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Hailing a cab

Manhattan without taxis? That could be the case for at least a few days if a planned strike goes through.

Of course, those of us who don’t live in NYC seldom have cause to ride in cabs, so most of our image of the job comes from movies. And if they’re anything like the most most infamous movie cabbie of all, Robert Deniro’s Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese’s bleak Taxi Driver, we say, "Give them what ever they want!"


Fortunately for the Cabbies Anti-Defamation league, there are plenty of friendlier portrayals on film.

Classic screwball comedies always seemed to have a lovable cabbie, usually balking in frustration at being kept waiting while his fares were running around being screwy. Who can forget Ernie in It’s a Wonderful Life, or the nameless cabbie who spends the whole day waiting for Cary Grant to do something about his murderous aunties so his can leave on his honeymoon in Arsenic and Old Lace? And cabbies were always happy to pick up James Stewart’s Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey—he was just as likely to bring them home to dinner as tip them.

My personal favorite classic cabbie is Don Ameche in the lesser-known screwball classic Midnight, co-written by Billy Wilder. Not only is he key to the plot, he even gets the girl at the end.

And you can get a quadruple dose of taxi stories in Jim Jarmusch’s quirky comedy Night On Earth, five stories set in cities around the globe that all deal with a cabbie and an unusual fare. The Roberto Benigni segment alone is worth the price of rental (let’s face it, he’s always best in small doses).


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