Moving Picture Exhibitors' Association.

Photoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) online

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sobbing, on the bed.

Slowly Johnny's father opened the folio, and
looked at Johnny, naked as the day he was
born, wearing a cute Httle quiver of arrows;
Johnny in diminutive golf togs; Johnny at the
wheel of a new model sports car; Johnny look-
ing out at the world with all the wisdom of all
the vamps in moviedom; with all the coyness
of a Wampas star; with the poise and assurance
of screen maturity . . . Johnnj- at five years

"L-TIS father wondered if this were reallj- his
•^ -^child, and he marvelled at the mother's
adroitness in training him to these expressions.
"So! You've already made a UtUe nincom-
poop out of him! Trained him like a perform-
ing dog to do his tricks ! D 'you suppose for one
minute, he knows why he's looking like this
. . . or this . . . or tiiis? And you're doing it
so you can seU your child's body, and live off
the fat of the land! You know what I'd call

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you if anyone asked me? A maternal prosti- I

Johnny's mother screamed, and covered
her ears.

"That won't do you any good. You'll hear
me to the end," said Johnny's father, and
ripped the photographs across and across.

"And that won't do you any good!" cried
Johnny's mother, sitting up in bed, and laugh-
ing wildly. "I can get dozens more! I didn't
have to pay for them! Mr. Green was glad
enough to let me have them when I said he
could use Marion for posing in some art

"Yj; TELL, you've beaten me. But get this!

*^ You're not to use one penny of that kid's
money on the house. Understand? I can
keep a roof over my family's head. I'll do it
without my kid's help !"

Johnny's mother ended the argument by
fainting, and this time it was a genuine swoon
of emotional exhaustion. Her husband sat
rubbing her wrists and applying restoratives,
knowing that so long as this woman was
his wife, and the mother of his child, he'd have
to take care of her. So long as she was going
to faint every time he crossed her, he would
have to give in to her wishes. So, silently
bearing his burden of sorrow, he gave up his
son. From that day he lived alone, going to
the studio, and working . . . coming home
and eating . . . going to bed; saying little,
and turning his words and his thoughts inward.

Sometimes he wondered how his wife had
the strength to go about to the studios . . . miles
apart. . . in the heat of summer, with Johnny
in one hand, and a heavy package of clippings
and photographs in the other; climbing on and
off crowded buses; tilling her lungs and the
child's with the poisonous exhaust of the
jammed boulevards. Yet she came home and
sat way into the night, too tired to get his
dinner, but bending her frail back patiently
over Johnny's exquisitely hand-tailored little
garments. He had no answer to this, except a
shrug, and the realization that women were

He lived in dread of the day when he would
have to tend the lights over Johnny's blond,
Dutch-bobbed head, and when, in the presence
of his fellow-workers, he would ha\-e " to eat his
words ..." for had he not, with them, made
disgusting remarks about various child stars
who paraded beneath him, mimicking grown-
ups, and grown-up emotions, and going about
their pathetic little ritzy ways? He knew he
would feel like a knife in his heart the silent,
but none the less sentient, contempt of his
colleagues for his own spineless self!

AND now days came when Johnny's father
seldom saw his little son. One afternoon,
coming home early, he met Johnny returning
from the private school he attended. What a
skinny, delicate little fellow he was! Pipe stem
legs. He slumped. There was the wrong kind
of a slant in his chest, and where was the
ridiculously biu-sting little stomach most small
kids possessed? He was about to reach the
boy, when a raucous voice was hurled down
from a tree-top across the street.

"Hey . . . pretty face! Been for your per-
manent? Did you get yourself a lipstick, too,
mama's doll baby?"

Did Johnny's father imagine that the pipe
stems, marching ahead of him, quaked?

The owner of the taunting voice shinned
down the tree and tore across the road.

"Dare you to fight!" he challenged, and
danced up and down with balled fists.

Johnny retreated, getting pale. He threw
his arms up about his head in an instinctive
protecting gesture.

"Oh, Micky, let me alone! Please don't,
Micky! Please don't touch me!"

"Why not? I know, you poor little sap!
You're 'fraid you'll get a mark on your lily
white face! You poor cream puff!"

"But, Micky, I have to work tomorrow! Oh
. . . Micky . . . plgase. ..."

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Johnny's voice rose to a wail, and he fled,
\vith Micky in pursuit. Johnny's father let
out a roar and, overtaking the belligerent one,
booted him back across the street. " God
Almighty!" he breathed feelingly, seeing his
son's tear-stained, frightened face. Then he
took him by the arm and tried to tell him
things. Boy things and man things . . .
about not being a coward, and learning to
stand on your own two feet, and never running
— gromng into a man among men . . . but he
gave it up when Johnny turned his great, wist-
ful eyes upon.him, with now a look of baffled
misery in them, and said:

"But daddy, mother doesn't want me to
fight! She doesn't waul me to be coarse and
common! She wants me to be a gentleman!
.-Vnd anyway, it will kill mother . . . just kill
her, if I ever get into a vulgar fight! She'll

"Who told you that?"

"Mother told me herself! You know, she's
slaving her hfe away for me . . . just to make
me famous!"

That was the night Johnny's father sat at
the lonely kitchen table tipping up a botde
until it was empty, arid he was sodden. That
was the night Johnny's mother decided the
man whose name she bore was coarse and com-
mon, and not fit for association with herself
and Marion Glendenning. He was brutal and
uncouth, unappreciative, and unwanting of
the finer things, and indifferent to his only
child's welfare. That was the night she flayed
him scathingly, and he in turn, loosed his
drink-fumbled tongue in stuttering, but none
the less stark truths upon her.

After she had fainted, and he was mechan-
ically doing those things he had learned by
habit, he cursed unfeelingly over her prostrate
form, for the first time.

A portentous sUence now hung over the
■house, and out of its bitterness came the in-
evitable parting of the ways. Johnny's mother
divorced Johnny's father and moved into a
smart flat on Hollywood Boulevard. She
legally took the name Glendenning.

And then, through sheer persistence,
coupled with Johnny's own appealing beauty,
she got him a five year contract to star in
child pictures at Superior Films.

JOHNNY'S father had no need to work
steadily now. He seemed to lose his morale,
and took jobs only when the notionstruckhim.
He disappeared for days, and people said he
had gone off to drink, but no one c\'er saw him
intoxicated. He wasso far a way from the select
world into which Johnny had gone, that he
looked upon the little star, Marion Glenden-
ning, as upon a small stranger. There was one
scene out of the past, that still kept the tie
betweenthem . . . andoftenand often theman
re-lived it. He had been telling Johnny stories,
about going camping and doing boy things in
the woods. Johnny had Ustened, spell-bound,
his eyes shining.

It was when the child burst out excitedly,
"And oh, daddy, next summer can you and
I go to the mountains and build reaUy camp
fires? Can I bmld one, myself, daddy?" that
his mother came and snatched him away, ex-

"Now I suppose he'll go out and try to set fire
to himself i n the backyard, and ge t himself filthy
dirty! I suppose you think it isn't any work to
keep him clean . . . his head shampooed and
his nails done? \ lot of help you are . . .
trying to make it harder for me all the time!"

She said a lot of other things, and finally
Johnny screamed. He raised his small fist
and shook it up and down in a familiar, screen-
trained gesture. His face began to jerk and
grimace like a miniature Lon Chaney's, but
the tears and the outraged little voice were
real, when he cried hysterically,

"Stop it! Stop it! I won't have you
bawling the tar out of daddy!"

' I 'HREE years after Johnny's mother signed
-^ Marion Glendenning's contract, Abraham
Rosenthal lent liis ad\'i5ory mind to the kid

series. Something was wTong with them. Ex-
hibitors were getting cold on them. The
President of Superior Films, and the director
of the kid series, Jim Stoddard, sat side by side,
watching Marion Glendenning on the screen.
Rosenthal said little but grunted repeatedly
during the showing of the last made film.
When it was over, he got to his feet ponder-

"TT'ELL, I do not blame the exhibitors. If

* anybody tried to sell that to me I vould be
disgusted. If that film gets out to the public that
boy is ruined. Killed deader than a mackerel!
He iss too big to act like a baby! He iss too
skinny! He acts all the time hke he has a fear
complex about everything! He looks like a
valking skeleton. Ve vUl be attacked by the
Cruelty to Children people! How long iss his
contract yet?"

' ' Two years to go, and one hundred thousand
dollars still tied up in that series wTitten by the
foremost author of child books in the country,"
returned Stoddard ghbly.

Rosenthal groaned.

" Vas all those stories about a sissy? Veil, ve
got to change them! Take that long-haired
poodle to the beach and get him tanned up.
Fill his stomach for vonce, maybe. I vill get
Miss Hunt to re-write those stories. Ve don't
care vat the author says. It's got to be done,
or ve are ruined! Ve put some real American
boy stuff into it. You know. Boy Scout stuff.

Stoddard laughed,

"My God, Rosie, you know his mother!
She'll drop dead!"

"A mother hke that should to drop dead!
Say, did you ever see my Izzie? He could lick
that poor liddle nodings vid vone hand tied.
Vat you think he does when he sees that pic-
ture? He throws rotten eggs, I bet! Vat for do
ve make kid pictures? For the kids, ain't it?
Veil then, ve got to give them a hero they
don't vant to bust in the nose! I tell you. Ve
vill put him in some fights, and then ve vill
make an aviator out of him. Send him up in a
plane. That's good stuff. Ve vill advertise
him as a young Lindy. Ve put some punch in
that stuff, and maybe too ve save that kid from
starvation, eh?"

"Oh, I don't know, Rosie. Maybe it isn't as
bad as that. Some kids are just naturally
skinny. Maybe he's the skinny kind!"

The President only grunted skeptically.

TX THEN Stoddard told Johnny's mother, she
»* stormed and wept and all but fainted.

"Take it or leave it, Mrs. Glendenning,"
said Stoddard.

"But we've got a contract! His contract
doesn't call for fights, and going up in aero-
planes! Rosenthal can't break a contract!
Nobody can break a contract! It's all written

"What has been done, can be done," said
Stoddard cryptically.

"But we all agreed he was to be the type he
is . . . not coarse and vulgar! He's not that
kind of a httle boy!"

"My dear Uttle woman," said Stoddard
wearily, "you've stood in Nature's way long
enough. You seemed to be getting by with it
pretty successfully, too. But now you've
bumped up against something different. Mr.
Rosenthal saw that last picture today, and it's
thumbs down! You've been here long enough
to know that what he says . . . goes . . . and
that what he decides is pretty nearly always
right, and square shooting! Kid stuff isn't so
strong these days that you can afford to sue
Rosenthal. Anyvvay, the first thing you know
Marion's going to be in the gawky age where
he's no good for pictures. You'd better be
saving for a rainy day. and grab what you can
get now . . . and you know it!"

Full well she knew it, as every theatrical
mother knows it ! Just when their long hours
of patient striving have been re^urded, and
they settle down, relievedly, to enjoy the fruits
of their labors, looms the gaunt spectre of the
lean years . . . the yejrs when milk teeth

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Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section

1 I

come out, and leave ugly gaps in pouting little
mouths; when dimpled arms and legs shoot out
overnight into string bean-like tentacles that
wind and twist and wriggle without reason.
It was this period that Johnny's mother had
been trying to postpone by every means pos-
sible short of actual abuse.

A ND now Stoddard had named it to her, and
■^ '■in so doing had brought the thing close, to
stare at her. through the night! When Johnny
chafed her wTists, and held the smelling salts
through her dark hours, she saw, in a panic,
how the baby softness of his hands was leaning
away! She had a hard night, but she was on
hand ne.xt day, for work.

"Now, before we get Marion's hair cut, we'U
start him in this picture as a mother's darling.
We pull the fist figlit, and the victor drags him
to the barber shop. After that the kids get
together and build an aeroplane. We're going
to get one of the big plane factories to send us
miniature parts that can be assembled by the
kids on the screen. Maybe you think that
won't go over with a bang!" said Stoddard

Of course it was Johnny's ancient enem}%
Micky, who was the little extra called in to
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repeated the old-time tremolo when he saw
him. The starch, what there was of it, was
taken out of him before the boys ever went to
the mat. He stood scared stiff. His stomach
was a hea\'y cold lump inside him. His heart
pounding so it vibrated his little Lord Fauntle-
roy ruffled shirt. IMicky puffed out his chest
and danced about, fists balled, as he used to do,
keenly anticipatory, and sicking Johnny on to
fight ■v^ith the same old raucous jibes!

What was it in Johnny's subconscious mind
that rose up and clutched his vitals . . .
bound his arms and his chest like an iron band?
A well-learned lesson:

"If you ever get into a vulgar fight, it \\\il
kill mother . . . just kill her!"

Helplessly he looked to his mother for aid,
for some release, but there was none. He
turned his big eyes on his director. . . .

" Go ahead, Marion! Snap into it! Do your
stuff now. Give him a sock in the jaw!"

"I can't fight, Mr. Stoddard!" Johnny
mumbled shakily. Cold sweat on his forehead.
Cold sweat in the palms of his helplessly hang-
ing httle hands.

A ND there was cold sweat on the brow of
■'^■Johnny's father, astraddle a beam up over
the set, minding the light that shone down on
Johnny's head . . . down on the little weak-
ling who was his son, and his first-born!
Johnny's father leaned far down, trying to send
to the little boy something of courage and help.
Micky yelped impatiently,
"Get going! What's the matter? Scared
stiff, ain't you, like you alius wuz! Sissy!
Fraidy cat! You poor little scrap of nothin'
. . . " for it didn't matter to one of Micky's
make that he talked to the child star of

Superior Films. He had never been on the lot
before, and studio caste was an unknown thing
to him.

"JF you'd ever been fed anything but sooth-
-•■ing syrup, you'd have some guts in you!
I'm damned glad my maw didn't do that to
me! I'm damned glad your maw wasn't my

At that, something inherent in Johnny made
him go forward and raise awkward, ignorant
fists. Micky had insulted his mother. Men
fought for that, he knew.

"Atta boy!" yelled ' Stoddard instantly,
spurring him on. "Atta boy! Snap into it!
Sock him one!"

Micky eagerly took the words unto himself,
and shot out a grimy, hardened fist. He
caught Johnny under the point of the jaw.
Then the floor rose up and smacked Johnny
on the back of the head.

Before anyone could reach him, his father
had skinned down the rafters and gathered
his son in his arms. So light a small burden!
So white and pinched a little face! Only par-
ents know the hurt of that !

"Hospital," growled Johnny's father, and
made for the stage door, the entire crew follow-
ing, brought up in the rear by Micky, blubber-
ing loudly,

"I didn't mean to kill him, Mr. Stoddard!
Honest to God I didn't!"

Johnny's mother ran after, emitting hyster-
ical screams. She tried to push Johnny'sfather
out of the hospital, crying, " Vou put him down!
Don't you touch him! You let him alone!"

But the father shouldered her, unanswering,
out of the way. Tenderly he put his son down
on the bed, and turned to the nurse.

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Online LibraryMoving Picture Exhibitors' AssociationPhotoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) → online text (page 65 of 145)