“There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”
–Alec Baldwin as Jimmy Doolittle in Pearl Harbor.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor has not previously been associated with bad writing. Chatterbox’s favorite anecdote about presidential speechifying concerns the typescript of Franklin Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor speech, which was recently posted online by the Smoking Gun. Someone (speechwriter Robert E. Sherwood? Roosevelt himself?) had begun the draft as follows:
Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941, a date which will live in world history. …
In the typescript, though, FDR crossed out “world history” and scribbled in “infamy.”
Sadly, Roosevelt was not available to serve as script doctor for Pearl Harbor (to read Slate’s David Edelstein on the movie, click here), which is about as badly written as a movie can get. The above quote is an excellent example. But is it the absolute lamest bit of dialogue from this turkey? Chatterbox invites readers to nominate other clunkers from the second-largest-opening-weekend-grossing movie in Hollywood history. Please send them to email@example.com.
[Update, May 31: Chatterbox has received the following communication from Michael Waldman, a former Clinton speech writer and author of POTUS Speaks: Finding the Words That Defined the Clinton Presidency:
Roosevelt dictated the Pearl Harbor speech to Congress himself (to his secretary, Grace Tully). The speechwriters–Robert Sherwood and Samuel Rosenman–were writing a longer radio speech, now forgotten, which was considered more “literary.” Just goes to show … (Plus, they lived in New York.)
Roosevelt was a very good writer/editor, though he had some vanity about it. The first inaugural address was written I think by Raymond Moley. FDR laboriously copied it out by hand so it would look to history as if he’d written it himself.]