On his whirlwind Novelist's Tour of the World, novelist 'Eyebanez' subsided in Hollywood long enough to visit the Metro lot. Dick Rowland had already closed with him for the motion picture rights to The Four Horsemen, but as yet the news had not been announced.
When Valencian Vicente Ibañez reached the studios everyone who was not actually occupied followed him from set to set. He halted now and again on this stage-to-stage marathon to contemplate set or actress, and exclaim:
The cavalcade halted behind him each time and nodded in unison.
When I was presented, he said:
"Habla Ud. espanol...frances?" and then began talking Spanish at me without giving me time to reply, his hands and teeth moving up and down as he talked.
When he paused for breath, I said:
"Maitre, votre livre—Les Quatre Cavaliers de l'Apocalypse—magnifique!"
"Bravo!" he cried, patting me on the shoulder, and turned to the coterie: "Vois-en, il parle bien français!" And turning again to me said: "Pour le cinema, magnifique—Los quatro Jinetes del Apocalypsis!"
A member of his party said over again to me in French what Ibañez had said in French and Spanish.
Then Ibañez began again, alternately side-glancing the interpreter and addressing me, and side-glancing me and addressing the interpreter.
"He wishes to know what are you," the interpreter said, "—a actor or a who?"
"A director," I said.
"Ah," he said to Ibañez, "c'est un metteur-en-scene."
Then Ibañez began talking to me in both languages with the rapidity of a synchronized machine gun firing bursts of ten. He left me bewildered.
"He say," said the interpreter, "if you are director you must make Les Quatre Cavaliers de l'Apocalypse. If you do, you make your fortune."
"Si, si, si!" said V.B.I., nodding vigorously.
And then, brandishing his arms he said:
"Suis enthousiaste du cinema—du tout!"
On parting we shook hands with four hands.
June Mathis and I were having quite a problem with the scenario of the Drury Lane show, for the play was nothing more than an agglomeration of scenes—spectacular enough on the Drury Lane stage, but nothing out of the way for Hollywood. I realized there was nothing to do with the film version but make it move too fast for analysis, stress characterization and inject as much comedy relief as possible.
After Bayard Veiller and I had been formally introduced by Marcus Loew we got on friendly terms. I gave him our Drury Lane scenario to read, a gesture that soothed his ruffled feelings. He made some suggestions, and when he learned they had been included in my working script, said some complimentary things to June.
That afternoon she told me she had discovered that Baydie had—in a rather ruthless way—sex appeal.
News came through that Metro was ready to prepare for production of The Four Horsemen. Baydie said Marcus Loew was crazy, and the book would never make a picture. I was asked what I thought I could make it for. I said half a million bucks. Everyone in the studio was asked what they thought I could make it for. The concensustyping error in original. of opinion was that it would cost more—and be a flop as well. I did not think so, and I was sure that I could make a stirring picture of it that could only do me credit, even if Loew-Metro did no more than break even. Joe Engle had been sent out to manage the studios. He was just as worried as Marcus Loew. He saw all the blame falling on his shoulders if the production was a flop. Johnnie Seitz read the book and said it could be made into a compelling film—with certain alterations. I asked him what these were. He said he would think the matter over and let me know. At any rate June, Johnnie Seitz and I were the only enthusiasts—always excepting Dick Rowland, whose flair for making big deals and fortunes, and then losing the fortunes was traditional. Dick was really the one who should have cashed in on The Four Horsemen. If he had been able to raise half a million on Wall Street then, he would have taken the gamble. Unfortunately for him, his brother-in-law's group was pretty well tied up with First National and had no wish to extend themselves further. They stood to lose already on the Loew-Metro merger.
For a while it appeared that the studio was dickering with Eddie Carew to make the picture. At least, that was studio gossip. It was said that Eddie was holding out for $2000 a week. I never asked Eddie for the real low-down on this, but I know his work was highly thought of by Loew and by the Metro officials who stayed on after the merger.
After Shore Acres my salary had been raised to $1000 weekly. The office repeatedly asked me how long I thought it would take to shoot the Ibañez picture, and I repeatedly answered not less than four months. If the reports on Eddie Carew's demands were correct, this meant a saving of $16,000 on direction alone,—if I made the picture. Dick talked production costs to me, I talked them to June, both of us talked them to Joe Engle and to Marcus Loew, who seemed a little bewildered about it all, being new to the picture game. But his instinct, as one of America's greatest showmen, kept him on the right scent. He sniffed success. Marcus wanted me to take a salary cut of $250 for the honor of making the picture. I said there was nothing doing.
"If you've confidence in it, Rex, why not?" said Marcus. "Just think, if the picture goes over!"
"Of the dough the company will clean up,"" I said. "That won't help me any."
"But, Rex, the prestige," said Marcus. "Just think, the best seller of the year,The Four Horsemen of the..." Marcus paused there.
"I know what you want to say," Marcus. "I can't say it yet myself," I said.
"We'll have to change that name," he said.
I told Marcus I had heard that Eddie Carew wanted $2000 to do the picture. I said if he thought I had no confidence in it, I was ready to take a bigger salary cut, but he would have to cut me in on the receipts. I couldnt do more than that.
The Four Horsemen was an ideal cinema subject. Like Mare Nostrum and Blood and Sand it was, fortunately for us, practically a film scenario as it stood, as far as construction was concerned. While I was actually shooting it I was often obliged to use the book as my scenario, a release date four months ahead and schedule changes having made it impossible for a scenarist to keep up with production. Ibañez had been accused of deliberately writing for the screen. But critics might have applied the same criticism to Victor Hugo or Stevenson, had motion pictures existed in their day.
The first news of my wife I had had in weeks was during the production of Shore Acres. It was delivered by a process server. She wanted a divorce. I did not oppose the action, and before the last scenes of the Drury Lane melodrama were taken she was free again.
In one of the final episodes of this picture, after a timely avalanche had freed the heroine from the clutches of villainous Mr. Brindsley Shaw and fatally crowned him with the roof of the alpine rest-house he had lured her to, I was rehearsing the touching reunion of the young lovers, at which guides and the heroine's father assisted. Everyone appeared to be greatly moved. Father Frank Brownlee's eyes were moist. But the inexperienced juvenile leading man appeared to be quite indifferent to it all.
"For the love of Pete, show some emotion!" I yelled at him.
"Didn't you see me opening and closing my hands?" he said indignantly.
He was surprised and chagrined when he learned I had cast Rudolf Valentino to play Julio in The Four Horsemen.