And the “Oscar®” for best movie pickup line goes to… Audrey Hepburn

Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway may be tipped for awards at the Oscars® this Sunday but neither star was even nominated for a new film prize, that announced its first winner today – one for the Best Movie Pickup Line.

The new award goes instead to a line first delivered by Audrey Hepburn to Cary Grant 50 years ago in the 1963 romantic thriller, “Charade”: “I don’t bite you know… unless it’s called for.”

Hepburn’s line wins on the basis of an online test of flirtatious movie lines in “live” conditions, conducted by Badoo.com, the social networking site for chatting, flirting, dating and meeting new people.

Badoo offered female users across the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand the chance to select from a list of 10 such lines from Hollywood movies and use them as “ice-breakers” to start online conversations.

“This is a study of pickup lines in action”, says Louise Thompson, Badoo’s Director of PR. “And not just any lines but Hollywood’s finest.”

Badoo then analyzed the data on 1,000 interactions using such lines. It measured two things – first, which lines were most picked by women to approach men, and second, which lines got the highest response rate from the men approached. The two gave noticeably different outcomes.

The line picked most by women was Hepburn’s from “Charade”. But the one that got the best response from men was even older – first delivered in a Southern drawl by Bette Davis in the 1932 movie, “The Cabin in the Cotton”: “I’d love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair.”   

Years later, Davis told a TV interviewer that it was her favorite ever movie line.

Meanwhile, 81 years after Davis first uttered it, it works like a charm on modern men. Indeed, with both ways of measuring, one thing was clear: the old movie lines outperformed the more recent ones.

“But then the old lines do seem better – sharper, wittier, snappier”, says Thompson. “In fact, we found it much harder to find strong candidates from recent movies. They don’t seem to write them like they used to.”

Indeed, Badoo hoped to include a line from one of this year’s Oscar®-nominated movies, like the rom-com, “Silver Linings Playbook”. But the nearest to one it could find was the line when Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) says to Pat (Bradley Cooper), I have a problem? You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.” And that just didn’t seem… appropriate.

“I can see why women like the Audrey Hepburn line”, says Jo Hemmings, a behavioral psychologist, relationship and dating coach. “It’s slightly quirky, with an element of naughtiness and sexuality about it – but in a fun way not a sleazy one.”

Natalie Portman, meanwhile, may recently have been called “the Audrey Hepburn of our generation” by fellow star Jake Gyllenhall but she is no match for the original when it comes to movie flirting, suggest Badoo’s findings. 

Portman won her place in Badoo’s study thanks to a line she penned in a Valentine’s Day card to Ashton Kutcher when playing a med student in the 2011 movie, “No Strings Attached”.  It read, “You give me premature ventricular contractions – you make my heart skip a beat.” 

Not bad – but no match for Hepburn’s line or several others. It was only the fifth most used by women of the 10 lines proffered. It ranked even lower on male response rate, placing seventh out of 10.

This highlighted the other notable finding of Badoo’s study – that the lines women favor are not the ones that work best on men.

The Bette Davis line, for example, was the one that got the best response from men and yet it ranked second last on its appeal to women.

What explains the gap between the lines favored by women and those that work best on men? “A lot of it’s because women are still not practised at making the first approach”, says Hemmings. “It’s a skill that they’ve yet to learn.”

Meanwhile, the two lines that work best on men – the Bette Davis and Shirley Maclaine lines – both seem to rely more on humor than sexual suggestion.

A more suggestive line was one delivered by Katherine Turner as Jessica Rabbit in the 1988 animation, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”: “You don’t know how hard it is being a woman looking the way I do.” That was third most picked by women but got the least response from men.

“The trouble with pickup lines is that they’ve become a bit of a cliché”, says Hemmings. “So the ones that work best are those with some humor, irony and self-deprecation.”

What about the preference of both genders for older lines? “It might partly be because they are classic lines and people remember them”, suggests Hemmings. So, they have a recognition factor.

But is the golden age of female pickup lines in Hollywood movies now past?

Yes, answers Josh Golding, author of a new book, “Maverick Screenwriting”. He says: “In the 1940s, 50s and even early sixties, women characters got sharper, funnier lines because it was judged funny to see women get the upper hand over men. That was part of ‘Screwball Comedy’.

“So, when stars like Katherine or Audrey Hepburn sparred with Cary Grant or Barbara Stanwyck with Henry Fonda, they were strong, witty women outsmarting substantial male stars.”

Today’s romantic comedies, says Golding, more often feature commitment-phobic, inadequate men, clinging to delayed adolescence. “Men are too soft a target for the sharp women of today and so it’s no longer funny when they shoot their verbal arrows at us.”

Table 1: The Lines Most Picked By Women To Approach Men

1. "I don't bite, you know … unless it's called for."

Audrey Hepburn (Reggie) to Cary Grant (Peter) in “Charade” (1963)

2. "You don't have to say anything… Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle don't you?"

Lauren Bacall (“Slim”) to Humphrey Bogart (Harry) in “To Have and To Have Not” (1944)

3=. "You don't know how hard it is being a woman looking the way I do."

Kathleen Turner (Jessica Rabbit) to Bob Hoskins (Eddie) in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1988)

3=. "Was that cannon fire, or is it my heart pounding?"

Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa) to Humphrey Bogart (Rick) in “Casablanca” (1942)

5. "You give me premature ventricular contractions… You make my heart skip a beat."

Natalie Portman (Emma) to Ashton Kutcher (Adam) in “No Strings Attached” (2011)

• Table 2: The Lines Getting The Best Response From Men

1. "I'd like to kiss you, but I just washed my hair."

Bette Davis (Madge) in “The Cabin in the Cotton” (1932)


2 "Don't worship me till I've earned it."

Shirley MacLaine (Aurora) in “Terms of Endearment”(1983)

3.= "You don't have to say anything… Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle don't you?"

Lauren Bacall (“Slim”) to Humphrey Bogart (Harry) in “To Have and To Have Not” (1944)

3.=. "Was that cannon fire, or is it my heart pounding?"

Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa) to Humphrey Bogart (Rick) in “Casablanca” (1942)

5. "I don't bite, you know … unless it's called for."

Audrey Hepburn (Reggie) to Cary Grant (Peter) in “Charade” (1963)

NOTES

“OSCAR®” and “OSCARS®,” are both trademarks owned by the Academy Awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Methodology: Badoo offered female users across its main English-speaking markets – the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – the chance to pick from a short-list of 10 “ice-breakers”, which women could use to open an online conversation other Badoo users. The list consisted of 10 pickup lines – flirtatious or romantic lines – first delivered by actresses in Hollwyood movies. Badoo then analyzed the data from 1,000 interactions using such lines. It measured two things – first, which lines were most sent by women, and second, which lines got the highest response rate from recipients. It ranked the 10 lines in both ways, which produced noticeably different results. 



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