Cedarhurst Alley

One of my favorite books has been in print, out of print and back in print, and is out of print again. It should have been made into a movie a long time ago.  My copy is so old it is coming apart, and is held together with a rubber band. The book has been optioned at least four times but so far no one has managed to bring this crazy plot to the screen.

Cedarhurst Alley, by Denison Hatch, is the story of a Long Island resident driven to desperate (and desperately funny) measures to combat the airport traffic noise that is driving down the value of his house and driving his young daughter to a mental state resembling autism. It’s also the story of teamwork and timing, with unlikely characters becoming part of the plan.

Cast of Characters: I’ll name just the central characters: Hendon Chait, the hero of our story; Julie Chait, his wife; Scooter Chait, his five-year-old son; Julia Ann, his daughter, known as “Mouse”; Hendon’s father, known in the book only as “Pappy”; Julie’s father, a pilot, known as “Daddy Byrd”; Bill Kindersley, Hendon’s lawyer and good friend; Mickey Heidelberger, a dealer who supplies the barrage balloon; Boros Niforos, who supplies helium for the balloon. (Barrage balloon??? What kind of maniac is this??? You gotta read the story.) There are many, many others in the book. but these are the people without which (in my opinion at least) the story wouldn’t work.

Outline: Chapters 1-4 would make up Act I, wherein Hendon finds his newly acquired house in the Cedarhurst area of Long Island is a white elephant and his daughter’s mental state is on a downhill run, all due to airport noise. Plot point 1 could be where Hendon buys the barrage balloon. Chapters 5-12 drop nicely into Act II, where Hendon, his lawyer friend and his newly acquired co-conspirators plan “Project B-Day,” the day of the balloon launch. I see the midpoint as being Hendon’s press conference in Chapter 10, and plot point 2 as the arrival of the National Guard. Act III unfolds in Chapters 13-16 with the story of B-Day.

Challenges: Cedarhurst Alley is set in the 1960s, so the first challenge would be to make it modern. One element of that, however, would be easy. We now have an oversized Department of Homeland Security to take on the role of the intelligence agencies named in the book.  A second challenge will be how to handle the overt racism shown by one of Hendon’s neighbors, who is very concerned Hendon will sell the house to a non-WASP. My thought was to see if this still makes sense forty years later. Another challenge will be to conduct some research and update the airport noise and near-miss statistics given in the book, because, again, forty-year-old stats don’t make sense today. The situation could be better, or it could (heaven help us) be worse. And fourth, would a sixty-year-old World War II barrage balloon even be intact now? Fifth, given our experiences with air terrorism over the last forty years, would an audience accept a main character who might be seen as a threat to airplanes and their passengers? Some of these may explain why the movie still hasn’t been made.

Conclusion: Cedarhurst Alley is hysterical. I may have given up on the idea of writing the screenplay myself, but I would definitely stand in line to see the movie and would tell all my friends about it.

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One Response to “ “Cedarhurst Alley”

  1. Denny Hatch says:

    Hey,

    Thanks for the gorgeous mention. Just came across it.

    I have 3 screenplays of Cedarhurst Alley, notably one by Ring Lardner Jr. it was to be his next project after M*A*S*H. Alas, he turned a bit of marshmallow fluff into a “cause” movie with naked breasts being stuck with bayonets at the end,

    Being one of the Hollywood 10 could taint a guy.

    Send me your name and address and I’ll send you copy of the new edition (5 years ago) I republished myself.

    Thanks again.

    Cheers.

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