"Well there was this movie I seen one time"

Film Dialogue in the Lyrics of Bob Dylan


Show Boat (1929)

Freaks (1932)

Now And Forever (1934)

A Night At The Opera (1935)

The Petrified Forest (1936)

Gone With The Wind (1939)

Jesse James (1939)

The Oklahoma Kid (1939)

The Great Dictator (1940)

I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Little Foxes (1941)

The Big Store (1941)

Casablanca (1942)

All Through The Night (1942)

Double Indemnity (1944)

The Bells of St Mary's (1945)

Johnny Angel (1945)

Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)

To Have And Have Not (1945)

The Big Sleep (1946)

Out Of The Past (1947)

Blood On The Moon (1948)

Key Largo (1948)

Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House (1945)

The Great Gatsby (1949)

The Gunfighter (1950)

Right Cross (1950)

Sirocco (1951)

The African Queen (1951)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)




References to particular films and fragments of film dialogue are scattered throughout the lyrics of Bob Dylanís songs, particularly in the 1985 album Empire Burlesque. I have attempted to compile these snatches from the songs and cite the original film dialogue, although some of the quotes may be coincidental rather than deliberate, using phrases that have passed into common usage.

Out of the 61  films listed, 19 belong to the dark, cynical cycle of 40/50s crime films that French cineastes later christened film noir and nine star the archetypal noir anti-hero, Humphrey Bogart. The film from which most of Dylanís quotes are taken is John Hustonís The Maltese Falcon (1941), which defined the noir genre and Bogartís screen persona. Like film noir, Dylanís songs of the 80s, from which most of the quotes are taken, point to what Eddie Muller called the struggle of the individual to transcend or escape ďthe black core of corruption in our Ďcivilizedí society and our primitive essence.Ē

While the sources of the quotes are given on the acknowledgements page, John Lindley and Michael Gray deserve special mention for first drawing attention to Dylanís use of filmic dialogue.


Please send me your comments, corrections and additions

  Jim Linwood 2003

Last update 17 March 2015

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Bend Of The River (1951)

Clash By Night (1952)

The Lusty Men (1952)

City That Never Sleeps (1953)

Shane (1953)

Sabrina (1954)

On The Waterfront (1954)

Rear Window (1954)

12 Angry Men (1957)

I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Separate Tables (1958)

The Lineup (1958)

The Big Country (1958)

Face Of A Fugitive (1959)

The Savage Innocents (1959)

Shoot The Piano Player (1960)

Psycho (1960)

La Dolce Vita (1960)

One Eyed Jacks (1961)

Town Without Pity (1961)

The Hustler (1961)

My Fair Lady (1964)

Marnie (1964)

A High Wind In Jamaica (1965)

The Sandpiper (1965)

The Squire of Gothos (1967)

Taxi Driver (1976)

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Bronco Billy (1980)

The Stunt Man (1980)

Working Girl (1988)