The singing boatmen of Naples rowed us from steamer to wharf. But the strains of Cara Piccina helped in no way to change Alice's mood. That night, in the Hotel Excelsior, she was unable to sleep. The seript of Mare Nostrum lay where she had tossed it in a corner.
We were in Italy to do our exteriors at Pompeii, at Paestum, and on the Neapolitan heights of Posilipo. Alice was afraid of her rôle—that of the seductive spy with the face of the frescoed Amphitrite in his uncle's house, so fatefully linked with the destiny of the Ibañez hero, Ulysses Farragut.
She did not know how to play a bad woman, Alice sniffled. Someone like Barbara LaMarr or Nita Naldi should have been cast for Freya. I objected that they would both have been too obvious to deceive a moron.
"But I want to be a good woman on the sereen. I always have been," Alice said.
"There's nothing bad about a woman who risks her life for her country, as secret agents do," I reminded her. "And I know you're going to be better in this part than in any you've ever played."
"But Ulysses deserts his wife for her. If it hadn't been for Freya, his son wouldn't have been drowned. Everyone's going to hate me, and I'm going to hate myself!"
"That was Ulysses' fault, not Freya's. And even if she was indirectly responsible, she dies before a firing squad. Everyone is going to weep when she dies. Don't you want people to weep for you?"
She shook her head.
"The Doctoress is going to get all the boos. You'll love Freya when you've run the finished picture, and so will everyone who sees it," I said.
We did our Pompeiian scenes first, putting up at the little hotel near the ruined city. After a couple of glasses of that Pompeiian wine with the sad name, Lacrimae Cristi Spumanti, Alice became comparatively cheerful. By the time we reached Paestum—with a few bottles in reserve—she was beginning to wonder if Freya was really bad enough.
After making all arrangements for shooting the octopus episode in the aquarium at Naples, we found there was everything in it but an octopus. When we asked for one we were told that they were out of season, so we had to wait and set up the aquarium when we got back to Nice.
We were lucky enough to catch two of these mollusks after a week's fishing, but when we got them in the glass tank they settled down in a corner of it and stayed there. We were giving up as hopeless the scene where one of them crawls all over the glass as though answering Freya's call, when suddenly Antonio Moreno shouted:
"My God, look at him now...he's going nuts!"
Without any rehearsal Alice and Antonio took their places before the tank. John Seitz somehow got his two cameras set up and we took the scene. Just as we finished, the octopus folded up and shot back under the rock in his corner, where he promptly passed from this life. The cavorting was apparently his death agony.
We were in suspense until the rushes came through. The episode, two hundred feet in length, was quite sensational. The exit of the octopus coincided exactly with the end of the scene, and furnished an unexpected climax. A week had been allowed on our schedule for this tricky episode. We filmed it in three minutes. It was the last scene we had left.