Seeing that it had cost $620,000 to produce, Marcus Loew told me it was up to me to follow The Four Horsemen with a picture that would not run over the hundred thousand dollar mark. His idea was to use as many Horsemen players as I could, and get the picture out with the least possible delay. He figured on cashing in on a follow-up produced by the same director and billing the same leads. In spite of the success of the New York run, Marcus, as yet, had no idea that The Four Horsemen receipts were going to run into several millions, though by this time he knew that his investment was safe. The subject I decided on for the follow-up was Eugénie Grandet. Balzac's story of a father who sacrificed the happiness of his only child to his greed of gold is well known. Rudolf and Alice headed a cast that included Ralph Lewis and Edward Connelly. While I was actually engaged in shooting, the idea for the most effective sequence in the picture came to me. Eerie were these episodes in a dimly lighted garret with Ralph Lewis on his knees rocking a cradle full of gold—le père Grandet guarding his money, but losing his mind.
One review said these episodes could only have been conceived by Balzac. The reviewer had never heard of the ghost in the lonely house near my great-uncle John Lambert's property in Galway. He certainly had not read Eugénie Grandet.
One of my chief concerns in the making of this picture was in keeping down the cost of production. Following the New York presentation of The Four Horsemen, John Seitz had had a couple of offers to go somewhere else at a substantial salary increase. I learned this indirectly. John knew, as I did, that this was not the time to ask the company for a raise. All the same, I decided to give him one, realizing to what extent the success of the Ibañez picture had been due to camera work. Rudolf heard about it, and before I started Eugénie Grandet, came to ask me for a raise. I said he had a nerve asking for one before the picture was out on general release. He showed me a bunch of letters and said he was going to have a formidable success with the women. I said more power to him, but it was not going to be charged up to the Eugénie Grandet production. He was convinced he was going to be a star as a result of his performance in The Four Horsemen, he said. I agreed, but said I was not interested in directing stars. I preferred a cast of comparatively unknown players who would be accepted as the characters they portrayed, and if a picture of mine happened to boost one of them to stardom I would rather find someone else for the next. I was only interested in the production as a production. But I promised to talk to Joe Engle about giving him a contract if I was satisfied with his work in Eugénie Grandet.
In discussing his part in the Balzac picture Rudolf expressed the hope that I would not hold him down as I had done in The Horsemen. He thought his performance in it had been too repressed. He wanted a chance to act, to let himself go (as he had apparently done in the Eddie Polo serial). After some questioning he admitted he had been talking to Lon Chaney. I said if he intended to become a contortionist no one was better qualified to advise him than Lon; but what I required of my players was normal behavior, punctuated. And I would be responsible for the punctuation.
Mr. Lawrie had written me to say that Yale University, following the presentation of The Four Horsemen in New York, wished to give me the degree I had missed by not finishing my course, —telling me at the same time that I would have to be in New Haven for Commencement, six weeks ahead. My failure to get a degree had been a great disappointment to my father, so I determined that nothing would stop my getting to New Haven on time. Night work resulted, which frayed everyone's nerves, including my own, But Joe Engle encouraged it. He was anxious to get this picture out for the estimated cost.
There was a young Mexican bit actor, Ramon Samaniegos, who had worked extra in The Four Horsemen and was with me again in Eugénie Grandet. I never gave him anything particular to do, but I could not help noticing the way he did whatever he had to do. He was one of those people a director never dared place too close to the principals in foreground action. His personality drew the eye at once. In one scene in The Four Horsemen I had put him standing behind Rudolf. It was in the French café where they were singing the Marseillaise the night of the declaration of war. Everyone was on their feet to join Rose Dion, arrayed in her Alsace-Lorraine bonnet, as she sung:
'Allons enfants de la patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!'
After two rehearsals I had to switch Ramon over to the other side of the set. He was killing Rudolf's scene.
I decided to make a screen test of this Mexican.
Before I had started The Four Horsemen, Metro had been talking to Lasky-Famous Players about purchasing the screen rights to Anthony Hope's novel, The Prisoner of Zenda, for me. At the time Jesse Lasky was thinking of doing it with Wallace Reid in James K. Hackett's part. After seeing Valentino's first rushes I decided, if Metro put over the deal, to use him for Rupert, and later make the sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, with him in the title rôle. Negotiations had taken a long time, and nothing had been decided by the time Eugénie Grandet was finished.
I was cutting Eugénie Grandet as I went along, and the last scenes were ready the next day at noon and cut into sequences before I left for New York. I had worked all day shooting the final episode, and at 7:30 p.m, I gave everyone half an hour for dinner at the studio restaurant. But Rudolf had a previous engagement with a lady in her bungalow. He insisted on an hour. I told him he was no different from anyone else in the company, and if his lady friend wanted to eat with him, she only had to come down to the Greasy Spoon and order a greasy sandwich. Late working hours had not improved my temper, and had he not been indispensible in the remaining scenes, there might have been unpleasantness.
"You'll have a tough time finding someone to take my place in your next picture," he said, when the last scene had been shot.
"It's taken already," I said.
"It is?" he said, looking surprised.
"Quite definitely," I said....