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In 1920s New York, a struggling playwright is forced to cast a mobster's talentless girlfriend in his latest drama in order to get it produced.
Olive: Why do you have to be so masso... masso... David Shayne: Masochistic. Olive: Masochistic? What the does that mean? David Shayne: It means someone who enjoys pain. Olive: Enjoys pain? What is she, *retarded*?
Sheldon Flender: [bragging] I have never had a play produced. That's right. And I've written one play a year for the past twenty years. David Shayne: Yes, but that's because you're a genius. And the proof is that both common people and intellectuals find your work completely incoherent. Means you're a genius.
Rita: For me, love is very deep, sex only has to go a few inches.
Helen Sinclair: Two martinis please, very dry. David Shayne: How'd you know what I drank? Helen Sinclair: Oh, you want one too? Three.
[Cheech is helping Olive rehearse a scene] Olive: Can't you see? You're living out the exact same pattern your mother lived out with your father. Cheech: I am? Pray tell. Olive: In some way you're trying to relive it and in the process of reliving it, correct it. As if that were possible. HA. Cheech: It don't say "ha." Olive: I know it don't say "ha," I added that. Cheech: Are you allowed to do that? I don't think you're allowed to do that. Olive: We're allowed to add things. It's called ad-libbing. Cheech: Well, I think the whole thing stinks. Olive: Well, I think you're a degenerate zombie so shut up and read. Cheech: You shut up. Olive: You shut up and read. Cheech: you're lucky you're Nick's girl. Olive: You're lucky you're an idiot.
Sheldon Flender: You, you, you're all missing the point, the point is I can give pleasure many times a day! Rita: Oh, now, really Flender, what does quantity got to do with it? Sheldon Flender: Quantity, quantity affects quality! David Shayne: Says who? Sheldon Flender: Karl Marx! Rita: Oh, so now we're talking economics. Sheldon Flender: Sex is economics!
Helen Sinclair: No, no, don't speak. Don't speak. Please don't speak. Please don't speak. No. No. No. Go. Go, gentle Scorpio, go. Your Pisces wishes you every happy return. David Shayne: Just one... Helen Sinclair: Don't speak.
Cheech: Olive, I think you should know this: you're a horrible actress. [Cheech shoots Olive dead]
Venus: You better get in the mood, honey, 'cause he's payin' the rent.
Helen Sinclair: You stand on the brink of greatness. The world will open to you like an oyster. No... not like an oyster. The world will open to you like a magnificent vagina.
David Shayne: Maybe Olive's got stage fright. Maybe she won't show. Julian Marx: Not Olive. That dame doesn't have a nerve in her body. I don't think her spinal cord touches her brain.
Helen Sinclair: I'm still a star. I never play frumps or virgins.
Nick: Let's avoid confusion. She'll get some lines, or I'll nail your knee caps to the floor.
Helen Sinclair: She's perky all right. She makes you want to sneak up behind her with a pillow and suffocate her.
David Shayne: I've become involved with Helen Sinclair, and I feel terrible. But I can't help myself. She's so charismatic, and she's brilliant and beautiful. I mean, a real artist, and, and we speak the same language. Sheldon Flender: You're wracked with guilt. David Shayne: I'm wracked with guilt. Sheldon Flender: You're wracked with guilt. You are wracked with guilt. David Shayne: I don't know whether... I can't sleep. Sheldon Flender: Guilt is petit-bourgeois crap. An artist creates his own moral universe. David Shayne: I know that. I know... Sheldon Flender: Well? What is the problem then? I'm gonna give you some advice. The same advice that was given to me many years ago when I had a very similar dilemma. David Shayne: Similar to mine. To... Sheldon Flender: Yes. Yes. David Shayne: What did you do? What? Sheldon Flender: You gotta do what you gotta do.
Sid Loomis: He's working on a vehicle for Helen for next season. She plays Jesus' mother. It's a whole Oedipul thing. He loves her... wants to do in the father... well you can see the complications.
Eden Brent: There you are. Mr. Purcell, you have been stealing our dog yummies and eating them. Warner Purcell: Absolutely not. That's an outrageous suggestion. Eden Brent: Then let me see in your pockets. Warner Purcell: Would I eat dog food? Eden Brent: You'd eat anything that didn't eat you first, you big fat pot of helium.
[Helen is late for rehearsal] Helen Sinclair: Please forgive me. My pedicurist had a stroke. She fell forward onto the orange stick and plunged it into my toe. It required bandaging.
David Shayne: You're gonna write it? Cheech: What am I? A fuckin' idiot? They taught me how to read and write in school before I burned it down. David Shayne: You burned down your school? Cheech: Yeah, it was Lincoln's birthday. There was nobody there.
Cheech: Where I come from, nobody squeals!
Sid Loomis: It's a little idea she's wanted to do for years. She plays Jesus' mother. Partygoer: Oh. Sid Loomis: It's a whole Oedipal thing - he loves her, wants to do in the father. Well, you can see the complications. Of course, we're talking to Ira Gershwin about a modern musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. "Quasimodo Jones." Partygoer: Helen has such a-a-a... a new vitality. Even her face looks so smooth. Sid Loomis: I know. The monkey glands are working.
Nick: Sorry you guys had to hear that. Some problems with the firm. David Shayne: Really? What type of firm is it, Nick? Nick: It's a "don't stick your nose in other people's business and it won't get broken" type of firm.
David Shayne: Your taste is exquisite. Helen Sinclair: [correcting] My taste is superb. My eyes are exquisite.
Venus: Do you want the blue stuff or the green? Olive: The imported, dummy. Venus: Oh, you mean from the *clean* bathtub.
[Helen complains about her role] Helen Sinclair: She's dowdy. Sid, the ingenue has all the hot lines. Even the female psychiatrist is a better role. Sid Loomis: But the role of Sylvia Poston is the lead. Helen Sinclair: "Sylvia Poston." Even the *name* reeks of Orbach's. I do Electra. I do Lady Macbeth. I do plays by Noel and Phil Barry, or at least Max Anderson.
Olive: Don't tell me you still think the world revolves around... Stage Manager: You. Olive: ...you.
Cheech: It stinks on fucking hot ice.
Eden Brent: [David has offered to get Eden's dog a saucer of milk] Oh, you needn't bother with that because I breast feed her! Eden Brent: [awkward pause] Just KIDDING!
David Shayne: Suddenly I'm taking suggestions from some strong-arm man with an IQ of minus 50.
Olive: Ain't you the big mouth since you hit your number.
Helen Sinclair: Make love to me. David Shayne: Here? Now? Helen Sinclair: I see no reason to wait. David Shayne: Jerome Kern is on the other side of the door. Helen Sinclair: Yes, he's a wonderful composer. You'll have to meet him. Now hang up your pants.
Warner Purcell: Get out of my trousers, you horrid woman.
Cheech: Sylvia Pincus. Big fat Jewish broad, had a little tiny husband. She chopped him up with an ax and mailed his pieces all over the country. I don't know what she was tryin' to prove.
Eden Brent: [on David's new script changes] Congratulations. It finally has balls.
Olive: [to Warner] I notice you have a really big appetite.
Cheech: She can't act. Are you listening to me? She makes stuff not work - stuff she ain't even in - it comes out all twisted!
Nick: Open your gift. Olive: You open it, can't you see I'm dressing? Nick: Here. Olive: What is it? Nick: Pearls. What the hell do you think they are? Olive: Pearls are white. Nick: These are black pearls. Olive: Oh, don't give me that. I never heard of black pearls. Nick: Just becaus you never heard of them don't mean it don't exist. Olive: What do think I am, some kind of chump? They're black for God's sake. They probably came from defective oysters.
Sheldon Flender: Let's say there was a burning building and you could rush in and you could save only one thing: either the last known copy of Shakespeare's plays or some anonymous human being. What would you do?
Cheech: [at the end, dying] No. Don't speak.
David Shayne: I studied playrighting with every teacher, I read every book... Cheech: Let me tell you somethin' about teachers. I hate teachers. Those blue-haired bitches used to whack us with rulers. Forget teachers.
Helen Sinclair: Oh, Julian. Julian Marx. I do plays put on by Balasco, or Sam Harris, not some Yiddish pant salesman turned producer. My ex-husband used to say, "If you're gonna go down, go down with the best of them." Sid Loomis: Which ex-husband? Helen Sinclair: Oh, I don't know which ex-husband. The one with the moustache.
Lord Chafee: My tongue is hanging out to present it on the London stage. David Shayne: London. Lord Chafee: Look at his face, Helen. You're going to be the toast of Broadway. Why not the West End, hmm?
Sheldon Flender: Hey, look who's here. The big Broadway success. I don't write hits. My plays are art. They're written specifically to go unproduced.
Sid Loomis: You're a star because you're great and you are a great star, but let me tell you something, Helen. In the last couple of years you're better known as an adulteress and a drunk. And I say this in all due respect. Helen Sinclair: Look, I haven't had a drink since New Year's Eve. Sid Loomis: You're talking Chinese New Year's. Helen Sinclair: Naturally. Still, that's two days, Sid! You know how long that is for me?
Olive: Hey, didn't I tell you to make "horse durves"? Venus: I don't make nothin' out of horses, especially "horse durves", 'cause I don't know what they are, and neither do you. Olive: Oh, aren't you the big mouth since you hit your number! [raising her voice] Olive: And I said the imported stuff! Venus: The imported stuff ate through the bottle! It's gone! Olive: A likely story! [composing herself - to David] Olive: It's very hard to get good help these days.
David Shayne: You thought my first draft was c-cerebral and tepid? Helen Sinclair: Only the plot and the dialogue. But this... David Shayne: Was-was-was there nothing in the original draft that you feel was worth saving? Helen Sinclair: The stage directions were lucid. Best I've ever seen... and the color of the binder. Good choice. David Shayne: Thank you. I've always had a flair for stage directions.