Libeled Lady (1936)


Original plot
Newspaperman Spencer Tracy has to cover up a front-page error about rich playgirl Myrna Loy, and he enlists gigolo heartbreaker William Powell to falsely wed Jean Harlow to falsely break her heart and really scandalize Loy.

Big changes
“Newspaperman.” Hilarious! That’s gone.

The Random Remake
Warren Haggerty (Penn Badgley) runs a paparazzi business out of L.A. called UNA. While he’s busy courting his silicon valley investors, the staff at UNA run a story on their website about an actress’s hellish behavior on a movie set. But they’ve been had, probably a gag from some online troll – turns out the actress, Connie Allenbury (Emma Watson), has gone through recovery and learned her lessons from her child-actor antics and actually been OK on this set. Connie loses her next role, owing to the fact that the fake story has blown up on social media and supposedly hard-news TV stations. It was a big role, too, in a superhero franchise. She’s gonna sue UNA big time, and with the problems it’s having over funding, this could be the end of UNA and Haggerty’s big break.

Haggerty knows he’s in a jam, and of course he decides the only way to fight back is to sink even lower. He hires one of his fixers, Bill Chandler (Russell Brand), to dig up some dirt on Allenbury. UNA will have a scoop if it can put her in a comprising position and will “drop the story” if Connie drops her lawsuit. Chandler is the guy who gets Haggerty inside information on flights, hotels, travel itineraries so UNA can accost celebrities. He arranges a meet-cute with Connie, “saving” her from a posh party paparazzi ambush that he himself arranged. He then charms her a bit while they’re at the party and even tries to get her back on drugs and alcohol but he’s having no luck. He arranges another fake coincidence to meet her, but again no luck – he’s getting nowhere with her in terms of getting dirt UNA can use against her. But his intuition tells him something, and he follows Connie’s leer at another actress.

With this discovery, Haggerty has to turn to his girlfriend, Gladys Benton (Mila Kunis), for additional help. She has to seduce Connie and turn her down a dark path – just enough for some juicy pics UNA can use for blackmail. Gladys will do it, if Haggerty finally pulls some strings and gets one of his friends to cast her in a movie – as he’s been promising for years. Gladys and Chandler work together to get her close to Connie, and while they do an attraction develops. Gladys is a good actress, and she pulls Connie in as she vamps it up. Connie even offers to help Gladys get an acting gig, and this gives Gladys second thoughts about blackmailing her. Gladys is back-and-forth-and-back-again trying to placate Chandler’s affections for her, Connie’s affections for her, and Haggerty’s nasty deeds.

Connie and Gladys party with a casting director, who tells Gladys he’s got a part for her in a big-budget summer blockbuster. Gladys is beaming. But it’s the role Connie has been pining – and scheming – for, and Gladys just edged former favorite Connie out of it. Connie is shattered, and she’s looking to ease the pain. She’s about to go off the wagon. Haggerty is relieved. Gladys finds Connie is a desperate state. She tells her everything, about the setup, Chandler, her trying to tempt her. Gladys has a proposition: Connie drops the suit, Gladys backs out of the role. Next we see is the movie being played, with Connie in the female lead. In one scene she ‘s barking out orders as she commands some stupid-looking army as they battle CGI monsters. “Aye captain,” responds one of her officers, played by Gladys.

Coming out of the movie premiere are Gladys and Chandler, in each other’s arms, stopping as they watch Gladys ham it up for the paparazzi cameras. In the scrum there is one paparazzo who looks haggard and he’s being pushed around by the other photographers: Warren Haggerty.

The pitch
Libeled Lady: Celebrity is a hard sell

Next up: The Thin Man (1934)


My Man Godfrey (1936)


Original plot
A silver spooner on a scavenger hunt hooks up with a homeless dude, recruits him to be her obnoxious family’s butler and falls in love with him.

Big changes
Do people even have butlers anymore? I feel like the 80s were the swan song for butler stories, what with Mr. Belvidere and everything. Let’s switch to the home servitude of the 00s: nannies!

The Random Remake

“My Manny Godfrey”

Irene Bullock (Zosia Mamet) is a college senior (on her fifth+ year) rushing through campus trying to find things on her sorority’s scavenger hunt list. She asks a passerby what color is his underwear. She goes into a meat market and asks if they “have anything called tripe.” Next on her list: a homeless person. See, her sorority is the kind of entity that does this kind of thing. And Irene is the kind of gal who wants to be a part of something that does this kind of thing. She peers all around her while she’s in the college town’s downtown looking for a homeless person. She spies a dude in a flannel shirt with a bushy beard holding a clipboard, she walks up to him. “I need to borrow you,” she says, to his flummoxed reaction. “Put down your sign asking for change.” Without saying a word, the dude, Godfrey, (Taran Killam) accompanies Irene to the sorority house where it’s explained to him that, because he’s homeless, Irene’s the big winner of the contest. She hugs him, excitedly, then pushes back swiftly.

Irene then tells Godfrey that they must find her mother, Angelica (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), to prove to her she won the contest. Her mother is the campus provost and is at a benefit across campus. Angelica is just as ditzy as Irene (it’s hinted she got the provost gig because of her family’s wealth) and decides to make Godfrey her project; after all, she was just talking about how she might adopt a baby from Africa.

When Godfrey meets the family at their estate, he meets the other, older, crazier Bullock sisters, Cornelia (Abby Elliott) and Molly (Alison Brie). The whole family’s nuts and dad Alexander (John Turturro) is too exhausted to deal with any of them. He decides what Godfrey needs is a job, not a handout. And what Alexander needs is someone to reign in his family (and their spending). He puts Godfrey in charge of the sisters, as their nanny – their manny. The women are aghast. Godfrey is bemused (he keeps making quips about the family’s attributes). “I accept,” he says, “because so far this is better than having Netflix.” He cleans up, shaves the beard.

Godfrey’s tenure as the manny to three grown women not only includes elitist adventures (yacht trip!, shopping spree!, fiancé drama!) but he gives undercover counseling to Alexander, a hedge fund manager who is looking to shelter his tax obligations while the SEC is investigating him for fraud. Godfrey suggests on the phone (posing as Alexander’s underlings) that he pour some money into the local watershed protection efforts, a write-off to bring his liability down.

Irene is growing keen to Godfrey, as well as suspicious of his knowledge. She hears him on the phone talking about lobbying (he brushes it off with a story of how he used to sleep in a hotel lobby). They run into an old friend of Godfrey who asks him about passing the bar (he explains that as a code phrase for his failed attempt to give up drinking). He slips up and says something about a big case (prompting a story of how he kept all his worldly positions in a suitcase).

Alexander one evening calls for a family meeting, and when Godfrey excuses himself he’s told to be a part of it, too. Alexander says the SEC is off his back thanks to his donation to the local watershed. Turns out that the donation will be used for toxic waste mitigation from an infringing factory his firm had invested in. That firm was being sued by a tree-hugging law firm that refers to itself by its partners’ first names, “Tim, John, Rich … and Godfrey.” Everyone looks at Godfrey. “I never said I was homeless, you twits.” “But you were holding a clipboard,” Irene says. “To get signatures to clean up the lake,” he answers. “Then that means you’re a real lawyer, with a degree in lawyering?” she asks. “Yes.” “Great, then daddy will approve.” “Approve of what,” he asks. “Us getting married.”

Roll credits.

The pitch
My Manny Godfrey: They’re out of control, and in his care

Next up: Libeled Lady (1936)

Ace In The Hole (1951)


Original plot
Kirk Douglas sees a chance for journalistic redemption by shedding all of his ethics and manipulating a man and his hole.

Big changes
I feel like print media ethics scandals have been done, right? Can’t get much better than “Shattered Glass.” Let’s move to TV.

The Random Remake
Charlene Tatum (Emma Stone) is a new reporter for her hometown TV news channel after just recently graduated from the state university with a journalism degree. She’s all plastic and made up – and no one takes her seriously. She does reports on charity races and new dog-washing businesses. It’s while she’s covering a child beauty pageant that she overhears volunteer firefighters being called in for a rescue. They’re being secretive about it, and she follows along.

Leo Minosa (Michael Peña), a worker at a frac sanding mine, is trapped after a crevice gave way. Sheriff Gus Kretzer (John Goodman) is shooing Tatum away. “Why don’t you go do something more your speed, like a bake sale or bingo night,” he says. No one else knows about the story yet, it’s not being announced on the police scanner.

Just then workers hurry by, with someone saying “I knew this was gonna happen, OSHA shoulda shut this place down a long time ago.” Tatum turns to the workers to get the story but soon she’s grabbed by Kretzer. “You don’t want to do that, honey,” he says. She counters: “I will go live in four seconds with just that information right there – what are you going to do to stop me?” They state at each other. Tatum breaks the silence: “You give me the exclusive, I think we can work together.” “What do you want,” the sheriff replies. “You get me inside, let me talked to the trapped man – I’ll let the *legal* questions wait for another day.” They argue – he says it’s impossible, she starts calling for her cameraman. The sheriff laments, and starts escorting Tatum and her crew into the mine.

Tatum starts shooting her story. When Minosa talks about the safety violations she looks at the sheriff, who is shaking his head at her menacingly. She goes live with basic facts and exclusive footage of Minosa. She tells Kretzer not to let any other media through, and he agrees. Tatum is doing interviews for the big networks, she’s becoming a star.

The fire chief tells the sheriff they have an easy way to get Minosa out – they’re going to blast from the other side. He’s baffled as to why the plant safety engineer hasn’t proposed this yet. The sheriff stalls, saying let him check a few things first. Kretzer turns to Tatum: “How long you want this story to go on,” he says. She answers: “As long as it takes.”

Tatum and Kretzer walk back to the fire chief. “I just got off the phone with the plant safety engineer, says we can’t go in from the other side. Too unstable,” Kretzer says. The fire chief protests, saying that doesn’t make sense and asks to talk to the plant engineer but Kretzer won’t let him.

Tatum goes to shoot another segment with Minosa. He tells her they’ve already drilled from the other side – far into the other side, a violation of their permit as to where they can drill and how far into the wetlands. He thinks they haven’t tried to rescue him from the other side because they don’t want that exposed. The plant safety engineer will think of something, Tatum tells Minosa. There is no engineer, Minosa answers – that person only exists on the books and safety inspections haven’t taken place in months.

Tatum pleads with Kretzer to let the fire chief do his plan but Kretzer is intractable. Hours pass, the community rallies together. Leo dies. Tatum rages at Kretzer, saying he is putting the community in danger. “The community is who I’m protecting, Ms. Tatum,” he answers. “These jobs are the only ones for miles – I got a higher power to attend to.”

Despondent, Tatum returns to her crew and remote setup. She’s due for a segment on the upcoming news hour. She looks into the camera. The anchors throw to her. “Tonight, a member of our community died scarred and nearly alone beneath our feet,” she begins, pausing, staring. “And Leo Minosa died … because we all failed him. He died for no reason. He died because we’ve lost track of who we are.” The End.

The pitch
Ace In The Hole: They’re all falling down a dangerous path

Next up: My Man Godfrey (1936)


My Fair Lady (1964)


Original plot
Eliza Doolittle thinks she’s all that when Stewie Griffin goes full Pygmalion on her.

Big changes
This plot has been done to death, so we’ll need a new angle outside of the “take her glasses off and let her hair down and OMG she’s a hottie.” What if we take out the romance and gutter up the guttersnipe for realsies? And switch the gender roles? And make them siblings? All right, we’re gonna need a new title, then. What about “Playing against type”? Yeah, it’s not great.

The Random Remake
D.C. insider Eliza Doolittle (Maggie Gyllenhaall) is a staff person for an influential member of Congress. She’s worked on small campaigns, losing campaigns, everything, in her rise to be a part of the office of a U.S. senator (Demi Moore). She hopes to edge her way into chief of staff, and she’s eager to take on any project. That work has led her to parties, fundraisers, etc., and she’s had to affect a personality to match her work. She is engaged to a D.C.-area media publisher (Patrick Wilson) who took over his father’s modest empire.

Eliza finds the opportunity she’s been looking for: the senator has been writing anti-poverty legislation – and she wants hometown support for it, from the real people stricken by poverty. Eliza knows a thing or two about that, she says, and jumps at the chance. She travels home and begins talking to social workers, community activists, etc. She plays up her local roots, though she demurs when they ask her how recently she’s been to her hometown. Then she meets someone who works in that area. Someone who knows her brother. Someone who knows her brother is in jail, again, for drug possession. Eliza demurs, and plans to return to D.C. to work on the legislation but is persuaded by her fiancé to at least see her brother.

Eliza goes to the jail to see her brother, Henry Higgins (Jake Gyllenhaall). They argue, bicker. Henry says she ran out on the family, and he turned to cheap meth to deal with the crushing anxiety of caring for their mutual mother (they have different fathers), who slowly succumbed to lung cancer. “You ruined your life,” Eliza tells him. “I gave mom a life. I guess I traded mine,” he answers.

Eliza is wracked with guilt when she leaves her visit at the jail. She talks to an officer and makes a deal to look after Henry (who’s only being held on a watch, and hasn’t been charged yet) if they left him leave the state and go with her to D.C.

Henry is soon wrapped up in Eliza’s world, and he struggles to adapt her affected polishedness. She gives him lessons on how not to be a jerk. On how to talk to her and he fiance’s friends. Soon Henry finds himself ingratiated to a high-class friend of the fiancé’s, who doesn’t know he’s former trash.

Then the senator invites herself over to work on some legislation and “take an interest in her staff.” Henry’s impromptu lessons on how to live on the other side of the tracks take on new importance and his test is the night with the senator. He aces the test but his resentment at having to fake his personality boils over and he leaves to go score. Eliza chases after him. Henry sees some junkies on the street, and they stare at him like he’s an alien. He knows he’s turned a corner into someone else. He returns to find Eliza at home after her unsuccessful search for him. “I’ve grown accustomed to your life,” he says.

The pitch
Playing against type: For Eliza and Henry, all politics is local

Next up: Ace In The Hole (1951)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)


Original plot
Cary Grant is blackmailing (sort of) his ex-wife Katherine Hepburn as she plans to marry a silver spooner, exposing her wedding to Jimmy Stewart’s novelist-turn-gossip columnist.

Big changes
Did you know that in the first scene Cary Grant face-pushes Kate Hepburn to the ground? Yikes, that’s gone. But we can play with the gossip columnist bit.

The Random Remake
Tracy Haven (Tina Fey) is on the eve of her marriage to reality star George Kittredge (Guy Pearce). There are staged, pre-packaged, scripted interviews with plastic TV personalities. Sycophantic hangers-on everywhere. Lights are being erected near the wedding scene. Microphone checks. Why is she into this, we think?  Kittredge assures her this is it, the last big hurrah. “After this I’m only yours.”

Surprise! Haven’s ex Dexter Haven (Sam Rockwell) shows up and promises drama. He needles Tracy for marrying a pretty boy.

Surprise! Dexter’s brought some friends to wedding, reporter-in-disguise Mike Connor (Jason Bateman) – an aspiring screenwriter who is instead working for TMZ. Dexter has agreed to sneak Connor in on some deal he has with TMZ. Connor files some inside, “friends of the family” hatchet pieces from the scene.

Surprise! Tracy figures out Connor is a reporter, but goes along with it after Dexter tells her TMZ has a juicy story on affair Kittredge’s famous father had. They’ll bury it for new scoops on the wedding. Tracy takes a liking to Connor. Dexter sees this and decides he wants Tracy back.

Surprise! Kittredge arranged for Dexter to come to the wedding, for drama (and, more importantly, ratings). Tracy gets some doubt about the wedding and starts liking Connor’s downhomeism.

Surpise! There was no affair, and Dexter knew it. He was trying to sabotage the wedding.

Surpise! Kittredge is fooling everyone: It’s all an act, being perpetuated to keep the family’s celebretainment empire alive.

Surprise! Tracy only agreed to marry Kittredge because there’s an offer of a TV deal in it for her if she’s famous enough.

Surprise! Tracy calls off the wedding at the last moment, unsure of just who/what Kittredge is. Connor says it’d be a shame to waste a good wedding and reception – why don’t they get hitched. Tracy is flattered but turns him down. “There’s only person who’s ever understood me, and I him. And that’s Dex. Whaddya say, Dex – will you marry me again?” Dexter agrees. “But stick around, Mike – this is gonna be one heck of a screenplay,” Tracy says.

The pitch
The Philadelphia Story: The city of smothering love

Next up: My Fair Lady (1964)