“Cut, Cut! . . . Shit!” the young director yelled out in disgust as he quickly got up from his chair and motioned for his prop man. The director and the prop man had been close ever since film school and so the prop man knew exactly what the director was angry about. As collaborators on all the young director’s films, the two were never apart for more than a few hours each day during filming. They planned every scene down to the last detail to minimize delays, but when there was a problem, the director could be tyrannical about it.
Out of earshot of the rest of the crew, the director pulled the prop man aside and started to lambaste him. “Jeremy, I told you I wanted a vintage ‘47 Chrysler for this shot! That piece of shit the stunt driver brought onto the scene looks like it just came from the junkyard. We can’t use the footage!” Closely watching his prop man’s reaction, he continued, “So get me what I want and get it today, okay!”
The prop man wasn’t going to be bullied on this one as he fought back, “I told you three weeks ago we were having trouble with the cars! Remember our conversation at your mother’s house when I told you about that big company in L.A. that has been buying up all the old vintage cars from the smaller outfits we used to rent from.”
“Yeah, I remember the conversation. And I remember you said we were going to have to spend a lot more on cars than we thought. So, what’s the problem here?” the director complained impatiently.
The prop man took a moment to answer knowing full well how the young director was going to react, “Well, we were all set to rent a suitable car until they demanded to review the script. And when we showed them the story line, they refused to rent to us.”
“On what grounds?” the director demanded.
The prop man breathed deeply and replied, “On the grounds that it puts Italian-Americans in a bad light.”
“For Christ's Sake, Jeremy, we’re doing a movie about the mob in L.A. in the late 1940’s. That was generations ago! Who are these guys who are refusing to rent to us, anyway? Will they reconsider?” the director yelled.
The prop man used his finger to push his nose to one side.
“Oh, shit, you mean they’re connected?” the incredulous director whispered.
The prop man slowly nodded and shrugged. “I had to go all the way to Kansas to get this piece of junk to use in the shot! Can you believe it? It was one of the few ‘47 Chryslers the L.A. company hadn’t bought up. I think it’s been in a barn for quite a while. It still has its old California plates on it with 1947 registration tags.”
The director told the crew to take a lunch break while he and the prop man took a closer look at the old car and talked to the stunt driver. They walked around the vehicle, looked inside it, and then stood back to consider what to do next.
The director turned to the stunt driver and asked, “Willy, you know cars. What do you think about this piece of junk? If we give it a cheap paint job and touch up the wheels and the bumpers, will it pass muster if we don’t use it in a closeup?”
The stunt driver didn’t hesitate as he responded, “Yeah, we can have it ready by tomorrow morning. But there’s just one thing.” He waited nervously as the young director put his hands on his hips and in an annoying voice said, “Oh, what now?”
The prop man jumped right in and replied, “Well, we had to buy this car from a farmer in Kansas. We beat the L.A. guys to it with just about ten minutes to spare, and they weren’t too pleased that they didn’t get it. Apparently, they've been looking for it for years!”
“So what?” the director demanded.
“Well, they’ll be by tomorrow afternoon to pick it up from us. So, we have to get the shot done and have the car ready to ship by four o’clock tomorrow afternoon, or else,” the prop man explained.
The director was now in full rage. “Let me understand this, will you? First, they refuse to rent cars to us and now they’re demanding we give them cars that we own! Is that what I’m hearing, Jeremy?”
The prop man walked to the rear of the car, motioned for the young director to follow him as he opened the trunk. “Maybe this will help you understand.” As the two men looked down into the trunk, they could clearly see the skeletal remains of a large man who in life had been dressed in a suit and hat circa the late 1940’s. There was an obvious hole in the rear of the deceased’s skull.
The director took a deep breath and then slowly asked, “Did they say anything about what would happen if we didn’t return the car?”
The prop man and the stunt driver looked at each other, and then the prop man moved closer to the young director, put his hand on his shoulder, and whispered, “They said there was still plenty of room in the trunk.”