Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dying at the Movies

Leslie Howard's just been shot.

Have you ever noticed what happens when one of  the good guys is dying in the movies?  Or perhaps it’s one of the bad guys that we really like but he can’t be allowed to end the story alive?  Say he gets shot in the middle of a crowd.  People rush up, and someone says “Stand back, give him air!”  And that’s all  they do, except sometimes they loosen his tie and collar.
Getting him air is all anyone seems concerned about, but no one ever tries artificial respiration.  Hasn’t anyone in that whole crowd ever taken a Red Cross First Aid course?  Not even in the Boy Scouts?  Nobody tries to see where the bullet entered.  Nobody whips out a handkerchief to put pressure on the bleeding wound.
Occasionally someone yells “Get a doctor!” but no one calls 911.  Well, you can’t hold that against them; this is usually in black and white and they don’t have cell phones or 911 yet.  But when the doctor does push his way through the crowd (it’s always a male doctor) all he does is pull up one of the victim’s eyelids and shake his head significantly.
                Meanwhile the nearest and dearest – and sometimes this is a woman – cradles the victim’s head carefully so the camera can find the right close-up angle, and listens for the dying words, always important to the plot, carefully thought out and beautifully delivered.  After which the head suddenly drops and it’s all over.
                If you’re my age, you’ve probably seen someone die, maybe more than once.  And as far as I can tell, it’s never like that.  I was going to continue here, but I think I’ll quit.

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