Loyal reader Lydia Conrad wrote in with some more memorable entrances.
Here are her comments:
Sunset Boulevard -- William Holden is doing a (true)
dead man's float in Norma Desmond's pool.
The Philadelphia Story -- Opens with Cary Grant being
thrown out of the house by his wife Katherine Hepburn (who, among other
things, breaks his golf club in two) and Grant responds by shoving her
face so she falls to the ground. I think I mentioned that Hepburn enjoyed
this so much -- calling Dr. Freud -- that she had Grant do it to her
again and again.
Jaws -- Haven't seen this movie in years but doesn't Robert
Shaw appear by scraping his fingernails across the blackboard? (Makes
me cringe still just thinking about it!) And I know Bruce the Shark
may not qualify as a "character" but his entrance is pretty
Gilda -- Rita Hayworth's husband, accompanied by her former
lover Glenn Ford, walks into her bedroom and asks, "Are you decent?"
West Side Story -- Long, panoramic shot of NYC slowly
zooms into a playground where Russ Tamblyn's Riff and his Jets are restlessly
bullying others who tread into their gang "territory."
Gone with the Wind -- I know you're not a big fan of this
film but the appearance of Scarlett O'Hara, both cinematically and in
terms of her long-awaited debut after David O. Selznick's much-publicized,
multi-year cross-country search, has to count pretty high in the memorable
character entrance department. The shot that zooms down the stairway
to intro Clark Gable's Rhett Butler ("Who is that nasty fellow?
He looks like he knows what I look like without my shimmy!") is
awfully impressive as well.
It Happened One Night -- Clark Gable's journalist Peter
Warne is surrounded by eavesdroppers as he tells off his boss via pay
phone. Since the onlookers hear only one side of the conversation, they
don't realize that Warne ends up getting fired and thus his telling
his editor that he quits (his boss has actually hung up) is just a show.
As Warne departs the phone booth, his admirers accompany him with the
prescient salute "Make way for The King!"
Singin' in the Rain -- So you're not a big musical fan
either but Gene Kelly's "Gotta Dance" intro of Cyd Charisse
in her green-clad flapper splendor certainly stands out as a memorable
Also, Peter O'Toole makes two entrances, really, in one of my all-time
favorite movies -- My Favorite Year -- and they are both
hilarious and memorable.
Thanks Lydia. Certainly the late, great Billy Wilder opening Sunset
Boulevard with the shot of the dead narrator signaled the sardonic
and unsentimental tone of the film. Incidentally, Paramount will be
releasing a Sunset Boulevard Special Edition DVD in November.
Paramount's DVD track record can most charitably be called spotty, but
let's hope this will be one of their stronger efforts. The film deserves
The Philadelphia Story opening still works in the context
of its era. But imagine a film today beginning with a husband shoving
his wife to the floor and playing the scene for laughs. Times change,
Also, I strongly considered including two other "first impressions"
in my original column - Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Raiders
of the Lost Ark and 'Mad' Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) in Mad
Max. Both are high-impact entrances that establish these men
as heroes for the film and the subsequent sequels. Both let you see
a part of the man, from the side or the back or obscured with shadow,
but don't show his face until after he's already bravely defeated an
enemy. In the end I left these entrances out because I wanted to keep
my list at ten and I already had a recurring film character with James
Bond in Dr. No, but it was a tough call.
And speaking of Dr. No, the first Bond film featured another memorable
entrance besides 007. Who can forget the bikini-clad Honey Ryder (Ursula
Andress) emerging from the ocean singing "Underneath the Mango
Tree?" Andress helped create the "Bond Girl" mystique
and set the standard for those to follow.
August 22, 2002
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