. . . Big Red One

. . .

Spoken, this is a very short story: The nicest father-and-son event I can remember was during my 1981 visit from college when we drove together to see Sam Fuller's war movie The Big Red One. When we got back home, my mother asked us, "So how was 'The Big Red One'?"

In print, it needs some explanation. Fuller's title refers to the numeral on the insignia of the First Infantry Division, and so each word carries equal weight: "the BIG, RED, ONE," like "the hootchie kootchie man" or "the solid gold Cadillac." Whereas my mother rendered its "one" more generically, swallowing it, as in "they're all very nice but I think I'll take the big red one."

When I told this story to Earl Jackson, I figured he'd say something about the Phallus, and then I'd say something about not talking that way about my mama, and so on. Instead he said, "That's evidence that English is a tonal language."

Juliet Clark has since pointed out another tonal moment in movie history: RKO's making Nicholas Ray change the title of his adapation of the novel Thieves Like Us (as in "all those judges and politicians are just thieves like us") because the audience might misread it as "The law-abiding public can't stand to watch this thing, but thieves LIKE us."


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Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.