The Gritty, Edgy Moodiness of Film Noir: 24 Classic Examples

nighthawks_by_edward_hopper_1942 Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

If she is rude to the waiter, she will be rude to you.

If your dog dislikes him, walk away.  Slowly.

There is always a price to be paid for crossing the line.

Listen to your intuition.

Navigating through life would be so much easier if one always followed simple rules.   Too frequently, emotion trumps the rational mind, but a diversion away from one’s true course can provide an opportunity to learn valuable lessons — if one should be fortunate enough to survive, that is.
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Cinematic exploration of the triumph of passion over common sense is the domain of Film Noir, an outgrowth of European Expressionism, which flourished in America from the early 1940s through the late 1950s.  The creators of Noir crafted their gripping stories by thrusting realistically flawed characters into morally challenging situations; then, rather than fashioning contrived outcomes, stood at a discreet distance and allowed human nature to take its course.
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Most Noir films are “B” movies, the shorter pictures produced as undercards to the marquee features.  Constrained by small budgets, Noir offers crisp and sharp dialogue and tight plotting.  Short running times permitted none of the directorial self-indulgence endemic in modern-day film.
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The genre’s archetypical black-and-white photography (budget-driven, once again) and the predominance of nighttime or half-lit daytime settings infuse atmospheric moodiness with menace.
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Invariably the setting of a Noir — whether an opulent, hilltop apartment building in San Francisco, an unlit New York warehouse, a lonely desert road, or a dingy block of flats in a bleak Los Angeles neighborhood — is as essential to the story as any character in the film.
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Because the contemporaneous Hays Code governed the messages and images films were permitted to convey, a fortuitous circumstance for lovers of the genre, in Noir films all crimes, all sins, and all errors of judgement are punished.
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Inasmuch as motion pictures were a 20th-century contribution to the age-old tradition of transmitting life lessons through storytelling, Noir offered mid-century movie audiences a chance to engage in thought experiments — What if I were to give in to temptation?  What if I succumbed to the lure of something for nothing?  What if I took the wrong path?  What might happen? — within the safe realm of fiction.
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There are hundreds of films in the Noir anthology.  Today I would like to recommend to you two dozen sparkling gems for your viewing enjoyment.  Accompanying each title you will find a list of stars, the name of the director, the setting, a brief description, and a theatrical trailer.
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Classics of the Genre

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The four films listed here number among not only the best Noir of all time but also the best films of all time.

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Director: John Huston
Setting: San Francisco
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For a newcomer to Film Noir, The Maltese Falcon is a must-see.  Boasting a tight, brilliant plot, impeccable dialogue, and several iconic and career-defining performances, gets better with each subsequent viewing.
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Director: Otto Preminger
Setting: New York City
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A stylish, taut, and riveting drama.  As police detective Mark MacPherson (Andrews) gradually falls in love with the brunette (Tierney) whose murder he is called to investigate, he finds he is not alone in his obsession with the stunning Laura.
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Director: Billy Wilder
Setting: Los Angeles
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In this simple and compelling cautionary tale about the perils of passion, insurance salesman Walter Neff (MacMurray) finds the lure of illicit financial gain irresistible when his partner in crime is a knockout blonde (Stanwyck).
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Director: Tay Garnett
.Setting: the southern California coast
Drifter Frank Chambers (Garfield) succumbs to the charms of a blonde bombshell (Turner) after a chance stop at her husband’s gas station.  His motive for subsequent criminal acts — avarice, lust, or a desire to save a damsel in distress — becomes moot as a series of irreversible decisions dooms him and his paramour.
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The Element of Chance

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Some of Noir’s most compelling stories place characters in hazardous situations not entirely of their own making.  Three highly recommended masterpieces —

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Director: Rudolph Maté
Settings: San Francisco and Los Angeles
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To my mind, this film is a must-see.  It employs a brilliant and innovative premise: after discovering to his horror that he has been poisoned, a very ordinary accountant (O’Brien) devotes his few remaining hours on Earth to identifying his murderer.
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Director: Otto Preminger
Setting: the central California coast
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Having run out of money to pay his fare, drifter Eric Stanton (Andrews) stumbles off a bus at an unfamiliar hamlet on the central California coast, where he finds himself drawn into the inhabitants’ rivalries, hatreds, and crimes.  Preminger’s trademark mastery of atmosphere keeps viewers transfixed through the denouement.
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Setting: Los Angeles
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As amnesic U.S. Marine (Hodiak) returning home after World War II finds himself mistaken for a wanted murderer.
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Unwillingness to See or Reluctance to Act

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“If only he had seen her as she really was.”

“If only she had recognized the danger before it was too late.”

“If only he had had the strength of character to take the difficult stand.”

Human frailty provides a treasure trove of source material for Film Noir.  Three to watch —

Impact (1949)

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Stars: Brian Donlevy, Helen Walker, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn
Director:Arthur Lubin
Settings: San Francisco and Sausalito, California; Larkspur, Idaho

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Businessman Walter Williams (Donlevy) pays dearly for idolizing his glamorous and much younger wife (Walker) and refusing to see her as she is.
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Director: Robert Siodmak
Setting: urban eastern U.S.
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Washed-up boxer Ole Andreson (Lancaster, in his film debut) rejects the offer of a police job and opts instead for a criminal path that ultimately costs him his life.
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Settings: Multiple, including Lake Tahoe, California; Acapulco, Mexico; and New York City
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When an unexpected visitor turns up at the gas station he owns, retired private investigator Jeff Markham (Mitchum) finds to his chagrin that he cannot escape the errors of his past.
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Consequences of a Single Decision

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The knife-edge, yes/no decisions made in a fog of emotion and without sufficient input from the cerebral cortex produce fascinating storylines for Film Noir.  At times a viewer wants to reach through the screen to shake sense into a self-destructive character.  Five of the best —

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Director: Andre De Toth
Setting: Los Angeles
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A classic Film Noir set-up: insurance investigator John Forbes (Powell) is bored with his job and suffocated by the financial responsibility of supporting his loving wife (Wyatt) and exemplary young son in post-War Los Angeles.  When in the course of his work Forbes meets a beautiful gangster’s moll (Scott), he sets his feet on a path sure to destroy his life.
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Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Settings: Reno, Nevada; rural Arizona; Los Angeles
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Embittered jazz pianist Al Roberts (Neal) makes a split-second decision to hide the body of a man he did not kill and thereby seals his own fate.
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Director: Ida Lupino
Settings: Rural southern California; Baja California, Mexico.
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Two southern California pals (O’Brien and Lovejoy) tell their wives they are on a fishing trip when in fact they are bound for Mexico in search of extramarital excitement.  A stop to pick up a hitch-hiker upends their plans.
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Director: Ida Lupino
Settings: San Francisco and Los Angeles
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Lonely San Francisco businessman Harry Graham (O’Brien) pursues a friendship with the attractive and intelligent Phyllis (Lupino) during his frequent work-related trips to Los Angeles.  A one-night tryst puts Phyllis and Harry into a bind that Harry resolves by breaking the law.
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Settings: Rural Wyoming; Los Angeles
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Two friends on a hunting trip (Ray and Albertson) stop to help two stranded motorists who turn out to be bank robbers on the lam.
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Capers and Action Films

Seabiscuit and John "Red" Pollard finally won the Santa Anita Handicap in 1940, defeating stablemate Kayak II. It was Seabiscuit's third attempt to win racing's biggest prize at the time. They had been beaten a nose by Rosemont in 1937 and a nose by Stagehand in 1938. Keeneland Library/Morgan Collection

Keeneland Library/Morgan Collection

By virtue of its taut plotting and crisp dialogue, Noir produced numerous riveting and satisfying films centered upon action and well developed set-piece capers.  Six not to miss —
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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Setting: Los Angeles
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Career criminal Johnny Clay (Hayden) decides to undertake one last heist, a burglary of Santa Anita racetrack, before settling down to marry his girl (Coleen Gray).
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Director: Raoul Walsh
Setting: California, especially Los Angeles
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Brothers Joe and Paul Fabrini (Raft and Bogart) struggle with loan sharks, hitch-hikers, rough terrain, sleepless nights, and conniving women as they endeavor to scratch out a living in the trucking business.
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Director: Jules Dassin
Setting: California, especially San Francisco
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With the help of other drivers and a local prostitute, wildcat trucker Nick Garcos (Conte) wages war on an unscrupulous produce supplier (Cobb) in order to save his family’s business and preserve his father’s honor.
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Setting: Aboard a train from Chicago to Los Angeles
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A police seargent (McGraw) charged with escorting a gangster’s wife from Chicago to a Los Angeles courtroom, where she will testify against her husband, finds he is sharing the train with the hitmen she is trying to elude.
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Director: Don Siegel
Setting: San Francisco
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A San Francisco dope-smuggling ring that slips packets of drugs into tourists’ luggage is stymied when a drug shipment disappears from the custody of an innocent mother and her little girl.
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Director: Edward Dmytryk
Setting: San Francisco
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A mentally ill man terrorizes San Franciso by killing women with a sniper’s rifle, all the while penning desperate letters to the police in hopes that they will catch him.
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Relationships on the Edge

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The gritty realism of Film Noir produced some fascinating character studies focused on male/female relationships.  Three of the most engaging (and most chilling) —
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Director: Nicholas Ray
Setting: Los Angeles
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A budding romance between tempestuous screenwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) and his new lady neighbor (Grahame) is badly strained when the police suspect Steele of murder.
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Director: Fritz Lang
Setting: Monterey, California
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Restless “black sheep” Mae Doyle (Stanwyck) returns to her family home after an ill-fated love affair.  She finds herself torn, with nearly disastrous consequences, between a level-headed man (Douglas) whom she finds boring and a difficult hothead (Ryan) whom she cannot resist.
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Director: David Miller
Settings: A cross-country train; San Francisco
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Successful playwright Myra Hudson (Crawford) falls deeply in love with and marries dashing actor Lester Blaine (Palance).  Her discovery that he plans to betray her transforms her passionate love into murderous hatred.
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Denouement: Into the Arms of Angels, Part 14 of 14

Desk

Today, the fourteenth and final episode of my feature-length screenplay, ”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016) —

For Part 13, please click here.

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.

 

INT. THE LOBBY OF COUNTY DAIRY – THE SAME DAY (FRIDAY)

Joe walks from a corridor into the County Dairy lobby carrying the paper bag from the airport gift shop.

Toby emerges through another door from the factory floor.

Both men pause briefly and then walk to meet each other in the center of the lobby.

Toby shakes Joe’s hand and holds it for several extra seconds.

The men chat. At first, they are too far away to be audible.

 

JOE

…when we land, they don’t have a gate for us; so we can’t get off the plane. We taxi way the heck over to some parking spot and just wait. I got worried I’d miss my connection.

 

TOBY

Oh, man!

 

Phil enters the lobby and walks over to join Joe and Toby.

JOE

And then d’you know what the pilot said? He comes on and explains that we have to wait, and says they’re going to put us in the “penalty box.” I mean, how appropriate is that?

 

TOBY

Ah, but who got the power play?

 

JOE

Beats me…Hey, Phil.

 

PHIL

Joe! Glad to see that you’re back. What was it again that happened to you?

 

JOE

I had a seizure.

 

PHIL

You’re not likely to do that again soon, are you?

 

JOE

That might just be in your hands, Phil.

 

PHIL

Good, good. Well, I’ve got news, just in from Pulaski, and as promised, changes are coming.

 

Phil pauses. Joe and Toby wait patiently.

PHIL (CONT’D)

In fact, County faces its biggest personnel change since, well, since Gabriel, you know…

 

Phil looks at Joe. Joe and Toby continue to wait, listening.

PHIL (CONT’D)

Prob’ly even since you and Gabriel came on board.

 

Phil pauses again. Joe and Toby continue to wait.

PHIL (CONT’D)

The big news is that I am going to move.

 

Joe and Toby do not react.

PHIL (CONT’D)

So –

 

TOBY

Is this for good then?

 

PHIL

Unless and until they send me back here.

 

TOBY

Why would they do that? D’you think they’ll decide they don’t like you?

 

PHIL

No, of course not. That would never happen; but I’ll go wherever Pulaski sends me. If they say Black Earth –

 

TOBY

So you’re not leaving-leaving, you’re just going out to the HQ, in Chicago?

 

PHIL

That’s right. Why? Were you starting to miss me?

 

TOBY

It’s early days yet.

 

PHIL

Well, in two months’ time, County will have to do without me.

 

TOBY

Somehow, Phil, we’ll learn to manage.

 

PHIL

Now you’re not going to have another seizure on us, Joe?

 

JOE

No. At this point, I can definitely say “No.”

 

Phil turns and abruptly walks toward the exit.

PHIL

Lunch, anyone? I’m treating today.

 

JOE

Go ahead, Phil. I’ll catch up.

 

PHIL

Don’t take too long, Joe. I want to be rolling in five.

 

Joe nods and half-waves at Phil with his right hand.

 

INT. DANE COUNTY AIRPORT – 10 SEPTEMBER 2001

Joe fidgets with the hem of his right jacket pocket.

Joe and Gabriel stand facing each other at a gate at the Madison airport. In the right pocket of Joe’s jacket is a floppy disk.

 

GATE AGENT (O.S.)

Now boarding all rows for Flight 4264 nonstop service to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. All ticketed and confirmed passengers are welcome to board through the doorway marked “3.”

 

Gabriel and Joe grin at each other.

GABRIEL

This is it. Wish me luck!

 

Gabriel and Joe hug.

JOE

Good luck, Gabe! I’m sure you’ll knock their socks off.

 

GABRIEL

Then I’ll bring one back as a souvenir.

 

Joe chuckles and coughs. He absently touches the outside of his right jacket pocket.

Gabriel stares intensely at Joe as though an unexpected feeling – an incomprehensible premonition – has washed over him.

Feeling the disk in his pocket, Joe starts.

At the same moment, Gabriel seizes Joe’s right upper arm and gazes at him intently.

 

JOE

Oh, Gabe –

 

GABRIEL

Hey…You know I love you, don’t you, Squirt? Take care of yourself.

 

Shocked by Gabriel’s sudden candor, Joe lets the fingers of his right hand fall away from his pocket. He grins.

JOE

Uh, Me too, Gabe. You know that.

 

Gabriel lets go of Joe’s arm, shakes his head, and smiles.

GABRIEL

‘Bye, Joe.

 

Gabriel turns, gives his boarding pass to the GATE AGENT, and walks down the jetway.

At the final corner he turns, smiles, and waves to Joe.

Joe returns his wave and stares after him in puzzlement.

The gate agent closes the door to the jetway.

 

INT. THE LOBBY OF COUNTY DAIRY – FRIDAY – 2006

Joe crosses the lobby carrying the bag from the gift shop.

He stops at a display case that contains a memorial to Gabriel. He opens its glass doors.

Toby follows Joe to the display case and stops on Joe’s right.

The display case has two shelves, each about three feet wide and about seven inches deep.

At the center of the lower shelf is an 11X17 framed photo of Gabriel. To the right of the photo is an engraved plaque.

On the shelves are memorabilia including a five-inch-high Bucky Badger, a Wisconsin Badger basketball fan t-shirt, a dried corsage, a wedding garter, a church key, a small stack of poker chips, a tennis racquet, and a pool ball.

Flanking the display on the left and right, respectively, are framed photographs of Gabriel with his parents and two sisters and Gabriel with his wife at their wedding.

Joe studies the display and then opens the bag. He pulls out a small “I [heart] NY” button, which he places on the top shelf just left of center.

Toby stands watching silently.

Joe pulls the Twin Towers figurine from the bag, places it gently near the center of the top shelf, straightens it, checks it a last time, and smiles.

Otto walks up and stops on Joe’s left. All three men stand in front of the memorial for several seconds.

Joe’s eyes are moist, but he is composed.

Toby gently touches Joe’s right shoulder.

 

TOBY

You ready to go?

 

JOE

Yes, I am. Thank you.

 

Otto wraps his right arm around Joe’s shoulder, squeezes for a few seconds, and lets go.

OTTO

Looks real nice, Joe.

 

Phil’s voice echoes through the cavernous lobby.

PHIL (O.S.)

Lunch, people! Leaving now!

 

Otto smiles at Joe and Toby. Joe closes and locks the case’s glass doors.

Otto and Joe turn to the left and walk away from the display.

Toby lingers for a few seconds before joining the others.

The men’s FOOTSTEPS and VOICES echo across the room.

Gabriel’s memorial remains behind, centered in the frame.

 

THE END

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 13 of 14

Desk

The thirteenth installment of my feature-length screenplay, ”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016) —

For Part 12, please click here.

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.

 

INT. COUNTY DAIRY AND OTHER LOCATIONS – THE SAME DAY

MONTAGE

Otto speaks to Toby in the lobby of County Dairy.

Joe sits on the floor of a crowded airport departure lounge.

In her kitchen, Chris writes a note and leaves it on the table.  She exits the house and closes the door behind her.

A second flight attendant asks Joe, who juggles a laptop, Palm pilot, coffee cup, and stack of papers, to prepare for landing.

Joe’s cab driver from the Madison airport is a heavyset, German-looking man decked out in Green Bay Packers’ colors.  The driver recounts a lively story.  Joe grins in the back seat.

 

INT. KITCHEN AT JOE’S AND CHRIS’ HOME – THE SAME DAY

As Joe walks into the kitchen of his home, he spots Chris’ note on the table. Joe leaves his bag, walks to the table, and picks up the note.

 

NOTE

Welcome back, hon. I’m working 3P to 3A. See you when I get back at 4. Love – C

 

Joe reads the note and then replaces it on the table. After a few seconds, Joe turns and walks out of the house.

 

INT. THE LOBBY OF ST. MARY’S HOSPITAL – THE SAME DAY

The lobby of St. Mary’s Hospital is airy and uncrowded.

The entrance is in the southwest corner. A gift shop sits on the west side. On the east side is a semi-circular information desk staffed by an ASSISTANT (a slender 20-year-old male). Elevators are on the north wall, in the northeast corner.

Joe walks through automatic doors into the lobby. He takes a few steps and then stops to survey the room.

Joe walks up to the information desk.

 

JOE

Excuse me. Can I use that phone to call upstairs?

 

ASSISTANT

Sure, here ya go.

 

The assistant lifts a telephone from his desk and places it on the counter in front of Joe.

Joe dials a number and waits a few seconds for an answer.

JOE

Hi, can I talk to Chris Kleinschmidt, please? This is her husband.

 

Joe waits for about half a minute. He turns away from the desk and looks around. The assistant discreetly ignores him.

About eight feet away from Joe, a woman in her early sixties sits on a couch. A magazine rests in her lap, and she watches Joe. When Joe looks at her, she smiles.

Chris answers the phone.

JOE (CONT’D)

Hi, Chris, it’s me…Yeah, it all went smooth. No problems, at least nothing big. Yes, I found your note. Thanks for leaving it. Look, I’m downstairs… Well, I wanted to stop in…No, nothing’s wrong. The doctors said I’m fine. So…Uh-huh…Yes, ’til 3 AM…

 

Chris’ voice gradually becomes intelligible.

CHRIS (O.S.)

…Otto said he’d be talking to Toby yesterday. So everyone over at County knows you were sick; and speaking of such things –

 

JOE

Chris –

 

CHRIS (O.S.)

…our census is pretty high tonight, and we have three new admits –

 

JOE

Chris, I –

 

CHRIS (O.S.)

…I really ought to be getting back to my –

 

JOE

Chris, would you please come down? D’you think I’d visit a hospital today as a tourist?

 

CHRIS (O.S.)

I’ll be right there.

 

Chris replaces the receiver with a click.

Joe hangs up and stands with his hand on the receiver. He glances at the assistant and hands him the phone.

JOE

Thanks.

 

Joe walks across the lobby and sits on a couch near the woman who smiled at him.

A customer rings up a purchase in the gift shop.

An elderly man with a walker crosses the lobby with his wife.

The woman who smiled at Joe stands up and walks away.

A happily disoriented rural-looking man emerges from the gift shop with a pink Mylar balloon that reads, “It’s a Girl!” Joe watches the man with the balloon walk toward the elevators.

While tracking the man, Joe spots Chris. Chris stands six feet away from Joe. She has arrived without his having noticed.

Joe jumps to his feet and takes a few steps toward Chris.

 

CHRIS

You look thinner.

 

JOE

Oh, I ate pretty good, but they gave me only sugar water for a day or so – the tube in my arm, hooked up to some machine that kept playing Beethoven’s Fifth when it broke –

 

CHRIS

An IV.

 

JOE

Yeah. It was an IV.

 

The conversation stops.

JOE (CONT’D)

When I got there, to the hospital, they hooked me up to all kinds of – I don’t even know what-all, machines that were beeping, and skin patches, and wires, screens with all those little green curves –

 

CHRIS

They’re called traces.

 

JOE

What?

 

CHRIS

The curves – they’re called traces.

 

JOE

Oh, OK. God, do those machines freak me out! I’m so glad it’s over. I don’t know how you stand being around them all the time –

 

CHRIS

Joe, it’s my job.

 

JOE

Yeah, I guess it is. Better you than me.

 

CHRIS

I agree. Better I than you; and speaking of that –

 

JOE

Chris –

 

CHRIS

You’re feeling OK?

 

JOE

Um, yes.

 

CHRIS

Good. I’m glad that you’re back, and you’re better, and you’re home. Now I need to go –

 

JOE

Chris, please…

 

CHRIS

Otto told me what happened. With Bongo, and the rest. He told me you lost it. Out on a street, in public, for crying out loud!

 

JOE

Chris –

 

CHRIS

And you know, Joe, I can picture it. I’ve seen you like that before – shaking, and spouting off, with your face turning bright red –

 

JOE

Chris, listen.

 

CHRIS

I’m listening.

 

Joe remains silent. Chris turns toward the elevators.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

Joe, I have work to do –

 

JOE

Chris! Please don’t…

 

Chris turns to face Joe.

JOE (CONT’D)

I don’t want to lose you…I know that I have been difficult.

 

CHRIS

Yes, you have.

 

JOE

Chris, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I wish I did. But please, if you can, please bear with me right now.

 

CHRIS

No one ever does know, do they?

 

JOE

Gabe didn’t.

 

Chris smiles faintly.

CHRIS

Joe, I really do need to go.

 

Chris steps again toward the elevators.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

I’ll be home by 4. You don’t need to –

 

JOE

Chris!

 

Chris gazes back toward Joe. Joe stares at her intensely.

CHRIS

I know. Right back at you.

 

Chris turns and walks calmly into an elevator.

 

INT. JOE’S AND CHRIS’ BEDROOM – THE NEXT MORNING (FRIDAY)

The bedroom curtains are brightly lit by the sun.

Joe awakens to find Chris “dead to the world” on his right. Propping himself on his elbow, Joe watches Chris sleep.

He strokes a few hairs off her forehead, leans forward, and gently kisses her temple. Joe then climbs out of the left side of the bed and leaves the room.

 

Please click here to read Part 14.

 

 

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 12 of 14

Desk

The twelfth installment of my feature-length screenplay, ”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016) —

For Part 11, please click here.

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.

 

N.B. The story recounted by the cab driver is true.

 

INT./EXT. ST. VINCENT’S HOSPITAL AND OTHER LOCATIONS – 2006

MONTAGE

Joe asleep in the ICU bed.

Gabriel’s face in the smoky room, framed by broken windows.

Otto speaks energetically with a clerk at La Guardia airport.

A nurse makes notes on a portable computer as Joe is moved, on a bed, into a new room.

Otto walks through the main entrance of St. Mary’s Hospital.

A physician types on a portable computer as Joe lies on a bed in the background. The IV is still attached to Joe’s arm.

Otto and Chris meet in the St. Mary’s lobby. After a few stoic seconds, Chris collapses into Otto’s arms.

At the Madison airport on September 10th, Gabriel and Joe embrace. Gabriel then grabs Joe’s right arm and says something serious.

Chris, at home, places a call to the hospital in New York.

Lying in bed, Joe speaks on the phone, smiling nervously.

Chris speaks rapidly on the phone and gesticulates.

Joe holds the phone away from his ear and fidgets.

Chris holds the phone, not speaking, awaiting a response.

Joe also waits, fidgeting, and finally speaks.

Chris glances at her watch and quickly gets off the phone.

Joe signs off the call.

A phone is hung up by an unidentified hand.

Joe sits up in bed as a nurse removes IV tape from his arm.

Chris walks into the break room at St. Mary’s. Suzette sits at a table making notes. Suzette stops writing and looks up. Chris sits at the table. Suzette squeezes Chris’ hand.

Joe stands outside St. Vincent’s Hospital, hailing a cab.

 

INT. A CAB IN NEW YORK CITY – THURSDAY

Joe is in a taxi from the hospital to La Guardia Airport. The CABBIE is Italian and in his sixties.

CABBIE

You from out of town?

 

JOE

Yes.

 

CABBIE

Where you from?

 

JOE

Madison, Wisconsin.

 

CABBIE

Wisconsin – I forget, was that a red state?

 

JOE

Almost. It’s blue, but it was the closest in the country.

 

CABBIE

Mmm. How about that. This your first trip to New York?

 

JOE

The first since September 11th.

 

CABBIE

That so? Some say the city’s recovered from 9/11 – that we’re moving on, and we’ve put that terrible episode in its place. I’m not so sure.

 

Joe does not respond.

CABBIE (CONT’D)

My nephew Joey worked at Ground Zero. He’s in Local 40 – cutting steel – and he worked 163 days on the pile. He said in one stretch he did five days out of eight. That’s 24-hour shifts, five in eight days.

 

JOE

Wow.

 

CABBIE

Those steel workers, they were heroes too. I mean, everyone knows about the firefighters and cops and EMTs, and the court officers, and all they risked that awful day and afterward; this is to take nothing away from them; but at least they’re trained to handle, you know, bodies and death, and remains. The steel workers, they face cranes and heights and beams and tons of risk every day that they work; but only in a blue moon do they ever have to see a dead body. Except at Ground Zero, where they’d grab up a load, and then wonder what in the heck was under a beam, and – oof! It got pretty hard sometimes.

 

The cabbie checks his mirror. Joe stares out the window.

CABBIE (CONT’D)

Joey said he toughened a little; but it was horrible every time. He said what scared him really the most, what haunted him a lot, was the thought of all of those poor people who jumped.

 

Joe closes his eyes.

CABBIE (CONT’D)

Every time Joey was about to fall asleep, he’d see people jumping from the North Tower. It was really bad, I mean, so that he couldn’t sleep, even when he was totally wiped out. So I told him, Joey, you should talk to someone. There’s no shame in that. Really – lots of guys, they’ve been through it, and some of the guys find it helpful to, you know, talk to someone. I told him, look, you need your sleep. If you work on the pile you need your wits about you. For the sake of all the other guys. For the sake of the people you’re trying to find. And for the sake of your family, you oughta see someone. So Joey agreed, yeah, he’d speak to somebody. In fact there were counselors at the site just to talk to guys like him…The next time I saw Joey, I asked him, how you feeling, and he stopped, and he grinned, and he said, really good. Better than he’d felt in months. And you know why? Because of something a counselor he saw said to him. When he told her he couldn’t sleep for the visions of falling bodies, she said, “Every time you see someone jumping from the tower, imagine an angel swooping out of the sky, catching the person, and gently carrying them back up to heaven.” That’s what she suggested, and that’s what he did. Every time he saw a jumper in his mind’s eye he also saw an angel there to catch them, and cradle them, and gracefully fly back up to heaven. Then Joey could sleep, and be happy again…or at least sane, you know.

 

The cabbie again checks his rear-view mirror. Joe is watching him. Joe nods and responds.

JOE

Yes, I can see that.

 

The cab arrives at La Guardia. The cabbie steps out and opens the trunk. Joe joins him at the back of the car.

Joe hands the cabbie a stack of bills and looks him in the eye.

JOE (CONT’D)

Thanks, man.

 

Joe grabs his roller-bag. The cabbie smiles.

CABBIE

Have a safe trip home.

 

JOE

Will do. Thanks.

 

Joe glances back at the cabbie and then walks into the airport.

 

INT. A GIFT SHOP IN LA GUARDIA – THE SAME DAY (THURSDAY)

Fifteen feet from the entrance to a gift shop, Joe pauses and pulls his roller-bag to rest at his feet. He checks his watch, then walks into the shop.

Joe browses through magazines and regional knick-knacks.

Joe flicks the head of a Derek Jeter bobblehead doll.

Joe spots a small shelf in the corner on which sit 8 – 10 Twin Towers figurines. He maneuvers around several shelves and into the tight corner.

The metal figurines are arrayed in crooked rows. Each is about nine inches high.

Joe picks up a figurine, examines it, and decides to buy it.

Joe steps up to the cashier’s desk.

The cashier begins to ring up the sale. Joe looks at a display of impulse-buys, grabs an item, and hands it to the cashier.

The cashier rings up both items and quotes Joe a price.

Joe pulls out his wallet, pays with cash, takes his change, and drops a few coins into a cup next to the register.

The cashier hands Joe a small brown sack. He thanks the cashier, who is already helping the next customer, and leaves the store.

 

OVERHEAD PA ANNOUNCEMENT

…Advantage Gold and Platinum passengers for Flight 599 to Chicago may board now or at their leisure.

 

INT. ONBOARD A BOEING 757 AT O’HARE AIRPORT – THE SAME DAY

The main cabin seats six across. Joe sits at a window on the right.

A FLIGHT ATTENDANT in the forward galley picks up a microphone.

 

FLIGHT ATTENDANT

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Chicago. Thank you for flying with us today. We understand that you have a choice when you travel, and we appreciate your including us in your travel plans. We wish you a very pleasant stay in Chicago or wherever your final destination may be. For now, please sit back and relax until we have come to a full and complete stop at the terminal and the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign. For your reference, our arrival gate will be H, as in Hotel, 15.

 

Joe looks up from a magazine, glances out the window, and does a double-take.

He watches as the H concourse passes rapidly by. It is raining.

Joe returns to his magazine, grins, and shakes his head.

Please click here to read Part 13.

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 11 of 14

Desk

Today, for your enjoyment – the eleventh installment of my feature-length screenplay,”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016).

For Part 10, please click here.

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.

 

INT. A HOSPITAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – MONDAY NIGHT – 2006

Sound: The “TWEETS” become the periodic BEEPS of ICU monitors.

Joe lies on his back in the bed in a single room in a large intensive care unit. His eyes are closed. Otto sits in a chair on Joe’s left, facing the bed.

Joe is attached to a BEEPING monitor that reads several vital signs and to an IV hung from a pole. The IV tube runs through a computerized flow controller.

For several seconds, Joe is unconscious, and Otto is silent.

Joe opens his eyes. He looks around the room, at the monitor screens, at Otto, and toward the door at the foot of his bed.

Joe studies the IV port in his right arm, lifts the arm, and gently puts it down. He then rolls his head to look at Otto.

OTTO

Hey.

 

JOE

We’re here.

 

OTTO

Yes.

 

JOE

So where is here?

 

OTTO

St. Vincent’s Hospital.

 

JOE

Oh. What happened?

 

OTTO

You don’t remember?

 

JOE

Not much.

 

OTTO

You had a seizure.

 

JOE

Really? Who’d a thunk that? Never had one of those before.

 

OTTO

Didn’t look too good for a few minutes there. You passed out, and you choked. You even stopped breathing for a bit.

 

JOE

Whoa. Geez. I owe somebody a thank-you.

 

OTTO

The doc says no harm’s done; you’re OK now. But they want to keep you here a couple of days to be sure.

 

JOE

OK.

 

OTTO

So you don’t remember?

 

JOE

No, I do. I remember the work we did, and what that Bongo girl said.

 

OTTO

Remember what-all you said?

 

JOE

Some of it.

 

OTTO

About Gabriel?

 

JOE

Yes…Sometimes I think I remember too much about Gabriel.

 

OTTO

That’s not possible, Joe.

 

JOE

You know, one of the last times I spoke to him, Gabe was mad.

 

OTTO

At you?

 

JOE

At me. I’d let him down.

 

OTTO

You never told me about that.

 

JOE

No? I guess it got lost.

 

OTTO

Was he mad when you dropped him at the airport?

 

JOE

No. No, not there. I walked him all the way to his gate. (Remember when we could do that?) I can still see his face. He was so jazzed to be going. Don’t know when I’d seen him so excited; though that might be hindsight speaking.

 

OVERHEAD PA (O.S.)

Code Blue, 325A. Code Blue 325A.

 

OTTO

Did you wish you were going too?

 

JOE

No, I didn’t.

 

OTTO

Was Gabriel mad about that?

 

JOE

Nah, he was cool. Said he’d miss seeing New York with me, but he understood.

 

OTTO

So what was the problem?

 

JOE

I’d said I’d help him prepare for the trip, which I did. His talk was fantastic – it was going to blow Bongo away. All he needed was some Q3 numbers that I said I’d bring him on a disk.

 

OTTO

And did you?

 

JOE

Yes.

 

OTTO

And?

 

Joe stays silent. After a while, Otto tries again.

OTTO (CONT’D)

Joe, I’m still not getting it.

 

JOE

I forgot.

 

OTTO

Forgot what?

 

JOE

To give it to him. Somehow, I don’t know how. It was just the darnedest thing. That last minute at the airport, giving Gabriel the disk just slipped clean out of my mind. OK?

 

OTTO

Right.

 

JOE

I have no idea how it happened.

 

OTTO

Hmmm.

 

JOE

So Gabe leaves. I can still see him walking to the plane; at the last second he turns and flashes that cocky grin of his. Ten minutes later I’m paying for parking, and I find the disk in my pocket. His plane is already gone. And I’m frantic. Actually I’ve been stressed all day, with a knot in my stomach. And finding the disk sends me into a sweat. I pull over and call his cell phone, and leave a message, apologizing all over. Then I offer to email him the files.

 

OTTO

Did you do that?

 

JOE

Yeah.

 

OTTO

But Gabriel was mad?

 

JOE

You know how he could be. He never did learn to suffer a fool.

 

OTTO

Too bad.

 

JOE

He didn’t stay mad. We spoke that night after he got in, and he was cooled down. Mostly.

 

OTTO

Joe, it’s not your fault he blew his stack over a simple mistake.

 

JOE

But I shouldn’t have made that mistake. I don’t do things like that.

 

OTTO

C’mon, Joe – It’s over.

 

JOE

If it were truly over he’d be back…

 

OTTO

I mean about the disk –

 

JOE

And those huge towers. I liked them. And the airplanes. And all those people.

 

Both men are silent for a few seconds.

JOE (CONT’D)

God, how I miss him, Otto!

 

OTTO

I know. I do too.

 

JOE

I really wish he’d called me that morning.

 

OTTO

Maybe he tried.

 

JOE

Yeah. Lucy said she called back again and again, and the lines were jammed. Then after a while, it was like someone had turned off his phone.

 

OTTO

I know.

 

JOE

They say there’s no way he could’ve gotten out, up as high as he was.

 

OTTO

Yes, I know.

 

JOE

D’you ever think about what Gabriel went through that morning?

 

OTTO

Sure. When I’m not working.

 

JOE

Sometimes I can’t stop myself. I can’t get it out of my mind. What scares me most, even now, is that when those fires were closing in, and they were running out of air – with nowhere else to go – Gabriel might’ve been one of the people who had to –

 

Joe begins to weep.

JOE (CONT’D)

Oh, Jesus. Why did all of those people have to jump?

 

Joe sobs. The monitor’s BEEP RATE increases.

Otto makes several gestures toward Joe, and then finally takes Joe’s left hand. Joe squeezes hard.

JOE (CONT’D)

God, how I miss him. Oh, God – Gabriel, I’m so sorry you had to die – so sorry you had to die like that.

 

A NURSE peers into the room. Seeing Joe, she becomes alarmed. Otto raises his hand to wave her away. The nurse pauses and then enters the room.

NURSE

Mr. Kleinschmidt, the doctor’s ordered you a sedative. You should be getting some sleep.

 

Joe releases Otto’s hand, wipes his face, takes the pill and a water cup from the nurse, swallows the pill, and thanks the nurse. He lies back and rolls onto his side away from Otto.

The nurse leaves the room.

JOE

Even now there are days when I wish I could go back and warn everyone, so the buildings would still be here, and no one would have to die.

 

Otto leans forward to watch Joe. His eyes fill with tears.

OTTO

Joe, I miss him too, you know. He was a good boy, and then a good man. He made me laugh. You both did. You boys were such a scream. I got a kick out of watching you, and then seeing you grow up. I know he meant a lot to you, like the best kind of a brother. Well, you and he both meant the world to me, and now only you are left. Please, Joe, it’s hard to see you hurting this way. I wish that I could just –

 

Otto reaches toward the bed, presses on it with his finger tips, and quickly pulls his hand back. He then stands and crosses the room with his hands in his pockets.

OTTO (CONT’D)

I guess I should go. They moved me to an early flight out tomorrow, 7 a.m. And what with airport security I need to get there even earlier.

 

Otto winces. Joe does not move. Otto tries again.

OTTO (CONT’D)

Before you woke up, when they were checking you out, I went and watched a little TV. Monday Night Football. In the lounge. The Pack was up by 5 in the third. Rodgers’s driving down the field. They’re doing OK, but the Metrodome’s so darn loud. Then right before I turn it off Rodgers launches this Hail Mary, way downfield, and it’s picked off. Driver had no chance, really – Vikings on both sides of him. Nothing he could do. Guy on his left just reached up his hand, and – well that was that.

 

Tears run down Otto’s cheeks. He wipes them and watches Joe’s immobile frame. He turns to leave.

JOE

That guy must think he’s Favre.

 

Otto freezes, listening.

JOE (CONT’D)

I mean, throwing deep, into double-coverage. What a dimwit.

 

Otto smiles. Joe rolls onto his back and looks at Otto.

JOE (CONT’D)

He’d better keep channeling Favre. He’ll need it for the 2-minute offense.

 

Otto chuckles and turns to leave.

JOE (CONT’D)

You’re leaving tomorrow?

 

OTTO

Yes. Early.

 

JOE

I’ll be home when I can. Right now I think I need to sleep.

Joe closes his eyes. Otto watches for a few more seconds. He then turns and leaves the room.

 

INT. THE NURSING STATION OUTSIDE JOE’S ROOM – MONDAY NIGHT

Otto stops outside Joe’s room, looks around, and walks to a nursing station, where a SECOND NURSE works on papers.

OTTO

Excuse me, ma’am. Oh, excuse me – yes, well may I ask you a question? Good, thanks. Uh, Joe Kleinschmidt, in the room there. I’m his uncle, see, and his, um, business partner, and I, um, well, I need to fly back home to Wisconsin, see, and I was wondering, if you knew, well, how long he’ll be in here for.

 

SECOND NURSE

Sir, I’m not at liberty to discuss the patient’s condition; but I can ask his doctor to call you. Are you listed as his emergency contact?

 

OTTO

No, that’s his wife, Chris, but that’ll be fine.  You see, I’m leaving tomorrow.  Joe was supposed to leave too, and I have to change his flight, and then tell Chris when he’ll be home.  I need to warn Chris what to expect, too.  In fact, I’ll suggest she call him herself.  That would be best.  Do you have calling hours here?  I mean, hours when a person can call someone who’s here?  No?  Good, then I’ll tell Chris to call whenever she feels ready and that anytime is OK, unless Joe’s with the doctor or one of you.  Would even then be OK?  Well, that’s good to know.  It’s nice you can be so accommodating.  Thank you.  Thanks for all you’re doing.  Joe’s my nephew, you see, my brother’s son, and he’s the company’s Vice President of Operations, at least he is for now.  In any case, we love him, and we hope he comes home soon.  He may seem a bit on edge today, because he’s been through a lot; but he’s a really good man.  I hope you get a chance to see that.

 

Otto begins to walk away but turns back to address the nurse.

OTTO (CONT’D)

You take care now, ma’am; and thanks a bunch.

 

Please click here to read Part 12.

 

 

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 10 of 14

Desk

I hope you enjoy the tenth installment of my feature-length screenplay, “Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016).

For Part 9, please click here.

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.

 

EXT. WEST STREET, AT THE GROUND ZERO FENCE – MONDAY – 2006

The view of Ground Zero from the east side of West Street shows seeds of construction in the gaping pit.

JOY (O.S.)

Ground Zero.

 

Joe and Otto stand side by side at the fence, staring into the pit. Joy stands behind them.

JOY (CONT’D)

D’you know the media had it named almost immediately on 9/11?

 

JOE

It fits.

 

JOY

Yes, I s’pose it does.

 

Joy stares for a few more seconds and then turns to face Joe.

JOY (CONT’D)

Mr. Kleinschmidt, on behalf of Bongo Foods, I want to thank you again for your presentation this morning. As a good corporate citizen of the packaged food industry, Bongo appreciates every chance to learn about companies with whom we share markets. We wish County Dairy good fortune in the Heartland, and we look forward to following your success. When is your flight? You leave today?

 

OTTO

Yes, at 6 –

 

JOY

Good, you have some free time. Have you thought about what to do before you return to Minnesota –

 

JOE

Wisconsin.

 

JOY

Beg pardon?

 

JOE

We’re from Wisconsin.

 

JOY

Oh! I can’t keep them straight.

 

JOE

What are you saying?

 

JOY

Surely you don’t think my world revolves around cows, cheese, and beer?

 

JOE

No. No, of course not. I mean, what about the deal?

 

JOY

The deal?

 

JOE

Bongo buying County! What this trip is all about! What my best friend started five years ago –

 

JOY

Most likely it’s off.

 

OTTO

Like that?

 

JOY

Yes, like that.

 

OTTO

How, I mean, what –

 

JOE

But Bongo invited us. They almost begged us –

 

OTTO

What in the heck happened?

 

JOY

I’m not at liberty to divulge details of pending –

 

JOE

What’s pending?

 

JOY

Bongo Foods of course has many simultaneous considerations –

 

JOE

Considerations?

 

JOY

If Bongo decides its best interests lie in merger with another firm –

 

OTTO

Another?

 

JOE

With whom?

 

JOY

As I said, gentlemen, I’m not at liberty to reveal, and I’d add that your confrontational attitude could –

 

JOE

Just cut the crap, will you? I speak English, not New York.

 

JOY

Sir, I must warn you –

 

JOE

Warn me of what? That if I don’t behave I’ll have to give up sleep, endure airport hell, and completely waste my time in a room full of catatonic suits?

 

Joy looks from Joe to Otto and back.

JOY

Please don’t yell. I get enough of that in the office. Listen, I’ve felt sorry for you guys. You’ve been royally jerked around, so I’ll be straight with you now; but please don’t tell anyone. I need this job.

 

OTTO

Do you really?

 

JOY

Look – Bongo wanted another company all along. They’ve known their target for months. They only brought you in to force the other guys to lower their price. And it worked.

 

Joe steps back until he reaches the fence.

JOY (CONT’D)

It stinks, but it happens. I know it’s not my fault, but I’m sorry you guys were used. You seem to be really nice.

 

Joy glances at her watch.

JOY (CONT’D)

I have to go. Thanks again for all your work. Have a safe trip home.

 

Joy pivots and clicks away up the sidewalk. Joe presses his back against the fence. Otto faces away from him.

OTTO

So that’s it. We’re done here. Now we can go on out to –

 

JOE

No. We can’t.

 

OTTO

Joe, we have to see the writing on the wall and move on.

 

JOE

Move on?

 

OTTO

Yes, we’ve got to. You know there’s nothing more we can do –

 

JOE

OK!

 

OTTO

Really, Joe. There’s no way we could’ve seen this coming.

 

JOE

No?

 

OTTO

Well, maybe I had a feeling that –

 

JOE

A feeling?

 

OTTO

A gut feeling, a hunch. I just wasn’t sure this was meant to be.

 

JOE

Why didn’t you say something?

 

OTTO

Oh I don’t know. I guess – since Gabriel liked Bongo, and saw its potential – if Gabriel thought –

 

JOE

Gabriel thought!

 

OTTO

If Gabriel thought he’d win here, maybe you and I could too, for him.

 

JOE

So we’re out here for Gabriel?

 

OTTO

Yes, I think so. What’s more –

 

JOE

Wait! Before you go and declare us martyrs to his cause, let’s review what Gabriel has done for us.

 

OTTO

Joe, really –

 

JOE

Because of the Big G., here we are today, snubbed by a company where he saw “potential.”

 

OTTO

Joe, please –

 

JOE

“Gabriel, the interpersonal genius!” If he was so damn good with people, how the hell didn’t he see that all this Bongo stuff was a sham?

 

OTTO

Probably five years ago it wasn’t!

 

JOE

Or maybe it was, and Gabe let his ambition get the best of him.

 

OTTO

That’s not fair!

 

JOE

I’ll bet he ignored a gut feeling just like yours.

 

OTTO

You can’t say –

 

JOE

Ignored all kinds of hunches and doubts.

 

OTTO

Joe, let’s go –

 

JOE

You know, I really should’ve come out here with him.

 

OTTO

What?

 

JOE

To keep him in check. He could’ve used my counsel and advice.

 

OTTO

You can’t be saying this.

 

JOE

Why not? I’m not a total idiot.

 

OTTO

That’s not what I meant –

 

JOE

And my judgment wasn’t clouded by Gabe’s ego.

 

OTTO

You are so far off base –

 

JOE

You know I should have been here.

 

OTTO

No, I don’t!

 

JOE

I could have put off the closing and made the trip.

 

Otto grabs Joe by his upper arms.

OTTO

Get ahold of yourself! You’ve never been so wrong in all your life!

 

JOE

Let me go! Get away. Nothing you say or do can change this!

 

OTTO

You’re out of control.

 

JOE

I said back off! Your constant defense of Gabriel gets old.

 

OTTO

I’m not defending Gabriel, or attacking him –

 

JOE

Then don’t attack me. I am not out of control. I am just stating a fact that should be screamingly obvious to anyone with half a brain. Gabriel was out here on a wild goose chase, and I could’ve helped him if I’d come.

 

OTTO

Joe, stop –

 

JOE

I should have been on that trip!

 

Joe begins to stagger and sink.

JOE (CONT’D)

Can’t you see, goddammit, I should have been here with him.

 

Joe collapses. Otto rushes forward and catches his shoulders in time to break his fall. Joe’s body shudders.

A passing businesswoman and a male bicycle messenger stop to help. Otto is frantic. The businesswoman calls 911.

Additional pairs of hands appear, adjusting Joe’s clothes, checking his pulse, and preparing to move him onto a stretcher.

Paramedics CALL TO EACH OTHER as they check Joe’s vital signs.

An ambulance leaves, SIREN BLARING, with Otto and Joe inside.

 

INT. WINDOWS ON THE WORLD RESTAURANT – 8:55 AM, 11 SEPTEMBER 2001

Sound: Paramedics’ VOICES and SIRENS from the 2006 scene are replaced by SHOUTS recorded on 9/11.

 

Gabriel’s face is covered with sweat and soot. His eyes are reddened by exposure to smoke. He moves in a crowd of people, all of whom are out of focus. Gabriel looks terrified.

Smoke hangs in the air. A red-gray glow sits over Gabriel’s left shoulder.

Gabriel takes three or four steps forward, moving rapidly and yet stumbling over and around other fleeing figures.

He snaps his head to the left to look behind him.

He sees a confusion of fire, smoke, and people.

Gabriel stands in grayish half-light with his back to what appear to be World Trade Center windows. He labors to breathe. An out-of-focus crowd surrounds him on all sides.

Light from what might be distant flames flickers on Gabriel’s face. Tendrils of smoke waft around his shoulders.

A LOUD CRASH OF GLASS sounds. The light over Gabriel’s shoulder brightens as the glass shatters.

Gabriel, his hands shaking, reaches to the clip on his belt and, with some effort, detaches his cell phone. He presses two buttons to speed-dial his wife.

When his wife Lucy answers, Gabriel freezes, unable to speak.

LUCY (O.S.)

Hello…Hello? Gabe? Is that you?

(yelling)

Gabriel, you hit the speed-dial again. You know this won’t happen if you lock the keypad. Come on. Pick up. You know Monday’s my late night and now that you’ve awakened me –

 

A second CRASH OF GLASS sounds. A WOMAN SCREAMS.

Gabriel jerks back into the present.

GABRIEL

Lucy! Oh, God in heaven, Lucy. Please don’t hang up, and you don’t have to yell, or maybe you should, I can’t hear you too well. There’s all this noise, and a roar. Oh, God, Lucy, this roar, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard, or ever hoped to hear, like a growl of…Oh, Jesus, Lucy, please don’t hang up.

 

LUCY (O.S.)

I’m here, Gabriel. I’m awake, and I’m on the line. What in the world…I mean, you sound like – what in the heck is happening to you?

 

GABRIEL

I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know exactly. There’s fire. And smoke, and heat, and a stench. And, dear God, it’s spreading so fast –

 

Lucy’s response sounds like a shriek of shock and confusion.

GABRIEL (CONT’D)

I don’t know, I don’t know. The whole building shook, it swayed, it felt like it was gonna tip over, and then the flames – they just shot everywhere; and all I saw was stuff falling, and rocking, and burning, and everyone trying, trying to run when – Oh God, how can anyone run when you can’t even stand up?

 

Lucy sounds calmer. She speaks for several seconds.

The flickering light on Gabriel’s face brightens. The smoke in the air becomes thicker.

Gabriel steps back, closer to the window. He calms himself.

GABRIEL (CONT’D)

Lucy – Lucy, listen. This is bad. Something’s happened, an explosion or something. And there’s a fire. We’re at the windows to get more air, but there’s not much, and I think the fire’s getting closer…Well the elevators, the stairs, that’s where the fire is, so we can’t get out that way. I see waiters, and cooks, and – they all know this place. If there were a way out, they’d take it.

 

A third CRASH OF GLASS sounds.

A MAN’S VOICE

Oh, dear God!

 

Lucy’s voice registers alarm. Gabriel calms down further.

GABRIEL

Lucy, listen. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It looks really bad. Look, please know that I love you from the bottom of my heart. I always have, and I always will.

 

Lucy’s voice is pleading.

GABRIEL (CONT’D)

Listen, you take good care of yourself. Be happy. Enjoy your life. Have fun whenever you can; and always know that I love you.

 

LUCY (O.S.)

Gabe, wait, please! What are you saying? Oh, my God – Gabriel, I love you too. Please –

 

The telephone connection breaks.

GABRIEL

Lucy?…Lucy!

 

Gabriel lifts the phone to look at its screen and then drops his hand to his side.

A fourth CRASH OF GLASS sounds. The background ROAR from the fires becomes louder. The din of VOICES rises in pitch.

Gabriel backs up another few inches and turns to press his right side against the wall of windows.

Gabriel looks over his left shoulder, toward the fires, for a few seconds and then stares hard over his right shoulder.

Behind Gabriel to his right is a wall of windows.

Sound: Rescuers’, reporters’, and passers’-by VOICES recorded on 9/11. Over the din of VOICES appears the eerie CHORUS OF “TWEETS” of firefighters’ alarm whistles on 9/11.

 

Please click here to read Part 11.

 

 

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 9 of 14

Desk

Today, for your enjoyment, the ninth installment of my feature-length screenplay,”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016).

For Part 8, please click here.

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.

 

INT. JOE’S HOTEL ROOM – EARLY MONDAY MORNING – 2006

The time on Joe’s clock radio reads “6:00.” The clock’s shrill ALARM sounds.

Joe rolls over, fumbles with the alarm, and finally turns it off. After several seconds he heaves himself out of bed.

 

INT. A CAB ENROUTE TO THE BONGO MEETING – MONDAY MORNING – 2006

Looking nervous and tired, Joe holds a cup of coffee in one hand and flips through paper printouts of his slides with the other. He mouths the words of his sales talk.

 

INT. A CONFERENCE ROOM AT COUNTY DAIRY – 9 SEPTEMBER 2001

Joe’s hands page slowly through paper printouts as Gabriel energetically rehearses his presentation.

GABRIEL (O.S.)

Through Q3 we project operational staffing to grow at an average annual rate of 3%. Joe is that right? D’you know off the top of your head?

 

Joe sits at the foot of a table. Gabriel stands at the head.

JOE

I’ll check.

 

GABRIEL

Can you can get it before I leave?

 

JOE

Sure.

 

GABRIEL

Bring it to the airport?

 

JOE

Yeah, I’ll do that.

 

GABRIEL

All the preliminary Q3s?

 

JOE

I’ll save them to a disk.

 

GABRIEL

Awesome, Joe. You rock. OK, moving on…

 

Through a window, the sky is brilliantly blue.

INT. WORLD FINANCIAL CENTER, FACING EAST – MONDAY – 2006

A contrail cuts through a clear blue sky over Ground Zero.

Joe speaks at the north end of an east-facing room. Seated counter-clockwise around a conference table are Otto, Vincent, Jeanne, the CEO (at the table’s head), Joy (typing on a laptop), and MARK (a Bongo lawyer, writing on a legal pad.)

JOE

So, as you can see from what I’ve said today, County Dairy is at a unique position in its corporate development. We’re really at what you could call a peak in our sales, our market share, and gross revenues, while our profits compare respectably to levels of the last two years. With our low turnover as I highlighted, personnel investments have been good; and our capital renewal programs in 2004 and 2005 yielded returns on investment that equaled or even bettered our projections.  What I wanted to emphasize most – and I hope I did – is the strength of County Dairy’s products compared to our competition. Even with some fading of the low-carb diet trend, our hi-pro line enjoys steady sales, and we anticipate that the next quarter will turn out even stronger with our new internet marketing campaign. So – that’s it. I hope my overview of County Dairy highlighted its strengths, explained any weaknesses, and made clear to each and every one of you why County Dairy would be a strong component of Bongo’s growing food empire.

Joe pauses. The faces at the table remain unchanged.

JOE (CONT’D)

I can take your questions. I’d be happy to elaborate on anything I’ve said here today.

 

Joe stands, hands at his sides, fidgeting with a laser pointer.

Fluorescent lights HUM. Joe shifts and stops fidgeting.

A muffled LAUGH and a TELEPHONE’S RING waft into the room.

JOE (CONT’D)

Anything? Any thoughts or questions?

 

Otto checks his fingernails. Jeanne makes a note on her Blackberry. Mark looks up at the CEO.

CEO

Thank you, Mr. Kleinschmidt, I mean, Joe, of course. You’re both Mr. Kleinschmidt, aren’t you?

 

The CEO laughs.

CEO (CONT’D)

Really, that was first-rate. You covered the topics I wanted to see. Jeanne, anything you’d like to add?

 

JEANNE

Oh, um, you’ve included your slides in our packets?

 

Jeanne lifts a glossy folder and shuffles through its contents.

JOE

Yes, ma’am. All the slides are there. If you’d like me to expand on anything you see –

 

JEANNE

No. No, that’s OK. I can find all I need in your notes. They’re thorough. And I don’t want to keep you past your time –

 

CEO

Vincent? Mark? Anything to ask?

 

Vincent smiles and shakes his head. Mark looks up at Joe and then at Otto.

VINCENT

No, I’m good.

 

MARK

Nope. This was very thorough. Thanks much.

 

The CEO smiles at Otto and then at Joe.

CEO

Well, then, we’re finished for now. Guess you folks will want lunch. Partial to any specific cuisine? Lots of choices nearby.

 

JOE

Um, I wouldn’t say so, no. I mean, anything, anything here’s great.

 

The CEO grins broadly, stands, and walks to the doorway. The rest of his group forms a line next to the door.

CEO

I think you’d like Terry’s. It’s one block south, on the right, with the fuschia awning. You might even get an outside table, since it’s early.

 

The CEO extends his hand toward Joe, who rapidly packs his papers with assistance from Otto.

CEO (CONT’D)

Yes. Good. Yes, you’ll like Terry’s. Have lunch on Bongo, as a thank-you for your efforts in making the trip.

 

Joe and Otto arrive at the doorway. Each member of the Bongo team shakes Joe’s and Otto’s hands with muttered thanks and leaves the room. The CEO stays in place, beaming.

CEO (CONT’D)

Yes, go on ahead to Terry’s, and I’ll send Joy later with plastic.

 

The CEO shakes first Joe’s hand and then Otto’s. He escorts Joe and Otto down a corridor to the threshold of an elevator lobby.

CEO (CONT’D)

Thanks, many thanks, for an informative and well-planned presentation. You did indeed show County Dairy in the best light, and I wish you all of the luck.

 

The CEO stops at lobby’s entrance. Joe and Otto continue.

Joe pushes the button to call an elevator.

CEO (CONT’D)

We’ll be in touch. Thanks again.

 

The CEO vanishes into the office area.

The elevator CHIMES sharply to announce its arrival.

INT. A LOWER MANHATTAN CAFÉ – MONDAY MIDDAY – 2006

A cash register CHIMES. Its LED displays the price of a meal.

An upscale lunch restaurant is busy but not packed.

Joe and Otto sit across from each other at a four-person table. Otto faces the exit.

Otto extracts a piece of avocado from his turkey-bacon-avocado sandwich and sets it on a pile of avocado pieces. He then takes a large bite of the remaining turkey-bacon.

Joe works slowly on bowl of pasta with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes. He carefully forks a tomato over to the side of his dish, where it joins an assembly of other rejected tomatoes.

The men stare past each other into the middle distance.

Adjacent to Joe and Otto is a slickly-dressed, handsome, and thirtyish MAN ON A DATE, who sits across from a professional woman (slender, striking, and brunette.)

 

MAN ON A DATE

So I was at Bear Stearns in midtown. Had a huge window. Was gunning for a corner. Then after the attacks I wanted to move downtown; so I jumped over to Brown Brothers Harriman. I mean –

 

The man takes a bite of panini and speaks with his mouth full.

MAN ON A DATE (CONT’D)

it was brilliant, really: show patriotism to the Street, while almost doubling my take-home.

 

He takes a sip of his drink and looks up at his companion.

MAN ON A DATE (CONT’D)

But enough of me talking about myself. What do you think of me?

 

Otto puts down his sandwich.

OTTO

Good?

 

JOE

Yeah. Not bad. You?

 

OTTO

Can’t complain.

 

The men eat in silence for a few seconds.

OTTO (CONT’D)

Really, Joe, like I said, you did good.

 

Joe does not respond.

OTTO (CONT’D)

I said before we left we couldn’t know what to expect. The whole thing’s been so fast, you know. Maybe we’ll get an answer quick too. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

 

Joe smiles faintly and nods.

Otto rotates his sandwich to navigate around a piece of avocado.

JOE

No one there today met Gabriel, did they? I wonder if any of them talked to him, or sent him email?

 

OTTO

Possible. I couldn’t say. No one from Bongo mentioned the other deal today. It’s probably a sore topic.

 

Joe pushes his chair back.

JOE

You ready?

 

OTTO

Yes.

 

Otto and Joe both reach for their wallets. After a few seconds, Otto brightens and waves.

Joy enters the restaurant and approaches Otto.

JOY

You finished? This your check? Great. I’ll go and pay, and why don’t we meet up outside?

 

Otto and Joe nod at Joy, stand, and walk to the door.

 

Please click here to read Part 10.