Shake the Scene: Ghost

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Ghost (1990)

The Scenes: “GET OFF MY TRAIN!”

Why We Love This Scene: Who doesn’t love Ghost? It was a big hit back in 1990 and even won Whoopi Goldberg a best supporting actress Oscar as her role as medium Oda Mae Brown. I was maybe 12 when I first saw it and even for a sappy romantic sci-fi thriller I was a huge fan. Even back then I was like, “why is one of the guys who made Airplane! and The Naked Gun making this kind of movie?” I still haven’t gotten my answer, but oh well, it doesn’t matter since Jerry Zucker did a bang-up job. It’s been a long long time since I’ve seen it but this is one that is pretty etched in my memory. 

Patrick Swayze plays Sam Wheat, who was killed one night and refused to go “up to heaven” or whatever and decided to try to solve his murder. Since he’s a ghost he has trouble communicating with the living (obviously) but he also struggles with interacting with the real world as well. One day down in the subways he discovers another ghost guy that can actually move and manipulate tangible objects and wants him to be his “Obi-Wan.” Except that this other dead dude is a rather unsavory character played with aplomb by seasoned character actor Vincent Schiavelli.

He’s never given a name and only has like 6 minutes screen time but Schiavelli makes his mark in the thriller with some great performance. He’s rude, violent, surly and paranoid. He claims ownership of one particular subway train and basically tries to throw Sam off of it and screams in his face. I should probably ask Professor Popcorn why this ghost is so attached and possessive of a seemingly ordinary subway car but I have to wait until the professor returns from his sabbatical down in Club Hedonism. Schiavelli realizes that the only way to get Sam off his case and subway car is to help him out. A Mr. Miyagi he isn’t as he berates and insults Sam when Sam continually fails to move an object. After Schiavelli tells him to focus, Sam asks him how can he focus and Schiavelli rudely replies, “I don’t know how you focus, you just focus.” He then explains that he harnesses together the power of every emotion he has left and somehow that makes a ghost have corporeal powers. The best part is how insolently defensive he gets when Sam asks him how he died and he thinks Sam doesn’t believe him. He then gets all sad and downtrodden when he sees cigarettes and laments that he “would do anything for a drag.” It’s hard to find another character like this in film history I’m afraid. Out of all the scenes I can recall and liked from Ghost this one stands out most. Yes, even more than the pottery love-making scene.

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