A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A short montage of current newspaper headlines fades in:
HEAVY CASUALTIES EXPECTED
ITALIAN FOOTHOLD THREATENED
Over these comes a woman's voice:
One small paragraph in this morning's
news of death, and blood, and tears
-- and a sudden wave of nostalgia
swept over me. I found myself
remembering sharply the Brooklyn of
my childhood. And why? The paragraph
had nothing to do with me, nor even
with Brooklyn. It told of an American
soldier in Italy, a Texas boy. They
were in danger of being swept into
the sea, when the soldier took from
his pocket a small box and spilled
its contents on the Italian earth.
"That's dirt from Texas," he said.
"Now I'm standing on Texas soil,
let's see them push me off it." As
simple as that, but infinitely deep.
For that single moment I could not
understand why it should take me
back to Brooklyn. And then I knew.
In the end, that is the true thing
for which men so bravely die -- not
the pretentious phrases, but for
that place which is their own, where
grew their roots. It makes no
difference where the place is. Most
families have their roots in soil;
we Nolans drove our roots down
through the cement of the Brooklyn
sidewalks -- like the occasional
miraculous tree -- but no matter.
It is all the same. Saturdays were
the same, for children in Brooklyn
or in Texas -- we were free -- free
from school. There was never
anything finer than the beginning
of a Saturday in Brooklyn.
Over this, the headlines dissolve first to the Williamsburg
Bridge, and then back through views of modern Brooklyn into
the Brooklyn streets of a generation ago. We see horse-drawn
beer trucks; the swinging doors of a saloon; a street
sweeper; bedding piled on fire escapes; a wooden cigar-store
Indian; the tree near the Nolan tenement and finally the
Nolan street and tenement.
This dissolves to the NOLAN KITCHEN. It is early Saturday
morning. Katie and Francie are finishing cleaning up the
breakfast dishes. Neeley is struggling in from the hall with
Katie's scrubbing pail and cloths and mop. He sets them down
inside the door.
KATIE, the mother of the family, is in her early thirties,
still young enough to be quick and alive to life. She is
attractive, but is always so busy that she never has time to
pay much attention to herself. The flat is a small one, on
the second floor back, sparsely furnished, but its
spotlessness reflects Katie's passion for cleanliness.
FRANCIE, her daughter, is about thirteen. She is a rather
quiet child. She has inherited from Johnny, her father, a
sensitiveness and an imagination that make her by far the
more difficult problem in parenthood for the Nolans.
NEELEY is a year younger, and is completely a normal,
healthy boy. He is much more Katie's child, while Francie
was born with something of both of them.
Is that all, mom, can we go now?
Not so loud, Neeley, you want to
Gosh, ain't you through with them
ole dishes yet?
She'll only be a minute. My, I wish
you was as anxious to get going on
a school morning as on a Saturday.
(wiping the dishes)
Papa was late last night.
I was dead asleep when he come in,
He says if people didn't like to
make speeches so much at dinners,
waiters could spend more time with
Wasn't much of a job, I guess. Them
club dinners don't tip much.
Is that all, mama?
Yes, yes, go on, and I'll do the
(she indicates the
sack Neeley has
Don't look like you got much in
there this week.
One of these days Mrs. Gaddis is
goin' to throw away that ole wash
boiler of hers. Carney will pay us
plenty for the copper bottom off of
He won't pay you any more than he
has to. You watch him on the
(in a hurry)
Yes'm. Good-bye, mom.
Parents ought to have a day that's
like Saturday for kids. Maybe if I
start in the lower hall and scrub
my way up today it'll make somethin'
special out of it. Keep an eye on
him now, Francie.
Aw, come on.
Their exit has been a scramble of getting their coats on,
and hardly being able to wait to get outdoors. When the door
slams behind them, Katie looks after them a second with a
little smile, half-envious of their childhood. Then she
starts to get her implements together to begin her day's
work as janitress, and the scene dissolves to Francie and
Neeley pulling their sack of junk along the crowded street.
The street is alive and vital with activity, but Francie and
Neeley pay no attention to it.
Well, he was silly to stay down
there that long. I'd've kicked and
kicked that ole whale's stomach good,
so he'd have got sick right off. I
wouldn't have waited like Jonah did.
(to a passing boy)
Hi yourself and see how you like it.
This brief exchange of courtesy is quite routine. Neeley
stops suddenly as he sees something about to happen down
There she comes!
From their angle we see a big garbage wagon swing around a
corner. Four boys are waiting matter-of-factly, and just as
the wagon swings around the corner, they throw a chunk of
wood under its rear wheels. It makes the truck take quite a
bump, and shakes off some of its cargo. The boys are on
this like a shot to redeem anything of value. The driver
yells back at them and they shriek answering derision.
CHORUS OF BOYS
Aw, go chase your self. It's a free
country, ain't it? Stick in the mud,
and so's your ma. It's a free
One of the boys shies a can at the driver. The wagon goes on
and the brief exchange is over. Neeley and Francie make no
effort to horn in on the other kids' beat, but watch with a
They done good today.
Neeley and Francie start on down the street. At that moment
a man passes, takes the last cigarette out of a package and
throws the empty package into the gutter. Francie and Neeley
dive for it. So does another boy. The Nolan teamwork shows
long practice. Francie dives onto the other boy, and they go
down together while Neeley retrieves the package. The boy
scrambles up, ready for battle, but thinks better of it when
he sees there are two of them.
(saving his dignity)
Aw, rag pickers! Rag pickers!
He beats it. Francie picks up the junk sack. Neeley
separates the tinfoil from the paper. Neeley then becomes
fascinated as he drops the paper through the grating into
You know somethin'. I bet she goes
clear down to the river.
Maybe clear to the ocean -- maybe
clear over to foreign climes.
(Neeley lust gives
her a "You're nuts"
look; and she adds
It stinks awful, don't it?
I bet that's the worst stink in the
whole world, don't you?
I don't know. I can't remember
everything I smell.
They pick up their sack and move on; the view moving with
You know what, I'm goin' to get a
job cleanin' up over to the fights.
Skinny's cousin's doin' that and
you'd ought to see alla stuff he
finds -- joolry and pocketbooks and
alla candy he can eat.
Thou talkest very big.
You talk crazy.
I do not. I talk like God talks.
How do you know how God talks?
Well, it's in the Bible, and I guess
it's His Bible isn't it, and so
that's the way He talks.
Aw, you talk crazy.
Neeley changes the subject rather than admit defeat. They
have reached an old stable which carries the sign "CARNEY'S,
GOOD PRICES FOR JUNK." Beyond them, inside the old barn,
CARNEY can be seen weighing out the junk that some of the
children have brought in. Neeley stops Francie and addresses
her with male authority.
Now look, stand on the same side as
him when he weighs it so's he can
reach you; and don't forget to stand
there after he pays you, you forgot
that last time, and a penny's a
penny, ain't it?
Well, I guess I know it is.
Well, all right then.
As Francie starts dragging the sack inside, a boy who has
sold his junk comes out past them. "Rag pickers, rag
pickers!" he jeers. But Neeley passes this insult, being
more interested in watching Francie.
Francie drags the sack in and gets next in line. Carney is
paying off the kid who preceded her, counting pennies into
(starting to protest)
Shut your trap. I say what things
weigh around here. Who's next?
The kid subsides and goes out. Francie moves up.
Oh, hello, little girl.
Francie gives him a mechanical smile in answer. His manner
is somehow different with girls. He dumps out the contents
of the junk sack, starts to sort and weigh them.
Francie shoots a look at Neeley. He motions her to edge
closer. And as she obeys, Carney finishes the weighing.
You done pretty good. Nine cents.
He counts the pennies into her hand. Francie stays there.
Carney chuckles a little and reaches out and pinches her
cheek. Having done this, he brings forth another penny.
Francie's hand is out immediately. -- Neeley is well-
And there you are, an extra penny
because you're a nice little girl.
The very matter-of-factness of all this is somehow worse
than if it were an ordeal to Francie. The moment she has the
penny, she runs out and joins Neeley. His manner is
That's better. Gosh, I wisht Carney
liked to pinch boys.
Nine, and my pinchin' penny. That's
five for us, and five for the bank.
Now wait a minute. The pinchin'
penny don't count, it's yours by
Well, I don't know, Neeley, if you
got somethin' it counts, don't it?
Sure it don't. Look, half what we
get for the junk is for the bank,
that's what mama says, ain't it?
Well, yes, but--
Well, we didn't get that penny for
junk, we got it for pinchin', so
it's yours, so there ain't use in
talkin' any more about it.
Anyway that leaves nine, don't it,
and now you tell me how we're goin'
to divide nine in half, go ahead.
Well, we could put--
You can't do it, not without
splittin' a penny in two, and then
it wouldn't be any good. So we got
an extra penny, and by rights it's
mine, cause you already got one.
But Neeley, mama said--
All right, wisenheimer, you show me
how to split a penny!
Well, I guess-- Well, maybe the next
time it don't come even the bank
Sure, ain't that just what I been
sayin'. And that leaves eight --
two more for me, two for you, and
four for the bank.
You see, it comes out just right. I
don't see why you got to be so dumb.
He leads the way as they start on down the street, while
other children come up with some junk.
FRANCIE AND NEELEY
(as scornfully as
they were yelled at)
Rag pickers! Rag pickers!
As they go on down the street the scene dissolves to the
exterior of CHEAP CHARLIE'S, a neighborhood store, one of
the places where the boys hang out. -- Francie and Neeley
come down the street, kicking a little block of wood down
the sidewalk, and trying to keep it on the sidewalk. The
game automatically ceases as they come to the door of the
Now wait a minute! Don't go in like
you was with me.
Well, hurry up then.
Neeley swaggers in and in a moment Francie follows him into
CHEAP CHARLIE'S. Neeley joins some boys before a form of
punchboard, the prizes hung on the wall -- a few good ones
-- a catcher's mitt, a pair of roller skates, a doll. This
is the sort of place that is the forerunner to the poolhall
where the boys will hang out when they are older. One of
the boys puffs a cigarette self-consciously. -- Francie
lingers near the cash register. -- One of the boys has just
taken a chance on the board and is opening the envelope.
CLAMOR OF VOICES
Fourteen! A pencil! It's a gip!
Looka the sucker thinks he can win
somep'n! Gimme a drag, Red. Get
away, I got dibs on butts.
Neeley dives for the board immediately and pulls a number.
(he looks at the board)
Prize or candy, mister?
Candy -- a lickorish whip.
Charlie hands him one, which Neeley wraps around his wrist.
Charlie starts toward the register to wait on Francie, but
keeps an eye on the boys.
It's a gip! Aw, there ain't no
numbers for them good prizes!
(as he passes them)
All of life's a gamble, gentlemen,
you never win if you don't keep on
(coming to Francie)
What's yours, young lady?
(counting out five
pennies onto the
Change to a nickel, please.
Well, I'll get fat on that kind of
But he grudgingly takes the pennies and gives her a nickel
from the cash register. She slips out without answering, and
Cheap Charlie looks after her a second before he starts back
to the boys.
Francie hurries down the street. A group of girls are
playing pottsie -- a form of hopscotch -- on some marked-out
squares on the sidewalk. Francie has to pass near them.
Hi, Francie. How much did you get?
Want to play, Francie?
(hurrying past them)
I can't. I'm in a hurry.
This dissolves to a FIVE AND TEN CENT STORE, where Francie
is seen wandering languidly down an aisle. She is in the
midst of the beauty of the world. Her longing to be here is
not at all the desire for acquisition; there is nothing
wistful or envious about her. Being here is complete
fulfillment. She pauses a time or two to look at or touch
something as if she were in fairyland. -- A floorwalker
observes her curiously. -- Unaware of him, she continues
to look her way down the counter. She is fascinated by a
pile of colored bathing caps and picks one up tentatively.
A salesgirl steps up and Francie puts it down quickly. --
The floorwalker steps up to her.
Do you want something, young lady?
(with great dignity,
opening her hand to
display the nickel)
I'm merely looking, thank you. I got
a right. I got money.
Her confidence that the money justifies her being there is
complete. She goes on her way. Her attitude rather than the
nickel defeats the floorwalker. He looks after her as she
stops again to look at something and then moves on
unhurriedly to the door.
Francie emerges from the store replete with the fulfillment
of the adventure. She gives a deep and happy sigh, then
starts down the street. She has only gone a few feet when a
fragrance strikes across her dream world and penetrates to
her healthy child's stomach. The stomach wins hands down
over the dream. Her manner changes completely as she turns
to the window and sees the candy. She looks at it for a
moment and goes in.
Inside the CANDY STORE, Francie presses close to the case to
make her important choice. The proprietor comes up.
Three cents worth of peppermint
The proprietor isn't particularly pleased by the magnitude
of the sale but reaches for a sack as the scene dissolves
to the STREET. The bag of candy in one hand, her mouth full
of peppermint, Francie is absorbedly trying to avoid
stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk.
Step on a crack, break your
She pauses to readjust the peppermint drop in her mouth.
You don't chew these, and if you suck them just right they
last longer. In the midst of this process of careful
adjustment, she hears the shrill yelling of some boys, and
looking off she sees a CAR TRACK where Neeley and a gang of
boys are putting a tin can on the track so that the
streetcar will smash it. -- Francie comes into the scene and
(seeing the car
Here she comes! Cheese it!
They tear to the sidewalk. -- The streetcar rolls over the
tin can without a tremor. -- The boys emerge cautiously, as
though they had done something very daring.
That ole can's mashed good and flat.
Boy, did you see the look on that
motorman's face. That ole car came
near jumpin' the track, I bet.
They retrieve the can and study it.
(from the sidewalk)
Neeley, we got to go home.
The boys turn. They are aware of her for the first time.
Neeley is in a spot, in being told what to do by a mere
Mama said! Go on, we don't want no
skirts around! Look who's got to do
what his mama said!
Neeley is definitely in a spot. Keyed by the situation, one
of the boys gets a new idea. He staggers as if drunk.
Look at me, I'm Neeley's old man.
There is laughter. Both Nolans stiffen. They are together
now. Neeley unwinds what is left of the licorice whip and
gives it to Francie to hold.
(ready for battle)
Do that again!
Do what? -- Auggie pushed me.
Go on, I dare you.
He didn't say nothin'. It's a free
country, ain't it?
I never said it wasn't.
Then the sidewalk's free, too!
I guess what I'm standin' on is
mine while I'm standin' on it.
Then I guess what he's standin' on
Sure, and I can do what I want to on
Well, let him come over on my piece
and say somethin', I dare him.
Well, who wants your old piece?
Well then, don't talk like you was
on my piece.
Well, who wants to.
Well, all right, then.
This procedure doesn't make much sense but it seems to
satisfy the immediacies. Neeley is victorious. With a lordly
air he walks over to Francie and takes back his licorice
whip and starts to wind it around his arm again.
They start down the sidewalk together and the scene
dissolves to the TENEMENT HALL as Francie and Neeley come up
the stairs to where Katie, their mother, is on her knees
beside a bucket, scrubbing the floor.
Heaven's sake, is it that late
already? I'll have to leave these
stairs go till later.
She gets to her feet.
(showing the pennies)
Pretty good. Dump the bucket, Neeley.
Mama, can I--
No. Bring the bucket and dump it.
It's the day for the insurance
collector. I don't want him to catch
me lookin' like this.
They go up the stairs, Neeley struggling with the bucket.
They pass a blowzy woman going down with a basket on her
Hot, ain't it?
Yes, but Christmas'll be here before
you know it.
I got enough troubles without
thinkin' about that.
They go on down the hall toward the flats at the back.
Neeley disappears into the lavatory to dump the bucket. --
Katie stops at the door to search for their key. A boy,
HENNY GADDIS, comes out of the door across the hall.
How's your sister today, Henny?
Poorly, thank you.
Just as he answers, Neeley comes up with the bucket. His
answer means so little to him that almost simultaneously
Henny kicks the bucket out of Neeley's hand. It clatters to
the floor. Henny beats it and Neeley gives chase.
Katie unlocks the door just as Flossie, Henny's sister,
appears in the doorway. She is pathetically thin, with dark,
luminous eyes; and is dressed unlike any other occupant of
the tenement in a soft, feminine dress. She is very
conscious of the dress as she smiles shyly at them.
Why, hello, Flossie dear.
Hello, Mrs. Nolan.
Don't -- don't you notice somethin'?
(not getting it)
Why, seems to me you look mighty
well. Much better, don't she,
No, I don't, I don't--
This is not what she wanted to hear. She slams the door shut
quickly. The sound of coughing can be heard. Katie stares at
the door for a second without understanding and then unlocks
her own door and goes in.
The NOLAN KITCHEN as Katie and Francie enter: The kitchen is
the most used room of the flat. -- They cook and eat and
live here. It is bare but clean and neat. It has an iron
stove. A fire escape can be seen past the window. Beyond
this we get a glimpse of the scraggly tree in the yard.
(as she crosses
to the bedroom)
Heat up the coffee while I fix up.
Francie starts to make the fire. Neeley appears in the
doorway, triumphantly, with Henny meekly carrying the bucket.
He sets it down inside the kitchen.
Neeley pushes Henny outside and shuts the door. Being always
hungry, Neeley starts to look for something to fill in until
dinner is ready and finds a few crumbs in a cracker box on
the table. As he does so, he sees the four pennies where
Francie has put them down. He stares at them a moment, and
an idea takes shape in his mind.
(from the bedroom)
Mom, if there was a rule about
somethin', that doesn't mean you
couldn't do somethin' else once in a
while, I mean if it was important,
If it was important, I mean, people
could change their minds about
somethin', and it's all right, ain't
Yes, I guess so.
Well, mom, I was just thinkin', you
know I never smoke cigarettes
because you said I mustn't, even if
some of the fellers make fun of me.
I don't but, it's been kinda hot
pleasant about it)
Neeley, you cannot have any of those
pennies to buy an ice-cream cone.
They go in the bank, same as usual.
Neeley gives this a quick, startled reaction. How in the
world did Katie know what he was trying to do before he
really got to his point? It is a distinct letdown. --
Francie, busy at the stove, smiles at his reaction.
(from another room)
Bring 'em in here, Neeley.
Dutifully Neeley picks them up and starts for the other
room, and the scene cuts to the BEDROOM, which is small,
with a lumpy double bed and an old bureau with a wall
mirror. Katie is primping before the mirror, and you have to
be rather careful to look in the right place or it will
distort. Neeley enters with the pennies. Katie goes to the
closet, and Neeley follows her. -- The closet contains very
little in the way of clothes. The condensed milk can, used
as a bank, is nailed to the floor.
Half of everything we get goes into
the bank. That's the way it is, and
that's the way it's going to stay.
Now put 'em in there.
Gosh, I bet we got about a hundred
dollars in that ole bank by now!
Katie comes out of the closet and returns to the mirror.
Nine's more like it.
There is a sound outside of a limb of a tree splitting. At
this the scene cuts to the KITCHEN where Francie has turned
from the stove in time to see the limb outside the window
sway and disappear from view.
Mama -- they're cutting the tree!
Neeley tumbles into the kitchen followed by Katie carrying
her hairbrush. They crowd behind Francie at the window to
Looking out the window from their angle, we see two men
sawing the limbs off the tree. Katie stares at it a moment.
Oh, that's too bad, it was kind of
pretty there, and the birds sittin'
in it sometimes like they do.
Papa loved that tree.
Oh, quit moonin' over it, it got in
the way of the washing. A tree ain't
goin' to put no pennies in the bank.
She starts for the bedroom. Francie is mildly bewildered by
this sudden change. Katie is a little sorry for her
abruptness, but before she can say anything there is a
knock on the door.
It's Mr. Barker. Get out the saucer
and give it a wipe. I think there's
matches in it.
(then, as a small
apology for her
If -- if you want you can stay in
the room while he's here.
Katie hurries back into the bedroom. Francie gets the saucer
out, sets it down, and then hurries to the door to admit Mr.
Barker. Mr. Barker is a kindly enough little man, rather
old, but with the soul of a busybody. He is an important
visitor, since in making his collections he sees almost
everyone, and is a sort of newspaper for the neighborhood
gossip. Consequently the Nolans treat him with their best
(with her best
How do you do, Mr. Barker. Mama is
temporarily detained, but will join
Neeley gives her a withering look.
You got manners right out of a book,
(to Katie as
And company or no company, Mrs.
Nolan always looks the lady. You
should see some of my people, even
ladies with husbands that work
He stops, realizing this is not a very good point to
bring up. Katie stiffens a little.
Won't you come in the parlor and
have a cup of coffee.
That I will, and your hospitality is
very kind, Mrs. Nolan.
They start for the parlor. Mr. Barker bows gallantly for
Katie to precede him through the door. She pauses to take
some coins out of an old cup on a shelf. Francie
automatically starts to get the cup of coffee.
The PARLOR is dark, small, and stuffy. It is seldom used.
The couch that serves as Francie's bed is under the window.
-- Katie and Mr. Barker are followed by Neeley. Mr. Barker
seats himself in the best chair, and takes out his fountain
pen to write the receipts. He talks steadily.
Well, old man Gentry's off to jail
That's too bad.
But she's keepin' up his insurance
just the same.
And here's ours -- ten cents for me,
ten for Mr. Nolan, a nickel for each
of the children.
And you'll never regret it. A fine
funeral for every member of the
family, heaven forbid.
He is busy writing the receipts as Francie appears with the
cup of coffee and can of condensed milk. Mr. Barker accepts
it and pours the condensed milk lavishly. -- The Nolan
family watch fascinated as he continues to pour the milk.
-- Mr. Barker finally ceases pouring, and the Nolans are
relieved. He talks steadily as he does this.
Thank you, Francie. And your weekly
receipts, Mrs. Nolan.
(he gives them to her)
Now there's one party, not far from
here, I wouldn't like to say who,
that didn't get no receipts this
week. And not naming any names, I
will say that it's a family that the
Angel of Death has marked on its
invitation list, heaven forbid.
Henny says his sister's got one leg
in the grave.
It'll mean Potter's Field, most
likely. Well, that's what people
get, wastin' good money to give her
dresses instead of insurance,
dresses that'll last longer than she
will. It all depends on what folks
thinks is important.
But papa says that sometimes--
That's right, Mr. Barker, it all
depends on what folks think is
And how is Mr. Nolan, is he working
or not working, some tell me one
thing, some another -- I don't
Mr. Nolan bein' a singing waiter, Mr.
Barker, and what you might call an
artist, his work don't come steady
like other peoples'. But I'm sure
you'll remember, when you talk to
folks, that the Nolans have always
paid their insurance on the dot.
Francie gives her mother an admiring look for this defense
You surely don't think I'd go around
spreadin' gossip about my clients,
Oh, sure not. How is my mother, Mr.
In the prime, Mrs. Nolan, fine as
can be, she says to tell you she'll
be over tonight the same as usual.
(then, with relish)
And I trust you're happy with the
news about your sister.
Katie is instantly alert. It is quite evident that here is
news she does not know, but she does not like to admit it.
Just which news do you mean, Mr.
Well, it must be she's savin' it to
surprise you with tonight when the
family's all here together.
I'd take it kindly if you told me
what you mean.
(warming to his work)
Well, I trot around the same as usual
to collect her weekly dime, and what
do you think happens -- well, sir,
she gives me two dimes.
(he pauses for effect)
Yessir, she's done it again, she's
got herself a brand-new husband,
She breaks off abruptly. It is none of Mr. Barker's business
that Sissy had never been divorced from her last spouse. The
children are fascinated. Mr. Barker is in his element.
Katie's worry about the marriage will make a fine story
Well, now, I suppose you mean about
her still bein' married. I don't
mind sayin' the same thought
occurred to me. But I'm sure it must
be all right, she must have made
some arrangement, but--
I'm quite sure she did, Mr. Barker,
I'm sure that--
Does she call this one Bill, too?
His question makes Katie sharply aware of the presence of
the children. They shouldn't be hearing such a discussion.
You children run along now, and do
the marketing. Take some money from
Aw, but mom! I want to hear about
Take the money and get a five-cent
soup bone off of Hassler's; don't
get the chopped meat from him
though, he grinds it behind closed
doors, and heaven only knows. Go to
Werner's for the meat, get round
steak chopped, ten cents worth, and
don't let him give it to you off the
plate. Take an onion with you and
ask him to chop it in. And don't
forget, just at the last, to ask for
a piece of suet to fry it with.
During this domestic discussion, Mr. Barker does a little
snooping. He tries, with his finger, to see if there is any
dust on the table, and is disappointed when there is none.
Then he moves a small hassock with his foot and is delighted
to discover, as he suspected, that it covers a hole in the
carpet. The Nolans are unaware of this.
He won't always do that, mama, he--
Tell him your mother said. And then
go for the bread.
It's Saturday, mom, can we--
All right, all right. Ask for a nice
pie, not too crushed, and go on now
and do it.
(reluctant to go)
Mama, we know Aunt Sissy's been
Sure, I can remember two Uncle Bills.
That's nothing for you to talk
about; go on now and get things
Reluctantly they leave. Katie turns back to Mr. Barker.
You got no right, Mr. Barker, to be
carryin' tales about my sister as
though there was somethin' wrong.
She's funny some ways, maybe, but
she wouldn't do nothin' wrong. So
I'd like it if you didn't talk to
anybody about it like it was.
(lying, of course)
Strike me dead if I'd ever think of
mentionin' it to anybody but you.
Yeah, sure, I know.
(she sits down)
Well, you might as well go on and
tell me what you do know. No point
in my bein' the only one that don't
The scene dissolves to WERNER'S BUTCHER SHOP, with Francie
and Neeley in front of the counter. Werner is waiting on
Ten cents worth of round steak. You
want it ground?
You're sure now? Wasn't twenty
minutes ago I ground that whole
No, thank you.
Werner takes some chunks of meat out of the case and starts
to wrap them.
Oh, I forgot. My mother wants it
(giving her a
You don't tell me!
The children make no answer. He gives an angry exclamation
and gives up -- starts to grind the meat. Francie reaches
timidly across the counter with her onion.
Mama said to chop up this onion in it.
Oh, she did!
But he takes the onion angrily and puts it in the grinder
with the meat. He starts again to wrap the ground product.
At this point Francie takes a deep breath and blurts out the
Werner stands for a moment as though turned to stone.
Sweet jumpin' Christopher!
But he takes the piece of suet and puts it on top of the
meat as he folds the paper around it. The Nolans have won.
This dissolves to HASSLER'S BUTCHER SHOP. Neeley is peering
through the window to watch Francie, on the inside, make her
purchase. He is taking pains to keep himself and the package
of ground meat out of sight.
Inside the BUTCHER SHOP, Hassler, a kindly man, is
exhibiting a husky-looking soup bone before he wraps it up
Ain't that a beauty, though? Now you
tell your mama when she cooks it,
tell her to take the marrow out and
spread it on a piece of bread for
you. That's good, and you need to
get some meat on your bones.
(he laughs at this
joke as he slaps the
(he slices off a thin
slice of liverwurst and
offers it to Francie)
Do me a favor -- try this and see if
you think it's all right for my
He is "thin-make" covering up a good deed and Francie knows
it. She takes the slice of liverwurst and tastes it.
Well, that's fine. Now you finish
that before you get home. How's
He's fine, sir!
Francie exits, Hassler smiling after her.
Outside the butcher shop, Francie joins Neeley and they
start down the street. She breaks the piece of liverwurst in
two and gives Neeley half. He wolfs it.
(moved by the kindliness
of the world)
He made out he wanted me to tell him
did it taste all right.
(she blurts out
with sudden passion:)
I wish we could buy all our meat
from Hassler's. I wish he didn't
grind his meat behind closed doors.
Well, you don't have to bawl about
Francie isn't really crying, but she could.
This dissolves to the exterior of LOSHER'S BAKERY and STALE
BREAD STORE. A sign reads "NOT QUITE FRESH BREAD, 2 LOAVES
FOR 5¢." A long queue is waiting patiently for the doors to
open. The scene moves to the bakery window next door where
Francie and Neeley, meat packages tucked under their arms,
are gazing longingly into the window at a huge chocolate
cake on display.
You know, mama thinks we don't know
drift at once)
Yeah, she acts like we were kids or
(they edge along to
a platter of cream
puffs and stare)
I bet she has a fight with Aunt
It's got something to do with men
who like Aunt Sissy too much.
Papa says we'd ought to make
everybody like us.
I guess maybe ladies shouldn't.
Maybe Aunt Sissy wouldn'ta changed
husbands so much if any of her
babies had lived. She's crazy about
Look who's talkin' about babies! A
lot you know!
I know as much as you do!
You don't know nothin'.
You think you're so smart. Boys make
Well, what do ya think girls make
people, you think--
But there is a sudden interrupting shout from the crowd as
the stale bread store door is thrown open and the people
Francie and Neeley, their argument forgotten at once, adjust
their packages and stalk toward the entrance. Their eyes
flash with the light of battle, like a fighter advancing
across the ring to engage his opponent.
At the entrance the crowd is pressing forward. A kid dashes
out of nowhere to the head of the line and worms his way
through the door. This seems to be the signal for the
disappearance of all semblance of order. Neeley fights his
way in; Francie follows through the hole made by him. The
crowd is storming the counter behind which two harassed
clerks dole out the bread and collect the money.
Two loaves! I was first! Four loaves!
Neeley squirms, pushes, fights his way to the counter;
Francie is right behind him.
And a pie not too crushed!
This dissolves to the NOLAN KITCHEN where the children are
just dumping their packages onto the table. This marks the
end of their chores, and the beginning of that part of the
day which is theirs. Katie examines the bread.
This bread's fine. I wouldn't be
surprised if it wasn't more'n three
Is that all, Mom? Can we go now?
Yes -- you're free.
Neeley bolts for his room and Francie for the parlor, while
Katie starts to put the things away. In a moment Neeley
reappears with a baseball glove, and heads for the door.
Francie emerges more quietly with a library book.
Where's the fire?
(on his way)
There's a Dodgers scout around.
He disappears and the door bangs behind him.
Where you goin'?
Oh, no place much.
Well, don't go dream walkin'
crossin' the streets.
Francie is gone too, and as Katie smiles after them the
scene dissolves to the exterior of the PUBLIC LIBRARY.
It's a rather small library, but it has dignity. Francie
hurries down the street, her attitude and pace changing as
she arrives. She stops a moment, then starts slowly and
reverently to mount the shallow steps as the scene dissolves
through to the interior. Francie enters into the hush of the
room, the door closing soundlessly behind her and she
advances to the librarian's desk. A few people are reading
at the tables or are at the stacks.
At the desk she offers her book. The librarian takes the
card, stamps it mechanically, returns it without once
looking at her. Francie meantime has reverently touched the
blue bowl with yellow flowers and the polished desk. Now
she takes her card and almost tiptoes to the shelves. The
librarian stacks the returned book; we see it is by
FRANCIE, passing the shelves, lingers at the C's. Then she
turns dutifully to the B's, runs her finger through the
Brownings, and chooses the volume which comes next. She
goes back to the desk.
At the desk, she offers the B book. The librarian stamps
mechanically, then notices the title: Burton's Anatomy of
Melancholy, and for the first time looks curiously at
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy! Are
you sure you want this?
Don't you think it's a trifle over
Yes, ma'am -- I mean, yes, ma'am.
Well, why did you select it?
Well, I -- I read all the authors
that far, all the ones that begin
with A and then the B authors up to
Burton. It's next.
You don't mean you're trying to read
your way straight through the
But a book like that, you'll only be
Please, I want to go on, through the
alphabet -- I want to get to know
everything in the world.
The librarian stares at her a moment. It is evident that
Francie means it.
Well, all right.
(she marks the book --
then before she hands
it to Francie she adds:)
Only -- look, do something for me,
will you -- take another one too --
here, Lavender and Old Lace -- just
for fun. It's Saturday. I'll have a
headache thinking about you wrestling
with The Anatomy of Melancholy all
weekend. Will you?
The librarian marks the book and Francie starts out with it,
the librarian smiling after her.
This dissolves to the YARD of the NOLAN TENEMENT in the
afternoon. The tree, shorn of its limbs, stands like a
scarecrow. A man is mounted on a ladder retying the
clotheslines. Women hang from the windows giving free advice
A little to the left, Mrs.
Crackenbox! You think I want for Mrs.
Wittely's baby-clothes to drip on my
good sheets? Why don't you try oil of
cloves? Nothin' won't make her stop,
she's cuttin' her teeth. Didja hear
old man Hammerslaw taken out last
night? They'd oughta make the stairs
wider or the coffins narrower ...
Mixed with this are the sounds of a baby crying and the
shouts of kids.
The camera moves steadily past this bedlam and up to the
second-floor rear fire-escape outside the Nolan window, to
discover Francie, completely oblivious to all the noise,
eating peppermints and having "fun" crying pleasurably over
the sorrows of her book. The bedlam continues over her but
she hears nothing. She comes to a pausing place where it is
just too beautiful to go on, closes the book, and sits
reveling in its tragedy -- but managing to take another
peppermint through the tears. -- Suddenly her head lifts as
she hears singing, faint at first, then stronger. It is her
father's voice, singing "Molly Malone." As soon as she is
sure, she is galvanized into action and scrambles toward the
The KITCHEN: Francie rushes to the door and throws it open
as the singing comes closer. She gets it open before the
last line is finished, and Johnny, her father, is revealed.
This is a game of long-standing, to try to get the door open
before he finishes the last line. Johnny holds out his arms
and Francie flings herself into them joyfully.
I won. I won!
Johnny laughs and holds her for a moment. Johnny is nice-
looking, debonair. He is a free soul who could give and take
superb happiness if only the world contained no economic
problems, no responsibilities beyond the joy of living. It
isn't so much that he shirks the responsibilities of a
family man, as that he simply cannot cope with them. He is
man enough to be bitterly ashamed of his weakness, but not
quite man enough to overcome it. The truth is that Johnny
has never quite grown up. His charm and his gift of play
are something like those of a child. His moods are
extravagant and volatile, like a child's. He wears the only
suit he possesses -- a shabby Tuxedo, badge of his trade,
with it a derby, jauntily worn. At the moment he is in a
very high mood because he has a job for tonight, so that
momentarily he feels more like the head of his house than
he ordinarily does.
Well now, I wouldn't be so sure o'
that if I was you.
But I did, I got it open before you
finished, that's the rules!
But I come up one flight two steps
at a time before I remembered. Don't
that make a difference?
No sir, the rules--
And in a manner of speakin', you
never stopped me at all, because my
heart kept right on singin'.
Oh, papa, you're joking.
Well, maybe I'll let you get away
with winnin' this time, Prima Donna.
And where's your beautiful mama?
Finishing the halls. She must be up
on the top floor or she'd have heard
Unconsciously and almost imperceptibly, Johnny relaxes. He
is instinctively more at ease with Francie than with Katie.
Well, in that case you'd better be
gettin' busy. Why aren't you layin'
out my clothes?
You're always makin' fun, papa, you
know you haven't any more clothes.
What's this, then?
Them's clothes, aren't they? And
you'd better be gettin' that apron
Oh, papa, you've got a job for
Do you see the palm o' that hand?
That's right where I got the world,
Where is it, papa?
Klommer's -- big wedding party.
There'll be lots of tips.
Singing or waiting?
Oh, Papa, maybe tonight will be it,
maybe he'll he there, the impresario,
and he'll hear you and put you on
Why not, ain't I the Brooklyn
thrush? Only if that's the case,
hadn't you better be gettin' that
I'll have it in a jiffy, papa. And
the coffee's on.
That's my Prima Donna.
(then, teasing her)
"I've got a lassie, a bonny, bonny
lassie, She's as fair as -- as--"
He pretends not to remember.
Oh, papa, I can't sing.
Come on, you're holdin' up the
"As fair as the flowers in the dell--"
Better singin' I never heard.
I love to iron for you, papa.
(pouring the coffee
and bringing it down
to the table)
You know, a day like this is like
somebody givin' you a present,
everything just right. I wonder how
did folks get on before coffee was
invented. Ah, the world would be a
fine place if--
(he gets away from
this thought as
quickly as possible)
Prima Donna, do you know you're
gonna make a mighty nice wife for
somebody some day.
And pretty, too -- that is if your
nose don't grow crooked.
Could it really -- honest?
Ah, it's the prettiest nose in
Oh, papa, it isn't!
Who says it isn't? You just tell me
who says so and I'll take care of
Papa, you're crazy.
You know somethin' else, you ain't
gonna be ironin' like that no more
when that impresario comes around.
Things are gonna be different around
here, you wait and see.
What's the wish you wish the most,
when our ship comes sailin' in?
(not looking at him)
It already came true.
What was it, baby?
(she irons, and
won't look at him)
Come on, tell me now.
I -- I wished when you came home
today, you wouldn't be -- sick.
Who told you to call it sick, baby?
(then, trying to
get away from this)
Ah, now, you shouldn't be wastin'
wishes like that; you ought to be
savin' them for a silk dress or
somethin'. Haven't you got a better
wish than that?
I wish mama won't be too mad with
What about Aunt Sissy?
She's gone and got herself a new
No! If there ain't a woman for you
-- If one husband don't suit her,
she keeps right on lookin' for the
best. Uh -- what did your mama say?
Well -- she didn't like it.
Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised.
Couldn't you -- sort of say
something to mama, not to be too
Why, sure I could, Prima Donna --
and I will.
Oh, thank you, papa.
Now ain't you got a real wish -- one
just for you?
Well -- did you see it, papa?
Out the window -- our tree, they've
He crosses to the window, and she follows.
Well, look at that now.
They didn't have any right to kill
it, did they, papa?
(sensing how serious
it is with her)
Wait a minute now, they haven't
killed it. Why, they couldn't kill
Why sure, baby. Now look, don't you
tell me that tree's goin' to lay
down and die that easy. You look at
that tree, see where it's comin'
from -- right up out of the cement.
Didn't anybody plant it, it didn't
ask the cement could it grow, it
just couldn't help growin' so much
it pushed that ole cement right out
of the way. When you're bustin' with
somethin' like that, can't anybody
stop it. Like that little ole bird,
listen to him--
(he imitates a bird)
He don't ask nobody can he sing. He
don't take no lessons, he's just so
full of singin' it's got to bust out
someplace. Why, they could cut that
tree way down to the ground and the
root'd shove up some place else in
the cement. Just you wait until next
Spring, and you'll see, Prima Donna.
(their eyes meet and
Francie's worry is
laid to rest)
Well, now, this ain't earnin' the
(he gets his hat and
brushes it carefully
with his sleeve)
Haven't you got one little wish
that's just for you?
No, papa I -- I just --
I just love you so much, papa!
She clings to him, tightly. Johnny holds her.
Well, what do you know. Listen, if I
get a lot of tips tonight, you know
what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna put two
bucks on a horse I know runnin'
Monday. I'll win ten, then I'll put
the ten on another horse. If I use
my head and have any luck, maybe I'll
run it up to five hundred. Then you
know what I'm gonna do?
I'm gonna take you on a trip, just
you and me, on a regular train.
Maybe we'll go down South, and see
where the cotton grows. You know,
"Down where the cotton blossoms
To make her laugh, he does a little step with this.
You're a nice girl, baby. Come on,
we better go tell your mama the news
about my job.
He puts his derby on at a rakish angle, and Francie gives
him the package with the apron. They go out together. -- We
then see them in the HALL. Johnny is feeling very good
indeed, and he deliberately turns on the charm as he calls
up the stairs.
Anybody seen Johnny Nolan's wife?
He starts gayly up, Francie looking after him, adoringly,
and the scene cuts to the UPPER HALL where Katie is on her
knees on the stairs, scrubbing her way down. She is slightly
apprehensive as she looks down quickly.
Johnny! You all right?
(coming up the stairs)
And why wouldn't I be, married to
the most beautiful woman in
You're shoutin' it so, they'll hear
you over to Manhattan.
Don't you get fresh with me tonight!
Happens I'm workin' at Klommer's --
big weddin' party.
Katie is pleased in a maternal way, but values the news for
what it is -- a one-night job -- whereas to Johnny it
changes the complexion of his world and ought to change her
world. To Katie his enthusiasms are an old, and now a
somewhat humorous, story; her humor is a necessary defense
I thought you was kinda extra dressy!
Well, looks like you won't get home
before the sun comes up.
The later the better; the more tips
the more fine silk stockings for my
wife's pretty legs.
Silk stockin's is just what I need.
She turns away to go on working. A man comes up the stairs
past them and a couple of tenants look out from their doors
to see what's going on. An audience always inspires Johnny.
Just a minute, Mrs. Nolan. Don't you
think you better kiss me for luck?
The whole house is lookin'!
(But he draws her back,
then speaks softly:)
This is the best job I had in a
couple a months. Maybe I'll get
more, from tonight.
He puts his arm around her. She pretends to be out of
patience with him, but she is pleased. None of the other
women in the tenement get treated like this by their
You better get on then, good jobs
A job's no good without you kiss me.
She lets him kiss her, and is warmed in spite of herself.
Then she gives him a playful push, and speaks almost
Well, you still got a way with you,
Johnny Nolan! Go on now, before you
know it those folks at the weddin'
will be an old married couple.
Before you know it, I won't go at
all. Theirs ain't the only weddin'
Put your hat on now and get out of
here before somebody else cops that
He puts his hat on jauntily, grins, and comes to the head
of the stairs. But he catches Francie's eye fixed on him
from the bottom. He turns back to Katie, outwardly jaunty
but actually a bit awkward.
Oh -- Francie tells me Sissy's gone
and done it again. Don't -- I mean,
maybe he's a nice fellow -- don't be
too hard on her, huh?
They've all been nice fellows. Beat
it now, Johnny.
A little lamely, Johnny turns away. He is glad to have this
over with. His jauntiness returns. He tips his hat to Katie
That's just a sample, Madam. If you
like my stock, drop me a card and
I'll be around again.
Katie has to smile. Johnny starts down the stairs,
pretending to be aware for the first time of his small
audience. He tips his hat again.
Oh -- evening, folks.
At the foot of the stairs Francie, delighted by the whole
scene, slips her hand into his and accompanies him proudly.
-- The view moves with them and "picks up" Flossie Gaddis,
still in her pretty dress, shy and wistful in her doorway.
When she sees him, she starts to smile. Johnny stops.
Well, will you look at our beautiful
princess tonight, in a brand new
(shyly, but infinitely
It's made out of silk.
Why, let's see. Silk! Why, don't you
tell me that -- that dress is made
out of flower petals and birds' wings
and a little old piece of cloud.
Anybody could tell that!
Flossie laughs softly, and it is beautiful to see. Johnny
laughs too, pats her head and starts on. -- Francie's
reaction marks her worship of this father of hers. The scene
moves on again as they go on down the stairs. They pass two
old ladies who are standing in the doorway. On the door is a
sign: Piano and Vocal.
(tipping his hat)
Evening Miss Lizzie, Miss Maggie.
THE MISSES TYNMORE
We wish you well, Mr. Nolan.
Thank you, ladies. Evening, Mr.
(going up stairs)
Working tonight, Johnny?
Sure, big weddin' party.
They pass through the front door and on to the street.
We get a glimpse of Katie looking down for a moment after
Johnny. Her face shows the mixture of her feelings. She
sighs a little and turns back to work.
The STREET: Johnny and Francie come down the front steps,
and what is, to her, a small triumphal march, continues.
She holds onto his arm and is enormously proud. A couple of
young girls are sitting on the steps.
(tipping his hat again)
Good evening, young ladies.
Good evening, Mr. Nolan.
They giggle, a little flirtatiously. Johnny is unaware but
Francie gives them a look. Her head goes higher and she
holds tighter to Johnny's arm.
What did mama say about Aunt Sissy?
Don't you worry -- it'll be all
right. Your Aunt Sissy's a fine
Suddenly he stops at the window of the hardware shop as they
Look at all the things they got. No
use talkin', some day I'm gonna get
you them skates.
Mama said not to be late, papa.
God invented time, Prima Donna, and
whenever He invents somethin'
there's always plenty of it.
(moving down the window)
Look at them knives!
Mama says time is money.
Well, I guess maybe He wasn't
worryin' about money right then.
(a little worried)
There's your car, papa.
grinning at her)
Might as well catch it, I guess.
He kisses her quickly and goes toward the car. Francie calls
"goodbye" after him and stands watching anxiously.
Johnny swings onto the car just as it starts to move on. He
smiles back, then tips his hat with a fine flourish to
Nobody but papa has ever yet tipped his hat to her. She is
so proud her eyes glisten suspiciously. Her concern is gone
and nothing is left but worship. She waves till the car is
out of sight. And the scene fades out.
The NOLAN KITCHEN fades in. It is evening. First we see
FRANCIE setting the table but more concerned with reading
her book, which is open on the table. Then the scene pulls
back to reveal Neeley washing at the sink, and Katie
transferring the food from the stove to the table.
Now tomorrow this bread'll make up
real nice with a sauce of ketchup
and coffee. Use soap, Neeley. Monday
we'll slice it and fry it in bacon
fat and -- Francie, you're not
listening, put up that book.
Yes mama ... bacon fat.
She and Francie sit while Neeley, having splashed his face
with water, dries it with a dish towel, looking over
Oh boy, we won't have to play no
North Pole this week! Hey! Am I
He comes to the table, starts wolfing his food standing up.
And when weren't you?
What does white mean?
Just white, I guess. What do you
mean, what does it mean? Neeley, sit
down at your place.
He sits down.
Well, what do girls always wear it
for when they get married, and when
they're confirmed, and when they
graduate -- why does it always have
to be white?
I don't know, somebody just started
it I guess. Lots of things like that.
Will I have a white dress when I
We'll see. Neeley'll probably need
shoes by then.
Talk to him about it. If you can get
him to quit always comin' through
his soles ...
Just because he's a boy ...
(she changes; right
out of her book)
All right, mama. I will gladly do
without so my little brother can be
happy with new shoes.
Little brother my eye, you--
You read too much.
The door suddenly bursts open and Aunt Sissy comes in -- but
she gives the impression of blowing in, like a fresh breeze.
She is a couple of years older than Katie, lively,
completely natural, looks not unlike a street-walker, but is
actually a simple, direct, earthy woman. She carries some
Well, hey, everybody!
(with cries of delight)
Aunt Sissy, Aunt Sissy! What did you
bring us, Aunt Sissy?
They fly into her arms and she embraces them warmly,
magazines, and all.
I brung myself, chickabiddies, ain't
that enough! Oh -- and a couple
magazines from the dentist's -- what
does he need 'em for -- or me either,
I can't read like my eddicated
little niece here! --
(Francie takes the
looks at Katie)
Hello, Katie my darlin'!
(a little stiffly)
Good evening, Sissy.
(getting the fact
that there's a
Well, you look fine, Katie.
Yes, I look fine.
(with rueful humor)
Who spilled the beans -- oh, that's
right, I forgot it was old Barker's
day here. Where's Johnny? I was
kinda countin' on him to be in my
Oh, sure, you and Johnny.
her arms around Katie)
Aw, look Katie, I didn't tell you
because I wanted to bring Bill
around, but I couldn't, he's home
sleepin', he's a milkman, see ... Ah
listen, you're goin' to wish me
happiness, ain't you?
Naturally I wish you happiness --
this time, too.
Oh, golly -- can't you just skip to
the place where you forgive me.
You're goin' to before you're
through, you know I'll get around
you in the end. Why can't you just
be human now and get it over with?
(laughing in spite
Well, I'll say that much, there
ain't anybody in the world like you
to get around a person -- unless
it's Johnny. You better sit down,
you're in time for pie.
Now that's more like it, that's my
kid sister talkin'. Just coffee for
me. I gotta get home soon and make
breakfast for Bill.
Breakfast? At night?
Yeah, ain't it a riot. We sleep all
day with the shades pulled down to
keep out the sun and the windows
shut to keep out the noise. It's
fun, you don't live like nobody
No, you sure don't.
Easy on the whip, kid. Ah, wait'll
you meet my Bill -- you and him
Wouldn't you marry nobody that they
wasn't named Bill, Aunt Sis?
She mightn't remember 'em if they
Oh, Bill's got some other name --
Steve I think it is -- but I always
like Bill. A good man's name with no
stuck-up about it. Ah, like I say,
you'll be crazy about him, Katie.
Yeah ... but the question is, how'll
him and you get along?
It's wrong, Sissy, it's ... I mean,
the other ones, and--
What's wrong about it? The others
was wrong. What's right about keepin'
on with a guy when you don't love
each other any more?
But it ain't just as easy as that,
(earnestly - dreamily)
I think Aunt Sissy is right about
when love is dead.
Now look what you started. It ain't
anything to talk about in front of
them. Every time you come around you
fill their heads with--
All right, kids, you go on
downstairs awhile. Your mama's got a
spankin' up her sleeve, and she
ain't gonna feel right till she
gives it to somebody. Might as well
get it over with.
Neeley and Francie start out. Francie turns at the door, a
little worried about her aunt and mother.
You don't want to frown like that,
snuggle-pup. The fellows don't go
for that at all.
Her grin is contagious and Francie is relieved. She follows
Neeley out. Sissy turns back to Katie with a grin.
All right, kid, let's have it, the
works. I'm a disgrace, you don't
know what you're goin' to do with
me, you can't hardly face the
neighbors with what they must be
sayin', I'm old enough to know
better. -- Go on, get it all off
your chest, and then we can make up
and forget about it.
That's right, talk your way out of
it, and you probably will, too. What
did mama say?
Oh, you know mama, she don't say
Yeah, I know.
(imitating her mother)
"Sissy is bad only where the men are
concerned, but she is good in the
(her smile dies)
But that ain't it. You make me
ashamed, Sissy. Folks got a right to
talk, and the kids are bound to hear.
It ain't right for them. And you can
get in trouble. You ain't real sure
what happened, and there's laws
about things like that.
Look, Katie, so help me, this time
it's for keeps. I ain't even goin'
to look at another guy. And as for
the last one, he can't be alive, or
I'd have heard from him. I been
pretty good. Seven years is a long
time for me to wait around, not
bein' married -- they said seven
years was all you had to wait, and
I waited. Where would I get the
money for a divorce?
(Sissy is hopeless)
Well, for the life of me, I don't
know what you've talked yourself
into -- but I got a feelin' it ain't
(on the level)
Look, kid, all I know is, it can't
be wrong, or I couldn't feel like I
do about it. I'm dumb, sure -- but
I know this much, if I feel bad
about somethin', it's wrong, and if
I feel good, it's right. Ah, you
couldn't get it, Katie, you got all
the breaks I never had -- you got
the kids, and you got a guy you're
clear overboard about. You're lucky.
(with a touch
Yeah, I'm that, all right.
Sure, you are. And that makes all
the difference. You got somethin' to
stick to, you--
(with a sudden flare
she didn't know was
All right, and where does crazy over
somebody get you! It don't put no
pennies in the bank, it don't buy no
clothes for the kids to go to school
-- maybe you got it better, not
stickin' to one man. I wish I wasn't
crazy over him sometimes--
her voice rises)
--And I won't have the kids takin'
after him either, him and those
dreamy ways I used to think so much
of -- not if I got to cut it right
out of their hearts!
There is a pause that means a lot. Katie hadn't the least
intention of saying that. Sissy stares at her. It is the
first knowledge Sissy has had that there was something
deeply wrong between Katie and Johnny.
Hey, kid, what're you sayin?
Yes you are, you're sayin' plenty.
What's happened between you and
I don't know what I'm sayin'. I
don't know what come over me.
Well, look, hon, we better find out.
Sure, we got somethin' to talk about
No, I don't want--
Uh-uh, you're the kid sister, you
listen now. Look, you was awful
crazy about Johnny -- Don't tell me,
I seen you: it was like every woman
wants to be with a guy.
Yeah, I know, but--
All right, maybe Johnny didn't turn
out just like you figured; sure he
drinks and all, and you're the one
has had to make most of the livin'.
But everybody's got somethin'. And
you wasn't crazy about Johnny
because he was goin' to be a banker.
It was on account of-- well, how he
laughed, and how he could talk about
things, and -- and how you felt walkin'
down the street holdin' on to him and
havin' other women look at you -- and
the way he had of sayin' hello to
everybody like -- like he was givin'
away somethin'. That's what you was
crazy about, and that ain't changed;
I don't know, them things couldn't
change in Johnny, not even if he
tried, he's just -- different. And
that's what you was crazy over. If
there's been any changin', maybe
it's you, kid. You still got all you
was crazy over, ain't you?
away from Sissy)
Then you thank your lucky stars for
what you got, Katie Nolan, and take
the rest along with it. And take it
from me, you got a lot, and don't
think you haven't.
There is a pause. Sissy really means it. And it has moved
Katie enough to make her very near tears, but she would not
show this for anything in the world. She manages a little
I might've known, startin' out to
take you apart, I'd wind up with
you workin' me over.
It is as close as she can come to acknowledging in words the
truth of what Sissy has said. But their eyes meet, and there
is a nice moment between them. These two sisters like one
another at that moment as well as they have in a long time.
Nice goin' -- You're a nice girl,
The warmth between them holds as the scene dissolves to the
NOLAN TENEMENT BUILDING: First we see NEELEY, bent over with
his hands on his knees, playing he's an infielder. He's
playing all by himself. He throws a small ball against the
wall, feels it as it bounces back to him and tags out an
imaginary runner on second base. He's very intent on all
this. Evidently there's some question about the decision.
Neeley speaks to the imaginary umpire with righteous anger.
Aw, he was out a mile, I tell you.
Don't give me that -- well, that's
Evidently he wins the argument with the umpire, because he
is mollified and returns to his fielding position. The
camera pulls back to reveal the front of the tenement just
as Sissy emerges from the front door. Francie is sitting
quietly on one of the doorsteps fingering a pair of roller
skates. A man and his wife are on the steps higher up, and
Sissy has to step over them to get down.
Don't stir yourself, Pal.
She steps over him with a grin. He grins in answer. The wife
We better go in, Alfred.
Sissy gets it but doesn't care. Francie looks up eagerly,
and Neeley quits his hall game to come over to Aunt Sissy.
How'd you come out, Aunt Sissy?
No decision. It was a draw.
(she smiles at them)
Ah, your mom's bark is worse than
her bite -- you know. Look, tell me
somethin', when papa's home, I bet
him and mama laugh a plenty, don't
they -- you know, like they always
Sure, pop can make anybody laugh
when he wants to, except when he's
Sick, Neeley, mama says to call it.
his ball game)
Okay, sick then. Funny, he ain't
like other guys when he gets that
way, he gets all quiet.
(he tags another
That'll teach you to steal a base
on, I guess.
Mama kind of doesn't want to,
sometimes, but after a while mostly
Sure, I'll tell you somethin' you
can do for me; do all the laughin'
you can -- you know, keeps everybody
a book again)
Laughter is the singing of the
You're a funny kid, head full of all
them things, kind of like your pop.
She tells lies like pop, too.
He doesn't tell lies.
Well, I don't know what you'd call
Hey, time out, I've had enough
battlin' to last me today.
(then to change
Where'd you get the skates?
Oh, they aren't ours. Papa said he
was going to get us some though.
Aw, he didn't mean it, he just said
that and I'd like to know what you
call that if it ain't lies.
He did so mean it, Neeley Nolan.
Kind of like your papa, don't you,
He does mean it, doesn't he, Aunt
Sure he means it, hon, he means it
-- every word. Only -- well,
sometimes things, you know, happen.
But it kind of ain't his fault, he--
(realizing she is
becoming more and
more involved she
changes the subject)
I tell you what -- let's make out
Johnny gave you them skates like he
said, and they're yours, it won't
But Aunt Sissy, we couldn't, it--
No sense things standing around and
nobody using them.
She starts to strap the skates on. Neeley leaves his ball
game to come over for this new excitement.
Hey, can I put 'em on next?
All right, now. Take it easy.
Francie laughs in high enjoyment as Sissy steadies her. The
front door of the tenement flies open and the little girl,
who is the owner of the skates, shows up.
Hey, you come back here with my
It's all right honey, we ain't gonna
Sheila's mother appears. She's the woman who was sitting on
Ma, they stole my skates.
The child's father appears in the doorway. The woman
advances down the steps.
You bring them back. You put them
kids up to it, you--
Easy now, nobody's hurt. I only
She isn't going off with them, Effie,
(to her husband)
Don't you take up for that woman like
(smiling at the husband)
You poor little guy, you got to put
up with that all the time?
The clamor of the argument has brought forth other neighbors.
Ask her whose husband she'd like to
My mother says your aunt's got dyed
Hey, the cop!
The hubbub ceases. McShane, a rather young and nice looking
cop, comes in.
Come on, break it up, break it up
now, take it easy.
(smiling full at him)
Well. I'm sure glad you come along,
handsome. You look like you ought to
be able to whip a bunch of women
(making no response
to her impertinence)
That's fine, but maybe somebody
better tell me what all the
She tried to steal my little girl's
She tried to vamp her husband.
We only borrowed them for just a
That's right, there wasn't nobody
using 'em, and a little fun and
frolic on a Saturday never hurt
anybody. I'll bet you know all about
that, don't you?
It's kind of you to ask, but I'm
afraid I don't, lady.
You mean it, too, don't you. Yeah, I
should've known you weren't the type.
That's kind of nice, handsome.
If you think you're goin' to get out
of it makin' eyes at the law--
Your aunt's goin' to the station
house, your aunt's goin' to the
Bedlam breaks loose again. It is at this point that Katie
comes but the door and hurries forward.
(as she comes up to him)
This lady's my sister. She didn't
mean any harm, I'm sure she didn't.
(studying her a
moment -- impressed)
Sure, and it doesn't look to me like
any harm's been done.
(to the crowd)
Clear the streets now, all of you.
His tone is authoritative, and the crowd starts to disperse.
(turning to Katie)
I'll see you ladies to your door.
(with a grin)
My sister is always trying to be
funny, officer, she doesn't mean
anything by it.
at the door)
I'd like you to know this is the
first time my family ever got into
any trouble on the streets--
(looking at Sissy)
and I'll see it don't happen again.
I guess I know a lady when I meet
one, ma'am -- My name is McShane and
I'm glad I could be of service to
He turns and goes.
He sure took a shine to you, Katie.
Who'd look at me?
(in an odd mood for
a moment -- looking
at her hands)
Funny, you kind of forget sometimes
that you're a woman.
He wasn't going to arrest us, mama.
Aunt Sissy talked him out of it. And
we got to skate on 'em anyway,
didn't we, Aunt Sissy?
This makes Katie look at Francie. Francie has evidently
enjoyed the excitement from the adventure, and this
You go on down the street and tell
Sheila and her mama you're sorry
Do I have to, mama?
Katie doesn't answer, and Francie starts reluctantly down
the street. Katie watches her go a minute, and then turns
back to look at Sissy levelly.
I don't like sayin' what I'm goin'
Oh, golly, are we off again?
You're the only sister I got, but--
I don't care for myself, what people
think about you, only-- I got the
kids to worry over, and if I don't
do it nobody else will. You're bad
for 'em, Sissy, you got Francie in
trouble right on the street. You --
you might even make 'em trouble at
What is it you're tryin' to say,
Sissy, I'm askin' you not to come
around any more. My mind's made up,
and don't try changin' it with any
more of that soft talk.
I won't, Katie, not if you mean it.
But let's keep on talkin' about
you. Soft's one thing, kid, but--
bein' too hard is another.
All right, it ain't nice to be hard,
but my children are goin' to be
somebody if I got to turn into
granite rock to make 'em!
Sissy studies her for a long moment. Their eyes hold. Katie
(with a funny
I kind of wish you hadn't said that,
So long, Katie. I'll give your love
She goes. Katie stares after her. Some of the inflexibility
leaves as she watches Sissy go. She is bewildered, mixed up
with the inner conflict; she turns abruptly to go into
The scene dissolves to the NOLAN KITCHEN at night. First the
cover of a Gideon Bible in Neeley's hands comes into view,
then the scene pulls back to reveal Neeley, ready for bed,
reading aloud. Francie sits near, holding a volume of
Shakespeare. Katie is remaking a dress of hers for Francie.
Grandma Rommely sits quietly listening. Grandma Rommely is
of Austrian peasant stock, old, given much to silence. She
has a faraway look, and nods occasionally while she listens
to this reading, which is very important to her. It is a
"--and Nahor lived nine and twenty
years and begat Terah, and Nahor
lived after he begat Terah an
hundred and nineteen years." -- boy,
that's older'n Grandma, ain't it? --
"and begat sons and daughters" --
Okay, that's the end of the page.
"And dreaming night will hide our
joys no longer, I would not from
thee. Cressida: 'Night hath been too
brief.' Troilus: 'Beshrew the witch
Aw, that ain't even English.
It is so. Shakespeare wrote the best
English of anybody.
All right then you tell me what it
means, you're so smart.
I didn't say I know what it means, I
said I liked it.
That'll do, now.
Okay, but I bet you don't know what
it means either.
Maybe not, but I know it's good for
(resuming her reading)
"'Beshrew the witch'" --
(grumbling to himself)
She don't know what it means, mom
don't know what it means, Grandma
can't even read, and gosh knows I
Mama, I can't read if he--
--Just wastin' time every night
readin' stuff nobody knows what it's
Well, it ain't as bad as that, I get
some of it. That about nights is too
brief, that means short, and
goodness knows they are, and the
(she measures the dress
against Francie as she
Hold still a minute. Now listen,
Aunt Sissy brought us that Bible
from Sheepshead Bay, and papa blew
in all his tips one time on that
Shakespeare because Grandma said
they was the greatest books and we
should read a page every night. So
we ain't gonna waste 'em. And I
don't know, sometimes it does seem
kinda foolish but -- I guess it gets
you somewhere, might help you find a
job someday, you can't tell.
Her defense of the custom winds up a little lamely, but it
is the best she can muster. None of them notices Grandma
until she speaks abruptly.
This reading will not stop. I say
This is said quietly, but with so much determination that
all three turn toward her. She is completely immobile as she
tries to gather words, which are difficult for her.
In the steerage we come, to this new
land, your grandfather and I. Hard
we work, but there is something we
look for that we do not find. So
this is not different, I think, from
that old country. And then I watch
my children, and then their children.
And then I know, when I am old, I
know. In that old country, the child
can rise no higher than his father's
state. But here, in this place, the
children need not to walk out their
lives in the shoes of their elders.
And this has to do something with
the learning which is here free for
all people. This is the thing, that
with this learning each one is free
to go so far as he is good to make
of himself. This way each child can
be better than the parent, and this
is the true way things grow better.
This, to me who am old, is the great
wonder of this country, in this way
to be free. I have missed this thing,
and I have let my children miss it,
but this shall not be so for my
children's children. This reading
will not stop.
Probably never before has Grandma Rommely put so many words
together. She is lost in them, almost transfigured, there
is deep strength behind her feeling. The others are silent,
a little awed by the unaccustomed speech. The argument about
the reading is ended forever.
And you, Katie. It is not just for
the job. You do not think well
about this, nor about what you do
with your sister. You have forgotten
to think with your heart. There is a
coldness growing in you, Katie.
She has finished; and she retires inside herself again,
settling back in her chair. There is a pause, and there is
definitely nothing more to say. It has had an effect on
Katie. Francie looks from one to the other. -- Finally
Katie's eyes leave her mother and meet Francie's. Katie
nods. Francie resumes the reading.
"'Beshrew the witch! with venomous
wights she stays
As tediously as--'"
Katie's eyes go back to her mother. The old lady does not
look at her, but nods again, almost imperceptibly. It is
good. But her words, coming on top of Sissy's, have shaken
The scene dissolves to a STREET late at night. It is
practically deserted. The shadowy figure of Johnny, carrying
a couple of paper bags, comes down the street from the
carline. He is singing "Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon"
to himself. Thereupon the scene cuts to the NOLAN PARLOR
where Francie is on her couch under the window. The faint
sound of Johnny's singing awakens her. Her face lights up.
She looks out the window. Then, in her nightgown, she
scurries for the kitchen.
In the KITCHEN Katie is asleep with her head on her sewing
on the table as Francie enters. Francie is startled at
seeing her mother there. As she hesitates, Katie stirs and
lifts her head. The sound of the singing is closer as Johnny
comes up the stairs. -- Katie's and Francie's eyes meet and
there is a sense of understanding between these two who
wait. Instinctively Katie's hands start to fix her hair.
He's all right, mama. I don't think
The singing approaches the door. True to their game, Francie
goes to open it before the song finishes. The open door
reveals Johnny and his paper bags. There is a second of
relief for both women when they're sure he is sober.
Well, what do you know, if it isn't
(he is a little
surprised at seeing
Katie still up)
Hey! What're you doing up this time
(a little awkwardly)
Oh, I made up my mind to sit up for
you. But I guess I ain't used to the
hours, any more.
Johnny sets his bags on the table. Katie resumes adjusting
Leave it, it's nice.
Go on. What you got in them bags?
Francie, the coffee.
(going to light
Is it something to eat, papa?
And what else, with me comin' from a
(and he empties
French rolls, a whole half of
lobster from the shores of Maryland,
caviar all the way from sunny far
off Russia, fried oysters, cheese--
from -- from the mountain fastnesses
of la belle France.
What do you know about the mountain
fastnesses of France?
Is it better comin' from there, papa?
Supposed to be mighty good.
(looking at Katie)
But comin' home like this -- I know
(a little awkwardly)
Well, let's eat it, no reason we
shouldn't have a party of our own.
Abruptly Katie turns from setting the table and, without
explanation, disappears into the bedroom. At the same time a
very sleepy Neeley appears from the other bedroom.
(from the bedroom)
Is that all you got to say to your
He starts immediately pulling a chair up to the table.
His stomach's like the Irish sea, no
bottom to it.
Katie reappears, shy and pretty, her hair arranged and held
in place by a tortoise shell comb. Johnny looks at her,
Mama, your wedding comb!
(a little shy at
her own sentiment)
Well, ain't this a kind of wedding
(pulling out a
up to the mood)
You bet it is. I wish I could've
swiped some champagne.
(then, as he
meets her eyes)
No, I don't, coffee's better.
Francie brings the coffee to the table and sits down next to
her father. Neeley is already eating.
(looking at Katie;
Only will you look at who's tellin'
me I don't know about the mountain
fastnesses of France.
(looking down, fussed)
Yeah, that -- imagine you forgettin'.
Well, I didn't, not exactly, only
that was a while back and--
(to the children)
What do you think of havin' a mama
that'd forget where we went on our
Did you really go there, mama?
Of course not, papa's joking.
Sure we did -- or just the same as.
We spent our honeymoon in a school,
was as big as a palace, and--
We just worked there nights,
cleanin', the both of us. It was
right here in Brooklyn, before you
Well, that wasn't what you said then.
You mean to tell me, when we was
havin' our supper all alone there,
and I used to pull down them maps and
take the teacher's pointer and pick
out the places we'd pretend we was
that night -- you mean to tell me we
really wasn't there? You mean you
forgot that sunny France was where we
liked the best, and all the laughin'
we done there, and you goin' to sit
right there and tell me we wasn't
He is making arrant love to her with this. Katie is stirred.
Yeah. I guess we kind of was, at
And you're askin' how I know about
the mountain fastnesses of France.
I'm ashamed of you, Katie Nolan.
Francie has been watching this between her father and mother;
she doesn't quite understand the mood between them, but she
Wasn't there anybody in the school
but you, papa?
No sir, we--
Your papa better quit talkin', he'll
have you believin' you was in France
No, talk some more, papa--
What's this here stuff?
Caviar, that's fish eggs come all
the way from Russia.
(as he and Katie laugh)
Tell the truth, I never could get
the idea myself why they like it,
except it's hard to get and costs a
And that makes it good, papa?
What about the Russians -- it ain't
hard for them to get -- do they like
Can you tie that, ain't we got the
Papa, talk some more, tell us about
the party tonight, don't leave out
Oh, that can wait.
(he lays three
dollars before Katie)
Three dollars! That's good wages.
(jingling his pocket)
Good tips, too.
Papa, start. Was there music? Did
Aw, your mama's got no time for all
looking at him)
You -- you could tell me. You used
Johnny starts uncertainly at first, watching Katie. Neeley
continues to eat. Francie listens to her father with her
elbows on the table.
Well, it was pretty swell. Klommer's
best room, all fixed with white
flowers -- flowers on the table, on
the chandeliers, even on the floor.
There was a big horseshoe table, and
lots of people, and right in front
was a big tall wedding cake, must
have been two feet high.
Why didn't you bring home some of
Was the bride pretty?
Well, she was maybe not so young,
Johnny cannot spoil a moment like this with the truth.
Everything must be perfect, so he improves on the bride a
Sure, she was awfully pretty, in
that blue dress and all. She had
diamonds on her hands and even in
her ears so she kind of glittered,
and when she walked her clothes
swished, kind of. Well, sir, the
champagne flowed like water, and
the smell of it got all mixed with
the flowers and the powder the
ladies wore and it was like a
wonderful new kind of perfume,
made you feel good just to smell it.
(with a little
shiver of delight)
And did you sing for them, papa?
Sure thing, I was comin' to that. I
got three encores for "My Wild
Irish Rose," and -- everybody
clapped and clapped so I did "Irish
Eyes Are Smiling" four times.
It must have been awful nice.
It was all right. And when it was
time to cut the wedding cake the
band played "Kiss Me Again" and she
put her arms around him and boy, did
he look scared!
What was he scared of papa?
You kids ask too many questions. Go
on, you heard the story, go back to
bed now, it must be three o'clock.
I got a bellyache.
Lay on your right side.
(a little stiff --
not kissing Katie)
Francie's kind of mad at me because
Sissy made a scene of herself out on
the street and I -- I told her to
Run along now, both of you.
Both of the kids start to obey. The small incident has
broken the perfection of the evening, and this disturbs
Was -- was there an impresario
Not tonight there wasn't, Prima
Donna. Come here.
You got no call to be mad at your
mama, Francie, she -- she always got
a reason for what she does.
Johnny means this. Unaccustomed to reproof from Johnny, even
as gentle as this is, has its effect on Francie. She
hesitates, then goes over and kisses her mother with some
restraint. Katie, who is feeling more deeply than she has
felt in a long time, holds her close for a moment. Suddenly
Francie flings her arms around her mother, and they are very
close for a moment.
(in a completely
Francie hurries into her room and shuts the door. Her going
makes a little awkward moment between Johnny and Katie, who
are left alone, each lost in his own thoughts.
Johnny. What else happened at the
party -- tell me.
Well, it was nice like I said it
was, awful nice -- the bride all
dressed up and all, and--
But he cannot get going again. And Katie hasn't really heard.
Do you think-- I mean, have I-- well,
changed a lot-- you know.
Changed, why, she couldn't hold a
candle to you. She wasn't so hot, I
just said that, for the kids. No
No, I mean -- am I gettin', you know,
She is troubled, inarticulate. Johnny is bewildered.
Why, where'd you get hold of an idea
like that, hard?
I don't know, I don't want to be,
but-- well, there's the kids and all,
I want to do what's good for them--
and maybe sometimes--
Aw, baby, don't talk like that. Why,
you know something, you're prettier
than you ever was. I could near
tellin' it to the whole party
tonight-- hey, you ought to see my
bride that's waitin' home for me.
straight at her)
And you was waitin'. That was --
nice, Katie, it was -- like it used
You -- you told about the party nice,
Johnny. I -- I should've waited up
more, I guess.
Aw, it ain't your fault, baby, you
workin' like you do.
(he touches the comb)
I -- I wish I'd bought you the rest
of that set when we was married, the
man said it came all the way from
What else was there to it? You ain't
told me for a long time.
There was two little side combs and
a locket on a chain.
And a bracelet, you said.
You know what, I'm gonna look up
that man some day and get you the
rest of that set.
Johnny is deeply moved. This is the closest that he and
Katie have been in a long time. If things were entirely
right between them, most of all if they were entirely right
between Johnny and himself, this is the moment in which he
would take her in his arms. Subconsciously, both of them
know it. They enjoyed perfection, when they were young
together, as closely perhaps as people come to it. Life
together, when they were young, was very right between them.
This day has moved Katie to an instinctive reach back toward
that old perfection, which they have not felt in a long time.
This is what she is subconsciously asking from Johnny. And
subconsciously he realizes this. And because of his
failures, he has not quite the feeling of this perfection,
this completeness, to give her. This feeling is taut between
them for a moment. And then Johnny feels instinctively the
necessity of talking a little more, to try to reassure
himself, to try to build with his words something more of
reassurance that everything is all right within him. This
very feeling is an acknowledgment that he no longer has that
perfection to offer her. So, with his words, they go past
the perfect moment. Katie senses this. There is a desperate
need in her for Johnny to take her in his arms, without any
more words, as he would do if their world were right. She is
trying to hold on to this moment, not to let it get by, when
after a moment she speaks.
That's nice, Johnny, but--
himself into believing)
Ain't no buts about it, I mean it.
Things are goin' to be different
around here, you -- you got no
business workin' like you do.
I don't mind the work, I--
No sir, I ain't goin' to have it.
Look at them pretty hands, they got
no business bein' in water all the
time. I'm goin' to change a lot of
things. I'm goin' to quit the
drinkin' too. And just to show you,
here's my tip money, you can--
No, Johnny, the tips are yours --
you take all a man's money, it ain't
(accepting this a
shade too easily)
Well, there's a dime anyway. I -- I
had to take a nickel out of the bank
for carfare, you can put a dime back.
But I'm goin' to keep at 'em down at
union headquarters and make 'em get
me jobs. Tonight's the beginning of
somethin' new, Katie -- you believe
me, don't you, Katie?
Sure, Johnny, sure I do.
I'll be singin' all over Brooklyn
and maybe Manhattan too. Have you
heard Johnny Nolan sing, they'll say.
Yes sir, our luck's turned, and some
(from her heart)
Ah, stop it, Johnny, stop it, stop
He looks at her, hurt, amazed. Katie has had all she can
stand. It isn't any good, it's phony.
Talkin' like that only makes it
worse! We ain't got a chance, who
are we tryin' to kid!
There is a long pause. The truth that has been torn from
Katie is the last thing either of them wanted to face -- it
is the sort of thing people try the hardest to keep from
facing. But it is here. All Johnny's desperate effort to kid
himself dies within him. He stares out the window. He could
not possibly look at Katie in this moment.
Yeah. That's right, sure, who am I
tryin' to kid.
Katie feels sorry for him, for them both, but there is no
use in weakening -- you can no longer evade the hard truth.
I didn't go to hurt you, but it's
the truth, I can't change it,
Yeah, and I can tell you somethin'
else, too. All that baloney about
the encores tonight -- that was just
because they was a little drunk and
feelin' good. I wasn't so hot.
(dry and hard)
No use talkin' like that, it won't
I don't know, as long as we're on
the truth, let's keep lookin' at it.
I'm the one ought to be kicked out,
not Sissy. I got a wife and kids and
I don't take care of 'em, I don't
know why. I didn't want the kids
when they come, but I love 'em --
how could you help it -- sure, I
love 'em a lot, but I just can't
seem to turn into a hard-workin'
man to take care of 'em. What sense
does that make, all I want to do is
sing, I don't know why. And I guess
that's right, I ain't ever goin' to
be able to change it. Sure, you're
right, who am I tryin' to kid.
This comes so quietly from Johnny that it is frightening.
For the first time in his life he has faced himself. Katie
made him do it, even if she did not intend to. They have
both faced him. So these two will never again feel quite the
same about one another. What he has said is bitterly true,
there is no answer to it. -- Katie slowly picks up some of
the dishes from the table, as though she would take them to
the sink. But even lifelong habit is no good, and she sets
them back on the table.
We better get some sleep.
Katie stands helplessly a moment, and then starts toward the
bedroom. Johnny doesn't move.
In the PARLOR Francie is lying on her bed beside the window,
illumined by the faint moonlight. She is awake, staring at
the ceiling, as if feeling a presentiment about the next
room. Outside the window stands the Tree in the backyard,
bereft of most of its branches, but stark and strong in the
moonlight. The scene fades out.
MCGARRITY'S SALOON fades in, in the early morning. It is a
small corner saloon. Next to a big free lunch sign is a
cigar store with a wooden cigar store Indian. -- McGarrity,
the proprietor, is just finishing sweeping the sidewalk.
McGarrity waves in answer and goes inside. -- The place is
deserted except for Johnny, who is sitting at a table, head
down on his arms at a table. Before him is a whiskey glass
and a litter of cigarettes. McGarrity studies him
compassionately, then goes over and shakes him gently by the
Seven o'clock, Johnny, better be
Johnny raises his head wearily. He has not been asleep. And
he is not as drunk as he would like to be, although he has
tried hard to drink enough so that he would stop thinking.
Sure, sure, home.
"Home is where the heart is--"
He pulls himself to his feet and moves somewhat uncertainly
to the bar. Automatically, McGarrity goes behind the bar,
and just as automatically wipes the polished surface.
Write nice songs about it, don't
I sing 'em good, too, don't I, Mac?
Sure, Johnny, sure.
Don't just sure me like that, Mac.
You're wrong about somethin', you
don't know it, but you're wrong. I'm
not ever goin' home any more.
Sure you are, Johnny, you got a
mighty nice family to go home to.
You don't get it. I'm goin' there,
I'm gonna walk down the same street,
I'm gonna turn in the same door, and
there'll be my nice family, but I
won't ever be goin' home again. Give
me a drink, Mac.
I don't get you, boy.
Sure you don't, I don't get it
either. I pretty near did, sittin'
there thinkin' about it. Listen, Mac,
listen good now.
"Maxwellton's braes are bonnie,
where early fa's the dew--"
What did you hear, Mac?
You always sing good, if that's what
If that's what I mean I don't know
what I mean. What good is singing --
you feel somethin', but there ain't
nobody hears what you feel. It's no
good -- she used to hear, but not
any more. So I won't ever be goin'
home again. I hate singin'. I
should've been tendin' bar like you.
Don't ever sing, Mac.
McGarrity studies Johnny closely. He knows Johnny is in pain
about something, but he isn't quite sure what.
(polishing the bar)
Lots of angles to it, boy. You
wouldn't be any good tendin' bar.
You're a funny fellow, Johnny.
Sure, sure, I'm funny. I want a
I don't know if I'd trade with you
-- a poet that can't write, that's
bad. But it takes all kinds of
people, maybe some of 'em just
wasn't meant to make a livin'. And
maybe I would trade, at that. And
now you better get home to that nice
family, your missus will be worryin'.
All right, it's the nicest family in
the world, you think I don't know
that. Give me a drink, I said.
Easy, Johnny, easy.
(he sets out a drink)
Have one on the house.
Sure, that's better, and I'll sing
for it, that's what I'll do, I'll
sing for it.
McGarrity studies Johnny compassionately as Johnny pours the
drink. Johnny's bitterness toward life, and most of all his
hatred for himself and what he is, is at its peak.
The scene dissolves to the NOLAN TENEMENT as Francie emerges
with pencil box and books, starting out for school. In a
moment the door bursts open and Neeley emerges, always a
little late. He has his books in a strap. As he joins her,
Neeley starts to rip off the tie he is supposed to wear to
Neeley Nolan, you stop that.
Aw, I don't want to wear no old tie,
Aw, go chase yourself.
But he submits to her mothering as she starts to pull the
tie back into place. Suddenly they hear a clamor off scene
-- and we then see what they see: Johnny, drunk and unsteady,
is just coming around the corner surrounded by a swarm of
derisive kids. Johnny pays no attention to them.
Just pickle my bones in alcohol.
He's stiffer than a goat, look how he
Francie and Neeley run to their father. Francie pushes her
way to him and tries to take his arm.
You leave him alone! Papa -- come
on, let's go home, let's hurry, papa.
Johnny tries uncertainly to smile, but he is pretty far gone.
(to the kids)
You leave him alone or I'll bust you
The kids pay no attention. Neeley socks one of them and a
fight is on. Francie tries desperately to help Johnny toward
McShane enters from across the street, and breaks up the
(to the kids)
Come on now, quit it -- quit it or
I'll run you in. Beat it now.
The kids break and beat it, still yelling derisively.
Francie and Neeley remain and McShane turns back to them.
Now, my lad, where do you live?
I'll take him home, he's my father.
I expect you'd best be gettin' on to
school, hadn't you? I'll look after
him for you.
Don't you worry, he ain't in any
trouble, I'll take good care of him.
This the building?
Second floor back. If -- if you talk
to him, he -- he's always all right
Don't you fret a minute.
(he takes Johnny's arm)
Come on now -- we'll make it, lad.
Johnny gives him a blurred look but submits to being led up
the steps, and as Francie stands looking after them,
miserable, the scene dissolves to the TENEMENT HALL where
McShane helps Johnny toward the Nolan door. Johnny only
half-coherently tries to sing.
"When Irish eyes are smiling--"
Quiet, now, quiet does it.
Got to sing, don't you, very
important, and she'll hear you, but
you got to sing ju-u-st right, so
she can get the door open first,
All right, sing then, if it eases
what's hurtin' you.
"When Irish eyes are smiling--"
The noise causes a couple of neighbors, who open their doors,
to look out. McShane knocks at the Nolan door, and Katie
appears, just ready to start her morning's janitor work.
McShane is surprised to see her.
Scarcely noticing McShane, she starts to help Johnny into
the kitchen. McShane helps. -- The scene cuts to the KITCHEN
as they get Johnny into a chair at the table. McShane
studies Katie, who is busy with Johnny.
I -- I didn't -- I didn't expect to
see you, ma'am. Is there anything I
He's my husband, I can take care of
It's all right now, Johnny, I'll get
you a nice cup of coffee.
Nice cup of coffee, nice cup of
Katie goes to the stove. McShane stands awkwardly for a
I just wanted to tell you, the
gentleman wasn't makin' no trouble,
just -- needed a little help.
Katie stops pouring the coffee to look at him. She is
instinctively defensive about Johnny, so her look is
antagonistic at any intrusion into their family troubles.
If -- if there's anything I can do,
Katie comes over and puts the coffee down in front of Johnny.
There, Johnny, drink it.
(then, turning to McShane)
If you wasn't new on the beat, Mr.
McShane, you'd know Johnny never
makes trouble -- and you'd know the
whole Nolan family don't need
anybody's help, and -- and I'd thank
you very much, Mr. McShane, to mind
your own business.
Her eyes meet his squarely.
(after a moment)
Sure -- Mrs. Nolan.
He turns and goes, closing the door behind him. Katie turns
Out in the HALL, McShane pauses a moment beside the door and
looks back toward the room a little ruefully. He sure caught
hell. He grins in admiration, then starts down the stairs.
The scene dissolves to the PUBLIC SCHOOL. The school yard is
swarming with children. The bell is ringing, and the
youngsters start to form lines to march in. This dissolves
to the EIGHTH GRADE CLASSROOM. The view is focused on one
group and then moves past the intent, struggling faces of
other children as they recite in unison, with a curious
cadence with which poetry is scanned.
"Beau-ty is truth truth beau-ty that
is all Ye know on earth and all ye
need to know."
The camera comes to Neeley, and then Francie; then pulls
back to reveal a classroom so crowded that some of the
children have to sit in the aisles in chairs without desks.
The teacher, MISS TILFORD, middle-aged, and tired, is at the
blackboard, marking off with chalk the metric divisions of
the lines which are written on the board. Miss Tilford is
repeating it with them.
(as they finish)
Now, who knows the name of the meter?
(looking at the class;
Francie's hand is up)
You can't "know but." You either
know or you don't know.
I know it's iambic pentameter, five
metric feet, with a long syllable
coming after a short one, but-- I
only meant to say-- I was thinking
about the words, what they mean,
and I wondered--
You don't have to know the words,
Frances, only the meter. And we're
late now for our arithmetic. The
class will get their arithmetic
She moves to the desk. There is a general rustle in the
class as the exchange of books is made. Francie sits down
(opening her book)
Now then! The farmer has a hundred
and sixty-nine apples in a barrel.
He wants to divide them into equal
piles, with as many apples in each
pile as there are piles of apples.
How would he go about it?
(as there is no
answer, she goes on)
What method would he use -- What is
the latest process we've been
(with hand raised)
If beauty is truth and that's all ye
need -- I mean all you need to know
-- Then that means it's the most
important thing, and if a man -- I
mean somebody -- spent all their
time just trying to live like that
-- Well it's hard to put, but no
matter what else he did, then --
She falters, feeling strongly what she wants to say, but
unable to say it. Neeley knows what she is getting at.
Then what, Frances?
Then -- it would be all right,
wouldn't it -- I guess.
I'm afraid I haven't the slightest
idea what you're talking about,
Frances, but I do know we're
disrupting the arithmetic! Now,
class! Square root! Does no one
remember square root!?
As Francie sits down, deeply humiliated, the scene dissolves
to the CLASSROOM while the children are filing past a doctor
and a nurse, who examine briefly the head of each child,
looking for lice. As they finish, the children are free to
leave. Francie and Neeley are in line. The doctor is
examining a boy, and indicates for the nurse to look.
Report to your principal and give
him this card.
The boy goes on with the card nonchalantly, but as he leaves
some kids who successfully passed the examination, jeer:
Mickey's lousy, Mickey's lousy!
Neeley, next in line, submits indifferently, and dashes to
his cronies as soon as the doctor murmurs "All right."
Francie steps up. She offers her head, enduring the
examination as a necessary evil, but clearly knowing it
is not necessary in her case. Miss Tilford, checking the
line, observes her.
He has turned to the next child and misses Francie's
scornful glance -- as much as to say "I know that" -- but
Miss Tilford sees it, and suddenly feels a compunction.
(as Francie passes her)
Yes, Miss Tilford?
Er -- maybe I was a little too
abrupt with you this morning -- I
mean, you are a smart girl and --
it's just that you must learn to
stick to the point and not go
wandering off the subject.
Yes, Miss Tilford.
If you'll do that, you needn't worry
I wasn't worrying about--
(giving up; meekly)
Yes, Miss Tilford, thank you, Miss
As she wanders out, completely lost, the scene dissolves to
the SCHOOLYARD. Neeley has waited for Francie and they are
now walking across the yard toward the gate. Francie is
How should I know if they knew you
was talkin' about him. I don't see
what for you want to talk so much
anyway. Pop was just a little drunk,
that don't hurt nobody.
(he breaks off as
he sees something
We then see SISSY, from their angle, waiting at the corner
for them. She waves. -- The children stop short in a
What'll we do? We ain't supposed to
talk to her.
I don't know--
(she has an idea)
Neeley, that's all they said, we
was only supposed not to talk to
Neeley's face brightens. Francie hurries toward Sissy and
Sissy embraces them both, and doesn't notice their silence.
Chickabiddies! I couldn't stand it
no longer! I just had to get a peek.
Man alive, you both look good enough
Francie shakes her head warningly. Sissy doesn't notice.
Well, how are you anyway?
(no answer --
Francie stares at
Tell me all about it, how's things
Well, you're not lettin' me get a
word in edgewise. Oh -- I catch!
You ain't allowed to talk to me,
(they nod -- she
laughs and hugs
Well, you do just like your mama
said. But there ain't nobody said
anything about me talkin' to you,
is that it?
(they nod and
heads in happy
Smart enough for lawyers, the both
of you! Well, let's see, you can nod
and shake and make faces, can't you
... How's Katie?
And your papa?
(they hesitate, then
Not workin' much?
(they shake their
Well, don't you worry, he will.
(they nod; then
Any sign of the ice meltin' in my
(they shrug and Sissy
Guess I'll have to tell Bill you
still got scarlet fever, he's kinda
wonderin'... Oh, well. And how's
There is a divided opinion on this. Neeley's shrug implies
that it's okay enough, but to hell with it. But the question
has revived Francie's problem, and her shake of the head is
troubled. Sissy's interest centers on her.
What's wrong, ain't you doin' good?
Well ... got in any trouble?
(there is a
Teacher mean to you?
(there's a division
of opinion -- a half-
hearted negative from
Francie, a nod from
Neeley. Sissy is
I don't get it, lamb, somethin's
troubling you, maybe I ain't askin'
the right questions.
Francie looks at her miserably, wanting terribly to talk to
Sissy, to someone, about it. For a moment the scene is at an
impasse. Then Francie has an idea.
(he looks at her)
Neeley, Aunt Sissy wants to know if
it's because the teacher's mean to
Sure she is, she--
Francie touches his arm, shakes her head, indicates that he
is to talk to her, not Sissy. The great light dawns on
Oh -- was you speakin' to me,
Francie? Why yes, Francie. I'd say
that teacher was pretty mean,
wouldn't you, Francie? I'd say all
teachers was pretty mean, Francie.
(as Sissy grins at
Well, Neeley, I wouldn't say that
she was mean, exactly. That isn't
what we mean, Neeley, is it?
Ain't it, Francie?
No, what we mean is, Neeley,
school's to learn things in, that's
what it's for, isn't it, and if you
Well now, look, Francie -- if you
mean all that talkin you did about
pop, then I don't know--
Neeley Nolan, you don't understand
anything. You got to know things, if
they're important, that's what
school's for, isn't it? It's just if
she'd tell you things, not just the
meter but what they mean, that's what
teachers ought to do -- Isn't it,
Well, Francie, maybe you know what
you're talkin' about, but if you ask
me, you just talk but don't say
It's all right, lamb. I can't say I
could draw a map of it, but I get
some of it.
Francie to her)
You quit worryin' about it, hon, and
run along home. Maybe your old Aunt
Sissy can do somethin' about it.
(she hugs them
Look, maybe it's just as well if you
don't say nothin' at home about
seein' me -- you know, it ain't lyin'
as long as nobody asks you.
I guess we can't help it, Francie,
if people listen to us in the street.
He is off like a shot, calling to a group of boys. Francie
smiles gratefully into Sissy's eyes. Sissy watches after her
a moment, and then her face hardens. Nobody is going to make
Francie suffer because of her father's weakness, or for any
other reason, whatever it may be. She starts toward the
The scene dissolves to a CLASSROOM. Sissy is standing
belligerently in front of a bewildered Miss Tilford's desk.
What I'm sayin' is, whatever it is
you're teachin' the other kids that
Francie ain't gettin' -- I ain't
gonna have it!
But I assure you that your daughter
is being taught exactly the same as
the other children. If you could
just tell me what it is that you
Look, lady. I don't know myself what
we're talkin' about. I ain't very
smart, I guess you seen that. But
somethin's eatin' that kid, and
she's a good kid and don't you hold
out nothin' on her, don't you teach
the other kids nothin' she ain't
Well, you see that you do like I
Or I'll call a cop, and that ain't
kiddin' either. I used to be married
With this last lame threat she stalks out, leaving Miss
Tilford shaking her head in relief as though at a lunatic
who hasn't affected her at all.
The scene dissolves to the NOLAN KITCHEN where we get a
close view of the Sunday funny paper spread on the floor.
The text is the Katzenjammer Kids. This dissolves to a full
view of the kitchen to show Neeley sprawled on the floor
with the funny paper. Francie is quietly staring out the
window, preoccupied, drumming on it idly. Katie enters from
the hall, with a few clothes over her arm that she has just
brought in from the line to be ironed. She stops abruptly
when she doesn't see Johnny in the room. Her question
carries quick, instinctive apprehension that Johnny may have
gone out to get drunk again.
Where's your papa, did he go out?
Johnny appears from the bedroom. He has heard.
(with quiet bitterness)
No, he didn't go out.
Oh. I thought--
I ain't goin' to McGarrity's, if
that's what you mean.
Them's fine compositions -- they
read nice, Prima Donna.
Thank you, papa.
Johnny has the compositions in his hand. He goes over to the
table and puts them down. He isn't looking at Katie. This
Sunday is a hard day for Johnny. With what has happened
between him and Katie, it is very difficult to be shut in
these small quarters with his family, with something dead
between them. Life is at low ebb for Johnny. He picks up a
piece of the newspaper and studies it absently, to avoid
looking at Katie. Katie studies him for a second. She, too,
is aware of the tension, but life has to go on. She puts the
clothes into her work basket and starts to mend some of them.
There is a little silence.
of all this)
Pop, why don't the Katzenjammer Kids
talk plain English?
Supposed to make it funny, I guess.
Francie, you been staring out that
window for half an hour. Can't you
make up your mind to do something?
What shall I do?
You used to like to do your homework
I -- I don't know, I don't like
school as much as I used to.
Now you're gettin' some sense!
School's just the same this year as
it was last.
You know that big market on Clancy
Street, down the hill?
We can't deal there, if that's what
you mean. That neighborhood's
Well, I wasn't talking about the
You said did I know that market.
Neeley, don't just lie there and
scuff your shoes out.
Well, I meant, the other day I
walked home that way, and -- and do
you know what's just a couple of
blocks away from that market?
Another market, I guess, and am I
supposed to guess what's two blocks
away from that. Why don't you say
what you mean, Francie?
I didn't mean anything, I guess.
From behind his paper, Johnny gives her a quick look. He
knows Francie has something on her mind, and is getting no
place with it. He is very much aware of the unconscious duel
between the two.
Sometimes it looks like you make
these holes on purpose, Neeley.
Aw, can I help it if things just
You know what I read in a magazine
(getting a look
What was it, Francie?
Well, it said walking is a good
thing, it said people would look and
feel better if they walked a lot.
"Walk and put rose petals in your
cheeks," it said.
Then I ought to be a ravin' beauty
with all those stairs.
Francie wanders over to her father's chair, and stands in
back of it. As she talks it is clear it is for his benefit.
It didn't mean that. It meant --
Well, like on a Sunday, people would
feel lots better if they took a long
walk or something, instead of just
sitting around and--
Francie, I want you to stop talkin'
around things like that. It ain't
right. If you got somethin' to say,
I want you to say it right out,
back to the window)
I wasn't going to say anything. I
was just talking about walking.
Johnny, from behind his paper, shoots a quick look at Katie
and then at Francie. He lays down his paper, gets to his
feet and stretches himself. When he speaks, it is indirectly
a reproof to Katie.
Been so much talk about walkin', I
think I'll take one. Come along,
Francie's face lights up, but she restrains herself quickly.
Oh, yes, sure, papa.
Johnny grins at her and starts to pick up his coat. As Katie
looks sharply at him the scene dissolves to a STREET in a
BETTER NEIGHBORHOOD: Francie and Johnny are walking together.
She has hold of his arm proudly.
Must be pretty special, this place
you walk to that's two blocks from a
This way, papa.
They come to a corner and Francie stops. Johnny looks around,
but can't make out just what it is.
Is this it, Prima Donna?
Johnny looks where she points, and we next see the new
school from their angle. It is a long way from being the
best school you ever saw, but it is different from the old
one -- a bigger yard, a few trees, less dingy. Johnny looks
from the school back to Francie. It doesn't make sense,
(Francie can only nod)
I don't get it, baby.
It must be just as nice inside,
don't you think? The teachers and
She falters to a stop.
What are you gettin' at, Prima
Francie can't look at him. It is such a hard thing to
explain, even to papa. Her reply is almost a whisper.
Bend down, papa.
I wish I could go to that school,
The strange intensity of her feelings touches Johnny. He
doesn't want to let her down, but he doesn't know quite what
to do about it. He puts his arm around her.
I don't know. It would be awful nice
but they got rules, honey, you got
to go to the school where you live.
Francie's face falls. She knew that this was the answer.
I know. I didn't really--
She can't go on.
(he can't stand it)
Wait a minute, maybe there's a way,
it's a free country, ain't it?
(as he sings)
"School days, school days--" Maybe
we could move near to here.
(like a shot)
Well, not just yet, Prima Donna, not
for a while. But just as soon as our
ship comes in, you'll see.
Oh, only by that time I'll--
You want to go there awful bad,
don't you, baby?
Then, look, we're goin' to find a
Well now, I've got to turn this
thing over some. Let's us do a
little more walkin', it's -- maybe
it's good for thinkin' too.
With complete faith in this, Francie takes his arm again and
as they start to walk the scene dissolves to a RESIDENCE
STREET composed of small houses, fairly attractive. Johnny
and Francie come down the sidewalk. They are walking slowly.
That's not a bad house, how'd you
like to live there? Nice little
(shaking her head)
I don't like brown houses.
Well, maybe a coat of paint.
(seeing the next house)
(Johnny looks, Francie
Johnny looks and we get a view of the next house -- small,
white, a neat white fence, and flowers.
Yes sir, that's it.
If we only could!
Well, why can't we. Our luck's bound
to turn, and the first thing we'll
do is buy that little house when--
The fairy tale is back, and Francie's elation is gone.
Johnny looks at her, cornered.
Look, as long as we're goin' to buy
that house some day, why can't we
maybe borrow it for now? Like -- say
we make out it's ours, then your
98 Hibbard Avenue -- startin' right
now! Then, you see, you got to
transfer from your old school.
(it is too much to
understand all at once)
How do you mean, papa?
That's it ... We could say you come
here to live with your aunt, your
rich old aunt. She's lonely and
she's goin' to leave you all her
Oh papa, could we really!
Sure we could, it's nobody's
business. And every day you eat off
real china dishes with little
cherries painted onto 'em, and when
you drink coffee, you have a cup and
saucer to match, and a plate too,
like they come from a restaurant.
Sometimes I forget to water the
geraniums and you ought to hear
Auntie scold me!
You got to put up with her crotchets
-- after all, you're her heir.
That -- that could be my room up
there where the little window is.
Johnny, watching her, suddenly becomes troubled by the
enormity of what he is doing.
Now look, Prima Donna, you know what
we're doin' ain't exactly accordin'
to the rules.
You mean it's wrong?
Not by a jugful it ain't wrong. See,
the house is here, and we're here,
and the school -- we wasn't all
brought together like this just for
no reason. But ... we'll have to
keep it a kind of secret, you won't
be able to tell anybody, and you'll
have to be extra good to make up for
Oh, I will!
(she looks around)
I think here comes auntie now.
An elderly man and woman, coming down the street, turn in at
the gate. They are very nice looking.
I see you got an uncle too.
(they both laugh;
everything is settled)
Now, I'm goin' to show you a way to
your new school through a little
park. I know right where it is, and
you can see the seasons change on
He has taken her by the arm and they are moving again down
(trying to speak)
Papa -- bend down.
(but she is too
moved for mortal
My cup runneth over.
Her eyes glisten softly.
The scene dissolves to the NOLAN KITCHEN at night. Francie
is helping Katie with the dishes, but hovering over Johnny
who is laboriously writing a letter on the kitchen table.
Across from him Neeley scowls over his homework.
It's dishonest, that's what it is.
You're settin' the child an awful
Papa says if it doesn't hurt anybody,
and you're not dishonest in your
You two with your fancy words --
(paying no attention)
How you spell "transfer," Prima
I'd ruther be shot than do this
It'll come to you, sonny ... And
another thing. We kept Francie out a
year so's she and Neeley could be in
the same class, so's she could look
after him, and here just the year
they're gettin' ready to graduate,
you go and--
(she breaks off,
It's against the law and it's makin'
her live a lie and -- I won't have
you doin' it.
Johnny stops writing. For the first time he turns and looks
squarely at her, speaking very quietly.
I'm goin' to do this for her, Katie.
Maybe it's my fault or not there
ain't much I can give her -- but
this is one thing she's goin' to
There is a pause. Katie is surprised by his firmness. She is
the first to falter.
It'll make an awful long walk for
(with a gleam of hope)
I don't mind gettin' up early.
It'll be lots harder on your shoes,
and you won't have dresses like the
I'll wash and iron my dress every
(writing again, with
a funny little smile)
How do you spell appreciate,
If the principal of the school
swallows that story -- which I don't
think he will -- I'll see what I can
do about makin' over that checked
dress of mine.
Katie goes on washing the dishes to cover her surrender.
Francie's face is radiant. Johnny smiles a little to himself
as he writes.
The scene dissolves to the PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE where Francie
is standing anxiously before the principal as he reads
Johnny's note. At length he looks up from the note.
Why not? My school's overcrowded as
Francie smiles tremulously. It is almost too good to be true.
-- This dissolves to "FRANCIE'S LITTLE HOUSE." Francie, her
coat over the new plaid dress, approaches the little house.
She pauses near the gate, looks in. It is a miracle, this
little house of hers. She sees a scrap of paper, and a
broken dead flower stem inside the fence. Making sure no one
is looking, she slips through and picks these up. It is her
gesture of serving the little house. As she starts out the
gate again, her manner changes and for a fleeting moment she
has the job of pretense that it is really hers, and she is
emerging to start to school. She walks through the gate with
something of the manner of a princess. The gate squeaks a
little. She tries it again.
Dear me, I must remember to oil that
As she goes on down the street, completely happy, the scene
dissolves to a CLASSROOM in the NEW SCHOOL. The room is
different, less crowded, cleaner. Class has just taken up.
Miss McDonough, the teacher, is standing beside her desk,
her arm around Francie's shoulder.
This is Frances Nolan, class. I'm
sure you'll all make her welcome to
our school. Now this will be your
(she takes Francie
to the desk)
And one more thing, Frances. Don't
worry about marks at first. I've
told the class, often, it isn't the
marks that count, it's the knowledge
that you make your own, that you
make forever and forever a part of
you. Now you may go to your desk.
Miss McDonough turns to her desk. Francie stands a second.
For a moment it is too good to be true. Then she slips down
into the desk. It is hers. She begins to smile.
The scene dissolves to the NOLAN KITCHEN where we first see
Francie ironing her school dress as she talks. She is
thrilled over her first day at the new school. Then the
scene pulls back to reveal Johnny and Katie also in the
kitchen. Katie is laying the table for supper. Johnny is
finishing getting dressed to go out on another job.
And oh, Miss McDonough is just
wonderful. She said we could choose
anything in the world to write this
composition about, just anything.
She said it was good for us to
choose our own subject.
Well, that's mighty fine, Prima
Donna. What did you decide on?
She said it'd be nice if we wrote
about something in nature. But we
don't know much about nature, do we,
Well, your tree's nature.
But just one tree for a composition,
it'd be awful short. What else is
Grass, wind, dogs -- why don't you
write about a dog?
Are dogs nature?
But I'd like this to be kind of a --
special composition. She was so
I'll tell you what then -- what am I
doin' tonight but goin' to sea on
the good ship Governor Clinton, and
the ocean's nature, ain't it? I'll
keep an eye on the sea tonight, and
tell you all about that.
Through this, Katie busies herself with the scanty
preparations for the meal. Johnny is getting a warm glow out
of Francie's happiness over the new school that he has given
her. Katie knows deep inside herself that she never would
have given Francie this odd gift, so there is an instinctive
little resentment of the closeness between father and
daughter. None of it is lost on her.
Bein' a waiter on a little excursion
boat goin' up the Hudson River ain't
exactly goin' to sea.
Sure it is, it's a kind of a sea,
it's water. I'll remember everything
about it, so you can write about the
bright blue sea, Prima Donna. How's
I think that would be kind of
Your Miss McDonough bein' so
wonderful, she didn't happen to
mention where our supper was comin'
from tonight, did she?
(appearing suddenly from
his bedroom, on cue)
Did you say supper, mom, I'm hungry.
There ain't much, sonny. But maybe
we can fill out with one o' them
compositions about the bright blue
Prima Donna, you know what -- this
ought to be extra special for your
new school. You know what we're goin'
If there's tips enough on this job
tonight, come Sunday, I'm goin' to
take you to see the ocean for
The really ocean?
Me, too, pop?
You bet. It ain't right livin' this
close and you never even seen it.
(changing her mind)
Nothing. Maybe at that it's better
than that McGarrity gettin' your tip
Yeah. I get it -- I -- I wasn't
(to the children)
Sure, your mama's right, we better
get a little bread and bacon in that
old cupboard before we go to takin'
fishin' trips. But we'll go one of
these days, when-- well, you wait
(he takes his hat)
Well, this ain't earnin' the family
(ready to go, grateful
to escape this)
Needn't wait up. If I know the
Governor Clinton, I won't be bringin'
home no caviar. Goodnight, my
I'll keep an eye out good, Prima
Donna, and tell you all about it.
He is gone. There is an odd little tension in the room for
a moment. Katie sets the last things on the table.
All right, men, step right up and
get your rations.
Oh, golly, mom, you mean we got to
play North Pole again?
I couldn't help it, son, there wasn't
a penny in the pitcher.
Look, you can be captain, Neeley,
and when we find the Pole you can
drive in the stake with your name on
The children sit down and Katie pours the coffee. What food
there is, is on the table -- a heel of bread, a bit of cold
potato, cracker crumbs.
Gosh, even caviar would look good,
lookin' at that stuff.
My, fish from Alaskan waters and
chopped Eskimo whale.
That's right, knowin' about all them
ocean things sure helps to keep you
from feelin' hungry, don't it?
I'd rather think about all that free
lunch down at McGarrity's. Mom, how
much longer do I got to be a minor?
You ain't ever goin' to start takin'
anything from that place.
I bet papa'll bring home some swell
food, nice rolls and--
Aw, quit it. Mom -- I'm hungry.
Neeley's eyes meet hers, and he gets hold of himself, and
gulps some coffee.
Mama, you'd rather do anything than
break into the star bank, wouldn't
Just about. Bein' a little hungry
ain't never as bad if you know you
got a little somethin' in the bank.
(Katie looks at her)
When explorers get hungry, there's
a reason, something big comes out of
it, like they discover the North
Pole. But what's the big thing comes
out of us bein' hungry.
You found the catch in it, Francie.
(then, ashamed of
Aw, that's no way to talk. Sure,
somethin' comes out of it. Courage,
my men, the Spring thaws will be
here before you know it.
She roughs Neeley's hair affectionately as she goes to get
some more coffee. The scene fades out.
The BEDROOM CLOSET fades in. Katie is prying the star bank
loose. Neeley, loaded down with blankets and frying pans,
Run along, sonny -- I ain't goin'
to spill a penny!
She slides a paper under the bank, lifts it, and wraps it
quickly in a dish towel, keeping her word. They go out
through the now bare bedroom.
The scene cuts to the KITCHEN, which is empty of everything
but the stove. The Nolan bedstead is just going through the
door, borne out by Charlie, whose cap bears the simple
(taking a last
I guess we got everything.
Out in the HALL, Charlie, carrying the bed up, and Mr.
Crackenbox, carrying a trunk down, have difficulty passing
each other on the stairs, and Katie and Neeley have to wait.
A humble bit of crepe hangs on the Gaddis door; Katie
A couple of women tenants peer out their doors at the moving.
Johnny ain't doin' too well, eh,
Just movin' nearer to the sun.
Soon's we heard Mrs. Waters was
vacatin', we made up our minds.
She goes on up determinedly with Neeley.
Next, on the FOURTH FLOOR, Francie is seen leaning excitedly
over the banister, as Charlie struggles up the last of the
stairs and through the door of a rear flat, just over the
Nolans' old one.
Neeley, our new fire escape leads
right up onto the roof.
Whoever lives on the top floor gets
dibs on the roof!
As Katie follows him up, Mrs. Waters, the vacating tenant,
comes out of the flat, and addresses her anxiously. The
children fly into the flat.
I been waitin' for' you, Mrs. Nolan.
There's somethin' I got to ask you
-- a favor. I -- I better show you.
She leads the way into the KITCHEN of the NEW FLAT. This is
a little smaller, darker, meaner. Some of the Nolan
belongings are in place, some in a tangle. Mrs. Waters leads
Katie to the parlor. Francie and Neeley climb in the window
from the fire escape and follow. The scene cuts to the
PARLOR, which is empty of furniture except for a small,
old-fashioned upright piano. Mrs. Waters touches it
The late Mr. Waters gave it to me
for a wedding present. It won't go
down the stairs, and they want
fifteen dollars to move it lowerin'
it out the window. Do you mind my
leavin' it, Mrs. Nolan? It don't
take much room, and some day, when
I get the fifteen dollars, I'll send
back for it.
Why, sure I don't mind, Mrs. Waters.
(to Mrs. Waters)
Can you play it?
No, neither one of us could.
And if it ain't too much trouble,
you could dust it off once in a
while and leave the kitchen door
open a little so it won't get cold
Sure I will. And I hope it won't be
long until you can send back for it.
She follows Mrs. Waters out and both children cross their
fingers instantly, showing they don't share their mother's
"hope." Then, reverently, each strikes a note.
The scene cuts to the KITCHEN as Mr. Crackenbox comes out of
the smaller bedroom carrying the last of Mrs. Waters'
possessions, topped by a small, cheap, old bassinet. Mrs.
Waters is about to follow him out, when Katie sees the
bassinet. (Charlie is heard putting up the bedstead in the
Mrs. Waters. That -- that -- is it
Yeah, we kept the baby in it --
about thirty years ago.
I was just thinkin'... if you don't
need it. ... Make a nice handy
little washbasket. I'd be glad to
give you a quarter for it.
Why sure. My Edgar's kids is even
Tenderly the two lift the thing down, and Mr. Crackenbox
goes out with the rest of the load. Katie gets a quarter out
of the bank, then quickly wraps it up again.
(touching her; softly)
Excuse me for askin', Mrs. Nolan,
but-- it won't really make a very
Their eyes meet.
Please don't say nothin'. I -- I
ain't told nobody yet.
(with deep feeling)
I know it ain't always easy, when
you're poor, but-- it'll be a
blessin' to you.
Yes, sure -- sure it will--
The children, starting to run in, rouse her, and she nods a
hasty farewell to Mrs. Waters as she hurries with the
bassinet into the bedroom. Mrs. Waters understands and goes.
(gleefully, to Francie)
I tell you, there ain't--
He runs into the smaller bedroom, as Katie comes back
carrying only the bank. Charlie emerges sweating.
(in a low tone)
Don't forget we're supposed to give
him a beer -- or the price of one.
Charlie wipes his sweating brow significantly, hopefully.
I can't thank you enough, Charlie.
Always glad to do my customers a
favor, of course.
He doesn't move.
We're real grateful, Charlie.
It ain't as though I was in the
regular movin' business.
We'll be takin' ice, once a week,
same as usual.
(after a pause; grimly)
He goes out, slamming the door. Francie looks reproachfully.
He worked awful hard, Mama!
We moved to this flat to save money.
We're not goin' to make a start by
throwin' away dimes.
No-sir, there ain't a bathtub
anywhere, I looked all over.
Katie grins, leads him to the kitchen sink and lifts out a
partition by which a tub can be improvised.
That's the tub, young man -- every
Saturday and Wednesday, same as
A knock causes Katie to breathe "Mr. Barker!" She sets the
bank down and quickly puts her hand to her hair as Francie
opens the door. Mr. Barker enters, looking around for
Well, seems like the Nolans have
come up in the world.
He means "down."
(glibly, like Katie)
Yes, we're so very very fond of the
(polite but hasty)
Sorry I can't ask you to sit, Mr.
Barker. I ain't even got the coffee
on yet. But I got the insurance
She reaches in her pocket.
(taking out his pen)
Smaller'n your old flat, ain't it?
Suddenly Johnny's voice singing "Molly Malone" is heard.
(quickly, to Neeley)
Run down and catch him before he
goes in the old place.
(to Mr. Barker, defensively)
Mr. Nolan happened to be -- working
when we found we could make the move.
Neeley goes out.
I suppose you're too busy to listen
to a bit of news -- about your sister.
(he pauses for effect)
She's goin' to have a baby.
Katie stares. After a moment, she speaks.
Tell her -- please tell my sister
she shouldn't make herself such a
(in his best manner)
I shall be very happy to render your
message. Your receipts, Mrs. Nolan.
Be sure to now, Mr. Barker.
Johnny appears in the doorway with Neeley. He is a little
bewildered by the move, can't say anything to Mr. Barker.
Good day to you, Mr. Nolan. Well,
I'm not one to spoil a family party.
I'll be on my way.
He scurries out. Johnny looks around the cheap little flat.
Surprise, Papa! Welcome to your new
Yeah, it's kind of a surprise, all
(after a moment,
Did you move up here because it was
cheaper -- I mean, because --
(not looking at him)
We got to save where we can,
somebody's got to. I don't mind the
He goes dejectedly to the window, accepting the full measure
of his defeat. The children, lost in this adult mystery only
know that Papa needs cheering.
We can still see the tree.
Pop, the top floor tenants, the
roof is theirs, and I ain't goin' to
let anybody up there except Henny
Gaddis because-- Hey, does Pop know?
Flossie Gaddis died last night.
Ah, the poor baby.
Everybody says it's a mercy, but I
think it must be awful sad to die.
(touching her hand)
Well, I don't know, baby. Maybe not,
if you get to a place where things
are goin' to keep gettin' worse for
you instead of better. Nice her mama
got her all them pretty dresses.
Only now it'll mean the poor
thing'll have to lay in Potter's
Yeah, but she had the dresses.
Katie doesn't like this kind of talk, that makes her kids
brood over things "way over their heads."
You better show your papa the piano.
Yeah, we better look at the piano,
(going into the parlor)
The lady that was here left it--
Alone, Katie picks up the bank, and the scene cuts to the
PARLOR. Johnny, under the fascinated gaze of his children,
strikes a chord.
Good tone. It's nice.
(he sits down, his
It'd be nice if you kids had some
lessons, now we got it. Maybe--
It isn't any good. His fingers move over the piano and
strike a note or two which suggest a song to him. He starts
to sing "Annie Laurie," simply, beautifully. The children
are spellbound. Katie appears in the doorway and listens a
moment. She is moved, not only by the singing, but by an
obscure sense of guilt. She speaks softly.
I never heard you sing that before.
It's -- pretty.
He doesn't look at her but goes on singing. As though it
were a reproof, Katie shrugs, and leaves the doorway.
Johnny's song goes on, all his longing and defeat pouring
out. Francie watches and listens with all her heart. After
a moment, a faint sound of hammering comes from the bedroom
and we next see the BEDROOM CLOSET and Katie kneeling,
hammering down the bank with an old shoe, fastening it to
the floor exactly as it was in their old closet. In a dark
corner the little bassinet stands hidden, waiting. The song
drifts in. Katie pauses almost imperceptibly, listening. Her
eyes rise to the bassinet. She goes back determinedly to
nailing down the star bank as the scene fades out.
FRANCIE'S CLASSROOM fades in, and we first get a close view
of a well-filled Christmas basket on Miss McDonough's desk
and "A Merry Christmas" card from the Eighth Grade. Then the
camera pulls back to reveal Miss McDonough finishing tying a
bow on the basket, and the class in their seats. The room
has some decoration for the Christmas season.
Well. This winds up a very pleasant
term. And I'm sure we'll all enjoy
our holidays more, knowing we've
helped some unfortunate family who'd
have had no Christmas dinner without
(she turns to the
class to dismiss them)
And so a very Merry-- Oh, one last
thing. This little pie Miss Shilling
brought up was left over. It's a bit
crushed, but-- anybody want it?
There is no answer from the class. They are all anxious to
get going. Francie has the impulse to speak, but is afraid
to. Her mouth waters for the pie.
My, what well-fed boys and girls ...
All right, class--
(unable to stand it)
I -- I just remembered -- I know a
very unfortunate family -- They live
in a -- a hovel, and there are two
children, little golden-haired twins,
and they're all starving! The pie
will -- will probably save their
Miss McDonough knows the story is phony. She eyes Francie
with a barely perceptible compassion.
Then you shall take the pie, by all
means. You can come and get it after
class is dismissed--
--which is now. Merry Christmas to
Merry Christmas, Miss McDonough.
The class breaks up and stampedes for the door, some of the
youngsters coming past Miss McDonough's desk, wishing her an
added Merry Christmas. -- This dissolves to FRANCIE standing
in front of MISS MCDONOUGH'S DESK.
That was a very fine Christmas
spirit, Frances, but -- it seems
such a tiny pie to save so many
It won't seem small to them, Miss
McDonough; even a little pie can
look awful big if you haven't had
very much to eat for days and days.
I'll have to tell them to eat it
slowly because if they eat it too
fast on an empty stomach -- they'll
-- they'll --
Miss McDonough doesn't say a word through this, but her
level gaze is too much for Francie.
It isn't true, it's all a lie. I
wanted it for myself.
I'll stay after school, I'll do
anything, but don't send a note
Francie is near tears. Miss McDonough takes her hand
I'm not going to punish you, child,
for being hungry -- or for having an
At these magic words, Francie looks at the teacher
incredulously. There is a little pause.
(with a little twinkle)
You know, that's something very few
people have. It's very precious.
(a trifle more seriously)
But it can also be dangerous, unless
we learn how to use it. Our everyday
lives are real and true, aren't they?
But all the stories in the world,
all the music, came out of someone's
imagination. So if we read the truth
and write the lies, then they aren't
lies anymore, they become stories.
Like some of the very nice
compositions you've written,
Like the one about my father taking
me to see the cotton fields down
South? We didn't really go.
Well -- I rather guessed you hadn't.
But don't you think it would be
still better if you'd write about
the things you really know about,
and then add to them with your
imagination? Even stories shouldn't
be just-- well, pipe dreams. Pipe
dreamers can be very lovable people
but -- they don't help anybody, not
Think about it a little. And now
enjoy your pie and have a Merry
(in a daze)
Yes, Miss McDonough. Thank you, Miss
She goes, so entranced that she is quite unaware of the pie
she is carrying. Miss McDonough looks after her
The scene dissolves to a STREET with Francie walking home so
beautifully deep in thought that she is still completely
unaware of the pie. As she comes to a corner she is met by
an impatient Neeley, who has been waiting for her.
For gosh sakes, where you been? You
was supposed to meet me at--
(seeing the pie)
Where'd you swipe that?
Neeley, I'm-I'm going to be a writer!
All right, but let's eat the pie.
Francie looks at the pie, surprised that she has it. Neeley
promptly takes it and breaks it in two -- gives her half and
starts on the other half himself.
(his mouth full of pie)
Come on, we got to get there about
our Christmas tree!
(coming back to earth)
Oh, golly, it isn't gone, is it?
Neeley shakes his head, already moving on. Francie starts to
eat her part of the pie as she follows, and the scene
dissolves to a CHRISTMAS TREE STAND in the afternoon.
There's a rather small selection of Christmas trees near the
sidewalk. The Christmas tree vendor, a big man, is trying to
keep warm by flapping his arms as he waits for customers. He
has a head cold. A few other kids are hanging around. --
Francie and Neeley appear and go straight to the biggest
Yeah, it's still here. He ain't got
much time left to sell it.
The vendor comes up, a woman customer with him.
(to all the kids)
Go on, beat it, you know I ain't
goin' to throw 'em till midnight.
You tryin' to block the sidewalk --
keep customers out?
NEELEY AND FRANCIE
Aw, you don't own the sidewalk. It's
a free country, ain't it?
(indicating "their" tree)
No, that one's too big. I want a
As the woman leaves their tree, Francie and Neeley breathe
(looking at the tree)
It's awful big, to get throwed at
you. Why does he have to throw 'em
at us anyway? Why can't he just give
'em to us if he don't sell 'em?
If he just gave them away everybody'd
wait and he'd never sell any of 'em.
(she touches the
Gee, it smells good.
As they settle down to wait the scene dissolves to the
CHRISTMAS TREE STAND at NIGHT. A number of excited kids are
standing in two lines, forming a sort of lane, at one end of
which stands the Christmas tree vendor, ready to throw the
trees. At the other end of the lane stands a ten-year-old
boy. -- The vendor lets go with the tree, hits the boy with
it and he goes down. There is laughter and jeers. -- The kid
gets up, scratched and almost crying with disappointment.
I -- I stumbled, I could've--
Gimme a try, I'm next.
The boy who failed is shoved aside; the new boy takes his
place. The tree is passed back. The vendor heaves it, and
the boy holds his feet. There are cries of triumph.
All right, take it and get out.
(he picks up
the big tree)
Now, who's man enough to take a
chance with this here one?
Francie pushes forward eagerly, but a bigger boy shoves her
out of the way and gets there first.
I can take anything you got, mister,
let her fly.
I'm next, that's my tree!
Aw, go on, you're too little.
Me and my brother -- we're not too
(he picks up
All right, but if one of you goes
down, you lose the tree.
That ain't fair, the two of 'em.
Shut your trap! Who's throwin' these
Neeley and Francie take their places, holding hands to brace
themselves. The vendor raises the tree and lets it fly.
Neeley would have gone down but Francie catches him.
Together they manage to stay on their feet. There is an
approving yell from the crowd.
(in gruff admiration)
All right, take it and get out. You
got it comin'!
The two come to, a little dazed. Then they grin proudly and
start to drag the tree away.
The scene dissolves to the KITCHEN at NIGHT, with Katie,
Johnny, Sissy, Steve (her husband, to whom she refers as
Bill) and Grandma Rommely in the room. They are drinking
coffee, waiting for the children to come home. There is an
awkwardness and constraint over the whole scene. It is
Christmas Eve, which should be a very happy time, but
conversation has been lagging. -- Johnny is playing
solitaire, and not looking at anyone. Sissy is watching
first one and then the other, as she tries to carry the
burden of the conversation.
Bill thinks the same as me, we're
goin' to keep ours believin' in
Santa Claus as long as we can.
Is good, yes.
Katie has gotten up restlessly, and gone to the window to
look out. She has scarcely heard what Sissy has been saying.
Sissy watches her narrowly.
Quit worryin' about 'em, Katie,
they'll be here pretty quick.
(from the window)
They ain't old enough to be out this
late. Johnny should've made 'em tell
what they was up to. No tellin' what
kind of notion Francie's likely to
get in her head.
They'll be all right.
There is no answer from Katie. There is silence for a while.
Then Steve yawns.
(a little uncomfortable)
Maybe we better be gettin' on home
and see 'em tomorrow.
Sissy gives him a quick look. There is another little
silence. Then it is broken by cries from outside.
VOICES OF FRANCIE
Pop, hey, mom! Papa!
Katie turns back to the window. Johnny hurries across to
join her, and the others follow. They look down, and from
their angle we see, at the street entrance, Francie and
Neeley, dragging the Christmas tree. They have stopped to
call up to their parents. They wave and start on.
The scene cuts back to the PARLOR. Johnny's spirits lift.
Holy smokes, will you look what they
went and done!
He dashes out to help them bring the tree up the stairs.
Katie is relieved that the youngsters are all right.
Johnny's exit gives Sissy a little moment alone with Katie.
They're tryin' to make a Christmas.
Help 'em, kid.
Her eyes meet Katie's levelly. Katie smiles in answer -- a
reassurance that she will try to make Christmas what it
should be for them in spite of the constraint within their
In the NOLAN TENEMENT VESTIBULE Francie and Neeley are now
seen dragging the tree through the door. Officer McShane
comes in and starts to help.
It's ours, we won it.
Looka my face, we got it throwed at
I was only wonderin' if you couldn't
use a little help.
He picks up the other end of the tree and helps them along
with it. Francie accepts his geniality with just a trace of
surprise. Next we see the HALL as Johnny comes running down
the stairs. He opens the door and the children come in. All
speak at once.
How in Jerusalem--?
We won! We stood up to 'em!
Looka my face, Pop, looka my face!
McShane, helping with the tree, comes through the door.
Nobody around here ever saw a tree
We won it fair.
Looka my face if you don't believe me.
I see you got the law on your side,
Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Nolan,
and it looks like you're going to
Same to you, Mr. McShane, and
(having opened their door)
Merry Christmas, Mr. Nolan. Merry
Merry Christmas, Miss Maggie. Merry
Christmas, Miss Lizzie.
Isn't it a wonderful Christmas,
Well, it is now, Prima Donna.
Imagine us having a tree like that
-- and the nicest kids in the world,
Johnny and the youngsters have started up the stairs,
dragging the tree. The racket brings the neighbors to their
(out of pure exuberance
he starts singing)
"Silent night, holy night--"
As they mount the stairs, another door or two open. Some of
the neighbors have been in bed, some are still dressed --
Mrs. Gaddis, at her door, joins in the singing. -- A man
starts to sing. McShane opens the door from the street and
stands looking up after them, listening. -- A little girl
claps her hands delightedly. -- More singers join in.
He ain't any older than they are.
Katie is at the head of the stairs. With her is Sissy,
Sissy's husband Steve, and Grandma Rommely. A man from the
fourth floor joins them. He sings. -- Katie is moved, and
starts to sing. As she does, tears glisten in her eyes. --
Sissy is also moved. Her tears are more uninhibited than
Katie's. Grandma Rommely joins in, in German. -- Johnny and
his children struggle their way up the stairs. Several
people are singing now. -- Neeley's excitement somehow
subdues. He finds himself singing with the others. -- But
Francie is too thrilled and awed to sing. Her eyes are wide
with the wonder of her father -- of what he has done to
This dissolves to the NOLAN PARLOR somewhat later. The tree,
braced in Katie's scrub bucket, stands in the middle of the
room, pretty well filling it. The family is gathered round
the tree, and have been opening various small presents.
Grandma Rommely sits in her chair near the window. Sissy is
on the floor with the children. Neeley has several strips of
court plaster on his face. The tree is sparsely decorated,
principally with strips of colored paper the children have
torn. Uncle Steve is standing on a chair, hanging a few
candy canes. The usual evidences of coffee and cups are
Can you put it higher, Bill?
Steve's the name.
That's better, Bill.
(with a deliberate
effort for Johnny)
It was real nice of your friend --
of Mr. McGarrity, sendin' the kids
But Neeley, opening a package, breaks across.
Aw -- old itchy underwear!
Think of all the fun you can have,
(taking out an
Thank you, mama. They -- they're
You know you hate 'em.
(a little shyly)
I got something for you too.
She goes to her couch and starts pulling out the large box
from under it in which she keeps her treasures. During this,
Steve has dismounted, and Grandma now takes out of her bag a
thick, home-made candle.
I have made this candle for today.
It is time now to light it.
Steve and Johnny take and light it. Francie has pulled out
two small packages from her box, and gives one to Katie.
Merry Christmas, mama -- from Neeley
Rose water and glycerine. It's
pretty -- what is it?
You rub it on your hands.
I think it's silly. But Francie
said papa was always talkin' about
what nice hands you got. It cost a
dime, but we had a seltzer bottle
top in the junk.
My, I'll be quite the thing, won't I?
(giving the other
package to Johnny)
This is for you, papa, from me and
Johnny opens it and holds up a rather odd-looking affair --
a watch fob made out of braided shoelaces.
It's a watch fob. It's made out of
shoelaces. I wove it on a spool with
Well now, if that ain't about the
nicest thing I ever saw.
He takes his union button from his lapel and pins the fob on
his trousers as if he had a watch. He makes a little show of
parading up and down with it, then tosses a handkerchief
over his arm like a waiter's napkin.
(bending over Francie)
We're all out of mushrooms under
glass, madam, but I can tell you the
Maybe it's kind of silly, with you
not having a watch.
(holding her to him)
Prima Donna, it's the nicest present
I ever got. And thank you, son.
You're welcome. I guess the
shoelaces was mine.
It was silly ...
Ain't nothing silly on Christmas.
Steve clears his throat, and reaches into his inside pocket,
half pulling out a parcel.
I -- I got a little present here--
He is interrupted by a knock on the door. Everyone is a
little startled. Francie goes out to the kitchen to open the
Like I was sayin', I got--
But he is interrupted by Francie, returning with McShane,
who is carrying a bag of candy canes. He makes no attempt to
come in, but takes in the scene appreciatively.
Merry Christmas, folks.
CHORUS OF ANSWERS
I was passin' and saw your light was
still on and -- I got to thinkin'
I'd like a hand in fixin' that fine
tree -- but I see somebody's already
(charming and shy)
We can always use more of 'em, Mr.
McShane, and we thank you kindly.
She takes the candy canes.
Would you come in and have a cup of
coffee with us?
Thank you, but this evenin' is for
families. I got to be gettin' home
myself, so I'll be sayin' goodnight,
and Merry Christmas to all.
Merry Christmas. Good night.
Johnny follows him out to see him to the kitchen door.
Everyone is silent for a moment, touched by the little visit.
That was mighty nice of him.
Mr. McShane is a fine man.
He is, I think, sometimes a lonely
Like I was sayin', I -- I got
somethin' here -- I mean I gotta
present for -- for somebody that
ain't exactly here.
(he extracts a tiny baby
sweater from his parcel)
Grandma helped me pick it out. It's
for -- you know who.
Aw Bill, it's beautiful. Look,
everybody, look at the size of them
little sleeves! Aw gee, I ain't
never been so happy, Bill, honey--
Katie turns from the tree and looks at the sweater with a
I'm goin' to get some coffee.
She turns abruptly and goes into the kitchen, closing the
(on whom the
I better see if I can help.
She follows Katie.
This cuts to the KITCHEN. Katie is not bothering with the
coffee. She is staring out the window as Sissy enters. When
she hears Sissy, she turns quickly to the stove and pretends
to be busy.
I just wanted a breath of air for a
(after a pause)
(coming closer to help)
I'm glad for you.
Katie meets her eyes for a moment in acknowledgment of the
I don't know. I -- I'm scared, I
You got no call to be. Look at how
swell them two are.
Yeah, I know.
Have you told Johnny?
(Katie shakes her head)
You'd ought to, maybe it'd help him.
(she gives Sissy an
We better take the coffee in.
You're a fine girl, Katie. I never
said any different.
Their eyes hold for a minute with a feeling of understanding
between them. Then Sissy picks up some cups and takes them
into the other room. Katie prepares to follow.
This cuts to the PARLOR as SISSY comes in with the cups.
Johnny is picking out a tune on the piano; the children are
beside him. -- Sissy pauses for a moment and looks at
Johnny, with Francie leaning close against him. To Sissy, it
looks like a portrait of a good enough parent. -- She sets
the cups down on the piano. Then she bends over suddenly and
kisses Johnny on the top of his head.
That's for nothin', Johnny -- except
maybe bein' a nice guy.
Johnny looks up and smiles at her. Then Sissy breaks the
little moment of feeling between them.
As she starts to set out the cups and Katie comes in with
the coffee, the scene dissolves to the KITCHEN where the
cups are being put into the sink. It is late, and the family
is alone, carrying things into the kitchen, straightening up
after the party. Katie is getting ready to wash the dishes.
Don't do 'em tonight, it's Christmas.
I'll give you a hand tomorrow.
(with a little smile)
You better give me a hand right now,
before it slips your mind.
Yeah, I guess you're right.
And you better get to bed, son,
before you go to sleep standin' up.
He goes to his bedroom, practically asleep. They smile.
Katie starts to wash the dishes, and Johnny and Francie pick
up cloths to wipe them.
Bill was funny, wasn't he -- nice, I
Yeah, Sissy's awful happy.
There's somethin' good about
Christmas, everybody was swell.
Papa, why did Grandma say Mr.
McShane was lonely?
I don't know, maybe he is at that.
How do you mean, Johnny? What do you
know about him?
Oh, some. He's a fine man. Come to
this country with nothin', worked
hard, studied to get on the force.
Some folks was kind to him when he
first come, he lived with 'em, and
then their daughter was in trouble,
her husband ran off and left her
when she was goin' to have a kid. So
McShane married her to take care of
Have they got -- children?
(shaking his head)
There was a couple, but they died
when they was young with lung
trouble they took from their mother.
He don't ever talk about it, but I
guess he is kind of lonely.
It ain't right.
No, I guess it ain't.
It ain't right. Why did she have to
put her troubles off on him? A fine
man like him, steady and all, he
ought to have a fine home, and
children, that's every good man's
Katie had no intention of saying this. It comes from her a
little too violently, born of her feeling of desperation.
But once said, it hangs between them like a shadow. There is
a little pause. Johnny grows very quiet and the gaiety of
the Christmas is gone.
Francie, wide-eyed, looks from one to the other. She senses
that Johnny has been hurt. Instinctively, she slips her hand
Johnny, suddenly aware of the touch, looks down at her and
smiles thinly, his hand tightening on hers.
That's about all the dishes, baby,
you better get to bed.
And go to sleep -- don't just lie
there lookin' at the tree all night.
I won't, mama. Goodnight, papa
Francie goes into the parlor and closes the door. Left alone,
there is an awkward little pause between Johnny and Katie.
They're fine kids.
Yes, they are.
the dish cloth)
That's about all, I guess.
There is a moment's pause, but Katie makes no move to go.
Johnny stands uncertainly. Then abruptly Katie turns to him.
Johnny, I got to tell you somethin',
maybe it ain't the best time, maybe
it is. The reason I moved us up here
-- we're goin' to have a baby.
Johnny, that's why I been scrimpin'
so much and tryin' to save.
Johnny feels that he ought to take her in his arms -- he
would have if everything were really all right between them.
But instead, there is a little pause.
That's-- I mean, I'm awful glad,
Katie, if -- if you are.
There's a lot we got to think about,
I know, but -- we'll manage. Maybe
things'll be -- better havin' one to
kind of grow up with again.
I got things all figured out. I
oughta be able to keep on workin'
till anyway April. Then Francie'll
have to leave school and get her
workin' papers. She's young, but
with what she can make, we can make
Aw, no, Katie, we can't--
I don't like it any better than you
do, but I thought and thought, and
there ain't any other way. And you
got to help with somethin', Johnny.
She listens to you, you got to quit
keepin' her all so excited about her
But Katie, why does it have to be
Francie? Neeley's the boy, and he
don't care like she does.
Maybe that's why, maybe it'll do her
good to get out in the world and
learn how to take care of herself,
learn somethin' practical while she's
young. She's got to learn some day.
There -- there must be somethin'
else, Katie -- Don't tell her yet,
Katie, there's time till April.
Maybe I -- I'm goin' to try to swing
We can't count on that, Johnny.
School ain't everything, maybe
sometime she can go back.
(she can't stand
Don't look at me like that! It ain't
(she manages to get
hold of herself a
It ain't yours either, I guess, I
Anyway, one member of the Nolan
family will get to graduate, and she
come close, that's somethin'.
This small effort at optimism gets no response from Johnny.
You better put out the light, and
let's try and get some rest.
She goes into the bedroom without looking at him again.
Johnny stands alone -- looks after her a moment, brooding.
His hand plays with the watch fob, and he looks toward
Francie's door. After a moment he crosses the room and very
gently opens the door to the parlor.
Johnny closes the door and moves softly to Francie's couch.
The light from the window shows her wide awake, looking up
I thought you'd be asleep, Prima
Francie is in a new mood, a little girl just stepping over
the line into wondering adolescence. They both talk softly,
secretly, alone in the world. He sits on the edge of the
Uh-uh. I been -- thinking.
Well now you ought to be careful
about that, so many things in this
world to think about you might never
get to sleep.
Papa. I might be going to be a
writer. I -- I've just about decided.
I knew you when you was goin' to be
a lady fireman.
Don't joke, papa, I'm serious.
All right, baby. All I meant, maybe
it's better sometimes not to get
your heart set on -- on just the one
thing, oh, in case somethin' happens,
(scarcely hearing him)
She said, Miss McDonough, I mean,
she said maybe I could be. She says
I have imagination. Do you think I
Sure I do, baby. Those compositions
of yours, they been fine. But--
She said I'd have to work hard; she
said imagination wasn't any good if
you were just a pipe-dreamer about
it, you didn't help anybody that way,
not even yourself.
I see, yeah, a pipe-dreamer.
I'm not putting it good like she did
-- Oh, I just understood everything
she said, and now I don't, but-- I
kind of still do. I wish you
could've heard her, she was
wonderful. Forever and ever I'll be
glad you helped me go to that school.
You kind of like that school, don't
Yes, oh yes. And she said lots more.
I've been trying to remember -- she
said even if you have imagination
it's better to write about things
you know about, so it will be true,
and -- and the way things are. I've
been looking at things all day, to
see them that way, only--
Only what, baby?
Papa, the people in the hall when we
brought up the tree, the look on
their faces, all friendly and nice
-- why aren't people like that all
the time, not just Christmas?
Well, I'd say it was -- I don't
know. Maybe it's just they take time
at Christmas, or -- or maybe you
oughtn't to think like that, baby.
Maybe Christmas is like people
really are, and the other part ain't
true, and with all that imagination
you got, maybe if you just think
about it hard enough that way, you
know, like it ought to be--
He flounders to a stop.
But when you get to thinking -- papa,
the people in Aunt Sissy's magazines,
they don't just live happily ever
after, do they?
Well, the trouble is -- it doesn't
feel good when you think about
things like that -- I mean, the way
they really are.
She is really troubled. Johnny's smile as he looks down at
her is curious, gentle, and somehow infinitely sad.
You better stick out your tongue,
(as she obeys him)
Just what I was afraid of. You got a
bad case, a very bad case.
Case of what, papa?
You got a very bad case of growing
up, Prima Donna.
She realizes he is joking, and smiles shyly.
That's all it is. It ain't fun
sometimes, but don't you be afraid,
I don't want you should ever be
Francie smiles, then settles back, relaxed. Almost as if in
confirmation of his words, she makes a small, almost
unconscious movement of pulling the covers up higher -- the
first subconscious awareness of herself as something more
than a child. It is not lost on Johnny.
You're so nice, papa. I was feeling
kind of funny before you came in.
Now I feel good.
I guess it's better if you don't
just stay young all your life; it
will be nicer growing up.
Johnny looks at her for a long moment, then gets to his feet.
He has had about all he can take, and there is a weariness
about him. His eyes are shadowed by the vision of that not
far distant day when Francie will no longer look at him with
the eyes of a child, but will see him as Katie sees him, and
as he sees himself.
Yeah. When you begin to see things
like they really are.
The bitterness of his meaning is lost on Francie. He bends
down and kisses her gently.
Goodnight, papa. I'm sleepy now.
That's fine, baby, that's fine.
He goes out and closes the door quietly. Francie is
Back in the KITCHEN, Johnny stands a moment near the door.
Then mechanically he turns off the gas. There is a light
from Katie's bedroom. He crosses to the door and stops at
the bedroom. Katie is in bed in the background, an arm over
her eyes to shield them from the light. A feeling of
revulsion comes over Johnny. How can she lie there so
peacefully, so soon after making her decision about Francie?
At that moment it would be inconceivable for Johnny to go
into that room and lie down beside her. He turns abruptly
and starts to go. Katie stirs.
Ain't you comin' to bed, Johnny?
I'm goin' out for a little walk.
He moves out into the kitchen. Katie sits up.
Don't start drinkin', not tonight,
JOHNNY, near the door leading to the hall, is taking down
I won't. Katie -- I won't.
(from the bedroom)
Well --- take your muffler, it's
He goes out. Katie is troubled for a moment, then gives it
up and lies down wearily.
The HALL is dark and deserted. Johnny starts down the stairs
mechanically, slowly putting the muffler around his neck. His
eyes are desperate as the scene fades out.
The SIGN of the WAITERS' UNION HEADQUARTERS fades in. Above
it is a banner with the legend "Happy New Year." This
dissolves to the UNION HEADQUARTERS in the late afternoon.
Katie is at the desk talking to the man in charge.
No, ma'am, Mr. Nolan hasn't been
around for several days.
Is he out on a job, do you know?
If he is, he didn't get it through
As she starts out, the scene dissolves to MCGARRITY'S
SALOON. Katie enters, hesitates, decides to go on, passes
the sign at the side that says "family entrance," hesitates
again and goes in.
This in turn dissolves to MCGARRITY'S SALOON disclosing
several customers, and quite a bit of noise. McGarrity is
behind the bar. A boy comes in from the back room, speaks to
him, but we cannot distinguish what he says. McGarrity looks
surprised, and starts for the back room.
We see the BACK ROOM as McGarrity enters from the saloon.
There are a few people in this room. Katie is standing just
inside the street door, a little uncomfortable. McGarrity
goes to her.
How are you, Mrs. Nolan, and Happy
The same to you, Mr. McGarrity. I
-- I just came to--
(she can't make it --
to ask about Johnny)
I just happened to be passin' and I
thought I'd run in and thank you for
the candy canes. It was nice of you.
That's all right. It wasn't much.
Well, it was nice of you anyway.
(then, after an
she turns to go)
Well, goodnight, Mr. McGarrity.
Goodnight, Mrs. Nolan.
She gets the door open, and then McGarrity stops her.
Johnny ain't here -- he hasn't been
in since before Christmas.
Katie stands for a moment, caught between gratitude for his
understanding and the stubbornness of her pride. The latter
wins. She hurries out, and the scene dissolves to the NOLAN
TENEMENT at night. Most of the lights are out, but the light
is still on in the Nolan kitchen. This dissolves to the
NOLAN HALL as McShane's feet are seen mounting the stairs,
and then to the NOLAN DOOR as McShane comes into view. He
stands for a moment before he knocks. Almost immediately the
door opens to reveal Katie, still dressed and anxious eyed.
-- Behind her Francie appears, in her nightgown, from the
parlor, and stands wide-eyed and apprehensive.
I'm afraid it's bad news I'm bringin'
you, Mrs. Nolan. Our station got a
report that Mr. Nolan was found over
in Manhattan very sick. He's been
taken to the hospital.
Francie's eyes are tragic but she makes no sound. -- Katie
turns without a word and picks up her coat. Then she sees
See that Neeley gets to school in
time in the morning. There's an
apple for your lunches.
Francie stares at her as Katie struggles into the coat.
The report was that he just
collapsed right in the doorway of an
employment agency. He was just goin'
out on a job, sand hog in a tunnel,
they said. He hadn't been drinkin',
ma'am, he'd been waitin' there a
long time for the job -- he was just
Katie is going out past him as he finishes. McShane follows
and closes the door, shutting out the tragic little figure
This scene dissolves to a HOSPITAL CORRIDOR as Katie comes
out of a ward accompanied by a nurse. The nurse closes the
We did everything we could.
Yeah, I know.
As she starts walking down the hall, the scene dissolves to
the HOSPITAL DOCTOR'S OFFICE, where Katie is standing in
front of the doctor at his desk.
Just a few questions, Mrs. Nolan --
date of birth and so on.
What are you writin' down that he
Acute alcoholism and pneumonia. One
led to the other.
I don't want you to write down that
he died like that. Put just the
I can't do that. Pneumonia was the
direct cause of death, but the
Look, he's dead. I got two nice kids.
They're goin' to grow up to amount
to something. Why do you have to
make it harder, sayin' their father
died because of the drink, when that
-- that's only a little piece of the
truth. He wasn't drinkin', they said
so, he was out looking for work, why
don't you put that down?
(after a moment)
Cause of death, pneumonia. Date of
There are tears in Katie's eyes, but something fierce, too,
shines through them, as the scene dissolves to the KITCHEN.
We get a close view of Francie, dry-eyed, staring out of the
window. She is looking down at the tree, hardly aware of the
sordid conference with the undertaker that is going on in
the room. Then the camera pulls back over the dialogue to
reveal Katie, Sissy, Grandma Rommely, Neeley and the
undertaker. Neeley is crying. He stands next to his mother's
chair. Her arm is around him, and from time to time she
gives him, half automatically, a comforting pat.
It's a first-class funeral with
nickel handles on the coffin, and
for two hundred dollars it includes--
Ain't it odd that the best you can
do comes to just what his insurance
I'll make it one eighty five, and I
won't be makin' hardly a cent.
(producing pen and
printed form quickly)
Sign here, please. That gives me the
right to collect the insurance, and
I'll give you the fifteen dollars in
(as Katie takes the pen)
Read it before you sign.
Katie pauses, and stares at it for a moment. She looks at
Neeley, who is sniffing. Then she looks around for Francie
and sees her at the window.
(Francie turns slowly)
You're the best reader.
Francie comes down slowly, not looking at them. She takes
the paper and studies it, dry-eyed. -- Sissy studies this
strange shut-in quality in Francie with compassion.
It says what he says.
She hands it back, and goes back to the window. -- Katie
signs the paper. The undertaker takes it from her.
And now, Mrs. Nolan, if you have the
deed to the funeral plot.
Plot? We don't own no plot. I
You was awful careful not to mention
it till she signed.
But, Mrs. Nolan--
Never mind. How much is a plot?
All prices. Twenty, thirty -- the
least would be twenty.
There is a silence. Then Katie gets wearily to her feet,
and crosses to the bedroom. As she passes Francie, Francie
does not turn, but continues to stare at nothing out the
Once in the BEDROOM, Katie picks up a shoe-horn from the
dresser, goes to the closet, and as she starts to pry up
the star bank the scene dissolves to a CEMETERY where
Johnny's coffin is in place over the grave. There are quite
a number of people, and quite a number of floral offerings,
some large and some very small. The priest is reading the
service for the dead as the view moves down the line of the
Nolan family, successively disclosing: Grandma Rommely, eyes
closed, lips moving in silent prayer; Uncle Steve, his
honest face full of emotion; Sissy, crying openly, the tears
welling straight from her warm heart; Neeley, awed, sniffing
a little, standing close to his mother and holding on to a
fold of her coat; Katie, moved, feeling strange things at
the sight of all the flowers, and all the people who have
turned out to offer their affection to Johnny's memory.
We get a view of the people, and the flowers, as she sees
them -- McGarrity, the man from the union headquarters,
several recognized neighbors from the tenement, and quite a
number of people we have never seen before. The feeling of
all of them is so apparently genuine. Johnny's coffin is
covered with their flowers.
Katie, seen close, is a little bewildered. So many people
loved Johnny, he must not have been just a failure to them.
She looks down at Neeley, and then on the other side, at
Francie stands, unlike Neeley, quite apart from Katie. She
is still dry-eyed, lost. If Neeley has lost a father and
Katie a husband, Francie has lost her whole world. And in
her loss, she has no inclination, as has Neeley, to reach
Katie's eyes are troubled, a little puzzled, as she watches
her daughter -- and the scene dissolves to the FUNERAL
CARRIAGE disclosing KATIE, FRANCIE, SISSY, NEELEY. The
carriage is coming down the street toward the tenement.
Francie sits dry-eyed and aloof. Katie, still in the
bewildered mood of the funeral, is trying to puzzle things
All them people, and the flowers --
some of 'em from people I never heard
of even. Who'd've thought that many
folks -- I mean, they was carryin'
on like -- like they was his family,
or -- I don't know.
Katie is so intent on her own troubled problem that she is
quite unaware of Francie. But Sissy is aware of what both of
them are feeling. She sees that Francie's eyes hold
something like the beginning of hatred for Katie.
Yeah, he took the time to make a lot
o' people love him, all right.
It's hard to figure, so many of 'em
showin' up, and they was feelin'
somethin', there wasn't no reason
for 'em to put on. I mean, he wasn't
nobody big, he was just--
(putting her hand
quickly on Katie's
I wouldn't talk about it no more
She has seen Francie turn bitterly away from her mother.
Quite unintentionally Katie's words have been a violation of
Francie's feeling about her father.
This dissolves to the NOLAN TENEMENT, the carriage just
stopping. Francie, still bitterly tense, gets out first and
starts swiftly down the street. Katie, climbing out with
Neeley, sees this.
Best leave her go, Katie. She maybe
wants to be by herself.
She's takin' on kind of funny. She
ain't even cried.
Best leave her come out of it her
(not even hearing)
They was always funny together --
nice, I mean. They was like kids,
they never ran out of talk.
(after a little pause)
Well, one thing -- he never lived to
see that change; he beat that one.
You want for me to come up with you?
(as Sissy watches her
trying to puzzle it out)
And there's somethin' else, maybe
that was it -- he wasn't drinkin',
they told me, there was somethin'
drivin' him -- maybe that was it,
maybe he was tryin' to be different
like -- like --
(she turns this over for
a moment, then gives up)
I don't know.
She turns abruptly, without even saying goodbye, and starts
into the house. Neeley follows. Sissy watches after her with
deep compassion as the scene dissolves to a STREET and we
see Francie, all alone, coming down the street. She pauses
in front of a little barber shop, and then goes in.
In the BARBER SHOP: The head barber, a little Italian, is
half-asleep in the first barber chair. The other barber is
working on a customer. Francie enters, and goes to the head
I'd like my father's shaving cup,
(pointing to it)
It's that one.
(he takes down the
cup with Johnny's name)
You're the little girl. Yes, I'll
clean it up for you.
(he starts to clean it)
He was a fine man. Tell the mama
that I, his barber, said this.
Francie watches as he finishes cleaning the cup and hands it
to her. She starts to turn away, and then asks--
Is -- there isn't anything else of
my father's here, is there?
No, that's all he had.
As Francie turns and goes, the scene dissolves to the NOLAN
KITCHEN. Katie is alone in the kitchen. The door opens and
Francie comes in carrying the mug. Without looking at her
mother she goes straight into the parlor. Katie looks after
her, forcing herself not to stop her.
In the PARLOR, Francie pulls out her box from under the
couch, adds the shaving mug to a carefully put away
collection of memories of Johnny: his tuxedo shirt, his
waiter's apron, his union button, the whisk broom with which
he always brushed himself before going out. Her face never
changes as she slides the box back under the couch, rises
and goes into the kitchen.
The KITCHEN: Again not meeting Katie's anxious eyes, she
crosses the kitchen toward the door into the hall. Katie can
contain herself no longer.
Francie dear ... Where you going?
She gets as far as the door.
(still not turning)
The neighbors were awful nice,
leavin' all this food. Don't you
want a little somethin'?
Well, I -- I wanted to talk to you.
I want things to go on, the reading
and all, just like-- I want to do--
I got to be mama and papa both to
She has said the impossible. Almost imperceptibly Francie
Yes, mama. Is that all, mama?
to go out)
You got to go right now, Francie,
I'll be back, honest I will.
She goes out. Katie sighs, defeated, and sinks into a chair
by the table. After a moment Neeley's door opens. He wants
to comfort her, and boyishly says the only thing he can
Mom, I -- I guess I'm a little
Katie manages a smile, and reaches out a hand to pull him to
her. -- Next the ROOF of the NOLAN TENEMENT comes into view.
At the edge of the parapet overlooking the city and the
harbor Francie stands, living out her own private ceremony
for her father. She is unaware of the street noises which
float up, unaware even of a woman hanging out wash to dry on
the roof behind her. She doesn't even know that tears are in
her eyes, because they are not the burning tears that give
relief. She might be a very young and bitterly passionate
priestess, dedicating herself. After a long moment of
silence she lifts her head and looks up.
(very low, half
in a whisper)
Look -- he can't be gone, he can't.
They don't understand. Maybe --
maybe you could let me have a baby
some day, and it could be a boy, so
-- so it could be just like him. It
would have to be me, nobody else
loved him like -- like I do. Maybe
you could do that for me, and if
you could -- he wouldn't even --
She can't go on, as the scene fades out.
The KITCHEN fades in. Francie is ironing her school dress.
Katie is just admitting McGarrity. He is constrained, has
something to say and doesn't know quite how to go about it.
He is in his best suit.
(as he enters)
I hope you don't think I'm forward
just comin' in like this. Oh, how
are you, Francie?
I'm well, thank you.
Have a chair. Francie, see if Mr.
McGarrity won't have some coffee.
Not for me, thank you.
He does not sit down, but stands turning his hat. There is
an awkward little silence. Francie keeps on with her
(ill at ease)
I -- I figgered I'd ought to come.
You might say I knowed Johnny pretty
well, in a manner of speakin'.
(with a flicker of humor)
Yes, I guess that's right.
Well, the first thing is, I guess
you know how Johnny and I done
business. He used to give me money
sometimes to keep and then draw
against it, and when he -- I mean,
I got to lookin' around, and what do
you think, I had pretty near five
bucks in his box. I -- I figgered it
belongs to you.
He ends very lamely. McGarrity is not a facile liar. It
doesn't fool Katie, but she is touched by his intent. --
Francie, unnoticed, stops ironing at the mention of her
(with little smile)
If you told the truth, it'd more
likely be that he owed you. But I
thank you very much.
McGarrity shifts uneasily. He does not like being caught at
being a good man.
Well, I -- I just thought--
We'll make out.
McGarrity uncomfortably returns the bill to his pocket.
Well, there was somethin' else. I
was thinkin' -- you know, I try to
run a nice place, clean, so nice
folks can-- Well, who I hire is
important, they got to be nice too,
and I was thinkin' that -- that
maybe you wouldn't mind if the kids
come to work for me, afternoons
like. I mean after school, and
Saturdays. Maybe it ain't just the
kind of place you'd favor 'em
workin', but I'd keep an eye on 'em.
I could pay 'em two dollars a week a
piece and-- I'd take it as a real
McGarrity runs down lamely. Katie is really touched.
(after a moment)
You're an awful bad liar, Mr.
McGarrity. But you're a very good
man. I'm ashamed I didn't know it
No ma'am, it ain't that. Johnny
was-- I don't know, Johnny was
always talkin' about his family
like -- like folks ought to, only
they don't; funny, the things he
talked about pretty near always
made you feel better, or laugh,
like a sea shell I had down there he
was always listenin' to and tellin'
you what it was singin'. He was
always givin' things like that to
people. He -- he was a fine man,
McGarrity's tribute to Johnny is somewhat confused, but the
feeling behind it is so earnest that it cannot be mistaken.
-- Francie listens intently. McGarrity's whole wish to do
something for them is because of his feeling for her father.
-- Katie too is moved. Enough that she forgets momentarily
that Francie is in the room.
I'd be glad for the children to work
for you, Mr. McGarrity. Four dollars
a week will keep us until the baby
comes, and Francie won't have to
quit school; she can keep on and
they can both--
She stops. She had not intended to say this. She looks
quickly at Francie. Francie's eyes refuse to meet her
mother's. She turns back and starts ironing again.
(sensing tension he
does not understand)
It's a deal. Tell 'em to come to the
family entrance tomorrow right after
school. Is that all right with you,
(not looking up)
It's all settled then. Well --
goodbye, Mrs. Nolan.
And thank you again, Mr. McGarrity.
McGarrity goes a little awkwardly. Francie and Katie are
left alone, and there is a sharp constraint between them.
Francie does not look at her mother. Katie studies her,
I -- I'm glad you can keep on with
your school. I didn't tell you
because I was hopin' somethin' would
happen. I didn't want to say
anything until the time came. But
there were reasons, your papa and I
talked it over, there wasn't any
Francie still avoids looking at Katie.
It doesn't matter. Papa saved me
She turns and goes into the parlor, closing the door on
Katie as the scene dissolves to MCGARRITY'S SALOON. Sissy
enters down the street. She doesn't bother going around to
the family entrance, but barges nonchalantly through the
Two or three customers are visible. McGarrity is behind the
bar. Neeley is putting a ham and some other things from a
tray onto the free lunch end of the bar. The men look up,
surprised at seeing a woman enter the bar.
Hi, kid. They're takin' chances I
wouldn't, leavin' you handle the
eats. Where's Francie?
(with a full mouth)
Thanks. Hi, Mac.
She waves nonchalantly to McGarrity, and disappears through
the family entrance toward the kitchen. The men look after
In the KITCHEN, Francie is dispiritedly cutting some dill
pickles into long lengths as Sissy enters.
Francie looks around, but does not light up as she generally
does when she sees Sissy.
Hello, Aunt Sissy.
(taking a paper
from the top of
How are you, kid? Look, you got to
help me with somethin'. This was in
the paper and I cut it out. You got
to read it to me and--
(she is suddenly aware
of Francie's mood)
What's the matter, hon?
Nothing. I'm all right, Aunt Sissy.
No you ain't, kid, you ain't been
since -- look, hadn't you better
spill it to your Aunt Sissy.
(on the defensive)
What is it you want me to read to
you? Let me read that, Aunt Sissy.
Well, we'll get that out of the way
first. Look, here it is, likely you
don't remember him, but it's my last
husband, Bill -- the one I thought
was dead. But he ain't, he's got his
picture in here, and I got to know
what it says.
(Francie takes the
clipping and studies it)
Maybe it'll tell where he is, so I
can write to him about gettin' a
divorce or -- or somethin'. I don't
want this here one bobbin' up and
makin' no trouble. He's a fireman
somewhere, I can tell that by the
clothes. He was just startin' out in
the fireman business when--
It says here he's a hero, Aunt Sissy.
He saved some people in a fire.
Does it say where?
The Ninth Precinct, Manhattan.
Manhattan, huh -- couldn't make the
grade in Brooklyn, I guess. Now
listen, Francie, I want you to write
him for me. Write this, "Dear Bill--"
This says his name is Roland Pulaski.
That's right, I remember. Make it
"Dear Mr. Pulaski: Being I'm now
married to somebody else, I want you
to see about gettin' a real legal
divorce because I thought you was
dead, and because you got the money
now on account of the reward. Yours
very truly, Sissy." Something like
But Aunt Sissy, he must have already
done that, because it says here he's
"On the human interest side of the
story, Mrs. Pulaski had returned
home only the day before from the
hospital, after presenting Mr.
Pulaski with a brand-new son, the
fourth child of the marriage.
Perhaps it was his pride that--"
So if he got a divorce that long
ago, you don't have to.
Then my bein' married to Bill --
this one, I mean -- is all legal.
Francie nods, and turns back to slicing the pickles.
Well now, if that ain't a load off
my mind. You know, I think I'll send
Bill Pulaski a weddin' present.
But you can't, Aunt Sissy, he's been
married for years.
(this news bothers her)
Four kids, huh?
(then, trying to
Must be a pretty sickly woman, this
Mrs. Pulaski, goin' to a hospital
just to have a baby.
No. Lots of people go there now to
have babies. It's better.
You know somethin', I'm going to
cash in my funeral policy and have
my baby in the hospital. And when my
baby is born and lives, I want you
to write to that R. Pulaski and --
and announce it!
(she takes a deep breath)
Hey, do I feel better!
Francie turns back to her work. Sissy has been so concerned
with her own problem, that she has hardly been aware of the
apathy with which Francie has shared it. But now, her own
problem settled, she looks down at Francie's miserable
little figure, her back turned as she works away at the
pickles. Sissy suddenly pulls up a chair beside Francie and
sits where she can see Francie's face.
And now, chickabiddy, we're goin' to
talk about you. Can't your Aunt Sissy
Francie shakes her head miserably.
I'm all right.
But you ain't, honey, not all shut
up like that.
(Francie doesn't answer)
I know how you feel, but you can't
just keep hangin' on to it.
I'm all right, I don't want to talk
All right, baby, sure. But I tell
you what, you can do somethin' for
me. Look -- your mama feels awful
bad too. She needs you. Why don't
you talk to her about it--
(with sudden bitterness)
She doesn't need me.
Why, yes she does, hon, she--
No, she doesn't. She's got Neeley.
Why wasn't it Neeley she was goin'
to make quit school, he never cared
about it. She doesn't love me like
papa did. And she didn't love him,
either, not really. She hurt him.
I saw her. And he never hurt anybody.
I'm going to finish this grade
because he gave it to me, and then
I'll work for her, but she can't be
papa to me, she can't ever!
This pent-up feeling blazes out of Francie with so much
passion that it frightens Sissy. When it is over, Francie
turns blindly back to her work, shutting out even Sissy.
Moved, Sissy puts an arm around her and tries to draw
Francie to her.
Aw, baby, don't feel like that,
Leave me alone, I'm all right.
Please go away and leave me alone.
Rebuffed, Sissy is at a loss as to what she can do. The
feeling is so fierce that it frightens Sissy. Francie is
crying, but it is hard and dry, not like a child ought to
cry. She is fighting it terribly, instead of giving way to
All right, chickabiddy, all right.
Sissy turns helplessly and goes out. Shaken with her
feeling, Francie tries to go on with her work as the scene
dissolves to a SCHOOL ROOM where Francie, standing by her
desk, is reading a composition in the English class.
"But when he died, although many of
the older people said he drank too
much and was a failure, the little
children took their pennies and
built this monument to him, because
he was so good in his heart and they
loved him best of all. And after a
Francie is very earnest as she reads this, carried away with
this attempt at justification of Johnny. To the children, it
is pretty dull. But Miss McDonough watches her curiously,
unable to understand quite what this is all about, as the
scene dissolves and the CLASSROOM is seen after the others
have gone and Francie is standing again in front of Miss
McDonough's desk. She is troubled. Miss McDonough holds the
--And the sentence structure is
excellent, Francie, but there's
something else that worries me. If
we are going to write, the choice of
subject -- what we write about is
just as important as the writing
itself. We ought to write about the
best of things, we shouldn't choose
a subject that is ugly and sordid,
Francie has been listening miserably, and not looking at
Miss McDonough. But with this her head comes up.
It isn't sordid, it isn't.
But, Francie, I only meant--
Maybe I didn't say it right but it
isn't sordid. I won't write about it
any more if you don't want me to. I
don't care if I don't write anything
She turns quickly to go. Miss McDonough is bewildered by
this outburst and would like to get to the bottom of it.
But Francie hurries on out, and Miss McDonough knows there
is no use in trying to stop her.
The scene dissolves to the PARLOR. Francie has the box of
her treasures pulled out from under the couch. She puts
alongside the apron and the shaving mug and the other
treasures, the composition about Johnny. Her face is hard
and set. She shoves the box back under the couch. Then she
pulls out another smaller box which she has kept here for
English compositions. She picks this up and marches toward
Francie enters from the parlor and carries the box of papers
to the garbage can in the KITCHEN. Fiercely she starts to
tear them up and stuff them into the garbage can ... She is
never going to write anything again. -- The scene fades out.
A HOSPITAL room fades in, and we get a close view of a
white-robed doctor bending over a table out of scene. The
sound of his slapping a baby to try to start it breathing
can be heard. We get a closeup of SISSY in bed,
half-conscious, as she turns her head to look in the
direction of the sound. A nurse comes into the scene and
stands near the doctor.
The nurse goes out quickly.
We again get a closeup of SISSY, and over it the baby
beginning to cry as the scene dissolves to a HOSPITAL
WAITING ROOM where Steve, Katie, Neeley, Francie and Grandma
Rommely are waiting, ill at ease. There are a couple of
other expectant fathers in the room. Steve gets up and paces
a little and then sits down again, but nobody pays any
attention to him. -- Neeley is sitting next to Katie, and
Katie is watching Francie, who is quite apart from the rest
of them, staring at nothing out of the window. The hospital
and the coming of Sissy's baby have made Katie very much
aware of the imminence of her own motherhood. -- In a moment
Katie gets up and moves over near Francie.
I -- I wanted to talk to you,
It isn't going to be long now -- for
me. I mean, my baby. We can't come
to the hospital -- there isn't goin'
to be money enough even for the
woman to help.
For the first time, Francie looks at her.
I'm goin' to need you, Francie, don't
ever be far away. Neeley, he's -- a
boy ain't no good at a time like
this, I'm countin' on you. You -- you
won't forget that, will you, Francie?
It is hard going for Katie to put this much into words. For
this very reason, it is so real that for the first time
Katie's need of her stirs something in Francie. She looks at
Katie a little wonderingly. In the background Grandma Rommely
watches, missing nothing.
All right, mama. I -- I'll remember.
In that moment they are closer than they have been in a long
time. But the mood of it is broken by the entrance of the
doctor. Through the open door a baby's crying can be heard.
Which one of you is Mr. Stephen
That's -- that's me.
(to Sissy's husband)
Well, there are three in your family
now. You're the father of a pretty
Very much so. He was a little
reluctant about it at first, so I
had to rouse him with a little
oxygen. Now he's mad at me -- hear
(hardly able to talk)
I got to see him.
Well, neither of them are quite up
to a visit just now. In a little
He goes out.
The learning. It is the learning
that has saved this baby.
That's fine, Bill.
Steve is so excited that he doesn't know what to do.
Suddenly he grabs up his hat and starts out.
Where you goin', Uncle Bill?
I'm goin' out and get some strawberry
ice-cream and a rattle for my son.
And what's more my name ain't Bill,
it's Steve. Do you hear that -- I'm a
papa, and my name is Steve. And it's
Uncle Steve too -- Steve, Steve!
He goes out and slams the door. The little family look at
him in surprise.
So! We have a man in the family.
She nods, well content, as the scene fades out.
The NOLAN TENEMENT fades in, in the afternoon, as Francie
and Neeley, with their school books, come down the street.
Francie stops on the steps of the tenement. She takes
As quick as we see if she's all
right, you go on down to McGarrity's
and see if you can do my work too.
I'm going to stay here.
You're just gettin' out of work,
that's what you're doin'.
No, I'm going to finish the
scrubbing for her. She oughtn't do
anymore, she wasn't feeling good
There is a new little note of authority in Francie's manner.
She leads the way into the tenement and Neeley follows as
the scene dissolves to the UPPER HALL and we see Francie and
Neeley come up the stairs.
We get a view of the KITCHEN as Francie and Neeley come in.
Katie is nowhere in sight.
(from the bedroom)
In here, Francie.
(quickly, to Neeley)
She goes into the bedroom. -- In the BEDROOM, Katie is lying
down on the bed. She is ill, and knows that the time for the
coming of the child is near. Francie enters, and stops,
worried, as she sees her mother.
You -- you all right, mama?
Give Neeley a nickel to go after
Grandma and Sissy. He can walk home
after. Tell him to stop at
McGarrity's on the way back and
She starts out, but Katie stops her.
Get me a nightgown -- the bottom
Francie obeys, and puts it on the bed. Katie gets up.
Francie stands staring at her, worried.
Hurry, don't stand there staring.
Francie turns quickly and goes out. -- Katie laboriously
starts to stir herself to get into the nightgown.
Francie enters the KITCHEN. Neeley is very frightened by
what he has heard.
Is she goin' to die?
(in a tone of assurance
she does not feel)
Of course not. It's the baby.
(she gets the nickel)
You heard what mama said. And hurry.
And don't forget stopping at
McGarrity's on the way back. We
can't lose the work.
(with a strange
She -- she just wants me now.
Awed, Neeley starts out. When he is gone, Francie is lost.
She doesn't quite know what to do next. She starts to light
the fire under the coffee, then listens for any sound from
the other room. There is none.
(from the bedroom)
What is it?
Oh. I'll be there in -- in a minute.
She gets the coffee started, and then goes into the bedroom.
-- The BEDROOM: Katie is in bed as Francie comes in. Francie
is helpless now, doesn't know what to do next.
Don't go away, stay close by me.
I don't want to be alone. What time
Five to four. I'm -- I'm fixing you
some coffee, mama.
Francie stands helplessly for a moment, then goes again to
the kitchen. -- Francie feels the coffee pot to see if it's
hot enough, then gets a can of milk and a cup. She picks up
the coffee pot and starts in with it, then decides to put it
on a kitchen chair for a tray, and starts with the whole
thing into the bedroom. -- Back in the BEDROOM, Francie puts
the improvised tray beside the bed, and then waits.
You pour it.
Is it dark out?
It's dark in here.
I'll light the gas.
No, it'll hurt my eyes.
Francie puts the cup of coffee on the side of Katie's bed
and puts milk in it. Then she goes to Katie's dresser and
gets what is left of the Christmas candle and starts to
light that. -- Katie takes a deep sip of the coffee.
(she sees what
Francie is doing)
You're takin' real good care of me.
Am I, mama?
She puts the candle near the bed. She wants so desperately
to do something more, but doesn't know what.
Can I -- can I get you a glass of
(with sudden irritation)
When I want something, I'll ask for it.
Don't just throw questions at me,
I'm too tired. You better have some
Francie obeys mechanically. She is hurt.
(after a moment)
Mama, -- even if Neeley is a boy,
wouldn't you rather have him here,
he's always such a comfort to you.
No, it's you that's the comfort now.
What time is it?
I don't know, mama.
Get the clock.
Francie obeys and goes to the kitchen. -- Katie turns
restlessly as there is a spasm of pain. -- In a moment
Francie returns with the clock and puts it down beside the
One minute to four, mama.
Are you sure it isn't slow?
Maybe it's fast then.
I'll look at the jeweler's clock out
the parlor window.
She starts to go, but Katie hasn't even heard her.
The candle is pretty. Like Christmas.
That was the night I told him.
(after a little pause)
It's -- nice, havin' a visit with my
daughter. Hey, that's funny, you're
drinking your coffee.
known she was)
I didn't want for you to have to
grow up so soon. I didn't want for
you to quit school, I tried to tell
him that. He didn't mind about the
baby, but he never forgive me for
wantin' you to quit school. I told
him and he just went out. You never
forgive me either.
Please don't, mama.
He woulda bought you dolls insteada
milk, and I don't know, maybe you
woulda been happier, I don't know. I
never woulda thought of givin' you
that school like he did. And all
them fine compositions of yours, I
never read any of 'em. I should've
had time, Johnny did.
(she stirs restlessly)
But I couldn't do any different, I
don't know how I could do any
different. What time is it?
Five after four.
Wring a cloth out of cold water and
wipe my face.
She turns restlessly. Francie, awed and frightened, gets up
and goes to the kitchen again. -- She gets a cloth and
starts to wet it and wring it out in the sink. She is
frightened and terribly moved.
(half under her breath)
Don't let her die, please don't let
her die. I'll give you anything,
I'll - I'll give you my writing,
I'll never write anything again, if
you just let her live.
This is only half-articulate. She hurries back to the bedroom.
In the BEDROOM, Katie is quieter again; Francie wipes her
face with the cloth, and it soothes Katie so that she smiles
Mama, suppose the baby comes before
Grandma and Aunt Sissy get here--
What -- What --
I wouldn't be that lucky.
Her eyes close for a minute. Francie watches her helplessly.
In a moment Katie's eyes open again and she looks at Francie.
You can see I couldn't do any
different. Neeley -- he doesn't like
school, if he stopped he'd never go
back again. But you-- No matter how
hard it was you'd find a way to go
back, you'd fight to go back. You
can see that, can't you?
I -- Yes, mama.
Read me something, Francie.
Read me one of your compositions. I
never read any of your compositions,
it's on my conscience.
I tore all those up.
No you didn't, not all of 'em.
Can't I read you the Shakespeare, it
-- it's better.
Read about "'Twas on a night like
this." I'd like to have something
pretty on my mind.
(Francie gets the book
from the dresser and
Sit by the candle.
"The moon shines bright!--
In such a night as this
When the sweet wind did gently kiss
Did you ever find out who Troilus
was, and Cressida?
Yes, mama. Troilus was--
Some other day, when I got time.
Read me one of your compositions now.
You won't like them, mama.
You thought about them, and wrote
them, and got good marks on them,
and I never read one of them.
(a little petulantly)
Get them, I said.
Reluctantly Francie goes to get them. Katie stirs restlessly.
The pain is getting worse.
We see the PARLOR as Francie comes in, pulls out the box
from under the couch and reluctantly takes out one of the
compositions. She starts, back to the bedroom with it.
In the BEDROOM, Katie's eyes are closed as Francie comes in.
Seeing this, Francie moves very quietly, a little relieved
that she may not have to read the composition. But Katie's
(Francie obeys, but does
not start immediately)
(not looking at her)
It's called "The Man People Loved."
Please don't make me read it, mama.
"Perhaps many people might have said
of him that he was a failure. It is
true that he had no gift for making
money, but he had a gift for laughter,
and for making people love him. He
had the gift of making you feel proud
to walk down the street with him. He
had nothing to give but himself, but
of this he gave generously, like a
Like a king, that's right, walkin'
down the street with him you always
felt like that.
Did you, mama?
You were real smart to write it down
like that, that's like it was. Oh,
Francie, I miss him so much.
There is a new light in Francie's eyes as she looks at her
mother. Katie stirs restlessly. Hardly knowing she is doing
it, she reaches out a hand to Francie, and hangs on to her
hard. She is more than half delirious now, so that her
speech is disjointed. But at last Johnny, and their feeling
for him, is in the open between these two.
If the baby's a boy, we'll call him
Johnny. Where's Sissy -- Neeley's
been gone a long time. Wipe my face,
Francie -- No don't let go my hand.
Everybody loved him, you could tell
that at the funeral. Maybe if it's a
girl we'll call her Annie Laurie --
remember that tune he played? You
oughta have music lessons, maybe we
can manage it. You won't forget to
dust the piano, will you, Francie?
Who'd cry about me like that if I
died? I never done a wrong thing in
my life, but that ain't enough. I
didn't mean to be hard, Sissy, like
you said. If Johnny was here, he
could go to your graduation and I'd
go to Neeley's. I can't tear myself
into two pieces, how am I goin' to
go to both? Where are you, Francie?
I'm here, mama.
You're such a comfort. I'm so tired,
leave me sleep now.
Her eyes are closed in half-sleep, half-unconsciousness.
Francie, awed, sits holding on to her hand and staring her
as the scene dissolves to the KITCHEN, which Aunt Sissy and
Grandma Rommely have just entered from the hall. They cross
immediately to the bedroom. -- Here, Francie is still
holding on to the restless, fretful hand. She stands up as
Sissy and Grandma come in. She is frightened. Sissy and
Grandma take off their coats and get ready to go to work
(noticing Francie's fear)
You better go out and start some
water boilin', chickabiddy. We'll
call you if there is anything we
I thought you was never comin'.
You quit worryin' now.
She motions to Francie with her head to go on into the
kitchen, and the bewildered Francie obeys. Sissy starts
looking in the dresser drawers for cloths and the baby's
The scene dissolves to the KITCHEN, where Francie is
mechanically tending the water on the stove. The door from
the bedroom opens and Sissy hurries out. She tests the water
with her hand.
It isn't boiling yet.
You let me know when it is, I'll
take it in. You're to stay out here.
(wanting to help)
She -- She doesn't want any light,
just the candle.
She's goin' to be all right, baby.
Sissy starts back to the bedroom.
I just wanted to know -- Did she
want me to stay out -- or --
The question means so much to her, in her uncertainty, that
she can't go on. Sissy understands, and comes back to her.
She said you was to stay out, kid.
People always want to spare the ones
She looks at Francie for a long moment, and then turns and
goes on into the bedroom closing the door behind her.
Francie stares at it, then turns to the window and stares
out. Next, from Francie's point of view we get a view of the
tree, struggling into life again. -- As Francie stands
looking out at it the scene dissolves to the KITCHEN, and we
get a close view of the bedroom door as it opens and Grandma
appears. Francie turns quickly.
The baby is here. And the mama does
good, she sleeps. A very small baby
sister it is.
Francie is infinitely relieved.
Annie Laurie. Papa would have liked
As Grandma smiles at her gently, the scene fades out.
The exterior of FRANCIE'S SCHOOL fades in as children,
dressed for their graduation, are going inside with their
parents, and this scene dissolves into the SCHOOL CORRIDOR,
where Sissy is waiting for Francie, who comes out of the
girls' washroom and joins her. Francie has on a very simple
white graduation dress. Excited girls are milling back and
forth in the corridor.
I got her into a front seat so she
won't miss a thing.
As they talk they go on into the classroom. The exercises
have not yet begun. There are flowers on a number of the
girls' desks. As Sissy and Francie enter, one girl calls to
Hey, Francie, you better come get
She indicates some roses on Francie's desk. Francie knows
they can't be for her.
They aren't mine, I'm not wearing
(then, to Sissy)
Some of the girls, their families
send them flowers.
(with a little smile)
They're on your desk, lamb, I'd go
Francie hesitates. She would rather not.
Well, I've got to get my things
She goes toward her desk. Sissy watches her. Francie comes
up to her desk. She makes a show of starting to get her
things together from the desk. As she does this, she looks
down at the flowers. -- We then see a card on the flowers.
It reads: Miss FRANCES NOLAN. -- Francie can't believe it.
Then she opens the little envelope and we see that the card,
which is in it, reads: "To Francie on graduation day. Love
from Papa." -- Francie stares, awed and frightened. She does
not know what to believe, and a wave of emotion catches her.
Anticipating this, Sissy steps in beside her quickly.
He gave me the money to buy 'em, way
before Christmas. To make sure of
havin' it, he said. And he wrote out
Francie stands unbelievingly for a moment. Then it is too
much for her. A wave of feeling catches her, and her face
goes down into the flowers. Sissy knows that in a moment
there will be a flood of tears.
Come on, kid.
An arm around Francie's shoulders, she hurries her up the
aisle as the scene dissolves to the GIRLS' WASHROOM. A girl
is just leaving as Sissy leads Francie in. Sissy closes the
door, and they are alone.
Now, let it go, baby.
Francie looks at her and the emotion is too much. A sob
catches in Francie's throat.
There, nobody won't hear you and I
won't let nobody in. You just have
Francie stands clutching the flowers to her, and then the
flood of tears breaks.
Papa, oh papa--
She starts to cry as she should have long ago, and as Sissy
comforts her, the scene dissolves to the SCHOOL AUDITORIUM
where we see a line of children filing by to get the
diplomas which are being given out by the principal. There
is applause at each name.
(holding out the
Francie, eyes shining, receives her diploma. -- Sissy
applauds vociferously. -- Miss McDonough applauds too, and
her eyes are a little misty. -- Grandma Rommely is too moved
to applaud. She has lived for this moment. This is
This dissolves to an ICE CREAM PARLOR with several marble-
topped tables. The Nolans are occupying one -- Francie,
Neeley, Katie and Sissy. They are having ice cream. Francie
still has her flowers. Sissy is talking but Katie is
watching Francie and the flowers.
Well sir, I don't think Grandma spoke
one word the whole time, and from the
looks of her when I put her on the
streetcar, she'll probably ride clear
out to Coney Island and never know
the difference. Heaven only knows
what she'd have been like if she
could've got to both graduations.
(looking at Francie)
Looks to me like it was a pretty
good day. Your soda all right,
(looking at her shyly)
Pineapple's not as good as chocolate.
Then what did you order it for?
Because I'm up to the P's. I'll try
There's somethin' to that idea --
Try everything once.
At this, Katie giver her a significant look.
At the table behind them a man pays his check and gets up.
(to the waiter)
And a dime for you, my boy. This is
a special night.
His party goes out. Their boy too has a diploma.
He don't know how special -- Two
diplomas in the Nolan family all in
(leaning close to
her mother; whispering)
(Katie leans closer)
I got a nickel if you want to leave
it. People do.
It'll be all right, Francie.
(she leans back)
You know somethin'? They ain't goin'
to be the last diplomas, either. I
don't know how we're goin' to work
Her speech is interrupted by the arrival at the table of two
boys, one Auggie, whom we have seen before, about Neeley's
age. The other, a little older.
Hi, Neeley, how you doin?
(indicating his diploma)
Okay, I got out o' jail.
(Auggie's older brother)
Nice goin'. Say, wasn't it you I saw
workin' behind the bat the other day?
(with phony enthusiasm)
Say, you were pretty good. You know
what, I'm comin' out and give you
some pointers some day.
Sure I will.
That is, if your ma don't mind.
Naw, she won't mind.
The obviousness of his attempt to get introduced is apparent
to both Katie and Sissy. It amuses them.
Well, I'll see you on the lot.
Maybe you better ask your ma. I
don't want to do nothin' she wouldn't
want me to.
Aw, she wouldn't care.
(grinning and coming
to Herschel's rescue)
Maybe you better ask her yourself,
just to make sure. I'm Neeley's
aunt, and this is his ma, but this
is his sister. What's your name,
Mr. Knutsen, I'd like for you to
meet my niece, Miss Francie Nolan.
Pleased to meet you.
(to break the silence
that has ensued)
Nice night if it don't rain. Why
don't you sit down, Herschel?
Herschel does so promptly, next to Francie.
Doin' anything tomorrow afternoon,
Miss Nolan? It's Saturday.
I don't know. Why?
There's a swell picture, Bill Hart.
Maybe you'd like to go.
It is Francie's first date. Sissy and Katie are amused and
interested. Francie hesitates and then passes the feminine
Well, I -- I might be busy. I'll let
Well, I'll come around and see.
I thought we was goin' to play ball
We can do that any time, sure.
There's lots o' time.
Both Neeley and Auggie are overwhelmingly disgusted with the
feet of clay that Herschel has shown.
Aw, come on, Hersch.
Well, I'll be seein' you, Miss Nolan.
Francie smiles, but doesn't answer and Herschel and Auggie
leave. Francie has made her first conquest.
I'm proud of you, chickabiddy. You
handled him fine.
Francie is flustered, but it is very pleasant.
It's the hair that done it.
I hate to bust up the party, but --
them babies got to be fed.
Steve will need a little somethin',
too -- Three hours with the both of
They make preparations to leave. The waiter enters with the
check. Katie puts a half dollar on the table.
Thirty out of fifty.
He starts to take out some change. Katie hesitates, looks at
Francie, and then at Johnny's roses. Then she gets to her
Keep the change.
It is a decision monumental in its importance. Francie's
eyes shine as she looks at her mother.
Thank you, ma'am.
Why, Katie Nolan!
I don't care! There's times when
feelin' good and -- and things like
that is important. I don't care.
They gather their things and start out. Neeley takes a last
noisy pull at the straw in his drink. As they start out,
Francie walks next to Katie.
As they get to the door, and the others pass through,
Francie hesitates a moment.
(shyly, to Katie)
You -- you want to carry my flowers,
Katie looks down at her, a little tremulously. Their eyes
meet, and things are fine. Katie takes the flowers a little
awkwardly. It is the measure of their sharing of Johnny.
They start out together. Francie is close beside her as the
scene dissolves out.
The NOLAN KITCHEN dissolves in as Katie, Sissy, Francie and
Neeley are just entering. Their spirits are high.
You missed it, Steve. How are the
They stop short as they see McShane sitting at the table
with Uncle Steve. Each holds a sleeping baby. McShane gets
to his feet, embarrassed.
I'm beggin' your pardon, ma'am, but
I just dropped in, and your brother-
in-law seemed to be needin' a little
help, and the baby didn't seem to
mind. I hope I'm not intruding.
Not at all, Mr. McShane.
Sit right down, we're just goin'.
(she takes her baby)
Come along, Steve.
I'll take her, Mr. McShane.
I'd like it if you'd leave her. Her
and me has got to be good friends.
Katie hesitates and then complies. Francie moves about
putting her flowers in water. Sissy and Steve are getting
ready to go.
I wish you wouldn't hurry.
Got to get this family of mine home.
Steve's got his milk to deliver to a
lot more babies that like that
They move toward the door. Katie goes with them.
whispering to Katie)
Quit frownin', Katie. The fellers
don't go for that at all.
Katie flushes but has no answer. Sissy is enjoying the
(to the others)
Goodbye, kids. So long, Mac.
(grinning a little)
Goodbye, Mrs. Edwards.
Thank you, Aunt Sissy.
Sissy ruffles her hair a little, then suddenly bends and
kisses her. Sissy and Steve go. Suddenly there is a little
constraint in the room.
Well, I -- I'll take the baby off
you now, Mr. McShane.
She does, and sits down across the kitchen table from him.
McShane doesn't know quite what to do with the blanket that
has been across his lap. Conversation lags for a moment.
You -- you got a nice family, Mrs.
Thank you, Mr. McShane.
There is another silence, and then McShane gets to his feet.
He has something to say, but doesn't know how to go about
it. Then he takes a long breath.
Mrs. Nolan, likely you're wonderin'
why I came here tonight. Let your
wonderin' be over. I came on a
He pauses and clears his throat. Francie looks at her
Mama, shall I go and--
No. Don't be leavin', children. My
conversation would be concernin' you
as well as your mother.
(he clears his
Mrs. Nolan, I feel it is no
disrespect to speak my mind at this
time. The last thing I'd intend
would be any disrespect. But -- I
mean, I'm in line for a sergeancy
now, and I feel that it has been a
decent interval since the passin' of
Mrs. McShane, God rest her soul--
I didn't know, Mr. McShane, I'm
I said nothing, Mrs. Nolan, because
it was near the time of your own
bereavement, and I didn't wish --
that is, I know it is barely six
months now since your husband too,
left this world, rest his soul --
But intendin' no disrespect -- and
even without the sergeancy, I feel
I'm in a position to speak my mind
now. So that when you feel a decent
interval has elapsed, I'm -- I'm
askin' to start keepin' company with
you, Katharine Nolan, with the object
of a weddin' when -- when a decent
time has elapsed.
There is a silence. Katie looks first at Francie. Francie
smiles a little. Then Katie looks up at McShane.
For my part, I will be glad to keep
company with you, Mr. McShane. Not
for the help you offer, because I
know we'd manage some way. But
because you are a good man, Mr.
There's one more thing. There's
little enough I can be offerin' to
such a fine family, but it's little
enough I'd be askin' of the children.
Their father was a fine man, and I'd
have no wish to be tryin' to take
his place. It would be my intention
to be more like -- like a real good
(directly to Francie)
As the eldest, could you be
His understanding about her father has been the winning
stroke with Francie. She looks at him squarely.
Yes, Mr. McShane.
I was thinkin' it wouldn't be right
that I should ever ask the two
oldest to take my name. But the
little one -- the one that never
looked on her father -- Would you
think of letting me legally adopt
If that time comes, the child shall
have your name.
(drawing a deep
breath of relief)
Now I'm wonderin' if I could smoke
You could have smoked any time, Mr.
I didn't want to be takin' privileges
before I was entitled to 'em.
He fishes for his pipe with enormous relief. -- Francie
comes to her mother and starts to take the baby from her.
Help me put her to bed, Neeley.
To fix the blankets.
She starts for the bedroom, giving Neeley a gesture with
her head for him to follow. Left alone with McShane, Katie
goes to the stove.
I'll just heat up the coffee. Will
you join me in a cup, Mr. McShane?
Thank you, Katharine, I will.
In the BEDROOM, Francie and Neeley are putting the baby in
(with a superior air)
They want to be alone. They've got
things to talk over.
They finish tucking in the sleeping baby. Francie goes to
the window and looks out. She is in a strange mood.
Neeley -- let's go up on the roof?
What's the matter?
He called her Katharine.
Francie smiles too, and as they start out, the scene
dissolves to the ROOF, where Francie and Neeley are leaning
against the parapet, looking out at the world.
Annie Laurie McShane.
She'll never have the hard times we
did, will she?
She'll never have the fun, either.
We did have fun, didn't we, when we
Remember those olden days when we
Neeley, look at the tree, it's
growing again just like papa said.
(after a little pause)
I -- I feel kind of sad, like --
like we're saying goodbye to
Again there's a little pause.
Am I good looking?
Aw, what's eatin' you?
No, honest, Neeley, I want to know.
This is high tribute from Neeley. Francie smiles happily.
You're sweet, Neeley.
Aw, cut the mush.
Content, they gaze out over the world which their diplomas
have made theirs as the scene fades out.
Screenplay by Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis
Additional dialogue by an uncredited Anita Loos
Adapted from the novel by Betty Smith (Elizabeth Lillian Wehner)
The author's original ending
... In the manuscript of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in the archives
of the Southern Historical Collection in Chapel Hill, the novel ends
after the death of the father. The two children, Francie and Neeley,
are sitting miserably at the kitchen table looking forward to a life
of increased poverty and hunger. [Author Betty] Smith writes with
her characteristic mixture of sentimentality and despair. Francie
"I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and His
mother, Holy Mary. Jesus was a baby like we
were once. And he went barefoot in the summer
like we do. I saw a picture. And he had no
shoes on. He lived like other people lived and
He went fishing like papa did once. He was
always where there were poor people ...." She
made the sign of the cross as every Catholic
does when speaking of Jesus.
Then she put her hand on Neeley's knee.
"But I will say now and I will always say - To
hell with God!"
Neeley put his hand on Francie's hand and
"To hell with God!"
In the manuscript version, the novel ended there.
--from a dissertation by Carol Siri Johnson