Barron took one last look through the viewfinder, then he turned to
the assistant director. "Conversation," he said.
The AD held up a megaphone and shouted, "Conversation!"
At once, a hundred and fifty extras, packed into a set that was a
replica of Sardi's, the famous theater-district restaurant in New
York, began to talk.
"Acton," Rick said quietly.
"Speed," the camera operator replied.
Waiters began to move among the tables.
"Cue the entrance," Rick said.
"Entrance," the AD said into a microphone hanging around his neck.
He signaled the dolly man, and the camera began to roll smoothly
down the restaurant's main aisle toward the entrance of the
The front door opened, and his leading lady, Glenna Gleason,
wearing a gorgeous evening gown and followed by another actress and
two actors, all in evening dress, walked in and were greeted by a
Vincent Sardi look-alike. As they walked past the small bar and
entered the dining room, the camera backtracked, and, on cue, all
the diners stood and applauded.
Glenna managed to look shocked, then delighted as she followed
"Sardi" to their table along the wall. The camera stopped and moved
in closer as a microphone boom was lowered over the false wall to
pick up their dialogue.
"My God," Glenna said, "I didn't know it would be like this."
The actor on her left turned to her. "Katherine," he said, "it's
going to be like this from now on."
On Rick's signal, the camera began to dolly slowly away from the
table and, keeping Glenna's party in the center of the frame, rose
to a height of twelve feet and stopped.
"Keep the conversation going," Rick said from his chair on the boom
next to the camera. He sat and watched the stopwatch in his hand
for ninety seconds, which was what they needed to roll under the
closing titles. "Cut!" he yelled, finally. "Print it! That's a
wrap!" It was the fourth take, and it was perfect. They had shot
the three scenes at Sardi's all on the same day, and now it was
done: Rick had made his first feature film as a director. He sagged
with relief as the camera operator pounded him on the back.
Then, to his astonishment, every actor on the set rose from his
seat and gave the director a standing ovation. Rick stood up,
holding on to the camera for support, then turned and faced the
bulk of the crowd, "Cut!" he yelled again. "Start the party!"
A part of the rear wall of the set was rolled away, revealing a
huge buffet table and a bar serving real booze instead of the tea
in the prop glasses on the table. The crowd of extras surged toward
the food and drink, and Rick signaled the boom operator to lower
the camera to the floor. He hopped off and slid into a banquette
beside his wife, giving her a big kiss. "Glenna, my darling, that
was great. It's going to be wonderful, the whole thing."
Two of the actors got up from the table and made way for Eddie
Harris, the chairman of Centurion Studios, and Sidney Brooks, the
famous New York playwright, who had written the script for Times
"Rick," Eddie said, "congratulations."
Champagne appeared and was poured.
"I thought the last scene went beautifully," Brooks said to
"Sid, we're going to do your script proud," Rick said. "Just give
me a couple of days, and I'll show you a rough cut."
"I can't wait," Brooks replied.
"I have to go pee," Glenna said, and Rick let her out of the
banquette. The actor playing her husband got up, too, leaving Rick,
Eddie Harris and Sidney Brooks at the table.
"Fellas," Brooks said, "I have to tell you something."
Rick looked at the man across the table. For the first time since
he had met the playwright, the man looked less than happy.
"What's up, Sid?" Eddie asked.
"I wanted to tell you before it hits the papers tomorrow," Brooks
"Tell us what?" Rick asked.
"I've been subpoenaed by the House of Un-American Activities
Committee, along with eighteen other people, mostly writers but a
few actors and one director."
"Oh, shit," Eddie said. "Well, don't worry about it; get a good
"I'm sorry, Sid," Rick said, "But Eddie is right about the
"There's a meeting tomorrow," Brooks replied. "I want to tell you
"You don't need to tell us anything," Eddie said.
"You mean, you'd rather not know, don't you Eddie?"
"The first thing your lawyer is going to tell you is to shut up,"
Eddie said. "I'm just giving you a head start; don't say anything
to anybody, unless your lawyer approves it first."
"I'm not looking to drag anybody into this," Brooks said. "I just
want to be honest with you. This picture has been the best
experience I've had since I came out here four years ago; it's the
first picture that's given me the same sort of satisfaction that
writing a play used to."
"Look, Sid," Rick said, "these people are going to hold their
hearings, grill some movie stars, and then it'll be over. Six
months from now you'll have put it behind you."
Brooks set his briefcase on the table, opened it and pulled out a
thick manila envelope. "I've been working on this for two years,"
he said. "I've never told anybody about it, but it's the best thing
I've ever written for either the stage or film, and after the
wonderful experience I've had with the production of Times
Square Dance, I want you fellows to produce it, and, Rick, I'd
be delighted if you'd direct again."
"Thank you, Sid," Rick said, and he meant it. "I'll read it
"Tell your agent to call Rick in the morning," Eddie said, "We'll
have a deal before lunchtime."
"But you haven't even read it, Eddie," Brooks said, laughing.
"I don't need to. I'll buy it sight unseen."
Rick knew that wasn't quite true, but he knew that Eddie expected
to like the script; he would want Rick's opinion first,
"It's a western," Brooks said.
"What?" Rick exclaimed. "The theater's urban genius has
written a western?"
"The grittiest, down-and-dirtiest western you ever saw," Brooks
said. "I love westerns, and I've always wanted to write one; to
tell you the truth, it's the principal reason I came out here, just
to get the opportunity. I've had the idea for a long time, but it
wouldn't work on the stage, and I didn't want it produced without
the level of participation you fellows have given me."
"Thank you, Sid," Rick said.
Glenna returned from the ladies' room and sat down. "I called
home," she said. "The girls are fine, and I told Rosie to give them
dinner and put them to bed. I take it we'll be here for a
"I think we will," Rick said. "I think I'd better circulate and
thank everybody." He handed Brooks' script to her. "Guard this with
your life," he said. "It's the next Sidney Brooks film."
"Oh, is there a part for me?" she asked excitedly.
"I haven't read it yet, sweetheart; I'll let you know tomorrow."
Rick got up and began making his way around the Sardi's set,
shaking hands, hugging and kissing and enduring many claps on the
A moment later, Eddie Harris caught up with him. "Listen, kid," he
said, leaning into Rick's ear, "If that script is any good we need
to get into production fast."
"I'm supposed to personally produce the new war film," Rick said.
"We could do it right after that."
"I got a bad feeling about these HUAC hearings," Eddie said. "I'd
rather have Sid's film in the can, even if we have to postpone
production on the war movie."
"Okay. I'll call you when I've read it," Rick said. Eddie fell
away, and Rick continued his rounds, but his euphoria at finishing
shooting had been pricked by Eddie Harris, and air was leaking