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Great Staircase Moments

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Call me crazy but I was just sitting here thinking about the inspired, consistent and very memorable use of intense staircase confrontations ? usually between two actresses ? that occur in so many classic films. The two examples that most immediately come to mind are Miss Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth in a climactic moment in ?Mildred Pierce? (Mildred: Give me that check! Veda: Not on your life!) and Miss Lana Turner and Diane Varsi in ?Peyton Place.? It should be noted that Lana also takes a fantastically melodramatic spill down a flight of stairs at the conclusion of ?Ziegfeld Girl.? Of course, there are also riveting staircase moments involving the other gender as well including Gable and Leigh in ?Gone With The Wind,? Bette Davis and Claude Rains in ?Deception? and Basil Rathbone calling after Greta Garbo as she descends that eternally long staircase in ?Anna Karenina.? What other stupendous staircase moments come to mind?

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"All About Eve" has a couple of memorable "staircase" moments-including...

Miss Caswell- "Oh, waiter."

Addison- "That is not a waiter, my dear, that is a butler."

Miss Caswell- "Well, I can't yell 'oh, butler' can I ? Maybe somebody's name is Butler."

And, of course...

Margo- "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."


The staircase is used quite a bit in "Auntie Mame." Martin Balsam falling backwards down one in "Psycho."


My favorite-Gloria Swanson's descent in "Sunset Boulevard."


Most disturbing-Linda Blair's "spider walk" in "The Exorcist."

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I was just thinking that... and in Dark Victory when she says good bye to the dogs and also I think it was on the staircase when she talks about the warmth of the sun when she can no longer see it


And, although it is the front porch, the opening scene of The letter... it was stairs and had a railing ; - )

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"Gone with the Wind" has a few staircase moments and I don't really know which one(s) you guys were thinking of:

1) the camera panning down at Twelve Oaks to introduce Rhett Butler

2) Rhett carrying Scarlett up the stairs to 'rape' her

3) Scarlett falling down the stairs and aborting her baby


4) Melanie and Mammy walking up the stairs to see Rhett after Bonnie dies


My favourite GWTW staircase moment comes when Scarlett comes downstairs at Tara to shhoot the Yankee, who's about to rob them. People actually clapped in Atlanta at that scene during the premier!



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I recall this category on the forum "Your Favorites" in 2004 by Path.

My contribution was as follows:


Re: Great Stairway Scenes

Posted: 04/29/2004 3:16 EDT



Don't forget perhaps one of the greatest stairway scenes on film when Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) walks up the stairway with Melanie (Olivia de Havilland) while sadly discussing Bonnie Blue's funeral in "Gone With the Wind".


Also when Bette Davis' mother throws herself down the stairs in "Now, Voyager".

And when Agnes Moorehead gets conked by Olivia de Havilland in "Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte" and goes tumbling down the stairs.

We also have James Cagney kicking a dead Steve Cochran down a flight of stairs in "White Heat".



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Georges Guetary built "a Stairway to Paradise" surrounded by a flock of feathered showgirls in An American in Paris.


David Niven ascended a most impressive staircase to heaven in Matter of Life and Death.


Mary Poppins silenced Mr. Banks by sliding up the bannister in Mary Poppins.


Norma Shearer's Marie Antoinette assignation with Tyrone Power happened on the wide staircase of Versailles; and the anti-royalist carried out their plot on the same staircase to exchange the ostentatious jewels.


Richard Widmark throws an elderly wheelchair-bound lady down the stairs in Kiss of Death and Martin Balsam meets his demise on the stairs of Norman Bates' "mother" in Psycho.

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Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novack in "Vertigo" going up that rickety spiral staircase in the mission.


Dorothy MacGuire in "The Spiral Staircase" slowly walking up the staircase with only the candle to light her way.

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I'm surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the climatic scence of "Notorious."


And of course there is the crucial uses of stairs in "Vertigo" (or is that a stairwell?)And there is a memorable confronation between Shelly Duvall and Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." One should not forget the striking sweeping shots Max Ophuls uses in "Earrings of Madame De" and "Letter from an Unknown Woman."

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The absolute best, most romantic staircase scene ever was aboard ship in 'An Affair to Remember', you don't see Cary and Deborahs' faces, just their lower legs. You know they're kissing, but you don't see it and your imagination does total flip-flops in your mind.



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how about: cary grant walking up the staircase in "suspicion" with the glass of milk on a tray--the one hitchcock has said had to stand out so they put a lightbulb in it!...also, clifton webb, near the end of "laura" pausing on the stairs instead of leaving the building...all the bits of business in "breakfast at tiffany's" & "barefoot in the park"...vera miles noticing the fruit cellar door in "psycho"...monroe trying to flee joseph cotten in "niagara"...

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Bette Davis confronts Claude Rains in Deception.


All the frantic running up and down The Spiral Staircase.


Astaire plaintively singing "Never Gonna Dance" to Rogers in Swing Time, and their swoops up to the upper level for the finale of the dance.

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Some excellent choices here.


I've always had a soft spot for Dolly Levi (Barbra Streisand) descending the long, long, staircase into the Harmonia Gardens restaurant in "Hello, Dolly!"


Or, James Cagney, tap dancing down the White House staircase at the end of "Yankee Doodle Dandy."


Or, the priests and dancing girls of ancient Babylon cavorting on the gargantuan outdoor set (the largest built up to that time) in D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance."


Or, Moira Shearer running down the spiral staircase (and to her doom) after the climatic three-way showdown in "The Red Shoes."


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Joan had numerous memorable staircase scenes in films. Here are tw that stand out for me:


In Queen Bee, Joan descends the staircase before she is murdered at the end of the film, in a gorgeous, Oscar-nominated gown by Jean Louis.


In Harriet Craig, Joan ascends the staircase after her husband leaves her alone in the mansion..

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I can't let this go by without tossing in the staircase to end all staircases in The Great Ziegfeld's "A Pretty Girl...number at the close of Act One.


Also fond of the Agnes Morehead / Tim Holt scene on the stairs in The Magificent Ambersons.


Kyle In Hollywood

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Thanks for mentioning The Red Shoes, Mr. Harron. That movie also started with a staircase; in fact, the movie opens on a shot of an empty staircase. Soon the hesitant house manager descends the stairs as we hear the din of hundreds of students nearly breaking down the door. The doors burst open, and we witness the frantic race up the stairs to the rush seats for the premiere of Lermontov's new ballet "Hearts of Fire" (featuring music purloined from Julian Craster).


Oh timelessjoancrawford, didn't Joan Crawford also have her gun battle with Mercedes McCambridge from the staircase of her saloon in Johnny Guitar?


Oh, and Mr. Harron, while mentioning tap dancing on staircases, Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson must be mentioned for they charming stair dance in The Littlest Rebel.


Mr. Kyle, you've mentioned the grandest stairs of all with the revolving history of music up to Virginia Bruce in The Great Ziegfeld. Thanks for the reminder. "It haunts me night and day..."

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Loved when Cody Jarrett ( James Cagney) killed Big Ed Somers ( Steve Cochran) and said "Catch" and kicked him down the stairs. Also loved when John Belushi gets the hell beating out of him by the "Penguin" ( Nun) in the Blues Brothers and goes down the stairs desk and all. Two more, the classic Richard Widmark pushing the old lady in the wheelchair down the stairs in "Kiss of Death" and Sid Caesar falling down four flights of stairs in "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World".



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I second the Martin Balsam killing in Psycho. The perspective of him being stabbed and falling backwards could have been shot oh so many other ways, I imagine, but Hitch knew how to scare the beejeezus out of us without resorting to the blood and gore that would have been used today.


Guess that's why the man was a genius.



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