Scent of a Woman — 1992

Posted on June 7, 2013 by Robert Ringer Comments (12)


“I always knew what the right path was.  Without exception, I knew, but I never took it.  You know why?  It was too damn hard.” 

In his Oscar-winning performance in this very heavy 1992 film, which includes a great deal of humor as well, Al Pacino plays the role of a hell-raising, retired military officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade.  Slade, the ultimate anti-establishment guy, lost his eyesight as a result of juggling hand grenades during one of his reckless escapades while in the Army.

Living in retirement in his niece’s guest house, he was a bitter and very lonely individual, when a young man (Charlie) from prestigious Baird School in New Hampshire answered an ad to look after him over Thanksgiving when he would be alone.  The story is far too long and complicated to go into in any kind of detail here, but the key scene is set up when Charlie gets in trouble at his school as a result of a prank played on him by his friends.

Totally unexpectedly, Lieutenant Colonel Slade shows up at Charlie’s expulsion hearing, sporting his typical snarling attitude.  Just as the headmaster is getting ready to make Charlie’s expulsion official in front of the whole school, Pacino, in a performance worthy of Michael Corleone or Tony Montana, speaks out in defense of young Charlie.

Near the end of his speech, Slade says:  “I always knew what the right path was.  Without exception, I knew, but I never took it.  You know why?  It was too damn hard.”

In reflecting on his own screwed-up life, Lieutenant Colonel Slade’s point was that it takes courage to do the right thing, and that a lack of courage had always been his downfall.  There is no worse feeling than doing something you know is wrong or not doing something you know you should be doing.

I am always amazed when I hear people say they did something they didn’t really want to do because they “had no choice.”  Ringer Rule No. 324:  There’s a big difference between difficult and impossible.  Many things are difficult, but few are impossible.

No one can force you to take the easy way out.  You always have a choice, but most people are simply not willing to pay the price of making the right choice.  Which is how they end up like Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade — or worse.

By the way, this clip contains another classic line from Al Pacino speech as well:  “But there is nuthin’ like a site of an amputated spirit.  There is no prosthetic for that.”  Heavy … very heavy.  “Amputated spirit” — what a brilliant phrase to keep in mind, especially when dealing with children.

One of the great acting performances of our time:

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

12 responses to “Scent of a Woman — 1992”

  1. Bob says:

    Courage, integrity, too dam hard . This speech should be heard again and again. Values that we must continually fight for. The young man who tore up his prepared graduation talk has them. An Oscar winning performance. and one of the best Tango you will see which also sets a tone of life..
    The Art of Intimation lives.

  2. This speech should be given to Congress, the Senate, the President and every politician in America. Most of them are pretty pitiful leaders with no principles or integrity. Most of them always take the easy way out and are bought off. PITIFUL AMERICA as a result of our leaders and our people not paying attention to what is really going on. The only hope is through the GRACE of GOD, but He is made an enemy also. HAVE MERCY ON US ALL!!!!!

  3. sage says:

    A brilliant movie in which passionate speech and passionate dance take center stage and the actors and audience are swept up in the choreography of a life where sitting on the bench or having an empty dance card is just not an option. Time for more tango lessons!

  4. Pitch says:

    I always thought this was one of the best movies ever made! They don't seem to make um like this anymore? Any movie that requires over a 25 IQ to understand in Amerika 2013 is an instant box office disaster…

  5. Thanks, Robert.It was very kind of you to dig up the Archives and share this excellent piece.Better than Volumes of preaching. Brilliant method of driving home a point.

  6. Chris McMorrow says:

    Where are the Colonel Slades of the Republican Party… men willing to stand up fight tooth and nail against the degenerate, God-hating liberal totalitarians who want to eradicate freedom and federalism, and tear our magnificent U.S. Constitution to shreds?

    The spirit of Colonel Slade is that of a man. Where are the MEN of the Republican party?

    … Men who are willing to take a black eye in defense of liberty… and willing to keep on fighting regardless of the consequences… who value their country's heritage of freedom and liberty over and above feathering their own nests at the expense of integrity and principle?

    Over 90% of the pork that gets churned out from both houses of Congress is unconstitutional… which is why America is now a pathetic liberal basket case. Where are the men, the Col. Slades?

  7. Joe Polak says:

    What was Al Pacino's comment to Charlie right after his speech?

  8. Although this story is quite complicated to pile up in a few words but you did great work. I liked the essence of story as everyone has a choice in their life, but it takes courage to choose the right path because right path is always difficult. So it takes courage to face all those problems head on.

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