Best Film Speeches
and Monologues

1945-1947


Best Film Speeches and Monologues
Film Title/Year and Description of Film Speech/Monologue
Screenshots

The Lost Weekend (1945)
Screenwriter(s): Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder

The Empowering Benefits of Booze

At 3:45 pm, alcoholic, NYC writer Don Birnam (Ray Milland) was deluded about how drinking improved his mind, spoken to bartender Nat (Howard da Silva) in his favorite Third Avenue bar near 42nd Street:

I can't be cut off completely. That's the devil. That's what drives you crazy...Come on, Nat. Join me - one little jigger of dreams, huh?... It shrinks my liver, doesn't it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys. Yes. But what does it do to my mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly, I'm above the ordinary. I'm confident, supremely confident. I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michelangelo molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I'm Horowitz playing the Emperor Concerto. I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I'm Jesse James and his two brothers. All three of 'em. I'm W. Shakespeare. And out there, it's not Third Avenue any longer. It's the Nile, Nat - the Nile, and down it floats the barge of Cleopatra. Come here.

'Purple the sails, and so perfumed that the winds were lovesick with them: the oars were silver, which to the tune of flutes kept stroke.'

Six rings or circles from the drink glasses portrayed the passage of time - and the number of drinks he had consumed that afternoon. Soon, there were twelve damp rings visible - double the amount of drinks consumed from before.



The Lost Weekend (1945)
Screenwriter(s): Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder

How I Became An Alcoholic: Don the Drunk and Don the Writer

Later, in a flashback, drunkard Don Birnam (Ray Milland) confessed his drinking problem to girlfriend Helen St. James (Jane Wyman). He related how his authoring brilliance as a Hemingway-like writer during his college years was soon blocked and tarnished, declining after age nineteen with a recourse to the bottle. He was helplessly schizophrenic, divided between Don the Drunk and Don the Writer. As an aspiring writer, he described the soaring, creative juices that flowed with just a few drinks, and how he spiraled down into despair and agony when the booze wore off. He began his recollections after Helen asked: "What is it you wanna be so much that you're not?"

A writer. Silly, isn't it? You know, in college, I passed for a genius. They couldn't get out the college magazine without one of my stories. Boy, was I hot! Hemingway stuff. I reached my peak when I was nineteen. Sold a piece to The Atlantic Monthly, reprinted in the Reader's Digest. Who wants to stay in college when he's Hemingway? My mother bought me a brand-new typewriter. And I moved right in on New York. Well, the first thing I wrote, that didn't quite come off. And the second, I dropped. The public wasn't ready for that one. I started a third and a fourth. Only by then, somebody began to look over my shoulder and whisper in a thin, clear voice like the E string on a violin. 'Don Birnam,' he'd whisper, 'It's not good enough, not that way. How about a couple of drinks just to set it on its feet, huh?' So I had a couple.

Oh, what a great idea that was! That made all the difference. Suddenly, I could see the whole thing. The tragic sweep of the great novel beautifully proportioned. But before I could really grab it and throw it down on paper, the drinks would wear off and everything would be gone like a mirage. Then there was despair, and I'd drink to counter-balance despair. And then one to counter-balance the counter-balance. And I'd sit in front of that typewriter trying to squeeze out one page that was half-way decent. And that guy would pop up again...

The other Don Birnam. There are two of us, you know. Don the Drunk and Don the Writer. And the drunk would say to the writer, 'Come on, you idiot. Let's get some good out of that portable. Let's hock it. Let's take it to that pawn shop over on Third Avenue. It's always good for ten dollars. Another drink, another binge, another bender, another spree.' Such humorous words. I've tried to break away from that guy a lot of times, but no good. You know, once I even got myself a gun and some bullets. I was gonna do it on my thirtieth birthday. Here are the bullets. The gun went for three quarts of whiskey. That other Don wanted us to have a drink first. He always wants us to have a drink first. The flop suicide of a flop writer.

Believing that he was a terminal drunk and a "zero" person who lived off his brother Wick's (Phillip Terry) charity, 33 year-old Don challenged Helen to leave him ("Look Helen, do yourself a favor. Go on, clear out"), but she lovingly refused to admit that either of them were defeated: "I'm gonna fight, and fight and fight..."





The Naughty Nineties (1945)
Screenwriter(s): Edmund L. Hartmann, John Grant, Edmund Joseph, Hal Fimberg

"Who's On First?" Skit

Top Pick

Play clip (excerpt): The Naughty Nineties - 1945

Complete transcript of Who's On First?

Although not technically a speech or monologue, Abbott and Costello's radio routine 'Who's On First?' was reprised in this film, in the roles of Dexter Broadhurst and Sebastian Dinwiddle, and is considered one of the classic comedy dialogues and sketches ever written.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Screenwriter(s): Robert E. Sherwood

Veteran's Bedroom Admission of Helplessness

Disabled returning veteran Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), with prosthetic hooks for hands, gave a touching bedroom speech to his fiancee Wilma Cameron (Cathy O'Donnell):

This is when I know I'm helpless. My hands are down there on the bed. I can't put them on again without calling to somebody for help. I can't smoke a cigarette or read a book. If that door should blow shut, I can't open it and get out of this room. I'm as dependent as a baby that doesn't know how to get anything except to cry for it. Well, now you know, Wilma. Now you have an idea of what it is. I guess you don't know what to say. It's all right. Go on home. Go away like your family said.

The Big Sleep (1946)
Screenwriter(s): William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman

Sexy Horse-Race Conversation

This was one of the most famous scenes of dialogue in film history - noted for its sharp-edged wit, double entendres, and sexual innuendo - a slyly flirtatious, sexy horse-race conversation between detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) and Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall):

Vivian: "Well, speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them work out a little first, see if they're front-runners or come from behind, find out what their hole-card is. What makes them run."
Marlowe: "Find out mine?"
Vivian: "I think so."
Marlowe: "Go ahead."
Vivian: "I'd say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free."
Marlowe: "You don't like to be rated yourself."
Vivian: "I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?"
Marlowe: "Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but, uh...I don't know how - how far you can go."
Vivian: "A lot depends on who's in the saddle. Go ahead Marlowe, I like the way you work. In case you don't know it, you're doing all right."
Marlowe: "There's one thing I can't figure out."
Vivian: "What makes me run?"
Marlowe: "Uh-huh."
Vivian: "I'll give you a little hint. Sugar won't work. It's been tried."

The Big Sleep (1946)
Screenwriter(s): William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman

"Nothing You Can't Fix"

In the final scene after everything has been resolved and the police were being summoned, Marlowe and Vivian were now together in the darkened parlor of Geiger's house and waiting for the police's arrival. Vivian appraised the situation and noticed that there was still some unfinished business to take care of with Marlowe:

Vivian: "You've forgotten one thing. Me."
Marlowe (pulling her to him): "What's wrong with you?"
Vivian: (with a smoldering glance) "Nothing you can't fix."

Gilda (1946)
Screenwriter(s): Marion Parsonnet, Ben Hecht (uncredited)

"The Most Curious Love-Hate Pattern I've Ever Had the Pleasure of Witnessing"

Police inspector Maurice Obregon (Joseph Calleia), who had been scrutinizing the South American casino's underlying criminal activities and trailing Ballin Mundson (George Macready) and Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) throughout the entire film, had still not closed down the casino ("a smart cop doesn't arrest the purse snatcher if the little thief will lead him to the bigger crime").

We know you're the head of a tungsten monopoly, Mr. Farrell. What we want to know is the names of the participants...I'll wait. You're breaking up in little pieces right in front of my eyes, you know. Am I wearing you down, I hope?...Something is.

They were distracted by Gilda's (Rita Hayworth) bawdy, sexy casino performance/glove striptease while singing the torchy, defiant number "Put the Blame on Mame, Boys" - after which Johnny struck Gilda across the face. Obregon again met with Johnny, after arresting one of the agents of the Nazi-controlled cartel:

The German has been arrested. He will give us the information we want. Now, all we want from you are the patents and the agreements bearing the signatures. Let me tell you why we must know who these signers are, Mr. Farrell. So they can be prosecuted legally for breaking the anti-trust laws. You didn't hear a word of it, did you? All you can think of is the way Gilda looked at you when you struck her, isn't it? You two kids love each other pretty terribly, don't you?.

Johnny responded with three words against his hateful wife Gilda: "I hate her." Obregon continued his assessment:

That's what I mean. It's the most curious love-hate pattern I've ever had the privilege of witnessing. And as long as you're as sick in the head as you are about her, you're not able to think about anything clearly. All right, Mr. Farrell. You're under arrest for illegally operating a gambling casino. I'm gonna let you stay here under protective custody. Send for me when you can't stand it anymore. I intend to have those signatures. I can out-wait you, Mr. Farrell. You see, I have the law on my side. It's a very comfortable feeling. It's something you ought to try sometime.



It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Screenwriter(s): Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra

Words to Cruel Mr. Potter at the Loan Board In Defense of Deceased Father

Top Pick

Play clip (excerpt): It's a Wonderful Life

Representing Bedford Falls' Bailey Savings and Loan, George Bailey (James Stewart) defended his dead father's name (called "a starry-eyed dreamer") to the tyrannical, miserly and cruel Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) in an address before the Loan Board:

...Just a minute - just, just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. Just a minute. Now, you're right when you say my father was no business man. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But, neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was... Why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter. And what's wrong with that? Why -- here, you're all businessmen here. Don't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You, you said that they - What'd you say just a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even thought of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what?! Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken-down that... You know how long it takes a workin' man to save five thousand dollars?

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be... I know very well what you're talking about. You're talking about something you can't get your fingers on, and it's galling you. That's what you're talking about, I know. Well, I've - I've said too much. I -- you're the Board here. You do what you want with this thing. There's just one thing more, though. This town needs this measly one-horse institution if only to have some place where people can come without crawling to Potter.


It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Screenwriter(s): Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra

Plea to Investors of the Bailey Building and Loan Society: "We've Got to Stick Together"

Play clip (excerpt): It's a Wonderful Life

George Bailey (James Stewart) also pled to the worried investors at Bailey Saving and Loan threatening a bank run:

Rand...no, Randall, wait. Now wait. Now listen, now listen to me. I-I beg of ya not to do this thing. If Potter gets ahold of this Building and Loan, there'll never be another decent house built in this town. He's already got charge of the bank. He's got the bus line. He got the department stores, and now he's after us. Why? Well, it's very simple. Because we're cuttin' in on his business, that's why. And because he wants to keep you livin' in his slums and payin' the kind of rent he decides.

Joe, you had one of those Potter houses, didn't you? Well, have you forgotten? Have you forgotten what he charged you for that broken-down shack? Here, Ed. You know, you remember last year when things weren't going so well, and you couldn't make your payments. Well, you didn't lose your house, did ya? You think Potter would have let you keep it?

Can't, can't you understand what's happening here? Don't you see what's happening? Potter isn't selling. Potter's buying! And why? Because we're panicky and he's not. That's why. He's pickin' up some bargains. Now, we-we can get through this thing all right. We've, we've got to stick together, though. We've got to have faith in each other!

The Bishop's Wife (1947)
Screenwriter(s): Robert E. Sherwood, Leonardo Bercovici

A Guardian Angel's Profound Yet Simple Rewritten Christmas Sermon ("The Empty Stocking") - Delivered By a Transformed Episcopalian Bishop

After praying for "guidance," Episcopalian Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) received divine help in the form of a handsome, suave guardian angel named Dudley (Cary Grant). But Dudley was not there to assist with the Bishop's building and funding of a new cathedral, but to show Henry what he had been neglecting in life -- the poor and needy, the boys' choir, his parishioners and most noticeably, his lovely wife Julia (Loretta Young), who had the incredible gift, according to Dudley of "making heaven here on Earth."

Dudley rewrote Henry's Christmas sermon, dictating while the typewriter took down his words. When Henry finally publically announced the importance of Julia in his life to Dudley ("Julia means more to me than my life, I'm not going to lose her"), the angel promptly announced his departure. The angel told Henry that he and everyone else would have no memory of his visit or existence ("When I'm gone, you will never know that an angel visited your house").

At St. Timothy's Church, the Bishop delivered Dudley's sermon on Christmas Eve at midnight, while Julia beamed at him from the pews. From the street outside under a light falling snow, Dudley listened to the poignant and touching words, satisfied that his work was complete as he turned and slowly walked away - bringing the film to a heartfelt close:

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees with the sound of bells, and with gifts. But especially with gifts.

You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we're celebrating. Don't let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share: loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched-out hand of tolerance - all the shining gifts that make peace on Earth.





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