The murder mystery "The Death Kiss" (1932) is a comedic romp featuring David Manners as the quip-cracking boyfriend of the police's prime Person of Interest. His specialty is insulting other characters in ways they barely notice, while he ferrets out the truth of the murder despite the bumbling attempts of the authorities.
Films of the Twentieth Century were no stranger to The Witty Gentleman—a character archetype that combines a certain elegance of dress and manner with proficient wordplay. Famous examples include William Powell's portrayal of Nick Charles in "The Thin Man" (1934), Cary Grant's charmingly rakish Dexter in "Philadelphia Story" (1940), and Humphrey Bogart's quick-thinking Rick Blaine in "Casablanca" (1942). The type offers an alternative to the muscle-man version of masculine prowess. While none of these actors were short on good looks and charisma, it's always intellectual virility that wins the day when The Witty Gentleman is around.
Countless action heroes depend on traces of The Witty Gentleman in their DNA—whether it's the ever-resourceful James Bond devising yet another solution to a seemingly impossible situation (looking dashing as he does) or Arnold Schwarzenegger intoning a classic one-liner, Movieland would be a far drearier place without him.
Jeremy NielsenJeremy Nielsen of Spy Hop Productions discusses technology and filmmaking.
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