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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anyway… we delivered the bomb.
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