Thursday, 22 April 2010

Wordy Thursday - The Heelots speech

What follows is a monologue I patiently took down while watching Frank Capra's 1941 film Meet John Doe on DVD. It's made by a character called The Colonel (played by Walter Brennan), a committed 'gentleman of the road', after his fellow tramp (played by Gary Cooper) finds himself with an unexpected $50 and says this is may be his chance to start building a life. A lot of what The Colonel says here rings true for me.

When you become a guy with a bank account, they got yer, yessir, they gotcha.

You're walking along, not a nickel in yer jeans, and you're free as the wind; nobody bothers you, hundreds of people pass you by in every line of business - shoes, hats, automobiles, radios, furniture - everything, and they're all nice, lovable people and they let you alone. Then you get hold of some dough and what happens? All those nice, sweet, lovable people become Heelots! A lot of heels.

They begin creeping up on yer, trying to sell you something; they get long claws and they get a stranglehold on yer, and you squirm and you duck and you holler and you try and push 'em away, but you haven't got a chance - they gotcha!

The first thing you know, you own things - a car, for instance. Now your whole life is messed up with a lot more stuff, like licence fees and number plates and gas and oil and taxes and insurance and identification cards and letters and bills and flat tyres and dents and traffic tickets and motorcycyle cops and courtrooms and lawyers and fines and a million and one other things!

And what happens? You're not the free and happy guy you used to be. You've got to have money to pay for all those things, so you go after what the other fellow's got - and there you are, you're a Heelot yourself!

The screenplay is by Robert Riskin. The picture shows Gary being pulled one way by Barbara Stanwyck and the other by Walter Brennan.