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A Look at the Duke

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Excerpt from: A Look at the Duke - Accounts of Thomas Barrows Life and Work in Hollywood

Interview with Charles Thromby, screen writer and director, Los Angeles 1990

You met Thomas Barrow fairly early on in your career, is that right? What was your impression of him?

Within my first year in Hollywood, that’s right, yes.

First, here’s what you need to understand: When I met him, at that time there was not a single guy in Hollywood not jealous of Guy Dexter. He’d made it, and we all knew why. Now don’t get me wrong, he was a brilliant actor, but there were many brilliant actors. There was only ever one Barrow.

Now, I absolutely belive that the queer sort, oh, sorry, do we not say that anymore? What's It called now? Gay?

Queer is currently sometimes used by activists to describe themselves, in an effort to re-claim the word, but gay is absolutely fine for now.

In any case, I absolutely believe that they were just jealous because he was a magnificent bastard, and handsome too. But us regular old blokes, it wasn’t that. We didn’t really want to get with him in that way, more that we just all wished we had a partner like that, you know?

So when I arrived in Hollywood in 1940, everyone had heard of them, of course, and there was not a single man standing who was able to pretend that we didn’t care. We cared a damn sight. And I didn't really think any of it. I mean, there are many powerful people in the world, and he didn’t feel any closer to me than the president. So I just got on with my work.

And then, it was 1941 by then, I had sold my first script a few months ago and I had an idea that I had made it, I was invited to one of these industry parties. I was a nobody from nowhere, Kansas, I think I was mostly invited to fill the room, I didn’t matter.

And there they were. Barrow and Dexter, as the Lord had made them. The closest I can describe it is meeting royalty. In a way I was. I just stood there in my corner, slack jawed, like an idiot for god knows how long, watching them mingle.

And then Mr. Barrow, they had separated by that point, walked in my direction. I didn't realize at first, how would I? But when I did, I about passed out. I was sure I was gonna be thrown out by the seat of my pants, I swear.

But he was. Well, I mean. I’m not going to lie and say he was kind. He was efficient, is what he was. But he did me a kindness then, so maybe he was kind too.

He walked up to me and soon as I knew, we were having a chat about how I was wasting my potential writing what RKO was commissioning and how I should go back to writing my own ideas. How he was sure we could do great work with each other.

So you want to know what I thought of Mr. Barrow, twenty-three years old and already getting sick of Hollywood? I thought he was a god. He’d made Guy Dexters career. And, I can say with absolute confidence today, he made mine. So not a lot of the shine has worn off. Some, but not a lot.