Script Notes IV

Script Notes IV

Three times last year, I reeled off a series of movie and TV moments referencing New Haven.

Now I’ve recorded enough for a fourth. And while things usually go south by this point in a franchise, I hope you’ll agree: This release is more Rocky IV than Phantom Menace.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), 16:05: Steve Rogers may be stunted and sickly, but he’s stout of heart and pure of mind… except when he’s fibbing on his enlistment forms. It’s 1943, and Rogers is so eager to help defeat the Axis powers of World War II that he keeps taking—and failing—the Army’s initial medical exam, trying different enlistment stations in different cities in the hope that someone will squeak him through. This strategy finally catches up with him in a New York City exam room, where Army higher-up Dr. Abraham Erskine has a line on Rogers’s deceptive efforts—and his stout heart. “Where are you from, Mr. Rogers? Is it New Haven? Or Paramus? Five exams in different cities…” Rogers thinks he’s in trouble, but the doctor waves that fear away. “It’s not the exams I’m interested in. It’s the five tries,” Erskine says, seeing a man who might just be devoted and selfless enough to undergo a risky procedure Erskine’s been developing—and a man who might be worthy of the resulting power.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007), 1:03:38: Maverick historian Ben Gates is on another elaborate treasure hunt through the denominators of American history. As part of a quest to disprove a claim that his ancestor helped assassinate Abraham Lincoln, Gates needs to convince the current president of the United States to show him a book of national secrets whose very existence is secret. But in order to have any chance of that, Gates needs to meet the president—and build rapport, fast. He heads to POTUS’s birthday party at Mount Vernon and, sidling up to the birthday boy, pulls out a hand-drawn map of the grounds, which his quarry immediately clocks as a George Washington original. “I was an architectural history major at Yale,” the president explains to a guy who already knew that, which is why he brought the map.

A Double Life (1947), 9:33: Theater producer Max Lasker, self-described “dearest friend and mentor” to the venerable stage actor Anthony John, wants John to take the lead role in his next production. But the increasingly self-reflective star says the part gives him “the willies, on the stage and off,” then recounts how he became “an actor—a real actor. I had to teach myself to talk, do you know it? And move, and think. I had to tear myself apart and put myself together again and again.” Wondering whether he hasn’t already done that too many times, John advises Lasker not to “count on me too much for this” and leaves. Their colleague, director Victor Donlan, picks up John’s argument. “The way he has of becoming someone else every night, for just a few hours, so completely. No, don’t tell me that his whole system isn’t affected by it.” To which Lasker replies, “I swear I never saw such a thing. Here I bring up a great proposition, and everybody’s as gloomy as closing in New Haven.”

Speaking of which…

Repeat Performance (1947), 46:10: A play is being premiered and workshopped in New Haven as part of a well-worn pipeline to Broadway. But reviews by “local critics,” the director complains, haven’t been kind and may force the production to close before it can leave the Elm City. “We shouldn’t bring plays to this town anyway,” replies a coquettish hanger-on positioned as comic relief. “I never did like New Haven. Except for those Yale boys. They’re nice.”

Lost in Translation (2003), 27:49: Charlotte has accompanied John, her celebrity photographer husband, on a work trip to Japan. At their hotel, they run into Kelly, a bubbly movie star John knows from a past shoot. Kelly fawns and flirts, sharing her room number and the fact that she’s booked under the name “Evelyn Waugh”—a move Charlotte views as a failed attempt to appear cultured. “Evelyn Waugh was a man,” she says in mockery after Kelly departs, to which her husband replies, “Oh, come on. She’s nice. You know, not everyone went to Yale.”

Written by Dan Mims. Image features Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) sizing up Kelly (Anna Faris) in Lost in Translation.

More Stories