The Makings of a Meltdown
May 3, 1977
Dear Mr. Lear,
I am writing regarding your outstanding production, “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” I was dismayed to learn it is coming to an end but I understand how musch pressure Louis, Tom, and the others must be under. I was seriously considering picketing Channel 11, but after thinking it through I came to a more profound conclusion. “M.H., M.H.” is in the relative field of existence. Although I think I’ll die without it I must keep in mind that nothing in the relative can be completely fulfilling and last forever.
I see you as the truly enlightened man you are. “M.H., M.H.” had a purpose. I feel its purpose was to shine light on our ignorant states of existence. A lot of people who dislike the show, dislike it, in my opinion, because deep down they realize they are watching themselves in action. These people say it’s far-fetched and stupid but they won’t admit that that’s the way we all are.
In conclusion, I would like to say, “THANK YOU” for shining some light on my dull existence and enabling me to have a hell-of-a-good time at 11pm Monday – Friday.
With great appreciation,
Linda Natale, Linda Natale
P.S. If you ever need any support with the show and maybe getting it back on the air, please feel free to call on me.
“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” was a surreal soap opera—cum sitcom produced by Norman Lear and starring Louise Lasser in the title role that ran for only two seasons, from 1976 to 1977. By the end of the first season, it was a runaway hit. Airing at 11 p.m., five nights a week, the half-hour-long show resonated not only with mainstream viewers but also the intellectual and cultural elite: Academics panegyrized the show’s satire of a consumer-driven society; jazz musicians Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman released an album, an homage to the series, titled Soapsuds, Soapsuds in 1978.
Episode 124 was the perfect denouement to a show that was resolutely of its time, which chose to reflect current events while other sitcoms strove for a generically timeless, i.e., “classic,” quality. That “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” was, well, so ‘70’s makes it garishly fascinating to contemporary audiences. The American Indian Movement, hostage crises, Gore Vidal, Betty Ford, televangelism, gay rights, and, of course, feminism, are just a few of the quintessentially 1970’s phenomena or figures the series touched on. Most compelling, though, was the way “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” critiqued television. Take, for example, the season finale: After having been dubbed “America’s Typical Consumer Housewife,” Mary is interviewed by David Susskind and three strident pundits. Unable to endure an interrogation about her shopping and sexual habits on live TV, not to mention that her marriage is falling apart, her 13-year-old daughter has run away from home, her grandfather is a flasher, and countless other indignities brought upon her by the show’s genius writers, Mary has a meltdown.
The meeting notes and story breakdowns for the episode reproduced on the following pages shed some light on the mechanics behind this famous scene. Lasser’s performance of the meltdown was so convincing that many viewers thought she was improvising. But these documents prove that it was scripted, down to the relentless and excruciating questioning that leaves Mary so severed from her identity at the end of the episode that she can only helplessly repeat her own name, “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” ad infinitum.
Last year, I had the opportunity to interview Norman Lear about “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman;” a transcript of that interview appears below.—Claire Barliant
Claire Barliant: “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” enjoyed mainstream success—the show’s star, Louise Lasser, was featured on the covers of People and Rolling Stone dressed as Mary. Yet it also developed a cult and academic following among viewers who were looking for something different or more offbeat. I was wondering if those dual successes surprised you at all.
Norman Lear: I don’t think they surprised me, which isn’t the same thing as saying I was not expecting to be surprised. What was interesting was that it seemed to be accepted on two levels. The people you’re talking about got something that the average viewer did not get: They got the subtext. And then there was a greater subtext. I myself didn’t realize how strong this greater subtext was until within the last year.
Can you describe that a little more?
Yes, I can. My concept for the show was that we were going to look at an average American blue-collar housewife and see how she was being impacted by the media. How the 24/7 of television, magazines, and the beginning of what is now a raging celebrity culture would impact her. Somebody recently put the last scene of the first season of “Mary Hartman” on YouTube. In it, there were three media talking heads—a feminist, a media critic, and a consumer advocate—along with David Susskind, playing himself, who were interviewing Mary, because she had just been chosen as “Housewife of the Year” by some publication. And these people, who represented the media, harangued her. The entire episode was probably 20 minutes, and she went crazy. She was driven fucking nuts by the media. I didn’t realize how complete that subtext was. I was thrilled. The breakdown was…I’ve never seen a better performance ever, anywhere.
Louise Lasser does such a fantastic job playing Mary. How did she come to be cast in the role?
An agent read the script and brought her to me. In effect, he really cast her. Once I met her, I mean, you know, [laughs] there was only one.
Critique of consumerism is a major part of the show. For example, in the episode you were talking about, the pundits are grilling her about her susceptibility to commercials. And during the show she’s always trying out new products, as in the famous opening scene where she is asking her sister whether she can see waxy yellow buildup on her floor.
She’s doing that two minutes—or maybe it’s 20 seconds—after having learned that a family of five and their eight goats and two chickens had been slaughtered around the corner.
Right. [laughs] When I watch the show now, I can’t help but think that if it were on today, those moments would be product-placement opportunities.
[laughs] Yes, they would.
Do you have any thoughts about the direction in which TV has gone since? Is it what you expected?
You know, I can’t say I’m smart of prescient enough to have predicted it, but I certainly was aware of its beginning, when advertising started convincing people that they couldn’t believe their own eyes if an ad told them to believe something else. We certainly were ahead of the curve in that regard.
It seems like a revolutionary topic for a show at that time. In fact, there’s a lot of material on the show that is very racy—for instance, the frank discussion of impotence—that seems ahead of the curve. Is that partly to do with the fact that the show aired late at night?
Well, it was on late night, but it was also on independent stations. Stations that carried it became known as part of the “‘Mary Hartman’ network” because it was the only thing on the air that distinguished your station on a national level.
Can you talk about the distribution method? It’s very unusual.
When we started out, we couldn’t get arrested. We just couldn’t get it on the air. There were only three networks and then the independent stations. I don’t think we said, “Let’s establish our own network.” What happened was there was a NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) convention in L.A., and we couldn’t sell it—we hadn’t sold any. A couple of weeks in advance of the NATPE convention, we decided to have a dinner on the lawn at my home, and we invited all of the guys who bought for the stations. I know Ted Turner was there, and a couple of stars—just some glitz to get them to come. We had a great turnout, and we had dinner on the lawn with my wife and daughters hostessing. The reason for making a point of that was I wanted them to see this was a great family with two feet on the ground. The next morning we had a breakfast, with Ron, the promo man, trying to sell “Mary Hartman.” And here’s what happened: Most of these guys showed up, and an older guy who was a dean among these guys stood up and said, “I want that show for my station.” And the others followed, and that was how we broke through.
Can you imagine using a similar strategy to get something that subsersive on the air now, or is it easier to turn to other models like YouTube, for example, that offer alternative distribution?
Well, there certainly are new forms of alternative distribution. I don’t know if it could happen. I’d like to try it.
Have you thought about making a show and putting it online?
Yes, we’re working on a couple of things. You remember “Fernwood 2-Night?” The conceit is that “Fernwood 2-Night” has been on the air all these years in Fernwood, Ohio, and someone rediscovers it: “Oh my gosh, it’s still there. They’re still running it.”
I read an autobiography by Ann Marcus, the main writer for the show, and when she writes about her experience working with you on the show, it’s a little contentious. I’m sure you know about all of this. She claims that the show went downhill a little bit after you took her off of it. I was wondering if you had any comment on that?
It did go downhill. It might have been because Ann was just marvelous—she was stalwart, and exceedingly creative, and she brought in two other writers. The three of them were the mainstays. But it went downhill also because Louise was exhausted. So the combination of Ann’s departure, which was meaningful, coincided with the situation with Louise.
It’s interesting how many women there were behind the show.
That was true throughout our company. Women are my life. I have five daughters. I never did a show that was produced by dozens of guys, as these things go, that wasn’t really produced by a woman.
“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” has had a second life since the issue of the DVD a couple of years ago. Do you have any thoughts on how future generations might view the show?
First of all, in the long history of acting, thre was only one Louise Lasser: She had a style and caught something so enormously unique that it will always be impressive. Second, what we were dealing with was basically the human condition, and if there were allusions to things happening at that moment in time, they were in context—they were part of issues that never go away. So I would think it would be as interesting anytime. You know, I didn’t have any problems with “Mary Hartman,” but when I did “All in the Family,” the network fought hard to not have us talk about Nixon, for instance—not discuss topical things—because they were hoping for a long afterlife for the series. They were sure that people would not be interested in subjects that had no current relevance. But as it turned out, that didn’t matter.
MEETING – 4/9/76
NORMAN LEAR &
NL: “TYPICAL AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE (OF THE YEAR)” –
For Mary. After Cathy suggests her or the station
decides to talk to her, somebody comes to her house
to interview her. She’s being interviewed at a time
when Tom is an alcoholic, when she’s got a problem
with Heather, when other things are happening in the
family. It’s a tangent, a slightly bent STET scene.
instead of Mary doing a monologue, the person is
asking exciting, involved, interested questions about
her family and Mary is trying to answer them, but
she’s not able to talk about her drunk husband, etc.
What Mary is doing is making it seem like things are
fine, but she’s talking around the things that we
know – like Tom is an alcoholic, Heather ran away
three times (by the way, that’s happening too). Louise
is also suggesting that in this interview there may be
two people there, well, let’s keep it one actor, and the
person has a tape machine going which scares the
shit out of Mary and is constantly taking polaroids
which always forces her in the middle of trying
desperately to keep a brave face – she has to suddenly
smile for a polaroid that’s being snapped to her right
when she’s looking to her left.
This material that the local station is taping is sent
to New York where local stations from all over the
country have been asked to send the tape. Now I
don’t know whether Louise is intending this, but I
see a scene in New York where two executives have
just looked at the tapes of forty housewives. One of
them referes to that Mary Hartman in Fernwood and
says that he thinks she’d be great. The other one
says, “Great! The woman is a near-hysteric. I mean,
something’s wrong there. Some problem.” And the
other guy says, “But look at the balance—you’ve got
two happy housewives, and this one…” In other
words, one guy is trying to profit on the fact that he
thinks he has seen a woman in distress. And that’s
how she gets from their standpoint to the show.
LL: I think also on the show, she is the only “typical
American housewife.” Everyone else—in the interview
NL: Depending on how many interviews we do, the first
interview with the Fernwood stations we may have
covered. Maybe there’s a second interview before or
after they see her tape in New York, depending on
how many scenes we need to carry this line. But after
they see her tape in New York maybe there’s a second
interview, because they send somebody to Fernwood.
And when she’s asked questions about her typical
housewife activity, she says she doesn’t do anything.
She just kind of gets up in the morning, and she
mops sometimes, and sometimes she does the oven,
sometimes she does the oven more than once, and
sometimes she has to open the refrigerator to get
eggs, and then she closes it. And they think it’s great.
Whatever she says, they think it’s absolutely great,
and typical, typical, typical.
The television scene in which she has the breakdown
will now come out of New York. That will give it even
more size. And we will have seen how the process
worked. Forty women were selected out of tape that
was prepared from their local TV station and viewed
in New York. Then it was narrowed down to three
women. I want to see you on a show with two women
who are perfectly well.
HOLD EVERYTHING! Louise is saying that when we
get to that television show in New York, we will know
what the process was because we will have seen the
scene in New York where they select Mary as one of
the three. And then finally they select her as the one.
She’s on the tube alone in a David Susskind-type
presentation where off-stage there is an audience and
we may hear a question asked, and onstage is the
whole family—the whole family will be in the show.
Just to talk about the set for a moment – to avoid a
big set – we can do this in front of drapes, as a lot of
talk shows are done, with three men who are asking
questions of Louise, of the “Typical American
Housewife.” The family’s in the audience. We can film
the family in the audience against any other kind of
backdrop, even like the recording studio, just a few
rows of chairs and an indication of other people. They
don’t have to be taped at the same time, so we don’t
have to have a complete set with 180 degrees to
It’s a David Susskind kind of show. As a matter of
fact it can be David Susskind. I’m sure he’d be happy
to come out here and do it. It’s David’s kind of show,
and then you can do it from Fernwood and you won’t
expect to see his set because David Susskind has
come to Fernwood to the home of the Typical
American Family. That’ll make the fact that the
family is there much more easy to take, too. They
didn’t all fly to New York and that, because they
really can’t afford the trip. So Susskind has come, it’s
a national hook-up, and he has come to Fernwood
having found the Typical American Housewife, and
the family’s in the audience. On the panel with him
are tow very strong female liberationists. One is a
Margaret Mead kind of person, an anthropologist, a
very strong lady. The other one is a Bella Abzug or a
Gloria Steinem kind of person. They’re both very
strong ladies. And another one is an author who’s
written some great books, like Fear of Flying, Erica
Jong, full of sex and female liberation sex. One of the
things that Mary asked them not to discuss on the
show is sex. Not that she’s uptight about it at all.
It’s just that her daughter’s going to be in the
audience and they don’t talk about those things in
front of her daughter. And not on family hour. And
David Susskind says, “But this is going to be on at
ten o’clock,” and she says, “In my house that’s family
hour. We don’t have an hour that isn’t. All hours are
family hours. Six o’clock is family hour. Four-thirty
in the morning—family hour! You never know when
Heather’s going to have cramps.”
Think about this gang—the possibility of Mary having
gone to New York alone with Susskind and the family
isn’t in the audience because they really wouldn’t all
go back there, they can’t afford that. And the fact of
her isolation alone, having left her little hotel room
and come to the Susskind studio and the big city
with the big lights and all of those things all alone
may make the breakdown—I think the breakdown is
more interesting that way.
LL: I do too.
NL: Let’s do that. In New York and alone. And let’s see
the family by cutting to them around the television
set. Same feeling.
There’s a scene for Mary and the priest where she’s
trying to pray in a Catholic way. She’s tried
everything else, and she’s asking him how you do it.
Maybe she’s gotten some beads from a friend, and
she’s asking the priest how to count them and could
he please put some water on her head. She brings him
a glass of water, and he starts to drink and she says,
“No, that’s not to drink. Just touch me on the head.”
And here then she brings him a cracker, a graham
cracker because she didn’t have a wafer.
Louise is suggesting a wonderful scene. It could be
More than a scene. It could be a scene and a thread
through a lot of other things. Mary has all kinds of
crazy gourmet foods and other things stashed. She’s
eating a great deal. She has chocolates, everywhere,
and things she’s never eaten before like cumquats,
she didn’t even like to say the word before. And she’s
stuffing herself. There’s a good scene in that and
possibly an attitude for a number of scenes.
…coming in with a dithering Marha and pooped Grandpa, who just wants some peanut butter and some prune juice. George wants everyone to calm down. It’s not the end of the world. Yes, it is, says Martha—she’s been disgraced, she’s been held over for trial, they had to put up the whole Winnebago fund for her bail…and now on top of everything Billy’s gone! George is sure the police’ll find him! Grandpa isn’t and frankly he’s glad. Martha’s disconsolate. It was bad enough them all being arrested, especially Billy for assaulting Willard Armitage, the spokesman from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, by pelting him with rotten tomatoes, but now that Billy’s escaped from Fernwood City Jail, they’ll really throw the book at him. Here she is, an adopted child who’s finally found her true father, a full-blooded Choctaw, only to have the man arrested and charges proferred against him so that he’ll probably spend the rest of his life behind bars. They find the note from Cathy. Martha too upset even to take it seriously, until Grandpa says it’s probably got that priest involved somehow. Martha feels faint. George says there’s no time for her to pass out. It’s almost seven-thirty. Time for America’s Typical Consumer Special, starring their daughter, Mary Hartman. They turn on the set.
CUE TO: TV STUDIO
David Susskind welcoming America to an intimate look at itself, its hopes, its dreams, its frustrations, and its buying habits. Behind him in shadow a seated figure with braids. He goes on to explain the format of the show, the real-life film they’ll be seeing, the panel of experts, and America’s Typical Consumer herself…whom he now introduces. Mary Hoffman. Hartman, the seated figure corrects, as the lights come up around her, Mary Hartman.
ACT ONE: TV STUDIO, ON THE HEELS OF IV, #123
David face to face with Mary, who’s got a coast to coast smile going for the viewers at home. Introductory chit-chat, no, she’s not nervous, yes, she’s enjoying NY, yes, she’s a typical tourist. And into a short personal history just to get the ball rolling. (Won’t you tell us something about yourself, Mary?) And the picture we get is pretty much the way the makers of Johnson’s wax would have it. Kind of post-Pepsi Generation coping, seeing the bright side, middle American morality glossing the rough spots. But somehow the information on David’s fact sheet doesn’t seem to be jibing with the picture Mary’s trying to paint. As he probes, she starts becoming nervous. No, she’s not actually separated; she and her husband are just no longer living together, though they have much in common and enjoy the same aspects of the good life. No, she and her daughter do not fight; they just have differences of opinion. What does her daughter want to do when she grows up? She doesn’t know. But then why would she? She doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up either. David cuts to the film (with Hugh’s voice-over), and we see bits and pieces of Mary’s week, intercut with Mary’s reactions. Breakfast from #116, coming home from shopping (same episode), Mary dusting with Heather from #117. And all the personal traumas that have been weaving through her days. Mary looks uncomfortable. She didn’t realize they’d be using so much of the personal things and so little of her “consumerism.” The footage grinds on, Mary sinking lower and lower in her chair.
ACT TWO: SHUMWAY KITCHEN
George and Martha and Grandpa watching as David breaks for a commercial. Martha’s upset; she doesn’t like the way Mary looks. George thinks his daughter looks fine, her dress, her braids. But that’s not what Martha means. She means the look on Mary’s face; she looks like she’s going to be sick. And Martha’ll bet anything that prying and personal questions is not what Mary expected. But then she doesn’t know why Mary agreed to the show in the first place. She certainly wouldn’t have done it, and all their dirty linen for all the world to see.
CUT BACK TO: THE TV STUDIO
David introducing his experts, who are now faced off against Mary and commenting round-table-style on the film they’ve just seen. They are not kind and treat Mary pretty much like a lab specimen. She shrinks, she squirms. No, it’s not like that. Her life is fine, her household is well-managed, her child is happy.
CUT TO: CHICAGO MOTEL ROOM
(Re-dress of Fernwood Motel Room? With TV) Loretta and Merle and Jimmy Joe watching Loretta’s friend; Loretta upset. She knows this isn’t going the way Mary expected. Merle sending Jimmy Joe out of the room, so he and Loretta can talk. In fact, this trip to Chicago isn’t turning out the way Loretta expected. So far there’s been no work on her act for the Revival and Merle seems very vague about all his plans. He’ll confess, says Merle. He did get her here under false pretenses. What false pretenses? He’s not all that hot about her singin’, but he is about her. Loretta’s startin’ to feely mighty nervous. Merle locks the door, just so they won’t be disturbed. Disturbed from what? Loretta wants to get back to the TV show, the commercial’s over. But Merle has other ideas of what they oughta get to. He’s crazy about Loretta, has been ever since he first met her. And Jimmy Joe’s crazy about her too. And they can both see how she feels about them. Merle moving in for a clinch. He wants her. They’re right for each other. A beautiful woman like Loretta doesn’t need some balk old man with glasses. He kisses her, she struggles. He presses. She tries to get out of the room. He acts like she’s playing, and continues, pins her against a wall. She grabs a lamp and beans him. He falls. She’s scared. She tries to get him to stand up, nothing. No response. Panicked, she calls Charlie (TWO-WAY) Charlie, help me! I’m in trouble.
ACT THREE: THE TV STUDIO
Where Mary’s under heavy fire from the panel of experts. Does she feel her life is being controlled by Madison Avenue? Does she get her money’s worth from the goods and services she buys? Does she have a satisfactory sex life? Mary’s trying to keep the discussion on a family hour plane and be polite all at the same time. For the most part, she feels the products she buys—do her sexual fantasies now seem different than the ones she had before she was married? Actually, she responds, kitchen and food products are somewhat more satisfactory than clothing goods, but of course that has to do with style. Shirley’s pinning her on her failed hopes and lost ambitions. Is the male’s role as head of the house a detriment to the emerging woman? Mary talks about car care products. Does she believe in the liberation movement? She talks about products for bedroom and bath. Is she concerned about the quality of education and how her daughter will be able to cope with a changing world? Absolutely. Does she worry about her daughter’s sex life? Or is her attitude more like the First Mama’s? Mary’s getting frazzled. What about her husband’s drinking problem? What about extra-marital sex? Mary tries to give second hand Ann Landers—Reader’s Digest opinions with allowances, of course, for the kinds of passion evoked by Rich Man, Poor Man. Tucker McMarshall pins her. Is she trying to say that all her opinions are second-hand? That she can’t relate to ideas in terms of her own experience? Mary gets wound up for one last-ditch defense of her life. She has opinions, she has ideas, she has feelings, and she is in control of her fate. She did not crack under the threat of VD or indecent exposure or homosexuality down the block. She has stood strong in the face of anti-semitism, auto wrecks, fibroid tumors, and mass murder. She can even cope with the fact that her real great-grandfather [sic] who has been located through Adopto-Find is a Choctaw Indian. She believes in herself, she believes in the future, she believes in the United States of America. If only the mail would come on time, but you see, it doesn’t, and then of course there’s the planes—the flight patterns should be changed back, or maybe it’s the working conditions in large factories, like the one in which her semi-estranged husband used to work. Or maybe it’s consumer boycotts, or waxy yellow build-up or adultery or sexual diamonds and therapists—maybe it’s everything! Maybe all these people and cameras and sponsors and families and electronic everything is just too much. David tries to bring everything back into focus. Is Mary saying that she has trouble maintaining her identity in the face of modern living? Is she unliberated, asks Shirley? Is she unprotected against the interests of big business, asks Norman? Is she buffeted into numbness by the media, asks Tucker. Yes, screams Mary! She’ll confess! Yes to everything. All the failures, all the mistakes! The world has tried to make life wonderful and she’s loused it all up. She’s guilty! Are they still on the air? She’s hopeless? Can they come back tomorrow? She doesn’t know what to do! To do, to do, to do…..
ACT FOUR: HOSPITAL ROOM WALL
Mary sitting on a chair in a hospital gown, motionless, silent. Around her voices. Hospital administrators getting sign-in information from George and Martha, Tom’s concern, Heather wondering where she’ll go to live—a nurse explaining the set-up at the hospital, another doctor giving a very guarded prognosis. The nurse calls to Mary, come along now. That’s right, I’m Mrs. Gimble. Do you want to tell me your name? Mary, almost catatonic muttering: Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman….The confusion around her continues. Perhaps her mother interjecting something about the trouble Loretta’s in. None of seems to reach Mary, who just sits, every few seconds muttering Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Doctors conferring about possible treatment. Tom crying, apologizing for everything. Grandpa wondering if it could have been Billy Twelvetrees disrupting all their lives….And where’s Cathy? They haven’t seen her since they found her note. Heather’s hungry. Medication coming, a room arranged for. Maybe just a couple of weeks, mayby months. Mary completely tuned out, just her voice droning intermittently. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman….
END OF SEASON
…hears. It’s almost time for Mary’s show on TV. She had no idea it was so late. She’s gotta go since Merle doesn’t have a set here and besides, she should be home for Charlie. Merle says he wants her to stay because they have something more important to do. Loretta politely disagrees. There ain’t nothin’ more important than watchin’ Mary’s show even though she’s mad at her because she said such negative things about Merle and her goin’ to Chicago. But she’s still her best friend and she dearly wants to watch her in this triumph…of bein’ America’s Typical Consumer. Merle prevents her from going by locking the door and pocketing the key. He doesn’t want to frighten her, he simply wants to talk to her.
CUT TO: TV STUDIO
David Susskind welcoming America to an intimate look at itself, its hopes, its dreams, its frustrations, and its buying habits. Behind him, in shadow, a seated figure with braids. He goes on to explain the format of the show, the real-life film they’ll be seeing, the panel of experts, and America’s Typical Consumer herself…whom he now introduces. Mary Hoffman. Hartman, the seated figure corrects, as the lights come up around her, Mary Hartman.
ACT ONE: TV STUDIO, IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING ACT 4, #123
Same as original.
ACT TWO: HAGGERS L.R., NIGHT
Charlie, watching Mary’s show, wondering where Loretta could be. DOORBELL. Loretta musta forgot her key again, says Charlie, going to the door. He opens it, but doesn’t see anyone because it’s Jimmy Joe who only comes up to his knee. Charlie thinks something awful’s happened to Loretta. Not yet, says Jimmy Joe and explains how he was supposed to go to the movies and sit through twice, but he got to hearing a Voice on the bus which told him to come here instead. He’s worried about his Pa’s weakness and sinning and what he said about Mrs. Haggers…like how she’s gonna be his mother and his Daddy’s wife when that can’t be because polygamy is disallowed in the Bible and coveting another man’s wife, too, and if Mr. Haggers would like him to quote chapter and verse, he’ll be glad to. Charlie is staggered. His mouth drops open…then he rushes out the door.
CUT TO: MERLE’S MOTEL ROOM
Incorporatin’ much of what was on p. 27 of original, only rememberin’ that we are not in Chicago. And…when you’uns git to the end…stop at…a beautiful woman like Loretta doesn’t need some bald old man with glasses. He kisses her, she struggles, and screams. POUNDING ON THE DOOR AND CHARLIE SHOUTING…OPEN UP!! Merle gets a gun; Charlie kicks the door open. Merle aims the gun at Charlie; Loretta grabs for him; Charlie dives towards them. The gun goes OFFFFFFF!! And we go to BLACK before we know who’s been hit.
ACT THREE: TV STUDIO
ACT FOUR: HOSPITAL ROOM WALL
Same as terrific original…only nitpick…Martha should say…don’t tell her about Loretta and Charlie—which keeps the mystery alive. And…oh yes…at the very end, the voices of her family drift away as they all leave. Mary is alone with Mrs. Gimble, the nurse, who takes her under the arm, helping her up. ‘Shall we go along to our room now?’ Mary, docile and expressionless, goes with her. They exit room, come to a locked corridor door, with a wire-reinforced window. Nurse Gimble knocks at the door. A hospital guard opens the door. Mary passes through with the nurse. We now see the guard. It’s…FOLEY.
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