Read Merryll Manning Is Dead Lucky Online

Authors: Johm Howard Reid

Merryll Manning Is Dead Lucky (5 page)

    “Director Michael Cacoyannis made a very famous film, a huge international success?”

    I hadn’t the faintest. I’d never heard of the garlic eater.

    “
Zorba, the Greek
.”

    I kicked myself. That was one I did know. Anthony Quinn played Zorba. And now I was really boiling mad!

    “Worth two points: Robert de Niro has won Hollywood’s most prestigious acting awards for what two movies?”

    I slammed my thumb into the buzzer. “
Taxi Driver
and
Raging Bull
.”

    “Wrong! It was
The Godfather
and
Raging Bull
. You gain one point for
Raging Bull
, but lose two points for
Taxi Driver
, Down, one point. What famous movie star refused his 1970 award for Best Actor?”

    I pressed the buzzer like mad.

    “You didn’t let me finish. I want both the title of the film and the name of the actor. Worth two points.”

    “Marlon Brando for
The Godfather.”

   
“Wrong! That happened at the 1972 awards. At the 1970 awards, the actor was George C. Scott and the film was
Patton
. You lose four points.”

    I stood up. “You’re wrong!” I screamed. “If De Niro won for
The Godfather
, how could Brando also win for
The Godfather
? My previous answer was right. De Niro won for
Taxi Driver
!”

    Sedge scurried through his notes. I could see this segment being edited out when the show was broadcast tonight.

    With a bit of luck, Sedge would be forced to replay the whole two questions.

    “I’m sorry. De Niro won for
The Godfather Part Two
. I’m sorry I didn’t make that plain.”

    A few boos from the crowd. At least I had a couple of supporters out there.

    “Your answer threw me out.
Part Two
was made in 1974. I couldn’t possibly have confused
The Godfather
with
Patton
. Your wrong answer threw me.”

    Sedge smiled. “I actually did you a favor. You should have realized that if
The Godfather
was the answer to the first question, it couldn’t possibly also be the answer to the second. You lose four points.”

    BRUNSDON, 14… ARNETT, 10… MANNING, 8… KONSTANOS, 3.

    It was easier to lose points than gain them. That results board was not looking at all encouraging. And only three certain Hollywood questions left to go…

    “Although they were both big stars at Warner Brothers for over twenty years, Edward G, Robinson and James Cagney made only one film together. What was it?”

    I didn’t know. My brain was burning up. I couldn’t think straight.

    “Nobody know?
Smart Money
. What was the trademark song of Frances Gumm?”

    “Frances Gumm is Judy Garland,” I answered.

    “I want the name of her song.”

    “
Over the Rainbow
,” I said smartly.

    “Correct. Now our last question in this Hollywood segment: What is – or rather,
was
– Larry Parks’s most famous role?”

    I jammed my thumb into the buzzer. “Jolson. He played Jolson in
The Jolson Story
and
Jolson Sings Again
.”

    “Correct.”

 

During the commercial break, I studied the board hard. It wasn’t very encouraging. BRUNSDON, 14… ARNETT, 10… MANNING, 10 … KONSTANOS, 3.

    From any angle, there was no way I could make the figures come out with Manning on top. Dune-Harrigan, who hadn’t made his move yet, was a moral to win. I’d done my best to forget everything I ever knew about Ancient Egypt. And I’d lost five easy points. I should now be leading. How was I going to pick up five points from crazy subjects like English Literature and Delphic Riddles?

    Sure enough, English Literature was right off my planet. I fumed through cosmic riddles on Wordsworth’s poetry and the whereabouts of Childe Harold’s pilgrimage – thirteen of these idiot questions and Sally Wilmot, the expert ex-missionary didn’t miss even one! I’d even relaxed my thumb, when Sedge suddenly asked, “In the movie version of
Pride and Prejudice
, who played Darcy?”

    “Laurence Olivier.”

    MANNING, 11.

    “What famous English novelist write the screenplay?”

    This time, Sally Wilmot was too quick: “Jane Austen.”

    “I asked who wrote the screenplay, not the original novel.”

    “I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

    “I’m sorry too. You lose two points. And you were going so well too!”

    “I can answer the question.” I butted in. “Aldous Huxley.”

    “That’s right. But as you didn’t ring your buzzer first…”

Another commercial break for Tunning’s Totally Tempting Travel Tour Tickets. Another chance to study the score: BRUNSDON, 14. He hadn’t spoken a word since his first go. Why should he? He doubtless saw himself as sitting on top, just waiting for the rest of us to be mad enough to lose points. He didn’t know Ex-Professor Carmichael Dune-Harrigan, and what he didn’t know wasn’t worrying him.

    MANNING, 11. There was still a hope, but I would have to take chances.

    ARNETT, 10. He was out of it. Too cautious. He’d stay on ten till the end.

    WILMOT, 11. No hope for her either,

    KONSTANOS, 3. She was a definite danger. She was last in the pecking order, but if she correctly answered all her own riddles – or rather all of Sedge’s riddles – she’d end up with 18.

    But before Konstanos took her turn, Ancient Egypt, of course, changed everything. The old pirate archaeologist sailed through every one of his fifteen questions. The rest of us didn’t have a prayer. The board read “DUNE-HARRIGAN, 15” even before we had the next round with Doctor Zara Konstanos and her unsolved riddles.

    Would you believe, Zara missed every single one of her questions – not that I blame her. She obviously expected Greek riddles but what she got had a decidedly American slant such as “An aircraft carrying what famous band leader went missing in a flight over Europe in WW2?” I was pretty sure Sedge meant Glenn Miller, but I didn’t want to chance losing another two points. The rest of us were not game either.

    Sedge then began shooting questions from any category:

    “What famous king consulted the Delphic oracle in 550 BC?”

    “Croesus,” answered Arnett, quick as a flash.

    “Correct.” A few perfunctory claps. The spectators were tiring, and, despite his sudden entry into the fray, Arnett was not all that popular with the crowd.

    “Who is – or was – Gerard Croiset?”

    “A psychic detective.” Arnett again!

    “What is Judge Joseph Crater noted for?”

    “He disappeared in 1930 and no trace of him has ever been found.” Arnett yet again!

    “Correct!” The crowd was now cheering with a bit more enthusiasm. The outsider was getting up and making a late dash. He could win! ARNETT, 13 was now nudging BRUNSDON, 14 and DUNE-HARRIGAN, 15!

    With only 11 points, I was way down the list. Sally Wilmot also had 11 points but I couldn’t see her winning somehow. After all, the only way I could win would be to take some desperate chances – and why not? Like Arnett, I now had nothing to lose!

   “Lionel Crabb was a Royal Navy frogman who disappeared in Portsmouth Harbor in 1956. No trace of him has ever been found. What was his nickname?”

    I’d never heard of Lionel Crabb, but I pressed the buzzer like crazy. There was only one nickname possible! “Buster!” I yelled.

    “That is correct. Buster Crabb, after the famous film star.”

    “He starred in the serial,
Flash Gordon
,” I observed.

    The crowd cheered.

    Without waiting for the cheers to die down, Sedge pressed ahead with the next question. The show was running out of time. “Who or what is Qwerty?”

    “The first letters on the second line of a typewriter keyboard and sometimes used as the name for a standard typewriter.” You don’t get any promotions on the police force until you type up a few thousand reports with two fingers.

    “Who is John Mullins?”

    No-one knew.

    We all missed the next two questions as well. Only seven to go! The crowd was getting excited. Sedge’s voice took on a racetrack close-finish timbre. “What is an ankh?”

    I pressed my buzzer like crazy, but Dune-Harrigan got in before me. “Best described as T-shaped cross with a loop at the top. It’s the Egyptian symbol of life.”

    “Absolutely correct!”

    “Raising the dead to life has been the subject of many books and movies. For instance, Mary Shelley wrote
Frankenstein
. Who played Frankenstein in the 1931 movie?”

    Brunsdon got in ahead of me. With Dune-Harrigan leading at 16, he was now 2 points down. “Boris Karloff.”

    “I’m afraid you’re wrong. You lose two points. Karloff played the monster. Colin Clive was Frankenstein. UFO’s have been the subject of many books and films. One of the most famous films was directed by Steven – ”

    I took a desperate chance. “
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
.”

    “Absolutely correct!”

    The crowd was going wild.

    DUNE-HARRIGAN, 16… MANNING, 14… BRUNSDON, 12 … ARNETT, 12… WILMOT, 11… KONSTANOS, 4.

    Just three questions to go. I would have to get every one of them to win! My scalp was sticky with sweat, yet I was shivering with cold. I wiped my thumb on my pants and poised it over the buzzer.

    “The jungles of South America hold many secrets, none more legendary than the never discovered – ”

    My thumb jammed into the buzzer. “El Dorado.”

    “… city of gold. El Dorado is correct.”

    The crowd went really wild.

    MANNING, 15. Two questions to go.

    “Heinrich Schliemann – ”

    Dune-Harrigan pressed his buzzer. “He was an archaeologist who set out to discover Troy.”

    “Troy is correct.”

    The audience cheered their heads off. That was it. DUNE-HARRIGAN, 17… MANNING, 15… And only one question to go! Hopeless! Still, I’d given it a college try. And maybe I could get a job… I realized with a guilty start that I’d forgotten all about the threatening 2x3’s.

    “Our last question to-night. Are you all on your toes? Ready with those buzzers? For the last time!” Although Sedge was desperately trying to stir up a bit of last-minute excitement, Dune-Harrigan was a certain winner. The crowd knew it. Sedge knew it. All us contestants knew it. Maybe the cozy viewers at home hadn’t quite cottoned on?

    “The pyramids of the Egyptian pharaohs – ”

    Dune-Harrigan pressed his buzzer. Was he crazy? No, not him. Egypt was his home ground. He couldn’t resist an easy question like this. Off he rolled: “The pyramids were made of stone, topped with gold. The first pyramid, known as the Step Pyramid…

    “… are well known but not by any means unique. Pyramids built by other ancient civilizations are found elsewhere. In fact, the world’s largest Pyramid is located – where?”

    “Mexico.”

    “That is correct, but you’ve already answered the question, professor. You don’t get two goes! You lose two points.”

    A sympathetic sigh from the crowd. And great God, look at that score now! Dune-Harrigan, 15… Manning, 15.

    Sedge raised his hands. “A sudden death playoff!”

    The crowd cheered.

    “No buzzers! I’ll ask each of you a question in turn, until one of you is eliminated. You must answer
yes
or
no
! Who’ll go first? Do I have a volunteer?”

    “Me!” shouted Dune-Harrigan. For the second time, the good professor wasn’t thinking right. First-off-the-mark had an obvious disadvantage, but mathematics – including the mathematics of cooking his expense accounts (where I always had to help him) – were never the professor’s strong point.

    “Is it possible to climb to the top of the Great Pyramid?”

    “Yes.”

    “Lassie, the dog who starred in many Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies like
Lassie Come Home
, was actually a laddie?”

    “Yes.”

    “The Ancient Egyptians regarded cleanliness as next to godliness?”

    “Yes.”

    “Did Lou Costello ever make a film without his partner. Bud Abbott?”

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