DAVID S. WARD
A white on black TITLE appears in the lower left hand corner
of the screen:
EXT. A SLUM AREA OF JOLIET – DAY
It’s a bleak, windy morning, the kind that clears the
streets of all but the winos (who carry their own heaters),
and the point-men for juvenile gangs. We pick up a solitary
figure, Joe Mottola, coming down the street and entering
what appears to be an abandoned tenement. He pauses a
second to dust his white-winged alligator shoes on the back
of his pants leg. Sharply dressed and surrounded by the
aura of one who is making money for the first time and
broadcasting it on all bands, he seems an incongruity in
this part of town.
We follow him up a flight of rickety stairs to a second
floor flat. He knocks on the door, is admitted by a cautious
INT. NUMBERS SPOT – DAY
Suddenly we are plunged into a room of chattering, clamoring
people. This is a spot for the numbers racket, a place
immune from legal interference, where any sucker can bet on
a number between 1 and 1000 in the hope of getting the 600
to 1 payoff that goes to those few who guess right. The
bettors are queued up in several lines before a long table,
where they place their bets and are given receipts in return.
Others wait at a cashier’s window to pick up previous
earnings or to ask for credit.
Mottola moves through the crowd to a back room where betting
slips are being sorted and money counted under the watchful
and somewhat impatient gaze of a Supervisor, an older man
named Mr. Granger. The Yankee-White Sox game is heard on
the radio in the background.
Mottola, noticing that his entrance has aroused little
interest, saunters over to the Phone Girl and gives her a
little pinch on the cheek. The girl slaps his hand away,
obviously having been through this before.
Beat it, Mottola.
Granger glances up and exchanges a token nod with Mottola,
who plops down in a folding chair next to the radio. The
8720…Yes, hold on a second.
(calling over to the Supervisor)
Mr. Granger, Chicago on the line.
Granger is a little apprehensive about talking to Chicago,
but takes the phone anyway.
INT. A WATERFRONT PROCESSING PLANT – CHICAGO – DAY
A flabby, bald man named Combs is on the other end of the
line. Visible beyond the door and interior window of his
office is a large room, cluttered with tables, typewriters,
clerks and adding machines. This room is the clearinghouse
for all the transaction of the numbers game. All the
betting slips and income from the spots are brought in here
Granger, this is Combs. Why
haven’t we heard from ya? Everybody
else is in.
We had a few problems with the Law
this morning. The Mayor promised
the Jaycees to get tough on the
rackets again, so he shut everybody
down for a couple hours to make it
look good. Nothing serious, it
just put us a little behind for the
You been making your payoffs,
Hell yes. He does this every year.
There’s nothing to worry about.
Okay, finish your count and get it
up here as soon as you can. I
don’t wanta be here all night.
Believe me, the Man’s gonna be real
happy. Looks like we cleared over
ten grand this week.
We cleared 22 here.
Well, hell, you got the whole
Chicago south side. How do ya
expect the eight lousy spots I’ve
got to compete with that?
(reading off a sheet
of paper on his desk)
They did 14 grand in Evanston, 16.5
is Gary, and 20 in Cicero. Looks
like you’re bringing up the rear,
INT. NUMBERS SPOT – DAY
Granger burns inside. One of the girls who’s been sorting
and counting hands him a slip of paper.
I just got the count. We’ll put
the take on the 4:15.
We’ll be waitin’.
Combs hangs up, smiling to himself, proud of the way he gave
the needle to Granger.
INT. NUMBERS SPOT – DAY
Granger storming over to a safe and jerking open the door.
Mottola hustles out of his chair.
(handing him a bundle
Take this up to the city on the
4:15. They’ll be waitin’ for it at
the clearing house. And don’t stop
for no drinks. You can get a cab
down the street.
Mottola takes the money and slips it into his inside coat
pocket with all the dramatic flair of the true flunky. No
one would ever guess that he was just an overdressed
EXT. OF THE TENEMENT AGAIN
Mottola emerges from a side entrance into a narrow alley.
He walks briskly down to the end and turns left into a large
alleyway; this one connecting two streets. The alley is
deserted save for one scruffy, slovenly dressed young
stranger coming toward him from the opposite direction. The
man carries a battered suitcase and seems to be in a hurry.
Suddenly, Mottola hears shouting coming from somewhere
behind him. He turns around to see a small, weathered
looking thief come racing around the corner and down the
alley toward him, frantically pursued by a gray-haired black
man. Limping noticeably, the black man manages a few cries
for help and then stumbles and falls. The stranger yells at
Mottola to cover his side of the alley, and then readies
himself for the arrival of the thief. Mottola just stands
there, not the least interested in the exercise of justice.
Just as the thief is about to run on by, the stranger throws
his suitcase at the little man’s legs, sending him sprawling
and separating him from the wallet he’s been carrying in his
The stranger makes a dash for the wallet and kicks it back
to where Mottola is standing. Almost by reflex, Mottola
picks it up. The thief scrambles to his feet and starts
back toward his new-found enemy, brandishing a knife. Both
the stranger and Mottola brace themselves for an attack.
The thief, realizing that there are two people to fight,
begins to think better of it. He is not a young man, nor
(shaking his fist at
You fuckin’ nigger-lover. I’ll get
you for this someday, sucker egg.
Mottola and the stranger exchange glances of relief as the
thief flees out onto the street and disappears.
The black man, meanwhile, has struggled to his feet and is
staggering toward them. He collapses against the alley wall
after a few steps. The stranger rushes over to him, followed
somewhat absently by Mottola.
The wallet. You gotta go after him.
He’s got all the money.
Don’t worry, we got the wallet.
What happened? He get ya with the
The stranger opens the Black Man’s coat to reveal a bloody
wound at the top of his leg.
(trying to move)
Give it to me! Please. I gotta
know it’s all there!
You just sit tight, old man. We’re
gonna have to get you to a doctor.
(starting to leave)
I’ll call a cop.
No, no cops!
Mottola has given him his wallet, which the black man now
opens, disclosing a fat bundle of bills tied by a rubber
band. Mottola and the stranger are amazed by the amount of
(a little uneasy)
You wanted by the law or somethin’?
Naw, it’s okay.
You’re crazy carryin’ that kinda
money in this neighborhood. No
wonder you got hit.
(trying to get to his feet)
Thanks. I’m obliged to ya, but I
gotta get goin’.
(his leg gives way
You ain’t goin’ nowhere on that leg.
I gotta! Look, I run some slots
down in West Bend for a mob here.
I got a little behind on my payoffs
so they figure I been holdin’ out
on ’em. They gave me to 4:00 to
come up with the cash. I don’t get
it there I’m dead.
It don’t look good, gramps, it’s
ten of now.
I got a hundred bucks for you and
your friend if you deliver the
money for me.
I dunno. That little mug that got
ya is mad enough at me already —
what if he’s out there waitin’
around a corner with some friends.
He won’t know you’re carryin’ it.
C’mon, you gotta help me out.
(makes up his mind)
Sorry, pal. I’ll fix you up, call
you a doc, but I ain’t gonna walk
into a bunch of knives for ya.
(desperate to Mottola)
How bout you? I’ll give you the
What makes you think you can trust
him? He didn’t do shit.
Hey, butt out, chicken liver. I
gave him back his wallet, didn’t I?
(to black man)
How far is this place?
1811 Mason. Put it in Box 3C. You
won’t have no trouble. There’s
five thousand dollars there and
here’s a hundred for you.
(taking the bundle of
bills from the black
man, plus the $100 bill)
All right. I’ll make your drop for
you, old man. And don’t worry, you
can trust me.
Mottola puts the bills in his inside coat pocket, right next
to the numbers money. The stranger, who has now finished
bandaging, watches him do it.
If that punk and his pals decide to
search ya, you’ll never fool ’em
carryin’ it there.
(suddenly afraid again)
What do we do?
You got a bag or somethin?
How ’bout a handkerchief?
The stranger goes into the right coat pocket and pulls out a
Let me have the money.
Mottola takes out the Black Man’s five grand and hands it to
the Stranger. He puts it in the handkerchief.
You better stick that other in here
too, if you wanta keep it.
Just hurry, will ya.
Mottola pulls out the numbers money and puts it in the
handkerchief too. The stranger ties it all up.
slipping the bundle
down into crotch)
All right. Carry it down in your
(pulling it back out
and tucking it in
Ain’t no hard guy in the world
gonna frisk ya there.
(to the black man)
So long, partner. Don’t worry,
everything’s gonna be all right.
The Black Man nods gratefully, but there’s still a trace of
worry on his face. Mottola trots off down the alley and out
onto the street, glancing around cautiously for signs of
trouble. He walks hurriedly down the sidewalk toward the
cab stand in the distance. Suddenly the little man with the
knife appears out of a doorway about 15 yards behind him.
Mottola notices him and quickens his pace, finally breaking
into a dead run.
We follow him as he dashes headlong down the street, opening
a big lead on the guy with the knife. He reaches the taxi
zone. He hops in a cab and slams the door.
INT. TAXI – DAY
He jumps in, closes the door, and breathes a sigh of relief.
Which way is Mason?
About 20 blocks south.
Okay, go north. The Joliet
Station — Fast.
Mottola settles back in his seat and starts to laugh.
What’s so funny?
I just made the world’s easiest
He takes the bundle out from inside his pants in order to
gaze upon his new-found fortune. He unties the handkerchief.
It’s full of toilet paper. Mottola looks like he’s just
EXT. ALLEY – DAY – THE STRANGER AND BLACK MAN
hightailing it down the street, two newly solvent con
artists on the lam. It’s hard to run they’re laughing so
hard. The stranger chucks his suitcase in a trash can and
pulls the real handkerchief out of his pants.
Jesus, what a bundle. Did you know
he was that loaded?
Hell no, I just cut into him. I
woulda settled for pawning one of
As they split off, music begins, and we go into a
Done to a driving Chicago blues, the sequence is designed to
establish somewhat the milieu of the stranger, known to
friends and enemies alike as Hooker. We see the following:
EXT. PAWNSHOP – LOOKING INSIDE – DAY
Hooker is getting a radio and well-worn suit out of hook.
It’s like seeing old friends again. All pantomime.
INT. HOOKER’S ROOM – DAY
A shabby little place he rents above a cigar store. We pick
him up in a jerry-built outdoor shower, which he’s rigged up
on the fire escape. The rinse water drips down through the
landing into the grimy alley below.
‘With plenty of money and you-oo-
Oh baby, what I wouldn’t do-oo-
ON THE STREET AGAIN
jauntily carrying a magnum of champagne and some flowers,
obviously on his way to see someone special.
IN A BURLESQUE HOUSE
Hooker stands in the wings holding the flowers and champagne,
watching his date for the evening, a 6’3″ stripper named
Crystal, do her routine.
Crystal finishes up and comes off the stage.
Hi, Hooker, you gettin’ married or
Come into a little dough. You
wanna get outa here tonight?
Can’t. I got a 10 o’clock show. I
need the five bucks.
I’ll spend fifty on ya.
Crystal looks at him a second and starts to giggle. We’re
pretty sure she’s gonna get outa here tonight.
COMING INTO A POOR MAN’S GAMBLING JOINT
Little more than a reconverted brick basement, the place
contains three shoddy, homemade roulette tables. Hooker,
accompanied now by Crystal, nods a greeting to the doorman
and proceeds to a table where there are already several
other people laying their bets for the next spin. Hooker
knows the wheel man, an old-timer named Jimmy.
(glad to see him)
How ya doin’, Jimmy.
(collecting bets and
paying off the winners)
Ain’t seen you in months, boy.
Thought maybe you took a fall.
Naw, just a little hard times,
that’s all. It’s all over now.
You gonna have a go here?
(pointing to the
How ’bout a ten spot on the line
here. The 4-9 been lookin’ good
today. Lotsa action on 28th Street
down there, too. Pay ya 10-1.
As Jimmy finishes his spiel, he starts the wheel spinning
and drops in the ball. Betting is allowed to continue until
the ball drops from the outer ring into the center.
(taking out his wallet)
Three grand on the black.
Jimmy is stunned. The others at the table, used to dollar
bets, look at Hooker like he’s some kind of foreign dignitary.
You sure you wanna start off that
big? Bet like that could put a
real dent in us.
I feel lucky tonight.
Aw, come on, Hooker, why don’t you
Three grand on the black, Jimmy.
Jimmy wants to argue some more, but the ball is getting
ready to drop into the center. We see Jimmy quickly press a
hidden lever under the table with his foot. The ball falls
and settles into red 27 with a motion that is not quite
right. The others at the table fail to notice, but Hooker
is not fooled. He stares venomously at Jimmy, who knows
that Hooker is on to him.
(making an attempt at
levity, in order to explain)
Good thing that ball came up red.
Guy could get in trouble around
here, losin’ a bet that big.
Jimmy reaches for Hooker’s money. Hooker stops him by
putting his hand on it.
Spin it again.
Jimmy doesn’t know what the hell to do. He gives Hooker a
little head motion to indicate a small window high up in one
of the walls. Behind it, we see a pair of eyes. Suddenly,
Hooker understands why Jimmy had to cheat him, but it
doesn’t change his demand.
Spin it anyway, Jimmy.
Jimmy is beside himself. If he doesn’t spin again, Hooker
may expose him. If he does spin, and loses, his management
will fire him. He pleads to Hooker with his eyes, but it’s
no use. Jimmy spins the wheel and reluctantly drops in the
ball. This time there is no foot on the lever, and it
settles into black 15. Hooker stares at the ball a second
and then looks up at his terrified friend.
Don’t worry, pal. I knew it was my
Hooker pushes the money over to Jimmy and walks out of the
room. He’s lost $3,000, but he’s still working on a lucky
EXT. GAMBLING JOINT
Hooker and Crystal out on the street.
Thanks for the evening, Hooker. I
can still make the 10 o’clock. If
you wanna spend 50 bucks on me
again, mail it.
She walks off down the street.
(going into his
pocket for more money)
Hey wait a minute.
(he comes up with 30›)
Aw, the hell with ya.
EXT. THE WATERFRONT PROCESSING PLANT – LATE AFTERNOON
A late model Ford roars up and screeches to a stop in front
of the plant. Out bursts a carefully-groomed, tight-lipped
young man named Greer, who hustles into the plant. We
follow him through a maze of machinery to the service
elevator and up to the third floor where we find ourselves
in the clearinghouse room we saw earlier.
INT. PLANT – AFTERNOON – LATE
The working day is over now, and everyone has gone, except
for Combs, who sits somberly in his office.
They found Mottola. He was drunk
in a dive in Joliet. Never got on
I don’t wanta hear about his day,
Greer. What happened to the money?
He lost it to a coupla con artists
on his way outa the spot.
Combs sits in quiet thought for a second. Finally:
All right. Better get on the phone
to New York. See what the big mick
wants to do about it.
I gotta pretty good idea, though.
INT. AN EXCLUSIVE NEW YORK GAMBLING CLUB – LATE AFTERNOON
An agitated young man, Floyd, weaves his way through the
craps and roulette tables, and hustles up a staircase to a
second floor room with a drawing of a snarling tiger on the
door. Below the tiger, the word “FARO” appears. There is a
large man, of thuggish demeanor, guarding the door, but
Floyd gives him a small hand signal and walks right by him.
INSIDE THE FARO ROOM
In the center is a beautifully-carved wooden table, on which
sit a faro board and a dealing box, tended by a stone-faced
Dealer, who calls the progress of the game in a continuous
abacus-like device that keeps track of the cards which have
already been played. On the opposite side of the table,
completely absorbed in the rhythmic appearance of the cards
from the dealing box, sits Doyle Lonnegan. Although is
clothes and accessories are those of a wealthy man, there is
a coarseness to both his movement and speech which bespeak
lower class origins, for which he now has nothing but
Floyd enters the room and approaches him cautiously, trying
hard to make as little noise as possible.
Doyle, can I see you a minute?
(not looking up from
I’m busy, Floyd.
It’s important. We had a little
trouble in Chicago today. One of
our runners got hit for 12 grand.
You sure he didn’t just pocket it?
No, we checked his story with a
tipster. He was cleaned by two
grifters on 47th.
They workin’ for anybody?
I don’t know. Could be. We’re
runnin’ that down now.
All right, mark Mottola up a little
and put him on a bus. Nothin’
fancy, just enough to keep him from
coming back. Get some local people
to take care of the other two.
We gotta discourage this kinda thing.
INT. AN OLD BROWNSTONE – NIGHT
Hooker, still in his suit, but looking a little worse for
wear, knocks on the door of one of the apartments. A young
black woman, Louise, answers the door, holding a baby.
(admiring Hooker in
Goddamn, Johnny Hooker, you’re a
sharp hunky in them linens. If you
wasn’t so pale, I’da sworn you had
Hooker steps inside and walks right into a big hug from an
older black woman, Alva. Alva has a hat on, obviously just
about to go out. Beyond her we see the Eirie kid and the
Black Man (known from here on as Luther Coleman) playing a
game of mah jong on the dining table with a man whose back
is to us. An 11-year-old boy is listening to the radio.
Turn that down, Leroy.
Oh, Johnny, Luther said you was
somethin’ to see today.
I’ll never be as good as that mark,
Well, we gonna hear all about it
when we get back from church.
Leroy, get your jacket on, boy.
Leroy goes to get his jacket. Louise is finished putting
the baby to bed.
You goin’ to church now?
They been havin’ late bingo down
there. I’m gonna call on the Lord
for a little cash, while he’s still
payin’ off. Luther, you look in on
that child from time to time, will
Luther nods that he will. Alva, Leroy and Louise leave for
church as Hooker strolls over and tosses two packets on the
table. Luther doesn’t pick his up, but the other man does.
We now see that he is the thief in the opening sequence. He
is called the Eirie kid and he is delighted at his share.
Hey, Luther told me he was carrying
a wad, but I didn’t figure this much.
Which way did he do, Eirie?
Straight north. He was gonna take
it all and run.
The bastard. He can blow his nose
all the way.
They laugh again, but Luther doesn’t share their enthusiasm.
He watches Hooker who becomes uncomfortable under his gaze.
You’re late. Where you been?
(flopping into a chair)
I had some appointments.
How much did ya lose?
(after a pause)
All of it.
In one goddamn night? What are ya
sprayin’ money around like that for?
You coulda been nailed.
I checked the place out. There
weren’t no dicks in there.
You’re a con man, and you blew it
like a pimp. I didn’t teach ya to
be no pimp.
What’s eatin’ you? I’ve blown
No class grifter woulda’ done it,
You think my play is bad?
I think it’s the best…
Hooker sinks back, embarrassed that he misread Coleman’s
…It’s the only reason I ain’t
quit before now.
I’m gettin’ too slow for this
racket. I done the best I’m gonna
- You hang on too long, you
start embarrassin’ yourself.
What are you talkin’ about? We
just took off the biggest score
we’ve ever had. We can do anything
we want now.
It’s nothin’ compared to what you
could be makin’ on the Big Con.
You’re wastin’ your time workin’
Hey look. You think I’m gonna run
out on ya or somethin’? Just cause
we hit it big. Luther, I owe you
everything. If you hadn’t taught
me con, I wouldn’t know nothin’.
(a little embarrassed)
Aw hell, you sound like some
goddamn sucker. You know everything
I know. You got nothin’ more to
learn from me.
But you played the Big Con. You
said it was nothin’. A game for
flakes and mama’s boys.
And I’m tellin’ ya now, you’re a
fool if you don’t get into it. A
bigger fool than I was.
(pause, holding up
I been lookin’ for this one all my
life, Johnny. Now I got a chance
to step out at the top.
Hooker knows it’s no use.
(after a long silence)
What the hell you gonna do with
Aw, I got a brother down in K.C.,
runs a freight outlet. I can go
halfsies with ’em! It ain’t too
exciting, but it’s mostly legal.
Hooker just nods.
Straighten up, kid. I wouldn’t
turn ya out if ya weren’t ready.
(flipping Hooker a
piece of paper)
I got a guy named Henry Gondorff I
want you to look up. There ain’t a
better insideman alive. He’ll
teach ya everything ya gotta know.
You’ll take a cut of what I make,
I’m out, Johnny.
If that’s the way you want it.
That’s the way I want it.
EXT. A DIMLY LIT STREET – NIGHT
It’s late at night now. Hooker and Eirie wander along the
street together, not really ready to go home, but with no
other ideas either. Hooker, obviously preoccupied, idly
strikes a match on a street lamp as he passes and lets it
burn out. He does this several times.
How do you like that Coleman, huh?
After three years.
Aw come on, it was the only thing
to do. He knew he was holdin’ ya
We were partners. If it weren’t
for Luther I’d still be hustlin’
pinball down at Gianelli’s. I
don’t need anything more than I got.
You ain’t gonna have nothin’ if you
don’t lay off them games of chance.
There’s a depression on ya know.
There’s always a depression on.
If you saved a little, you wouldn’t
have to grift so much.
I like griftin’.
You could buy yourself some things.
Clothes, or a nice car…
I don’t look any good in clothes
and I don’t know how to drive.
What else ya got to sell, Eirie?
They walk on a few more feet, when suddenly a police car
pulls up alongside them and two men jump out. The first, a
uniformed policeman, grabs Eirie around the neck.
Hooker makes a break for it, but the second Figure, a burly
detective named Snyder, tackles him in the middle of the
street, drags him back into the alley and plasters him up
against a brick wall. The two have met before.
Hi there, Snyder. Things a little
slow down at the Bunco Department
tonight, eh? Somebody lose the
You scored blood money today,
Hooker. You need a friend.
Aw, find yourself a shoplifter to
Snyder gives Hooker a swift knee in the thigh and follows it
with an elbow across the head. Hooker flies into a row of
boxes and garbage cans.
(getting up slowly)
You got the wrong guy, pal. I been
home with the flu all day.
(rising to a fuller height)
You can stake out my toilet if you
Bang. Snyder, infuriated by Hooker’s irreverence, slams him
to the ground again. The policeman is no longer holding
Eirie but is almost daring him to make a move. Eirie wants
to go to Hooker’s aid, but he knows the policeman will beat
him to a pulp.
(pulling Hooker out
of the heap and
smashing him against
the wall again)
I’ll tell ya what you did, smart
boy. You tied into a loaded mark
on 47th across from Maxies. You
and Coleman played the switch for
him and blew him off to a cab on
49th. If he hadn’t been a numbers
runner for Doyle Lonnegan, it
woulda been perfect.
(startled by the information)
You’re crazy. I’m not stupid
enough to play for rackets money.
Not intentionally maybe, but that
don’t make no difference to Lonnegan.
He’ll swat you like any fly.
I’ll square it with the fixer.
Nobody can buy you a prayer, if I
put the finger on ya.
Snyder lets go. Hooker sinks back against the wall. He
says nothing; he’s waiting for the price.
I figure your end of the score was
at least 3 gees. I want 2 no
matter what it was.
My end was only one.
(not taking the fake)
Then you’ll have to come up with
another grand somewhere.
Hooker is beat and he knows it.
He reaches into his coat, pulls out a stack of bills and
counts out $2000 to Snyder. Eirie looks on in amazement; he
didn’t think Hooker had it.
(pocketing the money
and motioning his
partner to put his
You’re a smart egg, Hooker. No use
dyin’ for 2 grand.
Snyder and his policeman friend get in their car and start
down the street. Hooker and Eirie walk nonchalantly in the
I thought you blew all your money.
I did. That stuff I gave him was
counterfeit. They’ll pinch him the
first place he tries to spend it.
Snyder and his partner disappear around a corner. Hooker
suddenly takes off like a shot.
INT. DRUGSTORE – NIGHT
He runs into a drugstore and goes to the phone booth.
There’s already a woman in it. Hooker rips open the door
and throws her out. Hurriedly, he begins to dial.
(standing outside the booth)
What the hell you gonna do when
Snyder rushes his finger right to
Lonnegan? You’re committin’
(waiting for the ring)
Aw Christ, it doesn’t make no
difference now. If Snyder knows
about it so does everybody else.
He never gets anything first…Damn,
there’s no answer at Luther’s.
Listen to me, Hooker. What ever
you do, don’t go back to your place
tonight, don’t go anyplace you
usually go, ya hear me? Get outa
town or somethin’, but…
Hooker, still getting no answer, slams the phone down and
blasts out of the booth.
EXT. STREET – NIGHT
Eirie chases him frantically, calling him to come back, but
he’s giving away too many years and there’s no stopping
Hooker at this point.
EXT. STREET – NIGHT – SHOTS OF HOOKER
Pumping down the street.
EXT. LUTHER’S BROWNSTONE – NIGHT
Hooker races into Luther’s brownstone, charges up to the
INT. LUTHER’S BROWNSTONE – NIGHT
Hooker runs up through a small group of people on the stairs.
He bursts into Luther’s room, the door of which is already
open. The room shows signs of a struggle, a turned-over
chair, a broken lamp, but there is no Coleman. Hooker goes
slowly to the window. He looks down into the courtyard and
then suddenly sprints back out the door. As we hear him
scrambling down the stairs, the camera dollies to the window
and looks out.
EXT. COURTYARD – NIGHT
There on the concrete below, face down, is the body of
Luther Coleman. Hooker races out to it and kneels down.
(shaking the body)
C’mon Luther, get up. You gotta
get up, Luther.
In the distance, sirens are heard. Heads are out of the
windows and some people are starting to gather in the
Goddamn you, Luther, will you get
(pounding on the body)
I’m not waitin’ for you, Luther.
I’m not waitin’ anymore. Get up,
you son of a bitch. Goddamn you,
The sirens are close now, and Hooker tears himself away from
Luther and runs. The others gather to look at the body.
INT. THE TRAIN STATION – DAY
We open on Hooker sleeping in some remote corner of the
station, covered with newspapers for warmth, and barely
distinguishable from the clutter of junk surrounding him. A
station security officer, on his morning sweep, wanders by
and delivers a terrific blow to the soles of Hooker’s feet
with a nightstick. Hooker jolts awake with a cry of pain,
as the officer diffidently moves on toward another sleeping
Tired and sore from his night in the station, Hooker
struggles to his feet and attempts to take stock of the
situation. He tries to smooth the wrinkles out of his suit,
but it’s futile. A quick check of his wallet finds it as
empty as he’d remembered it.
THE STATION – GIFT SHOP – DAY
Hooker walks in and goes to the toy section. He looks
through several small novelties, till he finds what he’s
looking for — a little tin replica of a policeman’s badge.
He looks around for station detectives, and seeing none,
slips the badge into his pocket.
THE STATION – WASHROOM – DAY
Hooker rinses out his mouth, towels off his face and slicks
his hair back with water. It’s a drop in the bucket, but it
seems to revitalize him a little.
STATION – HALLWAY – DAY
We see Hooker removing a sign from a door, but the angle
prohibits us from reading it.
INT. STATION – DAY
He drops the sign in a waste can and walks out into the
crowded passenger lobby. After scanning the area carefully
for a minute, he goes up to a conservative young business
man, who’s busy reading the schedule board.
(flashing open his
wallet to reveal the
little tin badge and
then closing it again quickly)
Excuse me, sir. Treasury Dept…
I’d like to ask you a few questions.
What for? I haven’t done anything.
We don’t doubt that, but there’s a
counterfeiting operation passing
bad money in the station. Have you
made any purchases here today?
Yes, a ticket to Chicago.
Then I’m afraid we’ll have to
impound your money until we’re sure
that it’s all good. Can I see your
wallet and your ticket, please?
(handing them over)
But I got a train to make.
(taking out the money
and returning the wallet)
It’ll only take 20 minutes or so.
You can pick it up at the window
down the hall.
But what about all these other
We’ll get ’em! Give us a chance.
I’m not the only agent in here, ya
know. We go around advertising
ourselves, how many counterfeiters
do you think we’d catch, huh?
(pointing to his suit)
You think I’m wearin’ this rag here
’cause I like it? Christ, everybody
thinks life’s a holiday or somethin’
when you got a badge.
(pouring it on)
I been here since three this
morning, Charlie, and I never knew
there was so much ugliness in
people. You try to help ’em and
they spit on you. I shoulda let ya
go and gotten yourself arrested for
passin’ false notes.
The Businessman is totally shamed.
I’m sorry, really I am, but my
train leaves in ten minutes.
All right, I’ll give ya a break.
(pointing to a hall)
Down that hall there, there’s an
unmarked door on the left. Go on
in there and wait at the window.
I’ll take this…
(he holds up the money)
…in the back and run it through
right away. We’ll have you outta
there in a couple minutes.
Thank you. You don’t know how much
I appreciate this.
(with a little wave)
Think nothin’ of it.
The man goes off down the hall, more than grateful to be
given a break like this. Hooker heads for the “back”. We
follow the Man down the hall to the unmarked door. He
strides on through to find himself face to face with a wall
of busily flushing urinals.
EXT. STATION – DAY – HOOKER
Boarding the 8:10 for Chicago.
INT. STATION – DAY
The Man wandering up and down the hall, wondering how he
could have missed that room.
EXT. CHICAGO STREET – DAY
The street runs along side an elevated train track. We pick
up Hooker coming down the street, eating a hot dog he bought
with the money he just earned in the train station.
He appears to be looking for an address, referring every now
and then to the piece of paper Luther gave him the night
before. Finally he stops in front of an old three-story
building which contains a carousel on the bottom 2 floors
and what appear to be apartments on the third floor. He
peers inside the big, sliding glass doors and seeing no sign
of life, goes around to the side to look for a way in.
A 35 year-old woman, Billie, appears in her bathrobe on the
second floor landing and descends the stairs to get the
morning paper. She’s eating an apple. Although she has
just gotten up and looks it, she has the presence of one who
is probably quite striking at other hours. The sight of
Hooker fazes her not at all.
Excuse me, I’m looking for a guy
named Henry Gondorff. You know him?
(starting back up the stairs)
Luther Coleman sent me.
Billie stops and comes back down the stairs. It’s the first
time she’s stopped chewing.
(checking him out)
Why didn’t you say so. I thought
maybe you was a copper or somethin’.
She goes to a side door and unlocks it.
It’s the room in the back. He
wasn’t expecting you so soon though.
Hooker’s not quite sure what that means, but there’s
something about Billie that makes him know that you don’t ask.
INT. CAROUSEL – DAY
Hooker walks past the now motionless carousel to the room in
the back and knocks on the door. No answer. He gives the
door a little push and it swings open.
INT. GONDORFF’S ROOM – DAY
The room inside if small and cluttered, consisting of a bed,
a sink, and a bathroom, all covered by a layer of books,
dirty clothes and beer bottles. Draped over a chair, fully
dressed, but completely passed out is the one and only Henry
The great Henry Gondorff.
INT. A SHOWER – DAY
Water blasting out of the fixture. We see Gondorff, still
fully clothed, sitting in the bottom of the shower, the
spray streaming off his face. An imposing figure, with deep
set eyes and full beard, he just sits there stoically,
looking like a soggy lumberjack. Hooker, sitting on the
floor between the toilet and the sink, watches listlessly.
Turn the goddamn thing off, will ya.
I can talk, can’t I?
Hooker makes no move to get up. Gondorff struggles to his
knees, turns off the water, and slumps back against the wall.
The two men just look past each other a second. Down in the
Glad to meet ya, kid. You’re a
real horse’s ass.
Yeh, Luther said you could teach me
something. I already know how to
Gondorff wipes his face with his hand. His mood softens a
I’m sorry about Luther. He was the
best street worker I ever saw.
He had you down as a big-timer.
Aw, I conned a Senator from Florida
on a stocks deal. A real lop-ear.
He thought he was gonna take over
General Electric. Some Chantoozie
woke him up, though, and he put the
feds on me.
You mean you blew it.
Luther didn’t tell me you had a big
He didn’t tell me you was a fuck-
(Gondorff looks at
You played the Big Con since then.
No, I lammed it around for a while
while things cooled off. Philly,
Denver, Baltimore, nuthin’ towns.
Hooker’s disappointment is obvious.
But don’t kid yourself, friend, I
still know how.
Hooker nods, unconvinced.
(getting up from the
floor and emptying
the water out of his pockets)
You gonna stay for breakfast, or do
you already know how to eat?
I picked something up on the way.
Lonnegan after you, too?
I don’t know. Haven’t seen anybody.
You never do, kid.
We go to Hooker. He hadn’t thought of that.
EXT. A BEAUTIFUL OLD COLONIAL COUNTRY CLUB – LONG ISLAND –
Lonnegan, in plus fours and argyles sits on a bench as other
members of his foursome tee off. Floyd comes up to him.
We got word from Chicago. They got
one of the grifters last night.
What about the other one?
They’re still looking for him.
Who’s got the contract?
Combs gave it to Reilly and Cole.
They staked out the other guy’s
place last night, but he never
showed. They figure maybe he
skipped town. You wanna follow ’em
Lonnegan regards Floyd patiently and then pats the bench
beside him. Floyd sits gingerly.
You see the guy in the red sweater
We cut to one of Lonnegan’s foursome, a short, squat little
Irishman in a red sweater. He was a good-time, friendly
manner and a winning Irish smile. We like him immediately.
Name’s Danny McCoy. No Neck McCoy
we called him. Runs a few
protection rackets for Carnello
while he’s waiting for something
bigger to come along. Me and Danny
been friends since we were six.
Take a good look at that face,
Floyd, cause if he ever finds out
we let one lousy grifter beat us,
you’ll have to kill him and every
other hood in Chicago who’d like to
do the same thing. You understand
what I’m sayin’?
Lonnegan is called to the tee by one of his foursome. He
exchanges a friendly smile with McCoy and belts the ball
down the fairway.
INT. THE CAROUSEL AGAIN – DAY
Gondorff, dried off now and in a new set of clothes, is
pulling up the shades of the large facing windows of the
carousel building. The morning light pours in, illuminating
fully for the first time the ornate merry-go-round and its
massive oaken horses. Hooker watches him go about his
business. Billie calls down from the mezzanine which
surrounds the carousel.
You feeling all right this morning,
You mind opening the round a little
early today? We got some business
coming in before hours.
Gondorff waves okay.
Great little countess, that Billie.
Runs a good house up there, too.
One of the few left that Luciano
Gondorff walks around on the carousel, checking straps,
bearing and poles. Hooker follows him.
Gondorff, you gonna teach me the
Big Con or not?
(on his back, checking
underneath one of the horses)
You didn’t act much like you wanted
to learn it.
I wanna play for Lonnegan.
You know anything about him?
Yeh, he croaked Luther. What else
do I gotta know.
Gondorff just sits tight and waits for him to cool off.
(waving Gondorff off,
embarrassed at his
Aw right, he runs the numbers outta
the south side.
(going over to start
And a packing company, a chain of
Savings and Loans and half the
politicians in Chicago and New York.
There ain’t a fix in the world
gonna cool him out if he blows on ya.
I’ll take him anyway.
(whirling on him)
‘Cause I don’t know enough about
killin’ to kill him.
It’s the right answer. Gondorff didn’t know it himself until
You can’t do it alone, ya know. It
takes a mob of guys like you and
enough money to make ’em look good.
We’ll get by without ’em.
This isn’t like playin’ winos on
the street. You gotta do more than
outrun the guy.
I never played for winos.
(going right on,
ignoring Hooker’s remark)
You gotta keep Lonnegan’s con, even
after you spent his money. And no
matter how much you take from his,
he’ll get more.
You’re sacred of ’em, aren’t ya?
Right down to my socks, turkey. If
I’da been half as scared a that
lop-ear, I wouldn’t a fallen asleep
on ’em. Lonnegan might kill me,
but at least he won’t bore me to
Then you’ll do it?
If I can find a mob that’ll risk it.
But no matter what happens, I don’t
want you comin’ back to me halfway
through and sayin’ it’s not enough…
cause it’s all you got.
Hooker nods. Gondorff switches on the carousel and steps
back to admire his handiwork. The carousel makes a grinding
sound, does a few lurches and stops cold.
Music begins and we are into a short:
Detailing the arrival of the others three members of
Gondorff’s “mob.” Throughout, Gondorff wears the fedora hat
which is his trademark. We begin with —
A tall, good-looking man, Kid Twist, making his way through
the railway station. Impeccably dressed and carrying a
small suitcase, he combs the terrain carefully with his eyes.
Finally he catches a glimpse of the thing he’s been looking
for. It’s Gondorff, standing by a newsstand. Gondorff
makes a quick snubbing motion on his nose as if flicking off
a gnat. This is known among con men as the “office.” Twist
returns the sign with a barely discernible smile as he walks
on by. Con men rarely acknowledge each other openly in
public, but it’s obvious that these two are glad to see each
INT. BARBER SHOP – DAY
Hooker in, having his hair cut and his nails manicured.
Gondorff gives instructions to the barber.
INT. HABERDASHERY – DAY
Hooker is modeling a new suit in front of a mirror. He
doesn’t look too pleased, but Gondorff peels out a bankroll
EXT. HOTEL – DAY
A pair of white spats stepping off a bus. We follow them
INT. HOTEL LOBBY
Where we tilt up to reveal J.J. Singleton, the most
flamboyant of the bunch. On his way to the check-in desk,
he silently exchanges the “office” with Gondorff, who is
sitting on a lounge reading the paper.
INT. APARTMENT – DAY
Hooker being shown into a small apartment room by an old
woman. It consists of a bed, a table and a sink. Hooker
nods his acceptance to the woman and gives her a bill. He
takes another look around the room and decides to go out
somewhere, but first he wedges a small piece of paper
between the door and the jamb, about an inch off the floor.
INT. A BIG METROPOLITAN BANK – DAY
We hold on a slight, bespectacled teller, Eddie Niles, in
the process of counting a large deposit. Niles is all
business; if he’s ever smiled, no one knows about it. He
glances up for a second and sees Gondorff “officing” him
from across the bank. Without a word he shoves the money
he’s been counting back into the hands of a startled
customer, abruptly closes up his window, flips his
identification tag on the manager’s desk and walks out of
INT. AN UPSTAIRS ROOM OF THE CAROUSEL BUILDING – NIGHT
This room has obviously been relegated to the status of the
storage room. It contains the water heater, mops and
brooms, old bed springs, etc. In the middle of the room a
space has been cleared for a table, around which are seated
Hooker, Gondorff, Niles, Singleton and Twist. Gondorff is
in his T-shirt, but still wears his hat. Kid Twist is in a
suit as usual. The room is illuminated by a single bare
bulb hanging from the ceiling.
photographs of three men)
These are Combs’ favorite torpedoes.
Riley and Cole.
We recognize Riley and Cole as the two guys who got into
They do most of the small jobs, but
Lonnegan might not wanna use ’em on
you ’cause they’re kinda messy. No
We go to Hooker. He’s real grateful. Billie, wearing an
evening dress, enters the room and begins gathering up the
empty beer mugs on the table.
We got reason to believe Riley was
the guy who hit Luther. But if you
see either one of these two, find
yourself a crowd, or take ’em
someplace you know you can handle
But most of all let us know. If
they got a hit on you, we gotta
fold up the con. You’re too
exposed. You got that?
Hooker nods, but we know he hasn’t really got that.
You sure it’ll be one of these two?
No. They’re just the only ones we
Billie has finished gathering the mugs, and leaves the room
with them. We follow her down the hall and into the:
RECEIVING ROOM OF HER BROTHEL
Carousel music filters up from the arcade below. The room
has a bar along one wall and the rest of the space is taken
up by tables and couches. It’s a comfortable place, but not
opulent. Some of the girls sit patiently on the couches,
others play canasta at the tables. Most of the men are at
the bar, fortifying themselves for the task at hand. Billie
comes over to the bar.
(to the bartender)
Set me up five more beers, will ya
As Danny goes to fill the mugs, Billie’s eyes fix on a man
at the end of the bar.
We move to reveal Snyder, intently scanning the room, as if
he’d lost a dancing partner in the crush. Not finding what
he wants, he comes down the bar to Billie.
You the owner here?
(flipping out his badge)
Lieutenant Snyder. Bunco.
Joliet badge, Snyder. Don’t cut
much up here.
(trying to ignore her remark)
I’m lookin’ for a guy on the lam
from a counterfeiting rap. Thought
he mighta come in here.
Don’t think so. I know everybody
in the place and I always bounce
All right if I look around your
No, but you’re welcome to a free
beer before you go.
Billie grabs a bottle of beer, pours some in a shot glass
and pushes it over to Snyder. He ignores the gesture.
(with controlled force)
I don’t really need your permission.
We go to Billie. She knew that when he came in.
THE STORAGE ROOM AGAIN
The discussion continues. Hooker, a bit out of his depth
here, listens and stays silent.
Lonnegan’s a fast egg, Henry. He’s
not gonna sit still for a standard
Everybody’ll sit still for somethin’.
What did ya find out about the
He’s been taking the 8:10 Century
Limited outa New York on Friday and
getting in here early Saturday
morning. He usually stays a day to
check on his policy operations, and
then flies back.
Wonder why he doesn’t fly both ways.
The porters say he runs a braced
card game in one of the cars. $100
minimum, straight poker. Last time
he pulled in here ten grand heavier
than he left New York.
Fancies himself a gambler, huh?
Lotta plungers ride that train just
to play him.
(breaking into a smile)
See J.J., he’s slowly down already.
THE RECEIVING ROOM AGAIN
Snyder has completed his inspection of the “lobby” and found
nothing. Danny, meanwhile, has set up the five beers on a
Which way are the rooms?
Who told ya this guy was in here?
Nobody. I just know what kinda
women he likes. I’m gonna check
all the joyhouses till I find him.
Maybe I could help ya if ya told me
I think I’ll keep that to myself.
Which way are the rooms?
Right through there. But I wouldn’t
go in there if I were you.
(picks up the tray)
What are ya gonna do, call the cops?
I don’t have to. You’ll be bustin’
in on the Chief of Police just up
(she exits with the drinks)
Snyder is stopped cold. He calls after her.
Keep your nose clean, lady. He
can’t spend all his time here.
THE STORAGE ROOM AGAIN
Billie comes over to Gondorff and whispers in his ear, while
the others talk. His eyes flick momentarily to Hooker.
I think we ought to play him on the
Rag. It’s the tightest game we
got, and it’s not all over the
No good, J.J. You’re not gonna con
stocks to a banker. Lonnegan’s too
smart for that.
What are you going to do, con the
payoff to a gambler?
Twist is right. It won’t work.
Gondorff has nodded to Billie and now rejoins the
conversation. She serves the others beer.
We’ll use the wire. Never known a
gambler who wouldn’t like to beat
The wire is ten years outa date.
That’s why he won’t know it.
I’m not sure I know it.
We’ll give him the hook on the
train, and play him here. You
think I can get in that poker game,
All you gotta do is show up with
some money and look like a fool.
I also gotta win.
He looks at Hooker. There is a challenge in their book.
Gondorff smiles broadly, then casually, to them all.
By the way, any of you guys been
passing off any green goods lately?
We go around the table. No reply.
Billie, if that Dick comes in
again, stall him till I can get a
look at him. And let me pay ya for
What are you talking about? It’s
on the house.
(pulling out a $5 bill)
Naw, I want ya to have this.
He hitches up Billie’s skirt, and puts the bill in her garter.
Don’t look at it till ya go to bed
though or it’ll turn to paper.
Billie smiles and leaves the room.
She walks halfway down the hall and stops. She can’t wait.
Lifting up her skirt, she finds that the five has indeed
turned to paper. As she breaks into laughter and continues
on down the hall, we:
EXT. A SUNKEN ALLEY – DAY
Actually little more than a service area between two
apartment buildings. Niles, Kid Twist, and a middle-aged
black man, named Benny Garfield, enter the alley with an old
man and follow him down a stairwell to a subterranean
basement. A faded sign above the door says Stenner’s
Billiards. We follow them inside to a:
INT. A LARGE BARREN ROOM – DAY
An office comes off it at one end. Judging from the
fluorescent lights overhead and the scattered cue racks
which still hang tenuously on the walls, the place, indeed,
used to be a pool hall. Niles and Garfield go all the way
to the back, while Twist stays near the front with the old
Looks all right. It’s big enough
and off the street.
I don’t know. This is kinda short
notice. I’m not sure we can get it
all done by Saturday.
Got to. Gondorff’s ridin’ the mark
in from New York on the Century.
Garfield thinks it over a little. He’s taking another look
at the place. We go to Twist and the old man by the door.
We’ll take it.
(pointing through the door)
You manage the building at the end
of the alley?
For fifteen years.
I’ll need a room over there that
faces this way. How much a week?
Only rents by the month. Two
hundred and fifty for the two of
(pulling out his wallet)
This is the last time I expect to
see you down here.
(watching the bills
being counted into
Never heard of the place.
We go back to Niles and Garfield.
Been a while since I stocked a wire
store. Not many mobs playing that
All we need is the bookie setup for
now. We’ll worry about the
telegraph office later.
All right, I’ll rent ya everything
I got in the warehouse for two
grand. That’ll give ya phones,
cages, blackboards and ticker gear.
You supply the guys to move ’em.
If you want a counter and bar,
that’s another grand. I don’t know
where the hell I’m gonna get ’em
C’mon, you can do better than that.
We ain’t no heel grifters.
You want the stuff tomorrow or
don’t ya? It’s gonna take hours
just to clean it up.
Besides, Gondorff’s still a hot
item. Where am I gonna be if he
Just give us what ya can, Benny.
We’ll send a truck down.
Twist has rejoined them by now.
You wanna work flat rate or
Who’s the mark?
INT. A NEW YORK TRAIN STATION – DAY
We pick up Doyle Lonnegan, accompanied by two bodyguards and
Floyd, making his way through the station. He stops at a
cigar counter to buy some cigarettes, and we reveal Gondorff
and Hooker sitting on their suitcases on the other side of
(eyes fixed on Lonnegan)
Guy in the blue pinstripe and grey
Hooker looks and finally spots him in the crowd. We go back
to Lonnegan, as he moves off from the cigar counter, toward
his train. Hooker watches him with the intensity of one
gazing on a religious object.
He’s not as tough as he’d like to
(picking up his suitcase)
Neither are we.
Lonnegan and his retainers getting on the train. Two cars
down the line, we see Hooker and Gondorff boarding also. On
his way in, Gordorff takes the conductor aside.
I hear there’s a friendly poker
game on this train tonight. You
know anything about that?
You think you could get me in that
I don’t know. There’s usually a
Gondorff flashes a $50 bill.
(loosening up a bit)
That’ll get you first alternate, sir.
Gondorff pulls out another fifty.
(taking the money)
I’ll see what I can do.
INT. A BASEMENT BAR – EARLY EVENING
Kid Twist enters and threads his way through the maze of
tables to a door at the back of the building. A large bull
of a man is stationed there, obviously to discourage those
who don’t have credentials to enter. Twist is not such a man.
(going right on through)
How ya doin’, Lacey.
for one so menacing)
Good to see ya again, Twist.
INT. ANOTHER ROOM – EARLY EVENING
Inside is another room, this one much better lit than the
outer one. There are only three tables in here, around
which are seated the elite of the Con World. Twist is
enthusiastically greeted by Duke Boudreau, a large, rotund
man whose stylish dress and authoritative manner mark him as
a powerful figure in this group.
Twist! When did you get back in
Coupla days ago. I’m workin’ a big
one with Gondorff on the North Side.
The two men sit down together, apart from the others.
Listen Duke, we’re setting up a
wire store. I need a twenty man
boost right away.
I got twenty or so in here tonight.
Take your pick.
These guys have gotta be the quill,
Duky. We can’t afford to rank the
(to one of his assistants)
Get me the sheet, Jake. Let’s see
who’s in town.
THE OUTER PART OF THE BAR AGAIN
A silhouetted figure appears in the entrance doorway. The
word “chill” races from table to table and the place falls
still. The bartender pushes a button behind the bar and a
buzzer goes off in the back room. Boudreau gets up from his
table and opens a small viewing port in the door.
The silhouetted figure is now walking slowly past the silent
tables. It’s Snyder and he’s checking out every face in the
Twist, you know this guy?
(taking a look
through the viewing port)
No. Never saw him before. He’s a
Snyder walks all the way to the back, and then retraces his
route. About halfway back, he stops at one of the tables,
recognizing a grifter he knows. It’s the Eirie Kid.
Hello, Snyder. What are you doin’
I’m on vacation. You seen your
Yeh, he packed it in and enrolled
in detective school.
Snyder, in no mood for jokes, grabs Eirie by the hair and
slams his face into the table. Eirie just stays there; he
knows it doesn’t pay to assault a detective. Twist is
watching all this intently from the viewing port.
You see him, you tell him to pay
his debts before I get him.
Eirie raises his head slowly, but says nothing. There is a
slight trickle of blood from his nose. Snyder turns and
walks slowly out of the bar. When he is a safe distance
down the street, the chatter and drinking resume.
THE INSIDE ROOM AGAIN
Twist gives an all clear signal and returns to the table
where he and Boudreau were talking. Boudreau reads from a
list of names. Twist listens with a certain preoccupation.
He’s still thinking about the little confrontation he just
Paltrow, Sterling, Furey, and the
Big Alabama are in from New Orleans.
Fiskin and the Boone Kid from
Denver, and Phillips, Barnett and
Limehouse Chappie from New York.
Those and the guys outside should
give ya 30 or so to choose from.
Good, have ’em down at Stenner’s
old Pool Hall before 3:00. We’re
gonna run through the route tonight.
Okay, Twist, but you know if this
blows up, I can’t do ya no good
downtown. Gondorff is Federal.
Don’t worry about it, pal.
EXT. SPEEDING PASSENGER TRAIN – NIGHT
Ripping through an open stretch between New York and Chicago.
INT. TRAIN – NIGHT
Singleton is walking down a passageway and stops at a door
and goes in.
INT. GONDORFF’S COMPARTMENT – NIGHT
Gondorff is rapidly shuffling cards to four empty places.
He is alone. He looks up as Singleton enters.
Yeh, I think so. I gave the kay-
ducer a C-note. You find out the
He usually plays with a Royal or a
(handing him two
I got you one of each. He likes to
cold deck low, 8’s or 9’s.
Nice work, J.J.
Singleton slips out as Gondorff unpeels the packs.
INT. TRAIN – NIGHT
We pick up Lonnegan coming out of his compartment, flanked
by only one bodyguard and Floyd. He starts through the
passenger section toward the compartment where the poker
game will be held. Suddenly a drunken woman comes staggering
around the corner and bumps into him.
They grapple a moment and Lonnegan pushes her away in disgust.
Keep your mitts off me, ya big lug.
If I’da wanted you handlin’ me I
woulda asked ya.
Lonnegan ignores her and proceeds down the passageway. As
the woman proceeds in the other direction between passengers,
we see it is Billie. She drops something on a seat beside a
passenger. A hand reaches to pick it up. It is Lonnegan’s
wallet and it is Hooker who picks it up.
Hooker waits a moment, then stands and goes in the direction
Lonnegan has taken. He passes by the open door to the card
room, hesitating only slightly to hear the greetings
exchanged inside before the door is shut. Then he continues
on into the next car. He turns into Gondorff’s compartment.
INT. GONDORFF’S COMPARTMENT – NIGHT
Gondorff is still practicing. He looks up as Hooker enters
and tosses him the wallet.
She got him clean. He hasn’t
Gondorff nods, takes the money out, counts it.
Fifteen grand. Looks like he’s
expecting a big night.
He takes out his own wallet and puts the money in it, and
tosses the empty wallet back to Hooker, and resumes his
shuffling and dealing. Hooker sits back silently and
He’s waitin’ for you in the card
Let him wait.
As he deals, on the second pass he attempts to cut from the
bottom, muffs it completely and sprays half the deck on the
table. Hooker regards him steadily as he gathers them back
- Gondorff finally meets his gaze.
You just worry about your end, kid.
If we ever get to it.
INT. THE POKER ROOM – NIGHT
A specially outfitted compartment with a table and chairs in
the middle and leather cushions around the outside for
kibitzers. Lonnegan and 3 other players are already there
and seated. They’re getting slightly impatient.
(to the Conductor)
Where the hell is this guy?
I don’t know. He said he’d be here.
GONDORFF’S CABIN AGAIN
Gondorff is standing in front of the mirror dressing. He
grabs up a clean white shirt and rumples it up in his hands.
He then picks up a half-full bottle of bourbon. Hooker
gives him a disapproving look. Gondorff smiles and pats
some on his face.
THE POKER ROOM AGAIN
Everybody’s itchy now.
All right, let’s start without him.
Mr. Clemens, give me the cards.
The Conductor hands him a sealed deck. As he begins to open
it, Gordoff comes into the room, coatless, rumpled, unshaven
and looking slightly tipsy. The others at the table, all
men of high school or financial standing, are somewhat put
Sorry I’m late boys. I was takin’
This bit of grossness does little to improve his image.
referring first to Gondorff)
Mr. Shaw is a bookmaker from
Chicago. Mr. Shaw, meet Mr.
Clayton from Pittsburgh, Mr.
Jameson, Chicago, Mr. Lonnegan, New
York and Mr. Lombard, Philadelphia.
Gondorff nods and takes a seat, none too gracefully.
Straight poker, gentlemen. 100
dollar minimum, table stakes. We
assume you’re good for your debts.
(shuffling the cards)
Mr. Shaw, we usually require a tie
at this table. If you don’t have
one, we can get ya one.
Yeh, that’d be real nice of ya, Mr.
He begins to deal, obviously not pleased that his evening
seems to be peopled with drunks.
EXT. THE SUNKEN ALLEY – NIGHT
A truck is now parked at the end of the alley, and several
workmen are busy unloading it. One group carries a large
blackboard; others have boxes of glasses, ash tray stands,
furniture, etc. Take several cuts.
INSIDE THE ONCE-VACANT POOL HALL
Now a blaze of activity. We take several cuts of workmen
papering the walls, tacking down carpet, putting in new
light fixtures, painting signs, all under the supervision of
Niles. From now on, we will refer to the pool hall as the
Back in the office, Kid Twist is “interviewing” one by one,
a group of con men lined up outside the office door. A
gray-haired old buzzard, Curly Jackson, approaches the table
which is serving Twist as a desk. Curly is practically in
rags and has several days growth on his face. He wears a
little beret which he takes off to address Twist.
Name’s Curly Jackson. I worked for
Gad Bryan outa Baltimore.
You ever played the Wire, Curly?
Used to rope for it long ago. I
can shill, mark board, anything you
want. I don’t run with riffraff
and I only drink on weekends.
(affecting an English accent)
Me specialty is an Englishman.
Twist is taken with the man, despite his appearance.
All right, Curly, you’re in. We
got a rack of suits over there.
Get yourself a nice tweed one.
That’s all right. I got all my own
THE CARD GAME AGAIN
Gondorff and Lonnegan have most of the chips. Lonnegan is
slightly ahead. Gondorff has made a token attempt to wear
the provided tie, having tied it in a knot around his neck,
but not having bothered to put it under his collar. He has
a shot glass and a bottle next to him, from which he has
been drinking heavily. He and Lonnegan are the only ones
left in this hand.
(throwing chips in)
See ya and raise three.
See and raise five.
Five and call.
Lonnegan lays down his hand, a solid two pair. Gondoroff
turns out three tens. Lonnegan is beat.
Tough luck, Lonnihan, but that’s
what you get for playin’ with your
head up your ass. Couple more like
that and we can all go to bed
early, huh boys.
Lonnegan burns, and the “boys” have no comment.
INT. THE STORE – NIGHT
The work is still progressing. We see two workmen installing
a ticket tape machine in a secluded area of the store.
We bought ya a tap into Moe
Anenberg’s wire. He’s got eyes at
every track in the country. You’ll
get race results, odds, scratches,
pole positions, everything; and
just as fast as Western Union gets
Does J.J. know how to use this thing?
All he’s gotta do is read.
We go to Kid Twist, still conducting interviews in the
office. A young, rather sullen man, Buck Duff, steps to the
Buck Duff. I was in Maxwell’s
boost in Troy.
You the Duff that didn’t come up
with his end when Little Jeff was
Wasn’t no problem a mine.
He was a con man, wasn’t he?
He was a tear-off rat. He got what
he deserved. No sense helpin’ pay
Shove off, Duff.
Duff stands there a second and then slouches away from the
table. He stops however, by the door. The next man up is
the Eirie Kid. Twist knows he’s seen him somewhere before.
(nervous as hell)
Names’s Joe Eirie.
Twist waits for more, but it’s not coming.
You played for any particular mobs?
You know the Wire at all?
No…I never played no Big Con
before. But Luther Coleman was a
friend a mine. I thought maybe
there was something I could do.
(pointing to Eirie
slightly swollen nose)
You get that nose in Duke Boudreau’s
Eirie nods a reluctant “yes.”
You got moxie, Eirie. Get yourself
Eirie is so happy, he can barely blurt out a thank you.
Buck Duff, enraged that Twist would hire a total amateur,
turns in disgust and strides vengefully out of the store.
THE CARD GAME AGAIN
The room is dense with smoke now, and the players are
feeling the heat. Gondorff has his white shirt open,
revealing a stained T-shirt underneath. The bottle next to
him is almost empty. He sneezes and wipes his nose with the
tie Lonnegan gave him.
The chips are now about equally divided between Gondorff and
Lonnegan. The others are losing badly.
(throwing in his last
Two and call.
Jameson lays down two pair. Gondorff has a flush. Gondorff
rakes in the chips, which now put him ahead of Lonnegan.
Well, I’m out.
Don’t worry about it, pal. Lemongan
here wouldn’ta let you in the game
if you weren’t a chump.
(getting to his feet)
I’ve had enough of your lip, Shaw.
Gondorff grabs the whiskey bottle next to him, breaks it
against the table and waves the jagged end in Lonnegan’s face.
(barely able to stand up)
Just take it easy there, Larrabee.
Jameson and the conductor step in between.
Let’s take a break for a couple
minutes and cool off.
Lonnegan storms out of the room, followed by Floyd and
INT. SMOKING ROOM
We pick up Lonnegan coming down the passageway to enter the
(to his assistant)
I’ve had it with that bum, Floyd.
Stack me a cooler.
(trying to settle him down)
You’ve only been playin three
(not to be pacified)
I don’t care. Load me a deck. Set
it up for threes and nines. I’ll
cut it in on his deal.
(taking a deck and
beginning to sort it)
What do ya want the others to get?
Nothin’. They gotta be outa there
early. I’m gonna bust that bastard
in one play.
INT. THE POKER ROOM AGAIN – NIGHT
A pair of hands shuffling. We pull back to reveal that
they’re Gondorff’s. He passes the deck to Lonnegan to be
cut and turns to pen a new whiskey bottle. Lonnegan takes
the deck and in one lightning motion substitutes a new deck,
while making it look like he’s cutting the old one.
Gondorff picks up the deck and begins to deal. As the hand
is picked up, we see that Gondorff has four threes, Lonnegan
four nines, and everybody else has nothing.
(opening the bidding)
Gondorff looks at Lonnegan very carefully for a second.
Lonnegan meets his stare.
The spectators shift a little. It’s the biggest bet of the
See and raise 1,000.
(taking it to him)
Lonnegan fingers his remaining chips. He knows he’s won,
but he wants to bleed it for every bit of suspense.
(going for broke)
See, and raise the rest.
Lonnegan pushes in the rest of his chips. Gondorff, who is
only required to match Lonnegan’s total, throws in all his
too. It’s a showdown.
Lonnegan puts down his four nines. Gondorff just stares at
them a second, lets out a deep sigh and lays down four jacks.
Lonnegan is aghast. This just can’t be. He glances at
Floyd, who can do nothing but sit there with his mouth open.
(raking in the chips)
Well that’s all for me tonight,
boys. I’m gonna leave ya some cab
The other players look at each other in disgust, and reach
for their wallets, all of which are well stocked.
You owe me 15 grand, pal.
Lonnegan, with a stare that could kill, reaches for his
wallet. Suddenly the stare goes soft. He tries a few more
pockets. No soap.
(getting up to get it)
I guess I left it in my room.
What! Don’t give me that crap you
little weenie. How do I know you
ain’t gonna take a powder.
(waving his wallter,
which is full of
You come to a game like this, you
bring your money.
Lonnegan, having had all he can take, goes for Gondorff, but
is restrained by the conductor.
All right, buddy, I’m gonna send a
boy by your room in five minutes,
and you better have that jack, or
it’s gonna be all over Chicago that
your name ain’t worth a dime.
Gondorff stalks out of the room. We pick him up coming down
the passageway to his compartment.
INT. GONDORFF’S COMPARTMENT
The drunkenness has vanished. We follow him into his cabin,
where Hooker is waiting anxiously.
How’d ya do?
Well we got some workin’ money
Gondorff tosses his winnings on the table.
Okay, kid, you’re on. But I gotta
tell ya, its a hard act to follow.
INT. LONNEGAN’S CABIN – NIGHT
Lonnegan sits in a chair smoking, obviously still upset.
Floyd paces in front of him.
I know I give him four threes. We
can’t let him get away with that.
What am I supposed to do? Call him
for cheating better than me?
There’s a knock at the door. Floyd goes and opens it. It’s
My name’s Carver. Mr. Shaw sent me.
Floyd motions him in without a word.
Your boss is quite a card player,
Carver. How does he do it?
Lonnegan says nothing. He doesn’t like smart asses. He
looks Hooker over a second, as if considering whether to
have him wasted or not.
(reaching into his
He’ll have to take a check.
(pulling out a check)
I couldn’t find my wallet.
Yeh, he knows that.
What do you mean?
Lonnegan’s wallet and
tossing it to him)
He hired a dame to take it from ya.
Lonnegan just holds the wallet. He can’t believe it.
You were set up, Lonnegan. Shaw’s
been planning to beat your game for
months. He was just waiting for
you to cheat him so he could clip ya.
(the heat rising)
I could have you put under this
train for this, errand boy.
(cool as hell)
So could Shaw.
Then why the rat?
Cause I’m tired of bein’ his nigger.
I want you to help me break him.
Lonnegan looks at Hooker long and hard, as if the intensity
of his gaze could separate truth from fiction. Lonnegan
hadn’t expected this, but now that it’s here, it better be
on the level. The silence is suddenly broken by the noise
of the train braking into the station.
C’mon, I’ll give ya a lift home.
Hooker hesitates, not sure whether to accept or not.
What’s the matter? You gotta get
back to Shaw?
Naw, he picked up some jane in the
bar. Can’t see him till morning
All right, then.
INT. LONNEGAN’S CAR – NIGHT
Driving through the city, the driver and Floyd in front,
Hooker and Lonnegan in back.
Hooker glances out the window from time to time, just to
make sure they’re really going to his place.
Why me? Shaw probably has lotsa
enemies to choose from.
I need somebody respectable…but
not completely legit. What I’m
gonna do isn’t very legal.
I’m a banker, friend. That’s legit
in this state.
All you gotta do is place a bet for
me at Shaw’s place. I’ll supply
all the money and the information.
Lonnegan is listening, but you’d never know it.
If you help me out, I’ll pay ya
back the money you owe Shaw, myself.
That’s worth fifteen grand to ya?
Maybe a couple million.
We go to Lonnegan. He’s still not talking, but that last
phrase has registered.
EXT. HOOKER’S PLACE
The car pulls up in front of Hooker’s place.
You’re dreamin’, kid.
660 Marshall Street. Tomorrow at
12:30, if you’re interested.
If I’m not there by quarter of, I’m
Hooker nods and walks up the steps to his apartment building.
Lonnegan’s car speeds away from the curb and on out of sight.
Hooker breathes a sigh of relief. He’s passed his first
test; or has he? We follow him up the stairs to his room.
INT. HOOKER’S APARTMENT
He’s just about to unlock the door, when he notices the
little piece of paper he left in the door is on the floor.
Without the slightest hesitation, Hooker leaps over the
bannister and races back down the stairs. Two gunmen, Riley
and Cole, burst out of his room and fire at him over the
railing, but he’s already too far down. Riley and Cole give
THE FRONT OF THE BUILDING
Riley and Cole barrel out of the building and onto the
sidewalk. There is an empty bus stopped at a light, but
they find no sign of Hooker. As the light changes, we cut
to the other side of the bus, where we see Hooker crouched
on the rear wheel housing, hanging on to a vent. He’s a
little shaken, but most of all, he’s still alive. We hold
on him, as the bus moves off.
Everything go all right?
Yeh, it was easy.
INT. THE STORE – NIGHT
Hooker and Gondorff are sitting alone in the back office
while the work goes on outside. Their conversation continues.
No signs of trouble?
What do ya mean?
You know, somebody tailin’ ya. A
torpedo or somethin’.
(wanting to get off
No, not a thing.
Gondorff has his doubts, but lets them ride.
OTHER PARTS OF THE STORE
We concentrate on some of the fine details, i.e. Garfield
explaining how the ticker will read out to Singleton and
Billie; Curly Jackson showing a younger con man how to mark
the odds board properly.
How ’bout Lonnegan?
I gave him the breakdown just like
ya told me to.
He threatened to kill me.
Hell, they don’t do that and you
know you’re not gettin’ through to
We concentrate on Niles, who’s making up the “boodles” or
fake bankrollls. He puts a real $100 bill on the bottom,
then two inches of cut green paper on top, and then another
$100 bill on top of that, so that it looks like he has a
whole stack of $100 bills. The bundle is then bound with a
sealed label, like those used in banks, that says $10,000.
We see that he has already made several of these bundles.
Then he drove me home. He tried to
put himself away as legit, so I
went right into the pitch.
Did he hold you up on anything?
Naw, he just sat there and listened.
I don’t know if he bought it or not.
INT. THE STORE
Twist in the middle of the room giving a route to the Eirie
Kid. He shows him where to get his drink at the bar, where
to sit and finally how to leap up and throw his racing form
down in disgust.
That’s all right. Once they start
listening, they’re in trouble.
Just don’t give him more than he
asks for. If you rattle his
imagination a little, he’ll come up
with all the right answers himself.
But all he’s gotta do is catch you
in one lie and you’re dead.
HOOKER AND GONDORFF IN THE STORE OFFICE AGAIN
They both look tired.
You think he’ll show?
Did he say he wouldn’t?
WE OPEN ON A WIDE SHOT OF THE ALLEY OUTSIDE THE STORE
At first it appears to be deserted, but we move to reveal a
figure in an upper window of the apartment building which
forms one side of the alley. It’s Kid Twist. His eyes roam
the street, for what, we do not yet know.
INT. AN OLD DRUGSTORE ACROSS FROM THE ALLEY – DAY
Probably prosperous at one time, it has since declined, its
large fountain and eating area bow host to two bums and
Hooker, who sits alone in a rear booth near the telephone.
Dressed in a tuxedo, he nurses a cup of coffee, and anxiously
alternates his glances between the clock and the empty
street outside. It’s 12:52.
INT. THE STORE – DAY
The place is full of people, although we avoid long shot so
as not to give away the room as a whole yet. Instead, we
concentrate on the tense, waiting faces of some of the more
Gondorff and Niles in tuxedos behind a barred cashier’s area.
Gondorff mutilates a piece of gum in his mouth. Niles just
stares out into space cracking his knuckles.
Eddie, cut that out, will ya.
The boardmarker walking nervously back and forth in front of
his odds board, checking every letter and number. He stops
to cross a T on one of the horses’ names. It was already
crossed, but he does it again anyway.
Billie and Singleton, in an area hidden from the rest of the
room, watching the print-out on the ticker machine. The
clicking of the ticker is the only sound we hear in the store.
Curly Jackson in front of a mirror, pasting a fake Van Dyke
on his chin to go with his tweed suit and monocle.
A couple of Billie’s girls adjusting their waitress outfits
and primping their hair. Each has a tray full of drinks
The Eirie Kid silently retracing his “route” to make sure he
has it down.
Despite the crowd, there is no talking and little movement,
save for the constant swirling of smoke from several cigars
and cigarettes. The group is like a theatre company waiting
to go on opening night.
THE DRUGSTORE AGAIN
It’s 12:56 and Hooker is worried. He looks up to see two
large men, obviously racket goons, come in the front door,
and take a seat facing him in the next booth. They stare at
him impassively, waving the waitress away when she comes to
take their order. Hooker knows they’re Lonnegan’s men, but
is somewhat unsettled by the fact that Lonnegan is not with
them. Suddenly, a voice.
Hooker turns around to find that Lonnegan is seated in the
booth directly behind him. His bodyguard is in the one
You should always look to the back
(sliding out of his
booth and into Lonnegan’s)
I was afraid you weren’t gonna come.
We haven’t got much time.
Get on with it then.
(pointing to telephone)
Sometime after 1:00 a guy’s gonna
call here and give you the name of
(pulling out a wad of bills)
All you do is take this two grand
across the street to Shaw’s place
and bet it on that pony. There’s
nothin’ to it, but don’t take too
much time. We only have 3 or 4
minutes after you get the call.
You’re not gonna break him with a
This is just a test. The big one
comes later. Be careful with that
though, it’s all I got.
And you were gonna pay me back?
I am after this race.
Lonnegan says nothing. He’s not sure he likes a man who’s
stupid enough to bet his last dollar on a horse race.
I gotta get back before Shaw misses
- Good luck.
Hooker hustles out across the street and into the alley.
Lonnegan watches him through the window and then settles
back in his seat to wait for the phone.
As Hooker descends the stairwell into the store, he gives
Kid Twist the office. Twist turns away from the window and
looks at his watch. 12:58.
Lonnegan waiting by the phone, idly pinging a knife on the
salt shaker. It’s 1:40. A man enters the store and walks
over to use the phone.
We’re waitin’ for a call.
The man looks at Lonnegan a second, and then at his four
goons. He decides maybe he’ll make the call later.
INT. THE STORE
Kid Twist again. Billie enters the room with a piece of
paper. Kid Twist looks at it a second and then picks up the
pohne and begins to dial.
Lonnegan again. He’s getting impatient now and lights a
cigarette, and then the phone rings. He answers it quickly
and we hear:
Bluenote at 6 to 1 on the nose.
The receiver clicks down at the other end. Lonnegan hangs
up and goes out the door, followed by his entourage.
We follow him across the street and into the alley, where he
signals one of the bodyguards to check the place out. Kid
Twist pushes a button on his window sill, and a buzzer goes
off inside the store. The previously inert figures there
spring to life.
Lonnegan’s bodyguard descends the stairwell and knocks at
the door, where he is greeted by Hooker in the capacity of
host. He looks the place over and motions an okay to
INT. THE STORE
As Lonnegan enters, we see the room for the first time in
its entirety. Overnight it has been transformed into a
swank private club, with bar, cigarette girls, upholstered
furniture and chandeliers.
Look at that. He’s got four apes
That’s what I like about these
guys, J.J… They always got
protection against things we’d
never do to ’em.
Everywhere there is activity. A bank of telephones buzzes
incessantly. Sheet writers scurry from phone to phone,
taking bets of tremendous size from prominent people.
Yes, Mr. Ruth, 20,000 on Dancing
We reveal that the phones are controlled by a master switch,
which one of the recruited con men operates from behind a
The boardmaker, wearing headphones suspended from a sliding
wire, hurriedly chalks up races and odds on a huge blackboard.
From the loudspeakers we hear the words “last flash.” The
odds on Bluenote settle down to 8 to 1.
Lonnegan makes his way through the throng toward the betting
line. His bodyguards fan out to various positions in the
room. The betting crowd itself (known as the “boost”)
consists of close to twenty people, none of whom, of course
are what they’re pretending to be. There are brokers with
pasty faces, sportsmen, tanned and casual, and financiers
with goatees and highly tailored clothes. Large amounts of
money are changing hands at the betting window. Boodles are
in sight everywhere.
Lonnegan slips into the betting line, feeling somewhat
estranged from the general merriment around him. There are
two men in line ahead of him. The first, Curly Jackson,
slaps down several bundles of cash in front of Niles, who’s
the cashier, and places a $20,000 bet on War Eagle. Gondorff
appears at the cashier’s window and catches sight of Lonnegan.
Never get enough, huh pal? I’d
think you’d get tired of losin’,
The name is Lonnegan.
Make sure you see cash from this
guy, Eddie. He’s got the name for
bettin’ money he don’t have.
The man in front of Lonnegan puts $5,000 on Dancing Cloud.
He makes the bet on credit. Lonnegan steps to the window.
Two-thousand on Bluenote.
(writing out a ticket)
Is that all?
Bluenote’s race is now up on the board. The race caller
comes on the loudspeaker.
Ladies and Gentlemen. This is
Arnold Rowe, your caller for the
second race at Belmont in New York.
A mile and 1/8. Four year olds and
- And they’re off!
We see that the caller is Singleton, and that he’s calling
the race from a concealed booth next to the cashier’s cage.
Around the first turn it’s a War
Eagle first by a length, Jail Bate
second by one and a half, Dancing
Cloud third by a half on the
outside, followed by Lucky Lady,
Mojo, Wits’ End and Bluenote.
Lonnegan goes to the bar, orders a drink, and settles down
at one of the tables. It happens to be the one the Eirie
Kid is at. Gondorff and Niles watch it from the cashier’s
That’s not where we want him to sit.
Eirie tries to ignore Lonnegan at first, but realizes he
better make some conversation.
C’mon War Eagle.
That Dancing Cloud’s a hell of a
finisher. War Eagle’s gonna have
to open up a little more on ’em.
You know anything about a horse
Naw, he’s never done much. Probably
in here just to round out the field.
War Eagle’s where you wanna have
Eirie excuses himself and heads for the bar.
Into the clubhouse turn, it’s War
Eagle by two lengths, Dancing Cloud
has moved up to second by a half,
Lucky Lady is third by three
followed by Jail Bait, Mojo,
Bluenote and Wits’ End.
The heretofore chaotic energy of the parlor is now focused
on the race. Several of the patrons begin to yell for their
horses. Lonnegan remains seated. He seems bored with it
all. Hooker comes over to clear some empty glasses from his
(out of the corner of
You really picked a winner, kid.
Give ’em a little time.
Into the backstretch it’s War Eagle
still by a length, Dancing Cloud
closing on the inside, is second by
two, Lucky Lady is third by one and
a half, followed by Bluenote, Jail
Bait, Wits’ End and Mojo.
Lonnegan perks up just a little. Bluenote, at least, has
moved up. The rest of the people in the place are really
rooting now. Few of them remain seated.
Hooker arrives at the bar, with the glasses he cleared from
Lonnegan’s table. Eirie is already there, fortifying
himself with a scotch.
You’re doin’ great, Eirie. He
Eirie nods, somewhat unconvinced, and heads bak to the table.
Into the far turn, it’s Dancing
Cloud now by half a length, War
Eagle is second by two, Bluenote is
third by a half and moving fast on
the outside. Lucky Lady is fourth
by four lengths, followed by Jail
Bait, Wits’ End and Mojo.
Lonnegan is getting more intent now.
Coming down the stretch, it’s
Dancing Cloud by one length, War
Eagle and Bluenote are neck and
neck by two. Now it’s Dancing
Cloud, Bluenote and War Eagle.
Dancing Cloud and Bluenote head to
The place is going crazy. Even Singleton is standing up to
get the necessary excitement in his voice.
Dancing Cloud, Bluenote. Dancing
Cloud, Bluenote. It’s Bluenote by
a nose. Dancing Cloud is second by
two, War Eagle third by three and a
half. Time for a mile and 1/8,
2:01 and 6/10 seconds.
Most of the patrons collapse into their chairs like spent
lovers. Eirie slams his racing form to the floor. Nobody
(tearing up his ticket)
Bloody awful. Who in blazes is
(to Eirie, very self-satisfied)
War Eagle’s where you want to have
your money, huh?
Eirie doesn’t reply. He can’t believe Bluenote won.
Lonnegan looks to Hooker. Hooker gives him a wink. For
the first time, Lonnegan permits a smile.
LONNEGAN AT THE CASHIER’S WINDOW
Niles is counting out $16,000 to him (all of which Gondorff
won the night before). Gondorff looks somewhat perturbed.
Lonnegan picks up the money and tauntingly waves it at him.
(getting his name
right this time)
Don’t bother to come back with a
piker’s bet like that again,
Lonnegan. We got a $5,000 minimum
Show this bum out.
Hooker hesitates a second.
Go on, ya goddamn ninny.
Gondorff gives Hooker a hard shove in the back with his
foot, sending him into a table and sprawling to the floor.
And tell him not to bring his
garbage men in here no more. This
is a class joint.
Hooker, pretending to be humiliated, gets to his feet and
escorts Lonnegan to the door. Lonnegan stops, gives Gondorff
a derisive smile, and walks out. Once he’s gone, the
general clatter and hubbub in the room cease, like it had
been turned off by a faucet. Most of the boost sit down and
relax. Curly Jackson rips off his Van Dyke. It’s been
He’s gaffed, kid. He should start
coming to you now.
INT. COMB’S OFFICE AT THE CLEARINGHOUSE – DAY
Combs sits passively on the edge of his desk glancing across
the room every now and then at Riley, who is slumped uneasily
in a folding chair, looking like a defendant at the
Inquisition. Both remain silent, like two men in a waiting
room. Suddenly, what they’ve been waiting for arrives.
Lonnegan comes into the office, flanked by his bodyguards.
Skipping the usual pleasantries, he walks right over to Riley.
All right, Riley. What the hell
(not looking at him)
We missed him.
You weren’t hired to miss him.
There wasn’t any way he coulda
known we was in there. We made a
clean pick on the lock and didn’t
leave no footprints in the hall.
Somebody musta wised him up.
Yeh, and what does Cole say about
I don’t know. He took it hard.
All right, get outa here. You’re
Riley gets up and drags himself out the door like a whipped
We’ll put Salino on it. I need
Salino? Why waste our best people
on a small-time job like this? It
ain’t no heavy gee we’re after.
The guy’s a five and dime grifter.
Then why ain’t he dead?
They didn’t think he’d be so cagey,
that’s all. They’ll get him next
Use Salino. It’ll take a little
longer, but there won’t be any
holes in it.
Combs gives up. The second time’s the charm.
And tell Cole I wanta see him when
he gets in.
He’s not comin’ in. Not to get
bounced off a job anyway.
He had his chance and all he did
was shoot up a rooming house. Made
a lotte noise and woke up a few
cops, but didn’t hit nothin’.
Combs keeps his mouth shut. There’s no way to talk to
Lonnegan when he’s like this.
(cooling a little)
This is Salino’s job now, Vince.
If Cole wants to muscle in on it,
that’s his business. But he’s
breakin’ the rules and when Salino
finds out about it, I can’t feel
sorry for what’s gonna happen to him.
INT. LONNEGAN’S HOTEL – DAY
The finest the period had to offer. We pick up Hooker
coming down the hall to Lonnegan’s suite. He is admitted by
the Bodyguard. Lonnegan, wearing a smoking jacket, is
seated at a table counting a pile of money. There are two
other assistants standing behind him. They don’t look
Well, what did I tell ya?
You’re a lucky man, all right.
Lucky, hell. I could do it every
Why don’t ya then.
‘Cause it’s better to do it all at
We’re puttin’ down 400 grand next
week. At 5-1 we make 2 million.
Twenty per cent of that is yours if
ya stick with us.
You got a system, Carver?
You stayin’ in or not?
(drawing up a chair,
barely able to
contain his enthusiasm)
It’s foolproof. We got a partner
downtown runs the central office of
the Western Union. Race results
from all over the country come in
there and go right across his desk
on their way to the bookies. All
he does in hold them up a couple
minutes until he can call us and
get a bet down on the winner. Then
he releases the results to the
bookies and we clean up on a race
that’s already been run. It can’t
miss, unless the Western Union
Dicks get onto it.
Lonnegan is amazed. He sits back a second, then comes
forward again and pushes a pile of bills over to Hooker.
Hooker smiles and begins to count the money.
You got the 400 grand yet?
Not yet, but…
Hey, there’s only a grand here.
(more like a command)
I think we oughta place another bet
What is this? That’s my money.
You tryin’ to muscle me?
If your system’s as foolproof as
you say, you’ll get even more.
Hooker’s in a jam and he knows it.
(after a pause)
I gotta talk to me partner first.
We can’t afford to expose our game
Let me talk to him.
You want your money back? Try and
get it in a court of law.
(softening a bit)
C’mon, don’t be a sorehead. I’ll
make it worth your while. Migth
even help ya finance the big play
if this one works out.
Hooker says nothing for a minute, and then reluctantly nods
Four o’clock tomorrow. Pick me up
at Dewey Lyle’s.
EXT. LONNEGAN’S HOTEL – DAY
We pick up Hooker coming out of the hotel and going off down
the street. As he does so, we pull back all the way across
the street and through the interior of a parked car to
reveal the silhouette of a man seated at the wheel. We move
to his right hand, which rests on the steering column. It’s
covered by a black glove and the middle finger is missing.
His trigger finger, however, taps lightly on the wheel.
INT. AN INDOOR TELEPHONE BOOTH – DAY
One of the old, wooden kind — accordian doors with glass
panes in the upper half. Hooker dials rapidly.
Twist? I told him the tale. He
wants to see ya.
All right, when?
Tomorrow, after 4:00. Stay inside,
I’ll come in and get ya. And be
hard on him for a while; he’s
Hooker blows a mock kiss through the phone and hangs up. He
turns to leave the booth, when suddenly he sees something
that stops him cold. There looking through the glass is the
smirking face of Detective Synder. Hooker is immobilized.
Snyder puts his hand inside his coat and slowly draws out
his gun. He points it right at Hooker’s face and then
violently smashes all the glass in the upper half of the
door with the barrel. Fragments of glass spray into the
booth, a couple of which imbed themselves in Hooker’s cheek.
Hooker quickly whips open the door, trapping Snyder’s hand
in the accordian and jarring loose his gun. Hooker sprints
out of the booth as Snyder scrambles for his pistol and
EXT. ALLEYS AND SIDESTREETS – NIGHT – THE TWO MEN
We follow the two men up alleys and sidestreets as they race
through the dregs of the city, two panting shadows moving
through places that only get light at night. The wind blows
drops of blood off Hooker’s cheek as he runs. Snyder still
has his gun, but would rather inflict pain than death.
Hooker makes for a condemned building and scrambles up the
stairs, steps giving way under him as he goes.
On the fourth floor, he ducks into a room and quickly locks
We pan the room to reveal that the whole back side of the
building is gone. Hooker runs toward the ledge and leaps
through the air, landing on the fire escape of an adjacent
building, some 15 feet away. He kicks in a window and goes
off down the hall. We cut back to
Snyder furiously kicking in the locked door. He finally
crashes through, only to find an empty room and a beautiful
panorama of the city and its nearest Hooverville.
LONG SHOT – HOOKER
Winding his way through the slum area of town, dashing along
backstreets, over fences and through vacant lots, making
good his escape. From our angle, he looks like a rat in a
Why didn’t you tell me about Snyder
I thought I’d lost him.
INT. GONDORFF’S ROOM AT THE CAROUSEL BUILDING – DAY
Hooker sits sullenly at the table. Billie stands over him
putting some ointment on his face to close the cuts.
Gondorff looks on. Their discussion continues.
Well you found him again and we’re
gonna have to do somethin’ about it.
What else haven’t ya been tellin’ me?
Nothin’. I told ya everything
Then why’d ya move outa your room?
It was too noisy.
You can’t play your friends like
Hooker doesn’t reply. He knows Gondorff’s on to him.
You know how easy it’d be for one
of Lonnegan’s guys to nail you?
All we need is a couple days, Henry.
A couple days and we’ll get Lonnegan
down and stomp on ’em.
You just won’t learn, will ya.
Hell, you come in here, I teach you
stuff maybe five guys in this world
know, stuff most grifters couldn’t
do even if they knew it, and all
you wanna do is run down a bullet.
You’re just like all them new jerks.
Lotsa nerve and no brains. And ten
years from now when me and the
others are through and you dumb
guys are all dead there won’t be
one gee left who knows the Big Con
was anything more than a way to
make a livin’.
A couple days; that’s all I’m
askin’. I can stay clear that long.
(trying to be angry
Christ, they’ll probably miss you
and hit me.
INT. A SLEEPY DINER – LATE AFTERNOON
Located across the street from Hooker’s apartment building.
Hooker sits down alone in a booth, with a plate of ham and
eggs he’s hardly touched.
The two cuts on his face have pretty much stopped bleeding.
A big fan above the counter area drones away lethargically,
it’s air stream insufficient to either cool the place or
drive out the smell of onions and grease.
A waitress, Loretta, emerges from the kitchen and ambles
slowly over to Hooker’s table. Slim and raven-haired, she
manifests an indifference bred from years spent delivering
things to people who are rarely grateful for what she brings.
Only a light scar on her left cheek hints at another side.
Yeh, I guess I shoulda had the meat
It isn’t any better.
Where’s June today?
(figuring up the bill)
She don’t work here no more. I’m
fillin’ in for a couple days…
till I can get a train outa here.
Where you goin’?
(putting the check
down and walking away)
I don’t know. Depends what train I
Hooker looks for some sign that she’s putting him on. He
doesn’t get it. He takes out some money, drops it on the
table and walks out.
EXT. A WESTERN UNION OFFICE – LATE AFTERNOON
A truck with the words CLAYTON BROS., CUSTOM PAINTING AND
DECORATING stenciled on the side, is parked out front. Two
men, wearing overalls and painter’s caps, walk into the
office to the reception counter, we see that they are Twist
(to the receptionist)
Excuse me. We’re here to paint Mr.
Mr. Harmon’s office? Hold on just
She goes to get Mr. Harmon.
EXT. THE SLEEZY DINER – LATE AFTERNOON
Hooker is standing on the curb outside the diner, obviously
waiting for somebody. Lonnegan’s car pulls up and Hooker
hops in the back.
What happened to your face?
Had a little fight with a raggle
down on 13th. She got me with her
INT. THE WESTERN UNION OFFICE AGAIN – LATE AFTERNOON
Mr. Harmon is looking over the authorization papers that
Twist and Singleton have given him. He can’t find anything
wrong with it.
Brigham signed it all right. I
can’t understand why he didn’t tell
Ah, he’s like all them supervisors.
They think they’re too good for
regular people. He says he was in
here a while ago and the place was
Harmon looks around, hoping it’s not true.
We’ll try and hurry so we don’t
keep you out of your office too long.
Why can’t I work with you in there?
Look pal, we gotta cover the floor,
the furniture, everything, so we
don’t spill on nothing. Now if you
wanta sit in there with a tarp over
your head, you’re welcome to it.
All right, how long will you be?
Hour or two at the most. We do
Harmon is resigned. Twist and Singleton pick up their gear
and march into the office. Once inside, we notice that the
office has an exit door which opens to an outside alley.
Twist immediately removes his overalls, revealing the suit
and tie he’s wearing underneath. He takes out a picture of
himself, a woman and three small children, and puts it on
Harmon’s desk, replacing a similiar picture of Harmon’s
family. Singleton, meanwhile, has spread a few tarps and
begins to paint the walls.
EXT. THE WESTERN UNION OFFICE – LATE AFTERNOON
Lonnegan’s car pulls up and stops across the street.
We’ll go to the side door.
We follow Hooker and Lonnegan across the street to the side
entrance which opens into:
INT. HARMON’S OFFICE
Hooker knocks and Twist, of course, answers.
Les, I got Mr. Lonnegan with me.
He wants to see you a second.
What the hell’s the matter with you.
We coulda met at a club or somethin’.
I thought it might be good for him
to see the setup.
Well we can’t talk in here. They’re
having the place painted.
Twist walks over to the intercom on his desk. He leaves the
door open so that Lonnegan can get a good look at the
office, Twist’s picture in it, the painter, etc… Lonnegan’s
not missing any of it.
(talking into the intercom)
Miss Barnes, I’m going home a
little early today. Tell anyone
that calls that they can reach me
here in the morning. Thank you.
INT. FRONT OFFICE
Harmon’s secretary at the other end of the intercom. Mr.
Harmon is with her. They look at each other a second and
Harmon decides he better see what’s happening in his office.
He opens the door to find it empty except for a pile of
painting equipment and one haphazardly painted wall.
INT. A DILAPIDATED CHINESE RESTAURANT – EVENING
Dark and somewhat foreboding, its peeling dragons and shoddy
lanterns compete for space with the many slot machines and
arcade games that line the walls. Hooker, Lonnegan and
Twist sit at one of the more secluded tables. They are not
Can’t do it. There’re telegraph
inspectors all over the place. I
got 750 grand coming in from the
coast, and I’m not gonna blow it
for a lousy 14 gees. We’ll get
somebody else to do our betting.
I could come up with 750 grand in a
day if I had a reason to.
But who says you will. I got a guy
I can depend on. He’s liquidating
everything he has for this. You
wouldn’t even give Carver his money
I need more proof, that’s all.
Anybody can get lucky once.
On a 6-1 shot? The hell with ya.
We’ll keep the deal we got.
If it works again tomorrow, I’ll
have a half million in cash here by
noon the next day. We split 60-40.
(feebly, beginning to break)
We were getting 50 from our guy.
With 20% coming off the top for me
laying your bet. Either way you
end up with 40.
A week’s a long time, friend.
Anything can happen. All of it bad.
He’s right, Les.
Yeh, and what if we play tomorrow
and he doesn’t come up with the
money. We risk our whole operation
for nothing. I’ll say when we make
Not if you want me to keep makin’
’em for ya.
And what do we know about your guy.
He says a week, but who knows if
it’s a month? Lonnegan here’s a
banker. He can get that dough with
no questions asked.
Twist says nothing for a minute, then:
All right. Be at the booth at 1:00.
I’ll give you all three places this
time, Lonnegan. That better be
Hooker and Lonnegan smile at each other like life-long
friends. They get up to leave, and we frame the shot with a
coffee cup large in the foreground. As they go out the
door, a black-gloved hand with four fingers enters the frame
and puts a nickel down next to the cup.
INT. A DOWNTOWN DINETTE – MORNING
Snyder finishes a donut and a cup of coffee, puts down a
dime for the lot and exits. We follow him down the street:
To a corner newsstand, where he stops to buy a morning paper.
As he peruses it, he’s approached by two large, clean-cut
men in white skimmers.
Are you Lieutenant William Snyder?
I don’t know, what’s up?
F.B.I… The Captain’d like a few
words with ya. Ya got a couple
The two men show him to a waiting car.
INT. AN ABANDONED WAREHOUSE – DAY
Snyder stands in the middle of a dusty old machine room,
surrounded by four or five Federal Agents. Visible around
the room are several folding cots and portable lockers. The
agents have obviously been quartered here temporarily. They
all wear white skimmers, save for one, a portly man, Captain
Polk, who paces the room smoking. There is something long-
suffering about him, as if he wondered how he ever got in a
service that thought white skimmers were classy.
What is this? I got work to do.
Sit down and shut up, will ya. Try
not to live up to all my
(not in the mood to
We were told you know a hustle
artist named Johnny Hooker.
Snyder doesn’t answer.
Do ya know him or don’t ya?
Yeh, but I don’t know where he is.
Well we do. He’s chummin’ around
with a Big C named Henry Gondorff.
Ring any bells?
Sure. Every bunco man in the
country knows Gondorff.
There’s word he’s gonna run a con
on the North Side here. We got a
year-old Florida warrant on him,
but it’s a thin beef, and he can
beat it in court unless we catch
him cold. All we want you to do is
pick up Hooker for us.
Why don’t you pick him up yourself?
Cause the stoolies are used to
street dicks jumpin’ him. If word
gets around that Feds are in on it
too, Gondorff’ll fold up the whole
Wouldn’t that be too bad. You’d
hafta move outa this nice office ya
Don’t crack wise to me, flatfoot.
I spent a lotta time in dumps like
this, eatin’ Gondorff’s dust while
the bunco squad gets rich tippin’
him off. But it’s not gonna happen
this time. We’re not even gonna
let the police know we’re here. If
you keep your mouth shut and do a
job, there’ll be a promotion in it
for ya. And you better take it,
cause I can make ya work for us
What the hell good is Hooker to ya?
He’s gonna set up Gondorff for us.
He’ll never do it.
I think he will.
INT. DRUGSTORE – DAY
Lonnegan sits by the phone, watching the clock and sipping a
cup of coffee.
INT. THE STORE – DAY
Specifically, the small room from which Singleton does his
race broadcasts. Singleton, himself, is hunched over the
ticker machine, reading the print-out. Billie sits at the
microphone table with a pencil and pad, ready to write.
Visitation is still up by two at
the three-quarters. Single Action
second, Fasanella third.
What’s the line on Visitation?
(checking further up
on the print-out sheet)
7 to 2. That ain’t bad.
He’ll probably fall down.
Gondorff appears at the doorway.
How ya doin’?
(eyes still glued to
Nothin’ yet. I got a good one on
the lead at Hialeah, but he’s fadin’.
Best we had was Cat’s Eye in the
second at Del Mar, and he was only
5-2. Not many longshots comin’ in
Billie. You ready?
Billie prepares to write on her pad.
Yeh, go ahead.
At the finish, it’s Single Action
by two, Fasanella second, Visitation
(reading up the sheet again)
Line on Single Action… 3 to 2.
Hell with it, that’s no good.
Billie crumples up the piece of paper she’s been writing on
and chucks it in a wastecan.
We don’t need big odds on this one,
J.J. Take anything you get at 3-1
Gondorff leaves the room, as Singleton turns back to his
vigil at the ticker.
(a little weary)
Okay, the Fairfield Stakes at Santa
Anita. Mile and a quarter for 3
year olds and up.
THE FLOOR AREA OF THE STORE
Everyone is in his place as before. Today, however, Curly
Jackson is playing the part of the aging sport.
Well scrubbed and clean shaven, he cuts a dashing figure in
his blue blazer and white pants. We go to Gondorff in the
cashier’s cage. He’s talking to Niles, who’s busy handing
out fake bankrolls to members of the boost.
He’s gonna hit ya with 20 grand,
Eddie. How much cash we got?
Not enough to cover a bet that big.
Get a couple extra guys in the
line, then. We’ll give him the
INT. DRUGSTORE – DAY
Lonnegan is still waiting. He takes the 20 grand out of his
coat pocket and thumbs through it, just to make sure it’s
INT. THE STORE – DAY
Singleton and Billie at the ticker again. Billie looks a
little sleepy. Singleton is obviously involved with the
progress of a race.
Okay, Billie, here we go.
Billie snaps to and prepares to write as Singleton reads.
At the wire it’s Wrecking Crew the
winner by five, Grand Theft second,
Wrecking Crew was…4 to 1.
(ripping the sheet
out of the ticker)
That’s our boy.
Billie and Singleton hustle out of the room.
We follow Billie through the store and across the alley to
the building from which Twist keeps his lookout.
CUT BACK TO:
INT. THE STORE
Gondorff, holding the ticker sheet Singleton has given him,
emerges from the office and starts giving instructions to
All right, Furey, your horse is
Wingless. Paltrow, the Big Alabama
and Phillips’ll take Grand Theft.
Rodgers and Eirie have Wrecking
Crew. Jackson — His Dandy,
Cowan — Change of Heart, Fiskin
and Chappie — Made to Order.
(pointing to the
Eirie, he gets a bang outa seein’
you lose, so we oughta use that on
’em. If you play the birds of a
feather routine we worked on, it
should steam him up pretty good.
You think you can handle that?
(a little nervous)
O.K., you guys in line take your
time, and I wanta see lotsa joy on
INT. TWIST’S ROOM – DAY
Billie enters and gives Twist the piece of paper she wrote
the race results on. He picks up the phone and starts to
INT. DRUGSTORE – DAY
The phone rings and Lonnegan answers it.
Wrecking Crew at 4-1, Grand Theft
to place, Made to Order to show.
Lonnegan smiles and hangs up the phone.
INT. THE STORE – DAY
Lonnegan’s in line at the betting window. There are four
people in front of him this time, and they are moving rather
slowly. The “Last Flash” call is heard on the speakers.
C’mon, let’s hurry up there.
The man at the head of the line turns around and gives
Lonnegan a chilling look, as if he were beneath contempt.
He puts down $25,000 on Grand Theft. The next man in line
plunges down $30,000 on Wrecking Crew.
Just as Lonnegan is about to step to the window, Gondorff
gives a quick signal to Singleton. The speakers come on.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is
Arnold Rowe, your caller for the
$100,000 Fairfield Stakes at
Hollywood Park in Los Angeles. A
mile and 3/8 for three year olds
and up. And they’re off!
(counting out his money)
Twenty-thousand on Wrecking Crew.
I’m sorry, sir. We can’t take bets
after the race is started.
He points to a sign above the window, which says exactly
that. Lonnegan grabs up his money in disgust.
Don’t take it so hard, pal. You
probably woulda lost it.
Lonnegan wanders over to the bar in a funk.
And around the first turn it’s
Wrecking Crew by a half length,
Grand Theft second by one, His
Dandy is third by one half, followed
by Change of Heart, Back Flip, Made
to Order and High Ground.
The assembled patrons are once again thoroughly involved in
the race. Eirie comes up to Lonnegan at the bar.
Who you got?
Me too. Maybe it’s our day.
Lonnegan nods and wanders away. Hooker comes over to him.
I didn’t get the bet down in time.
INT. STORE OFFICE
Gondorff and Niles, back in the office.
(looking out at the floor)
Looks like he’s sulking.
If we’re lucky, this’ll bring him
back stronger than ever.
Coming for home, it’s Wrecking Crew
by six lengths, Made to Order is
second by two and a half, High
Ground is third by a length and
Grand Theft is coming fast on the
rail. It’s Wrecking Crew, Made to
Order and Grand Theft. Wrecking
Crew wins it by five lengths, Grand
Theft is second by a nose, Made to
Order is third by two. Time for
one and 3/8 mile, 2:11 and 4/10
Eirie explodes in a joyous frenzy. He grabs Lonnegan by the
shoulders and shakes him.
We won! We won! You hear that! I
won 30,000! You hear that!
Yeh, Lonnegan heard that. Lonnegan shakes loose, grabs his
coat and heads for the door.
EXT. ALLEY – DAY
He finds Hooker waiting for him outside.
Tell your friend I’ll have the
money here by post-time tomorrow.
We’ll take the first race where the
odds are 4-1 or better. And make
sure I can get to that window this
How am I gonna do that?
I don’t know, figure something out.
Lonnegan storms across the street to his waiting car and
drives off. Hooker relaxes into a smile. He’s already
figured something out.
INT. SLEEZY DINER ACROSS FROM HOOKER’S APT. BLDG. – EVENING
Hooker sits at the counter finishing a plate of meat loaf.
Loretta is down at the cash register, leaning on the counter,
looking idly out into space. Hooker glances over at her
every once in a while to see if she might be interested in
striking up a little conversation. She’s not. He finishes
his meal and comes down to the register to pay his bill.
Meat loaf, apple pie and a cup of
(ringing it up)
Hooker gives her a dollar. She goes to the register for
What time you get off work here?
You doin’ anything tonight?
(handing him his change)
Hooker figures that’s enough of that. He pockets his change
and starts out the door, when suddenly he stops short.
Across the street in a doorway is the silhouette of a man.
It’s Cole. He’s pretending not to look at the diner, but
Hooker isn’t fooled.
He goes back to Loretta at the register.
You got a back door to this place?
No. What’s wrong with the front?
Look, I don’t have time to fuck
around. There’s somebody out there
I don’t need to see. You got a
fire escape or anything?
All right, do me a favor. Go into
the bathroom, open the window and
wait for me there.
What the hell for?
Just do what I tell ya and
everything’ll be jake.
Cracks of concern begin to appear in Loretta’s marble.
What does this guy want?
He’d like to kill me.
Loretta just looks at him a second. Realizing that this is
no joke, she turns and walks slowly but steadily to the
bathroom. Hooker waits until she’s out of sight.
Hooker goes to the front door and steps outside. Cole looks
up at the sound of the door. Hooker makes a big show of
spotting him, and runs back into the diner. Cole, his cover
blown, draws his gun and races across the street in pursuit.
Arriving just in time to see —
Hooker go into the bathroom, he charges in after him, only
to find the place empty. He goes quickly from stall to
stall, on the chance that Hooker might be hiding in one of
He comes to one that’s closed, and seeing a pair of woman’s
legs under the door, rejects that, and moves on to the next
We cut inside the stall to reveal Loretta sitting on the
toilet with her skirt hiked up. Right behind her, crouched
on the back of the seat, is Hooker.
Cole has finished his rapid inspection now, and having found
nothing, looks around for Hooker’s probable escape route.
He sees the open window and climbs out to find himself in a
small air shaft, from which he knows Hooker could not escape.
Hooker, seizing the time, bursts out of the stall and runs
back out through the diner. Cole sees him, but too late to
get off a shot. He climbs back in the window and gives chase.
We pick up Hooker barreling down the street with Cole a
hundred yards or so behind. Hooker makes a sharp cut into
an alley, and we see immediately that it’s a hopeless dead
end. Inexplicably, he makes no attempt to run back out.
Cole draws up and cuts into the alley, anticipating the kill
which should be easy now. He prepares to sight down his
victim, when suddenly he realizes there is no victim in
sight. Hooker, miraculously, has vanished. Cole scans the
alley frantically for some trace of him. There are no
windows or doors at the street level. Not even a drain pipe.
Just brick wall. It’s impossible. Hooker has disappeared
into thin air.
Cole slams his gun into his shoulder holster with a curse,
and starts back out of the alley, when all of a sudden he
stops in utter terror. His mouth drops open and he chokes
out the words:
Salino, hey look. I didn’t mean to
move in on…
Before anything else can come out, two bullets rip into his
chest. He falls to the concrete, coming to rest on a
manhole cover, which we notice is slightly ajar. We:
THE SEWER PIPES
Beneath the manhole. We see Hooker making his way through
the slop, having gained another reprieve, but unaware that
with two down, there is still one to go.
INT. HOOKER’S APARTMENT BUILDING – EVENING
Hooker comes in the front entrance and goes to the elevator,
one of the old-fashioned kind with the iron grid on the
inside. He’s still a little rattled and waiting for the
elevator is making him restless. It finally arrives, and he
steps inside, closing the grid behind him. As he starts to
push the button for his floor, he realizes for the first
time that he’s not alone. He looks to the corner to find
Snyder, holding a gun on him. This time there’s not much
doubt that he’ll use it if necessary.
INT. THE ABANDONED WAREHOUSE – EVENING
Snyder brings Hooker into the crate room where Capt. Polk
and the other Agents are waiting. Polk, as usual, has his
coat off, revealing his shoulder holster.
Hello, Mr. Hooker. Captain Polk,
(shoving a chair over
Have a seat.
Hooker remains standing.
(ignoring it, drinking
from a cup)
You want a drink or something?
We want to talk to ya about Henry
Don’t think I know him.
Well give yourself a couple seconds,
crumb. You wouldn’t wanna lie to
- Lt. Snyder here says you done
a lotta griftin’ in this town.
Lt. Snyder doesn’t know shit.
Capt. Polk almost laughs, but he checks it.
You got nothin’ on me.
We’ll get it, and if we can’t,
we’ll just make it up. Grand
(with special emphasis)
Counterfeiting, anything you want.
Hooker says nothing, but it’s not from defiance now. He’s
beginning to get the picture.
Look, I got nothin’ against you,
but you’re in trouble here. All
you gotta do is tell us when
Gondorff’s gonna play his chump.
We come in at the sting, make the
pinch, and you walk out free as a
bird. No questions, no court
You’ve already done time twice, and
judges don’t like three time losers.
You wanna sit in the can for forty
years, startin’ tonight?
I’ll make parole.
Like hell. You won’t even get a
review till you’re seventy. And if
the board starts to go soft, we’ll
let ya out in the yard some night
with a hard-nose young bull who’ll
put fifty slugs in your face and
ask what you were doin’ there later.
Hooker wants to come back with something, but can’t find it.
Don’t be a sap, kid. You could
save us a little trouble. But
Henry Gondorff is through whether
you help us or not. There’s
nothin’ left to do now but save
Hooker’s thoroughly whipped. He sits down for the first time.
Will you wait until the chump is
Hell yes. We don’t care about the
mark. He deserves what he gets.
I mean completely played. Until
he’s beat and the score is taken.
You come in before we beat him and
I’ll kill him. You’ll have a tough
time explaining that, won’t ya.
All right, Hooker, but you take it
on the lam, and we’ll shoot you
down on sight.
Just as long as I get to finish the
INT. GONDORFF’S ROOM – NIGHT
Gondorff and Hooker are playing gin rummy and drinking.
Gondorff makes little comments as he plays, but Hooker is
quiet and withdrawn. The carousel is not in operation and a
heavy silence hangs over the place.
What’s the matter, kid? You’re not
Just a little nervous, that’s all.
Luther always told me to bite my
toenails when I get nervous. You
see yourself doin’ that and you
realize it ain’t worth it.
Hooker smiles feebly.
Billie appears at the door.
Things are a little slow tonight,
Henry. I wanna open the round for
Gondorff takes out a set of keys and tosses them to her.
She leaves to go start the merry-go-round. Gondorff settles
back into the game.
Take it easy, you won’t lose him
now. We had him 10 years ago when
he decided to be somebody. Believe
me, I’ve seen enough to know.
How many guys you conned in your
Two or three hundred I guess.
Sometimes played two a day when I
was in Shea’s mob. We had it down
to a business.
‘Course Chicago was a right town
then. The fix was in. The dicks
took their end without a beef. All
the Wall Street boys wanted to make
investments for us. Even had marks
looking us up, thinkin’ they could
beat the game.
Yeh, kid, it really stunk. No
sense in bein’ a grifter if it’s
the same as bein’ a citizen.
Gondorff chucks his cards on the table. He’s through for
I better do some packin’. I’m
gonna be a hot number again after
Then why you doin’ it?
Seems worthwhile, doesn’t it?
Maybe it’s just for the cave-in on
Lonnegan’s face when we put in the
That’s good enough. Hooker gets up to leave.
I appreciate your stickin’ your
neck out. I wouldn’t have asked ya
if it weren’t for Luther.
Ain’t nothin’ gonna make up for
Revenge is for suckers. I been
griftin’ 30 years and never got any.
Hooker just nods and walks out the door.
We follow him past the Carousel which is now full of giggling
prostitutes in various stages of undress. Their childish
frolicking is charming from a group usually so jaded, but
it’s lost on Hooker tonight.
EXT. A CITY STREET – NIGHT
It’s late now and the street is deserted save for an
occasional derelict or streetwalker on her way home from a
night’s work. We pick up Hooker coming down the street
toward his apartment building. He walks slowly, almost
reluctantly, as if he didn’t care whether he ever got there
As he nears his building, he notices Loretta coming out of
the diner across the street. He stops and watches as she
looks up and disappears into an adjacent building that
advertises rooms for rent. After a few seconds, we see a
light come on in one of its second story windows.
Hooker just stands there a second, debating with himself,
trying to figure out a reason for doing what he’s going to
do anyway. We follow him across the street to Loretta’s
He goes up the stairs to the room where the light came on.
He passes a couple of derelicts on the way. He knocks twice
and Loretta answers in her bathrobe. She is more than a
little startled to see him.
Looks like he missed ya.
Yeh, this time anyway.
Loretta notices an old busybody peeping out at them from her
room across the hall.
Good night, Mrs. Hillard.
Mrs. Hillard quickly closes her door.
(shuffling a little)
I, ah…thought you might wanna
come out for a while. Maybe have a
drink or somethin’.
You move right along, don’t ya.
(with more innocence
I don’t mean nothin’ by it. I just
don’t know many regular girls,
And you expect me to come over,
just like that.
If I expected somethin’, I wouldn’t
be still standin’ out here in the
Loretta looks at him carefully. She knows it’s not a line.
(with less resistance now)
I don’t even know you.
You know me. I’m just like you…
It’s two in the morning and I don’t
The two just stand there in silence a second. There’s
nothing more to say. She stands back and lets him in.
INT. GONDORFF’S ROOM – NIGHT
A record spinning lazily on an old phonograph. We hear
Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.” Gondorff is
sitting up in bed, with his hat on, lost in thought. Billie
is curled up asleep next to him. There’s a packed suitcase
next to the bed. Billie wakes up and turns over a second.
C’mon, Henry, knock off. You’ve
done everything you can.
Gondorff nods his agreement like a zombie and goes right on
Hooker and Loretta are asleep against each other, their
bodies illuminated every few seconds by the light from a
neon sign across the street. We dolly to the window and
move in on another window in the building next door. There’s
no light on in it, but we can discern the basic outline of a
face behind the curtains, which are slightly parted to
afford a view of Hooker’s room by a black-gloved hand.
“I said come on in my kitchen
Cause it’s gonna be rainin’ outdoors.”
We open on Hooker in bed, the morning sun streaming in on
his face. He awakens slowly, looks at the ceiling for a
second and, remembering last night, turns to the side to
find that Loretta is no longer there. Still drowsy, he gets
out of bed and looks around the room for a note or some
evidence of her continued presence. He opens an empty
closet, then opens empty drawers. Finding nothing, he
suddenly hits on another possibility, and looks in his
wallet. The money is still there. Almost disappointed, he
slumps down in a chair, as the harsh reality of what will
happen this day floods back in on him. Music begins and we:
INT. AN UNKNOWN LOCATION – DAY
We see the black-gloved hand opening a small wooden box.
Wrapped inside is a shiny black revolver, at this point in
two pieces. The hand reaches in and takes them out.
INT. THE SLEEZY DINER – DAY
Hooker is poking at a plate of waffles and sausage. The
waitress on duty is not Loretta and Hooker has noticed.
INT. GONDORFF’S ROOM – DAY
Gondorff is standing in front of the bathroom mirror,
putting on his tuxedo. He goes to his dresser, pulls out a
very small gun and tucks it in his cummerbund.
THE GUNNMAN’S ROOM AGAIN
The hand swirls a pipe cleaner inside the barrel of the
revolver and picks some lint out of the chamber. He then
screws the barrel onto the body. This is all seen in closeup.
HOOKER’S ROOM AGAIN
Hooker now has his tuxedo on. He takes two small rubber
bladders out of a drawer and puts them in his pocket.
INT. LONNEGAN’S SUITE – DAY
Lonnegan paces nervously around the room, looking at the
clock. Obviously waiting for something, he’s getting
THE GUNNMAN’S ROOM AGAIN
We watch the hand carefully loading bullets into the chamber
of the revolver.
INT. THE CAROUSEL BUILDING – DAY
Gondorff emerges from his room carrying his suitcase. He
stops and looks up at the mezzanine where Billie is standing.
They smile sadly at each other and give a simple wave,
having done this too many times to get sentimental about it
now. Gondorff walks out of the building.
HOOKER’S ROOM AGAIN
Hooker is busily stuffing all his possessions in a paper
bag, lumping clothes with food, records and toilet articles.
LONNEGAN’S SUITE AGAIN
Lonnegan goes to the door to admit Floyd and two assistants,
one of whom carries a large brief case. Lonnegan takes the
brief case to a table and opens it. Inside is a half
million dollars in cash.
INT. THE GUNNMAN’S ROOM AGAIN
We see the hand putting a silencer on the revolver. The
gunman puts the revolver up to his eye to check the alignment
and for the first time we see the face that goes with the
hand. It is fully as menacing as we had imagined: Broad,
flat nose, thick cracked lips, narrow eyes and cauliflower
HOOKER’S ROOM AGAIN
Hooker is on the phone now.
We see that he’s talking to Captain Polk. Snyder listens
Hooker finishes the conversation, hangs up and goes to take
one last look at himself in the mirror. Finding everything
in order, he grabs up his sack of possessions and leaves the
EXT. HOOKER’S APARTMENT
We pick him up emerging from the building, and follow him
around the corner to a secluded alley which he generally
takes on his way to the store. As he walks along, he
notices Loretta coming toward him from the other end. She’s
wearing a coat, obviously on her way somewhere. As she
comes closer, we move to reveal the gunman appearing suddenly
in the alley behind and to the right of Hooker.
The gunman quickly takes out his revolver, braces it in the
crook of his hand, and takes careful aim. Loretta sees him.
The gunman fires. Loretta falls dead on the asphalt.
Hooker spins around in confusion. The gunman moves quickly
toward him. Hooker starts to back up but the gunman stops
when he gets to Loretta. He kicks her over to reveal a gun
under her body.
She was gonna kill ya, kid.
Hooker is stunned. He can’t believe it.
(dragging the body
over behind a trash can)
Her name’s Loretta Salino.
Lonnegan’s people set her up in the
diner. C’mon, let’s get outa here.
Hooker wants to stay and try to figure it all out, but the
gunman drags him away.
INT. THE ABANDONED WAREHOUSE – DAY
Polk, Snyder and several federal agents are busy putting on
their shoulder holsters, and checking their weapons.
Whoever Gondorff’s playin’ for is
bound to be a wheel. As soon as
we’re inside, I want you to get the
guy outa there as fast as possible,
before the reporters show up. We
can’t afford to embarrass any big
EXT. LONNEGAN’S HOTEL – DAY
Lonnegan, carrying the brief case personally, is seen
getting into his limousine. Four assistants get in with him.
INT. THE STORE – DAY
Gondorff enters the store carrying his suitcase. Several of
the boost are already there. Gondorff clasps his hands to
generate a little enthusiasm. He’s obviously up for this one.
INT. TAXI CAB – DAY
Hooker sits in the back seat with the gunman right next to
him. He’s still very uneasy with this man.
She coulda killed me last night.
Too many people coulda seen ya go
in her room. She was a professional.
Used to work in the Dutch Schultz
Who are you?
Gondorff asked me to look after ya.
How do I know you’re tellin’ the
Don’t have much choice, do ya?
We go to Hooker. No, he doesn’t.
EXT. THE ABANDONED WAREHOUSE – DAY
We pick up Polk, Snyder and the other federal agents coming
out of the warehouse in their white skimmers, and piling
THE STORE AGAIN
Niles is busily spreading “boodles” all over the cashier’s
area. Singleton checks his microphone. It works fine. He
checks it again.
LONNEGAN IN HIS LIMOUSINE
He holds the brief case in his lap, his fingers tapping
lightly on it.
THE STORE AGAIN
Hooker and the gunman enter and go over to Gondorff, who
breaks into a wide smile. Hooker returns it halfheartedly,
still ill at ease about what has happened.
THE F.B.I. CARS ON THEIR WAY
There are four or five driving in a column. Snyder and Polk
ride together in the back of the lead car.
EXT. THE DRUGSTORE – DAY
Lonnegan’s limousine pulls up outside, and the bodyguards
THE STORE AGAIN
Gondorff, Hooker and the others waiting, the tension
expressed in their faces.
INT. THE DRUGSTORE – DAY
Lonnegan sits tensely in the usual booth. He keeps both
hands firmly planted on the brief case. The phone rings and
Lonnegan goes to it. Music ends.
Place it on Syphon at 8-1.
Lonnegan hangs up with the look of the financial killer.
Eight to one odds is more than even he could have hoped for.
We follow Lonnegan across the street and into the store.
The bodyguards remain outside.
INT. THE STORE
The store is buzzing with activity. Money and booze are
everywhere. The sheet writer and the boardmarker can hardly
keep up with the action. Lonnegan walks quickly to the
betting line and finds to his relief that there’s only one
man ahead of him. The man puts $25,000 on King’s Image.
Lonnegan steps to the window, swings up the brief case, and
opens it for Niles to see.
Five hundred grand on Syphon.
Niles is struck dumb. He’s never seen that much money before.
(playing the flustered
Hold on, I’ll have to get the
Niles goes and returns with Gondorff.
What’s the problem?
(pointing to the
He wants to put a half million on
Gondorff looks at the money a second and then looks up at
Lonnegan like he’s gotta be crazy.
I can’t lay that off in time. We
lose a bet that big, it could break
If ya win it could make ya, too.
What are the odds on Syphon?
Eight to one.
Gondorff looks at Lonnegan long and hard.
A half mill on an eight to one shot.
You’re dumber than I thought,
You’re more gutless than I thought.
The words “Last Flash” are heard on the speaker. Gondorff
looks at Lonnegan with utter contempt. He turns to Niles.
Niles hurriedly writes out a slip for 500,000 dollars.
Lonnegan, allowing himself a sly smile, picks it up and
retires to a nearby table. He flashes a little okay sign to
Hooker who acknowledges it with a nod.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is
Arnold Rowe, your caller for the
San Antonio Handicap at Pimlico in
Baltimore — A mile and 1/16 for
three-year-olds. And they’re off.
Lonnegan takes a deep breath and leans forward in his chair,
the larceny boiling in his veins. Hooker looks to Gondorff.
Gondorff gives him the “office.” Hooker has to smile.
And around the first turn it’s
King’s Image by a neck, Syphon is
second by one, Key to the Vault
third by one half, followed by Mr.
Moonlight, Red Ridge, Moneyman and
Unexpectedly, Kid Twist bursts in through the entrance.
Barely able to control his enthusiasm, he hurries over to
Lonnegan’s table and sits down next to him.
Sorry, but I just couldn’t wait.
Did everything go all right?
(motioning for him to
keep his voice down)
Take it easy. Everything’s all
right. I put it on Syphon, on the
(in utter horror)
On the nose! I said place. Place
it on Syphon. That horse is going
to run second.
Lonnegan looks like he’s just been stabbed. He vaults over
the table to the teller’s window and grabs Niles.
You give me my goddamn money back!
You hear me? There’s been a mistake!
I’m sorry, sir. The betting’s
Lonnegan begins to shake him violently.
You give me my money back. There’s
been a mistake, do you hear me?
Gondorff leaps to Niles’ aid when suddenly there is a crash
at the entrance door, and Polk, Snyder and eight federal
agents burst into the room, guns drawn. The place falls
silent except for the loudspeaker, the members of the boost
afraid to move. Gondorff and Niles look at each other
wondering how this could have possibly happened.
(motioning to Hooker)
All right, Hooker, you can go.
Hooker’s eyes go to Gondorff, who looks back at him in utter
disbelief, the betrayal raging in his features. Hooker,
unable to meet his gaze, lowers his head and starts to walk
out. Almost unnoticed, there’s a flash of movement at
Gondorff’s belt. A small gun. A shot. Hooker clutches his
back and falls dead on the floor, the blood spurting from
his mouth. Polk, reacting instantly, pours four shots into
Gondorff, who goes down in a heap. Pandemonium breaks loose.
The members of the boost race for the door. Lonnegan is
totally stunned. First he lost his money and now he’s
involved in a murder. Snyder rushes over to him.
C’mon. We gotta get you outa here.
Snyder drags him through the crowd and out onto the street
where an F.B.I. car is waiting. His bodyguards have long
since fled at the sight of the F.B.I. men.
My money’s back there.
We’ll worry about that later.
Snyder gets in beside Lonnegan, and the car speeds away.
INSIDE THE STORE AGAIN
The pandemonium has now ceased. Those who could escape
have; the rest are lined up against the wall in frisking
position. Gondorff and Hooker lie on the floor dead. The
loudspeaker drones on. Singleton is still calling the race
from his booth, apparently oblivious to what’s happened.
And the winner is King’s Image by
four lengths, Syphon is second, by
two, Moneyman third by two and one
half. Time for 1 and 1/16 miles,
1:21 and 2/10 seconds.
Polk walks slowly over to Hooker’s body and bends down.
Hooker opens his eyes and slowly drags himself up off the
floor, spitting out a little rubber bladder, filled with
blood, that he’s had in his mouth. Gondorff does likewise.
Niles, Twist, Singleton and the rest of the boost begin to
laugh and shake hands, as do the Federal Agents.
Nice con, Hickey. I thought you
were Feds myself, when you first
No problem, Henry. Snyder went for
it all the way.
You shoulda seen the rag he lit
Gondorff turns to the others.
Okay, let’s take this place apart
and get outa here. You can get
your splits from Eddie at Boudreau’s
Gondorff walks over to Hooker, who’s wiping the blood off
his face and hands.
You beat him, kid.
You were right, Henry. It’s not
enough… But it’s close.
You wanta wait for your share?
Naw, I’d just blow it.
Gondorff nods, and walks slowly to behind the bar. He comes
out with his suitcase in one hand and Hooker’s paper bag in
another. He throws the paper bag to Hooker, who stops by
the door. Eirie Kid is standing there. Hooker gives the
“office” to Eirie, who beams and gives it back.
EXT. ALLEY AND STREET
Then Hooker and Gondorff leave. We hold on them, two
ragtail grifters again as they walk off down the street and
disappear around the corner.