Chapter 3: BARRYMORE IN CEMENT!
It seemed as if Jack Barrymore and I had run forever, eluding an army of hitmen at Grauman's Chinese Theater, and dashing into a seedy hotel, adjacent to it.
"Colman!" Jack gasped, "I'm too damned old for this kind of exertion! Let's find a room with some liquor, and hole up in it!"
"I...agree," I gasped, and we dove through the first open door...and discovered...
"Bogie," I exclaimed, "I don't know why you're here, but am I glad!"
He glared at me. "The name's Duke Mantee, pal, and if you don't shaddup, I'll plug ya!"
"Mantee?" I asked, "What's the gag?" I noticed a rather nasty-looking revolver emerging from his pocket, and I croaked, "Alright, I'm shutting up!"
Staring coldly at us, he lisped, "I'm a killer, it's what I'm good at...you look at me wrong, I kill you...you get on my nerves, I kill you...I even killed the barber who gave me this lousy stinkin' haircut!"
"Well, we're very likable fellows," Jack said, jovially. "And we must be running along!"
"You're the guys Siegel is after...Gotta kill you..."
As he fumbled for his gun, we dove out the door into the hall, Barrymore shouting, "Stay out of the Petrified Forest!", as he slammed it shut. We quickly dashed into the next room, and found...
"Mmmm...You dirty rats!" he muttered, his shoulders hunched, his hands, clenched, in front of him. "I'm gonna give it to you like you gave it to my brother..."
"Jimmy, this isn't funny," I said, coldly.
"It certainly isn't, and it's a lousy impression, to boot!" Jack chimed in.
"You're gonna die...mmm..."
We ran out the door, and into the next room...
Staring imperiously at us, was BETTE DAVIS!
"You have in your possession a certain letter by me," she said, without preamble. "A letter acknowledging my adulterous affair. Return it to me, and I may let you live..."
"Bette," I pleaded, "That was simply a MOVIE!!!"
"Quiet, Colman!" Jack barked. "Can't you see this is all a pattern? RUN with it!" He turned to Bette. "How much would you offer me for this letter?"
"My husband is quite wealthy...Name your price."
"Where's your bedroom?
"TOO HIGH!" She reached for her gun, and we charged out the door!
"Jack, your blasted libido is going to get us killed!!!" I sputtered.
"May I remind you, there's a contract out on us already? It's not as if abstinence is going to increase our lifespans!"
The next door revealed a truly disgusting sight...
"Hey, you mugs, can't a guy get a little privacy? Wait a minute, you're those guys Siegel hired me to bump off!"
"No, we're not," Jack said, tongue-in-cheek. "We're Bing Crosby and Bob Hope...do you have Dorothy Lamour in there?"
"Ha, that's pretty good...But you can't fool me! You mugs are in more hot water than I am!"
"Lay one hand on your pistol," I said, "and I'll drop the fan into the water!"
"Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico???" he said, sarcastically. "You haven't the guts to do it..."
"You dropped your soap!" I shouted, and as he looked down, we ran out the door.
"What in God's name is going on?" I gasped, as we opened yet another door...
"Well, I see you boys finally got smart..."
"Can you help us?" I asked Barbara Stanwyck.
"I'm sure I can! Let me kill you, and I'll get my insurance investigator boyfriend make it look like natural causes...he might even work in a Double Indemnity clause..."
"Think I'd trust Fred MacMurray?" Jack sneered. "Sorry, I'd rather let booze do me in! Come, Colman!"
Behind the next door...
"Veronica! Alan!" I exclaimed. "Am I glad to see you! Can you call the police?"
"Heavens, no!" she said, in her husky, 'little girl' voice. "I have a policeman boyfriend, and he might shoot the wrong guy!"
"Well, can we hire your gun to protect us?"
Ladd looked up, slowly. "I only take on one contract at a time...and after I kill you, you won't be hiring anybody..."
"We'll catch you after your nap," I quickly said, and we ran out the door.
"We're in some kind of bad movie," I said, shaking my head.
"Well, let's catch the next feature," Jack said, opening the next door.
"Jack, Ron! Good to see you!" George Raft said, flipping a coin.
"So who are you supposed to be? Scarface's right-hand man?" Jack said, drily.
"I'm the only friend you guys got..."
"Can you help us, George?" I whispered.
"Sure, I can! I just spoke to my friend, Siegel, and he promised if you come in with me, he'll make it quick!"
"What kind of a 'deal' is THAT???"
"Better than being machine-gunned at a toll-booth!"
Jack sneered, "Colman, remind me to urinate on his movie posters, from now on..."
As we stood, back in the hallway, I looked at Jack, and said, bluntly, "I'm not sure I want to open any more doors..."
"Aw, what's the fun in that?" And the view that greeted us seemed to vindicate his point...
"ANN SHERIDAN!" I shouted.
She smiled. "Is there something you boys would like?"
Jack leered at her, and replied, "My short list would be a few bottles of Jack, and a weekend with you!"
She wiggled her finger at him, and said, "Naughty boy!" She smiled sweetly at me. "Don't you want me?"
I smiled, and shrugged. "I'm a married man, and I'm happy with Benita!"
"Good!" Jack exclaimed. "See you around, Colman!" He started to undress, but Ann just laughed, and shouted, "THEY'RE IN HERE!"
"Dammit, woman, couldn't you wait until afterwards???"
Back in the hall, with only two doors left...Jack shrugged, and said, "Well, I've seen it all, they can't surprise me anymore...", as he opened the door...
"Say 'Hello' to my little friend!"
It was PAUL MUNI as Scarface...holding CLEMMIE!!!!
*SNORT* Hurry up and KILL them, so I can play with your GUN! *WINK, WINK. GIGGLE!*
"Clem, how COULD you???" Jack bellowed. "After ALL we SHARED!"
*SNIFF* Restraining Order, eh? *SNORT* Letting OTHER women taste your BANANA? *SNIFF* Well, you can KISS my HAIRY...
"Clem!" I interrupted.
*SNIFF" I'm mad at YOU, TOO, Coley! *SPIT* Ignoring my LETTERS! *SNIFF*
Jack sat down. "I give up," he said, defeated. "You win, Clem!"
We were quickly tied up together, and hustled into the last room...
As George Raft received the 'Mob Seal of Approval' from Siegel, Jack and I were surrounded by a 'Murderers' Row' of Hollywood killers, armed to the teeth...even Clemmie was there, brandishing a .45!
"I tried to warn you, Jack," Siegel said, gaily, "You DON'T 'welch' on the Mob!"
"I'll try to remember that, next time..."
Siegel roared in laughter. "NEXT time???" He cleared his throat, then said, "Any last words you'd care to share?"
I pondered that, for a moment, then said, solemnly, "It's a far, far better thing I do..."
"Oh, SHUT UP, Colman!" Barrymore screamed. "I'm FED UP with that crap! Somebody give me a gun, and I'LL shoot him!!!"
For a few moments, I thought I was drifting in the afterlife...then I realized I was in bed, and it had all been a dream!
Out of habit, I reached out for Benita...then realized she and Juliet were in Boston, visiting her cousin, Rose (on the 'emergency' trip I'd arranged, to get them out of harm's way).
I was alone, in my home; I'd given the staff a few days off to prevent them from harm. I knew Siegel's gang could get to me easily, if they chose to, but at least innocents wouldn't be targeted!
I had gone to bed, dressed (just in case!), and as I arose, a feeling of despair washed over me...
Siegel's 'deadline' for Jack was now two days past, and I knew my life, as well as Jack's and Clemmie's, was forfeited...I was a walking dead man, with no clue how to straighten things out.
Oh, well...today was Jack's big day, getting his hands and footprints immortalized in cement, at Sid Grauman's Chinese Theater.
I'd promised to accompany Jack to the ceremony, and would have to drive to the local brothel, to pick him up...his trailer had mysteriously burned up, and he'd been 'holed up' in his favorite 'house of ill repute', for days...
I stared at the haggard face in the bathroom mirror, muttered, "We, who are about to die, salute you!" and left to begin my last day...
"All of Hollywood has come out to see screen legend John Barrymore join the select number of major stars whose hand and footprints grace the alcove of the world-famous Chinese Theater..."
"A crowd of fans numbering in the hundreds arrived early in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite stars..."
"And here's the owner of the Chinese Theater, Sid Grauman, accompanied by the stars of the fabulous 'Thin Man' films, William Powell and Myrna Loy..."
"Now arriving are Barrymore's acting siblings, Lionel and Ethel..."
REPORTER: Did John always want to be an actor?
ETHEL: Not always, but when he decided to follow our family 'business', he went at it heart and soul!
LIONEL: Y'know, I sometimes think Jack...that's our nickname for John...would have made a better 'Dr. Gillespie' than me...even as a child, he was always playing 'doctor' with all the girls in the neighborhood...
REPORTER: Moving right along...
"Here's Al Jolson, serenading Fred Astaire, and Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, arriving..."
REPORTER: Clark, where's your wife, Carole Lombard?
GABLE: Out selling bonds...she said she has enough bruises on her backside from Barrymore's pinches...
REPORTER: Moving right along...
"Lovely Claudette Colbert arrives...here's Dick Powell, escorting sexy Dorothy Lamour...and Hollywood songbird Grace Moore makes her entrance..."
"The younger generation is well-represented by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland...Katharine Hepburn, who made her screen debut with Barrymore...and here's everyone's favorite, Jimmy Stewart..."
REPORTER: Miss Hepburn, have you any memories of working with Barrymore at the start of your amazing career?
HEPBURN: Well, he did greet me stark naked when I entered my dressing room, on my first day of shooting...
REPORTER: Moving right along...
"Bing Crosby arrives, escorting Hollywood beauties Ginger Rogers and Loretta Young..."
REPORTER: Bing, where's Bob Hope?
BING: Oh, he's around, somewhere, probably parking cars for a few extra bucks...He's afraid he'll be asked to compare profiles with Barrymore!
"John Barrymore's friends, Errol Flynn, Greta Garbo, and W.C. Fields arrive together..."
REPORTER: Errol, has John Barrymore shared any of his techniques with you?
FLYNN: Were you at the brothel last night?
REPORTER: Moving right along...
"Here's New York businessman Benjamin Siegel and his girlfriend, actress Virginia Hill..."
"And finally, the Man of the Hour, John Barrymore, accompanied by his long-time friend, Ronald Colman..."
"Jack, have you figured out what you're going to do for Siegel?" I whispered. "You know the deadline is up..."
"I'll get another extension," he replied, smugly. "By the time I finish stalling, his cohorts will probably bump him off!"
"After placing his footprints into the wet cement of the Grauman floor, Barrymore dutifully adds his palmprints...
But WAIT!!!!!! Someone is forcing their way up to Barrymore...and shoving his face into the cement..."
"Eat some CEMENT, Barrymore! It'll be your last meal! This is what happens when you welch on the Mob!"
I saw 'Knuckles' draw his gun, to finish Jack off, and I quickly kicked it out of his hand! Police suddenly appeared everywhere, and the crowd began to riot!
"And these barbarians actually defeated the British Empire, Vivien?"
"I think we let them win, just to be rid of them, Larry!"
Fortunately, the pandemonium only lasted a few minutes, as a group of police officers soon surrounded Jack and me. Sid Grauman was stunned by the proceedings, but Jack simply laughed it off. "You think my appearances create a frenzy," he joked, "you should see Colman's fans!"
"I'm sorry, Ronald," Sid said, solemnly, "But I can't allow this kind of hysteria again...I'm afraid I won't be inviting you to add your prints to the collection!"
"Perfectly all right, Sid," I said, truthfully. "I think I can stand the disappointment."
A police captain came up to us. "The assassin, and his employer, Mr. Siegel, are in custody, now. We'd like you to come with us to the station, if you don't mind, to fill out the paperwork, and for your protection."
"I understand," I said, and Jack and I walked out to the police car.
"And 'all's well that ends well'," I said, gaily.
"You think so?" Jack asked, obviously troubled. "There's something about all this that stinks worse than your cheap aftershave...the Mob never operates this openly, it's simply not their style...I expected us to be kidnapped, spirited away, whatever, to some secret location where we'd be pummeled, and dumped in an umarked grave..."
"Maybe we were just lucky," I said, half-heartedly, as I realized he was right, it was too easy!
"I don't think this story is over, yet, Colman..."
We reached the police car, with a sharply-dressed officer waiting...and my heart sank, as we climbed in...
There was Clemmie, in the back seat, trussed up, and forlorn...and sitting in the front was Bugsy Siegel, looking smug...
"Payback Day has arrived, gentlemen," he said, as we climbed, at gunpoint, into the back seat with Clem, "and trust me, it will be hell!"
Next: A DESERT GRAVE...
THE RONALD COLMAN SAGA
"The Dinner Party for Erich von Stroheim"
"The Misadventures of John Barrymore's Cheeky Monkey, Clementine"
"The All-Star Surprise Party for Laine"
"The Classic Hollywood Long Beach-Catalina Yacht Race"
"The Ronald Colman Seance"
"My "Lost Horizon" Surprise!"
"A Night at the Hollywood Canteen!"
"But I Thought You Were..."
"The People vs. Ronald Colman"
"The Epic Hearst Costume Party..."
"The Monkey on Ronald Colman's Back Saga" (A 9-Part Adventure):
"A MAN, A MONKEY, the MOB, and RONALD COLMAN!" (A 5-Part Adventure):
"Introduction: Broadway, 1920..."
"Chapter 1: A LONG Memory..."
"Chapter 2: Barrymore's Reply..."
"Chapter 3: Barrymore in Cement!"
"Chapter 4: A Desert Grave..."
"SURPRISE PARTY for RONALD COLMAN!"
"The RONALD COLMAN Banner Collection"
Finally, if you'd like to 'go to the source', with over 200 photos of Ronald Colman's life and career, please visit Myspace.com/Ronald Colman...the page that started it all!