Within five pictures—measuring time in terms of production—little ingenuish Miss Taaffe had developed into a fullfledged dignified leading lady. In The Four Horsemen she had brought Marguerite to life with charm and restraint, and as Eugénie Grandet she proved herself an actress. In Turn to the Right, which followed it, she was once more the Alice of Shore Acre days, but in The Prisoner of Zenda she came into her own. When I try to decide wherein her success lay, I am inclined to think it was chiefly in that she was feminine frailty personified. In Zenda she was the Flavia in whose defense romantic Englishmen took their lives in their hands; the Flavia who showed her true mettle when Rassendyl pleaded with her to leave her unhappy kingdom for the life she longed for,—that of the English gentlewoman with an adoring husband, and she replied:
"If love were all, Rudolph, I would follow you to the ends of the world....But if love were all you would have left the King to die...."
That scene with Lewis Stone, Colonel Robert Edson Sapt standing behind her, is one of those I have made that I like the best. And I had very little to do with it. It just played itself. I think I rehearsed it twice, no more, to see that the players knew their lines.
After working hours Alice and I saw a lot of each other, but I was quite convinced that my feeling for her was platonic. I had no intention of getting married again. In the evenings I often drove her home; and if the day's work had not been too strenuous we drove around for an hour or two before I dropped her at her house. Her tranquillity was a sedative for studio nerves. Even if I was in an irritable mood when I joined her, my bad humor soon passed. She listened to all I had to say about my troubles and those who caused them, but without committing herself on any issue. She just heard my complaints in silence and with a smile. At times I would ask her what she thought was so comic, and if she took no interest in my work. Her laugh was so infectious that in the end she would have me laughing at myself. With her, I got glimpses of myself as others saw me, and came to realize that, after all, I really had very little to kick about.
I say I had put all idea of marriage out of my mind. But Alice had not. And this is where complications set in. She had made up her mind to get married. But not to me. There was a young man from the northwest with an objectionably highpowered roadster who used to hang around the studio. After I learned the reason of his visits I closed the studio doors to him. But that did not discourage him. He came around every day at noontime, and again after five with a regularity that got on my nerves. He sat with Harry in Harry's Greasy Spoon and drank coca-colas and smoked endless cigarettes tranquilly, patiently, goodhumoredly. I often left my assistant to rehearse a scene while I went over to see if he was still outside. And every time I saw his car I felt like slashing the tires. One day I decided to get the matter settled once and for all. I called Alice aside.
"This has got to stop," I said firmly.
"What?" she inquired.
"You know well what I mean, this fellow hanging around me all the time."
"Where?" said Alice glancing about in surprise.
"Don't pretend you don't understand," I said. "That fellow with the grey roadster and greasy hair."
Alice just shook her head.
"You've got me guessing," she said.
"No I haven't," I said pounding my desk. "You know perfectly well who I'm talking about. He took you home last night."
"Oh," said Alice, "you mean my fiancé."
"Your who?" I said between my teeth.
"Well, he says he's going to marry me, and he won't take no for an answer, so I suppose that's what you'd call him."
"He won't, won't he?" I said. "And after all the work I've had making a leading woman of you, you have the nerve to tell me you've been considered marrying without consulting me, without asking my permission?
"He seems determined to get married," said Alice. "So what can I do? His father is giving us a beautiful place near Seattle for a wedding present."
"The hell he is!" I said. "Let me tell you something right now. If I see that bastard—-"
"My goodness!" said Alice. "What language !"
"That lousy bastard," I continued, "I'll...I'll knock his damn block off!"
"Now don't you start anything with him," said Alice. "I don't want to get blamed if you get messed up and production is delayed."
"Get messed up? Me? I'd like to—Yes? come in."
"Am I intruding?" asked Colonel Ford.
"No, no, Colonel, come in. What is it?"
"Oh, it's just about an engagement ring for Miss Terry," he said.
"A what?" I asked blankly.
"Well, she's going to be married," he said.
I got up.
"She is not!" I said.
"Oh, well, I know we don't show the wedding scene," he said, "but it's understood she's betrothed to the King. I think she ought to wear an engagement ring. What do you think of these?"
I sat down with a bump.
"Colonel, when will that cellar set be ready to shoot?" I asked.
"Not before two o'clock. The machine for making the cobwebs is broken—and you insist on cobwebs, don't you?"
"What time is it now?" I asked.
"Eleven, just," he said, glancing at his watch.
"Know anybody in the city hall?" I asked.
"Why yes," he said, "I do."
"Will you come down there with me now?" I asked.
"Why certainly, he said.
"Come on Alice," I said, "I need you too."
"If it's for the scenes shooting down on the cathedral steps," said Colonel Ford, "I think there's always too much of a crowd before the city hall."
When we got in the car he said:
"You really don't have to come down yourself. I can fix everything."
"It has nothing to do with the picture, Colonel," I said. "Alice and I want to get a marriage license."
Alice gave me one startled look and made a grab at the door handle. I caught her wrist and held it firmly.
"The car is moving," I said.
"Colonel— tell the driver to stop!" she cried.
"No, don't, Colonel," I said, and to Alice: "Don't try to make a scene before Colonel Ford. In any case it is quite useless. My mind is made up."
She began to cry.
We drove on in silence. After a while she dried her eyes. "I thought you said you'd never get married again," she said.
"I know," I said, "but I hadn't figured on that collar-ad person parking outside the studio six days a week."
"If that's all it is," she exclaimed, "let's turn back now ....Colonel! Tell the driver to stop— please!"
She turned to me. Gripping my hand in both of hers.
"I'll make him park his car somewhere else...I promise!"
In one of California's oldest and most charming houses, The Casa Adobe Flores, we were married. The Adobe Flores had originally been an outpost during the Mexican War and had been restored with feeling and authenticity. In an alcove at the end of the living room stood an altar. Before it the ceremony took place. Colonel Ford procured the officiating priest, whose persuasion I forgot to inquire. The Colonel and the hostess and owner of the Adobe Flores were our witnesses.