Elegy of a movie actor
The below poetic packaging was of the many of theatrical legacies Hollywood and I left to each other after my last film there in 1963 — as a square dancer in a Bob Hope TV Chrysler Theatre episode — then came…
Elegy of a Movie Actor
A Movie Actor was tired of films
And of grit to go on was bereft…
His dialing finger was worn to the bone
Not a “call-in” for work had he left.
He’d spent all his time in “kissin’” around
And “panickin’” here and there,
‘Til he lastly found out that for all his mad rush
There were none who seemed to care.
Now he felt he hadn’t amounted to much
That his life had suffered great loss
That perhaps in pursuit of some other career
He might have become a boss.
In reflecting the years he was out of work
And those spent to no avail,
In suddenly struck him that he never
Had the movie-world by the tail.
It was weird that the industry which we’d long served
Now seemed so viciously strange,
This new plague now brought on the certainty
That he craved an eternal change…
But was it too late for his soul to achieve
A place with his astral kin?
He panic’d once more, and was anxious to know
Could he give up “calling in?”
So with his last dime and bit of duress
He dialed the Pearly Gate
And got St. Peter on the phone
Who set him an interview date.
On Earth his estate was nothing to square
There was little to bring to an end
For in his career he’d saved not a cent
And hardly made a true friend
He then withdrew from the A F of L
And the rest of his scant worldly ties
And waiting no more so he wouldn’t be late
He quickly took to the skies.
Arriving on time in the Promised Land
He loftily strode around
Though nervous no less than he’d been all the days
Of his scramble on earthly ground.
It was different now, he no longer desired a thing
Except a long rest…
And while making petition, along came St. Pete
To decide his last request…
The Celestial Custodian pondered a bit
Then in golden tones declared,
“My, my little man, but you’ve come a long way —
I was hoping you’d be prepared!
In the course of your deliverance here
We examined our report
and discovered that one of your worst wrong moves
Was to cut your life too short.
You needed to learn, when you make decisions
That oftentimes are wrong
You should still accept and make the best
Of whatever comes along.
Since you always deplored that your ‘job’ was to blame
For the downfall of your schemes
Would you say that your inborn freedom of choice
Existed only in dreams?
It’s often a man far misses the mark
That’s intended for his Soul
When by vain attractions he tries
To reach another person’s goal.
A lot more good you could have done
And kindnesses repaid
The sort of things which present
A man to Heaven ready-made…
Your story’s like everyone else’s, my son
They go on for years and years
Then instantly wonder about the whole mess
The next thing they’re chock full of fears.
Alas! … You’re not old, though you look to be
With your face all twisted in frown
There is much to improve, so in view of the facts
I’ll have to send you back down!”
The Movie Actor then roared,
“I’ll be damned if this is what I get!”
St. Pete avowed, “You will, to be sure,
With that kind of epithet!
You’re forgetting just where you happen to be
And someday may wish to return!”
The Actor promptly redressed himself
With a show of express concern.
Then “Slap?” — a great Director’s words
Struck back with total recall.
“There aren’t any small parts in films
Only actors who think small.
And this truth you must apply to real life
Which is the master stage
That a “reading” no matter how seemingly small
Reads from page, to book, back to page.”
But the Actor had long dismissed this truth
As carrying any weight
And now with his life back-flashing through mind
He’s also learned it’s too late.
Then the Heavens rang with mighty reproof
While dashing him back to Earth
“You can never return until the day
You’ve realized moral rebirth!”
And smug in his Hell danced the Devil
Who gave song and titled the thing
“That’s how Movie-Land of Hollywood
Got back a ‘Ding-a-Ling!’ ”
From Professor Thane Cornell’s recently completed manuscript “Poetry Theatre.”