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Favorite Happy (and Unhappy) Endings


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I recently saw FIVE EASY PIECES for the first time in many, many years. What a great performance by Jack Nicholson! And so early in his career. The bleak ending -- someone throwing his life away -- reminds me of the conclusion of NOBODY WAVED GOODBYE.

 

Another film that refused to have a phony happy ending is I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG, with Paul Muni retreating into the darkness, explaining how he lives: he half whispers, half hisses:

"I steal!"

One of the all time great fadeouts.

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Well, that whole "Beneath/Beyond/Whichever Planet of the Apes" nuke ending thing which was brought up earlier here reminded me of MY favorite unhappy ending...the classic "Mr. President, we can't afford to have a Mine Shaft Gap"/"Mein Fuhrer, I can walk"/"We'll Meet Again" ending of...well, I think you folks know what film ends that way, RIGHT?! ;)

 

Other fav unhappy endings: "Paths of Glory", "The Last Picture Show"

 

 

And, my favorite happy ending might be a tossup between "The Apartment", and, almost anything now labeled as "Capra-Corn".

 

 

(...come on, admit it...Frank was a MASTER at happy endings...okay, so I'm REALLY an ol' sentimental softy...I admit it!)

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Unhappy endings "Tron Legacy", I didn't like Flynn dying at the end.

"Star Wars Episode III", Padme's Funeral.

 

Happy endings - "Secret Garden", Colin's father seeing him not only well but walking.

"Battle Los Angeles" sponges are on the run. (I know that's silly)

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I thought this was a really good thread topic, but took a while to comment on it because I wanted to think about movie endings in general. I realized that for me, the ending of a movie and whether it is happy, sad, or unresolved, depends entirely on the movie. Some of the best films I've ever seen have what you could only call an " unresolved" ending, and often that's what feels best for the film, because so often that's the way life is.

As a film noir fan, it's just as well I don't require neat and tidy and happy endings, or I'd be pretty frustrated - well, I just wouldn't be a fan of noir, I guess. In fact, I feel that one of my favourite noirs is flawed because of its relatively happy ending. *Pick Up on South Street* would have been even better than it was if Skip McCoy had been killed. While fighting the evil Commie spy. He and Jean Peters would always have had Paris. I mean, the fishing shack.

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Thanks missW.

 

There are films that definitely have cop-out endings, as I call them. The happy ending in SUSPICION seems phony to me, and the car should've gone over the edge. She could've survived, but he should've died, because everything leading up to the climax indicates he's really trying to kill her. Then, for him to be the romantic hero at the finish seems unbelievable, even if it is Cary Grant. I guess you just couldn't kill Cary in a film, that was verboten, a box office no-no. LOL

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Oh yeah, no question that *Suspicion* had a cop-out ending. It's been well-documented, as I've no doubt someone who knows as much about the stories behind the movies as you do is aware, that what you describe, how you think Grant should have been the bad guy he seemed to be, was the originally intended ending, but that the studio couldn't handle their lovable star appearing as a murderer, so they made Hitchcock change it. And it shows. You know and I know that Grant had evil designs on Joan Fontaine all along.

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The talk is that RKO (the studio has engaged in limited production in recent years) is going to remake it, supposedly with Will Smith. If so, I wonder if they will go back to the original ending. Of course, comparing Smith to Grant would be like comparing apples to oranges.

 

Another movie that has a false ending to me is KISSES FOR MY PRESIDENT. They spend the entire film making a point that Polly Bergen is a capable woman leader and that she makes a fine woman president. Then, at the end, she abruptly resigns her post to have a baby. I guess that in 1964 it was good for laughs, but lest it be taken too seriously that a woman could actually be elected, the audience had to be reminded that her real place was barefoot and pregnant.

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Misswonderly, who like me is a big fan of *Pickup On South Street* , will appreciate this alternative ending. --- When defeating the evil Commie spy, Skip McCoy gets seriously wounded in a gun battle. As he's lying there near death, girlfriend Candy kneels beside him and asks him if there's anything she can do. "I could sure drink a cold one", Skip says weakly. Candy gets a cold beer , pops the cap, goes back to Skip , and pours it all over his face. "Say hello to Moe" , Candy replies. Skip smiles and dies.

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I am not really sure how to categorize it but I thought the ending of " Grapes of Wrath" was good.

 

 

I also liked the end of " Double Indemnity" Fred McMurray was perfect in that role.

 

 

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The film version of THE GRAPES OF WRATH had a revised ending with Ma and Pa driving in the truck and Ma philosophizing about life and their troubles. It was an attempt to provide a note of optimism and hope for the audience (translation: a more upbeat conclusion).

 

But that was not the way the story ended in Steinbeck's novel. The last section, which is very bleak, is completely left out of the movie.

 

Here's how the book ends:

 

Tom is still on the run, a fugitive from justice. Rose of Sharon's baby is stillborn. Ma remains steadfast and forces the family through the bereavement. When the rains arrive, the Joads' dwelling is flooded, and they move to higher ground. The final scenes have Rose of Sharon breast feeding a man too sick from starvation to eat solid food.

 

Can you imagine if that had been filmed, with the production code in place? LOL

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Yes, the film *The Grapes of Wrath* has quite a different ending from the book. But I love the movie's ending, who isn't moved by Henry Fonda's wonderful speech? Probably one of the most memorable and famous speeches in filmdom. ( Tom Joad's speech is also in the book, just not at the end, more like the middle.)

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The more I think about it, the more I feel that a film's ending is key to its entire impact on an audience, and also whether it's generally regarded as a good movie or not.

 

It seems to me that often the best movies, and the ones that stay with you the most, are those with what could be called a "bittersweet" ending, neither happy nor sad, but a little of both. Many great films have this kind of ending, and in some ways I find them more satisfying than an outright happy ending. (of course we're not talking about comedies or musicals -well, there are some "dark" comedies, but in general they have happy endings, as they should, according to the traditional definition of comedy. But I digress.)

 

Here's a very random sampling of great films with indeterminate / "bittersweet" endings. Of course there are many more besides these:

 

*Casablanca* ( Ilsa and Rick part, but it's better that way);

 

 

*The Maltese Falcon* (1941) ( Brigid has to "take the fall", but after all, she killed Sam's partner. On the bright side, Sam lives and ensures that justice prevails, despite Brigid's anguished eyes, which he'll probably remember forever ).

 

 

 

*The Strange Love of Martha Ivers* ( ok, Babs and Kirk destroy each other, but Van and Lisabeth drive off into the sunset.)

 

 

Westerns: *The Searchers* and *The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance* : in the former, Ethan changes his mind about killing Debbie and brings her home, but he remains a lonely figure right to the end; In *Liberty Valance*, Stewart and Miles marry and lead a good life, bringing order to the West as Stewart had hoped, but the Duke is left alone, the house he was building never finished, his role in the old West now obsolete.

 

 

*The Third Man* ( as more than one poster has already mentioned) - Harry Lime gets his due, no more diluted antibiotics, but Holly will always wonder if he did the right thing, betraying his friend, plus he doesn't get the girl.

 

 

There are so many others, but I think you folks get the idea - the best endings are a mixed blessing, both good and bad, happy and sad. Not cut and dried. Bittersweet is best.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 19, 2011 2:11 PM

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I watched THE THRLL OF IT ALL today, costarring Doris Day and James Garner. I knew twenty minutes into it how it would end (and I was right). She gets a job pitching soap on commercial television and winds up making more money than her doctor husband. Of course, this leads to all sorts of comic misunderstandings. And throughout the film, a point is made that she is neglecting her kids while having an illustrious career outside the home.

 

I knew that before the final credits rolled, she would have to sacrifice that job and return to a life of simple domesticity. There are no compromises for women in these 60s farcical comedies. The stories continually reaffirm male dominance over the woman and remind us that as always her place is in the home. So while it was cute and had some genuinely funny moments, I was disappointed in this one just as much as I was with KISSES FOR MY PRESIDENT.

 

It would seem in the case of both these films that the ending is already pre-determined by culture and societal attitudes about a woman's rightful place. And that would be anywhere that it does not threaten a man's earning power.

 

I did derive a bit of satisfaction from the fact that Doris Day probably had the highest paid salary of anyone involved with THE THRILL OF IT ALL. In real life she was definitely a breadwinner, a career woman-- not the mousy subservient character she was being expected to portray on screen.

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For me, it's not so much about whether the ending is 'happy' or 'unhappy', so much as it is whether the ending is really satisfying, really feels right. Some movies (like the oft mentioned "Suspicion") just have totally unrealistic, deeply UNsatisfying endings. Some of my favorite endings:

CHINATOWN About as depressing as it gets, but it seems right. Nothing is changed at the end and the good guys DON'T always win.

THE LAST PICTURE SHOW When Cloris Leachman takes Timothy Bottoms' hand, it's fitting. (weird in a lot of ways, but fitting)

SOME LIKE IT HOT. Maybe one of the two or three best and funniest endings ever.

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Never mind that the "ending" comes at the beginning, Norma Desmond desecnding the staircase is perfect.

THE GODFATHER....that great shot of the door closing on Diane Keaton's face. We know at that moment that she now knows everything.

 

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Favorite happy: Sammy jumping onto the back of the motorcycle dressed as an Easter Bunny going to the birth of his child in *Steel* *Magnolias.* We discussed *I Love Lucy* at the Food Bank this morning and I couldn't help but compare this scene to Ricky's being in the maternity ward dressed as a witch doctor.

 

Sad: Brubaker being killed by the North Koreans in *The Bridges at Toko Rai*. He'd already fought one war, came home to make a good life for his family and then was expected to do it again. You're angry and are supposed to be; this brings it all home. The final line, his C/O asking "Where do we get such men?" is priceless.

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*Bridges At Toko Ri* is one of my favorite movies and certainly Holden is at his best here. Holden insisted on the ending being so blunt, in real life William Holden's brother was a pilot killed in WW2. The C/O in the film is the great Fredric March, he is only a supporting actor in the film, but who better to deliver that last line, "Where do we get such men?"

 

Edited by: mrroberts on Jul 20, 2011 10:39 AM

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