ENTIRE SCREEN PLAY, SEE Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story: New and Improved
On early war films Filming, faking and propaganda: The origins of the war film, 1897-1902
“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” Scene 5 New York, February 1898
Cora (his wife) enters the room: Stevie, it’s the reporters from the Times. They want to interview you.
Crane: I wish they would go away. It will be nothing but The Red Badge of Courage ad nauseum and ad absurdum.
Cora: But Stevie, they pay well.
Crane: (grinning) Ah, filthy lucre. As far as I can tell, money is nothing but almost entirely useless scraps of paper. My mother always taught me to eat plenty of greens. So one day I swallowed a five-dollar bill. It gave me a fit of diarrhea. Next time I will use a ten-dollar bill to wipe my arse
The reporters enter.
Reporter: Mr. Crane, we are here to congratulate you on the latest printing of The Red Badge of Courage. It is now the best selling novel of our time.
Crane: That’s fine with me. As long as school marms don’t get hold of it and teach it to their prisoners. That will be the end of my good name.
Reporter: Critics have marveled at how vividly you captured the reality of war in your novel. But how could you write about war if you’d never experienced it? How could you know it was true?
Crane: I can safely say that fielding endless questions from the critics is equivalent to being on the very front of the firing-lines. Only worse. There is no chance you will be killed and put out of your misery. To answer your question. I have read your paper every day for ten years. Doing so has taught me how to perfect the art of fabrication.
Reporter: They are now calling you the American Tolstoy? What do you think of that?
Crane: I had heard that in Moscow they are now calling Tolstoy the Russian Crane.
Reporter: What will be your next novel?
Crane: I don’t know. I suppose I will have to have an experience. (softly) Yet I am not yet thirty and feel as if I have lived a thousand men’s lives . . .
Suddenly a newsboy bursts into the room
Reporters: Good God! (They get up to leave). Crane, what is your comment?
Crane: It is sure to be war. We haven’t had a good one in a long time.
The Reporters leave.
Crane: Gentlemen, haven’t you forgotten something?
Reporter: The check will be in the mail . . .
Crane stands silent for a moment then goes to the telephone.
Crane (after dialing): Hello Pulitzer. Its Crane. The Margharita Quesados case, the one you have been bleating about for weeks. What about it? I am going to Cuba to rescue her and write her story. So save space on the front page. And from there I am going to see the war. What’s that? Yes, yes. That old Red Badge of Courage thing. I want to know, once and for all, if I got it all right.