The Immortal Story

Synopsis: The Portuguese colony of Macao in the 19th century. Mr. Clay is a very rich merchant and the subject of town gossip. He has spent many years in China and is now quite old. He likes his clerk Levinsky to read the company's accounts to him at night for relaxation. Tonight Mr. Clay recounts a true story he heard years before about a rich man who paid a poor sailor 5 guineas to father a child with his beautiful young wife. Levinsky says that's a popular old sailor's legend and not true. Mr. Clay has no heir for his fortune and no wife either. He resolves to make the story true... Levinsky approaches Virginie, another clerk's mistress, and strikes a bargain for 300 guineas. Now to find the sailor...
Genre: Drama
Director(s): Orson Welles
Production: Criterion Collection
  1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
58 min



In China...

in the Portuguese island of Macao...

there lived, toward

the end of the last century,

an immensely rich merchant...

...whose name was Mister Clay.

He had a magnificent house

and a splendid equippage.

And he sat in the midst of both,

erect, silent...

...and alone.

Among the other Europeans he had the

name of an iron hard man,

who had broken with his partner,

a man called Louis Ducrot,

and then bankrupted him, and thrown him

and his family into the street.

It would be a little manner of 300 Guineas.

But Louis Ducrot couldn't pay...

- And that was the end of it.

- It was the end of Louis.

- He committed suicide.

- And his family?

Well, there was a daughter some place

but she ran away with a sea captain.

And, of course, old Clay had taken

over the house. Poor Louis!

- He'd been proud of that house.

- Proud? The objects of art in it.

He smashed and burned up

every one of them before he left.

He said that nothing meant

for the embellishment of life

would ever consent to live with

the new master of that house.

Except the looking glasses...

the ones he brought from France.

Those mirrors had reflected only

happy and affectionate scenes

It would be his murderer's

punishment, he said,

to meet, wherever he went,

the portrait of a hangman.

Mr. Clay sat down to dine in solitude.

Face to face with his portrait.

He was not aware of any lack

of friendliness in his surroundings.

The idea of friendliness

had never entered his scheme of life.

It was only natural that things

should be as they were

because he had willed them to be so...

When he was seventy,

he had fallen ill with the gout.

He couldn't sleep at night. His head

clerk would sit up with him and read aloud

the bills, estimates and

contracts of his business.

I have read to you all of the old

account books twice over.

Shall I start again?

There are other kinds of books.

- Haven't you heard of them?

- Other kinds of books?

Besides account books there are other

things which people sometimes read.

What's that?

In the party of Jews who took me

with them fleeing from Poland

there was a very old man.

Before he died, he gave me this.

Here, Mr. Clay, is something

that I shall read to you.

"The wilderness and the solitary

places shall be glad,

"and the desert shall

rejoice and blossom

- "In synch even with joy ..."

- That's not a book.

- "Strengthen ye the weak hand ..."

- That's not a book at all.

It's what you have asked for.

Something beside the account books.

"Strengthen ye their weak hands

and confirm their feeble knees"

- Where'd you get it?

- "say to them that are fearful hearted:

"'Behold your God will come

with a recompense.'

"and in the wilderness

shall waters break out."

What was all that?

Has it happened?


Is it happening now?


- Who put that thing together?

- The prophet Isaiah.

The prophet!

I don't like prophecies.

People should only record things

when they've already happened.

This prophet of yours,

when did he live?

Oh, about a thousand years ago,

Mr. Clay.

People can record things,

which have already happened.

Do you know what such a

record is called?

- A story.

- Yes, Mr. Clay.

I heard a story once when I first

came out here to China.

One of the sailors told the others

about a thing which had happened to him.

He told them a story.

A sailor was walking by

himself near a harbor

when a carriage drove up and

a rich old gentleman said to him.

"You are a fine looking sailor.

Would you like to earn 5 Guineas?"

The sailor naturally answered yes and the

rich old gentleman drove him to his house

and gave him food and wine

and said to him:

"I am very rich.

"I'm very old and I don't trust the people

"who will inherit what I've saved up all my life.

"Three years ago I married a young wife.

"But she's been no good to me.

"I've got no child."

With your permission, Mr. Clay,

I also can tell that story.

What's that?

The old gentleman led

the sailor to a bedroom

which was lighted with

candlesticks of pure gold.

Was it not so, Mr. Clay?

In the room there was a bed

and in the bed there was a lady.

The old gentleman took from

his purse a piece of gold.

A 5 Guinea piece, Mr. Clay,

and handed it to the sailor.

- How do you come to know this story?

Coming here to China, Mr. Clay,

you travelled on only one ship.

So you heard the story only once.

- What's that got to do with my story?

- From Gravesend to Lisbon,

there was a sailor on

that ship who told the story.

On my way to Singapore, I heard

another sailor tell that story.

The story they tell never happended

and that's why it is told.

It never will happen, Mr. Clay.

I don't like prophecies.

Yes, Mr. Clay.

Goodnight, Mr. Clay.

I don't like pretense.

I don't like prophecies.

I like facts!

If this story has never happened now.

Yes, Mr. Clay.

I want it to happen in real life

to real people.

Yes, Mr. Clay. To real people.

- Where do you want it to happen.

- Here. In my own house.

I want to see it all with my own eyes.

I want to dine with the sailor

in my dining room

I want to pick him out myself

in the street by the harbor.

- It will involve expenses.

- Yes. It's going to cost us some money.

You remember there's

a woman in the story.

The young miss,

I shall not be able to get you.

I'm paying you to do this work for me...

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Karen Blixen

Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke (née Dinesen; 17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962) was a Danish author who wrote works in Danish and English. She is best known under her pen names Isak Dinesen, used in English-speaking countries, and Tania Blixen, used in German-speaking countries. She also published works using the aliases Osceola and Pierre Andrézel. Blixen is best known for Out of Africa, an account of her life while living in Kenya, and for one of her stories, Babette's Feast, both of which have been adapted into Academy Award-winning motion pictures. She is also noted, particularly in Denmark, for her Seven Gothic Tales. Blixen was considered several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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