The Rounder

EXT. APARTMENT HOUSE - NIGHT

[We discover BARTLETT, an inebriated man in a tuxedo and straw hat, standing 
under a ladder he has just propped up against the side of the apartment 
house, his head protruding through the rungs. 

He steadies himself, drunkenly pulls his head out, walks from beneath the
ladder, and begins to climb it.

As he reaches the first rung, a POLICE OFFICER walks up and sees him.]

OFFICER
Hey!

[The Officer joins Bartlett at the bottom of the ladder.]

BARTLETT
Hello!

OFFICER
Where're you going?

BARTLETT
I'm goin' home. Good night.

OFFICER
Just a minute! Where do you live?

BARTLETT
(points to the second story window) Up there.

OFFICER
Oh. Oh, you've lost your key, huh?

BARTLETT
That's marvelous. How didja figure that out?

OFFICER
(chuckles smugly) Well, uh-- (suddenly serious) 
Say! Have you been drinking?

BARTLETT
That's my business.

OFFICER
Well, have ya got any other business?

BARTLETT
(pleased with himself) Why, yes, come to think 
of it, I'm a wild duck specialist.

OFFICER
Oh, you--? What's that?

BARTLETT
Well, that is, I'm under contract to a chain of 
restaurants and, should a customer come in and 
order some wild duck and we haven't any, I take 
a tame one out in the back yard and aggravate 
him. Get it?

OFFICER
Oh, yeah, you've got a back yard.

BARTLETT
I knew you'd get it all right, you'd have 
no trouble with--

OFFICER
Uh, how do I know you're not a burglar?

BARTLETT
Why? You looking for a burglar?

OFFICER
There's one burglar I'd like to get a hold of.

BARTLETT
Well, won't I do?

OFFICER
No, he's shorter than you.

[Bartlett turns out one of his pockets and sees that he's short of cash.]

BARTLETT
You're crazy...

OFFICER
I thought maybe you was him when I first saw you.

BARTLETT
Well, what's his name?

OFFICER
Oh, uh, "Blinky" Johnson.

BARTLETT
"Blinky" Johnson, eh? (thinks for a moment) No, 
that's not me. Ah, it must be two other fellows.

OFFICER
You know, uh, I could get promoted if I could 
land that guy.

BARTLETT
Well, maybe I can help you find him.

OFFICER
(peers at the second story window) Say! Do you 
think he might be up there?

BARTLETT
I don't know, I'll go up and see, eh?

OFFICER
(grabs Bartlett's arm) Just a minute!

[Bartlett hands the Officer some money.]

BARTLETT
There ya are, officer.

OFFICER
(accepts the money) Oh, well...

[The Officer politely steadies the ladder as Bartlett climbs. Bartlett steps 
on the Officer's hand. The Officer shakes his hand in pain. Bartlett 
drunkenly misses a rung and uses the Officer's shoulder instead, much to the 
Officer's annoyance.

Bartlett slowly climbs. The Officer watches him patiently.

Bartlett reaches the open second story window and puts a leg over the sill.]

BARTLETT
Good night, officer!

OFFICER
Good night.

BARTLETT
Gonna give you all my business from now on.

OFFICER
(murmurs in agreement) Mmm.

CUT TO:

INT. APARTMENT HOUSE - CONTINUOUS

[Bartlett climbs inside the building and finds himself in an attractive 
apartment. He removes his hat and walks to the center of the room. On the 
right, a writing desk. On the left, a piano. Behind him, a bureau flanked by 
the open window and a curtained doorway. (The rest of the film takes place on 
this cramped set.)]

BARTLETT
(talking to himself) Imagine having to use a 
ladder to get into your own room.

[Bartlett notices a framed photo on the piano of a strange man whom we will 
come to know as ALFRED BROWN. Puzzled, Bartlett turns to see a framed photo 
of a woman whom we will come to know as ETHEL DALTON on the writing desk.]

BARTLETT
Say, this isn't my room.

[Bartlett puts on his hat and heads for the open window.]

BARTLETT
Hey, ladder!

[A doorbell noisily BUZZES. Startled, Bartlett removes his hat and ducks out 
of sight behind the bureau. A middle-aged maid named MARY enters from the 
right, hustles through the room and exits out the curtained doorway in the 
rear.

Bartlett emerges from behind the bureau and listens as the maid answers the 
bell.]

ETHEL
(offscreen) Can you imagine such a thing? Come 
along, Mary, hurry.

BARTLETT
(too drunk to care very much) Good lord, women!

[Bartlett hides behind the bureau as the women enter: Mary the maid and her 
mistress, the young, beautiful, well-dressed ETHEL DALTON.]

MARY
Yes, miss, right away.

ETHEL
The most ridiculous thing that I've ever had 
happen to me in my life.

MARY
Men are all alike, miss. I wouldn't worry.

[Ethel sits at the piano and looks at the photo of Alfred.]

ETHEL
Well, I tell ya, I won't stand for it, Mary. No 
man is worth it. Imagine him taking me to the 
country club and dancing eight dances with 
that... dizzy blonde! 

[Bartlett casually emerges from hiding to peer at the women who fail to see 
him.]

ETHEL
Oh, the beast! I could kill him.

BARTLETT
(to no one in particular) She wants to be alone.

[Bartlett makes a face and walks back behind the bureau. The woman turn in 
his direction but just miss seeing him.]

ETHEL
What was that?

MARY
Oh, that's just a flat tire. I wouldn't worry 
about that.

ETHEL
Oh, well, run along, Mary. I want to be alone.

[Ethel rises and Mary takes her luxurious wrap and purse.]

MARY
Aw, you're all upset, Miss Ethel. You'll feel 
better in the morning. (off the wrap) And I'll 
put this away now.

[Mary exits. Bartlett emerges again. Ethel stands at the piano, talking to 
herself.]

ETHEL
But I'll get even with him -- I'll marry the 
first man I meet, I swear it!

BARTLETT
Help! Let me out of here!

[Bartlett heads for the window and starts to climb out as Ethel turns to see
him and SCREAMS.]

ETHEL
Help! Robbers! Police!

BARTLETT
(yells out the window to nobody) Look out, 
down there! I'm gonna jump!

ETHEL
Don't do that! You'll be killed!

[Bartlett pauses, removes his hat and places it on the bureau, then joins 
Ethel in the center of the room. He is as nonchalant as she is tense.]

BARTLETT
Say, you're right, at that. I might have sprained 
an ankle jumping down there. (looking around) Nice 
joint -- place -- you have here.

ETHEL
Why, who are you?

BARTLETT
I'm the milkman. A little earlier than usual.

ETHEL
The milkman?

BARTLETT
Yes. No. That is, I, uh, was out with a bunch of 
fellows and we were having some milk and stuff 
and I just happened to get in through the wrong 
apartment, at the wrong window, through the 
door-- How've you been?!

ETHEL
Don't try to joke with me. You're some desperate 
criminal.

BARTLETT
Oh, am I? What's my name?

ETHEL
How dare you enter this room at this hour?

BARTLETT
(checks his wristwatch) Well, I'm awfully sorry 
but it was the only hour I had available.

ETHEL
What are you talking about?

BARTLETT
Now, please, lady, don't get rough with me. As 
you've already stated and I've admitted, I'm a 
desperate criminal. Should an officer walk in 
right now, I'd be forced to destroy him, thus 
(snaps his fingers) -- which would merely ruin 
your reputation and spot the carpet. The ladder 
being gone, if you'll pardon me, I'll slide 
down the lightning rod. Goodbye.

[Bartlett turns to go. Ethel, more relaxed now, has a sudden inspiration.]

ETHEL
I have it!

BARTLETT
(turns back to her) What? My key?

ETHEL
No.

BARTLETT
Well, it doesn't matter, I don't need it now. 
I'm in.

ETHEL
I wonder if you'll do.

BARTLETT
(raises his eyebrows) Yes. Do what?

ETHEL
Let me study your face for a moment.

BARTLETT
Why, go right ahead, lady. My face is an open 
book.

[Bartlett grins broadly and smugly.]

ETHEL
(very business-like) Yes. Well, close it, please. 
Thank you.

BARTLETT
(his face falls) You're welcome.

[Ethel motions for Bartlett to sit on the chair at the piano while she takes 
a seat at the writing desk.]

BARTLETT
(off the piano chair) This for sale?

ETHEL
Sit down.

BARTLETT
Oh, pardon me.

[Bartlett pulls the chair over and sits next to Ethel.]

BARTLETT
I can only stay a little while ...

ETHEL
(firmly) I am going to marry you.

BARTLETT
... about four months, I imagine. I-- You're 
going to what?

ETHEL
(leans toward him intently) I am going to marry 
you.

BARTLETT
All right. Go ahead. I haven't a thing to do 
this afternoon.

ETHEL
Now, see here. I'm a businesswoman and in a hurry.

BARTLETT
Well, I'm sorry, I couldn't get here any sooner.

ETHEL
For certain reasons I must have a husband at once.

BARTLETT
You must? Well, I don't think I can afford to, uh--

ETHEL
I'm willing to pay whatever's right.

BARTLETT
I mean, afford to, socially. My prices for 
matters of that sort are very reasonable. 
Although I would demand the, uh, eight hour day 
and Thursdays off. You see, I can't get in wrong 
with the union.

ETHEL
You will remember that this is a matter of business?

[Ethel turns to the writing desk as Bartlett makes a face to the camera.]

BARTLETT
Here's where I get out.

[Bartlett rises and starts to go.]

ETHEL
I have a large fortune.

BARTLETT
(stops, turns to Ethel) Pardon?

ETHEL
I have a large fortune.

BARTLETT
Here's where I come back.

[Bartlett comes back and stands by the chair.]

ETHEL
And I need a man to manage it.

BARTLETT
Sure, don't fool with things like that yourself. 
You must get a man.

ETHEL
So I will place it in the hands of a lawyer. And 
he will pay your salary.

BARTLETT
Oh, you merely wish to rent me, then? Is that it?

ETHEL
Exactly. Now, please, pay attention because I am 
entirely in earnest.

[Ethel gestures to the empty chair. Bartlett sits.]

ETHEL
What is your idea of the figure?

BARTLETT
(looking at her figure) Very nice, I think. Not 
marvelous but nice. It's merely a matter of form.

ETHEL
I mean, what salary do you expect?

BARTLETT
Well, I don't know. What are they paying for 
husbands? Now, is eighty cents too much, do you 
think?

ETHEL
Say, five hundred dollars a month.

[Stunned, Bartlett makes a face, shakes his head in disbelief and rubs his 
eyes.]

BARTLETT
What was that?

ETHEL
Why? Is it too much?

BARTLETT
Well, yes. No. Five hundred? Five fifty!
(quickly) Could you make it five fifty?

ETHEL
(with finality) Five hundred dollars a month.

BARTLETT
Well, all right. But I should have time to get a 
little sewing in and, of course, I must consult 
papa before I venture into a thing like that, 
it's so important--

ETHEL
You will understand that I shall only need you 
as an escort -- in public. 

[Bartlett and Ethel rise.]

ETHEL
In private, I shall not recognize you.

BARTLETT
(returns chair to piano) Well, in that case, 
madam, I'm afraid it's going to cost you a 
little more money.

ETHEL
That's my proposition. You can take it or leave it.

BARTLETT
I'll take it. 

[Bartlett extends his hands to her but she waves him off.]

ETHEL
You may go. But be here tomorrow at three o'clock 
for the ceremony.

[The doorbell noisily BUZZES.]

BARTLETT
If I'm a little bit late, don't send for anyone 
else, will you? Oh, incidentally, what sort of a 
ceremony is this going to be? I was married by a 
hack driver once.

ETHEL
You may go. 

[Mary enters.]

MARY
A message for you, miss.

ETHEL
Oh. (to Bartlett) Excuse me.

[Ethel follows Mary out the door.]

ETHEL
A message for me, Polly?

MARY
Yes, miss.

[The women exit, leaving Bartlett alone. He goes to the bureau and pours 
himself a drink.]

BARTLETT
I think I'm gonna like this place after I get it all fixed.

[Drink in hand, Bartlett walks to the left, past the piano.]

BARTLETT
Now, there. There would be a nice place for a 
bar. And what have we here? (opens a door) Ah, 
a closet. I should be able to get three or four 
cases in there without any trouble. (after 
closing the door, he walks right) And what a 
gorgeous bathroom. (places his untouched drink 
on the bureau) Isn't it a shame I'm so clean?

[Bartlett exits into the bathroom.]

FADE OUT

INT. APARTMENT - MINUTES LATER 

[FADE IN on Ethel. She sits at the writing desk and eagerly pores over a 
telegram which reads:

MISS ETHEL DALTON
62 RIVER DRIVE NEW YORK N Y

DEAR ETHEL
THE BLONDE I WAS DANCING WITH
LAST NIGHT WAS MY SISTER FROM DES
MOINES WILL SEE YOU SOON

ALFRED

Meanwhile, Bartlett has entered and stands in the center of the room, 
addressing Ethel who looks up at him.]

BARTLETT
Oh, Miss Murphy? What is your name, may I ask?

ETHEL
Oh, it's you. 

BARTLETT
(pleased with himself) Yes, it's still me.

ETHEL
Well, I regret to say, sir, that our compact is 
off. You may go. 

[Ethel turns back to her telegram.]

BARTLETT
Now wait a minute, Maude, or Celia, you can't do 
that. That isn't a nice thing to do. You sought 
and won my affection of your own free will. I 
didn't ask for it. And now you want to take our 
beautiful dream and give it a kick in the slats. 
I won't stand for it.

ETHEL
(rises, angrily) Will you go?

BARTLETT
No, I won't go! I love you! How can I help but 
love you at those wages?

ETHEL
(stunned, she clutches her heart) Why ... (sits) 
why should you say that you love me?

BARTLETT
Why, Maude, or Ethel, I've loved you ever since 
you were a little tot of six. (a vague gesture) 
You were about this big then, you-- Gee, you 
were a beautiful woman then.

ETHEL
(lost in her memories) Yes, I was happy then.

BARTLETT
You were bow-legged then. 

[Ethel rises, upset, and confronts him.]

BARTLETT
(quickly retracting) You were happy! You were 
the happiest little thing--

ETHEL
(coldly) Now, I'll give you just five minutes to 
leave this house!

BARTLETT
I can make it in four.

ETHEL
I hope that you will be gone by that time. 
Meanwhile, I shall call an officer.

[Ethel stalks out of the room.]

BARTLETT
But, Margaret--!

[Ethel exits right, slamming a door. Bartlett, alone, talks to himself.]

BARTLETT
Our first quarrel. Well, it had to come sometime. 
I'm generally divorced by now. (picks up the 
photo of Alfred) So, Alfred Brown, this is the 
angel, eh? I've often wondered why brilliant 
women like that fall in love with a pinhead like 
this. (slams photo face down on piano, walks 
over to Ethel's photo) Say, if I had a girl like 
that and a home like this, I'd never drink again. 

[ALFRED BROWN, a puny British-accented man in tux and top hat, appears in the 
curtained doorway and spots Bartlett. He registers recognition and shock.]

BARTLETT
(still rambling on) I wouldn't touch another 
drop of-- Well, a little beer wouldn't hurt 
anyone I imagine. That is, if one could get beer. 
I don't know of anywhere. I tried everywhere. 
Last night, I was out with--

[Alfred, having removed his hat and coat but carrying a large cane, strides 
up to Bartlett. Bartlett seems to have forgotten that he and Alfred are old 
drinking buddies -- for Alfred knows Bartlett's name:]

ALFRED
Bartlett!

BARTLETT
Well, Alfred! How are you? We were just talking 
about you. (Bartlett shakes Alfred's hand) Sit 
down, will you, old boy?

[Alfred remains standing. Bartlett sits at the writing desk.]

ALFRED
What are you doing here?

BARTLETT
Well, I'll explain that. So you're the little 
fellow who's going to marry my wife, eh?

ALFRED
(suddenly nervous) Your wife? (points to Ethel's 
photo) You don't mean her?


BARTLETT
Yes, that's the one, isn't it?

ALFRED
Well, I don't believe it!

BARTLETT
Well, the ceremony hasn't been performed yet. 
However, she proposed to me and I accepted her.

ALFRED
Oh, it's impossible! Preposterous!

BARTLETT
I thought so, too, however, she wants it that 
way and, of course, I'm her legal guardian.

[Alfred, confused, pulls the piano chair over and sits down.]

ALFRED
You're her what?

BARTLETT
Exactly. You know, it's all right for you to go 
lounge-lizarding around thinking you're going to 
marry some wealthy woman but, if you want to 
know the truth of it, I've saved you from an 
awful bump because I handle all of her cash and 
you wouldn't get any of it anyhow.

ALFRED
You mean I wouldn't have anything to say about 
her finance?

BARTLETT
Absolutely nothing. As her guardian I would 
insist upon your going to work.

ALFRED
Hmph! That's rather foolish, you know. (rises) 
Now, look here--

BARTLETT
I'm looking. I agree with you.

ALFRED
I mean, foolish about me working and all that. 

[Alfred turns away, failing to see Ethel as she enters the room behind him.]

ALFRED
Now, now, why can't we get together? Now, you 
know, uh, um ... suppose you slip me a thousand? 
I'd give you a clear path.

BARTLETT
A what?

ALFRED
Mm, a thousand.

[Ethel, horrified, strides forward. Alfred sees her and GASPS.]

ALFRED
I knew it!

BARTLETT
(rises, to Ethel) Why, Nelly, where have you 
been? (to Alfred) That's a very good idea. 
Suppose we submit it to the lady?

ALFRED
I knew it was a trick to expose me! 

[Alfred tries to swing his cane at Bartlett who easily grabs Alfred's wrist, 
twists it painfully, and takes the cane away from him.]

ALFRED
(in pain) Oh!

BARTLETT
(politely, to Ethel) Pardon me, dear. Just a 
moment. (grabs Alfred by the collar) Come, come, 
Alfred. 

[Bartlett forces Alfred over to the closet door.]

BARTLETT
Come on now. Be a nice little boy and open the 
door.

ALFRED
This is very annoying, you know.

[Bartlett jabs the cane into Alfred's back.]

BARTLETT
Just open the door.

[Alfred opens the door.]

BARTLETT
That's it. Now go right in there...

ALFRED
Ethel! Ethel, I can explain--

[Bartlett eases Alfred into the closet and shuts the door on him. Alfred, in 
the closet, KNOCKS on the door. Bartlett opens the door a crack, just long 
enough to say, "Sh!" then shuts and locks the door. Cane in hand, a smiling 
Bartlett returns to Ethel.]

BARTLETT
I thought I did that nicely, didn't you?

ETHEL
You're pretty high-handed, aren't you?

BARTLETT
No, I just needed a cane, that was all.

ETHEL
How dare you say that you're my guardian?

BARTLETT
Beautiful cane at that, I--

[The Police Officer we saw earlier strides into the room and confronts 
Bartlett and Ethel.]

OFFICER
Did you call?

BARTLETT
(thinks the uniformed officer is a telegram 
delivery boy) Ah, more telegrams!

ETHEL
(off Bartlett) Officer, arrest that man!

BARTLETT
(suddenly recognizes the Officer) Hello! I 
didn't recog-- Say, what kept you anyway? I-- 
(starts to hand the Officer some cash but 
abruptly points to Ethel) Arrest that woman!

[Ethel GASPS in shock.]

BARTLETT
Arrest that woman, she bit me!

[Ethel SCREAMS in horror.]

BARTLETT
(to Ethel) I'm sorry, dear, but the law must 
take its course.

ETHEL
(pleading with Bartlett, she puts her arms 
around him) Oh, no, no, no, no.

BARTLETT
(arm around Ethel, to the Officer) No! Don't 
touch her, you coward!

OFFICER
I didn't touch her!

BARTLETT
Now, listen, officer, if you'll allow me a 
moment with this lady, I think I can make a good 
woman out of her. I think. (to Ethel) Don't look 
at him, dear. It's hard enough for me to look at 
him.

OFFICER
(puts a hand on Bartlett) Now--!

[Ethel puts a hand up to the Officer's chest to stop him.]

BARTLETT
(takes her hand away) Dear, he's ticklish.

OFFICER
Say--!

BARTLETT
Now, listen, officer, I know you fellows are 
very hard-hearted about things of this sort but 
I forgive you. And I have a little surprise for 
you. Look in that closet.

[The Officer glances quizzically at Ethel who nods reassuringly. The Officer 
turns and approaches the closet door. He pauses and looks back at Ethel and 
Bartlett.]

BARTLETT
(calls out) Turn the key. It's a door.

[The Officer turns the key and cautiously opens the door. Alfred tries to 
dive out of the closet through the Officer's legs but the Officer stomps on 
his ankle, grabs him by the collar, hauls him to his feet and brings him over 
to Bartlett and Ethel.]

ALFRED
Ooooh! Ooooh! Ooooh! Don't do that! Oh, Ethel, 
please. Now, I can--

ETHEL
(to Alfred, more in sorrow than in anger) So ... 
you wanted my money.

BARTLETT
I'll handle this. Officer, lock him up.

OFFICER
What'll I lock him up for?

BARTLETT
Why, don't you know this man?

OFFICER
No.

BARTLETT
Do you know anything? No. Well, here's where you 
get your promotion. This is "Blinky" Johnson.

OFFICER
Huh?

ALFRED
Me?

ETHEL
Heavens!

BARTLETT
Exactly. The famous burglar.

OFFICER
But "Blinky" Johnson has a beard!

[Bartlett retreats to the bureau where he picks up a brush and returns to 
Alfred.]

BARTLETT
I know. I shaved him. (puts brush under Alfred's 
chin) See?

Alfred HOLLERS.

OFFICER
Well, I'll be!

BARTLETT
Take him away, officer.

[The Officer starts to drag Alfred away.]

ALFRED
Yes, but, I say -- !

OFFICER
You can say it to the judge.

ALFRED
(pleads to Bartlett) Listen, I'll take five 
hundred. Four fifty. Twenty-five.

[The Officer drags Alfred out the door, exiting, and leaving Bartlett alone 
with Ethel. Bartlett sets the cane on the bureau, crosses to a telephone on 
the writing desk, picks up and speaks, as a puzzled Ethel watches him.]

BARTLETT
(into the phone) Spring three-two hundred. (to 
Ethel) Say, that's a beautiful gown you have on. 
The slip shows a little bit. (into the phone) 
Hello, Chief? This is Bartlett talking. A dumb 
policeman'll be over there with a friend of 
mine and a cock-and-bull story about his being 
a burglar. It's merely a practical joke. Give 
him a cigar, let him go. Oh, if he makes a fuss, 
take the cigar away from him. (hangs up, to 
Ethel) I'm afraid I must be going now. I hope 
you won't think unkindly of me. I might have 
appeared a trifle unconventional but I think 
I've saved you from a misplaced faith -- because 
he deceived you tonight. And besides, he eats 
with his knife. (crosses to bureau, picks up his 
still untouched drink) I nearly forgot. (crosses 
to Ethel and toasts her) To your health. 

ETHEL
(before he can drink) Why should you save me? 
You who drink and laugh and scoff at life.

BARTLETT
Little woman, pity the man who laughs and drinks. 
He laughs to keep from crying. And he drinks weak 
booze -- weak fool -- because he is alone. ...

[Deeply saddened, Ethel puts her head down on the writing desk.]

BARTLETT
... Afraid of the four walls of his room, mocked 
by the dream of a home. (glances down at Ethel) 
Are you sleeping?

ETHEL
(lifts head, looks at him intently) Oh, no, no.

BARTLETT
Where was I? Mocked by the dream of a home, in 
love with shadow women until some real woman 
crosses his path and makes him remember. (he 
peers at Ethel who lowers her eyes) Hold that a 
moment, will you, please? (sips his drink, 
smiles, then makes a face) Terrible! (swallows 
the rest in one gulp, puts empty glass on 
bureau, retrieves hat, returns to Ethel who is 
lost in thought) I'm awfully sorry. Goodbye.

ETHEL
Wait. You will be here tomorrow?

BARTLETT
(mildly surprised) What did you say?

ETHEL
(rises, firmly) You will be here tomorrow.

BARTLETT
Oh, for the ... ceremony?

ETHEL
(a hopeful smile) Well, at least so I could know 
you better.

BARTLETT
Oh, then you're not sorry that you lost that, er, 
Brown? And you forgive me?

ETHEL
(genuinely) I forgive you. I respect you. I ... 
I like you.

[Ethel puts out a hand to him.]

BARTLETT
I love you. (he takes her hand and moves in for 
a kiss, but pauses) What is your name again?

[Ethel's face falls.]

FADE OUT


CAST
Jack Benny .... Mr. Bartlett 
Dorothy Sebastian .... Ethel Dalton 
George K. Arthur .... Alfred Brown 
Polly Moran .... Mary