Esme Holt, my boss, was due to attend the premiere showing of the new June Mathis picture last night.
Unfortunately she had a headache and could not attend – and so she offered her invitation to me. Just one of the perks of being the personal secretary of the head of Players Incorporated Studio – Miss Holt is terribly generous when she is in the mood.
As you can imagine, my sudden luck instigated quite a to-do over finding something suitable to wear,. My friends Ida and Nancy and I all pulled our things together and in the end managed to outfit me quite suitably.
I wore a dress of navy blue, drop waisted in the flapper style – a little plain, but we fancied it up with a long string of pearls (in the Coco Chanel style) “borrowed” from a picture on the Fox lot which is directly next door to us and we know all the girls in the wardrobe department there. I also carried a small purse decorated with pearls and an array of feathers.
I had to ring round all the boys I know to get someone to take me on such short notice, but finally I found a Mr Hansen, a former beau of Nancy’s (she didn’t mind at all – she threw him over last summer), who proved an adequate escort.
Well, the picture is just stunning.
I won’t tell you the whole story for fear of spoiling it, but suffice to say I cried and cried. I really think it might eclipse The Kid as “the” picture of 1921.
According to gossip I picked up around the movie colony, the heads of Metro Pictures were worried about taking on such an unknown young actor as Rudolph Valentino. The scoop I heard was that June Mathis (who is head over the scenario department over at Metro – she wrote and championed the film) knows her apples when it comes to movie stars and she insisted that they take him. They did well to listen to her: he was just perfect on screen – the ideal Latin lover.
The opening scene is about as racy as anything I have seen on screen and yet it retains its dignity, which is quite a feat.
Julio (that is the role played by Valentino) is to be found in a tango bar in Buenos Aires. A couple dance the tango, but it’s a stiff, buttoned-up version that does not do the dance justice – until Rudy steps in. Then the sparks just fly from the screen and I am quite sure I am not the only audience member who left the theater with a conviction to take up tango lessons without delay.
The picture conveys an important message.
As the playwright Robert E Sherman wrote in Life magazine this morning:
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a living, breathing answer to those who still refuse to take motion pictures seriously. Its production lifts the silent drama to an artistic plane that it has never touched before.
The picture tells of the horrors of war in a way that quite took my breath away. My beau for the night, Mr Hansen, only arrived in France three weeks before armistice so he didn’t see much action. However, he said that the depictions of burned out villages and battlefields evoked in him quite a chill.
Mathis, Valentino and the picture’s director Rex Ingram – an Irishman, known for his temper! – took to the stage following the screening, and bowed to rapturous applause.
Though rumors were rife that the three had had quite a tumultuous relationship during the production, they put on a good show of friendship. Also in attendance was Alice Terry who acts in the film (and is soon to become Mrs Rex Ingram) – and costume designer Natacha Rambova of Salt Lake City, who is rumored to have caught the eye of the dashing Mr Valentino.
There was a party for all the stars and bigwigs of the movie colony thrown at the home of Marcus Loew who owns the theatres in which the picture will play, but even Esme Holt’s invitation didn’t entitle me to attend that! Mr Hansen and I drove around for a little while, then had a late supper at the Pig and Whistle in Los Angeles.