Monday, June 6, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Last Detail (1973) - Dialogue Should Complement the Movement

[Quick Summary: Two sailors decide to live it up while escorting a third sailor to naval prison.]

The 1st reason to get this book: The introduction is a 1995 article Robert Towne wrote, "On Moving Pictures."* ** *** THIS IS WELL WORTH THE PRICE OF THE BOOK.

The 2nd reason: The two (Oscar nominated) screenplays.
I first read the intro article, where Towne writes:
But it has always struck me that in movies, far more than any other dramatic medium, movement, not simply action, is most defining of character.
He goes on to write:
The point is that a fine actor on screen conveys a staggering amount of information before he ever opens his mouth. The screenwriter must be skillful not to interfere with or detract from that information by injudicious dialogue. He must be very skillful with dialogue to add to that information.
Then I saw what Towne meant when I read The Last Detail.

Here, Buddusky and Mulhall don't know each other, or their prisoner Meadows.

However, they have to work together and get Meadows to prison.

They begin to like Meadows, who is naive, well intentioned, and honorable.  They also discover that Meadows has light fingers, especially for candy.

The scene below is about 1/3 into the script.

-  All the movement around and between characters.
- The dialogue is teasing and complements the movement.
- Movement + dialogue = Buddusky knows Meadows's weakness, Meadows knows Buddusky knows


The bus with CAMDEN on it rolls up. The three start out. Meadows tugs at Buddusky's arm.

MEADOWS: Hey, Bad Ass, want a candy bar?

Meadows flicks his eyes toward the candy counter. Buddusky smiles. He winks at Meadows, grabs him around the scruff of the neck and shakes him with mock roughness.

BUDDUSKY: Get your ass on the bus, sailor."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: A character's movement is primary, and dialogue should complement, not compete.

The Last Detail (1973)
by Robert Towne
Adapted from the novel by Darryl Ponicsan

*Originally published in Scenario magazine, 1995.

**Even in 1995, Towne was so prescient on many topics: what silent filmmakers knew better than filmmakers today; what is wrong with superhero movies; etc.

***My favorite part is where he explains Hollywood's historic hatred toward writers: "In other words, he is the asshole who keeps everybody else from going to work."

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