To mark her second blogiversary, L.G. Keltner of Writing Off the Edge is hosting the Endings Blogfest, the opposite of her Beginnings Blogfest from last year. Participants can write about any sort of endings which move them.
Though this is primarily a writing and book blog, unlike my unstructured old hodgepodge at Angelfire, I like to write about other interests once in awhile. Regular readers of my old Angelfire site knew I love silent and early sound films, and went through a period, from late 2004 through perhaps 2006 or 2007, of writing posts which were largely about classic film. Here, then, are a few of my favourite film endings.
So many people, even if they personally aren’t big Chaplin fans, have felt emotionally gutted by this powerful ending. It’s hard to watch it, or even just think about it, without getting choked up.
Modern Times (1936) is my personal favourite Chaplin film, and his last stand against sound film. There’s actually a fair bit of sound, but it all comes from machines. In a scene shortly before the ending, the Tramp finally speaks for the first and only time, appropriately in a nonsense song. The ending is so poignant and bittersweet, knowing that we’ll never see the Tramp again, but that this time, he’s walking into the unknown with a companion and not all alone. Now he exists in all of us, as a beautiful race memory.
Some people think the ending monologue is preachy and out of place, but I find it really emotionally moving. If only more people would heed this plea to come together and seek peace. But then again, everyone ignored President Washington’s warning, in his beautiful Farewell Address, against the dangers of political parties and too-large standing armies. They also ignored President Eisenhower’s farewell warning against the military-industrial-congressional complex. (And as a huge Three Stooges fan, I feel obliged to point out that the first film attacking Nazism was really You Nazty Spy! It came nine months before The Great Dictator.)
On a lighter note, I love the endings of Laurel and Hardy’s A Chump at Oxford (1940). It seems as though most people who aren’t serious fans know Laurel and Hardy best by their shorts, but they did a lot of features too. Many people feel A Chump at Oxford is one of their best and strongest. Near the end, Stan hits his head and thinks he’s a Lord Paddington, which involves ordering Ollie around and not really respecting him. When Stan hits his head again and comes back to himself, it takes awhile for Ollie to realise the real dimwitted Stan is back. Knowing they were closer than brothers in real life makes the final scene so sweet.
My favourite Marx Brothers’ film is A Day at the Races (1937). The ending always puts a smile on my face. I kind of guessed, the first time around, how it would turn out, but that didn’t take away from the pure joy of the ending. Sadly, they never made a film this perfect again.
In writing, I tend to save my really deep, serious, profound endings for my long books. I also like to tie in the last line, or thereabouts, with the title and its significance. The final lines of my magnum opus (not including two brief Epilogues) were modeled on the end of Deuteronomy 34, the final chapter of the Torah. (I wrote the finale in advance of actually finishing, so I wouldn’t have to dread getting closer to Cinni’s death.) Every Simchat Torah, it gives me chills to read that powerful, emotional ending.
Shameless request for interview subjects: My hiatused contemporary historical Justine Grown Up is third in my queue, but I can’t write the dramatic penultimate chapter, “Sing Blue Silver Snowstorm,” without at least one firsthand source to interview! I’d hate to get so close to the end but have to put the book on hiatus again. If you (or someone you know) were at the Duran Duran show in Hartford on 13 March 1984, “please, please tell me now!”