So the story goes, Allan Moyle and Leanne Ungar rented an apartment on 42nd Street, having come to New York from a vibrant filmmaking scene in Montreal. They bought a used couch and found in the cushions a handwritten journal that appeared to be the work of an obsessive, possibly mentally ill young woman. This inspired a film treatment entitled “She’s Got the Shakes,” which got the attention of Robert Stigwood and Tim Curry, and with financial backing and a star, Times Square was off and running. Journalist and lyricist Jacob Brackman was hired to write the screenplay.
The screenplay I have is commonly considered to be the shooting script, although it differs greatly in places from what ended up on screen. This isn’t surprising since it’s also common knowledge that Moyle, the director, left the film towards the end of production to protest Stigwood’s insistence on changes to insert more music and lower the sexual overtones. I, however, don’t know for a fact how early or late a draft this copy is; it may or may not be what they had in hand when shooting started. Since it’s dated 1979, and the film was shot in 1979, for the sake of discussion I’m assuming it is the shooting script.
Overall, the biggest difference between the screenplay and the film is Nicky’s dialog: near the end of the film it’s nearly word-for-word as it appears in the script, but becomes more and more different the earlier in the film you go. The film was shot mostly in reverse: the concert in Times Square was one of the first things shot, and the scenes in the hospital the last, so my guess is that as production went on, Nicky’s dialog was tailored to better suit Robin’s performance. This is one of the few things I’ve asked Robin about: “Memory is kind of fuzzy – but changing daily ‘sides’ happens a lot on some films for various reasons… They probably did rewrite stuff specifically for me, or Allan sometimes went with my ‘improv’-ing intuitively.”
It’s not my intention here to thoroughly compare and contrast the screenplay with the finished film (and I could, believe me, I could go on for hours), but I would like to point out one thing. I’ve had over thirty years to think about this, and I’ve come to the probably unpopular opinion that the film we got is pretty damn close to the best possible version, plot holes, continuity problems, logical inconsistencies and all. Moyle’s original vision might have been a “better” film, but it wouldn’t have been one we’d all still be obsessing over and talking about today.
The screenplay, and I assume Moyle’s conception of the movie, is rooted firmly in the late 1960s-early 1970s. This is clear from the music selections mentioned in the screenplay, which (much like the finished film) is oblivious to the punk and New Wave revolution well underway several blocks south. The only contemporary music in the screenplay is disco. It was Robert Stigwood and Jimmy Iovine, in putting together the soundtrack, who gave the movie its New Wave gloss. Perhaps Moyle was already in the process of updating the music, and Stigwood just took things too far in his determination to use the film as promotion to sell records, but, judging from the screenplay…
Well, judge for yourself. Here are the songs in the screenplay, and what replaced them in the film. Note that there are a couple of songs that didn’t get replaced; there’s no music in the movie where they appear in the screenplay.
Linda Ronstadt, “Love Has No Pride”
[The Cure, “Grinding Halt”]
(“Nicky’s Song:” a record, made up for the film, that Nicky has adopted as her anthem; sung, chanted, played, and otherwise referred to many times during the story.)
[XTC, “Take This Town”]
[Ramones, “I Wanna Be Sedated”]
[Suzi Quatro, “Rock Hard”]
unnamed Stevie Wonder song
[Pretenders, “Talk of the Town]
Eddie Cochran, “Nervous Breakdown”
[D.L. Byron, “You Can’t Hurry Love”]
Lou Reed, “Sweet Jane” (They probably meant The Velvet Underground, but
the script says Lou Reed.)
Chic, “Freakout” (“Or some other rock-disco hit”)
[Desmond Child and Rouge, “The Night Was Not”]
Nicky & the Blondells, “Damn Dog Died”
[“Damn Dog” with slightly different lyrics; essentially the same]
Donna Summer, “Hot Stuff”
[Talking Heads, “Life During Wartime”]
“An original song, a tear jerker in the mood of “WHO’S SORRY NOW?””
[Patti Smith, “Pissing in a River”]
Del Shannon and the Vikings, “Runaway”
Orchestrated studio production of “Damn Dog Died”
[Marcy Levy and Robin Gibb, “Help Me!”]
[Roxy Music, “Same Old Scene”]
The film as originally conceived was totally unaware of the music that now seems to define it. It certainly would have been a different movie had its opening titles been accompanied by “All You Need Is Love,” or had Nicky and Pammy danced down 42nd Street to the tune of “Hot Stuff.”
129 pp; cover sheet; end sheet