Here are eight films famous for either one line or one gesture — as well as being damn good movies.
Wondering if it’s a compliment to call someone “Eve Harrington?” (Hint: it’s not). Where did the David Bowie “You Remind Me of A Babe” routine originate? And what does that little brush of the finger against the nose mean?
Yes, this is blatant cross-promotion for my classic movie blog, Classic for a Reason. I’ve reviewed seven of the eight films there, and have conveniently linked to the individual reviews (click on the title).
Here, in no particular order, are the chosen eight:
“You remind me of a man…”
Shirley Temple turns in a delightful performance as the love-struck teenager captivated by playboy Cary Grant. Of course it’s her older sister who catches his eye, but she’s the judge who almost sent him to jail. Instead, he’s sentenced to date the moony-eyed girl, under the watchful supervision of big sister Myrna Loy.
“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”
I stayed away from this film for a long time because I thought it was a western or some such that I wouldn’t enjoy. It’s nominally a western, but at its core it is a hard look at human nature and what happens when we’re faced with the worst in ourselves. Humphrey Bogart was never better — admittedly, he played more admirable characters in other films, but that’s the point. Considered by many to be director John Huston’s best film, and that’s saying a lot.
All About Eve — 1950
“Fasten your seatbelts — it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
If you haven’t seen this one, it’s time to check it out. If Fred and Ginger got me hooked, Margo Channing reeled me in to the world of classic movies. All About Eve is witty, sharp, human, with some deliciously evil characters to boot. All four women in this film were nominated for an Academy Award, the only time in Oscar history that honor has gone to four women from the same movie.
And yes, they had seatbelts in 1950 — mostly in airplanes.
Grand Hotel — 1932
“I want to be alone. I just want to be alone!”
You’ve heard the quote, heavy pseudo-Swedish accent and all. This is the film in which Garbo makes the statement that soon becomes identified with her personal life, fair or not.
This was the first ensemble film to come from Hollywood, and remains one of the best. As a pre-code film it’s a lot racier than you might expect, but the blatant sexuality is still primarily in the looks, innuendo and what’s not said between a man and a woman. In addition to Garbo, the film stars John Barrymore (before his career-ending decline due to alcoholism) and Lionel Barrymore, delightful as always.
Sunset Boulevard — 1950
“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”
Yeah, the old broad has lost it. Okay, old is relative…Gloria Swanson was 50 when this movie was made, but her film career was pretty much over. A star of silent films (and clips from one of them are shown in this movie), she wasn’t able to transition to the talkies. But she wasn’t the object of pity Norma Desmond became. This is a dark film and has achieved cult status, but is far more than this one scene. Complex, haunting and at moments really funny, Sunset Boulevard is a treat only writer/director Billy Wilder could deliver.
Swing Time — 1936
“I did everything Fred did, except backwards and in high heels.”
Backwards, not so much, but the high heels almost did Ginger Rogers in while filming the final dance number, “Never Gonna Dance.” Her feet were bleeding and had to be bandaged, but she insisted on continuing until they got it right– after 47 takes. What took so long? Nearly the entire number is a single shot, with one camera, and Fred Astaire was a perfectionist. Which means 80 years later, we still can get lost in the romance and grace of an Astaire/Rogers dance number. (And yes, I know the quote isn’t directly tied to the movie.)
The Sting — 1973
You know the gesture — a quick brush of forefinger across the nose, a sign of complicity, a smug pat-on-the-back for pulling one off. If you’re under 30, you might not know its origin. Until now, that is. It was a move made famous in this phenomenal film with its phenomenal stars, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. There’s a plethora of talent in this movie, and of all the films to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, this one has to rank in the top ten. Years later Redford would tell of the time he finally watched it — on the VCR, with his grandson — and he noted, “hey, that’s a really good movie.” Yep.
“I’m not an actor — I’m a movie star!”
Funny, touching, a little ribald and wonderfully nostalgic, this is the story of Alan Swann and his one-time appearance on the King Kaiser show in 1954. Based on comedian Mel Brooks’ experience as a young writer on the Sid Caesar show, in particular, the week Errol Flynn appeared, it tells the tale of Benjy Stone and his efforts to keep this movie star sober, at least until he’s appeared live on television and completed his contractual obligation. Look for Lainie Kazan as Benjy’s mother. O’Toole was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, but lost to Ben Kingsley for his incredible portrayal of Gandhi.
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