Sunday, October 11, 2009

Days Are Numbered

"I had a wonderful experience three or four weeks ago that I want to tell you about. I went to the Los Feliz Theatre to see a revival of George Cukor’s Dinner at Eight [1933]. My wife and I just wandered into the theatre by accident because we couldn’t get into various other shows around town. I said, 'I haven’t seen this film since I was 12 years old. Let’s go in and see it again.' We went in and sat there with a bunch of teenage kids and guys and girls in their twenties, who didn’t know Marie Dressler from the side of a barn, who hadn’t seen Lionel Barrymore or John Barrymore, or Billie Burke in their heydays.

"I was in tears by the end of the evening, because, when Billie Burke finished the great scene where she’s mad at the whole world — upset because the food hasn’t been prepared right for the dinner that night, when she finishes her big tirade which ran two minutes in the middle of the film — this audience of teenagers — to a person — broke into applause for this tour-de-force. My hair stood up on the back of my head, and I thought: 'A thousand years from tonight, the work you people did and that she did and all the people in this industry do will be immortal.' You are all immortal. You have beat death at the game because that scene is going to be repeated a thousand years from tonight and ten thousand years from tonight — and there’ll be other teenagers who don’t know any of you from Adam, but they’re going to break into applause because of something excellent you did once in your life, maybe — or twice, or three times when you had the breaks, and you had a good director, and you had the decent script, and you had these actors working for you and that magical thing happened.

"So I sat there and I broke into tears. I thought: 'Everyone in that film has been dead for 20 or 30 years. Marie Dressler died in 1934 — but she is still alive!'

"This is the science-fictional business you are all tied into. You’re really tacked onto the future — like it or not — so you’re going to be changing people 100 years from tonight and 500 years from tonight and a thousand years from tomorrow noon."

—Ray Bradbury, 1967, in an address to the American Society of Cinematographers. Taken from a post by Lawrence French at The Orson Welles Web Resource, Wellesnet.


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