April 17, 2000



Josh Becker

"This is a true story."


STOCK SHOTS: Black and white stock newsreel shots of World War One: the trenches; Germans in spiked helmets; British soldiers wearing puttees and saucer-shaped steel helmets; French soldiers in their unique, football-style helmets; old military vehicles; wagons pulled by horses; nurses in floor-length dresses and bonnets.  A VOICE OVER NARRATOR speaks:

                                                                 V.O. NARRATOR
                                World War One; the Great War; the War to
                                End All Wars.  In 1917, after three years of
                                brutal fighting, the war has ground to a complete,
                                maddening halt.  For three years the battle-lines
                                along the western front have not moved more
                                than a few hundred yards in either direction.

STOCK SHOTS: The Russian Revolution; a group shot of Czar Nicholas 2nd, Alexandra, and the rest of the family (with the sound of a firing squad's rifle reports); Trotsky; hammers and sickles; trains painted with revolutionary murals; statues of the Czar crashing down, etc.

                                                                 V.O. NARRATOR
                                With the Russian Revolution and the fall of
                                the Czar in May of 1917, Russia surrenders
                                to Germany.  The Germans now unexpectedly
                                find themselves with thirty-four experienced
                                divisions to be moved to the western front.
                                For the first time in the entire war the Germans
                                will outnumber the battle-weary British and

STOCK SHOTS: American flags fly; parades of American soldiers marching down streets; troops ships sailing; soldiers at the ship's rails.

                                                                 V.O. NARRATOR
                                In April of 1917 the Americans declare war
                                on Germany and soon begin shipping troops
                                to France.  The French want to break up the
                                American troops to fill in the holes in their own
                                battle-lines.  The American military commander,
                                General John "Blackjack" Pershing, will not allow
                                this.  By the end of May, 1918, there have been
                                American troops sitting and waiting in France for
                                over six months . . .



An American flag snaps in the breeze over row upon row of temporary-looking, wooden barracks with black, tar-paper roofs, reposing on green grassy hills.



American troops are put through short-order drills by loud-mouth drill sergeants.  Marines stick straw-filled dummies with bayonets, crawl through the mud, climb wooden walls with full packs, practice throwing hand grenades, etc.



The barracks is filled with sleeping Marines on cots lined up along both sides of the room.  We move along the lines of sleeping Marines until we come around a wall into the Sergeant's quarters, where we find GUNNERY SGT. DAN DALY, a 44-year old, thick-necked Marine from Brooklyn, New York, lying on his cot, seemingly asleep.  There are piles of hardcover books stacked all around.  Sgt. Daly turns from lying on his back to his right side, then suddenly flips over to his left side, then returns to his back -- he's clearly having difficulty getting to sleep.  He returns to his side and slowly his breathing evens out, the lines and creases in his face ease up and he begins to fall asleep.  Just as he seems to be asleep, Daly bolts awake startled.

                                Jesus, shit!

Daly shakes his head, rubs his weary eyes and sits up.  He lights a cigarette and a candle, takes a book from one of the piles, puts on reading glasses, sighs deeply and begins to read.


STOCK SHOTS: Germans soldiers in their undershirts yank the cords which fire huge artillery pieces, while other soldiers load in more and more big shells.

                                                                 V.O. NARRATOR
                                The Germans now lay down the largest artillery
                                barrage in history and for eighteen hours completely
                                decimate a 30-mile stretch of the line.  The French
                                soldiers flee, throwing off their uniforms and getting
                                drunk on stolen wine.


It's a lovely early summer sunset casting warm rays over the rolling French countryside.  A paved road runs into the distance.  The road is jammed with REFUGEES: country folk fleeing their homes, pushing carts, carrying bundles, screaming babies.  Included among the refugees are ragged, weary, beaten FRENCH SOLDIERS: some still have helmets, some still have weapons, most are drunk, holding wine bottles.  A DRUNK FRENCH SOLDIER staggers past a WOMAN WITH A BABY.

                                                                 WOMAN WITH BABY


The drunk soldier flicks the bottom of his bearded chin with his fingers.

In the distance gunshots can be heard.  Everyone turns around, noting the sound, then quickens their pace.

An automobile stalls, blocking the road.  Horse drawn carts and the long line of people all come to a halt.  The DRIVER of the car looks at his WIFE and little DAUGHTER beside him, then gets out and cranks the starter.  It won't catch.  The mob surrounding the car grabs hold of the vehicle and begins to rock it.  The wife and daughter are thrown around until the driver gets them out of the car just as it is flipped off the road.  The mass of refugees and defeated soldiers swarm past like ants.

A German bi-plane buzzes over from the east.  It begins firing it's machine guns and dropping bombs.  The refugees dash to either side of the road, throwing themselves to the ground.

A moment later come trucks filled with German soldiers, followed by a seemingly endless double line of marching soldiers.

The refugees and the French soldiers all flee at top speed: wagons turn over, bundles are dropped, people fall down.

                                                                 V.O. NARRATOR
                                The German troops move through the hole in
                                the line and make seventy miles toward Paris,
                                the biggest movement of the entire war.  The
                                Germans are now within forty miles of Paris and
                                have the advantage for the first time since the
                                surprise of their initial attack.  They intend to
                                not only make the most of it, they now intend to
                                win the war.

STOCK SHOTS: Marching German troops, horse-drawn wagons pulling machine guns and cannons, lines of trucks.

                                                                 V.O. NARRATOR
                                And meanwhile, the Americans continue to
                                wait . . .



A TITLE READS: "6th MARINES, COMPANY 'C' - MAY 29th, 1918."

This is the same barracks and the same group of Marines we saw asleep.  CPL. MEYERS, a big, good-looking kid of twenty-three from Detroit; PFC. ARGAUT, tall, dark-haired, wiry young man of twenty from Louisiana, as well as PVT. FRENCH, a big, muscular, thirty year old Texan, and PVT. BONNER, a short, goofy-looking, nineteen year old kid are all seated at a table in their undershirts ready to play some cards.  Many guys of the 6th are getting cleaned up, preparing to go into town.  Pvt. French fancily shuffles the cards.

                                Come on, fellers, I feel lucky t'night.  Ante

They ante up.

                                Deal 'em before ya wear all the paint off 'em.

                                                           (to Meyers)
                                Lemme see that pitcher of your sister again,
                                will ya, Sam?

Meyers takes out a black & white photograph of his pretty, dark-haired sister and hands it to Bonner.

                                Don't go losin' your heart to a picture of
                                my sister, Paul.  First of all she's older'n
                                you, second, you live in Tennessee and
                                we live in Michigan, and third, you've never

                                Details.  How could she not like me?

                                Easy.  None of the rest of us do.

                                Come on!  Let's play the Goddamn cards

                                Hey, Zachio?  What're you gettin' all spiffed
                                up for?

PVT. PROVET ZACHIO, a slick, handsome, dark-haired, devilish kid of nineteen.

                                I'll let ya know if it turns out.  I hate to talk about
                                things up front and jinx 'em.

                                Good luck.


                                How 'bout you, Hebel?  Where're you goin'?

Everyone turns and looks at PVT. FRANK HEBEL who is the downbeat, secretive guy nobody can figure out.  He is twenty-one.  Hebel looks up suspiciously.

                                None of your business.

Everybody chuckles.

                                Hebel, you're a peach.

                                What about you, Matthews?

PVT. SAMUEL MATTHEWS, is movie-star handsome.  He's twenty-five.

                                If you ain't askin' officially, corporal, then
                                I say none of your damn business, too.
                                Respectfully, of course.

                                Just askin'.  Don't get sore.

All the dressed-up Marines leave the barracks in a group.

                                Stop askin' and play the Goddamn cards!

                                You just dyin' to lose your money tonight?
                                I bet a franc.

                                I raise you two!

Argaut, and Bonner all look at each other, then turn their cards over.



They all sit and look at each other for a long second, then they all shrug.

                                Aw, the hell with it, let's go get a beer.

                                                                 ARGAUT & BONNER

French is taken aback.

                                Hey!  I thought we was playin' cards?

                                Well, I guess you thought wrong.

                                Should we ask Gunny?

                                Sure. Why not?

Argaut points his thumb at the wall and raises his shoulders.

                                He's actin' kind of funny lately, y'know?

                                Whyat'dya mean?

                                Well, you know, he's always readin' all
                                those books and talkin' to himself, and,
                                I don't know, he's got an odd look on his
                                face a lot, too.  Honestly, I don't think he
                                sleeps at all anymore.

                                Hmmm . . .

Meyers obviously knows all of this.  He scratches his chin and looks at the wall.


Smoke hangs in the air.  Daly sits on his cot in his skivvies in a pool of smoky light reading a book ("The Interpretation of Dreams" by Sigmund Freud), wearing half-glasses and smoking a cigar.  There is a knock on his door.

                                Come on in.

Cpl. Meyers enters the dark, smoky room cautiously.

                                Hey, Gunny.


                                What'cha readin'?

                                It's a book about dreams.  Did you know
                                that you can figure out your state of mind
                                by what your dreams are?

                                                           (shakes his head)

Daly picks up the book and waves it around.

                                Oh yeah.  For instance, if you dream you
                                get to a crossroads, and you turn right,
                                that's good, that's the path of righteousness,
                                but if you go left, that's bad.  That's the
                                side of crime and perversion.  Y'see?


                                You ever read Nietzsche?

                                What the hell is that?

                                He was a writer, a philosopher.  He says
                                that nobody's accountable for anything,
                                morally speaking, that is.

                                                           (shakes his head)
                                Huh.  Think of that, would ya.  So, you
                                wanna come into town and get a beer?

Daly scratches his chin, looks at his book, then closes it and tosses it aside.

                                Sure, a beer sounds good.  My eyes are
                                startin' to hurt.

                                That's cause it's too dark.  You need more
                                light if you're gonna read so much.

                                Yeah, right.  Well, they should never let a
                                Marine sit around this long, anyway.  I've
                                never had six months to just sit around and
                                read before.  It can really get you to thinking,
                                and brother, that can be a real problem.

                                So let's drink beer.

                                Right.  Beer.  I'm all for it.  Let me put on
                                my trousers.

He stands with a groan and starts to get dressed.


Privates Zachio, Matthews, Hughes, Arbuckle, Gastovich, Maggione, and Swenson cross the compound all cleaned up, their hair slicked back, looking dapper in their green wool uniforms and Sam Browne belts.  Hebel follows a distance behind.  Zachio is whistling Mademoiselle From Armentieres.

PVT. CHARLES MAGGIONE, is a big, nineteen year old, Italian kid from the Bronx, asks:

                                Come on, Zachio, where ya goin'?

                                                           (shakes his head)
                                Uh-uh.  Afterward.  Maybe.

PVT. ERNEST ARBUCKLE, a thin, pimply-faced, nineteen year old kid, says:

                                I hope they got a Chaplin pitcher at the 'Y'.
                                That Charlie tickles me.

He imitates Charlie Chaplin's duck-walk and cane-swinging.

PVT. PETER GASTOVICH, a weasely, slit-eyed, grinning, twenty-two year old, says:

                                I just hope there's some skirts there.  And
                                where the hell do you disappear to, Hughes?

                                Yeah.  You got a gal hidden somewheres,

PVT. JOHN HUGHES, the smartest guy in the platoon, with a crooked grin.  He's Twenty-three.

                                                           (nods; smiles)
                                She's a vamp.  A Hungarian princess named
                                Olga.  I'd introduce you lunks, but she don't
                                speak English, and you Joes don't speak-a-da
                                Hungarian, so, what's the use?

PVT. KNUTE SWENSON, is a big, twenty year old, Swedish kid from St. Paul.

                                Hughes, you're a card.

                                That's me.  Fifty-one more and I'd be a
                                whole deck.

They all chuckle, except Hebel, of course, who lags behind and stares at the ground.  They arrive at the main gate.


The guys come walking into the quaint French town of Chaumont, with cobblestone streets and gaslights, singing The Man Who Broke the Bank At Monte Carlo. Hebel hangs behind, not singing.  There is the sound of distant artillery explosions.

                                With a rum-te-tum-te-tum/ And a rum-te-
                                tum-te-tum/ I'm the man who broke the
                                bank at Monte Carlo . . .

The distant artillery gets quite a bit louder and the guys stop singing.  Oh, right, there's a war going on not far from here.


They arrive at a church with a banner reading, "YMCA - AMERICAN SERVICEMEN WELCOME" with an American flag flying.  Soldiers go in and out.  Some of our guys head inside, others hang behind.  The laggers are: Zachio, Matthews, Hughes, and Hebel.  They all look at each other, shrug, and all head off in different directions.


Hebel walks down the street a few buildings, makes sure none of the other guys are nearby, then ducks into the alley.


Hughes walks along an empty street, then steps up in front of a little, closed bakery.  Hughes pulls the chain in front of the door ringing the bell.  A moment later the old, white-haired baker, M. LAFOLLETTE answers the door holding a candle.  He sees Hughes and smiles.

                                Ah, bon soir, M'sieur Hughes.

                                Bon soir, M'sieur LaFollette.

The old man waves Hughes in.

                                Entrez, s'il vous plait.

Hughes smiles and enters the bakery.


Zachio arrives at the Cheval Blanc Club, a rollicking nightclub for officers.  American officers, many sporting canes and walking sticks (a fad of the time), enter and exit the club talking and laughing.  Zachio watches the activity from across the street.  He lights a Sweet Caporal cigarette and waits, smoke drifting languidly from his nose.


Matthews walks along a side street with large, stone houses and pretty, old, over-hanging trees.  The rich part of town.  The whole street is asleep.  Matthews strolls casually along, a stick match in his teeth, his hands in his pockets.  He glances up and down the street -- nobody there -- then slips quickly and quietly into the thin alley between two houses.


Matthews leans against the wall, flicking his nose with the match.  Something touches his foot and startles him.  It's a cat rubbing against his ankle and purring.  Matthews puts his finger to his lips, miming "Shhh" to the cat.  Matthews looks up at the house he's leaning against and grins.  He bends down behind a garbage pail, pets the cat, then begins unlacing his high boots.


Sitting among ONE HUNDRED AMERICAN SOLDIERS are Arbuckle, Gastovich, Maggione, and Swenson.  They drink hot cocoa, smoke cigarettes, eat donuts, and sing songs led by the 'Y' MAN, a jolly, middle-aged fellow at a piano.  He leads them in Is It True What They Say About Dixie? while doing a cheesy Al Jolson imitation.  Everybody sings happily.

                                                                 'Y' MAN & CO.
                                Now is it true what they say about Dixie?/
                                Does the sun really shine all the time?/ Do
                                the sweet magnolia blossom, at everybody's
                                door?/ Do the folks keep eatin' possum, 'til
                                they can't eat no more?/ That's me . . .


Hebel steps up to the back door of the church/ YMCA.  From inside he can hear everybody singing.

                                                                 'Y' MAN & CO.
                                                           (singing; O. S.)
                                Now is it true what they say about Swanee?/
                                Is that dream by the stream so sublime?/ Do
                                they laugh, do they love, like they say in every
                                song?/ If it's true, that's where I belong . . .

Hebel looks around secretively, then goes in the back door.


Hebel hesitantly enters the kitchen of the YMCA, where several people are busily brewing up large pots of hot chocolate, coffee, and baking plenty of donuts.  Standing at one of the large sinks washing cups is MARY McBRIAN, a plain, forty year old woman, wearing a Salvation Army uniform.  She sees Hebel and smiles.

                                                           (loud voice)
                                Well, hello, Frank.  Long time no see.

For the very first time we see Hebel smile.

                                No it hasn't, you saw me yesterday.

Mary flicks soapy water at Hebel's face, hitting him.

                                I was joking, Frank.  Don't you ever make

                                                           (shakes his head)
                                No.  Uh-uh.

Mary stops washing cups and wipes her hands.  Hebel pulls out a pack of Sweet Caporals and offers her a cigarette, which she takes.

                                Merci beaucoup.

Hebel lights a match, igniting her cigarette, then his.

                                My pleasure, mademoiselle.

                                Okay, so now you make a joke.  Go on.

                                                           (shakes his head)
                                Uh-uh.  I never was much of a joker, Mary.

                                No, more the quiet type, right?
                                                           (he nods)
                                Not me.  I was always the loud one.  I was
                                captain of the debate team.  Senior.  Wheaton
                                High.  Class of '98 . . .
                                                           (looks at Hebel)
                                . . . The century hadn't turned, and you weren't
                                born yet, either.  Oh, dear . . .

They smoke for a moment in silence, although there's actually a lot of sound: dishes clattering, soldiers singing, etc.  Through the din and tumult, Mary McBrian and Frank Hebel steal an occasional glance at each other - God knows why, but they like each other.


The 'Y' Man with the help of several soldiers sets up a crank projector while other soldiers set up the screen.  Arbuckle is delighted, turning to Gastovich, Maggione, and Swenson, he says:

                                Shore hope it's-

                                -Charlie Chaplin, yeah, yeah.  We know.  He
                                tickles your funny-bone.

                                He does.  You got a problem with that, Gastovich?

                                Maybe I do.

                                You two can park that bull outside.

                                Or what?

Gastovich sticks his face into Swenson's face.  Maggione shakes his weary head.

                                Knock it off, the both of youse, why don'tcha.

Soldiers turn down the gas jets, the 'Y' Man cranks the projector and the flickers begin.  On the screen we see that is in fact a Charlie Chaplin film - The Immigrant (1917).  Arbuckle is delighted.

                                It is Charlie!  Ha!  I was right!

Arbuckle pushes Gastovich.

                                Oh, shut up already.

On the screen: The deck of an ocean liner rolls back and forth, all the immigrants aboard looking ill.  We see Charlie's rear-end, with cane in hand, hanging over the ship's rail, obviously up-chucking.  A MARINE hollers out:

                                That's the way it was!

Charlie Chaplin comes up over the rail holding a fish on a line.  It's entirely unexpected and everyone laughs, including the begrudging Gastovich.


Matthews is standing in the backyard of a nice, stone house with his boots unlaced.  He picks up a wooden rake, reaches up with it and shakes the limb of a thin tree which goes up past a second story window - tap, tap, tap - the limb hits the window.  A moment later the window is opened by an extremely cute, dark-haired, seventeen year old girl named NATALIE.  She indicates that Matthews should be even quieter upon entering the house.  Matthews smiles, takes off his boots, leaves them by the backdoor and goes in the house.  In a moment we see through the window Matthews enter Natalie's room.  They embrace, kissing hungrily.


Above the bakery a light burns in the upper window.


M. LaFollette, the baker, smokes a pipe and stares down at a chess board.  Hughes sits across from him, also smoking a pipe (somewhat awkwardly), also staring down at the board.  They both have cups of tea and plates of cake.  Hughes scarfs a big piece of cake now and then, always studying the board.  Finally, Hughes makes a move.  Mr. LaFollette slaps his head with his palm, looking distressed.  Hughes grins, gobbling another piece of cake.


Matthews' unlaced boots sit by the back door.  The cat comes along, spots the boots and begins to play with the long laces.


There are a pile of eight Sweet Caporal butts on the floor.  Coffee cups are being pushed through a window and are building up, unwashed. Mary McBrian and Frank Hebel sit on a bench ignoring the world, smoking cigarettes, drinking cups of cocoa, and talking.  They both look at their smoked-down cigarettes, then drop them to the floor.



Le Chat Noir is the enlisted man's club and sports a sign with a black cat.  American service men go in and out.  Daly, Meyers, French, Bonner and Argaut step up and enter the club.


The club is jammed with soldiers, noise and smoke.  The door swings open and in strides Daly and his Marines.  Daly has his chest out, the cigar clamped in his teeth.  Daly and his men march through the crowd, up to the bar and order beers.

Sitting at a table off to one side is an thin, wiry Army CORPORAL and a big, burly TOP KICK (which is a Top Sgt.).  The Corporal taps the Top Kick on the arm and points at Daly.

                                That's him, Top.  Gunnery Sgt. "Fighting
                                Dan" Daly.  Two Medals of Honor.  That's
                                as tough as they make 'em in the Marine

The Top Kick furrows his brow.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Why, he ain't nothin' but an old midget.  He
                                don't look too tough to me.

                                Yeah, well . . . Two medals of Honor, Top.

The Top Kick finishes his beer.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                I hear they give out Medals of Honor in
                                the Marine Corps for doin' a good job
                                scrubbin' the latrines.

The Top Kick stands up and he's huge: 6' 4", 250 pounds, a monster.

Daly and his guys are happily drinking their beers when the Top Kick and the Corporal step up.  The enormous Top Kick pokes Daly in the chest with his index finger.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                So you're Gunnery Sgt. "Fighting Dan" Daly?

                                Have we met?

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                No, but we're about to.  I hear you got two
                                Medals of Honor, zat true?

                                I cannot tell a lie, it is true.

Everybody in the vicinity begins to pay attention.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Well, you don't look so tough to me.

Daly looks up at the guy.

                                Yeah, but I bet Grizzly bears don't look
                                too tough to you, neither.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Come on, let's fight.

                                                           (shakes his head)

The Top Kick pokes Daly in the chest even harder.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                I said, let's fight!

                                And I said no.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Why not?

                                'Cause I'm 44 years old, I been in the
                                Marine Corps for nearly 20 years, and if
                                I fought every tough guy that challenged
                                me in a bar, I'd never get outta the brig.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Well, you'll just have to chance it, I guess.

                                No, I won't.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Yes, you will.

Daly's right eye and eyebrow are visibly twitching.

                                No, I won't!  No way, no how.  Not today,
                                not tomorrow, not the next day.  Got it?

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                No I don't.  I say we're fightin'!

                                Well, you're wrong.  Now just take a few
                                breaths and calm down.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                I don't wanna calm down.

                                Sure you do.

The Top Kick simply can't believe it.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Are you seriously tryin' to tell me that I
                                can't get "Fighting Dan" Daly to fight?


                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Well, what the hell happened?

                                After 44 years and about 4000 stupid fights,
                                I finally got smart.  Y'see, I won't let you turn
                                me on and off like a light bulb, is what happened.
                                I'm the one that's in control of my actions and
                                my emotions, not you.

The Top Kick is flabbergasted.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                So, you're really not gonna fight?

                                Really and truly.

Everyone chuckles and takes a drink; the tension clears.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                Well, now what'll we do?

                                Have a beer.

The Top Kick gets a beer and takes a drink.

                                                                 TOP KICK
                                So, how'd you win those two Medals of
                                Honor, anyway?


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