Chapter Two book:
"Chapter Two" video:
Neil Simon wrote this big screen adaptation of his own popular play. A New York City writer named George Schneider (played by Academy Award nominee James Caan) tells his brother Leo that he has met a great girl and he now plans to marry her. George his a widower whose wife Barbara recently passed away.
Leo urges his brother not to rush so quickly into a new marriage. While attempting to urge his brother to postpone marriage, Leo asks George, "Why can't she move in with you? Is she against that? She's not a Mormon or anything, is she?"
By coincidence (unrelated to the fact that this movie and play have a reference to Latter-day Saints), Neil Simon's Chapter Two is the play that directly inspired Latter-day Saint author Jack Weyland to write his best-selling novel Charly. This book revolutionized Latter-day Saint literature specifically, and had an immense impact on Mormon arts and letters generally. Charly was the first successful example of popular LDS fiction written for the LDS mass market.
Weyland's novel paved the way for a new generation of books written by and for Latter-day Saints. Charly was an indirect predecessor of the same phenomenon in feature films, a movement known as "LDS Cinema" which began with the release Richard Dutcher's God's Army in 2000. In fact, one of the first fruits of the LDS Cinema movement was a feature film adaptation of Charly, which was released in 2000.
Jack Weyland explained how Neil Simon's Chapter Two led to the writing of Charly in an interview with KSL Radio host Greg Wright, which aired 22 September 2002:
I was in New York in 1979 for a physics conference, and I got bored. And I went to a Broadway play -- it was Neil Simon's Chapter Two--and I thought, "This is great. I think I should write a Broadway play." And so, I went home and decided to get up early and write a Broadway play because I thought, "Okay, I've seen a Broadway play, that's certainly enough qualification to write one." So, I wrote it [ Charly ] as a play and nobody wanted it. I wrote it as a screenplay and nobody wanted it. I wrote it as a novel and sent it to Deseret Book, and they didn't like it either. But, I'm so grateful they were willing to work with me, and so we did several versions, and finally they said, "I guess it's okay."
The fact that Neil Simon's Chapter Two inspired Jack Weyland to write Charly is readily apparent when one reads both Simon's play and Weyland's novel (or by watching both movies). Chapter Two and Charly share many common themes, plot elements and character types. Weyland's humorous dialogue in Charly was also an attempt on his part to emulate the witty repartee found in Simon's Chapter Two.
Both Chapter Two and Charly portray a man smitten by a new love and also tormented by the death of his wife. Weyland inverts the order of these two events from the order they appear in Simon's play. In Chapter Two, New York City writer George Schneider is still mourning the loss of his first wife Barbara when he meets Jennie, a bubbly but intelligent New York City actress. The bulk of the play depicts their courtship, an extremely brief engagement, followed by overcoming some difficulties in their relationship. In Charly, Sam is a Latter-day Saint in Utah who meets Charlene ("Charly"), a bubbly but intelligent young woman from New York City. The bulk of the play depicts the courtship of Sam and Charly, an extremely brief engagement, followed by the unexpected death of Charly. Both stories portray many of the same emotions and themes. The mourning of the male protagonist's first wife is a major aspect of both stories.
Interestingly enough, Weyland wrote a sequel to Charly, titled Sam, which portray's Sam's struggle to cope after the death of his beloved first wife while meeting and eventually marrying a new love-of-his-life. The plot of Sam thus traces the same key plot points of Chapter Two even more closely than Charly. Another way in which Sam more closely resembles Chapter Two is the fact that the romance central to plot is between two people who share the same cultural background: Sam and his second wife are both Latter-day Saints from Utah. A key major plot point in Charly that has no analogue in Chapter Two is Charly's conversion from being a non-religious New Yorker to becoming a devout adherent of Sam's faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Although Neil Simon is widely regarded as one of America's greatest and most important playwrights, Chapter Two is actually the only Neil Simon movie known to feature any overt references to the denomination that leading literary critic Harold Bloom called "the most American of religions": the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The fact that Chapter Two (in both play and movie form) contains such a reference is worth noting. But this reference is trivial in comparison to the immeasurable impact the play had on Mormon culture by inspiring Weyland's pivotal book and subsequent influential career as one of Mormondom's best-selling novelists.
Below is all the dialogue from this entire scene, as it can be heard in the movie:
[George (James Caan) and Leo (Joseph Bologna) enter George's New York City apartment after going jogging. George is still wearing the T-shits and sweat pants he wore while running. He are carrying their running shoes. This scene continues after a scene outside their apartment on a busy New York City sidewalk. George has just informed his brother that he intends to marry Jennie (played in the movie by actress Marsha Mason). George told Leo the time (next Monday) and place, and said that he would like Leo and Leo's wife Marilyn to be there.]
Leo Schneider (Joseph Bologna): Twelve seconds. How could you marry a girl I spoke to in a theatre lobby for twelve seconds?
George Schneider (James Caan): I am not marrying a girl. I am marrying Jennie. Jennie MacLaine.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Oh good. You know both names! [sarcastically] Then you must have had a chance to talk to her?
George (James Caan): I lived with her twenty hours a day for the last two weeks. I know everything I want to know about her, alright?
[George closes the front door and heads up stairs.]
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Two weeks? You know her for two weeks? I eat eggs that are boiled for two weeks! What the hell is two weeks?
[Leo follows up the stairs. The next shot shows the upstairs bathroom. George and Leo arrive at the top of the stairs and enter the bathroom.]
George (James Caan): What happened to how interesting she was? What happened to her vitality? Her sparkle?
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Hey! Can't you wait to see if she still sparkles in six months?
George (James Caan): Six days? Six months? What the hell difference does it make? I only knew Barbara for, what? Eight weeks? The marriage lasted twelve years.
[George takes off the T-shirt he wore while running. He changes into his regular work clothes. The scene is framed discreetly so that is seen only from the waist up.]
Leo (Joseph Bologna): George... George... You're vulnerable, now. You understand? You're in no shape to make a decision like this.
George (James Caan): I am not self-destructive. I'm not going to do anything to hurt Jennie and me. I love her. I want to be with her. And I want to make this commitment.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): It's my fault, George. I never should have introduced you to Bambi. After Bambi you're ready for anything.
George (James Caan): I think marrying her is a Class-A idea, Leo.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): All right. But what is she, Cinderella? She's leaving at twelve o'clock? Wait! You'd wait six weeks for a dentist appointment, and that's with pain in your mouth.
George (James Caan): Have dinner with us. Check her out. Bring Marilyn along.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): I don't think a couple breaking up is the best company for a couple starting out... Look, George... Wait a month. Wait a month for me.
George (James Caan): I am not marrying you.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Look, I tell you what. You wait a month for me and I'll wait a month for you. I'll try to work things out with Marilyn. Somehow, for a month, I'll keep us together if you and Jennie will do the same.
George (James Caan): We're not trading baseball cards here. I mean, this is my life, and that's your marriage. Save it for you and Marilyn and not for me.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Hey, look, why can't she move in with you? Is she against that? She's not a Mormon or anything, is she?
[The word "Mormon" is italicized in the transcript above because the actor delivers the line with such strong emphasis on that word.]
George (James Caan): Leo, we're wasting a lot of time. This conversation's just used up our entire engagement period.
[George leaves the bathroom and heads downstairs, followed by Leo.]
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Look, George... George, what I'm trying to say is deal with the past before you start something new! Make sure that Barbara doesn't get in between you and Jennie! Sleep on it. Take twelve Valium. Wake up in a month.
George (James Caan): She'll, uh... She'll wait if I ask her.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Ask her.
George (James Caan): She'll move in if I ask her.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Ask her. Please, George, ask her.
George (James Caan): [Opens the front door so that Leo can leave.] Monday morning at the Criminal Courts building. I'm wearing a blue suit.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): Do you mind if I talk with her? Tell her how I felt about this?
George (James Caan): You damn right I do. She doesn't need an interview to get into this family.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): You're absolutely sure about this?
George (James Caan): I am sure.
Leo (Joseph Bologna): I hope so. [Picks up his back and walks out the front door. Mutters the next line under his breath.] I don't know what the hell I'm doing in publicity. I was born to be a Jewish mother.
[Leo's line about a "Jewish mother" is a reference to the way he sees himself needing to interfere or offer strong advice about his brother's marriage plans, a role normally associated with the mothers (and not brothers) in Jewish families.]
Source: Neil Simon. Chapter Two. Random House: New York (1978). Pages 64-68.
The following is an excerpt from Neil Simon's play Chapter Two. These lines are from the last half of Act One, Scene 9.
LEO Wait a minute, wait a minute, back up! Play that again. What are you telling me? You mean on Monday morning you're marrying a girl I met for twelve seconds in a restaurant?
GEORGE I'm marrying Jennie! Jennie Malone!
LEO Oh, good. You know both names. So you must have had a chance to talk to her.
GEORGE I've lived with her twenty hours a day for the last two weeks, and I know everything I want to know about her.
LEO Two weeks? You've known her for two weeks? I eat eggs that are boiled for two weeks--what the hell is two weeks?
GEORGE Wait a minute. What happened to "how interesting she is"? What happened to her vitality, her sparkle?
LEO Can't you wait to see if she's still sparkling in six months?
GEORGE Six days, six months--what the hell difference does it make? I only knew Barbara eight weeks, and the marriage lasted twelve years.
LEO George, you're vulnerable now. You're in no shape to make a decision like this.
GEORGE Wait a minute. You know me, Leo. I'm not self-destructive. I wouldn't do something to hurt me and Jennie just to satisfy a whim. I love her. I want to be with her. I want to make this commitment.
LEO It's my fault, George. I never should have introduced you to Bambi. After Bambi you were ready for anything.
GEORGE Leo, it was the same thing when I met Barbara. I could have married her after the third date. I knew then she was the most special girl in the world. Well, its twelve years later and Barbara is gone. And suddenly, miraculously, this incredible person comes into my life--a sensitive, intelligent, warm, absolutely terrific human being. I don't know. Maybe it is crazy. You always said I was. But I'm miserable every minute I'm away from her, and she feels the same way. I think marrying her is a Class-A idea, Leo.
LEO Okay, okay. But what is she--Cinderella? She's leaving at twelve o'clock? Wait! You'd wait six weeks for a dentist appointment, and that's with pain in your mouth.
GEORGE Have dinner with us tonight. You and Marilyn.
LEO I really don't think a couple breaking up is the best company for a couple starting out.
GEORGE Call Marilyn. Tell her. Maybe being around us will give you both a chance to work things out.
LEO (Annoyed) Why can't you accept the fact that Marilyn and I are separating?
GEORGE Why can't you accept the fact that Jennie and I are getting married?
LEO Because my separation makes sense. Your getting married is crazy!
GEORGE Have it your way. But I would still like you both to be there on Monday.
LEO George, you've always been a lot smarter than me in a lot of ways. You have the talent and the discipline I've always admired. I'm very proud of you. But once in a while I've steered you straight, and I don't think you've ever regretted it . . . Wait a couple of months. Let her move in with you. Is she against that? She's not a Mormon or anything, is she?
GEORGE What's the point of delaying what's inevitable? She'll wait if I ask her.
LEO Ask her.
GEORGE She'll move in if I ask her.
LEO Ask her. Please, George, ask her.
GEORGE Monday morning. Criminal Courts building. I"m wearing a blue suit.
LEO Wait a month. Wait a month for me.
GEORGE I'm not marrying you!
LEO Wait a month for me, and I'll wait a month for you. I'll try to work things out with Marilyn. I'll keep us together somehow, for a month, if you and Jennie will do the same for me.
GEORGE Leo, we're not trading baseball cards now. This is my life, that's your marriage. Save it for you and Marilyn, not for me.
LEO George, I realize I'm not the best marriage counselor you could go to--the toll-taker in the Lincoln Tunnel is more qualified than me--all I'm saying is take the time to catch your breath. Sleep on it. Take twelve Valiums and wake up in a month.
GEORGE We're wasting a lot of time, you know that, Leo? This conversation used up my entire engagement period.
LEO Would you mind if I talked to her?
LEO Yes. Would you mind if I met with her, alone, and told her how I feel about all this?
GEORGE Yes, I certainly would. She doesn't need an interview to get into this family.
LEO Are you afraid she might agree with me?
GEORGE Leo, I was always bigger than you . . . and you always beat up the kids who picked on me. What Pop didn't do for me, you did. I was the only kid on the block who had to buy two Father's Day presents . . . All right. Look, you want to protect me? Go ahead. You want to talk to Jennie, talk to her. But I promise you--a half-hour with her and you'll come back wondering why I'm waiting so long.
LEO Thank you. I'll call Jennie tonight.
GEORGE Would you like me to talk with Marilyn? I could wrap up the four of us in one night.
LEO Listen, I could be wrong. I've been wrong before?
LEO I can't remember when, but I must have been . . . (Goes to the door) I don't know what the hell I'm doing in publicity. I was born to be a Jewish mother.
|George, you've always been a lot smarter than me in a lot of ways. You have the talent and the discipline I've always admired. I'm very proud of you. But once in a while I've steered you straight, and I don't think you've ever regretted it . . . Wait a couple of months. Let her move in with you. Is she against that? She's not a Mormon or anything, is she?||
Hey, look, why can't she move in with you? Is she against that? She's not a Mormon or anything, is she?