I often watch movies more than once, and it is almost always because they contain memorable dialogue moments that I enjoy re-living. Of course, it is important that those lines are delivered well, but it is primarily the writing that impresses me most. Below is the first in a series of ‘MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES’ that will appear on these pages. Hopefully, you will enjoy them as much as I have over the years.
CALAMITY JANE (1953)
I commence with a line of lyrics penned by Paul Francis Webster for the Doris Day song ‘I Just Blew in From the Windy City’:
‘For the sake of civic virtue they’ve got fountains there that squirt you!’
(Anyone who can rhyme ‘virtue’ with ‘squirt you’, (and make sense of it), earns my undying admiration)
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler
Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) meets Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) for the first time:
PHYLLIS: ‘Neff is the name, isn’t it?’
WALTER: ‘Yeah. Two ‘F’s’ like in Philadelphia, if you know the story.’
PHYLLIS: ‘What story?’
WALTER: ‘The Philadelphia Story.’
Later in the movie, Neff is messaging his boss Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) on his Dictaphone, speaking of his feeling of impending doom.
NEFF: ‘Nothing had slipped, nothing had been overlooked. There was nothing to give us away. And yet, Keyes, as I was walking down the street to the drug store, suddenly it came over me that everything would go wrong. It sounds crazy, Keyes, but it’s true, so help me. I couldn’t hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.’
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) Screenplay by William Goldman
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) meets with ‘Deep Throat’, his secret FBI source (Hal Holbrook) in an underground car park. He is in need of help in the investigation into the Watergate break-in and the White House’s involvement.
WOODWARD: ‘The story is dry. All we’ve got are pieces. We can’t seem to figure out what the puzzle is supposed to look like. John Mitchell resigns as the head of ‘C.R.E.E.P’, and says that he wants to spend more time with his family. I mean, it sounds like bullshit; we don’t exactly believe that…’
‘DEEP THROAT’: No, heh, but it’s touching. Forget the myths the media has created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.’
Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards Jr) spoke of his concern regarding his paper accusing Nixon’s chief aide Haldeman of impropriety.
BRADLEE: ‘Now, hold it, hold it. We’re about to accuse Haldeman, who only happens to be the second most important man in this country, of conducting a criminal conspiracy from inside the White House. It would be nice if we were right!’
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) Screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman
Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) responds to J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) when asked if he has done as ordered and destroyed the reputation and career of musician Steve Dallas (Marty Milner).
FALCO: ‘The cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river.’
THE WARRIORS (1979) Screenplay by David Shaber and Walter Hill
Warriors Ajax (James Remar) and Cowboy (Tom McKitterick) are being chased by members of the Baseball Furies gang who are wielding baseball bats.
COWBOY: ‘I can’t make it.’
AJAX: ‘Are you sure?’
COWBOY: ‘Yes, I’m sure…’
AJAX: ‘Well, good! I’m sick of runnin’ from these whimps!’
Ajax halts and confronts the leader of the Baseball Furies.
AJAX: ‘I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle!’
LIVE FROM BAGHDAD (2002) Screenplay by Robert Chapman and John Patrick Shanley
Richard Roth (Hamish Linklater) exchanges introductions with CNN boss Robert Wiener (Michael Keaton).
ROTH: ‘Hi, Richard Roth. Don’t call me ‘Dick’.’
WIENER: ‘Robert Wiener. Don’t call me ‘Dick’ either.’
The final title card as the credits are rolling.
‘While the allegations of Iraqi soldiers taking babies from incubators were widely circulated during the run-up to the Gulf War – the time frame of the drama of our film – these allegations would later prove to be untrue.’
SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS (1998) Screenplay by Michael Browning
Quinn Harris (Harrison Ford), Robin Monroe (Anne Heche) and her fiancée Frank Martin (David Schwimmer) board Quinn’s light plane and are joined by his girlfriend Angelica (Jacqueline Obradors).
ANGELICA: ‘Quinny, look what I got.’
QUINN: ‘What’s that, baby?’
ANGELICA: ‘It’s a bathing suit, silly.’
FRANK: ‘I thought it was an eye patch.’
Quinn crash-lands his plane on a beach during an electrical storm and the undercarriage is torn off by a rocky outcrop on the beach. Robin looks at the wreckage the following morning.
ROBIN: ‘Whoa. What happened?’
QUINN: ‘It crumpled the landing gear when we hit.’
ROBIN: ‘Well, aren’t you going to fix it? I mean, can’t we, can’t we re-attach it somehow?’
QUINN: ‘Sure, we’ll, like, glue it back on.’
ROBIN: ‘Aren’t you one of those guys?’
QUINN: ‘What guys?’
ROBIN: ‘Those guy guys, you know, those guys with skills.’
ROBIN: ‘Yeah. You send them into the wilderness with a pocket knife and a cue-tip and they build you a shopping mall. You can’t do that?’
QUINN: ‘No, I can’t do that. But I can do this.’ He places his finger inside his mouth and makes a ‘popping’ sound. ‘Does that help?’
Robin Monroe and Quinn Harris are stranded on a remote island. All they have is a single flare to signal for help should the opportunity present itself. Robin spots a plane, grabs the flare gun, but trips over Quinn’s hungover torso and unintentionally fires it into a nearby palm tree. Quinn awakens.
ROBIN: ‘Oh no! Oh uh oh! Oh nuts!’
QUINN: ‘What the…? What the hell did you do? You wasted our only god damned flare to shoot a god damned palm tree?
ROBIN: ‘I wouldn’t have shot the god damned tree if you hadn’t rolled into me. I was trying to signal the god damned plane!’
QUINN: ‘What god damned plane?’
ROBIN [Points to an airliner in the sky]: ‘That god damned plane!’
QUINN: ‘That god damned plane? That’s a commercial airliner! It’s five miles high going six hundred miles an hour. They wouldn’t see a nuclear explosion if they were looking for it, much less a flare!’
Robin spies Quinn ogling her breasts, which he denies doing. She asks him to explain why.
QUINN: ‘If it makes you feel any better – you’re not my type.’
ROBIN: ‘Oh good, why?’
ROBIN: ‘Yeah, you know, I’m making conversation. Why?’
QUINN: ‘You talk too much. You’re opinionated. You’re stubborn, sarcastic, and stuck up! Your ass is too narrow and your tits are too small!’
ROBIN: ‘Hey, you wanna know why you’re not my type?’