ACT THREE-- THE OFFICE, THE NEXT DAY
THE OFFICE, THE NEXT DAY. Alex slumps on the couch, annotating a script. Ed has his feet propped on the desk, wearing his Angora sweater.
ALEX: Maybe if we had a scene between the young cop and the inspector. Same sets.
ED: You sure you don’t mind?
ALEX: The Angora? What does it matter now? (Ed folds his arms, trying to take some comfort.) Ted Allen was willing to put up half on Lugosi’s name alone. We should call. (Ed languidly picks up the receiver, clicks the switch-hook, and hangs up.) The pay phone at the drug store still works.
ED: Only if you’ve got a nickel. (Kenny Hyman enters.)
KENNY: ’Morning, guys. Guess your phone’s still out. You should complain.
ED: Complaints are Alex’s department.
KENNY: Wow. Nice sweater.
ED: It’s Angora. I got it from my mother.
KENNY: Was she a goat? Sorry. Kidding. Oh, “kidding,” that’s just as bad.
ALEX: Mr. Hyman, you have no idea how bad we feel.
ED: We’re abashed at the abjectness of the debacle. In spades.
KENNY: Er… right.
ALEX: We’ve wasted your time. I hope we can make up for that somehow. Coffee?
KENNY: I told dad about last night. We don’t think this is right for Allied Artists.
ED: Oh, God. It’s all my fault.
ALEX: Things just got out of hand. Too many cooks.
KENNY: Sorry I left, but Dad’s in New York three hours ahead, and I had to tell him--
ALEX: It was all just too-too, really. If we had time to arrange things better --
ED: Don’t, Alex, it’s my fault. I should’ve known.
KENNY: What are you two talking about?
ED: How screwed up we made things go.
KENNY: I thought it was a riot. I told Dad what a cast we’d assembled, what a show, and we ended up laughing and talking for two hours. (Alex stands immobile with the cup of coffee. Kenny takes it, quite animated.) Now Allied makes maybe two big pictures a year, otherwise it’s all low-end programmers. That, and they want sixty percent from dollar one. We could put all our eggs in one basket, but let’s think substitutes. You got other scripts?
ALEX: Well…King Robot, where we’d use Bela’s shots from the English comedy.
KENNY: Let’s skip that part. What kind of story is it?
ALEX: Like Donovan’s Brain. Scientist puts a gangster’s brain in an atomic robot.
KENNY: Good. Chaney’d make a good gangster. What else?
ED: The Ghoul Goes West. Mad scientist in the old west makes zombies. The sheriff--
KENNY: Who would you see as the good guy, the cowboy?
ED: Well, I happen to know Bob Steele in person--
KENNY: Well-- no. Nobody knows Bob Steele. What about Roy Rogers?
ALEX: I was head of Gene Autry’s English fan club. I could ask--
KENNY: Good. The title’s cutesy-wootsy. Audience might think it’s a comedy.
ALEX: It’s a pun on The Ghost Goes West, the Rene Clair film, 1939--
KENNY: Yeah, yeah,, I get it, I just don’t like it.
ED: Ken, it’s hard to be enthusiastic when we’ve had the wool rug pulled from underneath ourselves on the floor. You said you’re not taking the film to Allied Artists.
KENNY: Yeah, they’re too small. We’re thinking UA instead, as negative pick-ups. We do all finance and have total control, they just distribute. And they need product.
ALEX: This sounds better than just one picture-- but I didn’t think the reading went--
KENNY: The reading? No, Jesus, it was a disaster! But you know the old saying-- bad rehearsal, good performance. Perfect rehearsal, you end up with Flop City.
ED: This is beyond the periphery of our original perimeter of a Karloff-Lugosi film.
KENNY: You said it, pal. Whatever you said. Look… (puts his arm around their shoulders) … just between us girls, my dad knows that horror pictures are coming back.
ALEX: Does he have a crystal ball?
KENNY: Better. A friend at Universal. They’re so strapped they’re selling off all their old monster pictures to Columbia Television. The deal may not close for a year or two, but when it does, wham! They’ll be box office gold again, Karloff, Chaney, all of ’em.
ED: And we’ll be sitting on a string of pictures ready to shoot. It’s perfect!
KENNY: Imagine all those guys in your pictures. Play mix’n’match.
ALEX: There’s a reincarnation idea--Peter Lorre as the hypnotist? Those eyes? And Carradine as the skeptical doctor who investigates him?
ED: Mr. Chaney has a script called The Gila Man that he personally wrote himself.
KENNY: Healer Man? What, like a doctor story, hospitals?
ED: No, Gila-- hee-la-- like a Gila monster. Like the Wolf Man, only a lizard-man.
KENNY: Oh, I can see that playing in drive-ins. Hey, I had this idea. What do you think? It’s Victorian London. Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes--
ALEX: I think he’s done it once or twice already--
KENNY: Exactly. He thinks it’s Jack the Ripper, but there’s these bloodless corpses --
ED: It’s Count Dracula!
KENNY: Exactly! And it’s Boris Karloff!
ALEX: You mean Bela Lugosi.
KENNY: No, no, I mean Karloff. Think about it. In the book, he’s a white-haired geezer with a mustache. Dark brows, sinister. A completely different take.
ALEX: Yes, but Dracula’s really Bela’s part.
KENNY: Forget nostalgia a minute. Carradine did it, Chaney. Why not Karloff?
ED: Why not? Orson Welles played Dracula and he didn’t look anything like Lugosi.
ALEX: No-- because that was on the radio.
ED: Yeah, well… he didn’t sound like him, either!
KENNY: With Karloff, darken up his hair, presto, he’ll look fifty. He grows younger when he drinks blood. That’s the horror of Dracula. (hits him) Wow. What a good title.
ALEX: Bela could appear younger in make-up, too.
KENNY: That might be a little harder… but think of the old switcheroo. What if Lugosi plays, oh-- the expert, the doctor who helps Sherlock Holmes.
ALEX: Dr. Watson? I scarcely think his accent --
KENNY: No, Van Helsing. People expect him as the vampire, he’s actually a good guy.
ALEX: He might be concerned about playing second banana.
KENNY: Frankly, I’m concerned about Mr. Lugosi. Did you guys see that last Laurel and Hardy film, the French one?. Atoll K, Autopia, or Utopia-- whatever it was called.
ALEX: Oh, dear, Hardy looked so-o-o fat, and Stanley looks positively skeletal.
KENNY: Unh-huh , like he vacationed in Auschwitz. It ruined the film for me, I couldn’t laugh. Plus I think Mr. Lugosi might not pass an insurance physical.
ALEX: He says he’s ready to work. Healthy. I believe him.
KENNY: Honestly? He looks, well… kinda scary.
ALEX: Well, it is a horror film, after all…
KENNY: But there’s movie scary and there’s reality. People don’t want to think about real death, or age, or sickness… it’s as if you actually saw a photograph of FDR in a wheelchair, y’know? It makes you… uncomfortable.
ED: So we concentrate on other projects for a while?
KENNY: A few months, till he looks healthier. (heads for door) Think long-term, okay?
ED: Long-term-- how long in the long term?
KENNY: Once we get started-- if this takes off the way we think it will-- we’ll be making these things for years, three or four a year. You’ll be set. All I ask is that you guys keep coming up with those ideas. Call me. As soon as your phone works. (With a wave, he’s off. Ed sits on the edge of the desk, a bit smug.)
ALEX: Eddie. (No response. Alex crosses to him.)
ED: I’m taking a moment to contemplate the infinite possibilities of the twists and turns of the reality of consciousness.
ALEX: Fine, there’s a moment. Now let’s talk.
ED: It’s only just what we’ve always wanted forever. That’s all. Making real movies.
ALEX: This is out of hand. We’ve lost control of this project. It was supposed to be you and me, making a picture with Karloff and Lugosi.
ED: He appreciates our ideas. This is the opportunity of the postman knocking twice.
ALEX: Boris Karloff as Dracula?
ED: Remember on Jail Bait? We wrote it for Bela, he got sick, we got Herbert Rawlinson, he was fine. Of course, then he died, but the show must go on.
ALEX: Bela has nobody else. He’s counting on us.
ED: Yes! He has confidence, and so should you. We’re going to be in a position to help him. To hire him for a real movie. Maybe lots of movies.
ALEX: He thinks we’re going to start a movie. This big plan may not happen for weeks, maybe months-- maybe a couple years! Were you listening?
ED: Yes. And I heard exactly what I wanted to hear. Someone who knows of which he speaks, says that you and I are talented humans.
ALEX: Eddie, just yesterday, your new best friend said your script stunk to high heaven.
ED: Bygones under the bridge, my dear Alex. I’m with him one hundred percent.
ALEX: I can’t do this to Bela, Eddie. You’re ready to sell him out.
ED: No. I’m going to sell myself out so that I can help him. And everybody else.
ALEX: Convince yourself of that. (Kenny opens the door.)
KENNY: I forget the weirdest part. Dad’s got an English company that can do the below the line for a fraction of what we could do it for here. They’ve done sci-fi, mysteries, and they’ve got some great directors. One of them was even the guy who directed that Old Mother Riley thing with Lugosi. How about that? (Kenny looks at Ed and Alex. There’s a long silence.) We discussed this. You said you agreed.
ED: What-- that I have to drink tea?
KENNY: No, umm... consider having somebody else direct the films.
ED: Well, but-- it's my picture...
KENNY: I know. But if we get financing, they-- the banks, the government, whatever-- they’ll want somebody else, if it's a co-production. We'd have to have English directors. (Ed starts to catch on-- and he's flummoxed.) It's a compromise. But we adjust, take a step to the side, and go forward.
KENNY: They’ll still be your scripts. And you'd work with me making them, and we’ll have Karloff and Lugosi and Chaney and whoever we want.
ED: Well, what we don’t shoot in England?
KENNY: I just want you to consider that possibility.
ED: Well, I wrote the script ’cause I wanna make it.
ALEX: Mr. Hyman, you understand how Ed feels.
KENNY: I know, and I don't want to upset the apple cart, but think in the long term----
ALEX: It's been his baby, but what he wants is to make a good film--
KENNY: Yes. A real movie. Movies. Lots of them. And down the line, it's a chance for Mr. Lugosi, too. A comeback. I've always been a fan. As long as we all understand.
ALEX: Eddie’s with you a hundred percent. He told me. Anything to get them done. (Ed nods sullenly. Kenny heads for the door.)
KENNY: Got time for lunch? I want to talk about that gangster robot idea. (Ed waves them off, shaking his head. Alex crosses to exit with Kenny.) What about Brod Crawford or Larry Tierney as the big boss, hmm? (They close the door. Ed looks around, scuffing his shoe.)
ED: Might not be so bad… one thing leads to another… you never know… (A KNOCK. Ed smirks in triumph.) Back to change your mind again, eh? (He opens the door-- the Cab Driver.) I know, fare from La Brea, four seventy-five.
CAB DRIVER: Actually, the meter says fifty-five fifty, but I’ll round it off to fifty bucks. (Ed looks out the door-- nobody there.)
ED: Fifty bucks?!? Where the hell did you take him -- Montana? (The Cab Driver calmly closes the door.)
CAB DRIVER: Around. I seen the ol’ man walkin’, asked him if he needed a lift, and we drove out to the valley, some place out near Universal.
ED: North Hollywood? He used to live out there.
CAB DRIVER: So he said. They was tearin’ it down for apartments. So we bought some beer and just cruised-- on the meter. (The Cab Driver pulls a headshot from his jacket, goes to lay it on the desk.) Your pal said I should drop this off. Anyways, he was happy and tellin’ stories, and we drove into the Hollywood hills, to another old place.
ED: Up on Outpost Drive?
CAB DRIVER: Like a castle. Family lets us in, they’re tickled. He looks around, makes with some compliments, we beat it. He starts talkin’ about some guy named Wally Ford, gettin’… emotional. I figure I oughta get ’im here quick.
ED: Uh-oh. Why? Was he mad?
CAB DRIVER: No. Real quiet. He just kept sayin’, “It’s too late.” Did he… have an appointment with ya or somethin’?
ED (goes to the window to look out): Where is he?
CAB DRIVER: Sittin’ in the cab. You want I should get him? (Bela opens the door, composed and business-like.)
BELA: My friend-- you have a potential customer at the curb. I asked them to please wait for you.
CAB DRIVER: Good, I need the dough. Hey, about the fare-- look, skip it. Just gimme a call when you guys make a picture, huh? See ya, pal.
BELA: Good-bye. And don’t forget: Wallace Ford. (The Cab Driver exits. Ed looks at Bela quizzically.) Do you know of the actor Wally Ford?
ED: Sure, fast-talking sorta New York guy.
BELA: Actually from London, but he makes an excellent Brooklyn accent. We made pictures together, a long time ago. Cheap, terrible. One week, maybe ten day schedule.
ED: He played the cab driver in Harvey, with Jimmy Stewart.
BELA: Precisely. The big rabbit. With one scene, Wally was nearly nominated for an Academy Award. Nice guy. So I told my new friend, never give up. You pray to God and believe in yourself… or maybe other way around… maybe fate is kind. (Bela eases onto the couch, looks up at the Dr. Voodoo poster, then at Ed.) So … on the level… what gives?
ED: I’ve been thinking… maybe alphabetical isn’t fair after all.
BELA: I don’t care. Just tell me the truth.
ED: I do care. It’s important to me. Wait. (Ed goes to the desk and dials a number.) This won’t take long.
BELA: I expect not. Sometimes you are a fast talker.
ED (on phone): Hello, Ken? Ed Wood. I’ve been considering Dr. Voodoo, and Lugosi’s name has to go first. No, never mind alphabetical, we wrote it for him, and Bela is Dr. Voodoo. (Bela looks at the Dr. Voodoo poster with a wry grin.) No, I don’t care what the others say. We can do the picture without them, but we can’t do it without Bela. Well, go ahead, think about it, but it’s a deal-breaker. It’s final. (He hangs up. Lugosi turns, bows politely.)
BELA: Impressive. I hope you realize, you had a bird in the hand… and you crushed it.
ED: Yes, I… had to. It was best… for everybody.
BELA: Decidedly. Eddie, if we do this picture--
ED: Oh, we will, guaranteed.
BELA: In any case… since the part is a maniacal mesmerist, which would you prefer I use? The Dracula movement, like drawing the mind, a psychic puppet-master…(His arm snakes out, his fingers twisting into a familiar curl.) Or the White Zombie gesture, symbolic of a soul bound into submission…? (His hands slide together, fingers interlaced, thumbs arching tightly together.)
ED: Either… but I like the White Zombie pose. It’s less familiar.
BELA: Theatrical, I know. But I think either would look more impressive than reality. I don’t know if people would believe a man can fall into a deep trance at the word gorilla. (Ed’s eyes instantly close and his head sags to the side.) Sit up. Now… you will tell me the truth.
ED: Truth… the truth is… I have a fetish for women’s clothes. I love the feel of silk undies and angora next to my skin.
BELA: Not that! I know that! How long has your phone been out of order?
ED: Since yesterday. I couldn’t pay the bill.
BELA: What did Kenneth Hyman say to you?
ED: We can do a bunch of horror pictures, but I can’t direct them and we won’t be starting for months or even years. No promises. And we probably won’t use Lugosi. (Bela turns, considering this.)
BELA: I can twist your mind to make you believe you are more talented than Alfred Hitchcock …and that you should hire me for every picture that you ever make. (He looks at the wide-eyed Ed Wood, shaking his head softly.) But it would only be Lugosi talking to himself. (He goes to Ed, nose to nose.) Look into my eyes. I command you… to do what is fair… to do what you must. You shall never give up.
ED: Never give up.
BELA: Close your eyes. I will awaken you on the count of three, and you shall forget you were ever hypnotized. One. Two. Three. (Bela snaps his fingers. Ed’s eyes pop open.)
ED: The White Zombie pose. It’s less familiar.
BELA: Very good. I shall use that in our next picture.
ED: Great, and maybe we’ll put Dr. Voodoo aside. Let Karloff get his own jobs.
BELA: He seems to have no problem doing that.
ED: I’ve got that mad doctor script Alex and I wrote for you. We might be able to get half the financing, so at least we could start.
BELA (crosses to door): If that is to be… it is to be.
ED (follows): Bela, all that mesmerism stuff? I was never really in a trance. I was just pretending. For you.
BELA: I know, my friend. The Hindus call it Maya -- a mutual illusion. All this…it is all illusion. We are all in a racket of pretending.
ED: But we are gonna make movies, I promise. I wanna make movies in the worst way.
BELA: I know you will do exactly that. You now will do the best you can do. And perhaps, now… you are the best I can do. You have my number. And one last thing…
ED: Anything. What?
BELA: Elephant. (Ed’s arm hand shoots up. Puzzled, he looks at it, then at Bela.) Your arm is in the air. Does that seem odd to you?
ED: No, not at all.
BELA: Good. Gorilla! (Ed’s head lolls onto his shoulder. With a chuckle, Bela closes the door.)