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.
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.