The Happy Hollisters on the big screen? We think The Happy Hollisters would make a swell movie, and over the years a number of screenwriters and producers have thought so as well. In the mid-1990s, a full-length screenplay was shopped around Hollywood by an aspiring entertainment writer and film critic. Her vision was for a made-for-television production of The Happy Hollisters and the Mystery in Skyscraper City, probably something like a Hallmark Channel Family Movie.
The screenplay was updated to include references to the later years of the 20th century – VCRs, punk rock, and (gasp!) women running in the New York City marathon. Some of the characters’ names and ages were, quite inexplicably, changed. Mrs. Hollister is now “Nancy,” an athletic widow! Mr. Hollister apparently has died – heroically, of course – in a fire somehow involving Joey Brill. Officer Cal Newberry and Uncle Russ Hollister have morphed into one character, Officer Hal, who is John Hollister’s younger brother. Pete is now Peter, a somewhat surly and pimply teenager. ’Dorable little Sue was written out of the family completely. The contractual option expired in 1996 without further action by The Hollister Family Properties Trust. The first few pages of the screenplay are shown here. What do you think?
“THE HAPPY HOLLISTERS
AND THE MYSTERY IN SKYSCRAPER CITY”
Based on the Book by
September 23, 1995
EXT. – SHOREHAM ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – SUNDAY EVENING
Shoreham Elementary is a classic, well-to-do suburban school on a classic, well-kept, tree-lined street somewhere in the Midwest. Shoreham is a mostly quiet (you can easily hear birds chirping and crickets cricketing), relatively orderly small town, where kids mostly obey their parents, teachers and police are fairly well-respected, and everyone pretty much knows everyone.
INT. – ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LIBRARY – EVENING
Camera focuses on the face of an expensive, glow-in-the-dark watch. It is 9 p.m. In the dark shadows of the library, we see a small but wiry, well-conditioned MAN dressed from head to toe in a black outfit not unlike that of a Ninja warrior. He prowls among the bookshelves, clearly in search of something specific. His flashlight beams on row after row of children’s books. He is thorough – he stealths around the entire room, looking in boxes, drawers, everywhere. When he doesn’t find what he is looking for, he angrily knocks over one of the bookshelves and then quietly, expertly, climbs to a very high window and lowers himself outside the school.
EXT. – HOLLISTER’S BACKYARD – EVENING
RICKY HOLLISTER, a very smart, very impish 10-year-old with red hair and freckles to match, sits inside a dark, shadow-filled tent in the backyard of his family’s home on the same crisp, October evening. He is alone, making shadow puppets with a flashlight against the tent walls and simultaneously fiddling with a tape recorder.
The vampire lady and the tattooed man sing their songs in a darkened sky, seen only by goddesses and devils who applaud the night. And me. My name is Ricky. I carry a flashlight. Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha . . . The flashlight shines on his face as we hear the sinister Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha laugh of Vincent Price, like at the beginning of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, coming from Ricky’s tape recorder in unison with him. When the evil laugh finishes, Ricky switches off the flashlight and blows on the end as though it was a gun.
Cool. That’ll scare them.
INT. – HOLLISTER’S KITCHEN – SAME EVENING
NANCY HOLLISTER, a determined woman in her mid-40s, is dressed in running sweats that have clearly been used for running. She is in terrific shape. She sits at the table of their attractive kitchen with its many appliances and utensils and puts the finishing touches on Halloween costumes for her daughters: PAM, who is tall for a 12-year-old, and HOLLY, a self-aware and often fearful age 7. The girls are doing their homework at the table.
There you go, Holly. One very exceptional Glenda Good Witch.
You should have been a Munchkin instead.
Holly holds the costume against herself and looks at her reflection in the kitchen windows.
Wow! I look beautiful! I sparkle!
It’s Halloween. You’re supposed to look scary.
Holly picks up her magic wand and continues looking at her own reflection.
I can turn you into a frog, you know.
Ooooo, I’m soooo scared.
But I don’t want to scare anybody. I want to look . . . Ahhhhhhhh!
Holly sees a huge, looming shadow of a monster in the window and races into her mother’s arms.
What is it, Holly?
PETER HOLLISTER, age 13 and clearly at a difficult stage of gangly, gawky, acne-ridden puberty, ENTERS. He is eating a candy bar.
What happened, Holly scare herself?
I did not, Peter. I saw something in the window.
Right – your reflection.
Feigning a jump shot, Peter tosses the candy wrapper into the kitchen garbage can.
Peter, be nice. She’s only 7.
I saw an ugly man, OK? A big ugly man with a cauliflower for a face.
Kind of like yours, turtlebrain.
Don’t be mean, honey.
Yeah, right. A vegetable monster out on the driveway. Bet he eats candy and wants you to phone home, huh?
Both of you, cut it out.
Mrs. Hollister opens the door leading to the driveway, yelling as she exits through it.
Richard Henry Hollister! Get in here this minute! Right now, buster! I’m counting. ONE day, no Chinatown, TWO days no Chinatown . . .
Buster?? He’s gonna get it.
Peter rummages through the refrigerator, looking for something, anything, to put into his teenaged mouth.
That’s the third time this week. I love it when he gets creamed.
Are you sure it was Ricky? He looked awfully scary.
We’re sure. You can turn him into the frog when Mom catches him.
What if she can’t catch him?
Our Mom? Nancy “run like the wind” Hollister? What, are you kidding? She’s been logging, like 50-mile weeks.
Mom said once more and she wasn’t taking us to New York with her.
No way. She wouldn’t run the marathon without us. Besides, she “values excellence,” remember? And Ricky did learn his best stuff from the master.
Peter blows on his fingertips and rubs them on his shirt.
INT. – RICKY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
Ricky’s bedroom is a tribute to Hollywood. The walls are covered with movie posters, especially Chinatown and other Jack Nicholson films, vampire and monster movies, and film noir stuff. Ricky is in bed, again making shadow puppets with a flashlight against his bedroom wall.
Lights out, Ricky.
She takes the flashlight from him.
Can we at least talk about this? What exactly do you mean, no Chinatown for a week? You can’t take away Jack Nicholson just for shadow puppets.
I’m your mother, and yes I can. What am I going to do with you? You’ve got to learn to stop scaring everybody, Ricky. So hands off the VCR and the remote control for awhile.
C’mon, Mom. Dad would have said it was one of my best tricks. Heck, Dad would have held the flashlight.
Keep it up, Ricky, and I might have to postpone your birthday.
You can’t take away a birthday. Birthdays happen, no matter what.
Don’t be too sure.
She stands, ready to leave.
Ricky? I miss him too.
She kisses him on the forehead, flips the light switch off and EXITS. Ricky listens for footsteps then pulls another flashlight from under the covers and plays with the shadows in his room, making puppets against the wall.
First no Dad, now no Jack. Some birthday.
EXT. – ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – MONDAY MORNING
Countless children, all ages and all sizes and all outfitted in various goofy/scary Halloween costumes, are heading into the picture-perfect grade school. A police car is parked at the curb. Two officers (one man, about 35, and one woman, mid-20s) are on the steps on their way out of the school as the children approach. Peter is dressed like a Sex Pistols refugee with a ripped T-shirt, scruffy jeans, safety pins attached everywhere, including his eyebrow and lower lip. Pam wears a traditional crisp blue police uniform, and Holly sparkles in her Glenda Goodwitch outfit. Ricky looks like a slick Jack Nicholson in Chinatown. Peter, Pam, Ricky and Holly see the two officers and race up to them.
Hey, Uncle Hal. What’s going on?
From the looks of it, I’d say, Halloween.
Did your mother get a good look at you before you left the house? What exactly are you supposed to be?
Our vision for The Happy Hollisters Movie would likely be more traditional and use a more nostalgic narrative, keeping true to 1950s values and lifestyle (without death and mayhem). Andrew Svenson’s great-granddaughter has started working on an adaptation based on volume 1, The Happy Hollisters; here’s a short preview.
“THE HAPPY HOLLISTERS: THE MOVIE”
Adapted from The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West
A large house sits on a spacious green lawn. The lawn is neatly manicured, but littered with bikes and moving boxes, some of which are half-opened. The house itself is large, three stories, with numerous windows and a wide front porch. It has a general happy, normal, and homey feeling to it. From behind the house, a lake and a thick swath of trees are visible; a few large oak trees sit in the front yard, too.
A moving truck is parked across the street.
HOLLY HOLLISTER, 6, is sitting on the front porch. She is wearing jeans and sneakers, and has some dirt smeared across her cheek. Her dark hair is pulled back into two neat pigtails, and she is twirling one of them intently. She is watching the moving truck.
Suddenly, a hand comes down on Holly’s shoulder, and someone playfully pulls one of her pigtails. Holly whirls about.
Her brother, RICKY HOLLISTER, 7, is standing on the porch behind her. Ricky has red hair and lots of freckles; he has an awkward and impish look to him.
Holly scowls at Ricky for a moment, and then grins.
Race you to the moving truck!
She is hardly finished speaking before Ricky is running toward the truck. Holly scrambles to her feet and follows him, pigtails flopping behind her. Ricky reaches the truck first and Holly skids behind him, panting.
Looks like I’m the winner this time.
But then there is a rustling from the back of the truck. Ricky and Holly peer inside to see their youngest sister, SUE HOLLISTER, pop out an empty moving box. Sue is 4 and has a short haircut and big eyes.
No, I was here first!
Ricky and Holly laugh, and Holly helps Sue out of the truck just as the rest of the family is coming over to see what all the commotion is about.
PAM HOLLISTER, 10, has fluffy golden hair. A dog, ZIP, bounds happily behind her; Zip is a collie, with pointy ears and a peppy bounce to his gait. Pam and Zip are followed by PETE HOLLISTER, 12. His blond hair is cropped close to his head.
Daddy sent us out here to make sure his special briefcase wasn’t left in the moving truck. He can’t seem to find it anywhere.
The one with the new toy he invented?
That’s the one!
The five Hollister children look in the moving van. It is empty except for a few overturned boxes.
Holly, did you carry it inside?
No, I was helping Mother carry the good China.
And I was helping with the piano, remember?
He lifts his knee and points t a fresh bruise; clearly, there was some kind of mishap with the piano.
But if none of us brought it in, and Dad can’t find it, where is it?
What if the briefcase is losted?