Turning the Corner: Inimical (episode eight)
“So she flings the earring away, seeing him, and Mr. Rousseau jumps, seeing her, and knocks the table over, and the mink stole spills out. Isobel asks him if he’s trying to be funny. He says, ‘I never try to be funny. So far as I know’. He’s one of those befuddled English types.” Greta paused. “No offense.”
“I can’t imagine I should take any.”
“Mr. Rousseau was played by an old music hall artist. He said, artist.” Here, Greta laughed.
“Yes, I believe they prefer it.” And a tick late, for having mused on this, Malcolm-Webb tried a laugh as well.
“He could do all sorts of character parts.” She shrugged a shoulder. “Butlers, murderers, piano players…I don’t know. He could pull out a classy accent that made him sound just like an M.P.”
“Some M.P.’s sound just like Southwark.”
“Okay,” she said. “Anyway, most of the cast were very patient, but the star kept saying she couldn’t see why it mattered. The line was in the script. She was saying it the way they wrote it. They ought to have made it funny. Then she’d do it just the same…then she’d fling her earring like this…”
Greta shook a tepid wrist.
Malcolm-Webb, reaching inside his jacket for his reporter’s notebook, murmured, “I see.”
“When you do comedy, you have to do it big.” She made her eyes big, as though this illustrated the point. “When you drop something, Gregory, you have to drop it. When you trip over something, you have to trip over it.”
“Geoffrey,” he reminded her. He felt the time had come. But now she was telling him a story.
Greta, along with a fellow bit player, had been watching a slanging match between director and star. The actress had the advantage, attacking with vituperation in her native tongue; then, in hauteur withdrawing, to resume English at last with the air of one wronged. The director had struggled to keep his temper, while sizing up his opponent’s weaknesses.
Greta had been translating for her colleague’s amusement, choice vulgar phrases. The director gave her a sharp look. He then announced an early lunch.
“Now, darling girl. I would like you to deliver a message to the cow.”
“You want me to tell her she’s a cow.”
He waggled a finger. “None of that. Communicating in the gentle accents of the Reich, you will tell her…in fact, you will show her…exactly how I expect her to perform her lines.”
“So, I was like an overstudy. I played the role first, and then she played it.”
“And were you given credit for that?”
(2014, 2018, Stephanie Foster)