Thursday, June 02, 2011

Wait for it...

I am introducing a new category here on Linguini on the Ceiling that requires some explanation. It's taken me awhile to come up with what to call this category, since the most concise and descriptive title would be "Movie Moments," which is really lame.

What I came up with is "Wait for it..."

...because these are minor moments in movies that make watching the whole film worthwhile.

I'm not talking about the obvious stuff -- like the sword-wielding guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark going through his moves and getting shot by a slightly-annoyed Indy -- or by Vivian Leigh shaking a carrot to the heavens swearing she will never be hungry again in Gone With the Wind. All effective -- but I don't need to point these out to you, do I?

Instead I'm going to focus on lesser-respected moments with popular movies and memorable moments in movies that most people may not have seen. Some of the movies, as a whole, were not particularly good, but they may have had one line or one moment that cut to the core of truth, irony or poignancy.

If you are a true movie addict, I won't be showing you anything you don't know. But it's always good to reminded about these little flashes of inspiration or creativity.

I will also admit that most of what I talk about are special to me for very personal reasons. That being said, I also think they were very deliberate in their inclusion in the film and, therefore, not as "personal" as I think. In which case, they are my gift to you; we are, none of us, as alone as the evil voice in our brains would have us believe.

My first "Wait for it..." occurs in the classic movie Born Yesterday.

You'd probably recognize the most famous clip they show from this movie; it's the one where Judy Holliday is creaming Broderick Crawford at gin rummy. I love the clip in that it shows Judy Holiday at her funniest, but it does do a disservice to the film. For years I avoided watching the movie, assuming it was yet another story about how ditzy, show-girl types have a heart of gold and are all actually candidates for Mensa.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

To set up the scene, you need to know that Judy Holiday ("Billie") is Broderick Crawford's ("Harry") girlfriend and Harry has hidden a lot of his wealth by putting things in Billie's name, even though she hasn't a clue about any of his dealings. However, everything Harry does requires Billie's signature, which isn't a problem, since Billie doesn't seem to care one way or the other about Harry's business dealings nor does she seem capable of understanding them if she did. She signs what she's told without question.

Harry brings Billie along on a trip to Washington, D.C., where he intends to "do business" with a less-than-ethical congressman. The problem is, Harry doesn't think Billie is up to the social ramifications of rubbing elbows with politicians. He gets a bully's pleasure in mocking her pathetic attempts at socializing with the congressman's wife, even though he shows himself to be a big jadroole playing the Big Shot Host.

Harry hires William Holden ("Paul") to "educate" Billie. Paul is a D.C. political columnist and, while tutoring Billie in sophistication (locals will enjoy seeing clips of the city before there was a Watergate or a Kennedy Center) and grammar, he also gives her a lesson in government.

Knowledge is power, as they say, and Billie begins to notice the way her boyfriend "does business." The next time Billie is asked to sign some papers, she refuses until she reads over what she is signing. Billie refuses several times to sign, first with Harry's lawyer, then with Harry screaming at her.

The scene that follows is disturbing -- but also one of the most empowering.

Harry degrades her new-found knowledge and, when that doesn't work, threatens her with violence, as he has so many times before. This time though, she sticks to her guns.

He hits her.

It's a watershed moment. On one hand, it's almost a relief because you know this is what will finally cause her break with Harry. On the other hand, she tearfully signs the papers, giving the superficial impression that Harry has won and a deeper fear that the violence will force Billie back to her clueless stupor.

The moment is particularly superb because of Judy Holiday's artful ability to show Billie's strength through her painful acquiescence. You cry with her, but you also know that Harry's victory will be short-lived.

Of course, my favorite line the the movie is spoken by Billie to Harry:
"You just ain't COUTH!"
Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with the fact that Born Yesterday is currently on Broadway and am in no way affiliated (as if...). And, while I'm incredulous about the fact that Broadway seems to spend more time on old stuff than on finding new material, I would still love to see it. Sigh.