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Sense and Nonsense: Don't know what to say? Take a tip from a movie

July 22, 2013

By Lynda Hollenbeck

Did you ever stop to analyze an expression and wonder where it came from?
An example is: "Round up the usual suspects."
How many times have you heard that line? Police people often use it jokingly, but I wonder how many people — even the police — know where it started.
Like many expressions that have found their way into common conversation, this one originated in a movie — one of my favorites, in fact — "Casablanca." Claude Rains as Capt. Louis Renault says it in one of the memorable scenes from the 1942 film classic that I never tire of watching.
So many of these quotes have become so commonplace that they've become part of the fabric of our lives. Most of the time they go right past us and we just don't think about what they meant in their original context.
One in "Apollo 13" from 1995 is heard frequently in times of chaos: "Houston, we have a problem."
Other descriptions would work, but that one gets the point across in a hurry.
One of the all-time classic lines that is used in numerous situations came from another of my favorite films, "Gone With the Wind." This, of course, is Scarlett's famous line spoken during a critical point in her survival: "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."
I've modified it numerous ways, using just the "as God is my witness" part, although just about anything has more of a cutting edge when you equate it with starvation.
There's one that everyone generally recognizes and which we used in our family in naming a cat. It came from Tennessee Willliams' character Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and is the oft-spoken "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
The homeless kitten we took in was in such pitiful shape that I happened to mention that she had had to depend on the kindness of strangers, and that, of course, was the kicker that led straight to the name Blanche. This Blanche turned out to be an important part of the Hollenbeck family for 12 years.
My late spouse once tried to ease out of a sticky situation by borrowing the dumbest line anyone has ever said in a movie or anywhere else for that matter. I'm talking about the "Love Story" classic blooper "Love Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry."
Ali McGraw's character may have pulled it off on the Big Screen, but forget that excuse when it comes to real life.
Any man who thinks that one will get him out of trouble has sipped from the fountain of stupidity and Ed quickly backed up.
I don't remember the circumstances that precipitated his pitiful defense with those words, but I do recall what I said in chastisement: "Well, you could at least act like you're sorry."
And that's when he blurted out, "But love means never having to say you're sorry ... "
Foolish, foolish man. Loose lips can cause many slips. He never made that mistake twice.
Dorothy's reaction to a strange land has been oft quoted by someone's evaluation of a new locale: "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
That, of course, is from the inimitable "The Wizard of Oz," which I had the pleasure of seeing in a real movie theater during an anniversary celebration showing a couple of years ago.
I wonder what people do who don't have the movie background knowledge that makes sense of statements that otherwise would fall on deaf ears.
During the heyday of the "Star Wars" films, a common saying used as people would part would be "May the force be with you."
Harrison Ford said it first, but it became a catch phrase for many, many people.
But Harrison, of course, said it best.
Bette Davis managed to infiltrate general chatter with many classic lines she delivered in her unique style. For that matter, she could have recited the telephone directory and gotten people's attention.
Her crisp, don't-you-dare-not-listen-to-me delivery would have been hard to ignore, but a line that left an indelible mark, from "All About Eve," was: "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride."
Another of Dorothy's sayings from "The Wizard of Oz" is probably spoken by someone somewhere every day. Indeed, it's been part of American popular culture for many years.
I'm talking, of course, about the famous ending line of the movie that most people love: "There's no place like home."
And who would argue with that.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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