One of the great problems of getting older is not being able to sleep all night. One of the benefits of getting older is not being able to sleep all night.
When I wake up at 2:30 or 3:30 a.m., I don’t even try to go back to sleep. I channel-surf and look for old and adored movies. Last week, I awoke just in time to see my old and demented friend, Travis Bickle, whom you know as Robby DeNiro in the 1976 classic “Taxi Driver.” Bickle gets goofier and goofier after he fails to woo the impossibly beautiful Cybill Shepherd. He practices his mania in the mirror as he asks himself “You talkin’ to me?”
Certainly one of the best movie lines of all time.
I finally fell asleep, after Bickle got shot to pieces rescuing a sub-teen hooker (Jodie Foster). But not before thinking about my favorite movie lines.
Our friends at the American Film Institute did some research for us, asking the usual suspects in Hollywood including actors, directors, ticket sellers and popcorn sweepers, to name their favorite movie lines.
I mean, I liked “Gone With the Wind” and all, but I never thought “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” by Rhett Butler way back in 1939 was all that great. The AFI survey brought it in at No. 1.
No. 2 was “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” by the master Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” An excellent choice, but don’t forget “Michael, we’re bigger than U.S. Steel,” “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer” and of course “Fredo, you broke my heart.”
The No. 3 on the AFI survey is another Brando classic, delivered in the back of a car to Rod Steiger, another Cobb Manor favorite. In “On The Waterfront” in 1954, Brando was forced by the mob to throw a boxing match and complained, “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
But the AFI top 10 fails to include the classic from “Goodfellas” when Tommy Devito (Joe Pesci) threatens his friends who just said Tommy was “funny.”
“What do you mean, I’m funny? You mean the way I talk … what? Funny how? I mean, what’s funny about it? But I’m funny how? I mean I’m funny like a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh?”
Even his goodfellas didn’t know if Tommy, a stone killer, was kidding or not.
Another line conspicuous by its absence in the AFI top 10 is from “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” when the Mexican bandits clumsily try to pose as police officers. When Humphrey Bogart and his boys ask to see badges, the bandit (Ernesto Escoto) says, famously, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.”
Bogie had a million of them, all around him.
According to AFI, he came in as No. 5 in “Casablanca” way back in 1942 when he toasted Ingrid Bergman: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Bergman said “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’” then, “We’ll always have Paris.” Bogie answered, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
In the last scene of “Casablanca” when Bogie shoots Major Strasser, Louis (Claude Rains) says “Round up the usual suspects.” Bogie replied “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
In “To Have and Have Not” in 1944, the delicious, 19-year-old Lauren Becall said to Bogie, “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
No Cobb Manor top 10 would be complete without the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” when Sally (Meg Ryan) fakes an orgasm in a crowded restaurant. The woman (director Rob Reiner’s mother) at the next table said, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
And of course the line from “Jaws” when Roy Scheider gets his first look at the killer shark and says, deadpan, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
And never forget James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” when he screams, “You’re tearing me apart!”
I will be looking forward to many of these lines in my future insomnia bouts.
“You talkin’ to me?”
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.