AUSTRALIAN FILM STAR
Miss Isabel McDonagh, (Mrs Charles Stewart), who plays the role of "Denise" in 'Two Minutes' Silence', the first Australian film with an international theme, schedual for its Sydney premier at the Civic Theatre next week, records her impressions of Hollywood and some of the famous personalities she encountered when she passed through the film capital recently.
"For years," Miss McDonagh writes, "I have cherished an ambition to visit Hollywood. I don't quite know what I anticipated. Perhaps, because of a personal interest in film production, I expected too much, but my first glimpse of the fabulous film capital was vaguely disappointing. In the fiist place, it is not a city at all, but a small town in which everybody knows - or professes to know - everybody else's business.
"Certainly, the climate here is exhilarating, the cafes are marvellous and the shops all that any woman could wish for. On the Boulevard, where most of the stars do their shopping, it is possible to purchase frocks and shoes at a ridiculously low figure.
"Yet most of the glamour one associates with Hollywood is gilt and a great deal of its romance rather grim reality. There are eighteen thousand people, I am told, on the casting bureaus of Hollywood, yet only something like eight per cent of their number are making a moderately comfortably living out of films. The remainder are either playing 'extra' or 'bit' parts and eating when and where they can or serving in one or other of the innumerable small shops and cafes that abound in Hollywood. Most of the girls behind counters are really beautiful, but beauty alone means nothing in this city of beautiful faces. There is something rather tragic in the case of the thousands who flock to Hollywood for fame or fortune and remain to serve in a menial capacity the very stars they hoped to emulate.
"Then too, the actual heros and heroines of screen fame are, in reality, hard-working people with very real troubles of their own. Graft and racketeering is rife in Hollywood as it is in all parts of America. Apart from the various forms of protection - ranging from armed sentinels to live-wire circuits surrounding their homes - most of the big stars employ a personal bodyguard. Success is great in Hollywood, but, perhaps, the costs of it are even greater. In addition to all this, they have a good deal to worry about one way or another. For the youthful stars, their is the ever-present fear of falling from the high pinnacle of popularity on which the majority of them are precariously placed. It is an old axiom here that Hollywood forgets more easily than it remembers.
"Visiting an American studio to-day is a very different and much more difficult proposition than it was in the silent days. The slightest sound may spoil a sequence and with overhead running into thousands of dollars a day the time occupied in 're-takes' is a costly consideration.
"My first visit in Hollywood was to Lionel Belmore, who was an old patient of my father when the latter was honorary surgeon to J C Williamson, Ltd. He revived pleasant memories of his stay in Sydney and of the generous appreciation Sydney audiences accorded his work with Guy Bates Post. In recent years, Lionel Belmore will be remembered for his screen performances in 'Sorrell and Son', 'Madame X ' and 'Cavalcade' - each of them being little cameos in characterisation. It was Mr Belmore who ushered me in, surreptitiously, to catch a glimpse of John Barrymore at work in 'Night-Flight'. The studio was immense and a revelation in technical equipment. I got quite a thrill to think that Australian producers with the merest shadow of this equipment had produced films which, comparatively speaking at least, measured up quite favourably to the average American film.
"I was introduced, later, to John Barrymore and he impressed me as an amazing personality. He has a low rich voice, languid and tuneful in quality, and a gracious almost regal presence. I should say he is much more handsome off-screen than on - if such a thing were possible.
"Afterwards, the director of the film, Clarence Brown, came over and joined us and we had a long chat. Both were genuinely interested in Australia and were eager to know how their work was received in this country.
"On the second day of my arrival in Hollywood I lunched at the famous 'Brown Derby', where I met two of Hollywood's most odd and fascinating figures - Wallace Beery and Roland Young. Wallace Beery has laughing brown eyes and a disarming almost child-like smile. Roland Young is the perfect host and entertained us with a dry, whimsical humour. Aileen Pringle, who was lunching at an adjacent table, has the most perfect English speaking voice. It is a wonder to me she is not featured in more talkies. Wera Engels, daughtei of the Commander of the famous raider, 'Emden', and Hollywood's latest foreign sensation, was also present. She is very beautiful and was exquisitely dressed.
"The following day I saw Lillian Harvey and John Boles at work on 'My Lips Betray'. I do not think the microphone catches the full lyric quality of John Boles's magnificent singing voice. I exchanged a few words with Miss Harvey, who speaks German, French and English fluently, with a delicious accent. She is a most refreshing personality, naive, witty, vivacious, and bubbling over with merriment. Unlike some of the other foriegn film stars there is nothing theatrical in her gestures. Everyone predicts a great future for this sparkling, young screen debutante.
"I had lunch with Victor McLaglcn at his home the day before I had to tear myself away regretfully from Hollywood.
"His estates, which cover acres and acres of ground, might best be described as a miniature farm, for all provisions are grown on the place. The house itself is famed as the very mecca of material comforts. The kitchen, with its huge open fires, is a revelation to any modern housewife in simplicity and utility. Mr McLaglen, who is a perfect host, entertains on a lavish scale. There are glorious gardens and a swimming pool which is the rendezvous of social Hollywood.
"My stay was altogether too brief in Hollywood, and I had to regretfully decline an invitation to a reception of Marie Dressler's. After a breathless week, however, I have only the pleasantest recollections of Hollywood and its hospitality. It is an amazing place, but the people in it are even more amazing."