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Merton of the Movies

17.
Miss Montague Uses Her Own Face
Work on the piece dragged slowly to an end. In these latter days the earnest
young leading man suffered spells of concern for his employer. He was afraid
that Mr. Baird in his effort to struggle out of the slough of low comedy was not
going to be wholly successful. He had begun to note that the actors employed for
this purpose were not invariably serious even when the cameras turned. Or, if
serious, they seemed perhaps from the earnestness of their striving for the
worth-while drama, to be a shade too serious. They were often, he felt, over-
emphatic in their methods. Still, they were, he was certain, good actors. One
could always tell what they meant.
It was at these times that he especially wished he might be allowed to view the
"rushes." He not only wished to assure himself for Baird's sake that the piece
would be acceptably serious, but he wished, with a quite seemly curiosity, to view
his own acting on the screen. It occurred to him that he had been acting a long
time without a glimpse of himself. But Baird had been singularly firm in this
matter, and the Montague girl had sided with him. It was best, they said, for a
beginning actor not to see himself at first. It might affect his method before this
had crystallized; make them self-conscious, artificial.
He was obliged to believe that these well-wishers of his knew best. He must not,
then, trifle with a screen success that seemed assured. He tried to be content
with this decision. But always the misgivings would return. He would not be really
content until he had watched his own triumph. Soon this would be so securely his
privilege that not even Baird could deny it, for the first piece in which he had
worked was about to be shown. He looked forward to that.
It was toward the end of the picture that his intimacy with the Montague girl grew
to a point where, returning from location to the studio late, they would dine
together. "Hurry and get ungreased, Son," she would say, "and you can take an
actress out to dinner." Sometimes they would patronize the cafeteria on the lot,
but oftener, in a spirit of adventure, they would search out exotic restaurants. A
picture might follow, after which by street-car he would escort her to the
Montague home in a remote, flat region of palm-lined avenues sparsely set with
new bungalows.
She would disquiet him at these times by insisting that she pay her share of the
expense, and she proved to have no mean talent for petty finance, for she
remembered every item down to the street-car fares. Even to Merton Gill she
seemed very much a child once she stepped from the domain of her trade. She
would stare into shop windows wonderingly, and never failed to evince the most
childish delight when they ventured to dine at an establishment other than a
cafeteria.
At times when they waited for a car after these dissipations he suffered a not
unpleasant alarm at sight of a large-worded advertisement along the back of a
bench on which they would sit. "You furnish the Girl, We furnish the House,"
screamed the bench to him above the name of an enterprising tradesman that
came in time to bite itself deeply into his memory.
 
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