You Misremember This

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All serious film-lovers are well aware that Mae West never actually said “Play it again, Sam,” and that Humphrey Bogart in CASABLANCA never asks Dooley Wilson to “Come up and see me sometime,” but film history is full of only slightly less famous quotations which never actually occur in the films cited. Here are a few examples.

In Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND, Gregory Peck never actually tells Ingrid Bergman, “I’m going to knock your fucking block off, you great Swedish cow.” Peck’s character is actually in love with Bergman’s, and thus would be unlikely to threaten or insult her in this way. Curiously enough, the line does actually appear in the Oscar-nominated 2002 spelling bee documentary SPELLBOUND, which  might be where the confusion originated, except that Donald Spoto, in his 1983 Hitchcock biography The Dark Side of Genius, insists the line is present and cites it as evidence of the director’s misogyny. Asked in an interview how such a line could get through the Breen office, Spoto appears to have replied, “Peck kind of mumbled it, and blew a raspberry to distract attention,” although Spoto’s own poor diction and accompanying sound effects make his exact words uncertain.

In WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966), Elizabeth Taylor never actually accuses husband Richard Burton of “prancing about like Dick Spanner’s mad auntie,” and given that the Gerry Anderson puppet series Dick Spanner, P.I. only appeared on television twenty years later, it’s hard to see how anyone could have imagined she did.

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Not Richard Burton.

On ON THE WATERFRONT, Marlon Brando is celebrated for his performance and for the much-mimicked line “A codda bunna cotoda,” but film fans would be startled to learn that rather than this abstract piece of beat poetry, what the famed method actor actually intended to say is the more prosaic “I could have been a contender.” Whether the film would have gone on to occupy such a central position in the pantheon of great film-making had anybody at all understood the line correctly must forever remain a mystery, like Donald Sutherland’s odd arm movement in the sex scene in DON’T LOOK NOW, its origins and purpose still a total mystery.

In Liam Neeson’s final scene in SCHINDLER’S LIST, he never actually says, in between repeatedly mourning his failure to save more lives, the line “I like broccoli, I don’t care what anybody says.” The first cut of the film did actually contain such a line, but director Steven Spielberg quickly realised that the insight into Oskar Schindler’s taste in vegetables was misplaced at this dramatic high point, and removed it, adding in some more blubbering instead. But somehow Stephen Zaillian’s script or the rough edit must have leaked out, because to this day Spielberg is often praised for his mastery of tone in slipping such an apparently humdrum detail into a scene of devastating emotional power, and Liam Neeson complains that fans often shout the line at him in the street, causing him to stroll angrily away to make another awful revenge film.

CASABLANCA contains another often-misquoted line. Contrary to popular belief, Claude Rains does not say “Round up the usual suspects,” despite that line later becoming famous and giving the title to another celebrated movie, Frankie Howerd’s UP THE USUAL (1972). Examination of the original screenplay reveals that Rains was actually give the line “Rump up the huge old soup sect,” since screenwriter twins Julius & Philip Epstein couldn’t think of a snappy line to reveal Captain Renault’s change of allegiance, and so resorted to picking words from a hat in order to meet their deadline. In a frankly incredible stroke of luck, audiences ever since have mistaken Rains’ crisply delivered reading for a far more logical and witty sentence, thus helping to ensure the film’s classic status.

 

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18 Responses to “You Misremember This”

  1. What scares me is how I’ll revisit something I saw in the past few years and realize I remembered specific scenes as being shot from different angles, and lines — or comments in interviews and commentaries — not quite matching recollection.

    Faced with hard evidence of misremembered fictions, I worry about misremembered facts.

  2. I looked at a scene in The Cardinal a second time, yesterday, and realised I’d somehow misheard John Huston’s “It would be an honour, Ned,” as “It would be an honour to-” with the line left unfinished, choked off by emotion. The imagined line reading had me blinking back tears, the actual one seems less effective by far!

  3. Donald Spoto is a MENACE . As for Casablanca it’s most famous line is —

  4. Well, there’s also that great line at the conclusion of Lyncjh’s DUNE, shouted by Paul Atraides’ tiny sister:

    “For surely he IS the Cuisinart hatrack!”

  5. chris schneider Says:

    THE MISQUOTE HIGH-MINDED

    “Anne Frank for your thoughts … ” (Ilsa to Rick)

    THE MISQUOTE LOW-MINDED

    “Was that the cannon fire, or is it my fart sounding?” (Ilsa to Rick)

  6. HIGH-MINDED: “Everybody comes to The Ritz.”
    LOW-MINDED: “Everybody cums on Rick.”

  7. And speaking of Ritz —

  8. “We’re going to need a bigger boat” never appears in JAWS. “We’re going to need a bigger ham” is the line, in reference to Robert Shaw’s performance. This was actually said by John Milius off-screen during shooting, but during sound editing, they matched it up so it sounded like it was said by the actors.

    Interestingly enough, the line did appear in an early cut of James Cameron’s TITANIC, where, at the end of the film, the entire Titanic rose from the depths, manned by a crew of skeletons brought to life by Rose’s necklace, when Bill Paxton realizes that his tiny vessel will have to fight them off to protect the civilized world.

  9. A weird, real one is that although DeNiro says “Are you talking to me?” about 27 times in Taxi Driver, some people still quote it as “Are you looking at me?” Probably the same people who spell it “Scorcese.”

  10. Oh, so it’s not, “You gawking at me?” I remembered it as him complaining about people staring at his mohawk.

  11. Never gawk at a mohawk.

  12. Mae West “play it again?” I have never once thought she did.

  13. An argument in favour of careful reading. I realize people don’t always know when I’m joking, or find it funny, but I would have thought if you’d finished the piece…

  14. Just so. If the quotes had been closer to what people actually think are quotes, I would have read on.

  15. I would really caution you against commenting on anything you haven’t read. Bloggers who are at least trying to provide free entertainment welcome remarks that help them improve, but frankly, if you haven’t read the thing you have nothing to say of any interest.

  16. And there was never a non-Disney film called “That Fucking Cat” as someone over at the AVclub.com has noted in response to the death of G-rated Dean Jones.

  17. Genuinely heard Sean Penn in the trailer for Milk begin his great speech with “I’m Harvey Milk & I’m here to make FRUIT JUICE”
    (Massive applause)

    I remember thinking, poor dolt that I am “There is SO much I don’t understand about Castro Street scene in the 70s”

    (Confession: I myself have only ever read the last paragraph of your blog posts. If I can’t work out what you’re talking about, then I go and post in the comments)

  18. Ha ha!

    I’m afraid to watch boring 1970s horror The Asphyx again in case it doesn’t actually contain the line “Was the smudge trying to warn Clive of danger?” spoken by Robert Stephens (with high passion). Was already disappointed to find that my memory of The Phantom of the Opera containing an intertitle “Heat! Sudden, intense heat!” was a false one.

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