Sunday, December 08, 2013

Film Classics of the 20th Century

So far in this series, we've looked at Who Done It?,  That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

movie montage

Harry's just exploded about how relationships fall apart, how you end up arguing over things you don't even want -- like that stupid coffee table, and you end up hating each other.  As he storms off, Marie rubs her fiancee Jess' chest and tells him, "I want you to know . . .  that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table."

It's a sign of a great script and movie when the funniest moments are distributed among the characters.

1989's When Harry Met Sally . . . is a film classic.  Directed by Rob Reiner with a script by Nora Ephron, the script asked the question: Can a woman and a man be friends?

Today, we all scream: Of course.

In 1989, a large number maintained otherwise. And the film first pops the question in the late seventies.


Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) share a post-college trip to NYC where Harry insists that men and women can't be friends because sex always gets in the way.



Sally's skeptical of Harry's hypothesis but notes what it means.

Sally: Well I guess we're not going to be friends then.

Harry:  Guess not.

Sally:  That's too bad.  You are the only person I knew in New York.

Five years later, she's seeing her fiancee (Jack Ford) off at the airport when Harry walks by.  Sally and Harry briefly reconnect.


Five years later, they bump into one another again.  Both are ending relationships.  And a friendship begins.





NYC itself becomes a character in the film.

Harry decides to fix Sally up with his best friend Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Sally tries to fix Harry up with her best friend Marie (Carrie Fisher).


There are sparks . . . but between Jess and Marie.

Bruno Kirby has never been better in a film.


And it's probably Carrie Fisher's best supporting role as well.


A lunch with friends Sally and  Alice (Lisa Jane Persky) finds Marie updating them on her love life.

Marie: I went through his pockets, okay? 

Alice: Marie, why do you go through his pockets? 

Marie: You know what I found? 

Alice: No, what? 

Marie: They just bought a dinning room table. He and his wife just went out and spent sixteen hundred dollars on a dinning room table. 

Alice: Where? 

Marie: Huh?  The point isn't where, Alice. The point is he's never going to leave her.

Alice: So what else is new you've known this for two years. 

Marie: You're right, you're right, I know you're right.

Again, a good comedy is not a (male) character who says and does funny things while every other person on screen plays straight man.

And all the characters get their moments.


Thus far, it's the only film where Billy Cyrstal's been romantic and sexy.

And on the sex issue, the film is infamous for the disagreement about whether men can tell when women fake orgasms?

Sally: So what do you do with these women, you just get up out of bed and leave? 

Harry: Sure. 

Sally: Well explain to me how you do it. What do you say? 

Harry: You'd say you have an early meeting, early haircut or a squash game. 

Sally: You don't play squash. 

Harry: They don't know that they just met me. 

Sally: That's disgusting. 

Harry: I know, I feel terrible. 

Sally: You know I'm so glad I never got involved with you. I just would've ended up being some woman you had to get up out of bed and leave at three o'clock in the morning and clean your andirons, and you don't even have a fireplace. Not that I would noticed. 

Harry: Why are you getting so upset? This is not about you. 

Sally: Yes it is. You are a human affront to all women and I am a woman. 

Harry: Hey I don't feel great about this but I don't hear anyone complaining. 

Sally: Of course not you're out of the door too fast. 

Harry: I think they have an OK time. 

Sally: How do you know? 

Harry: What do you mean how do I know? I know. 

Sally: Because they . . . 

Harry: Yes, because they . . .  

Sally: And how do you know that they really . . . 

Harry: What are you saying, that they fake orgasm? 

Sally: It's possible. 

Harry: Get outta here.

Sally: Why? Most women at one time or another have faked it. 

Harry: Well they haven't faked it with me. 

Sally: How do you know? 

Harry: Because I know. 

Sally: Oh, right, that's right, I forgot, you're a man. 

Harry: What is that supposed to mean? 

Sally: Nothing. It's just that all men are sure it never happened to them and that most women at one time or another have done it so you do the math.

The above and a bit more leads up to the famous moment in the film where Sally fakes an orgasm in the deli.


Rob Reiner has this classic film to point to forever.  It's a film about people, not special effects, it will not go out of style.  It is a classic.  Nora Ephron was able to use her successful script to begin a directing career (she would direct the blockbusters Sleepless In Seattle and You've Got Mail).  Billy got a huge hit when he really needed one.

And Meg Ryan?

Actress Charisma Carpenter Tweeted last month:

  • Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" ... How could she NOT have gotten the Oscar? Still one of the best movies. God the dialogue!!!

  • As is too often the case for comedic performers, Meg didn't even get nominated.  But it did launch her as a film star and she'd carry the lead in such comedies as Sleepless In Seattle, Kate & Leopold, You've Got Mail, Addicted To Love, French Kiss, Hanging Up, Joe Versus The Volcano and Serious Moonlight as well as in dramas like In The Cut, City of Angels, When A Man Loves A Woman, Courage Under Fire and Proof of Life.

    When Harry Met Sally . . .  remains one of the 20th century's all time best comedies.


    And Harry and Sally remain real, characters you actually care about.

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