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Photoplay (Volume 31 – 33 (Jan. - Jun. 1927)) online

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The Roman Knows


"I asks you two gemmun this," said Clump.
"Does you-all crave to make it a real fight
when you gets together in the 'rena scene? "

"ti'l Man," said Opus, "you suttinly said

"An' you, Simeon?"

"Coul'n't nothin' make me mo' happier."

"Good! Vou can settle yo' food, an' at the
same time git a good, snappy pitcher fo' Mid-
night. Xow has I got the promises of you-all
bofe that if I stages the fight scene tomorrow
ma\\Tiin', you won't do no scrappin' befo'

"If this big bum — "

"Nemmin' no mo' straducements, Opus.
Does vou promise or doesn't you?"

"Well, if he will ..."

"I promise," said Simeon.

".\11 right. Then also I does."

"/^OODI This evening, then, right after din-
^-'ner, us gits together in my room at the
hotel — aU of us — an' we goes over the scene
what we shoots in the mawnin'. Is that
"greeable to you-all?"

They nodded. Then the company broke up
into small groups to inspect the Colosseum.
Opus strutted off M-ith Magnesia on his arm.
Outrage had completely anesthetized his ha-
bitual aversion to physical combat and he was
looking for^'ard with eagerness to the
morrow's fray.

"What I does to that feller when I gits him
down yonder with me is gwine be three sins an'
two shames."

"Oh I Opus. I feel terrible 'bout you fightin'
on account of me."

"Shuhl It's a pleasure, Gal. Fo' you I'd
lick the whole Italy police. With yo' eyes on
me I got the strength of Samson an' the stragety
of Napolium."

They seated themselves near a stone cre\ace
which had once been used for imprisoning ^ild
lions before turning them loose to a dinner of

"How you-all is gwine fight? " queried Mag-

"Us gladiates. We dresses up in tin suits
an' busts each other until one caint fight no
mo'. Time I finishes with the clothes Simeon
wears, he's g\\'ine require a plumber."

"I hope so, Opus, 'cause I think you is just

They spent the remainder of the afternoon
in the Colosseum and across the way at the

It was Magnesia who suggested that they
return to the shops of the Corso Umberto.

"'Taint that I don't like this. Opus," she
explained, "but it seems to me that they has
let things get kind of run down."

OPUS and his lady friend did not eat with
the others that evening. Instead they
found a tiny cafe near the Piazza di Spagna
where they inhaled Ia\-ish helpings of noodles
and tiny fried squids. Therefore they missed
even the aftermath of a hectic conference be-
tween Forcep Swain and Director Clump.

The director was interested but angry.

"\\Tiy di'n't you tell me this befo'. Brother
Swain? "

"'Cause I di'n't have it all worked out,
Caesar. I wasn't shuah 'bout that armor
business an' I had to go buy me a lot of books."

"Well," snapped the director, "it aint fair
to Opus."

"Shuah! He's gwine have as much chance
as the feller which he plays the part of had,
aint he?"

"I know. But Opus aint no trained fighter
an' besides — "

"He can run."

Caesar's eyes narrowed. "Looks to me like
a kind of dirty trick, Forcep. Reckon Opus

will have to run unless he \\*ants to git his dis-
position knocked loose, an' that aint gwine
make no hit with Magnesia." Mr. Clump
heaved a vast sigh. " Vou folks in the comp'ny
is always fightin'. Always makin' trouble.
An' now comes this . . . howsomevcr, I
reckon art is art an' we better go right ahead."
"Tha's it. Brainy Man! You can 'splain it
all to Opus at the meetin' tonight."

'T^HE meeting that night was thoroughly at-
-^ tended. Opus was conscious of an air of
tense expectancy as he entered with Magnesia
and seated himself prominently. Caesar rose
and started explaining.

He outlined the story as far as they had gone,
and came eventually to the details of the battle
scene which was to be shot the following morn-
ing in the Colosseum.

"President Latimer has arranged with the
police that we is g^vine have the whole place to
ourselves fo' two hours," said he. "Florian
Slappey is truckin' all the coschumes an' props
down there fust thing in the mawnin', and we
dresses there.

"Welford Potts is playin' the Emperor an'
my T\-ife, Sicily, is g\\Hne be one of them Vestrj'
Virgins. The rest of you feUers is g^ine be
ser\"idors which marches aroun' an' toots
trumpets an' Enoch Tapp is master of cere-
monies- Glorious Fizz sits up in the royal box
with Welford.

"Welford gives the word an' Simeon
Broughton comes marching out of the dressing
room all dolled up in his shinin' armor an'
carrj-in' a big sword. He struts his stuff across
the 'rena an' trips over his own foots once or
twice 'cause 'cordin' to the scenario he aint
used to wearin' them kind of clothes.

"An' then is when Opus Randall comes in!'*

He paused uncertainly. His eyes wandered
hesitantly over the beaming countenance of
the expansive Mr. Randall.

"Opus comes in then." he repeated, "all
fixed up to fight Mistuh Broughton."

"Tha's me!" boomed Opus. "All dressed
up in some more armor."

J. Caesar flushed a pale lavender. He fidg-
etted uneasily. "Well, anyway," he evaded,
"you come in aU fixed to fight Simeon."

Opus beamed. "I also wears armor, don't

"Hmm!" The director was distinctly em-
barrassed. "Well, no — not ezackly."

"T TTTH?" Mr. Randall was on his feet in
-t^an instant. "How come I don't wear
armor like Simeon Broughton? I asks you that,
Mistuh Clump?"

" Because," returned Clump mth some heat,
"because you is a retiarius."

"Tha's a lie, an' you know it ! I aint no such
of a thing."

"In the pitcher you is. An' retiariuses
don't wear no armor." The director smile(i
apologetically. "Vou wears somethJn' better
than armor."


"You wears a net!"

"A which?"

"A net!"

Opus Randall stood dumbfounded. Then
his huge body commenced to tremble \n\h f ur>'.

"V-y-y-you mean to tell me I don't wear
nothin' on'y a net?"

"Uh-huh. Also pants, of co'se."

"An' Simeon wears steel armor?"

"Veh, you see — "

"I don't see nothin'. Ise plumb blind. Vou
aint g^vine git me into no 'rena mth no net on.
Nossuh! This is a dirty trick. ..." Sud-
denly he ceased speaking and his eyes narrowed

"\\'hose idea was this that I has got to be
one of them retirers? "

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The director was glad enough to indulge in
the gentle pastime of passing the buck.

■■ P'orcep Swain wrote the story," he an-
nounced — and sat down.

Opus uttered a yell which reverberated
through the room. "Forcep Swain! That
significant shrimp! I might of knowed he was
hid in the woodpile somewheres. Why, dawg-
gone him — I got a good mind. . ."

Mr. Swain rose to his feet. He struck an
attitude and brushed a languid hand across a
colorado-maduro forehead. "Cease from ex-
hibiting your ignorance, Mistuh Randall. Vou
don't know anything and you speechifies it
constant. I rises to tell you that you has got
all the advantage — "

'*Yeh! Just like a worm has got the ad-
wantage over a fish."

■■"PRECISELY. The case could not have

■^ been stated better. .And I don't request
you to accept m}- word, either. Here is what
the book says." Mr. Swain thumbed through
the piages of a volume entitled "The Last Days
of Pompeii." "Now listen: here's what the
book says — 'The retiarius, or netter. is armed
only with a three-pronged spear, like a trident
— and a net. He wears no armor, only the
fillet and tunic — ' "

"Hah! Two fishes. Filet and tuna!"

".\nd the book says — 'The retiarius gener-
ally has the best of it.' It's this way. Brother
Randall: You is supposed to throw your net
over Mistuh Broughton. That gits him all en-
tangled up so he cannot move. Then you can
wallop him as much as you like with your
trident. Don't you see that gives you all the

"I don't see nothin" of the kind. Does I fail
to net that big ox. he wallops me with his
sword. An' if I does net him, I don't do
nothin' but bust him on the hardware. It's a
rotten scheme an' I refuses to be schum

Mr. Broughton sneered overtly. "Thought
you wasn't scared of me!"

"I aint."

"Tha's what you says. But you is scared to
fight the way Forcep's book says is the best.''

"Huh! If you is so brave — ^le's us swap

Director Clump interposed. "That caint be
done," he negatived. "The whole scenario has
been shot with the idea that Opus is the net-
man. We caint remake the whole pitcher just
'cause he craves to wear a tin suit. Of course,
Opus, if you is afraid to make this a real fight — "

"Me scared of Simeon! Just lemme git at
him — tha's all! Just lemme . . . "'

"Then you agrees?"

Opus's harassed gaze roamed the room. On
the faces of his associates he found much svm-
pathy. Magnesia's eyes arrested him. She
was bestowing upon him the gaze resen-ed by
ladies exclusively for their heroes. Opus
roared defiance.

"I fights him! By golly, I does!"

npHERE was a roar of applause. The com-
^ pany members knew that Opus had been
rudely victimized and the gross injustice of it
brought temporary popularity to the portly
actor who had never before been particularly
beloved by his associates.

Opus moved grandly toward the door. There
he turned for a Parthian shot —

''I fights his armor," announced the re-
tiarius, "an' all I hopes is that by tomorrow
mawnin' Mistuh Forcep Swain aint rewrote
that whole stor>' so as to make Simeon a tank!"

Opus disappeared. There was a murmur of
disapproval from the others and one of the
group pursued the heroic actor.

In the street a slender figure ranged itself
alongside the GargantuanformofOpusRandaU.
.\ voice spoke in gentle friendliness.

"Opus." said Florian Slappey. "I an' you
aint never been friends an' we aint never like to
be — but I think you has been done dirt, an' if
they's any way I can he"p you out ..."

Opus grabbed the hand of his natural enemy.


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"Thanks, Florian. Le's take a walk an' see
what we can think about."

They moved through narrow streets and
came eventually to the magnificent expanse of
the Via Vittorio Veneto.

They walked slowly, and in silence. Once,
Morian spoke —

''You is crazy to fight him thataway. Opus."

"Caint he'p it. He's got me plumb mad."

"Veh — but you don't have to be also fool-

"Ise gwine lick him some way . . . I dunno

"Nor neither mc." Mr. Slappey glanced at
his watch. " Reckon you better be gittin' back
to the hotel. Opus. An' if there's any way I can
he'p you out ..."

They went to their rooms, but Opus did not
sleep. He drew an easy chair up to the window
and stood staring out over the Roman roof-
tops, his feelings not entirely dissimilar to
those of the ancient gladiators who gazed for-
lornly into the moonlight on the eve of deadly

Opus realized that he was in for a sound
trimming. There was a chance, of course, that
he might ensnare the sneery Simeon, but that
w as exceedingly unlikely.

.\nd yet —

■pLORIAX SLAPPEY was deep in slumber at
-L four o'clock in the morning when a monster
figure entered his room.

A hand touched his shoulder, and Florian
sat up straight in bed.

''Ssssh! This is Opus — "

"Oh! I thought you was asleep."

"I aint been to bed even. I been out
huntin" fo' somethin', an'," Opus's voice
trembled triumphantlv, "I got it!"


"Xemmin' what. But you said you'd he'p

"I will."

"Then git yo' clothes on an' show me where
at is the armor Simeon Broughton is gwine
wear. I craves to inspeck it."

riorian dressed swiftly. In his official ca-
pacity as property man he conducted Opus to
the storeroom where the costumes for the great
Roman spectacle were stored. "What you
gwine do, Opus? "

"Don't ask me no questions: just turn me
loose with them armors. I'll be back in a

As Opus entered the dimly lighted room
Florian noticed that the big negro gingerly car-
ried a tiny, pasteboard box, about an inch
square and of about the same depth. Florian
turned away. He was puzzled and interested
— but on this occasion his sympathy was en-
tirely with his one-time enemy. Ten minutes
later Opus rejoined the master of properties
and they pussyfooted back to Florian's room.
Mr. Slappey observed that the giant retiarius
was smiling.

"What did you do, Opus?"

*'I done a plenty, Brother Slappey."


"I handed myse'f an even break, tha's all."

".Vint you gwine 'splain?"

"I puffers not, Florian. 'Taint that I
don't depreciate all you has done fo' me, but
they is suttin secrets — "

" 'Sail right. Big Boy. All I hopes is that you
hits Simeon Broughton so hahd they'll need a
truck-load of solder to fix up them castiron
clothes of his'n."

"PARLY the following morning Midnight
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failed to be impressed by the magnificent ruin
in which the combat was to be staged, and they
had thrilled to the halting story of their guide

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the day before — the slor>' of mortal coniltat
and sudden death for which the amphiihtatL-r
had been built.

A special squad of carabinierl was on duty
at the colossal structure when they arrived.
The Qucstore of Roman Police was there in
person to see that the distin^'uished \isitors
received every courtesy, and with him came a
few privileged spectators; Roman dignitaries
and various members of highly uniformed
military organi-cations: Fascisti in gray trou-
sers andblack shirts, feathers Bersegheri, regular
army men in uniforms of dull gray, a delega-
tion of tratlic cops in all the magnificence of
huge helmets and white-slashed coats. There
were, too. a few go\-ernment cadets — fine, trim-
looking young men. Director Clump seated
these guests near the scene of conbat and out of
camera range.

Then he reversed his cap in true director
fashion, raised megaphone to lips and swung
into action.

Preliminary scenes were shot quickly: ab-
surd gags which con\ulsed tlie usually unsmil-
ing Italians. Then Mr. Clump visited the
place which the gladiators were using as a
dressing room.

Simeon Broughton, with the help of Forcep
Swain, was completing the buckling of his

He presented a noble appearance. Occasion-
ally he glanced with disflain toward the highly
undressed figure of his enemy.

OPUS was queerly cheerful. Wearing few
clothes, he yet did not seem downhearted.
He drew himself off in a corner of the 1>ig room
and practiced throwing the large fish net with
which he had been armed. Then, apparently
satisfied, he picked up his trident and made
vicious passes at the atmosphere. He turned
to face his director.

"Caesar Clump." said he, "I has been done
dirt — but Ise goin' th'oo with it. I asks you
right now: Is you gwine permiUme to make a
good job of this feller Broughton once I gits
him where I wants him?"

Caesar was amazed at the man's courage.
"I showh^ is, Opus. I wasn't no party to you
not wearin' a tin suit — an' I aint gwine make
you quit hammerin' on Simeon does you git a
good chance."

" Fine. Tha's aU I want to know."

Mr. Broughton, as yet unhelmeted, grunted.
" Boy! You aint gwine beat nobody, no time.
In about ten minutes you is gwine be starin'
lilies right in the face."

Caesar stepped back into the arena and gave
final instructions. Exotic Hines set up his
camera and his assistant did likewise so that
the two machines covered a considerable field
of operation.

Then, acting under Clump's sharp orders.
Gladiator Simeon Broughton strutted into the

HE was a vast and impressive spectacle;
armor gleaming in the sunlight, open \isor
of helmet disclosing his chocolate countenance,
shield on his left arm and a short, blunted
sword tightly grasped in his right hand. He
walked timidly, struggling to become accus-
tomed to the weight of his garments, and he
refused to try comedy falls — fearing that the
dead weight of his armor would prevent any

Immediately as he made his bow to the
emperor, Opus Randall came leaping into the
arena, a gleeful riot of elephantine grace. In
his left hand he carried the trident, in his right
the carefully folded fish net.

He bowed to the Roman ruler and made a
little speech.

"Heah I is, Folks: the champeen retirer of
the world. Gimme word an' I shows you-all
how to keep gladiators fum bein' glad!"

The crowd was in a ferment. Magnesia
Jones was bursting with pride. Win or lose,
she was all for this large man who scorned
armor plate and thirsted for combat. Caesar
was as excited as the rest. He spoke quietly to

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Coming Big Pictures


DENNY hit upon

a clever plot for one of
his motion-picture
comedies, and after it

Online LibraryMoving Picture Exhibitors' AssociationPhotoplay (Volume 31 – 33 (Jan. - Jun. 1927)) → online text (page 88 of 137)