During the quiet scenes in "Julia" they talk about the "pretty scenery."
Throughout "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" they scream, then talk about how scared they are.
Midway through "Star Wars" they return from the concession stand and demand to be told, out loud, all that happened while they were gone.
They are those ever-increasing nuisances, the people who talk during films. Instead of spending an intimate evening with 'Jane Fonda, you end up hearing where the guy behind you went on his summer vacation.
Like other film buffs, I have collected not only a list of favorite films, but also favorite ways to quiet bothersome moviegoers.
Appropriately, there is a fair amount of fantasy involved. Just as I fantasize about running away with Sophia Loren, so do I imagine how Bogart would have handled the guy in the audience who talked during the big scene in "The Maltese Falcon."
The most direct way is simply to ask. The important thing is to ask right away, before they have ruined half the movie. Like Cagney would say, you have to be a take-charge kinda guy.
A polite "Would you please be quiet, we've having trouble hearing" is often effective. Talkers are usually so surprised by your courage that they are stunned into silence.
A variation reportedly successful involves asking the jobberers to "Please ask the people behind you to stop talking. I'm sure they're disturbing you as much as they're disturbing me."
But asking the character behind you to pipe down breaks the romantic spell of the movie, at least temporarily. No longer are you in the Civil War South with Scarlet and Rhett, trying to save Tara. Asking some orators to be quiet simply encourages them to talk more. When I saw "Paper Moon," two tipsy couples sat behind and exchanged what they thought were witticisms. I asked them to be quiet. They not only continued to talk, but added a new "joke" to their repertoire. Sotto voce they would say, "Oh yeah, we're supposed to be quiet, that guy in front of us can't hear."
So its time to try changing seats. Experienced moviegoiers know that the best seats are in the center of the theater on the aisle. Easy to sprint to others, even after the lights go down. When I went to see "Goldfinger" I was ready.
Before the film started I scanned the crowd. Like James Bond, I was looking and listening for signs of troublmakers - loud talk; empty popcorn boxes thrown, not placed, on the floor. I took an aisle seat and set up barriers to ward off intruders - my raincoat on the seat in front of me, my umbrella on the seat next to me.
It seemed a safe seat. Nonetheless, I noted a number of other quiet, isolated ones just down the aisle. Sure enough, three thugs in leather jackets came in late, sat behind me and started humming the "Goldfinger" theme song. Faster than you can say Fort Knox, I was down the aisle and into one of my refuge seats.
While these tactics get the job done, they are dull. I have, however, dreamed about other tactics both effective and exciting.
The "Godfather" method of keeping people quiet would be appropriate when I couldn't afford to get mad in public but did want to get even.
The couple behind me talks throughout the film. I ask them to be quiet. They don't show me any respect. I burn for vengeance. But just like Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, I remain silent. In my discreet, icy manner I follow them home. The next morning they awaken to find their bed covered with melted Milk Duds, the toes of their shoes filled with popcorn.
Another tactic I am going to use someday is the Woody Allen ploy. Like he used in "Annie Hall," quieting an obnoxious film professor who was spouting off as he stood in line outside a theater. Allen pulled McLuhan from the shadows and McLuhan told the professor to shut up.
As I see it, once Allen gets in the theater he wants an authority figure similar to McLuhan to keep the audience quiet. That authority figure is Sister Rose Edna, the only nun my big brother ever feared, the fabled wielder of the wooden ruler.
I am watching "The Bells of St. Mary's" when a guy two rows down starts talking. Sister Rose Edna silently walks down the aisle, grabs the guy's collar, puts her finger to her lips and says "SHHH." The way Sister Rose Edna says "SHHH" it is an order, not a request.
A few minute later, the guy is talking again. That does it. SMACK! the ruler lands on the back of his head. The guy is quiet. The whole theater is quiet. Nobody messes with Sister Rose Edna.
Finally there is the Robert DeNiro style, effective against the commentator who feels compelled to let everyone within five rows know he's read the reviews.
I am watching "Chinatown" when the commentator announces, "That guy with the knife is Roman Polanski." I started to fidget, just like DeNiro in "Taxi Driver."
The commentor continues. "You know, Roman Polanski, the director, Sharon Tate's . . ." I explode. I jump out of my seat and confront the commentator.
"You talkin' to me?" The commentator is terrified.
I continue. "Well, if you're not talkin' to me, shut up."
A hush falls over the audience.
I have never seen the DeNiro style put to use in a theater. But I have heard reports of a local moviegoer who apparently is a DeNiro understudy. He sat near a fellow who jingled keys. Throughout the film the keys jingled and the DeNiro understudy burned.
When the film ended he grabbed the keys and threw them down the aisle.Onlookers broke into applause. Another blow had been struck in the battle to bring back the "silent" movies.