Joel Coen Produced by Ethan Coen Directed by Joel Coen
Cast List: John Turturro Barton Fink
John Goodman Charlie Meadows
Judy Davis Audrey Taylor
Michael Lerner Jack Lipnick
Johnn Mahoney W.P. Mayhew
Tony Shalhoub Ben Geisler
Jon Polito Lou Breeze
Steve Buscemi Chet
David Warrilow Garland Stanford
Richard Portnow Detective Mastrionotti
ON BARTON FINK He is a bespectacled man in his thirties, hale but somewhat bookish. He stands, tuxedoed, in the wings of a theater, looking out at the stage, listening intently to end of a performance. In the shadows behind him an old stagehand leans against a flat, expressionlessly smoking a cigarette, one hand on a thick rope that hangs from the ceiling. The voices of the performing actors echo in from the offscreen stage: ACTOR
I'm blowin' out of here, blowin' for good. I'm kissin' it all goodbye, these four stinkin' walls, the six flights up, the el that roars by at three A.M. like a cast-iron wind. Kiss 'em goodbye for me, Maury! I'll miss 'em – like hell I will!
Dreaming again! ACTOR
Not this time, Lil! I'm awake now, awake for the first time in years. Uncle Dave said it: Daylight is a dream if you've lived with your eyes closed. Well my eyes are open now! I see that choir, and I know they're dressed in rags! But we're part of that choir, both of us – yeah, and you, Maury, and Uncle Dave too! MAURY
The sun's coming up, kid. They'll be hawking the fish down on Fulton Street. ACTOR
Let 'em hawk. Let 'em sing their hearts out. MAURY
That's it, kid. Take that ruined choir. Make it sing! ACTOR
So long, Maury. MAURY
So long. We hear a door open and close, then approaching footsteps. A tall, dark sctor in a used tweed suit and carrying a beat-up valise passes in front of Barton: From offscreen stage: MAURY
We'll hear from that kid. And I don't mean a postcard. The actor sets the valise down and then stands waiting int he shadows behind Barton. An older man in work clothes – not wardrobe – passes in front of Barton from the other direction, pauses at the edge of the stage and cups his hands to his mouth. OLDER MAN
FISH! FRESH FISH! As the man walks back off the screen: LILY
Let's spit on our hands and get to work. It's late, Maury. MAURY
Not any more Lil... Barton mouths the last line in sync with the offscreen actor: MAURY
... It's early. With this the stagehand behind Barton furiously pulls the rope hand-over- hand and we hear thunderous applause and shouts of "Bravo!"
As the stagehand finishes bringing the curtain down, somewhat muting the applause, the backstage actor trots out of frame toward the stage. The stagehand pulls on an adjacent rope, bringing the curtain back up and unmuting the applause. Barton Fink seems dazed. He has been joined by two other men, both dressed in tuxedos, both beaming toward the stage.
BARTON'S POV Looking across a tenement set at the backs of the cast as the curtain rises on the enthusiastic house. The actors take their bows and the cry of "Author, Author" goes up from the crowd. The actors turn to smile at Barton in the wings.
BARTON He hesitates, unable to take it all in. He is gently nudged toward the stage by the two tuxedoed gentlemen. As he exits toward the stage the applause is deafening.
TRACKING SHOT Pushing a maitre 'd who looks back over his shoulder as he leads the way through the restaurant. MAITRE 'D
Your table is ready, Monsieur Fink... several members of your party have already arrived...
REVERSE Pulling Barton FINK
Is Garland Stanford here? MAITRE 'D
He called to say he'd be a few minutes late... Ah, here we are...
TRACKING IN Toward a large semi-circular booth. Three guests, two me and a woman in evening wear, are rising and beaming at Barton. A fat middle-aged man, one of the tuxedoed gentlemen we saw backstage, is moving out to let Barton slide in. MAN
Barton, Barton, so glad you could make it. You know Richard St. Claire... Barton nods and looks at the woman. MAN
... and Poppy Carnahan. We're drinking champagne, dear boy, in honor of the occasion. Have you seen the Herald? Barton looks sullenly at his champagne glass as the fat man fills it. BARTON
Not yet. MAN
Well, I don't want to embarass you but Caven could hardly contain himself. But more important, Richard and Poppy here loved the play. POPPY
Loved it! What power! RICHARD
Yeah, it was a corker. BARTON
Thanks, Richard, but I know for a fact the only fish you've ever seen were tacked to a the wall of the yacht club. RICHARD
Bravo! Nevertheless, we were all devastated. POPPY
Weeping! Copius tears! What did the Herald say? MAN
I happen to have it with me. BARTON
Please Derek – POPPY
Do read it, do! DEREK
"Bare Ruined Choirs: Triumph of the Common Man. The star of the Bare Ruined Choirs was not seen on the stage of the Belasco last night – though the thespians involved all acquitted themselves admirably. The find of the evening was the author of this drama about simple folk – fish mongers, in fact – whose brute struggle for existence cannot quite quell their longing for something higher. The playwright finds nobility in the most squalid corners and poetry in the most calloused speech. A tough new voice in the American theater has arrived, and the owner of that voice is named... Barton Fink." BARTON
They'll be wrapping fish in it in the morning so I guess it's not a total waste. POPPY
Well we can enjoy your success, Barton, even if you can't. BARTON
Don't get me wrong – I'm glad it'll do well for you, Derek. DEREK
All right, but I can't start listening to the critics, and I can't kis myself about my own work. A writer writes from his gut, and his gut tells him what's good and what's... merely adequate. POPPY
Well I don't pretend to be a critic, but Lord, I have a gut, and it tells me it was simply marvelous. RICHARD
And a charming gut it is. POPPY
Aaa-woooooooo! Barton turns to look for the source of an insistent jingling. We swish pan off him to find a busboy marching through the restaurant displaying a page sign, bell attached, with Barton's name on it.
TRACKING IN TOWARD A BAR A distinguished fifty-year-old gentleman in evening clothes is nursing a martini, watching Barton approach.
PULLING BARTON As he draws near. BARTON
I thought you were going to join us. Jesus, Garland, you left me alone with those people. GARLAND
Don't panic, I'll join you in a minute. What's you think of Richard and Poppy? Barton scowls BARTON
The play was marvelous. She wept, copiously. Millions of dollars and no sense. Garland smiles, then draws Barton close. GARLAND
We have to talk a little business. I've just been on the phone to Los Angeles. Barton, Capitol Pictures wants to put you under contract. They've offered you a thousand dollars a week. I think I can get them to go as high as two. BARTON
To do what? GARLAND
What do you do far a living? BARTON
I'm not sure anymore. I guess I try to make a difference. GARLAND
Fair enough. No pressure here, Barton, because I respect you, but let me point out a couple of things. One, here you make a difference to five hundred fifty people a night – if the show sells out. Eighty-five million people go to the pictures every week.
To see pap. GARLAND
Yes, generally, to see pap. However, point number two: A brief tenure in Hollywood could supprt you through the writing of any number of plays. BARTON
I don't know, Garland; my place is here right now. I feel I'm on the brink of success- GARLAND
No, Garland, don't you see? Not the kind of success where the critics fawn over you or the producers like Derek make a lot of money. No, a real success – the success we've been dreaming about – the creation of a new, living theater of, about, and for the common man! If I ran off to Hollywood now I'd be making money, going to parties, meeting the big shots, sure, but I'd be cutting myself off from the wellspring of that success, from the common man.
He leans back and chuckles ruefully. BARTON
... I guess I'm sprouting off again. But I am certain of this, Garland: I'm capable of more good work. Maybe better work than I did in Choirs. It just doesn't seem to me that Los Angeles is the place to lead the life of mind. GARLAND
Okay Barton, you're the artist, I'm just the ten perceter. You decide what you want and I'll make it happen. I'm only asking that your decision be informed by a little realism – if I can use that word and Hollywood in the same breath. Barton glumly lights a cigarette and gazes out across the floor. Garland studies him. ... Look, they love you, kid – everybody does. You see Caven's review in the Herald? BARTON
No, what did it say? GARLAND
Take my copy. You're the toast of Broadway and you have the opportunity to redeem that for a little cash – strike that, a lot of cash. Garland looks at Barton for a reaction, but gets none. GARLAND
... The common man'll still be here when you get back. What the hell, they might even have one or two of 'em out in Hollywood. Absently: BARTON
... That's a rationalization, Garland. Garland smiles gently. GARLAND
Barton, it was a joke. We hear a distant rumble. It builds slowly and we cut to:
A GREAT WAVE Crushing against the Pacific shore. The roar of the surf slips away as we dissolve to:
HOTEL LOBBY A high wide shot from the front door, looking down across wilting potted palms, brass cuspidors turning green, ratty wing chairs; the fading decor is deco-gone-to-seed. Amber light, afternoon turning to evening, slopes in from behind us, washing the derelict lobby with golden highlights.
Barton Fink enters frame from beneath the camera and stops in the middle foreground to look across the lobby.
We are framed on his back, his coat and hat. The lobby is empty. There is a suspended beat as Barton takes it in. Barton moves toward the front desk.
THE REVERSE As Barton stops at the empty desk. He hits a small silver bell next to the register. Its ring-out goes on and on without losing volume.
After a long beat there is a dull scuffle of shoes on stairs. Barton, puzzled, looks around the empty lobby, then down at the floor behind the front desk.
A TRAP DOOR It swings open and a young man in a faded maroon uniform, holding a shoebrush and a shoe – not one of his own – climbs up from the basement.
He closes the trap door, steps up to the desk and sticks his finger out to touch the small silver bell, finally muting it.
The lobby is now silent again. CLERK
Welcome to the Hotel Earle. May I help you, sir? BARTON
I'm checking in. Barton Fink. The clerk flips through cards on the desk. CLERK
F-I-N-K. Fink, Barton. That must be you, huh? BARTON
Must be. CLERK
Okay then, everything seems to be in order. Everything seems to be in order. He is turning to a register around for Barton to sign. CLERK
... Are you a tranz or a rez? BARTON
Transient or resident? BARTON
I don't know... I mean, I'll be here, uh, indefinitely. CLERK
Rez. That'll be twenty-five fifty a week payable in advance. Checkout time is twelve sharp, only you can forget that on account you're a rez. If you need anything, anything at all, you dial zero on your personal in-room telephone and talk to me. My name is Chet. BARTON
Well, I'm going to be working here, mostly at night; I'm a writer. Do you have room service? CLERK
Kitchen closes at eight but I'm the night clerk. I can always ring out for sandwiches. The clerk is scribbling something on the back of an index card. CLERK
... Though we provide privacy for the residential guest, we are also a full service hotel including complimentary shoe shine. My name Chet. He pushes a room key across the counter on top of the index card. Barton looks at the card. On it: "CHET!" Barton looks back up at the clerk. They regard each other for a beat. CLERK
... Okay BARTON
Huh? The clerk.
Okey-dokey, go ahead. BARTON
What – CLERK
Don't you wanna go to your room?! Barton stares at him. BARTON
... What number is it? The clerk stares back. CLERK
... Six-oh-five. I forgot to tell you. As Barton stoops to pick up his two small bags: CLERK
... Those your only bags? BARTON
The others are being sent. The clerk leans over the desk to call after him: CLERK
I'll keep an eye out for them. I'll keep my eyes peeled, Mr. Fink. Barton is walking to the elevator.
ELEVATOR Barton enters and sets down his bags. An aged man with white stubble, wearing a greasy maroon uniform, sits on a stool facing the call panel. He does not acknowledge Barton's presence.
After a beat: BARTON
... Six, please. The elevator man gets slowly to his feet. As he pushes the door closed: ELEVATOR MAN
Next stop: Six.
SIXTH-FLOOR HALLWAY Barton walks slowly toward us, examining the numbers on the doors. The long, straight hallway is carpeted with an old stained forest green carpet. The wallpaper shows faded yellowing palm trees. Barton sticks his key in the lock of a door midway down the hall.
HIS ROOM As Barton enters. The room is small and cheaply furnished. There is a lumpy bed with a worn- yellow coverlet, an old secretary table, and a wooden luggage stand. As Barton crosses the room we follow to reveal a sink and wash basin, a house telephone on a rickety night stand, and a window with yellowing sheers looking on an air shaft. Barton throws his valise onto the bed where it sinks, jittering. He shrugs off his jacket. Pips of sweat stand out on Barton's brow. The room is hot. He walks across the room, switches on an oscillating fan and struggles to throw open the window. After he strains at it for a moment, it slides open with a great wrenching sound. Barton picks up his Underwood and places it on the secretary table. He gives the machine a casually affectionate pat.
Next to the typewriter are a few sheets of house stationary: "THE HOTEL EARLE: A DAY OR A LIFETIME." We pan up to a picture in a cheap wooden frame on the wall above the desk. A bathing beauty sits on the beach under a cobalt blue sky. One hand shields her eyes from the sun as she looks out at a crashing surf. The sound of the surf mixes up.
BARTON Looking at the picture
TRACKING IN ON THE PICTURE The surf mixes up louder. We hear a gull cry. The sound snaps off with the ring of a telephone.
THE HOUSE PHONE On the nightstand next to the bed. With a groan of bedsprings Barton sits into frame and picks up the telephone. VOICE
How d'ya like your room! BARTON
... Who is this? VOICE
... Who? VOICE
Chet! From downstairs! Barton wearily rubs the bridge of his nose. VOICE
... How d'ya like your room!
A PILLOW As Barton's head drops down into frame against it. He reaches over and turns off the bedside light. He lies back and closes his eyes. A long beat. We hear a faint hum, growing louder. Barton opens his eyes.
HIS POV A naked, peeling ceoling. The hum – a mosquito, perhaps – stops.
BARTON His eyes move this way and that. After a silent beat, he shuts them again. After another silent beat, we hear – muffled, probably from am adjacent room – a brief, dying laugh. It is sighing and weary, like the end of a laughing fit, almost a sob. Silence again. We hear the rising mosquito hum. FADE OUT
EXECUTIVE OFFICE Barton Fink is ushered into a large, light office by an obsequious middle- aged man in a sagging suit. There are mosquito bites on Barton's face.
REVERSE From behind a huge white desk, a burly man in an expensive suit gets to his feet and strides across the room. MAN
Is that him?! Barton Fink?! Lemme put my arms around this guy! He bear-hugs Barton. MAN
... How the hell are ya? Good trip? He separates without waiting for an answer. My name is Jack Lipnik. I run this dump. You know that – you read the papers. Lipnik is lumbering back to his desk. Lou treating you all right? Got everything you need? What the hell's the matter with your face? What the hell's the matter with his face, Lou? BARTON
It's not as bad as it looks; just a mosquito in my room – LIPNIK
Place okay? To Lou: LIPNIK
... Where did we put him? BARTON
I'm at the Earle. LIPNIK
Never heard of it. Let's move him to the Grand, or the Wilshire, or hell, he can stay at my place. BARTON
Thanks, but I wanted a place that was less... LIPNIK
Less Hollywood? Sure, say it, it's not a dirty word. Sat whatever the hell you want. The writer is king here at Capitol Pictures. You don't believe me, take a look at your paycheck at the end of every week – that's what we think of the writer.
... so what kind of pictures does he like? LOU
Mr. Fink hasn't given a preference, Mr. Lipnik. LIPNIK
How's about it, Bart? BARTON
To be honest, I don't go to the pictures much, Mr. Lipnik – LIPNIK
That's okay, that's okay, that's okay – that's just fine. You probably just walked in here thinking that was going to be a handicap, thinking we wanted people who knew something about the medium, maybe even thinking there was all kind of technical mumbo-jumbo to learn. You were dead wrong. We're only interested in one thing: Can you tell a story, Bart? Can you make us laugh, can you make us cry, can you make us wanna break out in joyous song? Is that more than one thing? Okay. The point is, I run this dump and I don't know the technical mumbo-jumbo. Why do I run it? I've got horse- sense, goddamnit. Showmanship. And also, and I hope Lou told you this, I bigger and meaner than any other kike in this town. Did you tell him that, Lou? And I don't mean my dick's bigger than yours, it's not a sexual thing – although, you're the writer, you would know more about that. Coffee? BARTON
... Yes, thank you. LIPNIK
Lou. Lou immediately rises and leaves. Lipnik's tone becomes confidential: LIPNIK
... He used to have shares in the company. An ownership interest. Got bought out in the twenties – muscled out according to some. Hell, according to me. So we keep him around, he's got a family. Poor schmuck. He's sensitive, don't mention the old days. Oh hell, say whatever you want. Look, barring a preference, Bart, we're gonna put you to work on a wrestling picture. Wallace Beery. I say this because they tell me you know the poetry of the street. That would rule out westerns, pirate pictures, screwball, Bible, Roman...
He rises and starts pacing. LIPNIK
But look, I'm not one of these guys thinks poetic has gotta be fruity. We're together on that, aren't we? I mean I'm from New York myself – well, Minsk if you wanna go way back, which we won't if you don't mind and I ain't askin'. Now people're gonna tell you, wrestling. Wallace Beery, it's a B picture. You tell them, bullshit. We don't make B pictures here at Capitol. Let's put a stop to that rumor right now. Lou enters with coffee.