"Drama is life with the dull parts cut out of it” means that drama reflects life, but it’s time-compressed with only the interesting parts left in. For example, a biographical film or play won’t show its hero sleeping for eight hours a day. The saying is popular both on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Movie director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) previewed his movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and told reporters:
“Movies have lost a lot by this new trend towards documentary realism at the sacrifice of fantasy. After all, drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”
Hitchcock is credited with the saying today, but “dull bits” is often replaced with “dull parts” or “boring parts.”
Wikipedia: Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, billed as England’s best director, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood.
Hitchcock directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades. Often regarded as the greatest British filmmaker, he came first in a 2007 poll of film critics in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, which said: “Unquestionably the greatest filmmaker to emerge from these islands, Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema, which would be utterly different without him. His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information (from his characters and from us) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else.” The magazine MovieMaker has described him as the most influential filmmaker of all time, and he is widely regarded as one of cinema’s most significant artists.
2 March 1956, Reading (PA) Eagle, ‘The Lyons Den” by Leonard Lyons, pg. 10, col. 2:
Alfred Hitchcock previewed his newest thriller, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” this week. It’s perfect Hitchcock, full of suspense, color and constant interest. The director said after the showing: “Movies have lost a lot by this new trend towards documentary realism at the sacrifice of fantasy. After all, drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”
Suspense in the Cinema
By Gordon Gow
New York, NY: Castle Books
The trick, in a thriller, is to gain this depth without relinquishing an appropriate pace, which will vary according to the specific story but generally needs to be faster than life. For, as Hitchcock has been saying for years, “drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” Melodrama, more so. To cut out the dull bits is not to relinquish contact with life, but rather to emphasise life’s problems.
2 February 1986, Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution, “Through magic of NFL Films, every team looks like a winner” by Terence Moore, pg. B2:
The beauty of those making NFL Films is that they follow Alfred Hitchcock’s credo—“Drama is life with the dull parts cut out”—and then they move a step further.
Why Viewers Watch:
A Reappraisal of Television’s Effects
By Jib Fowles
Newbury Park, CA: Sage
It is, writer Judith Viorst once said, “life with most of the dull parts deleted” (1975, p. 62).
(From Redbook, November 1975, “Soap Operas: The suds of time march on” by Judith Viorst—ed.)
The Theatre Quotation Book:
A Treasury of Insights and Insults
By Russell Vandenbroucke
New York, NY: Limelight Editions
Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.
Seattle (WA) Times
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM
After 28 years, film ‘Days of Heaven’ hasn’t lost its technical brilliance
By John Hartl
(...) (The below is from the original review, printed on October 18, 1978—ed.)
Drama is sometimes defined as “life with the dull parts cut out,” but Malick challenges that assumption by heightening our awareness of the impressionistic beauty of the so-called “dull parts,” and the essential dullness of summing up any life by reducing it to formula.
Deccan Chronicle (South India)
Novel acts: The urban antidote
November 23, 2011 By Virgina Jacob
The beauty of art and entertainment is that it can take on any form and present itself in a variety of shapes, sizes, tone and girth.
The razzmatazz of urban living has left people yearning for tasteful leisure pursuits. That’s exactly what the sublime master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock meant when he said ‘Drama is life with the dull parts cut out of it,’ affirming man’s need to find solace in amusement.
Elements of Fiction Writing—Conflict and Suspense
By James Scott Bell
Georgetown, ON: Fraser Direct
Alfred Hitchcock said that a good story is “life, with the dull parts taken out.” Hitchcock’s axiom holds for everything you write. No conflict=dull. No trouble=readers are tempted to put the book down.
Everything You Need to Write Great Essays:
You Can Learn From Watching Movies
By Jay D. Douglas, Ph.D.
New York, NY: Alpha Books (Penguin Books)
“There’s an old Hollywood saying that drama is life with all the boring parts cut out,” says Jeffrey Davis, chair of the screenwriting program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
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