A Scene from The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
INT. DINING ROOM – CLOSEUP – JOHN – NIGHT
MUSIC : O.S. VIOLINS CONTINUE, plangent and unobtrusive.
John is sitting at a dinner table still looking around. The room is lit by candles. CAMERA PULLS BACK TO INCLUDE Percy and Mrs. Washington, who looks at her son with reserved affection. Percy finishes eating.
John, would you like some port?
(he’s obviously not had any before)
Sure, Percy, why not?
He smiles at Percy as if they were getting away with something. Percy ignores it.
Two black liveried servants appear and pour from exquisite decanters. Then Mrs. Washington rises, as do Percy and John.
Bring it with you. I want you to meet my father.
INT. LIBRARY -FIREPLACE – NIGHT
SOUND ON CUT: — CRASH OF LOG IN FIRE, HEIGHTENED. A huge log is thrown on a roaring crackling fire, in a walk-in fireplace ten feet wide and ten feet tall. CAMERA PULKS BACK TO INCLUDE the imposing form of MR. BRADDOCK WASHINGTON standing dead center in front of the fireplace, outlined by flames. He stands, warming his back, his legs astride. He is dressed, as always, in black. He is tall, solid, aristocratic, a man in his late 40’s with glowing white hair, growing mane-like from his head. He looks like God’s brother. His voice is like a bass bell, his accent is slightly Virginia.
Good evening, Mr. Unger.
INT. LIBRARY – ANOTHER ANGLE – NIGHT
The texture of the library is dark panelling, gold molding books, and fur.
John goes up to Mr. Washington and shakes his hand.
There is a small courtly bow, which John returns.
Thank you, sir, it’s my pleasure to be here.
And I won’t make a joke about your being from Hades, Maryland. I’m sure you’ve heard them all.
He has, father.
Welcome home, Percy.
Thank you, sir.
They shake hands. Mr. Washington then goes over to a chair where Mrs. Washington is standing.
Jasmine, this is Mr. John Unger.
INT. LIBRARY – FEATURE JASMINE – NIGHT
JASMINE is a flowery-faced girl of 22, at the moment sitting in a very large ostrich-plumed chair, framed exactly by her mother and father. She dresses in pastels, with braided jewels in her hair. She is a real American Princess, spoiled, rather self-centered, with a will of spun webs and cat-gut.
John ENTERS the FRAME and Jasmine rises and goes to him. She reaches out her hand and curtsies. Then, slowly, she looks up at John, and gives a glance of friendly but impervious security.
(with humorous exaggeration)
How do you do, John Ungaar? — I know someone from Maryland. — Do you know the Stuart’s from Baltimore?
No, I don’t think so.
They exchange a cool smile. She is a little older, and therefore imperious.
INT. LIBRARY – ANOTHER ANGLE – NIGHT
You’ll meet my other daughter tomorrow. She’s not quite of age and retires early. —
Please, have a chair.
They all sit down around the fire and drink their port.
It’s a long trip, but worthwhile once you’re here, wouldn’t you agree?
Yes, sir, I would. — I’m looking forward to seeing everything — even though Percy was telling me that all of this really doesn’t exist.
He did? — Well, I think that’s going too far. It surely exists — But not on maps.
Oh. — Well, it’s the most — incredible place I’ve ever seen.
Where did it come from?
My father started it. We’re completing it, and there’s no reason it can’t go on forever.
Then you all planned everything?
It’s wonderful — !
Well, not everything —
He stifles a guffaw.
You must have had a brilliant architect — .
There is a moment’s silence; then the entire family starts to laugh, except Mrs. Washington, who smiles.
You’ve unearthed a family secret, Mr. Unger. Tell him, Percy.
Well, you won’t believe this, but Father consulted the best architects, designers, and landscape gardeners in the world. None of them were up for the job.
Who did you get?
It was a moving-picture fella. He was the only man we found who was used to playing with an unlimited amount of money, even though he couldn’t read or write, and tucked his napkin in his collar.
The family remembers him with a smile.
And none of this is on maps?
It’s never been surveyed.
Percy and his father exchange a look.
They’ve tried. The first time, my grandfather corrupted a whole department of the state survey; the second time we had the official maps of the U.S. redrawn.
You mean you’ve just hidden it?
Yes; the last time, Father fixed those fellas’ compasses in the strongest artificial magnetic field ever set up, deflected a river, and built a village, so they’d see it and think they were ten miles up the valley.
What about aeroplanes?
The whole family looks at John. Mr. Washington smiles pleasantly, and deftly changes the subject.
We’ve arranged it so far, Mr. Unger.
Yes, we certainly have — !
Jasmine shoots a look at her mother, but is silent.
John, there’s a lot to understand about this place. We have a great feeling for our privacy.
I can see that — .
We’ll explain everything after a good night’s sleep.
He finishes his port, and sinks back in his chair, delighted with being there.
I’m not very sleepy all of a sudden — .
Well, I’m afraid I am — if you’ll excuse us, Mother.
Mrs. Washington nods her approval. Percy and John get up.
Good night, Mr. Unger. Sleep well.
Good night, ma’am. Good night, Jasmine. Mr. Washington.
John leaves. Mr. Washington and Percy exchange a look. Mr. Washington is very pleased with his son.
INT. ROOMS – TRACKING – NIGHT
Percy and John walk up to a magnificent curving staircase.
Your room is the fifth door on the right —
Hey, Percy, your father does have it, doesn’t he?
Has what, John?
John imitates his formal tone.
‘Has what, John?’ You know damn well what — the diamond as big as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Of course. Didn’t I tell you?
See you tomorrow.
Percy smiles as he goes off and waves good night.
INT. JOHN’S BEDROOM – FEATURE JOHN – DAY
John’s face, asleep, is surrounded by silk, lace and satin. He breathes quietly.
Suddenly, O.S. there is a giggle.
John’s eyes blink open. He tries to remember where he is, and looks around. Then he sits bolt upright in bed. We SEE he is wearing a lavish silk night shirt.
INT. JOHN’S BEDROOM – FEATURE KISMINE – DAY
At the foot of his bed, clinging to a four-poster, is KISMINE, laughing quietly now and watching John with great interest. She is almost 16, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and alabaster skin. She is spirit-like, but with the intensity and energy level of any highly-bred female animal. She dresses in white, either long dress, or flowing diaphonous waves of crepe de chin. She is a vision.
She giggles again: tintinabulation.
Then with the alacrity of an alarmed doe, she springs across the room, having heard a noise.
I’m Kismine. — I’m not supposed to be here — but I love to look at new people.
I’m John Unger, from Hades, Maryland — .
She looks at him with naked curiosity, then apparently hears something.
I have to go now —
She smiles once more and then is gone.
John starts out of bed, but then realizes how he’s dressed. He looks around his opulent room. The only things not immaculate in it are his crumby suitcases. He picks them up and puts them under his bed. Then he goes to the window.
INT – JOHN’S ROOM – JOHN’S P.O.V. – DAY
Outside is a VIEW of the mountain range that surrounds the valley. There are several mountains about the size of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.