One of my favorite film noirs is Born to Kill, with Lawrence Tierney, Claire Trevor, Walter Slezak and Elisha Cook, Jr. If you’re in too good of a mood and you want to get knocked down a little, spend a couple hours with these people. Some of the nastiest in the original noir cycle. After you do you’ll need a shower.
Delivery Boy: My that coffee smells good. Ain't it funny how coffee never tastes as good as it smells.
Albert Arnett (Slezak): As you grow older, you'll discover that life is very much like coffee: the aroma is always better than the actuality. May that be your thought for the day.
I think about that line a lot because it’s so true. Not just about coffee but about all kinds of things in life, the expectation of something often being better than the reality. But this post isn’t really about the line and its philosophical undertones. So maybe I’ll leave that for another time.
But the line got me thinking about a lot of great lines. So that’s what this post is about and Part One will be great lines from three of my favorite noir movies (though not my top 3 except for Double Indemnity). Later parts will deal with other types of movies, westerns, dramas, etc. And then onto the books... But since I’m a noir addict I’ll start with my favorite film addiction.
For my money the ultimate film noir. If I had to show one noir to a Martian to say “this is film noir” it would be this one. Fred MacMurray plays Walter Neff, the hapless insurance salesman to Barbara Stanwyck’s blonde-wigged femme fatale. She hooks him with her anklet and it’s off to the races after that:
Walter Neff: That's a honey of an anklet you're wearing, Mrs. Dietrichson.
Walter Neff: Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it
Walter Neff: Suddenly it came over me that everything would go wrong. It sounds crazy, Keyes, but it's true, so help me. I couldn't hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.
Walter Neff: How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?
Phyllis: We're both rotten.
Walter Neff: Only you're a little more rotten.
Walter Neff: They say all native Californians come from Iowa.
Walter Neff: You'll be here too?
Phyllis: I guess so, I usually am.
Walter Neff: Same chair, same perfume, same anklet?
Phyllis: I wonder if I know what you mean.
Walter Neff: I wonder if you wonder.
Walter Neff: It's just like the first time I came here, isn't it? We were talking about automobile insurance, only you were thinking about murder. And I was thinking about that anklet.
Walter Neff: Know why you couldn't figure this one, Keyes? I'll tell ya. 'Cause the guy you were looking for was too close. Right across the desk from ya.
Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson): Closer than that, Walter.
Walter Neff: I love you, too.
Born to Kill
In Born to Kill, we have the coffee line mentioned above and several other good ones as well:
Sam Wild (Lawrence Tierney): Oh, I see. You cross the tracks on May Day with a basket of goodies
Helen Brent (Claire Trevor): I wouldn't say that.
Sam Wild: No, you wouldn't *say* it... but that's the way it is.
Mrs. Kraft (to Claire Trevor): You're the coldest iceberg of a woman I ever saw, and the rottenest inside. I've seen plenty, too. I wouldn't trade places with you if they sliced me into little pieces.
Helen Brent: I must warn you, though, liquor makes me nosy. I've been known to ask all sorts of personal questions after four cocktails.
Marty Waterman (Cook): 'Sallright. I've been known to tell people to mind their own business. Cold sober, too.
Mrs. Kraft: How come you got a hold of this information?
Marty Waterman (Cook): Through underworld connections, like it says in the newspapers. I'm a bad boy.
Helen Brent: I'm just warning you. Perhaps you don't realize - it's painful being killed. A piece of metal sliding into your body, finding its way into your heart. Or a bullet tearing through your skin, crashing into a bone. It takes a while to die, too. Sometimes a long while.
The Blue Dahlia
Talk about subtext:
'Dad' Newell (Wil Wright): Well, I guess I better be goin', Mr. Harwood.
Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva): Wait a minute - you forgot your cigar.
'Dad' Newell: Oh.
Eddie Harwood: I think it's out.
Eddie Harwood: [he lights it] Cigars go out awful easy, don't they, Dad?
Eddie Harwood: [he blows out his lighter for emphasis] Good night.
Eddie Harwood: Half the cops in L.A. are looking for you.
Johnny Morrison (Ladd): Only half?
Joyce Harwood (Lake): [Joyce offers Johnny a lift in the rain] Get in.
Joyce Harwood: Well, you could get wetter if you lie down in the gutter.
Eddie Harwood: Drink?
'Dad' Newell: Don't mind if I do but easy on the water.
Corelli, motel operator: You still want that room?
Johnny Morrison: [sarcastically] You sure nobody's dead in it?
Corelli, motel operator: [leading him to the room] Right back this way. You live in San Francisco?
Johnny Morrison: [laconically] Yeah, when I'm there.
'Dad' Newell: [examining Helen's – Ladd’s wife – body] Been dead for hours.
Mr. Hughes, assistant hotel manager: Suicide?
'Dad' Newell: Could be.
Mr. Hughes, assistant hotel manager: Better be!
'Dad' Newell: Unh-unh! Too much gun!
Johnny Morrison: [discovering his wife in close proximity to Harwood] You've got the wrong lipstick on, Mister.
Johnny Morrison: [to the partygoers] Seems I've lost my manners or would anyone here know the difference?
Please check out Pam Stack of Authors on the Air Interviewing me a couple of weeks ago: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2016/02/04/paul-d-marks-talks-about-writing-and-more-on-authors-on-the-air-live
And my reading of my Anthony and Macavity-nominated story Howling at the Moon, from Ellery Queen. I don’t think the Barrymore clan has to worry: http://eqmm.podomatic.com/entry/2016-02-01T06_56_00-08_00
And look for my post on Drinks with Reads at Mystery Playground, going live on Wednesday, Feb. 26th, but one of the pix is already up on the front page: http://www.mysteryplayground.net/p/summer-drinks-with-reads-series.html
Click here to: Subscribe to my Newsletter
Check out my website: PaulDMarks.com
Well, that’s all folks. At least for now.