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Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I know, I know... yesterday I promised to tell you what Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and comedian Steve Martin have in common... but I lied. Well, not really. I just wanted to insert this post on old movies because it fit. The answer to this riddle is next, just after these selected short subjects.

Moviola is fictional story I wrote seven years ago about the making of the 1915 romance, Moon over Miami starring the soon to be famous Vivian St. Claire, a real 'looker.' Movie making back then was a gritty black-and-white art that stole its way into the imaginations of the world. It was made with grand imagination, before such things as computer effects--or even computers, and without sound which is good because Vivian's high pitched voice never would have made the cut. It was what it was and it was beloved.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the sun slowly set over the placid blue ocean ending another perfect day in paradise…
Rip. KRRRASH! Zzzip.
Dust rose from the ripple-cut cardboard ‘ocean’ as the copper-colored metal ‘sun’ crashed ingloriously into ‘the sea’ and rolled off-stage.
“Cut! Cut! CUT! damn-it! Where the hell is Corky?”
“Here, boss.  Here I am.”
“What the hell are you doing to me Corky? First the beach scenery falls on Vivian. Then this. If we loose our star, there is no moving picture and we go broke. You tryin’ to put us out of business? Some right-hand guy you turned out to be, you washed up old has-been.”
Josh, always the entrepreneur, founded RockScissorsPaper Studio in 1914, right after he was dumbfounded by that French ‘moving picture,’ seven years ago. He knew then that moving pictures would be the next best thing since the stereograph. And Josh was almost never wrong.  “If a guy in America today hasn’t been broke four times in his life, he will never amount to nothin,” he told his backers.
”Sorry boss. That’s why we needed new rope.”
“You know we can’t afford an extra penny. Now, if you are any good at all, fix that damn thing before it kills somebody. We gotta finish this scene or we don’t go home tonight.”
“Washed up old has-been. That’s what he called me,” said Corky, talking only to himself as he walked through the dark and rainy night to his trolley stop. “I slave for that guy… save his ass time and again. If it wasn’t for me, there never would be a RockScissorsPaper Studio.”
He smiled as he remembered the first time Josh brought ‘the money’ to have a look-see at the new studio. “Hell, it was a garage…a dirty, dingy garage with three lights and one camera. So I made a big sign and hung it on the empty building down the block. Those yokels never knew the difference.”
He laughed out loud as he remembered that first movie… Pauline and the Big Bad Wolf. “Vivian was just a young kid I found on the street. Boy, was she a ‘looker.’
“Hey kid! Wanna be in movin’ pictures?”
“Yeah! Sure mister. What is movin’ pictures?”
“I had to find a wolf costume. OK, so it was a gorilla suit. When I was done with it, it was a wolf costume. And I had to wear it ‘caus no one else would. It must have been 120 degrees in that thing. But Josh liked it. God. That first movie… seems like so long ago.”
The next day at the studio didn’t go much better. Corky, do this! Corky, do that! Where is that beach ball and sun umbrella Corky? Help Vivian into her costume. Shut that shade! Get a ladder over here! Can’t you do anything right?
“Shut up!” Corky exploded. “Shut your mouth up you pompous stuffed walrus. You sit in that chair and act like you are God. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of you!”
The set became quiet as a graveyard at midnight. Everyone looked at Josh and Corky. Josh couldn’t believe his ears.
“Well, Corky. If you can’t take it, then maybe you aren’t as tough as I thought you were. We have a movie to make here and we have to be done by Friday. Are you going to shut your big, fat trap and get to work, or are your going to get the hell out?
Corky, stunned at the turn of events, stood for almost a minute without answering, then turned and stormed out the door.
The bright sun hit him like an epiphany.
“What the hell did I just do? Josh and me, we been together now for almost eight years. The big jackass can’t do it without me. He doesn’t know how to make the moon rise, find a canoe, get a street sign or create a saloon from nothin’. Only I can do that.
“But I’m not goin’ back. I can’t go back.”
The movie did not go well. You can’t make “Moon over Miami” if you have no moon. You can’t row a canoe if you have no paddle. You can’t have no parking unless you have a ‘No Parking’ sign.
“Where the hell is Corky,” screamed Josh as he slammed his clipboard to the floor. Where is that stupid son-of-a-bitch when I need him.”
“You fired him, boss,” he was reminded. “You kicked him out.”
“Oh yeah. Good riddance. That little weasel thinks he owns RockScissorsPaper. He don’t! I do!”
“Want me to go find him boss?”
“No. Absolutely not! I never want to see that guy again. Nobody quits on Josh DeMille.”
That night, Vivian paid Corky a visit. “Remember when you first saw me, Corky,” she reminded him. “You told me I would be a star. You told me that I would make us all rich. Remember?
“Yeah,” he said with a reminiscing smile. “I Remember.”
“Well, you knew that wasn’t true. You knew that unless we had Josh with his connections and you with your moxie, we couldn’t do it. We can’t do it alone, Corky. We need you. Josh needs you.”
“Can’t do it Vivian. When you tell a guy he’s a washed-up old has-been, you cut him in two. I won’t be half-a-man and go crawling back. If Mr. Big Shot wants me, then let him come and ask.”
“Ooooh! You are just two stubborn jackasses who couldn’t find their way back to the stable if someone didn’t lead them by the nose.” Frustrated and angry, Vivian slammed the door behind her as she left.
Somehow, Josh and crew finished “Moon over Miami” without Corky. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t good, but it was done. In the early days, sometimes that was enough.
It was part curiosity, part jealousy that took Corky to the Hollywood Theatre first showing that next week. He ached to be a part of the festivities. This was the best time in all moving picture-making and he was on the outside looking in.
Josh saw Corky across the street. Looking away as he lifted his chin in the air, Josh entered the theatre.
Hurt, Corky turned to leave, with one last glance back at what used to be his world. And, as God is witness, it’s the only way anyone would have seen that small escape of smoke from one of the side windows. His nose quickly confirmed his worse fear.
“FIRE! The Hollywood is on fire!”
He bolted across the street and pushed the theatre door hard, shattering its glass. He yelled to the astonished monkey-suited doorman, standing with mouth agape.
Fortunately, the fire was detected before it was wide-spread and everyone was safely on the street in front of the theatre, screaming, shrieking, crying, and talking wildly as the first pumper wagon was pulled ‘round the corner by two hard-breathing horses.
Hours later, the fire was controlled but the building was gone. And Josh, sitting on the curb in his tuxedo, now ash-covered and torn, looked like a refugee from the Great War… a man who had lost everything.
“Vivian. Oh Vivian. It’s gone. The film is gone.” His authoritative voice was reduced to a resigned whisper. “All of our money was in that film. Its success was the key to our next movie. That fire not only burned down the Hollywood Theatre, it burned down RockScissorsPaper just as surely.”
“Josh,” she comforted,  “It can’t be that bad.”
 “We’re done, Viv. That film was our bankroll.”
“Oh, Josh…”
“Mr. DeMille!” the doorman hollered as he approached. “Mr. DeMille. One of the firemen gave me this before they left. Said he found it on the seat of the fire wagon.”
“Oh my God. OH MY GOD! Vivian. Look at this…it’s the film. I can’t believe it. How did it get there?
“The fireman didn’t know, Mr. DeMille. It was just there.”
The headline in the next morning’s Pacific Sun told the story. “Hollywood Theatre Burns to the Ground: All 150 moving picture fans watching “Moon over Miami” are safe.”
The following day, the paper interviewed Josh DeMille:
”Miraculously, the only copy of the film was rescued. We are sure the doorman, modest as he is, saved it from the flames. It will continue to be shown across town at the Hippodrome starting tonight.”
When Corky read that, he threw the paper down in disgust and stared at his now-cold cup of coffee. “If that jerk don’t know who saved his bacon, I sure as hell won’t tell him.”
As his anger was about to turn to tears, he was startled by a knock on the door... and a ‘not too welcome’ voice.
“Corky… Corky… ” Josh pleaded from outside. “Please forgive me, my friend. Fate has given me another chance.”
“Another chance, DeMille?” questioned Corky skeptically as he now faced Josh. “Another chance to be a rich man?”
“No. No. No. Another chance to save a friendship! Will you please come back and be my partner? I need you. I have always needed you.”
Later, as DeMille told Vivian, she patted his shoulder and smiled approvingly.
“But why didn’t you tell him you now know that he rescued the film?”
“I will… someday. I just didn’t want him to think I was asking forgiveness because he did one thing and I owed him something. I wanted him to truthfully know that I was wrong.  I took him for granted. It was because he did so many things…and always has.  And because I owed myself something. His friendship.
“You see, Viv, I can go broke four times and still end up a rich man… because it’s only money. But if I loose one true friend, my chance for being truly rich is forever diminished…by one true friend.”

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