The Washington Post

Apparently, I didn’t have ’em at ‘hello’


For many of us older movie fans who will tune in to the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday, the classic “Casablanca” — the 1944 winner for best picture — is still the most quotable film of all time. But to many younger people, our favorite references from old movies are going, if not gone, with the wind.

That struck me one evening when my wife, Mary, and I sat down for dinner at a local restaurant. Mary was recovering from a cold that sent her voice several octaves lower. “I’m with Lauren Bacall tonight,” I quipped to our waiter.

His blank look spoke volumes. Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, I walked into one where the young server had no clue about my reference to the husky-voiced actress of the 1950s. If he got any of my cultural references that night, I would be “shocked, shocked.”

For the older among us, more and more of our favorite movie catchphras­es are ready to board that boat that crosses the historical reference Rubicon, from the realm of witty repartee to cultural oblivion. It’s time to “Round up the usual suspects.” And when we do, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Take the celebrated 1972 movie “The Godfather.” You may have noticed that nobody below a certain age winces when you make him “an offer he can’t refuse.” All I can say is, “Why didn’t you come to me first?” I would have told you that, today, even a great “Godfather” reference

“sleeps with the fishes.”

And it looks like you picked the wrong day to slip in quips from another movie classic “Airplane.” Surely, you ask, you can’t mean that? Yes, I do. And don’t call me Shirley.

When dining with their wives, husbands will have to retire their go-to remark, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Chances are good that the young server has never seen “When Harry Met Sally.” There’s no point in telling somebody to “Go ahead. Make my day,” when they’ve never heard of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in “Sudden Impact.”

Generation­al linguistic transition­s are nothing new. We all puzzled over the things our SEE MOVIE QUOTES ON C2

parents said when we were “kneehigh to a grasshoppe­r.”

Now we’re the ones struggling to understand some of the phrases and references young people use. They also drop phrases from what they consider to be older movies. “Just keep swimming,” they urge, from “Finding Nemo.” And “May the odds be ever in your favor,” from “The Hunger Games.” And “Chewie, we’re home,” from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Fortunatel­y, some theatrical references stand the test of time. “All the world’s [still] a stage” in the words of William “To be or not to be” Shakespear­e. “All that glitters [still] is not gold.” And if your joke-telling uncle goes on too long, he’ll know what you mean when you say, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” But who knows how long Shakespear­e will be the king of quotes? As Will himself wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

So is nothing sacred? “O ye of little faith.” The Bible is still a veritable “behemoth” for references, including the word “behemoth,” for example. So you can still “eat, drink and be merry.” But be warned, “the writing is on the wall.”

The time for many of our favorite phrases has come and gone. The cruel fact is these days nobody remembers the Maine and hardly anybody remembers the Alamo. If you can’t accept that, then “You can’t handle the truth.” But for those who are determined to declare “I coulda been a contender,” I say, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” (Followed by “May the Force be with you.”)

As for myself, if I stop now, I know I’ll regret it. “Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon,” and for the rest of my life.

So, “Play it again, Sam.” (Or for purists, just “Play it, Sam.”) I will continue to “follow the money” all the way “to infinity and beyond.” And if you don’t like it, well, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Ronald G. Shafer is a mature movie fan in Williamsbu­rg, va., and the author of “Breaking news all over again,” a collection of his articles for the Washington Post’s retropolis feature.

 ?? Everett Collection/everett Collection ?? The 1942 film “Casablanca” has many quotable lines, but more and more, those quotes are met with befuddled looks from younger folks.
Everett Collection/everett Collection The 1942 film “Casablanca” has many quotable lines, but more and more, those quotes are met with befuddled looks from younger folks.

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