'The Sylph of Sydney Street'
by Phineas Redux
Summary:— Stephanie 'Stevie' Garroch, 34, and Kelly Humber, 32, are lovers, film producers, and part-owners of Redoubtable Films Inc, a 'B' film Poverty Row movie studio located in Hollywood and New York in the 1930's. A female film star puts on the Ritz when it isn't wanted.
Disclaimer:— All characters are copyright ©2022 to Phineas Redux. All characters in this story are fictional; and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Caution:— There is some light swearing in this story.
"The very same."
"Who hired her? You?"
"We-el, it's kind'a a long story—"
"Come on, Stevie, she ain't as bad as she's billed; least I don't think so."
"Ya obviously don't know her, lady." Stephanie Garroch, co-owner of Redoubtable Films Inc., gazed at the other co-owner of same with a jaundiced eye. "Kel, this Corrington dame just happens to be the biggest egoist since that character George Meredith wrote about back in the Eighteen-Eighties. She's ful'la herself, from top t'toe, an' let's everyone know it every second of the day. It'll be impossible t'work with her, I tell ya straight."
Kelly Humber, only slightly younger than her paramour, sighed gently; being a movie Producer having its downs as well as the happier ups.
"Don't worry, if she acts up I'll handle her tantrums—you know me, right?"
Stephanie put a hand up to rub her aching brow as they sat in the boardroom of Redoubtable Films in the Cailley Building, on West 54th St., NY., this pleasant morning of September 1936.
"Yeah! You'll give the dame two chances t'reform then haul out your point Thirty-eight an' plug her!"
"Hell, gim'me a break, sis!" Kelly wholly opposed to her lover's gloomy expectations in the matter.
"What's she scheduled for?" Stephanie changing the subject slightly.
"The up-coming Romance, 'The Sylph of Sydney Street', is all." Kelly smiling broadly at the prospect. "It's gon'na be a biggie, lady, wait an' see!"
Stephanie had the stoical answer to this naïve outlook ready and waiting in the wings, however.
"With anybody else, yeah, sure! But with Diana?—it'll never get finished! She'll want fresh roses in her dressing-room every day, four maids at all times, start work at eleven sharp and knock off at four pm. Not t'mention a four course lunch with wine every day and a half-hour coffee-break at two pm. It'll take us, oh, six month certain t'get the dam' movie in the can. Oh, an' another thing, ya know she has it in all her contracts she never does more'n four takes on any scene? Ya know that, right, baby?"
Kelly shrugged, not much concerned.
"So, we'll ease her in'ta the process gently. Won't be two weeks before we have her workin' round the clock, like everyone else on set."
Stephanie stared at her lover with appalled eyes.
"Kel, ya get me sometimes!"
Bernhard Tauchmitz had been a German Expressionist Film Director back in Babelsburg, his actors' arms and legs flailing in every direction in every scene as well as their expressions varying second by second in such outrageous mannerisms any mountain lion unhappy enough to have strayed on set would have instantly reconsidered its options and headed for the hills again. Having been a citizen of the USA for the past four years now he had by necessity had to reform his whole way of life including his directing style; having once directed a B oater with a more or less famous Western star whom he had stormed at for not acting—something the poor man had never pretended to do in his whole professional career and didn't mean to start now at the bequest of some loony Kraut—Tauchmitz had suffered a broken jaw as a consequence, a lesson he had taken to heart, ditching Expressionism like a hot brick never to return to it. Now he was just a steady run of the mill, down the middle of the road, get the job done, sort of guy with no pretensions to fame and glory in his chosen career—but still, there were limits.
"No, I admit it! I shall not work further with the b-tch! She thinks she is the Queen of England and the Empress of China combined! Everything must be to her satisfaction; she must have this, she must have that, she cannot operate daily without the other thing! She determines when she will act and when she won't each day—mostly the latter. She is impossible! I will not work with her. Take her off my picture at once."
On Stage B, Redoubtable Films, Queens, NY, the set of SSS as The Sylph of Sydney Street had been shortened for brevity, Stephanie and Kelly stood side by side discussing their female star, she presently being highly visible by her absence.
"Where is she, anyway?" Kelly hitting the important facet of the discussion. "It's nearly midday, you should have had near a whole reel under your belt by now, Bernhard."
"What do I say!" Bernhard steaming-up with indignation. "Do I not say she regulates her own schedule? Right now she awaits in her dressing-room the appearance of her Muse. Without her Muse, she constantly tells me, it is impossible she should even think of acting. No, not till she feels the presence of her Muse does she permit the show to go on."
Stephanie and Kelly exchanged glances.
"Well, that's not the way movies work." Kelly affirming her own position with a determined nod. "Lem'me go an' talk to her. Probably sort this out in a coupl'a minutes."
"You go to your Fate!" Bernhard waxing melodramatic when such a perfect opportunity offered. "Ach, verdammt! I shall remember you with affection, mein leibling!"
Hoping to start off on the right foot Kelly merely gave the dressing-room door a cursory tap then entered like a Princess her domain only to be met by a storm of vituperation.
"Hey, what's the game, sis? Get the hell out till I says ya can come in. Who the hell ya think ya are? Ya know who I am, gal?"
Kelly's temper, never a temper matured for the Ages, gave out instantly, revealing her Bronx ancestry and upbringing to one and all.
"Who the hell ya think you are, lady? I'll dam' well tell ya! A two-bit, down on her luck, pretty much past it, vaudeville turn who calls herself an actor when no-one of any sense is around t'hear ya spoutin' off, is what! I'm Kelly Humber, an' I own this joint, lock stock an' barrel; which means you too, accordin' t'contract. Ya does what I says or you're off this dam' movie pronto, get me? So, get your butt out on the set right now, do what Tauchmitz tells ya, and dump the fancy etiquette an' style. You're a dime an' nickel vaudeville turn, nuthin' more—so get t'actin', as much as you're ever capable of, or ya salary's history, lady, OK?"
The silver-backed hair brush, thrown with unerring accuracy, hit Kelly squarely on the face, her nose to be exact about the impact point. Blood spouted like a river in spate and Kelly, shocked at first into immobility, came to life with only cold vengeance in her heart: the second blow she landed on her opponent's face knocking her out instantly, Diana sinking to the floor a spent force in the acting line, at least for the foreseeable future.
"Yeah, bloody broken, that's what Doc Travers's just told me." Kelly mumbling through the bandages covering her face an hour later. "Says I'll need to go to Hospital to get it reset."
"Funny, that's what I said too, but with more reason, lover!"
"Oh, Kel, I'm sorry—"
"Not so much as I am, lady." Kelly still in her angry Valkyrie mood. "Just sorry I didn't break the b-tches' neck when I had the chance!"
The time was just over an hour since two maids, hearing the melee, had rushed into the dressing-room and stopped the ongoing battle, not without receiving minor wounds themselves as a result of their brave actions.
"Where is she now?"
"Gone home." Kelly snorting in anger. "A minor tap, wasn't out more'n ten minutes, so she goes home t'recover, so she told her Manager, Bertie Verraker."
"What'd Bertie say?" Stephanie thinking already of suits at Law and subpoenas and suchlike.
"Bertie?" Kelly not much interested. "Bertie couldn't manage a dog's birthday party! Who cares what he thinks!"
"How much of this film's actually in the can as we speak?" Stephanie still focusing on material matters.
"Dun'no! And at present I don't care, either. Oh, suppose Bernhard'll have some idea. Is the ambulance here yet?"
"Not that I knows of, want me t'drive ya over?"
"If you happen t'have the time, majesty!"
"Come off it, gal!" Stephanie knowing well how to handle an obstreperous partner. "Pull yourself t'gether, what are you, a mouse or a lion!"
Next morning, in the East 54th Street office, Stephanie was interrogating Diana's Manager Bertie Verraker.
"No, I won't!"
"But Diana says Miss Humber threw the first punch, that makes it assault. She's, Diana, gon'na sue for millions."
"Let her." Stephanie not put out in the least. "Kelly states Corrington threw the first hairbrush, breaking her nose comprehensively. That's grounds for suing on our part without question."
"It's all down to believing you or my client." Verraker holding out for what was overwhelmingly a poor cause.
"Yeah, an' any capable jury'll believe Kelly over that b-tch any day. You'll lose bigtime, buster, as well you know, so don't go threatening us without any kind'a backup. When's she comin' back t'complete the flick?"
Verraker laughed a light laugh, as of a manager on his back foot.
"She ain't got any plans t'come back, not on this flick, anyway. Deal's over, so she told me yesterday."
"The contract in my office safe says otherwise, Verraker." Stephanie girding up for the long fight. "She's on contract to Redoubtable, and she stays on contract until the flick's finished or the earth opens an' swallows the Studio, whichever comes first, OK?"
"She ain't gon'na like that, not one bit."
"She can not like it as much as she likes; but come Tuesday she's back on the Queens set or there'll really be trouble. Want I sue her for the cost of the movie? What would that amount to? Around two million, if ya wan'na know."
Verraker, having nothing left in his arsenal, folded.
"I'll tell her."
"Do so." Stephanie standing on her honour. "An' also that the Director will be wearing a Colt Forty-five from now on, just for the protection of the stars and staff against poisonous spiders, coyotes, and rattlers, y'understand."
"What! In Queens?"
"Especially in Queens! G'bye!"
A week had passed, interestingly for Stephanie, less so for Kelly, back on duty with a plaster over her nose and an air of a crouching hungry tiger ready to pounce on whatever came along that had any likelihood of seeming edible.
"You say Tauchmitz's sporting a Forty-five now, like in the old days?" Kelly considering a situation that held great potential in her eyes. "What say I go down t'visit the set with my own Forty-five? I can get it out of storage real easy."
"With your and Diana's back-story that would be simply plain silly." Stephanie pulling no punches. "Your Forty-five's nixed before it gets off the ground, lady, OK?"
"Ya wan'na spend the rest of your life in the Tombs, OK, but don't think I'll come round every month bearing cherry cakes an' bottles of champagne, dear."
"Some help you are."
"Only tryin' t'keep ya out'ta trouble, dear, is all. Come on, work with me won't ya? Your nose's gon'na be as good as new in a few weeks, anyway; so the Doc at the Hospital said."
"No thanks to Corrington!" Kelly loath to give up the fight.
"Life goes on; just look it in the eye an' spit in its face—er, no, don't do that! Just take it on the chin—er, don't do that either. What I mean is—"
Kelly finally laughed, then made a face as regretting the action.
"Ouch, that hurt." She touching her bandaged nose tenderly. "OK, I'll calm down, but I don't wan'na set eyes on Corrington till she's left the set for the last time. Nor any time afterwards, either, come to think of it!"
"That's my baby!" Stephanie cheering-up wonderfully. "Knew you'd see sense in the end."
What had seemed so delightful about Diana, on her first being signed-up, was the great following she had in the Public domain; all the movie magazines giving her wide coverage in text as well as carefully airbrushed photos, appealing to the mob in untold numbers. Which had now metamorphosed into the proverbial albatross round the neck of the Studio.
"What it comes down to is we can't be seen to be against her in any way—the Public just won't have that, unless it comes from a reliable critical source." Stephanie laying out their situation in the office a few days later. "They hear we're at loggerheads with their gorgeous favourite, they'll stay away from our flicks in such large numbers the Studio''ll go under in months if not weeks."
Kelly shook her head, as being firmly opposed to this representation of their relation to their latest star.
"That don't give us any leeway at all. What, we have t'buckle under every acrimonious order she gives? It'll be like before she bounced me halfway across the state with that dam' hairbrush! Ya want I get my jaw busted this time, when I deny her a second cup of tea at her infernal afternoon breaks?"
"Let's look at it logically, from a realistic point of view." Stephanie grasping for straws, as she very well knew. "It'll only be another three weeks; Tauchmitz says that's all it'll take t'finish up. We can last that long, surely?"
"It don't help she's called Tauchmitz's bluff by carryin' her own point thirty-eight revolver with her, even on set, concealed under her skirts! I don't like the tone of that at all. You know Tauchmitz got a medal for Bravery, a German one, during the War? Anything could happen if he's prodded too far!"
"We could ban firearms?" Stephanie back-tracking on her own orders. "It was a silly idea in the first place."
"Not so silly, even." Kelly loath to give up on something so close to her heart, and her still recovering broken nose. "Who knows when such wouldn't show its true worth?"
"Trouble is her character's the focus of the whole movie, she's in almost every dam' scene, on the set every day."
"Yeah, no gettin' rid of the witch; like that scene in Macbeth—thank God there's only one of her!"
It all came to an inevitable head the next day. By necessity both Stephanie and Kelly needed to be on set in Studio B, Queens, on the very day a complex scene was underway; both the star and the Director under pressure and both fast losing their capacity to keep calm.
"Cut! A f-ckin' 'gain!" Tauchmitz not a happy German Director. "What for you spoil it that way, Miss Corrington? Didn't you realise you were off-key that far. Pull yourself together, for f-ck's sake, or we never finish this dam' flick."
"Stuff it, Fritz!" She taking no prisoners herself. "I know how t'act, even if you don't know how t'direct! Roll 'em again, I'll get it this time, an' stop, fer Chr-st's sake, shoutin' at me! It don't do nuthin for your tonsils, an' I take no note of a dam' Kraut bawlin' in my ear. Ya want we re-enact Vimy Ridge right here an' now? I'm up for it, buster!"
"Take fifteen! Let's take fifteen, while Tony reloads the camera." Stephanie stepping in to forestall another conflict. "Let's all calm down here. Things is going just fine; we'll have this scene in the can within an hour, lets all just concentrate, OK?"
Work had been progressing for over two hours, if continually repeating the same scene over and over again meant such, this being the eleventh scratched take. The fact they were using a new expensive type of panchromatic 35mm film, capable of capturing a wider palette of tones than normal in black and white, not helping either Producer's blood pressure.
"This'll be the fourth can of film, Stevie." Kelly's sharp accountant's eye keeping close track of this abject fact. "That number alone cost as much as ten of the ordinary type, y'know. By the time Corrington finally gets it right we may as well have ordered dam' colour film from the get-go."
"Easy, lady, easy." Stephanie putting an encouraging arm round her partner's shoulders as they stood in the shadows of the large Stage. "It'll all come right in the wash. The look the final film'll have in the cinema will surprise the audience so much they'll be gazing at the set decoration more'n the stars, even Corrington."
"Ha! That'd be nice." Kelly allowing her inner vixen to show its fangs. "The critics extolling the technical nature of the flick, an' not mentioning Corrington at all! She'd go up in flames—ha-ha!"
"Gal, you have a cruel streak that frightens me!"
"Only the truth, lady, only the truth!"
But Stephanie had a more important job in hand.
"Come on, we got'ta beard the Siren in her den; talk some sense into her."
Five minutes later, Kelly knocking officiously on the door, the dressing-room was opened by a middle-aged lady with a careworn expression.
"Miss Corrington don't see visitors on set, madam."
"She'll see us—we're the picture, move aside." Kelly taking no prisoners.
"Hey, what's up? Didn't ya hear my servant, get lost! Oh, it's you bums."
"I didn't hear you'd bought the Studio, Miss Corrington." Stephanie on her best cutting behavior.
"Only, the way you're talkin' anyone'd be excused for thinkin' you owned the whole coffee shop, instead of just being a waitress, as you are." Kelly being mean on purpose.
"What the hell! Get yer butts out'ta here. I heard enough. I'm a great actress, goin' places, soon I'll be workin' alongside Katherine Hepburn an' Barbara Stanwyck, I'll let ya know—not on rasty-assed flics like this bumstreak of a B movie!"
The fact Redoubtable was putting more than double the money into The Sylph than any other two movies before it rankled with both Stephanie and Kelly, over and above the downbeat description of what they both hoped was going to be a breakout movie for the Studio if handled carefully.
"Miss Corrington," Stephanie waxing cold and vicious, like the Medusa. "you're on contract to us, Redoubtable; but contracts can be broken, ripped up, torn to shreds, and the Party of the First Part, that'll be you, sued for the whole cost of the abandoned movie! You know how much we're puttin' into this movie, lady?"
Diana, not discombobulated at all, merely raised her exquisite retroussé nose further in the air.
"Don't care! I got Brevington, Barford, Morgenthaler, Haileybury, an' Smith behind me—best lawyers on the East Coast; go against them an' see what happens t'your sorry asses. Go away an' leave me in peace; that Kraut moron'll be shoutin' for me on set in a few minutes again. An' don't forget, Hannah Kreutsche, from Movie Monthly, is coming to interview me here on set tomorrow; she'll want the best treatment, she bein' a lady an' all-powerful in the movie business, as ya both well know. Don't wan'na get on the wrong side of Hannah Kreutsche, do ya? No, didn't think so!"
Outside in the corridor Kelly let rip.
"That gal has t'go! I don't care any longer about losing the picture an' the dam' cost! Get rid of her before I have a blue fit an' do something I'll be proud of for the rest of my life!"
Stephanie, however, was appreciative of the longer haul.
"What about her?" Kelly intrigued. "She's got power and the inside grift on all things movie-based. She has contacts that'd crush us in a trice if let loose,—don't want that, dear."
"No, but if those same pressures and connections were twisted to work for our purposes, what then?"
Kelly paused to consider this argument.
"How'd we do that? I've never spoken to Kreutsche before—you?"
"Yip, long ago, in silent days when we were both young whippersnappers—saved her one night from a couple of jerks harbourin' nasty intentions; she ain't forgotten!"
Kelly whistled, absorbing this news for the first time.
"Not a miniscule iota, darlin'."
"Kel, ya got an evil mind!"
"And don't I just revel in such, dear!"
When, in the austere pages of Movie Monthly, Hannah Kreutsche opined that a film was a bad film that film bombed instanter; when she called an actor or actress a good actor or actress that actor or actress immediately got a big raise and move to better ranked movies. When Hannah Kreutsche said someone was a fine actor or actress they were made for Life. Now, this afternoon, she stood foursquare on the set of The Sylph of Sydney Street, on the cold hard concrete floor of Studio B, Redoubtable Films, Queens, NY, looking all the way like the unassailable Queen of the Movies that she was in reality.
"So, you're the Producer, Miss—what was it again, I have such a short memory for, er, certain things?"
"Stephanie Garroch, Miss Kreutsche."
"Ah, of course." Hannah hardly looking more informed. "So, what's the flick about, then? I'm sure my readers will be interested."
The movie was, actually, a comedy-romance, but these things are notoriously difficult to describe in cold blood straight from the script, though Stephanie did her best.
"Uumph!" Hannah curling a lip, in a not very attentive manner. "Sounds OK, but rather run of the mill, don't you think? Couldn't you get some scriptwriters with imagination, hard as that is these days, I allows?"
"We did our best." Kelly rather unctuous than not. "This's the seventh script, and the thirteenth writer; but we think we've got it in hand now."
"Should hope so, with the cameras rolling!" Hannah's snappy tone recording her inability to suffer fools or delays gladly. "So, Miss Corrington, how do you feel about the movie? The Producers? The Director? The whole tone of the enterprise? My readers always being agog to hear the inside info from your very lips."
Till now silent Diana now spoke up with verve and an egotism astonishing in its self-absorption.
"One does what One can, of course!" She raising her head, eyes alight as if speaking to an enthralled Mob. "One is always striving to bring happiness and joy to the Public of course. One tries One's best, One makes the best of the movie One is required to do to the best of One's abilities; One always keeping the good nature of the Audience in mind at every turn, of course. One—mmph—tries One's best,—doesn't One?"
Even Hannah appeared taken aback at this level of self-deception, rocking back on her perfectly shod feet for an instant before recovering bravely.
"Ah, of cour—I mean, yes, no doubt! So, have you got the measure of the movie yet? Do you see it as being a movie for the Ages? One that will ring down the decades and keep your name in lights for the foreseeable future? Will it, I suppose I'm asking, be a hit?"
In truth Diana had little more cognizance of the movie's direction than the scenes she memorised daily; the main theme being a mystery to her still; she being in it solely for the money and likely future fame, if any. So she sprang to answer this list of leading questions with all the grace and innocence of a two-bit actress on the make.
"Oh, yes, Miss Kreutsche!"
Hannah, faced by this level of obtuseness, took a second to recover.
"And your interpretation, Miss Covington?"
Caught on her back foot Diana did her best.
"One, er,—One, uum,—One, aah;—of course, One does what One can with the material to hand, doesn't One, Miss Kreutsche? One finds the theme and works with it; One allows the ambience to work on One's soul to the benefit of the story, doesn't One? One protects the other actors in their turn, keeping them on the straight and narrow as One perceives it, One finds. One sincerely hopes Audiences will discover enjoyment, understanding, succor, and a, er, deep something in it that will tide them over the years; yes, of course! One holds the Director, Baumfitz, in great regard, of course; a great Krau—er, German expert in his field, One realises, and One is happy to have such a ancie—er, ol—er, veteran at One's side, isn't One? One is, of course, hardly inclined to suppose One's own input will be of any lasting tone, doesn't One? But One does, at least, hope for some slight acceptance in the years to come, if One is allowed a certain little soupçon of personal interest!"
Flabbergasted beyond belief by this outflow of utter crap,—er, inner thoughts of an Actress of Note!,—Stephanie, Kelly, and especially Hannah stood in silence, absolutely struck dumb.
"Yes—yes—er, yes!" Being about all Hannah could find to reply at short notice and without the input of a registered Head-Doctor on call.
"Well, wha'd'ya make of her, Hannah?"
Back in her private office outside the Stage Stephanie was eager to find out what her friend thought of the past encounter, Kelly sitting by her side just as keen.
"A real doozy, Stevie!" Hannah not short in adjectives to describe her recent encounter. "Never heard such drivel in all my puff! Where exactly does the floozy think she comes from? King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle? She'd fit in there real easy!"
"Yeah, wouldn't she just!" Stephanie agreeing with delight.
Kelly, never having heard of the Castle in question, kept a reserved silence.
"What d'you mean to write this debacle up as, in Movie Monthly?" Stephanie coming to the crux of their social meeting.
""Where is she at present? Far away, I sincerely hope!"
"In her dressing-room, thinking she's made a new fan and the primrose path to Fame and Fortune beckons by the minute, by all accounts." Kelly sneering openly.
"Ah, well!" Hannah getting into her stride as a movie reporter. "What I mean to do is echo her silly gibberish almost word for word. Don't want to go too far, mind you, lawsuits being so easy for everyone an' their sainted Aunt these days; but I believe I can put the knife in so far it'll take an army of surgeons to pull it back out, my dears!"
"Sweet words, Hannah, sweet words!" Stephanie wholly at peace with her surroundings. "You'll print it in next month's issue?"
"We'll have wrapped the movie by then." Kelly coming in with the sucker punch. "Retribution'll fall on Diana immediately after the flick opens across the theaters. The audience, and her readers'll be amused and equally horrified at her personality, or lack of same; so much so they'll flock to the movie just to see her in action."
"Instead of applauding, they'll probably catcall an' jeer their throats raw!" Stephanie considering the likely outcome of the unfolding fiasco. "Throw rotten tomatoes at the screens, meb'be! Would that effect the intake profit margin, do you suppose?"
"Take it from me, ladies," Hannah on top of this detail and her overall game. "There're movies, an' there are movies. The sort yours turns out to be, with Diana getting her comeuppance beforehand, will be a comic-tragedy that'll outrank the best of the old-time Jacobean Tragi-Comedies. After multiple audiences see her in action, after reading what I aim to write about her, her Public estimation will plummet worldwide; so much so she'll find it difficult to find a job on a Tarzan movie in the future, believe me."
"Kel, I've said it before and—"
"—and I'm still proud of it, Lover!"
The following few weeks of production went smoothly, or so much so as Diana's warped self-conceit allowed. She picked arguments with most of the secondary cast, right down to the character actors brought in for a single day and three lines; she upset the Studio staff, particularly the ladies bringing well-earned mugs of tea and coffee, with fancy cakes, to the relief of over-stressed workers; she threw random abhorrent outpourings of rancid vileness in the direction of Front Office, though most of the inmates there had never set eyes on the Siren; she made niggling queries to Tauchmitz of a nature to rile any Film Director, never mind an ex-patriot German; she sneered at Stephanie, and snarled at Kelly, never a safe option; she took longer and longer coffee breaks and lunches, all on the score that, having been interviewed by Hannah Kreutsche, she was now as near as dam'mit a frontline star in all but name and standing and popularity: slight details that did not seem to bother her reflection of herself in the least.
"I shoot her!" Tauchmitz on one of his daily complaints in the Producers' private office. "Give me my Luger so that I can shoot the b-tch! She needs it so entirely much! It will be a kindness to the whole world, you cannot argue!"
"East, bro, easy." Kelly trying to calm shattered nerves. "I'm sure your feelings are, er, hurt—"
"My feelings!" Tauchmitz enraged even further. "I have not felt so—so—so like how I feel now since I had shell-shock during the Battle of the Marne! Give me my gun; I can shoot fine—I am a perfect shot; how you say, a marksman! I can hit her easy at anything up to two hundred yards, even with my trusty Luger!"
Kelly actually didn't think this a bad idea by a long way but, constrained by modern moral social niceties, felt her hands tied in the matter.
"Keep calm, just carry on as usual; we'll get there, don't worry."
But Tauchmitz was almost at the end of his tether.
"How can one carry on? She niggles daily, she mutters under her breath in every scene, she corrupts the whole tone of the movie, she harasses the other actors, she finds fault with the script, the lighting, the sound engineers, the set decoration, she is a menace to the whole world. At Babelsberg, I assure you, she would have had her ass kicked all round the Studio estate the first day she tried her childish nonsense. No German Director would put up with her, what do you call it, baloney! I shall not put up with her tantrums any longer!"
This being the fourth day in a row Tauchmitz had come to the Producers almost on bent knee begging to be allowed to commit Murder One Stephanie glanced at Kelly, both of the same mind.
"Go ahead, Stevie."
So Stephanie, placing a soothing hand on the quivering German Director's shoulder, told him about her friendship with Hannah Kreutsche, Hannah's undeniable power and control in the movie world, what she meant to do re her printed interview in Movie Monthly on the cusp of hitting the Public bookstalls, and how it would inevitably affect Diana's future, ha-ha, career. Pausing to let this information circulate round his system, Tauchmitz bucked-up wonderfully.
"Ha! It is of her own doing, no! She will get what she does not expect! Instead of what she does! Ha-Ha! How many more shooting days do we have? No, I know—four! I go to complete them now. I am a happy Director; this will be the happiest week of my life. We have the b-tch under our fingers, no? It is we who are in control now; when she niggles I shall smirk in answer; when she grumbles I shall turn the other cheek; when she goes off to slurp coffee I shall sit down and do the newspaper crossword; what will it be to me! When she boasts of her attributes I shall raise an eyebrow and say nothing! And finally, I shall triumph in her downfall—schadenfreude is beautiful, no?—Ha-Ha!"
"Quite!" Stephanie lost for an adequate answer.
The final day's shooting went off as expected—to wit, a hit and miss affair. The film was completed, but not without the star complaining about the heating on the Stage set—an item more or less non-existent from day one, but nobody else ever complained, they being long immured to harsh reality—the necessity to work an hour overtime in the afternoon to complete the last scene, a personal grievance she had manufactured with her co-star, Martin Barham, concerning his appearance, manners, taste in clothes, perfume, and the way he treated her—like the hussy she was in reality but didn't realise, if only she did realise. Kelly, during the course of the day, turned a deeper and deeper shade of puce, while Stephanie went around wondering, not without serious alarm, who on the set would attempt to assassinate Diana first—so many to choose from!
"Is this g-d'd-m flick never gon'na come t'an end?"
Diana's reply to Tauchmitz wondering whether just one more take on the last scene might not be effective.
"I got a dam' life t'lead, y'know! OK-OK! One more dam' take, but that's yer last, Fritz!"
Stephanie, not without an increased heartbeat, watched the Director's right hand scrabbling at his waist belt, fingers searching for something that wasn't there, but which Stephanie could all too easily visualise.
"Stevie, I'm two seconds away from having a blue fit and dropping dead right here at your feet—remember me kindly, will ya!
"Kel, get a dam' grip!" Stephanie sighing in world weariness. "We're there; almost, anyway. Another hour an' it'll all be over."
Kelly wasn't to be calmed so easily though.
"Sixty minutes, each an eternity; it'll only be an hour, sure, but by the end I'll be an old white-haired maid needin' a walking-stick and ear-trumpet, only able to gibber seniley about how wonderful Life was back in Benjamin Harrison's day!"
"Hey, Barham, get your butt over here—Waumfitz here wants t'do the last scene again!" Diana at her best.
As he passed the Producers Martin paused to give them a cold calculating glance.
"My next flick's all about a man who murders a woman in cold blood! I'll know just fine how to play the part!"
Movie Monthly, September issue, came out on the third of the month, with a glossy cover featuring a headshot of guess who? Yes, Diana Corrington smiling grimly, stage left. The fact that smiling kindly was an expression she had never truly mastered, and that the photo was originally black and white but had been rather inexpertly over-coloured specially for the cover, both made for something nerve-wracking rather than entertaining. But the knife in the wound, the sword in the back, the blackjack to the back of the head down a dark alley at dead of night, was the essay by Hannah Kreutsche describing both Diana's work on the movie, The Sylph of Sydney Street, and her personal character as a whole. Both these being assassinations that would have done any professional hitman proud, those who read it.
Diana, on the day of publication, did so as she reclined in her silk-sheeted bed taking a leisurely breakfast. At first glance she took in various adjectives, such as astonishing, curious, headstrong, beyond the norm, outrageous, self-centredness. Ate another piece of anchovy toast, then furrowed a dainty brow, unsure that these words had actually been used in quite the right way to produce the effect she had envisaged as doing her the greatest benefit by way of puffing her brilliant capability as an actress of note. So she replaced her Nymphenburg teacup on its saucer, picked-up the mag again and fell to reading consecutive paragraphs one after the other, never an easy task for one with her lack of concentration to any subject, however important, for more than a minute and a half at a time.
"What?" This first query in the mild tone of a woman uncertain whether an apple on the stall was all it should be or not. But things could only get worse. "What! What the Hell! Jey-sus Chr-st! Aa-aargh! I don't believe it! That g-d'd-m b-tch! Those g-d'd-m b-tches! They've stitched me up between them! Rose! Rose, get yer butt in here pronto. I want Brevington, Barford, Morgenthaler, Haileybury, an' Smith on the phone yesterday! I got bones t'pick!"
"Ha-Ha! Hee-Hee!" Kelly at her best, or worst.
Stephanie content with a quiet smirk, though just as pleased as her heartmate, they lying in bed together in their comfy Hotel reading the mag of the moment assiduously from cover to cover.
"Hannah's gotten her good, hasn't she?"
"Pretty good, yeah." Stephanie agreeing with this assessment of her friend''s reporting capability. "Across the board hatchet job, expertly done. Think we've heard the last of Diana Corrington as anything influential in the movie business."
"She'll be lucky t'get a job in future in a movie theater's sales booth giving out tickets." Kelly musing on great things.
"Probably, anyway we won't be bothered by her affectations anymore."
Kelly, always one for gleaning the most from something good, read the article again.
"D'ya think we might have, oh, I don't know, overstepped the bounds of good taste in this, at all? Just askin'."
They both considered this moral dilemma for a few seconds, before finding the answer together.
The next 'Redoubtable Films' story will be along shortly.