Midnight Express

RORY: How did you get them [bootleg albums] past customs?
LANE: Well, I strapped them to my body like in Midnight Express.

Midnight Express, previously discussed as a film that Lorelai and Rory had seen; apparently Lane watched it with them at least once. In the film, Billy Hayes is caught while trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey, with the drugs strapped to his body.

That Billy’s plan didn’t work and he was sent to prison doesn’t seem to have deterred Lane. She’s almost certainly joking, as it doesn’t seem to be particularly difficult to get bootleg albums through US customs. It seems to be one of those things that are technically illegal, but rarely enforced.

Katharine Hepburn

EMILY: You know what, I’m not returning the gift. I’m going to put it away in a closet and you won’t know what it is until you do get married someday.
LORELAI: Tell me now!
EMILY: Sorry.
LORELAI: Come on! Mom, I may never get married. I may be a free spirit my whole life, or fall in love with a separated Catholic guy like Katharine Hepburn did, and then not get to go to his funeral when he dies.

Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) was an American actress who was born and grew up in Hartford; like Rory, she attended a private school there. A leading lady in Hollywood for more for 60 years, she received four Academy Awards for Best Actress – a record number for any performer. In 1999 Hepburn was named the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute.

After beginning her career in theatre, success on Broadway brought Katharine Hepburn to Hollywood, and she received her first Academy Award for her third film, Morning Glory (1933). This was followed by a series of failures, but she arranged her own comeback by buying the rights to the film The Philadelphia Story (1940), only selling them on condition of starring in itself. The film was a massive success, and is regarded as one of the best screwball romantic comedies of all time.

In the 1940s Hepburn was contracted by MGM, where she frequently played opposite film star Spencer Tracy (1900-1967); their screen partnership lasted 25 years, and produced nine movies. Hepburn and Tracy maintained a private relationship for 26 years, lasting until his death. Spencer Tracy was married, but had been separated from his wife for several years before beginning his relationship with Katharine Hepburn.

Spencer Tracy was a Catholic, but it is not clear if this was the reason for not divorcing his wife (who was an Episcopalian). From comments he made, it seemed more as if he was going along with the wishes of his wife, while Hepburn didn’t interfere and never pushed for marriage. After his death, Katharine Hepburn did not attend his funeral out of consideration for his wife and children.

“Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown”

LORELAI: There has not been one moment over our entire stay when she [Sammy] has not been right there.
LADAWN: On the stairs?
LORELAI: Yes.
LADAWN: Oh, she’s hardly ever on the stairs.
RORY: Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.

Rory is referencing the 1974 mystery film Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski, with screenplay by Robert Towne, and starring Jack Nicholson as private investigator J.J. “Jake” Gittes. Set in 1937, the film was inspired by the Californian Water Wars, disputes over southern Californian water where Los Angeles interests gained water rights in the Owens Valley (in actuality, these occured at the beginning of the 20th century).

At the end of the film, the antagonists force Jake to drive them to Chinatown, where his love interest Evelyn (Faye Dunaway) has sought temporary refuge at the house of her butler. Police are already waiting to arrest Jake, and during the confrontation, they kill Evelyn. The police free Jake, and his associate Lawrence Walsh (Joe Mantell) advises him, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown”.

Chinatown is regarded as a classic film, and Robert Towne won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The screenplay has a legendary status among film makers, and is often cited as the greatest example of film writing.

In this scene, we discover that Sammy the cat is actually a female, with her name presumably short for Samantha.

Rizzo

LORELAI: Hey, I’m gonna find a ladies room. You know, sneak a smoke, see if anybody slipped an aspirin in my Coke.
RORY: Okay, Rizzo.

Betty Rizzo (played by Stockard Channing), usually known by her surname only, is a character in the 1978 musical film Grease, previously discussed; she is one of the Pink Ladies clique at Rydell High School. Tough, cynical, and sexually experienced, Rizzo is at first antagonistic towards the “good girl” heroine, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John).

In the film, Rizzo, like all the Pink Ladies, smokes cigarettes on the sly. Her friend Marty Maraschino (Dinah Manoff), the best-looking of the Pink Ladies, complained at a teenager’s dance that the flirtatious adult host had tried to slip an aspirin into her Coke – according to an urban legend of the era, such a combination could be used as a date-rape drug.

David Lynch

LORELAI: We are not gonna have this fight in a flowery bedroom with dentists singing Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves [sic] in the background. It’s too David Lynch!

David Lynch (born 1946) is an American film maker, musician, actor, and artist. His first feature-length work was the surrealist horror film Eraserhead (1977), which became a cult classic, and he gained mainstream success with the biographical film The Elephant Man (1980), previously mentioned. The science-fiction epic Dune (1984) was a failure, while his mystery film Blue Velvet (1987) was controversial upon release, but now regarded as one of the greatest films of its era.

He is well known for his mystery horror television series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), which was a smash hit around the world, quickly gained a cult following, and caused him to be labelled the “first popular Surrealist”. He also directed Wild at Heart, earlier mentioned as a film Nicolas Cage starred in.

It becomes apparent during the show that Lorelai is a David Lynch fan.

Nicolas Cage and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

RORY: A cool B&B?
LORELAI: Yes.
RORY: That’s like saying an understated Nicholas Cage movie.
LORELAI: Listen, I myself am not usually a fan of the B&B, but Donald’s place is different.
RORY: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
LORELAI: I’m serious.
RORY: “Bella bambina at two o’clock.”

Nicolas Cage, born Nicolas Coppola (born 1964) is an American actor, director, and producer. He is the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, and the cousin of director Sofia Coppola. After making his debut in Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982, in his early career, Nicolas Cage starred in slightly off-beat films such as Valley Girl (1983), Raising Arizona (1987), and Wild at Heart (1990). In 1995 he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Leaving Las Vegas, and gained mainstream success in films such as The Rock (1996), Con Air (1997), and City of Angels (1998). His acting style has been described as “operatic”, while he himself refers to his method as “Noveau Shamanic” – hence Rory’s inference that a Nicolas Cage movie can never be understated.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a 2001 war film directed by John Madden, and based on the 1994 novel of the same name by British novelist Louis de Bernières. Nicolas Cage has the title role of Captain Antonio Corelli, and the film is set on the Greek island of Cephalonia during World War II. The film received poor reviews.

In the film, when Captain Corelli first spots his love interest Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) in a crowd, he shouts out to his men: “Bella bambina at two o’clock! Eyes right!”, so that they can all witness and acknowledge her beauty.

The film was released in the US on August 17 2001, so Rory mentioning it is slightly anachronistic – according to the show’s timeline of events, Rory can’t have seen it yet, as it won’t come out for a another few days from her perspective.

Lorelai and Rory apparently now hate B&Bs, even though Lorelai and Sookie were talking about opening one a few episodes ago.

Red Light

[Early the next morning, Lorelai and Rory are in Lorelai’s jeep driving through Stars Hollow.]
LORELAI: We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.
RORY: We’re practically gone already.
LORELAI: Look out world.
[They stop at the red light and stare at it, waiting for it to change.]

There have been so many mentions of great American journeys in Gilmore Girls, from On the Road to Huckleberry Finn to Thelma and Louise, that it seems in tune with the show’s theme for Lorelai and Rory to hit the road at some point. Their conversation is even vaguely reminiscent of a famous exchange from On the Road:

““Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”

That urge towards the journey and not the destination is the same one that is driving Lorelai away from her home.

As luck would have it, before they even leave town, they get stuck at the new traffic light, which is timed to come on even if there is no other traffic on the road, and will stay on until the oldest and feeblest person in Stars Hollow can safely get across the road. It’s symbolic of the way that it will always be difficult for them to leave Stars Hollow, even temporarily. There is something in the town which holds them captive to some extent.

This is the literal “red light on the wedding night” alluded to in the episode’s title, although strictly speaking it isn’t the wedding night, but several days before the wedding. Symbolically though, it means that Lorelai has put a stop to her wedding going ahead.