Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Picnic (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Picnic (1955)

In Joshua Logan's widescreen version of William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, about a day-in-the-life of a small Kansas town in the mid-1950s:

  • the arrival of unemployed, egotistical, bravado-filled, charming drifter Hal Carter (William Holden) in a small Kansas town to visit his ex-fraternity brother and friend Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), the son of the wealthiest man in town - grain industrialist Mr. Benson (Raymond Bailey)
  • Carter - who was often seen during early scenes with his shirt off (and considered "naked as an Indian") - and his growing acquaintance with Marjorie "Madge" Owens (Kim Novak), Alan's red-haired girlfriend, a dime-store clerk
  • as 19 year-old Madge stood before a mirror, her worried single mother Flo (Betty Field) continually encouraged her to get married before her time passed: "If she loses her chance when she's young, she might as well throw all her prettiness away...And next summer you'll be 20, and then 21, and then 40"
  • the scene atop a huge grain elevator, where Hal unrealistically described his white-collar employment goals, and dreamed that he was an executive: ("Maybe something in a nice office where I could wear a tie and have a sweet little secretary, and talk over the telephone about enterprises and things. I gotta get someplace in this world! I just gotta!"), he was cautioned to first be "a little patient"
  • Alan's worshipping idolization of Madge, who was dissatisfied with just looking pretty: "After the picnic tonight, let's get away from the others...We'll take a boat out on the river... I wanna find out something, I wanna find out if you look real in the moonlight... You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen"
  • the character of aging, "old maid" schoolteacher Miss Rosemary Sydney (Rosalind Russell), the Owens' boarder, who was in a relationship with store owner Howard Bevans (Oscar-nominated Arthur O'Connell); during the night's sunset with him, she mused about how her time was growing shorter: "Look at that sunset, Howard!...It's like the daytime didn't want to end, isn't it? It's like the daytime was gonna put up a big scrap, set the world on fire to keep the night from creeping on"; much later in the film, late at night after a disastrous picnic and dance, a desperate and distraught Rosemary pathetically and shamelessly grabbed onto the overwhelmed Howard on her porch and begged him: "You gotta marry me, Howard"; when he asked for her to at least add the word "please" to her request, she dropped to her knees and entreated him: "Please marry me, Howard"
Rosemary With Howard
Sunset Scene
"You gotta marry me, Howard...Please marry me, Howard!"
  • Carter's attendance at the quintessential, All-American annual Kansas town's Labor Day picnic in Riverside Park, with Alan and Madge's smart younger tomboyish sister Millie (Susan Strasburg) as his 'date', a college-bound high-school senior (who was sneaking cigarettes)
  • Madge's election as the picnic's Queen of Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards), when she professed: "I'm very proud and I'll try hard to be a good queen. I'll try hardest of all not to get conceited"; shortly later, Hal noticed her as she arrived at the dance dock in a swan-shaped paddle-boat
Reaction at Picnic to the Crowning of Madge as Queen
  • the incredible circling camera work (by James Wong Howe) during the sensual slow "mating" dance of sexy Hal Carter and "Madge" Owens (in billowing pink) to "Moonglow" under colorful Japanese lanterns on a boat dock landing at night
"Moonglow" Mating Dance: Hal and Madge
Rosemary's Embarrassing Advances and Criticism of Hal
  • after Hal's dance with Madge, a drunken Rosemary jealously forced herself onto Hal for a dance while admiring his physique: ("You remind me of one of those old statues - one of those Roman gladiators. All he had on was a shield"); when he rejected her and pushed her away and his shirt was torn, Rosemary turned on him and bitterly derided him for ignoring his 'date' Millie (who had become drunk) while he was going after pretty-looking Madge: "You've been stompin' around here in those boots like you owned the place, thinkin' every woman you saw was gonna fall madly in love. Well, here's one woman didn't pay you any mind. Raggin' about your father. And he wasn't any better than you are. Struttin' around here like some crummy Apollo. You think just 'cause ya act young, why you can walk in here and make off with whatever you like. Let me tell you somethin'. You're a fake! You're no jive kid. You're just scared to act your age. Buy yourself a mirror sometime and take a look in it. It won't be many years now before you're countin' the gray hairs, if ya got any left. And what'll become of ya then. You'll end your life in the gutter and it'll serve you right, 'cause the gutter's where you came from, and the gutter's where you belong!"
  • after the embarrassing scene at the dance, Madge followed Hal and they drove to the town's train station - he threatened to leave; they had a heart-to-heart talk about his failed life beginning when he was a boy in a reform school/jail: ("What's the use, baby? I'm a bum. She saw through me like an X-ray machine. There's no place in the world for a guy like me"); his confessions brought an encouraging kiss from Madge (alongside the rail tracks); she also told him: "I get so tired of just being told I'm pretty" - it was the start of a romantic relationship between them
  • the final scene of Carter kissing Madge goodbye as he professed his love for her, before leaving for Tulsa to work as a hotel bell-hop: ("I gotta know how you feel. Last night I thought you liked me....I love you, Madge. Do ya hear?...Do you love me? Do you?....I'm catchin' that freight. Meet me baby. We'll get married. They'll give me a room in the hotel. It'll be OK until we find somethin' better....Look, baby. I got a chance with you. It won't be big time, but that isn't important, is it?...Come on...Listen, baby. You're the only real thing I ever wanted. Ever! You're mine. I've gotta claim what's mine or I'll be nothin' as long as I live...You love me, you know it, you love me, you love me! You love me!") and then he jumped onto a passing freight train
Running off to Freight Train: "You love me, you know it"
  • the amazing aerial helicopter shot of Madge's bus following Hal's freight train (bound for Tulsa) - eventually catching up and going in the same direction at the same speed

Meeting for the First Time: Hal Carter and "Madge" Owens

Flo's Encouragement to Daughter to Marry Young

Hal's Unrealistic Dream Job

Madge's Dissatisfaction with Idolizing Boyfriend Alan

Annual Labor Day Picnic

Dancing Under Japanese Lanterns on Boat Dock

The Start of a Romance

Goodbye Scene - Profession of Love to Madge: "You're the only real thing I ever wanted"


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