Pinto
(An excerpt from the DeWitt Sage’s original screenplay based on
the State of Indiana’s 1978 criminal indictment of the Ford Motor
Company for reckless homicide. Written for Warner Brothers.)

1. EXT. DOCKS. DAY
A shot line is fired from the high bow of a German freighter as it approaches a Hoboken city pier. Tugs flanking the freighter’s stern strain to hold her off as heavy docking lines extend and cross , following German commands on the freighter and American orders on the piers.

2. EXT. DOCKS. DAY
An immense wooden pallet holding six VW beetles swings high off the freighter, toward camera, toward the dock. We hear the high wine of winches and a second crop of Beetles rises from the hold.

3. EXT. DOCKS. DAY
The disgorging process is continued in a seamless flow, but now it is a different ship, and different cars: multi-hued Toyotas land gently on American soil.

4. EXT. WHITE HOUSE. DAY
A gleaming Lincoln limousine sweeps up an arched drive and stops short under the east wing portico of the White House.

(
SUPERIMPOSE: April 27, 1971)

5. Seen from the passenger’s perspective, a marine corporal bends down, opens the limousine door, and two smiling civilian aids, nod greetings and prepare the way.

AIDE
Welcome to the White House, Mr. Ford.

6. INT. WHITE HOUSE. DAY

(MUSIC and MAIN TITLES begin)
The East Wing doors swing open. From the guests POV, sentries come to attention, crystal chandeliers and polished mahogany tables slide by, and in the distance a clutch of tourists strains for a better view.

7. INT. OVAL OFFICE. DAY
(Music ends)

A secretary rises, the oval office doors open and in the distance, President Nixon rises and steps forward.

VERBATIM FROM THE NIXON TAPES

PRESIDENT
Henry! Good to see you again.

FORD
Mr. President.
We appreciate your taking the time to see us.
You’ve met Lee Iacocca

8. INT. OVAL OFFICE DAY.
In a wide, overhead master, the four men present settle in.

PRESIDENT
I want to say first on this subject
that I’m glad you have come in and you
can talk to me in complete confidence,
I can assure you.

He gestures to his right.

PRESIDENT
(continuing)
And John here is a lawyer who says nothing!

9. EXT. INTERSTATE 80. DAY
An eighteen wheel car-hauler with an arched cargo of brightly colored Ford Pintos moves through open swaths of farmland, past silos, classic barns and farmsteads. We move
right to left, tracking its progress, occasional stands of trees and farm structures blurring
our view. In voice-over this:


PRESIDENT
(voice-over)
My personal views are, are frankly, uh,
Whether it’s the environment or pollution
or Naderism or consumerism, are
extremely pro-business.
Uh, we are fighting, frankly, a delaying action
in many instances.
Maybe there are safety problems, I assume...
Greatly exaggerated
but there are some. But we can’t have a completely
safe society or safe highways or safe cars...

The car hauler sounds its air horn and abruptly changes lanes.

PRESIDENT
(voice-over, continued)
But it’s true in the environmentalists
and it’s true in the consumerism people. What they’re
interested in is destroying the system!
They’re enemies of the system!

As the car hauler slows and moves right to exit.

FORD
(voice-over)
We see the price of a Pinto. . .going (up)something
like fifty percent in the next three years with inflation
part of it, but that’s not the big part of it. It’s the
safety requirements, The emission requirements,
the bumper requirements!

The car-hauler now moves slowly through a neat subdivision of small suburban houses

IACOCCA
(voice-over)
In effect, they’re telling us to package the customer,
the citizen, and make sure he isn’t injured!
The citizens of the U.S. must be protected from their own idiocy!

10. INT. ULRICH HOUSE. DAY
Early morning. JUDY ULRICH, 19 is in bed. A shaft of sunlight finds her, full face, and, she rolls over. A radio switches itself on, country music not too loud. Judy’s eyes open. Her cousin, DONNA ULRICH, 18, is across from her, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Judy props herself up, awake and remembering. The room is a shambles, bags open, clothes spilling out everywhere.

Judy gets out of bed and starts digging through a pink duffel. She tiptoes out into the hall and into her sister’s room LYNN ULRICH, 15, is still in bed, her back to the door. It’s her radio playing.

JUDY
(softly)
Lynn. . .?

Lynn rolls over, fully awake, smiling.

LYNN
Last day! Can you believe it?
Tomorrow-we-are-out-of-here!

JUDY
Have you got my green pullover, with
the zipper pocket?

Lynn gets out of bed, goes over to the dresser.
She looks, then shakes her head.

JUDY
Maybe Debbie. . .

Judy heads back to her room.

LYNN
(calling after)
Is it cold nights in South Dakota?

No answer. Lynn pulls open the bottom drawer and stares down at a pile of sweaters.

LYNN
Judy?

11. EXT. FARM ROAD. DAY
High noon. State Trooper NEIL GRAVES’, 28, police car is on a speed trap, parked just off Farm Road 15, partially obscured by a thin strand of trees.

12. INT. GRAVES CAR. DAY
It is unbearably hot inside the car. Graves and the inspection uniform are wilted. When we first see him, Graves is using his broad brimmed troopers’ hat to subdue an enormous horse fly.

13. EXT. CAR. DAY
As a tractor and hay wagon lumber by, Graves is driven from his car. He swats at the horsefly, pivots and slips back inside. The farmer on the tractor sees him and tips his hat.

14. INT. CAR. DAY
Graves starts the engine, turns on the air conditioning and sticks his face into the cold air stream. Without opening his eyes, he reaches for the radio mike.

GRAVES
Ligonier – 05

RADIO
(a woman's voice)
Go ahead 05

GRAVES
(kindly)
My relief in yet?

RADIO
That’s negative, 05

GRAVES
Sally?

RADIO
Yes, Neil

GRAVES
Find his sorry ass, would you please?

There are two clicks of acknowledgment. Graves puts down the mike, stretches and yawns.

15. EXT. GRAVES CAR. DAY
In a wide shot, Graves car sits on the dirt access road, shimmering in the heat. We hear only crickets and the buzzing of flies.

16. EXT. ELHART RIVER. DAY
Judy, Lynn and Donna Ulrich, striking in a green bikini, are rafting down the Elkhart River, lying back, taking the sun. The is a stretch of town park on one side and neat suburban houses on the other. Lynn’s radio is on, low, music from the movie “Grease”. An eddy turns the raft though a slow 360.

DONNA
(looking up)
Want to stop?

Judy opens her eyes, sees they are passing a particular white clapboard house with a
make-shift dock.

JUDY
(slowly)
I don’t think so
Pete, 17, sees them and runs down to the dock, waving.

DONNA
He could take us water skiing

Judy closes her eyes and shakes he head “no”.

LYNN
Last chance. . .

The raft drifts downstream. Donna doesn’t understand.

LYNN
They’re cooling it.

DONNA
Pete and Judy? (She looks back at the dock.)
He doesn’t look any too cool to me.

Judy paddles a few strokes with one arm.

JUDY
(singing, eyes closed)
“When trouble is on my way
I can’t tell my night from day,
When I’m tossing side to side
Like a ship on the raging tide,
I don’t worry, I don’t fret. . .

She’s off key. Lynn laughs.

DONNA
(sitting up)
Now wait a minute. I mean we really
could win the sing-in if you guys would practice...
Really we could.

Judy and Lynn resume, in slight harmony.

DONNA
I just cannot believe it. That Pete is a doll!

17. EXT. COUNTRY ROAD 331. DAY
The girls acappella singing continues...

Judy Ulrich’s yellow Pinto carefully passes one of the black Amish carriages that frequent these parts. We hear, in voice-over, two soprano voices and then, after a false start, a third.

18. INT. PINTO. DAY
Judy Ulrich, driving, gives a downbeat...

JUDY/DONNA/LYNN
. . .I’ve got confidence is going to see me through
. . .No matter what the case may be,I know he’s going to. . .

They are performing for each other, overreaching and having fun. Lynn sees something and stops singing.

LYNN
Mom says the Checker station’s got the cheapest,
up farther on the left. . .

JUDY
You know something? I think we might actually
stand a chance.

DONNA
In South Dakota? Judy, they’re going to be fifteen
hundred singers out there!

LYNN
Judy, right in here. . .

The Pinto’s direction signal ticks right.

* * *