A great example of the Algonquin Round Table school of Hollywood humor

• Nunnally Johnson wrote this gem to George S. Kaufman regarding the film, Letter to an Unknown Woman: “The picture is about a girl who falls in love with another of those God damned pianists … and nuzzles around him until, finally, what the hell, he gives her a bang. Next week he goes to Milano to play a concert and that’s the last she sees of him—for ten years. By then she has a nine year old boy that looks like the pianist and she is married to another fellow, no musician, but what does she do now but go for this piano player again. And to her horror, what do you think? He doesn’t remember her! Right in the middle of this nuzzling, it dawns on her that he doesn’t know who the hell she is and, frankly, doesn’t seem to care so long as she gets those clothes off in a hurry. So out into the snow she runs and that’s the way the thing straggles to its tragic conclusion.”
Johnson envisioned the sequel this way: “It’s called Collected Correspondence of an Unknown Woman and instead of one incident I have something like a dozen. In other words, the piano player knocks her up regularly every five years and never DOES recognize her. Every semi-decade around she comes again, with another new kid tagging on behind, and every time he throws her on the bed and marks up another score. Once or twice he says, “Your face certainly does look familiar to me” but that’s all. Of course, she does everything she can think of to get out of him some further recognition than that, but nothing doing. Even when she lines up eight children behind her, everyone the spitting image of him, all he says is, “Jesus Christ, have we got to have that mob around while we’re doing it?” Finally, and this is the fade out, he’s a real old bastard, can’t hardly play Chopsticks, much less cross-handed stuff, and around comes this old bag again, a dozen little illegitimates trailing along behind, and nuzzles up feebly, still hopeful but much too proud to tip him off who she is, and after some heavy preliminary work, he manages to ring the bell again, possibly for the last time in his life, and as he is leaving the house and putting his hat on, we go to a close shot of him and he shakes his head and quavers, “I don’t care what ANYBODY says, I’ve seen that broad somewhere before!” FADE OUT. (Johnson and Leventhal 1981).

Published by

MLJ

Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

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