Today, Clara from the blog Just Chick Flicks is pitching her movie in continuation of our month long blogathon (Check the schedule) following the Hollywood Fantasy Draft we conducted recently. Please share your thoughts and any insights you have in the comments and don’t forget to rate the pitch at the bottom!
- Heather “Ambassador 51“
- Travis’ “Facedown Angels“
- Andrew K. “Putting it Together“
- Ripley’s “Untitled Project“
- Joel’s “Jagged Alliance“
- Corey’s “Rendezvous of Strangers“
- Dan’s “Jaws 5“
- Next: Nicholas on Wednesday
An Unexpected Song
You never know where love will find you
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Music: Stephen Sondheim
Title Song: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Sophie Okenado/Willow Smith
Allegra Lorraine St. James is the bi-racial daughter of Miriam Richards. Like her father, Duncan St. James, Allegra is musically gift. She has a beautiful sining voice an plays guitar, cello and piano. She is extremely intelligent and has her mother strong willed nature. Allegra is ambitious and has plans to be a Broadway star with or without the help of her parents.
Being raised in New York City until age 12 and later in London, Allegra struggles with conflicting views about of her racial and cultural heritage and where she belongs in the world, as a Black woman, an American, a Brit or as a artist.
Miriam (Mimi) Richards is an investigative journalist for a well respected magazine, similar to Time. She is one of the first African-American reporters to work at the magazine and she works hard to be the best. Still single, in her late-30’s, Miriam has had a few serious relationships, but the fear of abandonment and her independent spirit she doesn’t see marriage in her future. All of her energy is spent on her work. But like most journalists, she has dreans of writing the great American novel.
Duncan Scott St. James is an gifted classical pianist. Born in a rural area of Australia as Jamie Scott. Jamie was the only child of older parents. His mother, a former school teacher who loved music, home schooled young Jamie when he wasn’t helping his father on the farm. Their home was filled with love and music from his mother’s piano or the record player, playing American blues, jazz and Broadway show tunes. Feeling isolated, from kids his own age, a 15 year old Davie begs his parents to drive him to town for a dance. On the way home, there is a car accident, which kills both his parents. He blames himself for their death.
The sullen and petulant, 15 year old Davie is sent to live with his wealthy uncle, Charles in England, where is forced to go by his real/given name, Duncan Scott St. James. Uncle Charles sends Duncan away to boarding school, where he excels at sports and music, but is also tormented and bullied by the posh boys for his Aussie accent and his humble beginnings. Duncan eventually loses his accent and never talks about his family.
Jeremiah (Jerry) Richards is Miriam’s father. He lives with her in her NY town home. His wife dies when Miriam was 10 years old and he raised her as a single father. Born in Chicago, the son of a factory worker and a housemaid, Jerry was the first person in his family to attend college. He is now a Law Professor at Columbia University in New York City. He is very involved in local politics and the Civil Rights movements. His strong views about racial pride were taught to his daughter Miriam from a very early age.
Patricia (Patty) Belvins and is Miriam’s best friend. Patty owns a small cafe left to her when her grandmother died. She worked hard and turned the shabby luncheonette into one of New York’s most popular Soul Food Cafes. She is smart, witty, a full of wisdom beyond her 25 years.
Chloe Winston, Duncan’s on-again, off-again girl friend. Chloe is a wealthy British aristocrat and supporter of the arts. She wants to help him further his career and eventually become the symphony’s conductor. She enjoys the attention and power she has gained as a patron of the arts. As the head of the London Classical Music Society, she also likes being accompanied to charity and other posh events by the handsome artist, but she does not approve of Duncan’s interest in Jazz or other popular music, which she considers crass and common.
Frank Kennedy, the music loving editor of the New York Review magazine.
The love story between American journalist, Miriam Richards and British pianist, Duncan St. James is told in a non-linear fashion through flashbacks and in the books written by Miriam and the music composed by Duncan. Allegra will not only learn about the deep love between her mother and father, but will witness some of the events in their lives, as she finds herself in the story as an observer at various times in her parents story. She will be seen randomly as a waitress in a jazz club or a passerby on a busy street, or the clerk at a store. It has some elements of the Never Ending Story, in that the flashback scenes are seen through the eyes of the person telling the story. In that way, you are getting different views of the same story.
The movie will span 35 years in the lives of Miriam and Duncan, from their first meeting in New York City through the many events that make up their lives. Marriage, birth, death and Love.
Allegra St. James is in rehearsals in the starring role on Broadway, in a musical written by a composer with a string of hit shows. During rehearsals, she has difficulty getting emotionally involved in her role. She doesn’t understand her character’s motivation and how she could sacrifice so much for love. The composer, (who we learn later, is her father) suggests she read the source material, a series of novels by an American journalist, (who we later learn is her mother).
During her reading of the novels, An Unexpected Song, Summers By the Sea and the songs in her father’s musicals, such as Happily As Long As it Last; Allegro learns the story of her parents first meeting in New York City 35 years ago.
An Unexpected Song: A Novel by Mimi Richards
It’s December 1974. Miriam Richards is an investigative journalist for the New York Review magazine. Recently returning from Germany and Vietnam investigating a story about heroin addiction in returning Army veterans, Miriam is a hard working reporter who does whatever it takes to get her story.
The magazine’s editor, Frank Kennedy (no relation) calls Miriam to his office. He is playing classical music on his tape deck. The Arts And Entertainment reporter is out on maternity leave, when an interview with the biggest name in classical music is visiting New York City. Duncan Scott St. James, a classical pianist with the London’s Symphony Orchestra. A prima dona, with a reputation for never giving interviews, St. James is rumored to be in New York to talk about becoming the Conductor with the New York Philharmonic. An interview with him would be a major achievement and a big story for the magazine.
Miriam is a serious journalist and not willing to waste her time interviewing some “English piano player”. She refuses the assignment. Frank is a huge fan of St. James’ and he wants this story on the cover of his magazine. Frank makes Miriam an offer she can’t refuse. Knowing that she want to go to Paris to write her novel, Frank offers Miriam 3 months paid vacation if she can get the St. James interview. She accepts the deal.. A couple of quick questions and she would be off to the travel agency to book her flight to Paris’.
When Duncan checks into New York the hotel with girlfriend, Chloe Winston, Miriam is waiting in the lobby to ask him for an interview, which he rudely declines. Miriam is irritated and decides to do what she does best…investigate. Late one night, Miriam spots Duncan leaving the hotel, without Chloe. She follows him to a West Side Jazz club, takes a seat in the back of the dark club. To her surprise, he was on stage playing Jazz on the piano and singing Nat King Cole songs.
After watching him for a few nights, Miriam confronts Duncan at the club with her story about the fancy British pianist singing the blues a sleazy New York Jazz club. They sit and talk, drinking scotch while Duncan tells her his story and why he doesn’t do interviews. [The adult Allegra is the waitress] The scotch takes affect, he loses his British accent and he reveals his love of American Jazz and his long-hidden desire to compose and play something other than classical music. He had been put on a path years ago to be a ‘serious’ musician by his family and could change now. He tells her the story of his childhood in Australia. After a few drinks, Miriam tells him about her long held dream of going to Paris writing novel, similar to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. He tell her to forget Paris; it’s too noisy to write. She should go to Italy to Amalfi Coast.
Over the next few days, Miriam and her friend Patty take Duncan to some of the cities best music clubs. As their friendship develops, they talk openly with one another about their childhoods, his guilt over the death of his parents, their family’s expectations of them and their dreams of living their own lives. Eventually, he agrees to do the interview, on the condition that she not mention his childhood in Australia. She hesitates, but agrees. Duncan returns to England with Chloe the following week. Miriam goes to Detroit to work on a story about corruption in the labor unions.
Summer comes and Miriam considers Duncan’s advice and books a trip to Positano, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. After a few weeks in Italy, Miriam sends Duncan a postcard telling him that she took his advice. Back in London, Duncan is arguing with his manager and Chloe about his career path and an upcoming world tour, when receives the post card from Miriam. On a whim he packs a bag and heads to the train station.
Duncan finds Miriam sitting at a cafe drinking coffee. She is pleased and surprised to see him. [The 12-year old Allegra is playing with other children nearby] The pensione is full, so she invites him to stay a few nights until a room becomes available. Over the next few days, their friendship becomes closer and more intimate and one rainy evening, after a romantic dinner and lots of Chianti, as walk the narrow streets of Positano, Duncan kisses Miriam. She is upset runs back to her room. A dripping wet Duncan pounds on the door, asking for an explanation. Miriam explains about her father’s views and the prejudice against interracial couples in America. “But we’re not in America, we’re here….just you and me and what’s to stop us from loving each other”.
Duncan and Miriam spend an idyllic 3 months, in love, calling each other pet names Mimi and Jamie. She writes her novel and he composes his music. At the end of summer, Duncan asks Miriam to marry him, but she declines, telling him it would never work. She leaves the next morning while Duncan is swimming, leaving him a note with a quote from his favorite musical, Fiddler on the the Roof: “A bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?”
Miriam returns to New York to discover she is pregnant. Afraid to tell her father about her affair with a man not of her race, she tells her best friend, Patty who advices her to forget about other people’s opinion and tell Duncan about the baby. When Miriam gets up the courage to call him, Chloe answer the phone and lies to Miriam and tells her that she and Duncan are getting married. Feeling betrayed, Miriam decides not to reveal the father identity and to her raise the baby by herself.
Over the next 10 years, Miriam raises Allegra alone. No longer able to travel and work long hours as a reporter, Frank Kennedy helps her publish her gothic romance novels to support her family. Young Allegra is curious about her father and knows he must be white because of the way she looks. Allegra loves music and asks Miriam for piano lesson. One day in a record store she hears one of Duncan’s recordings and begs her mother to buy it for her. Allegra sees an ad on TV about an upcoming concert by her favorite artist. Her grandfather surprises her with front row center seats.
Duncan sees Miriam in the front row with the little girl who he knows must be his daughter. He stops playing a piece by Mozart and starts playing the songs he wrote for Miriam while they were in Italy. The audience loves them and he gets a standing ovation.
Act 2: Summers By The Sea (1991)
Miriam’s 2nd novel tells the story of Miriam and Duncan’s marriage and their life London. Duncan is understandably upset that he was not told about his daughter, until Miriam explains Chloe’s deception. Duncan and Chloe never married. In fact, he broke up with her and continued to work on his music until his contract was over with the orchestra.
In the years that follow, Duncan tours as a solo artist, while Miriam works on her ‘real’ novel. They are one big happy family now. Especially when Miriam becomes pregnant with their son. Complications arise, the baby dies and Miriam cannot have any more children. Duncan is inconsolable and starts drinking. His work suffers and he and Miriam argue constantly. Refusing to raise her daughter with a drunk, tells Duncan he will never be the man she fell in love with until he plays the kid of music that makes him happy, only then can he free himself of his guilt. Miriam leaves Duncan and takes her daughter back to New York to finish her book. Realizing how much the loss of his parents as well as his son has affected, Duncan sobers up and starts composing a musical. A clean and sober Duncan heads to New York with the completed score of Happily As Long as It Last in hand hoping Miriam will take him back.
Allegra asks her grandpa, Jerry why he didn’t want her mother and father to be married. Was it really because of his race? And if so, did he love her, even though she was partially white. Jerry explains about the times and how things were different then, but he loved his grand-daughter dearly, not matter what color she was. Allegra returns to rehearsals with a new vigor for her role.
Happily As Long As it Last: A Musical by Duncan St. James: The musical version Miriam and Duncan’s love story is about a young couple, Mimi and Jamie who come from different backgrounds, but find love despite all obstacles.
Epilogue: Months later the show opens on Broadway and as she takes the stage, Allegra see her parents (the older version of Miriam and Duncan) holding hand in the audience. Still happily in love after 30 years of marriage.