Edgar Wallace’s Hollywood Diary — Part 1 (1932) 🇺🇸

July 27, 2022

Beginning one of the truest and most fascinating pen-pictures of Hollywood ever published.

Written by the man whose novels and plays thrilled millions

Editor’s Note: Mr. Wallace, before he left England, told his wife he would keep a diary and would address it to her. He thought it the most interesting way of keeping her informed of all of his activities. This he did, religiously. We have omitted the first part, because it refers to his Atlantic passage, his stay in New York and his stopover in Chicago.

Friday morning, 4th December, 1931.

En Route to Hollywood on the Santa Fe Chief.

We haven’t seen a cloud since Tuesday night, when we came through a snow-storm, and even then didn’t see one. All day yesterday we climbed and scooted up and down hills, and all the time there was on our left and right a stretch of semi-desert backed by hills and mountains, and that scenery continued this morning, except that there was a whole lot of cactus plant visible.

I saw the sun rise! It was a most amazing spectacle. When it came up over the hills it was really a sun.

For over a thousand miles a well-kept road has run parallel with the line. I think this must be the Lincoln Highway. It is out of sight at the moment, but it will reappear from nowhere in a quarter of an hour’s time, having taken a detour into the great desert.

We are now approaching the hottest point of the trip, though it isn’t at all warm this morning, despite the sun. This is a place called The Needles, where in summer you suffocate. After that we go down to Los Angeles.

We have just passed over the Colorado River, shallow and very wide, for this is not the season of flood, and we are following its right bank. The country has changed, naturally, because of the irrigation it gives, and all the brown of the trees and shrubs has become green. There are, also, a large number of trees in leaf, which is rather remarkable.

Beyond Needles the country becomes delightful. Imagine grove after grove, millions of orange trees, all in bloom; beautiful streets with great, straight palm trees running up each side; delightful little houses; and, as a background to it all, the mountains and foothills.

Everything is green, and there is, about the place, an air of prosperity which you don’t find elsewhere in the United States.

We came into Los Angeles, an indescribable city which straggles all over the face of the earth. I was photographed when I got out of the train, where I was met by the press agent of the R.K.O.

From Los Angeles to Hollywood is, I think, about ten miles. When I tell you you are in boulevards and streets all the time, and you are never once in the open country or away from the stores, you will realize the extent of it. The Beverly Wilshire, which I pictured as being in the most rural surroundings, is, in fact, on the main street.

Hollywood seems to consist of filling stations, fruit markets and drug stores. I suppose we passed forty filling stations on our way from Los Angeles here, and God knows how many fruit markets, which are rather nice to see. The studio is about a thousand miles away from here, but our present arrangements are in a state of flux, and until I have seen Schnitzer (Joseph Schnitzer, then president of Radio Pictures) tomorrow. I shan’t have any idea as to what I am going to do.

There is no sign of a wild party. In fact my first impressions of Hollywood are not exceptionally favorable. But we shall improve on all that, and I suppose I’m a bit tired.

I shall go to bed fairly early tonight, and see what the place is like in the morning. I am going to the studio at nine to see Schnitzer, and really my first news of any account you will not have until tomorrow.

Saturday, 5th December, 1931.

This morning I got your overnight letter to tell me everything was grand. That’s a great relief, I must say, to have no worries about home.

I hired a car and drove to the studio; it is about five miles from here, but we did it in about ten minutes; and I met my executive. Schnitzer, who is the financial head, is a very nice, youngish, stoutish man. They were sitting in conference when I arrived, so I saw them all together. Selznick is the big noise; he is young, massive, well educated and with tremendous vitality. (David Selznick, head of production.) The man he has replaced as production manager, Bill Le Baron, is quite a nice man, and the other two men, whom I can’t remember for the moment, were all equally pleasant. I was with them for about a quarter of an hour, and then I went to see over the “lot.”

I was then picked up by a man named Perry Liebar, an awfully nice fellow who is at the head of the publicity department, and he took me into the block where the executive writers are kept chained up, and I was given a room, the key thereof, and the telephone book, which helps me to pet into touch with everybody in the block. The secretarial department sent me a woman over named Pickering, to whom I dictated a couple of letters. She also made a few notes of my requirements.

I was interviewed by Jimmy Mitchell of the Examiner and another reporter named Hunt. We had a grand time... I find that I have only to call up the transportation department to get a car when I want one to pick me up. It’s a “swell idea.”

Afterwards I saw Selznick in his office with Merian Cooper, another member of the executive. He was the man that did “Chang” and “Four Feathers.” They want me to do a horror picture for them. I think there is a big market for it, and they have “lined me up” all their stock artists and I am to use them as I want. Erich von StroheimAnna May Wong and a few more of that kind.

We had an interesting talk, and Selznick drove me back to the hotel, where he was seeing his brother.

This afternoon I am going to call on Guy Bolton (the playwright) for tea. The vexed problem as to whether I shall stay at the Beverly Wilshire or whether I shall take a house has yet to be settled. I am going to see Guy’s house, and if it is oke I will become a householder, and the wild parties I shall give will be nobody’s business! I am determined thoroughly to demoralize Robert (Mr. Wallace’s valet) before I get him back. He has been out shopping this morning and getting his background, as they say in this town.

The sight when I woke up this morning and looked out was beautiful. Over the foreground of shops, agents’ offices and the like was the slope of the Beverly Hills lying about three miles away to the top of a ridge about the height of Glion. This is covered entirely with the white houses of the patrician class. When I say patrician class I mean the stars of Hollywood. The air is marvelously clear. From my room I step out on to a big patio, about as big as the little lawn by the side of Chalklands (Mr. Wallace’s country home in England), brick-covered and furnished with chairs, couches and whatnots. In the center is a big fountain.

I haven’t gone very thoroughly into the question of how long I am staying.

Naturally, my first impression of Hollywood is a little lot confused. I am not quite satisfied that I can work in this room, and I have no place where Bob (Mr. Wallace’s secretary) can work except here. But all this will he cleared up in a day or so. The impression I have is that they will go a long way out of their way to make things easy for me, and that they are very pleased I am here.

This is just the briefest survey of the situation up to date. I haven’t been in Hollywood twenty-four hours, and today being Saturday rather holds me up. Maybe tomorrow I shall be able to line up a story (I hope you don’t mind this bloody language) and then you’ll know roughly what it is; in fact, I’ll make a point of sending you a copy of everything I do.

They go a hell of a long way to help you, and if you make good, as I believe I shall, you can write your own ticket. (You will have to interpret all these idioms as best you can. I don’t quite know what they all mean myself.) Selznick was telling me today that they had to stop work on a film because it took seventeen days to rewrite a portion of the story, and every day it cost the studio $3,000. I believe if I get past with my quick work I shall make a lot of money, always providing they don’t get scared by the very rapidity of the work and spend six months talking it over before they shoot.

I was photographed this morning twice at the desk, once with my feet up, telephoning, and once the conventional intense picture, writing. The publicity man said: “I’ve never had anybody like you, Mr. Wallace, to deal with. You take three-quarters of my work off my shoulders.” I explained to him carefully that I was not a seeker of publicity, but that when it came I thought it ought to be done properly. He told me that I had no idea of the trouble stars give when they arrive by train and are snapped on the platform. Which is remarkable, remembering that these film stars owe a terrific lot to this kind of publicity.

I went to Guy Bolton’s to tea. He has a most charming house at a fairly low rent, furnished. All the ceilings are sort of vaulted. The heating is arranged by means of little buttons in the wall, which put on tiny lights to show you what sort of heating you are getting.

I met Charles Farrell and his wife, Virginia Vallee. They were very charming, and, to my amazement, fans of mine. So was another woman, who is somebody else in the films. We had a grand talk and I got home for dinner in no particular mood for work.

Sunday, 6th December, 1931.

We have got another gorgeous day. I spent the morning thinking out a story for R.K.O. on the lines Selznick suggested. I am sending you a copy by this mail. I am quite prepared, of course, to find that it is not quite the thing they want. I want to get through this engagement without any shocks to my vanity, and there is really no reason why I should have such shocks, for usually these people have a pretty definite idea of their market. What he wanted me to do was a horror film; that is to say, something that makes people grasp their immediate neighbor or the sweaty hand of their lady friend; and I think I can get a horror atmosphere in broad daylight. That, to my mind, is the best kind of thrill.

I started work in the afternoon, with intervals for tea and dinner, and the story was finished and typed by half-past ten, which was a great achievement both for the senior and junior partners. There must have been ten thousand words.

Anne McEwen came at half-past five. She is terribly excited. I think she will be very useful. She’ll fix things like radio talks, and she’ll make contact with all the columnists and the film correspondents, and that will be tremendously valuable.

We had a long chat. She came in after everybody had gone to bed, and we talked till about twelve.

It is wonderful to stand on the patio and watch the cars flying along the Wilshire Boulevard. The amazing thing about this place is that twenty minutes from here is the Pacific and the beaches, and that about an hour and a half away you are up to your thighs in snow, so that you can go skiing or bathing as the fancy takes you. By the evening it was quite cloudy but really warm.

Monday night.

I went down to the studio at ten and saw Merian C. Cooper who read the story and liked it very much, but thought there was not sufficient horror in it. I met Herbert Brenon, who directed “Beau Geste” and who has been allocated to my story, and I met also one or two other experts of the executive.

I think the story I gave them was a very good one, but I am not so sure that they will accept it.

I had another idea at lunch, which I gave them; a mystery play called “A Hundred Minutes,” the idea being that the whole of the action should correspond in point of time to the period of its showing; that is to say, it opens at twelve and finishes at twenty minutes to two, and within that period all the action is compressed. They jumped at the idea. I haven’t written the story yet.

It is a hell of a journey from here to the studios, about five miles, and costs you about a pound a day in taxis — at least.

Tuesday morning, 8th December, 1931.

I am ashamed to confess it for Hollywood’s sake, but it is raining. It is an outrageous thing to have happened, but there it is : it is raining, not like hell, but quite like London, and the Beverly Hills are hidden in clouds. It makes no difference to the habits of the inhabitants, because they wear the same motor-cars summer or winter.

I have had Cooper, one of the executives, come down to talk over stories, and I am giving my story a new end, which I think will make it acceptable. I am also doing a radio mystery and another mystery story, and a story of prehistoric life! So it looks like being a happy Christmas for me.

l am going to make a habit of sending off this diary every second day, and I am also sending you the story without the change of end.

I shall probably move into a little house but I have no news yet concerning one.

Wednesday morning, 9th December, 1931.

The rain finished last flight, and this morning we have blue skies and perfect sunshine. Bob and I went to see “The Champ” last night, with Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper. It really was a perfect picture and perfectly acted, and I hope you will see it in town. I haven’t seen a picture that impressed me so. Everybody in the audience was weeping at the finish, including me!

I am going down to the studio this morning and taking Bob (Mr. Wallace’s secretary) with me. I think I told you that I have got four pictures on hand, and it is very discouraging after seeing last night’s show. But that, I think, is always the case when one sees an emotional picture.

Cooper and Brenon will be my directors. Cooper did “Chang” and “Four Feathers,” and for him I am doing the prehistoric animals story. Brenon, of course, did “Beau Geste” and two of Barrie’s and “Sorrell and Son.” I am hoping that at least one of these pictures will be done before I come home, which will be either in February or March.

Virginia Bedford has just rung me up. I think I have got my house; I am going to see it this afternoon. Virginia phoned me and said it is a beautiful house and she is getting it for $350 a month, completely furnished. Roughly that is £25 a week at the present rate of exchange.

I am wondering, if I stay on in February, whether it would be possible for you to come out and return home with me. I thought you might come out in January straight away from Caux, catching the boat at Cherbourg. If you took one of the German boats, the Bremen or Europa, you’d be in New York in five days, and, leaving the next day, by the Century, you’d be in Hollywood three days after, which is roughly nine days from leaving England or France. I would have a drawing-room reserved for you, which is a compartment entirely by yourself, with your own lavatorial compartment, and you could have your meals there from New York to Los Angeles.

Of course, this is only a “pipe,” and is probably impossible, but I should like you to see the place before we decided what we are going to do next winter. Long before you receive this I shall have notified you by wire just how everything is going. The point against the scheme is that you would want to see my play produced and on its legs before you came out. Everything really depends on what date you will put on the play which I am sending to Carl Brandt (Mr. Wallace’s literary agent) tomorrow in its finished form.

Don’t for one moment think that I have set my heart on your doing something wild and eccentric, but I know traveling doesn’t bother you, and that his real consideration will be Penny (his daughter) and how she is likely to be in Caux. The grandest thing would he if you could bring her, but I know that is impossible. It would mean roughly 18 days’ travel and about three weeks here — about two months. You might not think it worth while, but the real consideration will he its practicability, I know.

Thursday morning, 10th Dec., 1931.

Last night we went down to the studio to see “Dracula” run through, and I also saw a bit of “Bulldog Drummond,” because Selznick wanted me to see a man in it. Dracula is crude horror stuff, but I must say it raised my hair a little bit.

My new address is 716 North Maple Drive, Beverly Hills. For God’s sake don’t say Hollywood when you mean Beverly Hills. It’s not done, and such a pained expression comes over the Beverly Hillers when you refer to it as Hollywood.

It is really in a lovely road, and a lovely house with a high-roofed sitting-room, which will be my writing-room. Unlike other houses, it is two-storied. I move in on Sunday the 13th (as you know, my lucky day). I shall be glad to get in, because I can’t do much work at the hotel.

I have even got a bootlegger to supply me with a case of whisky and a case of gin for my guests. Robert will be so happy that he can make cocktails.

You can buy real orange juice here, already squeezed, for 20 cents a quart, and oranges about five a penny. Living here is extraordinarily cheap, except in the matter of clothes. I have hired a motor-car — 2,000 miles for $500 a month. I am going to see how it works out. We have a garage establishment, and the hire of course includes everything — petrol, chauffeur, etc., and for that I am getting a Cadillac car.

Thursday evening.

At the moment we are looking for actors, and this afternoon I went down to the studio to lunch. My lunch consisted of a large glass of orange juice and a hot beef sandwich, which is two slices of roast beef between bread and butter covered with gravy. Afterwards I went into the private projection room and saw “Murder by the Clock.” There were moments in it which were quite creepy, and the actor was the very man I wanted for my horror story, which I have changed. (You have the manuscript and I will be able to send you on the changes.)

I bumped into Richard Dix the other day. I haven’t met many stars. I am simply surrounded by them at Maple Drive, including Mr. Gleason — you remember “Is Zat So?” — who lives just opposite, and a big director who lives next door to me.

Miss Bedford has been terribly kind. She got the house, she has arranged the telephone and the water supply, and in fact has been a mother to me. She told me it was the maternal instinct working, so that’s how I put it.

Saturday night, 12th Dec., 1931

After I finished the previous lines of the diary I went down to the studio, attended to one or two calls, lunched with Cooper in the restaurant, and collected the photographs which had been taken of me, and which you will have received by now, or probably at the same time as this reaches you.

I then went to see him taking one of these process shots. The camera shoots against a blue background lit up by about fifty orange arc lamps. It was two men making an attack upon a prehistoric beast. The beast, of course, was not there: he is put in afterwards, and every movement of the man is controlled by a man who is seeing the beast through a moviola, that is to say, the film of the beast, and signals by means of a bell every movement that the men make. It is called the Dunning process.

I then came home to my new home, and found the owner of the house, Mrs. Cook, in a great state, because she had a bad cold, and was not out of the house as soon as she had expected, and was very anxious to leave everything speckless.

We have got into the habit of going to the Brown Derby, which is a little restaurant right opposite the Beverly Wilshire, an all-night place, and having coffee and pancakes. I am not so sure that they help one to sleep.

I borrowed a big table from the studio and had it put in the living-room. One day next week I’ll get the studio people to send a man up here and take a few shots so that you can see what the place is like.

My first step, the evening being chilly, was to light the log fire. Underneath the grid where the logs lie is a gas pipe; you light this, and that of itself is very cheerful ; flaming white gas jets go half way up the fireplace. In about ten minutes the logs are alight, and you turn off the gas.

The logs are still burning, by the way.

Guy Bolton and Virginia Bedford came. Virginia brought me some flowers and put the finishing touches on my household organization, ordering me grub for tomorrow and deciding that I can only have meat once a day.

Robert has risen to the occasion nobly. He has found an ironing board, cunningly let into the wall and apparently a long cupboard until you open it and pull the board down. He is making me cups of tea every few minutes.

I am going to try to collect the stories of Hollywood. They are really remarkable. One of the executives found a cowboy at a local rodeo doing wonderful rope tricks. He was a tall, handsome fellow, and the director said at once: “This is star material.” He gave the man a contract and put him in a film. He was a handsome-looking fellow except that he had bad teeth, so they set him up with a new set of teeth at a cost of $600. On the third day of the picture he came to the director and said: “Say, couldn’t somebody else double for me in the love-making scenes, and let me do the roping?” Eventually he was so rotten that they got rid of him. and after he’d been paid off the chief of the staff, in the midst a conference, said: “My God, he’s got our teeth.” Orders were sent to intercept him and get the teeth back, but apparently it didn’t work. Guy and Virginia stayed till about five o’clock. I went out to seem them into their car. It was a most wonderful sight — a most gorgeous orange sunset behind the houses on the opposite side of the street — in one of which, by the way, lives the author of “Fata Morgana.” Down to the left you could see the great spread of the lights of Hollywood. I never saw anything more lovely.

There are oranges growing in my den, and four precious — I forget the name of them: you have them in salad; they are a kind of apple. (Edit Note: avocados.) Anyway, they only bloom once in five years, and the only regret the owner had was that they were almost ripe and she was leaving them. There are narcissus growing, and a few other flowers, and there is a bush or two of blue plumbago. In the center of the garden is a lily-pond with a tiny fountain. Altogether it is a swell house.

Approached by night, it is a beautiful-looking place, with a sort of stained glass window, and a yellow iron lamp fixed to the wall and a crazy pavement with grass growing between.

Virginia has fixed me up a Japanese gardener and a black cook, who I presume will arrive in her own car, and Bob has dealt with all the tradesmen.

Sunday morning, 13th Dec., 1931.

My first night in the new home was a very comfortable one. I slept very well. Everything is so dainty and the sheets and linen generally are of such excellent quality. Robert brought me up my tea at a quarter to seven. I don’t think he went to bed very much, he was so thrilled with his new opportunity.

This morning, however, there was nearly a tragedy. We ran out of milk. We telephoned frantically to our friend and saviour, Guy Bolton, who turned up in a golf suit with a bottle of milk under each arm, having motored round from North Camden. It is about six blocks away.

I went out in the garden and had a look at it. There are two big orange trees, if not three, in full fruit. There is even a pomegranate tree, a lemon tree, but I could not find the avocado pears or apples or whatever they are.

There are quite a number of flowers growing, including a brilliant six-starred flower, the blooms of which are about nine inches across..

The new cook is about thirty-five, stoutish, colored, and her name is Marie. She has large ivory earrings and a pleasant smile.

Monday, 14th Dec., 1931.

Bob and I worked on the new story till quite late last night, and started again early this morning. One or two little bits of furniture have come up, including a writing chair which is very swell and has been lent me by the studio. It looks like a million dollars and the Prince of Wales. This afternoon your mail came. I am wiring you tonight.

(Between this and the last sentence the wire has gone.)

We have been working, as I say, steadily through the day. Bob has been doing the working. I’ve been doing the thinking. We are getting out a real scenario and continuity, a copy of which will be mailed to you.

I’ll be glad to get my first film play under way; it will give me a little more confidence. It was not as easy to do as it looks, and I don’t think it can be done in a terrific hurry, though I am doing it faster than anybody else.

I am going to settle down steadily to work now I have got this house. I find work is quite possible. I may go down for a couple of hours to the studio and sit in at conferences.

Cooper (Merian) is coming up to see me tonight — in fact, in ten minutes’ time, and his arrival will probably interrupt this letter.

Tuesday, 15th Dec., 1931.

We finished the scenario late last night, and I am mailing a copy to you in accordance with my usual practice and custom.

I don’t want to come back to the subject of your coming out, if I go the full length of time, but I’d like you to tell me about this. I know you will discuss it quite calmly, because it is not a question of raising or dashing my hopes. I want you here tremendously, but I don’t want to be stupid about it, and if you are going to worry about leaving Penny, then I’d rather you didn’t come. What is going to influence you too, I know, will be the play. I had an idea of asking Pat (another daughter) to come out for a month, but as we shall all be coming out next year, I hope, the journey hardly seems worth while. I have got a tremendous lot of work to do, and I shall be pretty busy right through Christmas, so don’t have any sad views about my being all alone.

Wednesday, 16th Dec., 1931.

Last evening Cooper came up from the studios and read my scenario, which he liked. Guy Bolton and Virginia Bedford came to dinner. We had really a nice dinner, with a good soup, duckling, green peas, asparagus and ice cream. They stayed till about ten. Most people go home about that time, except the very riotous ones.

It is a warm day, and I went out to lunch with them at the Embassy, which is on Hollywood Boulevard. To get there one goes along the Sunset Boulevard, which is perhaps the most gorgeous thoroughfare in the world, for it gives you a view right across the city of Los Angeles to the mountains.

The houses here are really lovely. I am looking round for one to suit us when we both come out here with the family. There is a wonderful sun and it’s warm, and the poinsettias are a blaze of color in all the gardens. Nobody would dream it was the week before Christmas.

It must sound funny to you when I talk about going into Hollywood, but really Hollywood is as far from here as Maidenhead is from Bourne End — in fact, a little bit farther, and it is distinctly a different place.

They rang me up this morning from the studios and asked me what I was doing, and I told them that I was not going do any more than one story a week, which has become a game of mine.

All this immorality of Hollywood is bunk.

I am glad you liked the second instalment of my diary. That must have been the one I posted in Now York. They will come to you continuously now, except for the bad sailings, and all the letters I send will conic by air mail.

I am sleeping very well. I met Bayard Veiller here. (Editor’s Note: The author of “Within the Law,” “The Trial of Mary Dugan,” and others.) He wants me to po out to dinner one day this week at his home. I am dining out on Saturday somewhere, and I am going to a sort of dinner and party.

All the windows here have flyscreens: they are like blinds; you pull them down. It is a most excellent idea. They run flown in a groove, and you fasten them at the bottom. I am going to find out how much they cost and how they are fixed, and have them fixed at Chalklands. They roll up on a spring roller. In spite of which a number of flies have got into our room, causing us great mental strain, but I think we have killed most of them.

I tell you these little things because little things are interesting.

Thursday, 17th Dec., 1931.

We all went to bed early last night — 10 o’clock — and Robert called me at six. You have no conception of what sunrises are like in California. When I looked out of my window this morning I saw a sky of beautiful deep red and orange, although it was still darkish. It rises behind the Beverly Hills somewhere. It is grand then to look through the front windows and watch all these white houses in North Maple Drive turn crimson and yellow, and, of course, the air is glorious. You’d never dream it was winter. My gladioli have kept a week.

Today is our washing day. We don’t send our stuff to the hand laundry, but have an electric boiler and washer, and a colored lady comes and does it. It is dried on a vulgar line, but out of sight and amongst the orange trees.

It is the practice out here to decorate the trees in front of the houses — if possible, a fir tree — at Christmas. The chairman of our Chamber of Commerce, Miss Mary Pickford, about whom you may have read, has ordered that we shall be illuminated on Friday night. Today the electrician is coming to decorate one of my two trees with pretty little lights. It will be lovely in Beverly Hills throughout next week. Given a full moon, which we shall have, and perfect weather, which is almost certain, and the lights of Los Angeles below us, which is Montreux multiplied ten thousand times, it will be a wonderful spectacle.

After Marion Davies had been taken out sixteen times to see the wonderful lights of Hollywood, and had been politely ecstatic on each occasion, she said wearily: “Yes, I can see them. And at midnight they all come together and spell ‘Marion Davies.’”

I went into the Hollywood Book Store and was recognized without my cigarette. I bought some stationery and a lot of other things, including the gaily decorated envelopes of which you may have a sample. I also bought myself a new hat.

I put into circulation a little wise-crack of mine. When the executive told me that the story I wrote last Sunday was a good one but not a great one, I replied: “I never write great stories; I only write best sellers.” That I think, will get around. As I say, we don’t ask for publicity, but when it’s there we get it!

I got back to lunch and was deciding to go to bed when a ‘phone call came through from Selznick, the production manager, and I slipped down and had a conference with Selznick and Cooper about material for Constance Bennett. I think I know the story I shall write.

I get on terribly well with these executive people, and I believe they are awfully pleased with me. If I get this bip story over it will he grand. Selznick said: “If I can get two big stories from you in the four months you are here I’ll be damned lucky.”

Do you know I have an idea that I may make my hit out of stories that aren’t criminal at all. I have always had that feeling since I left England. That would be grand.

Friday, 18th Dec., 1931.

In order that I should see Constance Bennett I went down last night to the studio and saw a run through of a picture in which Richard Barthelmess and she appeared, she as a minor character. It was called “A Son of the Gods.” I like Constance Bennett; I think she can act, and I think I have got quite a good story for her.

Our Christmas tree has arrived; it is fifteen feet high and stands outside my window on the lawn, visible to the populace. We had dug out a lot of electric light bulbs, evidently used for this sort of thing before, and I have supplemented these with a new string. The problem that Robert and I and Bob had to decide was whether we would have an illuminated star at the top, for an illuminated star costs three dollars, but as Robert said, all the best Christmas trees have these, and as ours is going to be one of the best Christmas trees I have pone the whole hog and bought the star. Anyway, it will do for next year. It really must be photographed both alight and by day, and I am going to see what can be done about it.

I have had an invitation to go out for Christmas, and Mark and Karen wired to Walter Huston, who called me up today and asked me to go to dinner with him on Sunday. As I want Sunday for myself I told him I couldn’t go, and I am lunching with him at the Colonial House next week some time. I am dining tomorrow night, as I told you, with somebody whose name I have never heard and have now forgotten. John Balderston will be there.

By the way, when I opened my account at the Security First National Bank yesterday, the lady who shoots the works asked me where I was working, and I told her on the R.K.O. lot, and she said: “Oh, yes, an actor?”

I didn’t say “Actor be!” but I looked and felt it. To think I’ve come all this bloody distance to be called an actor!

As I say, the idea of the Constance Bennett film appeals to me very much indeed. I am really thinking of it when I ought to be thinking of the work immediately to hand.

Sunday, 20th Dec., 1931.

In the evening I went to a party. I don’t know the name of my host, but he’s the man who produced “Outward Bound,” a Russian, rather bored, with bright red hair and side whiskers. I met John Balderston and Alice Joyce, a lovely woman, with a girl of sixteen.

It is amazing the number of people one meets who have read every book one has written. The food was cooked by a Chinese, and it was Chinese. I got through it all right without making a scene.

Today I am working on the scenario for Constance Bennett, and am approaching it a little gingerly, because I want it to be terribly good, which means that a lot of it will have to be re-written and then re-written.

The story I am attempting for Constance Bennett is something entirely different from anything I have tried. That is why I am approaching it with such care.

What I want to do is to get a picture over which I may direct myself.

I dreamed last night that Steve Donoghue was dead. Is this a sign that Michael Beary is coming out? As a matter of fact, I never expected he would.

If I can make some big and easy money here I should certainly buy a house. There are some beautiful places in the market, and even if one didn’t live here it would be a good investment with the property market at its present low level.

I am still sleeping remarkably well, and though I had a little chest, due to going out in the cold when I was hot, that has practically passed off.

I think that R.K.O. want me to direct some picture, which I should very much like to do.

Monday, 21st Dec., 1931.

Our Christmas tree blew down today, but has since been re-erected. We looked rather foolish for about half an hour, but the status quo ante has now been restored.

There is nothing new to report. I am going round to Guy Bolton’s on Christmas Day for a cocktail, but I simple dare not pledge myself for the evening; there is so much work to be done. I must say it doesn’t seem a bit like Christmas, but then it never does.

{Then Mr. Wallace began meeting people and being entertained by them — all of the big names of moviedom. Don’t fail to read the next instalment of this human, detail-for-detail diary — in the August New Movie Magazine, on sale in Woolworth Stores only, July 15th.)


Edgar Wallace, standing in front of the Hollywood home where he died — a picture he describes in his diary as taken especially for his wife. Author of 140 novels, selling at the rate of more than 5,000,000 copies a year, writer of twenty plays in three years and with six successes running simultaneously on the London stage, he died leaving debts of $300,000.

Photo by: Robert Coburn (1900–1990)

Photo by: Elmer Fryer (1898–1944)

Walter Huston, the actor, whom Mr. Wallace regarded as one of his best Hollywood friends.

Evelyn Brent, a friend of Mrs. Wallace, about whom you will read fascinating facts in Mr. Wallace’s diary.

Collection: The New Movie Magazine, July 1932