Behind The Veil by Gene Gwynne | Script Revolution

Behind The Veil

Film Noir. Los Angeles, 1947. A private investigator’s search for a gay man among those marginalized by society leads to a clandestine world of corruption, murder, and political intrigue.



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Film Noir: Hollywood, 1947. Private detective Vic Manning, in his search for a young gay man, must deal with intolerance, prejudice, and corruption as he enters the dark, hidden underworld of forbidden sex and vice; only to discover a sinister conspiracy involving blackmail, extortion, and murder being conducted for political gain, that reaches to the highest levels of government.

Manning’s client is Miles Vandermeer, a corrupt federal judge, who, fearing his son Edward’s gay lifestyle and conduct a threat to his ambitions; had the police assault and jail his son’s black male lover, Lester Combs. Upon Lester’s release, the two young men disappeared, assumed to be in hiding, possibly somewhere in South Central L.A. - the colored area of the city. The judge wishes someone to contact his son with an offer toward reconciliation.

Manning finds it awkward and at times uncomfortable as he questions individuals and visits haunts within the gay community, hoping to find someone still in touch with the two young men, only to discover they are under the protection of Asa (Ace) Lamont, a former Harlem Gangster, now crime boss of South Central.

Manning occasionally meets with best friend Marty Kasner, a detective working for a firm, but who is conducting a private investigation on his own concerning the suspicious circumstances of a young starlet’s supposed suicide. Manning considers it just another Hollywood cover-up and too dangerous to be pursued. However, due to Marty’s not willing to drop the case, and Manning’s growing suspicion that the dead starlet may have had some connection to his client, Manning agrees to assist Marty.
A series of murders and the presence of federal agents lurking in the shadows, brings to light the existence of a private resort, just outside Los Angeles, where prominent people of wealth, power, and politics may indulge their every fantasy and desire, no matter it be deviant, depraved or demented. A secret operation, with ties to the highest echelons of government, and headed by the Honorable Judge Miles Vandermeer.

Under Vandermeer’s supervision, minorities and the underprivileged are exploited, while the weak, under-aged, and undocumented are subjected to rape, bondage, and death.

Manning suffers a personal loss attributed to this clandestine operation, and believes Edward their target should he be discovered - the judge not being a person to be reconciled. His priority becomes the protection of Edward, as he seeks a means to get Edward and his lover safely beyond the reach of his father.

Manning also teams up with black crime boss Ace Lamont, making a pact with Ace for the continued protection and concealment of Edward while Manning brokers a deal with Vandermeer for the release of Ace’s younger brother, who is serving time based on a frame-up Vandermeer was a party to.

Manning and Ace both realize that any agreements and concessions offered or granted by Vandermeer, once his agenda realized, could be revoked with retribution against those involved; thus, no one being safe as long as he remains in power. For this reason, some action must be taken that will discredit or lessen Vandermeer’s position.

Ace decides to capitalize on the post-war rise of discontent and frustration among the segregated minorities, who are demanding an end to discrimination and injustice. He forms an alliance between the black and Hispanic communities for the purpose of forming a military-style task force, comprised mostly of recently returned veterans of the war, to conduct a lightning raid against the resort, in an effort to ruin Vandermeer. Manning arranges for a Chinatown humanitarian organization to accompany the raiders, they to assist the Chinese slave girls and children liberated during the raid. However, Manning and Ace will not be present at the raid – Manning having a plan of his own.

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Call me a sucker for noir, but this script had all the twists, turns, and escalating tension that I could have wanted. Behind the Veil knows exactly what genre it's operating in and makes sure to bring the entertainment not just through surprising plot points, but also through equally complex characters. The entire cast feels like it has real relevance to the narrative. Even minor characters see their actions have a direct role in shaping the story. It’s great seeing how consequential character choices are. It not only makes the world seem authentic, but it keeps coincidence and luck from removing all stakes from the plot. With a feedback loop of narrative affecting character motivation, which affects narrative - the story becomes engrossing.

Behind The Veil also does a good job of avoiding jarring anachronisms. While the setting and time period are a major draw for the script, they also come with a host of dangers. Misrepresentations of the technology, culture, worldview, or even manner of speech are obvious and require a lot of attention to detail on the writer’s part. Fortunately the writer is up for the task, littering the script with little details specific to the time period. The setting never becomes distracting with overly obtuse colloquialisms in the dialogue. Likewise, the action description doesn’t come off as an encyclopedic recitation of the era and its quirks. The setting serves as a backdrop and not the star of the show, which I appreciated.

I really enjoyed this script because of the way the narrative slowly unfolds into a greater, more intricate story. The writer is great at playing in the mystery genre, dripping out information and giving clues to even deeper mysteries. Pacing is a key factor here as the writer knows when to draw out a moment or write with greater urgency to convey tension. I quickly realized trying to predict the twists and turns of this narrative was futile, though the writer never relies on cheap tricks like luck or convenience to deliver its surprises. Everything is grounded in the internal logic of the story so that even the more objectively far-fetched plot points feel at home in the narrative.

Submitted: December 6, 2019
Last Updated: January 11, 2023

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Gene Gwynne's picture

The Writer: Gene Gwynne

I’ve had representation in the past, but am currently without representation, and am not a WGA member. I’ve attended seminars and classes by most of the screenplay gurus including Field, Segar, Freeman, among others; and attended workshops, classes, and lectures sponsored by The American Film Institute and the USC Cinema-Television Alumni Association extension program. I was optioned once by a major television producer. Go to bio

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