Saturday, May 10, 2008
Why does this remind me of agency life? And almost all else?
Just over 50 years ago, the great Billy Wilder collaborated on the screenplay for and directed Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power in "Witness for the Prosecution." My guess is you'd be better served watching it than "Speed Racer," "What Happens in Vegas," or nearly any other of the current blights on our already blighted "culture."
Here are one minute and four seconds of dialogue that is perfectly fresh yet shockingly quotidian.
If you prefer, here is a link to the clip, pay special attention of Laughton's eyes at the very end of the clip. You will not see a better performance anywhere: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Op3zA9XaUKQ
Sir Wilfrid (LAUGHTON): Mrs Vole. Or Mrs Helm; which do you prefer to be called?
Helm (DIETRICH): It does not matter.
Sir Wilfrid: Does it not? In this country, we are inclined to take a rather more serious view of marriage. However, frau Helm, it would appear that when you first met the prisoner in Hamburg, you lied to him about your marital status?
Helm: I wanted to get out of Germany, so—
Sir Wilfrid: You lied, did you not? Just yes or no, please.
Sir Wilfrid: Thank you. And subsequently, in arranging the marriage, you lied to the authorities?
Helm: I, um, did not tell the truth to the authorities.
Sir Wilfrid: You lied to them?
Sir Wilfrid: And in the ceremony of marriage itself, when you swore to love and to honor and to cherish your husband, that, too, was a lie?
Sir Wilfrid: And when the police questioned you about this wretched man who believed himself married and loved, you told them—
Helm: I told them what Leonard wanted me to say.
Sir Wilfrid: You told them that he was at home with you at 25 minutes past 9, and now you say that that was a lie? [beginning to chuckle now]
Helm: Yes, a lie!
Sir Wilfrid: And when you said that he had accidentally cut his wrist, again, you lied? [chuckling again]
Sir Wilfrid: [chuckling further] And now today you've told us a new story entirely! [serious now] The question is, frau Helm, were you lying then, are you lying now, or are you not in fact a chronic and habitual LIAR?!
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 9:53 AM