Following on my last post about the hard-boiled American novelist Horace McCoy who became a celebrated author of the French existentialists, but is an almost forgotten man today, this is the story of a good one that got away, a tale familiar to any producer.
As a McCoy fan, early in my career as a young executive at Paramount I found myself in New York scouting for literary properties, and meeting with a young agent named Jonathon Matson, whose father Harold Matson had represented literary lions like Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Forester, William Saroyan, and Malcolm Lowry back in the days when giants roamed the earth.
Matson also represented McCoy at one point, and now the agency represented his estate. Somehow the conversation with young Matson worked its way around to McCoy, and I think he was quite surprised that I was familiar with his work. Perhaps spurred by my passion, he opened an old oak drawer and pulled out a rubber-band wrapped manila folder of loose-leaf typed pages.
"Maybe you'd want to take a look at this? "Night Cry", an unproduced screenplay that McCoy was working on before his death."
McCoy's twisted tale did not disappoint, although at 180+ pages of typed screenplay, it was clearly a shelved first draft that had never made it to revisions. Set in the bohemian demi-monde of 1950's Los Angeles, it had a terrific set-up.
A mousy brown-dressed head of a private girls school by day has a lonely heart and is placing an ad in the newsletter of a dating service seeking a companion of her intellectual rigor and adventurous spirit. We quickly learn that the dating service is a front operation for a con man named Koko who employs a stable of gigolos who romance and fleece the women who have come there looking for love. When they discover that our schoolmarm is a wealthy recluse with a Malibu mansion, they bring in their ace stud, a handsome devil with a perfect recall memory that makes him a quick study and a dream date. The twist is, unbeknownst to any of these sharpies, our gal is actually a black widow killer, who has been bumping off the cads who disappoint her on the first date! And to cap that, before either of them discover each other's hidden agenda, and much to Koko's chagrin, they start to actually fall in love!
NEXT: "Night Cry" in LaLa Land