Merton of the Movies HTML version

Of Sarah Nevada Montague
They were six long weeks doing the new piece. The weeks seemed long to
Merton Gill because there were so many hours, even days, of enforced idleness.
To pass an entire day, his face stiff with the make-up, without once confronting a
camera in action, seemed to him a waste of his own time and a waste of Baird's
money. Yet this appeared to be one of the unavoidable penalties incurred by
those who engaged in the art of photodrama. Time was needed to create that
world of painted shadows, so swift, so nicely consecutive when revealed, but so
incoherent, so brokenly inconsequent, so meaningless in the recording.
How little an audience could suspect the vexatious delays ensuing between, say,
a knock at a door and the admission of a visitor to a neat little home where a fond
old mother was trying to pay off a mortgage with the help of her little ones. How
could an audience divine that a wait of two hours had been caused because a
polished city villain had forgotten his spats? Or that other long waits had been
caused by other forgotten trifles, while an expensive company of artists lounged
about in bored apathy, or smoked, gossiped, bantered?
Yet no one ever seemed to express concern about these waits. Rarely were their
causes known, except by some frenzied assistant director, and he, after a little,
would cease to be frenzied and fall to loafing calmly with the others. Merton Gill's
education in his chosen art was progressing. He came to loaf with the unconcern,
the vacuous boredom, the practised nonchalance, of more seasoned artists.
Sometimes when exteriors were being taken the sky would overcloud and the
sun be denied them for a whole day. The Montague girl would then ask Merton
how he liked Sunny Cafeteria. He knew this was a jesting term that would stand
for sunny California, and never failed to laugh.
The girl kept rather closely by him during these periods of waiting. She seemed
to show little interest in other members of the company, and her association with
them, Merton noted, was marked by a certain restraint. With them she seemed
no longer to be the girl of free ways and speech. She might occasionally join a
group of the men who indulged in athletic sports on the grass before the little
farmhouse--for the actors of Mr. Baird's company would all betray acrobatic
tendencies in their idle moments--and he watched one day while the simple little
country sister turned a series of hand- springs and cart-wheels that evoked
sincere applause from the four New York villains who had been thus solacing
their ennui.
But oftener she would sit with Merton on the back seat of one of the waiting
automobiles. She not only kept herself rather aloof from other members of the
company, but she curiously seemed to bring it about that Merton himself would
have little contact with them. Especially did she seem to hover between him and
the company's feminine members. Among those impersonating guests at the
hotel were several young women of rare beauty with whom he would have been
not unwilling to fraternize in that easy comradeship which seemed to mark studio
life. These were far more alluring than the New York society girl who wooed him