45-“The Protege”

Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, Written by Frank D. Gilroy.

PETER BRECK as Kurt Sprague
GEORGE MITCHELL as Joe Sprague
MEL WELLES as Red Harper
WILLIAM MEIGS as Sheriff Hayes
KEN MAYER as Gun Instructor
CY MALIS as Bartender
CHARLES TANNEN as Floyd
OLAN SOULE as Hotel Carlton Desk Clerk
RAY JONES as Man at Burial (uncredited)

Kurt, I’m going to the street and wait for you.
When you come out, you have two choices.
Wear no gun and walk over to the jail.
Or wear your gun and try it on me.

INT. HOTEL CARLTON LOBBY – DAY

PALADIN (reading to himself)
“Teach me to quick draw and shoot. Instruction desperately needed. Will pay $1,000. Only experts need apply. See Kurt Sprague, Dixon Road, Rapid City, California”

PALADIN
I’m looking for Sprague, Kurt Sprague.

KURT SPRAGUE
I’m Sprague.

PALADIN
My name is Paladin. I wrote to you about your advertisement.

KURT SPRAGUE
You’re late. Job’s filled.

PALADIN
That so?

KURT SPRAGUE
Well, I did sort of promise this man.

PALADIN
The advertisement said only experts need apply.

GUN INSTRUCTOR
Served as peace officer in Nevada and Oklahoma. Also served as deputy to Matt Dillon In Austin, for five years. That make me expert enough?

PALADIN
No, that makes you a fraud. Dillon never held office in Austin.

GUN INSTRUCTOR
What is this, anyway?
You saw me draw.

KURT SPRAGUE
Yes, he did draw. And it did seem fast.

PALADIN
But you’re not going to load that gun?

GUN INSTRUCTOR
Why, what for?

PALADIN
Just do it.
Give the bullets to Sprague.

GUN INSTRUCTOR
Now what?

PALADIN
You should have 12 bullets.
Six from each of us.

KURT SPRAGUE
I do.

PALADIN
Now, mr. Sprague’ll
count to three.

GUN INSTRUCTOR
Suppose that gun were loaded? Wonder how fast you’d be then?

PALADIN
Let’s find out. Put a bullet in it.

PALADIN
One. All right, Mr. Sprague. Anytime.

KURT SPRAGUE
One. Two. Three.

KURT SPRAGUE
Mighty pleased to meet you, Mr. Paladin. Very happy to know you. You got the job.

PALADIN
Now that depends.

KURT SPRAGUE
On what?

PALADIN
On your reason for placing that ad. Why were you so anxious to learn how to use a gun?

KURT SPRAGUE
If I don’t, I can’t go back home.

PALADIN
No?

KURT SPRAGUE
My home’s in New Mexico. A little town called right angle. I was born there, grew up there, expected to live there for the rest of my life.

PALADIN
Something change your mind?

KURT SPRAGUE
A man named Red Harper. Did you ever hear of him?

PALADIN
No.

KURT SPRAGUE
He’s made himself quite a reputation. A real bad one. Killed four or five men in gunfights. I used to see him, but I never had nothing to do with him. That’s what makes this whole thing so crazy.

PALADIN
How’d you get mixed up with him?

KURT SPRAGUE
A month ago, my father and I were going to church, And we passed the saloon as harper came out. Ugly and drunk. Bumped into my father, on purpose, then started insulting him.

PALADIN
You called him on it, And he told you to go for your gun.

KURT SPRAGUE
That’s right. I didn’t have a gun. He said I better get one or leave town. I thought he was drunk and that’d be the end of it.

PALADIN
A man like that,
it’s just the start.

KURT SPRAGUE
From that day on, he made it a point To insult me in front of the whole town. If I answered back, he’d say, “put on a gun.” I ain’t ever handled a gun in my life. Not like that. When I couldn’t take it no more, I left.

PALADIN
You can’t go back to right angle Until you’re good enough with the gun to stand up to red harper.

KURT SPRAGUE

That’s right.

PALADIN
Do you have a gun?

KURT SPRAGUE
Bought one yesterday in rapid city.

PALADIN
Get it.

KURT SPRAGUE
You’ll take the job?

PALADIN
I’ll try. You better understand…Handling a gun is a very special talent, With very special responsibilities.

KURT SPRAGUE
That’ll take care of itself. You just teach me how to shoot.

PALADIN
There’s one thing in your favor.

KURT SPRAGUE
What’s that?

PALADIN
You want to do your own fighting.

EXT. SHOOTING RANGE

PALADIN
Well, three out of six.

KURT SPRAGUE
That’s no good.

PALADIN
You’ve only been at it a few days. Now this one and this one are no good.

KURT SPRAGUE
Why? They’re hits.

PALADIN
They wouldn’t stop a man. This is where they all should go.

KURT SPRAGUE
They will before we’re finished.

PALADIN
You want to call it off?

KURT SPRAGUE
No! Man’s got a right to defend himself. How’s that?

PALADIN
That’s pretty good. But not good enough.

KURT SPRAGUE
No. You are a mighty fussy man, paladin. All gunfighters this particular about caring for their weapons?

PALADIN
Only the live ones.

KURT SPRAGUE
How’s that now?

PALADIN
That’s good.

KURT SPRAGUE
We’ve been at it 12 days now.

PALADIN
That’s right and tomorrow we start on the draw.

KURT SPRAGUE
Well, hallelujah! That’ll be a relief from doing nothing but shoot, shoot, shoot.

PALADIN
No use learning how to draw a gun unless you know what to do with it. I’m turning in.

KURT SPRAGUE
What time do we begin in the morning?

PALADIN
7:00.

KURT SPRAGUE
Why not 6:00?

PALADIN
You’re an eager student.

KURT SPRAGUE
I want to go home.

PALADIN
Good night.

KURT SPRAGUE
Listen, paladin. This thing is jammed. Really think I’ll be good enough to go up against harper?

PALADIN
You’ll be good enough. Matter of fact, you take to this gun like you were born for it. Good night.

KURT SPRAGUE
Good night.

PALADIN
Hand away from it…Now!

KURT SPRAGUE
Oh!

PALADIN
Once more. And…Get your hand away from it. Now.

KURT SPRAGUE
Ohhh!

PALADIN
Now. That’s better, once more. And…Now! That’s better. Let’s try this with live ammunition. Come on. You ready?

KURT SPRAGUE
I’m ready.

PALADIN
Now!

KURT SPRAGUE
Well, what do you think?

PALADIN
I think it’s time for you to go home.

KURT SPRAGUE
You really believe I’m ready?

PALADIN
If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t say it.

KURT SPRAGUE
Thing is, you’ve never seen how fast harper draws.

PALADIN
I’ve seen many fast men draw. You’re the equal of most of them.

KURT SPRAGUE
I am?

PALADIN
You are. But you may find it different when you face a man with a gun.
You may forget everything you’ve learned. You might find you can’t kill a man.

KURT SPRAGUE
I’ve thought of that. Can you go back with me?

PALADIN
My job was to teach you. That’s finished now.

KURT SPRAGUE
Harper travels with two or three friends. If I walk in alone, your teaching Won’t even those odds.

PALADIN
Wouldn’t want that to happen.

KURT SPRAGUE
You’ll come?

PALADIN
All right.

KURT SPRAGUE
Thanks, Paladin. Now that it’s getting down to it, I really feel edgy.

PALADIN
Suppose we try and get your mind off things.

KURT SPRAGUE
One of Harper’s friends.

PALADIN
Let’s see how much you’ve learned.

KURT SPRAGUE
Looks like we’re expected. He’ll be at the saloon, he always is.

PALADIN
Some deep breaths might relax you.

JOE SPRAGUE
You did come back.

KURT SPRAGUE
I told you I would, pa.

SHERIFF HAYES
Harper knows you’re here.

KURT SPRAGUE
I figured that.

JOE SPRAGUE
You’re wearing a gun.

KURT SPRAGUE
Didn’t think I’d come back without one, did you?

JOE SPRAGUE
Can you use it?

KURT SPRAGUE
Yes.

SHERIFF HAYES
Harper’s not alone. Toby and Clark are with him.

KURT SPRAGUE
I’m not alone either. This is Mr. Paladin. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be back here. He taught me how to use this. I guess we better get on with it.

SHERIFF HAYES
Good luck, Kurt.

JOE SPRAGUE
God be with you.

PALADIN
From here on, it’s your show.

KURT SPRAGUE
Harper! Harper! Harper!

RED HARPER
Wasn’t no need to repeat yourself. Bad luck for you I heard you the first time. So you come back? But I don’t see much different about you. Same yellow-belly. Same chicken heart. Oh, well…I see now. You’re wearing a gun. Just like a growed-up man. And you brought a friend.

PALADIN
Harper, get rid of those two. Or I help Sprague.

RED HARPER
All right. Let’s don’t get all excited. Better get to one side, boys. Sprague’s liable to get off a shot. And Lord knows where it’ll land.

KURT SPRAGUE
You through talkin’?

RED HARPER
Just about. Now it’s your turn. Got any last words?

KURT SPRAGUE
Fill your hand.

RED HARPER
You first, sonny. Well…Now don’t tell me you changed your mind. While we’re waiting, Let me tell you about your ma. I heard she was…

KURT SPRAGUE
I did it! And it was just like you said it’d be. I felt like I was born to it. You’ve certainly earned your fee on this job. As agreed.

PALADIN
Thank you.

KURT SPRAGUE
I wish there was something else I could do, Besides money. I mean, as a friend.

PALADIN
There is.

KURT SPRAGUE
Name it.

PALADIN
As a friend…Take that gun off. Put it away. And forget about it.

KURT SPRAGUE
What?

PALADIN
Harper’s dead. You’re home to stay And you don’t need that gun anymore.

KURT SPRAGUE
I guess you’re right.

PALADIN
I know I’m right. Take it off.

KURT SPRAGUE
There, make you feel better?

PALADIN
Much better. Here’s to a long and happy life. Goodbye, Kurt. Good luck.

KURT SPRAGUE
Goodbye. Paladin? You’ve been a good friend.

JOE SPRAGUE
Oh, Mr. Paladin? You taught him well. I just wanted to thank you.

PALADIN
For nothing. Goodbye, sir.

JOE SPRAGUE
Goodbye.

INT. SALOON – DAY

BARTENDER
Your friend just left.

INT. HOTEL CARLTON LOBBY – DAY

DESK CLERK
Mr. Paladin. A gentleman to see you.

PALADIN
Oh? Will you wait for me? Excuse me.

JOE SPRAGUE
Oh, mr. Paladin. You probably don’t remember me. We met briefly three months ago in right angle. I’m sorry, sir.

PALADIN
It’s all right, I remember you. You’re Mr. Sprague.

JOE SPRAGUE
That’s right.

PALADIN
How’s kurt?

JOE SPRAGUE
Kurt? Kurt’s why I’m here.

PALADIN
What’s wrong?

JOE SPRAGUE
Here. These’ll explain things better than I can. They’re all from the Right Angle newspaper.

PALADIN
I made him take that gun off. He promised me he’d put it away and forget it.

JOE SPRAGUE
He never took it off. I’m afraid he can’t forget about it now.

PALADIN
How did these things happen?

JOE SPRAGUE
All his doing. He singles out a man, then keeps provoking him. Until the fella has no choice except to fight.

PALADIN
That’s what harper did.

JOE SPRAGUE
That’s right. Mr. Paladin…Kurt was one of the nicest boys in town. Everybody liked him. Now in three months, I’ve watched him change into a killer. That’s why I’m here. When kurt was in trouble before, you helped him. Now he’s in much worse trouble. And I’m asking you to help him again.

PALADIN
It’s a little late for that, isn’t it?

JOE SPRAGUE
I hope not. He likes you. He’d listen to you if you talked to him. If you could make him quit now, He could still be saved.

PALADIN
Well, I guess I do owe Kurt that much.

EXT. TOWN OF RIGHT ANGLE -DAY

JOE SPRAGUE
Who died?

FLOYD
Sheriff Hayes. Shot down.

JOE SPRAGUE
By who?

FLOYD
Kurt. I’m sorry, Mr. Sprague.

PALADIN
Where’s Kurt now?

FLOYD
Saloon, I guess.

PALADIN
Why isn’t he in jail?

FLOYD
Nobody here wants to go up against his gun.

JOE SPRAGUE
Paladin.

PALADIN
I’ll go see him.

INT. SALOON – DAY

KURT SPRAGUE
Where is everybody?

BARTENDER
Guess they’re down at the funeral.

KURT SPRAGUE
You said this was a new deck. They’re greasy, get me another one.

BARTENDER
They were new. I opened them…

KURT SPRAGUE
You callin’ me a liar?

PALADIN
Hello, Kurt.

KURT SPRAGUE
Paladin, you old son of a gun. What are you doing here? Well? What’s the matter?

PALADIN
I guess you’re the matter.

KURT SPRAGUE
You’ve been talking to my father, About all the men I killed. No sense you fretting yourself about it. Fact is you should be proud. You taught me how.

PALADIN
I taught you how to defend yourself, Not how to be a public executioner. When did you start notching that gun? Kurt, you put the gun back on… Why?

KURT SPRAGUE
Because it makes me feel good. Like I’m somebody. But I don’t have to explain it to anyone. Not even you, paladin.

PALADIN
School’s out.

KURT SPRAGUE
What does that mean?

PALADIN
Means I’m going out in the street and wait. When you come through those doors, Either you wear no gun and walk to the jail, Or you wear that gun and try it on me.

KURT SPRAGUE
You sure you want to go through with this?

PALADIN
That’s up to you.

KURT SPRAGUE
I always thought of you as my one friend. I should’ve known it’d come to this.

PALADIN
Come to what?

KURT SPRAGUE
You know, Pupil gets too good, so the teacher figures he better use a yardstick. Only you ain’t the teacher no more.

PALADIN
Call it off.

KURT SPRAGUE
Not a chance! You forced this play, now you’re gonna back it up.

PALADIN
I don’t want to kill you.

KURT SPRAGUE
You don’t understand, paladin. You ain’t got a chance. You just don’t know how good I am.

PALADIN
All right, kurt. Then you show me.

THEY SHOOT EACH OTHER.

KURT SPRAGUE
I’m sorry.

PALADIN
So am I.

KURT SPRAGUE
I did everything you taught me.

PALADIN
Everything, except remember the most important thing I ever said to you. I told you to take that gun off, and forget it.

KURT SPRAGUE
No…I couldn’t do that.

PALADIN
I wanted very much to be his friend.

JOE SPRAGUE
You were his friend. You were the best friend he ever had.