Thank you Emily for the recommendation! This was the perfect little short story to read and enjoy and then think about who you would cast.
Really you should read the thing, it will take like 15 minutes of your life. But if you can’t read it, I will quickly summarize (and reading the summary will take half the time it would to actually read the story!):
Ignoring the narrator and establishing the setting and so on, we have a simple central story. At Monte Carlo, a young rich American boy is enamored of an exotic aging courtesan. His fresh practical American girlfriend is sad about it. The aging courtesan is struggling to hold on to her position, especially when an outrageous young rival appears, wearing jewels and crazy make-up and so on. The courtesan retaliates by dressing with complete simplicity and stealing all eyes. That same night, she places a bet at roulette and loses, but the croupier makes a mistake and gives her the win instead. Later that night, the croupier is invited to a late night dinner party as a joke, the same party where the courtesan is. He tells a story of being a young jeweler and falling in love with a starving desperate young girl. He breaks with his family to marry her and their marriage is a mixture of fights and love until she leaves him. He is heartbroken, sinks into addiction, and then she reappears, covered in jewels, clearly successful. She asks if he will still take her back and he laughs at her that he will not fall for her games, she is just there to rub her success in his face. She leaves again and his life continues to fail, he loses his jewel shop, becomes ill, and ends up having to work as a croupier. And then one night, he sees the woman at his table. He recognizes that her jewels are false and knows she has no money left. He realizes that the bet she placed was her last money, and he cheats so that she will win. The courtesan listens to this story and responds by offering to light his cigarette before he leaves. He leaves, so does she, and the people left at the table realize she lit his cigarette with the bank note representing all her winnings. The nice young American man asks the nice practical American girl to go back to the hotel with him, he is done with these crazy Europeans.
Now, things to talk about!!!!
Did the courtesan love the croupier, or is it more complicated than that? Is it simply that she loved him but felt guilty for how their marriage was so tumultuous so left him hoping he would be happy without her? Then returned once she was rich hoping he would say he loved her and wanted her back and she could share the money? And has nursed a broken heart ever since he rejected her then and now refuses to take his pity because she wants his love? Or, is it that she feels guilt and obligation that she can never repay, over and over again, to this man who saved her life when she was young? If she could have gone back to him and been a good wife she would have felt her guilt was assuaged, and once he rejected her, it remained a pain in her life?
Is there any hope for this couple now? They have found each other again, she is down on her luck and too old to find a new protector, he is sick and needs someone to care for him. Call me crazy, but I have hope!!!! Now that she knows he still loves her, maybe she can find the right words to make him see that she doesn’t want pity. She could take care of him stop him drinking, he could give her love and acceptance and fix her loneliness.
What did she want from the young American man? Was it just money? Or was it also his youth and hope and cleanness? Or maybe just the shot at getting to America and starting fresh?
Should she have burned the bank note? It’s a great moment of course. But, SHE HAS NO MONEY!!!! If I were her, I think I would have ripped the note in half and given the croupier half. To symbolize that without him, the money is worthless. And then they could have BOTH had money.
Now, MOST IMPORTANTLY, casting!!!!
Beautiful aging courtesan: Aishwarya Rai or Rani or Madhuri?
Young outrageous new courtesan: Janhvi Kapoor or Sonam Kapoor or Sara Ali Khan or Ananya Panday
Unnoticed Croupier: Nawazuddin Siddiqui or Shahrukh or Jackie Shroff or Sanjay Dutt?
Fresh Clean Young American: Sid M.
Fresh Clean Blunt No Interest in Looking Pretty Young American Woman: Pari