Thursday, 11 June 2009

Brief Encounter: Extended Edition

In honour of the coming of Railnarok this week, I thought it a suitable time to put up a scrap of script from long ago that never quite made it to the 'blog until now.


My super-secret contact was taking a trip through the hidden catacombs of a film production company and uncovered an exceedingly early alternative ending for Brief Encounter. This would have been on the DVD release, but unfortunately they didn't have DVDs in 1945, so it's been languishing in a lost chamber far beneath the earth for more than sixty years.

To put this extract in context, it was written before the actual script of Brief Encounter was put together. As you will see, aside from plot, characters, dialogue and everything else, the most important change that was made between this and the finished version was the changing of the male lead's name to Alec. As should be obvious, Alec is a name which immediately signifies manners, breeding, charm and wit. Also distant Scottishness, which I'm not going to apologise for putting on the list of obvious virtues. Aside from Brief Encounter, other notable Alecs include two actors, a slightly terrifying German musician, and the villain from Goldeneye. To me, that reads like a list of everything any man could ever hope to achieve.

Right. The script. This was slated to be the final scene, before a mysterious briefcase full of cash arrived from British Rail. Apparently they'd found it in lost property...

Harold Grant: "Oh Margaret [women in old films with bobbed hair and
large coats are always called Margaret. It was decreed in that law
about 'good taste and decency'] dear, I do love you, but now I must

Margaret Goodwinson: "Oh Harold!"

H: "I am so sorry, my dear. It is my duty."

M: "I'll never forget you, Harold!"

(They wait. Harold approaches the stationmaster, a small, aggressive
man watching the couple disdainfully while chewing gum and tapping his
foot impatiently. There is a litter claw and a bin bag on the platform
next to him.)

H: "Excuse me, my good fellow, have you any idea if there'll be a
train to Far Away along shortly?"

(The stationmaster shrugs. Margaret approaches.)

M: "It's just that we don't have a great deal of script left, and we
can't spend more than nine seconds kissing or we'll be arrested."

Stationmaster: "Signal failures. Might be an hour or so."

M, melodramatically disappointed: "Oh, how dreadful."

(The director calls out from behind the camera: "Improvise!")

H, aghast: "For an hour? Listen, old chap, you might be wearing a
berée, but I'm a matinée idol. I am dashing and chipper, and I put
accents on my words in the appropriate places. I don't improvise."

M: "And I'm a 1930s lady. I'm not allowed to think for myself."

(A sigh from behind the camera. Time lapse shot of clock hands
spinning. A train arrives.)

M: "Oh Harold, it's so awful that you must leave."

H: "Oh Margaret, I'm still so sorry, although my expression of longing is
distempered by anger at having to stand here for an hour."

(He boards the train and goes to his seat. Margaret stays where she is, waiting.)

M, to Stationmaster: Sorry to bother you, sir, but do you know if the
train will be on its way soon? Only, I have to run alongside it
fluttering this handkerchief while Harold watches me nobly and
mournfully from the window. I do so hope my asking isn't a bother.

S: Should be on its way soon, love.

M: Oh, thank you ever so much. (An afterthought.) Oh, and please don't
call me love, or my father will send round some burly men to box your

(S chews gum noisily)

(M sighs, hitches her skirts and dashes to Harold's window. He
scrabbles at it for a while before giving up and going back to the

H: I'm so sorry my dear, there's been a further delay for an
unspecified reason but an excuse has been requested and should be with
us shortly.

M: Oh Harold, I'm so glad you could stay with me for a few moments longer.

H: Oh wait, an announcement.

(H rushes back inside the train to listen. M re-positions herself for
running-alongside-waving-a-hanky-and-maybe-weeping-a-bit. H manages to
open the window this time, by about four centimetres at the top. He
tries to adopt a noble expression, and manages thoughtfully
disgruntled instead. It's good enough. The director yells 'action'. M
runs towards the window as H stands beside it calling to her. The
train doesn't seem to be moving much. M reaches the window and blows
her nose noisily.)

M: Oh, darling, why must you go?

(H tries to say something but his voice is drowned by four teenagers
wandering past with a mobile telephone playing a tinny rendition of a
work by a popular urban rhythmic poet.)

M: What is it, dearest?

(H finally makes himself heard.)

H: I've got to take a replacement bus service.

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