American Experience
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"Goodbye, Old Pal" (8:00) - Transcript

Al Pacino: Hughie, for me... my dear friend Charlie Laughton used to read it to me, and it had this effect on me because he would read both characters. And I've often felt that Hughie, which was one of O'Neill's latter plays, would be more effective if you did the play reading it, rather than staging it, because when you stage it you invariably just get one character speaking and another character speaking and the hotel clerk's inner life, his inner monologue, is missing. It was magnificent the way he read it. He had a real deep understanding of what these characters were to him and what O'Neill was saying.

(performance: Erie Smith, Hughie): This checkin' out was a real K.O. for me. Damned if I know why. Lots of guys I been pals with, in a way, croaked from booze or something or got rubbed out, but I always took it as part of the game. Hell! We all gotta croak! Here today, gone tomorrow, so what's the good of beefin'? When a guy's dead, he's dead. He don't give a damn, so why should anybody else? Ehh, I miss Hughie, I guess. I guess I'd got to like him a lot. Not that I was ever real pals with him, you understand. I mean, he didn't run in my class. He didn't know none of the answers. He was just a sucker. But I sure am sorry he's gone. You missed a lot not knowing Hughie, Pal. He sure was one grand little guy...

The Night Clerk his mind has hopped an ambulance clanging down Sixth and is asking without curiosity, "Will he die, doctor, or isn't he lucky?" "I'm afraid not, but he'll have to be absolutely quiet for months and months." "With a pretty nurse taking care of him?" "Probably not pretty." "Well, anyway, I claim he's lucky. And now I must get back to the hotel. 492 won't go to bed and insists on telling me jokes. It must have been a joke because he's chuckling." He laughs with a heartiness which has forgotten that heart is more than a word used in "Have a heart," an old slang expression. "Ha-ha-ha! That's a good one, Erie. That's the best I've heard in a long time!" Erie -- for a moment is so hurt and depressed he hasn't the spirit to make a sarcastic crack. He stares at the floor, twirling his room key to himself. "Uh, gee, this sure is a dead dump, about as homey as the morgue. Well, it's gettin' late. Better beat it up to my cell, grab some shut eye. Why didn't ya tell me you was deaf, buddy? I know guys are sensitive about them little afflictions, but I'll keep it confidential." But the Clerk's mind has rushed out to follow the siren wail of a fire engine. "A fireman's life must be exciting." His mind rides the engine, and asks a fireman with disinterested eagerness, "Where's the fire? Is it a real good one this time? Has it a good start? Will it be big enough do you think?" Erie examines his face, bitingly. "Take my tip, Pal, and never try to buy from a dope peddler. He'll tell you you had enough already." The Clerk's mind continues its dialogue with the fireman, "I mean, big enough to burn down the whole damn city?" "Sorry brother, but there's no chance. There's too much stone and steel. There'd always be something left." "Yeah, I guess you're right. There's too much stone and steel. I wasn't really hoping anyway. It really doesn't matter to me"...

I could tell by Hughie's face before he went to the hospital, he was through. I'd seen the same look on guy's faces when they knew they was on a spot, just before guys caught up with them. I went to see him twice in the hospital. The first time, his wife was there and give me a dirty look, but he cooked up a smile and said, "Hello, Erie, how are the bangtails treating you" I see he wants a big story to cheer him, but his wife butts in and says "He's weak, he mustn't get excited. " I felt like crackin' "Well, the Docs in this dump got the right dope. Just leave you in here with him he'll never get excited." The second time I went, they wouldn't let me see him. That was near the end. I went to his funeral, too. There wasn't nobody but a couple of his wife's relations. I had to feel sorry for her. She looked like she ought to be parked in a coffin, too. The kids was bawlin'. There wasn't no flowers but a couple a lousy wreaths. It would a been a punk showing for poor old Hughie, if it hadn't been for my flower piece. Oh, that was some display, Pal. It'd knock your eye out! Set me back a hundred bucks, and no kiddin'! A big horseshoe of red roses! I knew Hughie'd want a horseshoe, made it look like he'd been a horse player. And around the top in forget-me-nots was "Goodbye, Old Pal." Hughie like to kid himself he was my pal. So he was at that - even if he was a sucker.