Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Good morning on June 13, 2017, and it’s Cupcake Lover’s Day. The Cupcake Fad has not yet abated in the U.S.,  though I predict it will, for its an excuse to sell cake at outrageous prices. (Mind you, I wouldn’t turn up my nose at a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting!) And, of all things, is is the Feast Day for G. K. Chesterton as ordained by the Episcopal Church.

On this day in 1898, Canada formed the Yukon Territory, decreeing Dawson as its capital, and in 1927, Charles Lindbergh got a ticker-tape parade (no longer possible!) in New York City after his successful solo flight across the Atlantic. On June 13, 1966, the U.S. Supreme court ruled, in Miranda v Arizona, that suspects must be informed of their rights before being questioned. A year later, LBJ nominated Thurgood Marshall to be the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 13, 1970, the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road became the group’s last #1 song in the U.S. So sad that they broke up, and I’m not a fan of that song! Finally, on this day in 1971 the New York Times began publishing The Pentagon Papers.

Notables born on this day include W. B. Yeats (1865). Basil Rathbone (1892), Dorothy Sayers (1893), Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn” (1897), Luis Walter Alvarez (1911), Ben “Sam the Lion” Johnson (1918), John Forbes Nash, Jr. (1928), and Ally Sheedy (1962). Those who died on this day include Martin Buber (1965), Benny Goodman (1986), Tim Russert (2008), and Jimmy Dean (2010).

Ben Johnson was a staple of Western movies, but when Peter Bogdanovich brought him back in the movie “The Last Picture Show” (1971; the year I graduated from college), he shone, winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sam the Lion. This may be the best American film I know of. And here’s the best scene: Sam and Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) talking about old times—and old loves—at the fishing tank: a soliloquy that always makes me (a determinist!) tear up for opportunities missed:

I noticed that in his review of this film as a “Great Movie”, Roger Ebert also singles out this scene:

The best scene in “The Last Picture Show” takes place outside town at the “tank,” an unlovely pond that briefly breaks the monotony of the flat Texas prairie. Sam the Lion has taken Sonny and the retarded boy Billy fishing there, even though, as Sonny observes, there ain’t nothing in the tank but turtles. That’s all right with Sam: He doesn’t like fish, doesn’t like to clean them, doesn’t like to smell them. He goes fishing for the scenery.

“Try one?” he says, offering Sonny the makings of a hand-rolled cigarette. And then he begins an wistful monologue, about a time 20 years ago when he brought a girl out to the tank and they swam in it and rode their horses across it and were in love on its banks. The girl had life and fire, but she was already married, and Sam even then was no longer young. As he tells the story, we realize we are listening to the sustaining myth of Sam’s life, the vision of beauty that keeps him going in the dying town of Anarene, Texas.

The scene has a direct inspiration, I believe, for the writer-director, Peter Bogdanovich. I’m sure he was thinking of the monologue in “Citizen Kane” (1941) where old Mr. Bernstein remembers a girl with a parasol who he saw once, 50 years ago, and still cherishes in his memory as a beacon of what could have been.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the cherries are not coming along well because of early freezes and now cold weather. But Hili doesn’t care so long as there is an ample supply of fat mice:

Hili: Field flowers are beautiful.
A: Do you like them?
Hili: In the field you can find field mice among them.
In Polish:
​Hili: Polne kwiaty są piękne.
Ja: Podobają ci się?
Hili: Na polu spotyka się wśród nich polne myszy.​


In nearby Wloclawek, Leon is on a walk. Malgorzata explains his monologue:
There is a tiny, biting fly in Leon’s monologue. I’m not sure about the English name for it but according to Wikipedia (Polish) it belongs in a family Simuliidae.
Leon: We can go, I’m protecting the rear against gnats and mosquitos.


  1. Posted June 13, 2017 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Yes, Malgorzata, for most USians, the name is: gnat. (Black fly in some places like the northeast of the US. In New Zealand: Black fly.)

    • Posted June 13, 2017 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      Sandfly in NZ I think: I remembered incorrectly.

  2. Randy schenck
    Posted June 13, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    That Leon knows how to get around.

    1927 was a year to remember in aviation. Besides Lindberg’s trip to Paris, my grandfather started flying that same year and my father was born.

    • Posted June 13, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Bill Bryson’s recent book about the year is excellent: One Summer: America, 1927.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted June 13, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        Thanks….I will write that one down. My Grandfather made the leap into flying, lived through it, which was important and made some money as well. Not bad for a guy with an 8th grade education. If I recall that was a good year for a fellow named Babe Ruth.

  3. DrBrydon
    Posted June 13, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I’ve always loved Ben Johnson. My favorite role of his (that I’ve seen) is still his self-effacing Sergeant Tyree in Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted June 13, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      He was in more movies than I remember and also a world champion in team roping in 1953. I believe he was in the PRCA around the same time as my wife’s step father.

  4. Historian
    Posted June 13, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    If Ebert were reviewing the movie today, he would never refer to Billy as “retarded.” Is this because of political correctness or a recognition that the word “retarded” had evolved as a verbal tool for demeaning other people, with or without challenges, mental or otherwise? I go with the latter. Most people who were previously referred to as “retarded” have physical problems that are genetically caused. Also, I would note, that people who have physically disabilities that create problems in regard to their bodily movements are no longer referred to as “spastics.” In this regard, the country has made progress over the last few decades.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 13, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Great movie, The Last Picture Show, and a great performance by Ben Johnson.

    It was also the big-screen debut of both Jeff Bridges, perhaps our finest yeoman actor, and Cybill Shepherd, about whom Larry McMurtry (the author of the novel the movie’s based on) told Ken Kesey (McMurtry’s old Stegner fellowship classmate at Stanford) that she “looked better than a dozen scoops of French vanilla ice cream.”

    I’ve always gotten a kick outta that line.

    • Posted June 13, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      I like hearing “Stegner Fellowship” mentioned.

      Stegner was a great writer.

      • Posted June 13, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        And a great teacher, I gather.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          So I hear. But as I understand it, when McMurtry and Kesey (and Ken Babbs and Robert Stone) were doing their fellowships, Wallace Stegner himself was off in Europe on sabbatical.

  6. Kevin
    Posted June 13, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Sam’s monologue had a heavy spirit of truth to life. So many events just sort of float in and out and some are important and some not and what we think of them often makes them more important than they really were or are.

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 13, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Peter Bogdanovich was both personally friendly with Orson Welles and had extensively written about him, so I’m sure Ebert is correct about the inspiration for the scene.

    The two alternate-audio commentaries on the DVD of “Citizen Kane” are by Ebert and Bogdanovich. I’ll now have to listen to the latter to see what he says about that scene in Kane.

    That scene (in Kane, not LPS) is especially interesting because on the one hand it does nothing at all to advance the plot, but it encapsulates the whole theme of the movie. Years ago, I tried to add it to the plot summary of Kane in Wikipedia, and it was reverted as non-essential.

  8. Bob Barber
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Jack Palance did a similar scene.

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