A day in the life…

Just what does a Hollywood secretary do all day?

Some of you have been asking just what are the day-to-day duties of a secretary to a Hollywood executive, so I thought I would let you know!

Of course, you must remember that in Hollywood, no day is like the next, so this post just gives you the merest idea of life in a movie studio.

6:30AM

Ida and I undertake some light ballet stretching as soon as we awake, as prescribed by last month’s issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.

We then have breakfast of a boiled egg, toast and coffee. I know that Miss Holt – like most of the other female stars – eats only spinach, tomatoes and orange juice, with omelettes made of egg whites very occasionally – but as we are not actresses and require our strength, we have decided not to follow this particular diet.

7:30AM

We must leave the apartment sharply so as to make the first of two trolleys to our respective studios. Luckily both the Fox Film Corporation (where Ida works) and Players Incorporated are situated out in Edendale, so we are able to undertake the journey together. Ida often passes the time knitting, whilst I look out of the window and daydream. Quite often we are subject to delays, especially if cows have escaped from nearby ranches and wandered across the tracks.

8 OR 8:30AM

I try to be at my desk by half past eight at the latest, but even so, Miss Holt often beats me. Sometimes I even wonder if she leaves at all – as she is also one of our stars, she has a bungalow on the lot and so could conceivably change her clothes before anyone arrives.

I spend the morning opening and responding to correspondence on Miss Holt’s behalf. Most days I can expect to find marriage proposals by the dozen in the pile – how these people who profess to be such fans could miss the fact she is engaged to be married to Mr Archie Tanner I don’t know. The particularly offensive ones I toss straight into the garbage, and respond to the rest with a signed photograph and a brief note thanking them for their interest in Miss Holt’s career.

The studio related enquiries I bring to Miss Holt’s office around mid morning to discuss with her, then she dictates any new letters, wires or script changes, after which I send out to a local restaurant for her lunch. If she is not shooting she will take meetings with writers, directors, art and wardrobe department heads and actors for the rest of the day.

12PM

Depending on which day it is, I might take my lunch in the wardrobe shed (just five or six years ago it housed cattle, and I am certain something of their scent remains) with Nancy, Evie and Mabel as Miss Lecroix drills us on French verbs and nouns.

Other days Nancy and I will find a spot in the sunshine to sit and gossip whilst we watch one of our pictures shoot. Different pictures require different emotions to be wrung out of the actors, and consequently the music being played on set can vary greatly. Often we walk around the lot for several minutes until we find an orchestra playing something to our liking.

1PM

My afternoon is most often taken up with reading and typing up reports on scenarios submitted to the studio. I then take copies of the reports over to the scenario department and run messages or instructions from Miss Holt to the various heads of department, as well as organising Miss Holt’s diary for the coming days. I might also be tasked with typing up the title cards for a picture which is almost complete.

I must stay at my desk until I am dismissed, in case Miss Holt wishes to send wires late in the evening or if notes on negotiations with this agent or that one must be taken. I fill in the in between time catching up with filing or preparing the following day’s correspondence.

6 OR 7PM

If nothing special is happening which requires my assistance, I leave the studio by around 7pm. I often enjoy a last little walk around then, as it is so rare to be there in relative peace and quiet.

All day long directors shout, orchestras play and there’s banging and tapping from new sets being built so sometimes it is difficult to think straight. But in the evening when most people have gone for the day (of course the pictures shooting must stop as soon as the light begins to go at around 5 or 6pm), all is calm and I can stop to appreciate a beautiful backdrop hung out to dry or marvel at the newest camera invention.

Unless I have special plans for the evening, I take the trolley downtown (where I must make a change anyway) and stop at a diner on Broadway or 4th for dinner. There is one run by Swedish immigrants where I might buy pickled fish, beetroot and potatoes just like my mother makes, and sometimes even speak a little Swedish with the proprietors if they have time.

8 OR 9PM

If there is no concert to listen to on the wireless, Ida and I often take turns reading aloud to one another in the evenings. As we both have to read story after story for our jobs, we prefer books that advise on really how to live – we are working our way through the works of Freud, and are very much looking forward to the release of Mr Jung’s new book later this year.

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