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Sunday, August 24, 2008

charlie's apocalypse
[The scenario has just described a brief subliminal of Chaplin being chased around a corner by a cop as The Bomb is dropped. We see the worldwide devastation from a great altitude, then the camera pans down to ground level, and...]

He is back to the camera, hunched deeply over, in a tinily narrow alley between two buildings. A rigid forefinger is still jammed in each ear. He is still motionless; frozen.

He comes up as slowly, timorously, tremulously out of his crouch (fingers in each ear pulling timidly away), as a grass-blade recovering, which has just been stepped on. Straightens, still back to camera; and starts straightening his legs and arms inside clothes, and the clothes themselves, turning very slowly, face close to camera, staring into it. He continues to straighten his clothes, going over them very carefully ... polishing toes of shoes on calves of pants; sleeving his derby and resetting it with care on his head; testing his cane: then a sudden trembling shrug (involving a full check-over of body as well as clothes), which is a blend of what a suddenly dampened dog does, and of the feather-adjustments of a suddenly rumpled hen. Then very delicately and timidly, camera withdrawing, he advances, and sticks his snout around the corner of a building, and peers.
The rough screenplay continues with the post-nuclear-holocaust adventures of Charlie Chaplin, at first alone, then with others, then with scientists, and finally [edited to remove spoiler].

It's presented in Chaplin and Agee: The Untold Story of the Tramp, the Writer, and the Lost Screenplay, by John Wranovics. I have to confess that I found the biographical material leading up to the screenplay (here arbitrarily titled "The Tramp's New World") to be more interesting than the screenplay, overall, though the typescript has some interesting bits in it. The part following this, of Chaplin's interactions with the fixed shadows of the vanished citizens of the city, is particularly effective. If it had been made -- if Agee hadn't died when he did, and if Chaplin had shown an interest -- they would have had to lose an awful lot of what Agee worked so hard to include. It's like Alan Moore at his most specific, only he's groping for something that hasn't come into focus yet. An early draft, it's replete with multiple apologies for the roughness, and shows a willingness to compromise some of the details if need be. I'll wager he'd have done a better job on it if it had become a real project, based on his screenplay for the original Night of the Hunter.

I'd cut most of the prologue, which seems to kill the movie before the bomb does. Agee probably should have made his contribution a skeleton at that stage, keeping such bits as the introduction of the Tramp (quoted from above), and perhaps others. I confess that I was not only starting to doze in the comfy chair as I plowed to the finish today, I even started to skip through paragraphs, looking at the first sentence and then jumping ahead.

But it's still interesting. It'd be interesting to let Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have at it, for instance.

Anyway, I finished it just in time. It goes back to the library tomorrow. I saw a used copy at Barnes & Noble, and had Cathy get it on Interlibrary Loan to save $7.

This is cross-posted from my Live Journal in an attempt to breathe some life into this moribund conceit. I will try to remember to add the tag "lj" to such posts in future, to indicate the source of these items.