Bit of Ivory

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Taking a leaf from my friend Pam. . .

October 12th, 2008 · No Comments

In an effort to write something, anything (in the hopes that the writing will translate to my thesis), I’m going to be starting a new series of posts. A series about movies.

More, specifically, a series about Movies My Family Quotes. I’m starting with 31 movies. There are many more that I could add. And that’s not even counting all the TV shows and church films and cartoons (oh, the cartoons!) which I’m not even touching. I got the idea from conversations with my co-workers, where I realized that the movies that my family quotes are not always the movies everyone quotes. But when someone recognizes a quote from one of our movies, I know I’ve got a kindred spirit. So I thought I’d share my love for some of these amazing films. Who knows– maybe you’ll find a new favorite. Or you’ll discover that we’re also kindred spirits. :P I have no idea what my posting schedule will be, although I’m going to try to do at least 3 movies a week.

I thought I’d start off big– with the mother of all quotable movies. At least for my family. I remember one camping trip with assorted extended Bytheway relatives, we sat around the campfire for at least 20 minutes, spouting line after line from this movie. If we tried hard enough, I think we could, collectively, quote the whole thing from beginning to end.

“Propriety? Noun: Conformity to established standards of behavior or manner, suitability, rightness, or justice. See: etiquette”

What's Up, Doc?
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

I changed that first quote at least 10 times, because there are just that many good lines. The ironic thing is, Barbra Streisand hates this movie– and yet it’s the one Streisand film that I can stand to watch. :P For the recent DVD release, they managed to talk her into doing a commentary on selected scenes, and it’s obvious that she’s seeing them almost for the first time. She keeps making comments like “Oh, this is funny!” Yeah, Barbra, it is. Hilarious, in fact.

In making this film, writer and director Peter Bogdanovich wanted to hark back to the screwball comedies of the 30’s. Classics like Bringing up Baby and It Happened One Night and Arsenic and Old Lace (which will be making an appearance later in this series). And I think he succeeded admirably. From the physical comedy to the absurd plot to the witty quick-fire repartee, it’s a film that’s full of laughs from beginning (“Yes, Eunice”) to end (“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard”).

The plot centers around 4 identical plaid traveling cases. One belongs to our hero, Howard Bannister (Ryan O’Neal), and is full of igneous rocks that Howard, a musicologist, believes may have been used by primitive man to create music. One belongs to our heroine (Judy Maxwell) and is full of clothes and books. One belongs to Mrs. Van Hoskins (Mabel Albertson), a wealthy socialite, and is filled with expensive jewels. And one belongs to Mr. Smith (Michael Murphy)–although he’s never named in the movie, that’s how he’s listed in the credits– and is full of top secret government documents. Through a series of coincidences, all four bags and all four owners end up at the Hotel Bristol in San Fransisco, where the hotel clerk and house detective want to steal the jewels, Mr. Jones wants to steal the documents, and Judy wants to get to know Howard a little better (okay, a lot better) despite his already having a fiancee named Eunice Burns (Madeline Kahn, in her first role). The cases, of course, are mixed up multiple times (we’ve finally been able to keep track of who’s got what case at which time, although it’s pretty tricky) and hilarity ensues.

I can’t decide if my favorite scene in the movie is the one I screencapped above (“Oh, we’re just testing a theory Howard has about Vocal Reverberation Under Spinal Pressure.” “What? Vocal Reverberation Under Spinal Pressure?” “You know, VRUSP?” “Oh, yes, I think I read a monograph on that. . .”) or the one where Judy and Howard manage to set his hotel room on fire (“I am not joking now. I do not like to act rashly, but you are the last straw that breaks my camel’s back, you are the plague, you bring havoc and chaos to everyone, but why to me? Why? Why?” “Because you look cute in your pyjamas, Steve.”) or the courtroom scene (“Don’t touch me, I’m a doctor.” “Of what?” “Music.” “Can you fix a hi-fi?” “No, sir.” “Then SHUT UP.”) or the absolutely FABULOUS chase scene through the streets of San Fransisco:

If you’ve never seen this movie, go rent it, or add it to your Netflix queue, or whatever. Sometimes it even shows up on TV. We once gave a fairly recent family friend the assignment to watch this movie. Once he had, he told us “I understand your family so much better now.” :P (This guy’s an insightful man. He once said that living in our house must be like a cross between Red Dwarf and The Sound of Music. That’s a fairly accurate description, actually.)

Anyway. I long ago decided that my future husband will have to enjoy this movie. It’s a fundamental requirement. Anyone who doesn’t like this movie just would not get along in my family. Or with me. :P

So how many of you love this movie as much as I do?

Tags: Movies

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