Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

V

Rosemary went to Monte Carlo nearly as sulkily as it was possible for her to be. She rode up the rugged hill to La Turbie, to an old Gaumont lot in process of reconstruction, and as she stood by the grilled entrance waiting for an answer to the message on her card, she might have been looking into Hollywood. The bizarre débris of some recent picture, a decayed street scene in India, a great cardboard whale, a monstrous tree bearing cherries large as basketballs, bloomed there by exotic dispensation, autochthonous as the pale amaranth, mimosa, cork oak or dwarfed pine. There were a quick-lunch shack and two barnlike stages and everywhere about the lot, groups of waiting, hopeful, painted faces.

After ten minutes a young man with hair the color of canary feathers hurried down to the gate.

“Come in, Miss Hoyt. Mr. Brady’s on the set, but he’s very anxious to see you. I’m sorry you were kept waiting, but you know some of these French dames are worse about pushing themselves in —”

The studio manager opened a small door in the blank wall of stage building and with sudden glad familiarity Rosemary followed him into half darkness. Here and there figures spotted the twilight, turning up ashen faces to her like souls in purgatory watching the passage of a mortal through. There were whispers and soft voices and, apparently from afar, the gentle tremolo of a small organ. Turning the corner made by some flats, they came upon the white crackling glow of a stage, where a French actor — his shirt front, collar, and cuffs tinted a brilliant pink — and an American actress stood motionless face to face. They stared at each other with dogged eyes, as though they had been in the same position for hours; and still for a long time nothing happened, no one moved. A bank of lights went off with a savage hiss, went on again; the plaintive tap of a hammer begged admission to nowhere in the distance; a blue face appeared among the blinding lights above, called something unintelligible into the upper blackness. Then the silence was broken by a voice in front of Rosemary.

“Baby, you don’t take off the stockings, you can spoil ten more pairs. That dress is fifteen pounds.”

Stepping backward the speaker ran against Rosemary, whereupon the studio manager said, “Hey, Earl — Miss Hoyt.”

They were meeting for the first time. Brady was quick and strenuous. As he took her hand she saw him look her over from head to foot, a gesture she recognized and that made her feel at home, but gave her always a faint feeling of superiority to whoever made it. If her person was property she could exercise whatever advantage was inherent in its ownership.

“I thought you’d be along any day now,” Brady said, in a voice that was just a little too compelling for private life, and that trailed with it a faintly defiant cockney accent. “Have a good trip?”

“Yes, but we’re glad to be going home.”

“No-o-o!” he protested. “Stay awhile — I want to talk to you. Let me tell you that was some picture of yours — that ‘Daddy’s Girl.’ I saw it in Paris. I wired the coast right away to see if you were signed.”

“I just had — I’m sorry.”

“God, what a picture!”

Not wanting to smile in silly agreement Rosemary frowned.

“Nobody wants to be thought of forever for just one picture,” she said.

“Sure — that’s right. What’re your plans?”

“Mother thought I needed a rest. When I get back we’ll probably either sign up with First National or keep on with Famous.”

“Who’s we?”

“My mother. She decides business matters. I couldn’t do without her.”

Again he looked her over completely, and, as he did, something in Rosemary went out to him. It was not liking, not at all the spontaneous admiration she had felt for the man on the beach this morning. It was a click. He desired her and, so far as her virginal emotions went, she contemplated a surrender with equanimity. Yet she knew she would forget him half an hour after she left him — like an actor kissed in a picture.

“Where are you staying?” Brady asked. “Oh, yes, at Gausse’s. Well, my plans are made for this year, too, but that letter I wrote you still stands. Rather make a picture with you than any girl since Connie Talmadge was a kid.”

“I feel the same way. Why don’t you come back to Hollywood?”

“I can’t stand the damn place. I’m fine here. Wait till after this shot and I’ll show you around.”

Walking onto the set he began to talk to the French actor in a low, quiet voice.

Five minutes passed — Brady talked on, while from time to time the Frenchman shifted his feet and nodded. Abruptly, Brady broke off, calling something to the lights that startled them into a humming glare. Los Angeles was loud about Rosemary now. Unappalled she moved once more through the city of thin partitions, wanting to be back there. But she did not want to see Brady in the mood she sensed he would be in after he had finished and she left the lot with a spell still upon her. The Mediterranean world was less silent now that she knew the studio was there. She liked the people on the streets and bought herself a pair of espadrilles on the way to the train.

Her mother was pleased that she had done so accurately what she was told to do, but she still wanted to launch her out and away. Mrs. Speers was fresh in appearance but she was tired; death beds make people tired indeed and she had watched beside a couple.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fitzgerald/f_scott/tender/chapter5.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:06