(John Ford’s STAGECOACH, staring John Wayne – 1939)
Talking About the Movies
They speak about hardware, software, LANs, WANs and USBs. These are the usual topics of conversation whenever I join my wife, Bridget at a business dinner. She’s in information technology – electronic communications to be specific. My wife is terrific, but if she’s with people in her field she becomes a strange and different person and although she normally uses English when she speaks to me, her language changes to “Hi-Tech.”
Typically these dinners are with another couple, one of whom is the techie who works with Bridget. The spouse is in the same boat I am so we usually have a separate conversation. I’ve met some interesting people this way, and as a night out it’s not too bad.
A couple Bridget had worked with in Chicago was passing through New York recently and invited us to go out. I expected the worst since this time, not just one but both of them were “computer professionals” so I would be the only one not able to communicate in the common language. To soften the blow, we picked one of my favorite restaurants, Gallagher’s Steak House on West 52nd Street, so I would at least be sure to enjoy the food if not the talk.
They seemed nice enough, and at the beginning of the meal everyone tried to include me in the conversation as we had our crab meat cocktails and little necks on the half shell appetizers.
I’m considered fairly proficient with a computer, but they were light years beyond me. Every time I tried to change the subject, it inevitably went back to their shop talk. I gave up and simply smiled and nodded while I thought of other things and ate my sirloin. Then I began to daydream and eventually just zoned out.
While I was in this state of deep boredom, some of the conversation from an adjoining table got through to me. My ears perked up because they were discussing movies and were in the midst of an argument about the name of an actor.
I heard a female voice ask, “Who played the corrupt cop that Michael Corleone shot in The Godfather?”
I couldn’t see who was talking because their table was behind me, but I heard a male voice respond, “I don’t know, but he was the same guy who played the crazy general in Doctor Strangelove.”
A second male voice said, “That’s Robert Ryan.”
The female spoke again, “No, they just look alike, but it wasn’t him. Let’s ask the waiter.”
The waiter didn’t know either, but as he was walking away, I called him over and told him the name they were looking for was Sterling Hayden. He went back to tell them and actually got a round of applause. At this point, I asked myself why wasn’t I having dinner with these nice people who were engaged in such civilized and amusing conversation? When the waiter told them it was I who had come up with the actor’s name they looked my way, and one of them said they had another question they’d been wondering about.
“My husband says that Mean Streets was the first time Harvey Keitel worked with Martin Scorsese. Do you think that’s right?”
I happened to know that while Scorsese was at NYU, he did a student film called Who’s That Knocking at My Door and that was the first time he and Keitel worked together. My response got me an invitation to join them. With a wink at Bridget, I excused myself from my table, picked up my wine glass and took a seat with them.
We spoke about John Ford and John Wayne, Fellini and Woody Allen, Film Noir and Neo-Realism, and even listed some of Hitchcock’s blonde heroines.
Madeline Carroll, Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh, Grace Kelly
None of us had any professional connection with the film industry, but we all just loved the movies. The language at the first part of the evening might have been “Hi-Tech” but now I was with my kind of people, and we were speaking pure “Classic Film.”
When they left, I went back to my table. I don’t know what her friends thought of me, but I was sure Bridget understood.
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