THE DRAMA AS I SEE IT

Studies in the Plays and Films of Yesterday and To-day

STEPHEN LEACOCK April 1 1923

THE DRAMA AS I SEE IT

Studies in the Plays and Films of Yesterday and To-day

STEPHEN LEACOCK April 1 1923

THE DRAMA AS I SEE IT

Studies in the Plays and Films of Yesterday and To-day

STEPHEN LEACOCK

III. Dead Men’s Gold 99 A Film of the Great Nevada Desert

A FILM of the great Neva d u deseri i which Red-l>lvoded, AbleBodied .Viert and Women hundred per cent. A menean live and leve among the cactus and chaparral Something of the Dio ne of the Cow Bastare mingled with ike gloom of the great can¡ßvtts blows all through this play.

SHALL We go together this raw, gusty afternoon to the enchantment of the moving-pictures Here, this looks a good place this large and lighted hallway leading off the street itself. Let's get our tickets from this golden girl behind the glass, seated there under a magic spell no doubt. This Fr4as~ be a good play, look how pretty the girl is! T'wo, y'ee please, down stairs,-extra ten cents? oh. the Amusement Tax, of ciurse!

W through these doors znd dowi~ this corridor, and through these swing ing doors again and into

the dark. What a vast place it is. Dear me. it's absolutely empty! Empty'? Oh, no. they are all there but you don’t see them yet, seated silent in the dark like toads under leaves. Excuse me, sir, I’m afraid I stepped on your foot. I beg your pardor. madam. I didn’t see the little girl. All that bright picture stuff being flashed on the screen? Never mind it now till we get our seats. It's not part of our play anyhow.

There, sit down in this row—now we can look —what does it say?—TURKISH TROOPS

ENTER THE—something—I couldn’t see—anyway it doesn't matter where they enter, it’s only the News of the World. PASADENA CALIFORNIA PRESIDENT HARDING PRESENTS FLOWERSTO GIRL GUIDES —STATE UNIVERSITY OF OHIO DEFEATS MIAMI AT BASKET-BALL—NATIVES OF DUTCH PAPUA HUNTING FROGS—PRINCE ARTHUR IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY CATCHING TARPON: Oh, don't let us bother with all this, the pictures haven’t begun yet.

Ah. now it’s going to begin. Look at that notice on the

screen—

Dead Meri'¿Gold In Which Full-Blooded Men and,

Women Lire and Love Among the Cactus and,

Chaparral Authorized hy the Censor of New York State.

That sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Now let’s see what's put up next. Ah, a great face, a huge face under a cowboy hat. a face with a grin on it, yes, that’s him,

see it says so underneath:—

Big-Hearted J>.m Sheriff of Dead Bones County Nevada

See him turn his face round as he grins. My! how honest and attractive the human face looks when you make it four feet long. I wish they’d put it upside down. I think it would look even better. Now, what’s this

next—ah—

Bessemer Steel. Banker of New York.

— Very rich indeed evidently. How do I know that ?— Oh. pshaw, you don't understand moving pictures—look at his grey spats and that white fnli along bis waistcoat—that means a millionaire. No, no, this isn’t the play yet, these are only the people who are going to be in the play when it starts. Ah, now look!

Slade. Bessemer Steel's Only Daughter

Isn’t she just cute? See her smile, no w'onder they applaud her—and who is this?

Dan Yegg, Bad Man of Dead Man's Gulch

Bad, wek I should say so. And now see all tícese little scenes going rapidly past—well, they re not the play yet—those are merely

places that are going to be in the play—just little touches of lonely desert, and terrible caverns, and a dear little vignette of a man choking another in a cave—and, a pretty little wee glimpse of a man dying of thirst—just little foretastes of the play itself. It looks good stuff, doesn’t it? Now, we’re off!

Bessemer Steel of New York, Banker and Financier, Has Spent His Life In the Amassing of Millions

There he is in his office; see * all the desks and stenographers round him. What a big, dull face has; like a bull-frog, you say? Yes, all New York bankers have faces like that in the movies. See him speaking into his desk telephone. Say, isn’t authoritative? Now, look, he’s listening. Must about money from the way he shuts up his face. guess he’s refusing somebody one of those millions that he’s amassed. Now he’s signing a cheque. Now he’s receiving telegram.... in fact by this time I think we’ve quite grasped the idea that he’s a rich banker with no soul. In fact, think I could have grasped it a little sooner, couldn’t you? But, still, remember the moving-pictures have to be made clear the humblest intelligence. And that isn’t us. . Ah, ha, no soul did we say?—Look at this;—

at this;—

The Only Tender Spot In the Banker's Heart Is For His Daughter Maisie. To Her He Denies Nothing.

the

See, the pictures are about to establish the fact that Maisie is denied nothing. Look at her there in her palatial home, romping with a pet dog. Oh, how sweet she is! See her kiss that dog—oh, my, I wonder what they pay that dog for his part. There she is, riding her pony round the grounds; now she is entertaining a whole bevy of her girl

entertaining a whole bevy of her girl friends on the lawn—now she’s in a store buying rich things—say, I think it’s proved up to the hilt that that girl is denied nothing! On with the film!—but wait,— just a minute—did you notice among the clerks in the office, that young man?, sort of Spanish-looking, meanlooking—kind of a crook—species of skunk—evidently not a hundred per cent. American—in faet hardly twenty per cent. See the way he keeps a sort of furtive eye on the banker. Say, I believe that fellow must come into the play somehow—just watch him. Never mind, he’s gone, but he’ll come in again. Now we go on. Ah, this is more like.

Ascot Wright, Student At Harvard.

I'm glad it’s Harvard. So much more class to it than the Ontario Agricultural College—

Has Discovered In His Researches In The Harvard Library The Location Of a Lost Gold Mine In A Cavern In Dead Men's Gulch Near Graveyard Canyon In Dead Bones County Nevada Here we have him, Ascot Wright researching in the library, the way all Harvard students do. How neat he is. I thought all researchers looked pretty dusty, but perhaps not. Anyhow Ascot is as neat as a pin, and athleticlooking, and awfully well dressed for a student. Perhaps his father is a Harvard professor.

Now see! Evidently he’s.struck something among the books—see him take paper from the leaves of an old volume! He’s examining it—feverishly: I

volume! He’s examining it—feverishly: say, I can just tell that Ascot has discovered a gold mine. He’s working his face just the way a student does when he finds one. Ah. see that! You don’t understand? Those pictures represent what Ascot is reading about? Look! that’s the Great Western Desert. . . See the little troop of people! horsemen and mules with pack-saddles, crossing it, see the steel uniforms and breastplates, and swords—early Spaniards, that’s what they are. the first discoverers of the west, .look! they’ve entered a cavern;say, the gloom of it! They're digging with pickaxes! Look, look! They're piling up great bars of gold. They’re mad with excitement. . they’re quarrelling—they're fighting—they're stabbing one another. . Look, dead bodies—dead bones— dead bones in the cavern—dead bones all along

the trail—it means the survivors tried to escape, do you see? Look, here’s one, he’s the last. . he’s dying of thirst in the desert; see him writing on a bit of paper, .there, he’s folded it into a missal, a prayer book or something. I know what it is—it’s the description of all about the mine in the cavern, and the piled-up gold, do you see? and that’s the paper that Ascot Wright has found in the Harvard library three hundred years later. Look! it’s saying so:—

The Manuscript Written In Latin By The Dying Spanish Explorer Pedro Alvarez De Estorga Is Deciphered By The Harvard Student.

There’s Ascot, look at him with the paper in front of him, deciphering it!—deciphering Latin] Isn’t he a bird? My! -A Harvard education is a wonderful thing. . Now what’s it saying?

The Harvard Student Lays His Discovery Before The Great Financier.

There he is, that’s Ascot in Bessemer Steel’s inner office. How neat he looks in his covert coat and his hard hat. These Harvard students certainly have class. He’s explaining to the banker all about the mine.... The great banker is listening.... He’s hearing all about the documents. See! the pictures go by again—desert—cavern— bones—more bones—dying Spaniard—document—bones —gold— He’s got it. These New York bankers are just lightning at picking up bones and gold.

Now he’s speaking—

Mr. Wright, This Must Be Kept A Profound Secret.

Oh, but can it be? Look who’s listening. . that clerk, you remember the crook, the one with the cunning face— he’s pushed open the door a little way— He’s standing listening—they don’t see him.

. . . .We Will Go West At Once. I Will Defray The Expenses Of The Search And Divide With You Fifty-Fifty

What splendid English, those great bankers use! So clear, isn’t it?

And just then, who comes dancing into the office through the side door—Maisie. Isn’t she just sweet with her fur around her neck; say, look, she’s got one of those new skirts. Watch her go and throw her arms around the banker’s neck.. see his face light up! In fact, you can see him light it up.. Now he is introducing Ascot Wright to Maisie— They bow to one another—say, Ascot is taken with Maisie right away, isn’t he?— Now the Spanish clerk comes in with papers in his hands. He bows to Maisie. How coldly she nods to him. But look at his eyes when he looks at her. I get it, don’t you? And that look of hate that he hands to Ascot! Those Spaniards certainly have temperament. The moving pictures would be lost without them.

Now, the banker is speaking:

Mr. Gonzalez, I Am Leaving To-night For Nevada. Will You Kindly Make The Arrangements F or My Transportation---

Look! Maisie wants to go too.. She’s questioning her father, .he’s shaking his head.. She’s put her arms around his neck. Oh, take her, take her, or I’ll buy a ticket to Nevada and take her myself..

Scene changed. The Pennsylvania Station. Look at all the people. Isn’t it just wonderful to see the Pennsylvania Station in moving pictures ; much better than in real life; but then, so’s everything. They’re leaving for Nevada.

Maisie is going too; there she is: do you notice, she’s got on. one of those new coats they’re wearing. Do you like them?

And there’s Ascot.

That’s a nice valise he has..and the banker, and Gonzalez.

No, he’s not going, he’s just seeing them off. The banker’s giving him papers and instructions ..there, they’re getting on their journey— See the landscape flying past—now they’re in a dining-car. See the darky waiters—look

at the banker ordering lunch..

I’ll bet he knows how: He’ll eat lunch all the way to Nevada.

But look—we’re back at the station. It’s Gonzalez, he’s buying a ticket. He’s getting on the train.... I see it, don’t you?

He’s following them. I knew he would—

Now the scene has changed altogether. They’re arriving in Nevada. This is Canyon City. . a queer, empty spot, .shack houses and desert and hills all around it. . see the wooden hotel with the verandah and the men on horseback with leather trousers and with lariats on the pommel of the saddle. . and the men leaning against the verandah posts with lariats slung over their arms. Look at that big man with the slouch hat and the wide face.

That’s the one it showed at the beginning, .he’s big Jim, the sheriff. .he’s talking to them., they’re explaining what they want.

Now it’s changed again. Where is this place? Oh, yes, I recognize it—it’s a saloon—see the bar and all the bottles and the bar-tender leaning over it— pretty tough looking, isn’t it.. see the men sitting at the little table drinking whiskey. .I’ve seen this sort of place a hundred times in the movies, haven’t you?

It’s always called Pete’s Place or something like that. . That’s Gonzalez, one of the men drinking, and that other is Dan Yegg, the bad man that we saw, and the rest, I guess, are bandits. . they must be. . Now, Gonzalez is explaining. He’s telling about Bessemer Steel and Ascot Wright coming' to hunt for

the gold..he’s telling the story of the Spanish explorers . . There it goes—desert—bones, gold, more bones, dying Spaniard,— They’ve got it:— Look how excited they get--

Now it’s changed back to Ascot and his friends.. They’re mounting on horseback. Doesn’t Maisie look nice in that short skirt? I guess she brought it with her on purpose. Look at the armed men! quite a troop of them. Oh, I guess they’d need them in a place like that.. Big Jim is pointing and giving advice: I suppose he’s

telling them the way to Dead Men’s Gulch. There, they’re off—clattering out of the town and away.

Separated From Their Armed Escort, Ascot And His Companions Make Their Way Into The Heart Of Dead Men's Gulch.

Separated from their armed escort? A crazy thing to do in a place like that, you say? Oh, yes, but they always do it, in all romances. The first thing you have to do with an armed escort is to separate yourself from it.

But say! look at the Gulch. Isn’t that the gloom spot? See the great walls of rock towering above their heads, and the litters of boulders where they pick their way. Look, that’s a snake, a real snake. Ugh! Aren’t they crazy to go into a place like that? There’s Ascot leading them, with a little bit of map or chart in his hand. And, oh look! look! Do you see that? Those heads behind the rocks, they’re being followed—it’s Gonzalez and Dan Yegg and Mexican bandits. Say! it’s just madness to get separated from that escort.

What’s this? They’ve stopped. Ascot’s pointing. He’s found the entrance of a sort of tunnel into the cliff, .they’re going into it. . They’re carrying flashlights. . The light shines on the rock avails. . What a fearsome place. Look—written there on the wall in strange lettering:

Pedro Alvarez De Estorga 1621

They gather round it. .They’re reading the inscription. . . Now they’re going on—the tunnel is widening it’s opening into a great cavern. . notice the high ceiling and the hanging rocks—with the water dripping from it. . I suppose it’s dripped like that for centuries—see the floor all sand—and there! bones of dead men,—and a steel breastplate and part of a broken sword. . and over in the corner gold piled up in bar, and great nuggets of it heaped up on the floor.

Ascot is picking up the gold and showing it to Maisie.

Bessemer Steel has taken up a nugget and is examining it. I bet he knows to a fraction what it is worth —Ha! He’s showing it and speaking:

I Estimate That There Is At AConservative Estimate Two Million Dollars Of Gold Ly ing At Our Feet.

Say! Two million! and at a conservative estimate! Think of the coolness of the man making a conservative estimate in a place like that.

Great " Heavens! The whole three of them have turned in sharp alarm! They hear s o m eth i n g— someone in the tunnel. Here they come dashing into the cavern— armed men—Gonzalez and Yegg and the bandits. They’ve rushed at Ascot and the banker—three of them are fighting Ascot all at once. . go to it, Ascot, that’s the way— Now he’s down —no, he’s up again—he’s down—they’re clubbing him —and

Continued on page 57

Continued from page 19

the banker, Dan Yegg has him down and is choking him— That’s the way, choke him—keep it ur—Now this is really enjoyable. This is the real thing, go on— keep on choking him. .that’s right, pound Ascot over the head with a rock—admirable! I do like these choking scenes, don’t you?

They’re both insensible—inanimate on the floor of the cave—now they’ve grabbed Maisie—they’re binding her with cords—good..twist her up tight—that’s the way—give her another wind. It enhances the educational value of the film. .

There, they’ve gathered her up. . they’ve put the gold into bags. . they’re carrying Maisie and the gold down the tunnel. . they’re coming out at the entrance. Oh, see what they’re doing!. .they’re blocking the mouth of the tunnel with great rocks . . the bodies of Ascot and Bessemer will never be found. . . .

Now they’re lifting Maisie into a motor car. . that must have been waiting down the Gulch, .they’ve got her mouth gagged; I hadn’t noticed that before. That’s a good touch, isn’t it?. .There! they’re all in they’re off. . out of the gulch. . out on the mesa. . away. . away. . fading into the distant hills. . gone.

Where is it now? It’s such a poor light, I can’t see, can you? Oh, yes, I got it. It’s inside the cave again. . . . Ascot and Bessemer Steel flat on the sand. . the light is that electric torch still lying on its side and burning. . Look, Ascot moved his arm. . he’s reviving. . he’s half sitting up. . he’s feeling Bessemer Steel’s heart. Bessemer is reviving too. They’ll both be all right in a few minutes. They were only clubbed with rocks and stabbed and choked. That’s nothing. Movie actors go through far worse than that and revive. .

Didn’t I tell you? . . Ascot has stood up. . he walks painfully, for five seconds., now he walks all right. . he’s looking round. . he’s taking the torch and going into the tunnel, he’s coming back, .he is speaking to Bessemer:

They Have Walled Up The Mouth Of The Tunnel

Yes. Ascot, we knew that, we saw them doing it. But look at the horror on Bessemer Steel’s face. . now he’s speaking:

Ascot, We Are Lost. There Is Nothing In Front Of Us But A Slow Death.

But look at Ascot. . see his set jaw and his clenched hand and his brave face! see what he says!,

We Are Not Lost Mr. Steel. I Can Save Us Yet.

Oh, bully for you Ascot, that’s the stuff. That Harvard training does it every time.

Whatever is Ascot doing now?. . he’s picking up the broken bits of the old Spanish armour. . he’s fitting things together. what’s he making? He’s taken out a long thin wire from his pocket, a coil of it. . he’s fastened a weight to it, he’s thrown it to the roof of the cave. . it’s caught on a jag of rock, .now he’s fastening it down tight on the ground and attaching something to it. Ah, I catch on, I see it, don’t you? Why, Radio! He’s got a radio machine with him; now they’ll make it all clear in writing in a minute—didn’t I tell you? There it is—

Ascot Wright With The Aid Of A Wire And The Fragments Of Old Armour And An Electric Torch Makes A Radio “Mr. Steel In Five Minutes I Shall Be In Communication With Canyon City.”

Look! He’s getting into communication . . zik -zik — see the big blue sparks running down the wire and lighting up the cave—zik -zik—zak—zak—zik. . . . he’s sending his message. .

Ah! Here’s the other end of it. The wireless station at Canyon City., see the operator in his room with a sort of helmet on and the wires and sparks all round him . zik—zak — zik. the message is coming through . . Look at the operator—all hurry and alarm -he writes down the message, he’s dashed out with it in his hand. . he’s reading it to Big Jim, the Sheriff, see the, excited crown gathering. . Jim’s haranguing them. I

Mr. Steel And Ascot Wright Are Walled Up In A Cave Off Dead Man's Gulch. .Miss Steel Has Been Carried Off By Bandits. I Want Every Man That Can Ride IZJ i-YAwd Handle A Gun.Sfet ¡j

sa■ -»■»—”

Hurrah! That’s the way—off they go. . see them leap on the horses and off in a whirl of dust. . See the Winchester rifles slung over their shoulders. .there’s Big Jim at the head of them. . out of the town and over the desert. . There, they’re riding into the Gulch. .Ascot must have given them the directions. .they halted. . they’re at the walled up tunnel. . they’re tearing down the stones. . they’re entering the cave, it’s bright now with torches..and crowded with men. .they’ve found Ascot and Bessemer Steel. .Big Jim has put a flask to their lips. . that’ll help them. . Now Ascot’s explaining, the gold, the attack,—everything.. see them crowd listening with the light on their faces. .

Out of the cave. . out into the bright sunshine. . and riding, riding for life. . but where? How can they know. . and the motor had a long start. What is that they plan to do. . riding, riding, they don’t seem to be chasing anything, they seem to be going somewhere. Oh! look! what’s this place with tall frame sheds and the level ground? Oh, I get it—fine! fine! See that great sign:

Aeroplane Station Of The Government Of The United States.

Isn’t that great? What a thing it is to live under a government that keeps aeroplanes even away Out in the desert.

Now they’re running aeroplanes out of the shed—what a huge machine! They’re getting in, and Bessemer Steel, and Big Jim, the Sheriff, and his men; see, Ascot is going to steer: I guess hisheadis all right again now. That little thumping up with the rocks merely woke up his brain.

Away they go—up—up—see the machine soaring in the blue sky, floating, hovering like a great bird watching for its prey. . it’s circling round searching for the motor car. Aha! they must see it now.. . Look at the aeroplane swooping down. . and see, there’s the motor, .rushing over the mesa, .here it’s coming right past us. Gonzalez is at the wheel. There’s Maisie in the back of the car still tied. . here’s the aeroplane right after it..look at Dan Yegg standing up in the car and shooting at the aeroplane with a revolver. . They’re shooting back, .that’s Big Jim with his Winchester leaning over the edge of the car. . look, the motor running straight for the edge of the canyon. . Great Caesar, it’s gone over, .it’s a drop of a thousand feet. . look, .there’s the car falling through the air, the wheels still spinning.. and there’s the aeroplane chasing it as it falls.. watch Big Jim. . he’s got a coil of rope, a lassoo. . he’s lassooed Maisie with it. . Hurrah, they’re hauling her on the aeroplane . . The motor can fall now, it doesn’t matter where it falls to. .there’s the aeroplane, landed.. Maisie’s unbound., she’s in her father’s arms, .he’s handing her to Ascot....

What’s it saying?—-oh? that’s just the wind-up.

And So These Twin Souls Join Henceforth To Walk Life's Pathway Hand In Hand Next Week Mutt And Jeff Among The Monkeys Don't Miss It.