By Larry Teren
Some say that the most famous last line in movie history is from 1959’s Some Like It Hot when Joe E. Brown says to Jack Lemmon “nobody’s perfect!” on a motor boat as they speed away under the THE END credit. Lemmon is dressed in drag as the character he plays is hiding out from the Mob who want to kill him for witnessing the famous St. Valentine Day Massacre. Up until the very end of the film, the viewer is not sure if Brown ever realizes the folly of having the hots for a cross dresser whom he thinks is an attractive female. Brown’s retort is in response to Lemmon exasperatingly telling Brown that his charade is finally over. “But, I’m a man!” he shouts. It seems as if Brown doesn’t care.
In today’s world this loses a bit of the surprise and sharp satire that was well understood in the early 1960’s. Today, society seems to accept a man being interested romantically with another man. But I wouldn’t call it the perfect setup. And it appears that Brown’s character would admit to that as well.
For the record, two other great movie ending lines up there in the top five are: “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship” and “Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?”
The first is spoken, of course, by Humphrey Bogart, in 1942’s Casablanca, as the character named Rick, to Claude Rains after Rick gives up his opportunity to escape from the Nazis with Ilsa, the woman he loved so that she can go back somewhat honorably to her husband’s side. The other line is spoken by Edward G. Robinson in 1931’s Little Ceasar.
Some Like It hot also starred Marilyn Monroe. She had previously been directed by Billy Wilder in The Seven Year Itch five years earlier and he knew what type of of a pain in the neck she was in showing up late or not at all for filming sequences as well as doing her lines the way they were written. Still, he felt that no one was perfect and used her again in this movie despite the headaches she caused.
The game of baseball is a different story when it comes to perfection. Perfection is not a permanent thing but a moment in time where everything goes right. In fact, some pitchers who have tossed perfect games have found that they could not live up to the hype afterward while others experienced problems in life that evened the score of success.
Don Larsen was at best a journeyman pitcher who got his claim to fame in the 1956 World Series. His career mark was 10 games under .500. In 1954, prior to being on the Yankees, he was 3-21 (!) for the hapless Baltimore Orioles, their first year after moving from St. Louis. He was lucky enough to be on a handful of World Series championships only because he was on the Yankees.
Catfish Hunter got his in 1968 and had an outstanding career being on several World Series winners with Oakland and the Yankees. However, being a perfect game pitcher did not make him immune to living a long, satisfying retirement to brag with family and friends. He died in 1999 at age 53.
Dallas Braden got his in 2010 pitching for the Oakland Athletics. He has so far had a mediocre career at 26-36. Fame can be fleeting but time will tell soon enough.
Phil Humber pitched his early this April, 2012 season for the Chicago White Sox. As May closed out, it took him more than a month to get that elusive next win regardless of how many hits and runs he gave up. In fact, during that time span, he went 0-2 with an 8.22 era in six starts.
I still remember listening to the radio call of the game in September, 1965 when Sandy Koufax tossed a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs. What is lost in memory for most people is that his opponent pitched a one hitter that was not given up until late in the game. Koufax pitched three other no-hitters, albeit not perfect games. The strain on getting his throwing arm muscles to exert such power against those standing in the batter’s box caused him to prematurely end his career. At the age of 31, he was through. It was a brilliant twelve year career in which the last five no one else has ever been able to duplicate.
A discussion of the concept of perfect would not be complete without mention of the movie The Perfect Storm. In this case, weather conditions had to be so exact as to cause a calamity at sea for a fishing vessel. I would prefer to not think of anything that causes a disastrous result ‘perfect’.
I guess this would be the perfect time to end this discussion unless you prefer to discuss Hanna Montana and her Nobody’s Perfect song.