This isn’t the final version of this poem, which appears in my second book, Glitteral (buy it on Amazon as a Kindle edition), but it’s the first version I was really happy with. Wallace Reid (1891-1923) was a massive star in the Hollywood silent cinema, an Everyman, an attractive and talented actor who sadly became the first film casualty of drug addiction.
The Blues for Wally Reid – draft 1
Kick back the twenties – scandalous rumours dance,
Because he died in’23 before the world started living,
Before the screen’s silver gloom illuminated life,
And actors began to talk in simulated hallways.
Seeing Wally in a movie is like watching history,
Or a butterfly’s first flutter, a raging sunset
Of oranges, purples, golds, and pinks.
Those huge pale eyes in light grey air.
The boy-next-door, before Valentino made sheiks
A maiden’s choice, when Keystone Kops were
Still playing their out-of-sync games
In quick motion, mindless silent mayhem.
In ‘16 there was the photoplay of Joan of Arc,
An opera star portrayed her in luminous clarity
While Wally watched from the wings
Daydreaming his last few soldier’s moments.
He’s courting Gloria in ‘21, while she plays
The child-vamp, a cutie with flashing eyes and pout,
And Bebe buzzes like the fireflies on Beverly Hills.
No one is sure when the morphine got him,
Fixing its evil insinuations into his mind,
But shut away I’m sure he heard music,
Recitals of laughter and despair, clarinets
Draining the last notes of love, heartless,
And that’s why I write the blues
For the tragic boy the world forgot,
The celluloid giant of all those summers
Those who followed never knew.
(c) Louise Penn