164-“The Piano”

Directed by Richard Donner. (written by) Barry Trivers. (based on an idea by) Frank Pierson.

Keith Andes as Franz Lister
Antoinette Bower as Sybil Lansing
Chuck Couch as Riggs
Roy Engel as Piano Thief
Gertrude Flynn as Mona Lansing
Arny Freeman as Freddie
Erin Leigh as Girl
Richard Reeves as Jerris
Bert Madrid as Piano Thief (uncredited)
Kermit Maynard as Barfly (uncredited)
I need six men. The job may last three days or three weeks. We’ll be covering rugged country and the men we’re after are clever and dangerous. They stole a piano.

PALADIN
Being a very attractive and a very wealthy young lady, you’re taken everywhere.
Rare and exotic dishes are all too commonplace and too familiar to you. So I have taken the liberty of preparing for you a dish I believe you have not tasted before.

HEY BOY
Mr. Paladin.

GIRL
What is that?

HEY BOY
Buffalo haunch.

PALADIN
Which I have re-christened ragout buffalo ala Provencal.

GIRL
Buffalo haunch?

PALADIN
That’s correct. Buffalo haunch prepared according to an ancient formula handed down from one chuck wagon cook to his son and to no one else. First, the fresh meat is beaten with a tent stake, then it is hung on the back of a wagon for 21 days, exactly. 21 days no more, no less.

GIRL
21 days?

PALADIN
That’s correct. 21 days. No more, no less and then it is shaved.

GIRL
Shaved?

PALADIN
Well, Hey Boy, a woman who would forego ragout buffalo would be incapable of enjoying other rare pleasures. I will dine alone.

HEY BOY
May I serve you?

PALADIN
Please.

CYBIL LANSING
Mr. Paladin.

PALADIN
Mm-hmm.

CYBIL LANSING
My mother doesn’t know I’m here. She’d be quite furious if she knew, but I think she’s so wrong in her attitude. Don’t you? I mean about paying the ransom. There’s much more than a piano involved. It’s a matter of principle. If you can’t fight for principle, what can you fight for? Do you want to know Franz’s exact words? “Not one zloty for tribute. Not one!”

PALADIN
Please, from the beginning. What is your name?

CYBIL LANSING
I’m Sybil Lansing. My mother is Mrs. Bosley Lansing.

PALADIN
The woman, who at one time, operated the most elaborate, uh… saloon in the Oklahoma Territory.

CYBIL LANSING
When she married Father, he wanted to be close to his canneries. Lansing Salmon. For the past 20 years, Mama has been converting the heathen. Culture, you know. Plays, concerts, recitals. Papa built Mama a theater, which she operates at a loss. But, her latest brainstorm was to induce Franz Lister to invade the hinterlands.

PALADIN
Franz Lister is here in America?

CYBIL LANSING
For $50,000, Mr. Paladin, I do believe Mr. Lister would play his precious piano in a Siberian igloo, wearing gloves, of course. Oh, he agreed all right. But mother had to import his piano, nothing else would do, and insure it for $25,000. Now the kidnappers want $20,000 in cash. Franz wept like a baby and beat down the door of the guest room with his bare feet.

PALADIN
Well, I quite understand his feelings.

CYBIL LANSING
I am authorized to pay you the sum of $1,000 out of my allowance, of course, if you’ll help us retrieve the piano, and I have taken the liberty of ordering your horse to be saddled. What is that absolutely tantalizing aroma?

HEY BOY
Buffalo haunch.

CYBIL LANSING
Not buffalo haunch! Would you mind terribly if I had some of this while you were changing into your traveling clothes? I’ve been away at school, you know, and you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to find buffalo haunch in London.

EXT.

CYBIL LANSING
Mama always wanted a Southern plantation in the North.
She says anybody can have a Southern plantation in the South.

MONA LANSING
Well, you might at least have left us a note or something.

CYBIL LANSING
I was well-guarded, Mother. This is Mr. Paladin.

MONA LANSING
Don’t tell me. I know him. Paladin.

PALADIN
Mona, the years have been very kind to both of us.

MONA LANSING
You’re a liar, but I love it! Paladin, I’ve come a long way, but this concert is gonna tie the ribbon on it. Franz Lister all the way from Vienna, sponsored by Mrs. Bosley Lansing.
The former Mona Manning, a shoeless sharecropper from the Oklahoma Territory.
Now just let ’em try and top that.

PALADIN
Mona, even Franz Lister cannot give a concert without a piano.

CYBIL LANSING
Exactly. I’ve got the $20,000 all ready. And you are going to deliver it.

FRANZ LISTER
I absolutely forbid it. I will not let you buy back my piano, Mrs. Lansing.

MONA LANSING
Well, if you won’t use any other piano, how can we give a concert?

FRANZ LISTER
We do not buy back the piano. We take back the piano.

MONA LANSING
How?

FRANZ LISTER
When you tell me where they are keeping it, I will go there and take it away from them.

PALADIN
Herr Lister, if Mrs. Lansing is willing to pay the asking price, what’s your objection?

MONA LANSING
I’ve engaged Mr. Paladin to deliver the money.

FRANZ LISTER
May I? If you please. Mmm. Danke. Yeah. I have your gun, Mister… Paladin? It is yours, but I have it. Suppose I refuse to return it? Do you buy it back, or do you take it back? Your gun, Mr. Paladin, your instrument, your identity. How much do you pay me?

FREDDIE
Maestro, your hands!

FRANZ LISTER
Freddie! Mr. Paladin, this permanently terrified creature is my manager. His life is a nightmare. Even when awake, he dreams that I might injure my hands. Have you ever heard me play, Mr. Paladin?

PALADIN
Regretfully, no, but I’d like very much to make it possible.

FRANZ LISTER
It is an experience which never fails to impress even myself. A divine Providence saw fit to create out of the unity of a Gypsy mother and a Hungarian cattle baron, a human instrument of greatness.At the age of 7, I was taken to the palace of King Harold of Austria. With these hands barely able to reach half an octave, I played the “Appassionato.” When I finished, the King placed me upon his knee, and kissed me,
and asked me to name anything I wanted in the world. Anything. I laughed. His beard tickled me, but I asked for a piano. That is the piano he gave to me, and throughout my life, that piano has been my life. She was my mother when I was hurt, my wife when I was lonely. My shield from attack, my shelter when I was weary…and sick at heart. That piano you do not buy like a harlot in a street. You fight for her like a woman you love.

PALADIN
Herr Lister, I’ll get your piano back for you.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

PALADIN
I need three or four men. The pay is $5 a day and keep. I’ll need you for from three days to three weeks. And there is a chance you could get killed.

RIGGS
Who are we after?

PALADIN
Thieves.

RIGGS
What did they steal?

PALADIN
A piano.

RIGGS
Is that your idea of a joke, mister?

PALADIN
This piano is worth $25,000 to the man who owns it. Now I need four men.

RIGGS
I ain’t risking my neck for no music box. We got one in there that’s good enough for all of us.

PALADIN
I wish you people could see what I’m looking at. A pack of filthy, unwashed animals. That’s right. Animals. Grub in the ground like moles, eat and drink like pigs. You…you people who have risked your lives for a bottle of cheap whiskey. Cheaper bullets. You are now offered by a sardonic fate with a sense of humor. You are offered a chance to touch the hem of music. Music like very few people have ever been privileged to hear. And you,
you blather on about music boxes and wallow here in this.

RIGGS
You talk pretty flowery, mister. Do you draw the same way?

PALADIN
Well, sir, there’s one good way to find out.

RIGGS
I wouldn’t want to hurt you, sonny.

PALADIN
Now you’re talking pretty flowery. The only difference is you and I both know you’re bluffing.

RIGGS
You think so, huh?

PALADIN
Yeah. I do think so. You just said you don’t have the stomach for trouble.

RIGGS
I never.

PALADIN
Then you do have the stomach for trouble?

RIGGS
Anytime, anyplace.

PALADIN
That’s fine. Gentlemen, I have one volunteer. Now who else, huh?

RIGGS
All right. All right! I’ll go wherever he goes, and I’ll carry him home.

PALADIN
We’ll see about that. Come on, who else? Come on!

EXT. ON THE TRAIL – DAY

PALADIN
Well, we’ll start looking for a place to camp.

FRANZ LISTER
It’s still light. Why do we not go on?

PALADIN
For one thing, because it’s easier to find a place to camp while it is still light. And for another, if you a look at Sybil, you’ll find she’s about ready for a rest.

EXT. CAMPSITE – NIGHT

PALADIN
Sybil? Sybil.

CYBIL LANSING
Hello.

PALADIN
Anything wrong?

CYBIL LANSING
I’m just jealous I suppose. That’s all.

PALADIN
Jealous of?

CYBIL LANSING
How much easier it would be if only it were another woman. Someone I could see, touch, and possibly destroy, but a piano. Can I make myself more beautiful, more desirable than this eternal rival, one who responds to his every mood, listening even as she sings to him, embracing him whenever he reaches out his hands for her, receiving a love I’ll never know? Good night.

PALADIN
Good night.

EXT. ON THE TRAIL – DAY

FRANZ LISTER
What is it?

PALADIN
I think we may have found your piano.

FRANZ LISTER
What does it say? Let me see.

PALADIN
It says, “If you’re looking for a piano, take the right fork a quarter of a mile up trail. You better be alone if you want the piano in one piece.”

FRANZ LISTER
I’ll go.

PALADIN
You’ll relax.

FRANZ LISTER
But who will get it?

PALADIN
I will go and get it.

FRANZ LISTER
We will both go.

PALADIN
Don’t you see what this note says?

FRANZ LISTER
I’ll tear them apart!

FREDDIE
Maestro, watch your hands!

PALADIN
Freddie’s right. While you’re tearing them apart, they’ll be tearing your piano apart.
Sybil, keep him here.

EXT. BACK IN CAMP – DAY

FRANZ LISTER
Was it there?

PALADIN
It was.

FRANZ LISTER
What are you going to do?

PALADIN
Pay the ransom.

FRANZ LISTER
You’re not going to pay it.

PALADIN
I certainly am.

FRANZ LISTER
What are they for?

PALADIN
They, like the clarinetist’s spare reed, are for emergency use only.

FRANZ LISTER
Paper. We give them paper instead of bank notes.

PALADIN
Never bluff, Herr Lister, unless you’re prepared to be called.

FRANZ LISTER
But I am prepared.

PALADIN
And to lose the piano?

FRANZ LISTER
You are going back alone?

PALADIN
I am.

FRANZ LISTER
I must go with you. I insist on it.

PALADIN
Herr Lister, I was hired to get your piano back and to keep you alive in the process if I can. You’ve come along over my objections. The presence of your entourage, however charming it may be, has caused dissention among my men. Now I must call your attention to the fact that we are not engaged in a Viennese operetta.

FRANZ LISTER
Mr. Paladin!

PALADIN
Herr Lister, at the piano, you are the acknowledged master. In this situation, I am.

FRANZ LISTER
Freddie! Draw, Freddie. Freddie, 20 paces. Danke. Your gun, Mr. Paladin, please. Your gun. Danke. Stand back. How true is your weapon, Mr. Paladin?

PALADIN
One inch to the right at 50 feet.

FRANZ LISTER
Danke. Stand perfectly still, Freddie.

FREDDIE
You will be careful of your hands, won’t you, Maestro?

FRANZ LISTER
Ja, Freddie. I will be careful. That you never saw in a Viennese operetta.

PALADIN
That’s very true. However, may I point out, Herr Lister, that the cigar did not shoot back?
Come on.

EXT. CAMP OF PIANO THIEVES – DAY

PIANO THIEF
Keep your hands away from those guns and come on out. Did you bring the gold?

PALADIN
I did.

PIANO THIEF
I told you to come alone.

PALADIN
I want Lister to check that piano before I pay you off.

PIANO THIEF
Go ahead. I’ve got guns laid on you. Don’t you forget it.

FRANZ LISTER
Scratched. It is scratched. They have scratched my piano! I’ll teach you to touch my piano!

INT. OPERA HOUSE – EVENING

Franz Lister is playing for an audience.  Paladin, Cybil and Mona watch in admiration.

At the conclusion of the concert there is a standing ovation. Among the audience is the group of gunmen that Paladin hired to recover the piano.

Paladin is with Cybil, and as always, is ready to kiss here

PALADIN
Closer.

We see Paladin and Cybil in a passionate embrace.

PALADIN
I have been paid.

Advertisements