“It’s bound to be a knock-out,” he assured his listeners; “no synthetic jungle, no faked sound effects, no toothless old lions that every picture fan in the U.S. knows by their first names. No, sir! This will be the real thing.”
A secretary entered the room and closed the door behind her. “Mr. Orman is here,” she said.
“Good! Ask him to came in, please.” Mr. Smith rubbed his palms together and turned to the others. “Thinking of Orman was nothing less than an inspiration,” he exclaimed. “He’s just the man to make this picture.”
“Just another one of your inspirations, Chief,” remarked one of the men. “They’ve got to hand it to you.”
Another, sitting next to the speaker, leaned closer to him. “I thought you suggested Orman the other day,” he whispered.
“I did,” said the first man out of the corner of his mouth.
Again the door opened, and the secretary ushered in a stocky, bronzed man who was greeted familiarly by all in the room. Smith advanced and shook hands with him.
“Glad to see you, Tom,” he said. “Haven’t seen you since you got back from Borneo. Great stuff you got down there. But I’ve got something bigger still on the fire for you. You know the clean-up Superlative Pictures made with their last jungle picture?”
“How could I help it; it’s all I’ve heard since I got back. Now I suppose everybody’s goin’ to make jungle pictures.”
“Well, there are jungle pictures and jungle pictures. We’re going to make a real one: Every scene in that Superlative picture was shot inside a radius of twenty-five miles from Hollywood except a few African stock shots, and the sound effects—lousy!” Smith grimaced his contempt.
“And where are we goin’ to shoot?” inquired Orman; “fifty miles from Hollywood?”
“No, sir! We’re goin’ to send a company right to the heart of Africa, right to the—ah—er—what’s the name of that forest, Joe?”
“The Ituri Forest.”
“Yes, right to the Ituri Forest with sound equipment and everything. Think of it Tom! You get the real stuff, the real natives, the jungle, the animals, the sounds. You ‘shoot’ a giraffe, and at the same time you record the actual sound of his voice.”
“You won’t need much sound equipment for that Milt.”
“Giraffes don’t make any sounds; they’re supposed not to have any vocal organs.”
“Well, what of it? That was just an illustration. But take the other animals for instance; lions, elephants, tigers—Joe’s written in a great tiger sequence. It’s goin’ to yank ’em right out of their seats.”
“There ain’t any tigers in Africa, Milt,” explained the director.
“Who says there ain’t?”
“I do,” replied Orman, grinning:
“How about it, Joe?” Smith turned toward the scenarist.
“Well, Chief, you said you wanted a tiger sequence.”
“Oh, what’s the difference? Well make it a crocodile sequence.”
“And you want me to direct the picture?” asked Orman.
“Yes, and it will make you famous.”
“I don’t know about that, but I’m game—I ain’t ever been to Africa. Is it feasible to get sound trucks into Central Africa?”
“We’re just having a conference to discuss the whole matter,” replied Smith. “We’ve asked Major White to sit in. I guess you men haven’t met—Mr. Orman, Major White,” and as the two men shook hands Smith continued, “the major’s a famous big game hunter, knows Africa like a book. He’s to be technical advisor and go along with you.”
“What do you tlsink, Major, about our being able to get sound trucks into the Ituri Forest?” asked Orman.
“What’ll they weigh? I doubt, that you can get anything across Africa that weighs over a ton and a half.”
“Ouch!” exclaimed Clarence Noice, the sound director. “Our sound trucks weigh seven tons, and we’re planning on taking two of them.”
“It just can’t be done,” said the major.
“And how about the generator truck?” demanded Noice. “It weighs nine tons.”
“The major threw up his hands. “Really, gentlemen, it’s preposterous.”
“Can you do it, Tom?” demanded Smith, and without waiting for a reply, “you’ve got to do it.”
“Sure I’ll do it—if you want to foot the bills.”
“Good!” exclaimed Smith. “Now that’s settled let me tell you something about the story. Joe’s written a great story—it’s goin’ to be a knock-out. You see, this fellow’s born in the and brought up by a lioness. He pals around with the lions all his life—doesn’t know any other friends. The lion is king of beasts; when the boy grows up he’s king of the lions; so he bosses the whole menagerie. See? Big shot of the jungle.”
“Sounds familiar,” commented Orman.
“And then the girl comes in, and here’s a great shot! She doesn’t know any one’s around, and she’s bathing in a jungle pool: Along comes the Lion Man. He ain’t ever seen a woman before. Can’t you see the possibilities, Tom? It’s goin’ to knock ’em cold.” Smith was walking around the room, acting out the scene. He was the girl bathing in the pool in one corner of the room, and then he went to the opposite corner and was the Lion Man. “Great, isn’t it?” he demanded. “You’ve got to hand it to Joe.”
“Joe always was an original guy,” said Orman. “Say, who you got to play this Lion Man that’s goin’ to pal around with the lions? I hope he’s got the guts.”
“Best ever, a regular find. He’s got a physique that’s goin’ to have all the girls goofy.”
“Yes, them and their grandmothers,” offered another conferee.
“Who is he?”
“He’s the world’s champion marathoner.”
“No, marathon runner.”
“If I was playin’ that part I’d rather be a sprinter than a distance runner. What’s his name?”
“Stanley Obroski? Never heard of him.”
“Well, he’s famous nevertheless; and wait till you see him! He’s sure got ‘It,’ and I don’t mean maybe.”
“Can he act?” asked Orman,
“He don’t have to act, but he looks great stripped—I’ll run his tests for you.”
“Who else is in the cast?”
“The Madison’s cast for lead opposite Obroski, and—”
“M-m-m, Naomi’s plenty hot at 34 north; she’ll probably melt at the Equator.”
“And Gordon Z. Marcus goes along as her father; he’s a white trader.”
“Think Marcus can stand it? He’s getting along in years.”
“Oh, he’s rarin’ to go. Major White, here, is taking the part of a white hunter.”
“I’m afraid,” remarked the major, “that as an actor I’ll prove to be an excellent hunter.”
“Oh, all you got to do is act natural. Don’t worry.”
“No, let the director worry,” said the scenarist; “that’s What he’s paid for.”
“And rewritin’ bum continuity,” retorted Orman. “But say, Milt, gettin’ back to Naomi: She’s great in cabaret scenes and flaming youth pictures, but when it comes to steppin’ out with lions and elephants—l don’t know.”
“We’re sendin’ Rhonda Terry along to double for her.”
“Good! Rhonda’d go up and bite a lion on the wrist if a director told her to; and she does look a lot like the Madison, come to think of it.”
“Which is flatterin’ the Madison, if any one asks me,” commented the scenarist.
“Which no one did,” retorted Smith.
“And again, if any one asks me,” continued Joe, “Rhonda can act circles all around Madison. How some of these, punks get where they are beats me.”
“And you hangin’ around studios for the last ten years!” scoffed Orman. “You must be dumb.”
“He wouldn’t be an author if he wasn’t,” gibed another conferee.
“Well,” asked Orman, “who else am I takin’? Who’s my chief cameraman?”
“What with your staff, the cast, and drivers you’ll have between thirty-five and forty whites. Besides the generator truck and the two sound trucks, you’ll have twenty five-ton trucks and five passenger cars. We’re picking technicians and mechanics who can drive trucks so as to cut down the size of the company as much as possible. I’m sorry you weren’t in town to pick your own company, but we had to rush things. Every one’s signed up but the assistant director. You can take any one along you please.”
“When do we leave?”
“In about ten days.”
“It’s a great life,” sighed Orman. “Six months in Borneo, ten days in Hollywood, and then another six months in Africa! You guys give a fellow just about time to get a shave between trips.”
“Between drinks, did you say?” inquired Joe.
“Between drinks!” offered another. “’There isn’t any between drinks in Tom’s young life.”