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Petulia (1968)
Synopsis: Richard Lester's dazzling 1968 dissection of American society through a San Francisco romcom gone wrong

FINAL:

PETULIA:

March 30, 1967

A Film by RICHARD LESTER

Produced by RAYMOND WAGNER

Working Title:
"PETULIA"

Screenplay by LARRY MARCUS

Based on a Novel by JOHN HAASE

Petersham Films Limited Twickenham Studios

St. Margaret's, MiddlesexCAST OF CHARACTERS

PETULIA DANNER Beautiful young kook, wed to:

DAVID Handsome naval architect who, impotent, beats her in his frustration.

MR. & MRS. DANNER David's parents, in whose big San Francisco home they live.

DR. ARCHIE BOLLEN Successful orthopedist, inclined to stuffiness.

POLO Archie's divorced wife—a very attractive young matron, but boringly predictable, usually.

"FAT MIKE" & STEVIE Young sons of Archie and Polo.

BARNEY Archie's colleague and best friend.

WILMA Barney's gabby wife.

WARREN SMITH An engineer whom Polo plans to wed.

MAY Owner of a Boutique, smart, 32, whom Archie sometimes thinks he should marry.

OLIVER A tough little Mexican bastard of 7 who attaches himself to Petulia and David after the Tijuana bullfights.

MAN (MR. MENDOZA) & WOMAN Mexicans who take care of Oliver.

MR. HOWARD Little old man, watchman at a Mission.

NUN Hospital nurse.

AGNES LILLYWHITE Petulia's private nurse at the Danner home.

PLUS:
MAN on TV at Motel; people at a charity ball; topless waitresses; hospital attendants; accident bystanders; hospital patients, etc.1 ALLEY LOADING PLATFORM AND CORRIDOR OF FAIRMONT HOTEL– NIGHT

The story begins in this grubby alley, where two extra large ambulances screech to a stop beside a loading platform. Onlookers gather in the alley entrance to see how many people died; nobody died, the back doors of the ambulances are opened by attendants, and six perfectly fine victims of perfectly terrible automobile accidents are lifted into wheelchairs. The cripples are beautifully dressed, the men in tuxedos, the women in splendid evening dresses. One of the women wears a neck brace which forces her always to look skyward, so she can't see the beautiful orchid corsage pinned to her bosom. Quickly, attendants roll the wheelchairs past all the stacks of fruit and vegetables on the loading platform, past great bales of laundry, past whatever horrors one finds behind the warm, smiling face of a hotel. Watchmen, pastry cooks, valets are watching the rush of the wheelchairs without much interest. Then doors swing open, and we are in the tumult of the grand ballroom.

2 INT. GRAND BALLROOM

It is a charity ball. The sign says "Shake for Highway Safety." The wheelchairs and their occupants no longer interest us. They are the guests of honor, and people gather about them to arrange them appealingly, and we rush past the go-go band, the shakers, and the door prize, which is a little convertible, spinning endlessly ..on a pedestal.

CAMERA reaches PETULIA, who is dancing with her husband, DAVID, but trying not to lose sight of ARCHIE. ARCHIE really wants to leave, but he is too polite to make it too obvious. As he bends over to put his punch cup on a table, he is bumped by the wheelchair of one of the guests of honor. He is not at all comfortable.

It's not easy for Petulia to keep an eye on Archie; gasping faces get in the way—hunks of twisting bodies get in the way—and the dance won't end. The music stops for a second, everyone sags and thinks; "Thank God it's over," but instantly the music begins again and everyone good-naturedly swears, "Those crazy kids are trying to kill us," and meanwhile Petulia sees that Archie has reached the place where you get your coat.

MED. ARCHIE

He is searching through his pockets for the ticket that will let him reclaim his coat. All the coats are in an incredible pile; and in the semi-hysterical care of a debutante attendant.

PETULIA'S

VOICE:
You can't leave...

He turns and sees Petulia.

PETULIA:
You're an official host.

She nods to the ribbon and cardboard which along with ‘Official Hosts' says ‘Dr. A. Bollen'. Archie takes the ribbon off, as though to pin it on Petulia.

PETULIA:
Careful. Can you tell I'm not wearing a brassiere?

ARCHIE:
No.

PETULIA:
Don't think about it. It will only excite you.

Archie finally finds the ticket for his coat, which the attendant now tries to find. On through this Petulia continues.

PETULIA:
That's my husband over there.

ARCHIE:
Ahh

PETULIA:
I've been married six months and I've never had an affair.

ARCHIE It can happen ...

PETULIA:
Don't take it so bloody well. I've just turned you down. He's looking at us. My husband.

MED. DAVID WITH HIS MOTHER AND FATHER

somewhere near the free whiskey table asking for Pernod, which, of course, they don't have.

The father is watching the charity affair with utter disapproval. He tips a waiter by shoving a half-dozen raffle tickets into the waiter's jacket pocket.

MR.

DANNER:
I hope you win the car, sir.

Mrs. Danner is charmed by her husband's generosity. She simply adores the man. David is busy not watching Archie and Petulia.

PETULIA'S

VOICE:
Isn't he gorgeous? He's a naval architect. It really zings when you say it. "My husband David is a naval architect." Actually, we're starving. You wouldn't want to buy a sixty foot sloop? David's "Momma and "Poppa" keep us. Look how disgusted Poppa is, He hates this sort of thing.

ARCHIE'S

VOICE:
Poppa is too sensitive.

PETULIA'S

VOICE:
Sensitive, my ass. He's bored. Highway safety's so blah. Also he hates amateurs. Give him something he can sink his teeth into— "Rheumatoid Arthritis," "Muscular Dystrophy"—and he's the best there is. A real pro. A little lame girl with a ribbon in her hair and a crutch under her arm, and Poppa can set the world on fire. He's really slumming tonight.

BARNEY'S

VOICE:
Hello, Archie.

MED. PETULIA AND ARCHIE

have been joined by BARNEY and WILMA, Archie's best friends. Barney and Wilma are taking off their coats. Barney is already beginning to move to the music. Wilma is doing absolutely nothing but looking at Petulia.

WILMA:
Everybody came late.

ARCHIE:
I came early. G' bye Wilma. G' bye Barney.

DEBUTANTE:

ATTENDANT:
Could you describe the coat?

ARCHIE:
A coat. A raincoat. Sleeves.

Barney has begun to snap his fingers and move his shoulders, becoming part of "The Scene", about which Wilma couldn't care less.

WILMA:
You can't go, Archie. I'd be very disappointed ...

Archie accepts this silently.

WILMA:
Alright, then. I won't tell you who I bumped into last week ...

ARCHIE:
... buying a well larded rib roast.

WILMA:
Smarty. Have you seen what she's done to her hair?

ARCHIE:
Wild, huh?

WILMA:
I said, "Polo, for heaven's sake, you look like a teenager."

Archie doesn't seem too interested and, besides, all this is said while Wilma continues to look at Petulia.

WILMA:
Your Mike's getting so fat. Is that much weight good for a boy his age?

ARCHIE:
(shrugging) If it's alright for a rib roast ...

WILMA:
Smarty.

Barney suddenly forgets the music to rescue his Vicuna coat, which the debutante is smothering under other coats, as she finally finds Archie's.

WILMA:
(to Petulia) I don't believe we've met.

PETULIA:
Screw you, Wilma.

ARCHIE:
Now you've met.

Wilma moves off with Barney. Archie can't spend one more second with his coat. He simply puts it on, and turns to leaves walking toward the door.

PETULIA:
My name is Petulia.

ARCHIE:
I'm not surprised.

PETULIA:
Polo's your wife.

ARCHIE:
Ex-wife. G'night.

Petulia turns to face her husband David, who has taken a few steps toward her. She whirls around to face the departing Archie.

PETULIA:
Archie!

He turns, almost at the door.

PETULIA:
Say something warm.

ARCHIE:
Like what?

PETULIA:
I mean it.

There is something goofily desperate in her voice that stops him. He looks at her for awhile.

ARCHIE:
Your hair. It gleams.

PETULIA:
(disappointed) Oh, Archie...

ARCHIE:
Left arm or right? How do you brush it?

PETULIA:
Left.

ARCHIE:
An hour a day.

PETULIA:
At least.

ARCHIE:
You'll have a problem. The bursa sheath. Very sensitive. Bursitis. It'll hurt.

PETULIA:
I'll come to you.

ARCHIE:
I wouldn't be able to help much. Just aspirin.

PETULIA:
And sympathy?

ARCHIE:
Sure.

PETULIA:
Thank you, Archie. Damn it, how can I have an affair with an unmarried man? There has to be some equality of guilt.

ARCHIE:
My divorce doesn't become final till next month.

PETULIA:
I'll get my purse.

But in turning to do so she sees David, then the spinning ear, the door prize.

PETULIA:
Hell ...

ARCHIE:
What?

PETULIA:
I've been told that I'll be the one to draw the winning ticket. I'm always picked for things like that. I radiate incorruptibility. Money can't buy me.

She shakes her head, thoughtfully. During all this the doorman has been busily opening and closing the door for them as they keep changing their mind.

PETULIA:
It feels so super. Suddenly, all that love.

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Larry Marcus

Lawrence B. Marcus is a writer. He was born in Beaver on 19 July 1917. He is known for Alex And The Gypsy (1976), Going Home (1971), Justine (1969), Petulia (1968) and The Stunt Man (1980). more…

All Larry Marcus scripts | Larry Marcus Books

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"Petulia Movie Script" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 22 May 2017. <http://www.scripts.comscript/1130>.

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