California Dreaming

by Lee Obrien

18 Nov 2023 362 readers Score 9.6 (36 votes) PDF Mobi ePub Txt

Chapter 17

I let those words sink in, “I would like you to come to the studio and talk to us about coming to work for us, making movies.” I had to pinch myself to be sure that I wasn’t dreaming.

Woody chuckled, “I can assure you Ivan, you are not dreaming. I do want you to meet my father to discuss you being in our movies. As I said, I was very impressed with your performance in the theatre last month.”

I said, “yes of course, I will talk to your father, this has been my lifelong dream. What do I have to do?”

He smiled, “would you be available to come to the studio tomorrow morning at 11?”

I nodded, “yes, Mr. O’Neill, where is the studio?”

He said, “first of all, I am Woody, my father is Mr. O’Neill. I will send a car to pick you up, where are you staying?”

I answered, “I am at the Biltmore.”

Woody made a note on a piece of paper, “fine, be ready at 10:30, the driver will bring you to the studio and I will introduce you to my father.”

My head was spinning, I said, “thank you so much Mr… er, I mean Woody.”

I stood to shake his hand, he started to laugh. I suddenly realized we were both still naked and had just had sex. It was kind of funny that I thought it was now appropriate to shake hands. I searched the floor for my clothes, Woody stood and pulled his robe on.

As I dressed, Woody spoke, “as far as what we just did, I want you to know that it will have no bearing on you getting a job with us. I do find you attractive, but it would be best if we didn’t tell anyone about this, especially my father.”

I nodded, “of course, I understand. Can I ask you about the young lady you were at dinner with?”

He sat back down on the bed, “that is Mary Hartman, her father and my father are friends and we have been thrown together since we were teenagers. We are just friends and enjoy each other’s company, but that is the extent of our relationship, contrary to what our parents believe.”

I asked, “so, does she know about…?”

He nodded, “she is the only one that knows, well besides a couple of other friends, and now you.”

I finished dressing and once again thanked him for the opportunity. I made my way to the door and started my walk home. Thoughts were flying through my mind, and my emotions went from one extreme to the other. I was thrilled that a real movie studio was interested in me, I quickly shifted to guilt when I thought back to what Woody, and I had just done. What was I going to tell Carl? Was I going to tell Carl? If I was hired by the studio, would Carl be happy for me? I think he would be, but how would it affect our relationship?

I walked up the stairs at the Biltmore and quietly opened the door. I was about two hours later than usual. I saw Carl already in bed sleeping, I undressed and slowly crawled into bed, hoping to not wake him. I was trying to think of what I was going to tell him in the morning when he asked why I was late as I drifted off to sleep.

When the sun started shining through the window, I felt Carl stir. He rolled over to face me, "good morning, I didn’t hear you come in last night.”

I said, “yeah, I didn’t want to wake you, we had a late table last night and Mr. Mills asked me stay late.” It was the first excuse that came to my mind, and Carl had used it before, so I figured it was believable. I had evidently decided not to tell Carl about Woody.

He asked, “other than that, how was your night?”

I sat up quickly, “you are not going to believe what happened, but it was incredible.”

Carl sat up, “why, what happened?”

I blurted out, “I waited on Woody O’Neill, the son of owner of Pacific Coast Studios.”

His eyes widened, “did you talk to him about your acting?”

I shook my head, “I didn’t have to, he saw me play Romeo and said he wants me to talk to his father about doing movies for them.”

He said, “you’re right, I don’t believe you.”

I crossed my arms, “he is sending a car this morning at 10:30, I have a meeting at 11 with the old man.”

Carl looked at me, “you aren’t kidding, are you?”

I shook my head, “no I am not, I better start getting ready.” I pulled out the new suit that I had bought with the money I made from my last play. Carl helped me tie my tie and combed my hair just right. I was out in front of the hotel waiting for the car a few minutes before it was due. I saw a big black car pull up, the driver stepped out and asked, “are you Mr. Romanov?”

I answered, “yes sir.”

He smiled as he opened the door to the back seat and shut it behind me. I had never been around a car before, let alone ridden in one. Oh, I had been around them in New York, but they were just something to dodge when I was crossing the street. I watched out the window as we made the fifteen-minute drive to the studio. We pulled into the studio lot, then past what looked like a set to an old west town, then a city street. I was going through movies I had seen, trying to remember if I had seen any of these sets before. It still felt like I was dreaming, I was actually on the grounds of a real Hollywood movie studio. We pulled up to an office building and the driver quickly stepped out of the car and opened my door. He told me to go in and I would be taken to Mr. O’Neill’s office. I walked into the building and was met by a young man.

He held out his hand, “Mr. Romanov, I am Tom, Mr. O’Neill’s assistant, please follow me.”

We walked down the hallway, Tom knocked on a large door and opened it slightly and said, “Mr. O'Neill, Mr. Romanov has arrived, are you ready to see him?”

From behind the door, I heard, “Yes Tom, please show him in.”

Tom pulled the door open and motioned for me to enter, Tom smiled and nodded as I thanked him and walked into the large office. There was a large bookshelf to my left with a large two large leather chairs sitting in front of it. To my right was what appeared to be a fully stocked bar, with several bottles and glasses on the counter. Directly in front of me was an oversized desk, Woodrow O’Neill stood up from behind the desk, walked around and held out his hand. We exchanged smiles as we shook hands. He was a fit man that looked to be in his fifties, he had similar hair to Woody, though it was starting to turn gray around the temples. He had the same eyes as his son, they also sparkled when he smiled. It was clear where Woody had gotten his good looks from.

He said, “Mr. Romanov, it is very nice to meet you, I have been hearing good things about you.”

I replied, “thank you sir, thank you for seeing me.”

He motioned to one of the chairs sitting in front of his desk and walked back around his desk and sat down. Just as I sat down, there was knock on the door and Woody walked in.

He smiled at me and said, “Ivan, good to see you again, I see you have met my father.”

I stood and shook his hand. I said, “yes, thank you for sending a car to pick me up.”

We both say down as Mr. O’Neill began to speak, “so, my son tells me you want to act in the movies? He also tells me you gave a fine performance at the Hollywood Playhouse.”

I squirmed in my chair, “yes sir, I would love to act in the movies.”

He smiled, “well, we are always looking for new talent. Let me explain how our studio works, unless Woody has already told you.”

Woody said, “no father, I just told him that I would like for him to meet you and we may use him in some of our projects.”

Mr. O’Neill nodded, “very well, Mr. Rom … may I call you Ivan?”

I said, “yes sir, of course.”

He continued, “good, Pacific Coast Studios is in the entertainment business, we produce 40 to 80 movies a year. We own theaters all over the country that show our movies, we also send movies to independently owned theaters. We of course show all of our new releases at our theaters, then send them to the independents after they have run their course. The depression initially hit us hard, just as it has everyone, but things have begun to improve. It seems, as times continue to be hard, people are looking for a means to escape the unpleasantness of the day to day. To help them, and for us to continue to make money, we have started showing what we call double features. Our customers feel they are getting a bargain, and we fill the seats in our theaters. We are still able to make a profit by producing shorter, less expensive movies, we call these B movies. We use new actors, such as yourself, less elaborate sets and shorter movies to keep our costs low. We package these B movies with one of our A movies. The theaters are happy to get new movies and the customers are happy to be entertained, even if only for a few hours.”

I listened as he continued, “if you come to work for our studio, you would be cast in our B movies at first, if you do well, we would move you up to our A movies.”

He read me a list of actors that had started with the studio in B movies and were now doing A movies. I had heard of all of them and seen them in several movies.

There was another knock on the door, Mr. O’Neill said, “come in.”

A short, balding man walked in the door, he was carrying several folders under his arm. Mr. O’Neill greeted him, “ah, Jack, I was just going to tell young Mr. Romanov about you.”

The man held out his hand as Mr. O’Neill said, “Ivan, this is Jack Harper, he will be the director of your first project, should you decide to join us. Jack, this is Ivan Romanov.”

Jack smiled, “yes, I saw you in Romeo and Juliet, I liked what I saw.”

I shook his hand, “thank you Mr. Harper, very nice to meet you.”

Woody stood up and gave his chair to Mr. Harper, went behind his father’s desk, and leaned against the credenza as we all sat back down.

Mr. O’Neill continued, “Jack here directs all of our, shall we say, romantic B movies. That is where we see you fitting in to our little family. You see, we make Westerns, War, Ganster, and Love stories, we think you would fit best in the Love story genre, based on your performance in Romeo and Juliet. We have just signed your co-star, Miss Baines to a contract earlier this week. I have been told you two have a natural chemistry.”

Mr. Harper added, “yes, from what I saw in your play, you worked very well together.”

I blushed, “thank you, yes, Gloria is a very good actress, and we get along well.” I glanced at Woody, he gave me a quick wink and nodded.

Mr. O’Neill smiled, “good, I have taken the liberty of drawing up a 1-year contract, you will receive a weekly salary, we have a room for you to live in just a block from the studio with all of our other young actors. Jack has the first three scripts for you to look over, please take the contract with you and read it over carefully. Feel free to have a lawyer or anyone else you trust look it over, I’m sure you will find it a standard contract for the industry. Please pay special attention to the Morality Clause on page 5, we expect all of our actors to portray a wholesome image in public. That means no drug use, public drunkenness, or any other deviant behavior.” He handed me the contract as I was trying to take in all the information that he had just given me.

He said, “your salary is listed on page 2, I believe you will find it fair, and you will of course, need to give up your current job at the Roosevelt.

I looked at the cover page, not wanting to seem too anxious, and asked, “do you want me to sign this right now?”

Mr. O’Neill shook his head, “no, not at all, please take it with you and read it carefully, we would however, like to have your answer by the end of the week.” He gave me a card with the same logo that Woody had given me. “Please feel free to call me if you have any questions, you can call Woody as well.”

Woody gave me a wide smile, and said, “yes, please make sure you have all of your questions answered before you decide anything.”

Mr. O’Neill asked, “do you have any questions of any of us at this time?”

I said, “no sir, this is a lot to consider, I am sure I will have a few once I read this thoroughly.”

He nodded, “of course, again, feel free to call anytime.”

We talked for another half hour, Mr. O’Neill said, “if you have no further questions, Woody will walk you to the car and the driver will take you home.”

Mr. Harper handed me the folders he had carried in, “Ivan, please look through these as well, we already have our writers working on a few more scripts for you and Miss Baines.”

I thanked him as Woody, and I headed out the door. Woody asked, “you look a little overwhelmed, are you alright?”

I nodded, “yes, I think so, this is just a lot to take in right now.”

He stopped and took my arm, “yes, I know. Please take your time and ask any questions you have, make sure this is what you want. Please know that what we did last night has nothing to do with me wanting you to work for us. I honestly think you are a talented actor and while I enjoyed last night, I don’t expect anything more from you.”

I smiled, “thank you Woody.”

I got back to my room with just enough time to change clothes and go to work. I decided not to tell Mr. Mills about this yet, I didn’t want to quit before I knew I was signing the contract. I wanted to talk to Carl first and take my time reading the contract. I finished my shift and walked home, still thinking about that contract. Carl was waiting for me as I walked in the door.

He jumped up, “so what happened? How did your meeting go?”


To be continued…

by Lee Obrien

Email: [email protected]

Copyright 2023

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