"All last week he got to looking worse and worse. But he still had his stage presence. Say, yesterday he looked like the juvenile lead of a busted road show that has walked in from Albany and was just standing around on Broadway wondering who he'd consent to sign up with for forty weeks--see what I mean?-hungry but proud. He was over on the Baxter set last night while I was doing the water stuff, and you'd ought to see him freeze me when I suggested a sandwich and a cup o' coffee. It was grand.
"Well, this morning I'm back for a bar pin of Baxter's I'd lost, and there he is again, no overcoat, shivering his teeth loose, and all in. So I fell for him. Took him up for some coffee and eggs, staked him to his room rent, and sent him off to get cleaned and barbered. But before he went he cut loose and told me his history from the cradle to Hollywood.
"I'd 'a' given something good if you'd been at the next table. I guess he got kind of jagged on the food, see? He'd tell me anything that run in his mind, and most of it was good. You'll say so. I'll get him to do it for you sometime. Of all the funny nuts that make this lot! Well, take my word for it; that's all I ask. And listen here, Jeff--I'm down to cases. There's something about this kid, like when I tell you I'd always look at him twice. And it's something rich that I won't let out for a minute or two. But here's what you and me do, right quick:
"The kid was in that cabaret and gambling-house stuff they shot last week for The Blight of Broadway, and this something that makes you look at him must of struck Henshaw the way it did me, for he let him stay right at the edge of the dance floor and took a lot of close- ups of him looking tired to death of the gay night life. Well, you call up the Victor folks and ask can you get a look at that stuff because you're thinking of giving a part to one of the extras that worked in it. Maybe we can get into the projection room right away and you'll see what I mean. Then I won't have to tell you the richest thing about it. Now!"--she took a long breath--"will you?"
Baird had listened with mild interest to the recital, occasionally seeming not to listen while he altered the script before him. But he took the telephone receiver from its hook and said briefly to the girl: "You win. Hello! Give me the Victor office. Hello! Mr. Baird speaking--"
The two were presently in the dark projection room watching the scenes the girl had told of.
"They haven't started cutting yet," she said delightedly. "All his close-ups will be in. Goody! There's the lad-get him? Ain't he the actin'est thing you ever saw? Now wait-you'll see others."
Baird watched the film absorbedly. Three times it was run for the sole purpose of exposing to this small audience Merton Gill's notion of being consumed with ennui among pleasures that had palled. In the gambling-hall bit it could be observed that he thought not too well of cigarettes. "He screens well, too," remarked the girl. "Of course I couldn't be sure of that."