Laugh and Live
Part 2 out of 2
become the turning point in our career._
Bill Nye once said "When we start down hill we usually find everything
greased for the occasion." We might add--"_except the bumps_!"
LIVING BEYOND OUR MEANS
Living beyond our means is a big subject that must be treated broadly,
for circumstances alter cases. There is a sane way to look at every
problem, and the matter of living beyond our means is one of the major
problems we have to face. If every man was alike and every avocation in
life was on a parity, it would be possible to dispose of this subject in
a paragraph. But men are not alike. What one could do successfully might
easily baffle another. Therefore, it seems advisable to consider the
subject by looking into its depths.
To most people debt is terrifying. To some it means nothing--and thus we
have individual temperament as an angle from which to consider. Living
beyond our ability to pay means going into debt via the shortest route.
Getting out of debt means a revision of our code to the extent of
ceasing to live beyond our means and saving something with which to pay
off what we owe. Some men can do this successfully--others fail while
seemingly trying their best to succeed--and still others do nothing to
stem the tide. With these it is a matter of how the tide serves. If
favoring winds should drive them to opulence they would more than likely
pay up, particularly those imbued with _sufficient personal honor_ to
Such are the exigencies of life, we may as well concede that a vast
majority at some time or other find it necessary to owe more than they
can readily pay. Emergencies arise which force us into expenses that
require credit, and if we have so ordered our lives that when the pinch
comes _we have no credit established_ the fact that we pay out our last
dollar and go hungry to bed does not bring us much sympathy. Thus it
would seem that to be able to say: "I pay as I go," or, "I owe no man a
dollar," or, "I never live beyond my means" is not much of a boast,
when, after a death in the family, or other unforeseen circumstances,
we find ourselves broke and nowhere to turn for accommodation.
It has been aptly said that "_People can save themselves to death._" In
other words, one may develop the saving habit to such an extent that
"Laugh and Live" can find no room beside us on the perch of our
existence. We must admit that the systematic saver of pennies misses a
lot as he goes along, and, with time, degenerates into a sort of "Kill
Joy." In the matter of regulating his family to his way of thinking he
usually has an uphill job. Sons leave home as soon as they can;
daughters marry and breathe a sigh of relief, leaving mother behind to
slave on _in order that the hoard may grow_.
While all of this is true it only represents extreme cases, therefore it
should not be construed that this chapter is launched against _the habit
of saving_. Rather, its purpose is to suggest the thought of not
"_over-saving_" at the expense of _personal welfare_. Our best plan
would be to save in reason, not forgetting that life is here to enjoy
as we go along. Then, too, we must have a _credit rating_ among our
fellow mortals, just the same as a business person must have credit
rating among financial institutions.
[Illustration: _Squaring Things With Sister--From "The Habit of
Credit in business is worth more than money because it allows for
expansion whereas money in the bank is only good _as far as it goes_.
Many a merchant who bought and sold for cash all his life found when he
came to enlarge his business that one thing was lacking--_credit_. The
fact that he had always paid cash threw a doubt upon his financial
condition when he proposed to borrow. He had neglected to build up a
credit as he went along. The business world only knew him as a man who
paid cash and exacted cash. Taken at his fullest inventory he had
"scalped" a living out of the world for which he had done but little to
make happier or better. One calamity might easily scuttle his prospects
forever--for instance, a fire, or a bank failure. And without credit it
would be difficult to start over again.
By all means we must save something for the "rainy day" as we go
along--and our savings can be made up of other things than actual cash
in bank. One item of our savings is the habit of _keeping up our
appearances_. Living beyond our means does not incorporate the thought
that, in order to save every possible cent, we should become slipshod
and shabby. Carelessness in dress takes away from our rating as nothing
else will for it has to do with first impressions of those with whom we
come in contact. Gentility pays dividends of the highest order, being,
as it is, a badge of character. Neatness _bespeaks character_, and it is
just as cheap in dollars and cents to keep ourselves respectably clothed
as to indulge in shoddy apparel under the delusion that we have saved
money on the purchase price. Good clothing, costing more at the start,
lasts long _and looks well as long as it lasts_. Shoddy apparel never is
anything else but shoddy, and well might it proclaim the shoddy man.
When we throw away our opportunity to present a genteel appearance, just
for the sake of the bank roll, we doom ourselves to defeat in the
pursuit of knowledge. We cannot get all we want to know by the mere
reading of books. We must mingle with people; we must interchange
thought that we may crystallize what we know into practical knowledge so
it can be made into tools to work with. While a man of brains is welcome
everywhere the matter of his appearance has a lot to do with how he is
received and with whom he may fraternize.
"Isn't it a pity," we hear people say, "that, with all his brains, he
hasn't sense enough to make himself presentable?" But the worst phase of
the situation is that the unkempt man sooner or later loses faith in
himself and either ceases to hoard at the expense of his gentility or he
gives up his opportunity to mingle with others and lapses into habits
consistent with miserly thoughts.
The phrase "_a happy medium_" is well known and decidedly applicable to
the subject of saving as we go along so that we may avert the sorrows
which follow in the wake of _living beyond our means_. It suggests a
desirable middle course which permits us to adopt a sane policy, rather
than flying to an extreme.
It cannot be said that we are living beyond our means when by reason of
our association with men of affairs we need to spend more money and
thereby save less in preparing ourselves for the larger opportunities
which will naturally follow. Young men often go through college on their
"uppers," so to speak. There is not a cent which they could honestly
save as they went along without cheating themselves. The point is that
their situations in life force them to spend rather than to save money.
But in so doing the real saving was in the spending thereof. _They
enlarged their knowledge and decreased their bank accounts for the time
being._ What man parts with in an emergency is no license, however, for
him to fall back into profligacy. Never should a man entirely lose the
idea of putting something by. The college boy in this case has simply
invested his money in an education instead of a bank account.
Once on the highroad of life with a plan of action well defined and a
regular income _the habit of putting money away should become a fixed
procedure_. In no other way do we accumulate except by investment, and
investment means putting away money at interest or in some project which
promises better returns.
If we were to interview a thousand men on the subject of saving and draw
upon their experiences we would find that by investing money at interest
we pursue the safest course, far safer, in fact, than the seeking of
outside investments that _promise_ greater returns. The latter invites
the mind away from the regular avocation and educates it in time to
_take chances_ that are likely to turn into _setbacks_. The mind,
instead of applying itself to the duty of making the most out of its
regular employment, allows its interest to become scattered over too
broad a field.
It is not within the province of all men to become wealthy and, after
all, wealth is not the only desideratum; the happiest of mortals are
found in the middle walks of life and not in the extremes. The struggle
should be to escape the life which saps our strength, keeps our nerves
on edge and drives us away from the _green pastures_.
INITIATIVE AND SELF-RELIANCE
The late Elbert Hubbard defined the man with initiative as the one who
did the right thing at the right time without being told. At this point
it may be definitely stated that such a man would naturally be
_self-reliant._ Such a man would not lean on his friends. He would
_stand up_ with them.... He would be found fighting his own battles
without crying for help.
Once a cub reporter was ordered by his city editor to go and interview a
certain man. After an awkward pause the youngster inquired: "Where can I
find him?" Smiling scornfully into his eyes the city editor replied:
"Wherever he is."
This would seem to have been the start and finish of this youngster's
newspaper career, but quite the reverse was true. He took the lesson
well to heart, thus starting himself on the road to self-reliance. If
he had repeated the offense it is likely he would have lost his job and
also _his nerve_--thereby spoiling his chances for a successful career.
The fact that he did not, but went on and made of himself a famous
newspaper man, proves that he lost no time in developing _initiative and
There is no questioning the vast importance these two words mean to all
of us. Many a man who did not grasp the significance of initiative
became a "_leaner_" for the rest of his life. Many a man also missed his
chances by doing _just as he was told_ and nothing more. His work ended
there. In due course it is inevitable that such a man should become part
of the great army of discontented ne'er-do-wells who help to block the
pavements in front of the loafing places.
Hesitation, vacillation and growing diffidence take the place of
self-reliance. He falls to the bottom like a stone. And there he
rests--a drag anchor in the mire. His job gets the best of him because
he lacks initiative. Once stranded he becomes an arrant
coward--_afraid of his own shadow_.
[Illustration: _A Scene from "In Again--Out Again"_]
We must _make our own opportunities_ otherwise we are children of
circumstance. What becomes of us is a matter of guesswork. We have no
hand in compelling our own future. _Diffidence is a species of
cowardice._ It causes a man's courage to ooze out at his toes faster
than it comes into his heart. _Such men often have big ideas, but having
no confidence in themselves they lack the power to compel confidence in
others._ When they go into the presence of a man of personality they
lose their self-confidence and all of the pent-up courage which drove
them forward flies out at the window. Their weakness multiplies with
each failure until finally "the jig is up"--_their impotency is
Very largely those who have big ideas to present expect to be taken in
on them and to be given an opportunity to succeed along with their
scheme. When a man becomes so unfortunate as to be unable through
diffidence to explain himself, his big idea goes into the waste basket
and with it all of the hopes he has built upon it. _Another nail has
been driven into his casket of failures._
To such a man, all pity, but we will not allow him to escape until we
have given him a pat on the back and pointed out the right road to
travel. We mustn't preach to him or undertake to force him to do
anything, but we will at least give him a helping hand and show him that
there is _a royal road to his goal_.
This man needs first of all to build upon his physique. Perhaps he has a
_bad stomach_, and likewise _bad teeth_. Exercise--regular exercise,
should be the first thing on his program. Fresh air, long walks, deep
breathing, dumb bells, boxing, rowing, skating in season--_and wholesome
companionship day by day_. In the long run boxing will become his most
efficient exercise. When a man can take a blow between the eyes and come
back for more he has begun to _fortify his own combativeness_. That is
what he needs in life's battles--the nerve to _come back for more_ after
a slam on the jaw that would lay another man low. And when it's all
said and done and the exercise game has become a feature of his day's
work, he must settle down to _good plain food and plenty of sleep_.
There is nothing in all the world like these things combined for the
upbuilding and upholding of health and courage.
Our success is a matter of our courage. A man who can steel himself to
be knocked down and get up immediately afterwards and hand the other
fellow a ripping punch has added to his own "pep." _All courage is of
the same cloth, whether physical, moral or spiritual._ To build upon one
is to build up the others--the human system being constructed on such a
basis that if one part is affected all the rest follow suit.
A man who isn't afraid of a physical combat will readily match his wits
with his fellow man. Physical training is therefore all important to
_initiative and self-reliance_.
Our natural aim is to make for ourselves a true personality that does
not know defeat. When we come to an obstacle we must be able to hurdle
it. It is all very well to say that the longest way around is the
shortest way across, but it doesn't sound like initiative and
self-reliance. There is one thing about men who rely upon
themselves--they make no excuses, nor do they puff up over victory.
Posing for applause is as distasteful to them as standing for abuse. All
they ask is a square deal and the confidence of their associates. If
they fall down on a proposition they get up and go at it again until
success crowns their efforts. Such men have a way of _turning defeat
How immeasurably inferior to such a spirit is the fellow who whines and
moans at every evil twist of fortune. He has no confidence in himself
and nothing else to do except confide his woes to all who will listen to
his cowardly story of defeat. Such men are least useful in the important
work of this world. They are the humdrum hirelings--the dumb followers.
The pitiful part of it all is that they could have succeeded had they
but taken stock of themselves when the taking was good. But while there
is life there is hope--likewise a chance. _It is up to us._
One of the startling things about men of initiative is the way they
come forward in times of trouble. We don't have to point to Andrew
Jackson in the War of 1812. We can look around us. Take, for example, a
great fire. Haven't we often read of the brave fireman who sprang
forward and by doing the right thing instantly, saved a multitude of
lives? Well, such a man is possessed of self-reliance. He is trained for
the hazardous life he leads. When the emergency arose he was ready in a
jiffy to do the work expected of him.
It is safe to say that without training such men would have botched the
job and instead of being praised to the skies would have sunk into
oblivion under the heap of public scorn. Sometimes it happens that a man
accidentally becomes a hero, but it was no accident that he was _able to
become one_. He must have had initiative--he must have had
self-reliance. Archibald C. Butt was such a man. He went down on the
_Titanic_. The last act of his life was to help women and children into
the boats and calm their minds as they were lowered away. Astor was of
the same metal--_both sublimely oblivious to the terrible fate which
hung over them_. Here was initiative and self-reliance in its highest
And this sort of man is everywhere. The car in which we ride to work
every morning contains one or more of them. Let something happen and we
will see them spring forward with a line of action already formed. At
their word of command we automatically obey--and then when the worst is
over a kindly voice reassures us and we go on our way rejoicing.
What would the world do without these men? History is filled with the
tales of heroes and heroines. And for every Joan of Arc there are
thousands upon thousands who have done heroic things without a word of
praise. Moreover, the really brave soul declines all ovation. No real
hero claims reward. _To have done the right thing at the right time is
reward in itself._
This quality of self-strength and self-dependence is not confined to any
race of people, but in nations where personal liberty survives
initiative is at its best. Somehow, whenever the emergency, _the man
comes forth to do and dare_. The great world war, still raging as these
lines are penned, has furnished untold thousands of examples of
courageous action---enough to last until the end of human affairs, but
they will go on and on in multiplied form, each day's score superseding
those of the day before. It would be bully to know that we are doing our
share in _safeguarding the supply_ of Initiative and Self-reliance
needed in this world.
We must keep moving. The fellow who gets in a rut through lack of
initiative finds that with advancing years it becomes harder and harder
to get out of it, so that the best plan is to make the move now while
there is time to succeed. When we come to think of it, there are plenty
of positions in the world for the right man, and if we have something to
say for ourselves that lends credit to our ability we stand a chance for
FAILURE TO SEIZE OPPORTUNITIES
There is an old saying to the effect that "opportunity knocks but once
at our door"--and that is all _fol de rol_. Opportunity knocks at some
people's doors nearly every day of their lives and is given a royal
welcome. That's what Opportunity likes--_appreciation_. It goes often to
the home where the latchstring hangs on the outside. It's like a sign
reading "Hot coffee at all hours, day or night"--very inviting. Very
much different, however, from the abode whose windows shed no light and
whose door _is barred from within_.
"Nobody Home!" that's the sign for this door.
Mister Numbskull lives here and most of the time _he sleeps_. When
anyone knocks on his door he pulls the covers up over his head to shut
out the noise. He's down on his luck anyhow, therefore it would be a
waste of good shoe leather for him to be up and puttering around. If
Opportunity ever knocked at his door he could say in all truth that _he
never heard it_. He had often heard of Opportunity being in the
neighborhood, but one thing is certain--_someone else had invariably
seen him first_. He felt sure he would know Opportunity if ever he met
him face to face, and if ever he did he would have it out with him then
Meanwhile--dadgast the luck!--always the fates pursued him with some
sort of hoodoo. And his neighbors--well, some of them had sense enough
to keep their distance and let him alone. Others, however, had not been
considerate of the fact that a "Jinx" was on his trail, and were given
to making sarcastic remarks concerning him. And thus it was that Mister
Numbskull spent his days, dodging his neighbors, sidestepping the
highways and obscuring himself from the very individual he wanted so
much to behold--_Opportunity_. At last there came a time when, in
despair, _and in disrepute_, he took to the woods and is yet to be
heard from. Opportunity still visits the neighborhood, but the path
leading to Mister Numbskull's home is grown up in weeds.
The fact is that our real opportunity _knocks from within_. Through
experience, built upon consecutively by continuous effort, our vision
expands and pounds its way out through the portals of our brain. We see
the thing that we ought to do and _we go to it_! To the man who didn't
see it _the opportunity did not exist_.
"What we don't know doesn't hurt us any"--so runs the old saw. And
here's a case where we who didn't see, _were_ hurt, but we didn't know
For those of us who have vision there are all sorts of opportunities,
but many of them are not good for us. The ones we make for ourselves are
the healthy ones, and generally they are the best for us. "Our own baby"
is the one we will take the greatest pride in and enjoy the most. Then
we become masters of our own destiny in a sense and can be more
independent through having no senior partners in the enterprise. Often
our dreams bring forth a need for many kinds of special knowledge and
for these we go into the open market offering opportunity to many others
in return for their assistance. Thus we find that everything we do is in
relation to other things and dependent in part on other people.
This should make us careful and a wee bit wary. Opportunities are widely
divergent in nature--through a stroke of hard luck one might have
difficulty in finding employment. The first opportunity might lead to a
job in a bar-room, but having fortified ourselves by developing our
highest attributes such as honesty, integrity, cleanliness of body and
mind--we are able to somehow or other pinch along until something better
shows itself. First-class principles are not to be thrown away upon the
first provocation, therefore, in order to take away the temptation, we
might as well figure out that a great many employments in the world do
not represent _real opportunities_ and therefore should not be
Failure to seize such so-called opportunities becomes a virtue in the
same sense that the failure to seize a decent opportunity becomes a
Often opportunity comes through meeting men of affairs who have power
and wealth at their command. These are usually in connection with
enterprises of the greater magnitude. Those of us who have the power to
control our destinies to a reasonable degree should not stand back in
our support of these. If we have carefully built up our initiative,
self-reliance, preparedness in the way of efficiency, good health and
the will to do, there is no reason why we should not aspire to take a
hand in anything in which we are confident we can succeed. Among the men
who control the big affairs of the business world we find a true
democracy--_they want the man_. The fact that he appears before them
neatly attired, bright of eye and ready of wit will surely count in his
In other words, we should live up to the opportunity in whatever form it
presents itself after we have accepted its responsibilities. To make
this perfectly plain _we must live up to the job_! If we are to be
superintendent of a coal mine "underneath the ground" we will put on
our overalls and jumpers, but if we are to be manager of a grand opera
house we will appear in our dress suits. The thought is obvious, but as
we journey along we find many of our fellow mortals neglecting to live
in line with what they are doing.
We mention this fact hopeful that we will not fail to seize our
opportunities by setting up obstacles whereby we may become _persona non
grata_ through lack of discernment.
Opportunity is within ourselves and when we have seized our rightful
share, then we may look with pride upon our endeavor and proceed to
_laugh and live_!
Those who fear to assume responsibility necessarily _take orders from
others_. The punishment fits the crime perfectly and being
self-inflicted there is no injustice. It is true that many men possessed
of great brain power play "second fiddle" to shallow-minded men of
inferior wisdom from sheer lack of forcefulness on their own part. They
lack the full quality of leadership while possessing all save one
essential--_courage_. Fear abides in their hearts and spreads itself as
a mantle of gloom over their super-sensitive souls until finally they
struggle no more. Henceforth they are doomed and become the subject of
apology on the part of friends and relations. "He's all right," they
say, "but he suffers from over-refinement." He lacks something--we
cannot make out just what. It is altogether too bad for he is such a
superior man among _his social equals_.
We must take our hats off to those who have the goodness of heart to
make allowance for our shortcomings. A disinterested listener, however,
is seldom taken into camp by such well intended argument. He knows that
"friend husband" or "friend brother" as the case may be, needs some sort
of swift kick that will stir his combativeness into action--that will
cause him to turn upon his mental inferior and have it out with him then
and there--once and for all. As a courage builder _fighting for justice_
is not to be sneezed at.
Courage can be built up just the same as any other soul quality. It is
all a matter of early training as to which we start out with--courage or
fear. Unthinking parents have a lot to do with the propagation of fear
in the hearts of children. A _neglectful father_ plus a _fear-stricken
mother_ constitute the most logical forces which tend toward the
overdevelopment of fear in a child. Once the seed is thoroughly
implanted the growth can be depended upon. How to get rid of it later
is not so easy to figure out. Had the child been born with a "clubfoot"
these same parents would have spent their last dollar in an effort to
straighten it into natural condition. They could see the unshapely foot
day by day with their own eyes--and so could their neighbors. But the
fear-warped little brain struggling for courage with which to combat its
weakness needs must battle alone with chances largely against it.
The mere thought of what is in store for this little one as it stumbles
along from one period to another, fearful of this, and fearful of that,
is disconcerting to say the least. We can almost trace our friend
"Second Fiddle" directly back to such a childhood. We can almost hear
his fond mother shout, "Keep away from the brook, darling, you might get
your feet wet and _catch your death of a cold_." Another well known and
highly respected admonition belonging to childhood's hour is, "Come in,
deary, it's getting dark--Bogie man will get you if you don't watch
[Illustration: _Bungalowing in California_]
Some years later when little son runs breathless into the home portal
after being chased from school by some "turrible" boys we can hear this
same little mother as she storms about the place and tells what "papa
must do" about the matter. According to her notion, if teachers could
not control the "criminal element" among their pupils then it was high
time for the police to step in. Never a word about little son taking his
own part! Father listens in silence and half formulates the notion of
going direct to the parents and laying down the law, while little son
listens in fear and trembling in anticipation of what is coming to him
if father carries out his threat.
Tall oaks from little acorns grow--_if the twig is not bent in the
Little son is bound to grow into manhood some day and when he arrives he
must have one particular attribute--_courage_. Somehow he will get along
if he has that. He may also wear a "clubfoot" or a "hunch back," but
with courage as a running mate he will assume his responsibilities and
become a force in the world.
Once a great orator sat upon a rostrum listening to a speech by a man
who cautioned his countrymen against taking steps to defend the national
honor. "We'll outlive the taunts of those who would drag us into war!"
he bellowed forth. Whereupon the orator jumped to his feet and with
clarion voice shouted, "God hates a coward!" and then sat down again.
Dazed at first the vast throng sat stupefied--but only for a moment.
Then as one man they jumped to their feet and by reason of prolonged
cheering gave national impulse to a thought which has since been
sermonized from thousands of pulpits. The orator had simply paraphrased
and put "pep" into the old Biblical slogan: "The Lord helps those who
help themselves." The effect was electrical. The whole country rallied
to the idea with the result that we saved ourselves from war by showing
the solid front of being ready and willing to defend ourselves.
Everything that tends to build up courage is an asset in life. The more
we have of it the further we go and the more interesting our lives
become. For _the man of the lion heart_ all things unfold and unto him
the timid must bring their offerings. No one of ordinary gumption
consults the human "flivver." Advice from him would be unavailing. His
point of view would be inadequate--his ability to advise, impotent. We
go to the man who does things and say to him: "Here is my little
idea--do you want to help me put it over?" If it is good, he does. If
not, his experience tells him so, for men of courage are naturally
possessed of large vision. Their lack of fear has given them
right-of-way over vast areas of the world of action. They fail only as
"their lights go out forever."
With courage we order our own lives and take orders only from those of
superior wisdom. This we can never afford _not to do_. The courageous
man of largest vision commands by his power to reason logically and
therefore assumes the air of comradeship rather than "overseer" or
"boss." Only through lack of moral and physical courage are we to
become the slaves of these.
Courage--the child of _Hope--the despair of Failure_. Born of Good Cheer
it links its fate with the higher attributes and tramples under foot the
fears which spring up before it. When _sown early_ into the hearts of
the young its companionship becomes unerring in its efficiency for good
throughout their lives.
WEDLOCK IN TIME
It is a happy idea to marry while we are young--a fine thing--a good
thing--_a pleasant duty indeed_ to marry the woman of our choice at a
time of life when both are at an age when adjustment is natural and
lasting loyalties are implanted in our hearts and minds for all time. We
make a sad mistake when we postpone so important a step just for the
sake of becoming a rich man first so that our bride-to-be may step into
luxurious quarters and never have to lift her dainty hands except to sip
from the glass of nectar we have set before her. The real facts compiled
by the statistical "System Sams" are against this idea. The balance
comes up in red ink _on the wrong side of the ledger_.
According to these gentlemen the average mortal is likely to be very fat
and much over forty before he can make an offering according to his
first generous impulses and the chances are he will never reach the goal
in this life. By the time he might be financially ready there is a hard
glint in his eye, and he will be looking for the mote in the eye of his
lady love. The waiting game is a hard one _and it makes us worldly_.
After the lapse of years what once seemed a _rose_ might appear to be
more of a _hollyhock_.
Naturally we never blame ourselves for the changes. Had we obeyed the
grand impulse in the hour of our youth we might have kept the garden
full of roses and the hollyhocks would never have sprouted there. Then
the home nest would have tinged our sensibilities with its loveliness
and our affections would have been nailed down hard and fast _forever
and a day_.
Among the many baffling problems which the young man faces, and for that
matter, any man, is marriage. More thought, more energy and more time is
taken up over this one decisive step than over any other. The reasons
are obvious. It involves for life the happiness of the contracting
parties--not only in a direct and personal way, but also in a general
sense. The man's business success largely depends upon the helpmate he
has in his home. _His career is at her mercy._ For example, if the wife
should turn out to be unsympathetic, and uninterested in his ambitions,
this fact might warp his prospects by causing him to _lose heart_ in
facing the large problems awaiting him along the road of opportunity.
However, if she is of a cheerful, energetic disposition and willing to
do all that she can to help him over the rough spots as they travel
along together he will be _inspired into action_ and will do his level
best. He will be conscious as he goes about his work that there is _one_
person above all upon whom he can depend--_his wife_.
Marriage is a _serious business_ and usually we concede that point in
the beginning. However, this is not aimed as a blow at life's greatest
romance ... it is merely the recognition of an elemental fact....
Marriage must have its _practical side_. To become successful in the
highest degree man and wife _must establish a comradeship_. It is not
the part of wisdom that either should rule the other, but rather that
each should have the interest of the other at heart and should strive to
be helpful one unto the other. Two men can go through life the best of
friends, each holding the respect and confidence of the other. So can
two women. _Then, why not a man and wife?_ Needless to say they can, and
do. Such partnerships are sure of success. It is only through lack of
comradeship that love flies out of the window--_and lights on a
The marriage state is a long contract--it should not be stumbled into by
man or woman. Nor should we become cowardly to the point of backing out
of it altogether. Love is blind _only to the blind_. Either party to the
tie that binds has a chance to know in advance whether the venture is
safe and sane. All a man has to consider after he knows his own heart is
that the woman of his choice is sensible, considerate and healthy. Other
things being equal he can take the leap without hesitancy. We shouldn't
[Illustration: _Demonstrating the Monk and the Hand-Organ to a Body of
Of course there are those who _should never marry_. They do, however,
and when they do they loan themselves to the mockery of the marriage
state. There is no time to dwell on this thought for it is just
something that goes on happening anyway and has no bearing upon the
advisability of "wedlock in time" between _people of horse sense_.
Given a good wife, after his own heart, no manly man has a righteous
kick coming against the fates. Under such circumstances if things go
wrong he will find the fault within himself. Of course we should, to the
fullest possible extent, be prepared for marriage before assuming its
responsibilities. We should at least have a ticket before embarking--and
it is the _real_ man's duty to provide the ticket. Since it is to be a
long voyage a "round trip" isn't necessary. In other words, a man
needn't be rich when he marries--but he should not be broke, either.
Lack of funds a few days after the honeymoon is too hard a test for
matrimony to bear nobly. It is too much like inviting a catastrophe
through lack of good, hard sense to begin with. It shows poor
generalship at the very start--and there is the liability of causing
great distress and hardship to a tender-hearted little woman. It would
be a sad blow to her to find that the man of her choice was, after all,
just an ordinary fellow--_a man without foresight_.
There are four seasons in married life--spring, summer, fall and winter,
and we are going to need a comrade as we go through each of them. And
the one we want _is the one we start with_--the gentle partner in all
our joys and sorrows. It is she who will stand back of us when all
others fail. When the children come along to bless our days and inspire
us to greater efforts we are glad to look into their happy, smiling
faces and find that they resemble their mother--their soft cheeks are
like hers, their hands, their dainty ways, their caresses. And when mama
looks into those same bright eyes they make her think of their daddy.
The fond affection bestowed upon the children by both parents is but
another mode of expressing their regard for each other.
Springtime days, these! When little tots climb up and entwine their
arms about our necks. If this were married life's only compensation it
would not prove in vain--for when the babies enter the home the tie that
binds becomes hard and fast--_if the man is a manly man_. To become the
father of a bright-eyed babe is an experience of the highest importance
to a young man getting started. It reinforces his courage, doubles up
his ambitions and _puts him on his metal_. He has a new responsibility
and it adds to his strength of character to assume it in all its phases.
Another thing it brings comfort and joy to the mother during the long
days while her man is out in the fray. _It drives ennui out of the
household throughout our springtime days._
And when summer comes along new hopes dawn within us. Springtime had
found us up and doing and when it merged into the new season we found
our aspirations even stronger than before. Children must be educated and
their futures prepared in advance as far as may be. They must not go
into the world _without tools to work with_. Meanwhile the household
teems with plans and becomes a veritable dreamland of youthful fervor.
We find that having helped our children into attractive personalities
they have become magnets with which to draw about us their comrades.
Thus we hold on to our youth by virtue of our surroundings--creatures of
our thoughtfulness concerning "_wedlock in time_."
That the fall season is coming has no terrors for us. There will be the
weddings and plannings for new homes _close by_--if we have our say. And
in due course, the grandchildren will come who will favor grandpa and
grandma and once again youth knocks at our door. There will be no dread
winter days for us for we have been forehanded--we have a _new crew on
board to chase away the cares of old age and infirmities_.
Try how we will there is no way to forestall the operation of the law of
compensation. We reap as we sow. The world will be good to those who
compel its respect by becoming the right sort of citizens. _Wedlock in
time--that's the answer_!
LAUGH AND LIVE
Again I find it expedient to resort to the personal pronoun and
therefore this final chapter is to be devoted to "_you_ and _me_." There
are facts you may want to know _for sure_ and one of them is whether or
not I live up to my own prescription.
I do--_and it's easy_!
I have kept myself happy and well through keeping my physical department
in first class order. If that had been left to take care of itself I
would surely have fallen by the wayside in other departments. Once we
sit down in security the world seems to _hand us things we do not need_.
Fresh air is my intoxicant--and it keeps me in high spirits. My system
doesn't crave artificial stimulation because _my daily exercise_
quickens the blood sufficiently. Then, too, I manage to _keep busy_.
That's the real elixir--_activity_! Not always physical activity,
either, for I must read good books in order to exercise my mind in other
channels than just my daily routine--and add to my store of knowledge as
Then there is my _inner-self_ which must have attention now and then.
For this a little solitude is helpful. We have only to sense the
phenomena surrounding us to know that we must have a _working
faith_--something _practical_ to live by, which automatically keeps us
on our course. The mystery of life somehow loses its density _if we
retain our spark of hope_.
All of my life since childhood I have held Shakespeare in constant
companionship. Aside from the Bible--which is entirely apart from all
other books--Shakespeare has no equal. My father, partly from his love
for the great poet, and partly for the purpose of aiding me to memorize
accurately, taught me to recite Shakespeare before I was old enough to
know the meaning of the words. I remembered them, however, and in later
years I grew to know their full significance. Then I became an ardent
follower of the Master Philosopher, than whom no greater interpreter of
human emotions ever lived. In the matter of sage advice there has never
been his equal. In "_Hamlet_" we find the wonderful words of admonition
from _Polonius_ in his farewell speech to his son _Laertes_--as good
today as four hundred years ago, and they will continue to be so until
the end of time.
It matters not how familiar we may be with these lines it is no waste of
time to read them over again once in awhile. They seem to fit the
_practical side of life_ perfectly. If we have any complaint by reason
of their brusqueness we have only to temper our interpretation according
to our own sense of justice. In other words if we wanted to loan a
"ten-spot" now and then we would just go ahead and do it--meanwhile, to
save you the trouble of looking up these lines, here they are in "Laugh
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character--Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel: but, being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice:
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy:
For the apparel oft proclaims the man;
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous sheaf in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry,
This above all--_to thine ownself be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man_.
[Illustration: "Wedlock in Time"--The Fairbanks' Family]
The time has come to close this little book. It has been a great
pleasure to write it and a greater pleasure to hope that it will be
received in the same spirit it has been written. These are busy days for
all of us. We go in a gallop most of the time, but there comes the quiet
hour when we must sit still and "take stock." I know this from the
letters that come to me asking my opinion on all sorts of subjects.
People believe I am happy because my laughing pictures seem to denote
this fact--_and it is a fact_! In the foregoing chapters I have told
why. If, in the telling I shall have been instrumental in adding to _the
world's store of happiness_ I shall ever thank my "lucky stars."
A "CLOSE-UP" OF DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS
by George Creel
Reprinted from Everybody's Magazine by Permission of The Ridgway
Company, New York.
A "CLOSE-UP" OF DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS
Young Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, star alike in both the "speakies" and the
"movies," is well worth a story. He is what every American might be,
ought to be, and frequently is _not_. More than any other that comes to
mind, he is possessed of the indomitable optimism that gives purpose,
"punch," and color to any life, no matter what the odds.
He holds the world's record for the standing broad grin. There isn't a
minute of the day that fails to find him glad that he's alive. Nobody
ever saw him with a "grouch," or suffering from an attack of the
"blues." Nobody ever heard him mention "hard luck" in connection with
one of his failures. The worse the breaks of the game, the gloomier the
outlook, the wider his grin. He has made cheerfulness a habit, and it
has paid him in courage, in bubbling energy, and buoyant resolve.
We are a young nation and a great nation. Judging from the promise of
the morning, there is nothing that may not be asked of America's noon. A
land of abundance, with not an evil that may not be banished, and yet
there is more whining in it than in any other country on the face of the
globe. If we are to die, "Nibbled to Death by Ducks" may well be put on
the tombstone. Little things are permitted to bring about paroxysms of
peevishness. Even our pleasures have come to be taken sadly. We are
irritable at picnics, snarly at clambakes, and bored to death at
The Government ought to hire Douglas Fairbanks, and send him over the
country as an agent of the Bureau of Grins. Have him start work in
Boston, and then rush him by special train to Philadelphia. If the
wealth of the United States increased $41,000,000,000 during the last
three peevish, whining years, think what would happen if we learned the
art of joyousness and gained the strength that comes from good humor
"Doug" Fairbanks--now that he is in the "movies" we don't have to be
formal--is the living, breathing proof of the value of a grin. His rise
from obscurity to fame, from poverty to wealth, has no larger foundation
than his ever-ready willingness to let the whole world see every tooth
in his head.
Good looks? Artistry? Bosh! The Fairbanks features were evidently picked
out by a utilitarian mother who preferred use to ornament; and as for
his acting, critics of the drama, imbued with the traditions of Booth
and Barrett, have been known to sob like children after witnessing a
It is the joyousness of the man that gets him over. It's the 100 per
cent interest that he takes in everything he goes at that lies at the
back of his success. He does nothing by halves, is never indifferent,
At various stages in his brief career he has been a Shakespearean actor,
Wall Street clerk, hay steward on a cattle-boat, vagabond, and business
man, knowing poverty, hunger, and discomfort at times, but never,
_never_ losing the grin. Things began to move for him when he left a
Denver high school back in 1900 for the purpose of entering college. As
he says, "A man can't be too careful about college."
He started for Princeton, but met a youth on the train who was going to
Harvard. He took a special course at Cambridge--just what it was he
can't remember--but at the end of the year it was hinted to him that
circus life was more suited to his talents, particularly one with three
A friend, however, suggested the theatre, and gave him a card to
Frederick Warde, the tragedian. Mr. Warde fell for the Fairbanks grin,
and as a first part assigned him the role of _Francois_, the lackey, in
"Richelieu." What he lacked in experience he made up for in activity and
unflagging merriment. It got to be so that Warde was almost afraid to
touch the bell, for he never knew whether the amazing _Francois_ would
enter through the door or come down from the ceiling.
After the company had done its worst to "Richelieu," it changed to
Shakespearean repertoire, and for one year young Fairbanks engaged in
what Mr. Warde was pleased to term a "catch-as-catch-can bout with the
immortal Bard." When friends of Shakespeare finally protested in the
name of humanity, the strenuous Douglas accepted an engagement with
Herbert Kelcey and Effie Shannon in "Her Lord and Master."
Five months went by before the two stars broke under the strain, and by
that time news had come to Mr. Fairbanks that Wall Street was Easy
Money's other name. Armed with his grin, he marched into the office of
De Coppet & Doremus, and when the manager came out of his trance
Shakespeare's worst enemy was holding down the job of order man.
"The name Coppet appealed to me," he explains.
He is still remembered in that office, fondly but fearfully. He did his
work well enough; in fact, there are those who insist that he invented
"How about that?" I asked him, for it puzzled me.
"Well, you see, it was this way: For five days in a week I would say,
'Quite so' to my assistant, no matter what he suggested. On Saturday I
would dash into the manager's office, wag my head, knit my brow, and
exclaim, 'What we need around here is _efficiency_.' And once I urged
the purchase of a time-clock."
The way he filled his spare time was what bothered. What with his
tumbling tricks, boxing, wrestling, leap-frog over chairs, and other
small gaieties, he mussed up routine to a certain extent. But he was
_not_ discharged. At a point where the firm was just one jump ahead of
nervous prostration, along came "Jack" Beardsley and "Little" Owen, two
husky football players with a desire to see life without the safety
The three approached the officials of a cattle-steamship, and by
persistent claims to the effect that they "had a way" with dumb
animals, got jobs as hay stewards.
"We found the cows very nice," comments Mr. Fairbanks. "No one can get
me to say a word against them. But those stokers! And those other
stable-maids! Pow! We had to fight 'em from one end of the voyage to the
other, and it got so that I bit myself in my sleep. The three of us got
eight shillings apiece when we landed at Liverpool, and tickets back,
but there were several little things about Europe that bothered us, and
we thought we'd see what the trouble was."
They "hoboed" it through England, France, and Belgium, working at any
old job until they gathered money enough to move along, whether it was
carrying water to English navvies or unloading paving-blocks from a
Seine boat. After three joyous months, they felt the call of the cattle,
and came home on another steamer.
Back on his native heath, young Fairbanks took a shot from the hip at
law, but missed. Then he got a job in a machine-manufacturing plant,
but one day he found that his carelessness had permitted fifty dollars
to accumulate, and he breezed down to Cuba and Yucatan to see what
openings there were for capital. Back from that tramping trip, he
figured that since he had not annoyed the stage for some time it
certainly owed him something.
His return to the drama took place in "The Rose of Plymouth Town," a
play in which Miss Minnie Dupree was the star. Meeting Miss Dupree, I
asked her what sort of an actor Fairbanks was in those days.
"Well," she said judiciously, "I think that he was about the nicest case
of St. Vitus' dance that ever came under my notice."
William A. Brady got him next. Mr. Brady is quite a dynamo himself, and
there was also a time in his life when he managed James J. Corbett. The
two fell into each other's arms with a cry of joy, and for seven years
they touched off dramatic explosions that strewed fat actors all over
the landscape and tore miles of scenery into ribbons.
"Some boy!" was Mr. Brady's tribute. "Put him in a death scene, and
he'd find a way to break the furniture."
There was never a part that "Doug" Fairbanks lay down on. To every role
he brought joy and interest and enthusiasm, and the night came
inevitably that saw his name in electric letters.
It is not claimed that his work as a star "elevated" the drama, but it
may safely be claimed that he never appeared in any play that was not
wholesome, stimulating, and helpful.
Nothing was more natural than that the movies should seek such an actor,
and they set the trap with attractive bait.
"Come over to us," they said, "and we'll let you do anything you want.
Outside of poison gas and actual murder, the sky's the limit."
Without even waiting to kick off his shoes, "Doug" Fairbanks made a
The movie magnates got what they wanted, and Fairbanks got what he
wanted. For the first time in his life he was able to "let go" with all
the force of his dynamic individuality, and he took full advantage of
In "The Lamb," his first adventure before the camera, he let a
rattlesnake crawl over him, tackled a mountain lion, jiu-jitsued a bunch
of Yaqui Indians until they bellowed, and operated a machine-gun.
In "His Picture in the Papers," he was called upon to run an automobile
over a cliff, engage in a grueling six-round go with a professional
pugilist, jump off an Atlantic liner and swim to the distant shore, mix
it up in a furious battle royal with a half dozen husky gunmen, leap
twice from swiftly moving trains, and also to resist arrest by a squad
of Jess Willards dressed up in police uniforms.
"The Half-Breed" carried him out to California, and, among other things,
threw him into the heart of a forest fire that had been carefully
kindled in the redwood groves of Calaveras County. Amid a rain of
burning pine tufts, and with great branches falling to the ground all
around him, "Douggie" was required to dash in and save the gallant
sheriff from turning into a cinder. Hair and eyelashes grew out again,
however, his blisters healed, and in a few days he was as good as new.
"The Habit of Happiness" was rich in stunts that would have made even
Battling Nelson turn to tatting with a sigh of relief. Five gangsters,
sicked on to their work by the villain, waylaid our hero on the stairs,
and in the rough-and-tumble that followed, it was his duty to beat each
and every one of them into a state of coma. He performed his task so
conscientiously that his hands were swollen for a week, not to mention
his eyes and nose. As for the five extra men who posed as the gangsters,
all came to the conclusion that dock-walloping was far less strenuous
than art, and went back to their former jobs.
"The Good Bad Man" was a Western picture that contained a thrill to
every foot of film. Our hero galloped over mountains, jumping from crag
to crag, held up an express train single-handed in order to capture the
conductor's ticket-punch, grappled with gigantic desperadoes every few
minutes, shot up a saloon, and was dragged around for quite a while at
the end of a lynching party's rope.
"Reggie Mixes In" was one joyous round of assault and battery from
beginning to end. Happening to fall in love with a dancer in a Bowery
cabaret, _Reggie_ puts family and fortune behind him and takes a job as
"bouncer" so as to be near his lady-love. Aside from his regular duties,
he is required to work overtime on account of the hatred of a
gang-leader who also loves the girl. Five scoundrels jump _Reggie_, and,
after manhandling four, he drops from a second-story window to the neck
of the fifth, and chokes him with hands and legs. After which he carries
the senseless wretch down the street, and gaily flicks him, as it were,
through a window at the villain's feet. As a tasty little finish,
_Reggie_ and his rival lock themselves in an empty room, and engage in a
contest governed by packing-house rules.
Three days after the combat, by the way, the company heads were pleased
to announce that both men were out of danger unless blood-poisoning
[Illustration: _Here's Hoping!_ (_White Studio_)]
"The Mystery of the Leaping Fish" was what is known as a "water
picture," and "Doug," as a comedy detective, was compelled to make a
human submarine of himself, not to mention several duels in the dark
with Japanese thugs and opium smugglers.
"Another day of it," he grinned, "and I'd have grown fins."
"Manhattan Madness" was really nothing more than St. Vitus's dance set
to ragtime. Our hero climbed up eaves-pipes, plunged through trap-doors
down into dungeons, jumped from the roof of a house into a tree, kicked
his way in and out of secret closets, and engaged in hair-raising
combats with desperate villains every few minutes.
It is not only the case that "Doug" Fairbanks made good with the movie
fans. What is more to the point, he made good with the "bunch" itself.
In nine cases out of ten, the "legitimate" star, going over into
pictures, evades and avoids the "rough stuff." To some humble, hardy
"double" is assigned the actual work of falling off the cliff, riding at
full speed across granite hedges, taking a good hard punch in the nose,
or plunging from the top of the burning building.
Many an honest cowpuncher, taking his girl to the show with him to let
her see what a daredevil he is, has died the death upon discovering that
he was merely "doubling" for some cow-eyed hero who lacked the nerve to
do the stunt himself.
"Doug" Fairbanks is one of the few movie heroes who have never had a
"double." He asks no man to do that which he is afraid to do himself. No
fall is too hard for him, no fight too furious, no ride too dangerous.
There is not a single one of his pictures in which he hasn't taken a
chance of breaking his neck or his bones; but, as one bronco-buster
observed, "He jes' licks his lips an' asks for more."
To be sure, few actors have brought such super-physical equipment to the
strenuous work of the movies. Fairbanks, in addition to being blessed
with a strong, lithe body, has developed it by expert devotion to every
form of athletic sport. He swims well, is a crack boxer, a good polo
player, a splendid wrestler, a skilful acrobat, a fast runner, and an
absolutely fearless rider.
There is never a picture during the progress of which he does not
interpolate some sudden bit of business as the result of his quick wit
and dynamic enthusiasm. In one play, for instance, he was supposed to
enter a house at sight of his sweetheart beckoning to him from an upper
window. As he passed up the steps, however, his roving eye caught sight
of the porch railing, a window-ledge, and a balcony, and in a flash he
was scaling the facade of the house like any cat.
In another play he was trapped on the roof of a country home. Suddenly
Fairbanks, disregarding the plan of retreat indicated by the author,
gave a wild leap into a near-by maple, managed to catch a bough, and
proceeded to the ground in a series of convulsive falls that gave the
During "The Half-Breed" picture, some of the action took place about a
fallen redwood that had its great roots fully twenty feet into the air.
"Climb up on top of those roots, Doug," yelled the director.
Instead of that, "Douggie" went up to a young sapling that grew at the
base of the fallen tree. Bending it down to the ground, as an archer
bends his bow, he gave a sudden spring, and let the tough birch catapult
him to the highest root.
"What do you want me to do now?" he grinned.
"Come back the same way," grinned the director.
Most "legitimate" actors--the valuation is their own--find the movies
rather dull. Time hangs very heavily upon their hands. As one remarked
to me in tones that were thick with a divine despair: "There's
absolutely nothing for a chap to do. In lots of the God-forsaken holes
they drag you to, there isn't even a hotel. No companionship, no
diversion of any kind, and oftentimes no bathtubs."
Douglas Fairbanks enters no such complaint. He draws upon the energy and
interest that ought to be in every human being, and when entertainment
is not in sight, he goes after it. When they were making "The
Half-Breed" pictures in the Carquinez woods of Northern California, he
was never seen around the camp except when actually needed by the camera
man. Upon his return from these absences, it was noticed that his hands
were usually bleeding, and his clothing stained and torn.
"What in the name of mischief have you been doing now?" the director
demanded on a day when Fairbanks's wardrobe was almost a total loss.
"Trappin'," chirped the star.
Beating about the woods, Bret Harte in hand, he had managed to discover
an old woodsman who still held to the ancient industries of his youth.
The trapper's specialty was "bob cats," and the bleeding hands and torn
clothes came from "Doug's" earnest efforts to handle the "varmints" just
as his venerable preceptor handled them. Out of the experience, at
least, he brought an intimate knowledge of field, forest, and stream,
for over the fire and in their walks he had pumped the old man dry.
In the same way he made "The Good Bad Man" hand him over everything of
value that frontier life contained. The picture was taken out in the
Mohave desert; for the making of it the director had scoured the West
for riders and ropers and cowboys of the old school. "He men"--every one
of them, and for a time they looked with dislike and suspicion upon the
"star," but when they saw that Fairbanks did not ask for any "double,"
and took the hardest tumble with a grin, they received him into their
fellowship with a heartfelt yell.
Dull in the Mohave desert? Why, he had to sit up nights to keep even
with his engagements. From one man he learned bronco-busting, from
another fancy roping, and from others all that there is to know about
horses, cattle, mountain, and plain. And around the camp-fires he got
stories of the winning of the West such as never found their way into
When one picture called for jiu-jitsu work, he didn't rest satisfied
with learning just enough to "get by." Every spare moment found him in a
clinch with the Japanese expert, mastering every secret, perfecting
himself in every hold. Same way with boxing. When no pugilists came
handy, he put on the gloves with anyone willing to take chances on a
black eye, keeping at it until today they have to hire professionals
when he figures in a movie fight.
When they made a "water" picture he never stopped until he could
duplicate every trick known to the "professor" who drilled the extra
men. He took advantage of a biplane flight to make friends with the
aeronaut, and by the time the picture was done, he was as good a driver
as the expert.
No matter where he is, or what the job, he finds something of interest
because he goes upon the theory that every minute is meant to be lived.
Maroon him at a cross-roads, with five hours until train time, and he'd
have the operator's first name in ten minutes and be learning the Morse
alphabet, after which he would rush up to his new friend's house to see
the babies or to pass judgment on a Holstein calf or a Black Minorca
It is the tremendously human quality, more than anything else, that gets
him across. People like him because he likes them. He attracts interest
because he takes interest. Talk with any of the big men in the
motion-picture industry, that is, those with brains and education, and
they will tell you that personality counts more in pictures than it does
on the stage.
H.B. Aitken, president of the Triangle Film Corporation, said to me:
"The screen is intimate. The camera brings the actor right into your
lap. In the speaking drama, make-up and footlights change and hide, but
not the least flicker of expression is lost in the picture. It's a test
of real-ness, and it takes a real man or a real woman to stand it. Art
isn't the thing at all, nor do looks count for half as much as people
suppose. It's what's back of the art and the looks that makes the hit,
and if they haven't got _something_, the artist and the beauty don't
last long. We picked Douglas Fairbanks as a likely film star, not on
account of his stunts, as the majority think, but because of the
splendid humanness that fairly oozed out of him."
[Illustration: A Close-Up (Lumiere)]
When he isn't before the camera, or fooling with an airship or a motor,
or playing with children, or "gettin' acquainted" with a tramp or a
trapper, or practising stunts with a rope or a horse, young Mr.
Fairbanks fills in his spare time writing scenarios. As everyone knows,
the motion-picture drama has been a tawdry thing for the most
part--either a rehash of old stage plays, novels, and short stories, or
else mediocre "originalities" that epitomized banality. Young Mr.
Fairbanks dissented from the established custom from the very start.
"It's all wrong," he declared. "We've got to stand on our own feet.
Develop your own dramatists!"
Practically every play in which he has appeared sprang from his personal
suggestion, and in many of them he has collaborated with the scenario
writer. The three things that he demands are Action, Wholesomeness, and
Sentiment that rings true.
Never make the mistake of thinking that Douglas Fairbanks starts and
finishes with mere good humor and physical exuberance. There is more to
him than his grin, for his mind is as strong and vigorous as his body.
He reads and thinks, and behind his smile is a quick and eager sympathy
that takes account of the sadnesses of life as well as its promises.
"The Habit of Happiness" was very much his own idea, and in it he took
occasion to show a midnight bread-line, the misery of the slums, and
various forms of social injustice. It isn't that he thinks himself
called to uplift and reform, but, as he expresses it, "Every little bit
In the last talk that I had with him, he was enthusiastic over the
future of the movies as a world force. He speaks in ideas rather than
words, for when he feels that he has indicated the thought he never
troubles to finish the particular sentence.
"Pictures are like music," he declared. "They speak a universal
language. Great industry--just in its infancy--before long films will
pass from one country to another--internationalism. Why not? Love, hate,
grief, ambition, laughter--they belong to one race as much as
another--all peoples understand them. It's hard to hate people after you
know them. Pictures will let us know each other. They'll break down the
hard national lines that now make for war and suspicion."
Other things followed, for we discussed everything from cabbages to
kings, and then I plumped the question at him that I had been waiting to
ask from the first.
"How do you like the movies as compared to the speaking drama? Come now,
cross your heart and hope to die. When the night comes down and the
lights go up, isn't there a blue minute now and then?"
"Surest thing you know," he grinned. "It isn't because there's such a
radical difference between the 'talkies' and the movies, however." [He
refers to musical comedy as the "screamies."] "The play in the theatre
is largely a matter of pantomime, you know. Dialogue is employed to
advance the actual plot only when it is impossible or impracticable to
do it with dumb show. And when I think of some of the lines I've been
called upon to spout, I can't say that I regret the movies' lack of
"What does hurt, though," he admitted, "is the absence of response. I
don't mean applause, but the something that comes up over the footlights
to you from the audience, the big something that tells you instantly
whether you have hit it or missed, whether you are ringing true or
false. You don't get that in the pictures. Your audience is the
director, and you know that it will be weeks or months before your work
is going to get its test.
"But in everything else, the movie has the talkie skinned a mile.
Instead of mouthing somebody else's words, you are doing the thing
yourself. There's action, and life--one day you are in the forest, the
next in the desert, the next on the sea."
"Nonsense!" I exclaimed. "I understand that it's all done in a studio."
"I had the idea myself," he laughed. "But no more. When I was in the
'talkies,' I used to hear a lot about realism. Father must wash in a
real basin with real water and real soap. There had to be two hens at
least in every barnyard scene, and when Lottie came home from the cruel
city, she had to have a real baby in her arms. Lordy, I never knew what
realism was until I struck the movies. They've gone crazy over it.
"'The Half-Breed,' you know, was adapted from one of Bret Harte's
stories, and nothing would do the director but a trip up to the
Carquinez woods in northern California. A forest fire figured in one of
the scenes, but I never thought much about it until I saw them bringing
up some chemical engines, hose reels, and five or six fire-brigades.
"'What's the idea?' I asked.
"'To keep the flames from spreading,' they told me.
"And let me tell you, it was _some_ fire. After I got out of it I felt
like a shave from a Mexican barber."
"What effect is the movie going to have on the speaking drama?" was my
"Look at the effect it's had already," he said. "Shaw is the only
playwright clever enough to write dialogue that will hold any number of
people in the theatre. The motion picture has made the public demand
_action_. It has changed the plot and progress of the drama completely."
"Do you think that a good thing? Doesn't it mean the substitution of
feeling for thinking?"
"Well," he answered slowly, "the world goes forward through the heart
rather than through the head. Happiness, to my mind, is emotional, not
mental. And the movie _has_ brought happiness to millions whose lives
were formerly drab and sordid. I love to go into these little halls in
out-of-the-way places, and see the men, women, and children packed there
of an evening. Theatrical companies never reached the villages, and the
men had no place but the saloon, the women no place but the kitchen or
the front porch. The camera has brought the world to their doors, and
life is richer, happier, and better for it."
Take him as he stands, and Douglas Fairbanks comes close to being the
"real thing." Men like him as well as women, and, best proof of all, the
"kids" adore him. On a recent visit to Denver, his old home town,
youngsters followed him in droves, clamoring for a chance to "feel his
muscle." The mayor, no less, had him address a public meeting, the
feature of which, by the way, was this piped inquiry from the gallery:
"Say, Doug, can youse whip William Farnum?"
And let no one quarrel with this popularity. It is a good sign, a
healthful sign, a token that the blood of America still runs warm and
red, and that chalk has not yet softened our bones.
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