Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cut-rate parasites

In the comments to my final post in my Top 100 movies list, an anonymous reader objects to my statement, regarding Casablanca, that Letters of Transit signed by General de Gaulle wouldn't hold much weight in Vichy France, or a Vichy-governed territory like Morocco:

In Cssablanca, the letters of transit were signed by Vichy General Weygand, not Free French General de Gaulle. Listen to the soundtrack carefully.

Well, I've just listened to the soundtrack carefully, and I have to say, I still hear Peter Lorre saying "General de Gaulle", not "General Weygand". Now, both names will sound somewhat similar in the proper French pronunciation, but not exactly alike, and after replaying that sequence about eight times, I'm still hearing a distinct 'D' sound from Lorre (the 'de' in 'de Gaulle'), as opposed to a 'W' for 'Weygand'. This is a bit more tenuous, but I also don't see Lorre's lips moving in a way that suggests a 'W'. The lips don't need to move at all from the last syllable of 'General' to 'de', where they would have to purse slightly to form the 'W' sound in moving from 'General' to 'Weygand'. I don't see his lips move at all, which also suggests to me that he's really saying 'de Gaulle'.

Searching out the film's shooting script isn't terribly helpful, since the film's script wasn't even finished when the film started shooting and hasty rewrites were the order of the day, right up until the shooting of the final scene. I will note that Casablanca's Wikipedia entry indicates that Lorre says 'de Gaulle' and is subtitled in English on the DVD in the same way, while the French DVD subtitles say 'Weygand'. (I haven't checked this.) Also, the book Casablanca: Behind the Scenes indicates that the line references de Gaulle and makes no mention at all of Weygand.

So, absent more conclusive evidence, I'm sticking with my original hearing of the line. But hey, why take my word for it? You be the judge! Here's the scene from the movie; the specific line of dialogue in question comes at about the 1:45 mark.

Next week, we'll discuss whether or not Mark Hamill accidentally shouts "Carrie!" at the end of A New Hope. (Personally, I've always heard his shout as a meld of "Hey!" and "Yeah!". But we can hash that apart another time. Yay, obsessive movie geekery!)


Anonymous said...

I hear "de Gaulle" too. It wouldn't be a surprise if the screenwriters simply got this fact wrong, given the way this movie was thrown together, and the fact that many Americans probably were still rather hazy about what was going on "over there." (Part of what makes this movie so awesome is that it shouldn't really work at all, considering how the writers were literally making it up as they went along, but, aside from a handful of clunker lines -- I've always hated "is that cannon fire or my heart beating" -- I think it's all magnificent.)

As for the Star Wars thing, I've never heard "Carrie!" in Mark's exuberant shout. I guess it's all in the ear of the beholder...

fillyjonk said...

FWIW, I hear "de Gaulle" as well.

Aaron said...

Listening through my studio reference headphones at work, I hear, quite clearly "de Gaulle."

The Tensor said...

If I close my eyes and listen to Lorre pronouncing the name, I'm pretty sure I hear Weygand (which is pronounced [vɛgɑ̃]) and not de Gaulle. He definitely does not pronounce the final [l] that de Gaulle should have, but rather finishes with a nasalized vowel, as in Weygand. On the other hand, if I watch his lips while I listen, I start to think he might be pronouncing a [d] at the beginning of the word. But who are you going to believe -- your own ears or your lying eyes? (Tangent: The McGurk Effect)