Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Frisco Kid

Tanya posted an interesting question on her blog yesterday. What characters from film or fiction still touch you every time you see or "read" them? My answer surprised me.

After the original Star Wars movie back in 77, Harrison Ford was only known as Han Solo. But unlike Mark Hamill and William Shatner, he would quickly distinguish himself as a talented actor. As storied a career as Harrison has, I doubt many remember or know of a movie called The Frisco Kid that came out in the midst of the Star Wars craze in 1979.

Harrison played a bank robber, opposite Gene Wilder as a rabbi from Poland sent to America to marry in San Francisco, and to establish a church. Wilder is devout, refusing to ride on Saturdays, and is a good man who guards his Torah with his life. He is naïve about the wicked ways of men, and is ill prepared to deal with the outlaw gunslingers of the old American West.

Like an angel sent from heaven to protect Wilder comes Ford. The two cross paths and circumstances keep them together, and the unlikely friendship is born. Ford is crass and foul mouthed, and Wilder is outwardly derisive of him, and they are constantly at odds. Ford is frustrated with Wilder, and threatens to leave him to deal with the Wild West alone, and Wilder reminds him that nobody ever asked him to stay. But Ford, ever with the heart of gold, is there at the end of the day, waiting around the bend.

After several tests and ordeals, with San Francisco in sight, Ford tells Wilder that it’s time for him to mosey on. But who will be my best man at my wedding Wilder asks. Shouldn’t that be for your best friend, one of your Jewish friends, Ford replies? But you are my best friend; you are my only friend.

This is where I pretend to have an itch on my nose. I’m weak, I know.

But later in a skirmish with outlaws, Wilder is faced with the dilemma of killing a man who will otherwise take the gun from him and kill both of them, and he pulls the trigger. Wilder no longer wishes to be a rabbi. In San Francisco, sitting at a table in a restaurant, the most personally memorable scene in movie history unfolds.

Again, this is just me, but this scene is vintage Harrison Ford, and the reason that I think he is the greatest. He’s not polished or likely as talented as the Bogarts and Stewarts of the movie world, but he is one of a kind. He is frustrated with Wilder because of the inner transformation that Wilder has put him through. Ford knows that on this earth, there is no person closer to God that the man before him, who forsook his personal safety to bring God to San Francisco. But Wilder feels unworthy of the post he traveled so far for, and Ford won’t let him walk away.

The scene is their exchange across the table. I can’t find the transcript, so it goes something like this:

Wilder: I’m not a rabbi.
Ford: Don’t say that. Of course you’re a rabbi.
Wilder: I’m not a rabbi.
Ford: Listen you stupid bleepin bleeper, I didn’t bring you all this way just to have you back out now.
Wilder: I valued the safety of a book over the life of my best friend
Ford (flashing his signature grin): But I forgive you.
Wilder (eyes glossy, almost crying): I know you do
Ford: So stop all this foolishness and tell them who you are
Wilder: But I’m not a rabbi
Ford (pointing his finger at him with a menace in his voice): I’m warning you, don’t say that again.
Wilder (pauses and seems to think about it): I’m not a rabbi.

Ford picks up a balled up napkin in a lightning quick motion and beans Wilder in the head and screams that scream you know so well, “Don’t say that!” That moment makes me want to cry. It is so raw and unguarded, and shows you at once how much he loves his friend.

Many will see it and chuckle, but for me it is a magic moment. Maybe I relate to it because I have father issues, and feel a deep void that yearns for that kind of friendship. I don’t know.


Erin-erin-bo-berin said...

I don't know how I've not seen that. I have been a Harrison Ford fan since birth (it was 1974, thankyouverymuch), and thought I had seen all of his movies. Gene Wilder, another inspired, creative comedian! I'd love to see him in that role. Okay. I'm gonna hit Netflix next...

Bailey Stewart said...

Well, this is one movie that I've missed - guess I'll have to check it out now.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I've never seen that.

I'll have to check it out.

Jenn said...

I'm with the others, I'll have to check it out, too. But, I do like the question and I might borrow it for my blog if that's cool? If I ever get to it.

How are ya, Scott?!

Scott said...

Erin - 1974? I think that explains it. You were five at the time, so you are forgiven.

Eve and Toast - Do check it out and let me know how you like it.

Jenn - Doing good; working hard. As for the question, it wasn't mine either, and I wouldn't mind anyway. Enjoy.

trinamick said...

I also haven't seen this flick. Harrison Ford is one of my favorite actors, though, so I might have to give it a watch.

mr. schprock said...

I saw that in the theatre back when it came out and haven't seen it since. I remember Wilder laying track with a sledgehammer and kept accidently hitting the tough guy next to him with it. Also, I remember he and Ford were on the run, but because it was the sabbath, Wilder couldn't ride his horse until sundown, so Ford stayed with him until the sun finally set. That's about all I can remember, but it was a good flick, that's for sure.

Claire said...

I'm a Harrison Ford fan, but I've not seen this one. NowI know what I'll rent next time I hit the store!

Kathleen said...

I love Gene Wilder and have never seen that movie. I shall add to Netflix ASAP. And I would so be crying at that point, too. Difference? I live alone and I'm a girl, so I can sob away! ;-)

There are many characters from films that touch me every time I see them. Rocky from the movie Mask with Cher. To know that he was a real person who was that strong, giving, and loving in the face of such adversity. I wonder if I would be as good of a person in the same situation.

Jada's Gigi said...

Great rendition of that scene, Scott..I feel as though I have seen it now.
I'm with Kathleen, I'm a girl so I can sob my eyes out if I want to. nah nana boo boo...:)
Ya caught me on a hormonal day...what can I say...