EXECUTIVE PRODUCER'S NOTE
Chess has been the activity/engagement of intellectuals for centuries. It led the way ultimately for development of the computer.
The first American Chess Conference (1857, NYC) was a vital turning point in the USA developing sophisticated free time play. Morphy won this tourney and set the stage for our cult-figure hero: national news feature articles, a striking and dashing young prodigy and eventual travel to Europe! Wow. That was hot stuff in 1850!
Prior to sports, this was the ‘go-to’ event that grabbed people’s attention. Wadsworth, Longfellow and Twain were among his fans. Even Bobby Fisher states that: “…..Morphy was the most precise player in the history of the game.”
A century and a half later we bring his exciting story to the world. Humanity has advanced principally by mental capacities. There are a few common denominators of development within all great thinkers throughout history. For centuries a prime exercise for strategy, intrigue, general war-thinking development and a barometer for measuring the highest level of intellect has been chess. It stands supreme measuring mentation.
The project is designed for children, teenagers and adults: spotlighting historical figures and important events in the world of chess. This features Paul Morphy and his family as they discover his ability to play the game without a single lesson at the age of 6. Morphy was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a wealthy and distinguished family. It’s felt that learned to play chess by simply watching games between his father and uncle and possibly the free-man-of-color Jessie, working for the family. They realize his amazing talent and encourage him to play at various functions against more experienced players. By the time he is ten years old, he is considered one of the best players in New Orleans.
To add drama and conflict, a sibling rivalry between his older brother, Edward, who is a budding concert pianist in his own right is very frustrated that his younger brother is being acknowledged as a prodigy for playing a game he believes that Paul has found a way to win using “trickery.” This is far from the truth and Edwards claims are dismissed. The middle child, Malvina, protects Paul who is small, thin and frail from Edward because she believes that he is envious and desires to receive the type of attention that Paul receives for his natural talent.
She continues to stress to Edward that just because Paul is acknowledged for his talent, that however, should not cause him to be jealous or treat Paul with indifference. This sentiment is echoed by Louise, their mother who is a music teacher. ‘Mother’ fosters a spirit of independence in each child and struggles like most parents for a balanced household. Her hands are full but she manages to persuade that talent alone should not be put above ‘family.’
Along the way, nurturing Paul as a gifted chess player are his father Alonzo Morphy, uncle Ernest Morphy and Jessie. Together they attempt help Paul grow as a chess player by teaching the finer points of the game and encourage him to enjoy his status. However Paul’s prodigy is otherworldly and amazing.
When we watch this movie, we enter a world of privilege created by Paul’s father, Alonzo who was a judge, successful landowner and businessman. From the very first scene, events and characters begin to define a world, set in time and place, with implied values and social nuances that are southern without projecting class, status or a sense of arrogance that is usually associated with families who have achieved a high level of success. However, in this initial world we see that young Paul has merely a sense of pure excitement about ‘life and the pursuit of happiness.’
He’s not concerned with pomp and circumstance, nor is he concerned with being better than his older brother. No, Paul is content with being a child and enjoying all that his family has to offer.
THE CALL TO ACTION
When Paul discovers that he has the ability to play chess is at a high level, what makes him appealing is his innocence. Unlike his older brother who is driven to prove he is the best, Paul on the other hand is driven by the excitement of playing just for the sake of enjoying to play chess without regard to detailed analysis. He discovers that he is better off without it.
His "call to action" is set in motion by those around him-his family and Jessie. They make the choice that will cause him to leave his happy-go-lucky world of play and fun to enter the world of the extraordinary.’ However, it is at the insistence of his mother and sister that he not be brought along too fast and that he should always be given the opportunity to be himself, most importantly, remain a child so that he can enjoy his childhood without regret.
THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD
The extraordinary world is entered with Paul playing experienced adult players in chess clubs around New Orleans. In most cases he remained passive, not indifferent. However, it’s the extraordinary world his brother desperately wants and will stop at nothing to be a part of. The story ends with Paul upstaging his brother, Edward, but not the way one thinks. No, Paul had absolutely nothing to do with a local newspaper that placed his victory on the front page of the newspaper and placed Edward's triumph at his recital in the back pages! Despite the rave reviews at his piano recital this unintentional upstaging infuriates Edward who vows to be better than his brother at all costs. Paul responds with an act of love and tells his brother that he loves his ability to play beautiful music.