This a story
about filmmaking, writers, directors, producers, actors, lovers, rascals and a
real-life adventure. The screen lovers (mostly) live the serene life that
everybody would like to experience.
Of course there are rascals in the stories and in actual film production as
there are in all sorts and shades of business. In filmmaking actresses often
complain that males get the best scripts but they shouldn’t worry as it is the
female of the species that men go to the movies to see and dream about…if only!
Today it is the
directors who get top billing and have done so for many of the past years. Names
that come to mind are Hollywood greats, Norman Jewison, Stanley Kubrick, Joe
Mankiewicz, Billy Wilder, Mike Nicholls, Norman Taurog, John Ford, Fred
Zinnemann, Frank Capra, Michael Curtiz, Cecil B. de Mille and of course Alfred
Hitchcock. This writer had the opportunity of meeting Hitch at Universal Studios
‘Carpe Diem? What sort of a cockamamie name is that? Can’t see it as the title of a film. Who would come to see it? Nobody would know what it means.’
‘It’s Latin, Max, and it means “seize the day” – do it now, take the risk. We don’t have to use the Latin. Seize the Day would make a great title.’
‘That might be so but it has to be a B-movie. I think the punters are sick of vampires, werewolves, zombies, blood and guts, hospitals, crashing cars, police chases. With all this gloom and doom, global warming, threats of nuclear war, terrorism – the public are ready for good old-fashioned romance and adventure once again. I think that’s the way to go.’
‘Yeah, but what did you mean by a B-movie? Far as I remember, B-movies were mainly cowboy stories filmed on the back lots of the major LA studios.’
‘No no no, not that sort of B-movie. I mean movies full of broads, boobs and butts. That’s my take on a B-movie. You see, the men come to see the broads and all their female attractions, the curvier the better, and the women come to compare what they have with what’s up on the screen, whether they have to put some on or take some off, if you get my drift. You have to have a good story to go with it, of course.’
‘Ah yes, I think you’re right on that score. Do you know, I think we’ll make the production in the old-fashioned way, completely with film, with emulsion, all done in the camera, no gimmicks, no computer tricks. All shot in the way of the great directors such as George Cukor or John Huston. Of course, we’ll use today’s normal screen ratio but no present-day short-cuts. What do you think of that?’
‘Great idea, and it’s a gimmick that might create some publicity, should attract some media attention. But, as I say again, it must be a B-movie.’
‘A B-movie it is, but a B-movie with adventure. It has to be romance and adventure. When will I see a script?’
‘Soon. I’ve got the book’s author, Greg Crestwell, working on it right now. I hope he does a good job as the rights to his book cost an arm and a leg already. It’s cost us extra to use him but he’s had plenty of experience in screenwriting.’
‘I hope it’s not too long, too wordy. I hate a script that’s as long as the book. I like it short, sharp and snappy, with one page taking in up to five or more of the book.’
The three men seated around a table in a tenth-floor city office talked on far into the evening. They were a successful moviemaking trio, producer, director and art director, who had already made several successful independent productions, though finding a reliable distributor had always been a problem.
wanted to stage a movie around the Taj Mahal in
‘I’d leave that entirely to Bollywood,’ said Ern Hart, the director. ‘I can see it now, with five hundred sari-clad dancers erupting out the front door, sashaying down the marble steps and then dancing around the pools and gardens to a slow fade-out. Yes, Bollywood does it so much better.’
‘If that damn writer doesn’t turn up soon with the script I’m going home,’ said Max Barton, the producer. ‘It’s well past bourbon time for me and if I stay out much longer my wife will start to get suspicious. You know how women are, especially in this business, when you’re surrounded by good-looking broads all day.’
‘Hang on a minute or so, Max, he should be here soon. Then you can take your copy home to read at your leisure.’
‘Talking of broads, who are we casting in the main female role this time?’ asked Werner.
‘Monica again. I know she’s difficult to handle but she’s a hot box-office attraction, she packs them in, so we have to use her,’ replied Max.
‘Yes, we do,
but she’s also a pain in the ass and full of herself. Always complaining about
her love life or lack of it. Or what she sees as the shortcomings of the rest of
the cast. Don’t know how we put up with her tantrums on and off the sound stage.
Far as I’m concerned she needs a good kick up that same ass, curvy though it is.
However, it’ll be OK this time, Max. I can handle her. I have a plan,’ said the
The world had gone to war for the second time in twenty-one years. When it started, in 1939, Greg Crestwell was at high school. The school wasn’t segregated; it catered for girls as well as boys. The boys who earlier had considered the girls figures of fun, sissies, not to be tolerated, were starting to change their minds. There was something about girls, something mysterious. The boys noticed they were starting to change shape, bumps in the front, curves, rounded hips. There was much discussion about this behind the bike shed. The boys were starting to change, too; childlike treble was disappearing as voices started to get deeper. Some boys were even smoking. Ten cigarettes could be bought for sixpence. Of course, they talked about the war, too, and hoped it would last long enough for them to get into the action. They took their training in the school cadets very seriously. The headmaster, Mr Robson, had been a major in World War I and proudly wore his uniform and shiny high boots on Friday afternoon parade.
Schooldays came and went, 1939 gave way to 1940, and then the boys had a lesson in sex that shocked everyone. The French teacher, Miss Ramsey, had gone to the shops at mid-day break on some mission of her own. On the way back to school she had to cross a high bridge over a railway line. Far below in the warm summer grass she spied a couple that she recognised as the head male and female prefects. Trouble was, their clothing was scattered around and the head male was on top of the head female. They had forgotten about the bridge overhead. Scandal! Miss Ramsey couldn’t wait to report to the headmaster, who was suitably shocked.
‘This sordid affair must stay entirely within this office, Miss Ramsey. Not a word must get around the school. Of course, I will have to inform the parents and have them come in for a conference. The other students mustn’t hear of this. What a disaster for all of us.’
It took about ten seconds for the news to circulate the entire school. Little knots of students gathered whispering and giggling. The two miscreants had disappeared from the school. No one knew where they had gone. Teachers went about looking severe. Two teachers, one who taught Latin and the other mathematics, joined the army that very day. Miss Ramsey had to take sick leave she was so upset.
Came the year 1941, the war was still grinding on. Greg Crestwell left school. He reckoned he’d had enough education. There was no thought of university. His parents couldn’t afford the fees. Anyway, it was usually the children of doctors and lawyers who went to university. He took a job at the Post Office, delivering telegrams. After all, it was a government job and should provide security of employment, so his parents thought. Greg, though, had other plans. He couldn’t wait to turn eighteen and then he’d be in the armed services – Army, Navy or Air Force.
His eighteenth birthday was reached and soon after, the papers arrived for his induction. He had chosen the Air Force and he was sent with another recruit to a larger nearby town for an interview as to his suitability. Train fare and accommodation money was provided.
The interview for Greg went well. He was quizzed by an Air Force officer on general knowledge and given a series of mathematical questions to solve, which he did. ‘Welcome to the Air Force,’ said the officer, holding out his hand. ‘You will just have to pass the medical and then you’re in.’
Greg’s fellow recruit, Grant Russell, also passed the test. Back at their hotel Grant said he had seen a dance advertised in the town and planned to go. ‘Want to come with me?’ he asked.
‘No, but you go. Think I’ll just stay here and get ready to leave for home as we have to catch the train early in the morning.’
‘Ok, suit yourself. See you later.’
About midnight, Greg was shaken awake by a dishevelled roommate. ‘You’ll never guess what happened. I hardly believe it myself.’
‘What happened? Did you get into a fight?’
‘No, nothing like that. It was a girl. I picked up this girl at the dance. Had a lot of dances with her and then said I would walk her home if she wished.’
‘Ok, and then what happened?’
‘She was quite pretty but she had a tattoo on her arm. A small tattoo, but I’ve never seen a girl with a tattoo before. Perhaps that should have warned me.’
‘Warned you about what?’
‘Well, we were walking through a park and she suddenly turned to me and said, “Have you got any French letters?” and I said, “What?” She said, “If you want to screw me you’ll have to wear a French letter. I won’t do it without”.’
‘Wow, really? I’ve never heard of such a thing. What did you do?’
‘I said, no, I didn’t carry French letters and you can get yourself home, so I walked off and left her standing in the park and came back here.’
‘After she made you such a generous offer? Only kidding. What a tough dame. That’s something that will stick in your mind probably for the rest of your life.’
‘Probably will. It’s changed my mind about women generally though. I always thought of them as soft, sweet, tender and innocent. But, no more. They can be as tough as any man and go after what they want with no mincing words. Even get tattooed.’
‘Guess you’re right. Better get some sleep we have to be up early.’
military juggernaut seemed unstoppable, reaching
It was now 1942. Greg and the other recruits were quickly put through weeks of training starting with traditional marching and square bashing, going on to weapons handling, rifle shooting, grenade throwing, and then aiming at moving clay targets with a shotgun. Morse code messaging and aircraft recognition followed, before even seeing an aircraft. The survivors went on to actual flight training, and were at last allowed onto bombers. Here the gunners took part in air-to-air gunnery exercises. In their revolving Perspex turrets they aimed at targets called drogues, which were attached to a small plane. The trainee gunners fired away at the target, tracer bullets showing the line of fire. Back on the ground instructors examined the target to check the number of hits. Survivors from this round were awarded their air gunner’s winged badge and promoted to sergeant. This was a relief, for the food in the sergeants’ mess was a mile better than in the airmen’s mess. Or so it was thought.
On leave at dances, girls asked Greg what did the AG stood for on his badge. ‘It stands for After Girls,’ Greg would reply, ‘so look out.’
The war dragged
on. It was now 1943 going on to 1944. The Allies fought back from bases in
Greg, now part
of a bomber crew, found himself based at Henderson Field,
Under mosquito nets they tried to sleep in the stifling heat. There was a sudden loud bang. Everybody was alert and awake and half out of bed, thinking it was an air raid or counter attack. It turned out to be a coconut falling from a fractured palm, the large nut landing on the wreck of an aircraft underneath. The noise it made disturbed the already jittery soldiers and airmen.
Unable to sleep Greg turned to his companion in the next bed who was also awake. ‘What are you going to do, Lofty, when this damn war is finally over?’
‘Plastics – I’ve read that there’s going to be a big future in plastics when things are normal again, so I’ve been reading everything I can about plastics, studying the whole business. How plastics are made. What they can be used for. I’m going to be ready. What about you?’
‘Don’t know. I’ll just have to see what’s on offer. I like to write though. Maybe journalism. I’d eventually like to write fiction, used to do that when I was just a nipper for the children’s page of the local paper.’
‘Really? A writer, eh? Well, you’ve survived the war so far. With any luck you, and I too I hope, will come through it. Would you write about the war?’
‘No, I don’t think so. There’ll be hundreds of books about the war. My thinking is to go further back. Historical fiction, that sort of thing.’
‘Well, good luck to you. I shall watch for your name on the best-sellers list in years to come.’
‘That I should be so lucky. Better try and sleep or we’ll be in even worse shape.’
Quiet settled over the hard-won base.
and the war had come to an end. Greg was now twenty-one. The Air Force awarded
him a row of medals and sent him off to civilian life. Many Japanese soldiers
were left behind in the various battle zones. Several committed suicide, ashamed
at defeat. The Dutch returned to the
The little girl
Greg started writing for a living as a journalist although he always harboured the thought of writing fiction novels. An author he knew said there was no money in it as publishers and booksellers took most of it. ‘Different though if your book is made into a movie,’ said the author. ‘That pays well.’
Eventually, Greg junior made his appearance in the world.
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