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Farewell – Opening: A noir musical based on Chandler’s ‘Farewell My Lovely’

Farewell - A Noir Musical

Farewell - A Noir Musical

(Opening scenes of a noir musical. Concept – to create the pitch black intimacy of the cinema into theatrical form. To capture the essence of film noir in a differrent medium. Marlowe is a true modern hero – he knows he can’t beat the system: it’s become too powerful. But he keeps trying anyway. And sometimes, just sometimes, he wins one).

Farewell – A Noir Musical

(Marlowe’s Opening Narration)

The house lights are brought down. The stage is in complete darkness. Except that up in the top left corner, at the rear of the stage, is an oblong of bright light. We hear a very quiet sound. As it builds, we realise it is the sound of rain. It builds and builds to the sound of a torrential downpour. As the sound of rain develops, the oblong of light (it is a window) shows water running down the pane. The sound of the rain fades slightly and a musical theme begins, at first very quietly and then to just dominate the sound of the rain which remains audible but secondary to the musical theme.

Musical theme. A restless, prowling, jazz based, urban sound

We hear the slam of an outside door. Then the sound of footsteps steadily climbing a flight of stairs. Then the sound of an interior glazed door shutting, with its characteristic sound. The music has faded and the sound of the rain returns to the foreground. The silhouette of a hatted figure appears in the window (ideally a shape distorted by the sheets of water running down the pane through which we see him). The sound of the rain diminishes almost to a whisper. The figure is sitting, hat on, in profile and the image sharpens as the rain diminishes on the pane. For a long moment the figure sits in iconic profile (reflecting the logo of the show). We see a cigarette put in the mouth of the figure. Pause. He pushes his hat slightly up, away from his forehead. A flash of flame indicates the lighting of a match. Lights the cigarette. Takes a very long deep drag and a stream of smoke emerges slowly from his mouth. Long pause. Swivels round to face the audience. General lighting fades to leave just Marlowe’s face spotlit. This should be the iconic image of the show. Also we are establishing right up front the convention that Marlow will be ‘confiding’ to the audience direct throughout.
Marlowe TA (To audience): I love LA in the rain. Even the crooks and the bent politicians get wet. The rain washes the city clean. Till it dries out. And the bugs crawl back. Business is slower than a bookie paying out. I need a drink, I need a lot of life insurance, I need a vacation, I need a home in the country. What have I got? A coat, a hat and a gun. And no case to work. (Another, long, contemplative drag and exhalation. The phone rings stridently).

Marlowe: Marlowe. (Pause). Yeah, I know Florian’s, but I like my blind dates blonde, with one of those nice high pitched voices. (He holds the phone away from his ear as Moose is obviously responding angrily). OK. You’re in a hurry. Well it takes 100 bucks to get me hurrying back out in the rain. (Pause) Wait while I check my diary. (Puts the phone down. Leans back in his chair. Takes another deep drag on his cigarette. Another long, relaxed exhalation. Reaches out to the phone but pauses, his hand hovering above it, leaving it just a bit longer before he picks it up again)

OK. Tonight at 6. How will I know you? You’re big. OK.
(Cut to black).

(Moose is waiting on the sidewalk outside Florian’s. Entry to side through swing doors which we will see opens onto a small space with a few stairs leading up. Moose’s clothes make a statement. A very loud statement. Shaggy borsalino hat, rough grey sports coat with white golf balls for buttons. Brown shirt, yellow tie, pleated grey flannel trousers and alligator shoes with white explosions on the toes. Breast pocket hankie, same bright yellow as tie. Couple of feathers in hat band. Cigar unnoticed, in his hand, trails smoke.

Opening intro has ended. Fast ‘cut’ from blackness to bright lit exterior of Florian’s. Marlowe is standing, unlit, stage right. We see Moose standing motionless, staring up at the Florian’s sign, one letter of which is flickering uncertainly as if about to fail.

The lights on the main scene dim and Marlowe is picked out in a spot which highlights him to about chest height. Marlowe addresses the audience directly in a conspiratorial tone. He is letting the audience into his thoughts. (Marlow TA indicates direct address to audience and the same lighting accompanies each switch).

Marlowe (TA): Florian’s used to be sleazy. Then it went down hill. (turns his head to gesture towards the motionless Moose). Must be Malloy. He’s not so big: no wider than a beer truck. Looks like an immigrant catching his first sight of the Statue of Liberty. Catch the quiet clothes. About as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food. That 7 o’clock shadow’s early.
(The spot cuts and the scene is lit evenly. Marlowe approaches Moose)

Marlowe: Malloy? (Moose appears to ignore him. Just keeps looking raptly at the windows of Florian’s)
I don’t want to be pushy on a first date. But what the hell am I doing here?
(Moose eventually faces Marlowe and with a gesture of the head indicating M should follow he heads for the swing doors. Marlowe hangs back).

(Moose smashes through the swing doors which flap and settle for a moment. Marlowe still hangs back, waiting. Suddenly a body comes flying through the doors and lands in a heap on the pavement. Whimpering, a slim, black youth in a lilac-coloured suit, picks himself up, dusts himself off, retrieves his hat which he replaces on his head jauntily with exaggerated care and scurries off cockily down the street).

(Marlowe approaches warily and stands in front of the swinging doors. A massive hand
reaches through them and grabs him by the shoulder and yanks him through. We hear their voices as they climb stairs noisily).

Moose: You come.

Marlowe: OK. Just lay off carrying me. I’m all grown up. I go to the bathroom alone and everything.

(Moose and Marlowe emerge into the main room of Florians. Long narrow room. Not very clean. Not very bright. Not very cheerful. There is a bar against the right hand wall. The rest of the room is small round tables. There are chairs stacked on all the tables indicating that they are not open yet).

Moose: Let’s you and me nibble a couple.

Marlowe: They’re not open. And they won’t serve you. It’s a black joint.

Moose: (taking no notice) My Velma used to work here. Little Velma. Ain’t seen her for 8 years. She ain’t wrote me in 6. But she’ll have a reason. Cute she was.

(Moose grabs Marlowe’s shoulder again. Marlowe shakes himself free impatiently)
Marlowe: Will you quit that! I’ve just had this suit pressed.

Moose: (not listening) Little Velma used to work here.

(As Moose and Marlowe approach the bar they see a bartender in a white apron who is sweeping the floor. He stops and stiffens, watching them very warily. Moose heads towards him in a threatening way. Marlowe sees he must defuse a confrontation, so steps forward to place himself ahead of Moose. The bartender has quickly laid down his broom and retreated behind the bar. Without taking his eyes off Moose, we can see his hands are reaching for something below the counter).

Marlowe: What about that drink?
(Moose nods and the two head for the bar swivel bar stools).

Bartender: No white folks brother. Jes’ coloured people. I’se sorry.

Moose: (To the bartender) Where’s Velma at?

Bartender: Velma you says? No Velma heah brother. No hooch, no gals, no nothin…. (adding menacingly)…for white folks.

Moose: (dreamily) Velma used to work here.

Bartender: Shuah. Velma used to work here. But she done retired. Haw Haw.

Marlowe TA: (Swivels his chair to face the audience) This guy’s about to make a mistake.
(The bartender pulls a sawn-off shotgun from under the counter and points it at Moose’s chest Marlowe looks towards the audience and shrugs as if to say – told you . Moose doesn’t move an inch or even flinch. He looks down at the shotgun with a bored expression. Staring intently at the bartender he reaches out quite deliberately and snatches the gun like a twig from his hand. He slides the gun away down the bar and hauls the bartender half across the bar, his steady gaze never having left the bartender’s face).

Moose: (deliberately) Some guys got wrong ideas when to get tough. (He lifts the bartender high in the air his knees almost visible. He then drops him and he disappears in a heap behind the bar. Moose turns to Marlowe). Come on lets nibble one.

Moose: Whisky sour. (to Marlowe) Call yours.

Marlowe: Jack – no ice.
(Moose looks at the bartender who has re-emerged and is standing back from the bar looking both defiant and very wary).

Moose: (To the bartender – pointedly) D’ya know where my Velma’s at?

Bartender: I ain’t seen her round here lately. Not right lately. No man.

Moose: (To the bartender) How long’s this coop been blacks only?

Marlowe: (Interjects) At least 5 years. This guy won’t know anything about a white girl called Velma. No one here would.

Moose: Who the hell asked you to stick your face in?

Marlowe: I’m the date you brought remember?
(Moose grins. Sits contemplating his drink. Miles away. Very quietly and gently he eases into his talking blues song. Ideally this would be a subtle transition from talking to himself about Velma into a talking blues).

Moose’s Song

They hung the frame on me
Hung the frame on me
Ain’t no catching butterflies,
Ain’t no party game,
They hung the frame

Eight years in the caboose.
Know why they call me Moose?
On account I’m a big guy,
Like a moose, see, that’s why
They call me Moose Malloy

My Velma, tell me where, where
Velma, Velma. Her red hair.
Cute as lace pants, a guy could have fun,
We was together, going some,
Should have been married,
Should have been wed
Right then, right here!

But I done this job, Moose on his own,
Ain’t that something and they sent me down,
Hung the frame on me for forty grand,
Hung the frame on me, y’understand,
Cute as lace pants, a guy could have fun,
Now Moose is back,
Now Velma…gone!

Better tell me, Shine Box, where she’s at,
Used to work here, had a warbling act.
She warbled good, warbled for Moose,
A stage and a band and a cute little room,
But this ain’t the same joint
Where a guy could have fun

They hung the frame on me
And my time is done
What’s forty grand
When your girl has gone?
When your girl has gone
It’s life hangs the frame
Now ain’t that something,
Ain’t that grand,
I’m the solo job
Moose all alone, Moose on his own,
Gotta find Velma

Cute as lace pants and a cute little room
Where a guy could have fun,
A guy could have fun!
(Moose ends his song with a sigh and takes a final slug of his drink)
Bartender: Cool it. We ain’t got no licence for singin’

Marlowe: S’okey. No one sung.

Moose: There ain’t nothin’ left of the joint. They was a little stage and band and rooms where a guy could have fun. Velma did some warbling. Redhead. Cute as lace pants. We was goin’ to get married until they hung the frame on me.

Marlowe: What frame?

Moose: Where you figure I been them 8 years I said about?

Marlowe: Catching butterflies? (The bartender has been gradually getting more and more agitated. Eventually the pressure gets too great and he breaks into a frantic, nervous, angry rap. Essentially the message of the rap is, I’ve had a enough of this, what the hell are you white guys doing here anyway. Get the hell out back to your own part of town. The barman finishes his rap staring angrily right into Moose’s face Moose grins wolfishly, holds up his glass and says).
Moose: Whisky sour. Make it a tall one. (Looks over to a door on the other side of the bar).
Where’s that go?

Bartender: That’s Mistah Montogmery’s office. He’s the boss. (Moose crosses the room slowly, lightfooted, casual).

Marlowe TA: (Swivels chair to face audience) This job gets to you in the end. (Moose is heading for the door). This is a train wreck about to happen. (Sighs, pushes his hat up on his forehead)….. Sometimes I hate this sonavabitch job.

(Moose goes through the door. The bartender has sidled towards the gun . Marlowe grabs his arm and traps the shotgun on the bar. Marlowe makes no effort to take the gun, just traps the bartender’s arm and looks intently into his eyes).
Marlowe: (To bartender) Let it play.

(The muffled sound of a gunshot offstage. After a few moments Moose reappears. Casual, unhurried. Faintly smiling. Colt 45 in his hand. Looks across at Marlowe and the bartender).
Moose: Don’t nobody try no fancy pants. Freeze the mitts on the bar

(Approaches the bar. Gestures with the end of the gun to the barman)
Up! (Bartender puts his hands up in the air)
Mr Montgomery didn’t know where Velma was neither. Tried to tell me… with this (pats the gun. Moose heads for the door out)

Marlowe: (To Moose) You didn’t pay for the drinks. (Moose stops and looks thoughtfully at Marlowe for a moment)

Moose: Maybe you got something there. But I wouldn’t squeeze it too hard.
So long pal. Be seein ya. (Throws some notes on the bar and leaves)
(Bartender reprises a few defiant lines of his rap angrily at Moose’s back).
Marlowe disappears for a moment into the back room. He re-appears. The general lights again dim and he is spotlit as before.

Marlowe TA: I guess Montgomery thought going for the gun was the right play. About as wrong as he could get. With this guy Malloy, you only get one pitch……. Montgomery struck out. (Marlowe goes over and picks up a phone behind the bar)

Marlowe: 77th Street Division? You’d better get someone down to Florian’s bar fast. The owner’s just quit the nightclub business. Permanently. Yeah. I’ll stay put till you arrive. (The lights have gradually faded. Marlowe surveys the scene wearily. Takes an upturned chair from a table, places it on the floor and slumps into it. Puts his feet up on the table. Background lighting goes down again. Marlowe spotlit. Looks towards the audience).

Marlowe TA: Sometimes I really hate this job.

(Fade to black. Noir theme).

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