(8) “High Wire”

Original Airdate:  (November 2, 1957)

At a bar, a hobo wages a bet that he can walk across a tightrope down the length of a saloon.  But when Paladin notices that the hobo’s opponent plans on cheating to win the bet, he makes sure the odds are even.

STROTHER MARTIN as Dooley Delaware, JOHN DEHNER as Ben Marquette, FAY SPAIN as Rena, BUDDY BAER as Bolo, JACK ALBERTSON as Bookie, THEODORE MARCUSE as Wally, DUANE GREY as Driver

Even the Barbary Coast crapshooters don’t operate like that.
Let’s reopen that bet, mister.
I don’t like to leave that kind of a winner on the board.

EXT. PRARIE – STAGECOACH RUNNING INTO TOWN – DAY

EXT. SALAMANDER CITY – DAY

We see a sign “Salamander City – Stage Depot”

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Salamander City, Mr. Paladin. Step out and stretch a mite.

PALADIN
Are we staying long?

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Oh, just until I hitch up some fresh horses. What can I do for you, Dooley?

DOOLEY DELAWARE
I just wondering, have you got room for another passenger.

STAGECOACH DRIVER
You got the price of a ticket?

DOOLEY DELAWARE
Aw, I just want to go as far as the next town. I can pay you next time around, maybe.

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Sorry, Dooley. No credit.

DOOLEY DELAWARE
Good afternoon, Mister.

PALADIN
Afternoon.

DOOLEY DELAWARE
Are you heading for San Francisco?

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Don’t bother the passengers, Dooley.

DOOLEY DELAWARE
Sorry, mister. Will you wait for me? Maybe I can raise the money.

PALADIN
Fella seems pretty anxious to get out of town.

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Yeah, poor little guy. Reckon they’re getting tired of him here.

PALADIN
Who is he?

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Dooley Delaware. Says he used to be a big-time acrobat. Now he just wanders around, one town today, another town tomorrow. Doing back flips for spending money.

PALADIN
Call me when you’re ready to leave, huh?

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Yeah.

Paladin walks on boardwalk toward the bar where Dooley is performing.

INT. SALOON -DAY

MAN
Okay, Dooley, let’s see you walk on your nose.

BARGIRL
He’s used to it.

PALADIN
Well, I’m not.

BARGIRL
Don’t start anything, please.

BEN MARQUETTE
$50, Dooley. $50 says you can’t walk a rope across this saloon. Well, that’s an easy bet for Dooley Delaware, isn’t it?

DOOLEY
Well, I don’t have a rope.

MARQUETTE
Oh, Bolo, would you…?

MEN (egging Dooley on)
Come on, Dooley. You can do it, Dooley. Let’s go.

MARQUETTE
You think you can make that, Mr. Delaware?

DOOLEY
Excuse me. I think that I can do it, Mr. Marquette. But I can’t meet the bet. All I’ve got is…$2.12.

MARQUETTE
I’m always willing to make arrangements.

DOOLEY
I’ll tell you what: If I can’t walk this rope…I’ll…curry your horse and shine your boots every day for a whole year.

MARQUETTE
You’re on.

MAN
Go on, Dooley!

BARGIRL
Dooley, look out!

PALADIN
Now, Dooley, you all in one piece?

DOOLEY
I reckon so.

MARQUETTE
Start shining, acrobat.

PALADIN
Mr. Delaware doesn’t like to leave a winner on the board. He’ll repeat the bet, double or nothing.

MARQUETTE
You let him call his own bets, mister.

DOOLEY
I only got $2.12.

PALADIN
I’ll cover for Mr. Delaware. $100. No shoe shines involved, just money.

BOLO
Mr. Marquette ain’t interested.

PALADIN
Are you interested, Mr. Delaware?

DOOLEY
Golly… for $100? I’d cross Salamander Canyon on a wire.

MARQUETTE
You’ve got yourself a bet.

PALADIN
Anybody got a rope?

MARQUETTE
Never mind the rope, mister. Get a wire. Get one long enough to stretch clear across Salamander Canyon.

PALADIN
Now wait a minute! That’s not a fair…

MARQUETTE
My $100 against your $100 says that Dooley can’t walk a wire across that canyon.

DOOLEY
Oh, I… I…I was just, you know, making mouth noises, Mr. Marquette.

BARGIRL
Take it easy, Ben. That canyon is 300 feet deep.

MARQUETTE
Why, that don’t mean a thing to a real wire walker.

DOOLEY
Well, I…

PALADIN
Sorry. Sorry, Marquette. No bet. Come on, Dooley.

MAN
You can do it. Show him you’re not yellow.

PALADIN
Now just a minute! Come on- wait a minute! My money and his life and we’re both going to keep what we’ve got. Come on, Dooley, you’ve still got time to catch that stage.

MARQUETTE
He’s not an acrobat, he’s a monkey on a string.

BOLO
Somebody throw him a peanut.

(MEN LAUGHING)

DOOLEY
I accept the challenge. Will you stake me, mister?

MARQUETTE
You got the terms of the bet right? My $100 says you can’t walk a wire across Salamander Canyon.

DOOLEY
And I say I can. If this gentleman will sponsor me.

PALADIN
It won’t work, Marquette. You’re forcing the odds. You’re asking this man to risk his life for $100.

BOLO
You talk too much, Mister.

PALADIN
That doesn’t help anybody’s reputation. Even the Barbary Coast crapshooters don’t work like that.

MARQUETTE
All right, I’ll boost the ante as far as Dooley can go- $102.12. Can you afford that much, mister?

PALADIN
Make it $1,000.

MARQUETTE
His life isn’t worth that much.

PALADIN
Your reputation?

MARQUETTE
I’ll see your $1,000 and make it $1,000 more.

DOOLEY
Why stop there? $3,000 says Dooley can do the stunt.

MARQUETTE
You are on. My reputation, huh? Hold the stakes, Bolo.

PALADIN
Wait a minute. $6,000. That’s too big a load for such a small character.

BOLO
Mr. Marquette says I hold the money.

MARQUETTE
Easy, Bolo. We don’t want to offend our meal ticket. We’ll give it to a neutral party.

BARGIRL
I’ll take care of it, Ben.

MARQUETTE
Put it in the sack, Wally.

BARTENDER WALLY
Mr. Marquette, I’d rather not get mixed up in this.

MARQUETTE
Wally’s got a wife and two kids. He’s got to be honest.

BARTENDER WALLY
Mr. Marquette, I’d rather not.

MARQUETTE
Put it in a sack, Wally. You’ll get all the protection you need. You happy now, mister?

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Stage is leaving, Mr. Paladin.

PALADIN
Well, let it leave. I’ll stay here and look after my investment.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

EXT. TOWN BANK -DAY

Paladin comes out of bank. Dooley approaches him, smiling.

DOOLEY
Mr. Paladin, I…I just want to tell you…$3,000? Golly, you sure have a lot of faith in me.

PALADIN
Faith?
I was boosting the bet to get you out of it. I was trying to make Marquette call it off. You must have been crazy to let them laugh you into a suicide stunt like that.

DOOLEY
It’s all set up. 3:00 tomorrow afternoon.

PALADIN
I’ve been told that canyon is 100 feet across and 300 feet straight down, and a wind like the breath of the devil.

DOOLEY
Mr. Paladin, you heard what they call me: A monkey on a string. That’s all I’ve ever been ever since the circuses quit hiring me.

PALADIN
What circuses?

DOOLEY
A monkey on a string, doing nip-ups for nickels and dimes. I’m a man, not a monkey.

PALADIN
Well, of course you are, Dooley.

DOOLEY
Maybe I won’t make it across that canyon tomorrow, but they’ll remember me for trying. They’ll remember me as Dooley Delaware, the man who almost crossed Salamander Canyon on a wire.

BARGIRL
Dooley! Come on inside now. Everybody is hollering for you.

PALADIN
Mr. Delaware has to rest for tomorrow.

BARGIRL
Oh, but the whole crowd’s going to go down to the canyon and set things up, and I thought you’d want to supervise.

PALADIN
Rena, whose side are you on?

RENA
Well, Dooley’s. Isn’t everybody? Now, come on. Come on. Come on.

PALADIN
Hello, Rena. I thought you were part of that crowd.

RENA
Look, mister, you been doing some pretty nice things. Be smart. Stop being so nice, and just go on where you were going.

PALADIN
I can’t till I win my stage fare.

RENA
From Marquette? He’s too big. He’s bigger than you, he’s bigger than Dooley, he’s bigger than this whole town. And Bolo’s just standing on his shoulders.

PALADIN
Well, they’re gonna make quite a thump when they fall.

RENA
You’re not going to topple them. Nobody ever has.

PALADIN
Well, I can try.

RENA
Why? What have you got…?

PALADIN
My business.

Rena takes Paladin’s card and sees that he’s a gunfighter.

BOOKIE
Okay, sir, here you are.

STAGECOACH DRIVER
Good morning, Mr. Paladin.

PALADIN
I thought you took the stage out this afternoon.

STAGECOACH DRIVER
And miss a ruckus like this one? Not a chance. Why, look here- the first extra ever put out by the Salamander Gazette.

PALADIN
Have you seen Dooley?

STAGECOACH DRIVER
“Dauntless Dooley to defy…” How about it, partner? How about a little bet on the big event? Five to one, he doesn’t make it. Best odds in town. Five to one he doesn’t get across that canyon.

BARGIRL
Come on, honey. Drink up. Wally made that drink just for you.

DOOLEY
Good ol’ Wally.

BARGIRL
It’s called the Dooley Delaware Fizz. One drink of that, and you can walk that canyon without a wire.

PALADIN
All right, Dooley, that’s enough. It’s after 2:00.

DOOLEY
So what?

PALADIN
2:00 a.m.- you won’t be able to find that canyon tomorrow.

BARGIRL
Oh, leave him alone. He’s having a good time, for the first time in his life.

DOOLEY
Yeah, let me be. Your name is Rena, ain’t it?

RENA
Sure it is, honey.

DOOLEY
You hear that, Mr. Paladin? “Honey,” she calls me. When did any girl call ol’ Dooley “honey”? Huh? When?

DOOLEY
Hey, take your hands off my girl!

PALADIN
All right, what’s Marquette paying you?

BARGIRL
For what?

PALADIN
That little job you’re doing on Dooley.

BARGIRL
Who says he’s paying me?

PALADIN
I say he is. Now tell me how much it is and I’ll match the fee if you let Dooley alone.

RENA
Maybe I don’t want to let him alone. Maybe I don’t want to see him show up at that canyon tomorrow.

PALADIN
You want to scrape him off the bottom of the canyon, is that it?

RENA
If he don’t show up, he’ll stay alive.

PALADIN
Sure. Marquette will collect the bet, and Dooley will spend the rest of his life running away from himself. Dead or alive, Dooley loses and Marquette wins.

BOOKIE
Best odds in town, folks. Make your bets here.

PALADIN
Hey, you. Come over here.

BOOKIE
Coming right up. Best odds in town, folks. Five to one.

PALADIN
How do you figure odds like that?

BOOKIE
Nobody can walk a wire in that condition.

PALADIN
Well, here’s $50 on Dooley.

RENA
Leaves nothing for tomorrow.

PALADIN
Give the slip to Rena.

BOOKIE
It’s your money. If Dooley wins, you get 250 bucks.

PALADIN
$250. Now, how does that compare with what Marquette was going to pay you?

BOOKIE O.S.
Best odds in town, folks. Take your bets right here.

RENA
More than double. Listen, I like the little guy. Let me fix it so he don’t show up tomorrow. Then Marquette will be happy and Dooley will be alive.

PALADIN
Dooley will be alive? He’ll die every time he looks in the mirror for the rest of his life. This town will paint him yellow and never let him forget it.

RENA
What do you want me to do? I’ve been trying to save enough money to get out of this town. I can’t afford to turn down Marquette’s deal and neither can anybody else.

PALADIN
You can. Now. If Dooley makes it across that wire tomorrow.

RENA
Sure, if he does, if.

PALADIN
You can help.

RENA
How? Undo what you’ve been doing. See that he shows up in decent shape tomorrow. Take care of him the right way.

RENA
I guess I could try.

PALADIN
Rena, your stage fare is walking across that wire with Dooley tomorrow. Now go on, take care of him.

RENA
Thanks.

FADE OUT

EXT. SALAMANDER CANYON – DAY

We see a sign that says “Death Takes a Holiday”

MAN IN CROWD
What’s the odds?

BOOKIE
Five to one. The greatest odds. All right, folks, all right. Five to one. Five to one. The greatest odds.

MAN IN CROWD
I’ll take that at five to one.

BOOKIE O.S.
All right, all right. Here it is, folks, right this way. Five to one. The best odds in town. All right, who wants…? Five to one. Let’s have it. Five to one. The best odds in town. Thank you very much.

PALADIN
Everything all fixed, eh, Marquette? Sure. I even control the wind in this town. That daredevil of yours is ten minutes late.

PALADIN
I know. Another five minutes and that money is mine by default.

PALADIN
Well, I think Dooley will be here before the money is. Where is it, by the way? In good hands. It’s all there. All $6,000.

PALADIN
Well, Bolo is with it. I’d better count it. Later.

PALADIN
Now.

PALADIN
Bolo, protect me. I want to count the stakes.

BOLO
Hold on, you.

MARQUETTE
It’s all right. It’s all right, Bolo.

BOLO
Give it to him.

WALLY
Well, listen. My wife and kids are…

BOLO
Oh, shut up.

MARQUETTE
Come on, Paladin, hurry it up, will you?

PALADIN
Now, you just made me lose my place. I’ll have to start over.

WALLY
There’s Rena.

MARQUETTE
She’s got Dooley with her. That double-crossing little…

PALADIN
Bolo. Here’s your money.

BOLO
Satisfied?

PALADIN
Yep. I’m very satisfied.

MARQUETTE
Bolo!

PALADIN
Rena, how is he?

RENA
I did everything. I did everything I could.

PALADIN
What’s wrong?

RENA
He’s scared. Just plain scared. You just mention this canyon and his eyes kind of roll back in his head.

PALADIN
Oh?

MARQUETTE
Don’t let your friend talk you into this, Dooley. That wire means certain death.

BOLO
Be smart, Dooley. Call it off. Paladin’s only interested in his three grand.

PALADIN
That’s right, Dooley. Call it off. Nobody here expected you to walk that wire anyway. Go ahead, call it off. Everybody here has got you marked yellow from the start.

DOOLEY
I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to shame me into it. You’re trying to shame me into committing suicide.

BOLO
Don’t let him make a sap out of you, Dooley.

PALADIN
I’ll talk to Dooley alone, Bolo.

BOLO
I’ve had enough of you.

PALADIN
Alone.

PALADIN
Wally.

PALADIN
Give him the money, Bolo. Give it to him! Now, I’ll talk to Dooley alone.
All right, Dooley, let’s hear it.

DOOLEY
What?

PALADIN
Why don’t the circuses hire you anymore? Come on.

DOOLEY
I took a bad fall about nine years ago.
I got well, but I couldn’t make myself get on the wire anymore. Not the high wire.

PALADIN
They think you’ve lost your nerve and now that big fear is back again?

DOOLEY
It sure is.

PALADIN
Dooley, do you know what’s going to happen to you if you don’t get on that wire? You’ll be a monkey on a string again.

DOOLEY
I know.

PALADIN
They won’t throw coins to you anymore.

DOOLEY
I know.

PALADIN
They’ll throw peanuts.

DOOLEY
I know. I know they will.

PALADIN
Dooley, that wire is no different than any wire you ever climbed on in a circus.

BOLO
Don’t listen to him, Dooley. He’s only interested in his money.

PALADIN
You believe that, Dooley?

DOOLEY
I don’t want to.

PALADIN
Dooley, I made that $3,000 last week and I worked hard for it. But I’d rather lose it right here and now then see you lose your life trying to do something you can’t possibly do. Now, no tricks and no jokes. I want you to turn your back on it, I want you to walk away. My wagon is over there. Come on.

CROWD CHANTING IN UNISON
We want Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley!

DOOLEY
I want to try it, Mr. Paladin. I’m going to try it. Come on, Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley! We want Dooley! Come on, Dooley! We want Dooley!

PALADIN
Mr. Delaware…your walking stick. You can do it. Dooley, no!

PALADIN
Bolo! Come on. Come on! Come on, Marquette. Get on that stake, Bolo. Get on it, or I’m going to blow a hole in you. Help him, Marquette. Go on. Now, just hold it steady. What happened?

PALADIN
The stake’s splitting. Don’t quit, Bolo. Lean on it. I’ll blow your head off.

PALADIN
(TO MARQUETTE)
Where’s the bartender? Where is he?!

MARQUETTE
You find him.

RENA
Why’d you let him go?

PALADIN
Never mind Marquette. Let’s find Dooley.

DRIVER
Stage is leaving in an hour, Mr. Paladin.

RENA
What are you talking about? You know Marquette’s behind all this.

PALADIN
Double-cross is a very ambiguous sign. It points in eight different directions all at once. Come on.

EXT. STAGECOACH RUNNING DOWN ROAD -DAY

INT. STAGECOACH WITH DOOLEY, RENA AND PALADIN

INT. CABIN – BOLO HOLDING WALLY

WALLY
Let me go. Please. My wife will be worried sick.

BOLO
All right, get out of here. But if you open your mouth about this, you won’t have a wife to worry about you, understand that? Now get out of here!

EXT. MARQUETTE RIDES UP ON HORSEBACK -DAY

INT. CABIN

MARQUETTE
How come you let Wally go?

BOLO
He’s too scared to open his mouth. Here, count it.

Marquette opens bag only to reveal rocks and the poster of Dooley.

MARQUETTE
“Dauntless Dooley Delaware.”

CUT TO

INT. STAGECOACH

RENA
You know, I did win that $250. You could have wound up with a handful of air. I think maybe you’d better have it.

PALADIN
Rena, I don’t really believe Dooley ever worked for a circus.

DOOLEY
Oh, no? Well, here. I can prove it. What?

RENA
Oh! I thought Marquette and Bolo got it.

PALADIN
So did they.

DOOLEY
How’d you pull a stunt like that?

PALADIN
Dooley! You’re not the only trickster in the West. Observe.
Now I’ll say a magic word and…Oh!

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