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THE GRAND “GOODBYE” THAT
CLARA OSWALD DESERVES.
Let’s discuss the real
reason why “Face The Raven” was a heartbreaker.
The episode wasn’t just
sad because we lost Clara, the girl whom the Doctor admittedly loved so much
that he regenerated as an old man just so he could maintain his distance from
The girl who saved the
Doctor multiple times.
The girl with a
conscience who challenged him to be the best Doctor he could be, who threatened
him and literally smacked him around when he got lost.
The girl who was angry
enough to leave him, but came back because he needed her.
The girl who kept the
War Doctor from blowing up the world, and then helped Twelve save the world
again with the Zygon boxes – it was because of Clara that Capaldi made that
The girl who made the
Doctor more human.
The girl who made it
possible to do something critical for all “fantasy” entertainment like the
Potter movies, to pull the stories and insane plots back into the human
characters, by reminding us that love is more important than all the magic and
The take-charge girl who
made a lot of the other companions look like worthless baggage by comparison,
silly girls who fell down wells and needed rescuing.
The girl who could have
taken over as Time Lord if things had turned out that way.
The girl who died to
save someone else, and didn’t even blink.
Although that was bad
enough, losing one of the best characters ever seen on television.
And the episode wasn’t
just sad because we lost Jenna Coleman, arguably the best actor the show has
had in nine years.
The actor who got the
job in the first place because she was the only actress who outperformed Matt
Smith RIGHT IN THE AUDITIONS.
The actor who played
four very different characters and showed a range of personality and emotion
that the Donnas and Marthas of the world never could have managed.
Just imagine: even if we
had never met Clara or the two earlier Claras, Bonnie the Zygon with the
demonic lipstick would have been one of the most popular villains ever, all on
her own, and she was only one of FOUR characters created by Jenna.
Jenna made it possible
to build one of the most beautiful, complex relationships ever seen on
television, the Clara/Doctor relationship, even though she had to switch
seamlessly between two very different Doctors right in the middle.
And even more amazingly,
that extraordinary relationship was PLATONIC for three whole years, so most of
the things that an actress uses to build a man/woman relationship were taken
off the table – half of the Actress Toolkit taken away on Day 1.
Particularly, Jenna, a
stunning, beautiful woman, chose NOT to use her beauty as a tool. No skirt
slits, no plunging cleavage. The only time she really tarted herself up was
when she was playing Bonnie, the anti-Clara, as if to show “this is NOT who I
really am”. Is there another actress who would have the guts to do her
climactic farewell speech and then go out and DIE, all wearing the ugliest
sweater ever made? And then go out to do press interviews in the same butt-ugly
sweater, instead of prettying up?
She is an actor who
portrayed female strength, not with curvy femininity, and not by over-steering
the other way as some sort of weapon-wielding Katniss ninja – all she used was
strength of character. Courage, conscience, and a love of adventure.
She is the actor who
made that lame romance with Mister Pink look believable, even when he was
painted up in silver like a cyberman.
The actor who gave us a
magnificent death scene without blubbering or yanking too obviously on our
heartstrings. She could have given us the adorable victim, but instead took us
back to the cool schoolteacher giving orders, saving the Doctor yet again. Just
imagine how terrible that whole episode would have been if anyone else had
played the role – could Freema Agyeman or Billy Piper have pulled off that
The actor who saved the
show for three straight years when the writers got sloppy and Capaldi got
erratic in his performances. Capaldi sags when the writers sag, but Coleman
always rose above bad writing.
Although losing Jenna
was bad enough….
The real reason Face The
Raven was sad, is this. The showrunners allowed a new writer to come into their
office and say this:
are going to kill off the best character we have on the show,
the way we do it is because Rigsy, a minor character, did NOT murder the
because Clara didn’t read the fine print of an execution contract involving a
bird made of smoke, for a “crime” that NEVER EVEN HAPPENED, that neither she
nor Rigsy committed,
because it was really about Arya Stark kidnapping the Doctor, for no explicable
because the Doctor, who has gotten people out of impossible fatal peril 500
times, couldn’t save the most important person he’s ever had in his life, even
though the Doctor, and a Tardis, and a Stasis, and another immortal who owes
her life to him and doesn’t want Clara to die, were all nearby, and UNIT right
around the corner,
that the chronolock, which the Doctor was positive he could help Rigsy with in
the beginning of the episode, suddenly became totally insoluble when it
appeared on Clara’s neck,
everybody just gives up on Clara and she drops dead.
the critical plot point, the Impossible Girl, will just be left hanging there
like a shirt tail that needs tucking in, forever.
The writer pitched THAT
story to kill off the best character the show ever had, and the Doctor Who team
ALLOWED HER TO DO IT. A roomful of writers, and not one spotted ANY of those
gaping plot holes and silly contrivances. They could have killed Clara off
using the Impossible Girl thread, i.e. she split herself in a dozen pieces and
now she must pay the price, or any one of a hundred other ways to kill her,
that were NOT stupid.
But, no. Clara was
executed for a “crime” that never even happened.
And it never occurred to
anyone that, despite all that “the raven will follow you to the ends of time”
bullshit, all the Doctor had to do is go back a week and ensure that neither
Rigsy nor Clara ever enter that alley. Problem solved. The Doctor has saved people
like that a hundred times – that’s what he did in “Blink”. The Doctor has been
known to go back in time to get a freakin’ cat out of a tree, but he wouldn’t
figure out how to keep Clara out of that alley?
THAT is what made “Face
The Raven” sad.
They knew that millions
of fans had invested, not just in the show, but in Clara and her dynamic with
the Doctor, and THAT is the way they chose to destroy it.
Either they didn’t even
know how badly they were betraying their viewers, or they didn’t care.
Jenna said she cried
when she read the script, but it had to be partly because they were giving her
such a crappy send-off after her three years of brilliant work, as though they
had tried to jam as much bad writing into her farewell as possible.
That script shows how
off-target the DW team is now.
That means that the next
season could have a whole string of episodes that are written just like that
And unlike this year,
next year they won’t have Jenna OR Clara to save them.
They could have done
something that would get us excited: "We're all shattered by her death,
but they paved the way for the show to go in really exciting directions, I
can't wait for the next season!"
Instead they made us
dread what they are going to do next. More "Cool Uncle Capaldi" with
his sunglasses and his guitar? More sloppy writing and plot holes? More
eye-booger monsters? A new companion who will drag the show down even further,
rather than making it soar as Clara did?
And the teasers we’ve
seen are ominous. The Doctor will be going through some sort of Goblet-Of-Fire
obstacle course, and then for Christmas we get a silly romp with River Song, an
under-developed one-note companion who simply serves to highlight how good
It’s very late in the
game, and the Doctor Who team doesn’t even know who the next companion will be,
let alone how they will interact with the grieving Doctor and take the show in
a new direction. Even now, they don’t know how to get out of their current
Mister Moffat, GET HELP.
You people are possibly in over your head, splitting your talents, your time
and your good writers between Doctor Who and Sherlock. There are many, many
good writers in the UK, and many Doctor Who fans who respect the characters and
the concept, who can get you back on track, give you ideas to explore bits of
Doctor Who history you either forgot or never knew, and shoot down bad story
ideas. There are fifteen-year-olds out there writing fan-fic that is better
than some of the stuff you peddled to us this year – go hire them!
I am not a Doctor Who
geek. I’d never seen any of the episodes until a few months ago, and I don’t go
around draped in bowties and scarves. I know little of the old pre-2005 shows,
and the few I’ve seen are really terrible. I just saw a tiny snippet of Clara
interacting with the Doctor one day and the writing hooked me (and a bit of
Jenna). But I am a writer and I can tell when a writing team is wasting an incredible
opportunity to tell amazing stories for years to come. So, Mister Moffat:
please prove me wrong. Don’t be the guy who makes Doctor Who go off the air
again. Don’t be that guy, or you’ll probably have to flee England.
This weekend, impress
me, Mister Moffat. Dazzle me.
One of the many things liberals do wrong, is debate today’s issues with the other side, as though the things we’re fighting for are merely viewpoints, alternatives. As though the other team has viewpoints that are equally valid. Currently in America we are in a very unusual position: we liberals are not defending opinions or policy proposals right now, for the most part. We are defending rights. Rights that have already been established.
This is why poll after poll shows us that the American people support liberal positions on issue after issue. The American people and the liberal movement are united in fighting, not for policies, but for our rights.
The American people demand the constitutional right to vote, without facing the seventy different ways conservatives are trying to stop us from voting, without corporations buying and selling elections with their pocket change, without conservative statehouses gerrymandering House seats to preserve their power even when the other party gets more votes. America, the liberals are with you – it is the conservatives who want to take your voting rights away.
The American people demand the constitutional right to a functioning government, with an end to the endless obstruction, the endless filibusters, the threats to shut down the government when the minority of one party in one half of Congress doesn’t get their way, the judges who can’t get confirmed because the conservatives want those benches vacant when the next Republican president is elected, the agencies that are crippled because their directors can’t even get a confirmation vote, the abuse of government oversight to pursue politically motivated conspiracy theories, the insulting argument that all government is bad. The liberals are with you, America – so why are the conservatives trying to destroy our democratic system of government?
The American people demand the constitutional right to make their voices heard, without accusations of treason, and threats of violence and secession, when extremists don’t get their way. We liberals didn’t try to shoot Congressmen or secede from the union when Bush led us into an illegal, dishonest war and trashed the Constitution, so why are the conservatives threatening all that now?
The American people demand the constitutional right to keep religion out of our lawmaking process, as the founders intended, so that unelected preachers aren’t making policy for us on abortion and contraception and marriage and divorce and the teaching of science. And that goes also for unelected activists like Grover Norquist who demand that congressmen swear pledges to him and his policies, rather than to the Constitution, or else they will be primaried out of office. Who elected Grover Norquist? Who elected Wayne LaPierre and Jim deMint?
The American people demand the constitutional right to actually vote on laws which everyone knows we need, like passing jobs bills, launching a 21st-century energy plan, fighting climate change, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage. America, we liberals are with you: the other team is not. When can we finally vote on the jobs bills, Mister Speaker?
The constitutional rights of women to access health care and abortion services and contraception, issues which have already been decided by the courts, and the right to be taken seriously in cases of rape – all at risk.
The constitutional right to equality under the law when it’s time to get married, and attain the rights of marriage, including health care and rights under family law.
The constitutional right to assemble, and to form a labor union.
The constitutional rights of our citizens of color not to be shot down in cold blood because a white man is afraid of you, the right not to be jailed by the thousands for picayune drug possession charges while white offenders go free.
The right to be protected from mentally ill people who obtained guns because there was no background check to stop them.
The right to be paid back our own contributions to Social Security and Medicare when we need them.
These are not just opinions. These are not just policy alternatives. They are rights. They are our r-i-g-h-t-s, established years ago, the rights which the founders and the courts affirmed, the rights which our veterans risked their lives to defend. These are the things that enjoy the support of any sane American who loves democracy and freedom, justice and equality, and wants to defend them.
But all these rights are threatened by the same tea-party people who pretend they are defending our rights, and by the political prostitutes who are exploiting the delusions of the tea party for crass political purposes.
The liberals revere freedom and justice and democracy and equality: the other team doesn’t. So why hasn’t the conservative movement gone the way of T Rex? Because liberals don’t fight, and the other team does.
There is a name for people who can’t be bothered to fight for their rights. Slaves. They’re slipping the chains on you right now.
February 1980, Mass Ave
ALICE. [on the phone] Yes, I’d like
to speak to President Carter please. This is Alice Roosevelt Longworth….You
just tell him the name….Yes, I’m still here…Mister President, how lovely to
hear your voice….Yes, I tried to contact you about the Panama Canal….Yes, I’m
sure you had the best of intentions….Yes, I’m – I beg your pardon?....No,
Mister President, I am not Franklin Roosevelt’s daughter, I am Teddy
Roosevelt’s daughter...Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m
ninety-six….Well, clearly you’re still new to all this. Let me help you. That
canal you just gave away, down Panama way? My father went to a lot of trouble
to build it. Look out your window toward the east. See that building near the
Capitol?....The House Office Building? No, that’s the Longworth House Office Building. It was named after my husband. Now
look to your left, see that big tree? Right underneath it, I buried a voodoo
doll, to put a curse on William Taft’s wife. It worked, they lost the election.
…And that deal you’re trying to make for all those refugees from Cuba? The
country my father took from the Spanish? You might want to be careful with that
one, Castro has outsmarted four presidents already....[nodding] Yes, Alice Roosevelt, you’ve got me now....Yes, I’d love
to come for tea next week, long as you have some bourbon….Send a car, I live
over on Embassy Row, 2009 Massachusetts Avenue….Yes, I’m quite sure of the
address, I moved here from the White House in 1906, the wagons were drawn by
horses….Yes, I can tell you a thing or two about how this town works, I know where
all the bodies are buried….Looking forward to it. Have a pleasant day. [hangs up] Jimmy Carter. A Democrat who
doesn’t drink. What is this country coming to?...Good evening, you’re just in
time for tea, I’ve got Nixon’s daughter Tricia coming over, but she’s late. Things
can be a little bumpy when your father is a great man. Same with me. When my
father found out he had a daughter, he ran away. Ran one thousand seven hundred
miles. Of course there was more to it than just that. Here he is, looking for
1886, South Dakota
two cowboys to the ground] Alright, you have a seat right over there.
MIKE FINNEGAN, BOAT
RUSTLER. Lemme go!
ROOSEVELT. Sit down.
Hasten forward quickly there!
BOAT RUSTLER. Come
BILL SEWALL. [gun in
hand] He means hurry up. He’s from New York.
BOAT RUSTLER. New York
BILL SEWALL. You best
just do what he says. [hands Roosevelt the gun, ties up the thieves]
BOAT RUSTLER. The man
can’t even see.
SEWALL. Don’t be letting
that bother you. Not long back, Old Four Eyes here went into the saloon in
town, and one of the locals planted himself right in front of him, and
announced that Four Eyes was buying drinks on the house. A few seconds later
the lad was on the floor looking for his teeth, while Four Eyes informed him
that he was also a boxer. And he can shoot straight.
ROOSEVELT. Now you’re
embarrassing me. Actually my shooting can be all over the place…..So you’re
going to take the boat back?
SEWALL. If you
insist….You’re going to march these boys all the way to town? When are you
going to sleep?
ROOSEVELT. Don’t worry
about me. It’ll be just like last night. [Sewall leaves] You just be
glad it was me that caught you, and not de Mores.
BOAT RUSTLER. Who the
hell is that?
ROOSEVELT. The Marquis
de Mores. Bought seventy square miles of land, built a meat-packing plant out
there. Biggest spread in the Dakota territory. Used to be in the cavalry, and
he just loves duels. One of his men even sent me a challenge to a duel –
BOAT RUSTLER. So how
come one of you ain’t dead?
ROOSEVELT. I showed up
at his house with my guns, and he said he was misquoted. Silly way to settle a
quarrel over cattle anyway. De Mores would have hung you by now. So be glad it
was me, and be glad it was just a boat you stole, not the beef. What in the
world were you doing with my boat, anyway?
BOAT RUSTLER. We were
heading north, up river.
nothing up there.
BOAT RUSTLER. No posses,
ROOSEVELT. Well, if you
behave yourselves, you may just leave these woods alive. Sewall was going to
string both of you up, right where I found you with my boat. But we are trying
to bring the law out here, so you’re going to get a trial.
BOAT RUSTLER. And how do
you propose to get us up there, wherever that is?
ROOSEVELT. Not sure,
either I’ll take you up to Dickinson, or I’ll march you over to Deadwood, a
friend of mine is sheriff there, Seth Bullock. I think maybe you can avoid a
hanging. If being drunk and stupid was a capital crime, half the people in
Dakota Territory would get strung up,
BOAT RUSTLER. So this
Bullock is a soft touch?
ROOSEVELT. Not hardly,
and you better watch your step when you meet him. Bullock is the toughest man
in the toughest town there is. That Custer fella found gold up in Deadwood –
Custer made a mess wherever he went – so a bunch of miners stole the land from
the Lakota, brought in opium, prostitutes, the Chinese, they already survived
smallpox and a fire without even slowing down. And Bullock tamed the whole
bunch of them.
BOAT RUSTLER. He’s still
just one man.
ROOSEVELT. Let me try to
help you here. Wyatt Earp showed up in Deadwood, wanted to take Bullock’s job.
Bullock told Earp – this is the Wyatt
Earp, Dodge City – Bullock told him Deadwood had no need of him. Bullock wasn’t
even wearing a gun. Earp looked him over, and went back to Kansas.
BOAT RUSTLER. Rough
neighborhood up here.
ROOSEVELT. Seth wasn’t
impressed by Earp, he’s not scared of you. So just watch your mouth, with luck
you’ll get thirty days as a guest of the city. …I’ve got some corn dodgers, and
I’ll make some coffee.
BOAT RUSTLER. A little
whisky would sure make us peaceable.
enough….From the sound of things, you came from a long way off.
BOAT RUSTLER. I’m out of
Savannah, he’s from Mississippi. Our place in Georgia, after Sherman came
through with his army, there was nothing left of it. Got back there, my wife
and my children already cleared out. I hope they did, anyway. So me and Tom
here, we headed west.
SECOND RUSTLER. I was
lucky, got a job for both of us when I got home. Biggest business in
Mississippi for a while? You’ll never guess – don’t tell him.
SECOND RUSTLER. We made
wooden legs. For the soldiers. Sold em up north too. And then they ran out of
men with no legs, and we headed up here.
ROOSEVELT. And how on
earth did you end up here?
BOAT RUSTLER. Well, we
had some trouble along the way. Maybe I shouldn’t say anymore.
BOAT RUSTLER. But we did
try to find honest work, everywhere we went.
SECOND RUSTLER. But the
west, out here it’s like the sea. One good wave and you go down. You’re working
for a farmer, and it only takes one bad summer and you’re wiped out. Work for a
rancher, it only takes one bad winter, and your stock die off. You go panning
for gold, hunting silver, and as soon as you find anything, you got a hundred
neighbors with guns. Everybody’s got a gun.
ROOSEVELT. Sounds a bit
like you’re running away from trouble.
BOAT RUSTLER. And what
BOAT RUSTLER. Fair
question. What chased you all the way here from New York City?
ROOSEVELT. It’s okay, he
doesn’t mean anything by it….Not long ago, my wife had a baby girl. Two days
later my wife was dead. My mother died the same day.
BOAT RUSTLER. Well,
assuming I’m still breathing on Sunday, I’ll say a prayer for ‘em.
ROOSEVELT. I’ll see what
I can do about Sunday. Deadwood actually has a preacher, can’t think of a better
place to fight the war against sin….You boys get some shut-eye, and if I nod
off, I’ll try to wake up with the sun. All the things that have happened to me,
I don’t think the Almighty intended for me to be stabbed in my sleep by a boat
rustler. I never even heard of boat rustling ‘til you two came along.
BOAT RUSTLER. You’re
going to try to sleep?
ROOSEVELT. [pulls out a massive book] I managed to
stay up all last night, reading from my book. From this Russian fellow.
BOAT RUSTLER. [moans]
If you’re going to read from that infernal book all night again….Could you just
hang me now?
Mind your tongue. This is Anna Karenina. [reads] “Everything
is in confusion, said Stepan Arkadyevitch to himself. Now here the children
are, running wild! And going to the door, he called to them. They dropped the
little box which served them for a railway-train, and ran to their father. The
little girl, her father's favorite… [pauses] the little girl ran in
boldly, threw her arms around his neck and laughingly hugged him, enjoying as
usual the odor which exhaled from his whiskers.”
BOAT RUSTLER. What was
your name again?
ROOSEVELT. Roosevelt. Theodore
BOAT RUSTLER. So when
I’m praying on Sunday…what was your wife’s name?
ROOSEVELT. Haven’t said
her name out loud in a year. [long silence] Alice.
BOAT RUSTLER. And the baby
girl, she lived?
name….Spirit and image of her mother.
BOAT RUSTLER. Don’t you
miss her something awful?
ROOSEVELT. You said you
left a girl behind?
BOAT RUSTLER. Anna. My
wife. And two little boys.
SECOND RUSTLER. Come on,
Mister, what happens to the little girl?
ROOSEVELT. The little
girl? …Back east, with family…
SECOND RUSTLER. No, the
girl in the book!
ROOSEVELT. [smiles, reads]
“Then kissing his face, reddened by his bending position and beaming with
tenderness, the little girl unclasped her hands and wanted to runaway again,
but her father held her back. What is mamma doing? he asked, caressing his daughter's
smooth, soft neck. How are you? he added, smiling at the boy, who stood
saluting him. He acknowledged he had less love for the little boy, yet he tried
to be impartial. But the boy felt the difference, and did not smile back in
reply to his father's chilling smile. Mamma? She 's up, answered the little
girl. Stepan Arkadyevitch sighed. Of course she has spent another sleepless
night, he said to himself. Well, is she cheerful?” [looks at the rustlers who are asleep] Tolstoy. It’s like
chloroform. Finally I can finish that letter, if the sunlight holds out.
[Takes out a letter and a pen, writes] I’m a little worried about
the weather. I’ll be coming home for Christmas, and leave Sewall and Dow to
manage the herd for the winter. But like that boy said, all we need on this
flat prairie is one long nasty winter, and the calves are going to go on me.
Can’t find food under the snow. De Mores is fighting with the Chicago
meatpackers, they won’t let his beef get to market, and if de Mores goes down,
he’ll leave and take all his money with him, and then the whole town is in
trouble. He’s a jackass but we need him. Bullock is trying to get the railroad
to come our way. That would be like a license to print our own money…..Well,
I’m losing my daylight, so it’s time to get this finished and in the mail. Love
to Corinne and Bamie and Eliot, and say hello to Edith for me. [puts the letter down and then picks it up
again] And give my love to….that little girl. See if you can give her
something nice. I haven’t a clue what she might like. [pauses] Alice. Yours sincerely, Theodore.
ALICE. Yep. Being the daughter of a great man can be rough business. Learned
that the hard way, 77 years ago. That’s me over there, when I was young and
stupid, getting hollered at by my stepmother.
ALICE. But father
ignores me, day after day, even at dinner. Even when he spends time with me, he
just yells. I told him I was afraid of diving into the pool, and he just
bullied me into it.
The two of you are both so wild, you should have been a perfect fit. Perhaps
you’re too much alike.
He wanted a son --
You don’t understand at all. Your mother died two days after you were born,
your grandmother died the same day, your father was in shock. He never allowed
your mother’s name to be spoken in the house.
So that’s why he calls me Baby Lee, instead of Alice.
And then he ran off to the Dakotas for two years on that ranch, until the snow
killed off all his cattle. I think he wanted to die out there too. But it
wasn’t because he didn’t love you. It was because he loved you too much. He was
afraid of getting punched in the gut again. He still calls you his Mousiekins.
But never to my face.
And he always says he loves you.
But never to my face.
He’s afraid of loving you too much.
So when is it going to stop? Every few months he sends me off to live with
He doesn’t know how to handle you, Alice. You’re a wild animal. You’re like no
other girl in the world. Smoking on the roof, drinking, riding in cars with men,
bragging to the press about yourself, the gambling houses are hounding you for
your poker debts – did you lose your pet snake again? I don’t know what to do
with you either. So we kept moving you around, hoping someone could puzzle you
My real mother would have found a way.
Your mother was a beautiful fool. If she had lived, she would have bored your
father to death. And she would have given up on you. I am your mother now.
And you gave up on me too.
Not when you got sick. Have you done your exercises today?
No, please, I can barely stand from yesterday –
Alice, rich people get polio just like everyone else, be glad you got a mild
case. You need to do your laps on the staircase, and your runs in the park. By
the time you’re ready to marry, you’ll be moving like a dancer. So get to it. I
don’t care how much it hurts, I don’t care how much you cry.
Later on, we’ll have another go at the Mark Twain. I promise.
Bully! [which in those days meant “good!”]
And put on a nice dress for tonight. Every girl in America is following your
fashions. You shine like a star…You know why Theodore really fears you? Not
just because he’s afraid to lose you, and not just because he can’t control
And I remind him of my mother. And he blames me for her death.
The real problem, deep down, is that Theodore is always the smartest and
strongest person in the room. Except when you’re there. You’re just like him,
only more so. Except you hate politicking, all that handshaking. He loves it.
Yes, he wants to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral.
But other than that, you’re Teddy in a dress. Invincible, you’re the star as
soon as you enter the room, always ten chess moves ahead of everyone else….You
and Teddy are always so confident, except when you’re with each other…. So what
were you fighting about today?
Well, I was in his office –
The first time. Not the second….
Or the third. And who was with him?
That was Cannon. Speaker of the House.
Papa threatened to throw me out a window.
And then he came to my room and said “Dammit, Edith, I can either manage the
country, or I can manage Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”
I don’t need him to manage me. Just….look my way once in a while.
He’s President of the United States. How often do you think I get to see him?
He isn’t really going to try to send me to that boarding school, is he? I swear
to God, if he tries to send me, I will humiliate him. I will do something that
will shame him.
Well, try and make his life easier, rather than harder, and perhaps it will all
ALICE. Not long after that I married Nicky Longworth, and I helped make him
Speaker of the House. Not without some breakage along the way. By 1925 or so we
had mostly figured out how to make it all work.
[helping him dress] Nicky. You
remember what kind of man my father was?
Teddy Roosevelt? Who could forget?
He hunted elephants and rhinos. And outlaws in the Dakotas.
One day campaigning, a man shot him in the chest. Papa went to his next stop to
give a speech, blood dripping all over the pages, and only then did he go to
He hopped on a horse and declared war on the Spanish, for fun.
When he died, Death had to catch him sleeping, because if he had been awake,
there would have been a fight.
You’re probably right.
Papa was a freight train. Can you imagine what he would have done, if he had
known you had another woman?
Let’s skip over the bit where you deny it and I slice you up like a ham. Let me
explain this, so that you can understand. You remember the 1912 campaign?
How could I forget?
Yes, the party ran two candidates, Taft and my father. And you backed Taft. You
made me look weak, and you made me look like a fool.
Well, you got your revenge. You came to my district and campaigned against me.
I didn’t campaign against you. I campaigned for my father.
You took away my House seat!
Yes, I know, we actually had to move back to Cincinnati. Good God, what a town.
I got you your seat back two years later. Once you learned your lesson. Apparently
you need another one.
You’re a powerful man, you want it all. You want the whole world. You have
mistresses. This time you were seen, at the hotel bar, at the Willard. Now
every woman in Washington is talking about us. You made me look weak again. And
now it’s time for you to pay Mama.
Pay you? What do you mean? How?
I’ve sent her away, to protect her.
Is that what you’re doing? You’re going to take away my daughter?
Nicky, are you the only one in Washington who thinks Paulina is your daughter?
Take a stroll over to the other side of the Capitol sometime, the Senate, and
listen to Bill Borah give a speech. Spring of ‘24, I was over there, Borah was
trying to pass a law to stop the lynching of Negroes. People were running into
the halls to bring their friends in, just to hear him. It was…electrifying.
I took him out for a glass of something, just to hear him talk. And the next
thing you know….Paulina.
Ever since that fight over the Taft race, it’s been pretty hard to find you
round my bedroom. So, yes, I’m sure. You ever see Borah in the park? He rides
his horse out there every morning. Like a cowboy out of a dime novel. So…now
So you’re taking the baby away?
Don’t be silly. I got her out of Washington so people can forget about you and your
tramp and me and Borah for a while. Let them gossip about someone else. Already
half the women in town are calling the baby Aurora Borah Alice. For now we’re
going to concentrate on being the happy couple.
Nicky, you remember when we met? Papa sent us on that cruise to Asia, we met
the Empress of China, I was the star of the press corps!
You jumped into the pool with that Congressman.
And behind the scenes I set everything up so Papa could end the Russian war and
win the Nobel Prize. By rights that prize should be mine. Papa was never the
diplomat I was. …And you came along and swept me off my feet.
I never knew. You always seemed so cool and calculating.
Nicky, once when I was a teenager a madman came to our home with a pistol,
demanding my hand in marriage. They managed to bulldog him without anyone
getting shot. Right in front of me, my father said “well, of course, he’s
insane, he wants to marry Alice.” Papa never believed a sane man would want to
marry a wildcat like me. But you were never afraid of me, Nicky. You saw me as
an adventure….You were just a Congressman but I knew as soon as I saw you…We
had that glorious wedding….
You refused to wear a white dress.
Because I’m not a hypocrite. I was a grown woman of 22. I pulled out that big
sword to cut the cake, I thought Papa was going to have a heart attack. My
stepmother said right-out: “I want you to know I am glad to see you leave. You
have never been anything but trouble.” Then off on our honeymoon to meet the
Kaiser and the King.
And what’s all this in aid of?
I fell in love with you Nicky. I still love you. I helped make you Speaker of
the House, I’m going to save your job, I’ll even help you with those young
Turks who are coming after you.
What young Turks?
We’ll discuss it in the morning. The Republicans, this time. Nicky, I’m your
wife and I love you. Just remember who it is you’re married to. Never forget
that my name says Roosevelt before it says Longworth. I’ll teach you to be a
better poker player. You have no face for a bluff. And you don’t have the
rigging to stay afloat, if I find you’ve embarrassed me again.
MILLIE [She’s 28]. Barkeep, need a brew!...
ALICE. Barkeep is in the
back, settling up with that nice Italian boy with the knife.
MILLIE. I can’t believe
this, a girl who wants a drink has to have a secret code word, like a spy for
the Kaiser. Hahahaha.
ALICE. Might want to
keep the hooraw down a bit.
MILLIE. Ladies and
gentlemen, the codeword for the day is Babe Ruth! Hahahahaha.
ALICE. They don’t do
beer here. Ever heard of Prohibition? They have cheap liquor with a little
fruit salad in it. Here, try this, it isn’t too terrible.
MILLIE. Much obliged.
Woah, you could fly a biplane on that stuff.
MILLIE. It’s just right,
ALICE. Biplane. Isn’t
that some sort of flying machine?
MILLIE. Sharp work. I’m
ALICE. Pilot, as in
pilot of an airplane?
ALICE. You are a woman?
Not being rude…
MILLIE. Yeah, I know, I
cut off all my hair. Back home in Kansas my Mamma didn’t want me to be an
ordinary girl, she let me wear bloomers and hunt rats with a rifle.
MILLIE. I saw a little
biplane when I was a kid, and I wanted to fly. My Uncle built a ramp on top of
our shed, and I used a big old box as a sled, and just flew off the roof.
MILLIE. Tore my dress,
got a fat lip. It was fantastic. [laughs]
That Old Devil, Gravity, we meet again! Whomp! [pounds the bar]
ALICE. And your Uncle
helped you do this…
MILLIE. My Uncle wasn’t
quite right in the head. Took me to a fair once, a pilot was showing off in his
plane, he flew straight up and then dove down on me in a field, waiting for me
to run. Didn’t budge an inch. I think I heard the plane talking to me as it
ALICE. So you finally
got to fly in one?
MILLIE. Yep! By the time
I was 200 feet off the ground I knew I had to fly. So I took lessons, bought a
plane. A year later I flew that thing straight up, 14,000 feet.
ALICE. My God, that must
be some kind of record!
MILLIE. It is some
kind of record. World altitude record for a female pilot. Until I top it again.
ALICE. But you barely
knew how to fly!
MILLIE. I had a year of
flying under my belt by then. Piece of cake. Flying is easy – you can’t hit
anything when you’re flying, it’s just a bunch of sky. Landing – that’s where
it can get exciting, because there’s something you can hit. Planet earth. In a clash
between an airplane and a mountain, bet on the mountain. Bang!
ALICE. Good grief. So
you’re in New York for….?
MILLIE. I was taking
classes at Columbia across town, but my money ran out. Gotta get a job next,
teacher maybe. You?
ALICE. I’m only in New
York for a few days, visiting family….Got a man around the house?
I know, I know. I’m going to have my own career, and a lot of men just don’t
want to hear it.
MILLIE. Tell you what,
though, if I do marry, that boy can run off and do what he wants. Women have
been trying to keep men faithful for a thousand years, and it’s just not in
MILLIE. Course that
means I can do the same. A woman might need a change of pace once in a while,
don’t you think?
ALICE.[their eyes meet] Smart as whip, you are.
Be careful what you wish for….
MILLIE. What in the – [smiles]
Mmm, not my business. You sure don’t look the type.
ALICE. How should I
look, all in red? Painted up, ribbons in my hair?
MILLIE. Not my business.
So you’re husband’s running around, you’re running around?
ALICE. I don’t know, it
all just happened.
MILLIE. You go home,
take care of your husband. Every man in the world wants his Mamma. Take him by
the hand, tell him what to do, keep him out of the way of the horse cars.
MILLIE. Damn, look at
ALICE. Here, knock it
back, I’ll get another.
MILLIE. You are a sport.
Name’s Millie. Short for Amelia.
MILLIE. Gotta run! [exit]
ALICE. Be careful up
OLD ALICE. Nicky took
his licking like a man, and he actually turned into a pretty good Speaker.
Taught him everything he knew, of course.
NICHOLAS. Joe Martin,
our newest Congressman, class of ‘25. Around the room, we have Sam Rayburn
sleeping over there, and Jack Garner, both from Texas, both Democrats, but I’m
hoping they’ll see the light.
GARNER. Howdy. Nicky,
you know damn well there are no Republicans in Texas. Ain’t never seen one.
Easier to find a unicorn.
welcome to sit in and play poker.
MARTIN. I’m still
getting the hang of it.
NICHOLAS. In that
case, you’re definitely welcome. [during
all this dialogue, they are also talking up the actual poker game they’re
MARTIN. So can I play
asking us to trust a politician with money?
GARNER. Easy, he’s
brand-new, he’s practically a civilian. If he was spending other people’s money
– then you can start to worry.
NICHOLAS. We spend a
lot of time trying to figure out who is the least dishonest. Sometimes when
we’re doling out the jobs, we have to pick the least crooked crook. All ties go
to the Republicans, of course.
GARNER. Once we had to
trade two postmasters for a murderer and a horse thief.
NICHOLAS. But you seem
middling honest…. [shouting at the
sleeping Rayburn] Sam, it’s a quorum call, you’re late.
RAYBURN. [waking] Daaah, point of order, Mister
Speaker! [realizes where he is]
GARNER. What the hell
happened to you?
RAYBURN. Three hours
of bourbon and branch with that jackass committee chair, getting your farm bill
reported out. You’re welcome. You think I’m drunk, you should see Hamilton.
GARNER. The man loves
to pull out the joy juice and strike a blow for liberty.
RAYBURN. I never knew
he was such a drunk until we saw him sober – when he’s dry he doesn’t have a
single idea in his whole head.
GARNER. You youngsters
should be made of sterner stuff….Sam came here to Washington twelve years ago,
about ten years after me and Nicky, so he’s the baby of the party, except when
you young fellers come up. We bring you new members up for a look-see, get em
drunk, see what kind of poker players they are. We call it the Board of
Education. We swap stories –
RAYBURN. And when people
misbehave, Nicky punishes them by playing the violin.
GARNER. Unless they’re
prohibition types – then they don’t get a drop to drink. Once a dry member had
the nerve to ask Nicky for the name of a bootlegger, on the sly, like. Nicky
sent a passel of drunks over to his house to sing Christmas carols all night.
NICHOLAS. It is a bit
ironic, since we passed Prohibition right downstairs. Not sure what we were
GARNER. At least we’re
getting our little Board together for a purpose – half the big bills in
Congress had to come through this room, to make it out of Congress alive.
Coolidge, when he became president, he tried to set up these political
breakfasts. But he wouldn’t let anybody talk business! He just sat there
shoveling down his eggs, talking about the weather.
MARTIN. So how many
presidents have you served under?
NICHOLAS. I have never
served under any president. I have
served with five. All the way back to
– my father-in-law, in fact, Teddy. Being Speaker is a nice job – I even have
my own car, I take Garner home in it every night.
GARNER. Keep the
flivver in shape – I’ll be taking you home in it, once I get your gavel away
NICHOLAS. Yes, we’ll
have a Democratic Congress someday. When pigs fly. Face it, Jack, it’s 1925,
the war is over, the good times are here to stay. I do want to see the
Democratic party run by boys like you, a party that’s healthy and strong – but
not too strong.
MARTIN. When I was
younger, I read all about your battles with Joe Cannon.
NICHOLAS. When Cannon
was Speaker, he was a dictator. He ran the House like a plantation. He changed
all the rules, pulled all the power into his hands. And we finally broke him.
MARTIN. And once you
became Speaker, you put some of Cannon’s rules back.
NICHOLAS. And your
MARTIN. Don’t you find
that a bit hypocritical, dishonest?
NICHOLAS. Let me refresh
your memory. I’m a politician…. Well, I see your point. Cannon wanted total
dictatorship, he picked every member of every committee, he charged the boys
fines for showing up late or trying to leave early. The young Turks wanted total
anarchy. I’m looking for a happy medium here. I only fine people who really
piss me off, I don’t use my gavel to settle old scores. I have Sam and Jack
over for drinks to see how the other team is thinking, and we can get some work
done. But at the end of the day, I run the store.
MARTIN. So no young
Turks causing you trouble?
NICHOLAS. Well, I’m also
a little nicer. Cannon was just unpleasant. My wife said the most dangerous
place in Washington was between Cannon and a spittoon. One time, Alice – she is
a real trouper – she even volunteered to play poker with Cannon, to help us get
an appropriation bill through. All night long Cannon was spitting tobacco into
her umbrella stand. She took it like a man. And then took all his money. She
thinks I won’t let her come to these Board meetings because she’s a woman, but
the truth is, she would clean us all out at the poker table. Too smart for her
GARNER. Cannon was an
old-time back-breaker, but the old boys, back to the War Between The States,
were really something. They all had pistols out of the House floor, duels,
spitting their chaw all over the Senate floor – you couldn’t walk down there
NICHOLAS. Alice called
them cave-dwellers. We still have a few who want to fight the war all over
RAYBURN. Like anywhere,
the unwritten rules are the most important. And we’re not all as crooked as we
look. Generally it pays tell the truth the first time so you don’t have to be
keeping your lies straight, because lies tend to die young –
GARNER. And everybody up
here knows that a man who will lie for you will lie against you when the time
is right. And this is a town where a man’s word is all that he has.
NICHOLAS. And watch
where you put your feet. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience –
well, that comes from bad judgment.
GARNER. Every man here
is a prima donna, so respect is the coin of the realm. Don’t be taking credit
for another man’s shovel work – get a reputation that way.
RAYBURN. And don’t wreck
another man’s work out of spite – any jackass can kick down a barn, it takes a
carpenter to build one.
NICHOLAS. And in this
town every dog has his bone – I first came here all those years ago, fresh from
the Harvard elites, went to an embassy party, and the little man in the corner
wouldn’t give me any more rum. I reared up on my hind legs and said “don’t you
know who I am?” And without missing a beat he said “You know who I am? I’m the
man in charge of the rum.” All those committee chairs who run bills through
here – you’ve got to ask nicely for your rum.
RAYBURN. Watch out for
men who suck up to you. If two men agree on everything, one of them ain’t
thinking. And if you’re out on the floor and a man lays the flowers on thick –
“my very distinguished honorable colleague”
and so forth – look out. You’re about to get clobbered in the head.
NICHOLAS. And be
realistic. Every one of us came here to make history and change the world, and
most of us will be disappointed. Even me. We all try to be honest as we can,
but the grafters and grifters can’t be avoided altogether. The companies with
deep pockets, the string-pullers, the railroads, the banks. You make a mistake
on a vote, the people always forget, but the money boys never do. And I know
you got here by making beautiful speeches all across your district, but around
here -- speeches are our favorite sport, but nobody really changes any votes
GARNER. Except for Bill
NICHOLAS. Borah. [looks at Garner] Persuasive man. We’ll
talk later. [an uncomfortable silence
GARNER. And sometimes
the people are just plain wrong, by the way. Sometimes you have to go back home
and tell a bunch of angry people that the country needed something that they
didn’t want. And you don’t apologize to a crowd like that. Apologizing to one
man is courtesy, but apologizing to a mob is just cowardice.
RAYBURN. Nicky, not to
beat a dead horse, but I think that bill to help the farmers, it’s time has
come. They’re getting hammered by the banks, it’s time we did something. We
could be heading for another panic.
The economy is rolling along like a freight train.
GARNER. So what’s in
this thing again?
RAYBURN. Here, I have
the latest draft –
GARNER. Don’t show me
what it says, tell me what it does.
NICHOLAS. Alright, let
me see if I can get you a fair hearing. Perhaps I can pull the committee back
into session early.
GARNER. If you do it out
in the open, they’ll crucify you.
NICHOLAS. Tell the
minority whip I’m going to do it, but tell him it’s a secret. Word will get out
GARNER. Jackson is going
to raise hell.
NICHOLAS. Yes, he’s been
driving us all to distraction. I’ve been working over on the Senate side,
trying to get him appointed ambassador to some kingdom of cannibals somewhere.
We may be in luck.
GARNER. And what about
NICHOLAS. Tell him if he
fights me on the bill, I’m going to have to go back to my district to defend
what he’s doing, which means I can’t be here in town getting his bridge bill
out of committee. He’ll see the light.
GARNER. And O’Malley,
he’s got brass balls. He wants an amendment that puts price controls on the
stuff his farmers buy, but not on what they sell.
NICHOLAS. You have to
admire a thief who goes for the whole hog. I heard you defend O’Malley on the
floor – a brilliant argument in defense of a man who is clearly guilty as hell.
…Sam, I’ll get you out of committee, but only because this thing is going to
die on the House floor.
RAYBURN. [answering the phone] What was the name
GARNER. Give me that.
Hays was down at the club a couple of nights ago, making clever comments about your
wife and Bill Borah and Paulina –
NICHOLAS. He was?
Here, give me the phone –
GARNER. No, let me
have the pleasure….[on the phone]
Hays, how’s the old complaint?....We were so pleased you actually showed up for
the vote this week, the members actually gave you an ovation. …We were a bit
suspicious that you disappeared when we needed a quorum. …A barn burned down on
your farm – a less charitable member than myself would think you tried to wreck
the bill by resorting to arson. … Voters? Isn’t your district mostly desert and
salamanders?... Yes, I called you to let you know that during the recess, some
idiot down your way was writing these insane letters and signing your name…Yes,
you gave me a lot of free advice, which was worth just what I paid for it…
RAYBURN. Lord, don’t sweet-talk him, give it to
him with the bark on.
GARNER. Yes, you keep telling me you’re the one
who pulls the strings in there, but the way you’ve been carrying on I really
don’t think you could get the Lord's Prayer endorsed in that committee….Well, I
tried to back you up, but you had two different positions on the issue…Well, I suppose mediocrity is entitled to
representation in the House too. If Caligula can make his horse a consul of
Rome I suppose your county can make you a Congressman. …Yes, I heard you told
the press you were preparing your notes for a biography to be published
posthumously – well, the sooner I see it the better. And next week when I’m
killing your subsidy bill in Appropriations, perhaps you’ll remember that in
this town, a gentleman doesn’t discuss another man’s wife in a saloon. [hangs up] Well, we’ll see if he learns
NICHOLAS. I owe you a
bourbon or two.
MARTIN. What in the
world was –
business. Steer clear, son.
MARTIN. Well, I was
rather in awe when I first got here, house of the people and all that. And then
I looked at the other members, I listened to their speeches –
GARNER. Yes, we all go
through that, usually takes a few months. One day you look at the House in
session and you wonder how the hell we all got here. Are these really the 400
smartest men in the country?
I’m up there in my chair looking down at all of them, and I just think of the
country, and I pray. Back during the Great War there was talk on the floor of
putting together a regiment of congressmen to go fight –
RAYBURN. Can you
imagine the poor soul who would have to lead that pirate crew into battle?
NICHOLAS. I can barely
get them pointed in the same direction when it’s time to vote on naming a post
office – just imagine them all in a trench facing the Huns and their machine
guns. Serve em right.
GARNER. I always
wondered whether the man who invented those indoor toilets was having a little
joke at our expense, when he made the pull chain for flushing the toilet look
exactly like the lever you pull to cast your vote.
MARTIN. So we’ve had a
few women in the House. No female pages, I see.
NICHOLAS. Not as long as
I’m Speaker. Putting young girls out on that floor, at the beck and call of the
members? Most of our members are men of honor, or try to be. Not all of them.
Grown women, that’s a little different. I keep having to remind myself that few
women are like Alice. In certain circles I admit that Alice and I are equal
partners….I only wish I was her equal. That rotten newspaperman was in the
House gallery writing a piece on me, she put a tack on his chair – he must have
lifted five feet off the ground, I thought he was going to go over the railing.
Alice played a big part in stopping the League of Nations –
GARNER. Bill Borah
fought it, too.
NICHOLAS. Yes, Jack, I
know….Back during the suffrage fight – How could I go home to a girl like that,
and tell her she didn’t have the sand to vote for a president?....Now I’ve
lived a man’s life in a man’s town. Once I was sitting in a chair over in the
cloakroom, and one of my colleagues who shall remain nameless, stands behind me
and rubs my bald spot, he says “nice and smooth, it feels just like my wife’s
bottom”. And I patted my head and said, “Yes, so it does." So, yes, I’ve
lived a man’s life. For a long time, I wondered how the other man felt.
NICHOLAS. Later….But at
least the woman in question was making her own choices. Bringing teenage girls
down here, putting men in power over them…..I know these men all too well.
GARNER. They say Borah
is planning to run for the White House.
NICHOLAS. Yes. His eye
is on the White House. And my eye is on him.
GARNER. Well, he’s bound
to boot the ball. Sometimes he’s his own worst enemy.
NICHOLAS. Not while I’m
GARNER. I thought this
might lighten your day a bit. I had a drink with old Bascom, Coolidge’s fixer.
He said Coolidge wanted Borah to be his running mate last year. So he invited
Borah over and asked if he wanted to be on the ticket. Borah said – which
place, the top or the bottom? Coolidge threw him out.
NICHOLAS. Our man Calvin
may not be as dull as we thought.
ALICE [at this point Old
Alice takes over the role on Alice]. Lady Luck, Dame Fortune, had given so
much to all of us. Now she began taking it all away. The Depression hit us all.
Nicky died, Borah died. The storms blew me around a little, but I still had
some weight to throw around. We were all getting ready to say goodbye to Truman
and saddle up for the ’52 race….Martin! Joe Martin! What on earth were you
doing down there, with Miss Watkins?
MARTIN. Just getting the scuttlebutt.
ALICE. Out peddling nasty gossip again? And you didn’t come to me
first? [pats the chair beside her] Come tell Mama. This city, with the
gossip – the whole town is just a bunch of little old ladies sitting under hair
dryers. So what do you hear?
MARTIN. Old Man Scott, over in the House, he really is riding
around with that English woman.
ALICE. Scott? He’s got to be seventy! You can't make a soufflé
rise twice….Cactus Jack, still riding tall in the saddle?
GARNER. I’m back in town to help Truman mend a fence or two.
ALICE. And mending fences for yourself, with the old FDR gang?
GARNER. One or two of them still think I’m The Devil.
MARTIN. You’ve got troubles with the Roosevelt folks? Too
old-fashioned for them, I suppose…
GARNER. That’s right, I forgot, you were in the House, you missed
all the real excitement in the Senate. It wasn’t because I was too
conservative. Back when the New Deal was going full blast, the Supreme Court
kept shooting down all of FDR’s programs. FDR came up with this scheme to take
over the court by adding a whole bunch of new justices who saw things this way.
A bunch of Senators decided that if a president could do that, he could control
the court entirely, and they stopped him dead in the Senate. I sided with the Senators.
MARTIN. But you were his vice president.
GARNER. But I was right and he was wrong. And I wasn’t vice
president for long. He replaced me with that idiot Wallace in 1940, and then
Truman. Otherwise, I’d be in the White House right now….And the New Dealers,
some of them still hate my guts….So how are you keeping?
ALICE. Pretty fair, finally got a nickel or two in the bank. You
remember way back when the Depression hit, I actually had to do cigarette ads.
Can you imagine? Me, a banker’s granddaughter. Then I wrote that autobiography
and things settled down some…So you’re not going to see me buried in Arlington
MARTIN. Arlington? Not going to be buried alongside Nicky?
ALICE. Buried in Cincinnati? Isn’t that redundant? A fate worse
than death…. Joe, I invited you over here for a reason….
MARTIN. McCarthy’s coming, right? The whole town is talking about
it. The old Republicans and the new….
ALICE. Yes, McCarthy is coming to be crowned by Republican
royalty. Joe, you need to watch your step a bit. We still have aftershocks from
MARTIN. Well, it was tragedy and farce all rolled into one.
ALICE. Well, we may have dodged a bullet with Macarthur. Back
twenty years ago he got together with those bankers and factory men, trying to
use the war veterans to overthrow Roosevelt and set up a dictatorship. Thank
God Macarthur fell on his face.
MARTIN. They never proved any of it.
ALICE. Joe, I know all those business boys like the back of my
hand. They wanted to launch a coup d’etat….But this current mess, we could have
avoided it, Joe. Macarthur lost his head and wrote that letter attacking the
President, and you told the whole world about it. You called Truman a murderer.
You got Macarthur fired in the middle of a war. You wore a derby hat to the
Queen’s reception, making angry speeches about Indigo China – there’s no such
place! Speaker of the House can’t be
that clumsy. And now I hear you want to mess things up over in the Capitol
MARTIN. We have a fair chance to take back Congress in ‘52, I’ll
get the Speaker’s gavel again…
ALICE. And you want to shut down the Board of Education?
MARTIN. Alice, it’s a silly drinking club. I don’t even drink!
ALICE. Joe, when my husband was Speaker, he set that whole thing
up so he could drink and play poker with the rest of the House leaders, both
parties – even the Vice President, Truman was having a snort over there when
word came that Franklin had died. You know. Nicky used the poker games to size
up new members, solve problems, get things passed, soothe hurt feelings –
smartest thing Nicky ever did –
MARTIN. Aside from marrying you.
ALICE. You’re very sweet. We need to marry you off to some clever
woman, to keep you out of trouble.
MARTIN. Someone like you? We are the same age…
ALICE. Don’t be impertinent. Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t handle me,
what makes you think you can?….Joe, you just don’t know men like Nicky did.
Keep the poker games going. At least pretend to drink and hunt and fish and do
all that country-club sort of thing men like. It’s still a men’s club, you
know. With one exception, and here she is!
SMITH. Maggie Smith,
Senator from Maine, we’ve never met.
ALICE. An oversight.
Weren’t you over in the House for a while? Can’t be too many women who’ve done
SMITH. So far, it’s
ALICE. I read your
speech in the paper. You sure you wanted to come here tonight? You know who’s
SMITH. I know exactly
who’s coming. Joe McCarthy.
ALICE. That speech –
didn’t somebody try to warn you off of attacking McCarthy? Did you think that
SMITH. I always try to
think before I talk, pity the same can’t be said for McCarthy. But when people
keep telling you that you can’t do a thing, you kinda like to try it. And yes,
they did warn me off. Moral cowardice
that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as
irresponsible talk. Standing for right when it is unpopular….
ALICE. Before all this hooraw, they were talking about
putting you on the ticket, for vice president. Just imagine. What would you do
if you woke up one morning and found yourself sleeping in the White House?
SMITH. I’d apologize to Missus Truman, put on my clothes
and go home….No, you want to see a woman with real sand, go chat with Jeannette
Rankin. First woman in Congress – this was before women could even vote. She
shot off her mouth, opposing World War One, and was tossed out after one term.
Twenty years later, she’s back in the House again, votes to keep us out of
World War Two, gets tossed out again. This was the day after Pearl Harbor, the
vote was 388 to 1, Jeannette had to hide in a phone booth until the police
could rescue her from the mob. And she’s still out there raising hell. Now
are things thawing out for you?
Well, the other Senators still won’t let me use the gym or the pool. That’s
nothing – Adam Powell, the colored Congressman, can’t even use the dining
room….and there he is, the man who would be king. [McCarthy enters]
MCCARTHY. [to Smith] I guess you must be the belle
of the ball in the liberal circles after you aimed your guns at me, again….
SMITH. Joe, you have
debased the Senate. Every American has the right to hold unpopular beliefs, the right to
protest, the right to think for themselves. I don't want to see the Republican
Party ride to victory on the backs of the four horseman of calumny – fear and
ignorance, bigotry and smear. And your effort to bring down General Marshall –
are you seriously going through with that?
MCCARTHY. Man sold
China to the Communists…
SMITH. Poppycock. As
though we owned China in the first place. Marshall did as much as anyone else
to beat Hitler, and then he fed and clothed the whole world. He’s going to get
the Nobel Prize. Are you really going to put your credibility up against
his?...Who’s next, Eisenhower? Are you going to run for president?
MCCARTHY. The thought
crossed my mind. And what the hell do you know about national security anyway?
SMITH. You mean
besides serving on both committees? I’m also a lieutenant colonel in the Air
Force, I sailed all over the ocean in the war, inspecting our destroyers. And I
didn’t tell any whoppers about it. Tail-Gunner Joe. I hear your friends in the
House have lassoed some dangerous actors and radio announcers, how very brave.
MCCARTHY. Well, we’ll
see how brave you are when we get back into session. I’m rounding up money to
run a challenger against you for your Senate seat.
SMITH. How very
MCCARTHY. And I got
the newspapers coming after you too.
SMITH. Just try. I
already sued them, they’re already backing down. All bullies are cowards.
MCCARTHY. And I’m
going to have you thrown off my committee next week.
SMITH. How very
disappointing. I’m going to lose the pleasure of your company.
MCCARTHY. I’m giving
that seat to a real American. A man of honesty and integrity.
SMITH. And who might
SMITH. Joe McCarthy and Dick
Nixon. Well, surely a team like that is destined to make history.
Well here’s one friendly face, I’m sure. Mrs Longworth, rock-ribbed Republican!
None of that New Deal socialism for you.
Here's my blind date! I am going to call you Alice!
ALICE. Senator McCarthy, you are not going to call me Alice.
ALICE. The trashman and the policeman on my block call me Alice,
but you may not.
MCCARTHY. As you say. Mrs Longworth.
ALICE. Senator, for many years I let my husband speak for me, but
he’s long gone, so I find myself doing man’s work. You may be the king of
Washington right now, and Maggie here may be a pariah. But anybody who tangles
with her, is going to end up tangling with me. You remember Tom Dewey? Looks
like the little man on the wedding cake?
I cut Dewey down to size, I can do the same for you. That’s assuming you
don’t crash and burn all by yourself.
MCCARTHY. Well, you’re
father was a wild man back in his day…
ALICE. You don’t know a
thing about my father. Look at that bunch he led up San Juan Hill. That wasn’t
a regiment, it was a fraternity party, a bunch of men you might find in a San
Francisco bar. Golfers and baseball players, Lakota Sioux, men who hunt Lakota
Sioux, college boys and cowboys, old prospectors and hunters, men that Pappa
met in a men’s club – I’m surprised that bunch even found Cuba, let alone
fought a battle.
MCCARTHY. They didn’t go
there for victory, they went there for a story they could tell the boys in the
bar back home.
ALICE. Like every other
soldier in the world. But Pappa made them believe in doing something good, even
if they didn’t really achieve anything. He made every one of those men better
than they were before. ….You, on the other hand, drag every man down to your
level. You turn brave men into cowards, and artists into censors. You turn good
men into political thugs. You took Nixon, a hungry, vulnerable man, and turned
him into a gangster. You created a hundred informers and a thousand liars….
MCCARTHY. Your father
was a fighter too.
ALICE. Pappa always kept
his punches above the belt. He could be a gentleman even when he was punching
your lights out. He wasn’t dangerous, the way you are. Dangerous for the party.
Dangerous for the kind of people we really want to be…
SMITH. How we want to
treat each other.
ALICE. My father didn’t
hate, the way you do. Once in a while my father would put a bears’ head or a
buffalo’s head on his wall – you want people up there on the wall. Truman’s
head, Marshall. You want to destroy these people.
SMITH. And not because
you hate them – you just want to show you can do it, so everyone will give you
a wide berth.
ALICE. My father loved
everyone….almost everyone. Don’t ever say his name in my presence…..Have a
MCCARTHY. Senator. I’ll see you on the floor.
SMITH. So to speak. [McCarthy
MARTIN. Where’s he going? I thought this was going to be his big
ALICE. Didn’t even stay to try out my bourbon. And that’s a man
who can hurt a bottle of bourbon. Not like you.
SMITH. McCarthy needs to get back home, that’s his problem. He’s
spent almost his entire six years here in town, trying to be the King of Washington.
You spend too much time up in the clouds on Mount Olympus, you lose touch with
what’s going on with real people in the real world. Last time I went back to
Maine, I was campaigning for one of our congressmen, and I wandered through the
hills and found this general store. I did a little campaign stop, and I threw
everything at them. I did my economy speech, my war speech, I told them how
much we were helping the people from Maine, and the storekeeper led me out to
the parking lot to look at the license plates. I was on the wrong road, I was
in New Hampshire. They’re still laughing about it. McCarthy needs to get back
out there in the middle of real people. Maybe he’ll turn human again.
ALICE. I’m sure we’re all grateful to President
Kennedy for the memorial service for Eleanor the other day. But I wanted to
bring together the people who go all the way back with her, the old New York
people too, for something more private….Cousin Eleanor. She had it hard from
the beginning. An ugly duckling. She lost both of her parents when she was very
young. She saw that love and happiness were to be denied her, so she learned to
do without. For years she fought with her mother-in-law. Old Sara insisted on
running Eleanor’s household and she told Eleanor’s children that she was their
real mother. When Franklin got polio – I thought it would be a mild case, like
mine, but someone up there decided he needed a real test. Franklin had the whole
wagon load fall on him. The first time I saw him, I just …
MAGGIE. Steady as she goes…
ALICE. It’s alright…When Franklin got polio, old
Sara told him to retire, but Eleanor fought the old witch and finally they both
got free of her. Eleanor travelled all across the state so Franklin wouldn’t
have to. When the war veterans threatened to take over Washington, Eleanor
walked right over there and talked them out of it. She fought Franklin on the
lynching law, and she fought him to let more Jewish refugees into the country.
She fought for the right to work with the Red Cross in war zones. She went to
the UN to fight for refugees and Jews and minorities. She fought for the
Tuskegee airmen. She fought for women. She fought against McCarthy….
MAGGIE. She just kept coming up the hill again
ALICE. It was her, speaking out, that gave me the
courage to step out on my own. And some of this was my fault, if you want to
look at it that way. I told Franklin to take a mistress. I said he had a right
to happiness, because he was married to Eleanor. I was being mean. But it was
when Eleanor found about that other girl, that she decided to make a life of
her own. To be a fighter. If anyone thinks I should be ashamed for interfering
in their lives, well…I’m ashamed of quite a few mean, small things I’ve done.
But in a way I’m glad I did it to Eleanor. Because that Mercer girl made her
mad, and when Eleanor was mad, she was like a force of nature. Sometimes a
woman needs to slay a few dragons, to appreciate how amazing she is. And I was
one of Eleanor’s dragons. Not that I’m taking credit. But today I’m proud to be
her cousin. For damn sure she was a Roosevelt.
OLD ALICE. The longer
you live, the more funerals you go to, saying goodbye to the people you love.
By the time you’re my age, you’re looking forward to seeing them all again soon.
Papa and Edith, Paulina, Nicky and Borah, Jack and Sam….Still got Maggie Smith
around, she’s only 83, practically a child. And here we are, still waiting for Tricia
Nixon to cross town. [Tricia enters] Tricia,
good to see you again!
ALICE. Alice will do. I don’t think I’ve seen you since your wedding. How’s
your father? Still at San Clemente, planning another comeback?
He’s writing, but mostly he’s working the phones. He never quits.
ALICE. Yes, I remember when he first arrived. Smart as a whip, but he was just
so driven, like the hounds of hell were after him. Only politician I never knew
who didn’t know how to smile. I tried to help him in ’52, tell some funny
stories about him, but there are no funny stories about Dick Nixon….
People don’t know the other side of him. He wasn’t the smooth character that
Kennedy was, but there are things the outside world missed…
ALICE. Yes, he came to my daughter’s funeral. Funny, I vowed not to be a
terrible parent like my father, and I did such a poor job of it, my little girl
died so young, taking all those pills. And Dick Nixon was right there for me….And
then there was the other Nixon. I wanted to smack the hell out of him when he
resigned. He was being driven from office, and he was quoting my father about
how to get through tough times. My father was talking about losing his wife and
my grandmother all in the same day, and your father was comparing that to being
thrown out of office for being a crook. Well, I wasn’t the only one yelling at
him that day. But you and Julie stuck with him.
ALICE. Well, good for you. I was like that with Papa – defended him like a
wildcat. Almost cost me my marriage. Being the daughter of a president, well,
you know –
I was mulling that over with Susan, Gerry Ford’s girl. She had a few wild
times, just like you did.
ALICE. Susan Ford is an amateur. Hanging out drinking in bars, big deal. I
stopped two men from winning the presidency, Bill Taft and Dewey, I stopped the
League of Nations, I tossed my own husband out of office and then I made him
Speaker. [derisive] Hanging out in
bars….For such a long time, I was a mean person. I tormented my father and his
new wife. I made fun of Taft’s wife, the way she spoke – I didn’t know she’d
just had a stroke. I made fun of Taft too, I helped run him out of town – then
later I found out he wasn’t such an old poop, he said he didn’t even believe in
Pretty plucky back then.
ALICE. I made fun of Wilson, I made jokes about Wilson and women, I blocked his
plan for the League of Nations – I didn’t realize that his stroke had made him
paranoid, crazy, launching all those police raids to round up people who were
criticizing him. He was just sick. Two years we had a crazy man and his wife
running the country. I was so mean to my cousin Eleanor, I even egged Franklin
on to take a lover –
ALICE. Yes. And then Eleanor she was so kind to me when my daughter died – I
never told anybody that. She actually forgave me about the Mercer girl….Four or
five presidents banned me from the White House – even my father considered it.
And then I began to see where all that meanness leads to.
ALICE. MacArthur. And that man McCarthy. And…that taxi driver.
ALICE. I had a colored man drive me around. I got to know the man, his family.
All the things a colored man has to do, just to get by. We were in traffic,
everything was all jammed up, another driver got angry. He jumps out of his car
and comes toward us, screaming, “what the hell are you doing, you black bastard!”
And I just had enough. I hopped out of the car with my cane, and I said
"He's taking me to my destination, you white son of a bitch!"….I
began to feel a little silly, being the rich bitch, writing all those nasty
things in the paper, when the rest of the world had real problems.
Like Dorothy Parker.
ALICE. Yes, she was the queen of the poison pen. And then when she got
blacklisted herself, she was a new woman. You know Dotty left every nickel she
had to Martin Luther King? That girl, who would rather have died than let
anyone think she cared about anybody?...When I came back to the White House, I
got to say hello with all those colored folks who ran the place years before, I
felt like Scarlett O’Hara returning to Mammy at Tara. I made my peace with
FDR’s bunch, and the Kennedys.
Yes, even though he was a little too chummy with McCarthy. I liked Lyndon too,
but I wore a big hat to he couldn’t kiss me – a big old octopus. I rooted for
him to beat Goldwater, I thought old Goldwater was too nasty. And Bobby Kennedy
– fascinating. A bit thin-skinned, but – he could have been the one. He could
have changed America forever. And I could have helped him. For half a
century I was the prophet, Cassandra, telling truth to power. But I couldn’t
always make them listen.
Surely you’re not giving up? Throwing in the towel?
ALICE. I’m just fussing around with my granddaughter, waiting to see what comes
next, maybe this Reagan fella knows his business. Don’t know how long I’ll be
around, though, I’ve had two mastectomies – I’m the only topless octogenarian
ALICE. Well, whatever comes after octogenarian. Arlington cemetery, I suppose.
When I was eighty I could still touch the tip of my nose with my toe, polio and
all, but now I don’t press my luck. My age, a broken hip might as well be a
So how have you lasted so long? You drink, you smoke….
ALICE. The secret of eternal youth is arrested development. I have a simple
philosophy. Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. Scratch where it itches… And
try to make the place a little better.
And be ready for one more ride up San Juan Hill?
ALICE. [laughs] On our honeymoon I
insisted on going to Cuba to see the battlefield, this great hill Papa
conquered. The hill was, and I’m being generous, a mild slope. But it made for
a great story.