In this popular 1980s comedy, "Saturday Night Live" alum Chevy Chase stars as "Fletch," an investigative reporter for a Los Angeles newspaper. The film's primary antagonist ("villain") is a pilot and airline executive named Alan Stanwyk. Stanwyk is a non-churchgoing Latter-day Saint from Provo, Utah. It is eventually revealed that Stanwyk has two wives. The impetus for Stanwyk's plot (which is what Fletch spends the entire film investigating) is Stanwyk's desire to scam $3 million from his wife in Los Angeles so he can take his Utah wife to Brazil with him and start a new life.
"Alan Stanwyk" is played by actor Tim Matheson, who has 6th billing on the movie poster. (Matheson's role was actually much bigger than that played by 5th-billed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had only a cameo appearance. But Abdul-Jabbar was more famous as a basketball player than Matheson was as an actor.)
Although "Fletch" features multiple spoken and visual references to Latter-day Saints (Mormons), it is never explicitly stated in the film that Alan Stanwyk is a Mormon. However, this implication is clear for many reasons, primary among them being the fact that he is from Provo, Utah and the fact that he is a bigamist. Actual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not, of course, practice bigamy or any form of polygamy. To do so would result in automatic excommunication from the Church. But ever since the medium of film was invented, movies have often depicted Latter-day Saints as polygamists or made jokes about Utah and polygamy, even though the practice was abolished by the Church around the turn of the century (at least 80 years before the release of "Fletch.") In the movie, the fact that Stanwyk is married to two women simultaneously is known only to him (until Fletch investigates).
The bigamy aspect of Stanwyk's criminal plot is the film's final big plot revelation, and it is key to the plot of the entire film. The Alan Stanwyk character was conceived as a bigamist before any Utah/Mormon aspects were ever introduced into the story. In fact, in the novel by Massachusetts native Gregory Mcdonald, Alan Stanwyk and his first wife Sally Ann Cavanaugh are from Pennsylvania.
In adapting the novel, screenwriter Andrew Bergman (a New York City native) changed Stanwyk's hometown to Provo, Utah. The choice of a Utah hometown is not a coincidence. Utah was selected specifically because of the former practice of polygamy. Perhaps the screenwriter thought this would be funnier, more cinematic or somehow more appropriate. The screenwriter may have made this change in order to add what he considered texture and rationale to the character. Regardless of the specific reasons for this change, this choice led to there being extensive references to Utah throughout the film, and two trips made by Fletch to Utah.
The movie begins with Fletch in the guise of a aimless druggie, hanging out on the beach. Fletch is working on a story for his newspaper about the illegal drug traffic on the beach. Unexpectedly, Fletch is approached by a well-dressed, clearly wealthy man: airline executive Alan Stanwyk. The man offers Fletch $1,000 just to go to his house and listen to a offer. He assures Fletch that his proposal is not of a sexual nature.
After Fletch and Stanwyk drive to Stanwyk's mansion, they talk in Stanwyk's study. Stanwyk offers Fletch $50,000 in cash: ostensibly to kill him so Stanwyk can avoid a painful cancer death and so Stanwyk's wife Gail can collect insurance. Stanwyk tells Fletch that he will leave a gun in the desk drawer, and the money in the open safe. All Fletch needs to do is come by at the appointed time a few days hence, shoot Stanwyk dead, take the money, and use pre-arranged airline tickets to start a new life abroad. Fletch does not know it at the time, but Stanwyk, the film's primary villain, is actually planning to kill Fletch.
Fletch realizes that he has stumbled upon a potentially great investigative news story. Why would a wealthy man who appears to be in excellent health hire a stranger to kill him? Fletch decides to check into Stanwyk, to find out if the man is telling him the truth. The rest of the film is comprised of Fletch's investigation.
Fletch eventually makes two trips to Provo, Utah, which is where Stanwyk is from, and eventually learns that Stanwyk has a wife in Utah in addition to Gail, his wife in Los Angeles. Stanwyk's plan is to assume Fletch's identity and go to Brazil to start a new life with his Utah wife.
Transcripts of scenes with Utah and/or Latter-day Saint references
13 minutes, 50 seconds after start of film:
[Fletch (Chevy Chase) and "Larry" or "Larr" (Geena Davis) are using a microfilm reader in the offices of the Los Angeles area newspaper where they work. They are looking for articles about Alan Stanwyk.]
Larry (Geena Davis): Everything's recent.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Stop. Let me see that.
[Reading an article from the screen of a microfilm/microfiche reader. The headline reads: "Alan Stanwyk New V/P Boyd Aviation." Above the article is a large photo of Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson), over the caption, "Alan Stanwyk, 32, youngest aviation Senior Executive in the industry."]
Fletch (Chevy Chase): "Alan Stanwyk, commercial airline pilot... from Provo, Utah." Hmn. Formerly a test pilot, member of the Jaycees.
Larry (Geena Davis): Can we move on?
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Yeah.
[Scrolling to a new article on the microfilm reader. The headline reads "Gail Boyd Wed to Alan Stanwyk"]
Larry (Geena Davis): Married Boyd Aviation. He's no dummy. That's big bucks.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Mr. Stanwyk's parents Marvin and Velma, of Provo, "were unable to attend the wedding." [Sarcastically] Those are three names I enjoy: Marvin, Velma and Provo.
[Scrolling to a new article on the microfilm reader. The headline reads "Cancer Society Benefit." Above the article is a photograph over the caption: "Alan Stanwyk, prominent aviation executive shown here with his wife Gail and his internist and wife, Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Dolan: all prominent sponsors of Tuesday's Benefit Ball at the Hilton which raised over $630,000 for the Cancer Society."]
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Hold it there. That's good. Cancer. "Cancer Society Benefit"... "Internist Dr. Joseph Dolan"... "with internist Dr. Joseph Dolan." I wonder if that's his doctor.
Larry (Geena Davis): One way to find out.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Yeah, there is one way to find out.
[End of scene.]
Some of the film's scenes really were filmed in Utah. When the airplane lands, the state Capitol building, the Salt Lake Temple and the Church Office Building (headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) can be seen in the background.
Fletch drives from Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah. He checks into the Mountain View hotel. He calls Swarthout Realty and uses a ruse to find out that the realtor is about ready to leave for the evening and won't be back until morning.
Fletch then drives to the Swarthout Realty office. A fierce guard dog is in the fenced yard outside the real estate office, but Fletch manages to sneak past the loudly barking dog and get into the real estate office. Fletch goes through files, and takes photographs of a file pertaining to the purchase of ranch land in Utah, for which $3,000 was paid. Upon seeing this, Fletch doubtlessly recalls that Alan Stanwyk's father-in-law mentioned that Alan and his wife Gail paid $3 million for ranch land in Utah.
While Fletch was in the real estate office, the guard dog was barking continually at Fletch through the window. The dog rears back, jumps through the glass window, intent on attacking Fletch. The dog chases Fletch through the small office building (really a house converted to a small office). Fletch leaves the building and gets into his car. The dog jumps on top of his car. Fletch tells the dog, "Look! Defenseless babies," pointing behind him. The dog looks away and Fletch drives away. Fletch jokes that the dog fell for the oldest trick in the book.
At 41 minutes, 37 seconds after the start of the film, an airplane is shown taking off from an airport in Utah. This is Fletch's flight home from Utah. This section of scenes in Utah was 5 minutes long.
The combined time for the two sections that place in Provo, Utah is actually only 15 minutes, 30 seconds long. Yet Utah is an overwhelmingly significant presence in the film. The combined length of the scenes in which Utah is mentioned or discussed take up more than half the running time of the film. Plus, the antagonist is from Provo, Utah.
The scenes set in Utah are summarized below. Except for the last scene, these Utah scenes are not transcribed here:
New SCENE: The Provo Airport. Fletch is walking out of the terminal and getting into a rental car. The mountains surrounding Utah County can clearly be seen in the background.
Fletch drives through the streets of Provo, looking for the address of a house he has never been to before. Fletch stops at a medium-sized Provo home with the street address "410." He walks up to the house. He ring the bell and knocks. The name "Cavanaugh" is written above the door bell.
Fletch looks in the mail box next to the door. A few pieces of mail are in the box. He pulls out a Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes envelope which has a drawing of Ed McMahon on it. Printed on the outside of the package are the familiar customized words: "SALLY A. CAVANAUGH: CHOOSE THE TWO MILLION DOLLAR PRICE YOU PREFER -- AT ONCE!" In a smaller typeface are the words: "Furthermore, S. CAVANAUGH, if you return the winning number in time, by July 20, 1984, Grand Prize DOUBLES to TWO MILLION DOLLARS ALL FOR YOU!"
The resident's address can also be seen on the envelope:
410 N. Westview
Provo, Utah 84601
[Trivia fact: This is not a real address. While there really is a "Westview Drive" in Orem -- the city next to Provo in the Provo/Orem metroplex -- there is no "Westview" street of any kind in Provo itself. The zip code is real, however.]
Fletch enters the house through the unlocked front door. He lights a cigarette and closes the door. The house is furnished, but it appears as if somebody left in a hurry, packing a few things.
Fletch opens the refrigerator door. Hardly anything is in the refrigerator. A tipped-over Coors beer can is in the refrigerator, something that would actually never be seen in over 90% of homes in Provo. Whoever is living in the house, or whoever was living in the house, that person is probably not a practicing Latter-day Saint.
A rural man holding a rifle walks sneaks up from behind Fletch while Fletch is looking under the bed in the bedroom. The man with the rifle explains that he works for the landlord.
Fletch uses his usual verbal patter and subterfuge to get some information out of the man with the rifle. Fletch learns that Sally Ann Cavanaugh moved out earlier that morning.
Fletch is unable to talk his way out of this situation. The man with a gun, although a simpleton, refuses to buy Fletch's story about being Sally Ann's cousin. The man tells Fletch that he is going to call the cops. Finally Fletch simply distracts the man and then kicks him as hard as he can in the groin. Fletch runs away, leaves the house, and gets into his car. The man with the rifle manages to shoot out the rear window of Fletch's rental car, but Fletch escapes unharmed.
We next see Fletch at the largely run-down Mountain View Motel, the same place he stayed at during his previous trip to Provo.
Fletch calls "Larry" (Geena Davis), the young morgue (article archive) researcher at the newspaper. Fletch asks her to look up information on Sally Ann Cavanaugh. Fletch asks Larry to "check every hotel in L.A. Start with the ones near the airport. He's supposed to leave the country with her tomorrow night."
The next scene takes place the following morning. Fletch drives up to a large pig farm nestled in the foothills of the Wasatch mountains, apparently still within Provo city boundaries, but away from the city proper.
Fletch here finds the home of Marvin and Velma Stanwyk. Fletch poses as an insurance agent doing some routine information gathering pertaining to Alan Stanwyk's insurance policy. Alan Stanwyk's parents are sipping lemonade on the porch. They are clearly rural, simple people, but they are kind and forthcoming with information about their son.
1 hour, 15 minutes, 8 seconds after start of film:
[Scene: A large pig farm in the foothills on the outskirts of Provo, Utah. The squealing and grunting of pigs can be heard. In his rental car, Fletch drives up to a home at the pig farm. Marvin Stanwyk, an elderly man, perhaps in his 60s, gets out of a large truck and walks to Fletch's car to meet him.]
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Whew! Good afternoon.
Marvin Stanwyk (Robert Sorrells): Howdy.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): [Pointing to his rental car. The rear window is missing and some shattered glass can still be seen around it, from when the window was shot out by the man with a rifle at Sally Ann Cavanaugh's house.] You know, they oughta recall these things. You hit one good bump out here and BOOM! the whole rear window explodes... Are you, uh, Mr. Marvin Stanwyk?
Marvin Stanwyk: Yeah.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Hi there. I'm, uh, Harry S. Truman, from Casewell Insurance Underwriters.
Marvin Stanwyk: Harry S. Truman? [Incredulously.]
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Yeah, well, my parents were were big fans of the, uh, former president.
Marvin Stanwyk: Isn't that nice?
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Yeah...
Marvin Stanwyk: He was a good man.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): He sure was.
Marvin Stanwyk: He showed the Japs a thing or two. [Referring to World War II.]
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Oh, yeah. He dropped the Big One, huh?
Marvin Stanwyk: He dropped two big ones on them.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): [Chuckles in agreement.]
Marvin Stanwyk: He was a real fighter.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Yeah.
Marvin Stanwyk: You, uh... You in the insurance line, Harry?
Fletch (Chevy Chase): That's right.
Marvin Stanwyk: Well, uh, I-- I'm fully covered.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Oh, I don't doubt it, Mr. Stanwyk. Actually, my company is, uh, sub-insurers of a subsidiary carriers of a policy held by Alan Stanwyk, who I believe is your son.
[Fletch and Marvin Stanwyk are walking to the front porch, upon which Marvin's wife, Velma Stanwyk, sits rocking slightly in a porch swing while reading a book. A pitcher of lemonade and a pair of glasses are on a small table next to her.]
Marvin Stanwyk: Yeah, he is... Mr. Truman, I want you to meet my wife, Velma.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Oh... my pleasure. [Fletch shakes Velma's hand.]
Velma Stanwyk: Nice to meet you.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Nice to meet you.
Marvin Stanwyk: Well, come on up here and sit down. Have a glass of lemonade.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Oh, thank you.
Marvin Stanwyk: Velma makes the most unusual lemonade.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Is that right?
Marvin Stanwyk: It's kind of hard to keep it cold on a day like this.
[Fletch picks up a glass of lemonade and drinks some of it.]
Marvin Stanwyk: Where are you from, Harry?
Fletch (Chevy Chase): I'm from California... San Berdoo... Yeah. Utah is part of my route... Say, you folks don't mind if I ask you a couple of questions, do you?
[Marvin looks at his wife. She motions, 'why not?']
Marvin Stanwyk: Shoot.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Thank you very much. [Pulls out a small notepad in which he begins jotting notes while they talk.] We'll start with a couple of the, uh, routine things. Uh... You and your wife are currently alive, I take it?
Marvin Stanwyk: Harry, if there's--
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Ah, it's just regulations... It's nothing... Now, you, Marvin and your wife named Velma...
Marvin Stanwyk: Velma.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): ...are the parents of one Alan Stanwyk of Beverly Hills... Executive Vice President of Boyd Aviation.
Marvin Stanwyk: Check.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Check. And when was the last time you saw Alan?
Marvin Stanwyk: Oh... uh... About 10 days ago.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): 10 days ago? [Fletch is surprised to hear this. Gail Stanwyk, Alan's wife in Los Angeles, had told Fletch that Alan had not seen his parents in years.]
Marvin Stanwyk: Yeah, he comes and visits us about every three weeks.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Isn't that nice. How long has he been doing that?
Marvin Stanwyk: Since he moved to L.A.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Hmm... Now, you'll pardon me if I seem a bit presonal here. But... I don't know how to put it. We understand that... there's a young lady friend here in Provo that Alan's been seeing.
Marvin Stanwyk: [Perturbed.] What's this got to do with insurance?
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Oh, trust me, Marvin, this is a comprehensive policy.
Marvin Stanwyk: But you can forget about that lady friend business. Alan's the most loving husband a girl could have. He dotes on that bride of his.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Who?
Velma Stanwyk: His wife!
Fletch (Chevy Chase): You've met her?
Marvin Stanwyk: Well of course we have. He brings her with him.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): [Still confused. Gail Stanwyk told Fletch that she had never been to Utah, and never met Alan's parents.] Has Alan ever mentioned the name Sally Ann Cavanaugh?
[Marvin and Velma Stanwyk give Fletch a disapproving look.]
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Has he?
Marvin Stanwyk: Boy, what in the hell's the matter with you?
Fletch (Chevy Chase): He has, then?
Marvin Stanwyk: Of course he has. That's his wife.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Of course. [Pieces of this case click into place for him.] His wife's name is Sally Ann Cavanaugh, then.
Velma Stanwyk: Cute as a button
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Ah, you wouldn't happen to have a picture of Alan and his bride, now would you?
Velma Stanwyk: Oh, sure, we've got lots of pictures. Let me go get you some.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Great... Still married, are they? Alan and Sally Ann?
Marvin Stanwyk: Yes, they are.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): How long have they been married, Marvin?
Marvin Stanwyk: It was, uh, before he moved to L.A. Eight years April.
Velma Stanwyk: [Walking back out onto the porch after retrieving a large scrapbook from inside.] This gets heavier each year, I think... There we are... There, here it is. That's the one.
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Oh my goodness. She is a button, isn't she? Isn't she cute?
[Fletch holds up a photograph that had been in the scrapbook. The photo shows Alan Stanwyk wearing a light blue tuxedo, standing next to a young woman holding a bouquet. The woman is wearing a very modest white wedding dress. This could easily be the wedding photo of a young Latter-day Saint couple at a reception on the day they got married in a temple. The young couple is standing in front of a bulletin board inside a building.]
Fletch (Chevy Chase): Say, could I borrow this picture for a while? I promise to send it back. Uh, it's routine. The actuarial people--
Velma Stanwyk: Oh, that's all right. We have lots more. Want to see the reception?
Fletch (Chevy Chase): No. No, thank you. I'm trying to quit.
Velma Stanwyk: Well, how about Marvin's 65th birthday party?
Fletch (Chevy Chase): How about that, Marvin?
Marvin Stanwyk: They got a picture of me in here. But they were taken--
Corrupt police chief Jerry Karlin walks into the room as well, also holding a gun on Fletch and Gail. Alan Stanwyk has been using his private plan to fly to South America to buy illegal narcotics, which the police chief and his cronies on the police force supply to dealers on the beach.
An argument ensues when the police chief realizes that what Stanwyk is doing is going to soon lead to their drug trafficking operation being exposed in the newspaper. The police chief is also irate after realizing that Stanwyk is planning to steal $800,000 that had been fronted for the next drug buy.
The police chief shoots Stanwyk dead.
The police chief plans to shoot Gail and Fletch as well. But Fletch turns on the gas from a fireplace, and then throws his lighter into the fireplace, to create a fireball that momentarily shocks Karlin, allowing Fletch to disarm him. While Fletch and the police chief wrestle on the floor, reaching for the gun, Gail knock the police chief unconscious with a charcoal pan.
The movie's denouement takes place in the newspaper offices. Everybody is celebrating this incredible newspaper story about drug smuggling, a murder plot, and police corruption at the highest levels in the city. Fletch's editor Frank is apologetic about threatening to fire Fletch. Fletch decides not to turn the airplane tickets to Rio over to police as evidence, but intead invites Gail to fly to Rio with him.
In the final scene of the film, Gail and Fletch are walking on a resort beach in Rio de Janeiro, happily chatting while Fletch attempts to explain the rules of basketball to her.
[NOTE: The dialogue above is an exact transcript from the film as it actually was released. Where there are discrepancies between our transcript and the optional English subtitles shown onscreen on the DVD, it is the transcript that is correct. Mistakes in the DVD subtitles are usually a result of presenting subtitles based on the shooting script rather than transcribing the audio track.]
Further observations about Alan Stanwyk's plan
It seems likely that Alan Stanwyk only married Gail Boyd for her money. It is quite possible that Alan Stanwyk was planning since before he married Gail to swindle money from her in order to make himself and his Utah wife wealthy.
The possibility that Stanwyk had been planning this all along is never explicitly stated in the film. In the original screenplay, Fletch more clearly poses this possibility. The screenplay includes a line not in the final film, spoken by Fletch into a tape recorder while flying from Utah to Los Angeles:
Question: Why does a man marry a millionaire's daughter in Beverly Hills if he is already married to a girl who lives in a crappy one bedroom apartment in Utah? Answer: Three million dollars.As nefarious as Stanwyk's plane is, it is interesting to note that had he actually executed his plan in its entirety, his Los Angeles wife Gail would have been in roughly the same position as she was after the plan was foiled by Fletch.
Stanwyk's plan would have left Gail thinking her husband was dead, killed by a burglar. She would have been completely unharmed, still in possession of her mansion, and she would have received a substantial insurance payoff. Given the overall wealth of Gail and her family, Alan Stanwyk's theft of $3 million would have been of little consequence to her. As far as she knew, that money was already gone, having been spent on ranch land in Utah -- land that she had no plans for, and from which she obtained no income. Furthermore, Gail was clearly no longer in love with Alan. Being rid of him through a "burglary" would have freed her to pursue other romantic interests, which is exactly what she did (with Fletch) as soon as she learned of her husband's lies.
Alan Stanwyk seemed to have little reservation about carrying out this plan and leaving Gail. Yet, as odd as it may seem, he must be classified as a true romantic. If Alan Stanwyk really only cared about money and standing, he would have simply abandoned his wife in Utah and thrown himself into his new life in Beverly Hills. He had wealth, a beautiful wife, a high position in a large company, and connections to the political elite of Los Angeles. Yet his plan was to trade all of this for an obscure life hiding in a foreign country. Why? He was doing it all so he could live a life of ease and luxury with Sally Ann Cavanaugh, his high school sweetheart and his first, legal wife. In an odd way, Alan Stanwyk's story has parallels to the story of Jacob in the Old Testament, who married Leah and worked for seven years so he could do what he really wanted to do, which was marry Leah's sister Rachel.
Alan Stanwyk was also a devoted son, who took the time to visit his parents about every three weeks. Marvin and Velma Stanwyk thought highly of their son, and had no clue about his duplicitious nature.
Alan Stanwyk was inarguably a romantic. Hollywood films often portray romance as the highest ideal, an excuse for anything. Fortunately, "Fletch" in no way portrays Alan Stanwyk as admirable, nor does it excuse his murder plot in the name of love. Alan's devotion to his Utah wife Sally Ann Cavanaugh does not excuse the fact that he was deceitful to Gail, he was a drug smuggler who brought large volumes of narcotics to Los Angeles, and he was planning to murder Fletch in order to carry out his plans. When Gail walked into the study where he was planning to shoot Fletch, Alan Stanwyk apparently had no qualms about killing her as well.
Alan Stanwyk was a villain, but not an entirely self-centered one.
Differences between the screenplay and the film
The write-up and the scene transcripts above are based entirely on the finished movie. Although the screenplay is followed fairly closely, there are many changes in dialogue beteen the screenplay and the film. Much of this can probably be attributed to Chevy's Chase's penchant for funny ad libbing. Interestingly enough, the screenplay lacks the overt references to Mormons that are in the actual film. You can read a copy of the screenplay here: 'Fletch' Screenplay.
A funny line about Latter-day Saint entertainment superstars Donny and Marie Osmond is in the screenplay, but has been ommited from the film:
FLETCH I think I gotta go to Utah, Frank. WALKER Utah? FLETCH Yeah. It's wedged in between Wyoming and Nevada. I'm sure you've seen pictures. WALKER What about finding the source? FLETCH I have some ideas. WALKER Who? Donnie and Marie? FLETCH Very possibly. Come on, say yes. I'll buy you a shirt.
This scene appears in the film almost exactly as written, except that Frank's line about Donnie and Marie has been replaced with a simple murmur "Hmm."
Source: Gregory Mcdonald. Fletch. Indianapolis/New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. (1974; first printing).
"The Collins family -- John, his wife and daughter -- continue to own fifty-one per cent of the company."
"They are very rich. Of course, the stock is actually held in foundations and trusts and what-have-you, but it's all John Collins when it comes time to vote. I must add that the Collins family, so you won' think they're complete dopes, have an amount equal to or greater than their investment in Collins Aviation invested through invest ment houses in Boston."
"Phew. Why Boston?"
"You don't know much, do you, Fletcher?"
"Not about money. I've seen so little of it."
"Boston is the Switzerland of this hemisphere. It is chock-a-bloct full of quiet, conservative investment bankers."
"I thought it was full of beans."
"It is. Other people's."
"How do people get as rich as Collins?"
"If I knew, do you think I'd be sitting here? Collins is a Harvarc graduate who started designing and making airplane equipment witi his own hands in a rented garage on Fairbanks Avenue in the early 1950s. Patents led to capital. It's easy. Go do it. Everybody says he's a nice man, quiet, humble. He's good to his friends. Most of the rest of Collins Aviation stock is held by friends of the family. They're all as rich as lords. He's made heavy contributions to Harvard College, the Cancer Fund, muscular dystrophy ..."
"The Cancer Fund?"
"He's given them something like a total of ten million dollars."
"Stanwyk is the perfect man to be Collins's son-in-law, considering Collins doesn't have a son of his own. Stanwyk is from a modest family in Pennsylvania. His father is in the hardware business."
"1 believeso. Why do you ask?"
"His parents didn't come out to his wedding."
"Probably couldn't afford it. That would have been an expensive trip tor them."
"Stanwyk could have paid."
"There could have been lots of reasons why his parents didn't come to his wedding -- ill health, business, cost -- how do I know?"
"A brilliant student all the way through, and apparently a nice kid. True blue. A Boy Scout; a Golden Gloves champion for the state of Pennsylvania who did not go on to the nationals for some reason; summa cum laude at Colgate, where he did not box but began to play racquet sports; an Air Force flier who flew lots of missions, currently a major in the Air Force Reserves; graduated third in his class from Wharton Business School, which, because you probably don't know, is one of the best; came out here; worked in the sales department of Collins Aviation, where sales immediately jumped; became a vice president at twenty-six or twenty-seven; and married the boss's daughter. Apparently just a magnificent young man in all ways."
"He sounds machine-made."
"Too good to be true, huh? There are people like that. Unquestionably the guy is ambitious, but there is nothing immoral in that. He's done well and he's well liked."
"By the way. Jack, who is youi ource for all this?"
"I thought you'd never ask. The Collins family has a local stockbroker, an investment man out here who does just little things for them, you know, regarding Collins Aviation stock -- little things that run into the millions -- name of Bill Carmichael. We play golf together. Needless to say, Carmichael is the son of an old buddy of John Collins. His father died, and Carmichael fell heir to the account. He and Stanwyk have become close friends. Stanwyk has taken him flying. They play squash and tennis together. He genuinely likes Stanwyk. And, incidentally, he says Stanwyk genuinely likes his wife, Joan Collins, which ain't always the case."
"There is no hanky-panky going on?"
"Not as far as Carmichael knows. Between you and me, Stanwyk would have to be out of his mind to be playing around on the side under these circumstances. God knows what Papa would say if Stanwyk got thrown out of bed."
"Does Stanwyk have any money of his own?"
"No, not to speak of. He has savings from his salary invested with
Carmichael, but it doesn't amount to much over a hundred thousand dollars."
"He did not buy the house on Berman Street. She did, but it's in both their names. Carmichael says it's worth maybe a million dollars. However, Stanwyk maintains the house and staff, and supposedly all other family expenses, out of salary. Male chauvinist pride, I guess. Which is why he probably doesn't have more savings out of salary. That's an expensive family to keep up with. Incidentally, the house on Berman Street backs onto the Collins estate on, would you believe it, Collins Avenue?"
"Old John Collins has spyglasses."
"I gather there is a lot of back and forth."
"Doesn't he own a second house anywhere?"
"No. His father-in-law has a house in Palm Springs, one in Aspen, and one in Antibes. The kids use these houses whenever they like." "Does he own his own airplane?"
"No. Collins Aviation has three Lear jets, with pilots, but Stanwyk flies them when he likes. He also has to do some flying to keep up his Air Force Reserve rank. And he flies experimental planes all over the country, supposedly to test Collins equipment. Carmichael suspects he just gets a kick out of it.
"Stanwyk is also the holder of some stock options in Collins Aviation. So I guess if you put everything together, he is probably a millionaire in his own right at this point, but it's on paper. He couldn't raise a million in cash without upsetting an awful lot of people.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you, Fletcher. Stanwyk and his wife have just converted about three million dollars of her personal stock."
"into cash. Carmichael says they intend to buy a cattle ranch in Nevada. He thinks it's an effort to get out from under the heel of Daddy Collins -- go do their own thing."
"Is this Stanwyk's idea?"
"Carmichael has the impression it's her idea. At least, she's the one who likes horses. One can have enough of tennis and yachting, you know."
"I didn't know. Why cash?"
"The ranch costs something like fifteen million dollars."
"I can't get used to these figures."
"Inflation, my boy."
"How can a farm be worth fifteen million dollars?"
"Farms can be worth a lot more than that."
"Has Carmichael said anything to you about Stanwyk's health?"
"No. Except that he's a hell of a squash player. You have to be in pretty good shape to play that game. I tried it once. Twelve minutes and I was wiped out. Golf for me. Is there anything wrong with Stanwyk's health?"
"Would it matter if there were?"
"It would matter a lot. I have already mentioned to you that there is a kind of middle-management crisis at Collins Aviation. The whole thing now rests on the shoulders of one Alan Stanwyk. Old John Collins could go back to work, I suppose, but he never was as good a businessman as Stanwyk. He was an inventor who had some luck. Collins now has to be run by a real pro -- which Daddy John ain't." "Would the stock market fall if word got around that Stanwyk was terminally ill?
"Collins stock sure would. That sort of thing would be very upsetting to that company. Executive personnel would start jockeying for position. Some would leave outright. Things would have to be in a state of confusion for about as long as Stanwyk has been running the place."
"I see. So if he were ill, I mean terminally ill, it would have to be kept a deep, dark secret."
"Absolutely. Is he ill?"
How would I, know?
"Oh, I forgot. You're working on the insurance angle. Well, young Fletcher, I've told you everything I know about Alan Stanwyk. You see, we are not very close yet to the moneyless state you write about.
There is still plenty of it around."
"Stanwyk seems to be a competent, decent man who happened to marry the boss's daughter. Okay? Mind if I go back and do my own work now?"
"I appreciate your help very much."
"I'm just trying to prevent your writing one of your usual sh--ty pieces. Anything I could do would be worth that."