Merton of the Movies HTML version

7. Nothing To-Day, Dear!
The savings had been opportunely replenished. In two days he had accumulated
a sum for which, back in Simsbury, he would have had to toil a week. Yet there
was to be said in favour of the Simsbury position that it steadily endured. Each
week brought its fifteen dollars, pittance though it might be, while the art of the
silver screen was capricious in its rewards, not to say jumpy. Never, for weeks at
a stretch, had Gashwiler said with a tired smile, "Nothing to-day--sorry!" He might
have been a grouch and given to unreasonable nagging, but with him there was
always a very definite something to-day which he would specify, in short words if
the occasion seemed to demand. There was not only a definite something every
day but a definite if not considerable sum of money to be paid over every
Saturday night, and in the meantime three very definite and quite satisfying
meals to be freely partaken of at stated hours each day.
The leisure enforced by truly creative screen art was often occupied now with
really moving pictures of Metta Judson placing practicable food upon the
Gashwiler table. This had been no table in a gilded Broadway resort, holding
empty coffee cups and half empty wine glasses, passed and repassed by
apparently busy waiters with laden trays who never left anything of a practicable
nature. Doubtless the set would not have appealed to Henshaw. He would never
have been moved to take close-ups, even for mere flashes, of those who ate this
food. And yet, more and more as the days went by, this old-time film would
unreel itself before the eager eyes of Merton Gill. Often now it thrilled him as
might have an installment of The Hazards of Hortense, for the food of his
favourite pharmacy was beginning to pall and Metta Judson, though giving her
shallow mind to base village gossip, was a good cook. She became the adored
heroine of an apparently endless serial to be entitled The Hazards of Clifford
Armytage, in which the hero had tragically little to do but sit upon a bench and
wait while tempting repasts were served.
Sometimes on the little bench around the eucalyptus tree he would run an entire
five-thousand-foot program feature, beginning with the Sunday midday dinner of
roast chicken, and abounding in tense dramatic moments such as corned-beef
and cabbage on Tuesday night, and corned-beef hash on Wednesday morning.
He would pause to take superb closeups of these, the corned beef on its
spreading platter hemmed about with boiled potatoes and turnips and cabbage,
and the corned beef hash with its richly browned surface. The thrilling climax
would be the roast of beef on Saturday night, with close-ups taken in the very
eye of the camera, of the mashed potatoes and the apple pie drenched with
cream. And there were close-ups of Metta Judson, who had never seriously
contemplated a screen career, placing upon the table a tower of steaming hot
cakes, while a platter of small sausages loomed eloquently in the foreground.
With eyes closed he would run this film again and again, cutting here,
rearranging sequences, adding trims from suddenly remembered meals of the
dead past, devising more intimate close-ups, such as the one of Metta
withdrawing pies from the oven or smoothing hot chocolate caressingly over the