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The House on Sunset & Artie's Apartment Lyrics

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The House on Sunset & Artie's Apartment

 
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The House on Sunset & Artie's Apartment JOE paces uneasily in his white tie and tails, as a Palm Court QUARTET begins playing tango music.

Lights up on the LITTLE ORCHESTRA, tucked in under the stairs; the streamers, the trees in tubs, the floral arrangements, the dozens of blazing candles. MAX is busying himself, preparing the drinks tray.

JOE
Max
You've pulled the stops out.
It looks like gala night aboard S.S. Titanic.
Will we
play spot the actor?
As if we're visiting a gallery of waxworks?

MAX
Would you rather
I mix for you a dry martini
or shall I open a champagne?

JOE
Max, don't be evasive
who's she invited to the ball?

MAX
Madame herself made every call.

(Suddenly, NORMA appears at the top of the stairs in a dazzling diamente evening gown with long black gloves and bird of paradise feathers in her hair. SHE begins a stately descent. JOE puts his glass down and applauds. MAX watches discreetly, evidently moved; HE opens a bottle of champagne.

JOE waits to meet her at the bottom of the stairs. HE's reaching out to take her arm, when as if from nowhere, SHE suddenly produces a gold cigarette case and hands it to him.)

NORMA
Here. Happy New Year.

JOE
Norma, I can't take this.

NORMA
Oh, shut up. Open it. Read what it says.

(JOE opens it and reads out, half-amused and half-appalled.)

JOE
"Mad about the boy"

NORMA
Yes, and you do look absolutely divine.

(JOE is touched, despite his embarrassment; HE decides to give in gracefully and slips the cigarette case into his pocket.)

JOE
Well, thank you.

(NORMA stretches out a hand to lead JOE onto the freshly-waxed tiles dance-floor.)

NORMA
I had these tiles put in, you know, because Rudy Valentino said to me, it takes tiles to tango. Come on.

JOE
No, no, not on the same floor as Valentino!

NORMA
Oh come on, come on, come on. Get up. Follow me. And one, two.... and one, two, one, two together. And one.

(THEY begin to dance. After a while, NORMA snaps at JOE.)

Don't lean back like that.

JOE
Norma, it's that thing. It tickles.

(NORMA pulls the feathers out of her hair and casts them aside. THEY resume dancing, closer this time.)

NORMA
Ring out the old
Ring in the new
A midnight wish
to share with you
Your lips are warm
my head is light;
were we alive
before tonight?

I don't need a crowded ballroom
everything I want is here
If you're with me
next year will be
the perfect year

(JOE is beginning to be aware what's happening; still, at the same time, HE's caught up in the intoxication of the movement.)

JOE
Before we play
some dangerous game;
before we fan
some harmless flame,
we have to ask
if this is wise
and if the game
is worth the prize.

With this wine and with this music,
how can anything be clear?
Let's wait and see
it may just be
the perfect year.

(THEY dance.)

NORMA
It's New Year's Eve
and hope are high,
Dance one year in,
kiss one good-bye.
Another chance,
another start,
so many dreams
to tease the heart.

We don't need a crowded ballroom
everything we want is here
and face to face
we will embrace
the perfect year.

We don't need a crowded ballroom
everything we want is here
and face to face
we will embrace
the perfect year.

(SHE kisses him lightly as the number comes to an end. Then, as the orchestra strikes up the next piece, THEY move off the floor to take up the glasses of champagne which MAX has poured for them. They clink glasses and drink.)

JOE
So, what time are they supposed to get here?

NORMA
Who?

JOE
The other guests.

NORMA
There are no other guests. Just you and me.

(SHE leans in to kiss him again, this time more seriously. MAX half turns away, averting his eyes.)

I'm in love with you. Surely you know that.

(JOE is terribly startled by this.)

JOE
Norma....

NORMA
We'll have a wonderful time next year. I'll have the pool filled up for you. I'll open up my house in Malibu, and you can have the whole ocean. I have enough money to buy us anything we want.

JOE
Cut out that "us" business.

NORMA
What's the matter with you?

JOE
What right do you have to take me for granted?

NORMA
What right? Do you want me to tell you?

(JOE is out of his depth now; all he can do is bluster.)

JOE
Norma, what I'm trying to say is that I'm the wrong guy for you; you need a big shot, someone with polo ponies, a Valentino...

NORMA
What you're trying to say is, you don't want me to love you. Say it! Say it!

(JOE doesn't answer; he looks away, avoiding her eye. Thus, it takes him a completely by surprise when SHE slaps his face. And, before HE can react, SHE's turned and run all the way up the stairs to vanish into her bedroom. JOE finds himself standing face to face with MAX.)

JOE
Max. Get me a taxi.

(As MAX moves towards the phone, the house moves back a way to reveal ARTIE's apartment, a modest one-room affair, packed to the rafters with carefree young people, many of whom we have already encountered at the studio and at Schwab's. Several of the GUESTS cluster around the piano and there's a BOY with a saxophone. Others help themselves to some dangerous looking alcoholic concoction from a punchbowl. The house at Sunset remains visible throughout.

As the new scene establishes itself, JOE encases himself in his vicuna coat.)

I had to get out
I needed
to be with people my own age
to hear the sound of laughter
and mix with hungry actors,
underemployed composers,
nicotine-poisoned writers,
real people,
real problems,
having a really good time.

(JOE hesitates in the doorway of the apartment, suddenly embarrassed by how overdressed HE is. Meanwhile, ARTIE hails him and pushes through the crowd to greet him.)

ARTIE
Hey, Gillis! We'd given you up.

(BETTY, by the piano, hears this and looks around, delighted to see JOE. By now, ARTIE has reached him.)

Let me take your coat.

(HE touches the coat and reacts, surprised.)

Jesus, Joe, what's this made of? Mink?

(HE's even more surprised when the coat comes off to reveal JOE's tails.)

Who did you borrow this from? Adolphe Menjou?

JOE
Close, but no cigar.

(HE gestures around the room.)

Hey! It's quite a crowd.

ARTIE
I invited all the kids doing walk-ons in "Samson and Delilah."

BETTY
Where have you been hiding? I called your apartment. I called your ex-agent. I was about to call the Bureau of Missing Persons.

JOE
Well, they always know where to find me.

(Before SHE can develop this, the BOYS and GIRLS around the piano launch into their song.)

RICHARD A
Hey, Sammy!
You gotta say your new year's
resolution out loud.
Jean!

JEAN
By this time next year
I'll have landed a juicy part

STEVE
Nineteen fifty will be my start

RICHARD T
No more carrying spears

MARY
I'll be discovered
my life won't ever be the same
Billy Wilder will know my name
and he'll call all the time

KATHERINE
'Til he does, can one of you guys
lend her a dime?

ALISA
Just an apartment
with no roaches and no dry rot

ANITA
Where the hot water comes out hot

BOTH
That's my Hollywood dream

RICHARD A.
Your resolution

JOANNA
Is to write something that get shot
with approximately the plot
I first had in my head

MYRON
But you'll get rewritten
even after you're dead.

RICHARD A.
Artie!

ARTIE
It's a year to begin a new life
Buy a place somewhere quiet,
somewhere pretty.
When you have a young kid and a wife
then you need somewhere green far from the city
It's rambling old house with a big apple tree
With a swing for the kid and a hammock for me.

(The mood is broken as a number of GIRLS, dressed as the harem from 'Samson and Delilah' burst squealing out of the kitchen followed by SAMMY, wearing jodhpurs and knee-length riding boots and carrying a megaphone. HE adjusts his spectacles and assumes the grave, patriarchal air of CECIL B. DE MILLE.)

SAMMY
Behold, my children,
it is I, Cecil B. De Mille,
Meeting me must be quite a thrill,

ADAM
But there's no need to kneel.

SAMMY
I guarantee you
every girl in my chorus line
is a genuine Philistine

SANDY
They don't come off the shelf

SAMMY
I flew everyone in from Philistia myself.

(The GIRLS dance a kind of parody Middle Eastern bump and grind.)

(Meanwhile, in the house, NORMA emerges from her room and descends the stairs, walking carefully as if holding herself together. MAX intercepts her with a glass of champagne. SHE lights a cigarette, inserts it in her holder-contraption and begins pacing up and down, listening to the orchestra with half an ear.

Back at ARTIE's apartment, BETTY is looking around for JOE, who has moved off on his own and is now sitting, pensive, in the bathroom. Eventually, SHE finds him and advances determinedly towards him.)

BETTY
I have some good news
It's "Blind Windows."

JOE
You don't let go.

BETTY
I gave Sheldrake an outline, Joe,
and he swallowed the bait.

JOE
Well, Hallelujah!

BETTY
While you've been buying vicuna coats
I've been making a lot of notes
Now there's work we should do...

JOE
Betty, you're forgetting that I gave it to you.
You remind me of me long ago
off the bus, full of ignorant ambition
Thought I'd waltz into some studio
and achieve overnight recognition.
I've seen too many optimists sinking like stones
Felt them suck all the marrow clean out of my bones.

(At the house, NORMA drifts back upstairs with her glass of champagne. MAX watches her leave, very concerned.)

BETTY
I love "Blind Windows"
but I can't write it on my own.
Can't we speak on the telephone?
All my evening are free.

ARTIE
Hey, just a minute
I'm the fellow who bought the ring.

BETTY
Artie, this is a business thing
It's important to me.
You'll be on location in Clinch, Tennessee.

(SHE turns to JOE, talking with a real intensity.)

Please make this your New Year's resolution for me.

(The CHORUS starts up again.)

ALL
By this time next year
I will get my foot in the door
Next year I know I'm going to score
an amazing success.

Cut to the moment
when they open the envelope
Pass the statuette to Bob Hope
and it's my name you hear.

We'll be down on our knees
outside Grauman's Chinese
Palm prints there on the street
Immortality's neat!
This time next year
this time next year

We'll have nothing to fear
contracts all signed
Three-picture deal
yellow brick road career.
Hope we're not still saying these things
this time next year.

(Back in the house, MAX is seized by a sudden fear. Moving with surprising speed, HE suddenly bounds up the stairs and disappears into NORMA's bedroom.)

JOE
You know, I think I will be available in the New Year.
In fact, I'm available right now.

BETTY
Joe, that's great!

(He turns to ARTIE)

JOE
Hey, Artie, where's your phone?

ARTIE
Under the bar.

JOE
Hey, Artie. You think you could put me up for a couple of weeks?

ARTIE
It's just so happens we've got a vacancy on the couch.

JOE
I'll take it.

(HE pushes across to the phone, picks it up and dials. HE has to put a finger in his ear, because some new piece of nonsense has started up in the room.

MAX comes down the stairs and hurriedly dismisses the orchestra. HE looks unprecedentely ramshackled and dishevelled. HE starts back up the stairs.

The phone rings in the house. MAX picks up the receiver.)

MAX
Yes?

JOE
Max, it's Mr. Gillis. I want you to do me a favor.

MAX
I'm sorry Mr. Gillis. I can't talk right now.

JOE
Listen, I want you to take my old suitcases...

MAX
I'm sorry, I'm attending to Madame.

JOE
What do you mean?

MAX
Madame found a razor in your room. And she's cut her wrists.

ALL
Three, two, one, Happy New Year!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear
for auld lang syne
We'll take a cup of kindness yet
for the sake of auld lang syne.

(Repeat, fading to scene change.)

(BETTY, meanwhile, has been making her way over to speak to him. SHE arrives by his side and is immediately aware something is wrong.)

(JOE stares at her as if HE's never seen her before in his life. Then, abruptly, HE hangs up and, to BETTY's total astonishment, HE pushes across the room, disrupting the cabaret, grabs his coat from the book-shelf where ARTIE has carefully stowed it, and slams out of the apartment.)

(ARTIE's apartment dissolves; now it's the house again. Presently MAX appears, supporting NORMA. Her wrists are heavily bandaged; SHE looks much older, frail and shaky. With infinite tenderness, MAX shepherds NORMA to the old sofa near the piano, out of site of the orchestra. He's made the necessary preparations beforehand and now HE drops to his knees and begins to bathe her forehead and temples with a flannel dipped in ice water.

Suddenly, JOE bursts through the front door, panting and extremely agitated. MAX rises; NORMA half sits up, glaring at JOE.)

NORMA
Go away.

JOE
What kind of silly thing was that to do?

NORMA
I'll do it again! I'll do it again! I'll do it again!

JOE
Attractive headline: "Great Star Kills Herself for Unknown Writer."

NORMA
Great stars have great pride.

(SHE turns away from him. MAX, still anxious, is moving back, melting into the background.)

You must have some girl; Why don't you go to her?

(Now JOE kneels beside NORMA and speaks to her with great gentleness.)

JOE
I never meant to hurt you, Norma, You've been good to me. You're the only person in this stinking town that's ever been good to me.

NORMA
Then why don't you say thank you and go? Go, go! Go!

(JOE goes to the stairs as if to leave, then goes to NORMA.

He sits near HER on the sofa, leans forward and kisses HER.)

JOE
Happy New Year.

(SHE reaches up and wraps her bandaged arms around his neck.)

NORMA
Happy New Year, darling.

(THEY kiss; NORMA pulls JOE down onto the sofa. Through this...)

SLOW FADE TO BLACK
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