Zelig (1983) Script

He was the phenomenon of the '20s.

When you think, at the time, he was as well-known as Lindbergh, it's really quite astonishing.

His story reflected the nature of our civilization, the character of our times, yet it was also one man's story.

And all the themes of our culture were there.

Heroism, will, things like that.

But when you look back on it, it was very strange.

Well, it is ironic to see how quickly he has faded from memory, considering what an astounding record he made.

He was, of course, very amusing, but at the same time touched a nerve in people, perhaps in a way in which they would prefer not to be touched.

It certainly is a very bizarre story.

The year is 1928.

America, enjoying a decade of unequalled prosperity, has gone wild.

The Jazz Age, it is called. The rhythms are syncopated, the morals are looser, the liquor is cheaper, when you can get it.

It is a time of diverse heroes and madcap stunts, of speakeasies and flamboyant parties.

One typical party occurs at the Long Island estate of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Porter Sutton, socialites, patrons of the arts.

Politicians and poets rub elbows with the cream of high society.

Present at the party is Scott Fitzgerald, who is to cast perspective on the '20s for all future generations.

He writes in his notebook about a curious little man named Leon Selwyn or Zelman, who seemed clearly to be an aristocrat, and extolled the very rich as he chatted with socialites.

He spoke adoringly of Coolidge and the Republican party, all in an upper-class Boston accent.

"An hour later," writes Fitzgerald, "I was stunned to see the same man speaking with the kitchen help."

"Now, he claimed to be a Democrat and his accent seemed to be coarse, "as if he were one of the crowd."

It is the first small notice taken of Leonard Zelig.

Florida, one year later.

An odd incident occurs at the New York Yankees' training camp.

Journalists, anxious as always to immortalize the exploits of the great home-run hitters, notice a strange new player waiting his turn at bat after Babe Ruth.

He is listed on the roster as Lou Zelig, but no one on the team has heard of him.

Security guards are called, and he is escorted from the premises.

It appears as a small item in the next day's newspaper.

Chicago, Illinois, that same year.

There is a private party at a speakeasy on the South Side.

People from the most respectable walks of life dance and drink bathtub gin.

Present that evening was Calvin Turner, a waiter.

A lotta customers, a lotta gangsters came in the place.

'Cause they always good tippers and take good care of us, and of course we try to take care of our customers.

But on this particular night, I looked over and here's a strange guy comin' in.

I'd never seen him before, so I asked one of the others, I say, "John, you know this guy? You ever seen him?"

So he looks. "No, I ain't never seen him before."

"I don't know who he is, but I know he's a tough-looking hombre."

So I looked over, and next thing, the guy had disappeared.

I don't know where he went to, but about this time, the music usually gets started.

And the band started... Playin', and I looked, and here's a colored guy, a colored boy playin' trumpet.

Man, he was playin' back.

I looked at the guy and said "Well, my goodness.

"He looks just like that gangster, but the gangster was white

"and this guy is black."

So I don't know what's... What's happening.

New York City. It is several months later.

Police are investigating the disappearance of a clerk named Leonard Zelig.

Both his landlady and his employer have reported him missing.

They tell police he was an odd little man who kept to himself.

Only two clues are found in Zelig's Greenwich Village flat.

One, a photograph of Zelig with Eugene O'Neill, and one of him as Pagliacci.

Acting on a tip, they trace his whereabouts to Chinatown, where, in the rear of a Chinese establishment, a strange-looking Oriental who fits the description of Leonard Zelig is discovered.

Suspicious, the detectives try to pull off his disguise, but it is not a disguise, and a fight breaks out.

He is removed by force, and taken to Manhattan Hospital.

In the ambulance, he rants and curses in what sounds like authentic Chinese.

He is restrained with a straitjacket.

When he emerges from the car 20 minutes later, incredibly, he is no longer Chinese, but Caucasian.

Bewildered interns place him in the emergency room for observation.

At 7:00 a.m., Dr. Eudora Fletcher, a psychiatrist, makes her usual rounds.

When I first heard about this emergency case that had been brought in, I didn't think anything peculiar.

And when I first laid eyes on him, it was a bit strange, because I mistook him for a doctor.

He had a very professional demeanor about him.

As a young psychiatrist, Eudora Fletcher is fascinated by Leonard Zelig.

She convinces the conservative staff at the hospital to allow her to pursue a study of the new admission.

What do you do? Oh, me? I'm a psychiatrist.

Oh, yes? Yes, yes, I work mostly with delusional paranoids.

Tell me about it. Oh, there's not much to tell. I...

I work mostly on the Continent, and I've written quite a few psychoanalytic papers.

I've studied a great deal. I worked with Freud in Vienna.

Yes, we broke over the concept of penis envy.

Freud felt that it should be limited to women.

It's not that he was making any sense at all.

It was just a conglomeration of psychological double-talk that he had apparently heard, or perhaps was familiar with through reading.

The funny thing was that his delivery was quite fluid, and might have been really quite convincing to someone who did not know any better.

Who was this Leonard Zelig that seemed to create such diverse impressions everywhere?

All that was known of him was that he was the son of a Yiddish actor named Morris Zelig, whose performance as Puck in the Orthodox version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, was coolly received.

The elder Zelig's second marriage is marked by constant violent quarrelling, so much so, that although the family lives over a bowling alley, it is the bowling alley that complains of noise.

As a boy, Leonard is frequently bullied by anti-Semites.

His parents, who never take his part and blame him for everything, side with the anti-Semites.

They punish him often by locking him in a dark closet.

When they are really angry, they get into the closet with him.

On his deathbed, Morris Zelig tells his son that life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering, and the only advice he gives him is to save string.

Though brother Jack has a nervous breakdown, and sister Ruth becomes a shoplifter and alcoholic, Leonard Zelig appears to have adjusted to life.

Somehow, he seems to have coped.

And then, suddenly, increasingly strange behavior.

Fascinated by the Zelig phenomenon, Dr. Fletcher arranges a series of experiments and invites the skeptical staff to observe.

With the doctors watching, Zelig becomes a perfect psychiatrist.

When two Frenchmen are brought in, Zelig assumes their characters and speaks reasonable French.

In the company of a Chinese person, he begins to develop oriental features.

By now, word has gotten out to the press, and a public thirsting for thrills and novelty is immediately captivated.

The clamor is so great that Dr. Allan Sindell is forced to issue a statement.

We're just beginning to realize the dimensions of what could be the scientific medical phenomenon of the age, and possibly of all time.

Fresh stories roll off the press every day about Zelig and his puzzling condition.

Although the doctors claim to have the situation in hand, no two can agree on a diagnosis.

I'm convinced that it's glandular in nature and although there's no evidence now of any misfunction, I'm sure that further tests will show a problem in the secretions.

I'm certain it's something he picked up from eating Mexican food.

This manifestation is neurological in origin.

Now, this patient is suffering from a brain tumor, and I should not be surprised if, within several weeks, he died.

Now, we have not as yet been able to locate the tumor, but we're still looking.

Ironically, within two weeks' time, it is Dr. Birsky himself who dies of a brain tumor.

Leonard Zelig is fine.

Throughout the weeks of testing and speculation, Eudora Fletcher begins to feel that the patient might be suffering not from a physiological disorder, but from a psychological one.

It is Zelig's unstable make-up, she suggests, that accounts for his metamorphoses.

The governing board of doctors is hostile to her notion.

They conclude that Zelig's malady can be traced to poor alignment of the vertebrae.

Tests prove them wrong, and cause a temporary problem for the patient.

Now, the press and public hang on every bit of news, thoroughly absorbed in the real-life drama.

The continuing saga of the strange creature at Manhattan Hospital goes on.

This morning, doctors report, experiments were conducted and several women of varying types were placed in close proximity to the subject, but no change occurred, leading authorities to conclude that the phenomenon does not occur with women.

Later today, doctors will be experimenting with a midget and a chicken.

Leonard Zelig continues to astound scientists at New York's Manhattan Hospital, where numerous tests have led nowhere in determining the nature of this astonishing manifestation.

He is confronted by two overweight men at the request of the doctors.

As the men discuss their obesity, an initially reticent Zelig joins in, swelling himself to a miraculous 250 pounds.

Next, in the presence of two Negro men, Zelig rapidly becomes one himself.

What will they think of next?

Meanwhile, Americans all over have their own reactions.

I wish I could be Lenny Zelig, the changing man.

I'd be different people, and maybe someday my wishes will come true.

Leonard Zelig is one of the finest gentlemen in the United States of America!

He is the cat's pajamas!

Trying a new approach, Dr. Fletcher places the subject under hypnosis.

Tell me why you assume the characteristics of the person you're with.

It's safe.

What do you mean? What do you mean, "safe"?

Safe to...

To be like the others.

Mmm-hmm. You want to be safe?

I wanna be liked. Mmm-hmm.

Probing Zelig's unconscious, Dr. Fletcher gradually puts together the pieces of Zelig's behavioral puzzle.

Dividing her time between the hospital and the 42nd Street library, she writes her report.

A closed meeting of doctors listens as Dr. Fletcher describes Zelig as "a human chameleon."

Like the lizard that is endowed by nature with a marvelous protective device that enables it to change color and blend in with its immediate surrounding, Zelig, too, protects himself by becoming whoever he is around.

The doctors listen, and their reaction is skeptical.

"Impossible!" they claim."Preposterous!"

"If he's a lizard," quips one doctor, "then we should not spend good hospital money feeding him, "but simply catch him some flies."

We knew we had a good story this time 'cause it had everything in it.

It had romance and it had suspense.

And then this fella, Zelig, you know, he grew up poor.

I remember my city editor came to me.

He said "Ted, we want this story on page one every day."

And in those days, you'd do anything to sell papers.

To get a story, you'd jazz it up, exaggerate, even maybe play with the truth a little bit.

But here was a story. It was a natural.

You just told the truth and it sold papers. It never happened before.

Overnight, Leonard Zelig has become the main topic of conversation everywhere, and is discussed with amusement and wonder.

No social gathering is without its Leonard Zelig joke, and in a decade of popular dance crazes, a new one sweeps the nation.

There's a brand-new dance come up the river Just jerk your head and shake your liver You're doin' the Chameleon Fo-do-do-de-oh, make a face that's like a lizard And feel that beat down in your gizzard You're doin' the Chameleon Ah!

Stick out your tongue the way the reptiles do Tryin' to catch a fly Inflate your lungs like big crocodiles do Hey, hey, my oh my Throw your best gal down right on the floor She'll be beggin' you for more And you're doin' the Chameleon If you hold your breath till you turn blue You'll be changing colors like they do When you're doin' the Chameleon Fo-do-do-de-oh, wiggle like a salamander Go this way, that way, all meander You're doin' the Chameleon Ah!

Stick out your tongue the way the reptiles do Tryin' to catch a fly Inflate your lungs like big crocodiles do Hey, hey, my oh my Shake your shoulders, move your seat around Get right down and kick your feet around Doin' the Chameleon, fo-de-oh-do What's brown and white and yellow and has four eyes?

Leonard Zelig at the League of Nations.

Not everyone, however, was entranced by the human chameleon, and amongst the fanatics, he was a handy symbol of iniquity.

This creature personifies capitalist man!

A creature who takes many forms to achieve ends, the exploitation of the workers by deception.

To the Ku Klux Klan, Zelig, a Jew who was able to transform himself into a Negro or Indian, was a triple threat.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fletcher, certain that her findings are correct, begs for time with her patient to put her theories into operation.

Do you recall the first time you began behaving like the people you were around?

In school, some very bright people asked me if I read Moby Dick.


I was ashamed to say I never read it.

And you pretended? Yes.

When did the changes begin happening automatically?

Years ago. St. Patrick's Day.

Wandered into a bar. Wasn't wearing green.

They made remarks. I turned Irish.

You told them you were Irish?

My hair turned red, my nose turned up.

Spoke about the great potato famine and the little people.

We do not agree with Dr. Fletcher's ideas.

We believe those ideas are pipe dreams.

We believe that any change in Zelig's condition is going to be brought about through certain experimental drugs, which, although risky, have been known to work wonders.

Zelig is treated with the experimental drug Somadril hydrate.

He undergoes severe mood changes, and for several days will not come off the wall.

Then, suddenly, as Dr. Fletcher is beginning to make some progress, the question of Zelig's fate takes a new twist as his half-sister, Ruth, shocks everyone by removing him from the hospital.

He can be better cared for at home, she tells the doctors.

He will be looked after, she explains, by her and her dubious-looking lover, Martin Geist, a businessman and ex-carnival promoter.

There is very little resistance amongst the doctors, who are relieved to be rid of the frustrating case.

Only Dr. Fletcher cares about Zelig as a human being.

She insists he desperately needs special care, but it is to no avail.

No, no one was questioning her legal right to Zelig, I mean, she was his half-sister and his guardian, but she had a strange boyfriend called Geist that... He'd been in jail for real-estate fraud.

He was selling the same piece of property to a lot of the same people, and...

Matter of fact, a congressman from Delaware bought it twice.

The crowds that lined the roads to glimpse the human chameleon tie up traffic for days.

He is a sight to behold for tourists and children.

People from all over the country fight for space to peek at this new wonderment.

Selling mementos while her brother is allowed to be on exhibition is only the beginning for Ruth Zelig and Martin Geist.

Admission is charged to twice-daily demonstrations of Leonard's stunning prowess.

He does not disappoint, changing appearance over and over upon demand.

Overnight, he has become an attraction, a novelty, a freak.

In this 1935 film based on the life of Zelig, called The Changing Man, the atmosphere is best summed up.

We can't give up custody of Leonard.

I know if I'm given the chance, I can cure him.

It's no use. Even our attorney says it's hopeless.

Really, Dr. Fletcher.

Uh... May I call you Eudora?

I tell you, somewhere behind that vacuous face, that zombie-like stare, is a real human being, and I can bring it out.

How? I'll think up some new way.

Some technique. Whatever it is, it'll have to be personal.

There's not much I can do legally. I'll try, but...

They don't care about him. They'll exploit him.

All they see in him is a chance to make more money. Look at this.

Already they're selling this Leonard Zelig doll.

The film did not exaggerate. There were not only Leonard Zelig pens and lucky charms, but clocks and toys.

There were Leonard Zelig watches and books, and a famous Leonard Zelig doll.

There were aprons, chameleon-shaped earmuffs and a popular Leonard Zelig game.

Everybody go chameleon Everybody show chameleon Take it fast or slow chameleon, chameleon, chameleon days Everybody think chameleon Every time you blink, chameleon In your kitchen sink, chameleon, chameleon, chameleon days They're so much fun, they'll even jump right through a hoop Oh, boy!

And they change color when they're swimming in your soup Boo-boop-be-doop Flying in the air, chameleon Crawling in your hair, chameleon Take away all your care, chameleon, chameleon, chameleon days There were many popular songs inspired by Leonard Zelig, tunes that swept the nation.

I want you for myself alone Leonard the Lizard, see him running across the floor See him skittering out the door You have such reptile eyes Eyes like a lizard that weave their spell In addition to the products and endorsements, there are the endless exhibitions.

In Hollywood, he is a great favorite and is offered a film contract.

Clara Bow invites him for a private weekend, and tells him to bring all his personalities.

In Chicago, he meets heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, who clowns with Zelig at his training camp.

In Washington, DC, he is introduced to both Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

In France he is hailed as "Le Lézard." He is the toast of the Parisian music halls.

His performance endears him as well to many leading French intellectuals, who see in him a symbol for everything.

His transformation into a rabbi is so realistic that certain Frenchmen suggest he be sent to Devil's Island.

At the Folies-Bergère, Josephine Baker does her version of the Chameleon dance, and later tells friends she finds Zelig amazing, but a little lost.

Everyone used to be at my place, that is, everyone who was someone.

And occasionally, someone would bring Zelig in... Leonard in.

Cole Porter was fascinated by Leonard, and he once wrote a line in a song...

Uh..."You're the tops, you're Leonard Zelig."

But then he couldn't find anything to rhyme with "Zelig."

I'm flyin' high

'Cause I've got a feelin' I'm fallin'

Fallin' for nobody else but you You caught my eye Now I got a feelin' I'm fallin'

Show me that ring and I'll jump right through I used to travel single, oh We chanced to mingle, oh Now I'm a-tingle over you Hey, Mr. Zelig, stand by

'Cause I've got a feelin' I'm fallin'

Fallin' for nobody else but you, wow!

Though the shows and parties keep Zelig's sister and her lover rich and amused, Zelig's own existence is a nonexistence.

Devoid of personality, his human qualities long since lost in the shuffle of life, he sits alone, quietly staring into space, a cipher, a non-person, a performing freak.

He who wanted only to fit in, to belong, to go unseen by his enemies and be loved, neither fits in nor belongs, is supervised by enemies, and remains uncared for.

The board at the hospital has all but forgotten Zelig.

Only Dr. Fletcher continues to fight for his custody.

The court turns her final appeal down.

Throughout her valiant legal battle, she is frequently in the company of her attorney, Charles Koslow.

He falls in love with her and presses for her hand in marriage.

She is ambivalent.

Reluctantly, she is beginning to abandon all hope of recovering Leonard Zelig.

That summer, Geist has booked them in Spain.

It is the last leg of a European tour that has been wildly successful.

Relations between Martin Geist and Ruth Zelig have grown strained.

They have become bored with one another, and quarrel frequently.

The situation grows worse when she meets Luis Martinez, a mediocre and cowardly bullfighter with whom she falls in love.

Though he wishes to impress Ruth Zelig, Martinez displays his usual panic in the arena.

Good fortune is with him, however, as the bull gives himself a brain concussion.

Martinez takes credit for the kill, and, cutting off the bull's ear, presents it to his lover with great bravado.

That evening, in a jealous rage, Martin Geist returns to his hotel room and confronts Ruth Zelig. He demands that she give him the ear.

She refuses. Geist insists upon possession of the ear.

They quarrel furiously, and Martinez is discovered hiding in the closet.

Geist pulls a revolver and shoots him.

He turns the gun on Zelig's half-sister and kills her, then he takes his own life.

In an orgy of jealous violence, Leonard Zelig's life is turned upside down.

At first, the news reverberates around the world.

Then, just as quickly, the thrill-hungry public becomes apathetic.

Fresh scandals appear and make headlines.

Events in the Jazz Age move too rapidly, like Red Grange.

A population glutted with distractions is quick to forget.

The '20s come to a crashing climax, and still Leonard Zelig is nowhere to be found.

Dr. Eudora Fletcher searches in vain to locate him.

When several leads prove disappointing, she gives up, discouraged.

I felt it was a shame, because here was this unique case that I could make my reputation on.

Not that I knew how to cure him, but if I could have him alone and feel my way and be innovative and creative, I felt that I could change his life, if I only had the chance.

300,000 of the faithful are waiting before St. Peter's for the appearance of Pope Pius XI.

Borne on the shoulders of 12 attendants, the seat of the gestatoria carrying the Holy Father is drawn out to the central balcony, where he bestows his blessing on Rome and all the world.

This is the first time that this ritual has been performed in 63 years, and brings to a climax on Easter Sunday the religious ceremonies of Holy Week.

Oh, but what's this? A commotion next to the Papal Father?

Somebody doesn't belong up there.

The guards are summoned amidst chaos, as His Holiness Pope Pius XI tries to swat the intruder with a sacred decree.

The faithful can't believe it.

It is, of course, Zelig.

He is returned to the United States by Italian authorities and readmitted to Manhattan Hospital.

"I welcome this opportunity to treat Leonard Zelig, "now that he's back as a ward of the hospital.

"I'm grateful that the board has given me this chance.

"I sincerely hope to return him to society a useful, self-possessed citizen

"no longer a curiosity with no life of his own."

Dr. Fletcher has no time now to think of marriage.

All her attention must be devoted to Leonard Zelig.

Her plan is to bring him to her country home.

She will set up a neutral environment away from society.

Here, she will begin searching for some new way to treat him in the hopes of penetrating his unique malady.

Aware of the significance of her work, Eudora Fletcher arranges to keep a filmed record of the proceedings.

For this, she contacts her first cousin, Paul Deghuee, an inventor and part-time photographer.

And she said "I want to make a record of this case for future generations

"and the world of science, "and I want you to keep the camera very quiet."

And I said, "Why don't you just take notes and write it up?"

She said, "Paul, when a man changes his physical appearance, you want to see it.

"You can't read about it. Besides which, I am planning to make history."

The "White Room" is carefully arranged for maximum serenity.

It is a small study in Dr. Fletcher's house, sparsely furnished.

Clumsy photographic lights are nailed to the wall to provide sufficient illumination.

Microphones are hidden in specially selected places.

The camera shoots through a pane of glass which renders it relatively unobtrusive.

Only the noise of the motor is a problem, but this is muffled with a blanket and anything else handy.

From this cramped vantage point, photographer Paul Deghuee will record the famous "White Room Sessions, " a remarkable document in the history of psychotherapy.

By today's standards, the White Room Sessions would seem very primitive, and yet they were really quite effective in developing a very strong personal relation between doctor and patient.

The question whether Zelig was a psychotic or merely extremely neurotic was a question that was endlessly discussed among us doctors.

Now, I myself felt that, uh...

His feelings were really not all that different from the normal, maybe what one would call the well-adjusted, normal person, only carried to an extreme degree, to an extreme extent.

I myself felt that one could really think of him as the ultimate conformist.

Leonard, do you know why you're here?

To discuss psychiatry, right?

You're a doctor?

Yes, I am. I am. Perhaps you've read my latest paper on delusional paranoia?

Turns out the entire thing is mental.

Now, suppose I tell you you're not a doctor.

Well, uh... I would say that you're making a joke.

Is it always so bright in here?

Oh, I'm recording these sessions on film, if you don't mind?

No. Somebody's behind there, right? Mmm-hmm. That's right.

That's a camera. Mmm-hmm.

Leonard... Leonard, why don't we start with simple reality?

Leonard, you're not a doctor. No?

No. You're a patient. I'm the doctor.

Well, I wouldn't tell that to too many people if I were you.

Leonard, you're not a doctor.

Is she gonna be all right? 'Cause... Is this a...

I've gotta get back to town. Really. I have an interesting case, treating two sets of Siamese twins with split personalities.

I'm getting paid by eight people.

"The first week's sessions did not go too well, " writes Dr. Fletcher in her diary.

"Leonard identifies with me and is convinced that he is a doctor.

"He is guarded and suspicious.

"There is something appealing about him, too. He's quick-witted and energetic.

"Perhaps it is his very helplessness that moves me.

"I must keep flexible and play the situation by ear."

How are you today, Leonard?

Fine. And I... Uh...

I gotta get back to town soon. You know, I teach a course at the psychiatric institute in masturbation and...

I see. I'm a doctor, you know, and I...

"Guilt-related masturbation."

No, no, not guilt-related. I... I teach advanced.

I'm quite a respected doctor there. Leonard, I'd like you...

...eyes follow this pen and just let yourself breathe deeply.

Why? What... Relax.

No. You're trying to hypnotize me, obviously.

Do you mind? Of course I mind. I'm a doctor. I'm...

Leonard, you're not a doctor. I am a doctor!

Just relax. No, I can't. I'm... I'm due back in town.

I... I have this masturbation class.

If I'm not there, they start without me.

As the weeks go by, Dr. Fletcher grows more and more frustrated.

"Leonard continues to insist he is a doctor, "and even refuses to let me hypnotize him," she writes.

"I believe his experiences of the past year

"have made him more defensive than ever. It is discouraging."

She was under great pressure, you could tell.

She was moody and nervous. He was fine.

Napping, sitting in his chair reading... He used to refer to himself as Dr. Zelig.

He was reading books on psychiatry.

I told her "You'd better get away for a day and relax.

"The strain is becoming too much for you."

Leaving Zelig alone, Dr. Fletcher takes Paul Deghuee's advice and she and her fiancé spend some hours off relaxing.

They go to Broadway, then to a well-known nightclub, where, despite a lively stage show, Dr. Fletcher is distracted and uneasy.

She is unable to think of anything but her patient.

The atmosphere with her fiancé, Koslow, is awkward and strained.

He is put off by her total obsession with Zelig.

Ironically, it is in the noisy and smoke-filled atmosphere of the nightclub that Eudora Fletcher is struck by a brilliant and innovative plan that will create a major breakthrough in the case.

Dr. Zelig? Yes?

I... I wonder if you could help me with a problem.

Well, I'll certainly try.

Of course, we can't promise anything, you know.

You see, last week I was with a group of fairly erudite people who were discussing the novel Moby Dick, and I... I was afraid to admit that I hadn't read it, so I lied.


You see, I want so badly to be liked, to be like other people so that I don't stand out.

That's natural. I go to such extreme lengths to blend in.


You're a doctor, you know?

You... should know how to handle that.

No, but the truth of the matter is, I... I'm not an actual doctor.

You're not? No, Doctor.

No, I've... I've been pretending to be a doctor to fit in with my friends.

You see, they're doctors.


That's something.

But you're a doctor, and you can help me. You have to help me.

Actually... I don't feel that well, actually.

But my... My whole life's just been a lie.

I've been posing as one thing after another.

Well, you... You need help, lady. Um...

Last night... Last night, I dreamt that I was falling into fire.

What does that mean?

That's terrible. I don't know. You know, I...

Please, Doctor. I know I'm a very complicated patient.

Jesus. I don't feel that well. What am I suffering from?

How should I know? I'm not a doctor.

You're not? No. Am I?

Who are you? What do you mean, who am I?

I don't know. These are tough questions. Leonard Zelig.

Yes, definitely. Who is he? You.

No. I'm nobody. I'm nothing.

Catch me, I'm falling.

Playing on Zelig's identity disorder, Dr. Fletcher has manipulated him into momentary disorientation.

With his guard lowered, she quickly puts him under hypnosis.

Using posthypnotic suggestion, she will now be able to induce a trance at will.

My brother beat me.

My sister beat my brother.

My father beat my sister and my brother and me.

My mother beat my father and my sister and me and my brother.

The neighbors beat our family.

People down the block beat the neighbors and our family.

I'm 12 years old.

I run into a synagogue.

I ask the rabbi the meaning of life.

He tells me the meaning of life, but he tells it to me in Hebrew.

I don't understand Hebrew.

Then he wants to charge me $600 for Hebrew lessons.

Dr. Fletcher's therapy consists of a two-pronged attack.

In the trance state, the personality will be deeply probed and then restructured.

In the conscious state, she will provide love and affection, unconditional positive regard.

You will be completely honest.

You're in a deep trance.

You will become, not who you think I want you to be, but you'll be yourself.

Now, how do you feel about it here?

It's the worst.

I hate the country.

I hate the grass and the mosquitoes.

And cooking... Your cooking is terrible.

Your pancakes...

They're... I dump them in the garbage when you're not looking.

Uh-huh. And the jokes you try and tell when...

When you think you're amusing, they're long and pointless, there's no end to them.

I see. And what else?

I wanna go to bed with you.

Oh... That surprises me.

I didn't think you liked me very much.

I love you.

You do?

You're very sweet, 'cause you're...

You're not as clever as you think you are.

You're all mixed up, and nervous, and you're the worst cook.

Those pancakes...

Oh, I love you.

I wanna take care of you.

No more pancakes.

I started out by trying to use Leonard to make my reputation, and then I found that I had very strong feelings for him.

I never thought I was attractive.

I never had a real romance.

Charles Koslow was the type of man my mother felt I should marry.

Feeling more confident every day with her patient, Dr. Fletcher takes him for a cautious outing, an afternoon at her sister's house in nearby Teaneck.

Meryl Fletcher is an aviatrix, a fine professional pilot.

Eudora Fletcher is an amateur pilot, and the afternoon is spent relaxing and retelling old flying experiences.

As the weeks pass, Zelig is encouraged to open up more and more, to give his own opinions.

What was guarded at first soon becomes expansive.

I hated my stepmother, and I don't care who knows it.

I love baseball.

You know, it doesn't have to mean anything, it's just very beautiful to watch.

I'm a Democrat. I always was a Democrat.

Is it okay if I don't agree with you about that recording?

Of course. I mean, Brahms is just always too melodramatic for me.

You have to be your own person and make your own moral choices, even when they do require real courage, otherwise you're like a robot, or a lizard.

Are you really gonna get married to that lawyer?

I... I would much rather you didn't.

No, I don't agree. I think this guy Mussolini is a loser.

Uh... Are we ever gonna make love?

It has been three months, and the board wishes to examine the patient.

Dr. Fletcher says Zelig is not ready to leave the premises.

The doctors agree to visit him there.

The date is set, four days hence.

If progress is insufficient, she will be removed from the case.

I was very nervous, because in his waking state he never remembered anything from his trance state, and I wondered if there could be some way of locking these two things together.

And then I also was worried that if he was with strong personalities, he might lose his personality.

Sunday at noon. The doctors arrive.

They are greeted by Eudora Fletcher and Leonard Zelig and are shown around the grounds.

Though Dr. Fletcher is tense and alert, Leonard Zelig seems calm and at ease.

Despite the fact that he is surrounded by physicians, he does not turn into one.

The encounter appears to be a resounding success, when Dr. Henry Mayerson comments innocently about the weather, saying that it is a nice day.

Zelig tells Dr. Mayerson that he does not agree that it is a nice day.

Dr. Mayerson is taken aback at the firmness of Zelig's conviction.

He points out that the sun is shining and that it is mild.

Zelig, trained to voice his own personal opinions fearlessly, is too aggressive.

He has been molded too far in the other direction.

He has become over-opinionated, and cannot brook any disagreement with his own views.

I had taken him too far in the other direction.

He had struck Dr. Mayerson and several board members with a rake.

This was not what we wanted, and yet I felt that I had accomplished something.

I felt if I could have him for two more weeks, I could do some fine-tuning and turn Leonard Zelig back into his own man.

Dr. Eudora Nesbit Fletcher, the hero, or should we say heroine, of the hour.

The beautiful and brilliant psychiatrist never lost faith in her conviction that Leonard Zelig, the human chameleon, was suffering from a mental disorder.

Working with her cousin, cameraman Paul Deghuee, the doctor managed to keep a vital record of the proceedings including rare footage of Zelig hypnotized.

The patient and his healer have become fast friends in the process, and enjoy one another's company even when she's not working on him.

The result of maintaining a courageous minority opinion is a resounding success for psychiatry.

Who says women are just good for sewing?

Now it's on to City Hall, where the town's newest celebrities are given the key to the city.

We're honored to present this key to New York City to the two of you.

And, uh... Jimmy Walker did wanna be here this afternoon and sing Leonard the Lizard, but he was just too busy.

After City Hall, Eudora Fletcher, the beautiful genius who cured Zelig of his science-defying condition, is honored by fellow scientists at New York's Waldorf-Astoria.

Present are luminaries from all over the world, not just in the field of psychiatry, but physics, biology, mathematics, and you name it.

Here she is exchanging theories with Nils Andersen, the father of modern blood disease.

Later in the week, Dr. Fletcher is again honored by the greatest city in the world, as she gets to christen her first ship.

Quite a success story for a little girl from the backwoods.

Dr. Fletcher has smashed the bottle, not champagne...

I'm speaking to you from the home of Mrs. Catherine Fletcher.

She's the mother of Dr. Eudora Fletcher, the famous psychiatrist so much in the news these days.

And I'm going to be asking Mrs. Fletcher to...

To begin with, to tell us something about what it's like to raise a medical genius.

And I might ask you about the many sacrifices that you've made to put your daughter through medical school.

And could you speak right into the microphones, please?

Sacrifices, we had none. John was a stockbroker, he had plenty of money, and I came from a wealthy Philadelphia family, so...

Well, I'm sure that your daughter always wanted to be a doctor, ever since she could remember.

I don't think so.

I always thought she'd want to be a flier like her sister Meryl and raise a family.

But she was a very moody... But still, a mother always dreams for her child to have the kind of success that your daughter has.

She was a very difficult girl. Well, tell me about your husband.

I understand that he is a simple businessman.

He must be so thrilled and pleased to have his daughter achieve such recognition.

John had problems, depression. He drank.

Well, Mrs. Fletcher, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Here at San Simeon, glorious dreamland of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, celebrities from all walks of society, sun or play.

There's Marie Dressler with Mr. Hearst. Always a popular guest at San Simeon, Miss Dressler accepts a flower from an ardent admirer.

Along with her is Marion Davies.

When she works, Miss Davies is always dead serious, but here at this fabulous playground, she shows us her fun side.

There she is with you-know-who, Charlie Chaplin, always kidding.

Although New York is 3,000 miles away, Jimmy Walker somehow appears through Mr. Hearst's enchanted gateway.

Another New Yorker is Leonard Zelig, here shown clowning with everybody's favorite cowboy, Tom Mix.

Won't Tony be jealous?

Tony is Tom's horse, and we always thought they went everywhere together.

There's that fellow Chaplin again, this time with Adolphe Menjou.

There's Claire Windsor and Dolores del Rio, and a very charming Eudora Fletcher chatting with Hollywood's newest dancing sensation, James Cagney.

Oh, and what have we here?

Only a beautiful lady named Carole Lombard.

And there's Dr. Fletcher and Leonard Zelig hitting a few with Bobby Jones on Mr. Hearst's golf course.

Unless Leonard can go back to his old chameleon personality and turn into a golf pro, I'd bet my money on Bobby.

But who cares, if they're having fun?

Leonard Zelig, do you want to give the kids of this country some advice?

I sure do. Kids, you gotta be yourself.

You know, you can't act like anybody else just because you think that they have all the answers and you don't.

You have to be your own man and learn to speak up and say what's on your mind.

Now, maybe they're not free to do that in foreign countries, but that's the American way.

And you can take it from me, because I used to be a member of the reptile family, but I'm not anymore.

I'm sittin' on top of the world I'm rollin' along Just rollin' along Oh boy, I'm quittin' the blues of the world I'm singin' a song Just singin' a song Glory, hallelujah, I told Leonard Zelig Hey, Len, get ready to call Just like Humpty Dumpty, I'm ready to fall I'm sittin' on top of the world My, my, my, rollin' along Rollin' along Zelig, no longer a chameleon, is at last his own man.

His point of view on politics, art, life and love is honest and direct.

Though his taste is described by many as lowbrow, it is his own.

He is finally an individual, a human being.

He no longer gives up his own identity to be a safe and invisible part of his surroundings.

Oh, his taste wasn't terrible.

He was the kind of man who preferred watching baseball to reading Moby Dick.

And that got him off on the wrong foot, or so the legend goes.

It was much more a matter of symbolism. To the Marxists, he was one thing.

The Catholic Church never forgave him for the Vatican incident.

The American people, in the throes of the Depression as they were, found in him a symbol of possibility, of self-improvement and self-fulfillment.

And of course, the Freudians had a ball.

They could interpret him in any way they pleased.

It was all symbolism, but there were no two intellectuals who agreed about what it meant.

I don't know if you could call it a triumph of psychotherapy.

It seems more like a triumph of aesthetic instincts, because Dr. Fletcher's techniques didn't owe anything to then-current schools of therapy.

But she sensed what was needed and she provided it, and that was, in its way, a remarkable creative accomplishment.

When I think about it, it seems to me that his story reflected a lot of the Jewish experience in America, the great urge to push in and to find one's place and then to assimilate into the culture.

I mean, he wanted to assimilate like crazy.

Eudora Fletcher's life has also changed from this experience.

For her, fame and recognition are empty rewards and do not live up to the adolescent fantasies that prompted her ambition.

She and her patient have fallen in love, and it is no surprise when she forsakes the upwardly mobile attorney Koslow and announces wedding plans with Zelig.

Now there's one thing to think of when you're blue There are others much worse off than you If a load of trouble should arrive Laugh and say it's great to be alive Keep your sunny side up, up Hide the side that gets blue If you have nine sons in a row Baseball teams make money, you know Keep your funny side up, up Let your laughter come through, do Stand up on your legs, be like two fried eggs Keep your sunny side up, up Keep your sunny side up It was wonderful to see my sister and Leonard together.

She drew strength from him,

and they were so much in love with each other.

She looked happier than she had in years.

I remember they decided to get married in the spring, and then, of course, the roof fell in.

Two weeks before the wedding, an ex-showgirl named Lita Fox comes forth and claims that she is married to Zelig.

She also claims to have had his child.

It is an immediate scandal.

We were married a year ago. He said he was an actor.

He sounded just like one, and I'm in show business, too.

So we drove to Baltimore and we were married, and I have a license to prove it.

He had married her while under a different personality.

When she read of the plans for his forthcoming wedding to Eudora Fletcher, she was mortified and decided to take legal action.

Zelig says he will fight it in court, but public opinion begins subtly to shift away from him.

Clever attorneys portray Lita Fox as an abandoned woman.

The child is neglected, poor and fatherless.

Zelig has sold his life story to Hollywood for a large sum of money.

When the scandal breaks, the studio demands its money back.

Zelig can only return half as the rest has already been spent.

Outraged, the studio gives him half his life back. They keep the best moments, and he is left with only his sleeping hours and mealtimes.

Zelig is shaken by the scandal, but it is only the beginning.

Now another woman steps forward.

Helen Gray, a salesgirl from a Wisconsin gift shop claims that Zelig is the father of her twins.

She tells her lawyers that he passed himself off as a fur trapper.

Zelig has no recollection, but admits it could have happened when he was under one of his spells.

It is the signal for the floodgates to open.

He married me up at the First Church of Harlem.

He told me he was the brother of Duke Ellington.

He was the guy who smashed my car up. It was brand-new.

Then he backed up over my mother's wrist.

She's elderly, and uses her wrist a lot.

He painted my house a disgusting color.

He said he was a painter.

I couldn't believe the results. Then he disappeared.

That Zelig could be responsible for the behavior of each of the personalities he assumed means dozens of lawsuits.

He is sued for bigamy, adultery, automobile accidents, plagiarism, household damages, negligence, property damages, and performing unnecessary dental extractions.

I would like to apologize to everyone.

I'm awfully sorry for marrying all those women.

It just... I don't know, it just seemed like the thing to do.

And to the gentleman whose appendix I took out, I'm... I don't know what to say.

If it's any consolation, I may still have it somewhere around the house.

My deepest apology goes to the Trokman family in Detroit.

I... I never delivered a baby before in my life, and I, I just thought that ice tongs was the way to do it.

Thriving mercilessly on loopholes and technicalities, the American legal profession has a field day.

Zelig is branded a criminal. Despite Dr. Fletcher's insistence that he cannot be held responsible for his actions while in his chameleon state, it is no use.

Leonard Zelig sets a bad moral influence.

America is a moral country. It's a God-fearing country.

We don't condone scandals, scandals of fraud and polygamy.

In keeping with a pure society, I say lynch the little Hebe!

Throughout the humiliating ordeal, Eudora Fletcher stands by the man she loves, valiantly.

Privately, she tells friends that she is worried about Zelig's emotional condition, which seems to her to be deteriorating under the weight of conservative moral opinion.

In public, he tries to keep up an appearance of composure, but it is increasingly difficult.

It is clear he is coming apart when he and Eudora Fletcher dine at a Greek restaurant, and in the midst of the meal, Zelig begins to turn Greek.

He longs desperately to be liked once again, to be accepted, to fit in.

Public clamor over his morality reaches a fever pitch, and on the eve of his sentencing, Leonard Zelig vanishes.

This is Chief Inspector of Police Thomas Dowd with a national broadcasting news break.

Leonard Zelig is missing. On the eve of his sentencing for an assortment of crimes and misdemeanors ranging from polygamy to fraud, he has disappeared.

We are searching for clues and would appreciate speaking with anyone who might have any information leading to his apprehension.

My sister was just shattered.

She tried, you know, she tried to keep up a calm front but she was just too upset.

And she wasn't a person who usually displayed emotion easily, except where Leonard was concerned.

Dr. Fletcher and the police confer daily.

Together they make public appeals to anyone who might know of his whereabouts.

Apart from several crank telephone calls, there is little response.

Months go by and Zelig is not heard from.

Cars are searched. False leads pour in from everywhere.

His jacket is recovered in Texas.

A manhunt in that state proves futile.

He is reported seen in Chicago, in California.

This still photo appears to have a man resembling him with a mariachi band in Mexico.

Dr. Fletcher continues to search for Zelig, but hopes fade with each passing day.

All I could think of was Leonard and how much I missed him and loved him, and of all the terrific times we'd spent together.

It was really a very painful time for me.

The year ends, and Zelig is still missing.

I just moped around and wept.

And one night, after a very bad time, my sister Meryl said to me, "Come on, let's go out for dinner.

"Let's go to a concert."

I said, "No, I can't do it." But she insisted.

And we went out and finally ended up in a movie.

We saw Grand Hotel and with it, there was a newsreel.

Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party continue to consolidate gains in Depression-ridden Berlin.

Denouncing the Treaty of Versailles, the Nazis make fervent appeals to German patriotism, promising to rebuild...

Eudora Fletcher is stunned by what she sees.

Amongst the Brownshirts, she spots a figure who could be Zelig.

Yes, but then it really made sense, it made all the sense in the world, because although he wanted to be loved, craved to be loved, there was also something in him that desired immersion in the mass and anonymity, and fascism offered Zelig that kind of opportunity.

So he could make something anonymous of himself by belonging to this vast movement.

She sails for Europe the following week.

Ten days later, she arrives in Berlin.

Germany is a country deep in the throes of the Depression.

Militarism and unrest are in the air.

She searches everywhere and makes enquiries, but it is impossible.

After three weeks, the authorities begin to get suspicious.

They watch her. While she is out, they search her hotel room.

A fourth week goes by, and she is about to give up and go home, when news of a large rally at Munich catches her attention.

It is rumored that it will be the largest gathering to date of Nazi personnel.

Eudora Fletcher is counting on the hope that Zelig may also attend.

And that if she can confront him, the strong feeling he has always had for her can be awakened.

At first, all appears hopeless. The crowd is huge, and it seems impossible to locate any one particular face.

Then, suddenly, a figure flanking the Chancellor captures her attention.

Behind and to the right of Hitler, she spots Zelig.

Struggling to make contact, she manages to catch his eye.

Like a man emerging from a dream, Zelig notices her.

In a matter of seconds, everything comes back to him.

Leonard! Leonard!


It was nothing like it happened in the movie.

When Leonard came down from the podium, they didn't know what to think.

We couldn't believe our eyes. Hitler's speech was ruined.

He wanted to make a good joke about Poland, but just then, Zelig interfered and Hitler was extremely upset.

The SS wanted to grab Zelig, but if they would have grabbed him, they probably would have tortured him, or maybe even shot him.

In the confusion, Fletcher and Zelig got out of the building through a side door.

They grabbed a car. They sped away in the car, and the SS after them, shot them...

In rare German newsreel footage, a quick glimpse of the escape was recorded.

I was flying! It was wonderful. And then...

Suddenly, something happened. I was frightened.

I lost control. We went into a dive.

Leonard was so terrified that he changed his personality, and before my eyes, because I was a pilot, he turned into one, too.

Zelig takes control of the airplane.

Acting the role of pilot, he struggles valiantly with the aircraft.

The Germans, who are stunned, take a full 15 minutes before they follow in hot pursuit of their quarry.

With Eudora Fletcher unconscious, Zelig, who had never flown before in his life, not only escapes the German pilots, but sets a record for flying nonstop across the Atlantic upside down.

With a storm of cheers and a blizzard of ticker tape, New York welcomes back Eudora Fletcher and Leonard Zelig, the human chameleon.

His remarkable feat of aviation fills the nation with pride and earns him a full presidential pardon.

Forgiving multitudes flock to see him as he sits by the side of his plucky bride-to-be.

Their journey of triumph leads to City Hall.

New York's greatest honor, the Medal of Valor, is bestowed on Zelig by Carter Dean.

You are a great inspiration to the young of this nation who will one day grow up and be great doctors and great patients.

This is a great thrill.

I'm glad we lived to see this day.

I've never flown before in my life, and it shows exactly what you can do if you're a total psychotic.

The thing was paradoxical, because what enabled him to perform this astounding feat was his ability to transform himself.

Therefore, his sickness was also at the root of his salvation, and I think it's interesting to view the thing that way, that it was his very disorder that made a hero of him.

It was really absurd in a way.

I mean, he had this curious quirk, this strange characteristic, and for a time, everyone loved him, and then people stopped loving him, and then he did this stunt, you know, with the airplane, and then everybody loved him again, and that was what the '20s were like.

When you think about it, has America changed so much? I don't think so.

After untangling countless legal details, Leonard Zelig and Eudora Fletcher marry.

It is a simple ceremony, captured on home movies.

"Wanting only to be liked, he distorted himself beyond measure, " wrote Scott Fitzgerald.

"One wonders what would have happened if, right at the outset, "he had had the courage to speak his mind and not pretend.

"In the end it was, after all, "not the approbation of many, but the love of one woman that changed his life."

As long as I have you Though there be rain and darkness, too I'll not complain I'll laugh it through Poverty may come to me That's true But what care, I say I'll get by As long as I have you

Everybody go chameleon Everybody show chameleon Take it fast or slow chameleon, chameleon, chameleon days Everybody think chameleon Every time you blink, chameleon In your kitchen sink, chameleon, chameleon, chameleon days They're all around us when we wake up every day Ooh!

I'm glad they found us 'cause they take the blues away Hey, hey!

Everywhere you go, chameleon Everything is so chameleon Top of your head to your toe, chameleon, chameleon, chameleon days

They're so much fun, they'll even jump right through a hoop Oh, boy!

And they change color when they're swimming in your soup Boo-boop-be-doop Flying in the air, chameleon Crawling in your hair, chameleon Take away all your care, chameleon, chameleon, chameleon days

There's a brand-new dance come up the river Just jerk your head and shake your liver You're doin' the Chameleon Fo-do-do-de-oh, make a face that's like a lizard And feel that beat down in your gizzard You're doin' the Chameleon Ah!

Stick out your tongue the way the reptiles do Tryin' to catch a fly Inflate your lungs like big crocodiles do Hey, hey, my oh my Throw your best gal down right on the floor She'll be beggin' you for more And you're doin' the Chameleon If you hold your breath till you turn blue You'll be changing colors like they do When you're doin' the Chameleon Fo-do-do-de-oh, wiggle like a salamander Go this way, that way, all meander You're doin' the Chameleon Ah!

Stick out your tongue the way the reptiles do Tryin' to catch a fly Inflate your lungs like big crocodiles do Hey, hey, my oh my Shake your shoulders, move your seat around Get right down and kick your feet around Doin' the Chameleon, fo-de-oh-do