Monday, January 23, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Little Women (1933) - Change of Pace = Change of Progress

[Quick Summary: Four sisters come of age during the American Civil War.] 

Two thoughts:

1) I hate the bland description "coming of age", but it's the best I can do here.

2) The pacing is absolutely killer, and among the best I've ever seen.*

The introduction to the script describes it this way:
The adaptors made use of a large variety of episodes, with sudden changes of pace within the individual scenes. These contrasts increase the drama and add to the suspense, because, in effect, they advance or retard the aims of the main character. Even the most casual events are so arranged as to emphasize these contrasts. For instance, the gay spirit that pervades the Christmas breakfast scene is suddenly changed to one of sympathy for the plight of a more unfortunate family...p. 214.
There's no formula, but the writers varied the pacing FOR SPECIFIC REASONS:

➤Sometimes they wanted the uncertainty first (fast; What will the party be like?)
--> Quiet moment in the middle (slow; Will Beth get over her shyness?)
--> Then a happy note at the end (fast; We're all friends now!)

➤Sometimes they had a happy scene (fast; Jo and Laurie) --> Then end on a somber note (slow; Jo leaves for the city).

➤Sometimes the writers wanted to stretch the tension (slow-slow) --> Then suddenly release the tension (fast-fast).   Note the stretch below with Amy and Mr. Davis --> then release after leaving Mr. Davis.

ex. "SCHOOLROOM - CLOSE SHOT. Amy is sobbing. Davis turns over the slate which has cartoons of himself on one side of it.

DAVIS (angrily): I can see there's nothing for me to do but stop by and show your mother how, instead of doing your sums, you cover your slate with sketches -

INSERT: SLATE with sketches of spectacled teacher, and legend: "Young ladies, my eyes are upon you."

DAVIS: -- most uncomplimentary sketches.

SCHOOLROOM - MED. CLOSE-UP DAVIS, looking down, sternly. Amy is heard sobbing.

CLOSE-UP AMY looking up in his direction, sobbing as she pleads:

AMY: Oh, please, Mr. Davis. I'll never do it again, sir. And she'd be so disappointed in me. Please -

MED. CLOSE-UP DAVIS looking odwn in Amy's direction. He relents.

DAVIS: Well I should hate to spoil her Christmas and for that reason alone, young lady, I shall overlook it.

CLOSE-UP AMY looking up in his direction, delightedly.

AMY: Oh, thank you, Mr. Davis!

MED. CLOSE-UP DAVIS looking down.

DAVIS (sternly): You may go!

CLOSE SHOT as Amy speaks gratefully:

AMY: Oh, thank you, Mr. Davis.

He exits as CAMERA FOLLOWS HER as she backs away toward the cloakroom, still speaking.

AMY: Thank you very much indeed. Thank you, sir. (She starts to open door.)

HALL CLOAKROOM - CLOSE SHOT. The girls are standing about waiting in excited speculation as to Amy's fate. Amy enters, drying her tears. The girls close the doors and swoop down on her, all talking at once and asking: "What did he do?" "What did he say?"

AMY (with lofty disdain): I just said that if I ever told my mother the way he treated me, she'd take me out of his old school. She's never been reconciliated anyway, since my father lost his money, and she's had to suffer the degarradation of me being thrown with a lot of ill-mannered girls -- (she turns at the door, drops some of her elegance, and gives it to them straight:) -- who stick their noses into refined people's business! (She leaves them flat. They look after her, then turn to each other and murmur indistinctly.)

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Change of pace = Changes as the protagonist advances/retards his/her progress. 

It's also invisible, like rhythm, but very much felt by the reader.

Little Women (1949)
by Sarah Y. Mason & Victor Heerman
Adapted from the novel by Louisa May Alcott

* After all, this was written for George Cukor and Katherine Hepburn.

Monday, January 16, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: 12 Monkeys (1995) - Cues & Repetition (Transition Helpers)

[Quick Summary: A prisoner from the future travels back in time to prevent the mutation of an epidemic virus, but everyone thinks he's a lunatic.]

This script is crazy.  It circles back and eats itself (in a good way).

I applaud the writers for attempting this fractured time line and keeping it clear.

It's as if they took 4 photographs (A, B, C, D) and sliced it into pieces.  They then reassembled them, but still moving story forward (ex. A1, C1, B1, A2, D1, B2, etc.)

I was so impressed at the clear transitions (my most elusive nemesis!)

I discovered two more helpful tips for smoother ones:

1) Cues
2) Repetition

ex. "INT. CONCOURSE/AIRPORT - DAY

...YOUNG COLE turns back toward the Security Check Point just as TRAVELERS scatter madly, some diving to the floor, others running. A TERRIFIED TRAVELER, hitting the floor close by, loos up at YOUNG COLE with panicky eyes, and asks... [Repetition of a recurring dream]

TERRIFIED TRAVELER:  Just exactly why did you volunteer?

INT. ENGINEERING OFFICE/FUTURE WORLD - (ETERNAL NIGHT)

COLE comes abruptly awake. [Cue that Cole has been dreaming.] Seated now, he's facing the SCIENTISTS. [Cue that reorients the reader to the present.]

ASTROPHYSICIST: Wake up, Cole.

COLE: Uh, I didn't hear the...

MICROBIOLOGIST: (tapping a pencil on the table) I asked you, why did you volunteer? [Repetition from above]

COLE: Well, the guard woke me up. He told me I volunteered. [Repetition from earlier scene]

The SCIENTISTS react, whispering urgently among themselves."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: When you need to reorient the reader to multiple times and places, cues and repetition are your friends.

12 Monkeys (1995) 
by David Peoples & Janet Peoples
Inspired by LA JETEE, a Chris Marker Film

Monday, January 9, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Lady for a Day (1933) - 10 Sequences; "Glorified Hokum"

[Quick Summary: Panhandlers and con men rally around their fellow Apple Annie to make her a "lady for a day" to impress her daughter and rich European fiancee.]

This was Robert Riskin's first film with Frank Capra.*

It is not my favorite, though an entertaining ensemble story.

Two things that intrigued me:

A) Riskin broke the story into 10 "sequences":*** 

1- Everyone loves Apple Annie. She writes a letter to her daughter, who grew up in Europe. (4 scenes)
2 - Annie's daughter is coming to the US for the first time, and doesn't know Annie has been lying about her social status. (8 scenes)
3 - Fellow panhandlers ask Dude, a gangster who considers Annie as his lucky charm, to help pull off an elaborate hoax. (4 scenes)
4 - Hoax get complicated, including a fake husband for Annie. (7 scenes)
5 - Daughter arrives with fiancee and suspicious future father-in-law. (13 scenes)
6 - Duke smooths the way for a party for the engaged couple, including making a nosy reporter temporarily disappear. (2 scenes)
7 - Father-in-law asks uncomfortable questions. Duke has panhandlers trained to be respectable party guests. (10 scenes)
8 - Police put pressure on Dude, as 3 reporters go missing. (4 scenes)
9 - Spirits are low. Dude rouses the troops with a speech. (4 scenes)
10 - Big resolution. The couple leaves for Europe. Happily ever after. (37 scenes)

If I had to group them:
- Act 1 (1, 2, 3)
- Act 2 (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
- Act 3 (9, 10)

B) Why does Dude and everyone else go to such lengths for Apple Annie? 

Out of heartwarming human decency for a friend. I liked that.

Cynics may say that it's just hokum, but I do not care.

"Glorified hokum" gives me hope and I'll take it any day. ***

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Any time I spot a grouping of scenes, it gives me food for thought. I always ask, "Why were they grouped that way?"

Also, I'm a sucker for well done, glorified hokum.

Lady for a Day (1933)
by Robert Riskin
Adapted from a story by Damon Runyon

*Capra must have really liked the story since he remade it 28 yrs. later as "Pocketful of Miracles" (1961), his last film.

** The # of scenes are slightly misleading, as they include intercutting.

*** "Unquestionably this is a script in which the deft handling of situations and characterizations makes of an ordinary story a piece of glorified hokum. And hokum, well done, makes excellent entertainment!" - Editor of the published script, p. 25.

Monday, January 2, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Lost Horizon (1937) - When the Protagonist Has No Internal Motive

[Quick Summary: A group is kidnapped and flown to Shangri-La, but it's not as idyllic as it seems.]

Ooof. Tough adaption.

I gather that the novel was problematic to adapt for film.

For example:
- The protagonist gets to Shangri-La and is seduced by its charms.
- Then he wants to leave, but there's no real motive to go.

A passive protagonist is ok in a novel, but in a film? Yikes!

So, the writer did what had to be done: He added things that were not in the book.*

He gave the protagonist a brother, George, who wants to leave Shangri-La and is not deterred. It's not a glamorous fix, but now there's a motive for the protagonist to act.

ex. "MARIA: (a little hurt) You promised to come for tea yesterday. I waited for so long.

GEORGE: I'm sorry. (chagrined to discover he has no cigarettes left) I haven't even got any cigarettes left!

MARIA: I'll make some for you! (pleading) You will come today?

GEORGE: (after a pause) Perhaps.

MARIA: (tenderly) Please say you will. The days are so very long and lonely without you. (a whisper) Please...

GEORGE: All right. I'll be there.

MARIA: (happily) Thank you.

GEORGE: (suddenly) You'll tell me some of the things I want to know, won't you? You'll tell me who runs this place. And why we were kidnapped. And what they're going to do with us?

CLOSEUP - MARIA
From the moment he starts to speak, her face clouds. George's voice continues without interruption.

GEORGE'S VOICE: Chang's been lying about those porters, hasn't he?

She runs off, frightened."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I'm surprised at how many changes were made, including a new external motive, and the novel's author was STILL HAPPY. 

I find this extremely instructive. Keep the book's structure, if you can.

Lost Horizon (1937)
By Robert Riskin
Adapted from the novel by James Hilton

* Amazingly, the author approved as he "knew the rules of the game": "Of course, he had to change several things; he asked me about them all. They were none of them important. If you wrote them all down I suppose it would sound as though they'd made a lot of changes. That wouldn't be fair. None of the changes are structural. They don't affect the theme or the central story."  p. XVI. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) - Adaptions; Using P.A., Intercutting

[Quick Summary: When small town Mr. Deeds goes to the big city to accept his $20M inheritance, he experiences love and heartbreak.]

Two thoughts

1) Why are adaptions tricky? Here's what's required: 
It is one thing to read an appealing play, novel, or short story, and quite another to organize it properly a screenplay, opening it up and lengthening it (or shortening it), making the myriad choices of keeping a character here and deleting one there, adding a scene, incident, or crucial detail, writing appropriate dialogue where dialogue is necessary, and ending up with something that is whole and organic and also cinematic. Unfortunately, Hollywood history is full of examples of great works – short stories, novels, and prize-winning plays – ruined by clumsy adaption, or faithfully transcribed unto tedium. Intro, p. XXXV.
2) Robert Riskin was a master adapter.  What is one good piece of advice from him?

Limit the use of parallel action or intercutting between scenes:
Parallel action (if, in the use of it, we can be guided by a rule) should scarcely be used except in instances where the two actions are related to each other - story-wise, or where some social observation is being made via action. Intro, p. XXXV.
So when would it be appropriate to use parallel action or intercutting?

In the court scene below, witnesses are called to testify about Mr. Deeds' behavior.  The testimonies are all related, and also build a fuller picture together.

ex. "CLOSE SHOT IN WITNESS STAND
A policeman in uniform.

POLICEMAN: They kept hollering: "Back to Nature! Back to Nature!" I thought they looked harmless enough so I took them home. I never thought he was cracked.
                                                                                                 WIPE OFF TO:

CLOSE SHOT IN WITNESS STAND
The waiter at "Tullio's."

WAITER: I'm a waiter. He kept pressing me to point out the celebrities, and so help me Hannah I'm coming out of the kitchen a coupla minutes later and there he is moppin' up the floors with them. I never figured he was a guy looking for trouble.
                                                                                                WIPE OFF TO:

CLOSE SHOT IN WITNESS STAND
Mme. Pomponi.

MME. POMPONI: (expostulating) He threw us out bodily! but bodily!
                                                                                                WIPE OFF TO:

MED. CLOSE SHOT IN WITNESS STAND
Of one of the bodyguards on witness stand.

BODYGUARD: We hired as his bodyguard, see? Well, the irst crack out of the box, he throws us in a room and locks the door, see? Now, if a thing like that gets around in our profession, we'd get the bird - see? So I says to my partner, "Let's quit this guy, he's nuts!"
                                                                                                  WIPE OFF TO:

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Riskin pointed out to me that parallel action is a grouping of two (or more) related actions.  Grouping! Never thought of that before.

It's a repetitive rhythm, and may affect how your script "feels." 

It's similar to a repeated note in music, and should be used with care. 

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
by Robert Riskin
Adapted from the story by Clarence Budington Kelland

Monday, December 19, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: American Madness (1932) - Showing an Abstract Concept Like "Faith"

[Quick Summary: Three intertwined stories: A bank president fends off a merger; his bank manager faces a murder charge of the night watchman; and thieves steal $100k which starts a run on the bank.]

The original title of this script was "Faith," as in "faith in one's fellow man."

I really enjoyed the script because it is an excellent example of showing an abstract concept without talking about it.

Two helpful hints:

1) It's easier if the characters' problems are very personal and in close proximity.

ex. Matt is loyal to Mr. Dickson, who gave Matt a bank job.  Last night, Matt suspected Mrs. Dickson of getting in trouble and went to stop her.

Matt is now accused with of shooting the night guard. He can't tell the truth, otherwise Mr. Dickson will find out about Mrs. Dickson.

Mr. Dickson cannot understand why his loyal employee won't tell the truth.

2) Make sure the character earns the virtue. 

It may help to pinpoint the end concept and engineering backwards from that point.

Here, we want to show faith (Act 3), so we start the script with the opposite (Act 1 temptations to believe the worst), and test our characters (Act 2).

In this example, we will see a testing (Act 2) with very personal, immediate problems:

ex. "DICKSON: (to Inspector) Wait a minute. Wait a minute. (to Matt) Matt, do you realize you're up against something? You're being charged with murder. It's serious, son. Now com on. I know you didn't do it. (gestures toward Inspector) But we've got to make them believe it. Come on, tell the truth, where were you last night?

MATT: (doggedly) I can't tell you.

Matt maintains a determined silence.

DICKSON: (getting an idea) Listen, if I get them out of the room, will you tell me?

Matt looks at him. Dickson is the only person he cannot tell  his secret to.

MATT: No. I won't.

DICKSON: You're protecting somebody.

MATT: No. I'm not Mr. Dickson!

DICKSON: Yes, you are. You're protecting somebody Now listen, it doesn't make any difference who it is. It can't be as important as this. Now come on, tell me. Where were you last night? (a note of desperation) Come on, don't be a fool. Matt, you trust me, don't you?

No reply from Matt. Dickson is heartsick. He turns, helplessly, away from Matt and walks out of Sampson's office."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: "Show, don't tell" is especially true for abstract concepts.

The easiest way to lose an audience is to talk and talk about the concept.

American Madness (1932)
by Robert Riskin

Monday, December 12, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Platinum Blonde (1931) - Wisecracks & Minor Characters

[Quick Summary: A newspaper man impulsively marries his wrong match, a socialite.]
-----------------------------------------------------------------
I'm embarrassed that I didn't know how important Robert Riskin was.

(I'd even read one of his scripts!)

To rectify this, I'm making my way through this book. The intro is a hoot.*
------------------------------------------------------------------
Platinum Blonde was Riskin's first film with Frank Capra.

The script went through several different hands, so it's uneven in some places.

However, the dialogue (Riskin's work) shines.

Though this is still early in his career, you can see how he's developing his two trademarks: wisecracks and great minor characters.

Note in the scene below:
- Wisecracks often utilize irony, wit, and stinging observations.
- Grayson is a minor character, but has all the punch lines.

ex. "INT. SCHUYLER DRAWING ROOM - NIGHT
MEDIUM SHOT
Anne in a stunning evening dress is seated, a cocktail in one hand, cigarette in the other. Dexter Grayson, in evening clothes, is standing before her.

GRAYSON: Where were you yesterday?

CLOSE SHOT - ANNE
She has a far-away, speculative look in her eyes.

ANNE: Oh, Stew and I went for a long ride. (Dreamily) Dexter, is there any finishing school we can send him to?

CLOSE SHOT - GRAYSON
GRAYSON: (witheringly) Yes - Sing Sing.

Anne. She ignores this crack.

ANNE: Just the same, he's going to be a different person when I get through with him.

Grayson. He is looking at her, deeply disturbed.

GRAYSON: When you get through with him?

DOUBLE SHOT

ANNE: Yes, it'll be a very interesting experiment.

GRAYSON: (sneering) To make a gentleman out of a tramp?

ANNE: Exactly.

GRAYSON: Now, Anne, you remember how much it cost to get rid of that baseball player?

ANNE: You don't seem to understand that this one's different. He has brains.

MED. CLOSE SHOT
Grayson seats himself beside her on the divan.

GRAYSON: (fervently) But what about me, Anne?

She looks at him coldly with almost an expression of dislike.

ANNE: You? Oh, don't go serious on me, Dexter."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Wisecracks and minor characters alone are not useful.  Wisecracks and minor characters in service of the scene's purpose are very helpful.

In this scene, they point out Anne's delusions of grandeur for humble Stew.

Platinum Blonde (1931)
Dialogue by Robert Riskin
Story by Harry Chandlee and Douglas W. Churchill
Adaption by Jo Swerling
Continuity by Dorothy Howell

*I laughed while reading a purported account about Riskin's first meeting with Frank Capra. In short,  Riskin tells Capra, "You don't want to adapt that play!"  ...and it's Riskin's play! (Apparently, Riskin was right because the film was not good.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Playback (Raymond Chandler's Unknown Thriller) - Danger Looms

[Quick Summary: Woman on the run meets a charming man on a train to Canada, but becomes suspect #1 when he ends up dead.]

In 1948, Universal Pictures paid Chandler for this script, but never made it.*

It isn't the strongest script (for several reasons in the forward here).

However, I liked that the script knows exactly what it is, i.e., it is a thriller, and delivers the hallmarks of a thriller.

One hallmark is that danger looms for someone (usually the protagonist).

Chandler does a nice job of never letting it fade, even in a flirting scene:

ex. "MITCHELL: (to Betty) Would you care to see the Seattle paper?

Betty turns slowly, stares at him.

BETTY: No thanks. I've seen Seattle.
MITCHELL: My name's Larry MItchell. I live at Vancouver.

Betty says nothing.

MITCHELL: Same as an hour ago. Remember? I'm the steady type.
BETTY: (coldly) I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about it, Mr. Mitchell.

CAMERA NOW HAS MOVED IN CLOSE ENOUGH TO EXCLUDE THE OTHER ROOMETTES COMPLETELY.

MITCHELL: You could tell me your name. And where you're going.
BETTY: How far does this train go?
MITCHELL: Vancouver, B.C.
BETTY: I'm going to Vancouver, Mr. Mitchell.

She picks up a magazine adn opens it, ignoring him.

MITCHELL: O.K. Be rugged.

He turns, starts out, then looks back at her.

MITCHELL: You're next for the Immigration and Customs. I trust your papers are all in order.

Betty looks up quickly and cannot conceal a startled expression. Mitchell reacts. CAMERA PULLS BACK as he comes out into corridor, looks toward the roomette in which the officals are, then turns toward the next roomette and goes into it....

Canadian officials then go on to Betty's roomette, enter.

CANADIAN IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL: Your name, please.
BETTY: Betty -- Mayfield.

There is a perceptible hesitation which the immigration official notices.

OFFICIAL: Betty Mayfield. Miss or Mrs.?

Mitchell is seen in his roomette, standing near the door listening.

BETTY: Miss Mayfield.
OFFICIAL: And where were you born, Miss Mayfield?
BETTY: New York City.

The official is a little suspicious. He looks down at Betty's hands which are clasped in her lap.

OFFICIAL: I see you are wearing a wedding ring.
BETTY: I've been married. My husband -- (she breaks off and bites her lip)
INSPECTOR: Then I take it Mayfield was not your married name?

He is very polite, but is building up to asking for some identification papers. On this cue, Mitchell comes out of his roomette, crosses, enters Betty's roomette. CAMERA MOVES IN.

MITCHELL: I've wired ahead to --

He breaks off, turns to Inspector, recognizes him.

MITCHELL: Inspector Gillette, isn't it? I'm Larry Mitchell. We've met before, several times.

He takes out wallet adn holds it out to Inspector.

MITCHELL: I cross the border so often I carry an identification card.
INSPECTOR: (glancing at card) Yes, I remember you, Mr. Mitchell. (glancing at Betty) You know this lady?
MITCHELL: Very well. Since 1940, at least. I met her --let me see -- it was New York City, wasn't it, Betty?

Betty nods silently. Inspector turns back to her, handing Mitchell's wallet back.

INSPECTOR: (to Betty) How long do you expect to be in Canada, Miss Mayfield?
BETTY: Oh -- a month.
INSPECTOR: (making up his mind): Thank you. I hope you have a pleasant trip.

He turns away, starts out."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Thrillers are about keeping the tension cranking, even in the funny/romantic/quiet scenes.

Playback (Raymond Chandler's Unknown Thriller, published 1985)
by Raymond Chandler

*It was essentially "lost" until someone discovered it in the Universal archives in the 1980s.

Monday, November 28, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Candidate (1972) - Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

[Quick Summary: A CA legal aid attorney attempts a senatorial campaign to talk about issues, knowing very well that he'll probably lose against the incumbent.]

Before tv was commonly used to shape public opinion in campaigns...

Before there was campaign finance (1972) and this film...

A journalist named Jeremy Larner was the speechwriter for McCarthy (1968).  He wrote a book,* and this prescient script.

In this film, Robert Redford plays an attorney who wants to talk about issues...except no one else does. His campaign staff wants photo ops (that tell half the story).  The media want sound bites (that sound better than his real responses).

He is worn down little by little, like a death by a thousand paper cuts.

I loved how we do not notice the candidate's gradual slide at first.

The writer creates situations where small compromises are required...and another...and another. Soon, the candidate is in a pit and doesn't know how.**

Here is one such innocent "paper cut":

ex."INT. McKAY HOUSE.

McKay comes in the front door and stops short. Photographer's lights are set up on a stand. Two men stand there.

McKAY: What you doing in my house?
WRITER: I'm having an affair with your wife.
McKAY: Huh?
WRITER: She said if you came in I should say I was a writer from Parade, but you don't believe that.

Nancy emerges from bedroom in riding pants, with crop and felt riding helmet.

NANCY: Oh Bill, this is Mr. Shearer, Bill, and this is Mr. Scott.
McKAY: (shaking hands) From Parade.
WRITER: I trust this is the beginning of a life-long affinity.
McKAY: It's the beginning of something, anyhow. Can you excuse us a minute, gentlemen?
WRITER: Certainly, certainly.

McKay and Nancy step to the side.

McKAY: What's going on?
NANCY: They want to photograph me riding.
McKAY: You haven't worn that stuff in years.
NANCY: You haven't worn that dark suit in years.

McKay starts to walk away, turns back to her.

McKAY: Just not in the house, Nancy. Get those guys out of the house.
NANCY: I was doing it for you.

Nancy starts to cry, turns away, walks back into the kitchen....

McKay follows her into the kitchen - takes her loosely in his arms, comforts her awkwardly. We can see by the way he touches her he is irritated and put off."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: These small compromises really do add up.

The beauty is that they seem so inconsequential at the time...until we pull back to see the big picture 

The Candidate (1972)
by Jeremy Larner

*Nobody Knows: Reflections on the McCarthy Campaign of 1968 (1970)

** It's like a frog in a pot.  It doesn't notice the water is getting warmer, nor when it boils to death.

Monday, November 21, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Arthur (1981) - Zingers Can Clue Into Something Deeper

[Quick Summary: A young drunkard must marry his "family approved" fiancee in order to keep his fortune, but then he falls in love with a poor actress.]

Awhile ago, my interest was piqued after reading this:
...whenever I begin writing a screenplay I always reread one of his. It’s called ARTHUR.
I went looking for any script by Steve Gordon, and/or an Arthur final script.

I found the former,* but couldn't find the latter...until now.

Arthur is the funniest, sharpest, cleverest comedy script that I've read in forever.

What sets it apart? The funniest lines aren't just jokes for a sound bite.  The zingers point to character stuff - pain, loss, humor, loneliness - i.e., clues to something deeper.

Below is our first introduction to Arthur.  Note the funny reactions of the minor characters (Bitterman and Girl) clue us in that something deeper stirs.

ex. "One of the girls approaches the car. In the front seat, the driver in full chauffeur's dress stares straight ahead.  This is BITTERMAN, a black man in his forties. The back seat of the limo has a bar, TV set, a refrigerator and almost every device known for mixing a drink. The girl is GLORIA.

GLORIA: What did you have in mind?

ARTHUR: VD! I'm really into penicillin! (he laughs) Now...that's funny!

Gloria stares at him.

ARTHUR:  I know this is last minute. (he laughs) Ahh ...I finally heard someone laughing. Oh...it was me. What I have in mind...is spending the evening with a stranger who loves me.

GLORIA: It's going to cost you a hundred dollars.

ARTHUR: Oh yeah ...what time do you get off work? (he laughs) I'm kidding. If you laugh a little I throw in nylons and Hershey bars. Let's make it two hundred. But I will ask you to Simonize my car.

Gloria stares at him.

ARTHUR: (looking at her staring) Tell me ...has there been a death in your family? This is funny stuff here.

GLORIA: Who are you?

ARTHUR: I'm rich. That's who I am. Get in the car.

[Gloria gets in.] Arthur pushes a button to talk to the driver.

ARTHUR: (to Bitterman) Bitterman, give her friend a hundred dollars. She came in second.

Bitterman gets out of the car. He approaches the other hooker and gives her a hundred dollars.

GIRL: (to Bitterman) Who is that guy?

BITTERMAN: I'd rather not say.

GIRL: I think I know. I've seen his picture in the paper. That's Arthur Bach...isn't it?

BITTERMAN: Uh...what if it is?

GIRL: Is there something wrong with him?

BITTERMAN: Yes."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I read somewhere that Gordon packed "more jokes per page than anyone else."  Now I realize they're not just jokes, but clues pointing us to deeper character stuff.

Arthur (1981)
Written and directed by Steve Gordon

*I was lucky enough to see the special collection mentioned in that blog post.  It is phenomenal, and includes an early draft of Arthur, as well as scripts from The Practice (1976-77) with Danny Thomas.