Occasionally, you can actually learn something from the Modern Language Association (MLA) but it may not necessarily be about literature. In the penultimate scene of Carol Reed’s 1949 cinematic classic, Orson Welles, as the amoral villain Harry Lime, says:
“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
It turns out that not only did Welles write the line but the author of the screenplay, novelist Graham Greene, thought it was the best one in the film, according to Matthew Paul Carlson of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Carlson spoke on Greene’s sub-career writing screenplays at the 2012 MLA convention in Seattle.
“Greene claimed the screenplay was never meant to be read,” Carlson claimed. “It was only meant to be seen.”
Nevertheless, Greene did create a memorable one in The Third Man.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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