Sunday, January 15, 2017
I am a child of the cinema. I think that can be said for most of us baby boomers. And, although television was a big part of our upbringing, the art form that most influenced us was the movies. It was an overlapping of a preference shared by the previous generation, which had also been influenced by radio art, particularly radio dramas. Radio had pretty much gone by the boards by the time I was coming up.
I recall lamenting the death of our television sometime in the 1950s and my dad saying, "Why don't you turn on the radio? Maybe 'The Lone Ranger' is on." And I remember how crestfallen he was when I told him no such shows existed on the radio anymore.
But movies endured, and thanks to television recycling films from the Forties and even Thirties, we wee boomers also thrilled to the exploits of the likes of Sam Spade and Rick Blaine.
When I was a kid my imagination worked like the movies. I imagined myself as a character in my own film, exchanging dialogue with other characters.
Yeah, I was a bit of a contrarian when I was young, so didn't make a lot of friends. But, before you begin playing the world's smallest violin, I recall the friends I did make had an abiding love of the movies too.
I can say I learned to write dialogue by listening to movie lines, and recognizing the rhythm, appreciating the wit exchanged between characters who shared a sophistication that made me want to emulate them.
Who wouldn't want to be like Bogart? But if I couldn't grow up to be as cool as Bogie, Claude Rains would do, or even the immense Sidney Greenstreet, whom I adored.
The words that came out of their characters' mouths. No one could get the edge on them in a battle of wits.
And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
My Health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
I was misinformed.
Who talks like that? Nobody in my old neighborhood.
How I would have liked to have told a miserable old nun, "I'd despise you if I gave you any thought."
As I got older, I realized characters in movies didn't spout dialogue spontaneously. Someone had to put those words in their mouths. I began to appreciate good writing, particularly dialogue writing, how to make it sound natural, original, spontaneous.
Those conversations continued in my head, and when I arrived at a certain age I began to write them down.
Today, younger folks watch movies on screens barely bigger than the palm of one's hand. Dialogue ... clever repartee ... doesn't move the plot along as much as explosions do.
Is it any wonder the national discourse has been reduced to a childish tweet?
Posted by Bob Buckley at 12:30 AM