One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies The Magic Christian uses the word ‘nipple’ to great effect.
The movie stars Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. Peter plays a rich Englishman, Sir Guy Grand, who adopts a homeless man played by Ringo Starr, Youngman Grand, and hilarity ensues. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Raquel Welch all make cameo appearances though the uncredited Yul Brynner’s cameo was the most surprising. Anyway back to the word ‘nipple’.
There is a scene where Sir Guy, his sisters, and Youngman are in their sitting room watching the telly showing lots of violence:
Youngman Grand, Esq. (Ringo): Dad, do you think words corrupt?
Sir Guy Grand KG, KC, CBE (Peter): I don’t know, let’s try. (pause) Agnes?
Dame Agnes Grand: [looks up from the television] Yes?
Sir Guy Grand KG, KC, CBE: Nipple.
Dame Agnes Grand: Shh!
[turns back to the television]
Sir Guy Grand KG, KC, CBE: [watches her a moment] Well, there’s no immediate physical change.
The first time I saw The Magic Christian I had no idea what the hell was going on. I came in on the middle of it during the pheasant hunt. “Over to you Red Leader One”. You cannot figure out what is going on unless you watch the beginning. Only then as you continue to watch the movie and re-watch it does it dawn on you what they are doing, which makes it even funnier.
Thinking back on the movie it is even more relevant today than it was when it was first made in the late 60’s. It is still one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Both Graham Chapman’s and John Cleese’s scenes were before they rocketed to fame in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. What struck me about the narration was that it very much reminded me of narrator’s voice from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I wonder if it inspired Douglas Adams?
One note about Raquel Welch. She was one of the bombshells I grew up with in the late seventies, though most of the movies I saw were made in the sixties before I knew what a bombshell was. I’ll probably end up writing another entry on the bombshells and other babes I grew up with: Raquel Welch, Shirley Maclaine, Barbara Eden, and I’m sure I could think of a few more. Hmm…nipple. I guess maybe words do corrupt.