FULL SCREENPLAY SEE “Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story”; New and Improved
For background, see: (from War, Literature and the Arts)
Scene Seventeen: New York, late Fall 1898
(Crane is working in his studio. He is looking over the original footage from San Juan. Since they last saw each other at Pete’s Tavern, Crane and Margharita have been talking daily on the telephone. Scene 14 A boy delivers Crane a telegram.)
Boy: Mr. Stephen Crane. Telegram from Margharita Quesadas.
Crane: Thanks, boy. (looking for money in his pocket). Out of dough. Take this. It will make your heirs rich. (Crane grabs a first edition of Maggie off the shelf, signs it and give it to the boy).
Crane reads the note. “Stephen, Calixto is dead. Please come to my apartment on Grove Street. Maggie”(Crane goes to Margharita’s apartment. Margharita is crying.)
Crane: (holding her) Dear, Maggie. I am so sorry. What happened?
Margharita: Calixto was found dead in his Siboney beach house. At his side was a machete.
Crane: A machete! Assassinated. Villains! It must have been an embittered cowardly Penisular [the white upper class Spanish who settled in Cuba]. Oh, Maggie, I am so sorry.
Margharita: (sobbing) Stephen, it gets worse. The police are claiming it was self-inflicted. There was no sign of a break in or a struggle. And it was in a hidden room that only a few family members knew existed. And they are saying family, friends and even his soldiers said Calixto had been acting despondent. Saying strange and desperate things.
Crane: But how can a man kill himself with a machete?
(Margharita gives a pained, horrified look)
Crane: My dear, I shouldn’t have said that. Margharita, I am thankful you asked me to be here. These weeks when he have been talking so much on the telephone, it feels like we have grown close. We talk about everything. Books, ideas, life. We write down our dreams and nightmares and retell them in the morning. And you have almost made me an anarchist if not a Bryanite Democrat.
Margharita (nodding): But hardly anything about Cora.
Crane: Nor much really about Calixto.
Margharita: (composing herself) You know I love Calixto with all my heart. He is the father of our revolution. Without him, Cuba would still be in total bondage. Calixto and I have been lovers but I was never his mistress. Calixto taught me to be my own woman. Independent like one day Cuba will be. Our cause will go on and our lives will go on.
Crane: I know you did and I know you are.
Margharita: Stephen, I have an idea and something I will hope you will do for me.
Crane: If I can.
Margharita: I want you to use your cinematic genius to help our cause. I want you to make a movie about the real story of the war. About how it was the Cuban freedom fighters who defeated the Spanish. And how the world must let Cuba be free.
Crane: (suppressing an inward astonished laugh) But Maggie, I am already working on one film. We can do yours next. Hmm, we’ll call it Birth of a Nation. Birth of the Cuban Nation.
[Birth of a Nation (1915) by W.D. Griffiths is considered the first full length film. Under President Woodrow Wilson, it was the first American motion picture to be screened at the White House. The film depicts its black characters as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women. The Klu Klux Klan is portrayed as a heroic force.]
Margharita: I have often doubted if you are sincere in your love for Cuba. Why, in your writings you have called our soldiers “tatterdemalions.” And you were once quoted in an interview saying, “The Cubans themselves are the worst thing possible for the cause of an independent Cuba that could possibly exist.” [from newspaper interview “The Red Badge of Courage Was His Wig-Wag Flag”]
Crane: (trying to be light) Oh, that tatterdemalion was just a poetic device. I needed something to rhyme with “medallion.” And that reporter completely mangled what I said.
Anyway, what do I know about politics? And that was before I met you. Listen, I promise we’ll do Birth of a Nation later. And, didn’t I show compassion for the Cuban cause in The Clan of No-Name ?
Margharita: (crying again) Yes, but Manolo had his head cut off with a machete. Scene 12
Crane: Ah, stupid me again for mentioning “Clan.”
Maggie, you see, a strange, unexpected and now coincidental thing happened today. Two black troopers I knew from Cuba, Pullen and Young, came to the set today. The oddest thing. Came right out of the blue. They want me to radically alter The Rough Riders. They want the movie to be about how it was the Buffalo Soldiers who really captured San Juan. And saved Roosevelt’s Anglo-Saxon ass. Scene 11
Margarita: Are you going to do it?
Crane: How can I? Its unthinkable. The movie is nearing completion. It would simply be impossible.
But then I looked at old Vitagraph footage. We actually caught Roosevelt falling off his horse and breaking his glasses. And when the black troopers devastated the Spanish counterattack. But I couldn’t decide.
But when I got that telegram and on the walk over here, I decided. I am doing it. If you want me to.
Margharita (glowing): Mr. Crane, are you only doing this so you can make love to me?
Margharita: (startled) Yes? But why.
And because when I charged up San Juan by myself, I was thinking of you. Scene 11 I was thinking I wanted you to read about in the Times and be proud. Who would not risk his life for a star? [quoting Roosevelt] Scene 16
Margharita: (glowing and laughing). I did read those reports and thought to myself, what a reckless fool is Mr. Stephen Crane. But I am glad my star was not shot down.
Crane: (taking her around the waist and whispering in her ear): I
Crane: You. I. I want.
Margharita: I? You want?
Crane: You. I want to.
Margharita: You? I. You want to?
Crane: I want to be.
Margharita: To be?
Crane: To be inside you.
Margharita: To be inside me.
(Margharita steps to the light switch and turns it off.)