For background, see: (from War, Literature and the Arts)
Scene Nineteen: New York, early winter 1898
(In the week after Margharita has left for Spain, Crane works in his studio non stop to finished the movie. Finally, he is done. That afternoon, he calls Cora in their Greenwich Village apartment.)
Crane: Cora, let you be the first—and hardly the last—to know that Mr. Stephen Crane has finished the first American moving picture. Introducing Black and Blue on San Juan Hill. I’ll be back for dinner and a movie.
Cora: Oh, Stephen, may I be the first—and hardly the last—to congratulate America’s first film maker. What shall I make?
Crane: How about:
The variety of dishes was of course related to the markets of Havana, but the abundance and general profligacy was related only to Johnnie’s imagination. Our fancies fled in confusion before this puzzling luxury. And if the dinner itself put me to open-eyed amazement, the names of the wines finished everything. Seeing my fixed stare, he spoke with affected languor: “I wish peacocks’ brains and melted pearls were to be had here in Havana
And Spanish wine.
Cora: That sounds suspiciously lifted from “This Majestic Lie”
Crane: Life imitating art.
Cora: That’s assuming Johnnie wasn’t fantasizing that he ate that meal.
Crane: Let the critics decide.
(Crane arrives at home. Before dinner, he opens a bottle of Spanish wine and they sit on the couch.)
Crane: I now we haven’t seen much of each other since I’ve been working on the film. I’m sorry. Scene 5: New York, February 1898
Cora: You had no choice. I remember when you were writing Red Badge and we could barely get you to leave your study. Even how you bought all those tin toy soldiers and set them up on your writing table pretending it was Chancellorsville.
(Cora goes to a desk and takes out an old box containing the toy soldiers)
Crane: You still have them!
Cora: Someday they will be collector’s items. They will pay for our children to go to Syracuse.
Crane: Hope they stay longer than my single semester.
I’ve realized there’s a lot I haven’t yet told you about Cuba.
Do you know who I ran into? Sarah Clancy, my old babysitter in New Jersey. She actually runs a boarding house in Havana. Remember her? Scene 7
Cora: How could I forget? You drove poor Sarah mad with your pranks. Always coming home from your games with bandages and hobbling on crutches. How is she?
Crane: Not so good when I saw her. She’s a widow now without much money. And food was very scarce because of the American blockade. All she had was codfish salad. And I wanted scrambled eggs. I gave her all I could with the funds Hearst gave me.
Cora: Always the gentleman, Stephen.
Crane: Yes, but later I went out to order eggs at a restaurant. I paid fifty dollars gold. And didn’t even get my eggs. Those treacherous Spaniards.
Cora: Wait, isn’t that what happened to Johnnie in “This Majestic Lie” ?
Crane: Alas, it happened in real life too.
Cora: Just like Crane to pay a king’s ransom and have nothing to show for it.
(Crane shrugs wistfully)
Crane: Cora, before the San Juan battle, Teddy, Norris, Davis and myself made a pact that the others would personally contact the loved ones of anyone who didn’t make. I told them, of course, to go to you.
Cora: What about the others?
Crane: Well, Teddy said his deceased wife Alice. Dick said his mother Rebecca. And Frank said Blix.
Crane: What so funny about a death pact?
Cora: Oh, Stephen. Norris and Blix? He met that girl through a matchmaking ad in the San Francisco Examiner. They had one date at Fisherman’s Wharf. She dumped him as she would throw a smelly codfish into the San Francisco Bay. She told me he’s weird. He has a strange fetish for collecting glass eyeballs.
Crane: Hmm, how did I miss that about him? What about Davis?
Cora: Stevie, his mother? His mother the better novelist than he’ll ever be. Why exactly is Dick unmarried? And dresses like a dandy. My goodness, he’s been the model for the “Gibson Man.”
Crane: Hmm, well, Dick did keep his toilet impeccably well in his tent. What about Teddy?
Cora: God rest her soul, but Alice died 14 years ago. It’s time for Theodore to move on. Yet he seems to spend all his free time “roughing it” with his cowboy friends on ranches out west. Not quite so alone on the range.
Crane: I thought I am the great novelist. Seems you are the perceptive one.
Cora, um, what’s it like being married to me? I mean I can be unconventional and eccentric.
Cora: I’d think you should know by now. We began dating in high school.
Crane: Yes, remember our first kiss at the Asbury Park Beach amusement park? And how I won you that prize in the baseball throwing game. That big, uh, teddy bear.
Cora: It wasn’t a teddy bear.
Crane: No, you’re right. That, um, stuffed Chesire cat.(Cora nods no) That cute pug dog?
Cora: It was a candle holder shaped like a cobra.
Crane: err, how could I have forgotten?
Cora: When I signed on to be Mr. Stephen Crane’s wife I knew what I was buying. And I am not exactly so conventional myself. Remember last year when I accompanied you to Greece for the Greco-Turkish War. And even wrote some accounts myself. Didn’t the newspapers call me the world’s first female war correspondent?
Crane: They did indeed. And remember that midnight at the Acropolis?
Cora: You were my very Zeus that night under the moon.
Crane: Indeed my lightning struck Daphne.
Cora: I know you live most of your life in your imagination. And always wanting to experience. To experience and experience. Your paradise is to love many things with a passion. But as platitudinous as it sounds, I am also your strength. Your reality. Remember, before you struck it rich with Red Badge, when Maggie didn’t sell and we had to burn the manuscripts to keep warm in winter in our cold water flat. You wanted to quit. To lay down your pen.
Crane: But you wouldn’t let me. Cora, when I charged up that damn San Juan Hill by myself, I was thinking about you. I guess I wanted to make you proud.
Cora: I know you were thinking about many things on that hill. And I know I was one of them. And you did make me proud, you reckless fool.
Crane: (coughing) Cora, I am worried about my health. It’s never been good and it seems to be worse since I got back from Cuba. I hope it’s nothing serious.
I always thought I wouldn’t make it to 35. Now I am worried I won’t make it to 30.
Hah, you may need a new husband . . . (brightening up) But you’ll never find someone as fun and charming as Mr. Stephen Crane.
Cora: Hmm, you are probably right. I guess it will have to be Norris.
Crane: Norris! You just said he was weird!
Cora: A glass eye ball fetish is rather intriguing. Wonder in what places he puts that eyeball.
Crane: Not Davis then?
Cora: Well, Dick is very rich. And very successful. And a very pretty boy. And dresses so dapper and keeps such an impeccable toilet. I’ll just keep a Cuban cabano boy on the side.
Crane: Not “fruity” Teddy of course.
Cora: I was just saying that about him to be nice to you. He’s really quite an impressive, strong man. I think he will be President someday.
Crane: (coughing) But what about children? We haven’t talked enough about that?
Cora: There’s time for that if it’s what we both want. If you just take care of yourself. You are not even 29 yet and I am only 25. Don’t worry about the future yet.
Crane: Yes, yes. You are right. I don’t know exactly what kind of father I’d make. But we’ll bring back Sarah from Cuba to help. If she could corral this Crane, she could do the same for his sons.
Cora: Let’s eat our feast and our drink our Spanish wine. And watch your movie.
(Crane set up the projector and begins the movie.)
Cora: I like the first scene. The Rough Riders training in Tampa Bay before crossing to Cuba. Stephen, you’ve captured the bucking movement of the horses. Their wildness. Being tamed by wild men themselves. Hmm, but that one shot seems a bit off. The lasso maybe too far in the background. A deep focus angle might be better.
Crane: You mind reader. I agonized over that shot. We did it over a dozen times. I just couldn’t get it right. I had to accept imperfection.
(They continue watching until the parts where Crane has interspliced the acted scene with real footage of the black troopers)
Cora: The cinematography is stunning. And the mixing of the real and the “fake” is mesmerizing. And the black and blue clashing. And it’s emotionally powerful. But I am not sure yet. I just can’t judge. I don’t yet know what to think.
Crane: Neither do I. Tomorrow night I’ve invited all the writers and newspapermen who were down in Cuba. Norris, Davis, Bonsal, Marshall and the others. I’ve rented out the back area at Pete’s Tavern. I want to see what they think.
Cora: What about Roosevelt?
Crane: He’s in Washington. I have two copies and I’ve sent him one. McKinley’s travelling and I guess Roosevelt has access to the White House. He’s going to watch it there.
Cora: There’s one more thing I wanted to say. I am also worried about your health. Let’s get away from New York. Let’s go to Europe. First the countryside of England. The quiet will do you good. Then to a sanitorium in Baden Baden or Ravensbrook, Germany. Maybe to Spain where the weather is so good.
Crane: To Spain?
Cora: Or Portugal. Or the Canary Islands.
Crane: I am glad you brought it up. Yes, yes, it is something we must consider. (coughing)
Cora: Time to get you to bed.
Crane: Yes, ma’m. I mean, yes, Mrs. Sarah Clancy.