PROLOGUE: WHERE HE FOUND HIMSELF

“Pain now for clarity later.” ~ S. Gyllenhaal

It was dark but it was more than that, he realized. Not only was there no illumination, it was as if there were nothing to illuminate. I’ve seen this before, he thought. It’s like a blackout in a film. In a totally dark theater. But no theater could be this dark. I must be blind. He began to panic. The last thing he remembered was a vague feeling of falling. Maybe a blow to the head had blinded him. He searched his mind and soon realized that this was not only the last thing he remembered, but the only thing as well. Where had he fallen from? And more to the point, where had he fallen to?

The second thing he realized was that not only could he not see, he could not hear, smell, or feel anything, not even pain. He stretched out his right arm. He could feel the muscles and joints moving, but nothing else. He reached across his body with his right hand and felt the reassuring texture of his left arm. He lifted his feet, first one and then the other. He tried to walk. The walking motion felt perfectly normal, but he could not move from the space he was in. There was nothing beneath his feet to walk on.

Then, just as he was beginning to despair, like a cinematic fade-in, the world slowly began to re-establish itself to his senses. First, light faded in gradually, at first just a faint blur, then slowly brightening and sharpening, as if someone were focusing a camera lens. Urban sounds began to fade in: faint sounds of automobile traffic, what sounded like the buzz of a crowd, occasional snatches of music. As the scene finally focused back into normality, he realized from the light’s angle and brightness that it was somewhere near sunset on a clear evening.

As his memory began to slowly return, he looked around and saw that, amazingly, he was standing on the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard. And from the tiles on the sidewalk containing stars and the names of entertainment luminaries, he figured he must be near Vine. Looking out at the street, he noticed a number of cars and other vehicles whizzing by. This in itself was not strange, but the majority of them (save for the vintage automobiles which in Hollywood are plentiful) were both sleeker and quieter than the cars he knew.

There seemed to be an excited buzz of young people’s voices emanating from a source about twenty yards down the block, so he decided to go and see what the attraction was. A few moments later he found himself standing in front of the Pantages Theatre, together with a bustling crowd of mostly teenagers, he guessed, all trying to push their way into the theater at once. Wondering what the big deal was, he looked up at the marquee and immediately did a double take. For on the marquee, in huge unmistakable letters on a background of dazzling pulsing neon, was the following proclamation:

The Films Of Gil Hall — A Retrospective

In smaller letters below was written:

One Week Only — Fourteen of His Greatest Films — Every Night a Double Feature!

This in itself was not surprising—Hollywood, and especially the venerable Egyptian Theatre—was always showing a “retrospective” of someone’s work. No, what had caught his attention was the name on the marquee: Gil Hall. But he was Gil Hall. And although he recalled that he was indeed a Hollywood director, he was certainly no auteur, let alone a fit subject for a retrospective.

Intrigued, he set his efforts to pushing his way through the crowd that was milling about outside the theater and was finally rewarded by being able to shove his way through the door and into the theater’s spacious lobby. Once inside he found himself face to face with a large theatrical poster which read:

WATER OVER THE BRIDGE
Written and Directed by Gil Hall

Below was a list of the stars, and then glowing words of praise from the critics. Above the poster was a tacked-on sign: “Tonight Only!” But what really got to him was a photograph just to the right of the poster, a publicity shot of the director on the set of the film. The man in the photograph was standing between his two co-stars with an arm around each and a big smile on his face—Gil Hall’s face. A face which was also his own!

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