Face

November 30, 1990|By Franklin Mason

HE'D BEEN to movies 70 years, 70 years and more, but never like this time. He is going to the Senator, a movie house near his house. And it is a Baltimore movie, about Baltimore, made by a Baltimore man, Barry Levinson. It's called ''Avalon.'' They say it's the ultimate Baltimore movie. All of which is quite enough for him, yet there's more. He (himself in person) is in the movie, or thinks he is. If he can find himself.

It's Sunday now (he remembers when you couldn't go to movies Sunday in Baltimore) and he's up early knowing this is his day, or hoping this is his day. He awaits the premieres, awaits his debut as an actor, his entrance into the world of cinema. It's all so special he says ''cinema'' now instead of ''movie.''

He will appear, or hopes he will appear, on screen as an ''extra.'' He has known the ''extra'' word since he was 7 and now he thinks it may truly come alive for him.

It said in the paper last year that they were making a movie and they wanted ''extras.'' Sure enough he sent his photo as required, and sure enough they called later. Ah, the glamour of it all.

So he was filmed at the country club, Art Donovan's it was. He walked around the pool forever, talked forever to his ''extra'' friend, or made as if to talk, all one afternoon, all one evening. And they shot and shot, the film, that is. And then another afternoon, another evening, he walked forever around and about the perimeter of the dance floor that was adjacent to the pool. Would he see his friend and himself in the background?

This pool scene, this dance-floor scene takes place some years ago, you understand. We're not walking around just yesterday but years ago. So they had to get all of us ready for years ago. Ah, the wardrobe business, the wide lapels, the wide ties, the pants with cuffs, even old-timey shoes. Ah, the make-up business. They parted his hair way way high. In the mirror, he didn't know himself.

And on another day, another call. This time it was supposed to be the dead of winter and it was really hot September. They put him in a heavy overcoat from another day, with a muffler, no less, and a slouch hat with the brim snapped low. And they took him to Pennsylvania Station and downstairs by the tracks.

He walked and walked by the tracks. He rubbed shoulders, or almost, with Joan Plowright, no less. She was meeting the train. Sometimes he walked beside the train, sometimes he sat in the train. He was versatile. All the time the train itself, from another day, spouted steam.

And once -- how about this? -- for a brief moment he actually talked to Barry Levinson, and Barry Levinson, he thinks, talked back to him.

Ah, the memory of it all. And now. Now the film will burst upon the screen this very day, this Baltimore of years ago. And he will be there with clothes from another day. Or will he, will he?

Too much lately a Hollywood phrase had haunted him -- ''the face on the cutting-room floor.'' It made him afraid. If he had a face, if he knew his face when he saw it (the hair parted high), what would happen to it? Would it shine forth in cinematic splendor, would it hide in the background, or would it, this he sorely feared, would it fall on the cutting room floor, high-parted hair and all?

He could only sit now and wait now, half in hope, half in dread, wait for the film. What, whatever would be his fate?

*

No, no, no. No, no no.

If you're going to the movie just to see him, don't. DON'T.

He's been to ''Avalon'' and he's not there. He didn't see himself at all.

What's all this talk about his face, on the floor or otherwise? He didn't even see his figure a half-mile away, let alone his face. There's the train, there's all the rest, and he's not anywhere around.

He guesses they had their reasons, Barry and the rest of them. Perhaps they thought he'd steal a scene or two. Or perhaps he did. And they had to cut him clean way.

Well, he forgives them. It's a good movie anyway, he says. There are a whole raft of Krichinskys in it and they're all fine people. You should make their acquaintance, he says. Of course it would have been better with him in it.

Mr. Mason is a retired Evening Sun copy reader.

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