My Mom, the Movies, and Me
by Robert S. Levinson
Art by Allen Davis
To: Mr. Neil Gulliver
Re: My Autobiography
Where to begin?
That day in ’36, I suppose—good as any—when the new girl showed up at what was called the Little Red Schoolhouse, a white stucco bungalow with a red roof near the east gate of Lot 1 at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio in Culver City, California, U.S. of A.
Her name was Deanna, Deanna Durbin, and someone had put the idea in the head of Mr. Louis B. Mayer, who ran the studio with a soft heart and an iron fist, that she was a better bet for stardom than Judy Garland.
Judy was fourteen, a year younger than Deanna, and had been signed to the basic seven-year contract a year earlier. She was not the looker Deanna was and more of a belter than Deanna, whose enchanting operatic soprano already could have commanded the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York.
Our teacher, Miss Mary McDonald, led her by the hand to the front of the classroom and encouraged Deanna to tell us something about herself. Deanna blushed. The best she could manage was a shrug and a stroke of silence that lasted for a year, broken when pint-sized Mickey Rooney whistled for attention, shouted a cheerleader’s welcome, and led a round of applause that lasted until Miss McDonald guided Deanna to a vacant desk seat in the fourth row.
“No, please,” Judy said. She pointed to the empty desk seat next to hers, in the front row. “Here, if it’s oke-doke with you, Miss McDonald.”
Miss McDonald nodded approval, and Deanna headed over, into a hug from Judy.
“Oh, we’ll be such great friends,” Judy said, every word as bright as her smile, no question she meant it. Sure, she had heard the same talk as everyone—that the two of them were heading for a career-making singing contest—but if it worried Judy she wasn’t about to let on. Neither was Deanna, whose smile equaled Judy’s.
Freddie Bartholomew ran a hand through his curly hair and angled over to spend a whisper on Dickie Moore, suggesting in his precise English accent, “I’d call it a tie in the acting department.” Dickie, only eleven at the time, a year younger than Freddie, had no problem understanding, as sophisticated for his age as any of the dozen or so acting brats currently in the classroom. He puffed out his rosy cheeks and shook his head in vigorous agreement.
Not Nancy Oakes, the smart-mouthed tomboy with the midnight-black soup-bowl haircut who made one cutting remark after another in so many high-society films. She’d also heard the exchange between Freddie and Dickie. She pushed out her jaw and did a funny thing with her pug nose and dug an elbow into Janie Withers. “Mother says I’m the most talented girlie on the lot,” she said.
Janie propped her chin in her cupped hands, threw her eyes to the ceiling. “My mother says the same thing about me,” she said, initiating a staring contest that lasted well after the school bell rang and the kids, in a burst of gleeful sounds, raced off to whichever soundstage or outdoor set was currently paying for their presence.
There were studio vans waiting for some of the kids—those who’d graduated on screen to speaking parts and screen credits—while those with fewer credits and less screen time were reduced to studio bicycles or shoe leather.
Freddie, Dickie, and Jackie Cooper, royalty among the few kids under contract, had their own golf carts waiting for them.
So did Mickey, but his cart often left empty.
One minute the Mick was there, leaving the schoolhouse toting his beltload of books over his shoulder, the next minute he had disappeared.
The guys figured if the Mick had to be found, it would be wherever there were skimpily costumed dancers or chorus girls, usually on the set of the latest Arthur Freed musical. The schoolhouse girls were too young or too girly-giddy for him, except, maybe, for someone like big-bosomed Nancy, whose mother was always waiting outside for her daughter, ready to protect her against anything or anyone that might stand in the way of her budding career and bank account.
Always, that is, until this particular day, when Mrs. Oakes was nowhere to be seen, and Nancy had no idea what was keeping her or where she might be. She waited inside the gate, her nerves turning anxiety into fear after fifteen minutes that had her bouncing from one foot to the other, her eyes searching directions for any sight of the snazzy golf cart Mrs. Oakes had bought and paid for herself, rather than having Nancy sharing a studio van, mainly to give the impression her daughter was too important for that.
“Something’s wrong,” she told the few of us who had late calls and were keeping her company, like it was something we couldn’t recognize for ourselves.
Freddie volunteered to have his driver take her to Lot 2 across Overland Avenue, where she was due to recite lines in some prison melodrama using a standing set from The Big House. She waved off the offer, certain her mother would be showing up any minute.
After another half-hour, Miss McDonald called to Nancy from the schoolhouse porch, urging her back inside before the weather turned any chillier. She said, “The last thing anyone wants is for you to catch your death of a cold, child, maybe sick enough to cost you a part or two. What would your mother think, that happened?”
That crack about her mother cinched it.
Shivering inside a flimsy summer dress that had no place in winter, she shuffled back and joined Miss McDonald.
That was the last time any of us saw Nancy.
Three days later, Mr. Howard Strickling tracked me down to the photography department, where I was posing with Wally Holmes and Peggy James, the three of us dressed as Pilgrims and watching with hungry eyes as Mr. Wallace Beery pretended a smile while carving away at a prop turkey, cursing us under his whiskey breath in words equally foul. No lover of children was Mr. Beery, who always seemed to be surrounded in a world of personal demons, except when the camera required him to be bright, sunny, and lovable.
Mr. Strickling, of course, was ever the polite gentleman, his fortyish, dark good looks and West Virginia accent adding to the charm he used to his benefit, especially whenever he dealt with the press as the studio’s vice-president of publicity, turning it on as easily as flipping a light switch.
He reported to the big boss who ran the studio, Mr. Louis B. Mayer, and it was always a whisper that his true role was as Mr. Mayer’s “fixer,” a role he shared with the studio’s general manager, Mr. Edgar J. Mannix. It was said they saw to it that the worst of problems were dealt with in a way that protected the reputation of MGM and its stars.
Mr. Strickling waited until Mr. Clarence Sinclair Bull, who ran the gallery, shot one last setup. He threw a salute to Mr. Bull, whispered something in Mr. Beery’s ear that caused the actor to frown, grunt, and speed off, complimented Eddie and Peggy on their recent performances, and approached me with an irresistible smile, wondering if I could spare a few minutes for a little stroll and some quiet conversation, as if I had any choice.
Saying no to Mr. Strickling or in any way denying him could be career suicide for any contract player who depended on the publicity exposure Mr. Strickling controlled to advance a career from walk-ons and bit parts to featured and costarring roles and, with any luck, genuine stardom. The saying went, Talent gets you only so far; Strickling gets you farther than that.
“Please, call me Strick, all my friends do,” he said, guiding me out of the photo studio and onto the main street, a dense circus of crew laborers and costumed actors and extras traveling to and from the soundstages that made up most of the main lot, a couple of recognizable faces among them; tractors hauling flatbeds loaded down with props and set pieces; bicycles and trolley carts grinding through the traffic in slow motion.
He had a smile and a good word for everyone we passed, adding a tip of his hat and a wink for some of the dancers in skimpy costumes who greeted him with their own good-time grins. He had more for Miss Joan Crawford, a warm embrace and a kiss on her meaty lips that seemed to last forever after she appeared out of nowhere and squealed his name.
Afterward, she had a handshake and a hug for me, and surprised me by remembering my name and the last time we’d met, the wrap party celebrating the end of production on a film she starred in opposite Mr. Clark Gable and Mr. Franchot Tone. I remembered the stories going around at the time, how only Miss Crawford could manage playing opposite her husband, Mr. Tone, and her secret lover, Mr. Gable, at the same time.
Miss Crawford headed off, modestly acknowledging a flurry of appreciative comments from the pedestrian crowd, and we resumed our stroll.
Strick, as I was now calling him, acted as my personal tour guide, describing the forty-four acres and one hundred and ninety-five permanent buildings that made up Lot 1, one of the six lots here in Culver City that he spoke of with fatherly pride as MGM’s “city within a city.”
“Look around,” he said, gesturing. “Production support offices. Twenty-eight soundstages. The camera, lighting, sound, and special-effects departments. The fan-mail department. The casting department. Screening rooms and a full-scale theater. My own publicity department and the still photography studio where I found you.”
He was listing a lumber mill and carpenters’ shops, a foundry, machine shops and blacksmith shops, an upholstery shop, in sum a shop for any and every need called for in the making of movies set in any period in any part of the world, by the time we reached the Little Red Schoolhouse.
Classes were over for the day, the schoolhouse empty except for Miss McDonald, seated at her desk at the front of the one room that served all the grades. It was a juggling act for her, students coming and going around their set calls, all putting in the daily four hours of classroom time required by state law whenever they were working on a motion-picture lot. There were classrooms at the other studios, but none as elaborate or organized as this one, due to the diligence and devotion of Miss McDonald, a plain-looking woman with warm eyes, a winning smile, and a voice sweet as honey. Maybe best of all, she had a bottomless patience that permitted her to deal with and control the most cantankerous of her students, whose status or egos made them think they could get away with murder.
“I understand this is where you last saw Nancy Oakes,” Strick said.
“After class, but outside, waiting with her for her mother to show up and motor her over to Lot Two.”
“But her mother never did.”
“Maybe after I was gone, after Nancy went back inside with Miss McDonald?”
Strick called to her: “That so, ma’am?”
Miss McDonald looked up from the pile of homework papers she was grading and had Strick repeat the question. “I already answered that one, when Eddie Mannix came by and asked yesterday,” she said. “Mrs. Oakes never did show up, so after another half an hour I called over to the set of Calling All Cops and arranged for a production driver to fetch Nancy.”
Strick shrugged. “She changed into costume. Hair. Makeup. Did a two-shot with Bob Young. Her mother arrived while they were resetting lights and camera for Nancy’s close-up, and the two of them wandered off. Gone! Poof! Jack Conway had to shut down for the day, adding a bundle to a budget that’s not the biggest to begin with.”
“She’s missed class every day since,” Miss McDonald said. “Is she all right, not ill, I hope?”
“Not home, either of them. We checked plenty, believe me.”
“Have you checked with the hospitals, the police?”
“No. Mr. Mayer is anxious to keep this from making the news. Why I dropped by—to ask you not to gab about the situation with anyone.”
“A student asks, say you heard it’s because Nancy’s off the lot for the duration.”
“But they all know from her bragging that she’s doing a big role in the Robert Young prison picture, so that won’t fly.”
“In fact, she’s no longer on the picture. She’s been replaced by our young friend here.”
I don’t know who was more surprised by his declaration, Miss McDonald or me. I was startled beyond words, managing only an indecipherable sound that burst loose from the base of my throat. My face turned beet red, then drained to a creamy vanilla. My eyes exploded wider than old Banjo Eyes himself, Mr. Eddie Cantor.
“You’re joking,” I managed to say after a minute.
Strick grinned at my reaction and patted my shoulder. “Around here, we leave the joking to the Marx Brothers,” he said.
He tipped the brim of his natty velour and thanked Miss McDonald for her time and understanding, took hold of my shoulders, and guided me out of the schoolhouse, explaining, “Get ready to meet your future.”
Strick aimed us to Lot 2, thirty-seven acres given over to standing outdoor sets, used time and again, always dressed with enough difference to allow audiences to accept familiarity without contempt.
Mr. King Vidor’s The Big Parade, in 1925, was among the first to film here, set pieces moved from Lot 1 to help create Waterfront Street. A curved New England street of middle-class homes was about to be dressed up and used again, this time for a picture starring Mr. Lewis Stone as a judge and the Mick, Rooney, as his high-energy, girl-crazy son. We passed the Verona Square set built for Romeo and Juliet on our way to the prison courtyard built in 1930 for The Big House.
The yard was full of dress extras, uniformed guards, and convicts in prison-gray stripes milling about and mingling freely while the director, Mr. Jack Conway, strutted back and forth, using hand signals to indicate where he wanted the camera moved for the next setup.
He saw us approaching, called out a final request, and headed over, sharing a hug with Strick before he stepped back and gave me a hard look, top to bottom. “So, does this mean it’s official then? Nancy’s off the picture for good?”
“And off the lot for keeps, no longer a member of our happy little family,” Strick said, a detail he had failed sharing with me until now. “Eddie Mannix recommended it to the boss after she added those next two days to her disappearing act.”
“Luckily, I was able to work around her scenes with Bob Young, move out here for some exterior stuff with Lee Tracy and Bill Gargan. Hoping to get one more angle in today, before we lose what’s left of the light.”
“If anyone can get it done, it’s you, Jack. The boss is always raving about the swell job you did rescuing Viva Villa! and he’s especially high on the early preview cards we’ve been getting for Libeled Lady.”
“Lady was a ‘can’t miss,’ considering the script came gift-wrapped with Harlow, Powell, Loy, and Tracy. I’m hoping L.B. will give me a shot at Captains Courageous after this programmer is in the can. Maybe you can slip in a good word for me with him, Strick?”
Strick let the question hang in the air for several seconds before he threw a hand at Mr. Conway, telling him, “You don’t have to wonder, Jack. Maybe even some positive ‘rumor has it’ words in a Parsons column, how’s that sound?”
“You’d do that for me?”
“And for MGM.” He turned to me and patted my shoulder. “Maybe plant it along with an item about your young discovery here, taking giant steps to stardom with scene-stealing aplomb opposite veterans like Bob, Lee, and Bill in Calling All Cops.”
Mr. Conway said, “What do we do about the five or six scenes with Nancy that are already in the can?”
“Retakes, of course. It’ll be like she never existed. You pulled it off with Villa, reshooting all Lee’s scenes with Stu Erwin after Lee, into his cups, came close to causing an international incident down in Mexico, standing on his hotel balcony and pissing on the military parade below like a damn fool. By comparison, this’ll be a walk in the park for you.”
“Lee denies to this day that it happened that way.”
“So what? Who do you know ever let the truth stand in the way of a good story?”
Mr. Conway raised his bushy eyebrows almost to his widow’s peak and shot me a questioning look. “You up for this, kid? Can I depend on you to give me the kind of solid job I was getting from Nancy?”
“Bet your bottom dollar,” I said, without a second’s hesitation, although uncertain whether I was trying to convince him or myself.
Turns out we had one more stop to make before Strick sent me home in a limo, at Mr. Edgar J. Mannix’s suite in the administration building outside Lot 1, next door to the Salisbury & Salisbury Mortuary. His office was twice the size and ten times as opulent as the run-down, one-bedroom court apartment my parents moved into after we got here by bus from Brooklyn, New York, my mother determined to see her only child succeed in the movies, telling anybody who’d listen I had more talent than the Temples, Rooneys, Withers, Coogans, and Coopers, that whole bunch, than all of them put together.
I wasn’t as certain, not at first, anyway.
It was only after my mom somehow wangled me onto the Central Casting A-list of preferred kids and I began seeing myself up there on the giant motion-picture screen, a second here, a minute or two there, trusted with a line, even if it was only “Hello,” or a bit of business, like waving goodbye to Miss Greta Garbo in Camille, that I came to enjoy the idea of becoming a moving-pictures star.
Mom made certain I was always to the set on time, no matter how early the call, even if it meant catching the Red Car before sunrise. She hammered into me the politics of being polite—always addressing my elders by their appropriate title, Mister or Miss or Missus—and worked with me long hours, for months, on various vocal exercises meant to take the “New Yawk” from my voice.
“You gotta be able to talk good if you’re ever gonna get somewheres big time in the business, honey,” she declared often enough, usually when I stuttered and sputtered over words that couldn’t shake my Brooklyn beginnings.
All these years later, listen closely to this tape recording I’m making for you, and you’ll hear me fumbling here and there over this word or that one.
Like heah for here.
Draw instead of drawer.
Beer for bear.
Catch the difference?
So, anyway, Strick steers me into Mr. Mannix’s administration-building suite, second only to Mr. L.B. Mayer’s for extravagance and elegance; fancy furnishings, paintings you would expect to see in a museum, and photos of Mr. Mannix with stars, government and world figures, and sports champions like Mr. Babe Ruth and Mr. Jack Dempsey, all of them personally signed to him.
Only Mr. Mannix looks out of place in these surroundings. He’s a short, stocky gentleman somewhere in his mid forties, a chunky body hiding inside a hand-tailored suit. A moon-pie face, chipmunk cheeks; a receding hairline, bright eyes behind rimless glasses, an ingratiating smile, and an accent you’d expect to hear coming your way from behind the counter in a New Jersey deli. You had to respect and admire him, for the way he started as a bouncer at Palisades Park and somehow managed to become Mr. Mayer’s right-hand man and Strick’s ally in fixing any problems that came along.
Once Mom had me settled and solid at Central Casting, she set out to improve my status, and that meant an MGM day-player contract, short-term, renewable, but at a weekly wage greater than whatever Dad managed to pocket by his daily visits to the corner pool parlor, where he was the reigning snooker shark, how he got his nickname: “Sharkey.”
He wasn’t sold on my being in the movies, called it “silly stuff,” but it kept Mom off his back about getting a real job, so he never made a scene up to the time he told me, “See you in the movies, kid,” the same night he disappeared from our lives for keeps, a week before Mom bothered to mention he never was coming back, not as long as she had any say in the matter.
From everything she heard, Mr. Mannix was her type of down-to-earth guy, so she started hanging out at the studio cafeteria, where he had a favorite table he shared with pals like Mr. Clark Gable, Mr. Jimmy Stewart, and Mr. Robert Taylor or, if they weren’t available, some starlet type he’d reel in during one of his nights on the town, letting the good times roll at show-business haunts like the Troc or Slapsy Maxie’s or Charley Foy’s Supper Club out Sherman Oaks way in the San Fernando valley.
“That mama of yours, she’s some piece of work,” Mr. Mannix said. He pushed up from behind his desk, came around, and hurried to me like I was some long-lost favorite cousin, wearing the kind of smile that wins friends and fools enemies. “No matter where I turn, there she is, selling me on your looks and talents like you were the next best thing to our Heavenly Father Himself.”
He crossed himself, settled a hug and a handshake on me, thumbed me over to a corner of his posh sofa, and appropriated the opposite corner. Strick struck a pose across the room, back arched against the wall by the inner office door, arms crossed. He planted a tight-lipped smile up one side of his face and sent me a knowing wink.
“So when this business with Nancy rears its ugly head and it’s clear something’s gotta be done, you come to mind right away, like a shortcut to getting your mama off my shadow.” He gave the thought a good-time Charlie laugh. “Strick checks you out and tells me you got enough star quality to go all the way, so I quick set Frances Marion to work making the necessary script changes, broke the good news to your mama, and here we are. I’m telling you, kid, you pull this off and the sky’s the limit for you, much more than the day-player contract she put her Joan Hancock on for you.”
“I won’t let you down, Mr. Mannix.”
“Funny about that, how nobody ever does,” he said, too serious for it to be a joke, the truth of his words at once radiating from eyes that lost their brightness to a thousand dark thoughts. “Call me Eddie.”
Calling All Cops brought me good notices.
So did my larger roles in the two lightweight pictures that followed, and Eddie was good to his word. I was promoted to a standard seven-year contract and my salary raised to seventy-five dollars a week. Best of all, I got my first major role in an A movie and even billing in all the advertisements, in fourth place behind Mr. Edward Arnold. I also had my own golf cart taking me to and from the set and the Little Red Schoolhouse, much to the envy of some of the schoolhouse regulars, who’d been around far longer.
I wasn’t the kids’ biggest topic of conversation, though.
That dubious distinction belonged to Judy and Deanna, who’d been thrown into a head-to-head competition to decide who’d be staying and who’d be leaving the studio, in an eleven-minute musical short set in a public park bandstand, Every Sunday, Deanna’s soprano soaring on an aria and Judy swinging every note on a tune called “Americana.”
You know how that turned out, don’t you?
Judy’s contract was renewed, yes, but Deanna.
Deanna was given the studio gate, only to waltz into a typical Hollywood ending.
She was snatched up by Universal, where producer Joe Pasternak turned her into the musical gold mine that rescued the studio from certain bankruptcy and earned her an Oscar statuette two years later, in ’38.
Deanna’s success inspired Mom to resume pressing Eddie for bigger and greater opportunities for me. More aggressive than ever, she set her sights on landing me a plum role in The King’s Ransom opposite Mr. Walter Huston, Mr. Robert Montgomery, and Miss Myrna Loy.
He made a game of duck and dodge, but she finally caught up with him on Lot 3, on the outdoor set of Captains Courageous, where Mr. Spencer Tracy was holding court between takes with Mr. Victor Fleming, the director, and various cast and crew members.
“Jeez, wish’t you’d let me know this earlier, your interest,” Eddie said, taking her aside and out of earshot, trying to look and sound surprised. “C’mon, let’s us take a little stroll.” We got as far as the permanent “Dutch street” set’s lake and stone bridge, north of the gigantic concrete processing tank with its massive painted-sky background, where the large-scale miniatures are filmed, before Eddie said what passed for an apology.
He said, “Mervyn LeRoy cast the part yesterday with—”
Mom held him off with a hand. “I don’t care who. You make him uncast it and put my kid in the part, you know what’s good for you.” She looked ready to decorate his choppers with a knuckle sandwich.
“What’s good for me?” Eddie all of a sudden sounded twice as angry as Mom, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see dragon breath steaming from a nose that showed the wear and tear of old Jersey street brawls. “I’m sure you didn’t mean that to sound like a threat, did you? That would be a giant mistake on your part, threatening me.”
“You make it sound like I gotta remind you about the Oakes girl and her mommy to get you doing what’s right and fair for my kid.”
“Remind me what about them?”
Mom reared back and cut him a healthy laugh the size of a small state. “You was there when they disappeared, so actually I don’t have to remind you about nothing I saw happen with my own naked eyes. Like I promised you afterward—my mouth shut tighter than Gene Krupa’s drums, long as you kept your end of the deal we cut on a spit-shake.”
“It’s worked fine so far, hasn’t it? My spit-shake’s worth more than any words on paper. Strick and me have kept your kid inching up the ladder to stardom, haven’t we?”
“I’m sick of inches. It’s time to go the mile, Mr. Fixer, and that means The King’s Ransom.”
“The King’s Ransom ain’t the end of the world.”
“We don’t get the part, it could be for you. What I got to tell, I’m sure the cops would be glad to know.”
The color drained from Eddie’s face. A bright blue vein bulged and throbbed at his temple like it was getting ready to burst. “Who do you think they’re gonna believe? Me they know for years, for all the right reasons. You? Fat chance. My word over yours when I explain how you’re another one of them stage mothers always huffin’ an’ puffin’, blowin’ down doors trying to do or say anything to put her kid over.”
“The newspapers? I’m sure to get my nickel’s worth from one a them.”
“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, madam.”
He jammed his hands into his pants pockets and tapped a nervous Florsheim on the cobblestone path fronting the “Dutch street” set.
Mom said, “You really ready to run the risk, Eddie, ’cause I most definitely am.”
Eddie scooped up a loose stone and tossed it into the lake. “What the hell. It’s no good for anyone, making a mountain from a molehill. I’ll talk to Mervyn. That doesn’t do the trick, I’ll run it past Mr. Mayer.”
“When will I hear back from you?”
“Tomorrow. Early enough?”
“Now you’re cooking with gas. You won’t regret this, Eddie.”
“What’s to regret?” he said. “That right, kid? Far as I’m concerned, nothing to regret. Whadda you say?”
“Uh-huh,” I said, as close as I’d come to speaking since Mom caught up with Eddie, knowing better than to interrupt her when her temper was boiling over or risk saying something that might upset Eddie more than he already was.
Or get Mom hard on my case the way she already was on his.
So happens, she’d wanted me to wait around Mr. Tracy and his pals, so she and Eddie could talk in private, but Mr. Tracy called after them when they started to stroll, “Hey, Eddie, don’t forget your midget.” His pals laughed, but it was evident Mr. Tracy wasn’t joking, so Eddie motioned for me to tag along.
How I came to hear things I wasn’t meant to hear, piling questions in my mind that I was hungry to have answered, especially that business about Nancy Oakes and her mother.
Driving home, I put the questions to Mom.
“Grown-up stuff is all,” she said. “Nothing you got to worry your shana punim about, so forget about it.”
So I did, figuring I’d try again later, maybe tomorrow, when Mom was sure to be in a better mood if Eddie stayed true to his word and I was getting the role in The King’s Ransom.
The next day, Friday.
Eddie was waiting for us at the Little Red Schoolhouse, outside the white picket fence that enclosed the grounds, pacing anxiously like a soldier on guard duty, chewing on a fat cigar and blowing streams of yellow-stained smoke into the cloudless morning sky. He met us halfway, calling on the run, “You’re ten minutes too late.”
“What’s that about?” Mom said, shooting him a sour look. “By my watch we’re on time for class, and our call time on the Stop the Presses set is hours away, after lunch. We’re only on tap for a quickie setup with Lew Ayres, our last scene in the picture.”
“Too late by ten to meet with Mr. Mayer over at his office, at his request. The King’s Ransom. He wants you to hear the news from him first. He left ten minutes ago with Mervyn LeRoy, heading out to Inglewood for opening day at the new Hollywood Park Turf Club. Mervyn’s a shareholder, along with Jolson, Disney, Crosby, some other industry heavyweights. Goldwyn. Zanuck.”
“So what am I supposed to do now? Wait until after the weekend to get the good word? That wasn’t our deal, Eddie.”
“You’re right as rain about that. You wanted an answer today, so today it is. Mr. Mayer is expecting you to join him in the clubhouse. I left your name at the door. They’ll know where to direct you.”
“What about my kid?”
“In good hands, trust me. If you’re delayed getting back for any reason, I’ll see to it that our budding star gets home safely.”
I did, but Mom never got home at all. . . .
# # #
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"My Mom, the Movies, and Me" by Robert S. Levinson, Copyright © 2014 with permission of the author.
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