20 October 2012

Homer Simpson's first appearance

When Faye wasn't at Central Casting, she took [her father Harry] around on his peddling trips in her Model T Ford. It was on her last expedition together that he had fallen sick.

It was on this trip that Faye acquired a new suitor by the name of Homer Simpson. About a week after Harry had taken to his bed, Tod met Homer for the first time. He was keeping the old man company when their conversation was interrupted by a light knock on the apartment door. Tod answered it and found a man standing in the hall with flowers for Faye and a bottle of port wine for her father.

Tod examined him eagerly. He didn't mean to be rude but at first glance this man seemed an exact model for the kind of person who comes to California to die, perfect in every detail down to fever eyes and unruly hands.

"My name is Homer Simpson," the man gasped, then shifted uneasily and patted his perfectly dry forehead with a folded handkerchief.

"Won't you come in?" Tod asked.

He shook his head heavily and thrust the wine and flowers at Tod. Before Tod could say anything, he had lumbered off.

Tod saw that he was mistaken. Homer Simpson was only physically the type. The men he meant were not shy.

He took the gifts in to Harry, who didn't seem at all surprised. He said Homer was one of his grateful customers.

"That Miracle Polish of mine sure does fetch 'em." ...

Tod was right about one thing at least. Like most of the people he was interested in, Homer was a Middle-Westerner. He came from a little town near Des Moines, Iowa, called Wayneville, where he had worked for twenty years in a hotel.

One day, while sitting in the park in the rain, he had caught cold and his cold developed into pneumonia. When he came out of the hospital, he found that the hotel had hired a new bookkeeper. They offered to take him on again, but his doctor advised him to go to California for a rest. The doctor had an authoritative manner, so Homer left Wayneville for the Coast.

- Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust, 1939.

[West's short novel, his last he published before his early death at age 37 in a California car crash, features the harmless dupe Simpson, who is enamoured of the vivacious young movie extra Faye Greener and uses his life savings to bankroll her dreams of movie stardom. Around the time The Day of the Locust came out, West and his colleague Francis Iles were contracted to RKO Radio Pictures and produced a script that was eventually rejected for Alfred Hitchcock's 1941 movie Suspicion, featuring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine. It is rumoured that West's car crash was caused by his grief at the death of his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald the day before].
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