Ken Jennings


July 17, 2006

We’ve now officially been in the new house for one week. And yesterday, after days of looking, I actually found the boxes with the nail clippers and the basketball in them. My goal for today is to find the last remaining Holy Grail: the DVD remote.

As anticipated, last week’s Tuesday Trivia separated the adults-of-either-gender from the gender-neutral-word-for-children, as the saying goes. Only three players had perfect scores, so big ups to Raj Dhuwalia, Catherine Burnett, and Ney Rios. The big stumbling-block was the seventh question, which only eight other players figured out. (Congratulations to Jeffrey Harris, Scott Weiss, Jessica Burr, Tom McCudden, James La Chapelle, Chris Miller, Ray Hamel, and Jeremy Horwitz–the last two big guns really only attempted the final question.)

The question asked what “unusual distinction” was shared by eight movies: Grand Hotel, My Little Chickadee, The Red Shoes, Shane, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, Spider-Man, and Good Night and Good Luck. Guesses often revolved around cigarette smoking, the screenwriters appearing in the movie, and the directors being former actors. That last guess is literally true, if you count some cameos, silent-era extra work, and, apparently, Norman Jewison’s screen debut, but if you define “former actors” that broadly, it’s true of pretty much any movie ever made, so it’s not that “unusual (a) distinction,” sorry. Some other favorite guesses:

  • “None of them contains Jesus.” (Actually, they do, since He’s everywhere. Also, He has a brief cameo chatting with Stan Lee in Spider-Man.)
  • “They’re all based on something, like comic books or the Red Scare.” (If this is an “unusual distinction,” you should probably see more movies. I recommend Netflix)
  • “They all feature a nude pie-fight.” (Seven of them do, but John Ford replaced all the nude pie-fights in “The Nude Man Who Threw a Pie at Liberty Valance” with gunfights when he bought the movie rights. No No-Prize for you, effendi!)
  • “I’m going to go and kick my dog because of you.” ( cannot endorse any cruelty to household animals, unless they’re cats.)
  • “They’re all really studies of the existential truth that man is fundamentally alone.” (Actually, can you kick this guy instead?)

The correct answer is that the title of each movie is the last thing spoken in the movie. “Julian, take off the red shoes.” “Come back, Shane!” “This is my gift. This is my curse. I’m Spider-Man.” Et cetera.

Scott Weiss asks how I researched this. Some of them I remembered off the top of my head, but the best resource turned out to be one of my favorite movie sites, Tim Dirks’, which includes a list of memorable final movie lines. Filmsite helped convince me that “Shane” actually is the last line of Shane, as I thought I remembered. (IMDb has the movie ending with “Come back!” but I think there’s a barely audible “Shane” after that.)

Oddly, thinking about the end of Chinatown is what gave me the idea for this question, but it turns out that “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown,” is not the last line of Chinatown. The other cop then says something like “Clear the street, people!” Ah, that immortal line, “Clear the street.” Seems like Robert Towne could have tightened that up a bit. I also had to take The Last of the Mohicans off the list, because it doesn’t have a “The” when it gets spoken at the end of that movie.

I just looked at this week’s quiz, going out tomorrow, and it looks a little easier. So take heart! Also, now that everyone’s embarrassing scores are posted on the message boards, there’s a powerful incentive to submit answers even if you only know a question or two, so don’t be shy.

Good night, and good luck.

Posted by Ken at 3:37 pm