Harry and Tonto
Dir. Paul Mazursky, 1973
ONE: AN OLD MAN’S ROUTINE.
- Main theme begins and we see a montage of New York City street scenes focusing on numerous old people on the street, walking, sitting, standing.
- When the montage ends, we see a close shot of an orange tabby, on a leash, and hear Harry’s voice, as he sings “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” an old classic. Harry walks on the street and then stops in a small grocery and has a friendly chat with Jesus, the manager. They joke about sex, and when Jesus says the cat “gets it” more than I do, Harry says, “No, those days are over for both of us.” But Jesus says his 82-year-old grandfather has a great sex life. Why? Bananas! So Harry buys some bananas.
- Outside on the street again, Harry chews on a banana. Then Harry stops to pick up his daily New York Times. He kids with the news seller about politics. Crossing the street Harry almost gets run down by a car and he hurls epithets—almost Shakespearean in their tenor—at the driver, while poor Tonto squirms in his arms. Then Harry joins an old friend on a park bench in the median between the two streets. Looks like we are viewing details of his daily routine. His old friend Jacob Rivetowski has one phrase that stands for his view of the world: “Capitalist bastards!” Suddenly Harry broaches a topic that has been on his mind for a while. “They want me to move.” His apartment is slated for demolition (a site for a new parking lot!). Jacob offers to take Harry in, but Harry declines (although he appreciates Jacob’s kindness). “I think we’d end up hating each other.” Harry feeds his cat and explains that moving would be harder on Tonto than on him.
- On his way home, Harry is accosted by a young punk, who ends up pushing him down and then running away. Harry gathers up his groceries off the sidewalk and asks for the patience he needs to deal with such trials. Suddenly Leroy, another old friend shows up, and he wants to know whether the thug was black or white. “I’d just like to know.” When Harry says, “White,” his friend—an African American—groans, but Harry says, “If it makes you feel better, the last one was Puerto Rican.” They walk up the block to Harry’s apartment building, and Harry asks LeRoy if he can spare some extra cream for the cat. “I’ll be up bye and bye,” Leroy calls back. Inside the building, Harry runs into a resident, calls her by name, and they chat about the television program that Jesus, the grocer, talked about earlier. Even though Harry missed the program, he can share in the wonder of Ironside’s resolve because Jesus told him all he needed to know. The old woman appreciates that sharing. She brings up his housing problem. “They’ll always be room for you at my place, kiddo. I’ll be in Miami.” He declines but appreciates her offer.
- Inside the hallway, and the director cuts to a wide shot of the spare
and cold space. Harry begins to climb the stairs, and he hums an old tune.
We assume he has at least three flights to climb to his apartment. In his a
partment, he moves around slowly, putting away his groceries. Music up.
Harry unties his cat. He gives Tonto some water, and the cat says,
“No thanks” (not surprisingly). He muses aloud, “Mugged four times this
year.” Cut to the cat in the litter box.
“I’m glad Annie isn’t here to see it. She loved this
neighborhood—it’s like Shakespeare’s London.” He goes
into the living room and sits down to read his paper. Everywhere the look of
the place is classic—lace curtains, books everywhere, pictures on the wall,
photographs of family, plants, a chess set with game pieces moved about on the board,
a sense of completeness. He keeps the monologue going as the piano music continues.
He recalls the old days and the old cars. “These days a man doesn’t know
whether he’s driving a car or an animal.” As he muses,
the cat comes over to show some affection—and get some petting. “I
used to drive Burt around on his paper route. He puts his head back and
seems sleepy now. “It’s all run down. It all runs down sooner or later.”
Wide shot of the room. “I still know people around here. You know people—
that’s home.” He closes his eyes, ready for a nap.
TWO: AN OLD MAN, DISPOSSESSED
- Noisy scene: Sirens blaring as a patrol car pulls up to Harry’s apartment building. A crowd is assembled. The police officer speaks to Harry on a bullhorn and asks him to come down. The crane with the wrecking ball is at the ready. Cut to Harry calmly sitting in his chair in his room. He sips his coffee. Suddenly a car pulls up in the restricted zone. It’s Burt, Harry’s son. He groans as he sees his father being carried out of the building—still seated in his chair. He is yelling at the top of his voice—but actually reciting the great monologue of old King Lear driven to madness in the storm scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear. I don’t think Burt gets the allusion to King Lear. He is all stern and practical and severe. “I want you to come home with me.” “This is my home!” Harry says. But there is no recourse for Harry. The wrecking ball begins its appointed work.
- The journey begins—Burt’s car crossing a bridge on the way out of the city. Upbeat music plays. In the car Harry is in a talkative mode, and he notes the consonance between his experience and the experience of old King Lear. “That’s life. An old man loses his home, and he’s just a wanderer.” Burt says, “You’ve got a home now, Pop.” The car pulls up at Burt’s house in the suburbs.
- Strangely quiet scene at the kitchen table in Burt’s house. The camera pans from Burt, to his son, to another son, and then to Harry. Burt’s wife is in the background. When the latter almost steps on the cat, Harry takes Tonto upstairs. When he returns to the table downstairs, he walks into some authentic family tension. One of the brothers, Burt, Jr., is angry that his sibling, Norman, has taken a vow of silence. When Burt’s wife tells Harry what’s going on, Harry says, “I know, he wrote me a note.” Of course, Harry finds Norman’s decision fascinating—even if Norman’s brother doesn’t. Harry tries to supply some levity to this tense family drama, but it doesn’t work. Then Burt, Jr., begins to deride Norman for his drug experimenting, and he brags that he is the champion of drug experimentation himself. “You’re not very tolerant, Jr.,” Harry says. Norman writes a note to his brother, likely two words, and Burt, Jr. pours his glass of water down Norman’s shirt. When Burt, Jr., stalks away from the table, his father yells at him—but to no effect. The family dynamics here are stultifying. Then Burt takes out his rage on the other son, and Burt’s wife, Elaine, joins in—as the camera holds on a close-up of Harry.
- Harry asleep in Norman’s bedroom. He sits up after he hears Norman cry out, “Okay!” in his sleep.
- “You spoke,” he tells Norman.
- Harry goes to the bathroom, and when he comes out, he faces his son—holding a gun up in his face. “Sorry, we’ve had a lot of robberies in the neighborhood lately.”
- Back in the bedroom, Harry tells Norman, “Let’s talk. Okay. I’ll talk and you nod.” Then he asks, “Is there any literature that explains what you’re doing? I’d like to read it.” And Norman gives him a few books.
- “I’m not against it, as long as it’s growth-promoting. When I was your age, I did a lot of foolish things.” Harry reads off the names of some experimental drugs common to the 1970s—and Norman has taken them all—but has never taken heroin.
- “You’re a good boy, Norman.” Close-up of Norman, with his big round horn-rimmed glasses—and the young man smiles at this affirmation.
- Harry asks him if he can describe how he feels—and Norman shakes his head, no. Time for sleep.
- Back at his favorite park bench, seated next to old Jacob. They get to talking about women, as old men are wont to do. “When did you last have a woman?” Harry asks. Jacob pauses, and then he says, “Saturday night”—a long pause—“March, 1951.” Jacob tells him about the first time. He was 14. What a story! His father found them, “and he almost killed me.”
- A lovely scene with Harry visiting his old friend Leroy in what
looks like the latter’s apartment. Harry plays “Tea for Two”
while Leroy does a perfect soft shoe. But then a reaction shot of Harry’s
family at the kitchen table—and we realize Leroy is visiting
Harry at Burt’s house. Burt’s wife tries to have a relevant
conversation with this “Afro American” man, and Leroy complains
about having to live with his mother—90 years old—and put up
with her complaining that she has a job and he does not. Of course, Leroy
goes out to look for work every day—and he doesn’t find it
because he is old and he is black. (He lost his janitorial job for the
old apartment building where Harry and he lived because it was torn down,
you recall.) When Burt, Jr., brings up welfare, Leroy informs him that his
mother gets welfare—but that’s enough—so she has to work
but not let welfare know about it.
- Then Harry pipes up, “Leroy wants a place of his own. Doesn’t matter how old a man is. He needs his privacy.” Cut to Burt’s wife, Elaine, who is offended easily and is offended that Harry seems to imply that Burt and Elaine are not doing the best they can as his hosts.
- Burt and Elaine just keep biting at each other, and then Harry groans, “I’m just old and cranky and an all-around pain in the butt.” Harry mentions getting a room of his own, and Elaine pipes up and then Burt pipes up that they want him here, and Harry finally lowers his guard and says, “You’re a fool, Burt.” Reaction shot of Burt.
- “You’re driving Elaine out of her mind. Every second I spend here is a burden to her.” Elaine notes that Harry’s other children, from Chicago and Los Angeles, aren’t putting out calls that they would help out, and that comment is the straw that breaks Burt’s back.
- He explodes: “Elaine! Will you shut up!” as he stabs the fork into the turkey. It appears that this is supposed to be that Norman Rockwell idealized Thanksgiving that we all know from the Saturday Evening Post covers.
- Silence around the table. Leroy breaks the silence: “Well, thanks for a lovely evening.” Harry volunteers to show him to the door.
THREE. AN ENDING SPURS A NEW BEGINNING.
- Harry in the city again, this time looking for an apartment. He talks to an old woman who shows him a rat-trap of an apartment. She is another lively character. “When I was 64, I could run up those stairs.” He looks around the tiny apartment. He looks out the window and kids, “A room with a view.” She has a comeback, she always does: “At our age, if you don’t know what the world looks like, you never will.” She is irrepressible, and she just keeps on telling more of her story. “I could live on toast and tea—as long as I have my chocolate. My husband’s the problem—he loves his meat.” The she says he has been in the hospital for 5 weeks. “I miss him in the hospital. If he were here, I’d have someone to argue with.” No doubt she’s right. When he tells her he has a cat, she throws him out.
- Later, Harry is riding with his father on a rainy day (probably his father picked him up after his apartment hunting.). An old man waves them down, knocks of the window with his fist, and when Harry lowers the window, asks, “Have you got 35 cents?” “What for” “To buy a mink coat.” Horns blare as Burt fishes in his pocket for some change and hands it to Harry who hands it to the old man. In the car, Harry announces that he is going to head for Chicago. He asks Burt to stop, but we don’t know what errand he is running.
- Inside an office, Harry announces to a woman that he has come to identify a body. “Jacob Rivetowski,” he announces. And we know that this is the old friend we have seen in a couple of scenes (on the park bench). She asks for his relationship, and when she learns that he is not family and has no documentary evidence, she is suspicious. “I just want to get my friend buried,” he tells her. Cut to an attendant opening a door in the morgue and letting Harry come in. The young man takes Harry to a window, raises the screen electronically, and there lies Jacob on the table, his body covered with a grey blanket, only his face showing. Reaction shot of Harry. He holds back the tears. “That’s him. So long, kid.” The young attendant says, “Take your time.” Harry stands there and muses aloud, “He had his first affair when he was 14. He turns away then, holds himself up against the wall, and barely controls his emotional response.
- Burt drops Harry off at the airport. “I don’t like long good-byes,” Harry tells him. But Burt gives him some extra money (“I know with Shirley you’ll need it”) and then tells him he can always come back and stay with Burt. He tells Burt the name of his lawyer—just in case. Burt embraces him. Harry steps inside the airport, and Burt stands for a few seconds and just soaks it all in.
- Inside the airport, Harry is in line for security. Problems arise when he won’t let go of the cat carrier and step through the security gate. When he keeps resisting, and makes a joke about having a submachine gun inside the cat carrier, a policeman asks to talk to him—come with me—and suddenly we get a jump cut to Harry exiting the airport door and taking his bag back from the bag checker.
- He hops a taxi to take him to the bus station. Inside, guess what—another conversation with a stranger! She asks him if he is a salesman, and he launches into a long conversation about being one of the last travelling salesmen—and what did he sell? He sold cats! “Times were I could sell 6-7 cats in the morning before lunch.” He says, “ Chicago was a great town for cats!” “Why?” she asks. “I don’t know—it just is!” Timing is everything!
FOUR: THE ELDERQUEST BEGINS
- Harry on the bus. He tries to strike up a conversation with the man next to him. Not much luck—but the guy does share his sandwich with the cat. Harry just keeps his monologue running, telling the man where he is headed. But this guy is NOT a conversationalist. Harry takes Tonto to the bathroom, and the cat is afraid of the confined space and the strange smells. So he goes to the driver and asks him to stop the bus so Tonto can take a leak. Well, he has an argument with the driver—and finally—
- The bus pulls off the road, Harry and Tonto get off, and Tonto runs away. Of course, Harry follows him, and that means the bus driver is getting nervous about waiting so long. Harry comes back t to the bus and says he can’t leave his cat behind. So the driver pulls Harry’s bag out from the baggage storage section and then drives away. A few moments after the bus pulls off, the cat runs right back to where the bus was in the first place. Harry is angry with Tonto for the first time in the film. “You have scared the life out of me! I don’t like your attitude!” Then he hugs the animal and admits, “You want to be free, don’t you?”
- Farther down the road. Harry comes upon a small used car dealership, “Trader Nick’s.” Nick shows him a car—what used to be his car—just came in yesterday. Nick tells him that he has little use for reclining seats anymore. “I’m 62 years old.” He shows Harry his toupee. “I can’t get it up anymore unless I use strychnine.” They move on to another cheaper car. Harry buys it.
- Harry in the hotel on the phone with Burt. But Burt has some concerns—for example, does Harry have a license to drive this car? Harry checks. “It expired in 1958.” Burt explodes—and Harry asks him to calm down.
- The next day Harry is on the road in his classic early 1950s Chevy. As he drives, he muses aloud, talking to his cat, about always wanting to drive cross-country, but then he met Annie, married, had children, etc. Theme music up. “Oh, we had good times. Maybe I just thought there wasn’t enough time or enough money. On the other hand, there really was.” Tonto sits on the dashboard. We see Harry in a close shot, from the side, as he watches the road. “I’ll let you in on something, Tonto. I have a great fear of pain. I would rather go—like that—rather than suffer for a long time. Oh, how Annie suffered. Her suffering was worse than her dying. I dreaded seeing her in the morning. She never complained. That was my specialty. You never really feel anybody’s suffering—you only feel their death.”
FIVE: A YOUNG WOMAN AND AN OLD LOVE.
- Suddenly he sees a cop following him. He tries to remain calm. Then he pulls over to pick up two hitchhikers—a young man and a young woman. The first thing he wants to know: “Do either of you have a driver’s license.” When the young man says he does, Harry asks him to drive the car. The drive begins. Harry naps in the back. The young man talks on and on about his love for Jesus and the teachings of Jesus. Later, at a gas station, the young man tells Harry he is going south with some other people because they are heading to Atlanta. He kisses the young woman, Ginger, good-bye, and he’s gone. Harry goes over to Ginger and wonders why she won’t join the young man. “We only met the lift before yours.” Harry muses, “This is the Pepsi generation?”
- Harry drives off with Ginger riding along next to him. He begins to sing—a poor imitation of Maurice Chevalier—but at least Ginger recognizes the impersonation, and Harry is shocked. Then he asks if he can get personal. “Sure—but no lectures,” she says. Guidelines agreed upon, Harry sallies forth. “You running away from home?” “Yeah.” She tells him she’s headed for a commune in Boulder, Colorado. “What about your parents?” “They’re okay.” He asks her age. She is 16. “I guess I don’t know what it’s like to be 16 these days.” “Neither do I,” she admits.
- They stop at a hotel just off the road. While she’s in the bathroom, he arranges things in the bedroom. He tells her part of the story of his life. He once was a singing waiter in a restaurant, but then he chose the security of a life as a teacher over the uncertainties of being a performer. She comes into the room, and she briefly reveals her breasts as she drops a towel and grabs her top.
- He admits to being embarrassed, and this leads him to tell the story of the first woman he ever saw naked, a woman named Jessie. “I wanted to marry her. You see, I slept with her.” Harry says, “She was a liberated woman long before it became fashionable. She danced with Isadora Duncan (and Ginger saw the movie with Vanessa Redgrave).
- He tells her that he met his wife after Jessie left for Paris with Isadora.
- “Are you sorry?”
- “No, I’ve had a wonderful life.”
- Ginger asks him if he ever heard from Jesse. He tells her she married and became a house wife and lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- “Let’s go see her,” Ginger advises.
- Harry says it’s out of their way.
- “So what?” Ginger says. Harry has no answer for that.
- There they are, driving in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They stop in front of a two-story wood-frame house, and they go to the front door. An African American teenager comes to the door. Then his grandfather comes in just as Harry is thinking they have “come to the wrong place.” The teenager says, “They’re looking for grandma,” but Harry says it’s a mistake. When the grandfather asks why he’s looking for Jesse, Ginger says, “They used to be sweethearts.” The father really laughs at this idea. Just imagine! His wife with this old white guy. And here she comes—grandma. “You’re boyfriend’s come calling,” the father yells. She stops on the sidewalk and says, “Thursday is the only day I have open—and that’s already spoken for.” She must have thought he wanted to hire her for a job. She tells him that the Jesse Stone he wants used to own a dance studio. “I think she’s in an old age home on Wharton Street,” this Jesse Stone says.
- The car pulls up to the nursing home. Inside, Harry introduces himself and the man at the desk shows him to the arts and crafts room. He tells Harry that Jesse has been confused, and she may not remember him.
- The man goes over to Jesse, who blurts out, “When the hell are you going to get me another book?” “I brought you a visitor,” the man says. He leaves Harry with her.
- Harry shows Jesse the flowers he brought, and she smiles. “Roses! You remembered!”
- Harry asks, “Do you remember me?” “Sit down,” she commands. “Sure I remember you.” He stares across at her ands says, “You’re still very beautiful.”
- “Thank you, Alex,” she says. “I’m Harry. Harry Coombs.” She attends to the flowers.
- He tries again. “I’m Harry, Jesse.”
- “From the past,” she says. “We had some sweet times in Paris,” she says. So she doesn’t remember him at all. He plays along and speaks some French to her.
- But then she says, “You’re not Alex. You’re the professor.” She asks, “How’s Annie?” He tells her she died.
- “Alex,” she asks. “Yes, Jessie.”
- “I have nothing to read.”
- Chastened, he says, “I’ll bring you something tomorrow.”
- She begins to babble about wanting to go to the shore next summer. “Will you take me, Alex?” “I promise,” he says.
- “Let’s dance,” she blurts out. He follows her a few feet away from their chairs and they dance, as we hear the musical theme played. Then she dances off by herself while he watcher her. Camera back, and we can see Ginger watching them from the doorway of the lounge.
- Reaction shot of Ginger as she watches them—her face serene and wistful. She is struck by the scene before her.
- Then the two join hands and dance their waltz together, with Jesse’s head on Harry’s (Alex’s) shoulder.
SIX: FATHER AND DAUGHTER.
- Exterior views of Chicago. Shot of the two characters in the car—both are humming together to the tune, “Chicago, Chicago.” They enter a bookstore (owned by Shirley, Harry’s daughter), and there stands Norman! “Hi, Grandpa!” After a big bear hug between the two, Norman explains, “Dad sent me to bring you back home.” Harry introduces Ginger to Norman, and there is an immediate—if subdued—attraction between them: notice the similar glasses and hairstyles. “Garbo speaks,” Norman says.
- Here comes Shirley. “Hi, Tonto: I see you brought my old man.”
- Reaction shot of Harry: there is an affection, a warmth, a beleaguered love in that reaction shot. When Shirley says she almost didn’t recognize Norman when he came, Harry speaks some Latin and then translates: “The times change, and we change with it.”
- He introduces her to Ginger and says, “We met on the road. We had a short but passionate love affair—she ran away from home.”
- Shirley just can’t get over how Ginger thinks she is doing the right thing by running away and being on the road. Oh, how judgmental we adults become! “She’ll be knocked up in a week,” Shirley complains.
- “Ginger’s not a loose girl,” Harry responds. And then he drops this line: “With your record with men, I would not presume to give advice.” And how many broken marriages has she experienced: four! One more than even Harry remembered.
- As he follows Shirley up the stairs, he muses aloud, giving a line from King Lear—and Shirley says, “Please, no Shakespeare.”
- Norman comes up with a great idea: how about some fried chicken. This allows Ginger to go off with him (hint, hint!) and for the two old folks to be alone.
- “I like you, Norman,” she says.
- He responds, “I like you too, Aunt Shirley, even though you’re a bitch.”
- Harry and Shirley walk along the Gold Coast on Lake Michigan. As they walk they stay within the single shot. Shirley suggests that Harry get a teaching job (“too old,” he says). She says she can get him a job teaching in one of the “free schools” springing up.
- He points to an old man sitting alone on the walkway and says, “That’s me.” She doesn’t fall for his sentimentality.
- Harry stops, and on the cut (to a closer view), he asks, “Do you love me?”
- She pauses. “I don’t always like you. But I do love you.”
- He says, “Why do we always argue?”
- “That’s the way we talk to each other.”
- He stops again. “The strangest thing about being old is that all your friends are dead.” As a lark, he reintroduces himself to his daughter, very officially, with a handshake. She plays along with the game. Suddenly they are talking Ibsen (she introduced herself as Shirley Mallard a lá Wild Duck and thus the Ibsen connection). “There’s a man who really understood women,” he says, and she dodges this criticism. What is happening in this conversation? Why can’t she give in to his gentle and insightful humor?
- He sums it up: “Do you think we’ll ever stop arguing?” She shakes her head, no. She kisses him. “At least we agree on something, he says.” They walk off.
SEVEN: WESTWARD HO!
- Dissolve to a montage—showing Harry’s car on the interstate headed out of Chicago. Norman and Ginger are in the back seat. Tonto sits in the back window. Harry drives through the dark. Later, in the daylight, they wait for a train at a crossing. Norman gives an impromptu concert for them on the violin. He’s good. The music changes to a harmonica beat, and some comedy ensues, and suddenly they are driving in the west toward Colorado.
- Somewhere in Arizona we see Harry calling his son Burt from a phone booth. He puts Norman on, and Norman tells his mother, and then his father, that he is headed for Boulder, Colorado, with Ginger. Then Harry talks to Burt, who as you may imagine is immensely upset at this turn of events. “Life is confusing,” Harry says. “We’re just trying to get on with it.” Then he gets cut off by the operator. Before he says good-bye to the young people, Harry asks Norman to write his parents every day. Then Harry says, “ Norman, for the first time in my life I’m west of Chicago, and I love it. It’s splendid, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful. I just want to spend a little time by myself.” Off they go.
- Harry meets an old western guy with a grey beard, a travelling vitamin salesman, who drives a VW van with an extended top made from the top half of a VW Beetle. And what does this old guy start talking about? “I used to sell cats! I had a nice little business on the side.” What a coincidence. Remember the shtick that Harry used on the cabbie back in New York City? The guy introduces himself to Harry. He tells Harry he sells vitamins of all kinds. “Beats selling cats.”
- They share a motel room, and the old guy launches into some physical therapy (massage) and urges an unending vitamin regimen on Harry. He keeps reminding Harry that he can sell him one of his blenders.
- Cut to the two on the road, as the old guy gives him a ride in his old van. The old guy launches into what appears to be the story of his life. He says he buried three wives: “good women, bad diets.”
- Harry the hitchhiker down the road. By the way, he bought one of those blenders. Here comes his ride: a sultry red-haired woman in her 30s driving a yellow Ford Mustang. But take a closer look: her red hair may be a hairpiece, and she is wearing a mink (or faux mink) coat. She’s headed for Las Vegas, and since that’s on his way, no problem. Their ride begins, and the camera is set up to show her in the foreground and Harry in the background. She notices he is sneaking looks at her, and she reacts in a reverse angle:
- “What are you staring at?”
- “Well, you’re just so pretty.”
- “I have to be,” she says.
- He asks if she is an actress—but she corrects him: “I’m a hooker.”
- Reverse angle to show his reaction. He is amazed. “Don’t kid me. I’m an old man.”
- “I’ve had older.” She stretches out her right arm and caresses the back of his neck. “When is the last time you made it, Harry?”
- “I haven’t had sex in a long time.”
- “Had or enjoyed?”
- “What’s the difference?” “You’ll have to pay to find out the difference.
- “I really don’t think I’m up to it.” Then he laughs when he realizes his choice of wods.
- “Harry, I’m really getting horny. Now he’s really uncomfortable. Shot from the front of the car shows Harry on the left, the hooker on the right.
- “I only have $100.”
- Cut to a wide shot as the convertible makes a hard left off onto a dirt road and drives uphill. Suddenly the music swells to a version of “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” The car reaches the top of the hill, turns and stops!
EIGHT: LAS VEGAS INTERLUDE
- Las Vegas scene. The convertible pulls up as the last strains from the song play out. Before he gets out, he says, “Very sweet of you. Harry inside the casino. He walks through the slots and sits at a bar. Above the bar a rock band of five women are playing a fast song. Harry watches with interest and even waves at some of the women. He enjoys himself as he “sort of” rocks along to the beat.
- A craps table in the casino. He stands next to a middle-aged guy who is almost strung out from too much gambling. He is in the midst of a nine-shot winning streak. He’s going to buy a Cadillac Eldorado! He admits that he has been gambling for 46 straight hours. Now he has won $10,000. And the next time the shooter throws the dice—another win on the pass line. Now Harry asks him to bet some money on the pass line, and the frenzied guy takes the money, obsessed with this moment, and yells, “Everything on the pass line!” And then the shooter craps out. Suddenly the guy turns on Harry: “You bad-lucked me, you son-of-a-bitch!” He won’t shut up now. He throws his chips in the air! “The first time I had something in my life—something to work for!”
- Outside the casino, he does an imitation of Arthur Godfrey, the old redhead, and then he leans up against the wall, behind a garbage can, and begins to urinate. In 5 seconds the cops are there to arrest him for public indecency.
- Harry wakes up in his cell. Someone is sitting on the bunk above him. He learns that Tonto is okay, and he turns to meet his cellmate: Sam Two Feathers. When he tells the old man with long flowing white hair about how he named his cat (after The Lone Ranger), the old man doesn’t get the reference. So Harry fills him in. The old Indian mentions that he watches television and brings up the television program Ironsides (not again!). “I thought it was about an Indian,” and Harry sees his point. Sam says, “I had a cousin called Iron Sides. But he was a fool.” Harry notes that this is his first time in jail. The old man climbs down, goes over to Harry’s bag (on the opposite bunk), and points to the blender. “Where did you get this?” Come to find out, the old vitamin salesman sold one to the Indian, too, but it broke. So Harry gives him his blender. Sam Two Feathers takes off his turquoise necklace and gives it to him as trade. Then Sam tells his story—getting in trouble for practicing medicine without a license. “I practice good medicine on good people, and bad medicine on bad people.” Sam is absolutely obsessed with the blender and keeps turning his attention to it—but always comes back to the conversation. So Sam demonstrates his medicine-making on Harry—by curing his bursitis. He takes a couple of shirts for trade. Then he goes about a ritual curing of Harry’s bursitis. It works.
NINE: KING HARRY AND HIS THIRD CHILD
- Harry walking on the famous Hollywood Walk of Stars. He hums “Hooray for Hollywood,” and seems to be waiting for someone. A gay hooker standing nearby (the director, Paul Mazursky) winks at him—and I don’t think Harry gets it. Suddenly his son Eddie pulls up in a Cadillac convertible, and then the greeting begins—lots of shouting, Eddie jumping out, running around to the sidewalk, and embracing his “Pop,” and Eddie is a non-stop talker, everything out of his mouth positive, affirming, showing his concern for Pop’s safety, and so on. “Hey Pop, you’re going to love it here.” Everything is upbeat as they drive away.
- Driving along the freeway, and we see their conversation as we look at them in the open car. Everything about Eddie is upbeat and self-confident: he is in control. He is making big money, making fast cash when he needs to, “but mostly I play.” Wow! “Well, I must say, Eddie, you look like a Playboy!” More talk from Eddie. “Good to see you again, Pop.”
- Eddie gives him the tour of his apartment complex. “It’s a nice place to live. We’ve got everything.” He shows him the pool. Then inside Eddie’s apartment. Now take a look at Eddie: the slick-backed hair, the sunglasses, the vinyl (is that vinyl?) jacket nearly bell-bottomed slacks. Just then we get the first hint of a chink in Eddie’s armor: as he attends to Tonto, he looks up at his father (whose back is to him), and that face speaks volumes. Something is wrong here.
- Eddie joins him on the sofa bed, and he goes on about how they could arrange their living conditions here, but Pop cuts him off: “I’m too old for this place.” Then we get down to business. “You broke, Eddie?” He admits being a little low.
- “I have to find a place of my own,” Harry says.
- Then Eddie lets it all out. “Pop, I’m on my ass.” Harry responds with an offer to give him $1,000 to help tide him over. Eddie accepts without much complaint.
- Harry steps out onto the deck and makes small talk for a moment and then drops the boom: “Why don’t you call Ellen?” “Oh, that’s all over.” Eddie asks him to stay with him again.
- “Eddie, what are you afraid of?” Eddie returns to the apartment, and Harry follows him. Eddie admits a terrible lack of self-confidence. Harry sits on the sofa bed again, and Eddie joins him after fixing a drink. Eddie brings up sharing a place on the Strip. But Harry has his mind made up. He’s not going back to New York.
- Eddie begins to sob uncontrollably—and the director cuts from the wide shot to a close shot from the front—as Harry comforts him. Harry rubs his back. “You’ll get back on your feet.” Eddie apologizes for breaking down.
- “Tell you what: I’ll help you find a place, you help me find a place. You know a good broker?”
- “I’m a good broker!” as Eddie surfaces, his face read from crying.
- Close shot of Harry. “I just don’t think we should live together. I want to see you make a life for yourself. Work, wife, kids. Recovered a bit, Eddie takes a drink, and then the director cuts back to the wide shot to release the tension.
TEN: A FAREWELL AND A NEW BEGINNING.
- An old man walks along a beach near Santa Monica? and he comes upon Harry and another man playing chess.
- “Man has to struggle, or he’ll drown in the river,” Harry insists to his partner. Apparently, they have been talking about big philosophical questions.
- His partner insists on the idea of “going with the flow of life.” They just keep on talking about deep stuff. Are we really individuals? Do we think we are only because of what we consider to be surface distinctions? “We are all the same,” the younger man insists.”
- Harry’s response: “Bullshit.” Anatol, the old guy we saw at the opening of the scene, has problems grasping these distinctions because he is a literalist. Harry says, “He’s talking about philosophical air.”
- “No, I’m not,” the younger guy says.
- “Check,” Harry says.
- But the younger guy won’t let go. “Air is air—for everybody.”
- “What about animals?”
- “Animals can’t reason.”
- “You don’t know Tonto,” and Harry hauls the cat up from around his feet.
- Anatol says, “Tonto doesn’t look so good.”
- Harry and Tonto in the vet’s office. Harry sings a Scottish song with the chorus “Oh, it’s lovely, roamin’ in the gloamin’.” Close-up of Harry as he sings. “Who’s that, Tonto?” He names the singer of the song. Harry is having difficulty stifling tears. “So long, kiddo.” Cut to a wide shot of the scene as music comes up—a partial chorus from “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The music continues, and we cut to Harry walking along the beach at sunset. Then the main theme recurs. We hear TX’s voice-over as he reads a letter he wrote to his old friend, Leroy: “Tonto passed away. He was 11 years old, which made him 77 by our count. He had a good life.” Then we see him seated above the beach under a gazebo. “You ought to think about coming out here. I’m leaving at the beach.” Just then here comes a cat woman, an old woman that feeds stray cats every morning. Several cats gather around her. Harry continues to read from his letter: “I’m working three days a week—tutoring high school kids.
- The old woman pipes up: “My children! They expect me every day.” Cut to a two shot of Harry and the old woman. Note that Harry is wearing a kerchief around his neck and wears a wool fedora. She turns to him: “Are you Jewish?”
- “No, I’m into Zen Buddhism these days.”
- “You got friends here?” He says he does.
- “I live alone, but it’s silly. I’ve got two beautiful rooms overlooking the water. Why should one go empty?
- “Why don’t you rent it?”
- She jabs him in the arm. “So move in with me!”
- He laughs. “That’s an interesting proposition.
- “Two can live cheaper than one. We could be on easy street.”
- He laughs. “I don’t think I’m ready for marriage yet.”
- She asks his name and he tells her. “I’m Celia. You want to chase around a little bit? It’s okay. Run around all you want. I just want someone to share the expenses.” He thanks her for the generous offer.
- “It’s ridiculous to cook for one person.” They chat some more about what they eat. They are getting along just fine. Then she turns and yells at “Stupid!”—another cat. “Come here and get your breakfast.
- Harry turns and looks toward the cat. He jumps up and gives chase. The main theme plays as we watch him run after the ginger-colored cat. Could it be Tonto? Finally, he catches it on the beach. He picks it up. “What’s your name, kiddo?” He puts it back down, pets it, and it runs away. He’s had enough of the cat. He turns his attention to a little girl building a sand castle a few feet away. Cut to a close shot of the two. He bends down on one knee and looks down at her. She sticks out her tongue at him. His reaction. Cut to a wide shot of the scene, at sunset on the beach. The theme plays on. The light dims, and the titles come up as Harry digs in the sand across from her.
Film resource written by Robert Yahnke
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke, © 2009
Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
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