Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hopsie & Jean

Oh darling, hold me tight! Oh, you don't know what you've done to me.

I'm terribly sorry.

Oh, that's all right.I wouldn't have frightened you for anything in the world. I mean if there's anyone in the world I wouldn't have wanted to - it's you.

You're very sweet. Don't let me go.

Snakes are my life, in a way.

What a life!

I suppose it does sound sorta silly. I mean, I suppose I shoulda married and settled down. I imagine my father always wanted me to. As a matter of fact, he's told me so rather plainly. I just never cared for the brewing business.

Oh, you say that's why you've never married?

Oh no. It's just I've never met her. I suppose she's around somewhere in the world.

It would be too bad if you never bumped into each other.

I suppose you know what she looks like and everything.

-I think so.
I'll bet she looks like Marguerite in Faust.

Oh no, she isn't, I mean, she hasn't, she's not as bulky as an opera singer.

Oh. How are her teeth?


Well, you should always pick one out with good teeth. It saves expense later.

Oh, now you're kidding me.

Not badly. You have a right to have an ideal.

Oh, I guess we all have one.What does yours look like?

He's a little short guy with lots of money.

Why short?

What does it matter if he's rich? It's so he'll look up to me. So I'll be his ideal.

That's a funny kind of reason.

Well, look who's reasoning. And when he takes me out to dinner, he'll never add up the check and he won't smoke greasy cigars or use grease on his hair. And, oh yes, he, he won't do card tricks.


Oh, it's not that I mind your doing card tricks, Hopsie. It's just that you naturally wouldn't want your ideal to do card tricks.

I shouldn't think that kind of ideal was so difficult to find.

Oh he isn't. That's why he's my ideal. What's the sense of having one if you can't ever find him? Mine is a practical ideal you can find two or three of in every barber shop - getting the works.

Why don't you marry one of them?

Why should I marry anybody that looked like that? When I marry, it's gonna be somebody I've never seen before. I mean I won't know what he looks like or where he'll come from of what he'll be. I want him to sort of - take me by surprise.

Like a burglar.

That's right. And the night will be heavy with perfume. And I'll hear a step behind me and somebody breathing heavily, and then.….. You'd better go to bed, Hopsie. I think I can sleep peacefully now.

I wish I could say the same.

You know how you’ll hear snooty film types lament about how nobody writes great dialogue anymore? Well, it happens to be the truth. The example above could be exhibit A. It’s taken from Preston Sturges’ great 1941 comedy The Lady Eve, and it illustrates what I mean quite nicely. Barbara Stanwyk as Jean and Henry Fonda as Charles (“Hopsie”) are two people who find themselves in love when neither expected to be, and we see it blossom right before our eyes. In only a few minutes of screen time we see nervousness, intelligence, charming silliness…and finally, lust.

It’s fun to watch the great screenplays of the Hays Code era, and watch how writers slyly dealt with sex. Sturges was a master at it, whether it’s Betty Hutton’s one-night-stand in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, the two horny spinsters in Sullivan’s Travels, or Barbara Stanwyck playing with Henry Fonda’s hair while making snake talk. Because , you see, they don’t write stuff like that anymore.

Henry Fonda, Preston Sturges, and Barbara Stanwyck on the set of The Lady Eve

1 comment:

Squish said...

Kurosaw-a-Thon! 15th to 22nd! Squish's Place! (