Last night I was at a party and I glanced at the TV, playing at the other end of the room: There was the montage of old end credits, one “The End” after another. I don’t know if it was a commercial or something else. But it got me thinking. All old movies used to end with a title card that said “The End,” and now they end by telling you the names of the grips and gaffers and who did the craft service. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I miss “The End.” And it got me thinking about when and why moviemakers stopped using it. Somebody had to be the first one, right? Maybe it took a while before it got to common usage, but it had to start somewhere.
The first thing that came to my head was some studio exec or producer deciding it was stupid. “Hey buddy, the curtain’s closed, the lights are up and the ushers are sweeping up the popcorn. What do you think this is, the Macy’s Parade? Go home!” Whoever got rid of “The End” was probably a philistine who didn’t appreciate the poetry of “The End.”
When I got home, I did some Googling and I found out the answer wasn’t very interesting. The turnover happened in the 1970s, when certain directors decided it would be better to start their movies with minimal or no credits and put the rest at the end. One reason might have been the increase in power of the unions, which meant that the credits got longer and longer, but largely it was an aesthetic decision by the moviemakers to get the movie going quickly or immediately, for example, the openings of Manhattan and Apocalypse Now. George Lucas was fined by the DGA for putting director Irvin Kershner’s credit (and everybody else’s) at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, and quit the Directors Guild and the Writers Guild soon after.
Nowadays, it’s not unusual to see end sequences that are as amazing as the greatest opening credits sequences. The one for Wall-E comes immediately to mind. On the other hand, the logos for TV production companies that make up the last few seconds of most TV shows are usually annoying.
Most people would probably laugh if they saw “The End” on a Hollywood movie these days, even if all the characters are dead and there is a “Final” or “Last” in the title.
But there are lots of reasons why “The End” should be taken out of mothballs. I would appreciate it if some “The End” music would come on after an endless stream of TV commercials—signaling you need to finish making that peanut butter and jelly sandwich pronto as “Lost” is coming back on. Even if you were on the couch, it would be a reward for getting through that Shoedini commercial for the hundredth time. Some might find it in poor taste, but it would be a totally cinematic way of doing the “Tribute to Departed Stars” segment at the Oscars. There is potential for the digital age. How about a nice “The End” when you finish an eBook or make it through all the levels of a video game?
But I’m realistic. It’s unlikely that anybody is going to start up “The End” again. I miss it. Thank god for Netflix.
Reid Rosefelt is a veteran film publicist based in New York City. He has promoted hundreds of films, for such diverse moviemakers as Jim Jarmusch, Pedro Almodóvar, Errol Morris, Ang Lee and Werner Herzog. His personal clients have included The Sundance Institute, IFC and HBO Films, as well as Harvey Keitel, Ally Sheedy and the late Adrienne Shelly. His production publicity credits include Desperately Seeking Susan, The Godfather: Part III and, most recently, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. His blog can be found at http://my-life-as-a-blog.com/.