Nearly two years ago (yikes! Who’s minding this store, anyway?), I posted an entry about Tuner Classic Movies’ branding campaign, known simply as “Let’s Movie.” The campaign (which I now assume is defunct) invited audiences to not only watch films on their network as they were meant to be–commercial-free, uncut, and presented in their original format–but also to share their favorite things about the movies. The list should not be a list of 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.
When I initially posted my own list, I wrote: “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.” At the time, I only posted 45 items, failing to reach 100. I tried very hard to not repeat multiple lines or moments in the same film (sometimes failing). I don’t know that I am going to try to do that again because there’s often not just one line or moment in a film that makes me love it. So, back by popular demand, here is part two of LET’S MOVIE…
46. Montgomery Clift doing “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” (The Big Lift, 1950)
Sorry if you thought I’d get through this list without mentioning this dude a time or two dozen…
The Big Lift isn’t a great movie by any stretch, but it is a unique performance by Montgomery Clift in that he is more romantic and comedic in this role than any other. This moment in particular highlights, as the video description states, “an untapped gift for comedy.” So often is Monty remembered for his portrayals of tortured, principled loners–which often murks with his personal life–that it is a pure joy to see him so full of life. That man had a smile that could light up a street full of people. That’s how I like to remember him–he was funny, he was charming, he was even, at times, supremely happy.
I recently read Patricia Bosworth’s biography of Montgomery Clift for the oh, I don’t know, maybe sixth time. (And I recently was perusing reviews on Amazon about the book and was utterly shocked at how many people find it boring, a waste of time, etc. These are probably the same people who say “I never cared for Montgomery Clift.” There’s just no accounting for people who have zero taste.) Recently on CBS Sunday Morning, Sharon Stone noted that her residence (in California, presumably) was the “Montgomery Clift property.” Well, I was 99.9% sure that Montgomery Clift never owned a property in California–he preferred living in New York and only traveled to California when he had to for filming–and darn it, I had to read the biography again to make sure. (Results of my research affirmed my initial reaction: he did not ever own a property in California; he stayed with friends and rented a few properties, notably during the filming of Raintree County and recovering from his car accident.) ANYWAY, reading the biography again was both delightful and heartbreaking: he was so incredibly talented and had so much to give to the world, yet there was such a downward spiral in his life (and it didn’t, as people often assume, simply begin after his devastating car accident) that just breaks my heart. I was so delighted in reading the book again to be reminded of his connections to David Ford (Sam Evans on Dark Shadows, duh) and John Fiedler (voice of Piglet, what more could you possible need?) and Robert Redford — such a tenuous thread of connections to people that seems particularly tailored to me and my interests. Well, I just can’t wait to talk to this guy in the next life.
47. “You know anything about mountain climbing? … You know anything about flying an airplane? … What do you know about deep-sea diving?” (From Here to Eternity, 1953)
Speaking of Clift’s untapped talent for comedy, how about the scene in From Here to Eternity where he rips into the guy (appropriately named Phil) who has stolen his gal (Donna Reed) from him? Phil is bragging about surfboarding and asks Prewitt (Clift) if he knows anything about surfboarding. “No,” Prewitt abruptly replies, fuming. Then he starts–oh, so passive-aggressively–throwing questions at Phil: “You know anything about mountain climbing? You know anything about flying an airplane? Me either. What do you know about deep-sea diving?” It’s so great. And Prewitt’s little Hawaiian shirt? Just the icing on the cake. Heavens to Betsy, this guy was the best. Unfortunately, no one has uploaded this clip onto YouTube, so–dirty darn!–you’re gonna have to raid your local library and borrow the film, one of the few Clift performance available on Blu-ray (a confusing fact in itself, that man’s face was made for high-definition).
48. “Not the jacket!” (The Family Stone, 2005)
The Family Stone is a great Christmas movie, a great movie that perfectly captures what family relationships are really like, and a movie that makes you wonder, “Why doesn’t Luke Wilson make more movies (or more movies like this)?”
49. “Michael Francis Rizzi, do you renounce Satan?”
“I do renounce him.”
“And all his works?”
“I do renounce them.”
“And all his pomps?”
“I do renounce them.”
“Michael Rizzi, will you be baptized?”
(The Godfather, 1972)
Don’tcha just love how the church organ and the gunshots perfectly complement each other? Divinity, I tell ya.
50. “Hey, what are you gonna do, nice college boy? Didn’t want to get mixed up in the family business and now you wanna gun down a police captain because he slapped you in the face a little bit? Huh? What, do you think this is the army where you shoot ’em a mile away? You gotta get ’em close and–BADABING!–you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit. Come ‘ere! You’re taking this very personal. Tom, this is business, and this man is taking it very, very personal.” (The Godfather, 1972)
James Caan is amazing as Sonny Corleone. Badabeep! Badabap! Badaboop! This scene shows Sonny’s genuine affection for Michael, who doesn’t quite see the humor in the situation. Ah, Michael. Ah, Sonny. Goddamn FBI don’t respect nothin’!
51. “Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.” (The Godfather, 1972)
52. “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” (The Godfather II, 1974)
Happy new year, ya filthy animal.
I know what you’re thinking: enough with The Godfather quotes already! But this is what happens when your husband leaves you alone for the night: you end up watching The Godfather and debating which part you like best. One. No, two. No, no, one! Ad infinitum. And you realize how so many of its lines are, like, in your DNA. And you realize the need for therapy…
53. Robert De Niro in The Godfather II.
Best supporting actor indeed! I mean, just look at Vito’s concern for poor little Fredo, crying and suffering from pneumonia. Everything Vito did, he did for his family. See, The Godfather is really a film about family, and that’s why it is perfect for every occasion! You can watch it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, birthdays, weddings…
Ok, I’ll stop now. Maybe.
54. Nick Arden (Cary Grant), in the elevator with his new bride, is shocked to see his first wife (Irene Duane), declared missing at sea and presumed dead after seven years. (My Favorite Wife, 1940)
Hats off to Nancy Meyers and co. for paying tribute to this in The Parent Trap (1998).
55. “You were born older, George.” (It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946)
56. “I did NOT send you to Go Kart camp!” (Heavyweights, 1995)
I say this, like, all the time.
57. “Let her burn, let her burn, let her burn all night. Bring me out here in the doggone middle of the night to turn off the light. Can’t he ever get anything right? ‘Oh, no, dad, I’ll–I’ll be sure to turn the lights off.’ Well, he couldn’t turn a light off at the house, why would he ever turn one off down here at the store?” (That Thing You Do!, 1996)
I also say this all the time.
56. JIMMY: Sorry I’m buggin’ you. I guess I’m alone in my principles.
[Storms off, leaving the table.]
LENNY: Oh come on. Oh, there he goes–off to his room to write that hit song “Alone in my principles.”
— That Thing You Do!, 1996
Steve Zahn is a gem.
57. “Shoulda dumped you in Pittsburgh! Which one of you butts said we were engaged?” (That Thing You Do!, 1996)
I also say this all the time. People only started taking it personally once I was actually engaged.
58. “Now that’s better, Johnny. You know, I missed you. Ever since the club split up, I missed you. We all missed you. Did ja miss him? YEAH! The Beetles missed ya, all the Beetles missed ya!” (The Wild One, 1953)
Thank you to The Beatles Anthology for introducing me, at a young age, to so many things, including Marlon Brando!
59. “When this baby hits 88 miles an hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.” (Back to the Future, 1985)
60. Biff’s transformation and green track suit. (Back to the Future, 1955)
“Oh, Marty! Marty, here’s your keys. You’re all waxed up, ready for tonight.” Then he puts his hand on his hips. This guy…I tell ya.
61. “Why must we marry at all? Why can’t things just stay as they are?” (Little Women, 1994)
62. EDIE: I recognized you by your nose.
TERRY: Quite a nose, huh? Some people just have a face that sticks in your mind.
(On the Waterfront, 1954)
Well, I’d say.
63. Spencer Tracy’s final speech in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967)
I love Spencer Tracy; he was such a genuine, natural actor. His performance here is touching and brilliant–his final on film (he died seventeen days after the film was completed), but what I think I love even more here is Katharine Hepburn’s reaction to his performance. In watching her films with Tracy, their affection for each other is so natural and obvious, I’m not sure how anyone would have not known they were partners off-screen. I don’t really think she’s acting here; I think she is genuinely reacting to his performance and his words about love and especially his love for her, enduring through the years.
(Side note: My husband and I watched this — his first time seeing the film (which amazingly some people call “preachy” and “irrelevant”, we must live on different planets) or any Spencer Tracy film actually — and after it was over, I think he might have even had a tear or two, he said, “That was a really good movie. It’s one of my favorite movies now!” I feel like such a successful human being.)
64. Mortimer (Cary Grant) discovers a body in the window seat. (Arsenic and Old Lace, 1944)
“But there’s a body in the window seat!”
“Yes, dear! We know.”
Or just Cary Grant’s facial expressions in general. Especially in his comedic roles, which are my favorite. Give me funny Cary Grant over goopy, romantic Cary Grant any ol’ day. Chaaaaaarge! “He’s so happy being Teddy Roosevelt!”
So many great lines in this film: “Where’d you get that face? Hollywood?” “Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops!” “Even the cat’s in on it!” “I’m not a cab driver, I’m a coffee pot!”
Don’t wait to watch it for Halloween (a necessity); watch it now!
65. “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” (The Way We Were, 1973)
Watching The Way We Were is such a commitment–namely, a commitment to feeling emotionally exhausted and drained for several days. I mean, how could Hubbell leave Katie (annnnnd his child)? No one was gonna love him the way Katie did. No one was gonna push him to go to France and write that second novel. No one was gonna brush his hair like Katie! Ughhhh. I don’t think I will ever get over this movie. Someone want to remind me why Redford was not nominated for his acting in this film?
66. “Excuse me. Could you help me? I’m looking for the Russian Tea Room.” “This is the Russian Tea Room. You’re in front of it.” (Tootsie, 1982)
Sydney Pollack forever!
67. “Happy Thanksgiving. It’s your turn to say Happy Thanksgiving back.”
“Happy thanksgiving back?”
(You’ve Got Mail, 1999)
68. Montgomery Clift teaching the lost Czech boy English in The Search (1948).
Most adorable thing in the world, I’m tellin’ ya.
“Now, I ask you, am I genius or am I not?”
“Ok, ok. But look lad, the answer should have been yes! Yes! Yes!”
I say, yes, yes, yes!
And I’m not just sayin’ it for the chocolate, which is my number one motivator in life, not gonna lie.
69. I have no words, just… (The Heiress, 1949)
So sad. Not a cruel mercenary at all!
70. “Blane? His name is Blaine? That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!!” (Pretty in Pink, 1986)
Says the guy named…Duckie.
71. JOHN: ‘Ello, grandfather!
PAUL’S GRANDFATHER: Hello.
JOHN: He can talk, then, can he?
PAUL: Of course, he can talk. He’s a human being, isn’t he?
RINGO: Well if he’s your grandfather, who knows? Hahahaha!
— A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
I just love that someone has put this on YouTube. Hahahaha!
72. Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) explains the inner workings of a baseball game to Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) in Woman of the Year.
73. That final moment in Paddington 2.
I don’t want to give anything away…I’ll just say, I wasn’t expecting to shed a tear, but you know that Paddington — he’s just the sweetest thing in the world.
Besides an orange marmalade sandwich, of course.
74. “Watch me for the changes and try to keep up, OK?” (Back to the Future, 1985)
75. “If she can stand it, I can! Play it!” (Casablanca, 1942)
Some films that are purported to be the greatest can be underwhelming (for me, that would be Citizen Kane), but Casablanca really is perfect–sharp dialogue, the cinematography, great characters matched by great acting. Every scene is must-watch. Practically every line is quotable. It’s just perfect.
I rue the day I walked out of Goodwill not buying the framed Rick’s Cafe print…but hey, I do have some “pretty fancy shoes” from there.
76. The cameo by original Dark Shadows actors Jonathan Frid (LEGEND!!!!!!!!!), Lara Parker, David Selby (The Original Werewolf Heartthrob™), and Kathryn Leigh Scott in Dark Shadows (2012).
AKA its one redeeming moment. Let’s just leave it at that.
78. Montgomery Clift’s arrogant silence and decidedly cool airiness as Matthew Garth in Red River (1948).
While Howard Hawks may have worn out his arm teaching Clift how to punch and Clift wasn’t exactly the most convincing physical threat to John Wayne’s Thomas Dunson, he does display such an inner strength that is palpably threatening. Clift conveys this as he always does–the little things, like thoughtfully rubbing his nose, staring off into space (aka the Chisholm Trail) with those eyes of his, and sucking wheat…
You know, things that you’d only notice if you were really watching closely, which is the only way to watch a Montgomery Clift movie. Love this guy. If that wasn’t obvious.
79. “Edie, you love me!” (On the Waterfront, 1954)
After seeing The Post and writing about it on this blog, I had to get it out of my system by watching a GOOD movie. So I watched On the Waterfront aka another perfect movie that I could never get tired of watching. Brando is Brando, but Eva Marie Saint is great, too, conveying Edie’s conflicting feelings here so thoroughly and ending with what has to be one the greatest on-screen kisses of all-time.
80. Scarlett O’Hara slapping everyone in Gone with the Wind (1939).
Prissy, Rhett, Suellen, and even her beloved Ashley (“Oh, Ashley!”) get walloped by Scarlett in the four-hour film. The Yankee deserter who shows up and steals earbobs from Ellen O’Hara’s sewing box? Well, Scarlett did a little more than just slap him.
81. “I want that you tell me was she feeble-minded? My Mother! Was she feeble-minded? Was she?!” (Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961)
Some actors steal scenes. And some actors steal movies. And one actor steals a three-plus hour movie with a fifteen minute scene. That’s Montgomery Clift, honey!
He took his craft so seriously. Before shooting the scene, he got a (bad) haircut because he believed it was something his character would have done. Clift didn’t take a salary for Judgment at Nuremberg, and when he had finished his scene, he stayed and watched Judy Garland film her courtroom testimony. After it was over, director Stanley Kramer found Clift in tears. “Wasn’t she wonderful?” he asked Clift expectantly. “Awww, Stanley,” Clift replied, wiping his tears. “She did it all wrong!”
I just love that story.
I have to say: I think it’s disgusting that Clift made fewer films than the number of times Meryl Streep has been nominated for an Oscar. Just…disgusting.
The list ends here for now. The final nineteen (of which only 12 will be from a Montgomery Clift movie and the other 7 will be from The Godfather, ha ha ha) will have to wait for another time. Until next time…