In Hollywood, while living out the remaining months of his life, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the Pat Hobby stories, a series of seventeen short stories that were published in successive issues of Esquire. The first, “Pat Hobby’s Christmas Wish,” appeared in the January 1940 issue of the magazine; the final story, “Pat Hobby’s College Days,” was published in the May 1941 issue, five months after Fitzgerald’s death on December 21, 1940.
As Fitzgerald’s contemporary protagonist, Pat Hobby is an alcoholic down-and-out motion picture screenwriter whose real career had ended long before with the arrival of “the talkies.” Unable to make the literary transition to the new medium, Hobby now lives his life on the periphery of the movie industry; he is a silent movie “structure man” who can’t write a script and won’t read a book. Hobby, however, does not see himself as a “has been.” He sees himself as an experienced writer, down on his luck but determined to regain his place in the Hollywood sun. To this end, no deed or misdeed—no matter how outrageous—is beyond Hobby’s devious imagination or beneath his non-existent principles. Pat Hobby never wins, but he never gives up. As each ill-conceived plan reaches its usually ironic and often humorously pathetic conclusion, Hobby falls into another scheme or finds himself in yet another ridiculous situation that would embarrass anyone except himself.
Pat Hobby emerges in these stories certainly as no hero to be emulated, but neither does Fitzgerald make him a villain. The author, in fact, seems emotionally detached from his character. Hobby’s daily life is presented in a straightforward narrative style; the long passages of vivid, evocative description with which Fitzgerald is so identified are missing in these stories. Hobby is generally a comic figure through whom Fitzgerald satirizes Hollywood in general and screenwriting in particular. Whatever sympathy one might feel for Hobby’s desperation is countered by his lack of scruples and outlandish behavior and by the stories’ subtle—and sometimes not so subtle—humor. When Hobby, for instance, attacks a scriptwriter with a cafeteria tray, the scene plays out on the page as slapstick comedy.
Some critics see the Pat Hobby character as an expression of Fitzgerald’s view of himself in 1940. Like his character, Fitzgerald had experience as a Hollywood screenwriter and had achieved his greatest financial success very early in his career. There, however, the similarity ends. Fitzgerald was never a Hollywood hack writer; he never worked on a “B” picture, and, with one exception, he never worked for less than $1,000 per week. (By way of comparison, William Faulkner worked for Warner Brothers in the 1940s for $300 per week.) Fitzgerald ranked among the highest paid movie writers in Hollywood.
When he wrote the Pat Hobby stories, Fitzgerald lived quietly in Hollywood, struggling with enormous financial obligations and deteriorating health, working hard to finish The Last Tycoon. Based on the chapters he had written (44,000 words) and the 200 pages of notes and background he had completed, the unfinished novel shows that Fitzgerald was doing his finest writing. The income he received from the Pat Hobby stories ($4,500) bought him time to write—until he ran out of time, dying of a heart attack at 44.
It would be erroneous, though, to dismiss the Pat Hobby stories as being merely popular narratives of commercial value. As a collection, they remain a unique contribution to the body of Hollywood literature in their portrayal of the relationship between writing and making movies. Fitzgerald was not Pat Hobby, but he understood very well the Hollywood in which Hobby scrambles to survive.
Pat Hobby's Christmas Wish
“Pat Hobby’s Christmas Wish” begins the afternoon of Christmas Eve at the Hollywood movie studio where Hobby works as a screenwriter. An eighteen-year veteran at the studio, Hobby had once worked under contract as a high-paid writer, but he now ekes out a living by accepting whatever meager writing assignments come his way. In addition to Pat Hobby, the story’s characters include his new secretary, Helen Kagle, and studio executive Harry Gooddorf. Another studio employee, Joe Hopper, appears briefly, commiserating with Hobby about the “old days” on the lot.
As the story gets underway, Pat Hobby waits in his office for his new secretary to arrive. (Pat had fired his former secretary two days earlier so that he would not have to buy her a Christmas present.) He resents having to work on Christmas Eve, but he worries that Harry Gooddorf will not renew his four-week writing assignment if he complains. His salary is nothing compared to what he once earned at the studio, but Hobby needs the work; he does not know that Gooddorf will not be keeping him on, in any event. Hobby produces little and what he writes is subsequently rewritten by others. Clearly, his best days are behind him, but Hobby hangs on, looking for any opportunity to salvage his career.
Helen Kagle, the new secretary, arrives in Pat’s office and immediately bursts into tears. Harry Gooddorf, her boss and former lover, had recently let her go after eighteen years. Helen is angry and bitter; Pat tries to cheer her up. She tells Pat she has damaging information about Gooddorf and should have used it when she had the chance. She offers nothing else, and Pat does not ask.
As they settle in to work, Hobby’s dictation of dialog for a western movie scene makes it clear why his work is being rewritten. As they continue, Helen realizes Pat is working for Harry Gooddorf; remembering her comments about Gooddorf, she is alarmed. Pat reassures her; then he asks what information she has about her former boss. “You know where the body is buried?” he asks facetiously. Helen responds, “That’s too true to be funny.” Pat asks if Gooddorf had murdered someone, but Helen will say no more. Sensing an opportunity at hand, Pat immediately invites her to dinner.
The next day, Pat and Helen are back in the office, working on the script. He is still trying to pry the secret from her. He believes Helen’s damaging information about Gooddorf is a valuable asset that could turn his career around. At that moment, Gooddorf walks into the office. He has come to prod Pat to finish the script; he is surprised and uncomfortable to find Helen there as well. When a messenger enters to deliver an envelope to Helen, Gooddorf hurries away. Helen opens the envelope to discover that Gooddorf has given her $10 for Christmas. She is infuriated by his stinginess and lack of regard for her.
Pat seizes his opportunity. He tells Helen that together they can use her information about Gooddorf to secure great jobs for themselves at the studio. Using all his powers of persuasion to convince her, Pat adds that they might even get married, “if things go good.” With that, Helen types from memory a letter Gooddorf had sent to Will Bronson, the head of First National Studios, eighteen years before, the language saying they had “killed Taylor.” From the date of the letter, Pat surmises that Gooddorf and Bronson had murdered William Desmond Taylor. (Here Fitzgerald weaves fact into his fiction. The murder of Taylor, a famous and controversial Hollywood director, was—and remains--a mysterious, unsolved crime.)
Pat Hobby moves immediately to capitalize on his good fortune. He confronts Gooddorf and grills him about his whereabouts on the date in question. Being deliberately vague, Pat tells his boss he has his “written confession” of his vile actions. Gooddorf protests, but he agrees to meet Hobby later at a bar to talk. When he arrives, Gooddorf finds both Pat and Helen waiting for him. Pat shows him the copy of the incriminating letter and demands Gooddorf make him a producer the next day. Gooddorf says he would stand trial and “swing” rather than promote him. Astounded by his response, Pat warns Gooddorf desperately, “It’s your last chance.”
As Gooddorf leaves, Helen runs after him, tries to embrace him, and vows she will destroy the letter. She then realizes Gooddorf is “shaking with laughter.” Angry, Helen demands to know if he doubts she has the original letter. Gooddorf explains to Pat and Helen that he thought at first the letter in question was proof of his affair with Helen years before and that she was going to make trouble for him. He explains that the letter he wrote to Bronson about William Desmond Taylor referred only to their failure to control the director’s notorious behavior that preceded his death. “We were a wild crowd,” Gooddorf says. “I still think a lot of us [killed Taylor.]”
Gooddorf concludes that Hobby now must have a new Christmas wish and that he will grant it by not talking about what has happened. After Gooddorf leaves, Pat still questions the wording of the letter, refusing to give up his scheme. Helen suggests it is time for him to shut up.
“Pat Hobby’s Christmas Wish,” the first of Fitzgerald’s seventeen Pat Hobby stories, appeared in the January 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine. It is remarkable for how thoroughly Hobby’s essential character is established in this initial story. Hobby is self-serving, manipulative, opportunistic, somewhat dense, and completely ineffectual, but he is not mean. He lacks talent, but he certainly does not lack imagination in his silly schemes to reverse his sorry situation. The inconvenience of personal principles or professional ethics will not slow Pat Hobby down as he scrambles to get back on top of the Hollywood heap.
The story is also noteworthy for the insight it provides into the class structure of the Hollywood studio. The distinctions between producers, directors, stars, agents, and writers are clarified immediately in the story’s opening paragraphs. In Pat Hobby’s world, even Santa Claus bestows gifts on the studio population according to “each one’s deserts.”
Fitzgerald’s narrative is direct and concise, frequently subtle in its satire, irony, and humor. Helen Kagel, for instance, is perplexed when Hobby dictates that his characters, Buck and the Mexicans, are approaching the “hyacenda.” Moments later, when Helen questions his judgment on another choice of words, Pat glares at her because “he didn’t want to change secretaries every day.”
The narrative is also particularly interesting in regard to Fitzgerald’s inclusion of Hollywood history. The plot itself is based on the murder of William Desmond Taylor. When the famous director was found shot to death in his Hollywood home, the sensational nature of the crime, and the long list of suspects it generated, gained national attention. Hobby’s remark that he always thought “a girl” had murdered Taylor alludes to one of the prime suspects in the case, Mary Miles Minter. Gooddorf’s references to the “wild crowd” in Hollywood and to the attitude of the country toward them seem to allude to the 1920s Hollywood era that produced numerous scandals, including the infamous scandal that destroyed the career of Fatty Arbuckle.
“Pat Hobby’s Christmas Wish” entertains as a separate story and effectively introduces Fitzgerald’s series of Hobby stories that followed its publication.
A Man in the Way
“A Man in the Way,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s second story in his Pat Hobby series, was first published in the February 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine. The story takes place at the movie studio Pat Hobby thinks of as home; in addition to Hobby, the characters include Jack Berners, a producer; Pricilla Smith, a talented young writer; and two minor characters, Bill Costello and Mr. Bach, both studio executives.
The story begins with some brief exposition that establishes Pat Hobby’s fading career as a forty-nine-year-old screenwriter. Hobby has worked at the same movie studio “on and off” for fifteen years, but for the last five years, he has worked very little because he lacks creative imagination and expertise with the written word. During the era of silent movies, Pat had flourished as a “structure man,” giving shape to other people’s plots, but “the talkies,” require a writer to produce fresh, original ideas and actual dialog, challenges he cannot meet. Even when he is unemployed by the studio, however, Pat Hobby can always bypass security and get onto the lot. His bookie Lou, a studio employee, lets him in.
As the narrative gets underway, Pat Hobby has intercepted Jack Berners at the studio to lobby for a writing assignment. The producer, on his way to lunch, tells Pat to bring him an idea. When Hobby says he has an idea they could discuss at lunch, which is not true, Berners dismisses him, saying he should put it in writing and send it to him. Berners feels cruel because he knows Hobby cannot put anything in writing, but the producer has problems of his own. World War II has broken out in Europe, and Berners is trying to beat the competition to produce a movie in which the hero goes off to war. However, as Hobby stands before him, a portrait of failure, Berners relents; he tells Pat to find a writer interested in his idea and come to see him.
Leaving Berners, Pat walks over to the “cell block,” the studio writers’ offices. With everyone at lunch, the place is deserted. Wandering into the office of a writer he knows, Pat is surprised to find instead a pretty girl sitting on the couch, reading a book. She is a new writer, she says, and the office is now hers. After suggesting she try for a screen test instead, Pat turns his attention to the book she is reading. He gives her a valuable writing tip. Instead of actually reading the book, he explains, all she has to do is talk to several friends who have read it. “I’m Pat Hobby,” he tells her, “and I know.”
As their conversation continues, Hobby notices a page she has marked in a magazine, a picture of paintings being removed to safety from an art gallery in wartime London. She shares her idea with Pat, the story of an old man who cannot get work rescuing the paintings but who turns out to be the one who had painted them many years before. “It’s good,” Pat replies, “but I don’t get it.” He then asks her for more movie ideas, implying he could market them for her. When she protests that she is under contract, Pat has a solution: “Use another name.” The telephone rings. She excuses herself and answers, “Yes, this is Pricilla Smith.” She invites Hobby to leave. He wanders into a nearby empty office and takes a nap.
Later that afternoon, Pat goes to Jack Berners’ office. He now has an idea for a movie—about a man who walks into an office and finds a girl whom he takes to be a stenographer, but she turns out to be a writer. Pat talks himself into the brilliance of his new idea, but he cannot get in to see the producer who is meeting with two other studio executives, Bill Costello and a Mr. Bach. Undeterred, he leaves the reception area, takes a side door into Berners’ private office, interrupts the meeting, and pitches his story. Bach and Costello have both socialized with Hobby in the past and would like to see him get work, but they, along with Berners, reject Pat’s story idea. Trying to be helpful, Costello reminds Pat that they especially are looking for stories about the war.
Without hesitation, Hobby smoothly segues into a story about an old painter who finds himself useless in wartime, “just a man in the way,” whose valuable paintings are being carted away. As he repeats the idea he has stolen from Pricilla Smith, Pat identifies with the old man in the story. “And they won’t even let me help.”
Costello and Bach warm to Pat’s idea, knowing they can use it in their picture. Berners offers him two weeks’ work at $250 per week. Hobby objects to the small salary, reminding Berners that he once earned ten times that amount, but the producer holds firm. Pat accepts and leaves the studio through the front gate, feeling proud and confident. Being on salary, even for a short time, is a relief; he thinks of how he might stretch two weeks into three or even four weeks of work. He stops at a liquor store to buy a half-pint to take home with him.
By seven that evening, Pat Hobby is feeling fine. He plans to ask for an advance on his salary so that he can bet on the horse races the next day at Santa Anita. Wanting to celebrate, he calls the studio, gets Pricilla Smith’s telephone number, and calls her. Pat thinks he has not met such a pretty girl in a long time.
When Pricilla answer the phone in her apartment, she rejects Pat Hobby’s interest, politely but firmly, and hangs up. Jack Berners, who is sitting on her couch, asks about the call. Pricilla tells him about the man who had come into her office and advised her “never to read the story I was working on.” Berners is disbelieving. Pricilla assures him she will remember the man’s name shortly, but first she wants to tell him the idea that occurred to her that morning while she was looking at a photograph of some paintings being packed up at a museum in London.
In “A Man in the Way,” Fitzgerald continues to develop the character of Pat Hobby, a hack writer whose career is effectively over but who hangs on, refusing to go away. In “Pat Hobby’s Christmas Wish,” Fitzgerald’s first Hobby story, Pat stoops to blackmail to salvage his career, but he is energized in his efforts to trap Harry Gooddorf before his wild scheme falls apart. Also, Pat’s lack of knowledge and creative talent is treated somewhat humorously. “A Man in the Way” is a darker story that emphasizes Hobby’s desperation simply to survive. He lives in a rented room, uses the phone in the hall, and drinks alone. Unable to formulate ideas of his own, he steals them and lies about it. Jack Berners tolerates Pat out of pity, noting the look of “whipped misery” in his eyes.
Hobby is all the more a pathetic figure because he fails to recognize how pathetic he really is. He certainly recognizes his financial fall—he works for pennies on the dollars he used to earn—but he sees no irony in being a writer who cannot write and refuses to read. In his appearance, he looks “as if he’d been standing at Hollywood and Vine for three years,” but he thinks beautiful, young Pricilla Smith will go out with him. Furthermore, he really believes he “knows,” because he is Pat Hobby.
The story’s surprise ending, reminiscent of O. Henry’s tales, brings the plot full circle in its perfect irony. Pat Hobby, once again, bears responsibility for pulling the rug out from under himself. He surely deserves what he will get—fired from his new assignment by Jack Berners—but it is difficult to take joy in Hobby's punishment, remembering how relieved and momentarily happy he had been drinking alone in his room.
Boil Some Water--Lots of It
“Boil Some Water—Lots of It,” the third story in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s series of seventeen Pat Hobby short stories, first appeared in the March 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine. The narrative begins in Hobby’s office at the movie studio, but it moves almost immediately to the first aid station on the studio lot and then to the studio commissary, which is very busy at lunchtime. Characters in the story include Pat Hobby, Fitzgerald’s protagonist; Helen Earle, a pretty nurse; Max Leam, the producer who has given Pat a minor writing assignment on a film in production; and Walter Herrick, the very successful and influential head writer of the film. Minor characters include Ned Harman, production manager, and Big Jack Wilson, a director.
As the story opens, Pat is struggling to complete a “polishing job” on a plot sequence in a film currently in production at the studio. Max Leam, the producer, has hired Pat for three weeks’ work at $350 per week. Considering the salary he had once earned, Pat considers the assignment a “bone” that Leam has thrown to him. The job would surely be a simple one for a good writer, but after an entire morning’s effort, Pat has produced only one line of script dialog: ‘Boil some water—lots of it.” Nothing else comes to mind; he has no idea what comes next in the scene. Thinking about boiling water reminds him of the studio commissary. He decides to break for lunch.
Leaving the office, Hobby meets Max Leam in the hallway. He assures Leam that he is making great progress on the script, writing some excellent material with “the old guts,” but Pat does not want to read it to him yet. Leam is doubtful, but he does not press the point. Instead, he tells Hobby to consult the studio doctor if the writer has any problems with the medical content of the script. Pat agrees with enthusiasm. He then walks with the producer toward the commissary, planning to sit with Leam at the “Big Table” where all the important studio people, except for the most powerful executives, sit together at lunch. Leam senses Pat’s intention and avoids lunching with him by stopping at the barber shop.
Fitzgerald interrupts the action of the narrative at this point with exposition that establishes the steep decline in Pat Hobby’s success and professional stature at the studio. At one time, Hobby had dined at the Big Table regularly and had been welcomed into the private dining rooms of studio executives. Hobby understood “the older Hollywood,” but now “there were too many new faces the Big Table,” all regarding him suspiciously. Pat avoided the young writers, who actually took their work seriously, and he chose to have lunch alone away from the studio rather than sit with secretaries or movie extras.
As the story continues, Pat takes Max Leam’s suggestion and stops at the Red Cross Station to talk to a doctor. There he meets Helen Earle, a young nurse who is quite pretty. Remembering that he is no longer married and both his wives had “given up asking for alimony,” Pat invites her to lunch so that he can ask her “some medical questions.” Helen hesitates, but Pat assures her that the studio is a very friendly and quite democratic place.
In the commissary, Pat and Helen are seated close to the Big Table occupied by Leam and his associates. Since this is her first day at the studio, Helen is star struck with the setting. Hobby plays the role of the studio insider, explaining that he usually sits at the Big Table, but “they don’t want ladies.” Pat asks Helen the particular “medical question” he has in mind, wondering what people would do after a doctor said to boil some water. Helen is confused, replying that they would probably boil it. Pat continues, his questions indicating that he is asking Helen not for medical information but for story ideas. Soon he loses interest altogether, his attention diverted to the Big Table as an unexpected incident unfolds.
A movie extra dressed as a Russian Cossack attempts to take a seat at the Big Table. When he is told the seat is taken, he sits down anyway. A stunned silence ensues. Pat Hobby’s mouth falls open in shocked surprise. Ned Harman tells the extra that the table is reserved. The uninvited guest refuses to leave. Max Leam interjects, saying that extras do not sit at the Big Table. The Russian Cossack persists, adding comments about Leam’s movie, criticizing it as “the lousiest tripe I ever seen shot in Hollywood.”
Taking in the scene, Pat Hobby is incensed and wonders why someone at the Big Table does not take action immediately. Leam’s voice grows loud and angry as he now orders the man to leave. The extra threatens Leam with the sword he carries at his side in a scabbard. The twelve men at the Big Table, who represent “a thousand dollars an hour in salaries,” sit in stunned silence as a studio policeman heads toward the table through the crowded room and as Big Jack Wilson suddenly comes at the intruder.
Before either can reach the Russian Cossack, however, Pat Hobby springs into action. He bolts from his chair, grabs a heavy tray from a serving cart, and hits the extra over the head with all his strength. The man looks up as Hobby strikes, taking the blow in his face. He crashes to the floor and begins bleeding through his makeup. As Pat stands over his body, two men from another table rush over, one of them shouting “It was a gag!” The Russian Cossack Pat has attacked is Walter Herrick, the writer of the picture for which Pat Hobby has been employed by Max Leam.
Bedlam ensues in the commissary. Pat drops the tray, unnoticed, as angry voices demand to know who struck Herrick. Helen Earle renders first aid to the bleeding victim. Pat looks to Max Leam, who seems to avoid looking at him. Hobby sees himself as the injured party in the disaster, since only he had taken action while the “stuffed shirts’ had endured insult and abuse. Pat knows he will “have to take the rap,” because Herrick is “powerful and popular.”
A doctor arrives on the scene. After he speaks to the woman who manages the commissary, she screams to the waitresses: “Boil some water! Lots of it!” As the waitresses all scurry to the kitchen, Pat now knows “what came next,” but he does not believe “he could go on from there.”
“Boil Some Water—Lots of It” offers several motifs common in the Pat Hobby stories, especially his fall from professional grace at the movie studio. Hobby no longer belongs at the Big Table; in truth, he does not belong at the studio at all. The most pedestrian script assignment exceeds his ability to write, and maintaining creative focus is an impossibility: “Something in Pat's mind snapped off when he thought of the story.” His creativity is limited to producing a good line now and then and changing a few words in someone else’s writing to claim it as his own. Pat Hobby believes that sitting at the right table is more important than writing a good script; in this story, he does neither.
Hobby’s personality traits remain consistent as well. He lacks personal integrity, of course, never hesitating to tell the lie when it serves his purpose better than the truth—and the truth never serves his purpose. He lies to Max Leam about his lack of progress on the script, and he lies to Helen about the studio’s social structure and about his usual seating arrangement in the commissary. For Pat Hobby, telling a lie is as natural as taking a breath. His deceit is self-serving, but it is not malicious. He is a man striving to maintain what little he has left in life, a job at the studio (no matter how insignificant) and some sense of identity. He tries to impress Helen because he needs to impress somebody, especially a pretty girl.
The ironic ending is typical of Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby stories, and “Boil Some Water—Lots of It” concludes with triple irony: Pat acts heroically when no heroism is really necessary, the man he attacks is someone whose favor he needs, and the only line of dialog he has written all day comes back to haunt him. Once again, Pat Hobby proves to be his own worst enemy. Even when he tries to do what he thinks is the right thing—a rarity in itself—it isn’t.
Finally, “Boil Some Water—Lots of It” offers readers some deft Hollywood humor. The incongruity of a costumed Russian Cossack sitting at the “Big Table” is amusing, and Pat Hobby’s wielding a cafeteria tray as his weapon of choice is suggestive of slapstick comedy. Fitzgerald also assumes a strong satirical tone throughout much of the story. When Walter Herrick, dressed as the Russian Cossack movie extra, takes a seat at the Big Table, Fitzgerald writes, “A shiver went over the near-by tables . . . It was as if someone had crayoned Donald Duck into the Last Supper.” In “Boil Some Water—Lots of It,” Fitzgerald’s portrait of the Hollywood studio system is as carefully crafted as his depiction of Pat Hobby.
Teamed With Genius
Published in Esquire Magazine in April 1940, “Teamed With Genius” continues the misadventures of Pat Hobby as he ekes out a living as a failed Hollywood screenwriter. Once a highly paid “structure man” during the era of silent movies, Hobby has been reduced to working sporadically for minimal fees, accepting whatever assignments come his way. In “Teamed With Genius,” Pat is back at the studio he considers home, having been hired once again by producer Jack Berners. Other characters in the story include René Wilcox, a successful English playwright, and Katherine Hodge, a secretary. Louie, Pat’s studio bookie, makes a brief appearance.
As the story begins, Jack Berners offers Pat Hobby a new job at $350 per week, to work with English playwright René Wilcox in writing a shooting script for a new movie that has languished in production. Three previous scripts for the film, Ballet Shoes, have been rejected. Berners wants Pat to collaborate with Wilcox, since the talented playwright has no movie experience. Hobby accepts the assignment with alacrity, and Berners sends him off to work.
Hobby goes immediately to an office in the Writers Building where he finds the young Englishman. A brief conversation makes it clear Wilcox understands nothing about screenwriting, and he is not interested in Hobby’s idea to include World War II in the story. Pat is surprised when Wilcox leaves abruptly. Immediately after his departure, his secretary, Katherine Hodge, comes into the office. She reminds Pat they already know each other from working on a previous film. Pat is eager to get started; as she begins reading to him the script for Ballet Shoes, he falls asleep on the couch.
Several days ensue with no work produced by Wilcox and Hobby, who mostly take turns sleeping in the office. When Hobby presses his idea about including a war theme in the script, Wilcox rejects talk of the war, saying his two brothers are in the English Guards. After another fruitless session in the office, Wilcox leaves again, telling “Mike” he has a lunch date. The playwright’s not knowing his name does not concern Pat, but he worries the script will not be finished. He cannot report Wilcox’s lack of cooperation for fear Jack Berners will fire both of them.
Hobby redoubles his efforts to engage Wilcox in the project, but he soon gives up when the playwright stops coming to the office altogether. As a last resort, Pat decides to write the script himself—a daunting task since he avoids real work whenever possible. Fueled with Benzedrine, caffeine, and righteous anger, Hobby writes frantically for several days. Unable to keep up the pace, however, he falls apart, goes on an alcoholic bender, and returns to the office to find a message from Berners asking for the script that afternoon. At that moment, René Wilcox enters the office, a complete script in hand. Pat Hobby is aghast. Wilcox’s first script cannot be any good, he reasons, and more importantly, Hobby has had no role in writing it. Pat assesses the situation and comes up with “his first original idea since he had been on the job.”
That afternoon he sends for Katherine Hodge. When she arrives, he dispatches her to Wilcox’s office with orders to steal the new script and bring it back to him. As she hesitates, he assures her he only wants to read it. She returns with the script and waits while Pat laboriously types a letter for her to deliver to Wilcox. Purporting to be from the “British Consulate” in New York, the letter informs Wilcox his two brothers have been killed in the war by a “long range Tommy-gun,” and he must return to England at once. Hobby is proud of the “factual sincerity” of his writing. He sends Katherine off to deliver the letter, advising her to leave the studio afterward so that Wilcox will not “catch on.”
Turning his attention to Wilcox’s script, Pat is surprised by its technical expertise. He then sets to work, adding his name to the writing credit and substituting a few dozen words and phrases for those on the pages. Under Pat’s hand, “Get out of my sight!” becomes “Scram!” After making additional edits in this vein, Hobby calls the script department to have the new version mimeographed. While he waits for a messenger to pick up his pages, Hobby makes one additional revision, adding his war idea in what he perceives to be a dramatic scene at the film’s conclusion.
While the revised script is being copied at the studio, Hobby repairs to a bar across the street. He rationalizes what he has done, and after a couple of drinks, he feels confident he will not be found out. Killing time in the bar until the script is ready, he has a conversation with Louie, his bookie. Pat lies to Louie, saying he is earning $1000 per week. He also observes cheerfully that “a lot of us old timers are coming back.” Hobby returns to his office to find the new version of the script waiting for him.
Later, as Hobby waits in Berners’ outer office, he imagines Ballet Shoes becoming a big hit and restoring his career. When he meets with the producer, however, Berners snaps him back to reality, suggesting Hobby needs psychoanalysis. “I think you’ve lost your grip,” Berners tells him. “Even larceny requires a certain cunning.” The producer has spotted Hobby’s clumsy attempts to fool him and has spoken with Wilcox. Hobby offers a spirited defense, but Berners explains the facts.
The script Katherine Hodge brought to Hobby was not René Wilcox’s; it was one of the three previously rejected scripts for the film. The secretary and the playwright, as it turns out, “like each other.” Realizing he has been tricked by René Wilcox and Katherine Hodge, Hobby is angry, but Berners continues. He intends to hire Wilcox, as the young playwright has written “a swell script” and can name his own price. With this last bit of crushing news, Hobby gives up and runs from the office; he can bear no more.
Left alone, Berners calls the head of the studio to inquire if he has read Wilcox’s script of Ballet Shoes. In the ensuing conversation, Berners learns Wilcox will sign with the studio. Furthermore, he demands to work again with “Mike Hobby.” The playwright himself, sitting in the President’s office, comes on the line. Wilcox tells Berners that he and “a certain young lady” had quarreled, but Hobby had brought them together. He is very grateful to Hobby and, in fact, wants to write a movie about him. As the story concludes, Berners sends his secretary to retrieve Hobby from the bar across the street. Pat Hobby is back on salary, Berners says, “but we’ll be sorry.”
In “Teamed With Genius,” Pat Hobby emerges once again as a comic character. His “revisions” of Ballet Shoesand his phony letter to Wilcox both show his complete lack of talent with the written word. Hobby demonstrates one redeeming quality, however, when he makes several attempts to do the job Berners has given him. When Wilcox adamantly refuses to collaborate, Hobby tries hard to write the script himself; he makes an honest effort. Only when he cannot follow through does he resort to desperate and complicated chicanery. Fitzgerald’s protagonist cannot formulate an original script idea, but in concocting outlandish deceptions, his creativity seems boundless.
The story offers the kind of surprise ending readers of the previous Pat Hobby tales will recognize, but the tone changes abruptly as one concluding irony immediately follows another. The secretary Hobby enlists to help him betray Wilcox instead teams with Wilcox to betray Hobby. The story could have ended there, with Pat out on the street again as another of his schemes backfires. In a second twist of fate, however, Pat’s ridiculous plan actually works in his favor, but in a manner he could not have imagined. Hobby’s fortunes continue to rise and fall in the most unexpected ways—sometimes within the same story—but when he wins, he wins in spite of his efforts, not as a result of them. In “Teamed With Genius,” Fitzgerald keeps his protagonist on the Hollywood roller coaster, going nowhere.
Pat Hobby and Orson Welles
By 1938, Orson Welles was well established in the American theatre as a gifted stage actor and successful producer. On October 30, 1938, Welles’ Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, setting off an immediate panic when radio listeners believed space aliens were invading New Jersey. Overnight, Orson Welles became famous throughout the country. In 1939, riding a wave of critical acclaim and national publicity, Welles arrived in Hollywood. He signed a contract with RKO, generally considered the best studio contract ever extended to an inexperienced director, and began filming Citizen Kane. He was twenty-three years old.
This episode in Hollywood history provides the context for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Pat Hobby and Orson Welles.” In the short story, published in the May 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine, Orson Welles takes Hollywood by storm, and unemployed screenwriter Pat Hobby resents the young genius’s success. The setting of the story is Hobby’s favorite movie studio, the place he considers home; even though he is currently off salary with no writing assignment in sight, Hobby essentially lives at the studio, caging food and shelter on vacant movie sets and clothing himself in the wardrobe department. Pat Hobby knows he must be on the studio lot in case a job suddenly materializes. Major characters in the story include Pat Hobby; Harold Marcus, one of the most powerful men in the film industry; Joe, Pat’s studio barber; and Jeff Boldini, a studio makeup artist. Louie Griebel, Pat’s bookie, and three studio guards appear briefly.
The narrative begins in a drugstore near the studio. Pat Hobby quizzes Louie, his bookie, about Orson Welles, wanting to know who he is, why he is in all the papers, and what Welles has done to deserve $150,000 per picture. Compared to his own years of experience and movie credits, Pat finds Welles’ success outrageous. Louie consoles Pat, reminding him “they [hot newcomers in Hollywood] don’t last long.” He then suggests he and Pat grow beards since Orson Welles has a beard.
Pat leaves Louie and walks across the street to the studio. He is stopped at a side entrance by a studio guard and fails to talk his way onto the lot. When he lies to the guard, saying he has an appointment with producer Jack Berners, the guard directs him to the front gate. Angry at the rejection, Pat goes to the front gate where he encounters another guard. Again, Hobby fails to gain entrance. Now angry and frustrated, he turns away and walks fast to the back gate where people usually enter and exit the studio in groups. Pat joins a group and tries to slip through the gate in the crowd, but he is stopped once again. Showing Pat a picture of Welles in a magazine, this guard says he would not let Hobby into the studio “even if you told me you was this here Orson Welles.”
Realizing he no longer has access to the studio, Pat Hobby broods. Quite illogically, he soon associates Orson Welles’ arrival in Hollywood with being barred from the lot; Welles, he concludes resentfully, is responsible for his new plight. None of Pat’s continuing efforts to get back into the studio succeed. On the third day of his banishment, he goes once again to the studio’s back gate. When Harold Marcus, a powerful film industry executive, suddenly rolls out the gate in his limousine, a desperate Hobby asks Marcus for a ride. Marcus recognizes Pat from the past and tells him to get in. Instead of sitting up front with the chauffeur, Pat presumes to sit with Marcus, striking up a conversation.
In a short time, Pat manages to secure from Marcus a personal studio pass and to destroy the man’s enthusiasm for working with Orson Welles. Hobby tells Marcus that Welles, with his "radical" film making ideas, may be “the biggest menace that’s come to Hollywood for years.” By the time Pat leaves his limousine, Harold Marcus is shaken, fearing that Welles’ innovative films may require him to “start all over again,” as he had been forced to do when “the talkies” became popular.
As the story continues, several people at the studio start to call Pat Hobby “Orson.” Pat feels he is losing his own identity to his hated enemy. Even his barber Joe teases Pat, telling him that he and Welles “look a bit alike.” One morning Pat “lingers” at Mario’s, the bar across the street from the studio, to escape being teased, as well as to borrow more money from Jeff Boldini, a studio makeup artist. When Boldini also tells Pat he looks like Welles, Pat tolerates the remark, since he is down to his last thirty cents and needs a loan. Boldini persists, suddenly serious. If he put a beard on Pat, he says, he could make Pat look exactly like Orson Welles. Boldini urges Pat to let him do it. Hobby adamantly refuses, until the makeup artist says he will lend Pat ten dollars if he can make Hobby a beard.
Thirty minutes later, Pat sits in Boldini’s makeup chair, looking exactly like Orson Welles and demanding that the beard be removed immediately. Proud of his work, Boldini says Pat should report to a particular studio set where bearded men are being hired as film extras. As much as he hates the beard, Pat needs another ten dollars and agrees to let Boldini drive him to the set. The makeup artist is eager to see if his fake beard will stand up to scrutiny. As Hobby leaves the makeup department, Boldini stays behind and quickly makes a crude cardboard sign that reads “Orson Welles” in large crayoned letters. He catches up with Hobby at the car and puts the sign on the windshield without being noticed.
Instead of driving to the set, however, Boldini makes a slow tour of the studio’s main street, with a bearded Pat Hobby sitting innocently in the backseat. Feigning car trouble, Boldini stops in front of the administration building; immediately “a small but definitely interested crowd” gathers. He drives on to the studio commissary. Growing nervous, Pat demands to know where they are going. He tries to remove the beard, but discovers it will not come off. Boldini tells him the beard will have to be soaked off. Boldini then stops in front of the commissary, where Pat stares back at the people staring at him through the car’s windows. “You’d think I was the only beard on the lot,” Pat says, not realizing onlookers believe they are in the presence of the amazing and controversial Mr. Welles.
Jeff Boldini drives away from the commissary toward a group of men walking on the street. One of the men turns, spies the car, and alerts the others in his party. At that moment, an elderly man in the group suddenly raises his arms “in what appeared to be a defensive gesture” and collapses as Boldini drives by. Recognizing the victim as Harold Marcus, Boldini stops. An agitated man runs to the car and speaks urgently to Hobby through the window: “Mr. Welles, our Mr. Marcus has had a heart attack. Can we use your car to get him to the infirmary?”
Pat Hobby stares at the man, speechless. Then he bolts from the backseat through the opposite car door and takes off in a dead run. Dodging the gate guard like a running back evading a tackle, Pat does not slow down until he arrives at Mario’s bar. Fitzgerald writes, “Not even the beard could impede his streamlined flight.” Once inside, he finds three bearded movie extras standing at the bar. Pat feels relief in having found a place to hide and merges himself “into their corporate whiskers.” His hand shaking, Pat pulls the ‘hard-earned” ten-dollar bill from his pocket. The story concludes as Pat Hobby orders a free drink for every beard in the bar.
As he struggles to survive in Hollywood, his future now his past, Pat Hobby often invites sympathy. Even when Hobby lies, cheats, and steals with guilt-free abandon, he seems more pathetic than reprehensible. In many of his seventeen Pat Hobby stories, however, Fitzgerald plays down the inherent sadness of Hobby’s life and presents his protagonist mainly as a comic figure who manages to create chaos for himself and others in quite ridiculous ways.
“Pat Hobby and Orson Welles” demonstrates Fitzgerald’s lighter touch in recording Pat Hobby's Hollywood misadventures. Although Pat is unemployed, down to his last thirty cents, and frantic because he has been shut out of the studio, the story does not focus on his dire circumstances; they primarily serve a functional purpose—to drive Pat, out of desperation, into his initial encounter with Harold Marcus, which leads to the story’s zany climax.
“Pat Hobby and Orson Welles” is characterized by some sharp, and quite humorous, satire, much of it directed at the Hollywood community’s obsession with Welles when the “boy genius” arrived on the scene. Hobby hates Welles’ success, Marcus is enthralled with Welles before the thought of the young director’s innovative ideas scare him literally into a heart attack, and the general population at the studio gathers instantly to get a look at Welles (Hobby in disguise), staring at him “blankly” as they might view an exotic creature at the zoo.
The story also highlights Fitzgerald’s talent for creating Hollywood “screwball comedy” and employing techniques of visual humor. The images of a bearded Pat Hobby—sitting obliviously on display in the backseat of Boldini’s car, racing desperately through the studio lot like a crazed broken-field runner, and hiding among the other beards at the bar—are vivid and memorable in their humorous incongruity.
Pat Hobby's Secret
“Pat Hobby’s Secret” was published in the June 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine, the sixth in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s series of Pat Hobby stories. Set in Hollywood in 1940, the story includes numerous characters: Pat Hobby; Louie, the studio bookie; Mr. Banizon, a movie producer; R. Parke Woll, a playwright; Mr. Smith, a doorman/bouncer at Conk’s Old Fashioned Bar; Smith’s wife; and Hobby’s unnamed agent. Woll’s cronies and two cigarette girls are mentioned briefly in the story.
The short story begins in the office of Pat Hobby’s friend Louie, the studio bookie. Pat and Louie listen to movie producer Banizon as he obsesses about a script problem that is driving him to distraction. In his unfinished script, an artillery shell ends up in the female star’s trunk, and Banizon does not know how to explain its presence. The writer he had hired, R. Parke Woll, had told him the idea to complete the script, but Banizon has forgotten it. Furthermore, Woll now demands a $24,000 contract in exchange for this vital plot detail. Banizon is outraged, but he needs Woll’s story idea. “We got to explain it so the audience will believe it,” he laments.
Banizon also tells Pat and Louie that Woll is currently “on a big bat” (a drinking spree) and that he is having the writer followed. When Louie suggests a drunken R. Parke Woll might carelessly reveal the information, Banizon is not encouraged. Woll would recognize him, Banizon replies. Never one to pass up an opportunity to advance his own shaky financial interests, Pat Hobby immediately formulates a devious plan, one that might work because Pat had once known Woll. Thirty minutes later, Banizon has given Hobby a new job with a $50 advance: “Pat was employed to discover how a live artillery shell got into Claudette Colbert's trunk or Betty Field's trunk or whosoever's trunk it should be.”
On the job as Banizon’s secret agent, Hobby finds a very inebriated R. Parke Woll in Conk’s Old Fashioned Bar, a semi-swanky club with cigarette girls and an imposing doorman/bouncer named Mr. Smith. The drunken playwright, sitting with a group of cronies, remembers Pat and welcomes him to the table. After some time has passed, Hobby manipulates Woll into telling him the secret of the mysterious artillery shell. As soon as he tells Pat his story idea, however, Woll realizes he has been tricked, and Hobby races madly through the club to make his escape.
At the door, Mr. Smith stops Pat abruptly, grabbing his lapels and demanding to know where he is going. Chasing after Pat, Woll screams at Smith to hold on to Hobby. Woll catches up, throws a punch at Pat, misses, and hits Smith in the mouth. Smith, whom Fitzgerald describes as “an embittered as well as a powerful man,” drops Hobby, picks up Woll, and slams him to the floor, killing him.
The following day, Banizon is eager to see Pat Hobby to get Woll’s idea from him. Pat plans to meet the producer after appearing as a witness at the inquest into Woll’s death. In court, two of the club’s cigarette girls testify first, contradicting each other’s testimony regarding the reasonableness of Mr. Smith’s actions. Smith’s fate, it seems, will be determined by Hobby’s testimony. Before Pat is called to the stand, however, he hears a disturbing voice behind him: “You talk against my husband and I'll twist your tongue out by the roots.” The voice belongs to Mrs. Smith, a huge and very frightening woman. When Hobby takes the stand, he says he remembers nothing of the events leading to Woll’s death. Stumbling through his testimony, Pat offers only that everything went white, and black, and black and white. Dismissed as a bumbling witness, yet feeling quite relieved, Hobby keeps his appointment with Banizon, taking with him a new agent.
In Banizon’s office, Pat’s agent tries to drive a hard financial bargain with the producer. Banizon resists, but he soon relents. He will meet Hobby’s demands. First, however, he needs some proof that Hobby actually knows Woll’s idea to explain the mysterious artillery shell in the trunk. While he and Pat’s agent wait for Hobby to offer it up and seal the deal, Pat hesitates. Finally, he gasps, “Everything has gone white.” Pat tries to recover by making up a wild story on the spot, but the producer is not fooled. Hobby has suffered a genuine “psychological blank,” the deal is off, and R. Parke Woll’s secret will torment Banizon for years to come. As the story ends, the producer wishes ideas “could be plucked from the inexpensive air,” making writers altogether unnecessary.
In “Pat Hobby’s Secret,” Fitzgerald’s protagonist plays his usual role as the down-and-out Hollywood writer scrambling to survive in the picture business. It might seem odd that a writer would scheme with an executive to betray a fellow writer, but Hobby’s actions are determined always by self-interest. Once highly paid under studio contracts, Pat now seizes every opportunity to earn any sum of money that will keep his head above water for another day in Hollywood. Pat takes Banizon’s money and condemns Woll as being greedy and opportunistic in demanding such an exorbitant contract from the “unfortunate” producer. The truth, of course, is that Hobby himself would have made the most of Banizon’s predicament had he been in Woll’s position.
Like the Hobby stories that precede it, “Pat Hobby’s Secret” offers some sharp, humorous Hollywood satire, as well as a surprise ironic ending. Banizon shares his “insoluble problem” with any and all who will listen, including his bookie; Hollywood executives, Fitzgerald writes, face their problems “courageously and with groans at from one to five thousand a week.” Also a subject of satire is R. Parke Woll—the name itself suggests the character’s inflated sense of self-importance. With a big payday on the horizon, Woll surrounds himself with glad-handing supporters, “[a] small but alert band of rats and weasels . . . furnishing him moral support in his journey.” The central satire in the story, however, relates to the roles of producer and writer in making movies. For all his power and money, Banizon cannot produce a single idea to save his film; he needs the creativity of a writer. Pat Hobby’s devious plan, of course, backfires. When everything really “has gone white,” Hobby is left in a familiar place, out of work and out of luck.
Pat Hobby, Putative Father
When “Pat Hobby, Putative Father” appeared in Esquire Magazine in July 1940, Europe was engulfed in World War II. Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, had forced England to abandon any hope of political compromise, and on September 3, 1939, England had joined France in declaring war against Nazi Germany. Because these historical events play a role in Fitzgerald’s story, the setting of “Pat Hobby, Putative Father” is specific: September 2 and September 3, 1939, in Hollywood, California. In addition to Hobby, the main characters include Sir Singrim Dak Raj and Prince John Indore, born John Brown Hobby—Pat’s son from a short-lived marriage in 1926. Minor characters in brief appearances are Pat’s secretary, Miss Raudenbush, and an unnamed studio guide.
As do most of the Hobby stories, this one begins on the movie studio lot where Pat Hobby has spent most of his professional life as a screenwriter. Pat’s career is essentially over, his former success a memory. As he sits in his office in the Writers’ Building, surrounded by the trappings of his craft, Hobby accomplishes nothing while Miss Raudenbush waits for his dictation of script pages he cannot write. Pat’s usual unproductive morning is interrupted by a studio guide with a note from Pat’s boss, producer Jack Berners, asking Pat to show some visitors around the lot.
The visitors, Pat discovers, are a finely dressed Indian gentleman, Sir Singrim Dak Raj, and his nephew, a boy of fifteen. Speaking for himself and his uncle, who understands only Hindustani, the boy explains they are in town for only a brief visit. He then says he was born John Brown Hobby. The young Indian Prince, Pat realizes, is quite possibly his son from a short-lived marriage to Delia Brown in 1926. After their divorce, the boy explains, Delia had taken him to Indiawhere she had married Rajah Dak Raj Indore. Delia’s new husband had adopted her child, making him Prince John Indore. Thus, Pat Hobby is astonished to learn that he is the “putative father” of the boy standing before him.
While trying to absorb this shocking turn of events, Pat escorts Sir Singrim and Prince John on a tour of the studio lot. Pat’s putative son, it seems, has only one request, to see the beautiful actress, Bonita Granville. To oblige the boy’s wish, Pat leads them through the back lot in search of Miss Granville; along the way, Sir Singrim is appalled by the various studio sets with their false fronts that give only the appearance of reality. They arrive at Stage 4 where Bonita Granville is acting in a scene being filmed, but the set is closed, the building locked. Pat sneaks the visitors through a side entrance. Trying to give Prince John a better view of the actress at work, Hobby accidentally maneuvers the three of them into the scene while the camera is rolling: “Prince John Indore had not only seen Bonita Granville--he had acted in the same picture.” Chaos ensues on the set.
Pat and his visitors are removed from the set and spend the afternoon under the watchful eyes of a studio guard until Jack Berners frees them from confinement. Sir Singrim is infuriated by these events, and Pat learns, to his chagrin, that Prince John’s father is considering asking Hobby—if he turned out to be a great writer—to come to Indiato write his biography. Sir Singrim now believes Pat is “an ignominious writer.” Once freed, however, he and the boy decide they will return to their hotel to “meditate and pray” and determine Pat Hobby’s future as Rajah Indore’s possible biographer.
Pat feels angry and self-righteously aggrieved. By trying to accommodate his son’s Hollywood dream, he quite possibly has jeopardized his job. Remembering that Sir Singrim is the third-richest man in India further aggravates Pat. After having “dinner at a bar,” he goes to the hotel to find out what Sir Singrim and Prince John have decided to report to John’s adopted father. Once there, he finds the two, bags packed, preparing the check out of the hotel. When Pat confronts them, he learns to his great surprise that they are not angry with him at all. Prince John tells Pat, “'I say, you were nice this afternoon and it really was too bad.” Moreover, the two have decided to provide for Pat Hobby, giving him fifty sovereigns ($250) a month for the rest of his life—with only one condition. When his putative son whispers the condition to Pat, Hobby is relieved. Since it has nothing to do with “drink and blondes,” it has “really nothing to do with him at all.” Saying goodbye to Prince John, Pat Hobby finds there are tears in his eyes.
The story concludes with Pat rising late the next day with “a happy hangover.” He cannot immediately identify why he feels happy until he remembers what Prince John had whispered to him: “Fifty sovereigns a month, with just one condition—that it be withdrawn in case of war, when all revenues of our state will revert to the British Empire.” Filled with joy, Pat opens his door to retrieve the morning papers. He finds instead only a daily racing form. One small entry catches his eye, a handicapper’s prediction of the outcome of a particular race:
LONDON. SEPTEMBER 3RD. ON THIS MORNING'S DECLARATION BY CHAMBERLAIN, DOUGIE CABLES 'ENGLAND TO WIN. FRANCE TO PLACE. RUSSIA TO SHOW'.
Readers familiar with Pat Hobby stories will recognize the rich irony inherent in the story’s surprise ending. However, in “Pat Hobby, Putative Father,” the irony functions differently. In most of the stories, Pat Hobby seems poised to succeed in some devious manner, only to experience a disaster of his own making; in this story, Hobby is about to experience good fortune because he has behaved unselfishly, only to have it snatched away because World War II has begun. Even international events, it seems, conspire against Fitzgerald’s hapless protagonist.
This story offers many of the conventions of other Hobby tales: the contrast between Pat’s grim daily life and his success in the romantic Hollywood era of bygone days; the fantastic nature of the new situation in which he unexpectedly finds himself; and a narrative trip through the studio’s back lot where movies are made. Fitzgerald incorporates very specific knowledge of film technique in the story.
In terms of character development, “Pat Hobby, Putative Father” presents Hobby as a more sympathetic figure, filling out the dimensions of his persona. He accepts Prince John as his son immediately and finds himself behaving unselfishly and even responsibly—for Pat. When he realizes how much the boy wants to see the beautiful actress, Pat goes out of his way to make it happen. When he feels the need for a drink from the flask in his pocket, Pat tells his son there will be no alcohol for him. When he tells the boy goodbye, Pat is amazed to find tears in his eyes.
Fitzgerald reveals this new facet of his character with gentle satire. Since Hobby is a writer for whom many English vocabulary words remain a mystery, he fails to recognize or understand Prince John’s frequent use of the word “putative.” As he watches his son’s limousine drive away, Pat Hobby examines his new condition: “Potato Father--whatever that meant. After some consideration he added to himself: it's better than not being a father at all.” By the conclusion of the story, financial success has eluded Pat Hobby once again, but he has gained something of value in his life.
The Homes of the Stars
Published in Esquire Magazine in August 1940, “The Homes of the Stars” offers readers another Pat Hobby misadventure as he continues his ill-fated attempts to survive in Hollywood long after his successful career as a screenwriter has ended. Down to his last fourteen cents, Hobby finds himself conducting two out-of-state visitors, and their little dog Boojie, on a bogus tour of the homes of several top Hollywood film stars. Characters in the story include Gus Venske, the legitimate tour director, and Mr. and Mrs. Deering R. Robinson, tourists from Kansas City. Actor Ronald Colman makes a brief appearance, as does Mr. Marcus, an influential Hollywood producer, who arrives in his car at the story’s conclusion.
The story begins on a hot, sunny afternoon in Hollywood. Pat Hobby’s car has overheated and broken down on the street next to a vendor (Gus Venske) who sits under an umbrella, hawking guided tours of the homes of the stars. When Venske leaves for lunch, taking his maps and brochures with him, Pat seeks shelter under the umbrella where he finds one of Venske’s discarded brochures. With only fourteen cents in his pocket, he cannot call for road service and can only wait for his car to cool down.
A chauffeured limousine pulls to the curb, carrying Mr. and Mrs. Deering R. Robinson, tourists from Kansas City, and their dog Boojie. After some conversation, Pat realizes the Robinsons believe he is the proprietor of Venske’s business. He has been presented with “that dearest of Hollywooddreams—the angle.” Sizing up his unexpected opportunity (“suckers and smackers”), Pat makes a deal with them. For a five-dollar down payment, Hobby will take them to the homes of the stars. The Robinsons will pay an additional five dollars to visit Clark Gable “or somebody like that.”
Armed with Venske’s brochure, Hobby sets out in the limousine with the Robinsons and Boojie to begin the tour. Since he has no idea where the new stars live, Pat intends to visit the homes of the few older stars who still remember him and sometimes speak kindly to him at the studio: Melvyn Douglas, Robert Young, Ronald Colman, and “Young Doug,” a reference to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He directs the chauffeur first to Ronald Colman’s home, where a sporty roadster is parked at the curb. He is surprised when the actor exits the house, walks past him with a greeting (“Hello, Pat”), and drives away. Although the Robinsons do not gain entrance to the star’s home, they are impressed with their tour guide. Ronald Colman knows his name.
Pat intends to take the tourists next to the homes of the few older stars on his list, but the Robinsons are ready to see Clark Gable’s house. Pat puts them off, explaining that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard live very far away. Mrs. Robinson is disappointed since she “wanted to run up and see their bedroom” and “tell Carole Lombard about her hair.” Mrs. Robinson then decides she and Boojie want to visit Shirley Temple. Hobby tries to dissuade her, without success. Pretending he must call ahead, Pat directs the chauffeur to a drugstore so that he can use the phone. Inside the store, Pat buys a half pint of gin and consumes part of it hiding behind a counter. The thought of an additional five dollars spurs him on. He might get lucky. The Robinsons might get a glimpse of Shirley Temple, just as they unexpectedly had seen Ronald Colman. Returning to the limousine, Hobby directs the chauffeur to Shirley Temple’s house.
Arriving at the home of the child star, Pat’s courage fades at the sight of “a tall iron fence and an electric gate.” Saying it is the wrong house, he directs them down the street until he selects at random a large mansion set on an open lawn. Leaving the Robinsons and Boojie in the car, Hobby walks to the door and rings the bell, intending to come back with a story as to why they cannot visit Shirley Temple. To his surprise, he sees the front door is ajar. He pushes it open and looks inside to find “a deserted living room on the baronial scale.” Listening carefully for any sounds of life, Pat determines the house is empty, drinks some more gin, and hurries back to collect the Robinsons: “She's at the studio,” he said quickly. “But if we're quiet we can look at their living-room.”
Once inside the house, the Robinsons and Boojie roam around the living room. When Mrs. Robinson asks to meet “Mrs. Temple,” Pat errs by saying nobody is home. Declaring that Boojie would like a “wee little peep” at Shirley Temple’s bedroom, Mrs. Robinson runs upstairs, her husband following. Pat waits uneasily downstairs, finishes the gin, and hides the bottle under a sofa cushion. He then goes upstairs to retrieve the tourists before his luck runs out.
Looking out an upstairs window, Hobby is horrified to see Mr. Marcus, his former boss, alight from a car that has pulled up in front of the house. A producer of both power and prestige in Hollywood, Mr. Marcus will not be pleased to find Pat Hobby inside his mansion, Pat realizes, regardless of whatever “elaborate explanation” he can concoct: “He would not be forgiven. His occasional weeks in the studio at two-fifty would now disappear altogether and another finis would be written to his almost entirely finished career.” In a panic, Hobby bolts down the stairs, runs from the house by way of the back door, and “leaves the Robinsons to their destiny.”
Once safely away from the scene, Pat walks along, imagining what will happen to the tourists from Kansas City—their flustered explanations, Mr. Marcus’s suspicions, the arrival of the police. It then occurs to Pat that the Robinsons will tell the police where they had picked him up. With “beads of gin breaking out profusely on his forehead,” Hobby hurries back to pick up his car, still parked beside Gus Venske’s umbrella stand, and he hopes “that Ronald Colman didn't know his last name.”
“The Homes of the Stars,” the eighth of the published Hobby stories, presents Pat Hobby’s character as it has been established in Fitzgerald’s previous narratives. Out of money and seemingly out of luck, Hobby grabs any opportunity in sight to hang on another day in Hollywood. Fueled by desperation and fortified with gin, he entangles himself in outrageous, and frequently hilarious, situations. Only Pat Hobby, perhaps, could manage to find himself trespassing in the home of an influential Hollywood producer in the company of two Kansas City tourists and their little dog Boojie.
In some of the Hobby stories, Fitzgerald infuses Pat’s life and his miserable circumstances with a certain poignancy, but the tone in “The Homes of the Stars” is decidedly humorous and wickedly satirical. In the Deering R. Robinsons, Fitzgerald captures the public’s obsession with the manufactured glamour of Hollywood and the larger-than-life personalities created on film, packaged by the studios, and very successfully sold to moviegoers. Thinking she is holding one of Shirley Temple’s dolls, Mrs. Robinson treats it “reverently,” as if it were a religious artifact, and shares it with Boojie. Boojie, however, is not impressed. Also, the Robinsons consider Clark Gable’s bedroom a place where they will feel right at home. To Mrs. Robinson, she and Carole Lombard have a personal relationship, and she feels obliged to critique the actress’s hairdo.
A bit of political satire is found in the story, as well, as Hobby flounders to explain a nonexistent writers’ strike as having something to do with the Wagner Act. The Robinsons immediately suspect Pat of being an “emissary of Stalin in the front seat of their car.” In “The Homes of the Stars,” Pat Hobby remains his hapless, somewhat pathetic self, but in narrating Hobby’s latest con game, it is Fitzgerald’s sharp, satirical voice that shapes the story.
Pat Hobby Does His Bit
In "Pat Hobby Does His Bit," published in Esquire in 1940, Fitzgerald's hapless protagonist finds himself in a new situation: working in Hollywood as an actor instead of not working as a writer, his usual status. Most of the story takes place at the movie studio Pat Hobby still calls home, even though his writing career is over except for an occasional short-term assignment. Besides Hobby, the characters include movie directo r George Hilliard and producer Jack Berners, Pat's long-suffering studio employer. Minor characters are movie bit player Gyp McCarthy, English actress Lily Keatts, a debt collector from Hobby's finance company, and two studio guards.
As the story opens, Pat Hobby finds himself on a movie set trying desperately to borrow money from Gyp McCarthy, an actor with a minor role in the movie being filmed. Pat needs twenty dollars to make his car payment; McCarthy finally agrees to give him five dollars just to get rid of him. When McCarthy leaves to retrieve the money from his coat pocket, Pat stays on the set and awaits the actor's return. After a few minutes, Hobby realizes too late that the crew has begun shooting the scene and he, Pat Hobby, is now in it. Horrified, Pat rushes from the studio, almost colliding with Lily Keatts, the star of George Hilliard's movie who is returning to England having finished her scenes. Hobby is convinced he will be barred from the movie lot for having spoiled the filming.
Pat sneaks back onto the movie lot the next day, however. He still needs to borrow money for his car payment and plans to talk Louie, his studio bookie, into another loan. Before he can find Louie, he is escorted to Jack Berners' office by a studio guard. Once there, he finds himself facing not only the producer but also George Hilliard. Expecting the worst, Hobby discovers instead that the two want him to act in the remainder of the movie, a necessity since he has appeared in a key scene with Lily Keatts that cannot be redone since she is leaving the country. Pat accepts the offer and begins his acting career.
Hobby enjoys his bit part in the movie, until while on location for an outdoor scene, he is fitted for a strange looking device. It is a sort of body armor, intended to "protect" him in the upcoming scene that Pat happens to know involves an explosion. Pat protests vehemently; he is not a stunt man. The device, however, is not intended to protect Hobby from the explosion. His role is to lie in a ditch while the star of the movie drives over him. Pat adamantly refuses to do this, until he sees the debt collector from the finance company arrive on the set, ready to repossess his car. Pat takes an advance on his salary, pays the collector, puts on the bulky contraption, and lies down in the ditch. The last thing he remembers is hearing the car driving in his direction.
When Hobby regains consciousness, he is still lying in the ditch. Night has fallen and everyone is gone. A studio policeman helps him up, explaining what happened. While driving over Hobby's prone body, the star of the film flipped the car and broke his arm. In all the excitement, Pat had been left behind. Despite his anger at having been abandoned, Pat feels "a certain fierce pride" as "someone to be reckoned with after years of neglect." He, after all, had managed to derail the movie once again.
In contrast to some of Fitzgerald's other Hobby stories, "Pat Hobby Does His Bit" features a simple plot and little additional development of Hobby's character. Absent also is Fitzgerald's often hilarious satire of Hollywood and the movie industry. Instead, the story serves mainly to emphasize the continuing down-and-out nature of Hobby's existence as a failed writer. Like the other Hobby tales, it ends in irony, but the irony here is especially dark: Pat Hobby becomes important only when he manages to destroy the work of others.
Some humorous touches are present, however, although the humor is achieved at Hobby's expense. Before accepting Berners' offer to appear in the film, Pat worries about his reputation as a writer, a subject Jack Berners won't pursue. Pat won't lower himself to work for a bit actor's usual fifty dollars per day, but he agrees to appear in the movie for his usual writer's fee of two hundred and fifty dollars a week. Like writing, math is not Pat Hobby's strong suit.
Pat Hobby's Preview
Like all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby stories, “Pat Hobby’s Preview” was first published in Esquire, appearing originally in the October 1940 issue of the magazine. Major characters, in addition to Hobby, include Hollywood producer Jack Berners, screenwriter Ward Wainwright, and Eleanor Carter, a pretty young tourist from Boise, Idaho, who catches Pat’s eye. Berners’ secretary and a movie theater doorman appear briefly.
The story begins with a conversation between Pat Hobby and Jack Berners in the producer’s office at the movie studio where Hobby has worked—and mostly not worked—for the past twenty years. Pat's career as a screenwriter essentially ended with the demise of silent movies. When the "the talkies" arrived, Pat Hobby was finished, since he is a writer who is no good with words. An occasional picture assignment from Jack Berners keeps Hobby barely afloat in Hollywood. The producer assumes as the story opens that Pat has come to his office looking for work, but Berners is surprised to learn that Pat seeks not a writing assignment but tickets to a movie preview that evening. Hobby had worked on the film with screenwriter Ward Wainwright and cannot wait to see his name, along with Wainwright's, in the credits. For Pat, even half of a writing credit is a professional triumph.
Hobby is shocked and angered when Berners tells him that Wainwright objects to having Pat's name on the picture, since his work on the script consisted of some very minor dialog revisions. (Pat's contributions, it seems, consisted of changing lines like "No" to "No sir [sic].") The producer pacifies Hobby by pointing out that Pat will receive his "half-credit" at least at the movie's preview. His name will be dropped after that. Berners also tells Pat to come back later and pick up his tickets to the evening's show. He hustles Pat out a side door when Ward Wainwright arrives, still fuming over Hobby's claiming credit for work he did not do.
After leaving Berners' office, Pat has a drink with Louie, the studio bookie, and then encounters Eleanor Carter, a pretty young blonde who has gotten separated from her party while touring the movie lot. He envisions himself escorting this lovely girl to the evening's festivities; with Eleanor by his side, the glorious evening will be complete. Hobby plies the naive tourist with false tales of his spectacular writing career and convinces her to attend the preview with him. He then takes Eleanor to lunch at the studio commissary. Impressed with her beauty and youthful innocence, Hobby plans to seduce her, trotting out "the old line" of arranging a screen test. The excited Eleanor, however, is interested only in having her hair done for the evening, and Pat reluctantly sends her on her way.
After another drink with Louie, Pat returns to Berners' office to pick up his tickets for the show. The producer's secretary tells him the preview is sold out, but Wainwright has returned his own tickets. He is so furious about Hobby's screen credit, he says he will not be attending. These tickets she gives to Hobby in an envelope.
Pat’s evening with Eleanor begins at the Brown Derby, where Pat downs six whiskeys in two hours, and neither he nor Eleanor eat much at dinner. Then it is off to the theater. When Pat presents their tickets to the doorman, however, he and his "cute little blonde" are turned away and find themselves back on the street amid the crowd of celebrity seekers gathered to watch the rich and famous. The tickets Wainwright had "returned" for Hobby's use are actually tickets to a burlesque show. Pat had been set up, the victim of Wainwright's revenge, but he does not accept defeat.
Pat argues vehemently with the doorman, while feeling himself sinking fast in Eleanor's eyes. At that moment, Ward Wainwright bursts from the theater. He has, of course, attended the preview, but the movie is so bad, Wainwright declares, "I think the prop boy directed it!" Wainwright tells the doorman to let Pat into the theatre: "He wrote it. I wouldn't have my name on an inch of it." With Wainwright’s sudden withdrawal, Hobby is filled with joy. He knows he now will receive sole writing credit for the movie: “[H]is name would stand alone on the screen when the picture was released. There had to be somebody's name, didn't there?” He guides Eleanor "triumphantly" toward the theatre door
When read in chronological order, the Pat Hobby stories seem to grow darker, and “Pat Hobby’s Preview” continues the trend. There are no traces of the humorous Hollywood satire and broad physical comedy that highlight many of the earlier stories. In this story, Hobby does not dream up silly, outlandish plots or find himself in ridiculous situations of his own making; instead, he strives mightily just to see his name on the screen again, to receive even a partial credit for a movie script he did not (could not) write.
Fitzgerald favors the ironic ending in the Pat Hobby stories, and the particular irony in the conclusion of “Pat Hobby’s Preview” serves to emphasize Pat’s pathetic state. He is thrilled to receive, by default, full credit for writing a movie so terrible a genuine writer wants no association with it. The story also underscores Pat Hobby’s dire personal circumstances. His old, battered car is financed; buying a two-dollar shirt and a four-dollar hat reduces his personal fortune by half, and even Jack Berners has no work for him. His only friend is his bookie, and Pat’s drinking is out of control. These are not new circumstances for Hobby, but the absence of humor in the story makes them seem stark indeed.
It is very much in Pat Hobby’s character to lie, to seize questionable opportunities, and to take advantage of others. In this story, however, it is through these character flaws that Fitzgerald introduces an especially unsavory element in developing his protagonist. Pat Hobby is presented here as a forty-nine-year-old seducer of an inexperienced young woman. Shortly after meeting the naive, impressionable Eleanor, he secretly schemes to borrow someone’s apartment and lure her into a sexual encounter by promising a screen test he almost certainly cannot arrange. Star-struck, she tells Hobby, “I'd do almost anything for a test.”
As the story ends, Eleanor Carter has become disenchanted with Pat Hobby, but she has fallen under Hollywood’s spell. When first caught in the tumultuous crowd in front of the theatre, Eleanor had intended to go home to Boise, “to run--hard and fast.” After a while, however, she no longer fears the crowd; their staring at her imbues her with a sense of glamour: “She felt exactly like a star.” In “Pat Hobby’s Preview,” the movie industry corrupts failed writers and girls from Idaho alike.
No Harm Trying
Published in Esquire (November 1940), “No Harm Trying” is the eleventh story in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby series of seventeen Hobby tales. For readers unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s protagonist, the opening paragraphs of the story quickly establish Pat Hobby’s character and Hollywood history. A well-paid screenwriter in the “old days,” when actors did not have to talk because movies were silent, Hobby now ekes out a dismal existence with occasional studio writing assignments. (Pat did not make the transition to “the talkies,” since he is a screenwriter who has no way with words.)
Living in a shabby apartment over his landlord’s delicatessen, Pat scours the morning paper each day, looking for any story idea he can pitch for another few weeks’ work at the studio. Consequently, Pat Hobby is thrilled when Nick, his landlord, delivers a phone message: Studio executive Carl Le Vigne wants to see Pat immediately.
The call from Le Vigne provides the inciting incident, and the story gets underway. In addition to Nick’s brief appearance, characters in “No Harm Trying” include Carl Le Vigne; Estelle Hobby Devlin, Pat’s ex-wife and a former script girl; Lizzette Starheim, a beautiful starlet-in-waiting; director Dutch Waggoner; Eric, the studio messenger boy who, unlike Hobby, does know how to write; associate producer Jeff Manfred; and Harmon Shaver, a Wall Street investor who wants to make movies.
Le Vigne’s call resurrects Pat’s spirits. He bounces into the studio executive’s office expecting a new movie assignment. Le Vigne has a job for Pat, but not one he expected. Le Vigne offers to give Pat an office and pay him $250 a week; in exchange, Pat will visit his ex-wife Estelle in the hospital where she is recuperating from a series of personal disasters, and $150 of his weekly “salary” will go toward her care. This arrangement, Le Vigne says, is his way of helping Estelle. He remembers she was once an excellent script girl at the studio. Pat remembers his ex-wife, too, and immediately balks at Le Vigne’s proposition, but he has to accept the offer.
Back on the studio lot with nothing to do, Pat frequents the commissary where he meets Lizzette Starheim, a beautiful young foreign actress, who also seems to have nothing to do. Pat carries on a spirited conversation as Lizzette mostly nods, advising her to not accept the studio’s “run-around” in finding her a part in a movie. When Lizzette leaves, Hobby encounters Dutch Waggoner at another table, where the director is busy rolling dice with a waitress. Waggoner complains he has not been assigned to a movie in six months at the studio and wants out of his contract
Returning to his office, Pat tells Eric about his talks with Lizzette and Dutch. “All signed up and no place to go,” says Eric, who then mentions Jeff Manfred, an associate producer with no movie to produce because “the big shots” are in Palm Springs. Eric predicts “a shake-up” is coming to the studio and longs for a writer’s job; he has “three ideas so new they're wet behind the ears,” he tells Hobby.
The following day, Pat runs into Jeff Manfred and spreads Eric’s gossip, explaining to the idle producer that Harmon Shaver of Wall Street will be taking over. Manfred sees Shaver, a man with money to invest, as a possible solution to his problem. He mentions he has thought of working around the studio bosses who ignore him and “drumming up something of my own.” Would Pat perchance have any story ideas? In that instant, a new scheme comes together for Pat Hobby. Yes, he has ideas, he tells the disgruntled producer, three of them still “wet behind the ears”—ideas for a Lizzette Starheim movie, with Dutch Waggoner directing.
Manfred, Waggoner, Starheim, and Hobby, now co-conspirators in circumventing the studio powers, take their plan to Shaver, who embraces it with gusto. Manfred urges secrecy until they have a script to present. Shaver agrees. He resents those who run the studio and have treated him very dismissively; they must not be given the opportunity to sink this great new project. Back in his office, Hobby negotiates with Eric to buy his writing, secretly. The messenger boy does not realize “that he was the hinge upon which swung a great affair.”
Pat visits Estelle in the hospital, taking Eric with him. Believing her ex-husband has been generously paying her bills, she is grateful and readily agrees to the favor he asks of her. Estelle will help shape the secret script developed from Eric’s ideas and type it from her hospital bed.
With the script ready, Shaver assembles his players (without Eric, whose role only Pat knows) and summons Carl Le Vigne to his office for “the showdown.” Ironically, Shaver refers to this meeting as “the big surprise.” When he arrives, Le Vigne is surprised to see the members of Shaver’s “production team,” but he remains silent until Manfred finishes reading the script aloud. Feeling triumphant after having been ignored by Le Vigne for so long, Shaver proposes the production of the new movie begin at once.
When Carl Le Vigne finally does speak, however, Shaver’s new project and Pat’s elaborate scheme are brought to a jarring conclusion. After eight months and three tutors, their actress speaks only three sentences in English. “Miss Starheim has turned out to be a pinhead—I'm not insulting her because she doesn't know what it means,” Le Vigne explains. He points out that Waggoner is a director with a drug problem and that Manfred is employed at the studio only because he is the cousin of the wife of a studio executive. Shaver insists he bought a good story. Le Vigne agrees; the story will be made, he says. As he leaves Shaver’s office, Le Vigne takes a physically weak, very reluctant Pat Hobby with him. In the game of studio power politics, Pat knows he has backed the wrong player.
When they are alone, Carl Le Vigne confronts Hobby. He knows Eric wrote the script because he found him in Estelle’s hospital room as they were working; he plans to hire him as a studio writer. He grills Pat for other details, particularly about Jeff Manfred’s involvement in the scheme. Did Manfred really think Pat wrote the script, “or was he in on the racket?" The truth is not something Pat Hobby enjoys telling, and this particular truth is no good for him at all. Manfred is innocent; Pat is the responsible—or irresponsible—party. Pat hesitates to answer the question, but not for long.
Le Vigne stares at him “with savage eyes,” and declares, "Pat, you're sitting over a trap door!...Do you see how the carpet's cut? I just have to press this button and drop you down to hell! Will you talk?" Hobby will talk, but he will not tell the truth. He will tell Le Vigne what he wants to hear about Manfred, whom he detests. Le Vigne relaxes, offers Pat Hobby a drink, and adds, “Talk quick and I'll give you another month at two-fifty. I kinda like having you around."
Although it features some occasional humor, created mainly through Lizzette Starheim’s linguistic challenges and Pat’s relationship with his ex-wife, “No Harm Trying” stands among Fitzgerald’s Hobby stories as a serious, sometimes scathing, review of the Hollywood movie studio—its power structure and its power brokers. Producers and directors work, or do not work, at the discretion of studio bosses, locked into contracts that prevent their working elsewhere. “Outsiders,” like Harmon Shaver, bring money to the table, but are treated with contempt. Nepotism gives Jeff Manfred a job, but the story suggests his professional fate ultimately will be determined by a studio boss with “savage eyes.” If Carl Le Vigne likes having Pat Hobby around, it is because the weak-willed, failed writer can be bribed and frightened into submission. Le Vigne’s act of decency in arranging for Estelle’s care, in light of his later behavior, seems unconvincing. It seems more plausible that Fitzgerald simply needed Pat’s ex-wife in the story as a functional character.
There is a subtle suggestion of Hollywood history in the story as Pat and the others try their end run around the studio bosses. On February 5, 1919, another group of players formed an alliance to buck the studio system, but unlike Hobby’s hapless band, they were four of the most powerful figures in the movie industry: D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford. To gain artistic control of their work and to retain more of the income it produced, they formed United Artists, first to distribute their films and later to produce them as well. This bid for independence from the studio system succeeded for some years, but eventually the original plan fell apart. In some aspects of “No Harm Trying,” Fitzgerald seems to have created a literary caricature of the creation of United Artists.
Readers who have followed Pat Hobby’s misadventures in other stories in the Fitzgerald series will recognize that he has not changed in any significant way. Pat’s moral compass remains off center, when it works at all. He does not mind taking money for not working, but he very much minds giving to a desperate woman any part of what he has not earned. His obsession with self is a virtual abyss; when told that Estelle’s husband and child have died and that she is in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt, Pat immediately “breathed easier,” because no one would blame him for her situation. Occasionally, Pat Hobby will demonstrate a shadow of a redeeming quality, but not in this story.
A Patriotic Short
"A Patriotic Short," the twelfth in F. Scott Fitzgerald's series of Pat Hobby stories, appeared in Esquire in December 1940, the same month Fitzgerald died in Hollywood at the age of forty-four. The remaining five Hobby stories were published in successive monthly issues of the magazine.
Although "A Patriotic Short" differs in narrative structure, like the earlier stories it is set at Pat Hobby's favorite movie studio, the place he still considers home even though his screenwriting career had effectively ended ten years earlier with the demise of silent movies. Hobby clings to memories of his successful "old days" in Hollywood, while living a hand-to-mouth existence, accepting any studio work thrown his way. In addition to Hobby, characters include producer Jack Berners and Ben Brown, head of the studio's feature production department. Mr. Maranda, head of the studio, and an unidentified President of the United States appear in Pat's memories of the past.
The story begins with Pat Hobby remembering the swimming pool he owned during "those fat days of silent pictures." It then moves quickly to Jack Berners' office. Berners has hired Pat to work on the script of a film feature (a "short") about the life of General Fitzhugh Lee, a former Confederate general who accepted a military commission from President William McKinley and fought for the United States during the Spanish-American War. The name of the feature is "True to Two Flags." Berners makes it clear to Hobby that his creative ideas are not welcome; he will polish the script as written.
Pat is lost in his memories again when he walks into Ben Brown's office: his "long lost" pool, his "long lost office" with a separate room for his secretary, his car, and his personal chauffeur in uniform. Brown's voice ends Pat's reverie. As production supervisor of "True to Two Flags," Brown reminds him again that the story needs no "new angles." Reviewing the story, Brown mentions that General Lee had accepted his U.S. military commission from President McKinley himself.
The mention of the President spins Pat Hobby once again into the earlier time when his life was good. One morning from his "long lost Beverly Hills house," Pat had seen Mr. Maranda, who lived in the mansion next door, hurry off to work dressed in formal attire. Arriving at the studio, Pat had learned that the President of the United States was coming to visit: "[I]t seemed to mark a new era in pictures because a President of the United States had never visited a studio before." Reality intrudes when Brown issues further writing instructions.
Alone in his temporary office, Pat considers the script, adds a bit of his favorite hackneyed dialog, then runs out of ideas. His mind wanders to a glorious day in the "glamorous past," the day Mr. Maranda invited him, Pat Hobby, to lunch with the President, since Douglas Fairbanks could not make it. Pat remembers laughing in the private dining room as the President told a joke: "Pat had laughed and laughed with the others—all of them solid men together—rich, happy, and successful." That afternoon, Pat had gone home early to watch Mr. Maranda arrive at his mansion next door in an official procession, bringing the President home for tea with the studio's starring actresses. Pat felt proud, then, of pictures and "of his position in them."
Returning to the script at hand, Pat writes one line before realizing he is thirsty. He dare not drink anything alcoholic since this is his first day on the job—one week at $250. He leaves the borrowed office and wanders down the hall to the water-cooler, his mind returning to Mr. Maranda’s tea during which Maranda entertained the President and the "coterie of stars" in his garden.
On "a lovely California afternoon," Pat had watched the gathering from his own garden next door. Seeking a closer view, Hobby had encountered the President and his party over a low hedge. Mr. Maranda had graciously introduced Pat to the President, who had chatted with Pat about his writing. Looking into Pat's own garden, the President had then observed, "I suppose...that you get lots of inspiration sitting by the side of that fine pool."
Returning to reality, Pat fills a cup at the water-cooler as Jack Berners, Ben Brown, a group of other studio executives, and a beautiful young woman appear in the corridor, walking his way. Hobby recognizes her, "the girl of the year, the It girl, the Oomph girl, the Glamour Girl, the girl for whose services every studio was in violent competition." As they draw near, Pat's heart beats faster, he pats down his hair, and steps toward her. As they look at each other, she links arms with Berners and Brown, and walks on: "[S]uddenly the party seemed to walk right through him—so that he had to take a step back against the wall." Berners turns around to say hello to Pat; the other men throw him "half glances" without speaking.
Hobby returns to his office and takes up the script once again. Locating the scene in which President McKinley offers Fitzhugh Lee a commission, Pat clenches his teeth and writes, pushing hard on his pencil: “Mr. President, you can take your commission and go straight to hell.” The story ends as Pat Hobby leans over his desk, "his shoulders shaking," as he remembers "that happy day when he had had a swimming pool."
"A Patriotic Short" differs from the earlier Pat Hobby stories in its structure. It develops two separate stories, in chronological order, as Fitzgerald moves his protagonist back and forth through present and past events. Numerous references to Pat's earlier, happier days appear in all the Hobby stories, but in this story, specific past events create a story-within-the story, a modified frame tale.
The primary story, Pat's assignment to polish "True to Two Flags," remains unresolved, the frame incomplete. Will Hobby pull himself together and delete the bitter, defiant last line he has written? Will he complete the script to Jack Berners' satisfaction? The reader is left to imagine. The story from Pat's past, however, does reach its conclusion. Pat meets the President of the United States, and he admires Pat's swimming pool. With this surprising detail, Fitzgerald links both of his plots, as "True to Two Flags" begins with Pat thinking about his "long lost swimming pool," the major symbol of what his life once was.
The stark contrast between Pat's present circumstances and his former glory is established through the juxtaposition of reality and memory. Considering how grim Pat's life happens to be, his frequent escape into memories is understandable. It provides momentary relief, but always he must return to confront reality: temporary work in borrowed offices among people who disrespect him in a variety of ways. Hobby has no secretary; he writes with a pencil. He has no ideas; he recycles trite dialog he has written many times. He has no professional stature or respect; an arrogant young actress and her admirers (executives all) "walk right through him." In most of the Hobby stories, Pat wallows in self-pity or connives shamelessly to advance his Hollywood fortunes. In "True to Two Flags," the reader gets a glimpse into Pat's psyche; he is a deeply angry man. Like General Fitzhugh Lee in Pat's edited script, Hobby wants his own adversaries to go straight to hell.
Despite its pathos, the story features flashes of Fitzgerald's ironic, sometimes playful, humor. Hobby thinks the story of a great Confederate general should be punched up by adding "a Jewish touch." Jack Berners observes that Quakers most likely did not fight in the Civil War. Pat must exercise caution in showing the Confederate general's eventual reconciliation with the United States "because Virginia is swarming with Lees." Ben Brown says the "True to Two Flags" script depicts Spanish soldiers with "ants in their pants," obviously the work of a 1930 script writer who is a Communist. Fitzgerald's wry humor, and his penchant for irony, extends even to Pat Hobby's glamorous Beverly Hills swimming pool: it leaked.
On the Trail of Pat Hobby
Readers who follow F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby stories as they were published monthly in Esquire, beginning in January 1940, may have noticed their developing darker tone. Fitzgerald’s down-and-out screenwriter endures the same difficult circumstances and demonstrates the same personal failings in each story, but Pat Hobby’s fictional life toward the end of 1940 becomes more desperate than difficult, and harebrained schemes will not assuage his despair. The final story published in 1940, "A Patriotic Short," ends in Pat‘s weeping for another life, another time.
“On the Trail of Pat Hobby,” however, appearing in Esquire's January 1941 issue, reflects in some aspects Fitzgerald’s earlier, lighter approach in dealing with his protagonist. As usual, Pat is out of a job, but the circumstances of his present unemployment are decidedly unusual, and for once irony breaks in his favor. In addition to Pat Hobby, characters in the story include Bee McIlvaine, a studio writer, and producer Jack Berners.
As the narrative begins, Pat is on foot, running headlong and hatless across Hollywood, bound for the studio. Making his way onto the lot, Pat thinks the guard at the gate looks at him suspiciously, possibly because Pat is not wearing a hat, the mark of a professional man. Pat seeks refuge in the Writer’s Building. He goes into Bee McIlvaine’s office to borrow her compact mirror. Pat wants to comb his thinning gray hair, since he now has no hat to cover it up.
Sensing that Pat may try to borrow money, Bee directs his attention to a mimeographed flyer posted on the wall offering $50 for a good title for the movie Bee is currently working on. Held up in production, the movie cannot proceed without a title. When Pat asks what the movie is about, Bee explains, “It's about a lot of stuff that goes on in tourist cabins.” Pat is startled and looks at her “wild-eyed.”
Instantly alert, Pat entertains suspicious thoughts. He thought he would be “safe” behind the “guarded gates” of the studio, but perhaps not. Perhaps the “news” has reached the studio, and Bee is “warning” him. Why Pat is on the run has yet to be revealed. Pat’s course of action is clear to him: “He must move on. He was a hunted man now, with nowhere to lay his hatless head.” Mumbling that he knows nothing about the subject of the movie, Pat hurries out of Bee’s office, proceeds to the commissary's check room, and steals a hat, carefully choosing a conservative gray Homberg that will not attract undue attention.
Pat’s insecurity eases after a while, since nobody else mentions "tourists' cabins" to him. He ponders his present plight. Pat has been working under an assumed name (Don Smith) as the night clerk at the Selecto Tourists Cabins, a motel on the other side of town—a fact he does not wish known at the studio. He had sought refuge on the movie lot after fleeing the scene when the motel had been raided by the police earlier in the day. Wanted by the police as a witness, Hobby had seized an opportunity to duck out a side door and run away, stopping only to buy a half pint of whiskey.
After stealing his new hat and paying a social visit to Louie (the studio bookie), Pat stops by Jack Berners' office. The producer is on his way to a hurry-up meeting, but he invites Pat to wait in his office until he returns. After snooping through Berners' mail and helping himself to Berners' liquor, Hobby falls asleep on the couch.
The producer returns, quite irate. All production had stopped at the studio, he tells Pat, because the head of the studio, Mr. Marcus, had directed his two thousand employees to search for his missing hat, a gray Homberg. The whiskey he had consumed on his harried trip across town and the contents of Berners' brandy decanter have settled upon Pat; he does not realize whose hat he is now wearing. Berners dismisses Pat, telling him to go see Bee McIlvaine and help her come up with a title for the tourist cabin movie. As Pat leaves, "[i]n a daze," Berners calls after him, "Hey...don't forget your hat."
Back in Bee's office, Pat stares with unfocused eyes at the $50-reward flyer she has handed him, along with a pencil. After a long silence, while Bee nudges him to come up with something, Pat asks vaguely, "Test Pilot's been used, hasn't it?" Annoyed, Bee tells him to wake up ("This isn't about aviation."), and a fast-paced, funny dialog ensues between them as Pat tries to concentrate and finally scribbles something on the paper in his hands. When she sarcastically suggests that Birth of a Nation is a good title, Pat concurs, but adds, "Birth of a Nation wouldn't suit this picture." Bee demands to know if he is teasing her,or if he has "lost his mind." Pat defends himself, pointing out he has had "a couple of drinks," and he was just thinking of good titles: "The trouble is they've all been used, like It Happened One Night." Bee notices that Pat can't keep his eyes open, and she fears he may pass out in her office. She calls in Jack Berners on the pretext that she has some ideas for the title.
The producer arrives with "a sheaf of suggestions sent in from here and there in the studio," but he has rejected them all. "How about it, Pat?" he asks. "Got anything?" Hobby makes a monumental effort to respond and says he likes It Happened One Morning. Then he "looked desperately at his scrawl on the mimeograph paper" and added, "or else—Grand Motel." Jack Berners loves the title: "I think you've got something. Grand Motel." Hobby protests, "I said Grand Hotel." Berners corrects Pat, "No, you didn't. You said Grand Motel—and for my money it wins the fifty."
Definitely feeling ill now, the inebriated Hobby says he must lie down. Berners directs him to an empty office nearby. As Pat starts to leave, Berners adds, in all innocence, "That's a funny idea Pat, Grand Motel—or else Motel Clerk. How do you like that?" The title “Motel Clerk” speeds Pat toward the door. On his way out, Bee hands him his purloined hat. The “fugitive” will come back later for his money.
Although Pat Hobby is still broke and still drinking, “On the Trail of Pat Hobby” does not develop Fitzgerald’s frequent, painful contrast between Hobby’s present life and the professional success and standard of living he once enjoyed in Hollywood. Instead, this episode from Pat’s daily life is presented as an interlude, of sorts, primarily humorous in its exaggeration and satire. The irony in the plot’s conclusion (a recurring feature in the Hobby stories) is also humorous. Surprisingly, it works in Pat’s favor this time. As Pat slurs his words, Grand Hotel becomes Grand Motel, and he wins the $50 reward for the best title.
The idea of naming any movie Grand Motel is itself a satirical swipe at the Hollywood movie culture, since the title is a laughable oxymoron. The fact that Jack Berners would embrace this title is also satirical, suggesting a lack of creative thinking in the film industry. (Since Grand Hotel was a big hit, surely Grand Motel can’t miss!)
The story is structured in three parts, much like a three-act farce to be presented on stage or screen. It is a visual narrative, absent scenic description and exploration of character. Pat’s status as a “fugitive” from the no-tell motel raid cannot be taken seriously, as he slinks about the studio in Mr. Marcus’ stolen Homberg, while a cast of two-thousand searches for it. Also, the dialog between Pat Hobby and Bee McIlvaine struggling to come up with a title for Berners’ movie has a zany quality about it, reminiscent of the “screwball comedies” of the 1930s.
The hat motif seems to develop almost as a humorous subplot in the story (Will Pat get caught with the stolen goods?), but Fitzgerald does not tie up the loose end as one might expect. Instead, the hat assumes unexpected significance as Fitzgerald’s tone and the mood of the story change abruptly in the final lines. As Pat leaves Bee McIlvaine’s office, she congratulates him (“Good work, old timer.”) and hands him the hat: “Pat seized Mr. Marcus' hat, and stood holding it there like a bowl of soup...And carrying his burden he shambled toward the lavatory.” With this final image, the humor in the story dissipates immediately, and Pat Hobby becomes who he is: a tired, drunken Hollywood “old timer.”
Fun in an Artist's Studio
Unlike the previous Pat Hobby stories published in Esquire, "Fun in an Artist's Studio" does not take place at the movie studio where Hobby still finds occasional work, long after his screenwriting career has ended. In this story, published in the February 1941 issue of the magazine, Fitzgerald's ageing, alcoholic protagonist finds himself in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, posing for a beautiful female artist who paints his portrait. This unlikely and unexpected experience, one which he decidedly does not enjoy, reveals Pat Hobby's nature—both prudish and predatory—while also exposing his cynical view of women. More significantly perhaps, the story underscores Pat's empty life. Besides Pat Hobby, the story’s characters include the artist, Princess Dignanni, and Mr. DeTinc, "a power in pictures." An unnamed hotel security guard makes a brief appearance.
When Princess Dignanni first sees Pat Hobby in the studio commissary, she knows instantly she wants "to make art out of him." Mr. DeTinc is not offended that the Princess does not want to paint his portrait, even though he is a powerful man in Hollywood, for she also does not want to paint Clark Gable or Vivien Leigh. It is Pat Hobby she wants, a forty-nine-year-old with "red-rimmed eyes and a soft purr of whiskey on his breath." She envisions the name of the work she will create: "Hollywood and Vine."
At her request, Mr. DeTinc summons Pat to a party at his home, where Princess Dignanni (who actually hails from Boston, Massachusetts) draws him into conversation about his writing. Pat confides that getting work can be a problem. When the pretty Princess asks him to come to her studio and pose for her, Pat Hobby responds cautiously, "Naked?" She assures him she is only interested in painting his head. Mr. DeTinc, who had been hovering nearby, joins the two and encourages Pat to accept, since Princess Dignanni would be painting the portraits of some of Hollywood's biggest stars.
The following day, Pat Hobby reports to Princess Dignanni's bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel with a definite sense of unease, despite her assurance that he would remain clothed during the sitting. It seems Pat's only prior experience with the world of painting was watching a peep-show striptease, Fun in an Artist's Studio, the remembrance of which he still found shocking. He expects the Princess to be wearing only a towel when she opens her door; he is disappointed when she is not.
Princess Dignanni is dressed in a painter's smock, her hair "brushed straight back like a boy's," and her manner is crisp and professional. Pat's greeting to her, after having had two drinks on the way over, falls flat. "How'ya Duchess?" does not "set a jovial note for the occasion." Escorting Pat into her rear apartment, she sits with him on a couch near her easel by the window, taking a moment "to get used to" him. Pat makes a joke and winks at her, she smiles, and he asks for a drink. She prefers Hobby not drink, because "[s]he had wanted him to look as if he needed one," but she goes to make him a small and very weak highball.
Upon returning, she finds that Pat has removed his coat and tie and stretched out on her couch. The Princess likes the look of his shirt: "I think they make them for Hollywood—like the special prints they make for Ceylon and Guatemala." She is ready to get started, but Hobby stalls, suggesting she have a drink also, and inquiring if she is married. The Princess discourages any further conversation and directs him to take a seat on a stool and remain still while she paints.
Doing as he is told, Pat Hobby's mind wanders, from the afternoon races at Santa Anita to Princess Dignanni's attractive legs, red lips, and bare arms. After thirty minutes, Pat grows restless and wants to stop to have another drink. The Princess advises him to imagine he is working at the studio; she needs only another thirty minutes. Pat protests, "What do I get out of it? She reminds him he is still being paid by the studio, since Mr. DeTinc wants him to pose, but Pat is not satisfied: "It's different. You're a dame. I've got my self-respect to think of." Pat does not want her to flirt with him, since "that's old stuff," but he does want to "sit around and have a drink."
When Pat suggests they sit again on the sofa, the Princess goes to fix him another drink. When she returns, this time Pat has taken off his shirt and offers it to her. She lays it on the couch and tells him to sit down so that she might finish the portrait. When Pat hesitates, she adds they can have a drink then, in fifteen minutes. Princess Dignanni resumes painting while Hobby questions her about her work, leading up to the one question he really wants to ask: "Did you ever paint a naked man?" As she lays her brush aside, the Princess tells Pat Hobby painting him is not easy. Pat wants to "call it a day," and then suggests she "slip into something so you'll be comfortable."
Princess Dignanni, who finds Pat's "line" amusing, engages him in a dialog about his approaches with women and asks why he would try a line on her. As he lights a cigarette, takes off his shoes, and makes himself comfortable on the couch, Hobby explains that "when a dame wants to see a guy about something or a guy wants to see a dame, there's a pay off, see." The Princess sighs and explains that "it makes it rather difficult when a dame just wants to paint a guy." When Pat regards her through "half-closed" eyes and reaches to remove his suspenders, Princess Dignanni calls out in a loud voice, "Officer!"
A young policeman from the hotel enters the room, his presence an arrangement the Princess says she made "to be on the safe side." He wants to know if Hobby has been "fresh" with her. The Princess does not want to press charges, she explains to the officer. Her problem is that Hobby has been "lent" to her by Mr. DeTinc to pose in the nude, but now refuses. She tells Pat to drop his "mock-modesty" and directs him to the bathroom where he will find a turkish towel. When Pat reaches for his shoes instead, the policeman intervenes: "You heard what the lady said." Quite shaken, Pat reminds Princess Dignanni of what she had told him about posing for her, but she replies, "You told me I meant something else." She sends Pat off to the bathroom and offers the policeman a drink.
A short while later, as Pat sits "shivering in the centre of the room," he remembers the peep-shows he had seen as a boy, but they bear little resemblance to his present situation. He is, however, grateful for Princess Dignanni's Turkish towel.
"Fun in an Artist's Studio" develops rich irony, beginning with the title itself. The peep-show with that title which Pat Hobby had once seen inspires him to attempt the seduction of Princess Dignanni, but the "fun" he experiences in her studio certainly fails to meet his initial expectations.
Also ironic is Pat's behavior in terms of nudity. He begins to shed his clothes in her studio in preparation for a sexual encounter, but the idea of posing nude while she paints is out of the question for him. This prudishness seems at odds with his wolfish behavior, but it offers insight into Pat Hobby's view of women in their relationship to men. He cannot bare his body and serve as a passive subject for Princess Dignanni's artistic eye, even though Mr. DeTinc has "lent" him to her for the afternoon. As Pat tried to explain, "You're a dame. I've got my self-respect to think of." Being "on the make," however, and tossing her "a line" as prelude to nudity is merely an exercise in masculinity.
The conversation between Pat and the Princess after he suggests she change into something more "comfortable" makes it clear that Hobby has experience as a purveyor of phony romantic lines. As he tells the Princess, "If you were eighteen, see, I'd give you that line about being nuts about you." Apparently the forty-nine-year-old also has experience trying to seduce very young women, although Hobby's odds of success have diminished, since "the kids you saw around now were snooty—always talking about calling the police."
For the ageing writer, having a relationship with a woman is a game at which he cheats, and he is subject to misreading the other player's signals. When he enters Princess Dignanni's studio, he assumes she has invited him there for sex; he cannot imagine any other scenario. For Pat Hobby, any invitation from a woman is simply the preliminary to "a pay off."
The final irony in the story is evident—and sad. The Princess is not interested in Pat Hobby or his "shattered frame," a truth he never grasps. She wants instead to capture his expression, the same expression she had seen in the commissary before she knew his name: the haunting look of failure. As the story concludes, Pat poses for her without further protest, clutching his towel—naked, cold, and defeated. Pleased with what she sees now in Pat Hobby's face, "the expression of Hollywood and Vine, the other self of Mr. DeTinc," Princess Dignanni paints quickly before the afternoon light fades.
"Two Old Timers" first appeared in print in the March 1941 issue of Esquire. Because fourteen Pat Hobby stories had been published previously in Esquire, Fitzgerald's protagonist was well known to readers. In "Two Old Timers," Pat Hobby's disastrous slide from a successful screenwriting career into poverty and alcoholism is established briefly, but it is not reviewed or examined in any detail; it becomes instead the premise in developing the contrast between Pat Hobby and a former star of silent movies.
When Hobby finds himself behind bars after his car collides with that of Phil Macedon, formerly "the Star of Stars," Pat continues the argument that had ensued between them after the auto accident. In this unlikely setting and under these unusual circumstances, Hobby fights directly for a shred of personal validation—and surprisingly, considering his many devious and unsuccessful performances in the previous Pat Hobby tales, he achieves it. Characters in the story, in addition to Pat Hobby and Phil Macedon, include Sergeant Gaspar, a policeman, and the Captain, Sergeant Gaspar's supervising officer.
"Two Old Timers" begins with a review of the circumstances of the collision between Pat Hobby and Phil Macedon. Having occurred at 5:00 am on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, the accident had brought Sergeant Gaspar to the scene where he had found the two drivers arguing, "with liquor in the air," not about the accident, but about their previous relationship. Hobby, full of fight, had insisted that he and Macedon were "old acquaintances," while the former movie star, wildly popular before his retirement, had disagreed.
Sergeant Gaspar takes both men to the police station. Being annoyed with Hobby, who has bumped into him, Gaspar places Pat in a cell until the Captain arrives to deal with the situation. Meanwhile, Phil Macedon lounges on the other side of the bars, smoking cigarettes and accepting Sergeant Gaspar's repeated apologies for detaining him. Macedon also enjoys the Sergeant's unbridled admiration for the old actor's film exploits, particularly his powerful, convincing performance in a movie about World War I, The Final Push.
In his cell nearby, Pat Hobby will not give up the argument, peppering Macedon, who studiously ignores him, with sarcastic questions about the actor's faulty memory. Hobby remembers Macedon very well, even though the years have taken them on different paths. The retired star of memorable silent films owns horses and a hacienda in the San Fernando Valley, while the forty-nine-year-old Pat Hobby drives a used car, "which had lately become the property of the North Hollywood Finance and Loan Co." After twenty-one years in the movie industry, Hobby can claim little for himself, but he can claim this, and he does loudly: he and the famous Phil Macedon once were acquaintances. While Pat fumes in his "confinement," Sergeant Gaspar makes it clear that holding Phil Macedon is "a formality," while holding Pat is another matter involving a sobriety test.
While everyone waits for the Captain to arrive, Gaspar tells Macedon "what you meant to me once" and how significantly his performance in The Final Push changed the Sergeant's life. After serving in the war, Gaspar says, he tried to explain to his wife what being in combat had been like, "with the shells and the machine guns," but she had never understood. The Sergeant continues, "And after my wife saw that picture of yours I never had to explain to her. She knew." Macedon smiles. Sergeant Gaspar adds, "I'll never forget the part where you was in that shell hole. That was so real it made my hands sweat." The reality of the scene, Phil Macedon explains, was rooted in his own war experiences: "You see, I was in the war myself and I knew how it was. I knew how it felt."
Pat Hobby, who is now paying attention to their conversation, points out, resentfully, "Phil Macedon knew me then all right...I even watched him work on [The Final Push] one day." The actor dismisses Pat with a condescending comment, but when Hobby remembers he was present when "that shell hole" was dug, Phil Macedon suddenly seems interested in knowing when the Captain will be arriving. Not soon enough for Macedon, as it turns out.
With crystal clarity, Pat Hobby recalls the story of the actor's experience filming The Final Push with its riveting scene in the shell hole. As Pat begins his recital, Macedon strives to remain superior, even charming, but slowly loses his composure. Pat remembers well that the finicky actor was "sore as hell" because his "soldier suit" did not fit, but he did not have an opportunity to complain because the director "had a scheme." Knowing that Macedon was "the toughest ham in Hollywood to get anything natural out of," the director suddenly threw the actor into the recently dug "shell hole" and started the cameras rolling. Growing defensive, Macedon interrupts, "That's a lie...I got down."
Undeterred, Hobby continues to tell the tale, how the actor tried to "claw" his way out of the hole again and again only to slide back down, threatening the director and finally dissolving into tears, lying in the pit "heaving." After Macedon's "performance," recorded on film, he had been pulled out of the hole by some prop men.
Hobby's story is interrupted when the Captain arrives, but he will not be sidetracked. When Gaspar unlocks the cell and lets him out, Pat shakes his finger at Phil Macedon, "So you see I do know you." To drive home the point, Hobby explains how the director had used Macedon's cowardly behavior on the set, writing subtitles for the silent film to indicate Macedon's character was valiantly attempting to climb out of the hole to attack the Germans who had killed his buddy. In the movie, Pat says, it looked as if "the shells bursting all around and the concussions kept knocking you back in." The finest moment in the picture, according to Pat, was created when Macedon cried out that he had broken his fingernail, and the director subtitled his expression, "Ten Huns will go to hell to shine your shoes!"
The Captain directs everyone's attention to the business at hand, ordering Hobby and Macedon be taken to the hospital for blood tests to determine their sobriety in the "collision with alcohol." With his "flashing smile," Phil Macedon introduces himself to the Captain, who is not impressed because "Hollywood was full of has-beens." Afterward, the actor is held on a drunk driving charge, while Pat Hobby is released. Because Hobby's car will not run, Sergeant Gaspar drives him home and kindly gives him money for a hotel room, since he has no place to stay. After hearing Pat's story, the Sergeant's attitude toward him, and toward Phil Macedon, has clearly changed. When he asks Hobby if he had told the truth about the actor and "how they put him in the hole," Pat assures him it was all true: "That guy needn't have been so upstage. He's just an old-timer like me."
This story in the Pat Hobby collection develops an important contrast with "Fun in an Artist's Studio," the Hobby story that had appeared the month before in Esquire. In the conclusion of the previous story, Fitzgerald's protagonist was shown to be a foolish figure, defeated and stripped of his dignity. In "Two Old Timers," Pat Hobby stands his ground and prevails, his dignity intact. It is wealthy Phil Macedon, enjoying the fruits of his labors in Hollywood, who is shown to be a liar and a fraud, while Pat Hobby proves beyond doubt that he knows exactly what he is talking about. Hobby earns Sergeant Gaspar's respect and compassion, and in a nice touch of irony, Hobby goes free while the "Star of Stars" is arrested.
It is, however, a sad commentary on Pat Hobby's life that besting Phil Macedon in a frivolous argument is so important to him. Who cares if he had known the actor or not? Pat cares, deeply. He cares because this minor claim to fame proves that he was once more than he is now. Hobby had been a success in Hollywood, a man who once took bids to build his own swimming pool. As he explains to Sergeant Gaspar when they pass "the great mansions of Beverly Hills" on the ride home, in "the good old days," he had belonged in that world, welcome to drop in, "day or night." Pat Hobby recognizes, and struggles daily, with the realities of what his life has become, but no one—not even the great Phil Macedon—will be allowed to deny who Pat had once been. In that respect, he and the former Hollywood star are peers, just a couple of Hollywood old-timers.
Mightier Than the Sword
The sixteenth of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seventeen Pat Hobby stories, “Mightier Than the Sword” first appeared in Esquire in April 1941. An interesting and unusual feature of the story is that Pat Hobby occasionally leaves center stage in the narrative, acting as a third-party observer and occasional instigator in the conflict between director Dick Dale and writer E. Brunswick Hudson. A published novelist, Hudson comes to Hollywood to write the screenplay for a movie about Reginald de Koven, the renowned composer of “O Promise Me.”
Being a screenwriter turns out to be a frustrating literary affair for Hudson, who is fired by the director. Never one to miss an opportunity to inflate his writing credits and grab a picture assignment at the studio, Pat Hobby steps into the film project as E. Brunswick Hudson makes his exit. Hobby, Dale, and Hudson are the story’s main characters; Mabel Hatman, Dale’s script girl, makes a minor appearance.
Although Pat Hobby has not had a job for the last five months at the movie studio he still calls home, he is on the lot, as usual, as the story begins. Twenty years earlier, Hobby had had good reason to report to the studio every morning; in those days of silent movies, he had been a successful screenwriter with a large private office and his own secretary. When “the talkies” arrived in Hollywood, however, Pat Hobby’s career had folded. He could talk his way through a silent movie “treatment,” but having to create dialog had done him in. Pat Hobby is a screenwriter with no aptitude for the written word, scrambling to survive in an industry that has passed him by.
On this particular morning, Hobby has come to the studio because he has nowhere else to go. Out of work, with his last two dimes in his pocket, Pat finds himself sitting next to movie director Dick Dale at the studio’s shoeshine stand. For once, he is in the right place at the right time: Dale has fired writer E. Brunswick Hudson, and Pat observes their confrontation. Hudson is enraged. A serious novelist, he has come to Hollywood, written what Dale demanded he write (“against my better judgment,” he says), and has been dismissed. Dale tells the frustrated author to go back to New England and “write one of your books...I can’t tell you all about pictures in three weeks.”
When Hudson leaves, “ineffectual, baffled, defeated,” Pat Hobby seizes the moment. Commiserating with the director, Pat mentions he has been in the movie business for twenty years. Fudging the facts about his current employment and writing career history, Hobby manages to stir Dick Dale’s interest in him and is invited to the director’s office to talk about the script E. Brunswick Hudson could not write to Dale’s satisfaction.
Once in his office with Pat, the director explains the nature of his problem. His movie about composer Reginald de Koven lacks a plot because de Koven had led a colorless life: “He wasn't deaf like Beethoven or a singing waiter or get put in jail or anything...all we got for an angle is that song O Promise Me [sic].” The director’s solution, he tells Pat, is to create a story around the song: “a dame promises him something and in the end he collects.” Pat says he wants to consider Dale’s problem, if producer Jack Berners will hire him for the movie. The director hires Pat himself, on the spot, for $350 per week.
Writing the story of Reginald de Koven proves to be an easy job for Pat, since the director does all the writing. Hobby and Mabel Hatman, Dick Dale’s script girl, sit patiently beside Director Dale, day after day, waiting for his newest inspiration. After a month, the script is finished: “[N]ot a movement, not a word went into it that was not Dick Dale's coinage.” In Dale’s eventual story, Reginald de Koven becomes a man who drinks too much, causing his wife to leave him for twenty years. Eventually they both become famous; she sings his songs, performing as "Maid Marian," but he never realizes who she is. Although this version of a more colorful life for the composer is probably better than Dale’s earlier one (Reginald de Koven toils as an apprentice, plastering the walls at Santa Anita while singing), it is rejected by the studio, which creates a new problem for the director who must begin filming within days.
Of all concerned, Pat Hobby is the least upset to see the script rejected, having started with twenty cents in his pocket before collecting four week’s salary for doing nothing. He sits in the director’s office while Dale places a call to E. Brunswick Hudson. The novelist, he discovers, has flown back to Hollywood. Getting Hudson on the phone, the director explains his situation and asks the author if he had happened to write up his idea about Reginald de Koven “stealing his music from a sheepherder up in Vermont.” Hudson had written the material, but he tells Dick Dale, “I wouldn't tell you the story of The Three Bears for fifty grand.” Then he hangs up. Infuriated, the director curses writers in general and Hudson in particular. He then directs his wrath at Pat, first firing him and then throwing him off the lot.
Hobby seeks refuge in a bar across the street, but soon returns to his studio office which, he discovers, is now locked. He also finds there is a new name on the door: E. Brunswick Hudson. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, Pat spends some time in the studio commissary, goes back to the bar for a while, and then returns to the studio where he retires for the night on a deserted movie set. When morning arrives, Pat faces the bleak day with “a little in his bottle and almost a hundred dollars in his pocket.” He decides to try his luck at the horse races.
Before he can get off the lot, however, he pauses at the barber shop when he hears Dick Dale and E. Brunswick Hudson arguing once again at the shoeshine stand nearby. Mabel Hatman has found Hudson’s sheepherder script, putting the movie back on track. When Hudson declares he will not stand to have his name on the project, Dale is unconcerned. He will give Mable the screen credit. Hudson takes off his glasses, preparing to trade punches with the director. Pat Hobby senses “the advantage of the psychological moment,” and makes his move. He smiles at the director and inquires, “When do we work?”
There will be no additional work for Hobby, however, in bringing Reginald de Koven’s fractured biography to the screen. Hudson’s pages belong to the studio, and Mabel has already been promised the screen credit. Dick Dale hurries off, leaving in his wake Hobby and Hudson, “men of letters who had never met.” Pat responds sympathetically to the plight of E. Brunswick Hudson, whose eyes have filled with “angry tears.” He tells Hudson, “Authors get a tough break out here...They never ought to come.” The story ends with Pat Hobby’s final words of wisdom to the disillusioned novelist: “They don’t want authors. They want writers—like me.”
Before the tone changes, “Mightier Than the Sword” is a fun—and very funny—satire of Hollywood movie making. Fitzgerald seems to relish his portrait of Dick Dale, the pompous, inept director who chooses to work under an assumed name as silly as he is. Dale’s moments of “creative inspiration” provoke smiles, if not outright laughter:
"Wait a minute! Wait a minute!" Dick Dale was on his feet, his hands outspread. "I seem to see a dog." [Hobby and Hatman] would wait, tense and breathless, while he saw a dog..."Two dogs."
Dick Dale’s arrogance in presuming to add Hollywood “color” to the life of a noted American composer is surpassed only by his lack of talent and good taste. In his hands, Reginald de Koven morphs from a guy who “collects” something from "a dame who has made him a promise"...to a singing plasterer’s apprentice...to a musician with a drinking problem abandoned by his wife...to, ultimately, a composer who steals his songs from a Vermont sheepherder. In assessing this final version of the script, Dale does not think the de Koven family will object to the plot, since the sheepherder would have had no way to sell his songs anyway. Fitzgerald’s satire extends beyond the director also. Producer Jack Berners thinks the story is "great."
For a while, Pat Hobby sails along unscathed in “Mightier Than the Sword.” A good job falls into his lap, and he earns his salary simply by letting Dick Dale be himself. Pat reports for work each day for a month, a legitimate studio employee once again. The tone of the story changes, however, when Hobby’s employment ends, and he faces his reality. His loneliness is palpable as he wanders aimlessly about the deserted movie lot and sleeps on an empty set. Despite his dismal circumstances, though, Pat Hobby does not give in or give up: When do we work?
Literary critics have turned themselves inside out trying to clarify the relationship between Pat Hobby and his creator. Some see Hobby as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fallen self, an alcoholic screenwriter hanging on in Hollywood at the end of a failed career as a novelist. Knowing the facts of Fitzgerald’s final days in Hollywood, however, belies this common misconception. During his years in Hollywood, Fitzgerald was, in fact, a highly-paid screenwriter. Furthermore, he had given up drinking entirely and was working hard on The Last Tycoon, producing superb chapters of the novel, at the time of his death.
If Fitzgerald identified with any character in “Mightier Than the Sword,” it would more likely have been with E. Brunswick Hudson, the novelist from the East who finds his work so misunderstood and unappreciated in the movie capital. In creating E. Brunswick, Fitzgerald seems to enjoy satirizing even himself and his own frustrations as novelist/screenwriter. In the story’s conclusion, Fitzgerald draws a clear distinction between writers and authors, and as Pat Hobby tells Hudson, Hollywood has no use for authors. Unable to make the transition, Hudson will go home to pursue his career as a novelist. If Fitzgerald had lived to publish The Last Tycoon and to enjoy the critical success it surely would have earned, he too most likely would have taken the first train or plane headed east.
Pat Hobby's College Days
The last of F. Scott Fitzgerald's seventeen Pat Hobby stories, "Pat Hobby's College Days" was first published in the May 1941 issue of Esquire. As in the previous stories in the series, Hobby's life remains a grim daily endeavor as he figures the angles and plays the odds (usually at the Santa Anita racetrack) to survive one more day on the fringe of the Hollywood film industry. Once a well paid screenwriter, a “structure man,” in the days of silent films, Pat Hobby now finds little work at the movie studio he still thinks of as his home; his time is generally spent drinking, staying one step ahead of his finance company, and hanging around the movie lot. When he is not thinking about his far more pleasant past, Hobby tries to think of a script idea—any idea—he might pitch to a producer or director, thus wrangling for himself another few weeks of employment.
The search for a story serves as the literary premise for “Pat Hobby’s College Days.” The story includes numerous characters, in addition to Fitzgerald’s protagonist. Major characters are Evylyn Lascalles, Pat’s young (and temporary) secretary; Kit Doolan, a former football star who is now the Athletic Supervisor of the fictitious University of the Western Coast (UWC); and Samuel K. Wiskith, Dean of the Student Body at UWC. Minor parts are played by Louie, Pat's studio bookie; Jim Kresge, a bookie friend of Louie’s; and Mrs. Doolan, Kit Doolan’s wife. Three unnamed characters appear in the story also: an assistant to Dean Wiskith, a university proctor, and a UWC student.
An unusual scenario introduces the story. Pat Hobby’s pretty secretary, Evylyn Lascalles, drives alone through Topanga Canyon, a frightened young woman on a mission with a mysterious “clanking” cargo stashed in the backseat of her car. She must dispose of the goods for her boss, a job that demands complete secrecy. Leaving Topanga, she drives through Beverly Hills, her panic mounting as she feels strangers watching her. As night falls, Evylyn heads back into the canyon to complete her task, vowing never again to find herself in this position. She wishes she were back in Brooklyn....
While Evylyn drives around trying to finish the job assigned to her, Pat Hobby is at the movie studio, engaged in conversation with Louie. Pat’s current short-term writing assignment ends the next day, and he is beginning to feel the usual anxiety, “that harassed and aghast feeling of those who live always on the edge of solvency.” Ever a pal, Louie gives Hobby an inside tip, but not about the horse races.
Producer Jack Berners, he tells Pat, wants to feature UWC in a movie because his son plays basketball for the university, and Berners needs a story. Louie urges Pat to see the Athletic Superintendent at UWC, Kit Doolan, who perhaps could suggest a story for “a college picture,” one that Hobby could then sell to the producer. The bookie strongly suggests that Doolan will see Louie's friend Pat, since Doolan owes Louie $3,000 lost on the races. Louie tells Pat to look up Jim Kresge who “hangs out” at UWC’s Campus Sport Shop, and Kresge will introduce him to Doolan. Pat is not optimistic about Louie’s plan, but it is better than no plan, and he decides to try it. Returning to the Writer’s Building to pick up his coat, he gets a phone call from the distraught Evylyn. She cannot “get rid of it” this afternoon, she says, because every time she tries, “some car comes along.” Pat tells Evylyn he cannot talk because he is on his way to UWC; irritated and distracted, he hangs up on her.
On the campus of UWC, Pat finds Kresge, who takes him to see the Athletic Superintendent in his office. Kit Doolan is in “excellent humor,” receptive to the idea of a movie about UWC, and more than glad to help the studio, Jack Berners, and, of course, Louie, his bookie. He asks Pat to join him presently in a meeting with the Faculty Committee and present his “notion” to the group.
Pat hesitates, since he has no “notion” and had hoped to get one from Doolan. He suggests they instead “go somewhere and hoist one” and have a talk. Since Doolan cannot drink on the job, he declines Pat’s invitation, encouraging him again to join him in the meeting, one that has been called because someone, most likely a student, has been stealing watches and jewelry on campus. Kresge prepares to leave, his role fulfilled, but he pauses to ask Doolan and Hobby if they want to place a bet on a horse race the next day. Not surprisingly, neither does.
Hobby and Superintendent Doolan walk to Dean Wisketh’s office. Doolan leaves Pat to wait outside the Dean’s door, promising to bring Pat into the meeting as soon as he can and introduce him. Since he sits alone in Dean Wisketh’s outer office, Pat takes the opportunity to sneak a drink from the bottle he always carries in his pocket. Feeling “a responsive glow” from the liquor, Hobby settles in to wait, anticipating what could turn out to be “a formidable encounter” with the academics inside.
Pat decides “a bunch of highbrows” will not intimidate him. He, after all, had once enjoyed an “inside view of higher education,” as an errand boy in a fraternity house at the University of Pennsylvania. Suddenly the Dean’s door opens, and “a flustered young man with beads of sweat on his forehead” comes flying through the doorway and keeps on going. An unruffled Kit Doolan appears at the door and invites Pat inside. Walking into the Dean’s office, Pat remembers his own college days, feels a renewed sense of confidence, and “instantaneously...he had his idea.”
Sitting before Dean Wisketh, Kit Doolan, and the other members of the Faculty Committee, Pat explains his idea. They will admit the “young squirt” who just tore out of the Dean’s office was stealing watches and report him to the newspapers. The studio will make a picture about the theft (“a topical,” Pat explains), but in the movie, the boy will have stolen to provide financial support for his younger brother, who happens to be “the mainstay of the football team!” Hobby continues, trying to sweeten his presentation. The studio (“we,” in Pat’s words) will try to cast Tyrone Power in the role of the football star, but a UWC player can act as the star’s double in the film. Covering all his bases, Pat adds finally, “of course, we've got to release it in the southern states, so it's got to be one of your players that's white.”
After establishing that a black football player could not double for Tyrone Power, Hobby stops, and an “unquiet pause” ensues. Doolan comes to his aid. “Not a bad idea,” he says. Dean Wiskith disagrees: “It’s an appalling idea.” The Athletic Superintendent takes exception to the Dean’s taking exception, and issues an order to Wiskith: “You listen to him!” (Surely Louie the bookie will appreciate Doolan’s support of his friend Pat.)
At that moment, proceedings are interrupted by Dean Wiskith’s assistant who enters the meeting and whispers a message into his ear. The Dean informs the committee that the university proctor is waiting outside with “a disciplinary case” to be settled before returning to the discussion of “this preposterous idea.” When the assistant opens the door, the proctor explains that he has no idea what oddity he has encountered, and then he escorts Evylyn Lascalles into the room and places “a big clinking pillow cover” next to her. Seeing his secretary and the mysterious clinking pillow case, Pat Hobby thinks again of the University of Pennsylvania and “wished passionately that he were there.”
As Pat tries to hide behind Doolan’s broad shoulders, Evylyn spots him and cries out in relief: “Thank God! I couldn't get rid of them—and I couldn't take them home—my mother would kill me. So I came here to find you....” Dean Wiskith is alarmed, suspecting the sack might contain bombs, but Hobby knows better. Evylyn has been trying to dispose of Pat’s “dead soldiers,” empty liquor bottles accumulated during his recent work at the studio. With his contract ending, Pat had cleaned out his office drawers, since “he had thought it best not to leave such witnesses behind.” Pat remembers once again “those careless days” of college, then rises to his feet and takes possession of the pillow case. With the sack of empties slung over his shoulder, he faces the committee and leaves them with a few final words: “Think it over.”
Just as the story begins with an unusual scenario, it ends with one. That night Doolan tells his wife what had happened. “We did [think it over],” he says, “But we never made head nor tail of it.” Mrs. Doolan finds the entire affair “kind of spooky” and hopes she does not have bad dreams. She imagines “the poor man with that sack” being consigned to purgatory, having to carve ships in all his bottles before gaining entrance into heaven. Doolan stops her. “You’ll have me dreaming,” he says. “There were plenty of bottles.”
Each of the previous Pat Hobby stories develops irony and ends in irony, sometimes humorous and sometimes quite bitter; in each of them, Fitzgerald finds much to satirize—in Pat Hobby’s life, in the movie industry, and in Hollywood generally. “Pat Hobby’s College Days” proves to be no exception, but the focus of the story sets it apart from others in the series. The majority of the narrative takes place away from the studio and focuses on an institution of higher education, not the picture business. Major players are an ex-athlete and an academic, not producers and directors.
Kit Doolan and the university itself become the objects of satire. The University of the Western Coast employs a Superintendent of Athletics who owes his bookie $3,000. Jim Kresge, another bookie, feels right at home at UWC, frequenting the Campus Sport Shop and maintaining close ties with the administrator of the school's athletics program. Doolan endorses Pat's "appalling idea" to ingratiate himself with Louie, but it is also possible he fails to grasp the finer points of public relations at UWC.
The university's football team, the "Roller Coasters," is satirized also. When Pat Hobby first meets Doolan, the Superintendent of Athletics is a very happy man; his team's prospects are looking up. He has five "giants" in his starting lineup, "none of them quite old enough for pensions, but all men of experience." Finally, the college atmosphere at UWC is satirized through its contrast with Hobby's fond memories of the traditional "elm-covered campus" at the University of Pennsylvania; the UWC campus, it seems, is "half De Mille, half Aztec" in appearance.
Irony is present in "Pat Hobby's College Days," but it seems mild when compared with the dark—and sometimes very poignant—irony developed in many of the other Hobby stories. A twist of fate brings Pat's collection of "dead soldiers" into the Faculty Committee meeting, and his parting words ("Think it over") are interpreted in a way he does not intend; however, neither of these ironic events in the story provoke the kind of lingering emotional response in the reader that Fitzgerald often creates in his Pat Hobby tales. (Fitzgerald's devastating portrait of Pat Hobby at the conclusion of "Fun in an Artist's Studio" comes to mind in this regard.) In “Pat Hobby‘s College Days,” the irony feels functional and formulaic.
Some of Fitzgerald's best, and funniest, writing in "Pat Hobby's College Days" is found in the story's opening episode as poor Evylyn, in "a mood of nervous anxiety," drives through Topanga Canyon and "along the inhospitable shores of Beverly Hills" in her attempt to throw away Pat's empty liquor bottles. The diction in the passage borders on hyperbole as Fitzgerald creates suspense by satirizing every bad mystery novel ever written. Evylyn drives through a “dark” afternoon. Night is "fast descending." She "had never seen it come down so fast." Eyed by a stranger, Evylyn's "heart almost stopped." Her "mission was arduous," but she must forge ahead. Mr. Hobby "believed in her, trusted her," but "[h]e had no right to ask me this, she said to herself. Never again...Never again."
Evylyn's "mission" is not understood until much later in the story, of course, but the suspense lingers as she drives back into "the wild, free life" of Topanga Canyon to complete it. Like many of the secondary characters in Fitzgerald’s Hobby stories, Evylyn's life becomes more complicated when it intersects with Pat's. She will not forget him. Once a character, or a reader, makes his acquaintance, Pat Hobby is unforgettable.