IMPEACH TRUMP.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

National Classic Movie Day - a one-act play



 
In celebration of the holiday that should be,  May 16th,National Classic Movie Day, we join Rick at Classic Film & TV Café who is hosting a one-day blogathon called My Favorite Classic Movie. 

It's never been easy for me to narrow my favorite classic film down to one, but for today my entry is The Best Years of Our Lives, because I guess if my arm were twisted to name a title, this would have to be it.  So here is my tribute.  Since I've already blogged about this film here, instead I'm posting a one-act play about one fan's obsession with this particular movie. 

(The following script is copyrighted by Jacqueline T. Lynch, and any use is prohibited.  For inquiries on purchasing scripts or performance rights, email me at JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com.)


*************************
 
RELIVING THE BEST YEARS

Cast of Characters: 

Jane:                         A woman about 45 years old.  She is in a state of almost trance-like exhaustion at the beginning of the play. However, she slowly reawakens by the end, comforted and healed by her habit of using an old movie as a crutch.

Bobby:                    Her younger brother, about 35.  He is likeable, easy-going, well-meaning, but ineffectual and inevitably irrelevant.  He has begun to notice this himself.

                                                            TIME: The late 1990s.

                                                            SETTING:  JANE’s upstairs bedroom in her parents’ house.  The play can be done with a minimalist set to suggest her room, but if using a full set, a twin bed is situated DR, the door leading out the hall is UR, a dresser is against the wall up center, a closet UL, with perhaps a desk or small bookcase DL.  Towards down center there is a television on a small stand or table with a VCR connected to it.  The screen is not seen by the audience, but the television is on.  The sound is too low to hear. 
 
AT RISE: JANE is sits on the end of the bed, quite still, watching a film.  She wears a black dress, shoes, holding a black handbag in her lap, as well as a presentation American flag folded into a triangle.  She has just returned from her father’s funeral.  She is exhausted.  She also holds two remotes, one for the TV and one for the VCR. She looks blankly at the screen as if shell shocked, however she is quite alert.  She does not react when her brother enters, but she knows he is there.

BOBBY
(Opens her door slowly after a brief, soft knock.  He sticks his head in.)

Jane?

            (JANE does not speak, but cocks her head slightly.)

BOBBY
            (Steps in, leaving the door open.  He looks all around the room, and finally, at JANE.  He speaks as if on eggshells.)

I wondered where you went.  Sure has been a long time since I’ve been up here.  Wow.  Your room is just the same.  Well, you’ve got yourself a TV in here.  Or did you have that when I left home?  I don’t remember.  What’s that you’re watching?



JANE
              (In a tired, yet completely serene voice)

The Best Years...of Our Lives.

BOBBY

Oh, that’s a real old one, huh?  (With barely disguised repugnance.)  Black and white.

JANE

Nineteen forty-six.  Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell.  William Wyler directed it.

BOBBY
            (Pleasantly.)

Well, I guess you’d know.  You’re the old movie expert.  It sure was a nice day, wasn’t it?  We couldn’t have had a better day for the funeral.

            (He walks downstage and facing the audience, appears as if he is looking out a window.)

All the kids are playing out on the front lawn.  Digging up your grass, though.  I had no idea all the cousins would show up today.  I mean, I knew some of them would, but I haven’t seen George, or Steve, or Lori since … I don’t know when.

JANE

They came for Mom’s funeral, five years ago.

BOBBY

Did they?  I don't remember.  Julia and her daughter came all the way from Florida, did you know that?  Sure was nice of them.  I thought I was coming a long way, from Ohio.  Isn’t this a nice day, though?

JANE
            (She takes her gaze off the screen and looks out towards the audience as if  looking out the windows of her room.  She takes a deep breath.)

Yes.  That air is wonderful.  This is the first, real spring day.  Spring has been so late this year.

BOBBY

You must be really tired.  You’ve had so much to do.  All the arrangements.  And taking care of Dad for so long.  You’ve really earned a rest, Janie.  It’s a shame Charlene had to drag everybody back to the house like this.  Still the bossy big sister.  I think she’s sending Steve and Uncle Jimmy for out for beer.  She sure does love to take over.  Anyway, I’m sorry you’ve got a house full of people when you’d probably rather be alone.

JANE

Would you like this?

BOBBY

What?

JANE
            (Holding out the flag.)
This.  You can have it if you like.

BOBBY

You don’t want it?  You should take it.

JANE

You can have it, Bobby.  Take it.

            (BOBBY approaches her, anxiously.  He looks at the flag in her outstretched hands.)

JANE

It won’t bite you.

BOBBY
            (Feeling foolish, he takes the flag and steps down center again, appearing awkward as if he does not really know what to do with it.)

Thanks.  It was nice you arranging this…flag thing.  Dad probably would have liked it.  I don’t know much about his time in the war, though.  Do you?

JANE

I know some things.  He was in Italy.  I know from Mom more than Dad.  He never talked much about it.

BOBBY

He never talked much about anything.  I always felt, I came along so late, he just wasn’t into in kids anymore, if he ever was.  He was fifty when I was born.  Well, you took good care of them both, Jane.

 
JANE

Do you think Teresa Wright would have put Myrna Loy and Fredric March in a nursing home?

BOBBY
            (Not comprehending.)

Whoever she is, I don’t think it’s up to Teresa Wright whether or not Myrna Loy and Fredric March go to a nursing home.  I’m pretty sure she can’t go around putting people in nursing homes.

JANE

She’s their daughter.

BOBBY

Oh, the movie.  You mean, would her character have put her parents in a nursing home?  I don’t know, why not?

JANE

I always wondered.  Sometimes I’d think yes, other times, no.

BOBBY

Well…I think you did wonderful by Mom and Dad.  I mean that.  Nobody could’ve done better,  keeping them at home.  I guess I wasn’t much help.  Of course, I couldn’t really do much long distance, could I?
 
JANE

Sometimes I think I know them better than anybody in real life.  I suppose that comes from seeing the movie so much.  I can imagine any number of scenarios for Fred and Peggy in their future life, after the movie ends, I mean, and Wilma and Homer, and Al and Millie.  But, I can’t see myself five years down the road.  Isn’t that funny?

 
BOBBY
         (Dubiously.)
It’s your favorite movie, huh?

JANE

Oh, yes.  Any time I need a little help, out comes that video.  When I lost my job last year, the first thing I did was come home and put it on.  When I got into the fender-bender three years ago, Best Years of our Lives.  You just can’t come home from spending nine hours in the emergency room waiting for some doctor to put your arm in sling, and not find a little comfort somewhere.  When Mom was diagnosed, it was back to Myrna Loy.  When Dad had his last operation, Fredric March and Harold Russell sat up all night with me.
 
BOBBY
            (Sits on her bed, still holding the flag in his lap.)

An old movie gives you that much comfort? 

JANE

Some people drink.  Some people do drugs.  I watch the The Best Years of Our Lives.

BOBBY
            (Chuckling, feeling at ease enough to put the flag on her bed, though occasionally still sneaking looks at it.)

Well, I’m glad you’ve got a sense of humor about it. 

JANE

I’ve loved it since I first saw it, and felt that way ever since.  I’ll bet you don’t remember when I first saw that movie, do you?

BOBBY

No, why?  Should I?
 
JANE

I was seventeen years old, and you were seven.  I saw it only by accident.  I used to work at the drug store after school.  In fact, I used to pretend it was the drug store where Dana Andrews worked.

BOBBY

Who’s he?

JANE

In the movie.  But, I got out early from school that day because I had a tooth pulled, so instead of taking the bus down to my job at the drug store after high school that afternoon, I got to stay home.  Mom let me lie on the couch and watch the TV.  It was a day just like this, early spring.  She was waxing the wood floors.  The smell of the polish and the spring breeze coming through the curtains.

BOBBY

I remember when she used to wax the floors.  I almost killed myself once in socks.  Slid right into the radiator.  I still have the scar on my knee.

JANE

Channel 30 had a movie every afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00.  Back when we only got three channels.  And no remote controls.  Now I've got two, one for the TV, one for the VCR.  Life has become very complicated.  They showed The Best Years of Our Lives that day.  Only, it’s a long movie.  And they had to fit in all the commercials, too.  So, what they did, is they put half the movie on Thursday, when I was home, and put the second half on Friday.  But, I wasn’t going to get to stay home on Friday.   I had to go back to school and back to my after school job.  Do  you remember?

BOBBY

Remember what?

JANE
            (Chuckles)
I asked you to watch the rest of the movie for me when you came home from school.  I think you were in the first grade at the time.  I wanted you to tell me how it ended.  I gave you a quarter to watch the movie for me.

BOBBY
            (Laughs)
I don’t remember.  Did I watch it for you?
 
JANE

Oh, you gave me a full report when I came home from work.  You said, “The big Easter egg was on the beach, and the two tiny ladies came out of the box, and they were friends with the big bug.”

BOBBY

Huh?

JANE

Yes, that’s what I said.  And you said, “The big bug wanted the Easter egg back because it was his, and the jungle people were mad, and the two tiny ladies sang songs and were very sad about the egg, because it belonged to the bug and the men should give it back.  But even though they were mad, the bug still helped when Godzilla pulled down all the power lines and the people ran away screaming because they were all a-scared.”
 
BOBBY

Godzilla?

JANE

You were watching the wrong channel.  You gave me a movie review of Godzilla Versus Mothra.  Only three channels to pick from and you got the wrong one.

                        (They both laugh.)

BOBBY

I guess I owe you a quarter.

JANE

You had nightmares and I felt kind of bad.  It was too much responsibility for such a little boy.

BOBBY
            (He gestures to the video box.)

I guess you eventually saw the end of the movie.

JANE

Oh, long before it came out on video.  It was on a couple years afterward, after I had graduated from high school.  It was on the late, late show, and I had to practically beg Dad to let me stay up and watch it, which he did not want to do because he was afraid the sound of the TV would keep him up all night, but Mom said, “Oh, let her.  She could be out all night doing Lord knows what, but here she just wants to watch a harmless old movie in our living room.”

BOBBY

That was nice, Ma sticking up for you.

JANE

Yeah, but the way she said it made me feel like there was something wrong with me for not staying out all night doing Lord knows what.  I thought of that all the while I watched the movie, with the sound very low, sitting right in front of the TV so I could hear it, and all the lights turned off in the living room.
 
BOBBY

You were a good kid, that’s all.  You were a good daughter to them.

JANE

Did they know that when they let me stay up for the movie?  (As she speaks, she notices the flag on the bed between them and puts it back on his lap.)  Did they think then, “Ah, this one will stay home with us when we are old and take care of us, and never try to have a life of her own.”
 
BOBBY
            (Uncomfortable.)
Just forget it, Jane, it’s done.  So, what are you going to do now?

 
JANE

I saw the end of the movie, and the national anthem, and then the sign off and the test pattern.  Then I just sat in the dark for a while feeling empty inside that it was all over.  There was no re-winding then.  It was over, and you didn’t see it again for years.

BOBBY
        (As if a sudden sense of desperation comes over him, he breaks her reverie with fast speech and quick looks to the open doorway, the window, his watch, but trying to avoid looking at her or the flag.)

I guess I’d better get back to our company.  I haven’t seen the cousins in ages.  I really should visit with them before I go back on the flight tonight.

JANE

What airline?
 
BOBBY

Delta.

JANE

I’m going United.

BOBBY

What?  What do you mean?

JANE

Fred Derry took the ATC flight to Boone City.  They all flew in the nose of the bomber, him, Homer and Al.

 
BOBBY
          (Angrily.)
Knock it off, Jane.  Can’t you stop talking about that stupid move?  It’s just a movie.  (With disgust.)  Black and white.

JANE

I know.
            (She pops the cassette out and hands it to him.)

You want it?
 
BOBBY

No, I don’t want it!  Why would I want it?  I don’t want the flag, either, to tell you the truth.  I just want to get out of here.  I’m sorry.  You’re just creeping me out a little.

JANE
Sorry.
 (Stands, tosses the cassette to him.)

I’ve never flown in a plane before.  It’ll be my first time.

BOBBY

What, are you really going somewhere?

JANE

Tonight.  I’m flying to Sacramento, California.  I have new job there.

BOBBY

Well...that’s...great.  I’m...glad for you.   But why... (Double take)  Tonight?!

JANE

My boss at the insurance company left before all the downsizing, and he’s with another firm out there.  We’ve been in touch, and he got me the job.

            (She pulls out a suitcase from the closet.)

I’d better put this on the porch.  My cab is supposed to come at 3:30.

BOBBY

Jane!  This is crazy!   You can’t leave.  You’ve got a house full of people.

JANE
             (Deadpan, as if delivering a punch line.)
I used to be afraid they’d put that on my headstone.  Isn’t it funny--Charlene, none of them have any idea they’ve come to my going away party.
 
BOBBY

Jane, this is crazy.

JANE

No it’s not.  It’s not even impulsive, because I’ve planned it for a long time.  I wish I could be impulsive, but I have a habit of writing everything I’m going to do on the calendar.  I can never take myself by surprise.  Even my impulsiveness is scheduled.  I suppose that’s why Dave wanted me with him in his new firm.  I supposed that’s why Mom and Dad could count on me.  I suppose that’s why you and Charlene never came home, except to party after the funerals.  You knew everything was being handled.
 
BOBBY

That’s not fair.  We have families, we have our own lives.

JANE

Now you can have my life.  I meant it, you know.  You can have the movie, and the flag, and everything you see.  The house.  You and Charlene.  It’s all yours.

BOBBY

Jane, listen, nobody wants to take anything from you….

JANE

Legally.  You’ll find a copy of Dad’s will on his dresser.  You and our big sister Charlene are inheriting everything equally.  I explained how I felt about it all to Dad, and he agreed to do it the way I wanted.  He really was a great guy, you know.  It’s a shame you never really got to know him.  Now that you and Charlene are going to share everything, you’d better learn to start getting along.  Oh, and Aunt Doris is the executrix, but she doesn’t drive anymore, and does not really see too well, so you and Charlene will have to pretty much do everything.
 
BOBBY
          (Stands, as if in panic.)
This is crazy!  What about you?

JANE

First thing I’m going to do when I get set up in my new apartment is get a DVD player.  Did you know that with a DVD you don’t have to re-wind?  You just stop, and push a button to start the movie  again, from anywhere in the film.  You can just keep going, from wherever you are.  Or wherever you want to be.
(Looks out the window.)

My cab’s here.  When Fred and Al were going home in the cab, Al was nervous and told him that he felt like he was hitting a beachhead.  I don’t feel that way at all.  I feel like Teresa Wright at the end of the movie.

BOBBY

Jane….

JANE
            (Tosses him both remote controls. Firmly, almost angrily.)

And I’m never going to re-wind any of it again.  I’m only moving forward now.

            (JANE stares him down, picks up her suitcase, and exits.  BOBBY sits slowly down on the bed, with the remote, the cassette, and the flag in his arms.)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF PLAY)


 

18 comments:

Rich said...

Wow. That was a nice shift on Jane's part near the end. I get the feeling there are more than a few unsettled family issues going on here. Lotta stuff left unsaid that maybe should've been said long ago.

Nice job. Let us know if anybody ever performs it.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks, Rich. I had trouble with the formatting. After a while I just had to stop tinkering with it and let it go. They say all the world's a stage, but apparently this does not apply to blogs.

ClassicBecky said...

Jane's feelings about the movie and its role in her life are very like mine -- you hit home for me in a lot of ways. I think Best Years is at least in the top 10 great movies. Like you, I just can't pick a number one, no matter how hard I try. Your one-act play is a wonderful way to bring out the depth and reality of Best Years. You are such a good writer and this was a very creative way to introduce anyone to Best Years. Kudos!

Caftan Woman said...

They'll always remember the day "crazy Aunt Jane" went off her rocker. Independence Day!

Well, maybe someday some of those younger cousins will be able to see things for how they really were.

You had me totally caught up in those family dynamics.

Classic TV Blog Association said...

What a unique way to pay homage to a film you love! My father never talked much about his World War II experiences and neither did my father-in-law. I think it's through films like THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES that we get at least a partial glimpse into what that generation must have experienced.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you very much, ladies. Just a different post from the same old, same old. I suppose whether we have many favorites or one, there are a lot of times when scenes from a favorite film drift into our conscious, and we feed off them, for whatever reason -- inspiration, comfort. Courage. "Now, what would Francis X. Bushman do in a situation like this?"

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

That's a very good point about films like BEST YEARS helping us to bridge the gap to the past even though we may have direct familial links.

vienna said...

Loved it. Deserves to be performed . Beautifully written. Congratulations!

John said...

Family dynamics are so often the same in many families. There's many times one sibling is left with taking care of the parents while the others have "lives" and don't have the time. Let Jane do it, all she does is watch old movies. Truly enjoyed reading this most entertaining and unique post.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you Vienna, and John. I suppose, despite our varying backgrounds and circumstances, we all come to old movies for a sense of adventure that might be missing in our lives, and a little of the nurturing that might be missing as well.

theblondeatthefilm.com said...

Great post! What a fantastic idea!

Leah Williams said...

What an unexpected surprise to get to read this play! I was thoroughly engaged the whole time, and liked to see Jane triumph in the end. Let us know when it's going to be performed.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you so much, ladies. I really appreciate. Just a quirky post to celebrate our mutual obsession.

Java Bean Rush said...

If only there were a blog equivalent of a standing ovation...

You've truly inspired me here. I'm always looking for ways to shake up the blogging routine, but never thought of writing a play.

As everyone has said - I was caught up in the family dynamics. There are plenty of Janes and Bobbys in my family, to some degree. The folded flag takes me back to more than one recent funeral.

And this quote:
"Sometimes I think I know them better than anybody in real life..... I can imagine any number of scenarios for Fred and Peggy in their future life, after the movie ends...."

Jane and I would totally get along well! I do this all the time.

Well done!

Silver Screenings said...

Great idea! A one-act play as review would never occur to me, and it's very clever. Great choice of film.

And... GO TEAM JANE!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you both so very much. It was a weird sort of departure, I know, but I hoped everybody could relate to it on some level. It's been a fun blogathon with great choices. I was fascinated to discover so many of my favorite movies among them. I guess, more or less, we're all on the same wavelength.

girlsdofilm said...

Really enjoyed reading this - who would've thought a review could work so well in this format?! And it seems like you had fun writing it, which is always important :) And it's certainly helped me appreciate Jane in a new light!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you very much, I appreciate that. It was fun, and I so glad people seem to be identifying with Jane. It's been a fun blogathon, and according to Rick's email, the topic of a National Classic Film Day has been trending in Twitter. Quite a kick.