My director of photography on Emma Blue, Giorgos Arvanitis, likes to say that it takes three things to make a film: a good script, a good script and a good script.
But it's not always quite enough. The Outlaw is a case in point—screenplay by Jules Furthman and the great, the unparalleled Ben Hecht; starring Jane Russell (her debut) and Walter Huston, the film actor of his day if we think of Barrymore as theatre. And yet I never saw a movie lie there quite so dead. The directing of Howard Hughes, even helped out by Howard Hawks, somehow embalms it before your eyes. It's like hearing the actors do a read-through; indeed you watch the film to hear the screenplay.
A screenplay is a poem, with a form as tight and limiting and intricate as a sonnet, and those limitations and intricasies must be made to sing.
I have other favorite scripts (not that The Outlaw is my favorite, just that it stands there naked), like The Long Hot Summer by William Faulkner, Irving Ravetch, Harriet Frank Jr: "Well, life is very long and full of surprises, Miz Varner, you may jess bah sumpm yet."
And Chandler-Paxton's Farewell My Lovely: "They call me Moose on accounta I'm large."
And which Rat Pack movie is this from? Dean: “Where’s my drink?” Frank: “In your hand.” Dean: “Is that my hand?”
But the best of all is To Have and Have Not by Faulkner and Furthman. ("Take the money and run," said Papa about Hollywood.)
Hawks told Bogart, "I'm going to pair you with somebody who's even more insolent than you are." So in walks nineteen-year-old Lauren Bacall: "Anybody got a match?"
She calls him Steve, though that's not his name. "Listen, Steve..."
"Wuz ya ever stung by a dead bee?" Walter Brennan asks her. "They lie upside down in the grass and you come along barefoot and step on 'em!"
Drinking in a Martinique bar and the cops come in. Bogey smiles. "A lot of them, aren't there, kid."
The cold beauty who resents Bogey faints as he's operating on her husband. Bogey catches her, carries her into her stateroom to drop her on the bed and hesitates just that instant when Baby comes in and sees him. "Tryna guess her weight?"
Also by Robert MacLean:
The President's Palm Reader: A Washington Comedy at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES;
and the Toby books:Foreign Matter at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES and Smashwords;
Total Moisture at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES and Smashwords;
The Cad at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES and Smashwords; and
Will You Please Fuck Off? at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES and Smashwords.