Thursday, January 6, 2011

What a Hollywood Screenwriter Had in Common With an Officer in the U.S. Navy

Minutes of the Last Meeting by Gene Fowler. This is a non-fiction book about some of smartest and most talented men in 1930s Hollywood. They started a group called the "Bundy Drive Boys," where they discussed important issues of the day, exchanged news and information about their business, and always got totally snockered.

There has been an enormous buzz this week--in conversations, in print, and on the Internet--about the recent demotion of the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, who was removed from his post after videos surfaced that he had made and shown to his sailors several years ago, when he served as Executive Officer of the Enterprise. The videos were such that, even under modern liberal broadcasting standards, they can not, in their entirety, be shown on television.

Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. , Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, made the announcement of his decision to relieve the unfortunately named Honors. Most interesting? The bulk of the Internet chatter supports Commander Honors, not the Admiral.

The occasional voices in the wilderness, from horrified civilians and members of other services who support Admiral Harvey's decision, have been shouted down and in several cases have been told they didn't have a right to comment, "not having served on a US military ship at sea."

That kind of thinking brings to mind a story directly relating to this subject: it will also explain the book cover at the beginning of this post, because the protagonist of the tale was a sprightly member of the "Bundy Drive Boys" in this fascinating and somewhat poignant book ...

Way back in 1930s Los Angeles, there was a screenwriter. He was a member of an informal group that included actors John Barrymore and W.C. Fields, artist John Decker, poet Sadakichi Hartmann and several other talented and successful people. They called themselves the"Bundy Drive Boys" and loved to gather in fellowship to exchange gossips and bon mots and, in the course of their chats, get plastered on adult beverages.

Before working in films, the screenwriter in question had been writing for a newspaper in New York. When he got his first Hollywood contract in 1932, he and his wife decided she would remain in the East with their children, since they weren't sure whether his screenwriting would job would last.

After he had been gone some months, his wife grew concerned. He was a writer by trade; but, he had written very little to her.

Trundling her children off to stay with relatives, she caught a train for the Coast, as California was called back in those ancient days. The scenery, as she headed West, was gorgeous. The service on the train--superb. She began to relax and felt her fears drift off into the sunlit skies of Arizona--or whatever state she happened to be passing through at the time.

She arrived in Los Angeles with the address of her husband's studio and asked a cab driver to take her there. At his office, his secretary said, Oh, I'm sorry: he's not here. You'll find him at his apartment--that is where he likes to work.

The wife hailed another cab and headed down to Santa Monica, to the address the secretary had given her. I think I'll go to lunch with him, she said to herself--and told the cab driver to wait.

She knocked on the door of her husband's apartment.

After a long-ish delay, he opened the door a tiny crack, peeked out and said: "Yes?" and then, "Oh my God, Agnes! You're here! Oh my God!!!" Then he flung the door open to give her an enormous hug.

Unfortunately, he had no clothes on at the time. Behind him, on the edge of the bed, sat a beautiful blonde in the same state of undress. She smiled. In a sort of a wan way.

Mrs. Screenwriter turned and headed back to her cab.

Her husband after consulting briefly with his briefly-dressed guest, followed his wife and behind her she could hear him calling: "Wait! Wait! I can explain!" This was not a happy moment for her, but the scene began to look very funny to those observing it, since her husband was still not wearing any clothes.

By the time she reached the sidewalk and took hold of the door handle of the cab, the driver was trying very hard to keep a straight face, so he would be understood when he said: "Where to, lady?"

As the husband caught up with his wife, she leaned forward in the cab and said: "Get the hell out of here."

"But wait!" said the screenwriter: "I can explain!"

As the cab pulled away, this stalwart wife reached into her handbag for her handkerchief. Above the traffic noise, she could still hear her husband's voice calling after her.

"But honey! You don't understand! This is HOLLYWOOD!"

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Don Meuler said...

A place for everything, and everything in its place?

Robin Chapman said...

And yet ... since people fought and died--and still are doing so--for the flag of our fathers: perhaps, there is not a place for EVERYTHING! (i.e. Owen Honors' videos--especially on a ship of the U.S. Navy. Just my opinion. And, after all, I may not be "entitled" to it, as, it has been pointed out to me the obvious fact: I have not served in the Navy ...

Don Meuler said...

Oh, I agree. Aboard a commissioned and decorated US carrier is not the place for such goings-on, if such a place even exists.

Robin Chapman said...

Aye, aye to that.

peretz said...

Captain Honors, if he is still indeed called by this rank, exhibited grossly impaired judgement by showing these videos to his crew. A Field Grade officer in the United States Military must always maintain a sense of military decor; by allowing his crew to watch these exploits in the name of rest and relaxation,he crossed a line that negated his position, long before he was ever removed from it. He also opened himself up to criticism from the population of people who never served in the military, since he was appointed to protect and serve them. I don't condemn the content of the video, but I do not agree with who he showed it to.

Robin Chapman said...

Your point is in agreement with my own. Shown in private: gross, perhaps, but this would be his privilege as a private citizen in a free society. Shown to the crew by the Executive Officer of a USN ship on duty? I am a civilian so it is for his superiors to judge--as they have. But it seemed to me to be conduct unbecoming an officer, and a failure of leadership.

Skywolf said...

The Navy was absolute correct to have removed Captain Honors from command of the USS Enterprise. A high ranking United States naval officer should ALWAYS be held to the highest of standards. No exceptions! Furthermore, why would you entrust a 93,000 ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 6,000 into the hands of an individual who has displayed such laps in judgment. Moreover, Captain Honors would have received much more admiration from his crew had he displayed respect, dignity, and prudence. A captain is NOT one of the young sailors on board; he/she is the individual all look up to for guidance, wisdom, and sound decisions. He has to lead by example and not (semi) fraternization. As a former serviceman of a Western European Air Force, it is beyond my comprehension how anyone can even remotely justify his behavior or the showing of this video. The U.S. Navy is better than this guy’s conduct...and known all over the world for high moral and ethical standards by its senior officer corps.

It is also utterly ludicrous for anyone to suggest that as an American civilian who has never served in the U.S. military to not be entitled to defend or condemn Captain Honor’s conduct. The United States Navy is the American people’s navy; it
represents their values, objectives, and moral standards.

Robin Chapman said...

Dear Skywolf: I agree 100%. And now that I know I can trust you, I will make sure I'm much more careful and always put coasters on my antique tables in the future. (I think this Naval Commander sank his own career, and I'm starting to feel a little sorry for him.)

Skywolf said...

I think most people - including myself – feel sorry for him, Robin. He may well be an excellent officer with an overall flawless career…except for this one incident a few years back and as XO of Enterprise. But accountability for ones actions is a corner stone of a well working military. Senior American military officers have to be held to the highest of standards. It is one of the things that makes the U.S. military second to none.

As for the coaster incident (a.k.a. Coaster-gate), I still get a little ‘verklempt’ thinking about that. ;-)

Robin Chapman said...

Skywolf: my father taught me many things. One of the first was that the greatest honor he received in his long life, was the honor of wearing the uniform of his country. As a colonel, he was given full military honors at his funeral. The second (of those many things) was that ethics are not situational: if one has ethics, they apply to all aspects of one's life. I bless him for all he taught me.

It was my mother, however, who had the mania for coasters--so that lesson didn't seem to stick quite as well as the teachings of my father.. I will work on it, as I hate the thought of Skywolf all 'verklempt.'