Friday, October 26, 2012


TONY FINGLETON - Over My Dead Body


You may know Tony Fingleton best from his title-winning swimming career and AFI nominated autobiographical film, Swimming Upstream; the story about his difficult upbringing in and out of the pool in 1950’s Brisbane. But since 1967, Tony has called New York his home, the city where he forged an expansive career as a successful screenwriter and producer.

One of his most well known screenplays is without a doubt Drop Dead Fred, which starred Phoebe Cates, Rik Mayall and Carrie Fisher. The film enjoyed enormous success worldwide, especially in Australia where it remained the number one film for eight consecutive weeks.

Fingleton wrote and co-produced Swimming Upstream in 2003 and the film starred Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis as his parents and Jesse Spencer as Tony. The film received five nominations in the Australian Film Institute Awards and won the Australian Film Critic’s Best Screenplay Award.

Tony co-wrote, together with Michael Sutton, OVER MY DEAD BODY, a comedy, originally produced at the Harmon Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut, starring Fritz Weaver and Tammy Grimes. OVER MY DEAD BODY the went on to play for nine months at the Savoy Theatre in London, directed by Brian Murray and starring Donald Sinden and June Whitfield. This play is now performed extensively around the United States, Australia, Japan and England.

One of Fingleton’s more recent projects is a work titled Travesty, a screenplay based on the book Nothing To Do With Justice by his sister, Diane Fingleton. As Chief Magistrate of Queensland, Diane was sued by a fellow magistrate for threatening him in what was essentially an office dispute; was found guilty and sentenced to jail for six months.  The case was overturned by the High Court of Australia, which ruled it “one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in Australian history”.  Travesty is tentatively scheduled for production in Australia over the coming years.



 OVER MY DEAD BODY revolves around three aging writers from the Agatha Christie school of the golden age of murder mystery – the types who delighted readers with intriguing stories and mysterious clues such as “footprints on the ceiling”, “the shattered lorgnette, clutched between the dead man’s fingers”, and above all, “the locked room mystery” where a murder is discovered in a seemingly impossible situation.

The three heroes are Trevor Foyle, Dora Winslow and Bert Cruikshank. They are the three remaining founding members of The Murder League – a club in London set up by masters of the genre. But readers have lost interest in the classic ‘whodunit’ mystery, opting these days for the nit and grit of realistic crime stories. However, a series of shocking and brutal murders committed throughout London by ‘The Baker Street Bludgeoner’ presents a unique opportunity for our three heroes not only to solve the murders themselves, but also to spark a resurgence of interest in “their kind of murder”. They capture the Baker Street Bludgeoner and make plans to execute him.

The “murder to end all murders” that they plan so carefully, goes hopelessly awry when it appears they cannot carry it off quite the way they planned. Just as everything starts to become unglued, this trio find themselves deeper and deeper in jeopardy. They are now faced with the awful realization that 1) they have killed the wrong man, 2) they must pay the price for their crime and 3) they must deal with the real murderer who intends to kill them.

OVER MY DEAD BODY becomes, ultimately, a triumph of the spirit, a victory for older people who refuse to go quietly, and a happy and hilarious adventure.


7 men, 1 woman: 8 total
One set


 TREVOR: How can it fail? With three of the most brilliant minds in crime behind it? Well… two and a half.

DORA: What did you do about Bartie? You promised…

TREVOR: Yes, yes, yes. I wonder what’s keeping him? It shouldn’t take him this long to deliver that note to Claridges…

DORA: Do you really think Sharp’s going to come?

TREVOR: No self-respecting bludgeoner of English womanhood could possibly resist such an invitation. I have a copy here somewhere… (Fishes in his pocket for a piece of paper.) Reads: “Dear Tall, Dark and Handsome. Saw you looking at me from the window of The Murder League yesterday. Meet me there tonight at one A.M. … I would love the chance to get off your rocks.”

DORA: “Get off your rocks?”

TREVOR: Got it from one of Simon’s books. At least I think that was the phrase. The meaning’s clear anyway. We know he likes blonde babes.

DORA: Likes to bludgeon, you mean.

TREVOR: Now let’s review, shall we? Phase Three…

DORA: Bartie delivers the note.

TREVOR: Phase Four – when sharp arrives, Bartie is in the cupboard and I’m hiding behind that screen with the chloroform. (He takes the bottle from the mantelpiece and pantomimes moving the screen behind the sofa, ducking down behind it.)

DORA: (With a sigh, taking her place.) I’m lolling about on the sofa.

TREVOR: … In an alluring manner.

DORA: “Alarming” is more like it.

TREVOR: Make sure you keep it to that end. (Pointing to the right end. He dashes to the door, goes out, and comes in again imitating Sharp, American accent and all.) Hey, whaddaya know? The hot-looking blonde I saw in the lobby the other day!

DORA: Honestly, he’s never going to believe that.


DORA: (Resigned, patting the sofa next to her.) Hello, Tall, Dark and Handsome. Can I help you off with your rocks? (Breaking character.) That can’t be right.

TREVOR: (As Sharp, ignoring her.) Don’t mind if I do. (Sits next to Dora on the sofa.) Now, as soon as he sits down… (Goes behind sofa.) I come round with the chloroform… and… (Shows bottle, dashes back round to sit on sofa, pantomimes being suffered, making a horrible noise.) He’s unconscious. End of Phase Four. (Stands.) Phase Five. Bartie comes out of the cupboard, and we move this cabinet from 10 Rillington Place… (Goes to cabinet.)… to about here. (Crosses to L.C. to a spot midway between the door and the chandelier.) While we’re doing that, you will take the sword-stick used by the Swansea Slasher from the weapons case … (Goes to weapons case.) … and run the backguard through. (Going to the sofa, he pantomimes stabbing Sharp. Dora blanches.)

DORA: Why do I have to be the one to run him through?

TREVOR: Because Bartie and I will be moving the cabinet, I just told you.

DORA: Why can’t you and I move it while Bartie runs him through?

TREVOR: Because your doctor said to avoid physical exertion. Now…

DORA: Why can’t he run him through after you’ve moved the cabinet?

TREVOR: Because we’ll be far too busy. (Quickly, before Dora can interrupt again.) Now, I will then take the rifle… used in the Siege of Sydney Street… (Indicates the bayoneted rifle hanging on the wall.) ... load it, and fire it into his now lifeless form.

DORA: Tell you what, I’ll shoot him while you two move the cabinet, then you can run his now lifeless body through with the sword.

TREVOR: Dora, do I detect a certain reluctance on your part to run Sharp through?

DORA: I’ve never been good with knives and swords and such. I don’t even use them in my books. I think I might manage a rifle though.

TREVOR: It’s far too dangerous. It hasn’t been fired for years and there’s a chance it might explode.

DORA: That’s very noble of you, dear, but I’m willing to risk it. I’ll shoot and you run him through.

TREVOR: Out of the question. I know about guns. I learnt about them during the war. I’ll shoot him and you run him through.

DORA: You didn’t fire any guns in the war. You were in the catering corps.

TREVOR: I didn’t say I fired any guns. I said I learnt about them. I read an entire manual on the bazooka.

DORA: We’re not shooting him with a bazooka!

TREVOR: The basic principal is the same!

DORA: Tell you what. We’ll toss for it.

TREVOR: Oh, for heaven’s sake, very well … (produces a coin.) Heads or tails? (Dora checks the coin. Trevor is not amused. Trevor tosses it.)

DORA: Heads. (They peer at the coin. Dora’s face falls.)


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