"TEDDY ROOSEVELT IN THE BAD LANDS"

By

Josh Becker

3-12-97

A TITLE READS: "This is darn near a true story . . . "

EXT. THE BAD LANDS - DAY

A great herd of buffalo, numbering about a thousand head, roams the primordial landscape of the Bad Lands in North Dakota.  The bison are big, shaggy, mean-looking creatures, chewing their cuds, foam dripping from their mouths.  A nameless COWBOY on a horse appears on the horizon.  The cowboy pulls a rifle out of a holster and rides out among the buffalo.  Galloping full speed down a hill, the cowboy rides right into the giant mass of bison, causing a stampede.  The cowboy rides beside a specific buffalo, puts the horse's reins in his teeth, cocks his Winchester repeater rifle and shoots the running buffalo - BANG! - he quickly cocks and shoots again - BANG! . . .

INT. THE NEW YORK LEGISLATURE - DAY

. . . BANG! BANG! BANG!  A gavel beats down on a desk.

A TITLE READS: "New York Legislature, Albany, 1884."

This is an enormous room with a vaulted ceiling, polished wooden benches, and a hundred whiskered politicians smoking cigars.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT - twenty-five years old, slim, five-eight, with a wispy, drooping mustache, hair parted just off-center, and eyeglasses perched on his nose - is daydreaming in his seat, a book about buffalo hunting with line drawings sits before him.  Teddy jumps to his feet, waving his hand.  He has a very forecful manner of speech.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Mr. Speaker!  The Assemblyman from
                                Manhattan wishes to be heard.

The gray-bearded, elderly SPEAKER of the house, seated on the dais, looks up wearily.

                                                                 SPEAKER
                                And what, per chance, is on your mind
                                now, Mr. Roosevelt?  I've barely taken
                                my seat.

There is a collective chuckle from the audience.  Teddy is undeterred.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (passionately)
                                But children as young as eight and nine years
                                old are locked up in airless rooms for fifteen
                                to eighteen hours a day, day in and day out,
                                six and seven days a week, rolling cigars for
                                mere pennies!  This is an abomination!  It's
                                legal slavery!  And it must be stopped!

A whiskered, older POLITICIAN rises to his feet.

                                                                 POLITICIAN
                                And what, Mr. Roosevelt, do you actually
                                know of these children?  Have you seen
                                them?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                I have, sir.  It was one of the saddest
                                sights I have ever laid eyes on.

                                                                 POLITICIAN
                                Indeed?  And you feel that the employed
                                chidren in our poor areas are worse off than
                                the unemployed children?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                What are you driving at, sir?

                                                                 POLITICIAN
                                That you know not of what you speak,
                                sir.  The children rolling cigars have a
                                job, money for food, shelter and clothing,
                                and are off the city streets.  We should be
                                far more concerned for the homeless and
                                unemployed children first.  You undoubt-
                                edly know nothing of these children, Mr.
                                Roosevelt, having grown up as one of the
                                wealthy elite, without a monetary care in
                                the world.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (angry)
                                But I do know exploitation when I see it.

                                                                 POLITICIAN
                                Do you?  And so you would take the job
                                of rolling cigars away from these needy
                                children?  And then how will they eat?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                I'm saying that these children should be
                                paid a fair wage, that's all.

                                                                 POLITICIAN
                                If they were paid, as you say, a fair wage,
                                they wouldn't get these jobs.  Adults would
                                get them.  You are so eager to pass laws,
                                Mr. Roosevelt, that you are not willing to
                                foresee the possible ramifications of what
                                these laws will bring.  I rolled cigars in my
                                youth and it did me no harm.  And I was
                                paid less than these children are paid now.
                                Did you have a paying job in your youth?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                I don't believe that that is the issue.

                                                                 POLITICIAN
                                I'd say it is.  And I would say further that
                                it is wrong for a rich man who has never
                                faced any real hardship in his life to take
                                the food out of poor children's mouths to
                                further his political career.


                                                                 TEDDY
                                I take grave offense at that accusation,
                                sir.  Because I come from a wealthy
                                family does not mean that I have never
                                faced any hardships in my life.

                                                                 POLITICIAN
                                Doesn't it?

                                The Speaker bangs his gavel.

                                                                 SPEAKER
                                All right, enough.  Mr. Roosevelt, please
                                sit down.  Obviously, you did not think
                                your bill through.
                                                           (he lights a cigar)
                                All right.  Moving on.  The next subject
                                up for debate is . . .

Teddy sits down looking dejected.

                                                                                                       DISSOLVE:

INT. TEDDY'S APARTMENT IN ALBANY - DAY

Teddy's apartment is huge (as are all Roosevelt homes).  There are stuffed birds all around.  There is a boxing ring set up in the center of his living room.  Two other men with side whiskers are seated in plush chairs holding newspapers, coffee, and cigars.  They are HENRY CABOT LODGE and ISAAC HUNT.  Teddy strides between them wearing what looks like a Union suit (a one-piece long underwear outfit) with high lace-up boots and pulling on the smaller boxing gloves of that era.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                We must stop the nomination of James G.
                                Blaine, gentlemen, that is a certainty.

Henry Cabot Lodge speaks up.

                                                                 LODGE
                                But how?


                                                                 TEDDY
                                I'm not sure how, but the Republicans must
                                come up with someone else.  Mr. Chester A.
                                Arthur is not our man, nor will he even run.
                                Nor would we want him even if he would.
                                Therefore, we must get someone else to throw
                                in the path of Mr. James G. Blaine.

                                                                 HUNT
                                Senator Edmunds?

They all grunt, highly unimpressed.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                He's better than Blaine.

A BUTLER appears in the doorway.

                                                                 BUTLER
                                There is a Mr. John L. Sullivan to see you,
                                sir.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Ah!  Show him in.

Lodge and Hunt look very impressed.

                                                                 LODGE
                                The great John L.?  Here?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                The champion himself.  He's fighting here
                                in Albany tomorrow.

A big man with waxed, handlebar mustaches steps into the room.  He is the great boxer, JOHN L. SULLIVAN.  He has an Irish accent and carries a small valise.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Mr. Roosevelt?

Teddy strides up to the big man, grinning a toothy grin, and shakes his hand profusely.


                                                                 TEDDY
                                Mr. Sullivan, a great pleasure.  I've seen
                                you fight many times.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Aye, have ya now?  And seein' me fight
                                made ya think ya wanted to get in the ring
                                with me, eh?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (grinning)
                                As long as we both know we're sparring,
                                Mr. Sullivan, I think I'll be all right.  A
                                great boxer doesn't waste knockout punches
                                on sparring partners.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                                           (nods)
                                Aye, ain't that the truth.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Mr. Sullivan, may I introduce Mr. Henry
                                Cabot Lodge and Mr. Isaac Hunt.

John L. nods his head, impressed.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Well now, I've heard a great deal about
                                both of you gentlemen.

                                                                 LODGE
                                And we of you, sir.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Where can I change me duds, then?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (points)
                                Down the hall, the butler will show you.

Sullivan nods and takes his leave.  Teddy turns to his awe-struck friends.


                                                                 LODGE
                                So you're sparring with the World Champion
                                now, is that it?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Who better to learn from, I ask you?

Teddy throws several punches at the air, ducking and swaying.  Lodge and Hunt shake their heads in amazement.

INT. TEDDY'S APARTMENT - A LITTLE LATER

Teddy and John L. Sullivan spar in the make-shift boxing ring.  Henry Cabot Lodge and Isaac Hunt watch with rapt attention.  Sullivan is huge and rather flat-footed; Teddy is a veritable fighting cock, bouncing around with energy and fancy footwork.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                You box well, Mr. Roosevelt.  Very fancy.
                                You find boxing helps in your political car-
                                eer, then?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                It certainly doesn't hurt.
                                                           (to Henry Cabot Lodge)
                                Henry, why don't you run for president?
                                We could use an intellect in the white house.

                                                                 LODGE
                                Everyone detests me, Teddy, I'd never win.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                But that doesn't mean you can't run.

                                                                 LODGE
                                                           (shakes his head)
                                Bosh!

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                You jump around very nice, but can ya
                                take a punch?  Or throw one, for that matter?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Now Mr. Sullivan, you don't want to hurt
                                me, do you?

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                                           (smiles)
                                No, but I would like to work up a sweat.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (to Lodge and Hunt)
                                It's a shame, gentlemen, that we live in a time
                                when instead of endorsing a candidate, we
                                are merely blocking another.

                                                                 LODGE
                                One deals with the times at hand, Teddy.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Isn't that the truth.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                I'll tell ya what we'll do, then, Mr. Roosevelt,
                                you throw the hardest punch you can, but
                                I won't punch ya back.  I'll just block.  OK?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                All right.

Teddy starts to throw hard punches, but Sullivan deftly blocks them all.  In a fancy flurry of combinations Teddy actually manages to land a glove on Sullivan's chin, snapping his head back -- WHACK!  Sullivan shakes his head and grins.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Aye, so you can throw a punch then, eh?  All
                                right, that first deal's off. I don't need my
                                head knocked off before a big fight.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                All right, Mr. Sullivan, now I'll tell you what.
                                I'll keep punching as hard as I can, and now
                                you punch as hard as you can, too.  I want to
                                see how long I can last.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Do you now?  Tired of living, are you?


                                                                 TEDDY
                                Not at all.  Just curious.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                We all know what that did to the cat.

John L. Sullivan starts to throw punches - big hard jabs.  Teddy blocks any number of them before one connects with his gut, doubling him over, then an uppercut straightens him up and sends him sailing over onto his butt.  Sullivan puts his gloves to his hips and looms over Teddy, shaking his head.  Lodge and Hunt run over to see if Teddy's all right.  He blinks his eyes and shakes his spinning head.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Your curiosity satisfied now, Mr. Roosevelt?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (confused)
                                Curiosity about what?

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                About how long you could last, remember?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (nods)
                                Ah yes.
                                                           (he unsteadily
                                                           rises to his feet)
                                The answer is: not long.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                You want to keep going?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                I'm not sure.  That hurt.

Teddy rubs his head.  Lodge and Hunt exchange an interested look.

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Take my advice then.  Keep going.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (nods)
                                All right.
                                                           (raises his fists)
                                Let's go another round, shall we?

                                                                 SULLIVAN
                                Indeed we shall.

Sullivan raises his fists and the fight continues . . .

                                                                                                       DISSOLVE:

EXT. ROOSEVELT FAMILY HOME/ MANHATTAN - DAY

A horse-drawn carriage pulls up in front of a large, ornate mansion.  Dirty snow lines the sidewalks and street.

A TITLE READS: "The Roosevelt family home, 6 West 57th Street, Manhattan, 1884."

Teddy gets out of the carriage holding a leather briefcase and goes inside the house.

INT. ROOSEVELT FAMILY HOME - DAY

A BUTLER steps up and takes Teddy's hat, coat and briefcase.

                                                                 BUTLER
                                Welcome home, mister Roosevelt.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Thank you, Harold.  Where is my wife?

                                                                 BUTLER
                                In bed, sir.

A short, plain, slightly hunchbacked woman of twenty-seven - ANNA (BAMIE) ROOSEVELT
- enters the foyer, sees Teddy, smiles and hugs him.

                                                                 BAMIE
                                Teddy.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Bamie.  How's Alice?

                                                                 BAMIE
                                All right.  First pregnancies have a ten-
                                dency to be difficult, not that I'd know
                                personally.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (nods)
                                How's Mother?

                                                                 BAMIE
                                                           (shrugs)
                                Not well.  You know, it's her usual winter
                                illness.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                That's not nice.

                                                                 BAMIE
                                I'm here all the time, Teddy.  You're gone
                                quite a lot.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                When the Legislature is in session, I must
                                attend.  That's my job.  So, Mother is no
                                worse than usual is what you're saying?

They put their arms around each other and walk up the large staircase.

                                                                 BAMIE
                                The same.  Since Papa died she just mopes
                                around.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Since Papa died some part of me just wants
                                to mope around, too.  There's an emptiness
                                in this big old house.
                                                           (Bamie nods; Teddy smiles)
                                Once Mother has a baby to play with I think
                                she'll perk right up.

                                                                 BAMIE
                                                           (smiles and nods)
                                I'm sure you're right.

Teddy opens a bedroom door and goes inside.

INT. ALICE'S BEDROOM - DAY

ALICE ROOSEVELT is a pretty, blonde, twenty-four year old that is eight months pregnant.  Alice lies in bed.  Teddy goes to her, hugs her and kisses her.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Alice, my darling.

                                                                 ALICE
                                Teddy, oh, thank God you're back.

They kiss some more.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                How do you feel?

                                                                 ALICE
                                                           (sighs)
                                Tired, but all right.  We may not want to
                                have a second child right away.  This has
                                been more difficult than I ever suspected.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Alice, my love, we will go about these mat-
                                ters in whatever order or fashion you prefer.
                                I only want you to get back on your feet.
                                Then you and I and our little baby will go
                                out to Oyster Bay in the spring and see the
                                birds come home.

                                                                 ALICE
                                                           (smiles happily)
                                And you'll point them all out to baby and
                                I and tell us all their Latin names.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (grinning)
                                Until you both fall asleep.


                                                                 ALICE
                                Exactly.
                                                           (they both smile)
                                I miss you so much these days, Teddy.  I
                                really do wish you could be here.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Me, too, Alice.  But the Legislature is not
                                in session all that often.  To do my job I
                                simply must be there.  Besides, how can
                                I, a man, be of any use to you in having a
                                child, I ask you?  I know my sisters will
                                be of more help than I ever can.

                                                                 ALICE
                                                           (sighs)
                                And they are, too.  I love them both.

Teddy stands and straightens his jacket.  He points his thumb over his shoulder.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                How's Mother?

                                                                 ALICE
                                Well . . . Your Mother is a sad woman,
                                Teddy.  It's going to take her many years
                                to not think of your Father all the time.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (sighs)
                                I know.  I'll be back shortly.

Teddy gives Alice a peck on the cheek and exits.

INT. TEDDY'S MOTHER'S ROOM - DAY

Lying in bed, propped up by pillows, is Teddy's mother -- MARTHA ROOSEVELT -- an attractive woman in her early fifties.  She sees Teddy enter, smiles and raises her outstretched arms. Martha still has a southern accent.

                                                                 MARTHA
                                Teddy.


                                                                 TEDDY
                                Mother.
                                                           (he goes to her and gives
                                                           her a hug and a kiss)
                                How are you?

                                                                 MARTHA
                                Fine.  I bit under the weather, but that seems
                                to happen to me every winter.  I'm sure it's
                                simply my southern upbringing.  It's lovely
                                in Georgia in February -- chilly, sometimes,
                                but no snow.

Teddy seats himself beside the bed.  He takes his Mother's hand in both of his.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                You didn't seem to mind the winters when
                                we were young.

                                                                 MARTHA
                                                           (wistfully)
                                No, I didn't.  But I was young then, too.
                                Your age, Teddy.  Beside, when I was with
                                your Father I never felt cold.  He was so
                                big and strong, he could keep all of us warm.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (nods; sadly)
                                Yes, I miss him, too.  He was the spirit of
                                this family.

                                                                 MARTHA
                                That's your job now, Teddy.
                                                           (Teddy nods again)
                                It's difficult, but I know you're up to it.  If
                                you just put your mind to it.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Meaning, I haven't done it yet?

                                                                 MARTHA
                                Have you?


                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (looks away)
                                I suppose not.

                                                                 MARTHA
                                It's good to have you home, dear.  I think
                                I'll take a little nap now.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (stands)
                                Will you be coming down to dinner?

                                                                 MARTHA
                                I don't think so.  Come up and see me
                                after dinner, all right?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Of course, Mother.

Teddy gives his Mother a kiss on the cheek, then she rolls over and closes her eyes.  Teddy sighs sadly, quietly leaving the room.

                                                                                                       DISSOLVE:

INT. ROOSEVELT MANSION/ LIBRARY - NIGHT

Teddy sits in the library, a spacious room, decorated in polished wood and leather, with hundreds of volumes of books on the many shelves.  Teddy reads a book, his stockinged feet up on a footstool.  The Butler enters.

                                                                 BUTLER
                                Excuse me, sir.  There is a gentleman here
                                to see you.  The Marquis de Mores.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (nods and stands)
                                Ah, yes, of course.  Please show him in.

Teddy puts on his shoes, buttons his jacket and tightens his tie.  The butler ushers in a tall, muscular man with very handsome, chiseled features, a waxed mustache, and very erect, military posture.  He is the MARQUIS DE MORES and he carries a fancy walking stick.  Teddy shakes the Marquis' hand.  The Marquis snaps his heels.  He speaks with a slight French accent, but his English is perfect.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                Mr. Roosevelt, very good to meet you.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                And you.  How shall I address you, sir?

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                                           (shrugs)
                                My full name is Marquis Antoine-Amedee-
                                Marie-Vincent-Amat Manca de Vallombrosa
                                de Mores, but most people in America simply
                                call me Marquis.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (smiles)
                                Well, that's helpful.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                I am the direct descendant of King Louis
                                the Fourteenth of France.  If there had not
                                been a revolution, I would now be king.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (nods)
                                You don't say?  And you are married to
                                Medora Von Hoffman.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                That is correct.

Teddy indicates an easy chair beside his.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Please, sit.
                                                           (they both sit down)
                                Medora is a good friend of my sister's.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                Yes, I know.  She's the one that recommended
                                I see you.  She says that you are interested in
                                both the west and the cattle business.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Yes, sir, I am.  Very interested.  I've often
                                thought about starting my own cattle ranch
                                in the west, if I should ever get a chance,
                                that is.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                Mr. Roosevelt, I am here to give you the
                                chance to invest in my cattle ranch.  I have
                                the largest spread in the Dakota Territories,
                                over one hundred thousand head presently.
                                                           (Teddy whistles
                                                           through his teeth)
                                But that is not why I am here.  I have an
                                idea that will revolutionize the cattle
                                business.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (interested)
                                Go on.

The Marquis rises to his feet, striding around the room, using his hands to gesticulate.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                The major costs in raising cattle are keep-
                                ing them fed and watered until they are old
                                enough to slaughter, then shipping them by
                                train back to Chicago to be slaughtered.  The
                                cost of shipping live cattle on the hoof is exor-
                                bitant.  But, what if the cattle were slaughter-
                                ed in the west, then just the beef was shipped
                                east?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Wouldn't the beef spoil on the train trip east?

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                                           (his eyes light up)
                                Ah ha!  It would if it were not refrigerated.
                                I have had special, insulated train cars built
                                that will do just that -- keep the beef cold
                                until it reaches the east.  I have tried it and
                                it works.
                                                           (Teddy looks impressed)
                                By saving the shipping costs of the live
                                cattle, plus the charges of the slaughter-
                                houses in Chicago, my beef will be sub-
                                stantially cheaper to the consumer.  I have
                                made exclusive deals with stores in all the
                                major eastern cities: Chicago, Detroit, Cleve-
                                land, Philadelphia, Boston and New York.
                                This cuts out yet another middleman, return-
                                ing greater profits to both myself and my
                                investors.  Soon, we will open our own
                                stores all over the country.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                And you've gotten financing from your
                                father-in-law, Louis Von Hoffman?

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                Yes, as well as quite a bit of my own cap-
                                ital, and from investors like yourself.  This
                                is not a crazy scheme, Mr. Roosevelt, it's a
                                reality.  Whether you invest or not, this is
                                all occurring as we speak.  Shipments of my
                                beef will begin moving east within months.
                                This is the way of the future, sir, and you
                                can be part of it.  So, are you interested?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (considering)
                                Well . . . I am very interested in cattle-ranch-
                                ing in the west, and I'm quite interested to see
                                how your idea pans out.  As for investing in
                                your company, I have to say no.  I have my
                                own plans which I will need my own money
                                for.  But I thank you for the very kind offer,
                                Marquis, and I wish the very best of luck.

Teddy stands and offers his hand to the Marquis.  The Marquis does not take Teddy's hand.  Instead, he becomes furious, his eyes burning.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                You are turning me down?  But this is a
                                fantastic opportunity.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                I'm sure it is, but, as I said, I have my own
                                plans.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                Your plans?  Nothing will ever come of
                                your plans! 
My plan is already in action.
                                You're starting too late.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                                           (shrugs)
                                Perhaps.  Nevertheless, that is my stance
                                on this issue.

The Marquis grows very angry, pointing directly into Teddy's face.

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                Is Roosevelt is a Jewish name?  It is, isn't
                                it?

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Actually, no, it's Dutch.  What's being Jew-
                                ish got to do with any of this?

                                                                 MARQUIS
                                Because the Jewish bankers don't want me
                                to succeed.  They're the ones with the great-
                                est investments in the Chicago slaughter-
                                houses.  Well, I'm going to put them all out
                                of business.  And if you go into the cattle
                                business, I'll put you out of business, too!

Teddy walks the Marquis toward the door.

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Fair enough.  I'll keep that in mind.  Thank
                                you for the kind offer, Marquis, and, as I
                                said, I wish you the best of luck.


                                                                 MARQUIS
                                You and all the rest of the Jews will be
                                sorry, I can assure you of that!

                                                                 TEDDY
                                Give my best to Medora, will you?

The Marquis leaves in a huff.  Teddy turns around and sighs deeply -- that fellow is certainly an odd one.

                                                                                                       DISSOLVE:

 

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