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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Millandsville (From "The Inevitable Downhill Slope" by Jerry Ford and Jim Bigler)

Milland, Ray (1905-1986)
(Reginald Truscott-Jones)

Welsh-born light leading man of ready smile and equitable disposition; carved a pleasant niche for himself in Hollywood in the thirties, and later surprised many by becoming an actor and director of some repute before stepping on the inevitable downhill slope…

Harmond Neville was pissed. The director of “The Thing With Two Heads” had a budget to meet and a schedule to keep, and Ray Milland was nowhere to be found. “Goddamn it,” he fumed to his effeminate assistant, who was sucking juice from a plastic lemon. “Where is Milland?”

“Well, Harmond,” the assistant stammered, chewing on a piece of plastic stem. “He’s in his trailer, watching a copy of ‘Dial M for Murder’…And I think he’s been drinking…”

“What the hell…” Neville found himself storming off to the trailer that was serving as the Ray Milland dressing room, followed by his callow assistant. Inside the darkened dressing room, Ray Milland was slumped in a lethargic limbo, sipping gin from a silver monogrammed flask and moving his lips to the dialogue on the screen. Only the opening of the door and intrusion of the midday sun drew his attention from the bluewhite picture that flickered on a bare wall of the trailer. Irritated, Neville slapped at the light switch and Milland ducked his head as if under attack and blinked his bleary eyes. “Jesus Chrisht,” the slurred, yet familiar British accent demanded. “What in the hell are you doing?”

“Um, Mister Milland?” Neville’s assistant attempted to calm the actor—he knew they could be touchy.

“Shut up and get the hell out of here!” Milland yelled, gesturing at the image on the wall. “Can’t you see who I used to be?”

Neville exploded. “Nonsense! This is a bunch of bullshit! Ray Milland or no Ray Milland, I’m going to finish this picture on time and under budget!”

“Is that a threat?” asked Milland. “Must I remind you who I was? Ray Milland…” He raised his flask to the image on the wall as the director fought for his attention.

“I don’t care if you used to be Don Ameche—I’ve got half a thing with two heads out there who is about to die of heat asphyxiation!”

“Welsh-born light leading man,” Milland mumbled to his flask. “Of ready smile and equitable disposition…” He once again toasted the black and white image flickering on the wall as the director stormed out of the room, cursing under his breath. His assistant followed quietly, closing the door gently. He paused to take a last look at the figure slumped drunkenly in the chair. After all, he thought, what’s a little delay and a thing with two heads when you’re dealing with someone who used to be Ray Milland…

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