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Learning from Movies: The Princess Bride

Peter Falk passed away on June 23rd. While many remember him as the great detective, Columbo, I always remember him from Murder by Death, The Cheap Detective, The Brink’s Job, Wim Wenders’ fabulous Wings of Desire, and from a little film Mr. Falk made the same year – The Princess Bride.

There was no reason to think that movie was going to work. First of all, it’s a fairy tale fantasy directed by a guy known mostly for This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner).

It was written by a guy best known for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (William Goldman). What did he know from fantasy romantic comedies?

It starred a barely-known-in-America actor (Cary Elwes), a model-turned actress (Robin Wright), several New York stage actors (Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn), and a bunch of comedians (Christopher Guest, Peter Cook, Mel Smith, Carol Kane, Billy Crystal). I mean, whose idea was it to cast a pro-wrestler (Andre the Giant)? I cannot imagine what it took to merge all those egos and different styles of preparation and performing.

Yet, it does work (96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, where 92% of the audience reports liking it, 8.1/10 on, gross in the USA almost double its reported budget, featured in The 100 Greatest Family Films). If you said to someone, “As you wish,” that person would know exactly what you meant – and could hear Peter Falk deliver his closing line.

So, in Peter Falk’s honor, I present to you some lessons from The Princess Bride after the break.

  • When I was your age, television was called books.
  • Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.
  • Murdered by pirates is good
  • Starting wars is a prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition
  • Rhyming is a relatively innocent way to annoy a boss
  • I do not think that word means what you think it means
  • “Concerned” is not the same thing as “nervous”
  • People in masks cannot be trusted
  • There’s not a lot of money in revenge
  • When you’re trying to kill someone, it costs nothing to be polite
  • Thibault cancels out Capa Ferro, unless you’ve studied your Agrippa
  • I am not left-handed
  • Masks are terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future
  • Always think everything is a trap. That will keep you alive.
  • Ibogaine powder is odorless, tasteless, and otherwise undetectable – but you can build up a tolerance for it
  • Never get involved in a land war in Asia
  • Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line
  • Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something
  • Just because no one ever has survived doesn’t mean it can’t be done
  • Lies do not become men of action
  • Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything
  • This is for posterity so be honest
  • There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive
  • You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles
  • Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe… they’re so perky, I love that.
  • Yes, you’re very smart. Now, shut up
  • There are consequences for killing. It might take 20 years for vengeance to find you, but that’s 20 years becoming the greatest swordsman in the world
  • Love can make even a farm boy into a hero – after a few years tutelage under a famous pirate, of course
Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.

As You Wish

What’s your favorite line from The Princess Bride? What movie would you like to see assaulted on a Friday, or praised on a Monday?

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