To Whom It May Concern,
I don’t know if you’re a family member, a nurse or maybe a scumbag that tried to rob me and you just happened upon this note in my wallet afterward. If you’ve taken my wallet, I hope you enjoyed whatever cash was in there. If you are an upstanding individual that just happened upon this while removing my belongings after my passing, please give this to those who are closest to me.
I have something that has been whittling at me from the inside. I have lived a life that has been filled with moments of kindness. My years of charity have been prolific. I earned great money as a sound recordist for so many movies. I’m proud of my work even if they may have been for films most have never seen, much less even heard of. I’m aware most would look down on She Should’ve Said No but I was proud of the film’s message. If we prevented one unintended pregnancy,or VD infection then the job has been done. I understand Confessions Of A White Goddess may be viewed as sexist by the female population because of the camera lingering on the lead’s figure but how else do you pull in audiences? Sex sells. It was true then and it’s obvious that it’s true now considering the popularity of that new show Baywatch.
In this era of rap music and a feminist First Lady, I can understand why my post production work in the 50+ trash films may rub audiences the wrong way. Please understand that it was the 40s and 50s. Things were different then. Black people and white people didn’t associate like they do now. Women made great pinups and great mothers. We didn’t see them as intellectual or business savvy. That’s just the way it was. I hope my ignorance can be forgiven thanks to my years of work with Muscular Dystrophy Association and quiet assistance with Gloria’s NOW organization over the past two decades
I’ve been a faithful husband of 26 years and a thoughtful father for 40. I say all this to say that despite my character flaws and mistakes, I’ve mostly put my best foot forward when it comes to such things.
The mistake I made is something I’ve been able to keep to myself until now. I’m not good at telling stories but I’ll try my best.
In 1949, I was working in my studio doing the usual sound effects. I was going to start recording footsteps in a room thanks to a couple hollowed out coconuts, a sawhorse and a large block of wood in the sound booth. I distinctly recall looking through the sound booth window at the clock in the other room. It was 12:30 and I had just pressed the record button on the tape machine when there was a knock on the front door. I had assumed it was the mailman since it was around that time of day for him to drop off the mail. When I answered, I found myself looking down the barrel of a gun and a man telling me to open up the safe. Judging by the white speck on his nose, he seemed to be feeling the extreme effects from cocaine. He wouldn’t listen when I told him this was a recording studio and I don’t carry money.
My memory is fuzzy, I don’t know how but I wrestled away from him and we wound up fighting bare knuckles throughout the studio. At one point he had hit me with his gun and then shot me in my calf. I know I hobbled away from him until collapsing into one of the other rooms. I know I turned over on my back. I know I saw the man standing over me with his gun cocked. I know I took a risk and kicked him in the testicles. I know he dropped the gun and grabbed his crotch in pain. I know I took the gun and shot his foot. I know he fell. I know it felt good to shoot him so I laid there shooting him in the shoulder. I know there was a ringing in my ears from the past two shots. I know I felt the gumption to try and say some sort of line akin to Glenn Ford in The Undercover Man and that it sounded silly. I know I could have subdued him and waited for the cops to arrest him but I did not care. I know the guy had tears in his eyes when I pressed the barrel of the gun to his throat as he feebly attempted to push it away but I did not care. I know that scream he let out when I cocked back the hammer was deafening but I did not care. I know the blast deafened my ears even more. I know he tried vainly to stop the blood erupting from his neck. I know his eyes were fixated on me until he stopped shaking. I know when I looked up I could see the clock through the sound booth window. It was only 12:32. It seemed like it took forever. I could hear the mailman knocking then slipping envelopes under my door.
When the police arrived, I told them almost everything. They said I was right to defend myself. I neglected to tell them the whole thing was accidentally recorded.
Until now I’ve never told anyone about that tape. I felt bad enough about not sharing the recording with the cops. I feel worse about what I did with part of the tape. I remember when I was looking for a scream to put in a Gary Cooper movie I was working on. There was a scene where some soldiers are in the Everglades and one gets bitten by an alligator. It was then I thought about that man’s scream. The one that he gave before I put a bullet in his throat was blood-curdling. I knew deep inside that there was no way an actor could be more convincing. I hemmed and hawed but ultimately I decided to splice the scream into the production tape.
How others came across it later on, I don’t know. I thought I had erased that tape. When I first heard it in that killer ant movie, Them, a few years later, I assumed it was my overactive imagination. Then I heard it in Judy Garland’s A Star Is Born. Then Sergeant Rutledge. Then John Wayne’s green beret movie. Then The Wild Bunch. Before I knew it, I couldn’t watch another film without the constant reminder of my tasteless indiscretion. I know my grandkids love that Star Wars movie but for me it’s just merely a callback to the time when I used a pathetic soul’s last moment on earth for a piece of schlock. Named after George Wilhelm, the man I killed, desensitized industry insiders have given it a name. They call it the Wilhelm Scream. I call it a cruel mistake.
I am truly sorry and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive my transgressions.
Kevin Young is a film columnist for CP. He loves cats and can’t let go of the fact that others aren’t as obsessed as he is with director Joe Dante and his most popular film Gremlins as he is.
Tim Edgar is a local artist, musician, carpenter, shade tree mechanic, amateur chef, and dog barber — a jack of all trades and master of none.