Kitten on the Keys by Jim Boston | Script Revolution

Kitten on the Keys

In 1876, the death of her husband on a train trip out West forces a college-educated woman to strike out on her own at the next stop: Dodge City, KS.



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It’s Wednesday, July 5, 1876...the United States is ecstatic over having reached one hundred years as an independent country...and husband-and-wife educators EZEKIEL and CATHARINE “KITTEN” KIRKSEY show their own brand of ecstasy as they ride the rails from his native Ohio back home to her native California in order to help start a music school in Kitten’s birth city, San Francisco.

A nagging cough in the otherwise quiet Ezekiel brings the Kirkseys’ euphoria crashing does the fact that not a single passenger on the train is a doctor.

And the nearest physician is in Dodge City, Kansas...twenty-five miles away from where whooping cough claims Ezekiel.

To top it all off, the contract luring Ezekiel and caring-thoughtful-independent Kitten to the Pacific Coast called for couples, not singles...all in the name of family. And who wants to sit next to a “decomposed, rotten, dead body” on a locomotive for a couple of days?

Kitten’s answer: Move to Dodge City.

To her responsible, levelheaded mother SOPHIA CASTELLUCCIO, that’s a head-scratching solution...but to Kitten’s domineering father GIUSEPPE, the move to Kansas is as boneheaded as the decision to even wed “weak, puny young” Ezekiel.

Still, the newly-widowed Oberlin College grad, whose folks panned for gold and used the money to found a winery and to eventually educate Kitten, plows on with her decision to strike out on her own in this rapidly-growing town...the most lawless burg in the West.

When this piano prodigy looks through her late hubby’s belongings and finds his wet-plate camera, she finds gold herself once she figures out how to operate it.

Another trip through Ezekiel’s belongings leads Kitten to put his best suit on...and return to the Long Branch Saloon, this time in hopes that the disguise will fool CUSTOMERS and the saloon’s BARTENDER into letting her do business in a place where women aren’t welcome.

Kitten sits at the bar and drinks water; later, she plays poker for the first time...and wins. But when she takes to the Long Branch piano to play a classical piece, the gig’s up.

She shares a jail cell with witty-and-eccentric VIVIAN BARFKNECHT, a fellow San Franciscan who’s in the pokey for trying to start a watering hole. Kitten not only strikes up a friendship with her, but also with DORILLA GILBERT, a wild, crafty gunslinger who’s after the men who gunned down her brother and her husband. Plus: Dorilla wants to help the likes of WYATT EARP and LARRY DEGER clean up this lawbreaker’s haven...despite being told it’s “no job for a lady!”

It isn’t long before Dorilla teaches Kitten how to handle a shootin’ exchange for Kitten teaching Dorilla how to tickle the ivories. And the gunslinger offers the Oberlin alum a break from living in a hotel.

So Kitten takes up residence at the same place Dorilla lives: Vivian’s Brothel...where Giuseppe’s and Sophia’s daughter becomes the house photographer and the house pianist.

When Dorilla’s piano lessons commence at the brothel, which inherits the Long Branch’s piano, it’s a laugh to hookers JOYBELLE JENSEN and LOLA the lessons move to Dodge City’s schoolhouse, where teacher MARGARET A. WALKER, a thinker, goes on to befriend Kitten and her gun-toting, sharpshooting piano student.

When the calendar reaches September, Sophia and Giuseppe return to Dodge to see Kitten...only to rip their daughter to shreds upon finding out she plays those keys in a cathouse: “We no raise you to be a...a...lady of the evening!”

Clever ex-bartender Joybelle, anarchic Lola, and fellow hookers ANNIE MAE BROWN and MARVELLA HAWKINS join with Vivian in taking Sophia’s heat: “Haven’t you got anything better to do with your lives?”

Kitten receives an ultimatum from her parents: Teach all the hookers at Vivian’s place by January 1, 1877 or move back to San marry the class bully from Kitten’s school days.

Vivian and her employees put their heads together...and, in time, set out to execute Kitten’s idea of creating a traveling show patterned after one of the nation’s hottest attractions, the Buffalo Bill Combination. The brothel’s two best lovers run with the idea: Friendly Annie Mae with her Frederick Douglass recitations...and the previously-indifferent Marvella with her bird tricks.

Kitten and Co. test their traveling show out on Front Street six days later...only to bomb before a crowd that includes Margaret, Buffalo Bill Combination alum JOHN “TEXAS JACK” OMOHUNDRO, and his dancer wife GIUSEPPINA MORLACCHI.

After learning that Giuseppina and Texas Jack want to bring Kitten and troupers into the twosome’s own newly-formed combination, the seven women of Vivian’s Brothel work to get the bugs out of their act...and even travel to Chicago with Margaret to see Buffalo Bill’s stage show.

It’s the day 1877 kicks in...and Kitten, Dorilla, Vivian, Annie Mae, Joybelle, Marvella, and Lola stage their show at the brothel. Dorilla spots THE THREE KILLERS she’s been after...and even includes them in her sharpshooting act before Larry and THREE OTHER CROWD MEMBERS apprehend the killers.

The whole thing proves to be enough to make Kitten and her buddies the newest members of the fledgling Texas Jack Combination...and proves to be enough to earn Sophia’s kudos.

And Giuseppe drops his push to get Kitten to marry the class bully.

Submitted: February 27, 2022
Last Updated: May 4, 2022

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This Script Is Loved By 4 Readers

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The Writer: Jim Boston

I first got interested in screenwriting as a college student in 1979 (Iowa State University); an additional impetus was the paperback version of the "American Graffiti" screenplay. From 1980 to 1994, I pursued screenwriting with a vengeance...but other things happened in my life. Since 2016, I've been back chasing the dream...and it's only because I inherited a Power Mac from one of the codirectors (Nick Holle) of a documentary I was in: "The Entertainers," about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival. (Nick received the computer from the husband-and-wife couple who helped produce the film, Brent and Jackie Watkins.) The Power Mac has a copy of Final Draft 6... Go to bio

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