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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: Chapter 16


IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?” I said as I threw the magazine onto Harry’s desk. But of course, he’d already seen it.

“It’s not that bad.”

“It’s not good.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Why didn’t anyone take care of this?” I asked.

“Because Sub Rosa isn’t listening to us anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“They don’t care about the truth or access to stars. They are just printing whatever they want.”

“They care about money, don’t they?”

“Yes, but they will make way more by pontificating about the ins and outs of your marriage than we can afford to pay them.”

“You are Sunset Studios.”

“And if you haven’t noticed, we aren’t making nearly as much money as we used to.”

My shoulders slumped. I sat in one of the chairs facing Harry’s desk. There was a knock.

“It’s Celia,” she said through the door.

I walked over and opened it for her.

“I take it you’ve seen the piece,” I said.

Celia looked at me. “It’s not that bad.”

“It’s not good,” I said.

“No, it’s not.”

“Thank you. You both are a pair of aces.”

Celia and I had finished shooting Little Women the week before. The two of us, along with Harry and Gwendolyn, had gone out for celebratory steaks and cocktails at Musso & Frank the day after we finished.

Harry had given Celia and me the good news that Ari thought we were both shoo-ins for nominations.

Every night after shooting, Celia and I would stay late in my trailer and rehearse our scenes. Celia was Method. She tried to “become” her character. That wasn’t really my speed. But she did teach me how to find moments of emotional truth in false circumstances.

It was a strange time in Hollywood. There seemed to be two tracks running parallel to each other at the same time back then.

There was the studio game, with studio actors and studio dynasties. And then there was the New Hollywood making its way into the hearts of audiences, Method actors in gritty movies with antiheroes and untidy endings.

It wasn’t until those evenings with Celia, the two of us sharing a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of wine for dinner, that I even started paying attention to the new stuff.

But whatever influence she had on me was a good one, because Ari Sullivan thought I could win an Oscar. And that made me like Celia all the more.

Our weekly outings to hot spots like Rodeo Drive weren’t even feeling like a favor anymore. I did it happily, attracting attention for her simply because I enjoyed her company.

So as I sat there in Harry’s office, pretending to be pissed at both of them for not being very helpful, I knew I was with my two favorite people.

“What does Don say about it?” Celia asked.

“I’m sure he’s going all around the lot trying to find me.”

Harry looked at me pointedly. He knew what might happen if Don read it in a bad mood. “Celia, are you shooting today?” he asked.

She shook her head. “The Pride of Belgium doesn’t start until next week. I just have some wardrobe fittings later, after lunch.”

“I’ll move your wardrobe fittings. Why don’t you and Evelyn go out shopping? We can call over to Photoplay, let them know you’ll be on Robertson.”

“And be seen out around town with single gal Celia St. James?” I said. “That sounds like the perfect example of what I shouldn’t do.”

My mind kept racing through the contents of that stupid article. She can’t be bothered to be kind to the help.

“That little rat,” I said when I figured it out. I hit my fist on the arm of the chair.

“What are you talking about?” Harry said.

“My damn maid.”

“You think your maid talked to Sub Rosa?”

“I’m positive my maid talked to Sub Rosa.”

“All right, well, she’s fired,” Harry says. “I can have Betsy go over there today and let her go. She’ll be gone by the time you get home.”

I thought about my options.

The last thing I needed was America not wanting to see my movies because I wouldn’t give Don a baby. I knew, of course, that most moviegoers would never say as much. They might not even realize they thought as much. But they would read something like this, and the next time one of my pictures came out, they’d think to themselves that there was something about me they never liked, they just couldn’t put their finger on it.

People don’t find it very sympathetic or endearing, a woman who puts herself first. Nor do people respect a man who can’t keep his wife in line. So it didn’t look good for Don, either.

“I need to talk to Don,” I said, standing up. “Harry, can you have Dr. Lopani ring my house this evening? Sometime around six?”

“Why?”

“I need him to call me, and when Paula answers, he needs to sound serious, like he has very important news to tell me. He has to sound concerned enough for her to be intrigued.”

“OK . . .”

“Evelyn, what are you up to?” Celia said, looking up at me.

“When I get on the phone, he has to say exactly this,” I said, and I took a piece of paper and started scribbling.

Harry read it and then handed the paper to Celia. She looked at me.

There was a knock on the door, and without even being welcomed, Don came in.

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” he said. His voice showed neither anger nor affection. But I knew Don, and I knew that with him, there was no lukewarm. The absence of warmth was a chill. “I assume you’ve read this bullshit?” He had the magazine in his hand.

“I have a plan,” I said.

“You’re goddamn right you have a plan. Somebody better have a plan. I’m not walking around this town looking like a henpecked asshole. Cameron, what happened here?”

“I’m dealing with it, Don.”

“Good.”

“But in the meantime, I think you should hear Evelyn’s plan. I think it’s important you’re on board before she moves forward.”

Don took a seat in the chair opposite Celia. He nodded at her. “Celia.”

“Don.”

“With all due respect, I feel like this is a matter for the three of us to discuss?” he said.

“Of course,” Celia said, stepping up from the chair.

“No,” I said, putting my hand out to stop her. “Stay.”

Don looked at me.

“She’s my friend.”

Don rolled his eyes and shrugged. “So what’s the plan, Evelyn?”

“I’m going to fake a miscarriage.”

“What on earth for?”

“They’ll hate me and probably lose respect for you if they think I won’t give you a baby,” I said, despite the fact that it was exactly what was going on between us. That was the elephant in the room, of course. This was all sort of true.

“But they’ll pity you both if they think she can’t,” Celia said.

“Pity? What are you talking about, pity? I don’t want to be pitied. There’s no power in pity. You can’t sell movies with pity.”

And then Harry spoke up and said, “Like hell you can’t.”

* * *

WHEN THE PHONE rang at ten after six, Paula answered and then rushed into the bedroom to tell me the doctor was calling.

I picked up the line with Don beside me.

Dr. Lopani read the script written for him.

I started crying, as loudly as I could on the off chance that Paula had decided to mind her own business for once.

A half hour later, Don went downstairs and told Paula we had to let her go. He wasn’t nice about it; in fact, he was just mean enough to piss her off.

Because you might run to the tabloids to tell them about the miscarriage of your employers. But you’ll definitely run to the tabloids and tell them about the miscarriage of the people who just fired you.


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