When Shore Acres was released appreciative film exchange men wired me from New York, from the middle west and from the south to give them more like Shore Acres. Dick Rowland, who later bought The Four Horsemen, had just put over a couple of deals in London, but he came back saddled with Drury Lane melodramas.
"Maurice Tourneur made a knockout with The Whip," Dick said.
"Worse luck for you, Dick," I said. "They're the bunk for pictures, these Drury Lane melos."
"Hearts are Trumps ran for months at Drury Lane," said Dick.
"You should have left it at Drury Lane," I said.
"The purchase was a matter of goodwill," said Dick. "Make a good picture of it for me, Rex."
And so I took Cecil Raleigh's melomelo.
Alice Taaffe, having played a couple of leads at Inceville and a few bits elsewhere, had decided she did not think so much of herself on the screen. She wanted to work in the cutting room, and talked to me about a job as assistant cutter. I said I would see what I could do. Universal's ace cutter was Grant Whytock. I had annexed him without delay. But Grant had a wife. She was the boss. Ota was her name. To replace Ota was to lose Grant.
When I told Miss Taaffe she took it hard.
"Forget it," I said. "Ota's getting $15. a week."
"That's just what I figured on getting," she said.
"How would you like $75. a week for five weeks ?" I asked.
Her expression told me she was thinking there are times and places for kidding.
"That's what you're going to get," I said. "You're going to play the ingenue lead in this Drury meler."
"I am not," she said. "I don't want to. I want to work in the cutting room."
"You're out of luck," I said, "unless you want to bump off Ota Whytock."
"Rex," Dick said, "make Hearts are Trumps as English as you can. I promised them an English cast."
"I know three or four English actors that are okay for three of the parts," I said. "Joe Kilgour is one of them and he's more English than the English."
"Kilgour sounds English all right. Who are the others?"
"Billington, Brownlee, Hall. You can't ask for names more English than that," I said.
And then Dick said: "You got more than three people in the cast."
"Montana, Bull," I said.
"Her last name sounds English all right," said Dick—" and then?"
"Price, Kate. Shaw, Brindsly."
"Shaw, fine," Dick said. "Bernard Shaw."
"Irish, Bernard Shaw," I said.
"Nobody knows it," Dick said. "And then?"
"Sounds foreign," said Dick.
"What do you mean, foreign?" I said.
"Don't sound English to me," Dick said.
"It's Welsh," I said.
"Maybe it is," said Dick, "but I want this picture to look like the cast was 100% English. Nobody ever heard of Taaffe in England, even if it is Welsh."
"Taaffey was a Welshman, Taaffey was a thief," I said.
"Change her name," said Dick.
"Okay with me," I said. "Tell me some English names."
"Bull is English all right," he said.
"Can't call two people Bull in the same cast," I said.
"Well, take any wellknown English name," Dick said.
"My mother's mother played Shakespeare when she was young," I said. "Her stage name was Terry."
"Terry," said Dick. "That's okay."
Thus was little Miss Taaffe renamed Alice Terry for Drury Lane and Dick Rowland. The name stuck.
Before Shore Acres was finished Marcus Loew Incorporated had absorbed Metro. It was rumored that important changes were about to take place. Owing to the Loew merger we heard that Maxwell Karger's health might force him to resign. Before he did, and after Shore Acres had gone over, Max said to me:
"Have you read The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by the famous Spanish novelist, Eyebanez?"
"I have," I said.
"Dick has bought the film rights to it," said Max. "How would you like to make it? We been figuring on having Eddie Carew direct it, but he wants too much dough."
"I'd like to make it," I said. "Make a swell picture."
"Too much war stuff," Max said. "That's what we're worrying about. If we could cut out the war stuff, or just make it allegorical....Build up the South American stuff."
"They dovetail," I said. "You can't separate them."
"I got an idea," Max said. "The Four Horsemen: The Kaiser, The Emperor of Austria, The Sultan of Turkey and The King of Bulgaria. How's that?"
"Depends how much you have to pay for the rights to the Ibañez version," I said.
"Think it over," Max said.
I was still on Shore Acres, when Bayard Veiller, father of Within the Law, took possession of the studios. I had no contract with Metro, but my understanding with Max Karger, and later with Dick Rowland, had been clear: once the company had approved the script and estimated production cost they were to lay off me. If they did not like my pictures, they could lay me off.
One morning, getting ready to shoot a big interior scene in Hearts and Trumps, I ordered everybody off the set. All persons but one stepped over the side lines. This one stood his ground, back to the camera. Short legs apart, I do not know why, but he made me think of Morgan Robertson's character, 'Sinful Peck'. I took the megaphone.
"Everybody off the set," I repeated
The little man stuck his ground. I called my assistant.
"Take Sinful Peck, there, by the hand and lead him away."
Sinful Bayard Veiller Peck walked off. For a long time after that we did not speak, but in the end we became very friendly enemies.
Nothing moves my bowels of compassion like a weeping lady. Shortly after Bayard Veiller—known by his pals as Baydie—arrived on the lot, I met one in the corridor outside Max Karger's office. She turned her face away from me to the wall. I patted her on the shoulder. In the 'Greasy Spoon', Harry's Metro lunchroom, I had often watched her eating clam chowder. She was Metro's scenario editor, June Mathis.
"What has happened," I asked in a husky voice, thinking someone was dead.
Miss Mathis keep on sobbing. From an adjacent office emerged the sharp-featured secretary I had met. She tried to drag Miss Mathis into the office. I restrained her.
"I'm Miss Mathis' secretary," she said. "The corridor is not a place to cry in. Let her come into her office."
"What has happened?" I asked again when Miss Mathis had quieted down.
From behind her handkerchief she sobbed:
"Baydie...Baydie just ran The Right of Way. He locked me out of the projection room. I wrote the scenario. I'm not going to stay here another day....After all I've done for Metro...to be treated this way...I'm not going to write another line for Metro if they expect me to take orders from a little thing like that! I won't! I won't! I won't!" she cried, stamping her foot. "Supervisor! He knows nothing about pictures. Nothing!"
"You don't have to take his orders," I said. "He don't supervise me. Come and work with me if you're not scared of Drury Lane melo."
"I heard you threw Baydie off your set," she said, brightening up a little, looking over her handkerchief at me. "Is that true?"
"Not exactly," I said, "I had him led gently away."
"Well at least you got him off," she said. "That's something!"
"Have you a copy of the Drury Lane play?" I asked.
The secretary found one, and signed to me to come out of the office. In the corridor she said:
"It's an outrage, that little insignificant person! And Miss Mathis has been here since the company started. Locking her out of the projection room—the idea! She'll never submit to him!"
"She don't have to," I said. "She can come and work with me. He won't bother me. And if there's any trouble, I've a guy ready to put up the dough for me to make pictures on my own."