Monologues are common with stage plays, but not so much with movies. Of course, “motion pictures” are primarily a visual medium — motion pictures — so dialogue, while important, is a secondary form of communication cinematically. However, great dialogue can transcend the adage, “show it, don’t say it.” And perhaps nothing better exemplifies that point than this great scene in the movie Jaws, screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, based on the novel by Peter Benchley.
Brody is looking at a small white patch on Quint's other forearm. BRODY (pointing) What's that one, there? QUINT (changing) Tattoo. Had it taken off. HOOPER Don't tell me -- 'Death Before Dishonor.' 'Mother.' 'Semper Fi.' Uhhh... 'Don't Tread on Me.' C'mon -- what? QUINT 'U.S.S Indianapolis.' 1944. BRODY What's that, a ship? HOOPER (incredulous) You were on the Indianapolis? In '45? Jesus... Quint remembering. CLOSE ON QUINT QUINT Yeah. The U.S.S. Indianapolis. June 29th, 1945, three and a half minutes past midnight, two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine slammed into our side. Two or three. We was still under sealed orders after deliverin' the bomb...the Hiroshima bomb...we was goin' back across the Pacific from Tinian to Leyte. Damn near eleven hundred men went over the side. The life boats was lashed down so tight to make the bomb run we couldn't cut a single one adrift. Not one. And there was no rafts. None. That vessel sank in twelve minutes. Yes, that's all she took. We didn't see the first shark till we'd been in the water about an hour. A thirteen-footer near enough. A blue. You measure that by judgin' the dorsal to the tail. What we didn't know... of course the Captain knew...I guess some officers knew... was the bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signals was sent. What the men didn't know was that they wouldn't even list us as overdue for a week. Well, I didn't know that -- I wasn't an officer -- just as well perhaps. So some of us were dead already -- in the water -- just hangin' limp in our lifejackets. And several already bleedin'. And the three hundred or so laying on the bottom of the ocean. As the light went, the sharks came crusin'. We formed tight groups -- somewhat like squares in an old battle -- You know what I mean -- so that when one come close, the man nearest would yell and shout and pound the water and sometimes it worked and the fish turned away, but other times that shark would seem to look right at a man -- right into his eyes -- and in spite of all shoutin' and poundin' you'd hear that terrible high screamin' and the ocean would go red, then churn up as they ripped him. Then we'd reform our little squares. By the first dawn the sharks had taken more than a hundred. Hard for me to count but more than a hundred. I don't know how many sharks. Maybe a thousand. I do know they averaged six men an hour. All kinds -- blues, makos, tigers. All kinds. (Pause) In the middle of the second day, some of us started to go crazy from the thirst. One fella cried out he saw a river, another claimed he saw a waterfall, some started to drink the ocean and choked on it, and some left our little groups -- our little squares -- and swam off alone lookin' for islands and the sharks always took them right away. It was mainly the young fellas that did that -- the older ones stayed where they was. That second day -- my life jacket rubbed me raw and that was more blood in the water. Oh my. On Thursday morning I bumped up against a friend of mine -- Herbie Robinson from Cleveland -- a bosun's mate -- it seemed he was asleep but when I reached over to waken him, he bobbed in the water and I saw his body upend because he'd been bitten in half beneath the waist. Well Chief, so it went on -- bombers high overhead but nobody noticin' us. Yes -- suicides, sharks, and all this goin' crazy and dyin' of thirst. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura swung around and came in low. Yes. He did that. Yes, that pilot saw us. And early evenin', a big fat PBY come down out of the sky and began the pickup. That was when I was most frightened of all -- while I was waitin' for my turn. Just two and a half hours short of five days and five nights when they got to me and took me up. Eleven hundred of us went into that ocean -- three hundred and sixteen got out. Yeah. Nineteen hundred and forty five. June the 29th. (pause) Anyway, we delivered the bomb.
And here’s the scene:
Incredible delivery by Robert Shaw. Incredible scene.
[Originally posted September 19, 2008]