I tell you if we can do Robinson Crusoe, and do it right, a regular five-thousand-foot program feature, the thing ought to gross a million. A good, clean, censor-proof picture—great kid show, run forever. Shipwreck stuff, loading the raft, island stuff, hut stuff, goats, finding the footprint, cannibals, the man Friday—can’t you see it?”
The Governor seemed to see it. “Fine—that’s so!” He stared above the director’s head for the space of two inhalations from his cigarette, imbuing Merton Gill with gratitude that he need not smoke again that day. “But say, look here, how about your love interest?”
Henshaw waved this aside with his own cigarette and began to make marks on the back of an envelope. “Easy enough—Belmore can fix that up. We talked over one or two ways. How about having Friday’s sister brought over with him to this island? The cannibals are going to eat her, too. Then the cannibals run to their canoes when they hear the gun, just the same as in the book. And Crusoe rescues the two. And when he cuts the girl’s bonds he finds she can’t be Friday’s real sister, because she’s white—see what I mean? Well, we work it out later that she’s the daughter of an English Earl that was wrecked near the cannibal island, and they rescued her, and Friday’s mother brought her up as her own child. She’s saved the papers that came ashore, and she has the Earl’s coat-of-arms tattooed on her shoulder blade, and finally, after Crusoe has fallen in love with her, and she’s remembered a good deal of her past, along comes the old Earl, her father, in a ship and rescues them all. How about that?” Henshaw, brightly expectant, awaited the verdict of his chief.
“Well—I don’t know.” The other considered. “Where’s your conflict, after the girl is saved from the savages? And Crusoe in the book wears a long beard. How about that? He won’t look like anything—sort of hairy, and that’s all.”
Henshaw from the envelope on which he drew squares and oblongs appeared to gain fresh inspiration. He looked up with new light in his eyes. “I got it—got the whole thing. Modernize it. This chap is a rich young New Yorker, cruising on his yacht, and he’s wrecked on this island and gets a lot of stuff ashore and his valet is saved, too—say there’s some good comedy, see what I mean?—valet is one of these stiff English lads, never been wrecked on an island before and complains all the time about the lack of conveniences. I can see a lot of good gags for him, having to milk the goats, and getting scared of the other animals, and no place to press his master’s clothes—things like that, you know. Well, the young fellow explores the island and finds another party that’s been wrecked on the other side, and it’s the girl and the man that got her father into his power and got all of his estate and is going to make beggars of them if the girl won’t marry him, and she comes on the young fellow under some palms and they fall in love and fix it up to double-cross the villain—Belmore can work it out from there. How about that? And say, we can use a lot of trims from that South Sea piece we did last year, all that yacht and island stuff—see what I mean?”
The other considered profoundly. “Yes, you got a story there, but it won’t be Robinson Crusoe, don’t you see?”
Again Henshaw glanced up from his envelope with the light of inspiration. “Well, how about this? Call it Robinson Crusoe, Junior! There you are. We get the value of the name and do the story the way we want it, the young fellow being shaved every day by the valet, and he can invite the other party over to dine with him and receive them in evening dress and everything. Can’t you see it? If that story wouldn’t gross big then I don’t know a story. And all easy stuff. We can use the trims for the long shots, and use that inlet, toward the other end of Catalina for the hut and the beach; sure-fire stuff, Governor—and Robinson Crusoe, Junior is a cinch title.”
Henshaw went on to talk of the piece in hand.
It proved to be Robinson Crusoe, which he had already discussed. Or, rather, not Robinson Crusoe any longer. Not even Robinson Crusoe, Junior. It was to have been called Island Passion, he learned, but this title had been amended to Island Love.
“They’re getting fed up on that word ‘passion,’” Henshaw was saying, “and anyhow, ‘love’ seems to go better with ‘island,’ don’t you think, Governor? ‘Desert Passion’ was all right—there’s something strong and intense about a desert. But ‘island’ is different.”
And it appeared that Island Love, though having begun as Robinson Crusoe, would contain few of the outstanding features of that tale. Instead of Crusoe’s wrecked sailing-ship, there was a wrecked steam yacht, a very expensive yacht stocked with all modern luxuries, nor would there be a native Friday and his supposed sister with the tattooed shoulder, but a wealthy young New Yorker and his valet who would be good for comedy on a desert island, and a beautiful girl, and a scoundrel who would in the last reel be thrown over the cliffs.
Henshaw was vivacious about the effects he would get. “I’ve been wondering, Governor,” he continued, “if we’re going to kill off the heavy, whether we shouldn’t plant it early that besides wanting this girl who’s on the island, he’s the same scoundrel that wronged the young sister of the lead that owns the yacht. See what I mean?-it would give more conflict.”
“But here—” The Governor frowned and spoke after a moment’s pause. “Your young New Yorker is rich, isn’t he? Fine old family, and all that, how could he have a sister that would get wronged? You couldn’t do it. If he’s got a wronged sister, he’d have to be a workingman or a sailor or something. And she couldn’t be a New York society girl; she’d have to be working some place, in a store or office—don’t you see? How could you have a swell young New Yorker with a wronged sister? Real society girls never get wronged unless their father loses his money, and then it’s never anything serious enough to kill a heavy for. No—that’s out.”
“Wait, I have it.” Henshaw beamed with a new inspiration. “You just said a sailor could have his sister wronged, so why not have one on the yacht, a good strong type, you know, and his little sister was wronged by the heavy, and he’d never known who it was, because the little girl wouldn’t tell him, even on her death-bed, but he found the chap’s photograph in her trunk, and on the yacht he sees that it was this same heavy—and there you are. Revenge—see what I mean? He fights with the heavy on the cliff, after showing him the little sister’s picture, and pushes him over to death on the rocks below—get it? And the lead doesn’t have to kill him. How about that?” Henshaw regarded his companion with pleasant anticipation.
The Governor again debated before he spoke. He still doubted. “Say, whose show is this, the lead’s or the sailor’s that had the wronged sister? You’d have to show the sailor and his sister, and show her being wronged by the heavy—that’d take a big cabaret set, at least—and you’d have to let the sailor begin his stuff on the yacht, and then by the time he’d kept it up a bit after the wreck had pulled off the fight, where would your lead be? Can you see Parmalee playing second to this sailor? Why, the sailor’d run away with the piece. And that cabaret set would cost money when we don’t need it—just keep those things in mind a little.”
“Well,” Henshaw submitted gracefully, “anyway, I think my suggestion of Island Love is better than Island Passion—kind of sounds more attractive, don’t you think?”