I am currently working on a murder mystery set in 1927. My main character is Chet Koski, a screenwriter and amateur detective, who played one year with the New York Giants in 1911.Recently I purchased the 1927 silent film “Casey at the Bat,” because I love baseball like my hero Chet Koski; and I have an affection for silent movies. Was there a way to tie the movie into the story?
Something told me I could. So about one third into my novel I decided to watch the movie. It starred Wallace Berry as Casey and Zasu Pitts as his girlfriend Camille. The movie is loosely based on the Ernest Thayer poem, and I use the word ‘loosely’ as in, not even close. It is a comedy, not a bad one for the time, but what got my attention were two things. One was that Casey was signed by the New York Giants-Chet’s old team and in the big game they were playing Pittsburgh.
Serendipity number one. In chapter nine Chet is reading about the Giants playing the Pirates, wondering if his old team can get back in the race.
Serendipity number two. The movie was made at Paramount where Chet works.
Here is what I did: I added a paragraph between the first and second. The addition should be obvious.
Friday I promised to take Eveleen dancing, something I do to keep, her happy. I wish I were a better dancer, but my Charleston looks like I am having a seizure. While Eveleen was getting dressed, I read the sports page. My Giants lost to Pittsburgh Wednesday and were playing a doubleheader with them today. My boys were still eight games out of first, but there was still time. So I kept telling myself.
Reading about the Giants and Pirates made me think of a few months ago when I saw “Casey at the Bat” starring Wallace Berry as Casey. I went to see it because I love baseball, and Paramount, my dear employer, made the movie. One would think the movie is based on the Ernest Thayer poem, but it wasn’t, not really. There is no Mudville, but a Centerville, where Casey is a beer drinking junkman who hits homers, in one case, the home run goes a quarter of a mile. Obviously the movie is not based in reality. He is signed by the New York Giants and the big game is between the Giants and the Pittsburgh club. Anyway there is not much baseball, but a lot of comedy and hoodwinking by gamblers. Casey does strike out in the bottom of the 9th, but only because the gamblers substituted a trick ball with two strikes on Casey. But Casey’s girlfriend Camille, played by Zasu Pitts, sees what happens and the next day the gamblers are arrested and we are told the game will be replayed. The movie ends, however, before the game. I have no idea why studios make changes in a book, or as in this movie, a poem. Did they think they could improve on the story, did they think people would not notice the butchering. I like Wally as Casey. His mugging was good in a naively charming way. I laughed when Casey returns to his hotel room where there are two books on the table as Casey, as made clear in the movie, can’t read or write. I wish they assigned this story to me. I would have stuck more to the poem with background on Casey, the hometown hero, kept the story in Mudville, done away with gamblers, and built the tension to the end when Casey strikes out. But Monte Brice got to write the story and he made his directorial debut with the movie as well. Paramount got their happy ending with Casey and Camille back together, but who won the rematch? I think I should write a baseball story; after all, I played the game, no one else at Paramount can say that. I doubt after the way this movie turned out any baseball themed movies will be made in the near future, certainly not by Paramount. I could of written a better story damn it.
I was roused from my baseball musing by Eveleen who was ready to hit the dance floor. The Victorians would be shocked at today’s fashions of the liberated woman. Eveleen was wearing a long, loose fitting white dress, with a white sash tied around her waist, the hem of the dress about 14 inches above the ankle. She had bought a new Clara Bow style hat, perfect for the flapper on the town.
The added paragraph shows Chet being a bit jealous, part of character revealing and adds something, Chet musing about the movie triggered by reading about the Giants and Pirates, extending the moment, not rushing to Eveleen being ready. It indicates it is taking her a little extra time.
Be open to serendipity.