Today, we look at the “Out of Order” speech in Scent of a Woman, which helped to show why Al Pacino won his first Oscar for the role.
This is To Quote a Phrase, a spotlight on notable pop culture quotes.
October is a Month of To Quote a Phrase, both here and at Comics Should Be Good!
Let’s face it, Al Pacino most generally won his first Oscar for Best Actor in 1992 mostly because he hadn’t won an Oscar up until that point, and since he was one of the greatest film actors of his generation, that was a real shame, and so when he was nominated in a year without an obvious favorite (Denzel Washington probably SHOULD have won for Malcolm X, and did win Best Actor in a number of film award ceremonies that year, but Pacino won the Golden Globe and the Oscar, and Washington came in third in the National Film Critics Award for Best Actor, behind Stephen Rea for The Crying Game and Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven), he finally took home the Oscar for his role as Lt. Col. Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman, about a retired blind military man who is watched by a local New England prep school student for the Thanksgiving weekend so that his niece, his usual day-to-day caretaker, could visit her husband’s family for the holiday. The prep student, Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell), was trying to make enough money to go home to Oregon for Christmas (he was attending the school on a scholarship). However, right before the Thanksgiving break, three students pulled a cruel prank on the school’s headmaster, and it was clear that Charlie and another student, George (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), witnessed who pulled the prank. Neither Charlie nor George wanted to be “snitches,” so a disciplinary committee was set after the break to try to force the two teens to “name names.”
Slade has Charlie take him to New York City, where Slade prepares to enjoy one final weekend before taking his own life. Charlie becomes close to Slade during their time together, and he actually manages to stop Slade from killing himself. Slade decides to return to the prep school with Charlie for the disciplinary committee where George has cut a deal where he will name the three students, but claim he didn’t see them clearly, as didn’t have his contact lenses on, so only Charlie REALLY saw the students behind the prank. Charlie refuses to squeal, and the headmaster is about to recommend that Charlie be expelled when an enraged Slade gives the following speech:
I don’t know who went to this place – William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan, William Tell, whoever. Their spirit is dead, if they ever had one. It’s gone. You’re buildin’ a rat ship here. A vessel for sea-goin’ snitches. And if you think you’re preparin’ these minnows for manhood, you better think again. Because I say you are killin’ the very spirit this institution proclaims it instills! What a sham! What kind of a show are you guys puttin’ on here today. I mean, the only class in this act is sittin’ next to me. And I’m here to tell ya, this boy’s soul is intact. It’s non-negotiable. You know how I know? Someone here, and I’m not gonna say who, offered to buy it. Only Charlie here wasn’t sellin’….
Out of order, I’ll show you out of order! You don’t know what out of order is, Mr.Trask! I’d show you, but I’m too old, I’m too tired, I’m too f–kin’ blind. If I were the man I was five years ago, I’d take a flame-thrower to this place. Out of order, who the hell do you think you’re talking to? I’ve been around, you know? There was a time I could see. And I have seen. Boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off. But there isn’t nothin’ like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that. You think you’re merely sending this splendid foot soldier back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs, but I say you are executin’ his soul! And why? Because he’s not a Baird man. Baird men. You hurt this boy, you’re gonna be Baird bums, the lot of ya. And Harry, Jimmy, Trent, wherever you are out there, F–k You Too!…
I’m not finished! As I came in here, I heard those words – ‘Cradle of Leadership.’ Well, when the bow breaks, the cradle will fall. And it has fallen here. It has fallen. Makers of men. Creators of leaders. Be careful what kind of leaders you’re producin’ here. I don’t know if Charlie’s silence here today is right or wrong. I’m not a judge or jury. But I can tell you this. He won’t sell anybody out to buy his future! And that, my friends, is called integrity! That’s called courage! Now that’s the stuff leaders should be made of. Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here’s Charlie. He’s come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It’s the right path. It’s a path made of principle that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey. You hold this boy’s future in your hands, Committee. It’s a valuable future. Believe me. Don’t destroy it! Protect it. Embrace it. It’s gonna make ya proud one day, I promise you.
On top of the memorable scene where Slade does a tango with a beautiful woman (Gabrielle Anwar) during the time in New York…
there isn’t a whole lot that stood out about the film, but that speech and that dance really probably won Pacino the Oscar.
Whatever other problems the film has, that speech IS quite good. Of course, as my pal Chris reminded me, Pacino amusingly had a whole other movie where he ALSO gave a memorable speech involving him reacting to someone telling him he was out of order, And Justice For All.
Okay, folks, if you have suggestions for cool pop culture quotes, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!