Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Raising Arizona (1987)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Raising Arizona (1987)

In the Coen Brothers' wild, fast-paced, Looney Tunes and Preston Sturges-like screwball comedy/fantasy - an original, contemporary, madcap screwball farce about the kidnapping of a baby (one of the Arizona quintuplets) by a redneck childless couple (Holly Hunter and Nicolas Cage):

  • the eleven-minute opening sequence (before the credits) of the first meetings between the two protagonists after paroles and multiple returns to prison: hapless petty crook Herbert "H. I." McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) whose crime addiction was robbing convenience stores, and female police officer and photographer Edwina or "Ed" (Holly Hunter): "My name is H I McDunnough. Call me Hi. The first time I met Ed was in the county Iockup in Tempe, Arizona" - as she kept instructing him to "Turn to the Right" for his crime photo, he called her a "little desert flower"; he learned her husband had abandoned her: "She said her fiance had run off with a student cosmetoIogist who knew how to pIy her feminine wiIes"; after repeated incarcerations for his "rambunctious behavior," H.I. was hopeful: "But I couIdn't heIp thinkin' that a brighter future Iay ahead. A future that was onIy eight to fourteen months away" - and when he became a free man, he proposed to Edwina
Marriage in Tempe, AZ
Trailer Life
  • their quick courtship/marriage, followed by happy "salad days" - living in a desert trailer outside Tempe, AZ, and their repeated attempts to have a child ("a critter"): "So we worked at it on the days we caIcuIated most IikeIy to be fruitfuI. And we worked at it most other days, just to be sure. Ed rejoiced that my IawIess years were behind me and that our chiId-rearing years Iay ahead. And then the roof caved in"; Edwina was distraught with the news from the doctor that she was barren and infertile ("her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase")
  • their attempt to adopt was futile when they discovered that they couldn't adopt due to his criminal record: ("Biology and the prejudices of others conspired to keep us childless")
  • H.I.'s excitement over news of the birth of the Arizona quints by a woman taking fertility pills: "Then one day, the biggest news hit the state since they buiIt the Hoover Dam. The Arizona quints was born. By 'Arizona quints', 'I mean they was born to a woman named FIorence Arizona. As you probabIy guessed, FIorence Arizona is the wife of Nathan Arizona"
News of the Arizona Quints
Father of Quints: Nathan Arizona of Unpainted Arizona
Plotting to Kidnap One of the Arizona Quints
  • the introduction of the father of the Arizona quintuplets: shady, huckster, unpainted-furniture salesman magnate Nathan Arizona, Sr. (Trey Wilson) on a TV commercial: "So come on down to Unpainted Arizona to get the finest seIection in fixtures and appointments for your bathroom, bedroom, boudoir. And if you can find Iower prices anywhere, my name ain't Nathan Arizona!"; he was the "owner of the Iargest chain of unpainted furniture and bathroom fixture outIets throughout the Southwest" - Unpainted Arizona
  • the childless couple's decision to execute a kidnapping of one of the Arizona quintuplet toddlers - they rationalized the kidnapping-abduction: ("We thought it was unfair some shouId have so many whiIe others shouId have so few. With the benefit of hindsight, maybe it wasn't such a hot idea. But, at the time, Ed's IittIe pIan seemed Iike the soIution to all our probIems") - the opening credits played
  • the actual scene of the late-night madcap kidnapping of 'Nathan Jr.' upstairs in the Arizona's second-floor nursery outfitted with a 5-baby crib; on his first attempt, H.I. failed and complained to Edwina: "They started cryin' and they were all over me. lt was kinda horrifyin', honey"; Edwina insisted he try again: "Go back and get me a toddler. l need a baby, Hi. They got more than they can handle...Don't you come back here without a baby!"; after a second attempt, H.I. presented the young toddler to Edwina in their car as he tossed her Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care book ("Here's the instructions"); Edwina justified their snatching ("They had more than they could handle") - they took the young boy home and H.I. jubilantly exclaimed: "We got us a family here!"
  • the scene of the intrusion that same evening, at 2 am, of a crude duo of H.I.'s two disreputable, loud, slobbish, ex-con cellmates - fugitive buddies and brothers Gale and Evelle Snoats (John Goodman and William Forsythe), who smelled of the sewer tunnel and were caked in mud that they crawled through during their underground escape: (Evelle: "We released ourselves on our own recognizance." Gale: "What Evelle is tryin' to say is we felt the institution no longer had anything to offer us"); they intended to use H.I.'s place as a hideout, although Edwina insisted that they leave almost immediately
  • the sequence of one of H.I.'s sweaty fever dreams - the entrance of a frightening, menacing and diabolical ID character -- a supernatural, heavily-armed "the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse" bounty hunter Leonard Smalls (Randall 'Tex' Cobb); he emerged from a blazing, orangish-yellow fireball on his motorbike, with two rifles strapped across his back, and left in his wake a scorched Earth trail as he flew forward; he had a tattoo of a skull on his arm emblazoned: "MAMA DIDN'T LOVE ME," and a pair of baby shoes attached to his belt that jingled like cowboy boot spurs
  • as he rode by an unsuspecting cotton-tail rabbit by the side of the road, he blew it up with a hand-grenade (he removed the pin with his teeth) and shot at a lizard: "He was especially hard on the little things, the helpless and the gentle creatures. He left a scorched earth in his wake befouling even the sweet desert breeze that whipped across his brow. I didn't know where he came from and why. I didn't know if he was a dream or vision, but I feared that I myself had unleashed him. For he was the fury that would be as soon as Florence Arizona found her little Nathan gone"
Fever Dream of the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse
  • the tremendous tracking zoom in shot into the upstairs nursery window and into the mouth of the screaming Florence Arizona (Lynne Kitei) when she discovered one missing child
Zoom Tracking Shot into the Mouth of Screaming Mother Who Discovered Kidnapping
Questioning of Nathan, Sr. by Police and FBI
  • also the hilarious scene the morning after the crime of unfinished-furniture magnate/father Nathan Arizona Sr. (who was originally named Nathan Huffhines) being questioned by the press, cops, and the FBI while being fingerprinted: ("We just need to distinguish your prints from the perpetrator, if they left any"); he complained loudly about their inane questions about the boy ("What was he wearing?") and answered in frustration: "They were jammies! They had Yodas and s--t on 'em"; he also chastized them for their ineptitude: ("Damn it, are you boys gonna chase down yer leads, or you gonna sit around drinkin' coffee in the one house in the state where I know my boy ain't at?!...No leads! Everyone leaves microbes and whatnot. Hell, that's your forte, ain't it? Trackin' down microbes left by criminals and commies and shit. That's your whole raison d'etre, ain't it? No leads! l want Nathan Junior back! Or whichever the hell one of 'em they took!")
  • the arrival at the trailer of H.I.'s tasteless joke-telling foreman boss Glen (Sam McMurray), with his obnoxious Carol Burnett-like wife Dot (Frances McDormand) and disruptive, out-of-control family for an afternoon outdoor picnic - who asked lots of probing and disturbing questions for the new parents and also hints about parenting (although they themselves were horrible role models), and then Glen eventually asked H.I. if he was interested in wife-swapping: ("l'm talkin' about sex. What are you talkin' about? l'm talkin' about I'amour. l'm talkin' that me and Dot are swingers. As in, to swing. l'm talkin' about wife-swappin'. l'm talkin' about what they call now 'open marriage'"); disgusted, now that he was a family man, H.I. punched him to the ground and then threw them out
  • the slapstick, extended, near-disastrous, brilliantly-timed Short Stop convenience store robbery to steal Huggies diapers while Edwina waited in the car; the armed H.I. (with a stolen panty hose stocking over his head) robbed the store of its cash -- along with a large pack of Huggies diapers: ("I'll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash ya got... And make it quick, I'm in dutch with the wife"); Ed ditched him and drove off in their car, while H.I. was forced to flee on foot through the nearby neighborhood (and in and out of a house)
  • H.I. sought to get away from the porn-obsessed, armed cashier, a police car and officer shooting at him, and a vicious doberman pincher (and a pack of other dogs), and at one point commandeered a pickup truck, where a hayseed hick (John O'Donnal) delivered an hysterical, deadpan one-liner: "Son, you've got a panty on your head"
Armed Robbery of Short Stop Convenience Store for Huggies
  • in a second store - a "DOUBLE COUPONS" supermarket, H.I. stole another large sized Huggies pack, and continued to be pursued there and shot at, until he was picked up and rescued by Edwina for a getaway
  • the all-out effort to find the baby after the father offered a $25,000 reward; Nathan Sr. in his office rejected Leonard Smalls' proposed counter-offer of $50,000 to retrieve the baby: ("l think you're an evil man. l think this is nothin' but a god-damn screw job. l think it's a shakedown. l think you're the one that took Nathan Junior and my fine friend, l think you're the one that's gonna get his butt kicked"); Leonard Smalls took off in pursuit to acquire the child for himself to sell it on the black market ("l'll get the boy regardless. And if you don't pay, the market will")
  • at the same time, Glen (with a broken nose and dislocated neck) came and fired H.I. from his job, then threatened blackmail to report him to the authorities for kidnapping unless the baby was turned over to them for custody
  • in the trailer, after overhearing Glen's conversation with H.I., the "wanted" duo of Gale and Evelle kidnapped the baby to collect the reward money - H.I. was beaten up in the cramped (and soon-to-be destroyed) trailer and tied up after a brutal fight against Gale
  • the scene of H.I.'s promise and vow to Edwina that he would reform himself, and that together, they would successfully rescue the child, as he armed himself with loaded weapons: "l know you're worried, honey, but believe me, there ain't a thing to be worried about. We're absolutely gonna get him back. There just ain't no question about that. We'll get him back. That's just all there is to it. And you wanna know another thing? l'm gonna be a better person from here on out. That's final. That's absolutely the way it's gonna be. That's official. You were right. I was wrong. A blind man could tell ya that. Now, they ain't gonna hurt him, honey. They're just in it for the score. But I ain't like that no more. l'm a changed man. You were right, l was wrong. We got a family here. l'm gonna start actin' responsibly. So let's go, honey. Let's go get Nathan Junior!"
  • the culmination - a frenetic, mad-cap chase through a rural town by all interested parties for the toddler - although the Snoats had the baby for awhile (and committed a bank robbery), and Leonard grabbed the child in its car seat carrier; eventually Edwina was able to snatch the baby and flee from Leonard
Leonard vs. H.I.
H.I. Revealing Pulled Grenade Pin
Leonard Blown Up
  • the final hand-to-hand battle between a vastly-overmatched H.I. and Leonard who pummeled H.I. -- H.I. killed him by accidentally pulling a pin from a grenade on Leonard's bandolero while being bear-hugged - it blew him up
  • the scene in which H.I. and Ed returned the baby to the nursery, where Nathan Arizona, Sr., confronted them; although offered a reward (or furniture) for eliminating Leonard Smalls, they declined: ("We don't want no reward. We didn't bring him back for money"); after they admitted their crime and explained all the circumstances: ("We both did it. We didn't wanna hurt him any. l just wanted to be a mama. lt wasn't for money or nothin'. We just figured you had more than you could handle baby-wise"), they were forgiven ("Nobody's gonna call the authorities if there's no harm done...You brought back my boy, so you must have your good points, too."); as they parted, Nathan Sr. suggested that the young couple still stay together ("And, uh, before you go off and do another foolish thing, like bustin' up, l suggest you sleep on it. At least one night")
H.I.'s Concluding Dream of the Future
  • H.I.'s concluding dream fantasy of the future - he dreamt about the future of grown-up baby Nathan Junior (who received a football as a Xmas present - and later became a football star at Arizona) and the future of other characters in the film; at the end of his dream, he envisioned future life with his wife Edwina - dreaming of them living happily as an older couple - the parents of well-adjusted children who had children of their own, as they all sat down at a Thanksgiving table with a banner reading "WELCOME HOME KIDS": "That night I had a dream. I dreamt I was as light as the ether, a floatin' spirit visiting things to come. The shades and shadows of the people in my life wrassled their way into my slumber. I dreamt that Gale and Evelle had decided to return to prison. Probably that's just as well. I don't mean to sound superior, and they're a swell couple guys, but maybe they weren't ready yet to come out into the world. And then I dreamed on, into the future, to a Christmas morn in the Arizona home where Nathan Junior was openin' a present from a kindly couple who preferred to remain unknown. I saw Glen a few years later, still havin' no luck getting the cops to listen to his wild tales about me and Ed. Maybe he threw in one Polack joke too many. I don't know. And still I dreamed on, further into the future than I'd ever dreamed before, watching Nathan Junior's progress from afar, taking pride in his accomplishments, as if he were our own, wonderin' if he ever thought of us, and hopin' that maybe we'd broadened his horizons a little, even if he couldn't remember just how they got broadened. But still I hadn't dreamt nothin' about me 'n Ed, until the end. And this was cloudier, 'cause it was years, years away. But I saw an old couple bein' visited by their children, and all their grandchildren too. The old couple wasn't screwed up, and neither were their kids or their grandkids... And I don't know. You tell me. This whole dream, was it wishful thinkin'? Was I just fleein' reality like I know I'm liable to do? But me and Ed, we can be good, too. And it seemed real. It seemed like us, and it seemed like, well, our home. If not Arizona, then a land not too far away, where all parents are strong and wise and capable, and all children are happy and beloved. I don't know. (H.I. opened his eyes) Maybe it was Utah"

Crime Mug-Photos ("Turn to the right!")

H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) - Robbing a Convenience Store

Edwina ("Ed") (Holly Hunter)

After Marriage, Their 'Salad Days' at Trailer

Saddened by Edwina's Barreness

Nursery Theft of One of the Arizona Quints - Nathan, Jr.

Returning to Car with Baby

Homecoming for the New Baby

Arrival of the Fugitive Snoats Brothers

Glen and Dot - Invited for Outdoor Picnic

Glen: "l'm talkin' about wife-swappin'"

After Store Theft, H.I. Commandeered a Pickup Truck Driver: "Son, you've got a panty on your head"

H.I.'s 2nd Attempt at Stealing Huggies

The $25,000 Reward and Frantic Search for Nathan, Jr.

Leonard Smalls in Pursuit: "I'm a tracker"

Nathan Sr. Rejecting Smalls' Counter-Offer

Glen Threatening H.I. to Give Him Custody of Child

H.I. Tied Up as The Snoats Took the Baby

H.I. to Edwina: "Let's go get Nathan Junior!"

Leonard with the Baby

Baby Brought Back to Arizona's Nursery - With Apologies


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