To celebrate the 70th anniversary of ‘Casablanca’, Philip French of The Guardian newspaper wrote about some famous last lines from the movies. Here is his selelction:
‘Casablanca’ (Michael Curtiz, 1942). ‘Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’ Said by liberal nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) to collaborationist Police Chief Louis Renault (Claude Rains) as they quit vanquished Morocco to join the Free French Army in West Africa. In a very quotable script, this witty, sophisticated last line captures the pervasive tone of the movie’s patriotic response to the conflicting wartime demands of love and duty.
‘Gone With the Wind’ (Victor Flemming, 1939). ‘I’ll go home and I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day!’ This is the optimistic reaction of the determined southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) when a terminally exasperated Rhett Butler (Clarke Gable) walks out on her with the parting shot ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’
‘Some Like It Hot’ (Billy Wilder, 1959). ‘Well, nobody’s perfect!’ spoken by the cheerful, much married millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E Brown) as he steers his motorboat away from a Miami pier. It’s his response when the new love of his life, Daphne (Jack Lemmon in drag), who’s been playing in an all-girl band, doffs her wig and says: ‘I’m a man!’ Wilder was the master of final pay-offs, and the last lines of, for example, ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (‘All right, Mr De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.’) and ‘The Apartment’ (‘Shut up and deal.’) are classics.
‘King Kong’ (Ernest Schoedsack, 1933). ‘Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.’ This was the epitaph on the giant ape Kong, shot dead by fighter planes after carrying Fay Wray to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s spoken by Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), the ruthless film-maker who captured Kong on Skull Island. The 1976 remake, in which Kong is harassed by helicopters atop the World Trade Centre, has no such ending. Peter Jackson’s 2005 version sticks closer to the original, is set during the Depression and features Denham’s last line.
‘The Front Page’ (Lewis Milestone, 1931). ‘The son of a bitch stole my watch!’ This is the final line of the great 1928 newspaper comedy, delivered by the cynical Walter Burns over the telephone as a messge to the police, his ultimate dirty trick to prevent ace reporter Hildy Johnson escaping from his services.
‘Little Caesar’ (Mervyn LeRoy, 1931). ‘Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?’ These are the last words of the dying gangster in the film that made a star of Edward G Robinson.
‘The Usual Suspects’ (Bryan Singer, 1995). ‘The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that – poof – he’s gone!’ Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for his original screenplay, gave the line to the film’s singularly unreliable narrator, Verbal Kint (played by Kevin Spacey, who also won an Oscar for this role), while explaining the role of the demonic super criminal Keyser Soze to a police interrogator. The title of ‘The Usual Suspects’ comes from Captain Renault’s cynical refrain, ‘Round up the usual suspects’, in ‘Casablanca’.
‘Dr Strangelove’ (Stanley Kubrick, 1964). ‘Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!’ Peter Sellers, in addition to playing two other roles in the film, played Dr Strangelove. He improvised much of his dialogue, including this comically shocking final line.
‘Chinatown’ (Roman Polanski, 1974). ‘Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.’ This consoling remark directed by a professional associate at bereft Los Angeles private eye JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson), is a key line in the movie that revived the film noir genre. Chinatown is a metaphor for the indecipherability of 1930s Los Angeles and its labyrinthine corruption.
‘The Maltese Falcoln’ (John Huston, 1941). ‘The stuff dreams are made of.’ It’s the answer private detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) provides when San Francisco cop (Ward Bond) holds up the fake version of the Maltese Falcon and asks ‘It’s heavy. What is it?’ This parting line from Huston’s directorial debut is a slight misquotation from Prospero’s final speech in ‘The Tempest’ and is a comment on the elusive grails that lie beyond the reach of so many Huston characters.
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Do you have any favourite last lines from movies that you have seen?