Best Film Speeches
and Monologues

1940


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

Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)
Screenwriter(s): Robert E. Sherwood

Lincoln-Douglas Debates: Douglas' Speech

Play clip (excerpt): Abe Lincoln in Illinois

The long speech by US Senate Illinois candidate Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart) during the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, held outdoors on a raised wooden platform:

...Like Brutus in Shakespeare's immortal tragedy, Mr. Lincoln is an honorable man. But also like Brutus, he is an adept at the art of inserting daggers between an opponent's ribs just when said opponent least expects it. Behold me, ladies and gentleman, I am covered with scars. Mr. Lincoln makes you laugh with his pungent anecdotes. He draws tears from your eyes with his dramatic pictures of the plight of the black slave laborer in the South. Always he guides you skillfully to the threshold of truth. But then, as you are about to cross it, he diverts your attention elsewhere. He never, by any mischance, makes reference to the condition of labor here in the North. Perhaps he's ignorant of the fact that tens of thousands of workers are now on strike: hungry men marching through the streets in ragged order promoting riots, because they're not paid enough to keep the flesh upon the bones of their babies. What kind of liberty is this? And what kind of equality? (Applause)

Mr. Lincoln harps constantly on this subject of equality. He repeats over and over the argument used by Lovejoy and other abolitionists to it -- that the Declaration of Independence having declared all men free and equal by divine law, thus, Negro equality is an inalienable right. Contrary to this stands the verdict of the Supreme Court in the case of Dred Scott. Mr. Lincoln is a lawyer and I presume therefore that he knows that when he seeks to destroy public confidence in the integrity, the inviolability of the Supreme Court, he is preaching revolution. He asks me to state my opinion of the Dred Scott decision, and I answer him unequivocally by saying I take the decisions of the Supreme Court to be the law of the land, and I intend to obey them as such; nor will I be swayed from that position by all the ranting of all the fanatics who preach racial equality -- who would ask us to vote, eat, sleep, and marry with Negroes. And I say further, let each State mind its own business and leave its neighbors alone. If we'll stand on that principle, then Mr. Lincoln will find that this great Republic can exist forever divided into free and slave States and we can go on, as we have done, increasing in wealth, in population, in power, until we shall become the admiration and the terror of the world.


Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)
Screenwriter(s): Robert E. Sherwood

Lincoln-Douglas Debates: Lincoln's Position

Play clip (excerpt): Abe Lincoln in Illinois

Abraham Lincoln's (Raymond Massey) rousing rebuttal to Douglas:

...The purpose of the Dred Scott decision is to make property and nothing but property of the Negro in all States of the Union. It is the old issue of human rights versus property rights. It is the eternal struggle between two principles: the one, the common right of humanity, the other, the divine right of kings. It is the same spirit which says, 'You toil and work and earn bread and I'll eat it.' (Applause) As a nation, we began by declaring 'all men are created equal.' There was no mention of any exception to that rule in the Declaration of Independence. But we now practically read it 'all men are created equal except Negroes.' If we are to accept this doctrine of race or class discrimination, what is to stop us in the future from decreeing 'all men are created equal except Negroes, foreigners, Catholics, Jews,' or just 'poor people'? That is the conclusion towards which the advocates of slavery are driving us. 'Let each State mind its own business,' says Judge Douglas. 'Why stir up trouble?' This is the complacent policy of indifference to evil, and that policy I cannot but hate.

I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our Republic of its just influence in the world, enables the enemies of free institutions everywhere to taunt us as hypocrites, causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamentals of civil liberty - denying the good faith of the Declaration of Independence and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self interest. In his final words tonight, the Judge said that we can be 'the terror of the world.' I don't think we want to be that. I think we would prefer to be the encouragement of the world - the proof that at last, man is worthy to be free. But we shall provide no such encouragement unless we can establish our ability as a nation to live and grow, and we shall surely do neither if these States fail to remain united. There can be no distinction in the definition of liberty as between one section and another, one class and another, one race and another.

A house divided itself cannot stand. This government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.



Foreign Correspondent (1940)
Screenwriter(s): Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison

"Call to Arms" Exhortation to a "Sleeping" America

In the film's closing monologue, Johnnie Jones (Joel McCrea) exhorted a "sleeping" America" to "keep those lights burning there!"

It's death coming to London...It's too late to do anything here now except stand in the dark and let them come. It's as if the lights were all out everywhere, except in America. Keep those lights burning there! Cover them with steel! Ring them with guns! Build a canopy of battleships and bombing planes around them! Hello, America! Hang on to your lights. They're the only lights left in the world.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Screenwriter(s): Nunnally Johnson

"I'll Be There"

Play clip (excerpt): The Grapes of Wrath - 1940

Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) said farewell to his mother Ma Joad (Jane Darwell):

Well, maybe it's like Casy says. A fella ain't got a soul of his own - just a little piece of a big soul. The one big soul that belongs to everybody...Then it don't matter. I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere - wherever you can look. Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready. And when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise, and livin' in the houses they build, I'll be there, too.

The Great Dictator (1940)
Screenwriter(s): Charles Chaplin

"Look Up, Hannah" Anti-Fascist Democracy Speech

Play clip (excerpt): The Great Dictator - 1940

Jewish barber Adenoid Hynkel (Charlie Chaplin), having been mistaken for the dictator, delivered a passionate, out-of-character "Look up, Hannah" anti-fascist, pro-democracy speech in the film's closing, to confront the imminent threat to world civilization from Nazi dictatorship. In its conclusion, his speech was heard on the radio by refugee Hannah (Paulette Goddard) and her family:

I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible: Jew, Gentile, black men, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each others' happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world, there's room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all.

Even now, my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say: 'Do not despair.' The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to brutes. Men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder! Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don't hate! Only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill their promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite! (Cheers)

Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up, Hannah! The clouds are lifting! The sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness into the light! We are coming into a new world, a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality.

Look up, Hannah! The soul of man has been given wings and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow! Into the light of hope! Into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me, and to all of us. Look up, Hannah! Look up!



Knute Rockne: All American (1940)
Screenwriter(s): Robert Buckner

"Win Just One for the Gipper" Half-time Pep Talk

Play clip (excerpt): Knute Rockne: All American - 1940

Coach Knute Rockne (Pat O'Brien) inspired his players with a halftime pep-talk, quoting a popular teammate, George Gipp (Ronald Reagan), who died young of pneumonia:

I'm gonna tell you something I've kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew George Gipp. It was long before your time. But you all know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame. And the last thing he said to me: 'Rock,' he said, 'Sometime when the team is up against it, and the breaks are beating the boys, tell 'em to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper'. 'I don't know where I'll be then, Rock,' he said, 'but I'll know about it and I'll be happy.'

[This speech was memorably parodied in Airplane! (1980), when Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) exorted Ted Striker (Robert Hays): "And win just one for the Zipper!", while accompanied by the Notre Dame fight song.]


Rebecca (1940)
Screenwriter(s): Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison

Opening Voice-Over - "I Dreamt I Went to Manderley Again"

Play clip (excerpt): Rebecca - 1940

One of the most famous opening monologues in film history was delivered (in voice-over) by the second Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine):

Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done. But as I advanced, I was aware that a change had come upon it. Nature had come into her own again, and little by little had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers, on and on while the poor thread that had once been our drive. And finally, there was Manderley - Manderley - secretive and silent. Time could not mar the perfect symmetry of those walls. Moonlight can play odd tricks upon the fancy, and suddenly it seemed to me that light came from the windows. And then a cloud came upon the moon and hovered an instant like a dark hand before a face. The illusion went with it. I looked upon a desolate shell, with no whisper of the past about its staring walls. We can never go back to Manderley again. That much is certain. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back to the strange days of my life which began for me in the south of France...

Rebecca (1940)
Screenwriter(s): Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison

Urging to Commit Suicide

Play clip (excerpt): Rebecca - 1940

In a chilling scene, housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) urged the second Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine) to commit suicide by jumping from the second story window:

You're overwrought, madam. I've opened a window for you. A little air will do you good. Why don't you go? Why don't you leave Manderley? He doesn't need you. He's got his memories. He doesn't love you - he wants to be alone again with her. You've nothing to stay for. You've nothing to live for really, have you? Look down there. It's easy, isn't it? Why don't you? Why don't you? Go on. Go on. Don't be afraid!


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