Friday, June 3, 2011

Rest in Gab

Wise: Greetings, Werth!
Werth: Greetings, Wise!

Wise: Did you have a fun-filled Memorial Day Holiday?

Werth: Fun-filled? Wise, Memorial Day is supposed to be spent honoring our dearly departed.

Wise: So you didn’t go to a dinner party, flirt with a bartender for free drinks or spend hours soaking in your tub on your day off?

Werth: Of course I did! But I also thought about those sad moments when we lose people we care about.

Wise: You made a list of your favorite movie death scenes, didn’t you?
Werth: You betcha! And my number one favorite is Bette Davis croaking in Dark Victory.

Wise: Thanks for the spoiler.

Werth: What spoiler? She gets brain cancer... in 1939. She’s a goner. It’s curtains from the opening credits—but what a way to go! Her tragic acceptance of what she knows is coming but must hide from her husband is beautiful. Legend has it that Davis fought with director Edmund Goulding about her “death climb” up the stairs. Worried that film score composer Max Steiner would be orchestral-ly outdoing her performance she insisted, “Well, either I'm going to climb those stairs or Max Steiner is going to climb those stairs, but I'll be God-DAMNED if Max Steiner and I are going to climb those stairs together!"

Wise: I’m assuming there was a cigarette involved somewhere.

Werth: Whatever Goulding told Davis, in the end, Steiner and Davis climbed the stairs together to perfect effect. Davis, Steiner and the movie were all nominated for the top prizes at the Academy awards that year—but it was the greatest year in Hollywood History, so competition was very stiff with Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz ultimately snagging those Oscars.

Wise: Frankly, The Wizard of Oz ought to have snagged a few more Oscars that year, but it does contain one of the best death scenes ever filmed.  

Werth: I know where this is going...

Wise: Look, I love the chance to blubber when a movie character reaches his expiration date, but death is an experience full of uncontrollable emotions—some sad, some happy, some squirrely—and I like to have my cinematic terminations reflect that.  

Werth: Just get on with the Wicked Witch biting it.
Wise: Think about how great Margaret Hamilton’s performance as the witch is: that frustrated ambition, that out-of-control cackle tickling your spine with ice, that glee she takes in plotting the destruction of Dorothy and her friends.  But when the bucket of water hits and she realizes that the end has come for her beautiful wickedness, she literally dissolves into rage.  It’s really the only way for her to go.  Throughout the movie, she has been a constant threat, adding a razor’s edge to what could have been a Technicolor meringue, and only her death can exorcise her living menace.  It’s a catharsis, allowing Dorothy and her friends to earn their rewards, and has served as the model in the deaths of countless villains ever since.  

Werth: Before Wise breaks into a gospel version of “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”, here’s a list of our other favorite cinematic death scenes:
Lance’s List
West Side Story
Terms of Endearment
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Imitation of Life
Moulin Rouge
Damien: Omen II
Dancer in the Dark
The Poseidon Adventure
The Manchurian Candidate 
Alan’s List
Silent Light
Murder on the Orient Express 
One True Thing
The Royal Tenenbaums
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Good Earth 
Pan’s Labyrinth
Like Water for Chocolate  

Werth: I like your death list, Wise.

Wise: I like your death list, Werth. Now what about you, Film Gab Readers? What are your favorite death scene movies?

Werth: And check back next week for a less deadly Film Gab!


CharlieBallard said...

Friday the 13th Part 7 - the "Sleeping Bag" death scene.

FilmGabwithWerth&Wise said...

Werth here- Nice choice Charlie. The Friday the 13th series always had fun with how to kill randy teens. My personal favorite is in the original film where Kevin Bacon gets it while he's... well, busy.