FLORENCE – Logie Baird’s secretary. She is late teens/early twenties. Florence is pleasant with a somewhat nervous disposition. It was reported about his secretary that on first seeing the ventriloquist’s dummy head, she let out a scream and fainted.
BAIRD – John Logie Baird is 36 and never in the best of health. He has a faint Scottish accent. This is a man on the verge of a breakthrough but the money is running out. He is always suffering from lack of sleep and has a tendency to wear slippers all day.
JACK BUCHANAN – In 1925 Jack is one of the most famous stars of the theatre and the ‘pictures’. He is 34 and a lifelong friend of Baird. They both went to school in Helensburgh on the West coast of Scotland. He worries about his pal and he’s heard that Baird is low on funds and on the crest of making ‘television’ work. He feels he can help and for all his Scottish-ness he plays the quintessential Englishman on stage.
WILLIAM TAYTON – The 21 year old assistant to the owner of the shop on the ground floor. Baird drags the rather nervous boy up to witness the first TV pictures. He is definitely the first person to appear on TV and given Baird’s bribe probably the first to be paid for it too.
When making TV was all about saving your eyebrows.
As always the room is a melting pot of pulleys, wheels and bits of cardboard.
There are TWO TABLES at an angle to each other – BAIRD has his head under a sheet on the table furthest from the door.
The other table has a ventriloquist’s dummy head staring into machinery (which is also covered by a sheet).
A KNOCK on the door.
FLORENCE :Mister Baird may I come in?
Nothing. Another KNOCK.
FLORENCE (CONT’D) :Mister Baird?
FLORENCE cautiously opens the door and enters a little. KNOCK.
FLORENCE (CONT’D): Yoo! Hoo! Mister Baird, may I come in?
BAIRD keeps his head under the sheet.
BAIRD :Judging by your voice Florence, I would say you are already in.
FLORENCE:It’s Mister Buchanan, Mister Baird, he wants to talk to you.
JACK BUCHANAN , now 34, has turned into a debonair, sophisticated actor.
When JACK talks to FLORENCE , like most of the women of England, she turns into a giggling wee girl.
JACK:Thank you kindly – Florence is it? I can take it from here.
JACK sizes up FLORENCE’S shapely leg.
JACK (CONT’D) (To Florence) :Ever thought of a career on the stage my dear young Florence?
BAIRD still under the sheet.
BAIRD: Leave her alone Chump, she’s mine.
JACK gives FLORENCE a wave of the hand to leave, then blows her a kiss.
She giggles within an inch of her life and leaves.
JACK has a quick look towards BAIRD who is still occupied. JACK lifts the dummy head and he manipulates his face to copy the startled look.
JACK:He reminds me of old Henderson – remember, the janitor? He always looked constantly surprised as well.
BAIRD comes out from under the sheet.
BAIRD: Wasn’t that something to do with some war injury or other?
BAIRD takes the paper head from JACK and puts it back into position. JACK wanders around the contraptions.
JACK: Doubt it dear heart, old Henderson never got further than Glasgow.
By the way,I saw you the other evening across the street from the stage door. You didn’t come over.
BAIRD hides his embarrassment in tinkering.
JACK (CONT’D): Money?
JACK lifts the dummy’s head again to deflect the tension.
JACK (CONT’D): What was it that we called that janitor? Bill, something or other?
Once again BAIRD takes the head from JACK.
BAIRD: “Stooky Bill”.
JACK jumps in right away.
JACK: “Stooky Bill”, of course. That’s just the name this little fellow requires.
JACK takes the head back from BAIRD. He talk directly to it.
JACK (CONT’D): Hello Bill, my name is Jack Buchanan. Tell me Bill what’s wrong with your pal – you know, the inventor?
JACK lifts the head as if it is whispering into his own ear.
JACK (CONT’D): Really?
BAIRD can’t look at JACK.
BAIRD:I don’t want your money Chump.
JACK: I didn’t say you did, old bean.Are you still seeing that woman John?
BAIRD: Is that why you came here?
JACK :One of the things I love about you John is your ability to push ahead regardless of the consequences. You have that woman in tow which your wife, I am assuming, doesn’t know anything about.
JACK: Well take all this for instance, once you’ve proved this television contraption works, you’ll be on to something else regardless if the world is ready for it.
BAIRD: Of course the world is ready for television, it can only be for the good.
JACK returns the head to its original position.
JACK: I’ve been talking to a few people John. People that matter.
JACK taps the side of his nose.
JACK (CONT’D): And do you know what they told me?
JACK struts about the room in his usual theatrical manner touching things he shouldn’t. BAIRD follows him putting the things back in their proper place.
JACK (CONT’D): How was it they put it old fruit? “Mister John Logie Baird has achieved his results by rough apparatus”. Judging by what I see I would say that was fair comment. Wouldn’t you? “And that in the process he has exhausted his private means and can not go on. That in a few months from now, with the necessary money, a perfected instrument would bring the invention to completion”. I never forget my lines John.
A ghost of a smile from BAIRD.
JACK (CONT’D): “That it makes possible for ‘seeing’ what broadcasting has already made possible for ‘hearing’”.True?
JACK: Then we have no option. You need finance and with all haste.
JACK over acts pointing with one finger at the sky. It hangs there as JACK and BAIRD both look at it.
JACK (CONT’D): Allow me my affectations dear boy. Let me place upon my head my thinking cap.
JACK looks into space as he mentally organises his diary. He paces up and down the room tinkering with things he shouldn’t.
JACK (CONT’D) (to himself) :No..no..then….aha….no, I have the theatre. How about? AHA! May the 1st, I will book a private room at Romano’s.
JACK is dusting BAIRD’S jacket (like a valet).
JACK picks a spec from the jacket, examines it and throws it away.
JACK: The restaurant in the Strand. I’ll invite members of the press – some owe me favours – and various wireless enthusiasts, you’ll know them – especially those with pounds in their pockets John. At the end of a wonderful meal…
BAIRD tries to interrupt.
JACK (CONT’D) :…ah, ah,ah..which I will pay for. You will drag this contraption out and demonstrate to those ingrates that if they do not invest in your invention then we are all ultimately doomed. A plan?
BAIRD:A plan, Chump.
JACK: I’ve still have a good two hours before curtain up. In that case, what say you to me taking the three of us oft for a hearty meal? My treat. Please, please, please, please, John.
BAIRD:The three of us?
JACK: Well, we can’t leave Stooky Bill out now can we old fruit?
INT. 22 FIRTH STREET, SOHO, LONDON – WORKROOM – DAY
Not much has changed, safe for a strong light shining at Stooky bill’s head. BAIRD is watching a small screen at the other table.
SNIGGERING becomes CHUCKLING becomes LAUGHTER…
This is it what BAIRD has waited for all these years.
BAIRD: I can see you Stooky. I can see you. As clear as day. As clear as day I can see you.
BAIRD, with tears in his eyes, walks over to Stooky Bill. Lifts the head and kisses it on the forehead. He dances around the room with the head.
BAIRD (CONT’D): I can see you. Isn’t it wonderful?
BAIRD is visibly shaking.
He CRIES for everyone that’s ever needed to CRY in these circumstances.
He lifts an old cloth and wipes his face.
Now he is getting excited as the reality seeps in. He thinks for a few seconds then disappears from the room.
WILLIAM (O.S.) :Mister Baird. I’m busy. Please Mister Baird, please let me go. This ain’t right.
BAIRD drags twenty-one year old WILLIAM TAYNTON into the room.
BAIRD stands between WILLIAM and the door before releasing him.
WILLIAM (CONT’D): If Mister Cross finds me gone, he won’t like it Mister Baird. He thinks you’re as daft as a brush and I can’t say I blame him. This ain’t going to help Mister Baird. Not one little bit.
BAIRD:I’ll pay you.
WILLIAM: Five minutes. No more.
BAIRD places a chair beside the table where Stooky Bill’s head normally sits.
BAIRD positions WILLIAM’S head on the table.
WILLIAM: What’s going to happen to me Mister Baird?
WILLIAM tries to move his head to talk to BAIRD who moves it back into position.BAIRD walks to the other table and sits.
BAIRD: Nothing William, I promise you. Just sit and shut up. Move your face closer to the lamp. I still can’t see you.
WILLIAM is not keen and he only slightly moves his head further forwards.
BAIRD looks up.
BAIRD (CONT’D) : Further William, stop being a big wane.
WILLIAM : What Mister Baird?
BAIRD: Just move further forwards.
WILLIAM: I’m sweating Mister Baird, truly I am. This lamp is hot as a chestnut brazier.
BAIRD: Just a little bit more.
WILLIAM: I’m burning Mister Baird. I ain’t making it up. Honest.
BAIRD gets up and slaps a coin into WILLIAM’s hand.
BAIRD: Will a half-crown stop the burning?
WILLIAM:Forward you say?
WILLIAM does so.
BAIRD: There you are. I can see you.
WILLIAM: What do you mean you can see me? Of course you can see me.
BAIRD: On here William. On here. Stick your tongue out William.
BAIRD: Just stick your bloody tongue out.
Again WILLIAM does as he’s told.
BAIRD (CONT’D): Brilliant William. Brilliant.
WILLIAM (With tongue still out): No one’s ever said that about my tongue before.
BAIRD: William Taynton, I don’t know if you are aware but that is the most famous tongue in the world. Now put it away and move your head from side to side.
WILLIAM: Like this Mister Baird?
BAIRD just laughs.
BAIRD walks over to WILLIAM and leads him to his own seat at the other table.
BAIRD:William you are the first person ever in history to appear on television.
WILLIAM:Say that again Mister Baird.
BAIRD: Just sit William.
BAIRD (CONT’D) :Now look into that screen and tell me if you see anything.
BAIRD sits on the seat that was occupied by WILLIAM at the other table. He pushes his face towards the lamp.
BAIRD (CONT’D): Now?
WILLIAM: No Mister Baird.
BAIRD moves his face further forward.
BAIRD: It is very hot William. I’m going to have to do something about that.
WILLIAM lets out a scream and falls back off the chair.
WILLIAM: There was a face, Mister Baird, a bloody horrible face.
BAIRD:Does the horrible face remind you of anyone?
WILLIAM scrambles up to have another look at the screen.
WILLIAM:You, Mister Baird. Your face on the tele-what’s it.
BAIRD has a chuckle.
BAIRD: My face is on the bloody television.
bobby stevenson 2016