I have long been an admirer of motion picture dialog and in particular,
closing lines or brief exchanges that provide perfect endings to certain classic films.
Here are twelve such examples from pictures produced during Hollywood’s golden age…
Arguably the most famous of all final one-liners
occurred in “Some Like It Hot”, the comedy
about two male musicians Joe (played by Tony Curtis)
and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) who disguised themselves
in drag as Josephine and Daphne, members of an
all-girl band fronted by singer Sugar Kane
played by Marilyn Monroe.
The big payoff line of dialog took place
as lecherous millionaire Osgood Fielding III
(played by Joe E. Brown) is proposing marriage
to the still-disguised ‘Daphne’
In desperation, Jerry (Jack Lemmon)
rips off his female wig and reveals
“I’m a man!”
to which Osgood replies:
‘Well, nobody’s perfect!”
Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III
in “Some Like It Hot” (United Artists: 1959):
Screenplay: Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
Suggested by a story by R. Thoeren & M. Logan;
Produced & Directed by Billy Wilder.
Later adapted as a stage musical, “Sunset Boulevard”
is perhaps the finest movie set in and around the movie capital and it involved one of Hollywood’s major studios, Paramount.
Appearing as himself was master showman
and director, Cecil B. DeMille to whom
Gloria Swanson addresses her most famous line…
“Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”
Gloria Swanson as faded movie actress
Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”
Written by Charles Brackett,
Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman Jr.;
Directed by Billy Wilder.
(The film is also remembered for another
‘Norma Desmond’ one-liner when she proclaims:
“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small”).
Another film containing numerous celebrated
lines of dialog was the wartime romantic drama “Casablanca”.
In the film’s closing moments depicted in the above still, Humphrey Bogart as nightclub owner Rick Blaine
walked away into the fog with Claude Rains
as the police chief, Captain Louis Renault
and delivers this final declaration…
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.
Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca”
(Warner Bros: 1942):
Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip Epstein
& Howard Koch from a play
by Murray Burnett & Joan Alison;
Directed by Michael Curtiz.
In the closing moments of the epic story of the American South…
“After all…tomorrow is another day”
Vivien Leigh as Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara
in David O. Selznick’s production of Margaret Mitchell’s
“Gone With The Wind”
(Selznick International/MGM: 1939):
Screenplay by Sidney Howard;
Directed by Victor Fleming.
“The Big Sleep” was one of four films in which Humphrey Bogart co-starred with his wife Lauren Bacall
and their on-screen chemistry was
personified in this final exchange…
Vivian Rutledge: “You’ve forgotten one thing, me”
Philip Marlowe: “What’s wrong with you?”
Vivian Rutledge: “Nothing you can’t fix!”
Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge
and Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe
in “The Big Sleep” (Warner Bros: 1946)
Screenplay by William Faulkner,
Leigh Brackett & Jules Furthman
from the novel by Raymond Chandler;
Directed by Howard Hawks
In “The Maltese Falcon”, Humphrey Bogart
was private eye Sam Spade and the Falcon
was a prized statuette…
Tom Polhaus: “Heavy, what is it?”
Sam Spade: “The-uh stuff that dreams are made of”
Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade
and Ward Bond as Detective Tom Polhaus
in “The Maltese Falcon” (Warner Bros: 1941):
Screenplay by John Huston
based upon the novel by Dashiell Hammett;
Directed by John Huston
In the original grandaddy of all monster movies, “King Kong”,
the giant gorilla was brought from Skull Island to New York by showman Carl Denham.
The ape carried a girl (played by Fay Wray) to the top of the Empire State Building
and then was eventually killed by a group of fighter planes.
A police lieutenant then turned to Denham and said
“The airplanes got him”
to which Denham famously replied:
“Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes…It was beauty killed the beast”
Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham in “King Kong”
(RKO Radio: 1933)
Screenplay by James Creelman & Ruth Rose
from an idea conceived by Edgar Wallace & Merian C. Cooper;
A Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack Production.
An unforgettable iconic scream…
“Hey Stella! Hey Stella!”
Marlon Brando as the brutish Stanley Kowalski
calling out to his wife Stella played by Kim Hunter
in “A Streetcar Named Desire”
(Warner Bros: 1951):
Screenplay by Tennessee Williams;
Adaptation by Oscar Saul
Based on the play by
Produced by Charles K. Feldman;
Directed by Elia Kazan
“Now, Voyager” was one of Bette Davis’s
string of successful films of the 30’s and 40’s
and in it, she played a woman in love with a married architect played by Paul Henreid.
In the picture’s terminal scene, the two of them realize
the limitations of their relationship going forward.
Henreid famously lights two cigarettes and hands
one to Davis and their final words
include his knowing question…
“And will you be happy Charlotte?”
“Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon,
we have the stars”
Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale
and Paul Henreid as Jerry Durrance
in “Now, Voyager”
(Warner Bros: 1942);
Screenplay by Casey Robinson
From the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty;
A Hal B. Wallis Production;
Directed by Irving Rapper.
In the film noir classic “White Heat”,
the sadistic, mother-obsessed gangster Cody Jarrett
(played magnificently by James Cagney)
breaks out of jail and is cornered by authorities
in the rooftop steel pipes of a chemical plant.
A shoot-out takes place and Jarrett meets his end
in a massive explosion and screams his final words…
Cody Jarrett: “Made it Ma, top of the world!”
To which secret agent Hank Fallon surmizes…
“Cody Jarrett. He finally got to the top of the world
and it blew right up in his face”
James Cagney as Cody Jarrett
and Edmond O’Brien as Hank
Fallon in “White Heat”:
Screenplay by Ivan Goff & Ben Roberts
Suggested by a story by Virginia Kellogg;
Directed by Raoul Walsh
(Warner Bros: 1949)
An earlier example of equally effective
final words of a dying gangster…
Little Caesar: “Mother of mercy! Is this the end of Rico?”
Edward G. Robinson as small-time hood
Caesar Enrico Bandello in “Little Caesar”
(Warner Bros: 1931):
Screen Version & Dialog by Francis Edwards Faragoh;
Novel by W.R. Burnett;
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
Finally, my own personal favorite last lines took place in the unforgettable backstage drama “All About Eve”…
Eve was Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter)
who turned from self-effacing fan of renowned
theatrical star Margo Channing (Bette Davis)
into a conniving career-hungry actress.
As the film closes, Eve has won the ultimate
theatrical award herself but accidentally
leaves her statuette in a taxicab.
Cynical theater critic Addison DeWitt
(George Sanders) (pictured above) arrives at
Eve’s apartment to return the statuette
but her door is answered by a young woman,
herself an awestruck fan of Eve’s,
who announces that her name is Phoebe.
Addison DeWitt: “Tell me, Phoebe, do you want someday to have an award like that of your own?”
Phoebe: “More than anything else in the world”
Addison DeWitt: “Then you must ask Miss Harrington
how to get one. Miss Harrington knows all about it”.
-George Sanders as Addison DeWitt
and Barbara Bates as Phoebe
in “All About Eve”
(20th Century Fox: 1950):
Written for the screen and directed
by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.