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Ponzi by Greg Santos
WGA Registration #1292035
FADE IN: INT. LOCOMOBILE LIMO - DAY A gold Liberty Dollar winking in a ray of sunlight. It flips between a set of deft fingers. Tumbling across the back of a man’s hand. CHARLES PONZI (30) reclining alone in the luxurious cabin of his custom limousine. Draped in a finely tailored linen suit. He smiles wide like the cat that ate the canary. With gravy. Lying on his lap is a crisp newspaper. He eyes its headline with pride. INSERT - BOSTON POST FRONT PAGE, reading: “PONZI DOUBLES THE MONEY Wizard of Finance Delivers the Goods” BACK IN THE LIMO Ponzi lays down the paper. Twists a cigarette into a slender tortoise shell holder. Gazes out the window at something in the distance. LIMO DRIVER (O.S.) (in Italian) Signori Ponzi, will we be stopping at the Tremont Trust this morning? PONZI Not today. Direct to the office. LIMO DRIVER Looks like all of Boston has come out to see you. Ponzi gets his first glimpse of the throng who have assembled to greet him. He touches a gold lighter to the tip of his cigarette. From out of nowhere, a hand clutching a wad of bills smacks against the window.
2. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - SAME From high above, the crowd is a sea of straw hats. They overflow the red-brick chasm of School Street, continuing out of sight. SUPER: “Boston, 1920” The excited shouts of the masses float up and away like breath on a crisp Boston morning. But it’s summer in the city. And it’s sweltering. IN THE LIMO Ponzi is cool as a cucumber. Adjusting his silk necktie. An enormous diamond stickpin catches the morning light. INT. BOSTON POST WAR ROOM - SAME A group of reporters assembles at the window to observe the spectacle below. They track the limo as it inches through the mob. Pulling up to a narrow doorway at number Twenty Seven School Street. The paper’s seasoned City Editor shakes his head and scratches at his scraggly beard. CITY EDITOR Pigs being led to the slaughter. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - SAME The limo driver hurries around to open the door for his boss. Admirers press in tight to get a glimpse or lay a hand on the man inside. Madness has infected the crowd. The city. MAN IN CROWD There he is! There’s Ponzi! Ponzi steps from the limo with a wave of his gilded cane. The diverse crowd breaking into cheers and applause.
3. Ponzi’s driver attempts to clear a path, doing double duty as bodyguard. They move swiftly. Ponzi shaking a few hands along the way. A flashbulb POPS. A brilliant white light. Ponzi’s warm smile is frozen in black and white. Several well dressed gentlemen look on with esteem. A grey-haired black man approaches. Holding a beat up shoebox tightly. Two policemen on horseback loom above the mass of squirming humanity. Eager investors jostle for position in line. Snaking into the building and up the stairwell. All eyes are on Ponzi. He reaches the door to his building as a HECKLER emerges from the crowd. HECKLER Double my money in ninety days? I’d like to see the man who could do that. Ponzi stops and turns as if hit by a stone from behind. PONZI (for all to hear) Well I’m doing it. I’m the man. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - SAME An OLD WOMAN is pushed and shoved at the mercy of the frenzied men in line. Ponzi stops to help her. PONZI Signora, allow me to be your host. OLD WOMAN Grazie, Signori Ponzi. He offers his arm leading her up the stairs.
4. The smiling couple continues down a narrow hallway. Making their way to the front. The line ends abruptly at a wall with three barred windows. Ponzi’s personal security guard, STAGGS, an aging mug built like a brick shit-house, stands sentinel. His .38 revolver is holstered, but clearly visible to the crowd. INT. MONEY CAGE - SAME Three female tellers work frantically at their windows. They accept what seems an endless stream of cash in exchange for a single rectangular sheet of paper. The cash is coming so quickly that each of their drawers has already overflowed. Money is everywhere. They’ve resorted to stacking it on any available surface. Stray bills scatter the floor. One of the tellers drops a bundle into a wire wastepaper basket already half full of bills. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - SAME PONZI My Dear, are you making a deposit or a withdrawal? OLD WOMAN I am here to redeem this note for Seven Hundred-Fifty Dollars. Ponzi takes the note from her and pretends to study it closely. He hands the note to a teller who stops to smile admiringly at Ponzi. PONZI So you have. (louder, to the crowd) She’s come to clean me out. The crowd shares a nervous laugh as Ponzi pulls a huge roll of bills from his pocket.
5. Their eyes widen. Ponzi counts out loud for all to hear. PONZI Six hundred, seven hundred. Seven hundred and fifty dollars. As promised. Your principal plus interest. He hands the money to the woman and motions to Staggs. PONZI Will you see the young lady downstairs and through the crowd. (to the old woman) Signori Cardinale, I hope you will tell your family and friends of the good investment you have made with my Securities Exchange Company. The Old Woman is bursting with joy. She takes the money from Ponzi, kisses him on the cheek and addresses the people in line. OLD WOMAN Ponzi is the greatest Italian in history! PONZI Grazie Signora, grazie. Such a generous compliment. But no, Marconi invented the wireless and Columbus discovered America. She holds her personal fortune up for all to see. OLD WOMAN But Ponzi discovered the money. INT. TREMONT TRUST BANK - MORNING A man’s hand slides a few bills across a polished mahogany bank counter. SUPER : “Six Months Earlier” A Teller exchanges his hard earned pay for a paper receipt. He tucks it into his overalls as a man in a suit brushes past him.
6. Over his shoulder he watches the suited man hand over a fat stack of bills. Receiving a similar paper receipt. PONZI (V.O.) The average man is never satisfied with what he has. Several crooked lines of people radiate from a wall of barred windows. PONZI He does not realize when he is well off... Customers fidget, peeking over each others shoulders. A well dressed gentleman is shown graciously into an inner office. PONZI (V.O.) ...If he has a shirt, he wants two. If he is single, he wants a wife... Behind brass bars, a female teller smiles at a male customer. He holds her glance a little too long. PONZI (V.O.) ...If he is married, he wants a harem... A guard fingers his pistol. PONZI (V.O.) He is always reaching for the moon and stepping off into space. A huge safe door slams closed. Charles Ponzi sits with a dignified air, his jacket folded neatly over his legs. He checks his second-rate pocket watch. Glares at a RECEPTIONIST posted outside the bank manager’s office. She feels his stare. Looks up and forces a fake smile. RECEPTIONIST Perhaps you should call at another time.
7. PONZI I’m just fine. I can live on one meal a day. Her smile brightens at the quip. The door behind her swings open. Her boss, SIMON SWIG (50s) shows his LAWYER out. Swig is a hulk of a man. Chewing on an unlit cigar. The men laugh heartily like old friends. RECEPTIONIST Sir, a Mr. Ponzi is here-The men pass by her desk. Paying no attention. SWIG ...At least your son is interested in business. LAWYER I gave it to him straight... She shrugs at Ponzi. LAWYER ...Son, I said...Suppose my customer buys a hundred dollar item with a crisp new bill. As he leaves the shop, I realize that he has mistakenly handed me TWO hundred dollar bills stuck together... The men continue past Ponzi as if he were a ghost. LAWYER ...Now it becomes an issue of business ethics. I must ask myself-SWIG Do I tell my customer? No... LAWYER
He leans in closer. Lowers his voice. LAWYER ...Do I tell my partner. They share a snide laugh.
8. Ponzi steps to them, trying to keep pace. PONZI Mr. Swig, I’d like to talk to you about my loan... He extends his hand. PONZI ...Charles Ponzi. Swig and his lawyer continue walking as Ponzi subtly blocks their exit. SWIG Mr. Bonzi-Ponzi. PONZI
He won’t be swatted away. SWIG (to his lawyer) Excuse me a moment, Mr. Thompson. I’ll meet you out front. Swig faces the interruption. Raising a lighter to his cigar. SWIG Mr. Ponzi, our loan officers are highly qualified to evaluate applicants and recommend or deny their loans. I trust the officer in your case... He inhales deeply, looking Ponzi up and down. Discharges a thick cloud of smoke. SWIG ...made an informed and proper decision. Ponzi forces some papers into Swig’s hand. PONZI I believe your employee overlooked the great potential I outlined in my business-SWIG Do you carry a balance with us?
9. PONZI I have an account with you in good standing, yes. SWIG Does your account carry a balance? Ponzi switches his coat to his other arm. PONZI If I had savings, I wouldn’t very well need a loan now, would I? SWIG Mr. Ponzi, while it is our policy to accommodate our investors whenever we can... He hands Ponzi back his file. SWIG ...I’m afraid your account is more of a bother than a benefit. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - MORNING A scruffy teen NEWSBOY hands a Boston Post to Ponzi. Its headline reads, “YANKEES SNATCH THE BABE.” Ponzi tosses a nickel in the air. The Newsboy removes his hat in a flash, catching the coin. Flops the cap back on his head. Orange rays of sun paint the busy street between buildings. Bostonians walk briskly through the cold morning. A Policeman pokes a drunk dozing in a stairwell. Ponzi turns into the doorway at Twenty Seven School Street. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - MORNING Two Movers carrying a shoddy desk out of an office. Ponzi rushes up to stop them.
10. PONZI Careful gentleman. That’s secondrate white pine... He checks a couple of the drawers, finding some of his belongings. PONZI ...passed off as fine solid oak. MOVER 1 Say goodbye. PONZI Allow me to make a quick phone call. I’ll take care of this. MOVER 1 You’ve got no phone. PONZI Now that’s ludicrous. I did not purchase that phone from Primero. Interest. MOVER 2
Ponzi notices his secretary standing in the empty office. She holds her work in one hand, a small vase with a single rose in the other. PONZI What are you doing here? I told you I can’t afford to pay you right now. She shrugs at him. MS. MELLI I’ve no where else to go. I thought I might work a while on expectations. Ponzi watches his desk disappear down the stairs. PONZI That makes two of us.
11. EXT. BOSTON COMMON - EVENING ROSE PONZI (20s), a striking beauty, strolling alone through the park. Her light skin flushed by an icy breeze. She notices something in the air around her. A light snow has just begun to fall. Large white flakes settle on her shoulders and back. Sticking to her wool coat and her lustrous black curls. Someone approaches her from behind. PONZI (O.S.) Excuse me Miss, you dropped this. She turns with a start. Spots a black leather glove holding a single oversized snowflake. It is half gone in an instant. And then... Nothing. PONZI (O.S.) Gotta take while the taking is good. Her face catches fire when she sees her husband. Rose replaces the snowflake with her white gloved hand. They walk together through the quiet park, enjoying a snowy oasis in the city. Ponzi can’t take his eyes off his lovely wife. She is a vision in the soft evening light. Rose lets out an embarrassed giggle. What? ROSE
PONZI I am the luckiest man in the world. Rose stops in her tracks. Looking for a hint of confirmation. His smile is enough. She throws her arms around him.
12. ROSE You got the loan. Ponzi is silent. Returning her embrace. ROSE I was afraid to ask. Ponzi holds her closer. Nearly whispering. PONZI We’re in business kitten. ROSE I’m so proud of you Charlie. This is the one, I just know it. All your hard wor-He gently puts a finger to her lips. PONZI Never mind dear. Let’s forget the business talk and relax. You and I are going to have a nice little supper somewhere, by ourselves, and act like a couple of kids. She smiles adoringly. Starts to run away from him. He chases after her. PONZI The ice. Watch the ice! INT. PONZI APARTMENT - LATER Ponzi trips over something in the darkness. He switches on a lamp. It stays lit for barely a moment before burning out with a POP. Merde. PONZI
Rose lights a couple of candles and sets them on a small kitchen table as her husband pulls a box from a paper bag. ROSE I love ice cream. Even in winter.
13. They share a spoon, enjoying their dessert by candlelight. Rose shivers and moves closer to Ponzi. PONZI At least it wont melt anytime soon. She pops a spoonful into his mouth. ROSE Play me a song. Ponzi lays a small leather case on the table. He opens it to reveal a fine looking mandolin. He handles it carefully, plucking a couple strings while tuning the instrument. Ponzi sits on the table. Begins to strum a sweet melody. Rose lays her head on his lap. He sings softly to her in his native language as Rose slips into a dream. INT. PAWNSHOP - DAY A pair of fat, soiled hands carelessly examine the mandolin. The Pawnbroker eyes Ponzi through a barred window. PAWNBROKER Twenty dollars. PONZI That mandolin is Swiss pine with mother-of-pearl inlay. Handmade in Lugo, Italy. PAWNBROKER Italian made? The Pawnbroker considers this a moment. Ponzi eyes a pair of brilliant pearl earrings in a glass case. Ten. PAWNBROKER
He points to the gold chain peeking out from Ponzi’s vest.
14. PAWNBROKER What about the watch? Ponzi takes it out reluctantly, sliding it under the bars. PAWNBROKER Looked better in your pocket. I’ll give you fifty for both. Ponzi looks back at the pearls. PONZI I’ll take forty five if you hold those for me. The Pawnbroker knows this game too well. Forty. PAWNBROKER
PONZI Bene. Fine. PAWNBROKER Thirty days. Then they’re mine. A fat hand removes the lustrous pearls from the case. INT. UNION OYSTER HOUSE - DAY A plump raw oyster sits loosely in its shell. The creature is plucked from a mound of ice and devoured by PRIMERO (40s). He wears a soiled cloth bib and reigns over his lunch table. Several mounds of melting ice and countless oyster shells litter the table. Stamps? PRIMERO
Primero washes things down with a messy gulp of beer. PRIMERO Don’t the U.S. Government have the market cornered on that? PONZI Keep up with me Primero. I’m just using the stamps to speculate in foreign currency markets.
15. Primero stares at him blankly. Burps. PONZI In 1906 the World Postal Union began issuing Reply Coupons redeemable for stamps in any country within that Union... Primero is looking over Ponzi’s shoulder. PONZI ...They were invented to allow persons or businesses to prepay postage for relatives and associates... Primero motions to the waiter for more oysters. A man in a regal white uniform approaches Ponzi from behind. Two stunning older women pinned to him like cuff links. PONZI ...By purchasing the coupons in countries with weak currencies relative to the Greenback... Ponzi leans in close for emphasis. PONZI ...huge profits are possible. The uniformed man is a ship’s Captain. He recognizes Ponzi on passing. Shakes off his arm candy. CAPTAIN Mr. Ponzi...what a relief. I was afraid I wouldn’t catch you before I embark tomorrow. Ponzi is surprised. Captain... PONZI
Jumps up to greet the skipper. PONZI ...so pleased to see you. CAPTAIN I’m sorry to interrupt your meal.
16. He presents his dates with a flourish. CAPTAIN Ladies, this is Mr. Charles Ponzi, Financier. Ponzi returns the introduction. Slightly less enthused about his guest. PONZI Captain Silva, ladies...Dante Primero. Primero extends a salty hand. Pleased. PRIMERO
Then right back to feeding himself. PRIMERO Quite young for a ship’s captain, no? CAPTAIN I...I come from a long line of seamen. The ladies can’t contain a giggle. PONZI Primero, would you excuse us just for a moment? Ponzi and the Captain move to the bar to talk business. Primero offers the women what remains of his oysters. They pass. He calls to the waiter. Orders another dozen. PRIMERO (to the women) They’re an aphrodisiac you know? They giggle again. This time uncontrollably. Primero watches the Captain hand Ponzi a large roll of bills. Ponzi tucks it away. The men shake hands. Ponzi leaving the Captain at the bar.
17. He returns to Primero’s sloppy table. The women rush past him to their uniformed host. PONZI Evening ladies. Ponzi takes his seat, a pleased grin stretching across his face. PONZI I’ve got prominent investors lining up and that’s strictly word of mouth. Ponzi reaches for a wine bottle. Refills his glass. PONZI Foreign currency speculation is in vogue. The banks are offering squat and going belly up every week. I’m offering fifty percent interest in forty five days... Primero coughs up half an oyster. Grabs for his beer. PONZI ...Double your money in ninety. Ponzi takes a sip of his wine. He’s rolling now. PONZI Many countries still haven’t recovered from the War. They’re currencies are severely depressed. But the Dollar is strong... He knocks on the table. PONZI ...will always be. A four hundred percent profit margin is not impossible. PRIMERO How much did the Captain entrust you with? PONZI My customer’s investment details are confidential. I’m not at liberty... Primero considers the possible windfall.
18. PONZI (V.O.) He followed me all the way up to seven figures. It looked like he might sprout wings. Primero takes a large swig of beer. PONZI (V.O.) I left him there for a moment. With his head above the clouds. PRIMERO You want your furniture back? Ponzi leans back in his chair. PONZI And a small loan for start-up costs and incidentals. Another plate of oysters drops onto the table between them. EXT. LONG WHARF - MORNING A crate of oysters is thrown onto the back of a truck. A couple of the mollusks fall into Ponzi’s path as he strolls with a smile down the crowded dock. He passes a steady stream of workmen and newly arrived immigrants. A Young Mother is crying. She pleads in Italian with a disinterested Police Officer. She holds out her baby, tucks it under her arm. Motions a trembling hand to her mouth. Ponzi approaches the scene, withdrawing the roll of bills he received from the Captain. He peels off a few. Hands them to the woman. Pinches the baby’s cheek, smiling playfully. PONZI (in Italian) There is food at the church. He points to a tall church steeple beyond the wharf.
19. PONZI They speak Italian. YOUNG MOTHER Grazie, Signori. Grazie. As Ponzi continues on his way, he unrolls the remaining cash. Spreading the wad. A few bills totaling barely a hundred hide a stack of carefully trimmed newspaper. He drops the paper on the ground and tucks the money in his pocket. EXT. S.S. CARONIA, GANGPLANK - MORNING A line of well-dressed passengers are greeted as they prepare to board. The SHIP STEWARD assists a fur clad widow onto the gangplank. She looks at the Steward hungrily. Whispering something in his ear. PONZI (O.S.) Pardon me, I’d like to speak with the Captain. SHIP STEWARD I’m sorry Sir, but the Captain is preparing-SILVA (20s), a fresh-faced aspiring actor spins around on his heel. He plays a recurring role as plaything to the divorcees and widows sailing abroad. It pays pretty well. He recently starred as “The Captain” so eager to invest with Ponzi at the restaurant. Silva drops his overly courteous air on seeing his friend. How was I? SILVA
PONZI You should be on Broadway. Ponzi watches the widow look back from the gangplank.
20. PONZI You’re sure a hit with the ladies. SILVA You think so? I nearly got pinched returning that uniform. Did he bite? Silva turns back to his greeting duties. SILVA Welcome aboard the S.S. Caronia, bound for Naples, Italy. Watch your step, Madame. Sir. (Looking back to Ponzi) Well? Ponzi glances around. Pulling out his bankroll. He counts off about half the bills. Then a few more for good measure. Handing the smaller stack to Silva. Tucking the rest away. SILVA Broadway, baby. PONZI Now remember-SILVA When I get to Italy, exchange the cash for Lire-All of it. PONZI
SILVA Of course. Then I buy as many Reply Coupons as I can. Bring them to your office when I get back to the States. PONZI As soon as you get back. How many days? SILVA We’ll be in port for a week. Back in Boston in under a month. Ponzi considers the time frame.
21. PONZI Confirm with me by wire as soon as they are in your possession-SILVA Or if there are any delays. Silva springs to attention. Salutes Ponzi. SILVA Ay, Ay Captain. The ship’s horn blows a final boarding call. EXT. STATE HOUSE - DAY Ponzi walks tall toward the great gold domed building. PONZI (V.O.) Primero’s loan was barely enough to get started. For my plan to really take flight, I needed more. He carries himself as any titan of industry might. Blending in with the politicians and judges who ascend the stairs alongside him. PONZI (V.O.) I had wasted enough time in my quest for capital in lump sums. I knew I could borrow ten dollars each from ten different persons much easier than I could borrow a hundred from one. INT. STATE HOUSE - DAY Ponzi glides across the opulent lobby. PONZI (V.O.) I decided to solicit investors from the public at large... Under the gilded ceiling men in dark suits cut across the marble floor like ants through cheese. PONZI (V.O.) ...against the promissory notes of my own company... Ponzi passes the District Attorney’s Office.
22. PONZI (V.O.) ...But in order to procure even small amounts from strangers, I realized that I needed a certain prestige. The status that a legitimate firm lends... He turns into the office of the State Business Registrar. PONZI (V.O.) ...I needed a name. INT. BUSINESS REGISTRAR’S OFFICE - SAME Ponzi passes a few dollars over the counter to the clerk. He signs a series of applications. Under “NAME DOING BUSINESS AS” Ponzi writes in: “Securities Exchange Company” INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY The Movers are back. This time they carry a finished oak desk up the stairs and into Ponzi’s office. Ponzi watches with pride as a sign painter finishes work on his office door. The frosted glass reads, “SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY”. Melli organizes her desk. Pleased with her new office supplies. She sets her vase where it pleases her. INT. PONZI’S OFFICE - DAY Ponzi carefully positions his embossed business cards. He picks up and replaces the receiver of a shiny black telephone. He centers a rectangular book of freshly minted Ponzi notes. When things are arranged just so, he leans back and puts his feet up on his new desk. Twisting a cigarette into a wooden holder. PONZI (V.O.) The total cost of organization had set me back a trifle. (MORE)
23. PONZI (V.O.) (CONT'D) About the price of a couple packs of cigarettes. He strikes a match. Touching it to the exposed end. INT. POOL HALL - NIGHT The flame glows bright as a cigarette catches fire. It dangles from the lips of a young red-head. She flashes an appreciative smile. Ponzi nods, extinguishing the match. The crowded room is filled with smoke and noise. A handful of men mull around two billiard tables sweating the action. Ponzi sits at a long bar sipping a martini. He greets a patron who has bellied up for a drink between racks. PONZI (V.O.) I had a good thing. There was no doubt in my mind about that. He hands the man a business card as he leaves with a fresh beer. PONZI (V.O.) Being a good thing, it needed no high pressure salesmanship. Ponzi occupies the same seat at the bar but his audience begins to change rapidly. Different men, coming and going in jumps. They are dazzled by Ponzi, listening attentively to the dapper stranger. PONZI (V.O.) I was selling my dollars for sixty six cents. That’s all there was to it. Any attempt to force them on a prospective investor would have been to create suspicion rather than confidence. With all of them, he’s a showman. Gesturing with his long smoke. Tempting them with tales of great riches. PONZI (V.O.) We are all gamblers at heart.
24. A twenty dollar bill is slapped onto the rail of the pool table. PONZI (V.O.) We all crave easy money. And plenty of it. A fresh rack of balls shatters to the far corners of the green baize. INT. POOL HALL - LATER The BARTENDER staring, entranced by Ponzi. He holds the evening’s tips. Slapping them into his empty hand. They are the only two men that remain in the smoky room. BARTENDER So you’re tellin’ me that if I’s to hand you over tonight’s tips... He flashes a count. BARTENDER ...nine dollars. Ponzi remembers his own gratuity. Slides a crisp bill across the bar. BARTENDER Much appreciated. (adding it to his stack) ...Exactly ten dollars...You’d be back here in forty five days with fifteen? Ponzi stands to leave. PONZI It’s not quite that simple, I’m afraid. Putting on his overcoat and gloves. The Bartender straightens up with a smug grin. Never is. BARTENDER
Ponzi pulls something out of his pocket. Handing it to the man before turning to leave.
25. PONZI I only accept investments at my office... The Bartender scans Ponzi’s business card. PONZI ...and I don’t deliver. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY Ponzi reclines at his desk. Reading the Boston Post. It’s headline proclaims “AMERICA DRY TONIGHT.” He perks up at a noise in the outer office. Tucking the paper in a drawer, Ponzi snatches his phone off the hook. PONZI (loudly into the receiver) ...It would be my pleasure to help you with that, Sir. The muffled sound of Melli greeting someone. Followed by a knock on his door. Mr. Ponzi. MS. MELLI (O.S.)
PONZI Yes, come in. Melli shows the Bartender into the office. Ponzi acknowledges them. Gesturing to an open chair. PONZI (into the phone) ...Well I greatly appreciate that, Your Honor. My sincerest gratitude and best to your new granddaughter. Ponzi hangs up the phone. Turning his attention to the Bartender who has declined to sit. PONZI How may help you, Sir? A weeks worth of tips smacks down on the desk.
26. Ponzi glances up at the man. He looks a hell of a lot bigger without a bar in front of him. The new investor doesn’t hang around for pleasantries. BARTENDER See you in six weeks. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY The door to the front office opens repeatedly. Each time a different person enters curiously. A few of them are recognizable from the bar. Melli greets them all. Showing them into Ponzi’s office one at a time. PONZI (V.O.) My proposition was decidedly tempting. Apparently fool proof. It could be tested with a ten dollar bill. A Catholic Priest hands one over. PONZI (V.O.) It might have looked unsound as an investment. But it was extremely attractive as a gamble. Ponzi signs a series of promissory notes. Exchanging them for dollars across his desk with a string of apprehensive investors. PONZI (V.O.) By the first week of January, 1920, I had rounded up exactly twenty investors for a total of Seventeen Hundred Five Dollars... A Chimney Sweep covered head to toe in soot reaches over the desk. Drops a few coins into Ponzi’s open hand. PONZI (V.O.) ...and ninety cents.
27. INT. PONZI’S OFFICE - EVENING Melli watches Ponzi counting money into neat stacks on his desk. MS. MELLI I think you missed your vocation in life. PONZI Banker, maybe? She brightens. MS. MELLI Missionary. You can certainly spread the Gospel. INT. WESTERN UNION OFFICE - DAY A CLERK flips through a large log book. Locates the page he’s looking for. CLERK Patterson...Pollock...Here we are. Ponzi. Arrived this morning. The clerk rockets himself away on the wheels of his chair. Finding a file cabinet right where it should be. He pulls a telegram for Ponzi. Fires himself back to his desk. CLERK From Mr. Silva. Naples, Italy. Ponzi snatches the Telegram. INSERT - TELEGRAM, reading: “COUPONS READILY AVAILABLE STOP CAN BE PROCURED IN LARGE QUANTITIES STOP HOME SOON END” Ponzi lets loose a grin. Hot Damn. PONZI
28. EXT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - MORNING Ponzi bounds up the stairs of his building. He approaches a small crowd gathered by his office door. At the front of line is his very first investor, the Bartender. PONZI (V.O.) Around the second week of February I set about to affect my first payments. He approaches them with the tip of his straw hat. PONZI Buon giorno, ladies and gentleman. The early bird gets the worm, eh? Sorry to keep you waiting. He unlocks the door. Leading them in. PONZI Come inside, lets build a fire. INT. PONZI’S OFFICE - DAY Ponzi proudly hands the Bartender a stack of bills. PONZI (V.O.) Silva had not yet returned with the coupons, but his telegram had confirmed my assumptions... The Bartender counts his principal and profit with a surprised smile. BARTENDER Pleasure doing business with you. PONZI (V.O.) ...The rest was just logistics. INT. POOL HALL - NIGHT A young girl marvels wide eyed as the Bartender shakes a fan of twenty dollar bills. PONZI (V.O.) I got as much thrill out of each note redeemed as a school girl gets out of her first kiss.
29. She leans across the bar throwing an arm around him. Plants one on her man. Snatching the money with a free hand while he’s occupied. INT. PONZI’S OFFICE - DAY Ponzi counts out cash to a series of delighted Bostonians. PONZI (V.O.) I had yet to make a penny on my Postal Coupon idea. But I had enough ready cash in recent investments to pay off those earlier investors. A husband and wife accept their money. Embracing each other. PONZI (V.O.) I decided to resort to the time honored custom of robbing Peter to pay Paul. An excited Photographer thumbs through a pack of bills. He hands off his equipment to Melli. Giving her a quick tutorial. Positioning himself next to his new hero. PONZI (V.O.) Was it ethical? The Photographer grips Ponzi like a brother. Smiling wide. A flashbulb pops. PONZI (V.O.) Perhaps not. But environment had made me rather callous on the subject of ethics... The Priest sits across from Ponzi. Counting the money from his redeemed note. PONZI (V.O.) ...Then, as now, nobody gave a rap for ethics. The Almighty Dollar was the only goal. And its possession placed a person beyond criticism for any breach of ethics incidental to the acquisition of it. Many of them just withdrew their principal.
30. Padre considers a moment. PONZI (V.O.) Others took only the fifty percent interest... He hands most of the loot back. EXT. SUFFOLK DOWNS RACETRACK - DAY The Priest at a barred window placing a bet. His collar conspicuously absent. PONZI (V.O.) ...Probably straight to the track. He jumps and hollers as the race comes to an end. Cursing the outcome. Ripping up his ticket. PONZI (V.O.) ...But most, upon seeing I was perfectly willing and able to pay them as promised, left their money with me. Eager for another spin of the wheel... The churchman gazes up to a cloudless blue sky. PONZI (V.O.) ...I spun it for them. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY A safe dial spins. Ponzi’s manicured hand stops it at twenty seven. MONTAGE - IN BUSINESS -- Investors lining up outside of Ponzi’s office. -- A young couple exits excitedly clutching their withdrawal. -- Ponzi and Melli collecting investments and issuing promissory notes. -- A pad of Ponzi notes dwindles and a fresh one is begun.
31. -- Money begins filling the drawers of Ponzi’s desk. -- The line outside the office has grown to a dozen or more. -- Two movers struggle with a large floor safe past the investors. -- Ponzi begins filling his new safe. -- Cash rises like water in a plugged tub. INT. TAILOR SHOP - DAY Ponzi admires himself in a full length mirror. Two tailors make adjustments to a custom powder blue suit. The suit changes color as they work. From blue to emerald green to plum. Ponzi exits the tailor shop clad in fresh finery. Several garment bags tucked under each arm. Heads turn as soon as he hits the pavement. INT. PAWNSHOP - DAY The Pawnbroker polishes the gold handle of a Malacca Cane. Ponzi counts out four ten dollar bills. Sliding them under the bars. He receives his gold watch, mandolin and a small black box in return. He plucks the pearls from a velvet crease. Tossing their container on the counter. PONZI You can keep the box...and I’ll take that stick. INT. OLD NORTH CHURCH - DAY A man stretches a wicker basket attached to a long wood pole down each pew. Collecting donations from the congregation. Sunlight illuminates a brilliant stained glass window.
32. Rose Ponzi fingers her red rosary beads. She fishes a coin from her purse. Dropping it into the basket. EXT. OLD NORTH CHURCH - DAY Rose exits the church, not noticing the man who follows closely behind her. PONZI (O.S.) Excuse me miss, you dropped this. Rose instantly recognizes her husbands voice. ROSE It’s not even snowing Char-His open palm is outstretched. Her hand jumps to her mouth when she sees what lies in it. Two dazzling pearl earrings catch the light. Ponzi pulls back Rose’s hair. Holding up one of the pearls to her ear. PONZI Positively radiant. ROSE Charlie. How did you... She notices his new attire. ROSE ...That suit. It’s the cat’s meow. He models it for her. PONZI Business is booming. I couldn’t print money this fast. ROSE Silva’s back? With the coupons? Ponzi helps Rose on with the other earring. PONZI Investors are lining up in the hall. Down the stairwell.
33. She gazes into a store window. Admiring her own reflection. PONZI Looks like I’m going to need a bigger office. ROSE I love them. Rose throws her arms around him. PONZI Soon you’ll have everything you ever wanted. She looks deep into his eyes. ROSE I already do. PONZI Then let’s go show it off. Ponzi swings his new cane as they make their way down the street. It’s gold handle glistens in the noonday sun. ROSE Did you hurt yourself? INT. PRIMERO’S FURNITURE SHOP - DAY Primero backhands his young NEPHEW. Nearly knocking him to the floor. He holds a meatball sandwich in the other hand. NEPHEW I’m sorry. Please. Don’t. He cowers, trying to stand. Primero threatens another slap. Takes a sloppy bite. PRIMERO (through a mouth full) Go on. Screw. His Nephew scurries out the door. Nearly running into Ponzi, who’s just making his entrance. PONZI Good thing I’m on time.
34. PRIMERO Oh him, that’s nothing. He’s family. Ponzi hands Primero an envelope. Loading a cigarette into his holder. PRIMERO Two months? You had three. PONZI It’s all there, plus interest. Primero peeks at the payment. Noticing Ponzi’s new attire. PRIMERO Nice suit. Business must be booming. PONZI Just staying afloat. Primero eyes Ponzi’s cane. PRIMERO That your paddle? He attempts to hand the payment back to Ponzi. PRIMERO Maybe you hold on to this. Let me in on the action. PONZI That’s quite generous. But my idea looks to be a colossal bust. Primero waves the envelope. Slapping Ponzi hard on the back. PRIMERO Who’d you bump off for this? He looses a sinister cackle. VOICE(O.S.) There a stiff I should know about? DOWNEY, a greying, veteran flatfoot, is holding up the door frame. He is old for a beat cop. Having foregone promotion and desk work for the trappings of the street. Ponzi tips his hat at Primero. Heads for the door.
35. PONZI Pleasure doing business with you. Ponzi stalls a moment. Waiting for Downey to stand aside. PONZI (nodding) Officer. Downey’s a tree stump. Staring a Ponzi's shoes. OFFICER DOWNEY Some shoes. PONZI Macray's Footware-OFFICER DOWNEY --On Boylston. I know the place. His eyes raise slowly. Scanning the rest of the man. OFFICER DOWNEY You can tell a whole lot about a man by the shoe's on his feet. Ponzi regards Downey's uniform. I’d say... PONZI
The cop’s shoes are polished coal. Ponzi can’t help himself. PONZI ...you’re some sort of policeman. Primero coughs up a laugh. Downey adjusts his gun belt. OFFICER DOWNEY Strange, yours didn't say comedian to me. Thought perhaps Primero was associating with some class for a change... Downey watches Primero attack the last of his sandwich. OFFICER DOWNEY ...guess that's why I never made Detective.
36. He finally steps inside the office. Granting Ponzi an exit. Ponzi doesn’t stick around. The cop closes the door behind him. Throwing an icy glare at Primero. DOWNEY What's his story? INT. SPEAKEASY - NIGHT A substantial female jazz singer crooning on a small stage. The well dressed crowd mingles in the dim light. Sipping their illicit beverages. Ponzi posted up at the bar. A cigarette dangling from his long holder. Silva sneaks up behind him. Jabbing a finger in his back. SILVA (O.S.) Hands in the air. He’s immediately wrapped up by STAGGS, a gorilla in a cheap suit. Ponzi recognizes his old friend. Reigning in the hired muscle. PONZI Enough Staggs. He’s alright. Silva shakes off the lug. SILVA Christ. Who’s the baby grand? PONZI Security. Welcome back. Silva saddles up to the bar. Calls for a drink. He Admires Ponzi’s attire. SILVA Glad Rags, bodyguard...I’m gone a month and you hit the big time. PONZI A month? You’re late.
37. SILVA Wasn’t my fault. Got hung up in Venice... MONTAGE - SILVA IN VENICE -- Silva and an Italian Beauty dozing naked. The morning after. -- Her husband arriving home with a suitcase. -- Finding the lovebirds in bed. -- The man grabs an empty wine bottle. Lunging at the homewrecker. -- Silva jumps out the window naked. Falling into a canal. -- He drags himself onto an embankment. Greeting an embarrassed old woman. -- He Snatches a white sheet from a line. Wrapping it around his waist. -- A Divorcee catches a glimpse of his bare bottom from her balcony. Whistles through her fingers. -- Their eyes meet and the rest is history. -- The two of them making love in her small kitchen. -- Shopping for a new suit. -- She tucks some cash into his pocket. Pinching him on the ass as he hops onto a water taxi. -- Silva blowing her a kiss. BACK IN THE BAR SILVA ...woman was a bearcat. PONZI You’re a piece of work. Ponzi slaps some bills onto the bar. PONZI Let’s get us a couple steaks.
38. He heads for the exit. Staggs follows close. Silva does a double take at the overpayment. Slugs down his drink and starts to follow Ponzi. He spins back, grabbing part of the tip before hurrying after his friend. INT. STEAKHOUSE - NIGHT Silva devours the last of his rib eye. Sits back and pats his belly. SILVA Just not the same without wine, is it? He dips a hand into his jacket. Removes a small flask and takes a quick pull. Ponzi examines the contents of a small envelope. A bunch of Postal Reply Coupons from Italy. PONZI This isn’t going to cut it. It’s too slow. And too expensive. SILVA Well I’m finished with the high seas. I’ve got some auditions lined up. Why don’t you send this one... He pokes a thumb toward Staggs. SILVA ...He looks like he floats. The bodyguard grumbles. PONZI It’s fine. I’m working on another angle. Silva’s busy flirting with a woman at an adjacent table. He throws her a wink behind her husband’s back. EXT. POST OFFICE - DAY A Mailman hands back the envelope full of coupons. Ponzi stares at him in disbelief.
39. MAILMAN I’d love to help you man...Lord knows I could use the money. When? PONZI
MAILMAN Last week. Order came down from the Post Master General. They shut the whole program down. I’d say you’re lucky if you can redeem the ones you got. He slings a heavy bag over his shoulder. MAILMAN I’ve got to get these delivered. I’m sorry. He leaves Ponzi behind, shell-shocked. The envelope of coupons falls from his loose grip. Spilling it’s worthless contents on the brick sidewalk. INT. S.E.C. OFFICE - DAY Ponzi gazes down out his window. The line of investors continues to grow. Now extending out the front of the building onto the sidewalk. Excited chatter reaches his ears from the street. Piles of cash cover the desk behind him. There is a knock on the door and Melli peeks inside. PONZI Come in Ms. Melli. I’m decent. MS. MELLI It’s after five. Should I turn them away? He’s still looking down on the crowd. PONZI We can’t do that now, can we? Let’s give it another hour. He turns to his loyal secretary.
40. PONZI If that’s O.K. with you. Melli is holding a small jewelry box. MS. MELLI Oh, that’s fine by me. She approaches her boss. MS. MELLI Mr. Ponzi...I’ve told you about my mother...back in Naples. Ponzi places an arm on her shoulder. PONZI You have, dear. How is she doing? Melli’s eyes begin to glisten. MS. MELLI Not so well I’m afraid...I don’t know how long she has. PONZI I’m so sorry. He embraces her before she breaks. PONZI My mother passed while I was en route to the states. I found out a month later. MS. MELLI That’s just it. I want to see her before... She straightens up. Wipes her eyes. MS. MELLI My father never returned from the War. My brother and sister are still so young. She hands over the box. MS. MELLI I’ve been saving since I arrived here. It’s not enough. I want to invest it.
41. Ponzi tries to hand it back. PONZI You’re due for a raise. A hefty one at that. Melli refusing the box. PONZI I can lend you the money... She’s nearly out the office already. MS. MELLI I’ll write myself a receipt. Ponzi watches her leave. Lays the box onto his desk with the rest of the money. INT. TREMONT TRUST BANK - DAY Ponzi glides through the grand marble foyer. He heads directly to the office of the bank’s vice president. Swig is in conversation with his receptionist. He takes notice of the well dressed gentleman approaching him. SWIG May I can be of assistance, sir? PONZI I guess so, I only wanted to open an account. SWIG I could certainly help you with that, Mr.... PONZI (handing Swig his card) Charles Ponzi. Swig flashes a note of recognition. SWIG Have we met, Mr. Ponzi? PONZI Is that a requirement for account holders of this bank?
42. SWIG Uh...of course not...I... A smile germinates on Ponzi’s face. Grows into a grin. SWIG (laughing nervously) ...oh...I see... Swig reads Ponzi’s business card. SWIG The Securities Exchange Company. May I ask what you deal in? PONZI Pretty boring stuff really. We deal in money. SWIG Well I’ve always found money quite exciting. What type of account did you wish to open? Checking. PONZI
SWIG A business account? Personal. PONZI
Swig pockets the card. SWIG Splendid. We do require personal accounts to carry a substantial balance. Are you prepared for that? Ponzi looks around, slightly embarrassed. PONZI Well what do you consider substantial? SWIG Two or three hundred dollars and up. PONZI Oh that’s reasonable enough. You nearly scared me there.
43. He laughs nervously. A gifted actor. PONZI You may put me down for two hundred fifty. SWIG Two hundred fifty dollars. Our minimum. Very well. PONZI Not Hundreds... Ponzi begins pulling out several large stacks of money. Piling them into Swig’s arms. PONZI ...Thousands. Swig struggles not to drop the cash. SWIG Two hundred fifty thousand dollars? Why...I thought you wanted to open a small personal account? PONZI So I did Mr. Swig. This is about the smallest of my bank accounts. EXT. TREMONT TRUST BANK - DAY A snappily dressed CAR SALESMAN slithers up to Ponzi as he exits the bank. CAR SALESMAN Pardon me sir. I noticed you were walking. The two men merging into a stream of pedestrians. PONZI That’s impressive. I should hire you to watch over my books. CAR SALESMAN I don’t mean to be rude, Mr. Uh... PONZI Ponzi. The “Uh” is silent.
44. The Salesman regards Ponzi’s chalk stripe suit and gold tipped cane. CAR SALESMAN Mr. Ponzi, you seem the type of man who appreciates the finer things in life. Clothes, jewelry... He hands Ponzi a business card as they turn onto SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON CAR SALESMAN ...luxury automobiles. You have a car of course? Ponzi glares at the huckster. CAR SALESMAN Of course...but a good car? PONZI Do I look like I drive a wheel barrow? CAR SALESMAN Certainly not. I imagine you own a respectable automobile. But think of all the time you waste driving. Ponzi regards him as if he were just asked to slow dance. He rechecks the man’s business card. PONZI I must be fatigued. For a moment I thought you trying to sell me a new car. CAR SALESMAN Not a car, Mr. Ponzi. A limousine. EXT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY A flock of investors crowd the narrow corridor. They pat Ponzi on the back as he passes. Greeting him enthusiastically. The line detours around three gaping holes cut into the wall.
45. A couple of workmen hoist a brass barred window frame. Fitting it into one of the openings. The Car Salesman struggles to keep up. Noticing the construction. CAR SALESMAN Is this a bank? Ponzi and his eager escort enter the outer office. It’s a three ring circus. Several men sit impatiently, waiting for an audience with the financier. Melli keeps TRENCKMAN (50s), the building’s landlord, occupied at her desk. A phone receiver draped over her shoulder. PONZI (to Trenckman) Is it the first of the month already? TRENCKMAN Mr. Ponzi, I am sorry, but if you can’t regulate this crowd, I will be forced to give you notice to vacate. PONZI I’m afraid I’ve become attached to the place. TRENCKMAN Do you expect me to lose all my other tenants on your account. PONZI As you can see, I am much too busy to worry about the affairs of my neighbors. Ponzi looks around at the crowded office. PONZI It’s getting a little cramped in here, anyway. I’ll take the entire floor. Pay you double their rents.
46. TRENCKMAN Your people are also blocking the entry and the stairs. PONZI Oh let’s not argue over it. Name your price. TRENCKMAN Sir, I’ll have you know I won’t be bribed. Ponzi places a consoling arm around Trenckman. PONZI Dear Trenckman. Not the price of your silence. I’d like to purchase the building. INT. PONZI’S OFFICE - DAY Ponzi enters followed closely by The Car Salesman and Trenckman. The two men jostle for pole position. He offers them each a seat at his desk. The Car Salesman thrusts a brochure at Ponzi as he sits. CAR SALESMAN The Locomobile Limousine. Pinnacle of luxury. Genuine leather seats, air conditioning, polished mahogany bar in the cabin. Ponzi barely looks at the literature. Begins opening his safe. PONZI I’ll take that one. The Salesman can barely contain himself. Ponzi begins placing several stacks of money in front of the men. CAR SALESMAN That’s Twelve Thousand delivered.
47. PONZI All right. Send it over. Piling yet more cash. CAR SALESMAN But...uh...I cannot deliver that car just now. The car is custom made. It will take at least three months. PONZI Too late. I want that car right away. CAR SALESMAN Our premier model is nearly complete, but it has been promised to a prominent New York millionaire. PONZI When will it be ready? CAR SALESMAN Two weeks. It’s scheduled for delivery on July first. PONZI Perfect. Have it downstairs in front of my door on that date. The Salesman squirms in his seat. Trenckman listens intently. CAR SALESMAN But...the car is already sold. PONZI Listen, young man. I want that car. And when I want something, I am prepared to pay for it. He pulls a roll of bills from his jacket pocket. Begins counting out a separate pile. The salesman’s eyes light up.
48. PONZI that car here by not later one o’ clock July first and I give you a thousand dollars for it.
Have than will more
He tosses the cash within the Salesman’s reach. INT. THEATRE - DAY A cramped room full of leading man types studying their lines. Silva leans confidently against the far wall. An assistant peeks his head through a door. Addressing the room. ASSISTANT Reggio Silva. Silva tucks his script into his back pocket. Follows the assistant. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY Silva carries a large box into the office. Whistling a tune. He spins his way through the usual commotion. Places the box gingerly on Melli’s desk. SILVA I signed for ya. Heads for Ponzi’s office. MS. MELLI (covering the phone receiver) He’s with someone from the Post. Silva barges into PONZI’S OFFICE I got it! SILVA
The financier paces across the room in mid-story.
49. A Reporter scribbles in his notebook. Rapt with attention. PONZI Silva, my boy. I was just recounting the story of my first day on American soil. Ponzi continues his tale. PONZI ...I was told the streets were paved with gold. But all I saw was mud... The Reporter chuckles. PONZI ...I got on my knees, thinking it had to be just underneath all that muck... He drops to one knee on the floor. Reliving the moment in the office. PONZI ...and what do you know. He holds up his gold Liberty Dollar in triumph. PONZI There it was. I’ve carried it since. Silva takes the stage. SILVA I got the part. Second lead. It finally gets through to Ponzi. PONZI Well that’s just jake. (to the Reporter) Silva here’s an actor. Ponzi throws an arm around his friend. PONZI Look, I’ve got to finish this interview. The Post is running a feature--
50. REPORTER --Maybe front page. PONZI You hear that? Walking Silva toward the door. PONZI We’ll celebrate tonight. How’s the Chart House sound? Nine o’ clock. Silva leans closer to Ponzi’s ear. SILVA I could use some scratch. It’s a hell of a part. But the pay is peanuts. Ponzi dips into his pocket. Slaps a few bills into Silva’s hand. Silva looks twice at the paltry sum as he’s ushered toward the door. IN THE FRONT OFFICE Melli closes up the box in frustration. Calling to Silva as he passes. MS. MELLI Hey. They screwed these up. Spelled his name with an S instead of a Z. The phone rings again. MS. MELLI I’m buried here. Silva looks at one of the misprinted books. Then around the busy office. Something gleams in his eye for a moment. SILVA Don’t worry. I’ll take them back. He tucks the loose book into his pocket. Grabs the box off her desk. MS. MELLI Thank you. You’re an angel.
51. INT. CHART HOUSE RESTAURANT - NIGHT Silva and Rose sitting in silence. An empty chair between them. A waiter stalks the table. Rose unfolds her napkin. Laying it in her lap. ROSE Let’s order. She hands Silva a menu. Touches his hand with a smile. ROSE Anything you want. You’re a star now. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY A buxom BLONDE pulls a folded-up Ponzi note from her cleavage. She slips it under the bars to the embarrassed clerk. BLONDE Better safe than sorry. I’ve heard the sharks are circling this place. The Clerk examining the note between stolen glances of her bosom. CLERK We have... (clearing his throat) ...ample security ma’am. He counts out her money. Sliding it across the counter. CLERK Perhaps you’d like an escort? BLONDE That’s nice of you, cutey. But my boyfriend is right outside. CLERK Not me...I meant... She snatches the money and is gone in a flash. Quickly replaced by a less attractive investor.
52. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - DAY The Blonde turns the corner and approaches a man leaning against the wall. His face is obscured by another Ponzi headline. Duck soup. BLONDE
Silva peeks over the paper. SILVA No questions? BLONDE I could’ve handed him my grocery list. SILVA I bet you stole his innocence, huh? She hands over the wad of cash. BLONDE Just like I stole yours. Silva tucks a few bills into the space between her breasts. Nice work. SILVA
He’s off down the street. The Blonde following like a puppy. BLONDE You’re still buying dinner. INT. PONZI APARTMENT - DAY Rose balances on a footstool wielding a feather duster. She slays cobwebs in a far corner of the ceiling. PONZI I’m sorry about last night. I showed that reporter the time of his life. Bet he’ll write some story. Ponzi steadies his wife. Gripping her by the waist.
53. PONZI I’ll make it up to you, Petal. I promise. ROSE You don’t need to apologize to me. PONZI Oh, Silva’s a big boy. He helps her down gently from the perch. PONZI Take a ride with me. I only need to sign some papers. They are preparing a lunch. He flashes her his winning smile. PONZI You’ve got to see this place. ROSE This apartment doesn’t clean itself Charlie. Ponzi admires the mess. PONZI A wonder someone hasn’t invented that yet. EXT. LEXINGTON MANSION - DAY Ponzi’s black Hudson pulls up to an enormous house. He guides the car through an open iron gate. Up the long cobblestone entrance. Rose stares out the window transfixed. A moving crew unloads furniture from several trucks crowding the driveway. Ponzi alights from the car. Running around to open his wife’s door and help her out. She is blown away by the magnificent residence. ROSE It’s...enormous.
54. PONZI Told ya. Isn’t that something? INT. LEXINGTON MANSION - DAY The couple enter through a grand foyer. Falling in with the train of home furnishings. ROSE Shouldn’t we knock? The movers scurry around them. Rose admires a Louis XV loveseat as it passes. PONZI We’re expected. EXT. LEXINGTON MANSION - DAY Ponzi and Rose are seated on a broad terrace, shaded by a large umbrella. A banquet fit for a king is laid out alfresco. Several servants attend to the couple. One of them trickles Dom Perignon into a pair of crystal flutes. Rose holds a silver spoon up to the light. ROSE Who lives here? Ponzi smiles. PONZI They just bought the place. It’s fit for the Rockefeller’s, no? A Notary appears out of nowhere. Setting a leather folder down and handing Ponzi a gold pen. He stands witness as Ponzi signs several documents. Ponzi hands the folder back. The Notary refuses the pen. NOTARY Keep it. Congratulations Mr. Ponzi. Rose watches the Notary leave. Looks back to her husband.
55. ROSE Congratulations...for what? Ponzi raises his champagne. A toast. PONZI
Rose hesitates a moment. Raises her glass to meet his. PONZI To my lovely wife... He kisses her glass with his own. A servant takes away their finished plates. PONZI ...and her new self cleaning home. EXT. LEXINGTON MANSION - MORNING Ponzi kisses his wife good-bye on the front porch. Bounding off the steps like a schoolboy. His limousine awaits him curb side. The driver posted by an open door. Ponzi hops in the back seat. Settling in next to a warm copy of the Boston Post. IN THE LIMO Ponzi eyes the paper’s headline as the car pulls away from the house. LIMO DRIVER (O.S.) That’s some read. PONZI As long as they spelled my name right. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - MORNING The Newsboy works his corner. Barking details of the day’s big story. Straining to be heard over the noise.
56. NEWSBOY (hollering) Ponzi doubles the money! Wizard of Finance takes on banks! He is nearly swept away by a deluge of Bostonians. They threaten to buy up his entire inventory. The immense crowd radiates out from the young vendor. ON A ROOFTOP A few neighborhood kids bear witness to the spectacle below. They point in awe at the sea of straw hats and squirming humanity. PONZI (V.O.) Boston had come through in grand style. Ponzi’s limousine parts the multitude. PONZI (V.O.) I was the realization of their dreams. The idol. The hero. DOWN ON SCHOOL STREET A line of investors stretches for blocks. PONZI (V.O.) The master and arbiter of their lives. Of their hopes. Their fortunes. Ponzi followers clutching handfuls, wallets and boxes of cash. Eager to hand it over to the man on the front page. PONZI (V.O.) The discoverer of wealth and happiness. The wizard who could turn a pauper into a millionaire overnight. IN THE LIMO Ponzi reclines, playing with his gold Liberty Dollar.
57. PONZI (V.O.) I might have started a snowball downhill... PONZI The newly minted celebrity alights from his luxury auto into the throng. PONZI (V.O.) ...but it became an avalanche all on it’s own. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - MORNING Melli ignores the incessant ringing of the phone. She’s too busy counting cash. Covering her desk in neat piles. Ponzi enters, throwing his back against the closed door. PONZI They nearly tore me to shreds. Melli jumps up. Snatching his straw hat and cane as he darts across the room. MS. MELLI I’m going to need an escort to the Tremont. We’ve taken in nearly... She can barely believe it. MS. MELLI ...a million. And it’s not even lunch yet. Ponzi grabs the knob of his office door. PONZI Lunch. I’ll need a reservation at the Copley. Melli remembers something. MS. MELLI SIR. There’s an-He’s already inside.
58. INT. PONZI’S OFFICE - CONTINUOUS PONZI Officer Downey. Downey leans against the wall. Admiring the mob out the window. DOWNEY Some crowd. PONZI The power of advertising. DOWNEY I’ve been hearing your name in every corner of this city lately. PONZI Thought that ringing in my ears was from the phones. DOWNEY More than a few cops been visiting you on payday. I hear you can turn a dime into a dollar. PONZI These days, I’d much prefer being able to turn water into wine. Ponzi stations himself behind his desk. PONZI I am offering fifty percent interest in six weeks. DOWNEY That’s some trick. How do you do it? Downey looms behind Ponzi. Fingering something in his waist band. PONZI Trade secret I’m afraid. The officer drives his nightstick down into Ponzi’s desktop. Barely missing his face.
59. DOWNEY Honestly. I don’t give a rat’s ass how you do it. Sign me up for a G note. Ponzi starts filling out a receipt for the cop. PONZI Your making a fine investment. Rest assured your money-Not mine. DOWNEY
Downey rips the note from the pad. Heads for the door swinging his baton. DOWNEY Stay out of trouble. INT. PRIMERO’S FURNITURE SHOP - DAY Primero flips through a stack of bills. Eyeing them close for authenticity. He wears a grungy apron. Looming over an iron pot of water. His Nephew buzzes around him with a smug grin. PRIMERO You better not have hit my sister up for this. Primero cranks up the flame on the burner. NEPHEW No, no. I got it on my own. I made an investment. PRIMERO In what, a gun? NEPHEW For real. Down on School Street. Fella name of Ponzi. Primero averting his eyes from the stove top. Baloney. PRIMERO
60. NEPHEW Yeah. He’s got some operation. People linin’ up around the block, throwin’ dough at him. Don’t you read the paper? Primero snaps a handful of spaghetti in half. The water reaches a violent boil. INT. BATHHOUSE - DAY Ponzi and Silva reclining next to each other. Simmering in a pair of hot tubs. Silva quaffs a full glass of champagne. Grabbing his personal bottle for a refill. SILVA Sure beats the shower room in Montreal Pen. And how. PONZI
PRIMERO (O.S.) Colossal bust, huh? Ponzi picks up a hand mirror from the table next to him. Identifying his inquisitor in the glass. PONZI If I could see the future I wouldn’t need to go to work everyday. PRIMERO You call this work? SILVA It’s a living. PRIMERO I want a cut. PONZI Go see a barber. PRIMERO Without my loan you’d have nothing. Ponzi wipes steam off the mirror. Admiring himself.
61. PONZI I’d have my good looks. Primero is ready to pounce. PRIMERO That’s easy to fix. Ponzi pours himself a fresh glass of champagne. PONZI (calling out) Staggs. His bodyguard appears through the mist. All meat and gristle. STAGGS Sorry Mr. Ponzi. Had to use the little boys room. Everything O.K.? PONZI Will you please show Mr. Primero out. I think the heat is getting to him. Primero storms out of the spa before Staggs can comply. SILVA (to Staggs) Grab some more champagne will you stooge...I mean Staggs. INT. SWIG’S OFFICE - DAY A PINKERTON DETECTIVE, hiding under a low-brimmed fedora, peruses the Post’s cover story. He throws the paper onto Swig’s massive oak desk. Swig scrutinizes a Postal Reply Coupon. Chewing on an unlit cigar. SWIG He’s making a fortune with these? PINKERTON Not anymore. Swig scowls at the detective.
62. PINKERTON The Postal Congress froze the program. Stopped issuing coupons over a month ago. Swig looks back at the specimen. PINKERTON I stole that one from my mother. The banker throws a thick envelope at him. The Pinkerton tucks his payment away. Moving toward the door. SWIG So he found a better way to make his money. The Pinkerton peers through the office door at the empty bank lobby. Then back to Swig. PINKERTON Looks like he’s trying his hand at banking. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - NIGHT Ponzi locking up his office door in the poorly lit hallway. VOICE (O.S.) Charles Ponzi? Ponzi spins around, startled. PONZI Christ man. You must be in my will. An Unknown Man steps from the shadows. His hand tucked into his jacket. PONZI You’ll have to come back tomorrow... Realizing the late hour. PONZI ...Or later today. The Unknown Man steps closer.
63. UNKNOWN MAN I’m not here to invest. Ponzi notices him going for something. Drops his keys. The Unknown Man whips out an envelope. Thrusting it into Ponzi’s hand. UNKNOWN MAN I’m not here to invest. Ponzi peeks inside at the contents. PONZI Then how can I help... The unknown man is a Court Clerk. And he’s not hanging around. COURT CLERK (yelling back) You’ve been served. INT. PRIMERO’S FURNITURE SHOP - NIGHT Primero reigns over a poker game with several shady characters. He lays down a half eaten pickle just long enough to peek at his cards. Ponzi throws the summons down in front of him. PONZI You’re suing me? He’s irate. PONZI Your friends know you’ve been hanging around the court house? PRIMERO My lawyer makes house calls. He throws some chips on the pot.
Keeping his eyes on the game. PRIMERO I kept you from going belly-up. I figure I’m entitled to some of the spoils. PONZI You got your money. With interest. PRIMERO Interest... He scoffs. PRIMERO They’ll be plenty of interest in how you’re making money hand over fist... Popping the last bite of the dill into his mouth. PRIMERO ...A million dollar action is sure to make the papers. Perhaps we can work something out... He slurps the green juice from his fingers. PRIMERO ...like gentleman. Now it’s Ponzi turn to scoff. He heads for the door. PONZI (calling back to the players) He’s bluffing. Primero chucks his cards into the pot face down. INT. PONZI BEDROOM - NIGHT Ponzi creeps into the darkened room. Begins to undress in the moonlight. Sliding under the covers like a man returning from an affair. Rose lies awake.
65. ROSE I can smell it on you. PONZI You’re awake, Petal? He leans over to kiss her. PONZI Silva spilled a glass of wine at dinner. She pulls away slightly. ROSE Not liquor. Money. Ponzi cowers onto his side of the bed. PONZI There are worse smells. She’s not amused. PONZI The Mass Ave. subway stop. The sounds of night. ROSE Our old apartment. He flops back to face her. She’s holding her nose. PONZI Let’s have a picnic tomorrow. In the garden. Just me and my Rose. Ponzi lays his head back on a plump down pillow. PONZI Sweet dreams, angel. INT. PONZI BEDROOM - MORNING Sun streaming through a sliver of plush drapery. Charles and Rose slumber like birds in a nest. Swaddled in ruby colored silk sheets. Murmurs penetrate through the window.
66. A car horn stirs Rose awake. She pulls apart the tall curtains. Revealing the full splendor of the Ponzi’s master bedroom. Her eyes adjust to the blinding sunshine. She gasps at the scene just outside her window. ROSE Charlie. Wake up. EXT. LEXINGTON MANSION - MORNING The yard is teeming with people. A line of cars inches by the mansion. Families gawking at the spectacle. A mother cranes her neck to catch a glimpse of the mansion. Ponzi steps onto his front porch in a silk bathrobe. He is assaulted by several reporters calling out his name. POP POP POP A series of flashbulbs catches Ponzi off guard. He readies himself for the next round. Slipping into his trademark smile. POP POP POP PONZI I hope one of you brought a copy of the Post. Picking up the newspaper lying on his step. PONZI I need my paper first thing. A SKINNY REPORTER steps out of the crowd and up to the plate. SKINNY REPORTER Ponzi, You buy this house with coupons? PONZI Why? You think the bank would take ‘em?
67. A SHORT REPORTER pinch hits. SHORT REPORTER How can you offer such a return when the banks are barely giving two percent? PONZI Maybe you should be asking the Brahmins downtown that question. He steps to the edge of his porch. PONZI Now I can’t divulge all the details for fear of outright pilfering. But I will give you the gist... The Reporters crowd closer. PONZI Who’s got a buck. A Smart Ass yells out. SMART ASS Don’t you have plenty? The Skinny Reporter hands over a crumpled bill. PONZI Gentleman my system is simple... Ponzi folds the bill into a tiny figure. A sailboat. Gently setting it afloat in a nearby birdbath. PONZI An adventurous dollar bill takes a trip across the sea... Ponzi propels the vessel with a stiff breath. Motioning to his audience to examine it as it reaches the far side. Smart Ass plucks it from the water. Unfolding it with haste. It has transformed into several hundreds. The crowd is ecstatic.
68. PONZI ...and comes back married with a couple kids. Ponzi takes the bills from Smart Ass. Handing them out to a lucky few. PONZI Now if you’ll excuse me gentleman, my eggs are getting cold. A MOVIE DIRECTOR steps through the crush of men. Followed closely by his Cameraman. MOVIE DIRECTOR Mr. Ponzi, just a moment if you please. We are making a film. ROSE (O.S.) My husband would never make it in the movies. He loves hearing himself talk. Laughter from the crowd. Rose standing in the doorway. Fully dressed and radiant as the morning sun. MOVIE DIRECTOR How ‘bout it Mrs. Ponzi? A day in the life? The Director framing the couple through his fingers. Ponzi looks to her for the answer. She lets him sweat. ROSE If my husband promises to put on some clothes. FILM MONTAGE - A DAY IN THE LIFE --The sound of a camera WHIRRING up to speed. --A title card, reading: “CHARLES AND ROSE PONZI AT THEIR LEXINGTON ESTATE JULY 4TH, 1920” --Grainy black and white film images flicker on screen. --The Ponzi’s enjoy a lavish buffet. All crystal and sterling silver. Their movements slightly sped up.
69. --Ponzi doing laps in his pool. --Ponzi swings a croquet mallet. Chasing Rose around the yard, between the wickets. --She’s laughing at him. --They pose together on a horse and carriage. --Rose smiling, shielding her eyes from the bright sun. --The screen flashes white. --Ponzi touches a sparkler to a rocket stuck in the lawn. --Fireworks burst in the sky. EXT. LEXINGTON MANSION - NIGHT Ponzi and Rose see her parents to the door. ROSE’S MOTHER What a lovely day. Your house is just...magnificent. Rose gives her mother a warm hug. ROSE’S FATHER Charles, my daughter has always believed in you. Rose grasps her husband around the waist. Looking up at him proudly. ROSE’S FATHER And I have to be honest. I thought this was going to be like all the rest of your business ideas. PONZI Why, thanks Dad. Rose’s father admires the house. ROSE’S FATHER But I’m glad to say I was wrong. He takes a thick envelope from his inside pocket. ROSE’S FATHER I want to invest this with you. It’s our life savings.
70. Ponzi hesitates. PONZI I’m honored, sir...but...what about putting all your eggs in one basket? Rose’s father throws an arm around Ponzi. Insisting he take the envelope. ROSE’S FATHER It’s not just any basket. INT. TREMONT TRUST BANK - DAY Ponzi waiting across from an empty chair. A Nervous Clerk returns accompanied by Swig. SWIG Mr. Ponzi, I do apologize-PONZI What seems to be the trouble Swig. You lose my money? SWIG I’m afraid I have some bad news regarding your account with us. PONZI What’s the skinny? SWIG Perhaps we should discuss the matter in my office. PONZI Just have it out already. SWIG The majority of your balance has been frozen due to a writ of attachment on a certain lawsuit. It will be secured by Tremont Trust, without accruing interest until such time as the court releases it... He lights a thick cigar.
71. SWIG ...or claims it. PONZI The majority? And what of the minority? Swig spews a mouthful of smoke. SWIG Five Hundred. Ponzi looks barely satisfied. He stands abruptly to make his exit. PONZI Half a million will do just fine. In cash please Mr. Swig, and we’re in a hurry. SWIG Five HUNDRED dollars, Mr. Ponzi. He drives it home. SWIG Would you like that in ones? INT. S.E.C. OFFICE - DAY Melli works busily at her desk. A phone to her ear. Another ringing off the hook. She covers the receiver. MS. MELLI This morning’s deposit has just been counted and bagged. Staggs is waiting to accompany me. Ponzi stands over her desk. PONZI I’m on my way to the Trust. I’ll convey the money. Ponzi hoisting a leather satchel. He exaggerates it’s weight. PONZI The size of these deposits, you think they’d send someone for them.
72. MS. MELLI Yeah, don’t you own that bank by now. Ponzi looks back at her. She smiles. Finally answering the ringing phone. INT. ROTHSTEIN’S OFFICE - DAY ROTHSTEIN (50s) a pinch of a man in a fine grey suit and round spectacles hangs off the side of a ladder. Surveying a high shelf in a wall of books. He spots the leather bound object of his search. Extracting it from its place among the volumes. Seating himself behind a huge desk across from Ponzi. He places the large tome between them. Staggs looms by the door to the office. ROTHSTEIN The writ of attachment ligatures three million dollars across several of your accounts. It can be released only on the courts order. PONZI I need to get at that money. ROTHSTEIN Judge Javik is presiding over the case. We attended Harvard together. A phone call should suffice to free the assets. As for the suit-PONZI I’m going to settle. ROTHSTEIN The action is groundless... He adjusts his glasses. ROTHSTEIN ...his council, a complete amateur. Ponzi motions for his man.
73. PONZI I’ve no time for court proceedings. Time is money. Can you handle this? Of course. ROTHSTEIN
Staggs drops a heavy leather satchel onto the desk. PONZI And I will need you on retainer. This should cover your fee. Rothstein peers over the top at its contents. ROTHSTEIN That leaves only one more thing then. Rothstein slowly opens the book. Ponzi furrows his brow. The tome is hollowed, concealing a small amber bottle and two glasses. The attorney fills the tumblers. They touch with a clink. L'Chaim. Salute. ROTHSTEIN PONZI
INT. BOARD ROOM - DAY Swig governs over the conference table. Chomping on a cigar. He is flanked by the bank’s board of directors. SWIG Exactly how many shares are you proposing we sell you? Ponzi and Rothstein are posted across from them. Ready for battle. PONZI Oh...two thousand or so.
74. Swig shakes his head in disbelief. Cracking a bemused smile. SWIG That would give you control of the bank. PONZI That is just what I want. SWIG Mr. Ponzi. Why would I... Looking to his fellow bank officers. SWIG ...why would we hand over controlling interest to you. A mere account holder? PONZI Haven’t I explained myself. I am perfectly willing to pay for it. One of directors lets loose a giggle. Swig fires a glare at him. SWIG We are willing to sell you a standard block of stock and make you a director. Swig’s Lawyer butts in. Speaking directly to Rothstein. LAWYER It is a very generous offer. PONZI Will you sell me the shutters on your house as well? SWIG I’m sure you will be pleased with a directorship. We throw a wonderful picnic each year in the spring. The bankers share a collective laugh. PONZI How much of your own money is in this institution, Swig? And I’m not talking about the nickels in your office couch.
75. Swig swells at the challenge. SWIG My father was president of this bank for thirty years. He stands. Gesturing to a series of portraits on the wall. The resemblance clear. SWIG My grandfather directly preceded him, having been one of it’s founders in 1855. I consider this bank my home. Ponzi looks around the board room. Admiring the decor. PONZI And you’ve done a fine job with the place. He knocks hard on the thick mahogany table. PONZI But my account is larger than all of your others combined. Quite frankly, it’s beginning to look like a ten carat diamond in a pawnshop window. Swig chews on his cigar like a pretzel. Ponzi checks his watch. PONZI It seems to me that our differences cannot be bridged. He pulls out his checkbook. PONZI You keep your bank. I’ll find another one. Swig puffs up, having won this battle. PONZI Can you tell me what my balance is today? It’s a pin in Swig’s balloon. He shutters at the thought.
76. SWIG You are not planning to withdraw your entire balance? PONZI Certainly I am. Right now. SWIG I believe your funds are still attached to one hell of a law-Rothstein is out with the judge’s release in a flash. Handing it across the table to Swig. Swig slides it to his lawyer. The attorney’s confirmation seals Swig’s defeat. PONZI Let’s talk numbers. INT. SWIG’S OFFICE - NIGHT Swig scowls at the front page of the Boston Post. Ponzi smiles back at him in black and white. SWIG Under that pastel suit and slick hair is nothing but a common criminal. The Pinkerton Detective looms behind him in the darkness. SWIG Find out everything about the man. He doesn’t belong in this game. Swig throws a Boston Post Newspaper into his fireplace. SWIG (O.S.) I want him carried off the field. Ponzi’s face burns bright then blackens. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - NIGHT Melli working late in the darkened office. She notices something strange on a redeemed note as she logs it in her ledger.
77. She retrieves a saved specimen from her desk drawer. Scrutinizing the two under the lamp. She confirms her suspicion. INSERT - TWO MISPRINTED PONZI NOTES, READING: Charles Ponsi INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY The Blonde is back, exchanging another fake note. BLONDE Thanks, cutey pie. A different, equally naive teller smiles nervously as she hurries away with her money. He leaves his window. Brings the note directly to Ms. Melli. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - MOMENTS LATER The Blonde exiting the building. Merging onto the crowded sidewalk. Staggs is moments behind her. Cutting a path. Never losing sight. He halts his pursuit. Watching as she meets up with her accomplice. The couple disappears around a corner. INT. PARKER HOUSE RESTAURANT - NIGHT Ponzi revelling in a meal with Staggs and some associates. Cutting into a rare steak. A bloodied handkerchief falls into his plate. He spins around. Silva bearing down on him. His face ground chuck. There are early signs of a couple shiners. SILVA Too bad I’m not playing the Phantom of the Opera.
78. PONZI What happened to your face? Silva looks at Staggs with scorn. Ponzi following his glance, confused. STAGGS Melli caught him passing fake notes. I was gentle. I only used my hands. He raises his giant mitts innocently. PONZI (back to Silva) I had no idea. You know I never would’ve... Noticing Silva’s ragged new suit. PONZI How much did you take? SILVA What does it matter? You’ve got more than enough. PONZI Why didn’t you just ask? You didn’t have to steal. SILVA Is that so? Ponzi bristles at his tone. He notices the other diners, who have taken an interest in the drama. PONZI (to his guests) It’s a wonder what they can do with make-up these days. His guests laugh at Silva’s expense. SILVA Why don’t you replace me? You’re the best actor in town. Turning to address the entire restaurant.
79. SILVA Ladies and gentlemen. Lay down your forks and lookee here. Don’t you know who sits before you... Ponzi reaches out to silence him. Staggs rising to his feet. SILVA ...It’s the Wizard of Finance...The Sultan of Securities... Silva jumps up on an adjacent table, knocking a couple of glasses to the floor. Introduces Ponzi with a flourish. SILVA ...The Pied Piper of Boston. Staggs looks to Ponzi, who nods. And the bodyguard goes into attack mode. SILVA Take out your wallets. Pry loose your fillings... Staggs grabs a hold of his legs. Throwing him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Heading for the exit. On the way out, Silva finishes his rant. SILVA ...Lay it all at the feet of this man, Ponzi. And he will return to you exactly everything you deserve. Doubling your money as promised. By folding it in half and placing it into his pocket. Silence fans over the dining room. Ponzi is quick to react. Motioning to the startled Maitre d’ and addressing the diners. PONZI Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for disturbing your meal. The man was merely a disgruntled employee. Wanted to be transferred to my New York office so he could watch Ruth play.
80. Boos from the customers. PONZI Please enjoy your dinner and don’t skimp on dessert, as I will be personally paying the tab. Applause breaks out. In a far corner of the dining room, the Pinkerton Detective throws down a tip by his unfinished steak. Following the commotion out the door. Ponzi rejoins his guests. His smile slightly less convincing than usual. INT. SWIGS OFFICE - NIGHT Swig smiling wide, chewing on smoke. A black and white mug shot splashed across a Canadian newspaper. It’s Ponzi. Younger and sporting a mustache. But we’d know that smile anywhere. Swig hands the paper to the Pinkerton Detective. SWIG Read it again. PINKERTON “The jury found Charles Ponzi, AKA Charles Bianchi, guilty on five counts of forgery. Ponzi was arrested while attempting to pass fake checks and sentenced to thirtysix months in Montreal penitentiary. Swig twists the fat cigar between his lips. Exhaling a thick, grey cloud. INT. LEXINGTON MANSION - NIGHT Ponzi enters the darkened foyer. Nearly tripping over a large suitcase by the door. He sees Rose descending the staircase with another.
81. ROSE Did he find you? Silva? PONZI
He sees her puffy, red eyes. Rose...I didn’t-ROSE He came here first. How could you? PONZI Melli caught him stealing from me. Staggs attacked him on his own. ROSE Stealing? From you? He told me everything. She moves past him. Reaching for the door. He grabs her. PONZI Rose wait. We can go somewhere. Start a new life. Just you and I. Charlie... ROSE
He mops her cheek with a silk handkerchief. ROSE ...all those people...they trusted you... She shakes her head in disbelief. ROSE ...my family. Embraces her husband. ROSE I’ll be staying with them. Ponzi grips her tightly. As if for the last time. PONZI I wanted all this for you, Rose.
82. ROSE I never wanted it, Charlie. I’m sorry. She pulls away. He lets her go. She gathers her things and is gone. Ponzi looks to his trembling hand. The pearl earrings lie in his palm. EXT. SCHOOL STREET - NIGHT Ponzi walks the quiet street alone. He peers over his shoulder at a noise in the distance. A man passes close by as Ponzi approaches his office building. Evening. MAN PONZI
PONZI That it is. It’s the Pinkerton Detective. PINKERTON Charles Ponzi? Ponzi spins. The empty street has him jumpy. PONZI Who’s asking? PINKERTON Simon Swig would like to speak with you. PONZI Never heard of him. Do you always accost strangers in the mid-Ponzi doubles over a swift wallop to his gut. When he gathers himself he spots the Pinkerton’s pistol winking at him.
83. INT. SWIG’S OFFICE - NIGHT The smoke clears on Ponzi’s pale face. He holds the newspaper. He is shell shocked. Staring at his past. At his stupid grin. Swig leans way back in his chair. Enjoying every minute. PONZI How much do you want? SWIG I don’t want your money. You’re going to need all you can carry. I would however like my bank back. Swig’s lawyer is there. Contract at the ready. Ponzi signs it without dispute. Laying his gold pen on top of the document. SWIG You have twenty-four hours to leave Boston. Then I call the authorities. PONZI I’ll be needing my money. SWIG Oh, I’m quite sorry sir. You’ll have to come back during business hours. Ponzi rises, heading for the exit. SWIG You’d never make it as a banker... He doesn’t look back. SWIG ...the people like you too much. As Ponzi reaches the door. SWIG Oh, and don’t forget...tomorrow is Sunday. As soon as the door closes, Swig picks up his phone.
84. SWIG Operator, connect me with The Boston Post please. Thank You. City Desk. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - NIGHT Ponzi creeping through the dark. PONZI (V.O.) The money itself meant nothing to me... He kneels behind his desk. PONZI (V.O.) ...What I wanted to do was test it’s power. To derive from it the thrill incidental to the accomplishment of things called impossible... He empties the floor safe into a large leather bag. PONZI (V.O.) ...But I was swept up along with everyone else by hope and greed and the worst type of madness... The cash is overflowing. Ponzi struggles with the zipper. PONZI (V.O.) ...But I never had to sell my soul to the devil... Ponzi looks back one last time before closing his office door. PONZI (V.O.) ...He found he could get it for nothing if he waited long enough. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - MOMENTS LATER Ponzi nearly trips over a something large while exiting his building. A Mother and her young son lie slumped against the wall on the sidewalk.
85. PONZI Ma’am. Are you alright? Is your boy alright? She’s awake. The kid dozes. MOTHER (whispering) Thank you sir. We’re just trying to beat the crowds. She holds up a Ponzi note proudly. Ponzi looks around at the empty block. Morning light has just begun paint the quiet street. PONZI Why that’s just what I planned to do. Early bird they say... He lays down the leather bag. Pulls out a large stack of twentys. PONZI Why don’t I take care of that now. You and your boy can go home. Get some rest. She recognizes the famous financier. Her eyes brighten. Ponzi! The kid stirs. Ponzi quickly tucks the money in her purse. Helps her and the child up. MOTHER That’s too much... She hands him the note as he directs them down the sidewalk. PONZI Get that one to bed. Ponzi turns on his heel. Heads in the opposite direction. The Mother’s note falls to the ground. MOTHER
86. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - MORNING The Newsboy hawking his wares on the corner. He’s less enthusiastic today. Grim. NEWSBOY Ponzi the Snake! An unruly crowd surrounding. Near riotous. Two men wrestling in the dusty street. A Ponzi note floats out of their reach but neither seems much interested in it now. A speculator prowls the endless line. Propositioning the nervous investors. SPECULATOR I’m willing to pay half face value on all Ponzi notes. Of any denomination. Cash. The Cameraman from the Post steps out of line to take him up on his offer. SPECULATOR Has the man even shown for work today? The Speculator exchanges a few bills for the note. CAMERAMAN (to the crowd) Ponzi is on his way far from here. We’ll never see him again. EXT. INTERNATIONAL TICKET OFFICE - DAY Ponzi lays a pile of cash in front of a Travel Agent. PONZI Naples. First class. She cranes her neck to get a better look through the bars. Ponzi quickly turns his face away. Snatching the ticket off the counter as soon as it’s issued.
87. INT. SECURITIES EXCHANGE COMPANY - DAY Downey cuts a path through the unruly crowd in the hallway. He finds the office closed. Door locked. DOWNEY (banging on the glass) Open up. It’s the police. Staggs cracks the door and the flatfoot storms in. Melli cowers by her desk. DOWNEY Where is he? He shoves the bodyguard hard. Doesn’t wait for an answer. Launches into Ponzi’s office. The room is empty. Under Ponzi’s desk he finds the empty safe. EXT. SCHOOL STREET, BOSTON - DAY The Newsboy and his pal playing jacks in the dirt. Behind them, the gold dome of the State House shimmering in the low sun. They notice Ponzi staring up at it. Possessed by something. He starts toward the building. Resolve growing with each step forward across the cobblestone. PAL (O.S.) Hey it’s Ponzi. The Newsboy runs up. Waving the front page. NEWSBOY Is it true? Are you a crook? Ponzi’s not slowing down for anyone. He flashes his brightest smile. The last barrel in his chamber. PONZI Do I look like a crook?
88. NEWSBOY Why no! You look like a million bucks. PONZI Thanks Kid, But I think you’re selling me short. Howzat? NEWSBOY
His Pal struggles to keep up. PAL Where you going Ponzi? PONZI See that gold building? PAL You going to buy it? NEWSBOY He’s going to buy it. Ponzi looks down with a grin. PONZI I think I’ve bought enough for a while. A handful of men have spotted the millionaire. Joining the procession toward the State House. Ponzi swings his cane like a drum major. The troupe grows with every step. Drawing the devoted and the curious. A few more blocks and he’s leading a small army. A carriage pulls up alongside. It’s driver slowing his horse to a trot. AT THE BASE OF THE STATEHOUSE STEPS Ponzi turns to address his followers one last time. PONZI I think you’ve all followed me far enough.
89. He reaches into his pocket, pulling out the gold Liberty Dollar. It glints in the light. Ponzi flips it into the air. It turns slowly, end over end, in a high arch toward the sky. The Newsboy snatches it from the air in his cap. Laying it back on his head. PONZI Don’t spend that one, kid. It’s lucky. INT. STATE HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER Ponzi retracing his earlier steps under the large gold dome and across the marble foyer. Everyone stops to watch the famous financier walk by. INT. DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE - MOMENTS LATER Ponzi sitting surrounded by the DISTRICT ATTORNEY and his assistants. His Secretary and a few others peek inside. The entire office hanging on his every word. DISTRICT ATTORNEY Mr. Ponzi that is some tale. PONZI And every word of it true. DISTRICT ATTORNEY Then I’m afraid... The District Attorney signals to his deputies. They step up behind the financier. DISTRICT ATTORNEY ...I must place you under arrest for fraud. Ponzi stands, offering them his wrists.
90. INT. MELLI’S APARTMENT - DAY A Courier stands in her doorway with a large duffel bag. PONZI (V.O.) They had bought my six-cent Reply Coupon for fifteen million dollars. And it was cheap at that price... IN THE KITCHEN Melli lays the delivery on the table. Unzips it. Peeking inside. PONZI (V.O.) I had given them the best show ever staged in their territory since the landing of the Pilgrims... On top is a ticket embossed with a drawing of a ship. Then she sees the loot. Filling the bag to the brim. PONZI (V.O.) ...The most brazen exhibition of sheer nerve that had ever been witnessed in the world of finance. She falls into a chair. PONZI (V.O.) It was easily worth fifteen million bucks to watch me put the thing over. EXT. SCHOOL STREET - MORNING The Newsboy holding up the morning’s Post. He’s not selling many today. The headline reads, “PONZI HOPELESSLY INSOLVENT.” NEWSBOY S.E.C. closed! Ponzi bankrupt!
91. INT. TREMONT TRUST BANK - DAY A line of customers snaking out the door. Tellers struggling to keep up with a windfall of deposits. Swig takes in the scene. Chewing on his cigar with a wide grin. INT. THEATRE - NIGHT A sold-out crowd fix their eyes on the stage. Silva woos his leading lady on a park bench. He flubs a line as his eyes meet a seductive patron of the arts in the front row. EXT. BOSTON COMMON - DAY Rose walking alone among the bare willows. She gathers her coat. Sparring with an icy breeze. Then stops. Noticing something in the air around her. Holding out a gloved hand as the first snowflake of the season drops lightly into her palm. INT. JAILHOUSE - DAY Five prisoners surround a metal table covered with chips and playing cards. They look to the bettor. Ponzi A dapper gentleman even in stripes. Grinning behind a mountain of chips. An inmate sits beside him. Sorting through hundreds of envelopes. A prison guard enters. A sack slung over his shoulder. He dumps its contents on the pile.
92. PRISON GUARD Here you go Santa Claus. The Inmate plucks an envelope from the top. Ripping it open he finds a folded letter and several dollar bills. INMATE Another one. Ponzi finally lets the other players off the hook. PONZI I bet it all. FADE OUT.
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