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EXT. STREET, LONDON - DAY
ELLA, 20, swings her cheap tin suitcase, tied with rope. Her
coat has been mended many times over. The borrowed hat
doesn’t quite fit and threatens to blow away in the autumn
wind. But there is a natural dazzle about her - so nobody
ever notices her clothes.
An urgent dingdingdingding! An open-top double decker bus
swooshes past her. She glares after it, takes a step - now a
model T Ford swerves to avoid her. HONK!
Oh, quit casting kittens! You don't
own the road!
EXT. WALDORF HOTEL - DAY
JACKSON leans casually against some railings, all is right
with the world. A large open chest of assorted knickknacks
dangles in front of him: a street seller. He’s Ella’s age,
self-assured despite the grime on his face and possibly cute
Ella admires the magnificent building in front of her. The
name sparkles in large gold letters: Waldorf Hotel.
SUPER: LONDON, 1921
Ella sashays towards the entrance. Heads turn. A MAN IN A
BOWLER HAT whistles. Ella laughs. It sounds like pearls
dancing on a xylophone. Jackson pushes himself off the
railings and cuts off Mr. Bowler Hat before the guy can try
his luck. She’s his!
‘ere, let me help ya.
I can manage, thanks! I’m a modern,
A Bentley pulls up, out spills an oversized Edwardian hat
followed by the rest of BONNIE (30s). Awkward, she looks like
she’s never fitted in, be it her dress or society. She turns
to help GRACE (30s) alight, admiring her like she was a
fragile dandelion about to blow away. Grace is the perfect
Edwardian beauty: big hair, tiny waist, frilly long dress.
Here we are then.
The Waldorf! You said, come over to
There is chemistry between them but neither is sure the other
feels it. Bonnie nervously fumbles with her purse.
Oh, if you’re not sure then...
Oh no, I’d like to.
The Palm Court restaurant is
Do they do room service?
A side glance at Bonnie who can’t believe her luck. She
gestures at the revolving door, grinning. They go inside.
Spellbound by their glamour, Ella follows but is barred by a
gangly arm, belonging to STAN (20s), the gangly doorman.
You’re not coming in.
Phonus balonus! I work here!
Well... I start this afternoon.
Staff entrance ‘s round the back.
Oh don’t be such a bluenose! Just
for a minute! I’d so like to peep
into the lobby --
Stan bends forward and shakes his head right in her face.
Ella turns, affronted. A taxi pulls up. The male occupant,
ASHLEY (20s), a long haired bohemian, pays the driver. Lady
SARABELLE (20s) alights, a socialite and the epitome of
glamour: alluring, unobtainable.
(advertising his wares)
Collar studs, handkerchiefs, shoe
laces, pipe cleaners, matches!
For Sarabelle, Jackson is a ghost. Ashley follows suit.
We’ve made it, buttercup, we’re
here! I’m going to kiss you!
He sweeps her up in his arms. She giggles - not in front of
the staff! Ashley kisses her cheek rather than her lips.
Stan looks away, flustered. Ella is mesmerised. A flock of
PORTERS busy with the luggage now, pretending not to look.
Sarabelle untangles herself from Ashley, they approach the
entrance. Ella ducks behind them. Surely, in the commotion
she can sneak past Stan?
Jackson grins - she’s got pluck. He strolls up to Stan’s far
side to distract him:
‘ere gov, been meaning to tell ya,
I asked the parakeet about you and
In among Jackson’s chest of wares is a small bird cage with a
live parakeet. Stan swings around to Jackson, eager.
Oh yeah? What’d he say?
You know he’s never been wrong
once... always on the button. And
he said, you and Rosalie -
Ella’s ruse is working. Nearly in. But then Sarabelle stops
to wipe lipstick off Ashley’s cheek with a handkerchief
before they enter. She notices Ella right behind them.
Would you mind!
Ella jolts back. Stan cottons on, roughly pulls her away.
Hey! You filthy little--
Ladies! Gentlemen. Just a small
misunderstanding! No need to come
to blows. (to distract everyone:)
Take a looks at my parakeet, he can
tell your fortune, he can.
He steps close to Sarabelle, seemingly to show her the bird.
Just let him look you in the eye,
my lady, and then he’ll pick a card
for you. Parrotology. He’s never
Sarabelle and Ashley just turn away and disappear inside the
Waldorf lobby. Jackson gently takes Ella’s arm.
Just leave it.
I’m not dirty!
Even as Jackson guides her away she calls back:
Old pillow case!
Is that bad?
Full of feathers.
They’re now round the corner, near the staff entrance. He
pulls out Sarabelle’s embroidered handkerchief, presents it
to her. It’s beautiful. Ella can’t believe her eyes.
Picked her pocket when she didn’t
want to look my parakeet in the
You’re the flea’s whiskers!
She turns to go inside the Waldorf staff entrance.
I hope that’s better than a pillow?
Then... may I see you again?
That would be the berries!
With a giggle, she hurries inside. He calls after her:
What does that mean?!
INT. WALDORF LOBBY - DAY
Sarabelle and Ashley stand to one side.
Nonsense! Stop worrying. It was
them who were rude, if anything.
Let’s go out and come in again -
this time, I’ll carry you over the
He playfully makes to pick her up. Laughing, she fends him
off but he’s cheered her up.
We're here! Let’s enjoy every
magnificent second of this!
He drinks in the splendidness of the lobby - gilded
paintings, mirrors polished to a sparkle, glittering
chandeliers. She sees something else:
The outrageousness of it! She gets out a lip rouge and paints
on a much more alluring red.
Will you take me dancing? I’ve
heard trotting like a fox is all
the rage now.
The foxtrot, yes. And the Black
She shrieks with delight.
At one of those petting parties?!
She now poses with a long cigarette holder, pouting her lips.
They’re meant to be unspeakably
Not unlike you...
I want to try everything!
He takes her hand. As they stride up to reception all eyes
are on them. Ashley loves it. Sarabelle takes no notice.
Your best suite! It’s Lady --
The RECEPTIONIST jolts himself out of his reverie.
Lady Sarabelle! We are honoured to
have you stay with us. Suite six
Have a selection of evening gowns
brought up. I didn’t bring much.
She pulls Ashley towards the lift.
We’ve practically eloped!
INT. WALDORF KITCHENS - DAY
A hive of activity. Instructions being shouted left right and
centre, COOKS, CHEFS, PASTRY CHEFS and ASSISTANTS, KITCHEN
MAIDS, SCULLERY MAIDS fetch, mix, chop, whisk, peel.
Ella, now in a maid’s uniform, doesn’t know where to start.
She turns to a waiter, CLYDE (20s), who seems right at home
both in the hectic kitchen and in his handsome uniform.
(shouting an order)
One lobster, one turbot, one cheese
He sees Ella. His eyes light up.
Hey sweet patootie!
Before she can reply BETTY (30s), one of the cooks, nabs her.
Just what I was gonna say to her!
You’re to answer only to me.
The front end is where plates of mouth watering dishes await
service. But they now walk deep into the bowels of the
kitchen, past gleaming copper pots, enamel jars, 12 sizes of
spatulas hanging in an orderly row.
How do you do? I’m Ella Frankl --
You will address me as Cook. Two
rules: no dallying, and no
complaining. You never leave the
premises without permission. And
you never eat the guests’ food.
Er, that’s four--
Now, peel those potatoes.
There’s a whole mountain awaiting her.
Betty goes back to her range. She never stands still. Ella
starts working at a kitchen island next to PEARL (20s) who
looks like all this is beneath her.
Hello. I’m Ella.
What’s it like, the Waldorf? Is it
true, all the rooms are fully
Clyde sneaks over. Pearl’s mood brightens.
Yes, electricity in all the rooms!
I’m Clyde. Head waiter. Palm Court.
He ignores Pearl, she scowls.
You’ll never get to see them rooms.
Get out of here, Clyde. (to Ella)
No relations with the male staff.
Grate this horseradish.
Where are the graters?
But Betty is gone again. Ella looks at Pearl. She doesn’t
respond. Ella goes searching.
She recognises ROSALIE (20s), an assistant pastry chef. She’s
making delicate peach puffs.
Oh Rosalie! Teriff!
Not now! We can jaw tonight.
Um, alright. Want to go explore the
It’s not my afternoon off! What do
Above range three. Now go do me
Ella arrives back at her kitchen island. CLANG! Pearl plonks
a bowl and whisk in front of her. She was making mayonnaise.
I was new once. Now it’s your turn!
Angry, Ella dumps her grater and starts whisking. She adds a
little more oil. It’s hard work making mayonnaise.
Girl? When you’ve done the
horseradish, ladle the scum off
Ella puts the mayonnaise down.
Oh my, you haven’t even started the
potatoes! (to Pearl, re mayonnaise)
Better than your usual.
No, that was --
I won't have dawdling in my
kitchen. You idle girl!
INT. BONNIE'S SUITE - DAY
Grace looks at drawings Bonnie shows her: beautiful elaborate
furniture designs. Bonnie can’t take her eyes off Grace.
Lovely! (looks around) Did you
design this suite?
Like the drawings, the Edwardian suite is cluttered: frilly
sofas, peacock feathers, porcelain vases.
I wish! Just because we now have a
female MP, a woman has won the
Pulitzer prize, and Queen Mary has
been awarded an honorary degree,
apparently that doesn’t mean a
woman can be trusted to design a
Who is it you’re trying to impress?
Gordon Waltinghurst. Good luck! I
call him Gordon Ghastly.
Bonnie laughs. She dares to make a move:
Why don’t you come with me? If you
could find nice things to say about
me... I mean, my designs. You know
what men are like. A beauty like
Grace gets it.
He wouldn’t interest me in the
Bonnie gulps. Is she reading the signs correctly?
You on the other hand... Well, I’d
be happy to help.
INT. WALDORF KITCHENS - NIGHT
Exhausted, Ella washes up stacks of pots, pans, and dishes in
the scullery corner. She is the only one left in the kitchen.
Betty comes in, she’s just eaten, wipes her mouth.
Oh and girl, when you've finished
washing up, clean the stoves and
When do I get to eat?
You’re too slow, you’ve missed