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This dialogue from The Barefoot Contessa (1954) is completely over my head. What Harry and Maria are talking about seems cryptic if not nonsensical.

Maria: Or, perhaps, you want me for yourself, and you're afraid that Mr. Kirk Edwards' money would make him more attractive than you.

Harry: What makes women think that having money makes a man feel more attractive? I never met a rich man yet who didn't think he was being loved in spite of his money.

Maria: And you?

Harry: Me? Mmm. I'm afraid I've had three wives. Oh, I've been around with actresses, female writers, singers, painters, even a female agent, but I don't think I've met more than two or three women in my life. Six months or so ago, I fell in love with one of them.

Maria: Is she an actress?

Harry: No, I told you. She's a woman.

Maria: Does she have to work?

Harry: Script girl.

First, Maria suggests that Harry may be jealous of Kirk Edwards because Kirk being rich makes Harry feel insecure about himself. Harry responds by saying "What makes women think that having money makes a man feel more attractive?" which seems to suggest he doesn't believe being rich makes a man more attractive or at least feel more attractive. But then he follows that with "I never met a rich man yet who didn't think he was being loved in spite of his money." He seems to be saying: "All the rich men he's met thought they were being loved." This apparently contradicts the last line. What does he mean exactly? Does he think being rich is a bonus that boosts one's attractiveness or chances of being loved or not?

Later Harry says, "I'm afraid I've had three wives. Oh, I've been around with actresses, female writers, singers, painters, even a female agent, but I don't think I've met more than two or three women in my life."

What is he saying here? Actresses, female writers, singers, painters, and agents are not "women"? Why does he say that? His later retort to Maria also appears to affirm his considering actresses not women. So actresses are not women, but script girls are? Why?

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    "seems to suggest he doesn't believe being rich makes a man more attractive" That is not what the line says; read and interpret it correctly and there is no contradiction. The second part is also easily understandable: think of it as him differentiating between "girls" and "women". – BCdotWEB Sep 27 at 8:05
  • @BCdotWEB I read it a couple more times but I think I need a little more help. Harry says "What makes women think that having money makes a man feel more attractive?" What does he mean? Also a distinction between girls and women crossed my mind but it feels iffy, still. Why is he making such a distinction? What is his point? Could you please say a little more? – Eddie Kal Sep 27 at 16:40
  • @BCdotWEB It seems you're about to write an answer. In any case, the asker seems to be aware that he is not literally claiming actresses to not be women and somehow "differentiationg between girls and women". But it would be interesting why he even thinks so and what specifically makes a "script girl" more of a woman than any other of those professions/types. – Napoleon Wilson Sep 28 at 9:24
  • Related meta discussion: movies.meta.stackexchange.com/q/4714/49 – Napoleon Wilson Sep 28 at 9:25
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Harry's commentary on Mr. Kirk Edwards' money making him more attractive is indeed worded quite interestingly and might seem a bit contradictory at first. It is not entirely clear if Harry really believes money makes men more attractive or not, but that's not what the line is about. We need to concentrate on the phrase "feel" there, as Maria's assumption isn't about Harry's or Mr. Kirk Edwards' money and its influence on being loved, rather than about the men's attitude towards that.

When he says that the rich men he knows feel loved "in spite" of their money, he means that those rich men think that being loved doesn't have anything to do with their money, no matter if that's true or not. Ergo they don't think their money makes them more attractive to women, which does fit to the sentence before.

Of course this is ultimately a cynical, if not spiteful, commentary and it's not clear if Harry really believes that. What he sheds a light on here is the fact that every rich man thinks he is loved not for his money but for himself, if that is true or not isn't quite the point. In fact I'd say Harry doesn't think it's generally true rather than that many rich men are blinded by their money. The contradiction that they are, directly or indirectly, using their money to impress women, yet tell themselves they are loved for their own. And he does that by taking Maria's suggestion of him being intimidated by money and turning it around. It is about what effect men think (or tell themselves) their money has on women.

We might even go as far as saying that he is not intimidated by money because he knows that the above statement about rich people feeling loved in spite of their money doesn't reflect the truth rather than being an illusion those rich men fall to and that they are mostly loved for their money, yet believe they aren't. And that is something Harry doesn't want for himself.

In fact this goes quite well together with the other issue about him not meeting a lot of "women". As you already guessed yourself and as Yasskier explains in his answer, he makes a distinction here between women and girls, particularly based on their emotional maturity. And he foots this distinction on the same ideas of superficiality that the commentary about rich men being loved for or in spite of their money cuts down to.

It is not entirely clear if he thinks that all "actresses, female writers, singers, painters, [...] female agent" aren't "women" or not, but it's clear he thinks rarely anyone of the ones he met is. It might be relevant that those are all professions from the arts, even more so professions that might come with a certain success and societal esteem, but supposedly also vanity and superficiality. What he is saying is that in his eyes women from these trades aren't emotionally mature enough to count as "women" for him. Yasskier explains this quite well in his answer.

And of course the fact that the "woman" he dates is a "script girl" adds some ironic sugar on top of that and that is very well placed there. The term "girl" in her title reflects on the respect (or lack thereof) society has for her profession. She is a "girl" in the eyes of society, which doesn't quite value her profession as much as that of an actress or a female writer (note that it isn't "acting girl" or "writing girl"). Yet she is a "woman" in the eyes of Harry because her supposedly lower profession frees her from the superficialities of the "high society".

And this relates back to the above statement on rich people. It is the "girls" that their money attracts, not the "women". The whole dialogue figures into a broader commentary on the superficiality of society, where people are attracted by money, use money to impress eachother, yet think of themselves a lot higher and believe their money doesn't have anything to do with their success, because they lack the maturity of grown men and women.

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  • This makes much more sense. I watch a whole bunch of movies from the '50s and '60s and I hate to say this was one of the few times where I had to pause several times and go over some lines to make sure I was following. – Eddie Kal Sep 30 at 18:31
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1. Rich man issue:

What makes women think that having money makes a man feel more attractive? I never met a rich man yet who didn't think he was being loved in spite of his money.Or at least, this is what they think.

It means that Harry doesn't believe that having money makes someone more attractive, as every rich man that he knows is being loved for other values than his money (and Harry follows here the believes of his rich friends). So if those rich men became suddenly poor (or never had money in the first place), they would be still be loved.

Still confused? Try replacing the word "money" with, let's say "dog". Harry would be saying that no man that he knows who owns a dog is being loved ONLY because he has a dog.

2. Woman vs girl

Have you ever heard a saying "This [insert some 'heroic' action] will separate men from boys" (eventually "turn boys into men)? Well, Harry says that he can find a difference between "Girl" and "Woman".

A girl is someone with whom you can have some fun. She might be attractive, she might be smart, but the mutual attraction won't last, because it is superficial. A woman, on the other hand, is someone who you can relate to, someone who is mature that can look at you past the initial impression. It is someone, who could stay with you in good and bad through your life.

Actresses (according to Harry) belong to the first category - while they are pretty and famous, their love is fickle, as their careers depend on popularity, so they crave constant attention from the masses. A woman with a more mundane job, like a script girl, would be able to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship, since she doesn't need to convince the whole world to love her all the time.

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  • I think your explanation for the first part doesn't really cut it. There is a contradiction in the sentence, which is only resolved when paying attention to the phase "feel more attractive". I'm not sure Harry really thinks rich men are loved for other things than their money, as that isn't what the sentence is about, rather than them thinking they are. – Napoleon Wilson Sep 30 at 11:02

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