Favorite Movie Monologues – Duvall, Hanks, Jones, Stewart, and More

There was a blog I read maybe six months ago that inspired me to put this post together.  I wish I could remember who that blogger is. It was a woman. Anyway thank you whoever you are. There are maybe one or two references she mentioned in her post listed below, but basically they are just a few of the monologues/speeches from some of my favorite movies and most beloved film characters.

Their are many, oh so many, but here I present just a few. They’re the scenes that put a smile on my face, lift my spirits – and they inspire me.

They are why I go to the movies.

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First up, my all time number one favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). This little speech is delivered by George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. His father has died and the family business, Bailey Brothers’ Building and Loan, seems ready to close it’s doors. This will give the towns richest man, Henry Potter just what he wants, no competition in his efforts to get a tighter grasp on the town of Bedford Falls.

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Just a minute… just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was… why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!

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Spring Training for the next Baseball season is about to start and one of the all time great sports movies is Field of Dreams (1989) – James Earl Jones, as Terence Mann delivers the monologue that speaks to the very heart of the film.

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Ray. People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn into your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door, as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,” you’ll say, “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” And they’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it, for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk off to the bleachers and sit in their short sleeves on a perfect afternoon. And find they have reserved seats somewhere along the baselines where they sat when they were children. And cheer their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

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Now the movie that in my humble opinion should have won the Best Picture Oscar at the 71st Academy Awards is 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. Following the battle at Omaha Beach during WWII, Tom Hanks is terrific as Captain Miller, in charge of a squad sent to find Private James Ryan.

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I’m a schoolteacher. I teach English composition… in this little town called Adley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I’ve been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was a coach of the baseball team in the springtime. Back home, I tell people what I do for a living and they think well, now that figures. But over here, it’s a big, a big mystery. So, I guess I’ve changed some. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve changed so much my wife is even going to recognize me, whenever it is that I get back to her. And how I’ll ever be able to tell her about days like today. Ah, Ryan. I don’t know anything about Ryan. I don’t care. The man means nothing to me. It’s just a name. But if… You know if going to Rumelle and finding him so that he can go home. If that earns me the right to get back to my wife, then that’s my mission.

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Easily my favorite Romantic Comedy is When Harry Met Sally (1989). The insights into male/female relationships continue to ring true and are delivered with such comic delight. Here Harry, played so wonderfully by Billy Crystal is again telling Sally (Meg Ryan) why men and women can’t just be friends.

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No, no, no, I never said that… Yes, that’s right, they can’t be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can… This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted… That doesn’t work either, because what happens then is, the person you’re involved with can’t understand why you need to be friends with the person you’re just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it? And when you say “No, no, no it’s not true, nothing is missing from the relationship,” the person you’re involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you’re just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let’s face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends.

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I’ve read a couple of Shakespeare plays. And I’ve seen a few movies, all directed by and starring staring Kenneth Branagh. The language is often hard for me to process but it’s still such an amazing experience to follow his characters and stories and the insight Shakespeare presents.

One of the great high points in all of them is the St. Crispin’s Day speech in Henry V (1989). There is a feeling of awe at the inspiring emotional impact this speech carries.

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This day is called the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day and comes safe home will stand a tip-toe when this day is named and rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall see this day and live old age will yearly on the vigil, feast his neighbors and say: ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispin’s’. Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say: ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s Day.’ Old men forget yet all shall be forgot but he’ll remember with advantages what feats he did that day. Then shall our names familiar in their mouths as household words: Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, be in their flowing cups freshly remembered. This story shall the good man teach his son. And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remember’d.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon St. Crispin’s Day.

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Robert Duvall is one the actors I most admire. Anything and everything he’s done is pure film magic. But you might be surprised at my choice of monologues he has given among his many great performances.

This is from Secondhand Lions (2003), a wonderful film where he plays crusty old Uncle Hub to the teenage Walter (Haley Joel Osment). It maybe a bit silly and sentimental, but when Duvall delivers it, I accept it as plain, old fashioned wisdom.

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Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.

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As a bonus, in the same film, Duvall’s character shows a few young hoodlums a thing or two when they challenge him, not realizing what they are up against.

(Grabbing the Hood by the throat)

I’m Hub McCann. I’ve fought in two World Wars and countless smaller ones on three continents. I led thousands of men into battle with everything from horses and swords to artillery and tanks. I’ve seen the headwaters of the Nile, and tribes of natives no white man had ever seen before. I’ve won and lost a dozen fortunes, KILLED MANY MEN and loved only one woman with a passion a FLEA like you could never begin to understand. That’s who I am. NOW, GO HOME, BOY!

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Lastly but probably one of the most amazing speeches in all of film. Providing the motivation for Robert Shaw’s ‘driven’ Shark Hunter Quint in the 1975 movie, Jaws, the speech is one of the great moments in film.

Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know… was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. Heh.

They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. Y’know, it’s… kinda like ol’ squares in a battle like, uh, you see in a calendar, like the Battle of Waterloo, and the idea was, shark comes to the nearest man and that man, he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’, and sometimes the shark’d go away… sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. Y’know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’… until he bites ya. And those black eyes roll over white, and then… oh, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin’, the ocean turns red, and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces.

Y’know, by the end of that first dawn… lost a hundred men. I dunno how many sharks. Maybe a thousand. I dunno how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Bosun’s mate. I thought he was asleep. Reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. Young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and come in low and three hours later, a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. Y’know, that was the time I was most frightened, waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a life jacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred sixteen men come out, and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.

(pause)

Anyway… we delivered the bomb.

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2016 Reading – My Favorite – ‘The Wright Brothers’

“If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

– Wilbur Wright

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The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, published in 2015, was my favorite book of 2016. I read other fine books this past year including a couple of Fiction Classics, Sir Arther Conan Doyle’s first novel about Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet, and G. K. Chesterton‘s metaphysical thriller, The Man Who Was Thursday.

I ended 2015 began 2016 reading another excellent non-fiction book, one few have heard of. It’s Kenneth Strickfaden, Dr. Frankenstein’s Electrician by Harry Goldman, a very good biography on a fascinating man. Ken Strickfaden made a huge impact on Sci-Fi and Horror films with his special effects, starting with the classic 1931 Frankenstein.

Still, David McCullough, my favorite non-fiction writer, and his most recent work tops my list of the years reading.

Mr. McCullough begins, as usual,  bringing delightful insight into his subjects, detailing the differences between the brothers. Then he goes into how close the Wright brothers were, living together (having never left home), working together, spending nearly all their time together. McCullough says,

“What the two had in common above all was unity of of purpose and unyielding determination. They had set themselves on a ‘mission’.”

On May 30, 1899, “Wilbur seated himself at [his sister] Katharine’s small, slant-top desk in the front parlor to write what would be one of the most important letters of his life. Indeed, given all it set in motion, it was one of the most important letters in history. Addressed to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington…,” he asked for a list of works published on human flight, looking for information and experiments published on the subject.

As I read about this event, and several other passages throughout the book, I got this feeling of excitement over this particular moment in time – much thanks to how McCullough artfully paints a picture on the page. At times reading The Wright Brothers I even got tears in my eyes, such is the emotional impact on me when reading McCullough’s words about great dates in history.

As I’ve said before about watching some of my favorite movies, I still get emotionally involved and closely sympathize with characters, just as the filmmaker intends, capturing our hearts. It’s a sign of getting older I guess, that I let down my guard, and allow myself to be ‘touched’ by special moments in stories, whether films or books.

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And then there is the emotionally historic moment – Orville was at the controls and Wilbur on the right side of the Flyer, holding the wing to steady it. One of the Kitty Hawk locals, John T. Daniels, who greatly admired the Wrights work ethic and assisted the brothers with various tasks, was asked by Orville to ‘man’ a camera, an essential part of their experiments. On December 17, 1903, “At exactly 10:35, Orville slipped the rope restraining the Flyer and it headed forward . . . At the end of the track the Flyer lifted into the air and Daniels, who had never operated a camera until now, snapped the shutter to take what would be one of the most historic photographs of the century.”

The story that brings the Wright brothers to this point, and the events that follow are beautifully presented in what is one of David McCullough’s shorter biography’s, coming in at less than 300 pages.

The book touches on the several people who helped in a number of ways to support and encourage the Wright brothers in their efforts to create their Flying Machine. These included Octave Chanute, a notable American civil engineer, William Tate, a former Kitty Hawk postmaster, and Charlie Taylor, a mechanic, and their bicycle shop employee, who working with the Wrights, built their first airplane engine. And, their sister Katharine, to whom Orville was especially close, was also a huge support in countless ways throughout their lives.

McCullough shares briefly about what an exciting time in history this turn of the century was. Inventions around the same time included the Kodak camera, the electric Singer sewing machine, the first safety razor, and the first New York office building elevator.

The book is a complete delight. David McCullough is not only one of America’s great Historians, he simply one of Americas great Story Tellers.

As it should be when reading a book, any story, fiction or non-fiction, the subjects become real people, they become our friends.

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“Nothing ever invented provides such sustenance, such infinite reward for time spent, as a good book.”
― David McCullough

 

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Gratitude – The Secret to Happiness

“Like most teenagers, I spent part of my teens reveling in my angst. One day, however, the thought occurred to me that being unhappy was easy – in fact, the easy way out – and that it took no courage, effort, or greatness to be unhappy.  Anyone could be unhappy.  True achievement, I realized at an early age, lay in struggling to be happy.”

– Dennis Prager, Happiness Is a Serious Problem –

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Last week, on the fourth Thursday in November, we American’s celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday. There were many people talking about or posting thoughts on “Giving Thanks.”

I want to take a little bit of a twist on this idea and point to the secret to happiness which I believe is gratitude.

According to Aristotle, ‘the supreme good for man’ – is ‘Happiness.’ And Aristotle said, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

Over the last couple of years I’ve been pursuing and developing, not so much “Happiness,” but seeking to be more grateful. It’s a daily exercise I’ve been working on to be grateful not only for the “wonderful” experiences, but also for the simple things, the good things in my life, even in the face of great challenges. I’m still struggling with gratefulness for the hard stuff, but I do believe from very difficult circumstances good things can be the result.

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”
– Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

There is a book I’ve yet to get around to reading called Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual. It was written almost 20 twenty years ago by Dennis Prager. I’ve heard Mr. Prager talk about the subject of Happiness on the radio many times, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be in agreement with the contents of the book when I do finally get around to picking up a copy and reading it.

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A quote from Prager’s book:

“Yes, there is a “secret to happiness”—and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person.”

Everyone goes through hard times in their life, obviously some more than others. Over the last few years my wife and I have experienced several things, just one or two of which, could knock a person down to the point that they don’t ever think they could get back up.

I’ve lost a couple of jobs. My wife has had several setbacks with her health (three surgeries over the last five years). One thing, then another, and another, resulting in the loss of our house.

Through it all our faith in a good and faithful God has been chief in our keeping our heads above water in the face of an ocean of despair. In the Psalms, chapter 30, are words that encourage – “you lifted me out of the depths” . . . “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Looking at the present, and to a future, where a personal God understands and is as close as a simple prayer away, I’m able, sometimes giving it quite a bit of effort, to find peace and strength, and look for and find so much to be thankful for.

“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Our mom, divorced and with five kids on her own, raised us in her Catholic faith. In my late teens, I met the girl who would become my wife at a Passover Seder sponsored by a Baptist church. We now attend a non denominational protestant church.

I had a great example growing up of a woman who kept moving forward in the face of adversity, finding a way to enjoy the good things that came along the way. My wife too, through the challenges she has faced over the last several years, continues to look to the simple pleasures that put a smile on her face – a humming bird at the feeder, several moments of rest and relaxation at a Starbucks, with a good book and her current favorite beverage to sip.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Yeah, that’s pretty simplistic, . . . but, it does point out something important. A lot of lemons come our way in life. It’s what we then choose to do that makes the difference. I am trying to more often than not, choose to look around to find something good, something that helps to get a smile on my face.

“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.”

– Mark Twain

The smile on my face is not only good for my soul, it’s good for that person who see’s me, and then smiles back.

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“Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I’ve got the sun in the mornin’ and the moon at night.”

– Irving Berlin

 

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Halloween: Not Really Into the Current Traditions

“No one really runs away from anything. It’s like a private trap that holds us in, like a prison. You know what I think? I think that we’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.”

– Norman Bates in Psycho

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Halloween has become a much bigger holiday than when I was a kid. Back then, we would smear some green makeup on our faces (to get a bit of the Frankenstein Monster look) and a bit of red dripping from the corner of the mouth. Add some old torn clothes and we had a decent costume to go around the neighborhood to collect our yearly treasure of candy.

A house might have the porch light on and a carved pumpkin next to the front door. However it was nothing like the elaborate and over-the-top home displays folks put together today. And there are all those adults, and kids as well, that put together pretty detailed not to mention often expensive Halloween costumes. But I think I’d be a bit embarrassed to still be Trick or Treating when I got to my ‘teens’ as some of these older kids do.

Still, I’ll be handing out candy to the dozens of (something like 8 to 10 dozen) kids in our neighborhood on Halloween. A bit of pay back for all the loot I collected back in the day.

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Anyway, I already celebrated the holiday two weeks ago in my own way.

We have a Regency Movie Theater not far from where we live. There they have ‘Throwback Tuesday’ evenings presenting one time showings of classic movies from the 1930-60’s as well as other popular movies from the last 50 years.

I’ve had the immense pleasure of seeing some of these older films, presented on the ‘Big Screen’ – a fantastic experience.

Some films include: North by Northwest (1959), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Vertigo (1958), Jaws (1975), Casablanca (1942), Jurassic Park (1993), Rear Window (1954), Jaws (1975), It Happened One Night (1934),  Ghost (1990), It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), did I mention Jaws (1975), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and The Third Man (1949).

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The ‘Horror’ movies today really don’t interest me. My taste leans toward the Universal Studio’s early 1930’s classics: Frankenstein, The Mummy and Dracula.

So two weeks ago my local theater played Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). My lovely wife for some incomprehensible reason wasn’t interested. But my dear friends Kevin and Annette met me at the theater. And I didn’t find out until afterwards that they had never seen Psycho. It was great fun sitting next to them. Kevin had seen bits and parts of the movie, and Annette had only seen the famous shower scene.

It’s a beautiful black and white film; one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces – a wonderful experience to see it in a theater, with an audience, on the big screen.

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Everything about the movie is so much better when seeing it in a theater – visuals: Beautiful Big Screen Black and White, and sound: Bernard Herrmann’s score is of course amazing. Then there is the marvelous performance of Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, and the absolutely spot on Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates – “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”

It was the perfect way to celebrate the month which seems to me to have gotten a bit out of hand. Maybe the only thing left for me besides handing out the candy on Halloween will be to sit down and watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

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It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?

– Norman Bates in Psycho

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The Unknown Variable, the ‘X’ in Fiction

“Rough business this movie business. I may have to go back to loan sharking for a rest.”
– Chili Palmer, Get Shorty

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It’s probably similar for most bloggers – you plan your next post, you sit down to begin writing that idea you have in your head and . . .  up pops some unknown variable. Your idea takes on a life of it’s own; it leads you in a direction you never really expected.

A couple of months ago I read a novel by Harold Robbins that was published in 1949. The Dream Merchants, a story set in the early 20th century, is in a way historical fiction I guess, that dealt with one of my favorite subjects – Movies.

And because Woody Allen’s new film, Cafe Society, set in 1930’s Hollywood, was recently released, I was so looking forward to seeing it, and posting a comparison/reflection on the two.

Then, as I said, the unknown variable, raised it’s . . . well, not it’s ugly head, but it’s disenchanting head. Somehow I had come to expect Allen’s film was about 1930’s Hollywood. But it’s not really, that’s just a loose backdrop to the story.

I’m a big fan of Annie Hall (1977) and Woody’s films in the 1980s, Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), and Radio Days (1987).

 

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A few years back I really liked Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris (2011), a wonderful romantic/comedy/fantasy starring  Owen Wilson as a Hollywood screenwriter in Paris. Then one evening, Gil (Wilson’s character), is walking the city streets alone at midnight, and he is magically transported back to the 1920’s Art Scene.

Characters in that film included Picasso, Hemingway, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Cole Porter.

Midnight in Paris is a fun bit of fiction incorporating those characters. I was expecting a little more of that in this new movie.

Cafe Society is a nice film, good cast, fine acting, and Woody Allen’s trademark humor, but…it’s just not really what I expected.

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Now, the Harold Robbins novel, The Dream Merchants, was a complete delight. The setting is 1938 New York and Hollywood. Then in the second chapter it goes back to 1908 and the story of ‘moving pictures’ is told through the lives of Johnny Edge and Peter Kessler and the fictional Hollywood studio, Magnum Pictures.

“Peter looked at him. A peculiarly fanatical light had come into Johnny’s eyes as he spoke. Moving pictures had captured Johnny’s mind. He ate, slept, and dreamed moving pictures.”

This is an enjoyable look at early Hollywood. It’s not about the stars, it’s about the growth of the film industry. The book presents the ‘birth’ of the movies, as it tells the story of it’s main protagonist Johnny Edge, along with a wonderful set of characters, mainly Peter Kessler a small town hardware store owner. Kessler, through the circumstances of meeting a young Johnny, goes from opening up ‘Kessler’s Nickelodeon’ to becoming a studio owner. And then there’s some great supporting characters –  friends, lovers, and enemies that include Rocco & Jane, Doris & Dulcie. It’s set in 1938, but jumps back and forth between the ‘present’ and the past, giving Johnny’s back story from 1908 up to 1938.

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Since I was a kid movies have always been wonderful entertainment to me. And as I got older I became a fan of history in general. So enjoyment of the history of the movies would be natural for me.

I’ve read a few Hollywood biographies, a great book on the history of Pixar (The Pixar Touch), and one or two other books of fiction set in Hollywood and the film industry like Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty.

Lately, over the last year or two, I’ve guess I’ve been setting my expectations too high. I hope this book or that movie is going to be better than they turn out to be. Or, as in the case of Cafe Society, I’m disappointed, not because it wasn’t a good movie, but because I was expecting something else.

Most every book I choose to read is the result of research. Films also, but not as much as books. Part of it is because I realize how precious time spent on anything, is time ‘spent,’ and then it’s gone.

I’ve shared this quote a few times from a post on Victoria Dougherty’s “Cold” blog speaking about men reading fiction, “The novel has been an unfailing aid in [a man’s] evolution – in learning to love, becoming a husband and a father, being a friend. Doing what is right and understanding the consequences of shirking his morals and ethics.”

All I’m saying is fiction (and non-fiction) in the form of books and movies is more than just entertainment. Sure, everything I see and read is not going to be some great life changing classic. But I can find insight and maybe a bit of inspiration and encouragement in a lot of them.

I love the stories. And if the story is about the movies and film making, that can be an extra treat. The unknown variable, the ‘X’ that I’m now searching for is, where will I find that next story, the delightful, fun filled book or film that deals with “the movies.”

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“A good movie can take you out of your dull funk and the hopelessness that so often goes with slipping into a theatre; a good movie can make you feel alive again, in contact, not just lost in another city. Good movies make you care, make you believe in possibilities again. If somewhere in the Hollywood-entertainment world someone has managed to break through with something that speaks to you, then it isn’t all corruption. The movie doesn’t have to be great; it can be stupid and empty and you can still have the joy of a good performance, or the joy in just a good line.”

– Pauline Kael

 

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So Much More Than Just “The Master of Suspense”

“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”

– Alfred Hitchcock

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Saturday, the 13th of August was Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. Although he passed on to that Great Drive-In Theater in the Sky in 1980, his far reaching impact on the culture and cinema remains.

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A few years back I happen to find a really terrific bio – Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Life by Patrick McGilligan. The author has written several biographies on other Hollywood legends including Clint Eastwood, Robert Altman, James Cagney, and most recently a young Orson Welles. If they’re anywhere near as good as this one I have several wonderful Hollywood stories to look forward to reading.

As for his Hitchcock biography, McGilligan covers everything from family and early childhood to significant details on each and every one of Hitchcock’s films. And there are sooooo many great films, including Psycho, Lifeboat, Vertigo, Notorious, North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train, The Birds, an unusually funny The Trouble With Harry, and my favorite Rear Window.

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Sure, the book gives all kinds of terrific behind the scenes details about Hitchcock, his life and his films. But what I was pleasantly surprised to find was that his work was a lifelong partnership with his wife Alma. There really was this huge contribution Alma Reville made to her husband’s success. Alma’s advice and collaboration contributed greatly to making Hitchcock the legendary director he has become.

Hitchcock, though he was the man behind the camera, really was the king of self promotion, the master of making himself the star of his movies as much as any actor. He did love life and he loved to have fun. Hitchcock added to his public persona with so many ‘quotable quotes:’

“Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.”

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

“Suspense is like a woman. The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement.”

“Revenge is sweet and not fattening.”

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Alfred Hitchcock is not only a Pop Culture icon on a par with Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, he is for me a mentor. His stories and characters, however much pushed into the ‘thriller’ category, still reach deep into my being. I relate to the fears, insecurities, and struggles of the characters. I love the protagonists and their weaknesses, finding some kind of strength that only raises it’s head when they’re pushed beyond their limits.

Hitchcock films, like all storytelling, often get me to think, and maybe understand some things about myself. They are more than just entertainment. There’s a subconscious self-evaluation going on as I relate to a character. Have I got what it takes to push through a ridiculously crazy situation that in it’s own way is anything near to what’s presented in the movie? Would I hang in there when things get rough, and see it to the end?

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Maybe it’s silly to say that an Alfred Hitchcock film makes me a better man. That some mystery-thriller from 60 years ago can have any kind of maturing affect on me.

But they do. For me, all storytelling does.

And the life of the man, Alfred Hitchcock, and his collaboration with Alma that helped create such an amazing body of work, inspires me in my relationship with my wife. It reminds me that our relationship, the challenges we face together, and our ‘life’s work’ will leave a legacy behind. I hope it’s a good one.

– – – – – – –

“I beg permission to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, and encouragement, and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat [Patricia Hitchcock], and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen. And their names are Alma Reville.”

– Alfred Hitchcock, when accepting the American Film Institute Life Achievement award

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What was your Greatest Childhood Inspiration?

My blog for the most part has been about sharing that in life, as I see it, we never stop growing and learning. Themes such as mentors, inspiration, self-discovery, family and friendship are the most common, whether I happen to discuss books, films or experiences in general.

Here’s a post of mine from two years ago about inspiration from my childhood.

VocareMentor.com

“Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children’s approach to life. They’re people who don’t give a hang what the Joneses do. You see them at Disneyland every time you go there. They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought – sometimes it isn’t much, either.”
– Walt Disney

As a child I loved T.V. shows like Mission Impossible and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
I found inspiration everywhere in pop culture. I wanted to be in a band but couldn’t play an instrument and my singing voice has never been something anybody would really want to be subjected to.

I also liked the comic book characters Batman, Superman, Thor and Green Lantern. Other T.V. characters that inspired me came from the Tarzan movies and those Italian Hercules movies dubbed…

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