to think of it like that. He knew how to etude bores, and he had grown to accept deference and admiration as something to wear with humility and grace; and he almost always had a good time.

Some men came up to him, and he talked to them with his hands in his pockets. One was an agent who hated him and always referred to him, so Stahr was told, as “The Vine Street Jesus,” “The Walking Oscar,” or “The Back—to—Use Napoleon.”

***

At some point after censorship, Monroe revolts against childish—

***

Show Stahr hiding in retreat or avoiding people without hurting them.

***

Like many men, he did not like flowers except a few weedy ones—they were too highly evolved and self-conscious. But he liked leaves and peeled twigs, horse chestnuts and even acorns, unripe, ripe and wormy fruit.

***

Stahr is miserable and embittered toward the end.

***

Before death, thoughts from Crack-Up.

Do I look like death? (in mirror at 6 p. m.)

***

Men who have been endowed with unusual powers for work or analysis or ingredients that go to make big personal successes, seem to forget as soon as they are rich that such abilities are not evenly distributed among the men of their kind. So when the suggestion of a Union springs out of this act of Bradogue's [Brady's], Stahr seems to reverse his form, join the other side and almost to ally himself with Bradogue. Note also in the epilogue that I want to show that Stahr left certain harm behind him just as he left good behind him. That some of his reactionary creations such as the Screen Playwrights existed long after his death just as so much of his valuable creative work survived him. However, remember this is to play a small part in this chapter and must be written epigrammatically, cleverly and perhaps placed in the mouth of one whom we may see leaving Hollywood in this chapter [the final departure of Stahr in the plane]. In any case, it must not be allowed to interfere with the mood of this short chapter, which would, whether treated in a close-up or remotely, belong to Thalia [Kathleen] and leave Thalia to linger in the reader's mind.

KATHLEEN

The realization came to her that the tracks of life would never lead anywhere and were like tracks of the airplane; that no one knew of their place, since there was no Daniel Boone to hack trees; that the world had to go on and that it wasn't going to be inside her and there still had to be those tracks. It was an awful lonesome journey.

***

She thought of electric fans in little restaurants with lobsters on ice in the windows, and of pearly signs glittering and revolving against the obscure, urban sky, the hot, dark sky. And pervading everything, a terribly strange, brooding mystery of roof tops and empty apartments, of white dresses in the paths of parks, and fingers for stars and faces instead of moons, and people with strange people scarcely knowing one another's names.

***

Bright unused beauty still plagued her in the mirror.

***

[Kathleen and her husband?]

He found her in the cabin, just standing, thinking. He was afraid of her when she thought, knowing that in the part of her most removed from him, there was taking place a tireless ratiocination, the synthesis of which has always a calm sense of the injustice and unsatisfactions of life. He knew the [ ?] with which her mind worked, but he was always surprised that it brought forth in the end protests that were purely abstract, and in which he figured only as an element as driven and succorless as herself. This made him more afraid than if she said, “It was your fault,” as she frequently did—for by it she seemed to lift the situation and its interpretation out of his grasp. In that region his mind was more feminine than hers—he felt light, and off his balance—and a little like the Dickens character who accused his wife of praying against him.

STAHR AND KATHLEEN

Object: I wanted a seduction—very Californian, yet new—very Hollywood, say. If he has no illusion, he has at least great pity and excitement, friendliness, stimulus, fascination.

Where will the warmth come from in this? Why does he think she's warm? Warmer than the voice in Farewell to Arms. My girls were all so warm and full of promise. What can I do to make it honest and different?

The sea at night. Como. Sr.—Pol (used in Tender). Why are French romances cold and sad au fond?—why was Wells warm?

***

General Mood. Shaken by the flare—up, they go back, she still thinking she can withdraw. She could not bear to think. It was tonight. It is a murky, rainy dusk, a dreary day (change former time to sunset). They left the hotel a little more than three hours ago, but it seemed a long time. Get them there quickly. Odd effect of the place like a set. The mood should be two people—free. He has an overwhelming urge toward the girl, who promises to give life back to him—though he has no idea yet of marriage—she is the heartof hope and freshness. He seduces her because she is dipping away—she lets herself be seduced because of overwhelming admiration (the phone call). Once settled, it is sensual, breathless, immediate, then gentle and tender for awhile.

***

She was very ready and it was right It would have been good any time, but for the first time it was much more than he had hoped or expected. Not like very young people, but wise and fond and chokingly sweet, as it had been with Minna when sometimes they had gone for many days. He was away for a hundred miles for a visit to himself, but he did not let her see.

***

This girl had a life—it was very seldom he met anyone whose life did not depend in some way on him or hope to depend on him.

ROBINSON

These passages about Robinson all relate to an earlier plan for the story. The author had discarded his original idea of having Kathleen have a love affair with Robinson, but the latter was perhaps still to figure as the agent selected by Brady to put Stahr out of the way. Kathleen is here called Thalia.

I would like this episode to give a picture of the work of a cutter, camera man or second unit director in the making of such a thing as Winter Carnival, accenting the speed with which Robinson works, his reactions, why he is what he is instead of being the very high-salaried man which his technical abilities entitle him to be. I might as well use some of the Dartmouth atmosphere, snow, etc., being careful not to impinge at all on any material that Walter Wanger may be using in Winter Carnival or dm I may have ever suggested as material to him.

I could begin the chapter through Cecilia's eyes, who is a guest at the carnival, skip quickly to Robinson and have them perhaps meet at a telegraph desk where she sees him sending a wire to Thalia. But by this time and through the material I choose—photographing backgrounds for the snow picture—I should not only develop the character of Robinson as he is, but leave a loophole showing the possibility of his being later corrupted. In a very short transition or montage, I bring the whole party West on the Chief. Cecilia, perhaps with friends of her own, coaxes the producer who has been in charge (ineffectual producer) and Robinson.

The man chosen tentatively to put Stahr out of the way is Robinson the cutter. Must develop Robinson character so that this is possible—that is, Robinson now has three aspects. His top possibility as a sort of Sergeant——character as planned. His relation with the world, which is conventional and rather stereotyped and trite; and this new element, in which it would be possible for him to be so corrupted by circumstances as to be drawn into such a matter and used by Bradogue. To do this it is practically necessary that there must be from the beginning some flaw in Robinson in spite of his courage, his resourcefulness, his technical expertness and the Sergeant——virtues I intend to give him. Some secret flaw—perhaps something sexual. It might be possible, but if I do that, then he could have had no relation with Thalia, who certainly would not have accepted a bad lover. Perhaps he would have some flaw, not sexual—not unmanly—in any case have no special idea at present, and this must be invented. In any case his having loved Thalia would make him a very natural tool for Bradogue to use in playing on his natural jealousy of Stahr.

***

[Thalia] has been having an affair intermittently, of which she is half ashamed, with the character whom 1 have called Robinson, the cutter, who is in his (and this is very important) professional life an extraordinarily interesting and subtle character on the idea of Sergeant——in the army or that cutter at United Artists whom I so admired or any other person of the type of trouble shooter or film technician—and I want to contrast this sharply with his utter conventionality and acceptance of banalities in the face of what might be called the cultural urban world. Women can twist him around their little finger. He might be able to unravel the most twisted skein of wires in a blinding snowstorm on top of a sixty-foot telephone pole in the dark with no more tools than an imperfect pair of pliers made out of the nails of his boots, but faced with the situation which the most ignorant and useless person would handle with urbanity he would seem helpless and gawky—so much so as to give the impression of being a Babbitt or of being a stupid, gawky, inept fellow.

This contrast at some point in the story is recognized by Stahr, who must at all points, when possible, be pointed up as a man who sees below the surface into reality.

Her attitude towards this man has been that even in the niceties of love-making she has had to be his master, and bis deep gratitude to her is allied to his love, for her, though throughout the story he always feels that she is inevitably the superior person. Stahr at some point points it out to her that this is nonsense and I want to show here something different in men's and women's points of view: particularly that women are prone to cling to an advantage or rather have less human generosity in points of character than men have, or do I mean a less wide point of view?

***

Stahr nodded and walked along at the head of his gang. Robinson, who was almost beside him, but a little behind, was a hard-jawed technician—supposed to be the best cutter in Hollywood. I didn't come in contact with that class, but I know Robinson was such a good cutter that often he had been asked to direct a picture. He had tried once, back in the silent days, and it was a failure. Never, never would a man like Jack Robinson want to steer a venture, if 1 know what I'm talking about. From the time he was called from his job on top of telephone posts in Michigan thunderstorms to the intricate task of trying, as a sergeant, to establish tangible liaison with the artillery in his infantry division. At that point when he found that an uneducated trouble-shooter was worth a dozen hit-or-miss shavetails, called “signal officers,” he had lost faith in his superiors and never afterward wanted to be anything except a liaison between what was commanded from above and what could be done below.

There was something warm about him that Stahr liked. Often he would edge up to Stahr, sensing the truth or falsity in some story—but in practice his advice faded to, “Oh, what the hell—what do these——s know? All right. Go on. Where do we runthese wires? Sure, it's a great idea.”

CRASH OF THE PLANE

Fitzgerald had sketched in some detail the episode of the children finding the fallen plane, which is mentioned in the letter to his publisher. He had at one point decided to discard this, as he thought that the account of Stahr's funeral would make a better epilogue; but a note evidently written at a later time shows that he urns still considering it.

It is important that I begin this chapter with a delicate transition, because I am not going to describe the fall of the plane, but simply give a last picture of Stahr as the plane takes off, and describe very briefly in the airport the people who are on board. The plane, therefore, has left for New York, and when the reader turns to Chapter X, I must be sure that he isn't confused by the sudden change of scene and situation. Here I can make the best transition by an opening paragraph in which I tell the reader that Cecilia's story ends here and that what is now told was a situation discovered by the writer himself and pieced together from what he learned in a small town in Oklahoma, from a municipal judge. That the incidents occurred one month after the plane fell and plunged Stahr and all its occupants into a white darkness. Tell how the snow hid the wreck and that in spite of searching parties the plane was considered lost, and then will resume the narrative—that a curtain first went up during an early thaw the following March. (I have to go over all the chapters and get the time element to shape up so that Stahr's second trip to New York, the one on which he is killed, takes place when the first snow has fallen on the Rockies. I want this plane to be like that plane that was lost for fully two months before they found the plane and. the survivors.) Consider carefully whether if possible by some technical trick it might not be advisable to conceal from the reader that the plane fell until the moment when the children find it. The problem is that the reader must not turn to Chapter X and be confused, but, on the other hand, the dramatic effect, even if the reader felt lost for a few minutes, might be more effective if he did not find at the beginning of the chapter that the plane fell. In fact, almost certainly that is the way to handle it, and I must find a method of handling it in that fashion. There must bean intervening paragraph to begin Chapter X which will reassure the reader that he is following the same story, but it can be evasive and confine itself to leading the reader astray thinking that the paragraph is merely to explain that Cecilia is not telling this next part of the story without telling the reader that the plane ran into a mountain top and disappeared from human knowledge for several months.

When I have given the reader some sense of the transition and prepared him for a change in scene and situation, break the narrative with a space or so and begin the following story. That a group of children are starting off on a hike. That there is an early spring thaw in this mountain state. Pick out of the group of children, three whom we will call Jim, Frances, and Dan. That atmosphere is that particular atmosphere of Oklahoma when the long winter breaks. The atmosphere must be an all-cold climate where the winter breaks very suddenly with almost a violence—die snow seems to part as if very unwillingly in great convulsive movements like the break-up of an ice floe. There's a bright sun. The three children get separated from the teacher or scoutmaster or whoever is in charge of the expedition, and the girl, Frances, comes upon a pan of the engine and fly-wheel of a broken airplane. She has no idea what it is. She is rather puzzled by it and at the moment is engaged rather in a flirtation with both Jim and Dan. However, she is an intelligent child of thirteen or fourteen and while she doesn't identify it as part of an airplane, she knows it is an odd piece of machinery to be found in the mountains. First she thinks it is the remains of some particular mining machinery. She calls Dan and then Jim, and they forget whatever small juvenile intrigue they were embarking on in their discovery of other debris from the fall of the plane. Their first general instinct is to call the other members of the party, because Jim, who is the smartest of the children (both the boys' ages about fifteen), recognizes that it is a fallen plane—though he doesn't connect it with the plane that disappeared the previous November—when Frances comes upon a purse and an open travelling case which belonged to the actress. It contains the things that to her represent undreamt of luxuries. In it there's a jewel box. It has been unharmed—it has fallen through the branches of a tree. There are flasks of perfume that would never appear in the town where she lives, perhaps a negligee or anythingI can think of that an actress might be carrying which was absolutely the last word in film elegance. She is utterly fascinated.

Simultaneously Jim has found Stahr's briefcase—a briefcase is what he has always wanted, and Stahr's briefcase is an excellent piece of leather—and some other travelling appurtenances of Stahr's. Things that are notably possessions of wealthy men. I have no special ideas at present, but think what a very wealthy, well-equipped man might be liable to have with him on such an expedition and then Dan makes the suggestion of “Why do we have to tell about this? We can all come up here later, and there is probably a lot more of this stuff here, and there's probably money and everything—these people arc dead, they will never need it again—then we can say about the plane or let other people find it. Nobody will know we have been up here.”

Dan bears, in some form of speech, a faint resemblance to Bradogue. This must be subtly done and not look too much like a parable or moral lesson, still the impression must be conveyed, but be careful to convey it once and not rub it in. If the reader misses it, let it go—don't repeat. Show Frances as malleable and amoral in the situation, but show a definite doubt on Jim's part, even from the first, as to whether this is fair dealing even towards the dead. Close this episode with the children rejoining the party.

Several weeks later the children have now made several trips to the mountain and have rifled the place of everything that is of any value. Dan is especially proud of his find, which includes some rather disreputable possessions of Ronciman. Frances is worried and definitely afraid and tending to side with Jim, who is now in an absolutely wretched mood about the whole affair. He knows that searching parties have been on a neighboring mountain—that the plane has been traced and that with the full flowering of spring the secret will come out and that each trip up he feels that the danger is more and more. However, let that be Frances' feeling, because Jim has, by this time, read the contents of Stahr's briefcase and late at night, taking it from the woodshed where he has concealed it, has gotten an admiration for the man. Naturally, by the time of this episode all three children are aware of what plane it was and who was in it and whose possessions they have.

One day also they have found the bodies, though I do not wantto go into this scene in any gruesome manner, of the six or seven victims still half concealed by the snow. In any case, something in one of Stahr's letters that Jim reads late at night decides him to go to

Judge——and tell the whole story, which he does against the threats of Dan, who is bigger than he is and could lick him physically. We leave the children there with the idea that they are in good hands, that they are not going to be punished, that they have made full restoration, and the fact that, after all, they could plead in court that they did not know anything more about the situation than “finders keepers.” There will be no punishment of any kind for any of the three children. Give the impression that Jim is all right—that Frances is faintly corrupted and may possibly go off in a year or so in search of adventure and may turn into anything from a gold digger to a prostitute, and that Dan has been completely corrupted and will spend the rest of his life looking for a chance to get something for nothing.

I cannot be too careful not to rub this in or give it the substance or feeling of a moral tale. I should [show] very pointedly that Jim is all right and end perhaps with Frances and let the readers hope that Frances is going to be all right and then take that hope away by showing the last glimpse of Frances with that lingering conviction that luxury is over the next valley, therefore giving a bitter and acrid finish to the incident to take away any possible sentimental and moral stuff that may have crept into it. Certainly end the incident with Frances.

***

Effect on children idea persists. Plane might fall in suburb of Los Angeles. He thinks it was hills, but it's right there—a desolation he helped to create.

HOLLYWOOD, ETC.

It is impossible to tell you anything of Stahr's day except at the risk of being dull. People in the East pretend to be interested in how pictures are made, but if you actually tell them anything, you find they are only interested in Colbert's clothes or Gable's private life. They never sec the ventriloquist for the doll. Even the intellectuals,who ought to know better, like to heat about the pretensions, extravagances and vulgarities—tell them pictures have a private grammar, like politics or automobile production or society, and watch the blank look come into their faces.

I could try, for instance, to make you understand what Stahr meant by his peculiar use of the word “nice,” something like what Saint-Simon meant by la politesse, and you would classify what I had said as a lecture on taste.

***

The Warner Brothers narrative writing and the Metro dramatic, packed—cut back and forth writing from Stahr.

***

[Stahr and Prince Agge]

“Come on: well go get some lunch.” Casually he added: “Broaca is the best man in Hollywood except Lubitsch and Vidor. But he's getting old and it makes him cross. He doesn't see that a director isn't everything in pictures now. That comes from the days when they shot off the cuff.”

“The cuff?”

They started out the door. Stahr laughed.

“The director was supposed to have the plot on his cuff. There wasn't any script. Writers were all called gag-men—usually reporters and all souses. They stood behind the director and made suggestions, and if he liked it and it fitted with what was on his cuff, he staged it and took his footage.”

***

The situation on the big lot was that every producer, director and scenarist there could adduce proof that he was a money-maker. With the initial distrust of the industry by business, with the weeding out of better men from the needs of speed, with the emphasis as in a mining camp on the lower virtues; then with the growing complication of technique and the elusiveness it created—it could fairly be said of all and by all of those who remained that they had made money—despite the fact that not a third of the producers or one-twentieth of the writers could have earned their living in the East. There was not one of these men, no matter how low-grade orincompetent a fellow, who could not claim to have participated largely in success. This made difficulty in dealing with them.

***

Remember my summing-up in Crazy Sunday—don't give the impression that these are bad people.

***

Actress—introduced so slowly, so close, so real that you believe in her. Somehow she's first sitting next to you, not an actress but with all the qualifications, loud and dissonant in your ear. Then she is one, but don't let it drift away in detailed description of her career. Keep her close. Never just use her name. Always begin with a mannerism.

***

The Beard. Monty Woolley's beard. 50 peddle the muff. Family supported by beard. It hasn't worked for seven weeks. It was wonderful in Hurricane. It got a poor deal Wednesday. For a gag going to cut it off-work I lose. How much prestige, amour propre. Damage to ego. $30, 000. Fake beard cut off.

***

Tillie Losch worried about what “exotic” meant.

***

He was so new as a scenarist that when the agent came in, he thought he wanted him to write something for the paper. [This refers to the habit of the Hollywood trade papers of shaking down new-comer for ads under threat of giving them bad publicity or none. ]

***

Man [from Hollywood trade paper] advising me not to read the book.

***

Character of X, poor producer.

——saying afterwards that he died with silent pictures.

We need a new formula.

***

The cleverly expressed opposite of any generally accepted idea is worth a fortune to somebody.

***

Joke about “Shoot it both ways.”

***

“We could tap out something,” she said—as a colored maid says, “I'll rinse out your stockings,” to minimize the work.

***

Great masses of wires on floor—can hear everyone through dictophone.

***

Her ash-blond hair seemed weather-proof save for a tiny curtain of a bang that was evidently permitted, even expected, to stir a little in a mild wind. She had an unmistakable aura about her person of being carefully planned. Under minute scallops that were scarcely brows, her eyes, etc. Her teeth were so white against the tan, her lips so red, that in combination with the blue of her eyes, the effect was momentarily startling—as startling as if the lips had been green and the pupils white.

***

She feared the black cone hanging from the metal arm, shrilling and shrilling across the sunny room. It stopped for a minute, replaced by her heartbeats; then began again.

***

Hollywood child. The little hard face of a successful street-walker on a jumping-jack's body, the clear cultured whine of the voice.

***

Most of us could be photographed from the day of our birth to the day of our death and the film shown, without producing any emotion except boredom and disgust. It would all just look like monkeys scratching. How do you feel about your friends' home movies about their baby or their trip? Isn't it a godawful bore?

***

A football team on a blazing hot July day. Two hot teams mousing around at $500 a day. Actors, extras and a camera crew. High in the empty stadium, Stahr and his girl.

***

There was, for example, a man who in all seriousness asked him this favor: Stahr was to say, “Hello, Tim,” and slap him on the back in front of the commissary one morning. Stahr had the man's record traced, and then slapped him on the back. The man ascended into Heaven.

Almost literally, for he was taken into one of the best agencies—which is what George Gershwin referred to when he said, “It's nice work if you can get it.” He sits there today, with a picture of hit wife and children on the wall, and has his nails manicured at the Beverly Hills Hotel. His life is one long happy dream.

***

Stahr remembered how they had used the three freaks back in 1927. X was being bothered by a really appalling woman. The day before the case came to trial, he sent a dwarf and [two other freaks] to her with messages. His counsel opened by stating that the woman was crazy. On the stand she told about her visitors—the jury shook their heads, winked at each other and acquitted.

***

Cecilia's uncle is an idiot like——'s brother.

“—the rugged individualism of Tommy Manville, Barbara Hutton and Woolie Donahue. ” Never forgiven Wylie for slipping it into his speech when he was supporting Landon.

***

There is a place for a hint somewhere of a big agent, to complete the picture.

***

A tall round-shouldered young man with a beaked nose and soft brown eyes in a sensitive face.

***

The awful reverberating thunder of his absence.

***

[Airplane Trip]

My blue dream of being in a basket like a kite held by a rope against the wind.

***

It's fun to stretch and see the blue heavens spreading once more, spreading azure thighs for adventure.

***

Girl like a record with a blank on the other side.

***

There are no second acts in American lives.

***

Tragedy of these men was that nothing in their lives had really bitten deep at all.

Bald Hemingway characters.

***

wily plagiarist

exigent overlordship

not one survived the castration

***

Don't wake the Tarkington ghosts.

***

ACTION IS CHARACTER.


Taken from Edmund Wilson's edition of The Last Tycoon (1941)

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