That year of legally enforced idleness had passed quickly, and did more to put me wise to myself than any period of film-producing had done, for a successful motion picture director is much too busy to take time off to get a slant on life in general, let alone on his own. His job keeps him occupied and ennervated, time and overtime, and he lives in constant fear that the publicity agents of his confrères will get them better breaks than he is getting himself. He seeks new angles on life from the 'previews' of films produced by his rivals, instead of from life itself. At forty his scalp is shedding its hair, if not, his hair is turning from grey to white. With each new picture the wrinkles on his forehead and the lines from nostril to mouth grow deeper. But he sticks to the job. Because he is making money he can dispense it and, among those who collect from him, he passes for a somebody. He feels he is a somebody, too, to the company that is paying him because his pictures are making money, forgetting that it is only because the producers are making a lot more off his efforts than he is. Every time he looks in the mirror he promises himself to quit before it is too late—that is to say, when he has saved a million dollars. But by the time he has, he has grown so used to the limelight that he cannot face the thought of stepping out of it.
Lee Lawrie's remark that he thought it was a pity I had quit sculpture for pictures had put in my head the idea of taking it up again, for sculpture is a very personal job, much more so than producing films. But it also has its drawbacks. Like a motion picture director, a sculptor is pretty much tied down, which was one of my chief objections to making pictures. In the end I came to the conclusion that a writer had more freedom than either of them. He certainly could travel lighter, and had lighter overhead charges, needing no more than a pencil and paper to operate.
With the advent of sound and talking-pictures the prospects for Nice as a production center were not bright. The cost of equipping the studios for sound, and building a new laboratory would have been prohibitive. And after the experience of working there, I had no desire to invest more money in a country where the 'impartiality' of the courts of justice with regard to foreigners needs no comment.
After a protracted stay in Egypt, Alice and I decided to pass six months a year there as soon as a criminal lawsuit against a Niçois notary was settled. But Alice got tired of waiting in Nice and suggested going to Spain again. Had we waited we might still be there, for the case is not settled yet—after ten years of litigation. I left for Egypt where she was to meet me a month later, and she went to Spain with her sister and some friends. They reached Barcelona the night the revolution broke. A burst of machine gun bullets riddled the doors of the Hotel Colon while they were registering. They occupied the floor of a bathroom until two batallions of the Spanish Foreign Legion were entrenched in the Plaza de Catalunia a couple of days later. I tried to telephone her from Alexandria, but without success. Telephone and telegraph communication with Barcelona was interrupted.
At last I got a wire from her from Malaga. Word from Los Angeles had reached her that her mother was dying. She and her sister had just managed to catch the S.S. Conte di Savoia, enroute for New York. They reached Los Angeles three days too late.