Preliminary Disclaimer of Literary Inadequacy: I am not trying to make fun of anyone here, although my insufficiency as a writer may occasionally slide me over the precipice. My topic of conversation is people who think they are important when… they actually are important, just not important for as a long a time as they believe they will be. End of Preliminary Disclaimer of Literary Inadequacy. And now.., enjoy.)
Do you have to be as psychologically “bent”, as they say in England, as I am to be watching some classic movie on TV and the first thing that pops to mind is, “Everyone in this movie is dead”?
It doesn’t have to be a classic. They are dead in bad movies as well. Consider that “double-whammy” a moment – dead and artistically frustrated. Of which I, as a failed movie participant, am gratefully only just one. At least for the moment.
Anyway, that’s just the enticing “Short Subject” for the enjoyable “Feature” that is about to unspool.
Curtain up. Here we go.
If you a regular viewer of Turner Classic Movies, you might be familiar with the name Pandro S. Berman, a successful producer with such noteworthy credits on his vaunted resume as: (Fred and Ginger’s) Top Hat, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, National Velvet and Father of the Bride (the Spencer Tracy not the Steve Martin version.)
(When he was just getting started, Pandro S. Berman also produced Stocks and Blondes, the difference in our trajectories being that Stocks and Blondes was his cinematic low point while my earliest effort, Cannibal Girls, was my towering achievement.)
I am mysteriously, although considering my sensitized feelers for the unusual not mysteriously, drawn to the name “Pandro S. Berman”, more specifically the name Pandro.
My suspicion, based on his surname “Berman”, was that the gentleman in question was Jewish, that suspicion being confirmed during my (five minutes of) assiduous research.
In my seventy-two-plus years as a member of that religious and ethnic minority, I have not met or even heard of a single Pandro. My Jewish experience suggests that he was originally Pinchas who, leaping over Peter, Paul and Percival at some point, landed, presumably early in his career, on the mildly exotic though oddly unplaceable name Pandro. (Although when he came home for Seders, he was likely still Pinchas.)
Our scenario begins with the “Big man in the Business” lunching at his favorite elegant eatery at his “Table of Choice” on which is placed, during between-mealtime absences, an embossed card bearing the words:
“Reserved for Pandro S. Berman.”
So nobody gets any ideas. (He adds for possibly unnecessary emphasis.)
Imagine being an aspiring screenwriter desperate to break into the business who has written a screenplay. Having studied his habits and angling for a “chance encounter” with the targeted industry giant, the aspiring screenwriter is now sitting in that favorite elegant eatery (at a table next to the kitchen) mustering his courage before marching over to his unwitting quarry’s table, brashly presenting him with his screenplay for consideration as a project the great Pandro S. Berman might deign to ultimately produce. (Or barring that, offering him a job in the studio mailroom. No. It’s “produced screenplay”, or nothing.)
A deep bolstering breath.
And away he goes.
ASPIRING SCREENWRITER: “Excuse me. Mr. Berman?”
Pandro S. Berman looks up from his table. Possibly superciliously. Possibly bored. Possibly compassionately. I don’t know. I am no expert on Pandro S. Berman behavior when accosted in a favorite elegant eatery. Maybe he’s looking around for the “Bouncer.” One thing, however, is dead certain:
The man knows he is Pandro S. Berman. Relishing all that being Pandro S. Berman entails.
PANDRO S. BERMAN: “Yes?”
At a less prominent table sits D.W. Griffith, fallen on hard times after a glorious career, taking in the “Aspirant-Power Personage” tableau, knowing instinctively what is going on.
“That used to be me,” grouses the legendary Griffith, returning to his low-priced “Chicken-a-la-King.”
“I realize you’re a busy man…”
“Well, I am Pandro S. Berman.” Expressed not with supercilious arrogance but with the easy confidence only a Pandro S. Berman, or his ilk, can successfully pull off.
“… and I hate to interrupt your dining…”
“And yet you are. Tell me, young man. Do you generally do things you hate to do?”
“Only when the opportunity presents itself crash the protective Pando S. Berman “Picket Line” for momentary contact with 'The Great Pandro S. Berman himself."
“Oh, I am not as important as all that.”
“Talented and humble. No wonder you made it to the top.”
“What can I do for you, son? Quickly now. My expensive appetizer is beginning to wilt.”
“Could you… of course not you personally, but, could you instruct one of your trusted underlings to… instruct one of their trusted underlings, or possibly a trusted underling below that to take a look at this screenplay in the hope that you will in the near future deign to produce… ?
Pandro S. Berman snatches the screenplay out of the eager aspiring writer’s tremulous hand.
Oh, happy day! Pandro S. Berman – or some trusted underling, at some level – is going to look at his screenplay and his world will be instaneously transformed. So long, “Hollywood Fantasy” – hello, glorious “Big Time.”
From then on, it’s “Can you believe it? Pandro S. Berman is reading my screenplay.” Or, as the word gets around, “Can you believe it? Pandro S. Berman is reading his screenplay.” (The “… and not mine” being enviously implied.)
The aspiring screenwriter is walking on air. He could be beaten and robbed. Endure gum surgery without anesthetic. He could be dumped by his girlfriend. (And boy, is she going to be sorry.) But who cares?
“Pandro S. Berman is reading my screenplay.”
The days crawl by.
“What’s the word?”
“Have you heard anything about your screenplay?”
“Are you a big mucky-muck yet?
The anxieties accrue. Talk about all your eggs in one basket. A screenwriter’s career destiny hangs on the decision of one man.
“If he like it, I’m ‘in!’; if he hates it, I’m done. My entire fate and future are in the hands of Pandro S. Berman.”
It could go either of those ways. Or possibly a third way. Pablo S. Berman could have abandoned the aspiring screenwriter’s screenplay at the Men’s Room of the elegant eatery, the restaurant janitor picking it up and… taking it home to see if the material had merit, submitting it later, with polishing adjustments and a name-change on the “Title Page”, as his own.
Or possibly even a fourth way – a way I and my friend Alan once experienced when pitching a new series idea to the head of CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s) “Light Entertainment” who, while listening attentively to our pitch, was simultaneously packing the personal belongings in his office into a cardboard box.
For – the unadorned message of this undertaking –
No one remains Pandro S. Berman forever.
Though at the time, everyone believes unilaterally that they will.
There is always a new Pandro S. Berman coming down the pike, though with unlikely that name. And, in a surprisingly brief period of time, it’s
“Who the heck was Pandro S. Berman?”
And somebody else is occupying that table.