181-“Don’t Shoot the Piano Player”

Directed by William Conrad, Written by Shimon Wincelberg.

Fintan Meyler as Emily Eubanks
George Kennedy as Big Jim
James T. Callahan as Albert Eubanks
Virginia Gregg as Nellie Harper
Mike Mazurki as Jo Jo
Danny Borzage as Barfly (uncredited)
Bud Cokes as Barfly (uncredited)
Duke Fishman as Barfly (uncredited)
Ethan Laidlaw as Barfly (uncredited)
Bert Madrid as Barfly (uncredited)
William Meader as Dealer (uncredited)
Mike Morelli as Barfly (uncredited)
Sailor Vincent as Barfly (uncredited)
As long as we’re betting, Jim, let’s make it worth while.
The piano player and the $8,000 he lost…against the girl.

INT. HOTEL CARLTON – PALADIN’S HOTEL SUITE – DAY

EMILY EUBANKS
Why did you answer my advertisement?

PALADIN
Won’t you sit down? To tell you the truth, your advertisement amused me. “Since San Francisco police fear to walk their own streets to search for my fiancé, I am forced to appeal for help, to anyone with courage enough to venture south of Pacific Street.”
How long has your fiancé been missing?

EMILY EUBANKS
Three months. Albert would be a loss to the world, Mr. Paladin, as well as to me.
An outstanding musician, student, composer, one of the most promising and exciting men
I’ve ever known, but his father wanted him to go into business to make a man out of him.
He gave him $8,000 to invest in real estate.

PALADIN
Albert has $8,000 on the Barbary Coast?
A lamb in a slaughterhouse has a better chance.

EMILY EUBANKS
I’m not sure I’d want a man like you to help me.

PALADIN
Miss Eubanks, Miss Emily Eubanks, it’s been my pleasure.

Paladin is holding Emily’s book of poems.

EMILY EUBANKS
How did you know my name? I didn’t tell you.

PALADIN
Well, occasionally some small touch of culture does reach us out here in these vast wastelands. “Would I not, sweet Orpheus, follow thee down to that livid chamber of eternal night where melody plucked from a broken heart, drew iron tears down Pluto’s cheeks.”

EMILY EUBANKS
Then you do understand.

PALADIN
Miss Eubanks, shall we go and try and find Albert?
You wait here. I’ll change.

EXT. A STREET IN SAN FRANCISCO – THE BARBARY COAST – NIGHT

CROWD ON STREET
Get ’em out of town!

PALADIN
Well, this is Pacific Street. It’s the roughest gutter in the Barbary Coast.
We might as well start here and work our way up.

EMILY EUBANKS
I think I can hear him.

PALADIN
Where is it?

EMILY EUBANKS
It is Albert.

PALADIN
I didn’t know there were this many music lovers in the entire city of San Francisco.

BIG JIM
“Music lovers”? It’s a wager we’ve got going here. Would you like to place a little on the outcome?

PALADIN
The outcome of what?

BIG JIM
Big Nellie there bet me a thousand I couldn’t keep Albert playin’ the piano for 36 hours straight. I couldn’t be much of a sportsman if I refused a wager like that.

PALADIN
How long has he been sitting there?

BIG JIM
Well, let’s see now. It’s just under 18 hours. Any minute now you’re going to be reaching the half-way point, and from then on it’ll be downhill all the way. So keep playing, Albert, if you want to live to see daylight again. And not have it shinin’ through. He plays pretty enough to melt your heart, doesn’t he?

EMILY EUBANKS
This boy spent four years at the Conservatory in Boston.

BIG JIM
I said he plays pretty, didn’t I? Who’s the lady?

PALADIN
She’s a friend.

BIG JIM
And how good a friend?

PALADIN
What does that mean?

BIG JIM
I’m just askin’. How much is she worth to you?

PALADIN
She’s not for sale.

BIG JIM
How do you know unless you try? Although to tell you the truth, I wasn’t thinkin’ of buyin’ her.

ALBERT EUBANKS
Emily!

BIG JIM
Now, nobody told you to stop. Keep playing! I said to play the piano! Listen. Play or play dead. You ain’t costing me money.

NELLIE HARPER
It’s too late! He’s already stopped for over 20 seconds. You lost your bet, Jim.
Come on, you bad sport. Pay me. Pay me.

BIG JIM
Oh, Nellie, this is your lucky day.

EMILY EUBANKS
Oh, Albert. Albert, what have they done to you? You spent it? On that?

ALBERT EUBANKS
I don’t even have the satisfaction of having been wicked.

EMILY EUBANKS
Then why in heaven’s name…Albert, $8,000.

ALBERT EUBANKS
I’ve never been any good. I’m weak, Emily.

EMILY EUBANKS
Since when is it a weakness to be sensitive to beauty, and beauty alone?

PALADIN
Emily.

EMILY EUBANKS
Albert… Albert, this is Mr. Paladin. He helped me find you.

PALADIN
Albert. How did you end up in a place like this?

ALBERT EUBANKS
Well, I came down here one night, as I told you, and the next morning I woke up in a cellar on a greasy straw mattress, empty pockets. Big Jimmy had it fixed up to sell me to a crimper for delivery to a vessel bound for…Shanghai.

EMILY EUBANKS
Paladin, is this possible? In San Francisco?

PALADIN
Very possible, especially in San Francisco. Well, what softened Big Jim’s heart?

ALBERT EUBANKS
Uh, someone stabbed the piano player, and Big Nellie needed another one in a hurry.
She offered Jim more money for me than the crimper did, $35, to be exact.

PALADIN
Well, the four years you spent in the Conservatory didn’t go for nothing, at any rate.
All right, Albert, let’s get your clothes and get out of here.

ALBERT EUBANKS
My clothes? This is everything I own in the world.

PALADIN
All right.

NELLIE HARPER
Wait a minute, mister. You’re forgetting something. Paid good cash for this boy. He belongs to me.

PALADIN
All right, how much do you want for him?

NELLIE HARPER
Oh, mister, ain’t you said yourself that there’s some things in life that ain’t for sale?

PALADIN
You won’t sell him?

NELLIE HARPER
Nope.

PALADIN
Now, I understand that you are a man who will bet on anything, any game, any stakes.
That so?

BIG JIM
Right, the first time.

PALADIN
Will you put that piano player up
as your stake?

BIG JIM
Him? And what will you bet against him? You wait here, Albert.

PALADIN
Well, would you like to win your thousand dollars back?

BIG JIM
A thousand dollars. And I thought you was a gamblin’ man.

PALADIN
All right, you name the stakes, anything.

BIG JIM
First of all, what kind of contest are we betting on?

PALADIN
Anything you name. You name the game, and I’ll beat you at it.

BIG JIM
Mister, are you sure you know what you’re sayin’?

PALADIN
There’s one way to find out.

BIG JIM
All right. Punch for punch, and one minute to get up off the floor.
And we keep trading them until one of us don’t make it.

PALADIN
All right, if that’s what you want.

BIG JIM
Aye.

PALADIN
Now, what do I put up against the piano player?

BIG JIM
Her. On the hoof, as she stands. The winner gets a matched pair, just like canary birds.
Oh, bless my teeth, if she don’t look good enough to eat.

PALADIN
She is not mine to wager. No. Now, how about $2,000?

BIG JIM
Don’t you worry about me collectin’, mister, but I’ll give you a thousand on top of the piano player just ’cause I’m an old softy, and she appeals to me something powerful.

PALADIN
No.

BIG JIM
Mister, I don’t think you’re in much of a position to haggle. But tell you what I’ll do. I’ll throw in any gal in the place, no exceptions, including Big Nellie herself.

PALADIN
No. No deal. No.

EMILY EUBANKS
Yes. If those are your terms.

PALADIN
Emily…

EMILY EUBANKS
It’s not your decision to make. It’s mine, and I’ve made it.

PALADIN
Her against him.

BIG JIM
That’s what I said, ain’t it?

PALADIN
And the $8,000 he lost. Now, what’s the matter? You’re not worrying about losing, are you?

BIG JIM
Hey, Jo-Jo, come here. Fetch it for me a room. You know where it is?

BIG JIM
Call it.

PALADIN
Tails.

BIG JIM
Heads, it is.

PALADIN
Now, wait a minute. Have a look at it.

NELLIE HARPER
Too late now, Honey. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

BIG JIM
Right you are.

JO JO
All right, get back. Give ’em room. Come on. You people there, against the wall, get back. Give them room. You…

NELLIE HARPER
Forty.

CROWD
Come on, Big Jim. Phew. He’s getting up. He’s getting up. Get up, Big Jim!

BIG JIM
Now look what you done. All right, now, no more tricks. We stand up and take it like a man. Look out back there. He’s coming through. Are you ready?

Paladin gets punched.

 

Come on, 20 more on him. Hurry up. Boy, you done.

NELLIE HARPER
Fifty seconds to get on his feet, if his back ain’t broke. Opposition.

BIG JIM
That’s the difference between a lady and your kind of trash…Aah! Go on. Where’s me music maker? Play more music, Albert! Play more music. Now, while you still got the use of your fingers, play the piano.

NELLIE HARPER
Thirty. Twenty.

BIG JIM
Hey, do you know the “Wedding March?”

NELLIE HARPER
Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. F… ohhhhh.

JO JO
Come on. Come on, there.

PALADIN
A bottle of whiskey, please.

Paladin takes careful aim and then slugs Big Jim.

PALADIN
Look at your watch!

EMILY EUBANKS
Oh, Albert, you’re free.

NELLIE HARPER
Get away from that boy! There’s still another 50 seconds left. Get up!

PALADIN
Well, the time must be up!

NELLIE HARPER
It is.

NELLIE HARPER
You mean you’d really leave ol’ Nellie for that dried-up little string bean after all I’ve done for you?

PALADIN
Yes, he will. If you’d just give us our $8,000.

NELLIE HARPER
Your what?

PALADIN
Give us the money.

NELLIE HARPER
What money?

PALADIN
The money you put in the box.

NELLIE HARPER
You must be dreamin’.

PALADIN
Now, I’m gonna count three.

NELLIE HARPER
You’d raise your hand in cold blood against a female?

PALADIN
You’re going to have a real good chance to find out. One…

NELLIE HARPER
Yeah, I always like to know where a man stands.

PALADIN
Mm.

ALBERT EUBANKS
Here’s a thousand dollars. That’s for three months’ consumption of liquor. We’re square now, huh, Nellie? Huh? Come on, honey. Em.

ALBERT EUBANKS
Emily, wait just… just one minute, please.

EMILY EUBANKS
Albert.

PALADIN
Excuse me. That is my money.

ALBERT EUBANKS
Could you…Could you leave me a little? $200. A hundred dollars. Please? Chips. Deal, deal.

ALBERT EUBANKS
I’m sorry, Emily. You better go home.

EMILY EUBANKS
Albert.

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