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       Baby Doll Tiger Tail: A Screenplay and Play by Tennessee Williams, p.1
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Baby Doll Tiger Tail: A Screenplay and Play by Tennessee Williams


  Copyright © 1945, 1946, 1953, 1956 by Tennessee Williams


  (in order of appearance)




  OLD FUSSY, a chicken











  From the PUBLISHER’S NOTE to the 1956 Edition of Baby Doll

  For a number of years Elia Kazan, the director of several of Tennessee Williams’ plays on Broadway as well as films, had been urging Mr. Williams to weld into an original film story two of his early one-act plays [“27 Wagons Full of Cotton,” and “The Long Stay Cut Short or The Unsatisfactory Supper”] which were, roughly, concerned with the same characters and situation. And in the summer of 1955, while he was traveling in Europe, Mr. Williams wrote and dispatched to Mr. Kazan a proposed script, quite different from the two short plays. With some changes this was filmed the following winter mainly in the Mississippi rural area which had been the original setting of the two short plays.

  Although he had himself adapted several of his Broadway successes for films, this was Mr. Williams’ first original screen play. Many who came to read it, including his publishers, felt that although few “shooting” scripts have ever been published, this one was publishable as it stood. . . .

  The film, Baby Doll, which was previously announced as The Whip Hand and Mississippi Woman, was produced and directed in the winter of 1955–1956 by Elia Kazan for Newtown Productions, Inc., and is released by Warner Brothers. The principal roles are filled by Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach, Karl Malden and Mildred Dunnock.



  A voluptuous girl, under twenty, is asleep on a bed, with the covers thrown off. This is Baby Doll Meighan, Archie Lee’s virgin wife. A sound is disturbing her sleep, a steady sound, furtive as a mouse scratching, she stirs, it stops, she settles again, it starts again. Then she wakes, without moving, her back to that part of the wall from which the sound comes.


  She is a little frightened of what sounds like a mouse in the woodwork and still doesn’t sound like a mouse in the woodwork. Then a crafty look.


  She gets up, as the sound is continuing, and moves stealthily out of her room.


  She comes out of her room and just as stealthily opens the door to an adjoining room and peeks in.


  Astonished and angry at what she sees.


  He is crouched over a section of broken plaster in the wall, enlarging a space between exposed boards with a penknife. Unshaven, black jowled, in sweaty pajamas. On the bed table behind him is a half-empty bottle of liquor, an old alarm clock, ticking away, a magazine called Spicy Fiction and a tube of ointment. After a moment be removes the knife and bends to peer through the enlarged crack.


  BABY DOLL: Archie Lee. You’re a mess.


  He recovers.


  BABY DOLL: Y’know what they call such people? Peepin’ Toms!


  ARCHIE: Come in here, I want to talk to you.

  BABY DOLL: I know what you’re going to say, but you can save your breath.

  ARCHIE [interrupting]: We made an agreement. . .

  BABY DOLL: You promised my daddy that you would leave me alone till I was ready for marriage. . . .

  ARCHIE: Well?

  BABY DOLL: Well, I’m not ready for it yet. . . .

  ARCHIE: And I’m going crazy. . . .

  BABY DOLL: Well, you can just wait. . . .

  ARCHIE: We made an agreement that when you was twenty years old we could be man and wife in more than just in name only.

  BABY DOLL: Well, I won’t be twenty till November the seventh. . . .

  ARCHIE: Which is the day after tomorrow!

  BABY DOLL: How about your side of that agreement—that you’d take good care of me? GOOD CARE OF ME! Do you remember that?! Now the Ideal Pay As You Go Plan Furniture Company is threatening to remove the furniture from this house. And every time I bring that up you walk away. . . .

  ARCHIE: Just going to the window to get a breath of air. . . .

  BABY DOLL: Now I’m telling you that if the Ideal Pay As You Go Plan Furniture Company takes those five complete sets of furniture out of this house then the understanding between us will be canceled. Completely!


  He is listening. We hear the distant sound of the Syndicate Cotton Gin. Like a gigantic distant throbbing heartbeat. Archie Lee puts the window down. He crosses to the mirror, dolefully considers his appearance.

  BABY DOLL: Yeah, just look at yourself! You’re not exactly a young girl’s dream come true, Archie Lee Meighan.

  [The phone rings downstairs. This sound is instantly followed by an outcry even higher and shriller.]

  BABY DOLL: Aunt Rose Comfort screams ev’ry time the phone rings.

  ARCHIE: What does she do a damn fool thing like that for?

  [The phone rings again. Aunt Rose Comfort screams downstairs. The scream is followed by high breathless laughter. These sounds are downstairs. Archie Lee exits.]

  BABY DOLL: She says a phone ringing scares her.

  12] HALL.

  [Archie lumbers over to a staircase, much too grand for the present style of the house, and shouts down to the old woman below.]

  ARCHIE: Aunt Rose Comfort, why don’t you answer that phone?


  [Aunt Rose comes out of the kitchen and walks towards the hall telephone, withered hand o her breast.]

  AUNT ROSE: I cain’t catch m’breath, Archie Lee. Phone give me such a fright.

  ARCHIE [from above]: Answer it.

  [She has recovered some now and gingerly lifts the reciever.]

  AUNT ROSE: Hello? This is Miss Rose Comfort McCorkle speaking. No, the lady of the house is Mrs. Archie Lee Meighan, who is the daughter of my brother that passed away. . .

  [Archie Lee is hurrying down the stairs.]

  ARCHIE: They don’t wanta know that! Who in hell is it talking and what do they want?

  AUNT ROSE: I’m hard of hearing. Could you speak louder, please? The what? The Ideal Pay As—

  [With amazing, if elephantine, speed, Archie snatches the phone from the old woman.]

  ARCHIE: Gi’me that damn phone. An’ close the door.

  [The old woman utters her breathless cackle and backs against the door. Archie speaks in a hoarse whisper.]

  ARCHIE: Now what is this? Aw. Uh-huh. Today!? Aw. You gotta g’me more time. Yeah, well you see I had a terrible setback in business lately. The Syndicate Plantation built their own cotton gin and’re ginnin’ out their own cotton, now, so I lost their trade and it’s gonna take me a while to recover from that. . . .


  Then TAKE IT OUT! TAKE IT OUT! Come and get th’ damn stuff. And you’ll never get my business again! Never!

  [They have hung up on him. He stands there—a man in tough trouble. Then abruptly starts massaging his exhausted head of hair.]

  AUNT ROSE [timidly]: Archie
Lee, honey, you all aren’t going to lose your furniture, are you?

  ARCHIE [hoarse whisper]: Will you shut up and git on back in the kitchen and don’t speak a word that you heard on the phone, if you heard a word, to my wife! And don’t holler no more in this house, and don’t cackle no more in it either, or by God I’ll pack you up and haul you off to th’ county home at Sunset.

  AUNT ROSE: What did you say, Archie Lee, did you say something to me?

  ARCHIE: Yeah, I said shoot.

  [He starts upstairs. Aunt Rose cackles uneasily and enters the kitchen. Suddenly, we hear another scream from her. We pan with her, and reveal Old Fussy, the hen, on top of the kitchen table pecking the corn bread.]


  Archie is heading back to his bedroom. Baby Doll appears in a flimsy wrapper at the turn of the stairs crossing to the bathroom.

  BABY DOLL: What made her holler this time?

  ARCHIE: How in hell would I know what made that ole woman holler this time or last time or the next time she hollers.

  BABY DOLL: Last time she hollered it was because you throwed something at her.

  [She enters bathroom. Archie Lee stands in doorway.]

  ARCHIE: What did I ever throw at Aunt Rose Comfort?

  BABY DOLL [from inside bathroom]: Glass a water. Fo’ singin’ church hymns in the kitchen. . . .

  [We hear the shower go on.]

  ARCHIE: This much water! Barely sprinkled her with it! To catch her attention. She don’t hear nothing, you gotta do somethin’ to git the ole woman’s attention.

  [On an abrupt impulse he suddenly enters the bathroom. Sounds of a struggle. The shower.]

  BABY DOLL: Keep y’r hands off me! Will yuh? Keep your hands off. . . Off.

  [Archie Lee comes out of the bathroom good and wet. The shower is turned off. Baby Doll’s head comes out past the door.]

  BABY DOLL: I’m going to move to the Kotton King Hotel, the very next time you try to break the agreement! The very next time!

  [She disappears. . . .]



  He is seated in his 1937 Chevy Sedan. The car is caked with pale brown mud and much dented. Pasted on the windshield is a photo of Baby Doll smiling with bewilderment at the birdie-in-the-camera. Archie Lee is honking his horn with unconcealed and unmodified impatience.

  ARCHIE [shouting]: Baby Doll! Come on down here, if you’re going into town with me. I got to be at the doctor’s in ten minutes. [No answer.] Baby Doll!!!

  [From inside the house. Baby Doll’s voice.]

  BABY DOLL: If you are so impatient, just go ahead without me. Just go ahead. I know plenty of ways of getting downtown without you.

  ARCHIE: You come on.

  [Silence. The sound of the Syndicate Gin. Archie does a sort of imitation. His face is violent.]

  ARCHIE: Baby Doll!!!

  [Baby Doll comes out on the sagging porch of the mansion. She walks across the loose boards of the porch through stripes of alternate light and shadow from the big porch pillars. She is humming a little cakewalk tune, and she moves in sympathy to it. She has on a skirt and blouse, white, and skintight, and pearl chokers the size of golf balls seenfrom a medium distance. She draws up beside the car and goes no farther.]

  ARCHIE: You going in town like that?

  BABY DOLL: Like what?

  ARCHIE: In that there outfit. For a woman of your modest nature that squawks like a hen if her husband dast to put his hand on her, you sure do seem to be advertising your—

  BABY DOLL [drowning him out]: My figure has filt out a little since I bought my trousseau AND paid for it with m’daddy’s insurance money. I got two choices, wear clo’se skintight or go naked, now which do you want me t’—

  ARCHIE: Aw, now, hell! Will you git into th’ car?

  [Their angry voices are echoed by the wandering poultry.]

  BABY DOLL: I will git into the rear seat of that skatterbolt when you git out of the front seat and walk around here to open the door for me like a gentleman.

  ARCHIE: Well, you gonna wait a long time if that’s what you’re waiting for!

  BABY DOLL: I vow my father would turn over in his grave. . . .

  ARCHIE: I never once did see your father get out and open a car door for your mother or any other woman. . . . Now get on in. . . .

  [She wheels about and her wedgies clack-clack down the drive. At foot of drive she assumes a hitchhiker’s stance. A hot-rod skids to a sudden and noisy stop. Archie Lee bounds from his car like a jack rabbit, snatching a fistful of gravel as he plummets down drive. Hurls gravel at grinning teen-age kids in hot-rod, shouting incoherently as they shoot off, plunging Baby Doll and her protector in a dust-cloud. Through the dust. . .]

  ARCHIE: Got your license number you pack a—



  They are jolting down the road.

  ARCHIE: Baby Doll, y’know they’s no torture on earth to equal the torture which a cold woman inflicts on a man that she won’t let touch her??!! No torture to compare with it! What I’ve done is!! Staked out a lot in hell, a lot with a rotten house on it and five complete sets of furniture not paid for. . . .

  BABY DOLL: What you done is bit off more’n you can chew.

  ARCHIE: People know the situation between us. Yestiddy on Front Street a man yelled to me, “Hey Archie Lee, has y’wife outgrowed the crib yet??” And three or four others haw-hawed! Public! Humiliation!

  [Baby Doll in back seat, her beads and earrings ajingle like a circus pony’s harness.]

  BABY DOLL: Private humiliation is just as painful.

  ARCHIE: Well! —There’s an agreement between us! You ain’t gonna sleep in no crib tomorrow night, Baby, when we celebrate your birthday.

  BABY DOLL: If they remove those five complete sets of furniture from the house, I sure will sleep in the crib because the crib’s paid for—I’ll sleep in the crib or on the top of Aunt Rose Comfort’s pianner. . . .

  ARCHIE: And I want to talk to you about Aunt Rose Comfort. . . . I’m not in a position to feed and keep her any—

  BABY DOLL: Look here, Big Shot, the day Aunt Rose Comfort is unwelcome under your roof. . .

  ARCHIE: Baby Doll, honey, we just got to unload ourselves of all unnecessary burdens. . . . Now she can’t cook and she—

  BABY DOLL: If you don’t like Aunt Rose Comfort’s cooking, then get me a regular servant. I’m certainly not going to cook for a fat ole thing like you, money wouldn’t pay me—Owwwww!

  [Archie has backhanded her. And prepares to do so again.]

  BABY DOLL: Cut that out. . . .

  ARCHIE: You better quit saying “fat ole thing” about me!!

  BABY DOLL: Well, you get young and thin and I’ll quit calling you a fat old thing. —What’s the matter now?

  [Archie Lee points to off right with a heavily tragic gesture.]


  It is new, handsome, busy, clearly prospering. A sign (large) reads:



  ARCHIE: There it is! There it is!

  BABY DOLL: Looks like they gonna have a celebration!

  ARCHIE: Why shouldn’t they!!?? They now got every last bit of business in the county, including every last bit of what I used to get.

  BABY DOLL: Well, no wonder, they got an up-to-date plant—not like that big pile of junk you got!!

  [Archie glares at her.]



  Archie and Baby Doll enter, and he is still hotly pursuing the same topic of discussion.

  ARCHIE: Now I’m just as fond of Aunt Rose Comfort—

  BABY DOLL: You ain’t just as fond of Aunt—

  ARCHIE: Suppose she breaks down on us?? Suppose she gets a disease that lingers—

  [Baby Doll snorts.]

l right, but I’m serving you notice. If that ole woman breaks down and dies on my place, I’m not going to be stuck with her funeral expenses. I’ll have her burned up, yep, cremated, cremated, is what they call it. And pack her ashes in an ole Coca-Cola bottle and pitch the bottle into TIGER TAIL BAYOU!!!

  BABY DOLL [crossing to inner door]: Doctor John? Come out here and take a look at my husband. I think a mad dawg’s bit him. He’s gone ravin’ crazy!!

  RECEPTIONIST [appearing]: Mr. Meighan’s a little bit late for his appointment, but the doctor will see him.

  BABY DOLL: Good! I’m going down to the—

  ARCHIE: Oh, no, you’re gonna sit here and wait till I come out. . . .

  BABY DOLL: Well, maybe. . . .

  [Archie observes that she is exchanging a long, hard stare with a young man slouched in a chair.]

  ARCHIE: And look at this! Or somethin’.

  [He thrusts a copy of Screen Secrets into her hands and shoves her into a chair. Then glares at the young man, who raises his copy of Confidential.]



  Archie Lee has been stripped down to the waist. The doctor has just finished examining him. From the anteroom, laughter, low, which seems to make Archie Lee nervous.

  DOCTOR: You’re not an old man, Archie Lee, but you’re not a young man, either.

  ARCHIE: That’s the truth.

  DOCTOR: How long you been married?

  ARCHIE: Just about a year now.

  DOCTOR: Have you been under a strain? You seem terrible nervous?

  ARCHIE: No strain at all! None at all. . . .

  [Sound of low laughter from the waiting room. Suddenly, Archie Lee rushes over and opens the door. Baby Doll and the Young Man are talking. He quickly raises his magazine. . . . Archie closes the door, finishes dressing. . . .]

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