Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I Wish I’d Said That

By Tracy Kiely

As someone who watches an excessive amount of movies (according to various authority figures I’ve encountered in my life), I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie and thought – I want to write the sequel to this! Instead, I’ve found myself thinking, “Damn, I wish I’d written this!” Quite a lot, actually.

I think the first movie I watched that promoted this envy was The Double McGuffin. It was a mystery with a bunch of kids in it (oh, and Ernest Borgnine, but I had no idea who he was then). One of the kids was very cute. Very cute. I had the rather brilliant idea that I would write my own mystery, get it turned into a movie, and then demand that this boy star in it. He would, of course, meet me, think I was really cool, come visit me, and ask me to couple skate at the roller rink, but – best of all – he would know how to skate backwards!   And he wouldn’t ask my nemesis Nikki Baxter to skate at all! HA!
            Spoiler Alert: Didn’t happen.
Ohh, and Elke Sommer before her Love Boat days!
Then I think it was either Charade or Dial M for Murder. I mean, I wish I’d written both; I just can’t remember which one I saw first. If I had to guess it would be Dial M because I remember getting it when someone referred to Charade as “the best Hitchcock movie he never made.” I loved them so much that I bought the screenplays for both just to see how it looked on page. I don’t think I’d ever read a script before of a movie that I practically knew by heart, and I don’t think I ever underestimated the skill an actor brings to a role. Good writing only gets you so far, I realized. It’s the actors who make their role really come alive.
Here’s a bit from the script of Charade:

A strange, grotesque knitted mask that completely covers
the face except for eyes, nose and mouth.  The eyes inside
this particular mask stare down at REGGIE.

     Does this belong to you?

CAMERA PANS down to include JEAN-LOUIS, his hand held
firmly by the man in the mask.

too terrified to answer.  Realizing this, the man, PETER
JOSHUA, takes off the snow-mask to reveal a handsome,
tanned face.

     Oh, forgive me. (indicating JEAN-LOUIS)
     Is this yours?

               REGGIE (indicating SYLVIE)
     It's hers.  Where'd you find him, robbing
     a bank?

     He was throwing snowballs at Baron
     Rothschild.  (a pause)  We don't know
     each other, do we?

     Why, do you think we're going to?

     I don't know -- how would I know?
     I'm afraid I already know a great many
     people.  Until one of them dies I couldn't
     possibly meet anyone else.

               PETER (smiling)
     Yes, of course.  But you will let me know
     if anyone goes on the critical list
     (he starts off).


               PETER (turning)
     How's that?

     You give up awfully easy, don't you?

Eyeing one, then the other, SYLVIE sizes up the situation
and rises.

     Viens, Jean-Louis, let us make a walk.
     I have never seen a Rothschild before.

SYLVIE and JEAN-LOUIS start off, but not before the boy
squirts PETER with his pistol.

               PETER (drying)
     Clever fellow -- almost missed me.

     I'm afraid you're blocking my view.

               PETER (moving)
     Sorry.  Which view would you like?

     The one you're blocking.  This is the last
     chance I have -- I'm flying back to Paris
     this afternoon.  What's your name?
     Peter Joshua.

     I'm Regina Lampert.

     Is there a Mr. Lampert?


     Good for you.
     No, it isn't.  I'm getting a divorce.
     Please, not on my account.
     No, you see, I don't really love him.
     Well, you're honest, anyway.

Now the clip:

I could probably go on for several more pages here, so I won’t bore you with my “Oh…I wish I wrote that!” list. I will just tell you the last movie I watched in which I really remember saying – that’s it. That’s the kind of movie I want to write. It was 2007’s Death at a Funeral.
From the brilliantly funny opening credits in which we watch via animation as a hearse winds its way along highways and then back roads, gets lost, turns around before finally arriving at its destination, the tone is set.  Once the casket is delivered, the British farce is off and running. I loved all of it; from the dialog, the crazy relatives, the absurd events. The fact that it all takes places over one afternoon during a funeral makes it all the funnier. It’s like trying not to laugh in church
            So, did I answer the question? Well, no. But, I think you'll feel loads better about that if you watch one of the movies I referenced. (Well, probably not The Double McGuffin; I suspect that one doesn't hold up to the test of time.)


RM Greenaway said...

Movies you watch as a kid probably shape your future in some weird way, because it's not fiction to you, it's pure reality. Your McGuffin is my Finnegan's Rainbow. This was a great post - thank you. Also loved Death at a Funeral (the British version only!)

Art Taylor said...

Fun picks here! I've not seen the Double McGuffin or Death at a Funeral, but will try to catch the latter soon!

Susan C Shea said...

Loved Death at a Funeral. Charade is one I am sure I've seen, but the dialogue doesn''t sound familiar, which means I have to find it. Thanks!