|Subject: Chapter 297 - Part 1
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Date Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 06:49:45am
In reply to:
's message, "Dreams in the Dark - continues with chapter 289 >" on Monday, June 18, 06:55:17am
Dreams in the Dark (297/?)
by Katherine Gilbert
It had proven, thus far, to be a long and treacherous day--but that was the way she liked it. The more deals she made, the more powerful she became. Even when they were at odds with twelve other bargains, her claim on this town only grew; her smile widened. And that made her control over those around her all the more likely to continue.
This was Hedda's plan, certainly had been for sometime. Ever since she had first discovered that her days as a character actress were numbered, she had started to form her own path. Now, it seemed to be nicely taking shape.
This had been true for a few years, her power as a columnist growing daily. At first, she had been a minor player, had been easily ignored--but no more. Now, her only competition was Louella and Winchell--and neither of them had quite the inroads at Premier that she did.
In many ways, this was a dubious honor, the studio not exactly the city's finest. Still, to have among its stable of talent both Samuelle and his wife made them players, kept them viable. So long as Michael didn't find a way to sell his services elsewhere, they would continue to be a factor in all this town's decisions.
For some strange reason, it was this fact which evidently irked the studio's mogul--as well as the woman who did most of his thinking--their enmity barely disguised, despite the salvation the actor brought. From assigning the star and his wife to minor-league projects like the one the columnist had just come from viewing, to holding back on the budget for their publicity, while still pumping up little Susan Sash and the apparently only dimly-adequate Andrew Shears at every possible turn, the pair made the star couple's lives only barely tolerable. It appalled her. At any other studio, Samuelle and Ward would have been routinely placed in only the biggest-budget features, would have been relentlessly ballyhooed to anyone who might listen. But even though the couple were the only real asset Premier had going for them, they were obviously shunned. It was utterly nonsensical--and very bad business. And it made Hedda realize, yet again, why the pair who ran the place would never be quite the power brokers that so many of their colleagues were.
This truth remained, made no less obvious by the piece of dreck she had been forced to sit through this evening. Oh, yes, she planned to write her usual sort of glowing review, both to honor her deals and to irritate Madeline--a long-cherished past time. But that didn't mean that she had actually *liked* it.
No one could, really--or, at least, no one with any taste. *Bundle of Sorrow* was just your average little cautionary tale about not giving your husband children, one which seemed even more ridiculous, given the ever-advancing state of the main actress's pregnancy. Of course, this wasn't evident on screen--was assiduously hidden by the studio's wardrobe on a daily basis, as well. But none of that changed the film's message.
It wasn't that she was particularly bothered by the obvious slant of the movie--agreeing with it, in many ways, not the type to get all huffy about life's necessities. No--it was more that the whole plot was so thinly conceived, seemed to have been outlined on the back of an envelope, rather than actually written into script form with sweat and time before being refined, revision after revision. Francks might have done his best with the film, his directing typically solid, but that couldn't help a weak plot; her head shook. And none of that was made any better by the obvious contradictions of the casting.
It was this factor which made the movie's weaknesses clearest, the choice of Samuelle to play a man who was quickly unfaithful to his wife, Kitty, ludicrous, at best. That the world was supposed to be convinced that little Susan could lure him away, too--however unintentionally--was simply laughable, the truth so obvious. Whatever the temptations, she very much doubted that there was much which could ever cause Michael to stray.
It wasn't that she was particularly idealistic about men; her divorce alone would have seen to that. Still, the chemistry between Ward and Samuelle had always been explosive--a sense of wanton, lustful sex practically dripping off the screen with every scene. Even when their characters were supposedly having problems, when there was only a cool silence between them, it was impossible not to imagine them steaming up a bedroom about two minutes later. It was the trait which made them the very definite commodity they were. Casting them as cold fish seemed a terrible waste of their allure.
This truth made it unlikely that the film would do particularly well--not half so well as many of the pair's others, at least. Oh, yes, people would go see it; they were too crazy about Samuelle--and too in awe of the energy between the man and his wife--not to. Especially given the fact that it was his last finished film for awhile--his new career in the military taking him very far away--there seemed little reason for it to fail. But that didn't mean that it was actually *good*.
She smiled a little at this thought, relaxing in her living room, pleased to be home--even more pleased by all the deals she was cooking up; her mind roamed further back, to Samuelle's offer. True, she wasn't usually easy to pin down as an ally--her very unpredictability one of her greatest lures, making the offers she got all the more impressive in the attempt to win her--but she had still given into his deals more easily than most. The reason why might well be debated among the man and his friends but was all too obvious to her. She liked him--both as a star and a subject, not to mention as an annoyance to Madeline. And that alone had guaranteed him her cooperation, even before he had begun.
This wasn't a truth she had let the man in on--never intending to let anyone understand her too well. Still, when he had outlined a little of his situation, hinting at far more, she had agreed to help fairly quickly. But it had only been several minutes after this that she had actually let him realize the fact.
It wasn't just her natural predilection toward him which had won her aid, though--or her desire to unsettle Madeline, once the tutor realized that the columnist was the man's helper. No. It was the very idea he had presented, his desire to let the world know about his secret marriage to his wife. It was a story she had been sitting on for sometime, one she had been tempted to reveal more than once. And now that she was finally going to get her chance, her fingers nearly itched to get to her typewriter.
She was more than happy with the situation, wasn't questioning too deeply. She might not be aware of all the exact machinations and dangers which had led the man to this point, didn't see every nuance--but what she had picked up was enough. Just the fact of Nikita's parents--or, rather, her father alone--was clearly forcing them through quite a few hoops, Michael's enlistment probably the least of the changes in their lives. But this wasn't all she saw. More than anything, their plea for help had been brought on by Madeline. And, if that woman had any idea of just how popular the gossip maven hoped to make Kitty by the end of this round, she would have damned herself a thousand times for ever starting the battle to begin with.
Of course, the woman had clearly been doing this already tonight, had seemed in quite a huff the whole evening--as though some plot she had cooked up hadn't worked out at all; Hedda had no idea of the details. Still, if she had to judge, it might have had something to do with the absence of Quinn's recent frequent companion, Enquist--Jones's new, dangerous toady. What she and the man had cooked up, the columnist had no idea. But even she--practical creature that she was--was rather relieved that none of it had come about.
It wasn't that she was a particularly sentimental woman--the soppiness of such a trait at least as boring to her as it was to Madeline. Still, she understood a little of the tutor's deadly intent--had guessed even more, given some of Michael's hints tonight. If the dreadful woman were trying to harm Kitty in order to damage her child, then she had already made an enemy of the columnist. After all, she was a mother herself--and the thought of anyone targeting her son was one which brought out only her deadliest instincts in response.
It wasn't that Hedda was a particularly gooey mother, was less than likely to make cooing noises at baby pictures or go all doe-eyed over a newborn--unless it were with a purpose. But the battle lines she had surmised between Madeline and Kitty were practically pantomime-level in their obvious divisions of evil and good. A jealous woman trying to harm a child was nearly a Premier picture; she had to shake her head. She was only thankful that the studio's hacks hadn't thought up such a plot for them yet.
Still, such a creation didn't have to be made; it had existed right before her tonight. Hedda had even managed to overhear about half of a conversation between the tutor and Michael--the woman obviously attempting to convince the actor to get rid of his child, one way or another. When that strange ploy hadn't worked, she had seemed more than a little livid. But that had been before the couple's real plan had begun.
The columnist had to admit that she was impressed, the pair's acting skills and timing quite formidable. They had made their small argument seem quite authentic, had placed it where she would appear to overhear without them knowing. She wasn't entirely certain whether Madeline believed their performance or not, but that truth would have to wait. She too had done her best to convince the woman that it was all real. And, once she wrote her column . . .
It was this she was mentally composing now, doing her best to work out every nuance and veiled hint in advance. It had to be done right. If it wasn't, then the pair's plan might well backfire. And, if only to annoy Madeline no end, the columnist was determined to see Kitty give birth to a healthy, happy child.
Still, how long such a blessing would last after the birth, the woman had no idea. Not only did the child clearly have an enemy in the tutor, but it seemed likely that the kid's own grandfather was more than a little irritated at his coming existence. Between Madeline and Jones, anyone's chances for life diminished greatly; there was a tired sort of sigh. But that was one of the reasons why she was fighting for the couple so completely.
But the situation wasn't, despite its clear battle lines of good and evil, an entirely moral battle for her. It was more that she liked the couple--liked writing about them, as well. They made good copy, would always sell a paper. She was simply not fool enough, then, to kill the golden goose.
It was for this reason that she was determined to see that no one else did, either--the pair always good for some sort of story. The fact that they had so many deals lined up with her only made the situation that much better. She would work this to their advantage, then, in the long run. But, for now . . .
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