Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The last word

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If asked to name the greatest curtain line in movie history, most critics would probably go with Joe E. Brown’s classic topper in Some Like It Hot, which is a great line, but so famous an example that it nearly ruins the joke itself. Second place would probably go to the last line of Casablanca, which still retains all its magic, even though I’ve heard it close to thirty times. But my own favorite curtain line is from David Mamet’s The Winslow Boy, based on Terence Rattigan’s play, which the charming Gill Fraser Lee has kindly allowed me to discuss at greater length on her Jeremy Northam page.

The closing line of a book can have great power as well. Ever since I was very young, I’ve had an almost superstitious reverence for the last lines of novels: I still take pains to avoid seeing them before I’ve finished the book, and when I reach the final page, I’ll often go so far as to cover the last paragraph with a piece of paper—or my hand—so that my eye doesn’t stray to it by accident. And it’s not surprising that I’ve also thought a great deal about closing lines in my own writing. Tomorrow, I’ll be taking you through a few of my favorite last lines, and, later this week, tackling the even stickier subject of endings in general.

Written by nevalalee

January 10, 2011 at 7:27 am

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