F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Love of the Last Tycoon.
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Though I haven't ever been on the screen I was brought up in pictures.
Rudolph Valentino came to my fifth birthday party-or so I was told. I put
this down only to indicate that even before the age of reason I was in a
position to watch the wheels go round.
I was going to write my memoirs once, "The Producer's Daughter," but at
eighteen you never quite get around to anything like that. It's just as
well-it would have been as flat as an old column of Lolly Parsons'. My
father was in the picture business as another man might be in cotton or
steel, and I took it tranquilly. At the worst I accepted Hollywood with the
resignation of a ghost assigned to a haunted house. I knew what you were
supposed to think about it but I was obstinately unhorrified.
This is easy to say, but harder to make people understand. When I was
at Bennington some of the English teachers who pretended an indifference to
Hollywood or its products really hated it. Hated it way down deep as a
threat to their existence. Even before that, when I was in a convent, a
sweet little nun asked me to get her a script of a screen play so she could
"teach her class about movie writing" as she had taught them about the essay
and the short story. I got the script for her and I suppose she puzzled over
it and puzzled over it but it was never mentioned in class and she gave it
back to me with an air of offended surprise and not a single comment. That's
what I half expect to happen to this story.
You can take Hollywood for granted like I did, or you can dismiss it
with the contempt we reserve for what we don't understand. It can be
understood too, but only dimly and in flashes. Not half a dozen men have
ever been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads. And
perhaps the closest a woman can come to the set-up is to try and understand
one of those men.
The world from an airplane I knew. Father always had us travel back and
forth that way from school and college. After my sister died when I was a
junior, I travelled to and fro alone and the journey always made me think of
her, made me somewhat solemn and subdued. Sometimes there were picture
people I knew on board the plane, and occasionally there was an attractive
college boy-but not often during the Depression. I seldom really fell asleep
during the trip, what with thoughts of Eleanor and the sense of that sharp
rip between coast and coast-at least not till we had left those lonely
little airports in Tennessee.
This trip was so rough that the passengers divided early into those who
turned in right away and those who didn't want to turn in at all. There were
two of these latter right across from me and I was pretty sure from their
fragmentary conversation that they were from Hollywood-one of them because
he looked like it, a middle-aged Jew who alternately talked with nervous
excitement or else crouched as if ready to spring, in a harrowing silence;
the other a pale, plain, stocky man of thirty, whom I was sure I had seen
before. He had been to the house or something. But it might have been when I
was a little girl, and so I wasn't offended that he didn't recognize me.
The stewardess-she was tall, handsome and flashing dark, a type that
they seemed to run to-asked me if she could make up my berth.
"-and, dear, do you want an aspirin?" She perched on the side of the
seat and rocked precariously to and fro with the June hurricane, "-or a
"I've been so busy with everyone else that I've had no time to ask
you." She sat down beside me and buckled us both in. "Do you want some gum?"
This reminded me to get rid of the piece that had been boring me for
hours. I wrapped it in a piece of magazine and put it into the automatic
"I can always tell people are nice-" the stewardess said approvingly
"-if they wrap their gum in paper before they put it in there."
We sat for a while in the half-light of the swaying car. It was vaguely
like a swanky restaurant at that twilight time between meals. We were all
lingering-and not quite on purpose. Even the stewardess, I think, had to
keep reminding herself why she was there.
She and I talked about a young actress I knew, whom she had flown west
with two years before. It was in the very lowest time of the Depression and
the young actress kept staring out the window in such an intent way that the
stewardess was afraid she was contemplating a leap. It appeared though that
she was not afraid of poverty, but only of revolution.
"I know what Mother and I are going to do," she confided to the
stewardess. "We're coming out to the Yellowstone and we're just going to
live simply till it all blows over. Then we'll come back. They don't kill
The proposition pleased me. It conjured up a pretty picture of the
actress and her mother being fed by kind Tory bears who brought them honey,
and by gentle fawns who fetched extra milk from the does and then lingered
near to make pillows for their heads at night. In turn I told the stewardess
about the lawyer and the director who told their plans to Father one night
in those brave days. If the bonus army conquered Washington the lawyer had a
boat hidden in the Sacramento River, and he was going to row upstream for a
few months and then come back "because they always needed lawyers after a
revolution to straighten out the legal side."
The director had tended more toward defeatism. He had an old suit,
shirt and shoes in waiting-he never did say whether they were his own or
whether he got them from the prop department- and he was going to Disappear
into the Crowd. I remember Father saying: "But they'll look at your hands!
They'll know you haven't done manual work for years. And they'll ask for
your union card." And I remember how the director's face fell, and how
gloomy he was while he ate his dessert, and how funny and puny they sounded
"Is your father an actor, Miss Brady?" asked the stewardess. "I've
certainly heard the name. "
At the name Brady both the men across the aisle looked up.
Sidewise-that Hollywood look, that always seems thrown over one shoulder.
Then the young, pale, stocky man unbuttoned his safety strap and stood in
the aisle beside us.
"Are you Cecelia Brady?" he demanded accusingly, as if I'd been holding
out on him. "I thought I recognized you. I'm Wylie White."
He could have omitted this-for at the same moment a new voice said,
"Watch your step, Wylie!" and another man brushed by him in the aisle and
went forward in the direction of the cockpit. Wylie White started, and a
little too late called after him defiantly.
"I only take orders from the pilot."
I recognized the kind of pleasantry that goes on between the powers in
Hollywood and their satellites.
The stewardess reproved him: "Not so loud, please-some of the
passengers are asleep."
I saw now that the other man across the aisle, the middle-aged Jew, was
on his feet also, staring, with shameless economic lechery, after the man
who had just gone by. Or rather at the back of the man, who gestured
sideways with his hand in a sort of farewell, as he went out of my sight.
I asked the stewardess: "Is he the assistant pilot?"
She was unbuckling our belt, about to abandon me to Wylie White.
"No. That's Mr. Smith. He has the private compartment, the 'bridal
suite'-only he has it alone. The assistant pilot is always in uniform." She
stood up. "I want to find out if we're going to be grounded in Nashville."
Wylie White was aghast.
"It's a storm coming up the Mississippi Valley."
"Does that mean we'll have to stay here all night?"
"If this keeps up!"
A sudden dip indicated that it would. It tipped Wylie White into the
seat opposite me, shunted the stewardess precipitately down in the direction
of the cockpit, and plunked the Jewish man into a sitting position. After
the studied, unruffled exclamations of distaste that befitted the
air-minded, we settled down. There was an introduction.
"Miss Brady-Mr. Schwartze," said Wylie White. "He's a great friend of
your father's too."
Mr. Schwartze nodded so vehemently that I could almost hear him saying,
"It's true. As God is my judge, it's true!"
He might have said this right out loud at one time in his life-but he
was obviously a man to whom something had happened. Meeting him was like
encountering a friend who has been in a fist fight or collision, and got
flattened. You stare at your friend and say: "What happened to you?" And he
answers something unintelligible through broken teeth and swollen lips. He
can't even tell you about it.
Mr. Schwartze was physically unmarked; the exaggerated Persian nose and
oblique eye-shadow were as congenital as the tip-tilted Irish redness around
my father's nostrils.
"Nashville!" cried Wylie White. "That means we go to a hotel. We don't
get to the coast till tomorrow night-if then. My God! I was born in
"I should think you'd like to see it again."
"Never-I've kept away for fifteen years. I hope I'll never see it
But he would-for the plane was unmistakably going down, down, down,
like Alice in the rabbit hole. Cupping my hand against the window I saw the
blur of the city far away on the left. The green sign "Fasten your belts-No
smoking" had been on since we first rode into the storm.
"Did you hear what she said?" said Mr. Schwartze from one of his fiery
silences across the aisle.
"Hear what?" asked Wylie.
"Hear what he's calling himself," said Schwartze. "Mr. Smith}"
"Why not?" asked Wylie.
"Oh nothing," said Schwartze quickly. "I just thought it was funny.
Smith." I never heard a laugh with less mirth in it: "Smith!"
I suppose there has been nothing like the airports since the days of
the stage-stops-nothing quite as lonely, as somber-silent. The old red-brick
depots were built right into the towns they marked -people didn't get off at
those isolated stations unless they lived there. But airports lead you way
back in history like oases, like the stops on the great trade routes. The
sight of air travellers strolling in ones and twos into midnight airports
will draw a small crowd any night up to two. The young people look at the
planes, the older ones look at the passengers with a watchful incredulity.
In the big transcontinental planes we were the coastal rich, who casually
alighted from our cloud in mid-America. High adventure might be among us,
disguised as a movie star. But mostly it wasn't. And I always wished
fervently that we looked more interesting than we did-just as I often have
at premieres, when the fans look at you with scornful reproach because
you're not a star.
On the ground Wylie and I were suddenly friends, because he held out
his arm to steady me when I got out of the plane. From then on, he made a
dead set for me-and I didn't mind. From the moment we walked into the
airport it had become plain that if we were stranded here we were stranded
here together. (It wasn't like the time I lost my boy-the time my boy played
the piano with that girl Reina in a little New England farm house near
Bennington, and I realized at last I wasn't wanted. Guy Lombarde was on the
air playing "Top Hat" and "Cheek to Cheek" and she taught him the melodies.
The keys falling like leaves and her hand splayed over his as she showed him
a black chord. I was a freshman then.)
When we went into the airport Mr. Schwartze was along with us too but
he seemed in a sort of dream. All the time we were trying to get accurate
information at the desk he kept staring at the door that led out to the
landing field, as if he were afraid the plane would leave without him. Then
I excused myself for a few minutes and something happened that I didn't see
but when I came back he and White were standing close together. White
talking and Schwartze looking twice as much as if a great truck had just
backed up over him. He didn't stare at the door to the landing field
anymore. I heard the end of Wylie White's remark....
"-I told you to shut up. It serves you right."
"I only said-"
He broke off as I came up and asked if there was any news. It was then
half past two in the morning.
"A little," said Wylie White. "They don't think we'll be able to start
for three hours anyhow, so some of the softies are going to a hotel. But I'd
like to take you out to The Hermitage, Home of Andrew Jackson."
"How could we see it in the dark?" demanded Schwartze.
"Hell, it'll be sunrise in two hours."
"You two go," said Schwartze.
"All right-you take the bus to the hotel. It's still waiting-he's in
there." Wylie's voice had a taunt in it. "Maybe it'd be a good thing."
"No, I'll go along with you," said Schwartze hastily.
We took a taxi in the sudden country dark outside, and he seemed to
cheer up. He patted my kneecap encouragingly.
"I should go along," he said. "I should be chaperone. Once upon a time
when I was in the big money, I had a daughter-a beautiful daughter."
He spoke as if she had been sold to creditors as a tangible asset.
"You'll have another," Wylie assured him. "You'll get it all back.
Another turn of the wheel and you'll be where Cecelia's papa is, won't he,
"Where is this Hermitage?" asked Schwartze presently. "Far away at the
end of nowhere? Will we miss the plane?"
"Skip it," said Wylie. "We ought to've brought the stewardess along for
you. Didn't you admire the stewardess? I thought she was pretty cute."
We drove for a long time over a bright level countryside, just a road
and a tree and a shack and a tree, and then suddenly along a winding twist
of woodland. I could feel even in the darkness that the trees of the
woodland were green-that it was all different from the dusty olive-tint of
California. Somewhere we passed a Negro driving three cows ahead of him, and
they mooed as he scatted them to the side of the road. They were real cows,
with warm fresh, silky flanks and the Negro grew gradually real out of the
darkness with his big brown eyes staring at us close to the car, as Wylie
gave him a quarter. He said "Thank you-thank you" and stood there and the
cows mooed again into the night as we drove off.
I thought of the first sheep I ever remember seeing-hundreds of them,
and how our car drove suddenly into them on the back lot of the old Laemmie
studio. They were unhappy about being in pictures but the men in the car
with us kept saying:
"Is that what you wanted, Dick?"
"Isn't that swell?" And the man named Dick kept standing up in the car
as if he were Cortez or Balboa, looking over that grey fleecy undulation. If
I ever knew what picture they were in I have long forgotten.
We had driven an hour. We crossed a brook over an old rattly iron
bridge laid with planks. Now there were roosters crowing and blue-green
shadows stirring every time we passed a farm house.
"I told you it'd be morning soon," said Wylie. "I was born near
here-the son of impoverished southern paupers. The family mansion is now
used as an outhouse. We had four servants-my father, my mother and my two
sisters. I refused to join the guild, and so I went to Memphis, to start my
career, which has now reached a dead end." He put his arm around me.
"Cecelia, will you marry me, so I can share the Brady fortune?"
He was disarming enough so I let my head lie on his shoulder.
"What do you do, Celia? Go to school?"
"I go to Bennington. I'm a junior."
"Oh, I beg your pardon. I should have known but I never had the
advantage of college training. But a junior-why I read in 'Esquire' that
juniors have nothing to learn, Cecelia."
"Why do people think that college girls-"
"Don't apologize-knowledge is power."
"You'd know from the way you talk that we were on our way to
Hollywood," I said. "It's always years and years behind the time."
He pretended to be shocked.
"You mean girls in the East have no private lives?"
"That's the point. They have got private lives. You're bothering me,
"I can't. It might wake Schwartze, and I think this is the first sleep
he's had for weeks. Listen, Cecelia, I once had an affair with the wife of a
producer. A very short affair. When it was over she said to me in no
uncertain terms, she said: 'Don't you ever tell about this or
I'll have you thrown out of Hollywood. My husband's a much more
important man than you.' "
I liked him again now, and presently the taxi turned down a long lane
fragrant with honeysuckle and narcissus and stopped beside the great grey
hulk of the Andrew Jackson house. The driver turned around to tell us
something about it but Wylie shushed him, pointing at Schwartze, and we
tiptoed out of the car.
"You can't get into the Mansion now," the taxi man told us politely.
Wylie and I went and sat against the wide pillars of the steps.
"What about Mr. Schwartze?" I asked. "Who is he?"
"To hell with Schwartze. He was the head of some combine once-First
National? Paramount? United Artists? Now he's down and out. But he'll be
back. You can't flunk out of pictures unless you're a dope or a drunk."
"You don't like Hollywood," I suggested.
"Yes I do. Sure I do. Say! This isn't anything to talk about on the
steps of Andrew Jackson's house-at dawn. "
"I like Hollywood," I persisted.
"It's all right. It's a mining town in lotus land. Who said that? I
did. It's a good place for toughies but I went there from Savannah, Georgia.
I went to a garden party the first day. My host shook hands and left me. It
was all there-that swimming pool, green moss at two dollars an inch,
beautiful felines having drinks and fun -And nobody spoke to me. Not a soul.
I spoke to half a dozen people but they didn't answer. That continued for an
hour, two hours-then I got up from where I was sitting and ran out at a dog
trot like a crazy man. I didn't feel I had any rightful identity until I got
back to the hotel and the clerk handed me a letter addressed to me in my
Naturally I hadn't ever had such an experience, but looking back on
parties I'd been to, I realized that such things could happen. We don't go
for strangers in Hollywood unless they wear a sign saying that their axe has
been thoroughly ground elsewhere, and that in any case it's not going to
fall on our necks-in other words unless they're a celebrity. And they'd
better look out even then.
"You should have risen above it," I said smugly. "It's not a slam at
you when people are rude-it's a slam at the people they've met before."
"Such a pretty girl-to say such wise things."
There was an eager to-do in the eastern sky, and Wylie could see me
plain-thin with good features and lots of style, and the kicking fetus of a
mind. I wonder what I looked like in that dawn, five years ago. A little
rumpled and pale, I suppose, but at that age, when one has the young
illusion that most adventures are good, I needed only a bath and a change to
go on for hours.
Wylie stared at me with really flattering appreciation-and then
suddenly we were not alone. Mr. Schwartze wandered apologetically into the
"I fell upon a large metal handle," he said, touching the corner of his
Wylie jumped up.
"Just in time, Mr. Schwartze," he said. "The tour is just starting.
Home of Old Hickory-America's tenth president. The victor of New Orleans,
opponent of the National Bank, and inventor of the Spoils System."
Schwartze looked toward me as toward a jury.
"There's a writer for you," he said. "Knows everything and at the same
time he knows nothing."
"What's that?" said Wylie, indignant.
It was my first inkling that he was a writer. And while I like
writers-because if you ask a writer anything you usually get an answer-still
it belittled him in my eyes. Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're
any good, they're a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.
It's like actors, who try so pathetically not to look in mirrors. Who lean
backward trying-only to see their faces in the reflecting chandeliers.
"Ain't writers like that, Celia?" demanded Schwartze. "I have no words
for them. I only know it's true."
Wylie looked at him with slowly gathering indignation. "I've heard that
before," he said. "Look, Mannie, I'm a more practical man than you any day!
I've sat in an office and listened to some mystic stalk up and down for
hours spouting tripe that'd land him on a nut-farm anywhere outside of
California-and then at the end tell me how practical he was, and I was a
dreamer-and would I kindly go away and made sense out of what he'd said."
Mr. Schwartze's face fell into its more disintegrated alignments. One
eye looked upward through the tall elms: He raised his hand and bit without
interest at the cuticle on his second finger. There was a bird flying about
the chimney of the house and his glance followed it. It perched on the
chimney pot like a raven and Mr. Schwartze's eyes remained fixed upon it as
he said: "We can't get in. And it's time for you two to go back to the
It was still not quite dawn. The Hermitage looked like a nice big white
box, but a little lonely, and vacated still, after a hundred years. We
walked back to the car-only after we had gotten in, and Mr. Schwartze had
surprisingly shut the taxi door on us, did we realize he didn't intend to
"I'm not going to the Coast-I decided that when I woke up. So I'll stay
here, and afterwards the driver could come back for me." "Going back East?"
said Wylie with surprise. "Just because-" "I have decided," said Schwartze,
faintly smiling. "Once I used to be a regular man of decision-you'd be
surprised." He felt in his pocket, as the taxi driver warmed up the engine.
"Will you give this note to Mr. Smith?"
"Shall I come in two hours?" the driver asked Schwartze. "Yes... sure.
I shall be glad to entertain myself looking around." I kept thinking of him
all the way back to the airport-trying to fit him into that early hour and
into that landscape. He had come a long way from some ghetto to present
himself at that raw shrine. Mannie Schwartze and Andrew Jackson-it was hard
to say them in the same sentence. It was doubtful if he knew who Andrew
Jackson was as he wandered around, but perhaps he figured that if people had
preserved his house Andrew Jackson must have been someone who was large and
merciful, able to understand. At both ends of life man needed nourishment-a
breast-a shrine. Something to lay himself beside when no one wanted him
further, and shoot a bullet into his head.
Of course we did not know this for twenty hours. When we got to the
airport we told the purser that Mr. Schwartze was not continuing, and then
forgot about him. The storm had wandered away into eastern Tennessee and
broken against the mountains, and we were taking off in less than an hour.
Sleepy-eyed travellers appeared from the hotel and I dozed a few minutes on
one of those iron maidens they use for couches. Slowly the idea of a
perilous journey was recreated out of the debris of our failure: a new
stewardess, tall, handsome, flashing dark, exactly like the other except she
wore seersucker instead of Frenchy red-and-blue, went briskly past us with a
suitcase. Wylie sat beside me as we waited.
"Did you give the note to Mr. Smith?" I asked, half asleep.
"Who is Mr. Smith? I suspect he spoiled Mr. Schwartze's trip."
"It was Schwartze's fault."
"I'm prejudiced against steam-rollers," I said. "My father tries to be
a steam-roller around the house, and I tell him to save it for the studio."
I wondered if I was being fair; words are the palest counters at that
time in the morning. "Still, he steam-rollered me into Bennington and I've
always been grateful for that."
"There would be quite a crash-" Wylie said, "-if steam-roller Brady met
steam-roller Smith. "
"Is Mr. Smith a competitor of Father's?"
"Not exactly. I should say no. But if he was a competitor I know where
my money would be."
"I'm afraid not."
It was too early in the morning for family patriotism. The pilot was at
the desk with the purser and he shook his head as they regarded a
prospective passenger who had put two nickels in the electric phonograph and
lay alcoholically on a bench fighting off sleep. The first song he had
chosen, "Lost," thundered through the room, followed, after a slight
interval, by his other choice, "Gone," which was equally dogmatic and final.
The pilot shook his head emphatically and walked over to the passenger.
"Afraid we're not going to be able to carry you this time, old man."
The drunk sat up, awful looking, yet discernibly attractive, and I was
sorry for him in spite of his passionately ill-chosen music.
"Go back to the hotel and get some sleep. There'll be another plane
"Only going up in ee air."
"Not this time, old man."
In his disappointment the drunk fell off the bench-and above the
phonograph, a loudspeaker summoned us respectable people outside. In the
corridor of the plane I ran into Monroe Stahr and fell all over him, or
wanted to. There was a man any girl would go for, with or without
encouragement. I was emphatically without it, but he liked me and sat down
opposite till the plane took off.
"Let's all ask for our money back," he suggested. His dark eyes took me
in, and I wondered what they would look like if he fell in love. They were
kind, aloof and, though they often reasoned with you gently, somewhat
superior. It was no fault of theirs if they saw so much. He darted in and
out of the role of "one of the boys" with dexterity-but on the whole I
should say he wasn't one of them. But he knew how to shut up, how to draw
into the background, how to listen. From where he stood (and though he was
not a tall man it always seemed high up) he watched the multitudinous
practicalities of his world like a proud young shepherd, to whom night and
day had never mattered. He was born sleepless without a talent for rest or
the desire for it.
We sat in unembarrassed silence-I had known him since he became
Father's partner a dozen years ago, when I was seven and Stahr was
twenty-two. Wylie was across the aisle and I didn't know whether or not to
introduce them, but Stahr kept turning his ring so abstractedly that he made
me feel young and invisible, and I didn't dare. I never dared look quite
away from him or quite at him, unless I had something important to say-and I
knew he affected many other people in the same manner.
"I'll give you this ring, Cecelia."
"I beg your pardon. I didn't realize that I was-"
"I've got half a dozen like it."
He handed it to me, a gold nugget with the letter S in bold relief. I
had been thinking how oddly its bulk contrasted with his fingers, which were
delicate and slender like the rest of his body, and like his slender face
with the arched eyebrows and the dark curly hair. He looked spiritual at
times but he was a fighter-somebody out of his past knew him when he was one
of a gang of kids in the Bronx, and gave me a description of how he walked
always at the head of his gang, this rather frail boy, occasionally throwing
a command backward out of the corner of his mouth.
Stahr folded my hand over the ring, stood up and addressed Wylie.
"Come up to the bridal suite," he said. "See you later, Cecelia."
Before they went out of hearing I heard Wylie's question, "Did you open
Schwartze's note?" And Stahr:
I must be slow, for only then did I realize that Stahr was Mr. Smith.
Afterwards Wylie told me what was in the note. Written by the
headlights of the taxi it was almost illegible.
Dear Monro, You are the best of them all I have always admired your
mentality so when you turn against me I know it's no use! I must be no good
and am not going to continue the journey let me warn you once again
look out! I know.
Your friend MANNIE
Stahr read it twice, and raised his hand to the morning stubble on his
"He's a nervous wreck," he said. "There's nothing to be done,
absolutely nothing. I'm sorry I was short with him-but I don't like a man to
approach me telling me it's for my sake."
"Maybe it was," said Wylie.
"It's poor technique."
"I'd fall for it," said Wylie. "I'm vain as a woman. If anybody
pretends to be interested in me I'll ask for more. I like advice."
Stahr shook his head distastefully. Wylie kept on ribbing him-he was
one of those to whom this privilege was permitted.
"You fall for some kinds of flattery," he said. "This 'little Napoleon
"It makes me sick," said Stahr, "but it's not as bad as some man trying
to help you."
"If you don't like advice why do you pay we?"
"That's a question of merchandise," said Stahr. "I'm a merchant. I want
to buy what's in your mind."
"You're no merchant," said Wylie. "I knew a lot of them when I was a
publicity man and I agree with Charles Francis Adams."
"What did he say?"
"He knew them all-Gould, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Astor-and he said there
wasn't one he'd care to meet again in the hereafter. Well-they haven't
improved since then, and that's why I say you're no merchant. "
"Adams was probably a sour belly," said Stahr. "He wanted to be head
man himself but he didn't have the judgement or else the character."
"He had brains," said Wylie rather tartly.
"It takes more than brains. You writers and artists poop out and get
all mixed up and somebody has to come in and straighten you out." He
shrugged his shoulders. "You seem to take things so personally, hating
people and worshipping them-always thinking people are so
important-especially yourselves. You just ask to be kicked around. I like
people and I like them to like me but I wear my heart where God put it-on
the inside. "
He broke off.
"What did I say to Schwartze in the airport? Do you remember -exactly?"
"You said 'Whatever you're after, the answer is No.' "
Stahr was silent.
"He was sunk," said Wylie, "but I laughed him out of it. We took Pat
Brady's daughter for a ride."
Stahr rang for the stewardess.
"That pilot," he said. "Would he mind if I sat up in front with him
"That's against the rules, Mr. Smith."
"Ask him to step in here a minute when he's free."
Stahr sat up front all afternoon. While we slid off the endless desert
and over the table-lands, dyed with many colors like the white sands we dyed
with colors when I was a child. Then in the late afternoon, the peaks
themselves-the Mountains of the Frozen Saw-slid under our propellers and we
were close to home.
When I wasn't dozing I was thinking that I wanted to marry Stahr, that
I wanted to make him love me. Oh, the conceit! What on earth did I have to
offer? But I didn't think like that then. I had the pride of young women,
which draws its strength from such sublime thoughts as "I'm as good as she
is." For my purposes I was just as beautiful as the great beauties who must
have inevitably thrown themselves at his head. My little spurt of
intellectual interest was of course making me fit to be a brilliant ornament
of any salon.
I know now it was absurd. Though Stahr's education was founded on
nothing more than a night-school course in stenography, he had a long time
ago run ahead through trackless wastes of perception into fields where very
few men were able to follow him. But in my reckless conceit I matched my
grey eyes against his brown ones for guile, my young golf-and-tennis
heart-beats against his, which must be slowing a little after years of
over-work. And I planned and I contrived and I plotted-any woman can tell
you-but it never came to anything, as you will see. I still like to think
that if he'd been a poor boy and nearer my age I could have managed it, but
of course the real truth was that I had nothing to offer that he didn't
have; some of my more romantic ideas actually stemmed from pictures-"42nd
Street," for example, had a great influence on me. It's more than possible
that some of the pictures which Stahr himself conceived had shaped me into
what I was.
So it was rather hopeless. Emotionally, at least, people can't live by
taking in each other's washing.
But at that time it was different: Father might help, the stewardess
might help. She might go up in the cockpit and say to Stahr: "If I ever saw
love it's in that girl's eyes."
The pilot might help: "Man are you blind? Why don't you go back there?"
Wylie White might help-instead of standing in the aisle looking at me
doubtfully, wondering whether I was awake or asleep.
"Sit down," I said. "What's new, where are we?"
"Up in the air."
"Oh, so that's it. Sit down." I tried to show a cheerful interest.
"What are you writing?"
"Heaven help me, I am writing about a Boy Scout-The Boy Scout."
"Is it Stahr's idea?"
"I don't know-he told me to look into it. He may have ten writers
working ahead of me or behind me, a system which he so thoughtfully
invented. So you're in love with him?"
"I should say not," I said indignantly. "I've known him all my life."
"Desperate, eh? Well, I'll arrange it if you'll use all your influence
to advance me. I want a unit of my own."
I closed my eyes again and drifted off. When I woke up the stewardess
was putting a blanket over me.
"Almost there," she said.
Out the window I could see by the sunset that we were in a greener
"I just heard something funny," she volunteered. "Up in the
cockpit-that Mr. Smith-or Mr. Stahr-I never remember seeing his name."
"It's never on any pictures," I said.
"Oh. Well, he's been asking the pilots a lot about flying-I mean he's
interested? You know?"
"I mean one of them told me he bet he could teach Mr. Stahr solo flying
in ten minutes. He has such a fine mentality, that's what he said."
I was getting impatient.
"Well, what was so funny?"
"Well, finally one of the pilots asked Mr. Smith if he liked his
business and Mr. Smith said, 'Sure. Sure I like it. It's nice being the only
sound nut in a hatful of cracked ones.' "
The stewardess doubled up with laughter-and I could have spit at her.
"I mean calling all those people a hatful of nuts. I mean cracked
nuts." Her laughter stopped with unexpected suddenness and her face was
grave as she stood up. "Well, I've got to finish my chart."
Obviously Stahr had put the pilots right up on the throne with him and
let them rule with him for a while. Years later I travelled with one of
those same pilots and he told me one thing Stahr had said.
He was looking down at the mountains.
"Suppose you were a railroad man," he said. "You have to send a tram
through there somewhere. Well, you get your surveyors' reports, and you find
there's three or four or half a dozen gaps, and not one is better than the
other. You've got to decide-on what basis? You can't test the best
way-except by doing it. So you just do it."
The pilot thought he had missed something.
"How do you mean?"
"You choose some one way for no reason at all-because that mountain's
pink or the blueprint is a better blue. You see?"
The pilot considered that this was very valuable advice. But he doubted
if he'd ever be in a position to apply it.
"What I wanted to know," he told me ruefully, "is how he ever got to be
I'm afraid Stahr could never have answered that one, for the embryo is
not equipped with a memory. But I could answer a little. He had flown up
very high to see, on strong wings when he was young. And while he was up
there he had looked on all the kingdoms, with the kind of eyes that can
stare straight into the sun. Beating his wings tenaciously-finally
frantically-and keeping on beating them he had stayed up there longer than
most of us, and then, remembering all he had seen from his great height of
how things were, he had settled gradually to earth.
The motors were off and all our five senses began to readjust
themselves for landing. I could see a line of lights for the Long Beach
Naval Station ahead and to the left, and on the right a twinkling blur for
Santa Monica. The California moon was out, huge and orange over the Pacific.
However I happened to feel about these things-and they were home after all-I
know that Stahr must have felt much more. These were the things I had first
opened my eyes on, like the sheep on the back lot of the old Laemmle studio;
but this was where Stahr had come to earth after that extraordinary
illuminating flight where he saw which way we were going, and how we looked
doing it, and how much of it mattered. You could say that this was where an
accidental wind blew him but I don't think so. I would rather think that in
a "long shot" he saw a new way of measuring our jerky hopes and graceful
rogueries and awkward sorrows, and that he came here from choice to be with
us to the end. Like the plane coming down into the Glendale airport, into
the warm darkness.
Episodes 4 and 5
It was nine o'clock of a July night and there were still some extras in
the drug store across from the studio-I could see them bent over the
pin-games inside-as I parked my car. "Old" Johnny Swanson stood on the
corner in his semi-cowboy clothes staring gloomily past the moon. Once he
had been as big in pictures as Tom Mix or Bill Hart-now it was too sad to
speak to him and I hurried across the street and through the front gate.
There is never a time when a studio is absolutely quiet. There is
always a night shift of technicians in the laboratories and dubbing rooms
and people on the maintenance staff dropping in at the commissary. But the
sounds are all different-the padded hush of tires, the quiet tick of a motor
running idle, the naked cry of a soprano singing into a nightbound
microphone. Around a corner I came upon a man in rubber boots washing down a
car in a wonderful white light-a fountain among the dead industrial shadows.
I slowed up as I saw Mr. Marcus being hoisted into his car in front of the
Administration Building, because he took so long to say anything, even
goodnight-and while I waited I realized that the soprano was singing "Come!
Come! I love you only" over and over; I remember this because she kept
singing the same line during the earthquake. That didn't come for five
Father's offices were in the old building with the long balconies and
iron rails with their suggestion of a perpetual tightrope. Father was on the
second floor with Stahr on one side and Mr. Marcus on the other-this evening
there were lights all along the row. My stomach dipped a little at the
proximity to Stahr but that was in pretty good control now-I'd seen him only
once in the month I'd been home.
There were a lot of strange things about Father's office but I'll make
it brief. In the outer part were three poker-faced secretaries who had sat
there like witches ever since I could remember-Birdy Peters, Maude
something, and Rosemary Schmiel; I don't know whether this was her name but
she was the Dean of the trio, so to speak, and under her desk was the
kick-lock that admitted you to Father's throne room. All three of the
secretaries were passionate capitalists and Birdy had invented the rule that
if typists were seen eating together more than once in a single week they
were hauled up on the carpet. At that time the studio feared mob rule.
I went on in. Nowadays all chief executives have huge drawing rooms but
my father's was the first. It was also the first to have oneway glass in the
big French windows and I've heard a story about a trap in the floor that
would drop unpleasant visitors to an oubliette below but believe it to be an
invention. There was a big painting of Will Rogers, hung conspicuously and
intended, I think, to suggest Father's essential kinship with Hollywood's
St. Francis; there was a signed photograph of Minna Davis, Stahr's dead
wife, and photos of other studio celebrities and big chalk drawings of
Mother and me. Tonight the one-way French windows were open and a big moon,
rosy-gold with a haze around, was wedged helpless in one of them. Father and
Jaques La Borwits and Rosemary Schmiel were down at the end around a big
What did Father look like? I couldn't describe him except for once in
New York when I met him where I didn't expect to; I was aware of a bulky,
middle-aged man who looked a little ashamed of himself and I wished he'd
move on-and then I saw he was Father. Afterward I was shocked at my
impression. Father can be very magnetic-he has a tough jaw and an Irish
But as for Jaques La Borwits I shall spare you. Let me just say he was
an assistant producer which is something like a commissar, and let it go at
that. Where Stahr picked up such mental cadavers or had them forced upon
him-or especially how he got any use out of them-has always amazed me, as it
amazed everyone fresh from the East who slapped up against them. Jaques La
Borwits had his points, no doubt, but so have the sub-microscopic protozoa,
so has a dog prowling for a bitch and a bone. Jaques La-oh, my!
From their expressions I was sure they had been talking about Stahr.
Stahr had ordered something or forbidden something, or defied Father or
junked one of La Borwits' pictures or something catastrophic and they were
sitting there in protest at night in a community of rebellion and
helplessness. Rosemary Schmiel sat pad in hand as if ready to write down
"I'm to drive you home dead or alive," I told Father. "All those
birthday presents rotting away in their packages!"
"A birthday!" cried Jaques in a flurry of apology. "How old? I didn't
"Forty-three," said Father distinctly.
He was older than that-four years-and Jaques knew it; I saw him note it
down in his account book to use sometime. Out here these account books are
carried open in the hand. One can see the entries being made without
recourse to lip reading and Rosemary Schmiel was compelled in emulation to
make a mark on her pad. As she rubbed it out the earth quaked under us.
We didn't get the full shock like at Long Beach where the upper stories
of shops were spewed into the streets and small hotels drifted out to
sea-but for a full minute our bowels were one with the bowels of the
earth-like some nightmare attempt to attach our navel cords again and jerk
us back to the womb of creation.
Mother's picture fell off the wall revealing a small safe-Rosemary and
I grabbed frantically for each other and did a strange screaming waltz
across the room. Jaques fainted or at least disappeared and Father clung to
his desk and shouted "Are you all right?" Outside the window the singer came
to the climax of "I love you only," held it a moment and then, I swear,
started it all over. Or maybe they were playing it back to her from the
The room stood still, shimmying a little. We made our way to the door,
suddenly including Jaques who had reappeared, and tottered out dizzily
through the ante-room on to the iron balcony. Almost all the lights were out
and from here and there we could hear cries and calls. Momentarily we stood
waiting for a second shock-then as with a common impulse we went into
Stahr's entry and through to his office.
The office was big but not as big as Father's. Stahr sat on the side of
his couch rubbing his eyes. When the quake came he had been asleep and he
wasn't sure yet whether he had dreamed it. When we convinced him he thought
it was all rather funny-until the telephones began to ring. I watched him as
unobtrusively as possible. He was grey with fatigue while he listened to the
phone and Dictograph but as the reports came in, his eyes began to pick up
"A couple of water mains have burst," he said to Father, "-they're
heading into the back lot."
"Gray's shooting in the French Village," said Father.
"It's flooded around the Station too and in the Jungle and the City
Corner, what the hell-nobody seems to be hurt." In passing he shook my hands
gravely. "Where've you been, Cecelia?"
"You going out there, Monroe?" Father asked.
"When all the news is in. One of the power lines is off too-I've sent
He made me sit down with him on the couch and tell about the quake
"You look tired," I said, cute and motherly.
"Yes," he agreed, "I've got no place to go in the evenings so I just
"I'll arrange some evenings for you."
"I used to play poker with a gang," he said thoughtfully. "Before I was
married. But they all drank themselves to death."
Miss Doolan, his secretary, came in with fresh bad news.
"Robby'll take care of everything when he comes," Stahr assured Father.
He turned to me. "Now there's a man-that Robinson. He was a
trouble-shooter-fixed the telephone wires in Minnesota blizzards-nothing
stumps him. He'll be here in a minute-you'll like Robby."
He said it as if it had been his life-long intention to bring us
together, and he had arranged, the whole earthquake with just that in mind.
"Yes, you'll like Robby," he repeated. "When do you go back to
"I've just come home."
"You get the whole summer?"
"I'm sorry," I said. "I'll go back as soon as I can."
I was in a mist. It hadn't failed to cross my mind that he might have
Фрэнсис Скотт Фицджеральд. The love of the last tycoon