Turner Classic Movies’ latest (err…last-year-latest) branding campaign turns what perhaps we typically think of as a passive activity — watching a movie — into a verb. The campaign invites those who love the movies to tune in (but not turn on or drop out) and enjoy movies as they were meant to be — commercial-free, uncut, and presented in their original format — on TCM. TCM has furthermore invited movie fans to share their favorite things about the movies — not a list of your favorite movies or the best movies but instead a list of moments, lines, and visuals that have made a lasting impression on you and encapsulate what you love about the wonderful world of film.
I recently finished reading Furious Love, a book about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It tells of how Burton was initially unimpressed with Taylor as an actress. “She’s just not doing anything,” he complained to Joe Mankiewicz, Cleopatra‘s director. Then Mankiewicz showed him Taylor’s impact onscreen and from her, Burton learned how the visual element of film could often trump the spoken element of theater. Some of my very favorite moments are those subtle, visual moments that you have to watch for closely (sometimes these moments prompt explanation in the list that follows, sometimes they don’t), but still many of the items on this list are simply lines that have often crept into my everyday dialogue. It was surprisingly difficult for me to come up with 100 different items without resorting to citing multiple moments in the same films, so I didn’t. So, in no particular order with no rhyme or reason or much thought at all, here are some of my favorite things about the movies…
1. Brando’s Grief (On the Waterfront, 1954)
Terry Malloy (Brando) has testified against Johnny Friendly, and all of his friends are angry at him–even the young “Golden Warriors” Terry has befriended. Terry, who keeps pigeons, goes up on the roof to check on his pigeons. He finds that they are all dead, killed by the youth who once idolized him. “What did he have to do that for? Every one of them.” Edie (Eva Marie Saint) has again followed him and calls his name, attempting to comfort him. Brando does not face her but turns into the pigeon coop and waves her away meekly with his hand. He needs to grieve alone–just for a moment. And Brando communicates this with a single gesture — Best Actor, indeed.
2. “Hey, Boo.” (To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962)
3. Oscar’s Breakdown (The Odd Couple, 1968)
“I can tell you exactly what it is. It’s the cooking, the cleaning, the crying. It’s the talking in your sleep. It’s those moose calls that open your ears at 2:00 in the morning. I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me, and when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. I’ve told you 158 times I cannot stand little notes on my pillow. ‘We are all out of corn flakes. F.U.’ Took me three hours to figure out that F.U. was Felix Ungar.”
One hundred and fifty-eight times. Not just one hundred, one hundred and fifty-eight. I love the precision and efficiency of the entire script of The Odd Couple: every line has a purpose and nearly every line brings a laugh.
4. The Nose Swipe (The Sting, 1973)
5. “HOT DOG!” (It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946)
6. “Ha, ha, ha, ha! My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! My mouth’s bleeding! Zuzu’s petals… Zuzu… There they are! Bert, what do you know about that! MERRY CHRISTMAS!” (It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946)
Alright, have to stop quoting that movie now. Basically everything about It’s A Wonderful Life should be on this list. Every. Single. Thing. Oh, why don’t you stop annoying people! Really, I’m stopping now. Say, brainless, don’t you know where coconuts come from? Oops. Sorry. It’s this old house. I don’t know why we don’t all have pneumonia. Drafty old barn of a place. It’s like growing up living in a refrigerator. I just can’t help it. This film is in my DNA. Why? Because it’s beautiful and perfect and lovely and Zuzu’s petals!
7. Montgomery Clift’s Feeble Goodbye (The Young Lions, 1958)
Noah Ackerman (Clift) has been drafted, and he says goodbye to his wife, whom he’s just recently met and married. He kisses her and then begins to walk down the street. He turns around half-way, hoping to see her once more, but he can only bare to stare for a few seconds. He slowly turns and begins to walk again, and he lifts his right hand in an effort to wave, but he only manages to raise it to his waist and give a pathetic and heartbreaking wave.
8. “Hubbell, people ARE their principles!” (The Way We Were, 1973)
9. Robert Mitchum’s entire presence in Cape Fear (1962).
In a word, creepy. It keeps me awake at night. Just plain old creepy.
10. “Po-tat-oes. Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick in a stew.” (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002)
11. “My, she was yar.” (The Philadelphia Story, 1940)
12. “Excuse me.” (The Philadelphia Story, 1940)
Stewart’s unscripted hiccup almost made Grant lose it. Classic.
13. Maggio’s death in From Here to Eternity (1953)
“But it was the death scene that got them, he knew it. He and Monty had talked about that scene a dozen times. The trick, according to Clift, was not overplaying it. Dying was like snow falling.” — James Kaplan, Frank: The Voice
I love that quote from James Kaplan’s amazing biography about Sinatra. It sounds just like Clift, and it is so, so, so true. Clift was the master of not overplaying anything–ever–and his effect on Sinatra’s acting was palpable. Sinatra was never better (as an actor, anyway).
14. “Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?” (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)
15. What was that? (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951)
Just thinking out loud here…should Brando’s body in Streetcar be a separate entry? Not trying to objectify him or anything, but really, it was a work of art, the peak of all male beauty evereverever, something to be treasured and admired for all time and eternity, an inducer of drool and convulsions…
16. Best Dressed – Romper Division, 1964
Hey, here’s the King of objectifying: James Bond!
17. “Yeah ho, leetle fish…” (Captains Courageous, 1938)
Ah, Spencer Tracy’s fake Portuguese accent.
18. “Listen, I don’t mean to be a sore loser, but when it’s done, if I’m dead, kill him.” (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)
19. “We all go a little mad sometimes.” (Psycho, 1960)
20. “God bless you, too.” (The Misfits, 1961)
This scene — Clift’s first appearance an hour into the film — is often cited as one of his best performances by fans and critics alike, its popularity attested by the fact that in Clift’s copy of the script at the New York Public Library’s Performing Arts archive, this one page has been stolen.
What I love most about this scene is how Clift seamlessly uses the phone booth as a prop. The door is casually left open when the conversation is light and non-invasive–Perce boasts of his recent accomplishments in the rodeo and sends his love and greetings to his family back home; the door is hastily closed to prevent his new and old acquaintances from hearing–or seeing, rather–his fractured state–the arguments with his mother about spending his rodeo money and his relationship with his stepfather.
And I think part of what makes this scene–and this character–so real, so very real, is that Clift embodies it almost perfectly. Perce, like Clift (especially at this time in his life), is self-destructive and lonely. He later tells Roslyn his friends and girlfriend abandoned him a year previously, and he has no one talk to. Many of Clift’s friends, too, severed him, particularly after his accident and further spiral into drug addiction, branding him a lost cause. Perce’s relationship with his mother is strained, as evidenced by the phone call; Clift’s suffocating and tumultuous relationship with his own mother arguably fueled many of his deep-rooted and life-long problems. And when Perce emphatically states, “Oh, no, no, no, my face is fine. It’s all healed up. Just as good as new.” Well, my heart just breaks.
The most devastating line of the phone call, however, is reserved for last. The operator has notified Perce his call is about to expire, and Perce hurriedly tells his mother to tell his relatives, whom he lists by name, hello for him. An argument about his stepfather–and his failure to specifically ask his mother to say hello to him–ensues. And subsides. The door is, of course, closed. Perce promises to call at Christmastime and anxiously asks, “Hello? Hello?”, wanting to tell his mother one more thing. The call has been disconnected. “God bless you, too,” he mutters–presumably to dead air.
21. CALVIN: Don’t admire people too much. They’ll disappoint you sometimes.
CONRAD: I’m not disappointed. I love you.
CALVIN: I love you, too.
— Ordinary People, 1980
22. “Shut up and deal.” (The Apartment, 1960)
23. “Lorraine, my density has popped me to you.” (Back to the Future, 1985)
24. “Fiddle-dee-dee!” (Gone with the Wind, 1939)
25. “Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)
26. Sam Spade. That is all. (The Maltese Falcon, 1940)
The movie that made me realize how cool Humphrey Bogart is. Like, so cool. And the Maltese Falcon is my token of choice in TCM’s Scene It. I win every time. Just sayin’.
27. “Buzzard’s guts, man! I am the President of the United States, clothed with immense power! You will procure me these votes.” (Lincoln, 2012)
Just…Buzzard’s guts, man. And, well, Daniel Day-Lewis is exceptional. When you think about it, he really is the most amazing actor. He is so different and distinct in each role; he immerses himself so fully in each of his roles that he becomes those characters.
28. “I’m obsessed, thank you very much.” (St. Elmo’s Fire, 1986)
Basically, the entire character of Kirby Keager should be on this list. “Quick, what’s the meaning of life?” “Dale Biberman.” Emilio Estevez is great — he plays this character, whose fascination and obsession with this girl is actually quite creepy when you think about it, so earnestly and with such innocence that you are kind of rooting for Kirby when he pulls up to that snow-covered cabin.
29. “Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” “What d’ya got?” (The Wild One, 1953)
So cool, yet so hot at the same time. Sigh.
Brando said he personally identified with Johnny’s response, that the line reflected his individual feelings and beliefs about life as a whole. Watching The Wild One now, it’s extremely dated, yet the film did represent a specific attitude of its time and spoke to young people of that generation–and perhaps still can speak. I love that a movie, so dated and seemingly obsolete, can encompass a time so completely yet still have the power to be relevant across time and shifting mores.
30. Mike Love elicits sympathy in Love and Mercy (2015).
Weird, right? Mike Love, whose upcoming memoir Little Douche Coupe is set for release in September, is a total jerk — even in the movies. Watching Love and Mercy the oh, I don’t know seventeenth time, though, I found myself feeling sorry for his character and gaining a better understanding of what he might have been feeling.
In the movie, Mike visits Brian at his home. Brian is playing the beginnings of a song on his piano, which is placed in a large sandbox in the middle of his living room. Pet Sounds has been released, was a disappointing commercial failure (it didn’t even go gold, man), and The Beach Boys are at a crossroads. Brian is obviously hurt and perhaps a little lost, pounding out these chords, searching for something, anything. Mike approaches the piano, and Brian says, staring down at the piano keys as if he’s embarrassed to look Mike in the eye, “I have this song playing over and over in my head. I just don’t have the words or the melody. Do you have anything?” He finally looks up at Mike, and the camera turns to Mike, whose expression reveals how much he craves the companionship and approval of his cousin. Brian wrote Pet Sounds without any input from Love at all and even though I tend to believe that Love probably over-states his contribution to The Beach Boys’ golden formula, he was Brian’s most frequent collaborator. It must have been difficult for him to be cast aside for reasons he could never really understand, and in this moment, I can just see how much he wants to be a part of the songwriting process with his cousin again.
31. Diagnosing Bob (What About Bob?, 1991)
Bob Wiley: Well, I get dizzy spells, nausea, cold sweats, hot sweats, fever blisters, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, involuntary trembling, dead hands, numb lips, fingernail sensitivity, pelvic discomfort.
Dr. Leo Marvin: So the real question is, what is the crisis Bob? What is it you’re truly afraid of?
Bob Wiley: What if my heart stops beating? What if I’m looking for a bathroom, I can’t find it, and… my bladder explodes?
32. “I can eat fifty eggs.” (Cool Hand Luke, 1967)
“Why you got to go and say fifty eggs for? Why not thirty-five or thirty-nine?” “I thought it was a nice round number.”
33. Denys: You’ve ruined it for me, you know.
Karen Blixen: Ruined what?
Denys: Being alone.
— Out of Africa (1985)
I don’t know that a better expression of love exists.
34. Ricky Nelson’s picture falling off the wall in The Parent Trap (1961).
That is the only appropriate response when someone does not know who Ricky Nelson is, which is, unfortunately and tragically, becoming more and more common. Ya’ll have no sense of history.
35. The first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan (1998).
I can’t believe those boys–yes, just boys–did that. For me, for you, for the world. Of course they would have rather been at home, going to college, working a job, playing baseball, but they did it, and I can have never really know what that was like, but the first twenty or so minutes of this movie offers a glimpse.
36. Sonny Corleone beats up Carlo. (The Godfather, 1972)
What can I say? I rather crave violence. I love every minute of The Godfather. And The Godfather II. We don’t really talk about The Godfather III.
37. “Thank you, Mr. Willy. Thank you. You’ve made my day.” (The Goonies, 1985)
38. “Attention campers. Lunch has been cancelled due to lack of hustle. Deal with it.” (Heavyweights, 1995)
39. “I could never love anyone as I love my sisters.” (Little Women, 1994)
As much as I love books (considering seeking treatment for my addiction) I’m not a believer in the “book is always better than the movie.” I’m just not. Because the movie offers an interpretation, a vision, and sometimes — like the 1994 adaptation of my beloved Little Women — the actors are the perfect manifestations of the characters that previously only existed on the page and in my head. They are tangible.
40. James Dean in East of Eden (1955)
I never really ‘got’ James Dean until I saw East of Eden. I’d seen Rebel Without a Cause and was unimpressed. Years and years (or so it seemed) later, I finally watched East of Eden and was struck by his layered performance of vulnerability, innocence, romance, and defiance. It’s still my favorite performance of his and the one that made me re-examine him as an actor.
41. The Friendship of Elwood P. Dowd & Harvey (Harvey, 1950)
“Well, thank you Harvey! I prefer you too.”
42. “This is The Voice of Doom calling.” (The Philadelphia Story, 1940)
Your days are numbered to the day of the seventh sun of the seventh sun! Some people think Jimmy Stewart’s win for The Philadelphia Story was just a delayed Oscar for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Maybe. But he’s absolutely wonderful in this movie, delivering this line with the perfect balance of disgust, nonchalance, and humor.
43. “NO SALE” (BUtterfield 8, 1960)
44. “Hey mister, can we have our ball back?” (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)
So apparently not everyone thinks this movie is a classic or even funny. My family recently revealed this to me, stating, “It’s funny if you like them [The Beatles].” Uh, what? And what kind of demented and unbalanced individuals don’t like The Beatles? I don’t even wanna know. I love The Beatles, and I love this movie. It is pure joy.
45. “Well, nobody’s perfect.” (Some Like It Hot, 1959)
I can’t make it to 100. I’m tired. And I don’t know, it’s a very specific-to-me list that perhaps does not make any sense or have any purpose to anyone else on the planet. But I love the movies. They offer these moments that can be shared, that can bring understanding, that can allow us to suspend disbelief and be delighted by the adventures of a mischievous cat who happens to be the FBI’s leading informant or be startled and frightened repeatedly by a shark that looks slightly fake (even in Jaws 19) or be utterly heartbroken when Barbra Streisand strokes Robert Redford’s hair (she was the only one who believed he could write that second novel, who could push him to write it, who really loved him, goshdarnit!). Watching a movie — really watching a movie — is anything but a passive activity. It’s a verb. Let’s movie.