I wrote in last night’s post that I had a bet riding on today’s college football game between the Minnesota Gophers and the Iowa Hawkeyes. That’s particularly weird, since: (a) I generally never gamble, especially on sports; (2) when it comes to football, I’m pretty much a “superbowl-only” kind of guy; and (iii) I know nothing about college football [apparently a bronze pig, named Floyd, is involved somehow].
Well, weak from the week, I crashed on the couch all morning and missed most of the game. But I did wake up in time to catch the final 58 seconds (actually a rather long time in football). Final score: Minnesota 13, Iowa 31. That means my former boss and I get beer! [Yes, that’s right, I was betting on Iowa.]
Last night I mentioned it was a long story that I’d tell you later. What I didn’t mention was that it involves a great Humphrey Bogart movie, rotary phones, a prolonged discussion of point spreads and a parody of a famous quote.
The parody quote in question is, “You know how to dial, don’t you? You just put your finger in the hole… and make tiny, little circles.” See if you can name the movie before I reveal it down below.
Actually, there were two unrelated conversations going on in parallel. You know how it is with bar and party conversations. The football one ultimately wasn’t as interesting (but it was long), so I’m including the other one to make it more fun.
Said football conversation started between my former boss (let’s call him “Ted”) and a co-worker (we’ll call him “Jack”). Actually, Ted is my former boss once removed; I’ve had one other boss since, but he doesn’t count. Ted is the one who threw the shingding to honor three of his people moving on to new positions.
Ted is from Iowa, and he’s a fan of college football, so he’s a Hawkeyes fan. (He’s also a Cubs fan. He and I usually talk about baseball if we talk sports.) Jack, a Minnesotan, also a fan of college ball, is a Gophers fan. They were arguing over who would win the game today, and it got down to placing a bet. At first, the bet was $20, but Jack wanted the point spread. The Vegas line was seven-and-a-half, but Jack was campaigning for ten-and-a-half.
Jack wouldn’t take even odds, apparently being highly risk averse. In the end another co-worker stepped up to cover Ted’s bet. By that time I’d gotten into the discussion on Ted’s side (he’s one of the best bosses I’ve had at The Company, so naturally I took his side). And the bet evolved into buying beers for the winner. Given the final score, I guess Jack was smart to chicken out, and I was smart to side with my former boss!
The other conversation started off when someone recalled the old rotary dial phones (a style of phone some readers may never have even seen, let alone actually used). That led to a story I told about how some business places used to have this lock they’d put in the number 1 hole to prevent employees from making out-going calls. My story was about how you could still use the switch hook to interrupt the circuit rapidly to do the dialing (break the circuit rapidly three times to dial a three, for example).
That led to the movie, Cellular, where kidnapped Kim Basinger uses that exact trick of breaking the connection to dial out using a broken phone. She randomly reaches Chris Evans and convinces him to help her. It also led to a passing mention of the movie, Phone Booth, which features Colin Farrell trapped in a phone booth by a sniper out to terrorize him. Interesting connection (pun intended) in that both stories were by Larry Cohen.
Talk of rotary phones led to one co-worker showing us his smart phone app that featured an image of a rotary dial. Apparently you actually have to use your finger to “dial” the image, and the image has the same slow return as those rotary phones of old. Even if you speed dial, the image goes through the paces of slowly dialing the number.
In any event, all the talk of rotary dial phones recalled to me a line in a movie that parodies a famous Bogart-Becall line from the movie Key Largo. Except that, looking it up for this post, it turns out that’s the wrong movie! The actual movie is To Have and Have Not. At least I got the actors right!
The quote—Lauren Becall‘s line to Bogart—is, “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.” The American Film Institute ranks this line #34 in the top 100 movie quotes. (Which makes it all the more shameful I placed it in the wrong movie! And I was a film major in college, so even worse for me!!)
In any event, the discussion of rotary phones triggered the parody of this line, which I quoted above. Have you figured out the movie it’s from yet? I couldn’t last night, and a co-worker’s search on her smart phone turned up nothing. (There may be an art to searching, since just now I got it as the first hit for the search [quote “put your finger in the hole”]. So if you just can’t wait for me to get around to revealing it, there ya go.)
There is an irony in my getting the Bogart-Becall movie wrong. They’re both excellent films, but I had planned to use Key Largo as a springboard to talk about a sub-genre of cinema that I like a lot: Florida Noir.
As Wikipedia puts it, “Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.” The article goes on to describe how noir often involves a dark visual style (noir is French for black) to go along with the dark subject matter.
The Maltese Falcon is, perhaps, one of the greatest of the early noir films. More recent greats might include Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. The classic science fiction film, Blade Runner is a great example of science fiction noir (as is the lesser-known Dark City).
Florida noir adds the element of steamy tropical settings. As such, Key Largo is, perhaps, the first of the sub-genre. The wonderful Body Heat (William Hurt and Kathleen Turner—in her first film) is classic (and perhaps one of the best of) Florida noir.
More recently we have Wild Things and Palmetto. The latter was just okay, but the former is one of my favorites. If you’ve never seen Wild Things, it’s a truly amazing film. It repeatedly fools you as to what is going on in the story. Several times during the course of the film it pulls the rug out from under you.
And if you were dumb enough to walk out when the credits began, you missed some short scenes that completely re-write the plot! Only then do you find out what was really going on! Not many movies only reveal themselves to you during the final credits!
But the page bottom nears, so it’s time to wrap this up. I’ll return to the topic of Florida noir (and film noir, in general) another time. I’ve always intended to write a post about Wild Things. [But it’s a beautiful fall day today, so I don’t want to spend the whole day at the computer.]
As for the mystery quote, I woke up this morning with the realization that it could only have come from one movie. A movie that’s on my shelf of favorites. A movie starring one of my very favorite actors. A movie that brilliantly intercuts old movie clips into the action of the film. A comedy movie that parodies the great noir films of the past (while using clips from them).
That movie is: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, staring Steve Martin and Rachel Ward, written by Martin and Carl Reiner (and George Gipe), and directed by Reiner (who also has a role in it). After LA Story, it’s my favorite Steve Martin movie!
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 77%/67% rating, which shows that sometimes the critics get it more right than audiences. The use of the old clips probably requires some knowledge of those old films (it certainly adds to the fun), and it surely helps to be a fan of film noir. That the film is in black & white may also have turned off some people.
I’ll leave you with this cute April 1st “ad” for the return of the rotary!