This Is A True Story

When a carnival mannequin turns out to be a real human body, the police are called in to investigate. “Sideshow Bandit” is a feature length screenplay that begins in 1976 when a film crew for the Six Million Dollar Man discover something odd about a day-glo orange dummy hanging in a Laff-in-the-Dark ride at Long Beach, CA.

Setting up to shoot a scene, a techie tries to move the mannequin but its arm falls off, revealing sinew.

INT. LA CORONER’S DEPT. – DAY – 1976. The orange fun-house corpse is wheeled through the hallways. Everywhere cadavers await autopsy like so many loaves of bread waiting to be sliced. Technicians and other staff crane their necks to get a glimpse of the day-glo body as the gurney rolls by. The fetid air crackles with excitement – it isn’t every day one gets a mummy into the morgue.

As the autopsy on John Doe #255 reveals clues, we are cast back in time to the real life story of Elmer McCurdy, wanna-be cowboy and failed train robber, circa 1911.

Born to an unwed teenager in 1880, Elmer grows up in the small town of Bangor, Maine. Though his mother loves him completely, his boyhood is marred by the stigma of being a bastard child. He escapes into fantasies of riding with Jesse James.

But as the twentieth century dawns, the wild west of Elmer’s youth is quickly retreating and he has joined the legions of unemployed, itinerant men. He rides the rails, sleeps in hobo camps, does a stint in jail, joins the army, works odd jobs. He develops a cough, now known to have been tuberculosis, and drinks to ease it. He falls in love with a woman he can never have, is driven out of several towns, and befriends a stray dog who becomes his best friend.

Hell bent on making a name for himself, Elmer robs a train carrying royalty payments for the Osage nation. But he uses too much nitroglycerin and the heat from the explosion melts four thousand dollars worth of silver coins into the safe. With nothing to show for his efforts but the conductor’s watch and a jug of whiskey, Elmer holes up in the hayloft of an old barn belonging to his friend Charlie Revard. Charlie is an Osage gentleman farmer who, despite Elmer’s betrayal of his tribe, tries to help the drunk and depleted outlaw.

But early one morning, a posse tracks Elmer down and, in a shoot out Jesse James would’ve been proud of, Elmer, age thirty-one, is killed. Which brings us back to 1976, where a pair of forceps has extracted a bullet jacket from the mummy’s torso.

“Sideshow Bandit” is a Drama with Western overtones and Comedic turns. It’s the story of a forgotten man, remembered. A great piece of Americana, the screenplay interweaves Elmer’s life with his afterlife as a sideshow attraction and the fascinating story about how a coroner unraveled the mystery of the carnival mummy. “Sideshow Bandit” has won –

And was an Official Selection at the Beverly Hills Film Festival 2019 and –

And was shortlisted for Best Screenplay 2019 –

Bandit won the New York Metropolitan Screenwriting Competition 2019 as well as The Write Room Screenplay Competition 2019: WINNER “BEST SCREENPLAY”. It was also a Screenplay Finalist of the Lonely Seal International Film Festival –

And an Official Selection of the Female Eye Film Festival –

Marie Wilson’s writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, NOW magazine, Fireweed and She Does the City. Harper Collins published her novel “The Gorgeous Girls”, calling it “the thinking woman’s erotica” and it is now being adapted for the screen. harpercollins.ca/author/marie-wilson/

To read, option or inquire about Sideshow Bandit by Marie Wilson

Contact: mariewilson53@gmail.com

WGA#1308961   CIPO#1153802

Photos:

Laff in the Dark & Town of Bangor, Maine – photographers unknown

Elmer McCurdy shortly after his death – by WJ Boag

Sideshow Bandit – poster & photo by Aaron Schwartz

Mugshot – photographer unknown

Ferris Wheel – by Aaron Schwartz

 

Ya Gonna Eat That?

In two different movies, Bing Crosby mucks about with a turkey dinner. As Father O’Malley in “Going My Way” (44), he has a lot of lines to deliver during the Christmas feast at the parsonage. While he speaks, he endlessly cuts a slice of turkey on his plate. He saws away until that slice must be a thousand pieces each the size of a grain of sand. And he never takes a single bite!

There’s some consolation: Barry Fitzgerald, as Father Fitzgibbon, gets to voraciously gnaw on a big turkey leg while his dining partner pontificates. But honestly, you just wish Bing would put that fork in his mouth – just once!

The Academy didn’t seem to mind though. They honoured Bing with Best Actor for his portrayal of Father O’Malley. Bing was up against his co-star, who was nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for playing Father Fitzgibbon (the rules were changed immediately following that bit of nomination abomination). Barry won for Best Supporting Actor – way to chew a drumstick, Mr. Fitzgerald!!

“Ya Gonna Eat That?” is a new feature wherein I examine movie scenes in which food is present but ignored (except by me).

Next up: the other film in which Bing mucks about with a turkey dinner.

Ya Gonna Eat That?

Because of the upper-crustiness of Douglas Sirk’s characters and the melodrama in his scripts, food is always getting left uneaten in his films. In “Magnificent Obsession” (54), Rock Hudson sits down to a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, coffee, the whole shebang. But Rock’s host, an artist played by Otto Kruger, waxes philosophical as he salts and peppers his eggs. Then, having not even set fork to food, Otto abandons the meal and walks to end of his charmingly-set table. There he lights his pipe and delivers some mystical wisdom. Rock eats just one forkful before he’s moved to join Otto at table’s end. The amazing breakfast grows cold as Rock skims his soul.

I like Sirk, and in some of his flicks they eat the food. And there’s always plenty of “hot coffee” for guzzling or sipping. For your own eating pleasure, Sirk’s lush mise en scene & campy style pair well with popcorn & champagne. Or you could enjoy a cup of hot coffee and eat vanilla cake while watching any lavish Technicolour, Cinemascope Sirk-us.

Marvel (and salivate) as Agnes Moorehead turns down chicken salad in “All That Heaven Allows” – blithely, via good acting chops. Mmmmm, chops…

“Ya Gonna Eat That?” is a new feature wherein I examine movie scenes in which food is present but ignored (except by me).

 

 

Diamonds & Coffee

5:45 a.m. The deserted streets of New York City. A lone yellow cab approaches along Fifth Avenue to the melancholy harmonica & strings of Moon River. The cab stops in front of Tiffany & Co., & a lithe young woman steps out. As the car pulls away she looks up at the iconic clock; her sleek black gown & stunning pearl & diamond necklace are as gorgeous from the back as from the front. She walks to a display window where glimmering things float in reflective surfaces, including her own early morning image: oversized sunglasses & swept-up hair adorned with sparkling ornament. From a white paper bag she takes a pastry & a cup of coffee: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. One of the best opening credits in movie history.

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And then two scenes in, Mickey Rooney spoils it all with his monumentally ill-conceived portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi. Worse even than his Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935),  Rooney’s racist mugging in Breakfast makes me want to hit him over the head with a champagne bottle (empty, of course); catastrophic casting in a flick that is full of missteps. So we look for the gems, both literal & figurative: a mailbox perfume atomizer, jewels in earrings that sparkle for miles, the fire escape crooning of Moon River, purple tasseled earplugs, turquoise eye mask with gold eyelashes, more Givenchy frocks, a few elegant hats,  Audrey.

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And then there’s the charming feline star, Orangey, who won a Patsy Award (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year), for his performance as Cat. Meow. The world would not tolerate a remake of Breakfast but if such a thing could ever happen Holly would be more fucked up & Paul would be gay, just as Capote wrote them & hoped they would appear on screen. They could still wear spectacular clothes & dig NYC but the pain & grit would be more evident & ultimately more satisfying.

Noir Universe

Disillusionment & paranoia descended on the American Dream in the 40s just as the titular characters in The Killers descend on the Swede as he lay in the shadows awaiting his fate. The Killers (1946) was directed by Robert Siodmak, one of a handful of German emigre directors that brought expressionism to Hollywood to add to the black & white rain-soaked visuals that came to be known as “film noir”. Based on a Hemingway story (1927) of the same name, which is also thought to be the inspiration for Nighthawks (1942), the iconic painting by Edward Hopper, The Killers delivers the existential goods that defined the postwar noir sensibility.

One finds many such nighthawks & diners in the noir landscape; they go hand in hand with the bleak outlook of their cynical heroes & disaffected anti-heroes. As the Swede (Burt Lancaster) says in the opening sequence of The Killers: “I did something wrong…once.” That’s all it takes to doom an otherwise good man, his downfall often aided by a bad woman (Ava Gardner in this case), who’s just trying to stay alive in a hostile man’s world. It’s a story audiences couldn’t get enough of as they grappled with the wide-spread angst & despair following & preceding two wars (WW2 & Cold).