by David Sisler

Helen Hayes made her professional acting debut in 1905. She was five years old. Four years later she was acting on Broadway. As an adult she earned the reputation of "First Lady of the American Stage." She was widely hailed for her performance in Laurence Housman's "Victoria Regina." Her 1948 debut on the London stage in Tennessee William's "The Glass Menagerie" opened to rave reviews.

At the age of 70, Miss Hayes received an Academy Award for her performance in "Airport." Her first motion picture role started out very differently, however.

In 1930, Helen Hayes moved to Hollywood. Irving Thalberg, one of the great geniuses in the history of motion pictures, took her under personal contract. He announced that her first motion picture would be "The Sin of Madeline Claudet."

When production was finished a preview was rushed. When audiences got their first glimpse of the new motion picture, they concluded it was a complete disaster.

Louis B. Mayer, one of the founders of Metro Goldwyn Mayer, called in Miss Hayes. He intended to let her down easy. "I'm sure you're a fine actress on the stage," Mayer told her, "but you don't know how to act on the screen."

Mayer ordered the film to be placed on the shelf and never be released to the public.

Irving Thalberg had been out of the city when the film premiered. A number of films in which he had been involved were completed in his absence. He arranged a private viewing of all of them.

Studio executives told him it would be a waste of time to even watch "The Sin of Madeline Claudet," starring Helen Hayes. Thalberg insisted. When he saw it, he called in Miss Hayes.

"There's nothing wrong with that motion picture, except the ending," Thalberg said. "We'll shoot a new ending."

When the movie was released it became one of the best moneymakers of that year. It didn't win the Oscar for best picture. "Grand Hotel" did that. Its male lead did not win the Oscar for best actor. Fredric March did that in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." But its leading actress, Helen Hayes, the woman Louis B. Mayer said couldn't act on the screen, did win the Academy Award for best actress of 1931. The difference? A new ending.

We don't know the man's name. We do know his occupation. He was a terrorist. There was a day when someone thrilled to hold him. There was a day when his name was spoken with joy. There was a day when someone loved him, perhaps someone still did. But for his crime of terrorism, he was being executed.

His political activity probably started on the fringes of the organization. Petty crimes. Stealing from the occupying forces just to finance the rebellion. Eventually someone died - it would have been an enemy at first, later it would have been his own people. Now it was his turn.

In a moment of honesty he looked at himself. He looked inside and said, "The way I've lived has brought me to this moment. I'm getting what I deserve." Then the thief on the cross turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

"Today," Jesus said, "right now, not thousands of years off in the future, but in this 24 hour period, you will be with me in Paradise!"

In a few hours he would be dead, but that was only his body. His soul would live forever and live with Jesus. What made the difference? A new ending.

In a moment of personal honesty review your own life. If your life were a motion picture, would the studio say, "Put it on a shelf? It's not worth seeing?" All it needs is a new ending. Jesus already has the script written. Follow His direction.


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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