Anton Siodmak played tennis for a living. He was not on the circuit and he was not exactly a hustler, but his ability on the court made him welcome at the better weekend tennis parties and gave him permanent access to the more elaborate north/south courts in Beverly Hills and Bel Air and Holmby Hills and Trousdale and Malibu. He charmed the men and occasionally slept, especially when he was younger, with the wives of inattentive husbands. There were even husbands, it was said, who implicitly encouraged this attention, because their tastes had become more catholic as the attractions of home and family had begun to pale.

Besides his lob – a stroke perfected as he edged past sixty and one that maddened younger, stronger but less talented players – Anton’s most negotiable asset was his smile. He supplemented his income from the court, and the occasional bon-bon from those bored and grateful wives, as a greeter in one or two of the more fashionable restaurants frequented by Hollywood royalty. He could be found just inside the door, where he would plant a kiss on both cheeks, in the European style, and laugh and exchange gossip and rearrange his date book for the following weekend – singles here, doubles there and the private screening on Sunday night, Marty’s rough cut with a wild music track because Bernie Herrmann’s score isn’t ready, drinks at seven, dinner seven-thirty, we’ll run the picture at eight, Costa’s coming by if his plane gets in on time, and Sydney and Claire, and next Sunday, you cocksucker, it won’t be love, love, I’ll take two games …

I did not know Anton all that well – I once made a stab at tennis but was glad to give it up when I broke my elbow – but I would see him at the odd screening and when I ate at the restaurant he would kiss me on both cheeks and call me ‘Zhannee’ and say that the dailies on so-and-so’s picture were so lousy that the crew had stopped wearing the T-shirts with the film’s title printed on them.

A Fight in Bethnal Green
Emergency Room