Betty-Sue hates to inconvenience anyone, least of all her neighbors, for fear of what they might think. But her husband’s company potluck is tonight, she’s signed up to bake a cake, and she’s a quarter-cup short on sugar. Her knocks ring out sharply on the neighbors’ cool blue oak door. She’s biting her rosy pink lower lip anxiously when Mary answers. “Well, Betty-Sue! Aren’t you a pretty picture?” the bouncy-haired brunette exclaims. Her voice is low, almost gravelly. Betty-Sue doesn’t smoke or drink or stay out late partying, in part because she never wanted to become a husky-voiced woman of loose morals, like Mary, whose husband is often out of town and who has no children. Sometimes jazz music drifts out Mary’s window and into Betty-Sue’s late at night when she’s scrubbing her own husband’s shoe prints out of the entryway rug, and the cool-eyed blonde wishes she’d allowed herself bigger ambitions than making an insurance agent’s house sparkle, handsome and dependable though he may be. “I need to borrow a quarter-cup of sugar,” Betty-Sue manages at last, her throat dry. She licks her lips, a nervous tic. Mary gazes at her wolfishly, her Saturday-afternoon bathrobe sagging open just slightly at the bust. “Oh, I’ll give you more than that,” Mary says, and beckons her inside.
Sinatra and Brando find themselves at the same poker table, late one night in a hot and smoky casino. The tension is palpable as soon as Frank sits down. Everyone knows about their ongoing feud, the mounting tension on the set of Guys and Dolls, the tussles out behind the MGM soundstage. Frank’s signature blue eyes churn like an angry sea. Marlon’s almost grinning; it’s unclear whether he’s delighted by the cards he’s been dealt or the world-famous singer staring at him with the ill-concealed rage of an elevated barroom brawler. When Brando wins big, and pulls some of Frank’s fortune toward him in the form of cascading colorful chips, Frank’s eyes go volcanic. “Meet me out back in 10 and we’ll settle this like men,” he says, getting up and striding away from the table. Brando pockets his winnings and quirks a smile at the fur-clad dowager on his left. “Think he’ll let me kiss him with tongue this time?” he asks, and the old woman titters like it’s a joke.
Joe is ruined. He bet his last fifty dollars on Silver Spoon, the grey racehorse who just twisted her ankle in the final run-up to the finish line. She was overtaken by Royal Orbit in a flash, and now, Joe knows, he’ll have nothing to show for himself when he returns home to his wife and kids – nothing but an empty-eyed stare, a gambling problem and a mortgage payment that’s still well overdue. “Hey, mister, you dropped this,” says some whippersnapper Joe can barely bring into focus through his teary haze. It’s his hat, the wool trilby he wears to the track for good luck. So much for that. It must have slipped off his head sometime while he was writhing around in the unadulterated agony of a gambler whose hunch was dreadfully wrong. “Thanks, kid,” he says distractedly. The kid’s a tall drink of water, dark-haired and tweed-clad. Probably letting off some steam at the track in between classes at the local business college. Joe remembers those days. “Say, how’s about I buy us both a drink at the joint around the corner? Looks like you could use one, mister,” the kid says, his pale eyes wide. Joe would argue but he can’t – not when he doesn’t even have enough money for his usual highball, and not when his head is swimming so much that this young man at the track looks more appealing to him now than Joe’s own wife, whose face he knows will fall when he tells her the bad news. “That sounds swell,” Joe says, reluctantly at first. “I’d like to pay you back somehow, though. We’ll figure something out.”
Someone knocks at Marilyn’s dressing room door while she’s crying inside, and she’s immediately flooded with regret. Was she being too loud? Will the studio find out about her emotional problems, her drug dependencies, the affair the tabloids insist she’s having with her director? Worse yet, do they already know? She says “Come in” out of sheer habit, all too welcoming, too worried and worrisome. But it’s just Jane, her costar and friend, whose hazel eyes are wide with concern. “You okay, doll? I heard you crying but I don’t think anyone else did.” Marilyn dabs her tears away with a monogrammed handkerchief her ex-husband had made for her, and that just makes her cry more. When Jane slips inside the dressing room, closes the door behind her and sweeps Marilyn up in her long arms, the blonde realizes she can’t remember a time she’s been this close to another woman, felt this safe with another woman. Every other dame is either a competitor or a critic, or (worse) both at once. Jane is just Jane. “Shhh, baby, it’s okay,” Jane says as Marilyn’s tears continue to fall, and when their lips find each other’s in the soft light, neither of them thinks about whether they’re ruining their lipstick.
James Dean shows up at the party in the hills already half-drunk and bone-tired, with a bottle of whiskey under one arm. “Bonne nuit, mademoiselle,” he mutters to Natalie when she opens the door, all gussied up in her best hostess attire. She looks worried but not surprised. After that, the evening slides by in vignettes, with Jimmy first sidling up to young starlets in the conversation pit and then arguing with Sal about film history over old fashioneds. But things really take a turn when Natalie totters into the living room and stage-whispers, “Jimmy, come meet your biggest fan.” Propelled by ego, James staggers to his feet and follows her right to Elvis, who’s still sheepishly untying his shoes in the entryway. “No blue suede tonight?” Jimmy jokes, and Elvis laughs like it’s actually funny, like he hasn't heard it hundreds of times before. “Oh, stop!” Natalie half-shrieks, half-giggles. “Elvis loved your latest picture, Jimmy. He’s dying to talk about it.” She wanders back toward the group, leaving the two men alone in the foyer to gaze at each other, one warmly, one coolly. “I’m a fan of yours too, y’know,” Jimmy offers over the rim of his glass. “Thought you looked mighty kissable on the Sullivan show, if I’m honest.” Elvis blushes a little, glances this way and that, and then backs Jimmy up against the wall by the door. “I had the same thought about you in Rebel,” he whispers low against James’ whiskey-wet lips, and suddenly both men are proving the wildest rumors that’ve ever been printed about either of them, and not caring for a second about it. Somewhere nearby in a shadowy corridor, Sal Mineo watches, grins, and tries not to make a sound.