Hollywood Shorts by Charles Ray. California Graphic Press (1935), 177 pp.
This book contains twenty-eight short stories, all but one of which are set in Hollywood. The author, Charles Ray (1891-1943), had been in the movies for more than twenty years when he published them. The stories usually run between four and seven pages, although the two longest go on for seventeen and the two shortest only three. The book’s subtitle -- “compiled from incidents in the everyday life of men and women who entertain in pictures” -- reflects the author’s overall intention. Mood varies from story to story. Receiving the greatest sympathy are acting hopefuls whose dreams of success are unfulfilled. Several die; others endure disappointment. Getting a more satirical treatment are writers and (heavily accented) producers, most of whom suffer frustrations of their own making. Most poignant of the former group is probably “Adieu Hollywood,” in which a penniless extra reports from his hotel room on a parade celebrating the end of prohibition and on the progress of the poison he has just taken. This, incidentally, is the book’s only use of a first-person narrator. Notable among the lighter pieces is a recounting of a story conference, “It Stinks,” which shows the absurdity of both the entire process and by extension much of behind-the-scenes movie-making. The author deserves special credit for “Unseen Faces,” which reports the dialog from several restaurant booths and uses no narrator. By no means does every story work. Sometimes trick endings fall flat; sometimes ironic occurences seem unimportant; sometimes brevity thwarts thematic development. So, all in all, the book lacks the punch of Ray’s Flowers for the Living (1937). Even so, it should still be of interest to fans of Hollywood fiction.