By Ken Trainor
With Oscars imminent, I've been thinking about sequels, Hollywood's favorite genre. Not the sequels already made. The ones that haven't been made and that I would like to see.
What happens, for instance, to Maria in West Side Story? As the film ends, the love of her life has been murdered and the Sharks and Jets put aside their differences to carry the body in a solemn funeral procession, followed by this newly widowed young girl. The New York version of Romeo and Juliet leaves Juliet alive. She's all of 16. The film came out in 1961, so she would be 75 today. What has the rest of her fictional life been like?
Did she marry a Shark? Or another Jet and start the whole feud over again? Maybe she never married. Traumatized, does she withdraw and become a bitter recluse? Or did she move back to Puerto Rico and eventually become the island's first female governor? I like to think she completed a master's degree in social work and a PhD in sociology and studied gangs in New York City, looking for solutions. She might have become a "violence interrupter," roaming the streets to quell tensions, or established a community center named for Tony and Bernardo attempting to bring warring gangs together. And over many decades, she becomes a legendary neighborhood elder who writes a book full of wisdom and compassion titled, West Side Stories.
What happens to George Bailey in It's Still a Wonderful Life (working title)? Does he ever leave Bedford Falls? Does he file charges against Mr. Potter for absconding with the Building & Loan's $7,000 after Potter's long-suffering wheelchair-pusher gets fed up with the old skinflint's shenanigans (and being underpaid) and squeals to the police (and to George)? Does Mr. Potter spend a Happy New Year … in jail!? I like to think George takes the $25,000 offered by Sam Wainwright in the euphoric final scene of the original film then sues Mr. Potter for defamation and puts him out of business, thereby becoming the richest man in town, financially and figuratively. George might use the settlement from Potter's plea deal to start an affordable housing nonprofit that builds more homes so Mr. Potter's "rabble" can have two rooms and a bath to raise their families in. I hope George goes to college at last and earns his degree in architecture so he can oversee and fund the design of creative buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and other prominent architects, making Bedford Falls known as the "Columbus, Indiana of New England"? Eventually, he serves three terms as mayor and writes a play titled, Bedford Falls … or Potterville? featuring re-enactments inspired by the original film's nightmare scenario, a cautionary tale of what might have been if Mr. Potter's dystopia of economic inequality had prevailed. And in the final scene, George and Mary go off into the sunset — on their long-delayed honeymoon.
What happens to Rick and Ilsa after Casablanca ends? Does she get fed up with Victor Laszlo, her heroic husband, whose passion is focused on grand causes but not really on her? After the war, I bet she leaves him and becomes a cabaret singer in Paris, thrilling 1950s audiences with her sultry hats and Swedish accent. But it's small consolation. It looks like she will regret getting on that plane every day for the rest of her life. So she boards another plane — back to Morocco, hoping against hope, and discovers to her delight that Rick's Café Americain is still in business. She sees a notice about a blind audition for a new singer. After her rendition of "As Time Goes By," the curtains part, and she sees Rick with his face in his hands, leaving her to wonder, "Is he happy to see me or was I really off-key?"
What happens to Tiffany and Pat from Silver Linings Playbook? Do they continue their choreographed love affair and end up on Dancing With The Stars? Do the Philadelphia Eagles eventually defeat the hated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl? Yes! But few realize this was entirely due to Tiffany and Pat and his family and sundry oddball friends watching the game, aligning the stars (and his father's remote controls) for the ultimate Excelsior.
After Christmas Story ends and Ralphie grows up, he gets drafted and goes to Vietnam as a second lieutenant, then discovers his former tormentor, Scut Farkus, has been assigned to his platoon. Awkward. But Scut has reformed and still respects Ralphie's fists of fury. He also no longer calls him Ralphie. No one does. Ralph survives the war but comes home traumatized and disillusioned. He lands a job in advertising with the toy manufacturer that still produces the Red Ryder BB gun. This causes considerable internal conflict, but he resolves it by putting a warning on all the magazine ads: "With gun rights come responsibilities! Watch out for icicles! And don't shoot your eye out!" Eventually, Ralph writes his memoir, which becomes a bestseller titled, The Life and Times of a Lifebuoy Boy. The book is credited with ending the abusive practice of washing kids' mouths out with soap. But it's too late for him. He goes blind from soap poisoning.
As Roman Holiday ends, we see reporter Joe Bradley walking down a long palace hall accompanied only by his integrity. Despite all his bellyaching about going back to New York, however, he can't tear himself away from Rome because he knows, sooner or later, Princess Ann will make another state visit. While he waits, he writes a book about their magical few days together — changing names to protect the innocent. She reads and treasures it, and finally after many years returns to the Eternal City, this time as queen, and Joe is assigned to cover the story (to be continued).
But Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn are no longer around. The better the film, the more I wonder, but any Hollywood attempt at a sequel (with new actors) would likely come up disappointingly short.
Probably best to leave the endings in our minds and hearts.
Where they can live happily ever after.
Answer Book 2019
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