I first heard about this movie while reading a book called “Love Letters to the Dead” by Ava Dellaira a couple years ago, and, in the book, the protagonist writes letters to dead people in an attempt to make sense of her own life after the death of her older sister. Some of those letters were addressed to River Phoenix. And one of the only things I can remember from that book was her writing about “Stand By Me” in her first letter to him. I don’t know what it was about it that made it stick out as much as it did. She seemed to love it quite intimately, I guess, and that must have spoke to me. So, based on that, I was a bit intrigued, and also hesitant when watching this movie a couple nights ago. I didn’t know what to expect. And I honestly put it on with the intention to switch it off if it did not grab my attention. But it did, almost instantly. The second I saw all those boys up in that treehouse, there was no turning back.
It’s such a beautiful story, and movie. And through it, I have been introduced to a new favorite character of mine. Chris Chambers played by River Phoenix. He’s such a beautiful character, and River Phoenix portrayed him so well. Never have I gotten the urge to hug, and hold a character tight as much I have with Chris Chambers after watching “Stand By Me”. And when the movie was done, I felt broken. But not in a terrible way. I don’t know how to describe it. But I took out “Love Letters to the Dead” last night, and it was my first time picking it up after I had put it down the last time I read it, and I looked for the part where she wrote about the movie, and I found that it summarized my feelings well enough: “You were so beautiful. But even more than that, you were somebody we felt like we recognized. In the movie, you were the one to take care of Gordie, who’d lost his older brother. You were his protector. But you had your own hurt, too. The parents and the teachers and everyone thought badly of you because of your family’s reputation. When you said, ‘I just wish I could go someplace where no one knows me,’ May turned to me and said, ‘I wish I could pull him out of the screen and into our living room. He belongs with us, don’t you think?'”
So, without further ado, a list of my favorite quotes/conversations from Stand By Me:
“I was twelve going on thirteen first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of nineteen-fifty-nine. A long time ago. But only if you measure in terms of years. I was living in a small town in Oregon called Castle Rock. There were only 1281 people, but to me it was the whole world.” – The Writer (adult Gordie)
Vern: But if we do find the kid’s body over in South Harlow they’ll know we didn’t go to the drag-races! We’ll get hided!
Teddy: Nobody would care cos everybody is gonna be so jazzed about what we found it’s not gonna make a difference!
Chris: Yeah! My dad would hide me anyway. But hell that’s worth a hiding!
“I wanted to share my friends’ enthusiasm but I couldn’t. That summer at home I had become the invisible boy.” The Writer
Chris: Oh man, you should have seen your face! Yeah that was cool! That was really fine!
Gordie: You knew it was loaded, you wet end! I’ll be in trouble now that Tupper-babe saw me!
Chris: Shit, Gordie, she thought it was firecrackers!
Gordie: I don’t care. It was a mean trick, Chris.
Chris: Hey, Gordie. I didn’t know it was loaded. Honest.
Gordie: You swear?
Chris: Yeah, I swear.
Gordie: On your mother’s name?
Gordie: Even if she goes to hell because you lied?
Chris: Yeah, I swear!
Gordie: Pinky swear?
Chris: Pinky swear.
Vern: Hey, I’m kind of hungry, who’s got the food?
Teddy: Oh shit! Did anybody bring anything?
Chris: Not me. Gordie?
Teddy: Well, this is great. What are we supposed to do? Eat our feet?
Chris: D’you mean, you didn’t bring anything either?
Teddy: Oh shit, this wasn’t my idea. It was Vern’s idea. Why didn’t you bring something?
Vern: What’m I supposed to do? Think of everything? I brought the comb!
Teddy: Oh great, you brought a comb. What d’you need a comb for if you don’t even have any hair?
Vern: I brought it for you guys!
“I wondered how Teddy could care so much for his dad who practically killed him. And I couldn’t give a shit about my own dad who hadn’t laid a hand on me since I was three and that was for eating bleach from under the sink.” – The writer
Teddy: I’m sorry if I’m spoiling everybody’s good time.
Chris: It’s okay, it’s okay, man.
Gordie: I’m not sure it should be a good time.
Chris: You saying you wanna go back?
Gordie: No. Going to see a dead kid… maybe it shouldn’t be a party.
Gordie: D’you think I’m weird?
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah. But so what; everybody is weird.
Chris:You ready for school?
Chris: Junior High. You know what that means. By next June we’ll all be split up.
Gordie: What’re you talking about, why would that happen?
Chris: It’s not gonna be like grammar-school, that’s why. You’re taking your college-courses and me Teddy and Vern will all be in the shop-courses with all the rest of the retarders making ashtrays and birdhouses. You gonna meet a lot of new guys. Smart guys.
Gordie: Meet a lot of pussies is what you mean.
Chris: No man. Don’t say that, don’t even think that.
Gordie: Not going to meet a lot of pussies, forget it!
Chris: Well then you’re an asshole!
Gordie: What’s asshole about wanting to be with your friends?
Chris: It’s asshole if your friends drag you down! You hang with us, you’ll be just another wise guys with shit for brains.
Chris: You could be a real writer someday, Gordie.
Gordie: Fuck writing! I don’t wanna be a writer! It’s stupid! It’s a stupid wast of time!
Chris: That’s your dad talking.
Chris: Bulltrue. I know how your dad feels about you, he doesn’t give a shit about you. Denny was the one he cared about, and don’t try to tell me different! You’re just a kid, Gordie.
Gordie: Oh gee, thanks, dad!
Chris: Wish the hell I was your dad. You wouldn’t be going around talking about taking these stupid shop-courses if I was. It’s like God gave you something, man. All those stories that you can make up. An’ he said: This is what we got for you, kid, try not to lose it. But kids lose everything unless there’s someone there to look after them. And if your parents are too fucked up to do it then maybe I should.
Writer: (voice over) We talked into the night. The kind of talk that seemed important until you discover girls.
Gordie: Alright, alright. Mickey’s a mouse. Donald’s a duck. Pluto’s a dog. What’s Goofy?
Vern: If I can only have one food for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry-flavoured Pez. No question about it.
Teddy: Goofy’s a dog, he’s definitely a dog.
Gordie: I knew the sixty-four thousand dollars question was fixed. There’s no way anybody can know that much about opera.
Chris: He can’t be a dog. Wears a hat and drives a car.
Gordie: Wagon Train’s a really cool show. But did you ever notice that they never get anywhere? They just keep wagon training.
Vern: God, that’s weird. What the hell is Goofy?
Chris: Are you okay?
Chris: You were dreaming.
Gordie: I didn’t cry at Denny’s funeral. I miss him, Chris. I really miss him.
Chris: I know. Go back to sleep.
Gordie: Maybe you could go into the College-courses with me.
Chris: That’ll be the day.
Gordie: Why not you’re smart enough.
Chris: They won’t let me.
Gordie: What d’you mean?
Chris: It’s the way people think of my family in this town. It’s the way they think of me. Just one of those lowlife Chambers-kids.
Gordie: That’s not true.
Chris: Oh it is. No one even asked me if I took the milk-money that time. I just got a three-day vacation.
Gordie: (hesitantly) Did you take it?
Chris: Yeah I took it. You knew I took it. Teddy knew I took it. Everyone knew I took it. Even Vern knew it I think. Maybe I was sorry and I tried to give it back.
Gordie: You tried to give it back?
Chris: Maybe, just maybe. And maybe I took it to Old Lady Simons and told her. And the money was all there. But I still got a three-day vacation because it never showed up. And maybe the next week Old lady Simons had that brand new skirt on when she came to school.
Gordie: Yeah, yeah. It was brown and had dots on it!
Chris: Yeah. So let’s just say that I stole the milk money but Old Lady Simons stole it back from me. Just suppose that I told the story. Me, Chris Chambers, kid brother of the Eyeball Chambers. You think that anybody would have believed it?
Chris: And d’you think that that bitch would have dared try something like that if it would have been one of those douchebags from up on The View if they had taken the money?
Gordie: No way!
Chris: Hell no! But with me… I’m sure she had her eyes on that skirt for a long time. Anyway she saw her chance and she took it. I was the stupid one for even trying to give it back. I never thought – I never thought that a teacher– Oh who gives a fuck anyway? I just wish I could go to some place where nobody knows me. I guess I’m just a pussy, Gordie.
Gordie: (whispers) No way, no way.
Chris: Come on Teddy, act your age!
Teddy: This is my age! I’m in the prime of my youth and I’ll only be young once!
Chris: Yeah, but you’re gonna be stupid for the rest of your life.
Teddy: Oh-oh, Chambers you just signed your own death-warrant! You die, Chambers!
Writer: (voice over) None of us could breathe. Somewhere under those bushes was the rest of Ray Brower. The train had knocked Ray Brower out of his Keds just like it had knocked the life out of his body.
Writer: (voice over) The kid wasn’t sick. The kid wasn’t sleeping. The kid was dead.
Chris: Let’s look for some long branches. We’ll build him a stretcher.
Gordie: Why did you have to die?
Vern: What’s the matter with Gordie?
Chris: Nothing. Why don’t you guys just go for some long branches, okay?
Gordie: Why did he have to die, Chris? Why did Denny have to die? Why?
Chris: I don’t know.
Gordie: It should have been me.
Chris: Don’t say that.
Gordie: It should have been me.
Chris: Don’t say that, man.
Gordie: I’m no good. My dad said it, I’m no good.
Chris: He doesn’t know you.
Gordie: He hates me.
Chris: He doesn’t hate you.
Gordie: He hates me.
Chris: No, he just doesn’t know you.
Gordie: He hates me. My dad hates me. He hates me oh oh God.
Chris: (As he holds and comforts Gordie) You’re gonna be a great writer someday, Gordie. You might even write about us guys if you ever get hard up for material.
Gordie: Guess I’d have to be really hard up, huh?
Chris: (with a chuckle) Yeah.
Chris: (amused) “Suck my fat one?” Who ever told you you had a fat one, Lachance?
Gordie: Biggest one in four counties.
Vern: (as he gestures to the body of Ray Brower) We’re gonna take him?
Teddy: But we came all this way. We’re supposed to be heroes.
Gordie: Not this way, Teddy. Chris, gimme a hand.
“Ray Brower’s body was found. But neither our gang nor their gang got the credit. In the end we decided that an anonymous phone-call was the best thing to do. We headed home. And although many thoughts raced through our minds we barely spoke. We walked through the night and made it back to Castle Rock a little past five o’clock on Sunday morning, the day before Labor Day. We’d only been gone two days. But somehow the town seemed different. Smaller.” – The writer
“As time went on we saw less and less of Teddy and Vern until eventually they became just two more faces in the halls. That happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant. I heard that Vern got married out of High-school, had four kids and is now the forklift operator at the Arsenal Lumberyard. Teddy tried several times to get into the Army but his eyes and his ear kept him out. The last I heard, he’d spent some time in jail. He was now doing odd jobs around Castle Rock.” – The writer
Chris: I’m never gonna get out of this town, am I, Gordie?
Gordie: You can do anything you want, man.
Chris: Yeah, sure. Gimme some skin.
Gordie: I’ll see you.
Chris: Not if I see you first.
“Chris did get out. He enrolled in the College-courses with me. And although it was hard he gutted it out like he always did. He went on to College and eventually became a lawyer. Last week he entered a fast food restaurant. Just ahead of him, two men got into an argument. One of them pulled a knife. Chris who would always make the best peace tried to break it up. He was stabbed in the throat. He died almost instantly.
“Although I haven’t seen him in more than ten years I know I’ll miss him forever. I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.
Jesus, does anybody?” -the Writer