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May I Quote You On That?
by Jon Schuller

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Quotations can go back to the very beginnings of human writing and recorded history. Those who could read and write, regardless of their language, wanted to be remembered. Kings and emperors, philosophers and tyrants all desired immortality in one form or another. Most of the bad guys gained fame by conquering and murder. The writers and philosophers influenced their times by saying wise things, hoping to affect change and maybe, bring peace. Here we are, thousands and hundreds of years later, and we still quote Cicero, Socrates, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, Shakespeare, Ben Franklin and The Founding Fathers, Mark Twain, Gandhi, Oscar Wilde, Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt. What always impresses me is how apt and intelligent many quotes are, applicable to our time no matter when the original was written. There are literally thousands of quotations that are perfect for any situation and never seem to get old. One of my favorites is from Benjamin Franklin: "Well-done is better than well-said." For our present-day divisive dialogues seen and heard daily on television and social media, I quote Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt: "Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people."

Today we have instant, worldwide communications, which anyone, anywhere,
anytime can write and send to millions of people. 200 years ago the world had books and newspapers. By the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, movies became the newest , most popular technology, watched everywhere. Once they began to speak in so many languages films reached into every corner of the globe and their words became instantly famous, quoted and repeated many times over. Movie quotations, like the famous ones from centuries past, are used again and again, everywhere.

There are literally hundreds of movie quotes to choose from. I daresay everyone has their favorites and need no prompting to recall them, what films they were from, who said it, why, when, etc., etc. Many movie quotes made history immediately because of the (at the time) reactions to them by the type of people who disdain everything. Gone With the Wind, of course, spawned controversy with "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Shocking in 1939, but today it's quite tame. "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am" says Marlon Brando to his brother Rod Steiger in the famous cab scene in On the Waterfront in 1954. Mel Brooks confides to the camera that "It's good to be the King." Mad scientist Christopher Lloyd
explains "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads." Here's an incredibly famous line that was actually used twice in 2 separate films: "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!"

From 1933, a modern tragedy tells us "It wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast." The Boss simplifies everything by explaining that "What we have here is failure to communicate." A famous pair keeps asking "Who are those guys?" The Big Boss is supremely confident: "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." A sight-seeing lesson: "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown." A memorable sports quote: "There's no crying in baseball." A tough reality check: "Snap out of it." A beautiful female entertainer in the Old West exclaims: "A wed wose. How womantic." How to exit on a famous line: "Made it, Ma. Top of the World." Here's some timeless, practical advice: "Round up the usual suspects." "You're gonna need a bigger boat." "Show me the money." "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."
"You can't handle the truth!" "A boy's best friend is his mother." "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."

If you decide to find your favorites or just want to have some fun revisiting movie quotations, there are many excellent websites to choose from. I think the exercise will help you see what makes a quote from films immortal or even, practical. As I wrote earlier, we still use quotes from ancient Greece and Rome, from China and famous 18th Century European writers and philosophers. Our own history since 1776 is full of the wisdom of many smart and prescient men and women. I like to think that such wise words, though brief, can still help us get through own apparently difficult age. History repeats and so too the wit and wisdom from past ages. The movies preserve their own views of the world and we can listen to the speakers, in their own voices, anytime we want to. The movies are our windows on history, clarifying and emphasizing all of the good and bad through the ages.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Have You Been Spying On Me Lately? For How Long?

But Can She Act? That's What I Want to Know

They're Not the Same People They Used To Be

Time Does Fly When We Watch Movies

Before Minimum or Maximum, There Was Only Prison

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.

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