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.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment