DARLING HEART: Capturing Memory
An elderly man in a London care home, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, relates his memories of his sister, once a silent movie child star in early Hollywood and long since presumed dead, before all recollection of her and their time together has gone forever. But life still has an extraordinary surprise in store for him.
It’s 2003. Peregrine (Perry) Browne, aged 93, living in a downmarket London care home, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and wants to tell his story before his memory goes forever.
Journalist Meghan Wilkes from the local newspaper is sent to take notes. The young reporter becomes hooked on what the old man has to tell about his sister, Mereille (Merry), a year older than himself, with whom he had the usual childhood sibling fun, laughs, tears and adventures at and around their home in England.
Till in 1918, at the age of 9, Mereille was taken by their ambitious mother across the Atlantic to Hollywood in the hope of breaking into films, while Perry, aged 8, and their father stayed in England, completely severing both sides of the family.
Darling Heart and Fame
Mereille subsequently became famous as a child star of the silent screen, in the character of the cutesy-poppet ‘Darling Heart’, in the cinematic world of Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. She appeared in dozens of 2-reelers with a ‘moral’ or life-message and, as such, was known affectionately throughout the world before the advent of sound.
The elderly Peregrine tells the journalist of how, not having seen her since they were children, Mereille reappeared in his life in 1933 at the age of 24, dazzlingly beautiful and incongruous in her Hollywood finery, in his ramshackle bungalow at the sugar plantation he was running in Zululand following the death of their father.
At that time, having failed to make a transition to adult actress, Mereille had decided to seek out her ‘little’ brother again and use some of her Darling Heart fortune to rescue him from the destructive effects of the Great Depression.
But there’s an ongoing mystery from those far-off times, for Mereille vanished in the African jungle in 1935, having been connected with the death of the District Officer Denzil Grantley-Adams, whom she’d recently married, who was found shot in a jungle pool.
The elderly Peregrine tells the journalist he now knows the answer because his sister visits him in dreams. But are these the ramblings of a dementia sufferer? Or can there be any truth in what he’s saying when he recollects the re-evocation of their lost childhood, and the horrific mistake he made with her that drove them apart again, this time forever, and seemingly wrecked not only his life, but hers too.
Perhaps even for Peregrine, before his memories finally vanish, magical things may still be about to happen…
Requirements for Darling Heart
Locations: Los Angeles, Africa, UK (early-mid 1930s/2003)
Main characters: 3 female (24, 47, 94); 3 male (23, 35, 93)
The complete, WGA-registered screenplay of Darling Heart is available.
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