Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 678
Miles Calman Miles Calman is a Hollywood director who commands a high level of respect in the industry. The narrator explains that he ‘‘was the only director on the lot who did not work under a supervisor and was responsible to the money men alone.’’ The films he directs are...
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Miles Calman is a Hollywood director who commands a high level of respect in the industry. The narrator explains that he ‘‘was the only director on the lot who did not work under a supervisor and was responsible to the money men alone.’’ The films he directs are those he considers worthy of his artistic vision, and he is known for being uncompromising. Still, he is depicted as having problems and frailties: He has been carrying on a lengthy affair with another woman (after cheating on his first wife with Stella); he is ‘‘tall, nervous, with a desperate humor and the unhappiest eyes Joel ever saw,’’ and ‘‘one could not be with him long without realizing that he was not a well man.’’
For all his success in his career, Miles is basically insecure. He is jealous of Stella to the point of being hypocritical. He makes excuses for his inability to stop seeing his mistress altogether, yet he cannot think of Stella going to a party with Joel. In all likelihood, it is his insecurity that leads him to seek female attention and admiration in affairs.
Stella Calman is Miles’s young, beautiful wife. She knew Joel when she was a struggling actress (Stella Walker) in New York. Reunited, she finds herself attracted to Joel for reasons she does not fully understand. She seems to enjoy her ability to capture his attention, but she also seems to sense a certain kinship with him. Perhaps she feels out of her element among the Hollywood elite, and she associates Joel with her past.
When Stella discovers Miles’s affair, however, she seems determined to find in Joel the intimacy and validation lacking in her marriage. Her insecurity and self-doubt are clear in her emotional shifts from Miles to Joel and back again. Her naïveté is evident in the fact that she was Miles’s mistress during his first marriage, yet she is stunned when he takes a mistress during his marriage to her.
Joel Coles is a twenty-eight-year-old screenwriter who has been in Hollywood for six months pursuing a career as a screenwriter. In his first six months, he has landed some ‘‘nice assignments’’ and is proud of his accomplishments and potential. The narrator tells the reader that Joel is ‘‘not yet broken by Hollywood,’’ adding that he is an enthusiastic worker. His high opinion of himself is bolstered by the invitation he receives to Miles Calman’s home for a party. Imagining the Hollywood celebrities that are sure to be there, Joel pictures himself fitting right in with them and impressing Miles in the process. The embarrassment he endures at the party does not destroy his ego, however, as he is flattered by the attentions of Miles’s wife, Stella.
Even as a young man, Joel is no stranger to theater life. His mother was a successful stage actress whose career took Joel back and forth between New York and London. It was during his time in New York that he first met Stella, who was a struggling actress and an admirer of Joel’s mother.
Joel is immature and ill-equipped to handle the issues surrounding his relationship with Stella. This may be because his early life revolved around theater, or it may be because at such a young age he has had few meaningful personal relationships. Regardless, he falls in love too easily and for the wrong reasons, and he has difficulty knowing how to have integrity with Miles and affection for Stella. Ultimately, he has no tools to help Stella handle the tragic loss of her husband, and his only recourse is to leave.
Nat is a screenwriter and an acquaintance of Joel’s, described by the narrator as ‘‘the goodhumored, heavy-drinking, highly paid Nat Keogh.’’ Although he drinks and gambles too much, he is highly successful in his career; he makes enough money to hire a manager in addition to an agent. Nat is friendly and reassuring to Joel after the embarrassment at Miles’s party.