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A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor

Guy Noir script
Saturday, June 4, 2005
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(THEME)

Tim Russell: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions — Guy Noir, Private Eye -- (THEME UNDER)

Garrison Keillor: It was June, the month when Minnesotans take the plastic wrap off our houses and start to live normal lives and so naturally that's when I got a call to come to Los Angeles — to work security on a new Robert Altman movie called "People Standing Around Talking and Using Hand Gestures" — the call came from the producer —

TR (ON THE PHONE, RICH GUY): He's driving us nuts, Mr. Noir.

GK: Mr. Altman is?

TR (ON PHONE, RICH GUY): No script. There's no script!

GK: What do you mean?

TR (ON PHONE, RICH GUY): He fired the screenwriter. We've put forty million dollars into this thing and we got no idea what he's doing. Please. Help us. (STING, BRIDGE)

GK: Going to L.A. was something I dreamed of back in January, and now that it's June and I don't need it, out I go, all pale and dull, and I fall in among Californians who are tan and slender and have these terrific facial expressions that we don't have in the North —

Sue Scott: Welcome to the Hotel Houhynym, Mr. Noir — how many nights will you be staying with us?

GK: It's kind of open-ended at this point.

SS: That's perfectly all right. You'd like a king-size, no smoking?

GK: I'd like a double bed, actually. King-size just makes me feel lonely, you know what I mean? And I'd like a no-smoking but with the potential of becoming smoking.

SS: A transitional room.

GK: Right. I sort of gave up cigars years ago but when I'm under a lot of stress, they're my life preserver.

SS: I totally understand. Totally.

GK: May I ask a question? A personal question, ma'am?

SS: Please.

GK: I've only known you for perhaps thirty seconds and yet you've gone through about six different facial expressions—

SS: Oh my gosh! Have I??? I'm so embarrassed.

GK: That makes eight. Intense empathy and concern and surprise and delight— I'm astonished.

SS: You don't look astonished.

GK: I know. It's been a long winter. (BRIDGE) The stress was from my assignment — Robert Altman was a handful.

TR (ALTMAN, KIRK-LIKE): I never met a screenwriter who was worth a tinker's dam, Noir. They're all trying to write another "Casablanca" or "Chinatown" or "Nashville" or "Fargo" — I'm onto something new and that's reality.

GK: Reality.

TR (ALTMAN): Reality is what we crave, Noir. I'm going to lock up some actors in a room and get real. Don't need a script.

GK: How about medications?

TR (ALTMAN): Casting. That's what it's all about, Mr. Noir. You get the right people in the right place and the result is magic. Ever see Jean-Luc Godard's movie, "Grand Marais"?

GK: No, sir.

TR (ALTMAN): Very early Godard. Best thing he ever did. Shot it in Minnesota. Look at this— (TR: THOUGHTFUL, INTENSE FRENCH. THEN FN: SERIES OF FRENCH MOO'S WITH EU SOUND.)

GK: Very interesting.

TR (ALTMAN): Best thing he ever did. All improvised. Beautiful. Now— there's an actress, Mr. Noir, who I have to have for my movie. I don't know her name and I need you to find her. She was an extra and she appears for about two seconds in a movie called "Dinosaurs Destroy Dallas" —

GK: I never heard of it, sir.

TR (ALTMAN): The picture is a piece of crap about a meteoroid hitting the earth and cracking the crust and these mutant pterodactyls rise up and destroy Dallas — but she is fabulous — she's a waitress in a diner that's just about to be picked up by a pterodactyl and crushed in his claws and — here— take a look at it.

(OFF-KEY ORGAN, COMING UP TO SPEED, OMINOUS MUSIC) (PTERODACTYL SHRIEK, STOMPING, SMASHING, CRIES OF ALARM AND HORROR. SS FAINTLY — "OH FOR PITY'S SAKE" — PTERODACTYL SCREECH, CRUSHING OF METAL. SUDDEN STOP)

TR (ALTMAN): See her? She's the best thing in the whole picture. That look of grief and love and transcendence — I've got to find her.

GK: I'm didn't get a real good look at her.

TR (ALTMAN): Run that scene again!

(OFF-KEY ORGAN, COMING UP TO SPEED, OMINOUS MUSIC) (PTERODACTYL SHRIEK, STOMPING, SMASHING, CRIES OF ALARM AND HORROR. SS FAINTLY — "OH FOR PITY'S SAKE" — PTERODACTYL SCREECH, CRUSHING OF METAL. SUDDEN STOP)

GK: So you're looking for the waitress—

TR (ALTMAN): I've got to have her. Got to. She reminds me of Liv Ullmann in the Bergman picture, "Blue Earth". Ever see that?

GK: No, never did.

TR (ALTMAN): Very early Bergman. Shot it in southern Minnesota. No script. Black and white. Low-budget. Best thing he ever did. Look at this. (TR FEMALE SWEDISH, INTENSE, THOUGHTFUL. FN SWEDISH COWS)

GK: Very interesting.

TR (ALTMAN): Get me that actress, Mr. Noir. I've got to have her. (STING, BRIDGE)

GK: I went back to the hotel and spoke to the desk clerk. —

SS: Yes?

GK: You— you're an actress, aren't you?

SS: (SURPRISE, PLEASURE, MODESTY) Why— oh for goodness sake— how did you guess??? I'm so embarrassed. But — yes. I am. An actress. Also a screenwriter.

GK: You look a lot like someone I saw in a picture called "Dinosaurs Destroy Dallas"—

SS: (SURPRISE) No— I never did a movie of that name—

GK: Well, take a look at this scene—

(OFF-KEY ORGAN, COMING UP TO SPEED, OMINOUS MUSIC) (PTERODACTYL SHRIEK, STOMPING, SMASHING, CRIES OF ALARM AND HORROR. SS FAINTLY — "OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE" — PTERODACTYL SCREECH, CRUSHING OF METAL. SUDDEN STOP)

SS: Oh my gosh— that was my sister Felicia. She ran away when she was sixteen — we never heard from her — thank goodness, she's safe. Oh, Mr. Noir—(AIR KISSES) Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. You've made me the happiest woman in Los Angeles. (SHE SINGS A HIGH HAPPY NOTE. THEN DIALS A CELLPHONE. PAUSE. FN FEMALE VOICE AT OTHER END) — Mama, it's Julie!!! I'm fine. Mama, guess what? (FN FEMALE VOICE) Felicia is safe, Mama! We found her!!! (STING AND BRIDGE)

GK: I found Felicia waitressing at a Hockey Heaven sports bar run by Wolfgang Puck —

SS: Yes, I made a movie called "Dinosaurs Destroy Dallas" — years ago — why do you ask?

GK: Robert Altman wants you for his new picture —

SS: (BIG ACTRESSLY SCENE): Me? Robert Altman wants me? THE Robert Altman??? Oh my gosh. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. (DEEPER) Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. — What part?

GK: Mr. Altman doesn't think in terms of parts, he thinks in terms of flow— it's an improvised movie called "People Standing Around Talking and Using Hand Gestures" —

SS: Beautiful. I love it already. (BRIDGE)

GK: I got a call from the producer of the movie that night—

TR (RICH GUY, ON PHONE): They're starting shooting tomorrow, Mr. Noir, and suddenly they've added ten million dollars for special effects. Ten million dollars. What is going on here? (BRIDGE)

(HUBBUB, MOVIE LOT. FORKLIFT, PEOPLE SHOUTING ORDERS)

GK: Mr. Altman—

TR (ALTMAN): Oh, hi— Mr. Noir. Thanks for finding Felicia. She's perfect.

GK: I hear you decided to use special effects in your picture—

TR (ALTMAN): I did, Mr. Noir. Tell me something— when you think Robert Altman, what do you think?

GK: Well, I think "MASH" of course — I think "Nashville" and "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" — I think "Gosford Park" — gosh, I loved that movie— those backstairs scenes, the kitchen and the scullery —

TR (ALTMAN): And probably you never associated me with pterodactyls before—

GK: Never, Mr. Altman.

TR (ALTMAN): I discovered looking at "Dinosaurs Destroy Dallas" that it was the beasts I liked, not the waitress so much. It reminded me of that Fellini picture, "Grand Forks"—

GK: Fellini made a movie called "Winnebago"?—

TR (ALTMAN): He shot it in Tuscany but it was about the midwest. Have a look at it. (TR THOUGHTFUL ITALIAN. FN ITALIAN MOOING) I love the way he did that. That's what I'm going for in "People Standing Around Talking and Using Hand Gestures"—

GK: You've got a pterodactyl in the picture? Really?

TR (ALTMAN): Got one right here. Mr. Noir, like you to meet Josh. (PTERODACTYL CRY) More introspective, Josh. (PTERODACTYL) No —slower. Not from up here. From down here. Try it again. (PTERODACTYL CRY) Not so aggressive, Josh. More vulnerable. Questioning. (PTERODACTYL) And with a sense of personal loss— (PTERODACTYL) (FADING) That was good. But I'd like still more vulnerability, but with a sense of openness...(BRIDGE)

GK: Fifty million dollars riding on one inspiration. But he's a great director. And like all great directors, he's got a lot of confidence. He had a studio full of actors and a pterodactyl, not to mention a French police van (FRENCH SIREN) and an oranguntang on a horse (APE, HORSE WHINNY) and a couple of biplanes (SFX) and a replica of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (TOLLING OF BELLS) and goodness knows what he was going to do with it, but I for one was curious to find out. (THEME)

SS: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but on the 12th floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME OUT)

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Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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