from the desk of H. Bowie...

desktop with typewriter


Robert Riskin



Grandpa: Penny why don’t you write a play about ism-mania?

Penny: Ism-mania?

Grandpa: Yeah, sure, you know – communism, fascism, voodooism. Everybody’s got an ism these days.

Penny: I feel like I’ve got this itch or something.

Grandpa: It’s just as catching. When things go a little bad nowadays, you go out and get yourself an ism and you’re in business.

Penny: I’ve got it! It might help Cynthia to have an ism in the monastery!

Grandpa: It might at that. Only give her Americanism. Let her know something about Americans: John Paul Jones, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Lincoln, Grant, Lee, Edison, Mark Twain. When things got tough for those boys, they didn’t run around looking for isms. Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all.” Nowadays they say, “Think the way I do, or I’ll bomb the daylights out of you.”

From the film You Can't Take It With You

— 1938

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“People are finally finding out that the guy next door isn't a bad egg”

You mean to tell me you’d try to kill the John Doe movement if you can’t use it to get what you want? Well, that certainly is a new low. You sit there with your big cigars and think of deliberately killing an idea that has made millions of people a little bit happier. Why look, I’m just a mug and I know it – but I’m beginning to understand a lot of things. Why, your types are as old as history! If you can’t lay your dirty fingers on a decent idea and twist it and squeeze it and stuff it into your own pocket, you slap it down! Like dogs, if you can’t eat something – you bury it! Why, this is the one worthwhile idea that’s come along! People are finally finding out that the guy next door isn’t a bad egg. That’s simple, isnt it? And yet a thing like that has got a chance to spread till it touches every last doggone human being in the world – and you talk about killing it! Well, when this fire dies down what’s going to be left? More misery! More hunger and more hate! And what’s to prevent that from starting all over again? Nobody knows the answer to that one. The John Doe idea may be the answer though, it may be the one thing capable of saving this cockeyed world, yet you sit back there on your fat hulks and tell me you’ll kill it if you can’t use it! Well, you go ahead and try – you couldn’t do it in a million years with all your radio stations, and all your power.

– Down-and-out pitcher Long John Willoughby to industrialist D.B. Norton

From the film Meet John Doe

— 1941

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