The timely quote

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    A group of prisoners have been on the same cell block for a long time. After a few years, they’ve told the same jokes so many times that rather than tell the joke, they just shout out the number of the joke, and everyone laughs.

    A new guy arrived and found out about the numbered joke system. His first night he heard someone yell, “57”, and the entire row of cells broke up in laughter.


    He soon found a list of the jokes and waited for his turn.

    About six weeks later the perfect time arrived and he shouted, “57.” There was no response, it was as quiet as a church.

    He looked at his cellmate and said, “I don’t get it. They all laughed a few weeks ago when that guy said 57, but nothing this time.”

    His cellmate quietly said, “Well, some people can tell a joke and some people can’t.”


    A favorite form of expression for my friends and co-workers over the years has been the punch line of a familiar joke, but more often, it’s a quote from a movie.

    As you might guess with my buddies, who on a good day have barely risen from the primordial ooze, the movie genres are most often westerns, war movies, comedies, and a few dramas that somehow made the cut.

    When the guys in my generation were young, using film quotes to describe a situation was much easier than trying to explain what you were thinking. (Note: thinking, not feeling…that’s a modern concept we never considered.)


    It was largely a male-dominated genre, few of the girls or women I know ever offer a movie quote in any situation.

    One of the best comes from the 1975 classic “Jaws.”

    As the giant great white shark emerges in the line of chum that Sheriff Martin Brody is tossing into the water, he drops his cigarette, and deadpans to the camera, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”


    A perfect quote for a chaotic situation where leadership has either failed, or run away, and left the grunts to solve the problem.

    Some films are simply target rich environments for famous quotes.

    The sports comedy classic, “Major League.” Is one of those. Here are a couple of my favorites.

    As Willy Mays Hays puts on his baserunning gloves, the ogre that plays first base for the Yankees says, “Going somewhere meat?”

    Willy answers, “About 90 feet.” Then promptly steals second base.

    The other is in the locker room where Pedro Cerrano, the superstitious, hard-hitting Dominican first baseman is practicing voodoo with his idol Joe Boo.

    Pitcher Eddie Harris steps up and says you might want to try praying.

    Cerrano says, “Jesus (Hay Zeus in his Spanish accent) I like him very much but he no help.”

    “Are you saying Jesus Christ can’t hit a curve ball?” Harris says before the locker room erupts.

    Another classic is the simple message from the manager as the Wild Thing, Rick Vaughn, faces off with the Yankee’s power hitter with the bases loaded, “Throw him the heater Ricky,” he says in a gravely monotone.

    As you can see, I’ve watched a few films in my life and taken tidbits from many of them.

    My favorite war scene comes in the original Midway.

    As Admiral Spruance, played by Glenn Ford, evaluates the scanty information he’s received on the location of the Japanese battle fleet he finally makes a decision.

    With grim determination, he says to his adjutant, “Let’s get Enterprise and Hornet turned into the wind.”

    For those who don’t know about aircraft carrier battle tactics, they always point the ship into the prevailing wind at maximum speed to give the aircraft a little boost.

    If you know, you know, and that simple sentence was the death knell for the Japanese fleet poised to invade Midway.

    Riveting is where you find it and sometimes requires a little background knowledge to fully enjoy it.

    Some film quotes don’t require any background at all, they’re just fun to hear.

    “You have any food here?” Josey Wales played by Clint Eastwood asks Lone Watie, an aging Cherokee man.

    “All I have is a piece of hard rock candy. But it’s not for eatin’, it’s just for lookin’ through,” Watie says.

    The performance by the great Chief Dan George is immaculate in the film.

    Sports movies are rife with excellent quotes, for football, you can’t beat coach Herman Boone in Remember the Titans.

    When asked to defend his choice of offense for the Titans, Boone (played by Denzel Washington) offers this little gem, “The veer is like Novocain, just give it time and it always works.”

    Comedy in the midst of high drama is sometimes the best.

    As US Cavalry Captain Nathan Brittles decides what to do in his final days of command he seeks out his faithful sergeant in one of my favorite westerns, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.”

    “Sergeant Tyree, I’m ordering you to volunteer again,” Brittles (played by John Wayne) says.

    If you have a faithful friend, you know the sentiment.

    My favorite movie regardless of genre is the 1946 post-World War II classic, “The Best Years of Our Lives.”

    As the main characters catch each other’s eyes across a crowded living room wedding ceremony, Fred Derry (played by Dana Andrews) takes his estranged girlfriend Peggy Stephenson, the daughter of his friend Al in his arms and says,” You know what it’ll be, don’t you, Peggy? It may take us years to get anywhere. We’ll have no money, no decent place to live. We’ll have to work – get kicked around…”

    It’s the penultimate statement of the film. I’ve watched this Academy Award winner at least two dozen times.

    A hopeless romantic? Maybe at times, but then there’s that other side.

    I’ve had a few limp wristed types make fun of the Rocky series by Sylvester Stallone, but I consider them some of the best sporting films ever produced.

    This is a classic quote from Rocky IV as Rocky says goodbye to his son to travel to Russia to fight the unbeatable Ivan Drago.

    His son asks him if he is ever afraid.

    “Well, the truth is sometimes I do get a little scared when I’m in that ring and when I’m going to get hit or when my arm hurts so much I can’t even lift it and I’m thinking I wish this guy would hit me in the chin, so I won’t feel nothing anymore. Then there’s another side that comes out that wants to take more. wants to go one more round, because if you go one more round when you don’t think you can, that makes all the difference in your life.”

    One more round, a motivator for staying in the game, on the job, or in a relationship, take your pick.

    A final one from “Field of Dreams.” The movie is maligned by many, but I love every second of it.

    As the reincarnated John Kinsella arrives at the magical Iowa field he asks, “Is this heaven?”

    His son Ray, who is now older than him replies, “No, It’s Iowa.”

    “I could have sworn this was heaven,” John says.

    Ray asks, “Is there a heaven?”

    “Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.”

    As John starts to walk away, back to the cornfield, John exclaims, “Dad, want to have a catch?”

    The father and son, estranged in life are back together on the Field of Dreams.

    Now that’s a quote.


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