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Gandalf’s eagles, and other flights of fancy

Frankly, my dear, it could have ended differently. Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in 'Gone with the Wind'

Frankly, my dear, it could have ended differently. Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in ‘Gone with the Wind’ Photo: ALAMY

This week it was revealed that the original script for Gone with the Wind –
the classic romance starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable – had a different
ending to the one seen in cinemas. At the climax of the completed film,
Scarlett O’Hara is portrayed as a strong, independent woman who resolves to
survive without Rhett Butler, the lover who spurned her.

In the script, however, she was broken by despair.

But it isn’t the only famous film that originally had a very different ending…

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Sam: Phew! At last our adventures are nearing their end, Mr Frodo! Tell you
what – I’m glad Gandalf arrived in the nick of time with these massive
eagles to fly us home. Otherwise we’d have been dead meat!

Frodo: You can say that again, Samwise Gamgee!

Sam: Hang on.

Frodo: Yes?

Sam: If Gandalf’s got these eagles… why didn’t we just fly all the way to
Mount Doom in the first place, instead of doing that enormous and repeatedly
life-endangering journey on foot?

[There is a tense pause.]

Frodo: Shut up, Sam.

Sam: What? Why?

Frodo: Look, I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why we couldn’t have
just flown

to Mount Doom in the first place. There’s bound to

be. Ask a Tolkien geek.

They’ll know.

Sam: Well, maybe. But never mind the Tolkien geeks, what about ordinary
cinema-goers? Won’t they just think, “Here, that’s a bit of a plot hole.

I’ve just spent nine hours, over the course of three films, watching a story
that could have been told in about 40 minutes if the director had given it a
moment’s thought”?

Frodo: Well maybe it’ll be a bit less obvious to them if you shut your stupid
cakehole and stop pointing it out. Honestly. Do you have any idea how much
money they’ve already spent making this thing?

Sam: Hey, come on, Mr Frodo, be fair, I was only…

Gandalf: Shut it now or the eagle drops you in the lava.

The Empire Strikes Back

Darth Vader: With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict,
and bring order to the galaxy!

Luke: I’ll never join you!

Vader: If only you knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you
what happened to your father.

Luke: He told me enough!

Vader: No, Luke. Because I… am Nicky Campbell, and tonight on Long Lost Family
we’ll be reuniting you with your real father: a 53-year-old chartered
accountant from Chingford in Essex!

Luke: No! No! That’s not true! It’s impossible!

Vader: Search your feelings. You know it to be true!


Vader: Well, there’s no need to be like that about it. Normally people break
down in grateful tears when we spring their long-lost dad on them. This is
one of ITV’s most popular shows, you know. We’ve got five million viewers.
And a Bafta.

Luke: Give over, it’s nauseating tosh. You’re as bad as Cilla Black.

North by Northwest

Roger: If we ever get out of this alive, let’s go back to

New York together, all right?

Eve: Is that a proposition?

Roger: It’s a… Hang on.

Eve: What?

Roger: That scene from earlier where I was in a field getting shot at by a guy
who’s flying a crop-duster plane. The scene that, in 2009, Empire magazine
will hail as the greatest moment in the entire history of cinema.

Eve: Yes?

Roger: Well, if he wanted

to kill me, why did he choose a method that made it so difficult? I was alone
in the middle of nowhere. He could have walked up and shot me, easy as that.
Instead, he goes to the bother of climbing into a plane and flying after me
as I run across a field, a method that while visually impressive is
pointlessly complex and almost bound to fail, as indeed it did. The whole
scene was totally implausible.

Eve: Shut up, Roger, or you’re going the same way as Sam Gamgee.


Asked on Wednesday about the 40p income tax threshold, David Cameron said he
would “love to” raise it. This has been widely interpreted as a hint that he
will. “Tories Plan to Help Struggling Families” was the headline in the
Express. “Cameron Hints at Giveaway for Higher-Rate Taxpayers,” declared the

Which is interesting, because I thought he meant the opposite: that he
wouldn’t, indeed couldn’t, raise the 40p threshold. Yes, he’d “love to”, but
only in the same way he might “love to” give every voter a free holiday

in the Bahamas. Did he intend to make his answer so ambiguous? I can see why
he wouldn’t have wanted to put it bluntly. (“Forget it. No tax cuts for
you.”) But his answer was so vague you could easily think he was saying:
“Just you wait and see, chaps!”

He may come to regret it. It’s given him nice headlines, which will encourage
voters to believe there’s an exciting tax cut on the way. But now, if the
Tory manifesto doesn’t include a pledge to raise the 40p threshold, voters
will think he’s broken a promise. A promise that, in fact, he never made in
the first place.


Later this month a new biography is to be published of Philip Larkin. Written
by James Booth, it promises to show that, rather than the “gaunt, emotional
failure” of popular belief, the poet was “delightful company”.

Having just begun to read it, I’m struck once again by how much of our
knowledge of great writers comes from their letters. Without them, our
understanding of Larkin would be completely different: we’d never have known
about his private views on women, politics and immigration, because he
restricted the expression of those views to correspondence with friends. (To
Kingsley Amis in 1979: “The lower-class bastards can no more stop going on
strike now than a laboratory rat can stop jumping on a switch to give itself
an orgasm.”)

In public, by contrast, he was courteous and (comparatively) diplomatic.

Now that no one writes personal letters, what will biographers of the future
be able to tell us about the great writers of today? What sources will they
draw on, other than the writer’s public pronouncements (which may well be
different from his true opinions), the recollections of his friends (which
may be biased in his favour) and the recollections of his rivals (biased
against him)? Will we ever have such insight into great writers’ minds


Losing the Labour leadership contest of 2010 has done wonders for David
Miliband’s reputation. Disillusioned Labour supporters ruefully imagine
that, were he in charge, they’d be miles clear in the polls, and suffering
none of the embarrassments his younger brother blunders into. David had
gravitas; he didn’t look weird; voters knew his name.

In reality, it’s probably wishful thinking. Had David won, I’m sure he’d have
been mocked just as much as Ed has been – but for different reasons. Critics
would have called him cold, aloof, supercilious, charmless. “If only he
seemed friendly, and pleasant, and had a sense of humour,” disillusioned
Labour supporters would have sighed. “You know, like his brother…”

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(via Telegraph)