The late 1940's and much of the 1950's McCarthy Era was a tumultuous period for many directors, writers, actors, and others involved in the Hollywood film industry. Imagined fears of pervasive Communist influence in American society made friends turn on friends. Loyalties were discarded. Suspicions were aroused. So it was in the case of these two former friends
Cover to the 1947 Propaganda comic book "Is This Tomorrow?"
The relationship between Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller and Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan went far beyond their professional association. In addition to the fact that Kazan directed Miller's earliest Broadway hits, All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, both men held many of the same political and ideological beliefs -- and both were enamored of blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe (whom Miller ultimately married). Their friendship came to an abrupt end in 1952, at the height of the so-called Communist witch hunt conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee...
Ultimately, Kazan and Miller settled their differences, but though they would work together again, their close off-stage relationship had been permanently damaged.
Whatever one thinks of Elia Kazan and his 'snitching,' there is no denying that he was a great director, having directed what one British magazine called the greatest five minutes in movie history. When I lived in London in the mid-1990's in grad school, Timeout magazine described the scene between Marlon Brando (Terry Malloy) and Rod Steiger (Charley 'the Gent' Malloy) in the back seat of a car in the movie On the Waterfront as the best ever in movie history.
A 1954 movie about mob infiltration, violence, and union corruption -- and if you've seen this great movie -- you'll remember these memorable lines from Brando
Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront
Charlie: Look, kid, I - how much you weigh, son? When you weighed one hundred and sixty-eight pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.
Terry: It wasn't him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.
Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.
Terry: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.
Nominated for twelve awards, 'On the Waterfront' won eight Academy Awards including Best Actor (Brando), Best Picture (Sam Spiegel, Producer), Best Director (Kazan), and Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint).
A couple of other great scenes from movies. The first is from Lawrence of Arabia, the second from Casablanca
Peter O'Toole and Anthony Quayle in Lawrence of Arabia (Go to about the 2:30 mark)
Lawrence: We've taken Aqaba.
Brighton: Taken Aqaba? Who has?
Lawrence: We have. Our side in this war has. The wogs have. We have...
Brighton: You mean the Turks have gone?
Lawrence: No, they're still there but they've no boots. Prisoners, sir. We took them prisoners, the entire garrison. No that's not true. We killed some, too many really. I'll manage it better next time. There's been a lot of killing, one way or another. Cross my heart and hope to die, it's all perfectly true.
Brighton: It isn't possible.
Lawrence: Yes it is. I did it.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergmann in Casablanca (go to the 1:05 mark) in this extended version disabled by request on YouTube
Rick: Last night we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I've done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you're getting on that plane with Victor where you belong.
Ilsa: But, Richard, no, I... I...
Rick: Now, you've got to listen to me! You have any idea what you'd have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we'd both wind up in a concentration camp. Isn't that true, Louie?
Captain Renault: I'm afraid Major Strasser would insist.
Ilsa: You're saying this only to make me go.
Rick: I'm saying it because it's true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We'll always have Paris. We didn't have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now... Here's looking at you kid.
I don't pretend to be a sophisticated movie critic or reviewer. Rather, I am, I suspect like many of you, a movie buff. The older the movie, the more interested I am in its history, how it came to be made, and the techniques used by the director. To state that good acting is subjective is to state the obvious. It isn't something that there is unanimous agreement about but I think, as a US Supreme Court Justice once said about porography, you recognize it when you see it.
So, what are some great movie scenes that you are aware of? I've listed a few off the top of my head from movies that I've seen and am impressed by. And some from this list. No list is going to be complete or perfect. Neither is this one. But, have your say.
And, in a tip of the hat to Meteor Blades, remember to take the poll.
I first wrote a version of this diary in 2006.
Crossposted at Docudharma
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