THE AFTER-THEATRE DINNER PARTY:
SFX: Renard by Stravinsky
Long shot of the Paris Opera House. The camera moves in to focus on the poster for tonight’s performance:
Then a tight shot of the wording:
Première mondiale! Musique et livret d’Igor Stravinsky Chorégraphie de Bronislava Nijinsky
Interprété par Les Ballets Russes, sous la direction de Serge Diaghilev
Réalisé par Ernest Ansermet Avec des décors conçus par Pablo Picasso
The camera pulls back and takes us through the streets of the Right Bank to the entrance of the Hotel Majestic on Avenue Kleber.
We follow the camera inside and up the stairs to a private room. Stravinsky’s music is drowned out by the sounds of about 35 or 40 partygoers, formally dressed, chatting and laughing. Waiters are getting ready to serve dinner.
Speaking in front of the room is Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, 50.
DIAGHILEV: Thank you to our hosts for the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Schiff, who have brought together tonight the four living artists Mr. Schiff most admires [gesturing to each]: Monsieur Picasso, Monsieur Stravinsky, Monsieur Joyce [looks around the room] Monsieur Joyce? No? And Monsieur Proust [looks around the room again] Monsieur Proust?!
As he is speaking, the camera moves around the table to give close-ups of some of the dinner guests: Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 40, with a Catalan sash tied around his head like a turban; his wife Olga, 30; French director Ernest Ansermet, 38; French composer Erik Satie, just turned 56; Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, 39; English patron Sydney Schiff, 53; his wife Violet, 48; and English art critic Clive Bell, 40.
DIAGHILEV: I hope you all enjoy the dinner.
Waiters begin serving. Outside, bells chime midnight.
Camera moves around the room showing the partygoers enjoying the food and each other’s company.
Fade to the same scene showing most of the food eaten and waiters slowly clearing a few plates and starting to serve coffee.
The camera settles on the door to the room and in staggers Irish author James Joyce, 40, looking confused, poorly dressed and a bit drunk. Sydney Schiff motions for a waiter to put a chair next to him, and Joyce sits in it. He puts his head in his hands, and a waiter sets a glass of champagne in front of him.
Panning back to the door, we see Marcel Proust, 50, enter, dressed in evening clothes and wearing white gloves. A chair is placed between Sydney Schiff and Stravinsky; Proust sits there. A waiter brings him some food and drink.
PROUST, turning to Stravinsky: Monsieur Stravinsky, doubtless you admire Beethoven?
STRAVINSKY, barely looking at him: I detest Beethoven.
PROUST: But, cher maitre, surely those late sonatas and quartets…
STRAVINSKY: Worse than all the others.
Ansermet, sitting nearby, leans over to talk to both of them to avoid having this discussion become a fight.
Snoring is heard, and the camera moves to focus on Joyce, who has nodded off.
Hearing the snoring, a posh woman seated next to Clive Bell tugs on his sleeve and whispers in his ear. The two get up, put on their coats and leave together. Sydney Schiff gets up to see them out.
As soon as they leave, Joyce wakes up and Proust leans over to talk to him:
PROUST: Ah, Monsieur Joyce, you know the Princess…
JOYCE: No, Monsieur.
PROUST: Ah. You know the Countess…
JOYCE: No, Monsieur.
PROUST: Then you know Madame…
JOYCE: No, Monsieur.
The camera moves away but we hear the two men still chatting.
People start pushing back their chairs, gathering their coats, getting ready to leave.
Proust turns to Sydney and Violet Schiff, asking if they would like to come to his apartment.
The three leave together, with Joyce following closely behind.
Outside the hotel, a car is waiting and all four wedge themselves in.
The camera follows the car just a few blocks to 44 rue de l’Amiral-Hamelin.
Joyce starts to get out of the car after the Schiffs and Proust, but Proust gestures for him to stay in and signals to the driver to continue on. Proust heads for his building while Sydney gives the driver specific instructions and then turns with his wife to follow Proust inside.
Inside the apartment we see Proust and the Schiffs happily chatting and drinking champagne as the camera pulls back to reveal the sun coming up outside the window.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next month I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.