Something's Gotta Give by Johnny Mercer
When an irresistible force such as you
Meets an old immoveable object like me
You can bet, as sure as you live
Something's gotta give, something's gotta give, something's gotta give.
When an irrepressible smile such as yours
Warms an old implacable heart such as mine
Don't say no, because I insist
Somewhere, somehow, someone's gonna be kissed.
So en garde, who knows what the fates have in store
From their vast mysterious sky?
I'll try hard ignoring those lips I adore
But just how long can anyone try?
Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight it with all of your might
Chances are some heavenly star spangled night
We'll find out as sure as we live
Something's gotta give, something's gotta give, something's gotta give.
When I started pondering the chemistry question and gathering my thoughts, this Johnny Mercer song from the 1950's popped into my head. It's always been a favorite of mine, and upon analysis, I feel it could serve as a secondary theme song for Moonlighting, and especially for a discussion of the chemistry of the series.
How do you describe the perfect chemistry of an on-screen couple? The sparks fly, the eyes meet, the room spins, and everything else in the universe but the two people seems to fade into the background. Every person I know can pull out their favorite movie or TV scenes, demonstrating that screen chemistry is very real and makes all the difference in the story.
In my opinion, the chemistry between Cybill and Bruce has to be the thing that made Moonlighting. There are hundreds, thousands of books, TV shows, movies written each year in which the writer tries to achieve the personal synergy that these two actors have created for David and Maddie. I realize that synergy is usually not a term used for personal relationships, but to me, it works perfectly...a mutually advantageous compatibility. The fact that in David and Maddie's case, it is seemingly incompatible circumstances that lead to this compatibility that makes the savoring of their relationship all the sweeter.
The actors have both acknowledged, on more than one occasion, that there was an off-screen chemistry that made the on-screen chemistry possible. There are many actors who will confess that the best way to encourage on-screen chemistry is to develop a small crush on your costar, and keep it going with flirtation and fun. I would love to think that this was the case with Bruce and Cybill...speculations that go beyond this are an invasion of privacy, and quite frankly, nobody's business.
I would rather talk about the magic they brought to the screen - the very visible connection that they brought to their scenes. Many people describe really good chemistry as something that gives the viewer the feeling that they are eavesdropping or intruding on personal moments. To take it a step further, I think it actually enables the viewer to insert personal experience into the scene, to connect feeling that he/she has had - feelings so intense that you are sure the whole world knows and can see it...feelings so big that they make you uncomfortable revealing so much of yourself...feeling so strong that you are not sure how you remain in control of your thoughts or actions.
There are many, many examples of on-screen chemistry in Moonlighting, starting from the very beginning in the pilot. Most people, if asked, will name Dream Sequence, and Money Talks, Maddie Walks as favorites, together with, of course, Witness for the Execution, and the entire Sam Arc. I like to talk about a few of my favorites that might not be so obvious, but I think upon inspection, may be even more intense.
To Heiress Human -- The Moonlighting episode with the best subtext story holds a wealth of moments that just scream "chemistry" to me. The scene in the office that occurs the morning after they have made love is just full of raw emotion, as Maddie and David do their "two steps forward, one step back" dance in a heated discussion about what the previous night was or was not, that ends in an uncomfortable stand off.
They then admit Margaret Kendall, a woman who will go great lengths to acknowledge and embrace her own love story. The coincidence of the situation is not lost on Maddie and David, who react with awkward glances, and avoidance of eyes. Later, when Maddie attempts to repair the situation, she takes the pragmatic, "fact" filled approach to the case, while David, who has been totally caught off guard by her reactions of the morning, finally gets angry, and points out his belief that love has very little to do with facts, and practicality.
The intensity in which these scenes are acted is amazing. Cybill and Bruce are so believable and true to character that even after fifteen years, I still sit mesmerized each time I view this episode. One of the tests for me on what chemistry is about is that, if you turn down the volume on the TV, you can still see the emotion and the connection between these characters shining through. Don't do it for too long - you'll miss the shining dialogue that completes the picture of making this just a fantastic episode.
Of course, the other part of the "chemistry" discussion that is extremely well done here, is that, in spite of all the words and actions to the contrary, there is a fundamental inability for the characters to keep their hands off of each other, due largely to David's ability to "get to" Maddie. The scenes in the car are just plain HOT……talk about giving the people what they want! If there's a better definition of chemistry around, please don't show me. I'm not sure I could stand the strain!
Atlas Belched -- In my opinion, this is a highly underrated episode, with some great examples of the feelings Maddie and David have for each other. The conversation on the stairs, when they admit to each other that they've probably made a mistake, is wonderful -- the sparks just fly. They complete each other's sentences, they establish a feeling of closeness both physically and emotionally - they just fit together. In fact, Maddie's reaction to David, when she turns from him with a self conscious giggle, is a very important moment for her character…she is happy and grateful for their relationship, and after this interaction, it is difficult to remember her as the cold and unrelenting Maddie of some of the former episodes.
Later in the episode, when David gives up his case to return to Blue Moon - a very self sacrificing moment given his options - they share the moment with some fabulous chemistry -- the looks exchanged between the two of them could cause paint to peel.
- Eek, a Spouse -- This may seem an unusual choice, but sometimes I think there is as much chemistry in a scene when the characters are avoiding connection. The scene I'm speaking of is when David makes Maddie state aloud again that the baby she is carrying is not his. Her body language, her avoidance of his eyes says more to me about the bond between them than some of the more physical scenes they shared. This has always led me to believe that she was lying to him…but hey, that's for another discussion. I think that Cybill and Bruce handled this scene just perfectly…insuring that the audience realizes no matter what time and distance has been between them, nothing is going to overwhelm that spark.
There are many more examples, but I don't want to turn this into a thesis. I guess the bottom line is...when you've got it, you've got it. I have read many articles in which writers, and directors have said they would kill for a couple with screen chemistry like our Moonlighting duo. It makes their work easier. And if the show has a group of talented writers like Glenn Caron and the Moonlighting writing staff, who are sensitive and smart enough to capitalize on that chemistry...well, I guess that's where you get the stuff that dreams are made of.
~~Diane H. of VirtualMoonlighting.com & co-editor of DavidandMaddie.com