COMPLETE SCEENPLAY, SEE: Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story. 24 scenes and a modest appraisal
On early war films Filming, faking and propaganda: The origins of the war film, 1897-1902
“Mr. Crane’s Vivid War” Scene 8: Havana, May 1898
Crane returns to Sarah’s house which is across the piazza from the prison.
Sarah: Stevie, you are back in one piece. Did you get the eggs?
Crane: Eggs? . . . (pausing) The eggs have to cook a little longer. I like my eggs hardboiled.
(Crane and Sarah stand on the deck, looking across to the prison)
Crane: That place is locked up pretty tight. I think there are more soldiers than whores. Although it is not always easy to tell the difference.
(Crane gestures to a man speaking from the government palace)
Crane: Say, Sarah. My Spanish is muchos nada. What is he telling the crowd?
[Note: some of the dialogue is from This Majestic Lie in Crane’s Wounds in the Rain collection]
Sarah: He is giving them news of the war:
“The inhabitants of Philadelphia have fled to the forests because of a Spanish bombardment and also Boston was besieged by the Apaches who have totally infested the town. The Apache artillery has proven singularly effective and an American garrison has been unable to face it. In Chicago millionaires were giving away their palaces for two or three loaves of bread.”
Crane: (laughing) The more he speaks the more they drink. (pointing to the raucous crowd) And, look at the guards; they are almost tottering (pointing to the prison)
Sarah: I told you food is scarce in Havana but wine is plentiful.
Crane: Now what.
Sarah: “The Spanish Navy has sunk every one of Admiral Dewey’s ships in Manila Bay.”
Crane: What a lot of fools. Don’t they know that Dewey sunk every single Spanish ship?
Sarah: They believe what they read in the newspapers.
Crane: And what are those two gibbering about? (pointing to two loud men)
Sarah: One says, “How unfortunate it is that we have to buy meat in Havana when so much pork is floating in Manila Bay.” The other says “Ah, wait until our soldiers get with the wives of the Americans and there will be many little Yankees to serve hot on our tables. The men of the Maine simply made our appetites good. Never mind the pork in Manila. There will be plenty.”
Crane: Ye, god. They are cackling and chuckling and insulting their own dead men. If there are poor green corpses floating in Manila Bay, they are not American corpses. Say, Sarah where are they getting this “news?” The American blockade seems to be keeping out food but not lies.
Sarah: A cable runs from Cuba to Bermuda. News is brought to Bermuda and then telegraphed to Havana.
Crane: (musing) Take me to one of those telegraph booths down on the piazza. I have a message to send.
(Crane and Sarah enter a Western Union-like telegraph office)
Crane: Tell him I want to send a telegram to the government palace. Ask him how much it costs.
Sarah: (returning) (shows Crane three fingers) Three gold pieces a word! It’s a good thing Stephen Crane is known for his pithy sentences.
(Crane and Sarah enter a booth. Crane writes out a paragraph and has Sarah translate it.)
Crane: (looking at his watch) Four minutes of two o’clock. Perfect. Let her rip, Miss Clancy.
(Sarah sends the message. Almost instantaneously a speaker addresses the crowd)
Speaker: People of Havana. Joyous news! The United States has surrendered. The war is over. Florida has been ceded to Spain!
(The crowd explodes in enthusiasm. More and more wine is drunk. Dancing erupts. The prison guards begin to join the celebration.)
(Crane looks at his watch. He takes out the handkerchief and waves it in the direction of the prison. He leaves Sarah and makes his way through the crowd. By the time he reaches the prison, the guards are drunk and swooning. He easily makes it inside and to Margharita’s cell.)
Margharita: Mr. Crane, I presume! I will say this for you Americans, very punctual. (taking a key out from inside her corset) I managed to steal this a few weeks ago. Now it is coming in handy. Mr. Crane, why are you here?
Crane: (takes out handkerchief, waves it and hands it to Margharita) I offer my unconditional surrender. Women should have the right to vote. More so, I give you my own vote for safekeeping.
Margharita: Not that you’ve ever made much use of it.
(Crane winces in mock pain and takes her by the hand. They rush through the crowd to Sarah’s boarding house.)
(They make it to Crane’s room, panting and sweating.)
Crane: (winded) Oh, what good sport! What a lark! I haven’t gone that fast since I ran the bases for the Syracuse Nine!
Margharita: (glowing) Oh, what a lark! What a lark! It was like being a schoolgirl on holiday again. No more nuns!
(She goes to Crane, takes out the handkerchief and begins to wipe the sweat from his forehead)
Margharita: Is this where Sir Arthur pulls the sword out of the stone? And offers it to his fair damsel?
Crane: (retreating slightly) (suddenly nervous) I came here to write your story not . . .not to make love to you. (Regaining his composure) Whenever I make love to a woman, she becomes alive to me but dead to the world. I don’t like writing about dead people.
Margharita: (backing off but smiling as if she had won something). Seeing as I am still alive, what is next?
Crane: We’ve got to get to the wharf as quickly as possible. You can’t go there as you are. Here (reaching for a package) is a disguise, a sailor’s costume.
(Margharita partially undresses in front of Crane, putting on the outfit and a waxed mustache)
Margharita: Perhaps I am one of those men who ruined Maggie in that book of yours.
(The make their way to the wharf where the yacht is waiting)
Crane: The yacht will take you to Mexico and from there you can sail for New York.
Margharita: Goodbye, Mr. Crane. (she extends her hand). It will take a while for the Americans to get to Cuba. What will you do until then?
Crane: Start my next novel, of course.
(Margharita boards the yacht. As it sets sail, she removes the disguise, freeing her hair which blows in the wind. She waves. Crane waves back.)