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From 'Casablanca' To 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial': Famous Farewells In Film


And today, film farewells. We consider the great goodbye scenes in movie - boy loses girl for good; hero sets off to certain doom; or a Mother's Day remembrance from Jimmy Cagney.


JAMES CAGNEY: (As Cody Jarrett) Made it, Ma! Top of the world!


CONAN: Of course, "White Heat." Call and nominate your favorite goodbye scene, 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. And of course, Murray Horwitz, our favorite film buff, joins us here in Studio 42. Murray, always good to have you on the program.

MURRAY HORWITZ, BYLINE: Great to be on the program, Neal.

CONAN: So there have to be ground rules, as always.

HORWITZ: Yeah. The first ground rule is, you should never have to follow India.Arie into a studio.


HORWITZ: I'd like to say it's not the first time I've followed India.Arie, but it is.

CONAN: It is, OK.

HORWITZ: There are...

CONAN: She was your warm-up act.


HORWITZ: She can open for me anytime. You can argue that the two most important points in any human relationship are hello and goodbye. And no matter what happens in between, the movies tend to exaggerate both. I mean, you think of the meaningful - sort of love at first glance you get in a million Hollywood films. There's always Renee Zellweger saying, you know, you had me at hello.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

HORWITZ: But hello usually only takes a moment. And these long...

CONAN: Well, meeting cute can take a little longer.

HORWITZ: Right, right.


HORWITZ: It's true. But goodbye - you know, goodbyes are filled with sobs and speeches and those long, pregnant pauses when words just won't do. So ground rules, you asked for - well, as usual, no TV; just movies. I am so glad that you played that clip from "White Heat" because I don't think it qualifies. I mean...

CONAN: Oh, really?

HORWITZ: Well, you know, there are characters throwing themselves off opera house rooftops and even my favorite, James Cagney at the end of "White Heat," deathbed scenes. But for today, for the most part, they don't count. We want characters saying goodbye to other characters, and they have to know or believe that this is it; they're never going to see one another again. It's got to be a real goodbye. So maybe some deathbed scenes qualify, but not others. And please, I'm so eager to see what our listeners come up with, but they've got to be prepared to describe the scene because you and I may not remember them, or even have ever seen them.

CONAN: All right. Well, we want to get those nominations in, 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org., and we'll start with Ben. And Ben's on the line with us from San Antonio.

BEN: This sounds like a hello, but it's really not. It's between Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart; and the line is, Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

HORWITZ: Well, this is from "Casablanca" in 1941, the great Michael Curtiz film. And you know, Ben, I'm glad you brought it up because I was toying with this one. I think it's the movie's way of saying goodbye to us, but it really is a hello.

BEN: Yes, exactly.

CONAN: But many people would say the great goodbye scene in there is when, of course, Humphrey Bogart says - Rick says goodbye to Ilsa.


CONAN: We should have the hanky concession.

HORWITZ: It's true. And it's - this...


HORWITZ: It really - I'm sure there's some classics, you know, like "Casablanca," that we're going to hear - from not only Ben - from our other listeners about, but you know, this is one - an example of why we love movie goodbyes because let's face it, in real life, goodbyes are usually awful.

CONAN: Yeah.

HORWITZ: They're awkward; they're unsatisfying; and we almost always think later about what we should have said, right? But in the movies, the goodbyes are generally eloquent and very satisfying, if no less sad or dramatic.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Ben.

BEN: Thank you.

CONAN: Here's an email that we have from Howard in Auburn, Ala. He says, well, it's got to be the end of "E.T." when finally, E.T. goes home.


CONAN: And the gesture - right here; he's pointing to something. And that describes a lot of goodbye scenes. The dialogue, often not all that fantastic. It's the gesture. It's the facial expression.

CAGNEY: It's the look. Yeah, it's - that's one of the great points about it. I mention the long pauses and the eloquent silences in goodbyes. And you're right, everything is gesture, and everything is look. And I hate the fact that that - listening to that clip still sends chills up my spine. I really resent that. But thanks, Howard.

CONAN: Let's see, we go next to - this is Rock, and Rock with us from Payson, Ariz.

ROCK: Hello, gentlemen. I think...

HORWITZ: He called us gentlemen.


ROCK: By the way, Neal, I'm an artist, and I'm in my studio. I listen to you every day. I'm going to miss you.

CONAN: Oh, well, thank you very much for that.

ROCK: You bet. I think that - one that I think is one of the classics is with Alan Ladd's riding away in "Shane," when the little boy says, Shane, don't go! Don't go!

CONAN: Shane! Shane!

HORWITZ: Yeah - come back, Shane.

ROCK: Yeah. It's like a classic ending, right?

HORWITZ: It's true. It's a great one. It was one that - frankly, it wasn't on my list. But Rock, you're entirely correct because that's one - I think what really informs it and makes it so emotive is that - who's it, Brandon deWilde?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

HORWITZ: The kid is just absolutely convinced he's never going to see him again, and it's likely true.

ROCK: Oh, yeah. I mean, when you're a kid - and I was young; I saw that in, I think, in the late '40s, early '50s, in Nebraska. You know, when I saw that, it just rips your heart out because you think, gosh, what if my dad left?

HORWITZ: Yeah. And Rock, you bring up a really important point. We talked about the silences and everything but, you know, great filmmakers are - they're people who know how to tell the story without dialogue.

ROCK: Oh, yeah.

HORWITZ: And it's, you know, it's been hard for us, as Neal said, to find sound clips for a lot of famous goodbyes because, you know, here you've got George Stevens, one of the great filmmakers of all time, and he does it mostly with the pictures. I mean, if that were in a silent movie, you'd still understand what was going on.

ROCK: Yes, yes. Thank you, gentlemen.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Rocky. He left calling us gentlemen; that's even more unusual.


CONAN: Here's an email from Steve: "The Return of the King," as a conclusion of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, personal favorite of mine for a variety of reasons but also, a superb directorial achievement for Peter Jackson. I would say that the Academy agrees with this one and, of course, well, it's Gandalf.


CONAN: And that, of course, is Ian McKellen as Gandalf in the multi-Academy Award-winning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

HORWITZ: Yeah. And that is a good point. A goodbye is not always a lover saying goodbye to a - you know, two friends parting, or a lover saying goodbye to another lover. Sometimes, there are group goodbyes, and some of them are, you know, are even musical. I'm thinking of the great one in "The Sound of Music," which is one of the great musicalized goodbyes of all time.

CONAN: "Sound of Music," the great musical goodbyes of all time, if you like this sort of thing.


CONAN: Boy, she could hit a high note.

HORWITZ: She could hit a high note. And...

CONAN: And - but interesting, compare - contrast that with almost the exact, same idea in a very different setting, from "Cabaret."

JOEL GREY: (Singing in foreign language) Auf Weidersen. A biento...

HORWITZ: And the lights go out. Yeah. It's - that's one of my real favorites. And I'm glad we got these two musical ones in because I'm not sure that anybody...

CONAN: Was going to call with those.

HORWITZ: ...was going to call with those. But the "Cabaret" one is particularly - that just sent chills up my spine. That's Joel - the great Joel Grey, who won the Oscar and the Emmy for the same role. It's not often that that's done. Oh, no - the Oscar and the Tony...

CONAN: And the Tony, yes.

HORWITZ: ...for the same role, the emcee in "Cabaret." And it's a very chilling goodbye.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - this is Erica(ph), Erica with us from Sandy in Utah.

ERICA: Hi. A great goodbye is "frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" ...

CONAN: From...

ERICA: ...from "Gone With The Wind."

HORWITZ: One of the greats.

CONAN: Well, we can't let you just say it - good as that read was, Erica; but here's Clark Gable.


CONAN: Now, Rhett, without any pauses, there's so - wow.


HORWITZ: It's true. And, you know, I'm sure they worked on the reading of that line. You know, NPR's Bob Mondello did a piece in which he had that clip last week on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, and we all forget that just to use the word damn...

CONAN: The word damn.

HORWITZ: ...big deal. And so I'm sure he just did it very straight, very matter of factly, like any good Ohio man would do, and Clark Gable delivered.

CONAN: But Erica, we've been going through a lot of, well, goopy stuff. This is a kiss-off goodbye.

ERICA: Absolutely. I think it's really convincing. Scarlett had multiple chances with Rhett. He's had it. It's absolutely over. And that's one reason I'm glad there never was a "Gone with the Wind" sequel of this film.

HORWITZ: Well, there actually was, but we won't discuss that.

CONAN: Well, nobody ever paid any attention to it. Don't worry about it. All right, thanks very much for the call, Erica.


CONAN: Here's an email. This is from Amelia in Santa Rosa, Calif.: Maybe it's because I was a preteen when I saw the movie, but when Rose lets go of Jack, and he sinks to the bottom of that freezing ocean, it's just absolutely heart-wrenching.


CONAN: And that was, of course, the king of the rings. Anyway...


HORWITZ: Wht is it you said before about sappy, treacly, maudlin goodbyes.

CONAN: (LAUGHTER) Treacle - yeah, treacle.

HORWITZ: Yeah, yeah. There, you had it. I mean, I think that he was drowning in a sea of treacle there but, you know, it's - I don't know. I can't gainsay it. America loves it; the world loves it. I was saying good; goodbye, go.


HORWITZ: I'm not that cynical.

CONAN: Is it over yet?

HORWITZ: Yeah, yeah.

CONAN: We're talking with our favorite film buff Murray Horwitz, with the greatest goodbye scenes in movie history. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let's go to Janice. Janice with us from Lakewood in New York.

JANICE: Hi, Neal. Hi, Murray.


JANICE: I mean, did I get that name right? Sorry. The worst goodbye is going to be is when Neal Conan leaves.

CONAN: Ah, well, you're going to have to wait a couple of weeks for that.

JANICE: Yeah. And I'm dreading it. My favorite now is in "The Wizard of Oz," when Dorothy is getting ready to leave Oz to go back to Kansas, and she is crying and saying goodbye to the Tinman and the Lion and the Scarecrow.

And I was watch - this is my favorite movie; it always has been. And once a year, it was on TV and I'd always watch it. But I was watching it with a friend and her 3-year-old daughter. And we were explaining the movie, as it went along, to the 3-year-old. And she was just so getting into it, and it made us really get into it . And when it got to that part, the little girl started crying because Dorothy had to leave her friends, and she got us choked up. That was the only choking up moment I've ever had in "The Wizard of Oz" but...

CONAN: Janice, there's no place like Lakewood.


JANICE: Hey, that's right. It's beautiful here.

HORWITZ: You know, Janice is right about both points that she made. But the - for "The Wizard of Oz" one, I don't know; I get choked up a lot in "The Wizard of Oz" and sometimes, at odd moments. And to me, one of the great things about that goodbye is, it's not treacly; it's not sentimental. There's a hard edge of sentiment and the feelings that she has for these animals and robots, and the rest of...

CONAN: Creatures.

HORWITZ: Creatures, and they for her. But, you know, when that fool takes off on his - I can't, I don't know how to make it come down. And it's just - it's a wonderful moment of sentiment without being bathetic.

CONAN: Murray even cried when she was melting.


HORWITZ: Only a beautiful little girl like you could spoil my wonderful weekend - something like that.

CONAN: Something like that.


CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Janice.

JANICE: Thank you. And goodbye, Neal.

CONAN: Goodbye. And here is an email we have from Chris in - it looks like Penn State. And this is, of course, from "The Wrath of Khan." And it is Spock to Kirk.


CONAN: Well, of course, he comes back. He even meets...


HORWITZ: He meets himself.

CONAN: ...meets himself. He meets Kirk's dopple - it gets really complicated. Anyway, but at the time, he thought - he directed the movie; he thought he was giving up that part for once, and for good.

HORWITZ: And he thought it was real goodbye. So as I said, if you think it's - I mean, anything can happen. But if you think it's a real goodbye, then the scene qualifies.

CONAN: And I am now going to use a moment of personal privilege to nominate one of my own. It is a goodbye, and it's not character to character, well, unless you consider that it's - it is Slim Pickens...


CONAN: ...saying goodbye to us all. And, of course, it's the great movie "Dr. Strangelove." Well, this is - wait, a minute. Well, we may be premature here. It's cut 13.

HORWITZ: Is this what we're looking for?

CONAN: That's what we're looking for.

HORWITZ: And it's a great clip.

CONAN: And it's a great clip. Well, and since we don't appear to be having it - ah, yahoo!

HORWITZ: Yahoo - this is Slim Pickens riding a nuclear weapon down to the ground and...

CONAN: Which we know will trigger...

HORWITZ: That's right.

CONAN: ...the end of the world.

HORWITZ: And, you know, in a way it does - nah, it doesn't really qualify. But it's personal privilege, you get it, because...

CONAN: It's personal privilege.

HORWITZ: ...it really is Kubrick saying goodbye to the world at the end of this movie - the director, Stanley Kubrick - because it triggers an endless - seemingly endless succession of mushroom clouds and nuclear explosions, and Vera-Ellen singing, we'll meet again some lovely day - lucky day. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Singer-songwriter Vera Lynn - not actress and dancer Vera-Ellen - sang "We Will Meet Again."]

CONAN: But who gets the Murray, Murray?

HORWITZ: Well, there's a quick answer to that. And that's Renee Adore and John Gilbert as he marches off to battle, and she runs after him, in King Vidor's "The Big Parade" in 1926. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The movie was released in 1925.]

CONAN: Oh, another one we don't have a sound clip for it because...

HORWITZ: It's a silent movie. But it's probably the greatest goodbye, and the most famous one, in all of the silent movies. Your grandparents all knew this scene and you should look it up - "The Big Parade."

But the Murray really goes to a goodbye scene that can't be silent, and that can't have any pregnant pauses, and that's the goodbye that you and I are going to do right now, Neal, because it is goodbye not for you and me I hope, but you and me and our listeners. And I'm very, deeply grateful to you and to them. It's been indescribable pleasure all these years. And I hope people besides me will be visiting our visits on npr.org in the archives.


HORWITZ: But I have no intention of collapsing and dying in your arms right now.

CONAN: Well, good. And that's good. And I'm not taking on a handkerchief either. Murray, thank you. It's been such a pleasure.

HORWITZ: Always a pleasure. Thanks so much, Neal.

CONAN: Tomorrow, it's TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY, with a look at how ocean acidification is hurting the shellfish industry. And on Monday, Margot Adler will join us in the next of our series of "Looking Ahead" conversations. Come on back for that. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: Oh, look at all those mushroom clouds. It's so beautiful. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.


VERA LYNN: ...till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away. So will you please say hello to the folks that I know, tell them I won't be long. They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go I was singing this song. We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when. But I know we'll meet again some sunny day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: June 16, 2013 at 11:00 PM CDT
Our guest incorrectly stated that actress and dancer Vera-Ellen sang "We Will Meet Again." Actually, singer-songwriter Vera Lynn recorded the song. He also said the film The Big Parade was released in 1926. The correct year is 1925.