All You Need To Make a Movie Is a Girl and a Gun

Jean-Luc Godard? D. W. Griffith? Evelyn D. Miller? Frederick James Smith? George W. Sears? John Philip Sousa? Abel Gance? Fredric Wertham? Charlie Chaplin? John Boorman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A powerful and jaded film director once listed the two crucial ingredients to achieve success:

All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun.

This adage has been attributed to French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard and influential early filmmaker D. W. Griffith (David Wark Griffith). Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In May 1922 the periodical “Shadowland” published an interview with D. W. Griffith conducted by Frederick James Smith. Griffith complained that audiences wanted unrealistic films with romanticized characters and broad humor. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1]1922 May, Shadowland: The Magazine of Magazines, The Public and the Photoplay by Frederick James Smith, Start Page 47, Quote Page 47, Brewster Publications, Jamaica, New York. (Verified with scans; … Continue reading

“I fear that we must go on sugar-coating life, idealizing our celluloid characters and falling back upon the absurdly palpable demand for crêpe-paper comedy, such as you find in ‘Way Down East’ and ‘Orphans of the Storm.’” And Mr. Griffith smiled.

We once heard an interesting tale of Mr. Griffith’s formula for screen success, a rather striking sidelight upon his view of what the public wants. “A gun and a girl,” ran his reported recipe for film popularity. And, when one comes to consider the matter, probably the director is right.

Thus, Smith credited Griffith with the remark about “a gun and a girl”, but Smith did not claim that Griffith spoke the phrase during the 1922 interview. Instead, the quotation was second-hand, and it was from Smith’s memory.

Jean Luc-Godard received credit for presenting this formula by 1992, but it was already in circulation. See details below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading All You Need To Make a Movie Is a Girl and a Gun

References

References
1 1922 May, Shadowland: The Magazine of Magazines, The Public and the Photoplay by Frederick James Smith, Start Page 47, Quote Page 47, Brewster Publications, Jamaica, New York. (Verified with scans; Internet Archive at archive.org) link

We Do Not Want Now and We Never Shall Want the Human Voice with Our Films

D. W Griffith? Harry Warner? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: D. W. Griffith was the most innovative and important director during the early days of cinema. However, he was unable to foresee the momentous shift away from silent movies. Apparently, he stated that audiences would never wish to hear recorded human voices in films. Is that true?

Quote Investigator: Yes. In 1924 David Wark Griffith published an article titled “The Movies 100 Years from Now” in “Collier’s: The National Weekly”. He speculated about the future of the art form that he loved, but his vision was surprisingly circumscribed. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:[1]1924 May 3, Collier’s: The National Weekly, The Movies 100 Years from Now by David Wark Griffith, Start Page 7, Quote Page 7, P. F. Collier and Son Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) … Continue reading

We do not want now and we never shall want the human voice with our films. Music, as I see it within that hundred years, will be applied to the visualization of the human being’s imagination. And, as in your imagination those unseen voices are always perfect and sweet, or else magnificent and thrilling, you will find them registering upon the mind of the picture patron, in terms of lovely music, precisely what the author has intended to be registered there.

Griffith pointed to the flaws in human speech that would detract from his idealized conception of cinema:

There will never be speaking pictures. Why should there be when no voice can speak so beautifully as music? There are no dissonant r’s and twisted consonants and guttural slurs and nasal twangs in beautiful music.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Do Not Want Now and We Never Shall Want the Human Voice with Our Films

References

References
1 1924 May 3, Collier’s: The National Weekly, The Movies 100 Years from Now by David Wark Griffith, Start Page 7, Quote Page 7, P. F. Collier and Son Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link