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SOUTH FLORIDA DEVASTATED 1000 DEAD, 38,000 DESTITUTE 2 страница




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It was a sizzling hot day when they piled the things in
the Buick and drove off up U.S. I with Tony, not in his
uniform but in a new waspwaisted white linen suit, at the
wheel. The Buick was so piled with bags and household
junk there was hardly room for Agnes in the back seat.
Tony's guitar was slung from the ceiling. Margo's ward-
robetrunk was strapped on behind. "My goodness," said
Agnes when she came back from the restroom of the fill-
ingstation in West Palm Beach where they'd stopped for
gas, "we look like a traveling tentshow."

 

Between them they had about a hundred dollars in cash
that Margo had turned over to Agnes to keep in her black
handbag. The first day Tony would talk about nothing but
the hit he'd make in the movies. "If Valentino can do it,
it will be easy for me," he'd say, craning his neck to see his
clear brown profile in the narrow drivingmirror at the top
of the windshield.

 

At night they stopped in touristcamps, all sleeping in
one cabin to save money, and ate out of cans. Agnes loved
it. She said it was like the old days when they were on the

 

-392-

 

Keith circuit and Margo was a child actress. Margo said
child actress hell, it made her feel like an old crone.
Towards afternoon Tony would complain of shooting pains
in his wrists and Margo would have to drive.

 

Along the gulf coast of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisi-
ana the roads were terrible. It was a relief when they got
into Texas, though the weather there was showery. They
thought they never would get across the state of Texas,
though. Agnes said she didn't know there was so much
alfalfa in the world. In El Paso they had to buy two new
tires and get the brakes fixed. Agnes began to look worried
when she counted over the roll of bills in her purse. The
last couple of days across the desert to Yuma they had
nothing to eat but one can of baked beans and a bunch of
frankfurters. It was frightfully hot but Agnes wouldn't
even let them get Coca-Cola at the dustylooking drugstores
in the farbetween little towns because she said they had to
save every cent if they weren't going to hit Los Angeles,
deadbroke. As they were wallowing along in the dust of
the unfinished highway outside of Yuma, a shinylooking
S. P. expresstrain passed them, big new highshouldered
locomotive, pullmancars, diner, clubcar with girls and men
in light suits lolling around on the observation platform.
The train passed slowly and the colored porters leaning
out from the pullmans grinned and waved. Margo remem-
bered her trips to Florida in a drawingroom and sighed.
"Don't worry, Margie," chanted Agnes from the back seat.
"We're almost there.""But where? Where? That's what
I want to know," said Margo, with tears starting into her
eyes. The car went over a bump that almost broke the
springs. "Never mind," said Tony, "when I make the ori-
entations I shall be making thousands a week and we shall.
travel in a private car."



 

In Yuma they had to stop in the hotel because the camps
were all full and that set them back plenty. They were all
in, the three of them, and Margo woke up in the night

 

-393-

 

in a high fever from the heat and dust and fatigue. In
the morning the fever was gone, but her eyes were puffed
up and red and she looked a sight. Her hair needed wash-
ing and was stringy and dry as a handful of tow.



 

The next day they were too tired to enjoy it when they
went across the high fragrant mountains and came out into
the San Bernardino valley full of wellkept fruittrees,
orangegroves that still had a few flowers on them, and
coolsmelling irrigation ditches. In San Bernardino Margo
said she'd have to have her hair washed if it was the last
thing she did on this earth. They still had twentyfive
dollars that Agnes had saved out of the housekeeping
money in Miami, that she hadn't said anything about.
While Margo and Agnes went to a beautyparlor, they
gave Tony a couple of dollars to go around and get the
car washed. That night they had a regular fiftycent dinner
in a restaurant and went to a movingpicture show. They
slept in a nice roomy cabin on the road to Pasadena in a
camp the woman at the beautyparlor had told them about,
and the next morning they set out early before the white
clammy fog had lifted.

 

The road was good and went between miles and miles
of orangegroves. By the time they got to Pasadena the sun
had come out and Agnes and Margo declared it was the
loveliest place they'd ever seen in their lives. Whenever
they passed a particularly beautiful residence Tony would
point at it with his finger and say that was where they'd
live as soon as he had made the orientations.

 

They saw signs pointing to Hollywood, but somehow
they got through the town without noticing it, and drew
up in front of a small rentingofficc in Santa Monica. All
the furnished bungalows the man had listed were too
expensive and the man insisted on a month's rent in ad-
vance, so they drove on. They ended up in a dusty stucco
bungalow court in the outskirts of Venice where the man
seemed impressed by the blue Buick and the wardrobe-



 

-394-

 

trunk and let them take a place with only a week paid in
advance. Margo thought it was horrid but Agnes was in
the highest spirits. She said Venice reminded her of Hol-
land's in the old days. "That's what gives me the sick,"
said Margo. Tony went in and collapsed on the couch and
Margo had to get the neighbors to help carry in the bags
and wardrobetrunk. They lived in that bungalow court for
more months than Margo ever liked to admit even at the
time.

 

Margo registered at the agency as Margo de Garrido.
She got taken on in society scenes as extra right away on
account of her good clothes and a kind of a way of wearing
them she had that she'd picked up at old Piquot's. Tony
sat in the agency and loafed around outside the gate of any
studio where there was a Spanish or South American pic-
ture being cast, wearing a broadbrimmed Cordoba hat he'd
bought at a costumer's and tightwaisted trousers and some-
times cowboy boots and spurs, but the one thing there
always seemed to be enough of was Latin types. He turned
morose and peevish and took to driving the car around
filled up with simpering young men he'd picked up, until
Margo put her foot down and said it was her car and
nobody else's, and not to bring his fagots around the house
either. He got sore at that and walked out, but Agnes, who
did the housekeeping and handled all the money Margo
brought home, wouldn't let him have any pocketmoney
until he'd apologized. Tony was away two days and came
back looking hungry and hangdog.

 

After that Margo made him wear the old chauffeur's
uniform when he drove her to the lot. She knew that if he
wore that he wouldn't go anywhere after he'd left her
except right home to change and then Agnes could take the
car key. Margo would come home tired from a long day
on the lot to find that he'd been hanging round the house
all day strumming It Ain't Gonna Rain No More on his
guitar, and sleeping and yawning on all the beds and

 

-395-

 

dropping cigaretteashes everywhere. He said Margo had
ruined his career. What she hated most about him was the
way he yawned.

 

One Sunday, after they had been three years in the out-
skirts of L. A., moving from one bungalow to another,
Margo getting on the lots fairly consistently as an extra,
but never getting noticed by a director, managing to put
aside a little money to pay the interest but never getting
together enough in a lump sum to bail out her jewelry at
the bank in Miami, they had driven up to Altadena in the
afternoon; on the way back they stopped at a garage to
get a flat fixed; out in front of the garage there were some
secondhand cars for sale. Margo walked up and down look-
ing at them to have something to do while they were
waiting. "You wouldn't like a Rolls-Royce, would you,
lady?" said the garage attendant kind of kidding as he
pulled the jack out from under the car. Margo climbed
into the big black limousine with a red coatofarms on the
door and tried the seat. It certainly was comfortable. She
leaned out and said, "How much is it?""One thousand
dollars . . . it's a gift at the price.""Cheap at half the
price," said Margo. Agnes had gotten out of the Buick and
come over. "Are you crazy, Margie?"

 

"Maybe," said Margo and asked how much they'd allow
her if she traded in the Buick. The attendant called the
boss, a toadfaced young man with a monogram on his silk
shirt. He and Margo argued back and forth for an hour
about the price. Tony tried driving the car and said it ran
like a dream. He was all pepped up at the idea of driv-
ing a Rolls, even an old one. In the end the man took
the Buick and five hundred dollars in tendollar weekly
payments. They signed the contract then and there, Margo
gave Judge Cassidy's and Tad Whittlesea's names as ref-
erences; they changed the plates and drove home that
night in the Rolls-Royce to Santa Monica where they were
living at the time. As they turned into Santa Monica

 

-396-

 

Boulevard at Beverly Hills, Margo said carelessly, " Tony,
isn't that mailed hand holding a sword very much like the
coatofarms of the Counts de Garrido?""These people
out here are so ignorant they wouldn't know the differ-
ence," said. Tony. "We'll just leave it there," said Margo.
"Sure," said Tony, "it looks good."

 

The other extras surely stared when Tony in his trim
grey uniform drove her down to the lot next day, but
Margo kept her pokerface. "It's just the old family bus,"
she said when a girl asked her about it. "It's been in hock."
"Is that your mother?" the girl asked again, pointing with
her thumb at Agnes who was driving away sitting up
dressed in her best black in the back of the huge shiny
car with her nose in the air. "Oh, no," said Margo coldly.
"That's my companion."

 

Plenty of men tried to date Margo up, but they were
mostly extras or cameramen or propertymen or carpenters
and she and Agnes didn't see that it would do her any
good to mix up with them. It was a lonely life after all the
friends and the guys crazy about her and the business deals
and everything in Miami. Most nights she and Agnes just
played Russian bank or threehanded bridge if Tony was
in and not too illtempered to accommodate. Sometimes
they went to the movies or to the beach if it was warm
enough. They drove out through the crowds on Holly-
wood Boulevard nights when there was an opening at
Grauman's Chinese Theater. The Rolls looked so fancy
and Margo still had a good eveningdress not too far out
of style so that everybody thought they were filmstars.

 

One dusty Saturday afternoon in midwinter Margo was
feeling particularly desperate because styles had changed
so she couldn't wear her old dresses any more and didn't
have any money for new; she jumped up from her seat
knocking the pack of solitaire cards onto the floor and
shouted to Agnes that she had to have a little blowout or
she'd go crazy. Agnes said why didn't they drive to Palm

 

-397-

 

Springs to see the new resort hotel. They'd eat dinner
there if it wouldn't set them back too much and then spend
the night at a touristcamp down near the Salton Sea. Give
them a chance to get the chill of the Los Angeles fog out
of their bones.

 

When they got to Palm Springs Agnes thought every-
thing looked too expensive and wanted to drive right on,
but Margo felt in her element right away. Tony was in his
uniform and had to wait for them in the car. He looked
so black in the face Margo thought he'd burst when she
told him to go and get himself some supper at a dog-
wagon, but he didn't dare answer back because the doorman
was right there.

 

They'd been to the ladies' room to freshen their faces
up and were walking up and down under the big date-
palms looking at the people to see if they could recognize
any movie actors, when Margo heard a voice that was
familiar. A dark thinfaced man in white serge who was
chatting with an importantlooking baldheaded Jewish gen-
tleman was staring at her. He left his friend and came up.
He had a stiff walk like an officer reviewing a company
drawn up at attention. "Miss Dowling," he said, "how
very lucky for both of us." Margo looked smiling into
the twitching sallow face with dark puffs under the eyes.
"You're the photographer," she said.

 

He stared at her hard. " Sam Margolies," he said.
"Well, I've searched all over America and Europe for
you. . . . Please be in my office for a screentest at ten
o'clock tomorrow. . . . Irwin will give you the details."
He waved his hand lackadaisically towards the fat man.
"Meet Mr. Harris . . . Miss Dowling . . . forgive me,
I never take upon myself the responsibility of introducing
people. . . . But I want Irwin to see you . . . this is one
of the most beautiful women in America, Irwin." He
drew his hand down in front of Margo a couple of inches
from her face working the fingers as if he were modeling

 

-398-

 

something out of clay, "Ordinarily it would be impossibli
to photograph her. Only I can put that face on the
screen. . . ." Margo felt cold all up her spine. She heard
Agnes's mouth come open with a gasp behind her. She
let a slow kidding smile start in the corners of her mouth.,
"Look, Irwin," cried Margolies, grabbing the fat man by
the shoulder. "It is the spirit of comedy. . . . But why
didn't you come to see me?" He spoke with a strong for-
eign accent of some kind. "What have I done that you
should neglect me?"

 

Margo looked bored. "This is Mrs. Mandeville, my. . .
companion. . . . We are taking a little look at California."

 

"What's there here except the studios?"

 

"Perhaps you'd show Mrs. Mandeville around a mov-
ingpicture studio. She's so anxious to see one, and I don't
know a soul in this part of the world . . . not a soul."

 

"Of course I'll have someone take you to all you care
to see tomorrow. Nothing to see but dullness and vulgar.
ity. . . . Irwin, that's the face I've been looking for for
the little blonde girl . . . you remember. . . . You talk
to me of agencies, extras, nonsense, I don't want actors. . . .
But, Miss Dowling, where have you been? I halfexpected
to meet you at Baden-Baden last summer. . . . You are
the type for Baden-Baden. It's a ridiculous place but one
has to go somewhere. . . . Where have you been?"

 

" Florida . . . Havana . . . that sort of thing." Margo
was thinking to herself that the last time she met him he
hadn't been using the broad a.

 

"And you've given up the stage?"

 

Margo gave a little shrug. "The family were so horrid
about it.""Oh, I never liked her being on the stage," cried
Agnes who'd been waiting for a chance to put a word in.
"You'll like working in pictures," said the fat man sooth-
ingly. "My dear Margo," said Margolies, "it is not a very
large part but you are perfect for it, perfect. I can bring
out in you the latent mystery. . . . Didn't I tell you,

 

-399-

 

Irwin, that the thing to do was to go out of the studio and
see the world . . . open the book of life? . . . In this
ridiculous caravanserai we find the face, the spirit of
comedy, the smile of the Mona Lisa. . . . That's a famous
painting in Paris said to be worth five million dollars. . . .
Don't ask me how I knew she would be here. . . . But I
knew. Of course we cannot tell definitely until after the
screentest . . . I never commit myself. . . ."

 

"But, Mr. Margolies, I don't know if I can do it,"
Margo said, her heart pounding. "We're in a rush. . . .
We have important business to attend to in Miami . . .
family matters, you understand."

 

"That's of no importance. I'll find you an agent . . .
we'll send somebody. . . . Petty details are of no impor-
tance to me. Realestate, I suppose."

 

Margo nodded vaguely.

 

"A couple of years ago the house where we'd been liv-
ing, it was so lovely, was washed clear out to sea," said
Agnes breathlessly.

 

"You'll get a better house . . . Malibu Beach, Beverly
Hills. . . . I hate houses. . . . But I have been rude, I
have detained you. . . . But you will forget Miami. We
have everything out here. . . . You remember, Margo
dearest, I told you that day that pictures had a great
future . . . you and . . . you know, the great automo-
bile magnate, I have forgotten his name . . . I told you
you would hear of me in the pictures. . . . I rarely make
predictions, but I am never wrong. They are based on
belief in a sixth sense."

 

"Oh, yes," interrupted Agnes, "it's so true, if you believe
you're going to succeed you can't fail, that's what I tell
Margie . . ."

 

"Very beautifully said, dear lady. . . . Miss Dowling
darling, Continental Attractions at ten. . . . I'll have
somebody stationed at the gate so that they'll let your
chauffeur drive right to my office. It is impossible to reach

 

-400-

 

me by phone. Even Irwin can't get at me when I am work-
ing on a picture. It will be an experience for you to see
me at work."

 

"Well, if I can manage it and my chauffeur can find the
way."

 

"You'll come," said Margolies and dragged Irwin
Harris away by one short white flannel arm into the dining-
room. Welldressed people stared after them as they went.
Then they were staring at Margo and Agnes. "Let's go
to the dogwagon and tell Tony. They'll just think we are
eccentric, " whispered Margo in Agnes's ear. "I declare I
never imagined the Margolies was him."

 

"Oh, isn't it wonderful," said Agnes.

 

They were so excited they couldn't eat. They drove
back to Santa Monica that night and Margo went straight
to bed so as to be rested for the next morning.

 

Next morning when they got to the lot at a quarter
of ten Mr. Margolies hadn't sent word. Nobody had
heard of an appointment. They waited half an hour.
Agnes was having trouble keeping back the tears. Margo
was laughing. "I bet that bozo was full of hop or some-
thing and forgot all about it." But she felt sick inside. Tony
had just started the motor and was about to pull away
because Margo didn't like being seen waiting at the gate
like that when a white Pierce Arrow custombuilt towncar
with Margolies all in white flannel with a white beret sit-
ting alone in the back diove up alongside. He was' peering
into the Rolls-Royce and she could see him start with
surprise when he recognized her. He tapped on the window
of his car with a porcelainheaded cane. Then he got out
of his car and reached in and took Margo by the hand.
"I never apologize. . . . It is often necessary for me to
keep people waiting. You will come with me. Perhaps your
friend will call for you at five o'clock. . . . I have much
to tell you and to show you."

 

They went upstairs in the elevator in a long plainfaced

 

-401-

 

building. He ushered her through several offices where
young men in their shirtsleeves were working at drafting-
boards, stenographers were typing, actors were waiting on
benches. " Frieda, a screentest for Miss Dowling right
away, please," he said as he passed a secretary at a big desk
in the last room. Then he ushered her into his own office
hung with Chinese paintings and a single big carved gothic
chair set in the glare of a babyspot opposite a huge carved
gothic desk. "Sit there, please. . . . Margo darling, how
can I explain to you the pleasure of a face unsmirched by
the camera? I can see that there is no strain. . . . You do
not care. Celtic freshness combined with insouciance of
noble Spain. . . . I can see that you've never been before
a camera before. . . . Excuse me." He sank in the deep
chair behind his desk and started telephoning. Every now
and then a stenographer came and took notes that he
recited to her in a low voice. Margo sat and sat. She
thought Margolies had forgotten her. The room was warm
and stuffy and began to make her feel sleepy. She was
fighting to keep her eyes open when Margolies jumped
up from his desk and said, "Come, darling, we'll go down
now."

 

Margo stood around for a while in front of some cam-
eras in a plasterysmelling room in the basement and then
Margolies took her to lunch at the crowded restaurant on
the lot. She could feel that everybody was looking up from
their plates to see who the new girl was that Margolies
was taking to lunch. While they ate he asked her ques-
tions about her life on a great sugarplantation in Cuba,
and her debutante girlhood in New York. Then he talked
about Carlsbad and Baden-Baden and Marienbad and how
Southern California was getting over its early ridiculous
vulgarity: "We have everything here that you can find
anywhere," he said.

 

After lunch they went to see the rushes in the projection-
room. Mr. Harris turned up too, smoking a cigar. Nobody

 

-402-

 

said anything as they looked at Margo's big grey and white
face, grinning, turning, smirking, mouth opening and clos-
ing, head tossing, eyes rolling. It made Margo feel quite
sick looking at it, though she loved still photographs of
herself. She couldn't get used to its being so big. Now and
then Mr. Harris would grunt and the end of his cigar
would glow red. Margo felt relieved when the film was
over and they were in the dark again. Then the lights were
on and they were filing out of the projectionroom past a
redfaced operator in shirtsleeves who had thrown open the
door to the little black box where the machine was and
gave Margo a look as she passed. Margo couldn't make
out whether he thought she was good or not.

 

On the landing of the outside staircase Margolies put
out his hand coldly and said, "Goodby, dearest Margo. . . .
There are a hundred people waiting for me." Margo
thought it was all off. Then he went on, "You and Irwin
will make the business arrangements . . . I have no un-
derstanding of those matters. . . . I'm sure you'll have a
very pleasant afternoon."

 

He turned back into the projectionroom swinging his
cane as he went. Mr. Harris explained that Mr. Margolies
would let her know when he wanted her and that mean-
while they would work out the contract. Did she have
an agent? If she didn't he would recommend that they call
in his friend Mr. Hardbein to protect her interests.

 

When she got into the office with Mr. Harris sitting
across the desk from her and Mr. Hardbein, a hollow-
faced man with a tough kidding manner, sitting beside her,
she found herself reading a threeyear contract at three
hundred a week. "Oh, dear," she said, "I'm afraid I'd be
awfully tired of it after that length of time. . . . Do you
mind if I ask my companion Mrs. Mandeville to come
around? . . . I'm so ignorant about these things." Then
she called up Agnes and they fiddled around talking about
the weather until Agnes got there.

 

-403-

 

Agnes was wonderful. She talked about commitments
and important business to be transacted and an estate to
care for, and said that at that figure it would not be worth
Miss Dowling's while to give up her world cruise, would
it, darling, if she appeared in the picture anyway it was
only to accommodate an old friend Mr. Margolies and of
course Miss Dowling had always made sacrifices for her
work, and that she herself made sacrifices for it and if
necessary would work her fingers to the bone to give her
a chance to have the kind of success she believed in and
that she knew she would have because if you believed with
an unsullied heart God would bring things about the way
they ought to be. Agnes went on to talk about how awful
unbelief was and at five o'clock just as the office was closing
they went out to the car with a contract for three months
at five hundred a week in Agnes's handbag. "I hope the
stores are still open," Margo was saying. "I've got to have
some clothes."

 

A toughlooking greyfaced man in ridingclothes with
light tow hair was sitting in the front seat beside Tony.
Margo and Agnes glared at the flat back of his head as
they got into the car. "Take us down to Tasker and Hard-
ing's on Hollywood Boulevard . . . the Paris Gown
Shop," Agnes said. "Oh, goody, it'll be lovely to have
you have some new clothes," she whispered in Margo's ear.

 

When Tony let the stranger off at the corner of Holly-
wood and Sunset, he bowed stiffly and started off up the
broad sidewalk. " Tony, I don't know how many times I've
told you you couldn't pick up your friends in my car,"
began Margo. She and Agnes nagged at him so that when
he got home he was in a passion and said that he was
moving out next day. "You have done nothing but exploit
me and interfere with my career. That was Max Hirsch.
He's an Austrian count and a famous poloplayer." Next
day sure enough Tony packed his things and left the house.

 

The five hundred a week didn't go as far as Agnes and

 

-404-

 

Margo thought it would. Mr. Hardbein the agent took
ten percent of it first thing, then Agnes insisted on deposit-
ing fifty to pay off the loan in Miami so that Margo could
get her jewelry back. Then moving into a new house in the
nice part of Santa Monica cost a lot. There was a cook and
a housemaid's wages to pay and they had to have a chauf
feur now that Tony had gone. And there were clothes
and'a publicityman and all kinds of charities and handouts
around the studio that you couldn't refuse. Agnes was won-
derful. She attended to everything. Whenever any busi-
ness matter came up Margo would press her fingers to the
two sides of her forehead and let her eyes close for a
minute and groan. "It's too bad but I just haven't got a
head for business."

 

It was Agnes who picked out the new house, a Puerto
Rican cottage with the cutest balconies, jampacked with
antique Spanish furniture. In the evening Margo sat in
an easychair in the big livingroom in front of an open
fire playing Russian bank with Agnes. They got a few
invitations from actors and people Margo met on the lot,
but Margo said she wasn't going out until she found out
what was what in this town. "First thing you know we'll
be going around with a bunch of bums who'll do us more
harm than good.""How true that is," sighed Agnes.
"Like those awful twins in Miami."


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