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Merton of the Movies

15.
A New Trail
One genial morning a few days later the sun shone in across the desk of Baird
while he talked to Merton Gill of the new piece. It was a sun of fairest promise.
Mr. Gill's late work was again lavishly commended, and confidence was
expressed that he would surpass himself in the drama shortly to be produced.
Mr. Baird spoke in enthusiastic terms of this, declaring that if it did not prove to
be a knock-out--a clean-up picture--then he, Jeff Baird, could safely be called a
Chinaman. And during the time that would elapse before shooting on the new
piece could begin he specified a certain study in which he wished his actor to
engage.
"You've watched the Edgar Wayne pictures, haven't you?"
"Yes, I've seen a number of them."
"Like his work?--that honest country-boy-loving-his--mother-and- little-sister stuff,
wearing overalls and tousled hair in the first part, and coming out in city clothes
and eight dollar neckties at the last, with his hair slicked back same as a seal?"
"Oh, yes, I like it. He's fine. He has a great appeal."
"Good! That's the kind of a part you're going to get in this new piece. Lots of
managers in my place would say 'No-he's a capable young chap and has plenty
of talent, but he lacks the experience to play an Edgar Wayne part.' That's what a
lot of these Wisenheimers would say. But me--not so. I believe you can get away
with this part, and I'm going to give you your chance."
"I'm sure I don't know how to thank you, Mr. Baird, and I'll try to give you the very
best that is in me--"
"I'm sure of that, my boy; you needn't tell me. But now--what I want you to do
while you got this lay-off between pieces, chase out and watch all the Edgar
Wayne pictures you can find. There was one up on the Boulevard last week I'd
like you to watch half-a-dozen times. It may be at another house down this way,
or it may be out in one of the suburbs. I'll have someone outside call up and find
where it is to-day and they'll let you know. It's called Happy Homestead or
something snappy like that, and it kind of suggests a layout for this new piece of
mine, see what I mean? It'll suggest things to you.
"Edgar and his mother and little sister live on this farm and Edgar mixes in with a
swell dame down at the summer hotel, and a villain tries to get his old mother's
farm and another villain takes his little sister off up to the wicked city, and Edgar
has more trouble than would patch Hell a mile, see? But it all comes right in the
end, and the city girl falls for him when she sees him in his stepping-out clothes.
"It's a pretty little thing, but to my way of thinking it lacks strength; not enough
punch to it. So we're sort of building up on that general idea, only we'll put in the
pep that this piece lacked. If I don't miss my guess, you'll be able to show Wayne
a few things about serious acting--especially after you've studied his methods a
little bit in this piece."
"Well, if you think I can do it," began Merton, then broke off in answer to a
sudden thought. "Will my mother be the same actress that played it before, the
one that mopped all the time?"
 
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