A blog about life, language, writing, and other trivia.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Confessions of a car-crazy

Bill listed ten pop culture phenomena he just never got into, and as I toyed with developing my own list, my mind roamed instead to things I do get into. I won't lay a list on you (though I enjoyed Bill's, and, for the record, I'm a big Pink Floyd fan), but I have to share what may be my all-time favorite piece of dialogue in a film. In The Right Stuff, John Glenn (Ed Harris) describes himself using a line that originally appeared in the book, and which Thomas Wolfe used to describe Glenn (instead of Glenn referring to himself). Lying in bed, Mike and Carol Brady-style, Glenn and his wife are talking about the space program, and Glenn observes that his fellow astronauts think he is a "Dudley Do-Right." When his wife laughingly agrees, he says, "Well, that's me, I guess--a lonely beacon of restraint and self sacrifice in a squall of car crazies."

It may be forced. It may be hard to believe that Glenn would have said such a thing. (He didn't, apparently.) But in the context of the film, it has a calm, resolute simplicity that is a perfect contrast to the carnival atmosphere that pervades much of the rest of the movie.

I didn't see The Right Stuff in the theater until Roger Ebert picked it in 2003 for his annual "Overlooked Films" festival in Champaign-Urbana, but I saw it pretty close to its release on cable. And I've never forgotten that line.


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