Things I Learned at the Movies

This “The Last Word” appeared in the August 2010 issue of Texoma Living!.

For a week in early July, I kept a diary of my television viewing for the A.C. Nielson Company, the folks who compute the television ratings. I can envision what will happen when the statisticians at the home office get a load of my viewing choices.

Save for the occasional sports event, I don’t watch much contemporary television. My tastes run to old movies, usually in black and white. I don’t get excited about Sandra Bullock or Brad Pitt, but Kay Francis and William Powell, now they were movie stars. I may be the only person in America who looks forward to flicks with Richard Dix.

For the week I kept a diary, I watched a collection of movies recorded off Turner Classic Movies in the fall of 2009. OK, sometimes it takes me a while to get around to things, but the DVR will hold two hundred hours of programs, so what’s the rush? My diary may skew the ratings from top to bottom. I hope so. One more program with the words “desperate” or “Xtreme” in the title is one too many.

Watching old movies has benefits beyond pure entertainment. If you pay close attention you can glean a great many crumbs from the giant movie cake of knowledge. Tidbits than might stand you in good stead if you are ever in similar situations. To wit:

– The odds of a successful, long-term romantic relationship increase by the square of the level of initial hostility between the two parties involved.

– If you are a defense attorney and believe your client to be innocent of the crime charged, you should closely investigate the spectators sitting in the second row of the courtroom gallery. More than likely one of them is the true guilty party and can be induced to stand and admit his or her guilt with a clever courtroom maneuver. If the crime is murder, the odds of success double.

– When trying to find the secret combination of numbers or actions needed to open a hidden compartment, think of three possibilities and then try the third one of these. It is always the third one.

– During any car chase in Manhattan in the 1930s and ‘40s, the odds were 2.7 to 1 that the pursuing car would hit a fruit peddler’s cart. It was 1.8 to 1 that the cart owner would be Italian and have a mustache.

– If the aforementioned car chase were in any town south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the fruit cart would be a wagon filled with watermelons and the owner would be African-American.

– Things rarely explode until someone has said, “Watch it, she’s about to blow!”

– The amount of money, in used one-hundred dollar bills, needed to pay off the kidnappers, will exactly fill the standard briefcase.

– If you are riding through the back-country of Arizona and you see sunlight bouncing off a shiny object, start looking for Cochise, or perhaps in these times, a descendant of Pancho Villa.

– People injured and in the hospital are never required by the injury to lie face down.

– If country and western music is playing on the jukebox, there is an excellent chance a fight will break out in a bar. Brawls are rarely if ever accompanied by string quartets.

– White horses are always faster than other horses, and brown horses, with no distinguishing characteristics—except one supposes to other horses—are the slowest of all.

– Horse speed and moral input: If the guy who jumps into the saddle is a good guy—it will significantly increase the speed of a brown horse.

– Despite the obvious ego boost, it is never a good idea for a ne’er-do-well to explain how he did whatever he did to his enemy before he shoots him. This almost never works to the villain’s advantage.

– Soldiers who show their buddies a picture of the girl next door, any girl, any door, before going into action have a life expectancy in combat of three and a half minutes tops.

– Bullets fired west of the Mississippi River will, if they do not hit the target, ricochet off something with a loud “whing.”

– The third message on the answering machine is from the killer.

– When confronted by multiple attackers, the best tactic is to hit the first one hard enough that he will be disabled until you have time to dispatch the others. This is determined by applying the formula, “fob = todux nov-1,” or, force of blow equals time of desired unconsciousness times number of villains minus one.

– Most people can swim several hundred yards under water if they exhale the bad air in a continuous stream of bubbles.

– Once you think you have killed a monster, you would best be advised to do it again; otherwise it will come back to life.

– Attractive people never get hiccoughs.