Lean on Me

Rocky director John Avildsen championed the briefly famous New Jersey high school principal Joe Clark in this upbeat 1989 drama. Morgan Freeman plays the tough-love educator who wields a baseball bat and bullhorn to keep discipline in his hallways and to motivate underachieving students to keep their acts together. After establishing Clark's controversial methods and showing him giving some punks the boot, Avildsen relies on the usual school-drama clichés to fill out the rest of the movie, including a challenge to Clark's philosophy from timid authorities. Freeman makes a strong impact as Clark, his dignity and integrity a sometimes awesome thing. Avildsen, however, is going for a Rocky-esque emotional crescendo. --Tom Keogh

Genre: Action, Drama
Director(s): John G. Avildsen
Production: Warner Home Video
  3 wins & 4 nominations.
 
IMDB:
7.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
69%
PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Year:
1989
108
3,254 Views

Joe Clark:
You think you can run this school? If you could, then I wouldn't be here, would I? No one talks in my meetings. NO ONE! Take out your pencils and write. I want the names of every hoodlum, drug dealer, and miscreant who's done nothing but take this place apart on my desk by noon today. Reverend Slappy...you are now the chief custodian, Reverend Slappy. You will scour this building clean. Graffiti goes up is off the next day. Is that clear?... Detention students can help you. Let them scrub this place for awhile, and tear down those cages in the cafeteria. You treat them like animals, that's exactly how they'll behave! This is my new Dean of Security, Mr. William Wright. He will be my Avenging Angel, as you teachers reclaim the halls. This is an institution of learning, ladies and gentlemen. If you can't control it, HOW CAN YOU TEACH?! Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm! Mr. Zorella...Mr. Zorella, you are now my new Head Football Coach. Mr. Darnell. Stand up, Mr. Darnell. Mr. Darnell will be your assistant. You know why you're being demoted, Mr. Darnell? Because I'm sick and tired of our football team getting pushed all over the field. Thank you. Sit down. I want precision. I want a weight program. And if you don't like it, Mr. Darnell, you can quit. Same goes for the rest of ya. You tried it your way for years. And your students can't even get past the Minimum Basic Skills Test. THAT MEANS THEY CAN HARDLY READ! They've given me less than one year, one school year to turn this place around, to get those test scores up, so the state will not take us over to perform the tasks which you have failed to do! TO EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN! Forget about the way it used to be. This is not a damn democracy. We are in a state of emergency and my word is law. There's only one boss in this place, and that's me - the "HNIC." Are there any questions? Mr Wright.

[exits]

Mr. O'Malley:
HNIC?

Ms. Levias:
Head nigga in charge.

Dr. Frank Napier(holding the newspaper):
You see this yet?

[Joe Clark takes the newspaper from Frank, read the headline that says "Principal 'Crazy Joe' Clark Fights With Former Student"]

Dr. Frank Napier:
You know all my shit comes down on my head.

Joe Clark:
Oh Frank, look-

Dr. Frank Napier:
No, let me talk. It's like you're a big bird on my radar, and I'm tired of getting a hit.

Joe Clark:
Is this my fault?

Dr. Frank Napier:
This is nothing! I've got Union Lawyers threatening me and his talk of his walkout.

Joe Clark:
But let him! They're not teaching down there anyway!

Dr. Frank Napier:
Then it's your job not-

Joe Clark:
Samaram has a personal stake in that school Frank, not one.

Dr. Frank Napier:
The Fire Chief was just here, he says it's illegal to bar those doors. Mrs. Barrett is organizing a parent's group to try to get you removed, since you insulted them at that meeting the other night when you just rested that they "get off welfare".

Joe Clark:
Oh, I just-

Dr. Frank Napier:
Cause the fact is quite a few of them need it.

Joe Clark:
I wasn't talking to all of them, Frank. Now look, you came and recruited me, man. You disappoint me brother, you disappoint me.

Dr. Frank Napier:
The disappointment here is you!

Joe Clark:
Me?!

Dr. Frank Napier:
Yes!

Joe Clark:
Look, you know who I am. You know me 30 years, you knew what I would do! You know how I'm ready.

Dr. Frank Napier:
Quiet! The fact is you're screwing up. You're alienating everybody! Look at you; you have no life, your wife left you! I oughta walk out on you myself!

Joe Clark:
Well, go ahead! Bail the hell on out!

Dr. Frank Napier:
But I said I would back you up!

Joe Clark:
That's what you said, Frank! That's what you said!

Dr. Frank Napier:
Brother, I will go through the... fire with you! But you are not taking care of business! This shit you're pulling now, is just gone plain loco! And you suspend Darnell, what the hell was that?

Joe Clark:
Darnell is symptomatic of the disciplinary problems that we have in this entire-

Dr. Frank Napier:
He is a good, strong, young black teacher! So, he, dumped that desk right on top of your head, well right on! Good for him! You will reinstate that man, you hear? [Clark waves his hand in acknowledgment.] And then you fire Mrs. Elliot, why?! Because she didn't want to kiss your ass, well I wouldn't either, how about that?!

Joe Clark:
Mrs. Elliot has an ego problem!

Dr. Frank Napier:
Yeah, well, you lost the best teacher we had. We couldn't get her back now if we wanted to.

Joe Clark:
I don't have time for Mrs. Elliott's problem!

Dr. Frank Napier:
You better make time!

Joe Clark:
We are being crucified by a process that is turning blacks into a permanent underclass here, Frank. A permanent underclass!

[Dr. Napier turns away]

Joe Clark:
No-oh, see? Nobody wants to talk about that. Nobody! Mrs. Elliott's missionary zeal about Mozart has nothing to do with our problem. Nothing! What good is Mozart going to do a bunch of children who can't go out and get a job?!

Dr. Frank Napier:
Joe, your personal battles are gonna cost us the war. Worry about the test scores.

Joe Clark:
What the hell you think I'm worried about, Frank?!

Dr. Frank Napier:
End of discussion! Debate is over; you will write a formal apology!

Joe Clark:
I will what?!

Dr. Frank Napier:
A formal apology! For your treatment of Mrs. Elliott and Darnell and for your vicious and thoughtless insults to the women of this community! You will kowtow, you will step and fetch!

Joe Clark:
Frank, if you think-

Dr. Frank Napier:
Get used to it, it's the way of the world! If you're so hot on discipline, then goddamn it... [Slams a fist on his briefcase] start by accepting mine. Because contrary to popular opinion, I'm the head nigga in charge! [Savagely grabs his briefcase and heads for the door, then turns back to a speechless Clark] Come on, let's get something to eat.

Joe Clark:
[following him to the door and walking out with him] You really think you're bad, don't you?

Joe Clark:
Now let me tell you something. The trouble of being a teenager is you don't know nothing. The problem with teenagers is you think you're smarter than people who already been down the road you're traveling. You know what I'm tryin' to say to you, boy? DO YOU?!

Thomas Sams:
Yes sir.

Joe Clark:
Did you tell your father I threw you out of school? [Sams, with his head down, doesn't answer] [picks Sams' head up; yells] Look at me DAMN IT!

Thomas Sams:
[sobs] No, sir.

Joe Clark:
Why not? No guts, huh? Afraid of what he's gonna say to you, aren't ya?

Thomas Sams:
My father doesn't live with us anymore, sir.

Joe Clark:
Oh, is that what you're doing now? Going around, feeling sorry for yourself, boy? Huh? Go on. Get outta here! You're wasting my time!

Thomas Sams:
[crying] Please let me back in, sir. I have to get back to school. I can't go home and tell my mama I got kick out of school.

Joe Clark:
Now why should I let you back into my school, Sams?

Thomas Sams:
'Cause I'm gonna do better, sir.

Joe Clark:
How?

Thomas Sams:
By doin' my work.

Joe Clark:
What else?

Thomas Sams:
And stayin' out of trouble.

Joe Clark:
What have you been thinking about all this time? Why should I believe you now?

Thomas Sams:
'Cause I've changed my ways.

Joe Clark:
I don't believe you, Sams. I don't think you changed a thing. Go on, jump!

Thomas Sams:
[sobs] No, I don't wanna jump!

Joe Clark:
Yes, you do! You smoke crack, don't ya? You smoke crack, don't ya? LOOK AT ME, BOY! Don't you smoke crack?

Thomas Sams:
Y-yes, sir.

Joe Clark:
You know what that does to you? Huh?

Thomas Sams:
No, sir.

Joe Clark:
[taps Sams' head with his finger] It kill your brain cells, son. It kill your brain cells! Now when you're destroying your brain cells, your doing the same thing as killing yourself. You just doing it slower! Now, when I say if wanna kill yourself, don't fuck around with it. Go on and do it expeditiously! Now go on and jump! JUMP!

Thomas Sams:
[sobbing in tears] No! I don't wanna kill myself, sir!

Joe Clark:
You're quite sure about this, are you?

Thomas Sams:
Yes, sir.

Joe Clark:
All right, Sams. I'll tell you what I gonna do: I'm gonna go back on my own word just this once and let you back into my school, because you're still a baby and you don't know shit. But you understand this, boy: You're not gonna get a moment's rest. I'm gonna be on your case every minute. You mess up just once and your outta here. Now you understand me? Do you understand me?

Thomas Sams:
Yes, sir.

Joe Clark:
[calms down] Now go on back downstairs.

Ms. Levias:
Mr. Clark.

Mr. Clark:
Yes, Ms. Levias?

Ms. Levias:
May I talk to you for a minute, please?

Mr. Clark:
What do you want?

Ms. Levias:
I want you to transfer me.

Mr. Clark:
To where?

Ms. Levias:
Out of here.

Mr. Clark:
You know, this doesn't surprise me one bit, Ms. Levias. I've sensed resistance in you since our very first meeting.

Ms. Levias:
You're an egomanical windbag.

Mr. Clark:
Who are you talking to?

Ms. Levias:
I'm talking to you. You like to whip people who can't fight back. I thought I could take it because I had a father in the same kind of pain that makes you such a bastard, but I was wrong. Life is much too short. I will not endure you any longer!

Mr. Clark:
You will not endure me!?

Ms. Levias:
The only reason I haven't walked out and half the staff along with me is because those children need us here.

Mr. Clark:
Oh, the children need you?

Ms. Levias:
You're so busy talking discipline, you forget to educate!

Mr. Clark:
Is that so? Then what the hell do you think I've been doing all this time?

Ms. Levias:
So you cleaned it up. That was the easy part.

Mr. Clark:
That's the easy part?

Ms. Levias:
Those children want to be helped. They have worked their hearts out for you, Joe. Done everything we've asked them, believed what we told them. But I feel sorry for them. They're not ready to take that test!

Mr. Clark:
What the hell are you talking about? I have done everything——

Ms. Levias:
I! I! It it always I! There are 300 teachers on the faculty here! You do NOT do it all alone!

Mr. Clark:
[begins to walk away] I don't have to stand here and listen to these accusations.

Ms. Levias:
You WILL listen! You will stand there and you will listen!

Mr. Clark:
All right, Ms. Levias. All right, go ahead and talk.

Ms. Levias:
For the past seven months, you've been flapping your mouth and you haven't heard a thing. You haven't even seen what's painfully obvious.

Mr. Clark:
I'll tell you what I DO see, lady——

Ms. Levias:
NO! I'M talking now! Let me finish! Everybody here may not like you as a person, but we all applaud your effort. But what you don't understand is that the same people who support you are the ones that you're beating up! You don't even take the time to say, "Thank You", "Job Well Done", nothing. You just step in their necks, constantly abuse them, criticize them.

Mr. Clark:
(walks towards Ms. Levias) Ms. Levias, what do you want from me? What the HELL do you want?!

Ms. Levias:
I want you to get this straight. Most of the teachers that are here are here because they care about those children out there, this school, this fight. They are in it with you. They take it home at night the same as you. They are part of those children's lives. You are thoughtless and cruel. And it hurts. And none of them deserve it. They are sick of it and so am I.

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"Lean on Me Quotes." Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 14 Dec. 2019. <https://www.quotes.net/movies/lean_on_me_quotes_6549>.

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