Merton of the Movies HTML version

4. The Watcher At The Gate
The street leading to the Holden motion-picture studio, considered by itself, lacks
beauty. Flanking it for most of the way from the boulevard to the studio gate are
vacant lots labelled with their prices and appeals to the passer to buy them. Still
their prices are high enough to mark the thoroughfare as one out of the common,
and it is further distinguished by two rows of lofty eucalyptus trees. These have a
real feathery beauty, and are perhaps a factor in the seemingly exorbitant prices
demanded for the choice bungalow and home sites they shade. Save for a
casual pioneer bungalow or two, there are no buildings to attract the notice until
one reaches a high fence that marks the beginning of the Holden lot. Back of this
fence is secreted a microcosmos, a world in little, where one may encounter
strange races of people in their native dress and behold, by walking a block,
cities actually apart by league upon league of the earth's surface and separated
by centuries of time.
To penetrate this city of many cities, and this actual present of the remote past,
one must be of a certain inner elect. Hardly may one enter by assuming the
disguise of a native, as daring explorers have sometimes overcome the difficulty
of entering other strange cities. Its gate, reached after passing along an
impressive expanse of the reticent fence, is watched by a guardian. He is a
stoatish man of middle age, not neatly dressed, and of forbidding aspect. His
face is ruthless, with a very knowing cynicism. He is there, it would seem, chiefly
to keep people out of the delightful city, though from time to time he will bow an
assent or wave it with the hand clutching his evening newspaper to one of the
favoured lawful inmates, who will then carelessly saunter or drive an expensive
motor car through the difficult portal.
Standing across the street, one may peer through this portal into an avenue of
the forbidden city. There is an exciting glimpse of greensward, flowering
shrubbery, roses, vines, and a vista of the ends of enormous structures painted
yellow. And this avenue is sprightly with the passing of enviable persons who are
rightly there, some in alien garb, some in the duller uniform of the humble artisan,
some in the pressed and garnished trappings of rich overlords.
It is really best to stand across the street for this clandestine view of heart-
shaking delights. If you stand close to the gate to peer past the bulky shape of
the warder he is likely to turn and give you a cold look. Further, he is averse to
light conversation, being always morosely absorbed--yet with an eye ever alert
for intrusive outlanders--in his evening paper. He never reads a morning paper,
but has some means of obtaining at an early hour each morning a pink or green
evening paper that shrieks with crimson headlines. Such has been his reading
through all time, and this may have been an element in shaping his now
inveterate hostility toward those who would engage him in meaningless talk.
Even in accepting the gift of an excellent cigar he betrays only a bored
condescension. There is no relenting of countenance, no genial relaxing of an
ingrained suspicion toward all who approach him, no cordiality, in short, such as
would lead you to believe that he might be glad to look over a bunch of stills