Inspired by Peter Smallwood's 50 cliff hanger intro lines.
“ Help! Save me!”
It was take number seven of a less than lacklustre performance on the set of The Perils of Pandora. Tallulah moaned her lines. That didn’t matter; it was overacting that was required of a silent movie star. There was no writhing, eye rolling or terrified mooing of the lips. Tallulah was as motionless as a corpse, despite the fact that her red head rested on one shiny steel rail and her slender ivory ankles on the other. She stared deadpan at the dusty blue Californian sky blazing above the film lot, the flimsy scenery wobbling with the approach of a mock up steam locomotive.
The director dropped his megaphone, gagging in disbelief. How could this stunningly beautiful star, act so indifferently? She was the ‘It’ girl of her generation. Her tangled red hair had earned her fame and upped the sales of henna. Why, Betty Boop the cartoon character was based on her! She was the most bankable starlet in Hollywood.
‘Cut’ yelled the director. The train ground to a halt yet again as the pounding pianist quelled the music. The celluloid diva was having a bad day, and no one could help. The evil moustache-twirling villain stepped aside to let her pass. The swashbuckling hero, of course, was nowhere to be seen. Predictably he was preening in his trailer mixing another whisky sour and snorting a line of coke.
Tallulah Sedgwick retreated to her trailer to contemplate the crazy highball cocktail of her life. There were many myths surrounding Tallulah and toxic lies spread like summer wildfire in the Beverly Hills canyons. Ironically the reviews of her acting continued to glow spectacularly, like neon.
Tallulah was the subject of wild rumors regarding her sex life, most of them untrue. One tabloid accused her of exhibitionism, incest, lesbianism, bestiality, drug addiction and alcoholism. The editor of the tabloid tried to blackmail her. Life was getting sticky and sordid for the young actress.
On top of these worries she was cast yet again in another movie with a hackneyed plot. Oh not to have to play another squirming, screaming heroine bound with ropes. Where were the decent roles for women?
Tallulah Sedgwick, a penniless Appalachian girl from a family of sharecroppers had stunned Hollywood when she appeared on the scene. From Hog Farm To High Life crowed the tabloid headlines. She had youthful confidence, determination and ambition. As well she was blessed with a genuine spark of divine fire. Her beauty was almost enough to carry her to success without the aid of the brains she possessed.
Screen tests showed her talent immediately, a range of expression that provoked enthusiasm from every casting agent in Tinsel Town. She screened perfectly. She could open the floodgate of tears almost as soon as a director asked her to weep. Variety Magazine said of her, ‘She is refreshingly unaffected … Tallulah uses a dangerous pair of eyes… she is the sensation of her generation...’ and promptly put her coifed close-up on their cover.
Despite these accolades, Tallulah wondered if everyone would be tired of her by the time she was a legendary star, She took a handful of Nembutal, washing it down with Southern Comfort and cried herself into a fatigued sleep.
Tallulah awoke. A tall dark figure loomed over her. She could just make him out through the blur of drugs and alcohol and her tangle of trademark red curls. She smelt the Jack Daniels on his breath. This was her treacherous co-star in The Perils of Pandora, none other than the debonair Sunnybanks Montez! A year ago his Latino good looks and charm had lured her into an unconscionable affair. ‘The Femme Fatal and The Lady Killer’ the tabloid headlines screamed at the time. The predatory Sunnybanks was in like Flynn.
‘Help! Save me!’ she screamed piercingly, and with conviction. She writhed, terror registered on her face, she transformed into Pandora, but this time it wasn’t an act. Tallulah had experienced Sunnybank’s violence before.
‘Stop! Stop you blackguard! You have milked me for everything!’
Tallulah and Sunnybanks continued to struggle as he lowered himself on to her.
‘I don’t believe what I see!’ exclaimed a little known Irish actor of considerable talent, Danny O’Rooney. He had come running when he heard Tallulah’s screams. Accompanying him were four federal agents who’d been staking out the set of The Perils of Pandora. They all stared through the locked screen door of Tallulah’s trailer at Sunnybank’s ungentlemanly behavior. The fallen hero was arrested and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
A month later, Perils was in the can, Danny O Rooney brilliantly assuming the leading role as the hero, and Tallulah turned on her chimera of cinematic magic. A box office blockbuster was guaranteed. The famous couple was in love and soon to be hitched at the Snow White Chapel in Vegas. A Match Made in Hollywood Heaven yelled the tabloid headlines.
As Tallulah gazed into Danny’s smiling Irish eyes, she knew there would never be secrets between them. ‘I’m a very lucky woman,’ murmured Tallulah, in her smokey voice, ‘I've never been satisfied with myself or my work or anything...I’ve played all sorts of parts in all sorts of movies... I’d cry myself to sleep from sheer fatigue after eighteen hours a day on different sets, but now I am glad of it. With your help Danny and the Mt Sinai Clinic, I’m off Rohypnol for ever!’ Tears of gratitude shone in her luminous eyes and she wasn’t crying on demand this time. It was real life and she was greedy for more.
Everything changed as talking pictures took over the Industry. Tallulah Sedgwick and Danny O’ Rooney bowed out gracefully. They open The IT GIRL Cafe near Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. The screen legend drew crowds, and they made a bomb from BLT’s and macchiatos, enough to retire for life. They moved to a Dude Ranch in New Mexico. A pretty place, the painted mountains reminiscent of a mock up Western in the back lot of MGM. They christened their ranch ‘Pandora’, in honour of the cherished cult movie that drew them together in 1920’s Hollywood Babylon.