Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Cecilia Brady is flying to California for a summer vacation from college. On the plane she meets Wylie White, an alcoholic screenwriter, and Schwartz, a ruined film producer. Monroe Stahr, the partner of Cecilia’s father, is also aboard, though traveling as Mr. Smith. When the plane is grounded in Nashville, Tennessee, Schwartz sends a note to Stahr warning him about Pat Brady, Cecilia’s father. When the plane takes off again, Schwartz stays behind and commits suicide.
Stahr had been the boy wonder of the motion-picture industry. He had been in charge of a studio in his twenties and almost dead from overwork at thirty-five. Indeed, he is half in love with death for the sake of his dead wife, Minna Davis, a great star with whom he was deeply in love. Since her death, he has worked harder than ever, often remaining in his office around the clock. In contrast to Stahr, Brady is mean and selfish. Lacking taste and understanding little of the technical end of the industry, Brady acquired his share of the studio through luck and has retained it through shrewdness.
One night, while Cecilia is visiting the studio, an earthquake occurs, rupturing a water main and flooding the back lot. Stahr, working with his troubleshooter, Robinson, to clear away the mess, sees a film-set sightseer perched on top of a huge idol, a piece of a set that has come loose and is now floating in the flood. The girl reminds him of his dead wife, and he tries to discover...
(The entire section is 1043 words.)
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