Movies You Missed: 'Planes, Trains And Automobiles'

Nov 25, 2017
Originally published on November 25, 2017 4:32 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This week, in an effort to spotlight classic movies that make us laugh, cry and hurl - but others may have missed, so they don't know what we quote when we quote them - there's John Hughes' extraordinary 1987 film, "Planes, Trains And Automobiles." Steve Martin, John Candy - two Chicago businessmen trying to get home for Thanksgiving. Their flight gets detoured so they have to take planes, trains and buses and wake up one morning in a Wichita motel room.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES")

JOHN CANDY: (As Del Griffith) Why are you holding my hand?

STEVE MARTIN: (As Neal Page) Where's your other hand?

CANDY: (As Del Griffith) Between two pillows.

MARTIN: (As Neal Page) Those aren't pillows.

CANDY: (As Del Griffith, screaming).

MARTIN: (As Neal Page, screaming).

SIMON: Is this the greatest scene since the Titanic sank? Olivia Roth is a student at Yale. She comes home to Cleveland every holiday. She'd never seen "Planes, Trains And Automobiles." Thank you for joining us, Olivia. What did you think?

OLIVIA ROTH: Oh, I was a big fan of the movie. It really put into perspective how easy my journey home is.

SIMON: Well, help us appreciate your journey. It has several parts, right?

ROTH: Yeah. Yeah. So I start in New Haven. And I take an Uber to this train station. Then I Amtrak to Boston, take the T to the airport and then fly home. My dad would always call the trip the "Planes, Trains And Automobiles" trip.

SIMON: Well, what did you think of the film? What are some of your favorite parts?

ROTH: I really like when they're all on the bus, and John Candy, Del, starts singing the Flintstones song and everyone just joins in. But they didn't know the song...

SIMON: Oh, right.

ROTH: ...That Steve Martin was singing.

SIMON: Steve Martin tries to sing "Three Coins In The Fountain," and nobody else knows it (laughter).

ROTH: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES")

CANDY: (As Del Griffith) All right. Who knows a tune here? Who wants to sing a tune? Who's got a song?

MARTIN: (As Neal Page) I got one.

CANDY: (As Del Griffith) You got one. Neal Page has got one (clapping).

MARTIN: (As Neal Page, singing) Three coins in a fountain, each one seeking - you know this - seeking happiness...

CANDY: (As Del Griffith, singing) Three...

MARTIN: ...Thrown by three hopeful lovers. No?

CANDY: (As Del Griffith, singing) Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones. They're the modern stone age family.

SIMON: And the film turns on a dime at one point, doesn't it? It becomes, for a couple of minutes, quite serious about loneliness and homelessness.

ROTH: Yeah. Right at the end when Steve Martin's character - he's sitting on the train, really excited to go home and finally see his kids and his wife. And he starts thinking about John Candy and all the stories and little anecdotes he's told about his life and that he hasn't been home in a while. And then you see Steve Martin take the train back to where he just departed. You find out that - yeah, John Candy's wife has passed away and that he's all alone. But he's just this lovable guy who just wants to make friends and share his stories - but that he's really lonely and hasn't had a home to go back to for many years.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES")

MARTIN: (As Neal Page) You said you were going home. What are you doing here?

CANDY: (As Del Griffith) I don't have a home. Marie's been dead for eight years.

ROTH: And then he's invited to Steve Martin's home and meets his family and his pet and his wife. It's great.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: Daddy.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: (As Neal Page) Del Griffith, I want you to meet my father-in-law, Walt...

SIMON: Do you think it has - forgive me - a message of some kind?

ROTH: I'd say - just that ending that - when Steve Martin, who plays this sort of uptight businessman who just wants to get home and doesn't really want to engage with other people in conversation or in anything - when he finally takes a step back and thinks about others and loosens up a little, I think it's really valuable - especially at Thanksgiving - to be thankful for what you do have. When he says, oh, it's wonderful. I have a wife that I'm going home to. And at least we have that. It's important to realize that not everyone has all the blessings that you do.

SIMON: Olivia Roth, a Yale student, speaking to us from her family's home in Cleveland. Good trip back to you. Thanks very much for being with us.

ROTH: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERY TIME YOU GO AWAY")

BLUE ROOM: (Singing) Every time you go away, you take a piece of me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.