Celebrating National Library Week with a full torso apparition in the NYPL

Two iconic lions guard the main branch of the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Mayor LaGuardia named them Patience and Fortitude as encouragement to his citizens during the Great Depression. The library, as a building and as an idea, is a tribute to knowledge and culture and boundless human endeavor. We decided to celebrate National Library Week by highlighting a classic cinematic library scene and paying tribute to one fine example of human endeavor. GHOSTBUSTERS (1984), written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, opens with an external shot of the famous lions and then reveals the strange phenomena happening in the stacks.  It’s Doctors Venkman, Stantz and Spengler to the rescue.

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Librarian Eleanor Twitty, Class IV Semi-Anchored Entity

Below are four pages from the third draft, dated September 30, 1983.  The guys encounter the ghost of an older female librarian who turns into a demon and scares them off.  But they are inspired to become the Ghostbusters, much to the delight and happiness of audiences worldwide.

While we are not as big as the NYPL (and we don’t have cool marble lions), the WGF Library is the largest library dedicated to screenwriting and we want to share what we have with you.  So come and celebrate libraries with us!

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Screenplay 101: THE PRODUCERS

Combine a sleazy Broadway producer taking advantage of little old ladies with one extremely nervous accountant cajoled into performing some “creative accounting.” Mix in a hippie actor named Lorenzo St. Du Bois – or LSD – and a fanatic former Nazi who loves Hitler with all his heart. Blend it all up into a Broadway musical praising the Third Reich. It’s sure to flop, at least if Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) have anything to do with it.

#79 on the WGA’s list of the 101 best screenplays is the 1968 film THE PRODUCERS, written and directed by Mel Brooks. This was Brooks’ directorial debut; he won an Oscar as well as WGA Award for best screenplay.

Max and Leo spend the film scheming to produce the worst musical ever made, intending to keep all the investors’ money. There is no way they can fail with a musical written as a love letter to Adolf Hitler. They don’t count on the audience thinking it’s a farce and loving the show!

Brooks’ eccentric characters and the absurd situations are so far over the top that they almost seem plausible. The pages below, from a 1967 draft, show our producers sucking up to the musical’s writer Franz Liebkind to get into business with him. They involve the unwitting and unhinged Liebkind in their plan, even as Franz reveals his deep admiration for Hitler in a monologue, ending with the declaration that Hitler could “dance the pants off Churchill!” Brooks boldly goes all out on every joke. While the risk of our two titular producers resulted only in jail sentences, the risk Brooks took in making fun of Hitler and the Nazis just 23 years after WWII paid off for him in spades. Bialystock and Bloom’s loss was certainly our gain.

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Here’s the deal: Throughout 2014, we’re posting pages from every script on the WGA’s list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays, as chosen by Guild membership, because we have every one in our library. Sure, we have other scripts that didn’t make it onto the list, either because they didn’t make the cut or because they were produced after the list was generated (presumably SHARKNADO, which we totally have a copy of, is only in the latter category).

SCREENPLAY 101: HAROLD AND MAUDE

Released in 1971, HAROLD AND MAUDE originated from, of all places, writer Colin Higgins’ masters thesis at UCLA.  Its dark humor and unique exploration of the meaning of life are still moving and relevant, even after 40 years.  Join us as we look at #86 on the WGA’s 101 Greatest Screenplays.

The relationship between 20-year-old Harold and 80-year-old Maude is probably one of the most unusual romances ever seen onscreen.  Harold has no direction in life, sees a therapist, attends funerals for fun, and has performed seventeen fake “suicides” by the time we meet him.  Having had enough, his mother arranges dates for him throughout the film – but the only woman who catches his eye is the vivacious and optimistic (not to mention elderly) Maude.  Beyond their common interest in funerals, Maude brings some spontaneity and laughter into Harold’s life – she steals cars, sits nude for a sculptor, evades a cop and appreciates the tiniest differences from one flower to the next.

In these four pages from a May 1970 draft, Maude speaks beautifully about the grandness of life and we see Harold learning to loosen up.  Indicating their growing intimacy, Harold holds Maude’s hand and kisses it.  He notices a number tattooed on her skin, alluding to her past as a Nazi prisoner.  In this short and tender moment, we feel the depth of Maude’s history and begin to understand the reasons for her unconventional behavior, which makes the rest of the film that much more moving.

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Here’s the deal: Throughout 2014, we’re posting pages from every script on the WGA’s list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays, as chosen by Guild membership, because we have every one in our library. Sure, we have other scripts that didn’t make it onto the list, either because they didn’t make the cut or because they were produced after the list was generated (presumably SHARKNADO, which we totally have a copy of, is only in the latter category).