Often today's films abandon story and character for instant gratification designed to numb us for the moment. Indeed, with the onslaught of computer-generated effects and ear-piercing digital sounds, moviemakers sometimes pulverize rather than entertain. So, while the roller coaster rides of today’s supersonic action flicks momentarily amuse, they often leave the viewer empty moments after the end credits. Not to mention, momentarily deaf.
I promise I don't think every film need end with a verse of “Climb Every Mountain,” but audiences are being cheated by movies that rely mainly on CGI effects rather than character development and witty and revealing dialogue to move a storyline along.
Dialogue is still one of the most provocative special effects found in the movies – that is, when you can find it. Once you hear creative discourse, you crave more. Here are a few examples:
"Oh, I see...the pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true." Danny Kaye making sure not to drink the potion meant for his jousting opponent. THE COURT JESTER
"Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night." Bette Davis as theatre Grand Dame, Margo Channing. ALL ABOUT EVE
"In Paradise you will be the great artist God meant you to be. Ah, how you will delight the angels!" A dinner guest acknowledging the abilities of an obscure chef. BABETTE’S FEAST
"And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand." The newly converted BEN HUR.
“What he did to Shakespeare, we are now dong to Poland.”
Nazi colonel Sig Ruman critiquing Jack Benny’s acting in TO BE OR NOT TO BE
“We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your $200…You paid us more than if you’d been telling us the truth and enough more to make it all right.”
Detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) calling Mary Astor a liar in THE MALTESE FALCON
Humphrey Bogart: “I came to Casablanca for the waters.”
Claude Rains: “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.”
Bogart: “I was misinformed.” CASABLANCA
“I never drink – wine.” Bela Lugosi in DRACULA
“It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street. How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?” Fred MacMurray in DOUBLE INDEMNITY
“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” Narrator in THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
“You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who know how.” Clark Gable to Vivian Leigh in GONE WITH THE WIND
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” The angel to Jimmy Stewart in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
“You must remember the Americans are a very strange people. Whereas other countries rarely forgive anything, the Americans forgive everything. There isn’t a more profitable undertaking for any country than to declare war on the United States and to be defeated.” Peter Sellers in THE MOUSE THAT ROARED
"One Morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don't know." Explorer Captain Spalding (Groucho Marx). ANIMAL CRACKERS
"What's wrong with dying? Cause life is too precious a gift. That's why. Because the first duty of life is to live." Burt Lancaster life-long prison inmate. BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ
"I believe that God made me for a purpose. For China. But he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure." Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner who went on to become a missionary. CHARIOTS OF FIRE
"It was widely known in New York, but never acknowledged, that Americans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it." THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
"Klaatu baraaada nikto." Important instructions. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the war room!" An outraged President Muffley (Peter Sellers). DR. STRANGELOVE
"Sir, you try my patience!" A frustrated Minister of War.
"I don't mind if I do. You must come over and try mine sometime." Prime Minister Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx). DUCK SOUP
"...A zombie has no will of his own. You see them sometimes walking around blindly, with dead eyes, following orders, not knowing what they do, not caring."
"You mean like Democrats?" Richard Carlson & Bob Hope in THE GHOST BREAKERS
"I sort of wish you hadn't done that, Hildy...Makes a fellow lose all faith in himself. Gives him, well, it gives him a feeling he's not wanted."
"Now, look, Junior, that's what divorces are for." Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. HIS GIRL FRIDAY
"It's lavish, but I call it home." The snobbish Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb). LAURA
"I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if behind them they didn't have a little bit of ordinary everyday human kindness, and a little looking out for the other fella, too." Idealist, Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) to Congress. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
"I got brown sandwiches and green sandwiches. Which one do you want?"
"What's the green?"
"It's either very new cheese or very old meat." Oscar (Walter Matthau) to Murray the Cop (Herb Edelman). THE ODD COUPLE
"Not much meat on her, but what's there is cherce." Spencer Tracy after an appreciative glance at Katharine Hepburn. PAT AND MIKE
"If you say three, mister, you'll never hear the man count ten." Ex-boxer Sean Thornton (John Wayne) to threatening bully Victor McLaglen. THE QUIET MAN
"I wonder why the Lord's not with us every day? Sure would be nice if He was. Well, maybe, then we wouldn't appreciate it so much on those days when He is with us, or maybe He's with us always, and we just don't know it." Widow Cary Watts (Geraldine Page). THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL
"I was to think of these days many times. Of Jem and Dill and Boo Bradley and Tom Robinson -- and Atticus. He would be in Jem's room all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning." A wistful narrator reminiscing about her childhood memories. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
“It was beauty killed the beast.” Robert Armstrong to policeman after the planes shoot down the monster ape from the Empire State Building. KING KONG
“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in SUNSET BOULEVARD
“If you continue to make advances to my fiancée, I will be forced to knock your block off. Champagne?” Civilized man to bounder in THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES
“Every night, when I say my prayers, and I thank the Lord for his blessings and his tender mercies to me, you and Sonny head the list.” Tess Harper to her son and new husband in TENDER MERCIES
Here are some examples of films renown for their story, performances and use of dialogue. Yes, most of them are old, old, old. But would you pass on looking at the Mona Lisa simply because it was made in a different time? Though styles and dress change, art remains timeless.
THE AFRICAN QUEEN
ALL ABOUT EVE
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
CHARIOTS OF FIRE
THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR
HIS GIRL FRIDAY
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBURG
The MALTESE FALCON
MY FAIR LADY
ON THE WATERFRONT
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
THE QUIET MAN
REMAINS OF THE DAY
SENSE AND SESIBILITY
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN
THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL