(This post was written by Mindless Diversions’s’s’s own Patrick Cahalan who, very soon, will no longer be a guest blogger here but a full-fledged one! We’re just waiting on E.D. for the fledges. Anyway, here’s Patrick:)

Apparently I’ve just dragooned myself into writing for Mindless Diversions, so you’re going to have to put up with my drivel on occasion. Today’s drivel will be about old movies. I might make this a regular Friday occurrence, iff’n people express interest. So, onward and backwards! Self-indulgent background:

I suffer from Movie Tourette’s Syndrome. If you hang out with me in person long enough, you may be subjected to a conversation wherein all of the dialogue is actually bogarted from movies. This is a disease that infests my siblings, so family gatherings can turn into slightly-off-kilter affairs. You’re trying to follow the narrative thread of a conversation where everyone is substituting movie dialogue for what they actually want to say, while simultaneously trying to identify the movie in question.

It’s sort of like Lord Peter Whimsey’s conversation, except instead of quoting John Donne or Shakespeare, we’re quoting John Goodman saying “This is what happens when you (expletive) a stranger in the (deleted)!”, Cary Grant saying, “Others? When you say ‘others’… do you mean ‘OTHERS!’? MORE THAN ONE, ‘OTHERS’?!??!”, or Myrna Loy wisecracking, “Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here.”

I admire asymmetrical dialogue, when it’s done well. Partially because it’s very real, in a way that standard movie dialogue isn’t – people talk over each other in this reality. One of the best examples of this in cinema is the 1940s classic “His Girl Friday”, starring Cary Grant at his unscrupulous roguish best and Rosalind Russell as a towering female lead. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, it is available to watch on Hulu right now. If you haven’t seen it, that’s your homework assignment for the weekend. Columbia accidentally failed to renew their copyright for the film, which led to it being widely copied and disseminated.

According to Wikipedia, Russell was not the first (or second, or third…) choice for the role, and challenged director Howard Hawks over his treatment of her character. Rosalind serves up a perfect performance as Hildy, verbally dicing up Cary Grant routinely throughout the film.

What other asymmetrical dialogue movies are out there?


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


      • I had to go back 80 years for that!

        And I spent an hour watching Groucho clips on the Dick Cavett show.

    • Groucho and almost anybody. He was one of the world champion interrupters.

      I also love Aaron Sorkin dialog for its rhythms (Sports Night recently went up on streaming Netflix):

      Jeremy: 29,000 feet. You know how tall that is?
      Will: It’s 29,000 feet.
      Jeremy: Yes.
      Chris: It’s actually 29,029 feet.
      Dana: But it’s those last ten yards that’ll kill ya.
      Jeremy: It’s huge. It’s 8,848 meters.
      Natalie: It sounds more impressive at 29,000 feet.
      Jeremy: All right, I’m gonna stick with 29,000 feet. How can I best express this? How many of what kind of thing would we have to line up end to end?
      Elliot: 29,000 rulers.

  1. An answer requiring even less effort would be (film with script written by Quentin Tarantino).

    The dialog in that was snappy. Funny, then violent, then funny again.

  2. I suffer from Movie Tourette’s Syndrome. If you hang out with me in person long enough, you may be subjected to a conversation wherein all of the dialogue is actually bogarted from movies.

    Oh, thank GOD. Here I was thinking I was the only one, though mine tends to manifest more as lines from old “Simpsons” episodes.

    Perhaps there’s a support group?

    • They had to abandon it, since everyone started using quotes from movies with scenes with support groups in them.

Comments are closed.