There are so many great movie quotes that echo in my mind and have special meaning for me.
Like nearly everyone in America, Clark Gable’s famous pronouncement “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” as he exited Tara in “Gone with the Wind” seemed the very essence of manly disdain. His complete contempt for the manipulative Vivien Leigh’s cries of “What shall I do? Where shall I go?” show that he has reached the limits of human endurance with Scarlett O”Hara’s perpetual scheming. Men everywhere applauded his sheer bravado in telling Scarlett O’Hara where to get off.
Another film that resonates with nearly every American is “The Wizard of Oz” and I think we all share Judy Garland’s sentiment “There’s no place like home.” It reminds of that other famous literary quote that says, “Home is the place where, when you have nowhere else to go, they have to take you in.”
Because I grew up only 60 miles away from the movie set of “Field of Dreams” I have always held dear “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa,” and, as a fledgling entrepreneur in 1986, I often muttered to myself, “If you build it, they will come.” The W.P. Kinsella novel on which the movie was based was a hymn of praise to Iowa, my birth state, and Kinsella was a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Implausibly, the film about a son coming to terms with his dead father worked on so many levels, showcasing stars like Kevin Costner, Burt Lancaster, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta.
Most of us have internalized the Italian family saga that is and was “The Godfather” and the saying, “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse,” Marlon Brando’s veiled threat, has certainly made its way into the pantheon of contemporary American sayings. Brando also uttered one of the best and most famous lines in American cinema when he told his brother Charlie (Rod Steiger) that he “shoulda looked out for him” and added, “I coulda’ been a contender, instead of a bum. Which is what I am.” This famous exchange, set in the back of a car in “On the Waterfront,” earned Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy an Oscar and takes us back immediately to the Elia Kazan film, co-starring Eva Marie Saint.
In “Taxi Driver,” Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) grows more and more paranoid and delusional until we see him practicing saying, in a mirror, “You lookin’ at me? You lookin’ at me?” This glimpse of a tormented soul losing his grip on sanity seems very true-to-life as we read today’s headlines about violent shooting rampages.
On a happier note, Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa in “Casablanca,” “We’ll always have Paris,” as he urges her to leave with her husband on the plane. The film was and is widely considered one of the best ever shot, and the line lives on as a tribute to romantics everywhere.
More recently, Cuba Gooding snagged an Academy Award for screaming, “Show me the money!” into the phone to Tom Cruise, his sports agent, in “Jerry Maguire.” It was a tour-de-force performance by Gooding, one that he has yet to match.
“Psycho” with Anthony Perkins as the young motel clerk with the mommy hang-ups gave us, “A boy’s best friend is his mother.” This Hitchcock film was among the most terrifying ever filmed, and, even today, the shower scene is unparalleled. At no time is the knife shown penetrating flesh, but, through successive quick cuts, the master gave us a totally terrifying murder scene in a motel bathroom shower.
Another film of the sixties that gave us both the one-word “Plastics” and the line, “Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson?” was “The Graduate,” a vehicle that launched Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross, with an able assist from Anne Bancroft. Mike Nichols directed and the iconic images still influence filmmakers today.
At the end of “Some Like It Hot,” Joe E. Brown tells Jack Lemmon (in drag), “Nobody’s perfect,” as they speed across the water in a speedboat. Lemmon has been trying to tell the persistent suitor that he is not a woman, but a man, and rips off his wig to reveal his secret, finally, only to find that Brown cannot be deterred. It gave obsession a whole new dimension.
These ten-plus lines are known to serious film-goers everywhere, but, just to round out the list, the one word “Rosebud” from “Citizen Kane,” which, we now know, was the name of Orson Welles’ sled and represented his lost childhood is classic, as is “I’ll have what she’s having” from “When Harry Met Sally,” uttered by Rob Reiner’s real-life mother in a bit part in a restaurant, as Sally (Meg Ryan) faked an orgasm for Billy Crystal’s benefit.
See if you can name the films from which these lines sprang: “I’m King of the World!” (spoken by Leonardo deCaprio).
“Hey! I’m walkin’ here” as uttered by Dustin Hoffman. (It was improvised, as the budget for the film was so small that traffic could not be shut down and Hoffman, walking with co-star Jon Voigt, really did bang on the hood of the New York City cab.
“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” Gloria Swanson said it, and William Holden’s body was found, floating facedown of the pool, at the very beginning of the film.
And in what movie did Jack Nicholson say, “You make me want to be a better man” to Helen Hunt’s waitress. Or, Robert Duvall spoke “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” in what Francis Ford Coppola vehicle?
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ANSWERS: “I’m King of the world” is Leonardo deCaprio’s famous line from “Titanic,” spoken with Rose from the prow of the ship before it famously sinks.
“Hey! I’m walkin’ here!” was uttered by Dustin Hoffman in “Midnight Cowboy,” as the character Ratso Rizzo navigates downtown New York City with male hustler Jon Voigt.
“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille,” was faded star Gloria Swanson’s line, as the police close in to arrest her for the murder of William Holden, (seen floating in the pool as the film opens) in “Sunset Boulevard.”
“You make me want to be a better man,” was Jack Nicholson’s Obsessive-compulsive writer’s plea to waitress Helen Hunt in “As Good As It Gets.”
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” was Robert Duvall’s wacko comment to his men in Vietnam in “Apocalypse Now,” as he also suggested they surf the waves in this Francis Ford Coppola-directed Vietnam War epic.
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