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His wife Ella, formerly his leading lady in his early comedies, is steeped in ...
His wife Ella, formerly his leading lady in his early comedies, is steeped in alcoholism and growing mental illness. His children are strangers to him. His pretty young costar, Lila Lenore, wants more than a working relationship with him. Producer Max Randolph, Harold's former boss and friend from his two-reeler days, seems to have it in for him, although Harold can't figure out why. And a girl from Harold's past, who died under mysterious circumstances keeps coming back to him in dreams that seem to be both a rebuke and a warning. The only way he can keep the demons at bay is by transforming his fears into laughter on film.
Harold's world is about to turn upside-down. Waiting in the wings are talking pictures - a crude, unperfected medium that Harold refuses to acknowledge. But before long, talkies begin to eclipse the silents - and Harold finds himself enmeshed in a struggle for survival in a suddenly alien world.
SLAPSTICK digs beneath the sunny optimism of the movies' Golden Age to examine how myths are made, both on and offscreen. It's a story of both the shipwrecked and the survivors of the film world's first big shakeup, and how they cope with one of man's most primal needs - the drive to create.
Whenever things started getting strange, Harold always dreamed about the dead girl.
The dream always started out with Nebraska and his mother on a bright, cold day, his footsteps crunching the frozen grass beneath his feet. He was holding his mother's mittened hand, and she was singing, something about you take the high road and I take the low road. He tightened his grip on her hand and watched as they drew closer to the train station, its "Burlington, Neb." sign squeaking in the cold, clear air.
Mama was smiling down at him, young, as he remembered her from his childhood. Harold could hear the huffing of the steam engine in the distance. He looked up to smile at Mother, but she had suddenly changed. She was growing older even as he watched her, hair graying, face sagging, wrinkles furrowing her fair skin.
"Mama, the train," he said. "It'll be here in just a minute! Please, Mama, don't go away!"
Just as the train pulled into the station, he looked down at his hand and saw it was empty. His mother was gone. In her place was the girl as he remembered her from that night: young, with a crown of blonde braids on her head, wearing the brown taffeta dress. She was smiling, and she took his hand and led him onto the train, a train without conductor or engineer or passengers. He sat in the dimly lit car, shuddering on the seat, and watched as the train turned into the hotel room in San Francisco. Max and the redhead and the girl in the brown taffeta dress, the dress now on the floor, bottles on the nightstand, bodies sprawled on the bed and Max saying, "Go on, Harold, they won't bite."
Harold came awake as if out ofwater, gasping. Outside it was still dark, with only the faintest line of pink against the horizon, the tops of the undulating palm trees etched in black against it. He sat up and wiped his eyes, surprised to see he'd been crying. The luminescent hands of the clock on the nightstand showed that it was too late to try to sleep some more. The alarm was set to go off in fifteen minutes anyway. He put his face in his hands and tried to collect his thoughts, but he knew her eyes would follow him around for the rest of the day.