Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Being There (1979)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Being There (1979)

In Hal Ashby's satire adapted from Jerry Kosinski's screenplay about a fool-turned-prophet transformation - it was an insightful tale that satirized politics, celebrity, media-obsession and television, and extolled the wisdom of innocence:

  • its story was told through an enigmatic character -- illiterate, TV-watching gardener Chance the Gardener or Chauncey Gardiner (Peter Sellers in a chameleon-like role in his second-to-last film) [Note: this role was the forerunner to the mentally-challenged Tom Hanks character in Forrest Gump (1994)]
  • Chance was a reclusive, emotionless, passive, and simple-minded gardener who was well-groomed, fed on schedule, and dressed in custom-tailored suits. He had lived his whole sheltered life within the walled, Washington, DC estate of an eccentric millionaire named Jennings. His only knowledge of the "real" outside world, an encroaching inner-city ghetto area, was through watching television
  • after his employer died, Chance wandered out into the street in a daze with his TV's remote-control to aid him. When his leg was injured in an accidental mishap, and his name was thought to be "Chauncey Gardiner," he was befriended by Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine), the wife of dying billionaire financier-industrialist Benjamin Rand (Melvin Douglas)
  • in a short scene, his black maid-cook Louise (Ruth Attaway) cynically and contemptuously commented on retarded Chance/Chauncey Gardiner's rise to power, while watching him on television and seeing the country's adoration for him: "It's for sure a white man's world in America....Look here: I raised that boy since he was the size of a piss-ant. And I'll say right now, he never learned to read and write. No, sir. Had no brains at all. Was stuffed with rice pudding between the ears. Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jack-ass. Look at him now! Yessir, all you've gotta be is white in America, to get whatever you want. Gobbledy-gook!"
  • Dennis Watson (Mitch Kreindel) hit on Chauncey at a formal party after Chauncey's naive reply: "Is there a TV upstairs? I like to watch" and Dennis gave a delighted response: "You like to, uh, watch?... You wait right here. I'll go get Warren!"
  • simpleton, quiet, and unassuming Chauncey even caught the attention of none-other than President Bobby (Jack Warden), when he lectured about how the garden grew and was thought to be offering profound wisdom: ("As long as the roots are not severed, all is well, and all will be well in the garden....In a garden, growth has its season. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again....There will be growth in the spring")
  • his new-found popularity led to talk-show appearances, insider parties, book publisher advances, and the potential to become a presidential candidate
  • during a protracted "seduction scene," Eve Rand, love-starved and seductive, desperately tried to arouse an unresponsive Chauncey - he only responded, with a shocking but understandable line, that he "like(s) to watch" - and "it's very good, Eve"; she mistakenly viewed his statement as an invitation to sexually arouse and stimulate herself; she complied with his request by reclining on the floor, and laid on top of a full-sized bear-skin rug while grabbing the bedpost; meanwhile, he was watching an exercise program on TV from the end of the nearby bed and mimicking the exercises (he even performed a hand-stand) - oblivious to her sexual pleasure as she masturbated herself nearby
Seduction Scene with Love Starved, Self-Pleasuring Eve Rand
  • the film's ending took place during the memorial funeral of sickly businessman-financier Benjamin Turnbull Rand, while one of the pallbearers discussed the protagonist's bid for the Presidency: "I do believe, gentlemen, if we want to hold on to the Presidency, our one and only chance is Chauncey Gardiner"
  • in the mystical, incongruous conclusion (accompanied by off/on-screen voices), the totally innocent idiot Chance-Chauncey Gardiner, who had wandered away from the ceremony into a wooded area closeby, blithely stepped onto a pond and literally walked on the water as his Presidential candidacy was discussed off-screen; he tested the depth of the water with the length of his umbrella - and then continued walking away from the camera
  • the final words of the film were delivered by the President at the funeral, and were heard from a distance: "Life is a state of mind"

TV-Watching Chauncey

Black Maid Louise's Cynical Commentary on Chauncey

Dennis: "You like to, uh, watch?"

Garden Talk with the President

Funeral of Benjamin Rand

"Walking on Water"


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z