Best Film Speeches
and Monologues


Best Film Speeches and Monologues
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Description of Film Speech/Monologue

Camille (1936)
Screenwriter(s): Zoe Akins, Frances Marion, James Hilton

Words to a Dying Camille

Armand Duval (Robert Taylor) made a promise to Marguerite Gautier (Greta Garbo) as she died in his arms:

Shhh. Don't say such things, Marguerite, even if we can't go to the country today. Think of how happy we were once, how happy we shall be again. Think of the day you found the four leaf clover, and all the good luck it's going to bring us. Think of the vows we heard Nichette and Gustave make and that we're going to make to each other. This is for life Marguerite...

When he realized she had died, he sobbed:

Marguerite. Marguerite! No, don't leave me. Marguerite, come back!

Fury (1936)
Screenwriter(s): Bartlett Cormack, Fritz Lang

Vengeful - Vindicated, and Finally Revealing Himself

In this expressionistic crime drama about mob violence, Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) was wrongly-accused and arrested on child kidnapping charges - and jailed, because of circumstantial evidence. While in his cell in the small midwestern town of Strand, the jailhouse was set on fire by a raging lynch mob, with Joe inside screaming for his life, and he presumably was burned to death. However, he survived and vowed to avenge his wrong-doing with a vengeful frame-up of the lynchers, while everyone continued to presume that he was dead.

At first, he made a sudden, shadowy reappearance in a doorway at the apartment of his brothers Charlie (Frank Albertson) and Tom (George Walcott), where he recalled his escape from the jail when it was dynamited: ("I could smell myself burn"). He vowed to avenge his wrong-doing with a vengeful frame-up of the lynchers, while everyone continued to presume that he was dead:

"I'm burned to death by a mob of animals. I'm legally dead and they're legally murderers. That I'm alive's not their fault. But I know 'em. I know a lot of 'em and they'll hang for it, accordin' to the law which says if you kill somebody, you gotta be killed yourself. But I'll give 'em the chance they didn't give me. They'll get a legal trial in a legal courtroom. They'll have a legal judge and a legal defense. They'll get a legal sentence and a legal DEATH!"

During a trial of the multiple lynch mob members for first-degree murder, Joe hid out. The district attorney projected newsreel film to provide "stop-action" conclusive film evidence to identify the twenty-two individuals in the mob who were complicit and guilty of the crime of the jail 'murder', after they had already given perjured testimony.

During the climactic ending scene, Joe realized that his frame-up had gone far enough and that he had become a vindictive, one-man 'lynch mob' himself. He strode into the courtroom and addressed Judge Daniel Hopkins (Frederick Burton) just before guilty verdicts were to be read for the 22 convicted individuals - in the film's final lines of dialogue:

"I know that by coming here, I saved the lives of these twenty-two people, but that isn't why I'm here. I don't care anything about saving them. They're murderers. I know the law says they're not because I'm still alive, but that's not their fault. And the law doesn't know that a lot of things that were very important to me, silly things maybe, like a belief in justice, and an idea that men were civilized, and a feeling of pride that this country of mine was different from all others. The law doesn't know that those things were burned to death within me that night. I came here today for my own sake. I couldn't stand it anymore. I couldn't stop thinking about them with every step and every breath I took, and I didn't believe Katherine when she said... Katherine is the young lady who was going to marry me. Maybe someday after I've paid for what I did, they'll be a chance to begin again, and then maybe Katherine and I..."

He turned to kiss and embrace Katherine as the film ended on a hopeful and optimistic note.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Screenwriter: Robert Riskin

Peculiar Behaviors Don't Make One Crazy

In the final courtroom scene, tuba-playing Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) finally defended himself, pointing out the peculiarities of others and of himself - he debunked the charges against his tuba-playing:

About my playing the tuba. Seems like a lot of fuss has been made about that. If, if a man's crazy just because he plays the tuba, then somebody'd better look into it, because there are a lot of tuba players running around loose. 'Course, I don't see any harm in it. I play mine whenever I want to concentrate. That may sound funny to some people, but everybody does something silly when they're thinking. For instance, the judge here is, is an O-filler....An O-filler. You fill in all the spaces in the O's with your pencil. I was watching him. (Laughter)

That may make you look a little crazy, your Honor, just, just sitting around and filling in O's, but I don't see anything wrong 'cause that helps you think. Other people are doodlers....This is the piece of paper he was scribbling on. I can't figure it out. One minute it looks like a chimpanzee, and the next minute, it looks like a picture of Mr. Cedar. You look at it, Judge. Exhibit A for the defense. It looks kind of stupid, doesn't it, your Honor? But I guess that's alright if Dr. Von Haller has to doodle to help him think, that's his business. Everybody does something different. Some people are ear-pullers, some are nail-biters. That Mr. Semple over there is a nose-twitcher. (Laughter) And the lady next to him is a knuckle-cracker. (Laughter) So you see, everybody does silly things to help them think. Well, I play the tuba.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Screenwriter(s): Robert Riskin

An Argument for Philanthropy

Mr. Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) then went on to defend the "rather fantastic" charge that he was giving away his entire fortune. He successfully argued for noblesse oblige and philanthropy - those who had money should help those who were the 'underdog':

From what I can see, no matter what system of government we have, there will always be leaders and always be followers. It's like the road out in front of my house. It's on a steep hill. Every day I watch the cars climbing up. Some go lickety-split up that hill on high, some have to shift into second, and some sputter and shake and slip back to the bottom again. Same cars, same gasoline, yet some make it and some don't. And I say the fellas who can make the hill on high should stop once in a while and help those who can't. That's all I'm trying to do with this money. Help the fellas who can't make the hill on high. It's like I'm out in a big boat, and I see one fellow in a rowboat who's tired of rowing and wants a free ride, and another fellow who's drowning. Who would you expect me to rescue? Mr. Cedar - who's just tired of rowing and wants a free ride? Or those men out there who are drowning? Any ten year old child will give you the answer to that.

San Francisco (1936)
Screenwriter(s): Anita Loos

San Francisco: "The Wickedest City in the World"

San Francisco's Nob Hill socialite Mrs. Burley (Jessie Ralph), a former Irish immigrant washerwoman named Maisie, advised singer Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald), to try to win her over. She explained how she had a "Blackie Norton" (the Clark Gable character in the film, a saloonkeeper and gambler) in her own early life, but now understood that Mary should marry her son Jack Burley (Jack Holt) for the future of the city - otherwise, wickedness would continue:

They call this the wickedest city in the world and it's a bitter shame, it is. For deep down underneath all our evil and sin, we've got right here in San Francisco the finest set of human bein's that was ever rounded up on one spot. Sure, they had to have wild adventure in their hearts and dynamite in their blood to set out for here in the first place. That's why they're so full of untamed deviltry now!

But we can't go on like this. Sinful and blasphemous, with no fear for God in our hearts. That's the reason why I want my boy to have a good woman near him, and raise fine, beautiful kids for the glory of our heritage. You can make a fine man of him. And maybe one day, you'll be proud that you met up with the family of old Maisie Burley, the washerwoman.

The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)
Screenwriter(s): Sheridan Gibney, Pierre Collings

An Exhortation to One's Students To Not Be Discouraged by Skepticism and Opposition

In the film's last lines, vindicated French chemist and microbiologist Dr. Louis Pasteur (Paul Muni) addressed students at the Academy of Medicine:

You young men - doctors and scientists of the future - do not let yourselves be tainted by apparent skepticism, nor discouraged by the sadness of certain hours that creep over nations. Do not become angry at your opponents, for no scientific theory has ever been accepted without opposition. Live in the serene peace of libraries and laboratories. Say to yourselves, first, 'What have I done for my instruction?' And as you gradually advance, 'What am I accomplishing?' Until the time comes when you may have the immense happiness of thinking that you have contributed in some way to the welfare and progress of mankind.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Screenwriter(s): Norman Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald, Geza Herczeg

Charges of Cover-Up and Corruption: "The Truth is On the March and Nothing Will Stop It"

Play clip (excerpt): The Life of Emile Zola

Firebrand Emile Zola (Paul Muni) asserted his truthfulness (and risked libel) as he brought charges of Army corruption, cover-up and injustice, in an open letter to the President of France, about the "abominable Dreyfus affair" (which acquitted spy Major Walsin-Esterhazy and convicted instead scapegoated and innocent Jewish Captain Dreyfus). His letter contained a series of famous "I Accuse" statements:

Mr. President of the Republic. Permit me to tell you that your record without blame so far is threatened with a most shameful blot - this abominable Dreyfus affair. A court-martial has recently, by order, dared to acquit one Esterhazy, a supreme slap at all truth, all justice. But since they have dared, I too shall dare. I shall tell the truth. Because if I did not, my nights would be haunted by the specter of an innocent being expiating, under the most frightful torture, a crime he never committed.

It is impossible for honest people to read the iniquitous bill of accusation against Dreyfus without being overcome with indignation and crying out their revulsion. Dreyfus knows several languages - crime. He works hard - crime. No compromising papers are found in his apartment - crime. He goes occasionally to the country of his origin - crime. He endeavors to learn everything - crime. He's not easily worried - crime. He is easily worried - also a crime. The Minister of War, the Chief of the General Staff and the Assistant Chief never doubted that the famous Boudreaux was written by Esterhazy. But, the condemnation of Esterhazy involved revision of the Dreyfus verdict. And that, the General Staff wished to avoid at all cost.

For over a year, the Minister of War and the General Staff have known that Dreyfus is innocent, but they've kept this knowledge to themselves. And those men sleep, and they have wives and children they love. One speaks of the 'honor of the Army.' The Army is the people of France themselves. And the Dreyfus affair is a matter pertaining to that Army. Dreyfus cannot be vindicated without condemning the whole General Staff. That is why the General Staff has screened Esterhazy, to demolish Dreyfus once more.

Such, then, Mr. President, is the simple truth. It is a fearful truth. But I affirm with intense conviction - the truth is on the march, and nothing will stop it. Mr. President.

I accuse Colonel Dort of having been the diabolical agent of the affair, of continuing to defend his deadly work through three years of revolting machinations.
I accuse the Minister of War of having concealed decisive proofs of the innocence of Dreyfus.
I accuse the Chief of Staff and the Assistant Chief of Staff of being accomplices in the same crime.
I accuse the Commander of the Paris garrison of the most monstrous partiality.
I accuse the War Office of having viciously led a campaign to misdirect public opinion and cover up its sins.
I accuse the first court-martial of violating all human rights and condemning a prisoner on testimony kept secret from him.
And finally, I accuse the Esterhazy court-martial of covering up this illegality by order, thus, in turn, committing the judicial crime of acquitting a guilty man.

In making these accusations, I am aware that I render myself open to prosecution for libel. But, that does not matter. The action I take is designed only to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. Let there be a trial in the full light of day! I am waiting.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Screenwriter(s): Norman Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald, Geza Herczeg

Defense of Captain Dreyfus by Emile Zola - "I Swear That Dreyfus Is Innocent"

Play clip (excerpt): The Life of Emile Zola

Emile Zola (Paul Muni) delivered an inspiring and impassioned closing argument to the jury in defense of himself and Captain Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut), a scapegoated and innocent Jewish army officer for a breach in security - framed for an espionage crime he did not commit and imprisoned on Devil's Island in French Guyana:

...But from my struggling youth until today, my principal aim has been to strive for truth. That is why I entered this fight. All my friends have told me that it was insane for a single person to oppose the immense machinery of the law, the glory of the Army, and the power of the State. They warned me that my actions would be mercilessly crushed, that I would be destroyed. But what does it matter if an individual is shattered, if only justice is resurrected?

It has been said that the State summoned me to this Court. That is not true. I am here because I wished it. I, alone, have chosen you as my judges. I, alone, decided that this abominable affair should see the light, so that France might at last know all, and voice her opinion. My act has no other object. My person is of no account. I'm satisfied. But my confidence in you was not shared by the State. They did not dare say all about the whole undividable affair and submit it to your verdict. That is no fault of mine. You saw for yourselves how my defense was incessantly silenced. Gentlemen, I know you. You are the heart, the intellect of my beloved Paris, where I was born and which I've studied for 40 years. I see you with your families under the evening lamp. I accompany you into your factories, your shops. You're all workers and righteous men. You will not say like many, 'What does it matter if an innocent man is undergoing torture on Devil's Island? Is the suffering of one obscure person worth the disturbance of a great country?' Perhaps though, you've been told that by punishing me, you will stop a campaign that is injurious to France.

Gentlemen, if that is your idea, you are mistaken. Look at me. Have I the look of a hireling, a liar, a traitor? I'm only a free writer who has given his life to work, and who will resume it tomorrow. And I am not here defending myself! Tremendous pressure has been put upon you. 'Save the army!' 'Convict Zola and save France!' I say to you, pick up that challenge! Save the army!! And save France. But do it by letting truth conquer. Not only is an innocent man crying out for justice, but more - much more - a great nation is in desperate danger of forfeiting her honor. Do not take upon yourselves a fault - the burden of which you will forever bear in history. A judicial blunder has been committed! The condemnation of an innocent man induced the acquittal of a guilty man.

And now, today, you're asked to condemn me because I rebelled on seeing our country embarked on this terrible course. At this solemn moment in the presence of this tribunal, which is the representative of human justice, before you gentlemen of the jury, before France, before the whole world, I swear that Dreyfus is innocent. By my 40 years of work, by all that I have won, by all that I have written to spread the spirit of France, I swear that Dreyfus is innocent. May all that melt away. May my name perish if Dreyfus be not innocent. He is innocent.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Screenwriter(s): Norman Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald, Geza Herczeg

Eulogy for Emile Zola: "Let Us Not Mourn Him...Let Us Envy Him"

Play clip (excerpt): The Life of Emile Zola

Novelist Anatole France (Morris Carnovsky) presented a stirring eulogy on October 5, 1902 for his friend 62 year-old Emile Zola, who tragically died of carbon monoxide poisoning a few days earlier. He was found in the bedroom of his Paris apartment, asphyxiated by the fumes of a defective fireplace. Rampant rumors of murder were never proven:

Let us not mourn him. Let us rather salute that bright spirit of his which will live forever, and like a torch, enlighten a younger generation inspired to follow him. You who are enjoying today's freedom, take to your hearts the words of Zola. Do not forget those who fought the battles for you and bought your liberty with their genius and their blood. Do not forget them and applaud the lies of fanatical intolerance. Be human. For no man in all the breadth of our land more fervently loved humanity than Zola. He had the simplicity of a great soul. He was enjoying the fruits of his labor -- fame, wealth, security -- when suddenly, out of his own free will, he tore himself from all the peaceful pleasures of his life, from the work he loved so much because he knew that there is no serenity save injustice; no repose save in truth.

At the sound of his brave words, France awakened from her sleep. How admirable is the genius of our country. How beautiful the soul of France which for centuries taught right and justice to Europe and the world. France is once again today the land of reason and benevolence because one of her sons, through an immense work and a great action, gave rise to a new order of things based on justice and the rights common to all men. Let us not pity him because he suffered and endured. Let us envy him. Let us envy him because his great heart won him the proudest of destinies: He was a moment of the conscience of man.

Lost Horizon (1937)
Screenwriter(s): Robert Riskin, Sidney Buchman (uncredited)

The Purpose of Shangri-La

The elderly High Priest or Lama (Sam Jaffe) described the pacifistic mission behind Shangri-La, an alpine Eden, while introducing young newcomer, British diplomat Robert Conway (Ronald Colman) to its mysteries where time had virtually stopped. Conway asked for a "reason" explaining why his life should go on and on. With a world destined to be destroyed by wars, violence, and lust for power and domination (World War II was looming), the High Priest explained that Shangri-La was created as a sanctuary for civilization's rare treasures - ready to step in with "new life" after apocalyptic annihilation:

We have reason. It is the entire meaning and purpose of Shangri-La. It came to me in a vision long, long ago. I saw all the nations strengthening, not in wisdom, but in the vulgar passions and the will to destroy. I saw their machine power multiplying until a single weaponed man might match a whole army. I foresaw a time when man exulting in the technique of murder, would rage so hotly over the world, that every book, every treasure would be doomed to destruction. This vision was so vivid and so moving that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and culture that I could and preserve them here against the doom toward which the world is rushing. Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing headlong against each other, compelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. The time must come, my friend, when this orgy will spend itself, when brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword.

Against that time is why I avoided death and am here and why you were brought here. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here. For here, we shall be with their books and their music and the way of life based on one simple rule: Be kind. When that day comes, it is our hope that the brotherly love of Shangri-La will spread throughout the world. Yes, my son, when the strong have devoured each other, the Christian ethic may at last be fulfilled, and the meek shall inherit the Earth. (The High Lama stood, smiling with a broad, toothless grin)

Lost Horizon (1937)
Screenwriter(s): Robert Riskin, Sidney Buchman (uncredited)

"There's A Wish For Shangri-La in Everyone's Heart"

Orphaned after her explorer-parents died during a lost expedition in the "wild country beyond the pass," 30 year-old Sondra (Jane Wyatt) described how she was brought up at Shangri-La, and the aging process had slowed. She spoke to world-weary Robert Conway (Ronald Colman) who was still astounded by the promise of life at Shangri-La and his feelings of deja-vu, as they talked in a cherry-blossoming orchard:

Perhaps because you've always been a part of Shangri-La without knowing it... I'm sure of it, just as I'm sure there's a wish for Shangri-La in everyone's heart. I've never seen the outside world, but I understand there are millions and millions of people who are supposed to be mean and greedy. And I just know that secretly, they are all hoping to find a garden spot where there is peace, security, where there's beauty and comfort, where they wouldn't have to be mean and greedy. Oh, I just wish the whole world might come to this valley.

Stage Door (1937)
Screenwriter(s): Morrie Ryskind, Anthony Veiller

"The Calla Lilies Are in Bloom Again"

Rich/refined actress Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn) performed on stage after her friend Kaye's (Andrea Leeds) suicide:

The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower, suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in memory of something that has died...Have you gathered here to mourn, or are you here to bring me comfort?...(She touched the ring on her finger given to her by Kaye) I've learned something about love that I never knew before. That I never knew before. You speak of love when it's too late. Help should come to people when they need it. Why are we always so helpful to each other when it's no longer any use?...This is my home. This is where I belong. Love was in this house once, and for me it will always be here, nowhere else...One should always listen closely when people say goodbye because sometimes they're, they're really saying farewell.

This speech was followed by her equally moving curtain call eulogy speech to modestly give tribute to Kaye.

Best Film Speeches and Monologues
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