Play Your Lunches With Orson: The At-Home Game


Greet Orson.1

Order Chicken Divan. 2

Mention Irving Thalberg. 3

Order Soupe du Soir.4

Mention Spencer Tracy.5

“You didn’t like it?”6

Order Sardines á l’Huile.7

Order Filet de Sole Meunière.8

Mention Bob Fosse.9

Order Crêpes aux Fruits de Mer.10

Ask about the specials.11


Order Fraises au Vin.13

Order Foie Gras Frais au Sauterne et Raisins.14

Order Poussin Grille á la Moutarde.15

Order Salade de Pigeon Aux Champignons.16

Order Rable de Lievre au Moulin a Vent.17


“Yes, fine. Put that damned thing away. Yes, the vocoder. I don’t want to look at it.”


“Chicken Divan! The American — and for all your London childhood I do consider yours a fundamentally American character, Harry — fears what a true Mornay sauce says about his character, about his manhood, even. So he covers it up, converts it to glop, and turns it into a casserole. A massacre. Americans want to make a casserole of the world. Homogenize and neutralize all experiences, sprinkle a little cheese on top, finish under the broiler. And I won’t do that. That’s why no one in Hollywood will touch me.”


“Don’t mention that name to me again.”


“Soup of the day, Harry? You’re no friend to soup if you’ll allow a Wednesday to dictate what you put in it.”


“Who was he trying to kid, with that awful curled hair and that ridiculous Portuguese accent? You can always tell a true Portuguese by the wrist length. It’s not in the voice. It’s in the wrist. A real actor knows the difference. It’s the fraudulent vaudevillian who tries to substitute vowel-work for something only the hands can do. The voice is no substitute for the hand. I never understood why Katie lowered herself for him, but then she never took my advice, never. And look at her now — On Golden Pond was excruciating, just excruciating.”


“Didn’t like it? Are you putting me on? That little dose of chloroform was the worst thing that happened to New Hampshire since the raid on Fort William and Mary.”


“Now, why did you do that?”


“This stinks of direction. Are you trying to direct me? I can’t abide a Swiss director — by which I mean those clockwork boys, for whom everything must be automated, mapped, griddled into metaphor, so that the poor sap in the audience never suffers even an incidental moment of transcendence, but is instead hustled along on an assembly-line of ingenious little setups. For Lubitsch, you know, it might have paid off. But most men aren’t Lubitsch. Even Lubitsch was rarely Lubitsch after 1930.”


“Oh Christ — he isn’t here, is he?”


“Fundamentally, you know, he’s experienced the late-in-life crisis that comes to all hams. And he is a ham, you know. He is. [Pounds fist on table.] Yes, he is, Harry, for all that he’s done for the American songbook, that diseased archive of false bravado. And every ham, sooner or later, realizes that he is becoming his mother, and he cannot bear it. I mean that quite literally. They begin to resemble their mothers in every way, in appearance first of all, and they begin to order their suits custom-made and adopt bizarre haircuts to try to avoid the crisis. But it must be faced. It must be faced!”


“You’re hustling me. Do you think I can’t tell? I can’t stand being encouraged, especially not by small men. Saints preserve us from being encouraged by small men and Sardinians. I knew a Sardinian once who — never mind. But don’t hustle me, Jerry. Never crowd me, and never steer me. I’m not a ship, and I don’t require a captain’s steady hand. And the more you watch James Mason’s films, his best films I mean, the more you realize he’s that classic type of neurotic who never got over the fact that his nanny wore gloves.”


“Why? Why? Why? For God’s sake, why?”


“Do you think these napkins are real linen? They’ve changed it since the last time we were in here. Penny-pinching. Demoralizing. Chafes the hands, and chafes the spirit.”


“Raisins! My God, raisins!”


“Mustard — which is the real English vice, whatever they try to kid you about beatings or shyness or buggery — is a fundamentally dishonest thing to do to a good, honest chicken. It’s barely excusable when the chicken isn’t honest, and damned unworthy when the chicken is. Get that waiter back over here, I’ll speak to him myself. Get him over here! I’ve got time. Kirk Kerkorian has seen to it that no one with the slightest bit of authority in town will take my calls. I’ve got the time to talk to this goddamn waiter about the goddamn chicken. Call him back!”




“That sounds good. The Swiss have never forgiven me for The Third Man, just as I have never forgiven Graham Greene for taking script credit. He wasn’t a writer — he wasn’t even a man, in the final tally. He was a Ferris wheel. But in the rest of Europe, you know, they understood the fundamental truth of the cuckoo clock line, and they understood me. And that’s why I can never go back.”

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