Have you ever been seduced by something? By an idea, a place, or a desire that was so overpowering that you couldn’t think of anything else. Before you knew what you were doing, you had quit your job, or bought a plane ticket, or one morning, you found yourself in bed with someone, and you aren’t quite sure of how you got there. The odds are that you were lured, or seduced.
In the 1976 film Network, a savage send up of television directed by Sidney Lumet, we are introduced to the head of a news department of a fictional television network. This character, called Max Schumacher, played by William Holden, has to deal with the fact that his news division is struggling with falling ratings.
Under pressure from a senior network executive (Robert Duvall, in an icy and juicy role) Max finds himself paired up with a voracious Faye Dunaway, as Diana Christensen, the new VP of Programming, who wants success at any price. Max is looking at the younger Diana with designs, not knowing she has already targeted him. From his middle-aged vantage point, this might be his last chance at grand passion. He doesn’t stand a chance:
Max: Do you have a favorite restaurant?
Diana: I eat anything.
Max: Son of a bitch, I get a feeling I’m being made.
Diana: You are.
Max: I’ve got to warn you, I-I don’t do anything on my first date.
Diana: We’ll see.
And so, Max was seduced. And so were we. Of course you will recall the movies’ famous tagline: “I’m Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Going To Take it Anymore!” which was spoken by the newscaster Howard Beale.
Actor Peter Finch won an Oscar for his role as the ill-fated newsman. Finch himself died before the Oscar ceremony so this was a posthumous award. Poor Finch never did get to experience the seduction by Hollywood that always follows an Oscar.
In the famed movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman stars as Benjamin, a recent college graduate trying to find his way in the world. He doesn’t have clue as to what he wants to do with his life. His father’s business partner’s wife, Mrs Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft, who got an Academy Award nomination for her role, has a definite game plan designed for Benjamin.
Ben: For God’s sake, Mrs Robinson, here we are, you’ve got me into your house. You give me a drink. You put on music, now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won’t be home for hours.
Mrs Robinson: So?
Ben: Mrs Robinson — you are trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?
Mrs Robinson: Well, no. I hadn’t thought of it. I feel very flattered.
As he is leaving she calls to him from the upstairs, asking him to bring her purse upstairs, He tries to refuse, but she insists. He brings the purse upstairs, and enters her bedroom. She enters the room behind him, naked, and locks the door:
Ben: Oh God, let me out.
Mrs Robinson: Don’t be nervous.
Ben: Get away from that door.
Mrs Robinson: I want to say something first.
Ben: Dear God.
Mrs Robinson: Benjamin. I want you to know that I’m available to you, and if you won’t sleep with me this time….
Ben: Oh, my God.
Ben manages to escape this time, but later he gives in to his desires …
… and they meet at a hotel. “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” indeed. It wasn’t ‘plastics’ that seduced Ben, no, it was Mrs. Robinson.
Hotels, or motels, often figure in our grand seduction plans and schemes. You will never forget the Bates Motel in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, Psycho. Janet Leigh’s character checked in but she never checked out. Aside from her desperate desire and need for money, you’d never associate the word seduction with what happened to her character. Yes poor Janet’s seduction is entirely off-topic for this discussion.
However, to stay on topic, let’s have a look at the brilliant film North By Northwest, where seduction is at the film’s core. The debonair Cary Grant, as Roger O. Thornhill (R.O.T – another one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘jokes’ within the film) more than meets his match in Eva Marie Saint, as Eve Kendall, who beds him on the train from New York to Chicago.
The seduction is played out with many memorable lines. The first of which played out in the dining car:
Roger: What I mean is, the moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her.
Eve: What makes you think you have to conceal it?
Roger: She might find the idea objectionable.
Eve: Then again, she might not.
And the second of the more memorable dialogies that will get R.O.T. into Eve’s clutches:
Roger: Think how lucky I am to have been seated here.
Eve: Well, luck had nothing to do with it.
Eve: I tipped the steward $5 dollars to seat you here if you should come in.
Roger: Is that a proposition?
Eve: I never discuss love on an empty stomach.
Roger: You’ve already eaten.
Eve: But you haven’t.
Yes, the movies are filled with seductions, and these are but three of the best. If you will visit The Arts on a regular basis, you may learn more about the art of seduction; or you may not ever see seduction mentioned again. Either way, we hope you enjoy yourself here.