Page 2

1951_05_26--025_SP [Petticoat Empire]

Petticoat Empire By EDITH EMBURY She was the boss, the genius. No one ever disagreed with her—not if he wanted to keep his job. After she looked up "uxorious" in the dictionary, she wished she hadn't. I IIIITTLE GEM Advertising Film Productions lig had one rebuilt thirty-five-millimeter camera and a thirty-by-fifty portion of warehouse space called the studio. Little Gem also had two motion-picture directors who doubled as cameramen, and a producer. The producer was a brunette with bright brown eyes, and her name was Nathalie Wyman. Nathalie was no secondhand rebuilt. She was young and beautiful. What you could see of Nathalie was gorgeous and what you couldn't was provocatively covered by Hattie, Nettie and Sophie. Men made passes at Nathalie which she promptly passed by. Her master plan for traveling the road to success permitted no dalliance along seductive bypaths. Men were things to think about later after she had been called to Hollywood to produce extravaganzas in color. She expected, of course, when she got around to it, to take her pick from a whole herd of rich, dynamic captains of industry. In the meantime she looked in her office mirrors and told herself she was the best producer in the less glamorous side of motion pictures. Her production meetings went off like clockwork. Her shooting schedules never sagged into overtime. From script to negative to customer—one Little Gem production—all under budget. Nathalie's pet customer was Babyskin Lotion, and so the ten-o'clock production meeting for Babyskin Theater Ad 27, with Nathalie Wyman presiding, should have gone off in the usual routine fashion. Director Al Kolski sat midway of the desk and read the script aloud. Carol Lee, secretary to Nathalie and plain stenographer to the rest of the staff, hung her pencil in the air and waited for Nathalie's comments. Doug Wilson, promoted to head writer since the hiring of an assistant, blinked and chain smoked. His new assistant, Joe Frane, sat with his chair tipped back against the wall. Joe's eyes were closed. His complete disregard for the presence of the producer was a sizzling fuse under his tilted chair. The fuse was attached. Her annoyance mounting by the minute, Nathalie stared holes in the wall over Joe Frane's head. Insolent boor. What was it Wilson had told her about him? Newspaper reporter who'd worked on films in the Navy. Single, in his late twenties. Writers! Every day, litters of them could be crammed into weighted sacks and dropped in the river and no one would ever ask what happened. A strange word jerked her thoughts into line. Uxorious. What did that mean? Ferd Zwinnick, sales-promotion manager for Babyskin, wouldn't understand it. He'd say, "If I don't understand it, the audience won't either." Kolski finished reading and passed the script to Nathalie. Joe's chair came down with a thud. "Damn good," Joe said, sliding to his spine. "Thought I'd gone stale on it, but it's better than I guessed." Wilson darted his assistant an invisible ray designed to wither, but Joe, lost in admiration of his opus, remained healthfully ignorant. Kolski reverently turned his face to Mecca, and Wilson followed suit. Nathalie took the script by one corner, holding it away from her, shoulder high, like something lifted from a sewer. She wheeled from her chair and tossed it toward the wastebasket. In a coldly regal voice she exploded her bomb, "It stinks." Joe hit the floor. Six feet of him seemed to lean over the table all at once. Nathalie braced herself for a bellow, but what she heard was as quiet and smooth as steel drawn over velvet. He had the bluest eyes she had ever seen. "In just what spots would you say the odor is offensive?" "I don't have to be specific, Mr. — ah — Frame." There was a definite accent on the "I." "Frane. But call me Joe; it's chummier." Nathalie ignored the offer. " I want another script immediately, Wilson. We'll have to switch schedules, shoot Daisy Food Choppers tomorrow and put Babyskin over to the day after. Mr. Zwinnick is arriving sometime today, but I'll have to stall him off. And, Wilson, you'd better do the rewrite yourself, so the formula will be followed." "Formula!" Joe's voice bled with anguish. "That's the trouble with your Babyskin ads. I ran the whole twenty-six yesterday, and every one is five minutes of commercial blah. People don't talk that way. Not real people." Nathalie knew the signs. In another minute he'd reach the shouting point. Deftly she applied the needle. "At Little Gem we give our customers what they want. That's Lesson One, Mr. Frane." " Even if they want castor oil straight, I suppose. Look, Nat. Did yob ever try giving Zwinnick some orange juice along with it?" "I am not paid to waste my time arguing with writers!" Her face was getting hot. "If you can't understand an advertising formula, you don't belong in the business. The script is no good. Wilson knows it. So does Kolski." As one man, Wilson and Kolski nodded agreement. Joe looked at them all in turn. Then he smiled and bowed from the waist. "Thanks, Miss Wyman," he purred. "Thanks for the unbiased hearing. Even as a puppet show it wasn't worth the price of admission." He went out. Nathalie stomped to a window and stood there, her back to the room. The others slowly pushed their chairs aside and stole away. She sat down at her desk and put her face in her hands. She had lost her temper, and so she had lost ILLUSTRATED BY GILBERT BC \ the battle. A new script would be written, yes, but he'd made her look petty and ridiculous with that easy way of his. He'd drawn her in and then he'd slapped her down with a bow and a Cheesy-cat grin. Puppets! Naturally, out of courtesy, Wilson and Kolski always waited for her opinion. She got up and looked in the mirror between the windows. Not a curl was out of place. She consulted the full-length mirror on the powder-room door. She pulled down her girdle and straightened the topaz clip on her lapel. No one at Little Gem had ever called her "Nat." "Look, Nat." There was an earnest warmth in the way he'd said it. Sort of made you glow inside, even if it didn't mean anything personal. Maybe he would quit. Well, so what? The script wasn't any good. But if Wilson made a fuss she'd better be sure of her facts. She pulled the script from the basket and returned to her desk. She read 'it over, word for word, and reluctantly conceded she had missed a few things while working herself into a state over Frane's lackadaisical attitude. Too many scenes, though. He must have thought Zwinnick was made of money. Look, Nat. Go on and patch it up. The guy knows how to write. Tell him why you can't produce it. Tell him the truth. She put on new lips and went upstairs, where she never went. Her own office was draped and carpeted, and people came to her. She never went to anyone as she was going now to Joe Frane. The staff room was a barren waste without benefit of partitions. A few battered desks were pushed into various positions to catch the light. Carol's was in the middle, and there she sat, pounding her typewriter and answering telephones. Wilson was out, and Nathalie wondered if he was already on the prowl for a new assistant. The farthest desk held the lower extremities of Joe Frane. He was on his spine again, his hands clasped behind his head. She found a kitchen chair and dragged it bumpetybump across the floor. Joe heard the alarm and unfolded. She sat on the edge of the chair and handed him the script. "I read this over after you left and It's all right — it's pretty good, in fact, but I —that is, we —" She lost herself in the blue intentness of his eyes. "But you can't produce it," he finished. "Seems to me I heard that before." "You're not to take personally anything that was said downstairs. We give our opinions, but they're impersonal, you understand." His hair was brown. He might have been a towhead when he was a kid. He had big-knuckled, outdoor hands—not white, womanish hands as so many writers had. "Impersonal," he said. " I see." "It keeps us from getting our personalities mixed up with our work. I (Continued on Page 92 )


1951_05_26--025_SP [Petticoat Empire]
To see the actual publication please follow the link above