Ten Memorable Moments from the Movies
10. Grace Kelly, décolletée down to here and recumbent on a sofa the size of your porch, invites Cary Grant in the dim light of that Monte Carlo penthouse, to “look at these.” “Did you ever want anything any more in your life?” she purrs. Cary Grant, impenetrable as ever, adverts gentlemanly to her string of pearls, but behind him a roman candle goes spurrrrrrrt in the night sky. To Catch a Thief.
9. Bad guy goes to kick Hondo Lane’s dog, Sam, flaked out in walkway of cavalry commandant’s tent. “I’ll be hanged if I’ll go out of my way for any cur dog,” he says. Click of hammer drawn back on a Winchester ’92. John Wayne at his fortyish, virilest, best. He will shoot you, par’ner. “Man oughta do what he thinks best,” he rasps, in a whisper dark with menace. Guy weenies out and walks around. Hondo swings a boot half-heartedly at his dog: “Quit blockin’ the door.” Hondo.
8. In a rain-pelted back alley off a noisy New Yawk avenue, Holly Golightly and Varcek, Paul hunt for Cat. Soaked and soul-weary, Holly finally admits she’s not Holly, embraces Paul, sheds Illusion, finds Love, finds Purpose… finds Cat. Mooooooo-ooon river, wi-i-i-i-i-i-i-der than a mi-i-i-i-i-i-i-ile… Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Note: When the guys come over for beer, better tuck this one in the desk drawer or footlocker or something… or at least wedge it in between Magnificent Seven and Dirty Dozen)
7. “This is the Rrrrrrrreverend …uh …T. …uh Lawrence …uh Shannnnnon speaking…” Richard Burton in despair’s final throes, “at the end of his rope,” as he says, rears up on hind legs to beard his imbecile tormentor, admin poag and petty bureaucratic tyrant of the kind we all know only too well—reigning dynasty in commerce, industry, education, politics, the profession of arms—in act of futile defiance and majestic small-creature courage. Burton’s best part; Williams’ best play; Huston’s best film. Night of the Iguana.
6. Alan Ladd, shambling veteran fresh off bombing missions over Europe, dragging his traumatized war buddy William Bendix, driven insane by that “monkey music,” lams it when caught in a frame by a pencil-mustached baddy and witch of an ex-wife. Picked up hitch-hiking by Veronica Lake (woof!), he ditches her, finds her again: “Did you dream about me?” she asks. “Everybody dreams about you, baby… the trouble is finding you next morning.” Sheesh. The Blue Dahlia.
5. Marines huddle against the seawall under murderous fire on Tarawa (variously pronounced) atoll. Guys jump up, get cut down by grazing fire across the beach. “We gotta get outta here,” gasps a young Marine. “Nervous?” barks John M. Stryker (played by John M. Wayne who—ooopsy daisy—forgot to join up, but hey…), the gunny’s gunny for all time and the only Marine on the planet ever after. “Count yer toes. I’ll do the master-minding around here.” Sands of Iwo Jima.
4. “Well, we’ve lost the trail. We’ll never find ‘em now,” sighs Martin Pawley after five years of “searching” for two girls (one of them a young—but nubile, as is clearly to be seen when the Duke holds her up to the light in a final scene—Nathalie Wood!) kidnapped by vicious (ptui!) Nawyeki Commanches. “Nope,” says Ethan Edwards, force of Nature played by John Wayne in the force of age, “We’ll find ‘em… jest as shur as thuh turnin’ of thuh yearth.” John Ford flick which, to the consternation of heavy duty “art” critics, always makes the list of ten best films of all time. The Searchers.
3. Tied up in the current down along the Ulanga River, washed-up Canadian engineer Humphrey Bogart and pinched-up British spinster Katherine Hepburn take tea in the sweltering African twilight. The Canadian, casually pouring himself a (filthy) glass of gin, detects a sneer of revulsion upon the fulsome lips of his passenger. Suggesting that a drink now and then is “only human nature,” he provokes the icy response: “Nay-chah, Mistah Aw-nott, is what we ah put on earth to ovahcome.” How true. Anybody tried that lately? Lemme know how it works out. The African Queen.
2. Bank robbery gone sour. Some off-duty cop has shot up the getaway, and now one of the bad guys lies wounded and immobile on the sidewalk. Policeman strides up to him holding the biggest gun you ever saw, Smith & Wesson Model what? …19 with an eight-inch (…six-inch? can’t remember) barrel, the which he points at the perp’s head. “I know what you’re thinking. ‘In the excitement did he fire six shots or only five?’” He cocks the piece, stiffens his arm, tenses his finger on the trigger. Camera flicks to terror on the incapacitated man’s features. “But since this is a .44 Magnum, most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head cleeeeeeean off, what you have to ask yourself is: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do yah… punk?” Click. Some deluded citizens prefer the later (and lesser) line from a later (and lesser) flick, “Make my day,” possibly on the grounds that it was actually cited in public by a sitting President of the United States. Heresy. The classic line is the above. Dirty Harry.
1. “But decisions are being made by corporate officers of organizations all over the country which require knowledge of accounting and financial matters. It only stands to reason that this company should be run by its Financial Officer,” avers Frederick March in the closed boardroom as trustees decide who’s to take over the firm after the death of its president. But Gregory Peck, the head engineer, has another idea: “Quality.” There are men in the shop, he says, craftsmen, who’ll take a cut in pay before they’ll work on the shoddy Economy Line of furniture designed by the Finance Officer to make money. “A man,” roars Peck, in a farewell to the America of Model A Fords and Winchesters and Frigidaires, “shouldn’t have to do second rate work.” Noble ideal Up There on the screen. Sadly, it’s the Frederick Marches who’ve won the game Out Here on the block… with the consequence that most companies, schools, governments, organizations above the platoon level get run by some empty suit (or vacant oak leaf) couldn’t lead a litter of kittens to a saucer of milk. So it goes. But wouldn’t it be great if… Executive Suite.