Geraldine Page in The Pope of Greenwich Village

(Spoilers.)

An excerpt from the under-rated Pope of Greenwich Village, when Mrs. Ritter, an irish mother who’s as tough as a primeval rock, is mourning the death of her policeman son when she is visited by his corrupt colleagues, two detectives searching for tapes he may have made which will implicate them in graft and other criminal schemes.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

MRS. RITTER, is dressed in mourning black, and she speaks with a first generation american irish accent. When she speaks without anger, it doesn’t feel as if the blade has been sheathed, but that she’s simply maneuvering it to a better stabbing position. The words she says with emphasis are spoken with her jaw clamped down low, and it’s as if her words pass through long and deadly fangs.

MRS. RITTER
Can I offer you a drink?

BURNS
We’re on duty.

MRS. RITTER
Hey.

MRS. RITTER CONT’D
‘Scuse me. You on duty too?

GARBER
Yeah.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

BURNS
Just a few questions, Mrs. Ritter. Did Bunky…act peculiar the last few months or so? Different?

MRS. RITTER
What the hell has that got to do with some thief pushing him down the elevator shaft?

BURNS
He was wearing a tape recorder, Mrs. Ritter. (pause) You know anything about that?

MRS. RITTER
How the hell would I know? You’re the policeman.

BURNS
Did Bunky have a girlfriend?

MRS. RITTER shakes her head, no.

GARBER
Who were some of his friends?

MRS. RITTER
No one. He went to church a lot.

MRS. RITTER takes a drink.

MRS. RITTER
Sacred heart. Most of his free time spent there.

GARBER
He must have had some friends.

MRS. RITTER gives another shake of her head, blows out smoke.

BURNS
It’s important…that we locate any tapes that Bunky may have had.

MRS. RITTER gives a nasty cackle.

MRS. RITTER
Yeah, I bet it’s important. I bet it’s very important to the two of yous.

BURNS gets an involuntary, nervous blink in his left eye.

MRS. RITTER
The internal affairs people were here hours ago. (her voice develops a nasty venom as it goes along the next sentence, but it’s gone by the sentence after that.) Two college educated little pricks. Acted like they was born and bred in Ohio.

MRS. RITTER knocks some cigarette ash out.

MRS. RITTER
I’m gonna tell you…what I told them. Walter…neither drank…nor gambled…he disapproved of the lottery. His spare time was spent making novinas, over at the Sacred Heart.

MRS. RITTER kisses her cross.

BURNS
Did they dig around in his room?

MRS. RITTER gives a quiet nod, no.

MRS. RITTER
I wouldn’t let them.

BURNS
We’re gonna have to. It’s important. Now, uh, which room is Bunky’s?

MRS. RITTER
You are not pokin around in Walter‘s room.

BURNS delivers the next line as if he were dealing with a gang chieftain resisting arrest.

BURNS
We’re going through this place, Madam. You obstruct me, and I’ll personally see that you never see a cent of his pension.

MRS. RITTER gives an ugly, dismissive laugh.

MRS. RITTER
Aha, get out. Get outta here, the two of yous. After you’re gone, I’m gonna tear this place upside down like a cyclone hit it. I’m gonna call the Daily News, to do a story on how the New York City police department treats the mother of a hero. My brother’s a priest. He is an old-fashioned, parish priest, with gray hair. The two of us could do a scene on the six o’clock news that would have the city in tears.

BURNS lets some fear show.

MRS. RITTER
My Walter…was as tough as a bar of IRON. And he didn’t get that from his father. Now. You wanna fight…OFFICER?

She punctuates this with an exhale of thick smoke, and it’s like the warning fumes of a dragon that can breathe a terrible and lethal flame.

MRS. RITTER
Or do you get the hell out of my house.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The detectives move to leave, and when they are gone, MRS. RITTER puts out her cigarette, and her demeanor changes entirely. She is overwhelmed with grief over the death of her son, and she kisses her rosaries, before shielding her eyes as she starts to shake from the onset of weeping.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

(All images copyright MGM / UA)

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