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Roll the credits - off a nearby cliff.

Byline: Sid McKeen


If I had as much money as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, I'd give a bunch of it to every governmental unit in the country. But only with the stipulation that it be used to erect signs in all their meeting places with this inscription: "It is amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares about who gets the credit."

The quote is so good - so right to the heart of what we need (and rarely get) from Congress, state legislatures, city councils and town selectmen - that it would be fitting not to give credit to its author, but just for the record, it is attributed to Robert Yates, a contemporary of George Washington.

The way it works now, of course, is that everybody wants the credit when things go right. The thanks always go to "us" and the blame goes to "them," no matter which party happens to hold the power. The same is true outside government, too, although the pattern may be less obvious when the issues have less of an impact on the public at large.

But when it comes to handing out credit for things, no industry can match the people in Hollywood. A generation or two back, movie credits were pretty much just an afterthought - names of cast members and a handful of principals in production. Producer, director, costume designer, music composer, that sort of thing. It all took maybe a minute or two. Watch a movie today, at home or in theater, and the credits go on from here to eternity. Some are almost as long as those movie shorts that were so popular back in the day. Do the moviemakers seriously believe the average viewer gives a hoot in Hades who was the prop manager, sound mixer, gaffer, boom, camera loader, negative cutter, second assistant director, caterer, timer, key grip or best boy?

One category alone - "special thanks" - rolls on like the Mississippi. I counted more than a hundred such honorable mentions in a single film the other day - everything from a taxi service to a kennel operator. And here's the nutty part: Many times the print is so small and the scrolling so rapid that you can't make out the names anyway, not that anyone but the people being credited would want to. Those people probably rent the DVDs and watch only the credits, and even at that have to hit the pause button to claim their 15 nanoseconds of fame. ("See, Aunt Dolores, Key Grip? Your own little nephew!")

Here's my humble suggestion for the movie moguls: Why not just pay all those folks an extra buck an hour and spare the rest of us the agony?

I know, I don't have to watch the credits. But my wife, who is more ardent than most of us about movies, always wants to know the year in which every film was made. And the credits creators make it a habit of saving that information 'til the very end of the list. Not only that, but they insist on showing the date in Roman numerals (classier, I suppose). The thing goes by so quickly and our eyesight is getting so deficient that we have the devil's time of it translating MCMLXXXII into 1982 before the lion roars goodbye and the lights go back up.

If and when my ship comes in, I'm going to see that Mr. Yates' quotation is emblazoned in every hall of government, with a copy provided as well to every studio in Tinseltown. In capital letters and Roman numerals.

Note: Please hold the credit.

Reach Sid McKeen at
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Title Annotation:COMMENTARY
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 12, 2011
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