One of the great things about Production Code-era Hollywood is that it forced writers and directors to find roundabout ways of including adult or bawdy subject-matter in films. Just because some censor board decided that all movies had to be chaste didn’t mean filmmakers and audience wanted less adult-oriented films. But, instead of being crude and vulgar, movies of classic Hollywood hid sex in witty dialogue and double entendres. Then the 60s happened and the Production Code died and audiences became more accepting of open sexuality in films and the whole thing went to shit.
I’m fine with more direct sex and language in films. I love me some Judd Apatow. But wouldn’t it be nice to go back to the days where filmmakers couldn’t rely on spelling things out crudely and directly? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some more creativity in the dialogue of romantic comedies or dramas? Those thinly veiled double entendres were witty and funny and bold and sexy as hell, and I want them back!
Neff: I wish you’d tell me what’s engraved on that anklet.
Phyllis: Just my name.
Neff: As for instance?
Neff: Phyllis, huh. I think I like that.
Phyllis: But you’re not sure.
Neff: I’d have to drive it around the block a couple of times.
Phyllis: (Standing up.) Mr. Neff, why don’t you drop by tomorrow evening around 8:30? He’ll be in then.
Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him, weren’t you?
Neff: Yeah, I was. But I’m sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.
Phyllis: There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff, 45 miles an hour.
Neff: How fast was I going, Officer?
Phyllis: I’d say around 90.
Neff: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Neff: Suppose it doesn’t take.
Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
Neff: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband’s shoulder.
Neff: That tears it… (He takes his hat and briefcase after his advances are coldly rebuffed.) 8:30 tomorrow evening, then.
Phyllis: That’s what I suggested.
Neff: You’ll be here too?
Phyllis: I guess so. I usually am.
Neff: Same chair, same perfume, same anklet?
Phyllis: I wonder if I know what you mean.
Neff: (Opening the entrance door.) I wonder if you wonder.
Sexy and fun. It’s fun to listen to that kind of dialogue. Certainly more fun than if the characters were speaking more frankly, and sure as hell hotter.
We need more writing like that. That’s all I want. It’s sad that the few modern writers of witty dialogue don’t try to write that sort of sexy romantic exchange. All the effort is placed into sounding cool, but with cool comes coldness, and what I want is more heat. Steam it up! Bring back the double entendre!