The Fifth Column by R. J. Cardullo | Script Revolution

The Fifth Column

Set during the Spanish Civil War, "The Fifth Column" concerns Loyalist attempts (led by an Anglo-American) to stop Fascist double agents operating behind the lines in Madrid—and awaiting four columns of fellow Franco insurgents.

Type:

Status:

Page Count: 
101pp

Genre:

Budget:

Age Rating:

Based On: 
A 1938 play of the same title by Ernest Hemingway.
Synopsis/Details: 

Originally a play and therefore an anomaly in the Hemingway canon, "The Fifth Column" takes place during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Its main character, Philip Rawlings, is an Anglo-American secret agent for the Second Spanish Republic. The title of this work originates from a comment made in 1936 by the Spanish Nationalist commander Emilio Mola, who stated that there were four of his columns descending on Madrid, as well as a fifth column of Fascist spies working from within the Loyalist-defended city—a group that would ruthlessly aid in destroying the Republican government.

Nonetheless, "The Fifth Column" is not about members of the fifth column; instead, it revolves around Rawlings, a Communist operative posing as a war correspondent, who is determined to defend against the threat posed by this internal group. A typical Hemingway hero, he will not speak about the horrors that he has witnessed, yet he cannot sleep at night because he has been so wounded by his experiences. Aided by Max, another Communist-Party operative, and Antonio, the Spanish officer in charge of the Loyalists, Rawlings ultimately tracks down and captures a fifth-column member whose confession under torture leads to the discovery of 300 more fifth columnists.

Much of this script’s action depicts the tense, dangerous existence inside a Madrid hotel, which is simultaneously occupied by journalists, counter-espionage agents, and members of General Franco’s fifth column. Rawlings himself is torn between his duty to the anti-Fascist cause and his attraction to the easy-going life of boozing, brawling, and “broads.” He is also torn between his attraction to Dorothy Bridges, a rich, glamorous, and pampered young American woman who knows little about politics, and an aging Moorish tart named Anita Amor, who knows enough about politics to stay away from it.

Rawlings must decide, then, if he wants to devote himself to a tranquil, apolitical, self-gratifying life with a woman—any woman who’ll have him (and each of these two will)—or if he believes it is his moral responsibility to fight the Falangist forces to the end. He has to decide, moreover, if any measures, no matter how brutal and barbarous, are justifiable in order to protect the Republic from the insidious threat posed by the fifth column. As the violence takes its toll on Rawlings in the course of "The Fifth Column", he begins to question the value of his undercover work, ultimately deciding to break with one woman, to indulge himself with the other . . . and to continue his mission.

Submitted: September 14, 2020
Last Updated: December 19, 2020

Want to read this script? You must join the revolution first. Don't worry, it's free, easy, everyone's welcome, and you can start reading right away.

R. J. Cardullo's picture

The Writer: R. J. Cardullo

A former university film teacher, I turned to screenwriting several years ago. I have also written film criticism for many publications. A New Yorker by birth, I grew up in Miami and was educated at the University of Florida, Tulane, and Yale. My last U.S. address was in Milford, Connecticut; I am now an expatriate residing in Scandinavia. Many of my scripts (both long and short) are adaptations of lesser-known works by well-known authors. I am happy to re-write, collaborate, or write on demand. Thanks kindly for any attention you can give my work. Go to bio

More Scripts From R. J.

Home Burial
This script recounts a tense conversation between a rural husband and wife whose young son has recently died, yet who mourn that death differently—and ultimately combatively.
Short Drama, Family For sale 6pp
Plane to Plane
Two farm laborers, one a college man and the other a hired hand, hoe a corn field as they compare the benefits of formal education to those of practical experience—to no end.
Short Drama For sale 5pp
Death of a Hired Hand
A farmhand returns to the place of his previous employment, ostensibly to work but really to sleep—and then to die.
Short Drama, Family, Mystery For sale 11pp
The Informer
"The Informer" examines the devastating effect of government surveillance, even censorship, on an ordinary middle-class family of middle-of-the-road beliefs.
Short Drama, Family, Mystery For sale 17pp
The Beggar, or the Dead Dog
A blind beggar and a self-important emperor meet by accident outside a castle, revealing as they speak that the blind man can “see,” while the wealthy ruler is poor of heart—as well as mind.
Short Comedy, Drama For sale 11pp
Before Breakfast
A man in bed, a woman in a mirror, a marriage in disarray—until one partner decides to act.
Short Drama, Family For sale 13pp
A Late Encounter with the Enemy
A fake, 106-year-old Confederate general attends the college graduation of his 62-year-old granddaughter—and dies there, onstage, in full uniform.
Short Comedy, Drama, Family, War For sale 12pp
Escape
A fugitive from a chain gang down South attempts escape and gains his freedom from his pursuers—one way or the other.
Short Drama, Thriller For sale 7pp
A Temple of the Holy Ghost
In 1950s Georgia, a twelve-year-old girl encounters two teenaged girls, and the result has less to do with boys, clothes, and makeup than with—of all things—hermaphrodites, holiness, and God himself.
Short Comedy, Drama, Family, Mystery For sale 17pp
Wildcat
A ferocious wildcat is loose in the countryside, and it may—or may not—break into an old blind man’s house.
Short Drama, Thriller For sale 12pp
Keela & Little Lee Roy
A white carnival barker confronts a crippled black man who was once kidnapped into carnival work as a “redskin” geek, and the result is confessional, horrifying, numbing—even darkly comic.
Short Drama, Mystery For sale 13pp
A Piece of News
A lonely young woman named Ruby Fisher reads in a newspaper that “Mrs. Ruby Fisher had the misfortune to be shot in the leg by her husband this week”—after which her husband comes home.
Short Drama, Mystery For sale 5pp
Lily and the Ladies
Lily Daw is presented with two choices in life: a mental institution or the institution of marriage; in the end, neither seems palatable to Lily—who may not be as feeble-minded as her guardians think.
Short Comedy, Romance For sale 20pp
Petrified Man
In a Mississippi beauty parlor in 1941, a hairdresser and her customer gossip about husbands, boarders, babies, and the exhibits of a traveling freak show—one of which turns out to be worth real money.
Short Comedy, Drama, Mystery For sale 25pp
Death of a Traveling Salesman
R. J. Bowman, an unmarried traveling salesman, takes refuge from the road one evening with a Southern farm couple—who become the last people he sees on earth.
Short Drama, Family, Mystery For sale 10pp
The Worker
Johnny has been laboring in a mill since he was seven years old, earning money for his fatherless family—until, at age twelve, he decides to run away . . . and retire.
Short Drama, Family For sale 15pp
The Sinner
A trio of desperate figures beseech a god for rescue at sea—only to abandon her once help shows up.
Short Adventure For sale 4pp
The Laugher
John Cleverhouse’s moon-face and grating laugh are enough to get under anyone’s skin—but how far will his neighbor go in order to get rid of the jolly man with the ridiculous name?
Short Comedy, Horror For sale 8pp
An Impractical Joke
In a Nashville mansion during the Civil War, three Union officers discover some women’s clothing, enlist a soldier to dress up in it, and try to fool a notorious ladies’ man—but at a price.
Short Comedy, Romance, War For sale 17pp
Newark to Camden
In 1931, a father, mother, and two of their three surviving children drive south from Newark to Camden, New Jersey, to visit their married daughter—who has recently lost her first baby in childbirth.
Short Adventure, Family For sale 27pp

Pages