Archive for Storyline

Strong Coffee

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , on November 20, 2012 by dcairns

More from Lenore: brace yourselves for this one! From Miss Coffee’s days working for producer Harry Garson and movie star Clara Kimball Young.

About the fan mail. Letters which were friendly and admiring went to Clara. Those which asked for a signed photograph went to Garson’s secretary. But there remained another category which went into a special file, alphabetically arranged according to the name of the town and state on the postmark. No envelopes belonging to these letters were ever thrown away, for if two came from the same town or the same person, then both were sent to be investigated by the police of that town. These were the obscene letters. Not plain pornography which, in these permissive days, is as easy to say as photography; the contents of these would be shocking even today. They were never shown to Clara but went from me into that special file. I don’t think the public realizes the things to which stars are subjected. So I’m going to copy, from memory, one of the least offensive—and one that I had to show Clara, for while the opening and closing paragraphs were clear, the centre one puzzled me. The letter began by a young man explaining in great detail how he took two sisters to bed and, lying between them, ravaged first one and then the other. The girls were completely inexperienced and he described their reactions with great gusto. The older on—and I imagine both were under age—was frightened but excited. The younger one cried out in pain and genuine shock; but, after a while he said, ‘came back for more’.

Then came the centre paragraph which contained a series of numbers and measurements. I should have known what they were, but I didn’t, and decided to ask Clara. The concluding paragraph needed no explanation. I’ve never forgotten the words. ‘You should have seen the bed the next morning. It looked like the Japanese flag.’

Clara was in her dressing-room and I apologized for asking her to look at this letter, explaining my reason. ‘It’s just this middle paragraph,’ I said; but as she read the letter through, her face filled with disgust. ‘Do I get many of these?’

‘No,’ I lied, ‘not nearly so many as the nice ones. But I thought it seemed odd to introduce mathematics into this subject.’

Clara hesitated, then said, ‘Well, you see, inches play a part in this sort of thing, and he’s bragging about how splendidly he is equipped.’ A light dawned on me. ‘You mean he’s giving the measurements of what hospitals call his “private parts”?’ Clara nodded. ‘But why?’ Clara thought for a moment. ‘You remember the saying that if the nose of Cleopatra had been a quarter of an inch longer, the history of the world would have been changed?’

‘Yes, but I don’t see…’ I paused as I saw Clara’s amused eyes as she said, ‘Well, applied to a different part of the body, that applies to men, as well.’

‘You mean there’s a difference in size between men?’

Clara leaned over and gave my hand a pat. ‘My dear Lenore, a man’s whole lifetime of happiness can depend on one inch more or one inch less. The poor creatures!’

She looked down at the letter again. ‘I don’t think you should be asked to read these—‘

I said, ‘No, if I’m going to stay in this business, and I certainly intend to, I must take the rough with the smooth. Actually, I’ve got so I can almost smell them through the envelope. I open one, take a quick look, and if I’m right, back it goes into the envelope and into the file.’ Then Aunt Eva came in and it was time for Clara to dress, and I went about my business.

Crikey. It isn’t Hollywood that’s corrupt and decadent — it’s the public!

Sunday Intertitle: Rushing to Destruction

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on November 18, 2012 by dcairns

Looking at WAKING UP THE TOWN, a peculiar Jack Pickford vehicle from the twenties — my first exposure to Jack, brother of the more famous Mary. At times he looks like his sister in drag. I mainly knew of him in terms of the stories about his drug addiction, and the tragic death of his beautiful movie star wife Olive Thomas. Since I didn’t get a chance to see all of WAKING, (which does have a Dublin connection since his character is called Jim Joyce) I’m really using it as a springboard to quote a chunk of screenwriter Lenore Coffee’s entrancing memoir, Storyline ~

Lovely Olive Thomas, who had the face of an angel and the speech of a guttersnipe, through no fault of hers. When barely fourteen her two sailor brothers, when on shore leave, used to take her to a studio where the photographer specialized in nude studies. I don’t think, at this stage, she could have realized what many of her poses represented. She only knew that after her brothers had pocketed the money there was usually enough left for her to buy a new pair of shoes or a new dress and, on especially successful days, sometimes both. When she became a highly paid star she never changed. Her language was really appalling but she never said anything deliberately to offend. She didn’t even know when the words she used were offensive. For instance, once in the lobby of a famous hotel an elderly woman dropped her knitting and Olive, in one graceful, sweeping gesture, picked it up and handed it to her, displaying in this gesture a magnificent diamond ring which caught the old lady’s eye. ‘My, how wonderful to have a ring as beautiful as that!’

Olive said as carelessly as if she were telling where to get a cup of tea, ‘It’s easy, honey. I got this for two humps with an old Jew in Palm Beach.’ And went serenely on her way, leaving the old lady to ask anxiously of her neighbours, ‘Can anyone tell me what are “humps”? I’ve always associated them with camels.’

More from Coffee’s entertaining, and at times horrifying autobiography in the coming week…