Saturday, September 6, 2008
Hellhound 21: All My Love's in Vain
ANGLE ON THE CROSSROADS
Now signs of the town of Greenwood are visible in the distance. Johnson sits in the shade of a tree, picking out a tune on his guitar and keeping a watchful eye on the roadhouse. When Betty Mae appears and walks hesitantly toward him, he stands up.
BETTY MAE: I cain't see you, Robert. It's not right. (mournfully) Why are you here?
JOHNSON: Baby, I had to see you--I got things to say. You gone back to town, ain'cha? I walk you there.
He picks up his suitcase and starts in the direction of Greenwood. Betty Mae stands still for a moment, torn two ways, then when Robert stops and motions to her, she reluctantly moves forward, still keeping her distance from him.
ANGLE ON THE ROADHOUSE--ZOOM IN
The camera move discovers Ralph's face, inside his roadhouse, watching their departure. Tight on his face then, we see he imagines the worst: Betty Mae's old love has returned to steal her away. He shows a mixture of anguish and anger.
ANGLE ON THE TWO--MOVING
Robert and Betty Mae walk along the highway heading to Greenville. They walk in silence at first. When they do talk, they avoid each other's eyes--when one turns, the other looks away.
JOHNSON: I need you. I ain' know till now jes' how much. (after a pause) I got to ramble, it's in me. I alluz thinkin' I could run alone or wid some buddy, an' fin' woman love whensoever I want, wherever... But that kin' ain' nothin'--no better'n wind in the trees an' dust in the road. You lonelier'n if you was alone.
Betty Mae is watching him now, but Robert stares resolutely off into the distance.
JOHNSON: Bad luck doggin' me ever'where I go... I know I have done evil--I kill one man, an' I hurt some peoples, you mos' of all I 'spect.
Now Betty Mae looks away, resisting her impulse to comfort him.
CLOSE ON JOHNSON
His face as he continues.
JOHNSON: I was angry, an' I give you up that way, when what I shoulda done, I shoulda hol' on tighter. Ain' been no whole man no day since--juicin' an' foolin' aroun'. (bitter laugh) I been near drownin' in that stuff.
ANGLE ON THE TWO
Now he stops and faces her, pleading.
JOHNSON: But i ain't in that fast life now. No more, Mae. I come for you now--you what I been try'na fin' all these years.
Betty Mae has her hands over her ears.
BETTY MAE (wailing): Stop it, damn you, Robert! Stop...
She backs away from him before continuing.
BETTY MAE: I love you, Robert. I do. But it's too many years. I'm married now. You cain't jes' come here...
Robert is thoughtful as he resumes walking; Betty Mae falls in step beside him.
JOHNSON: I ain' come here t' take you off, Mae. Onlies' thing that's set, I be playin' at Ralph's t'night. Well, tha's my life, ain' it?
BETTY MAE: Ralph loves me strong, Robert. He's a decent man, a hard-workin' man. But he won't accept anythin' between you an' me. He's proud, an' he hol's onto what's his. I won't leave him. 'Specially now...
JOHNSON: I ain't aimin' to do no one else wrong. I ain' so greedy, Mae, no more. I been playin' these blues long enough--I reckon I kin live 'em a mite longer.
Now Betty Mae grabs his arm, stops, and turns him toward her.
CLOSE ON BETTY MAE
She is almost in tears.
BETTY MAE: It's forever, baby. I been tryin' to tell you--I got Ralph's child in me now.
ANGLE ON THE TWO--FAVORING JOHNSON
His reaction: stunned amazement, followed by disappointment, and then somehow a visible acceptance. He nods, chuckles, and slowly walks on.
JOHNSON: Well, well... he's a lucky man. (quietly, almost an incantation) God bless the chile.
Now he takes Betty Mae's hand in his; she allows it now.
JOHNSON (smiling cheerfully): That's all right, mama. Nothin' bad between us. (singing a bit ridiculously) Got a house full o' chil'ren, ain' ne'er one mine...
He winks at Betty Mae, and she laughs in pleased relief. Then, hand in hand, more like old friends than ex-lovers, the two of them amble on down the highway towards Greenwood.