Ninochka, directed by Lubistch and written by Billy Wilder, may be one of the most perfect romantic comedies ever made and this scene one of the funniest I have seen.
Garbo play a humorless Bolshevik who has come to Paris to facilitate the sale of jewels. She and Melvyn Douglas meet and fall in love only to discover they are on opposite sides, as he is the person preventing the sale from happening. Just before this scene begins, she has broken it off and Douglas has followed her to this restaurant.
Billy Wilder was Lubitsch’s protege. He kept a sign on his desk that read: What would Lubitsch do?
The mentor character is an important one.
In Laura, the main character falls in love with the portrait of a woman he thinks is dead. In Castaway, Tom Hanks is mentored by a basketball. And in Akeelah And The Bee, It’s the quote from The Course in Miracles that inspires her. Here’s the quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
As an exercise:
For five minutes, have your main character tell a story to another character (Think Robert Shaw telling the story in Jaws) that answers the following two questions:
1) Who is your main character’s mentor?
2) What would the sign on his or her desk say?