Wednesday, May 15, 2019

It's National Classic Movie Day!

May 16th is National Classic Movie Day! And, as is tradition, Classic Film and TV Cafe is hosting a blogathon. Wander on over HERE to read about everyone's 5 favorite films of the 50s.

Okay, so since my real most favorite films of the 50s (Sunset Boulevard, Singin' in the Rain to name 2) are probably on lots of people's lists and since I've written about them way too much, I decided to go with 5 films that are favorites, but not most favorite. The sub-genre of favorite-but-not-most favorite is a worthy one, too. No?

Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
My love for this film takes on some extra poignancy due to the recent passing of one of my favorite stars, Doris Day. For my money, Doris was one of the most underrated of Hollywood stars. She could so it all in a way that looked natural and effortless - Judy without the neurosis.

Come on, Doris, he's not that bad......

Doris, as singer Ruth Etting, proves her acting ability in more than just sunny fluff. Of course, having a powerhouse performance by James Cagney as her gangster/obsessive lover probably helped elevate her performance. Cagney is amazing and kind of heart-breaking here. His love for Ruth is hopeless, no matter how hard he tries to strong-arm her into it, and Doris, as Ruth, is a gal who uses Marty's influence to get ahead and maybe, just maybe, has a bit of a yen for him (even though it disgusts her).  There is real and unexpected chemistry between Day and Cagney. Their relationship is, as they say, complicated, especially when true love Cameron Mitchell comes on the scene. Of course it ends happily for all (even Marty gets an ounce of satisfaction after a stint in the pokey after shooting Mitchell) because it was, after all, the 1950s.

The Court Jester (1955)

What can I say?

Hawkins: I’ve got it! I’ve got it! The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true! Right?
Griselda: Right, but there’s been a change. They broke the chalice from the palace.
Hawkins: They broke the chalice from the palace?!
Griselda: And replaced it with a flagon.
Hawkins: A flagon?
Griselda: With the figure of a dragon.
Hawkins: Flagon with a dragon.
Griselda: Right.
Hawkins: But did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?
Griselda: No! The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon! The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!
Hawkins: The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.
Griselda: Just remember that.

It's better when you watch it:

It is hilarious, clever and Danny Kaye's talents are on full display. He has always been one of my favorites, but his movie roles did not always do justice to his special brand of zaniness that always had a touch of sweetness to it. A good man in a great role. And with Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury and the sly Mildred Natwick along for ride, what could be more delightful? It's a gem. It will uplift you on a dreary day.

Gigi (1958)

"a rock from some obnoxious little king is love..."
Gigi does not understand the Parisians
For me, this musical is perfection. Beautiful to look at and listen to, this romantic depiction fin de siecle Paris hits all of the right notes for me. Leslie Caron is a perfectly petulant French lass on the brink of womanhood, Louis Jordan is a perfectly petulant playboy, Gaston, on the brink of love and, best of all, Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold are golden as 2 Parisians who have fond memories of youth and love. 

Gigi celebrates Paris and love in all of its ages.

People Will Talk (1951)

Dr. Noah Praetorius (Cary Grant): "I consider faith properly injected into a patient as effective in maintaining life as adrenaline, and a belief in miracles has been the difference between living and dying as often as any surgeon's scalpel."

Ah, I do like this film. Billed as a comedy (not suitable for children), it is a rather serious film about a young woman who is pregnant with unmistakable echoes of the 1940s and 1950s anti-communist witch hunts. Our hero, Dr. Noah Praetorius (Cary Grant) is a compassionate and holistic doctor and teacher. His methods of treatment (body, mind and spirit) are viewed with suspicion by the more conventional and small-minded healers in his community who accuse him of quackery. He meets a young lady at one of his lectures (Jeanne Crain) who harbors a secret - she is pregnant and without a husband. He marries her, she thinks out of pity, but it is because he genuinely loves her. He's just such a great guy. Check out his bedside manner:

Meanwhile, the doctor is also a fierce defender of his friend, Mr. Shunderson, a convicted murderer who was, literally, given a second chance at life by Dr. Praetorius. As the black hearted lynch mob tries to add this to all of his other accused crimes, Dr. P refuses to name names to save himself if it means hurting his friend. Grant plays this all with a very light touch, but this is pretty meaningful stuff. The doctor's generous and humane spirit triumphs, just as we always hope all such things conclude.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

Jayne out-Monroes Monroe as Rita Marlowe

Jayne Mansfield might have gotten top billing, but Tony Randall as the hapless Rock Hunter (otherwise known as "Lover Doll") steals the show, again proving my contention that Tony Randall makes everything better just by his presence. Take a sneak peek at the trailer:

A funny satire on television and pop culture, Randall and Mansfield, as the Stay-Put lipstick girl, shine and are supported by the always welcome Joan Blondell, Betsy Drake as Rock's true love, and a fun cameo by Groucho Marx.This movie makes me happy in so many ways, but mainly because Tony Randall, for once, gets the girl.


Rick29 said...

I was delighted to see THE COURT JESTER on your list...I just don’t think there’s a funnier movie. I saw PEOPLE WILL TALK for the first time about 15 years ago and it became an instant Cary Grant favorite. Jeanne Crain and Findlay Currie are fabulous, too. The most unexpected of your picks was ROCK HUNTER, a very smart satire that deserves to be shown more often.

Caftan Woman said...

Your just below the "most" favourites are fantastic! Really thoughtful and funny movies here show us what the most interesting filmmakers of the decade were up to.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Rick. I knew you'd approve of The Court Jester! Can't wait to read about everyone's favorites. This blogathon is now officially a tradition!

FlickChick said...

Thank you, CW. I already had way too many posts about Sunset Boulevard, North by Northwest, Vertigo and Singin' in the Rain, so I had to dig a little deeper.

Brittaney said...

It's been too long since I watched People Will Talk. Your list reminded me how great it is. It is definitely time for me to re-visit it.

Also, I agree with you about Tony Randall. He's pure comedic genius. This past years I've been seeking out his films, particularly those where he has the starring role. No matter how bad some of his pictures are, he's always brilliant in them.

toto2 said...

I am in love with “The Court Jester”! Thank you for including it! What a thoughtful list you have made. Well done!

The Lady Eve said...

"...Gigi! You're not at all that funny awkward little girl I knew...Oh no!"

The song came powerfully to mind as I read what you wrote about Gigi. Love, love, love this film. And along with Leslie and Louis and Maurice and Hermione, I also think that Isabel Jeans as Gigi's great-aunt/tutor Alicia, retired courtesan, is wonderful. The lessons she gives Gigi on becoming a proper courtesan - accepting only first-rate jewelry, distinguishing fine cigars, correctly eating an ortolan (bones and all) - are quite comical.

FlickChick said...

Brittaney - always glad to share with a Tony Randall fan. He was just the best.

FlickChick said...

toto2 - I know you folks at rick's love this film, too. I was thinking about a 50s comedy when I was compiling my list and I could not think of any film of that decade that made me laugh harder.

FlickChick said...

Lady Eve - for me, Gigi is perfection. I love the look of it, the characters and the music. I never tire of it.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I love the diversity of your selections.

Flapper Dame 16 said...

I love your choices- I recently saw "Rock Hunter" and it was so funny- Tony Randall is such a natural!!

Virginie Pronovost said...

A very interesting list! I agree with you that Doris Day was very underrated. As a matter of fact, it was a surprise to many that she wasn't even nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Love Me or Leave Me.

Tynan said...

Delightful List! I was especially taken with the final two choices. People Will Talk is such a wonerfully unique film and I'm partial to the paring of Grant and Crain. Rock Hunter is also such a hilarious satire thanks to Frank Tashlin. Tony Randall gets a well-deserved starring role opposite Ms. Mansfield.

FlickChick said...

Jacqueline - thank you. I always thought I was more of a 20s - 30s -40s gal, but it seems I really dig the 50s.

FlickChick said...

Flapper Dame 16 - for my money, there can never be too much Tony Randall.

FlickChick said...

Virginie - 3 cheers for the great Doris Day. She definitely should have been honored by the Academy for something. I really felt so sad writing about her this time around.

FlickChick said...

Tynan - Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield together offer endless possibilities for mirth. They were dynamite.

Silver Screenings said...

That "pellet with the poison" scene in "The Court Jester" shows how movies can be magic. The way they say the lines, almost as if they're singing, makes me catch my breath every time.

Also: Tony Randall truly does make every film better just by his presence.

John/24Frames said...

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter is a great satire. I was always a big fan of George Axelrod's writing. Some is dated today, but remains funny if you keep in mind the times it was made.


Yes, Tony Randall improves any film he's in!
Also, People Will Talk almost made my list, so I'm happy to find someone else who loves it as much as I do.
Thanks for the kind comment!

FlickChick said...

Ruth - I almost went with Some Like it Hot, but that pellet with the poison won me over.

FlickChick said...

Thanks. John. I just saw Rock Hunter recently, so it was fresh in my mind. I love it.

FlickChick said...

Le - great minds think alike!

Jocelyn said...

I'm so glad you focused on some films that come after the 'first tier' of great 50s films but are wonderful anyway. I will admit that I just finished Love Me or Leave Me and loved Doris Day. Cagney was just too 'Cagney' here for my taste but perhaps I need to watch again. I haven't watched any of the others but from your descriptions they have much to offer. I definitely need to see more of Jayne Mansfield.

Citizen Screen said...

You always out-clever me. This time with the "favorite-but-not-most favorite" theme because it's brilliant. No one could argue with your choices. I am surprised THE COURT JESTER is getting mentioned by several I believe. And, of course, you have my Cary and the wonderful Day and Cagney collaboration, which I adore. I'd definitely have fun sharing a movie night with you.

Once Upon a Screen

Silver Screen Classics said...

Love your list and I couldn't agree more about Doris Day in Love Me or Leave Me - she really shows her acting chops alongside Cagney and I WISH she had made more films like this, especially now in reviewing her life after her recent passing. Some great movies and some I will need to watch again.

Cinema Essentials said...

The best bit about this list is that I don't think I've seen any of these. Not even The Court Jester, which is something I really should rectify. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter sounds like a lot of fun too.

FlickChick said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jocelyn. I guess Cagney can never be too Cagney for me! I loved the chemistry he and Doris had - 2 real pros.

FlickChick said...

Aurora - NEVER can I out-clever you!! I just figured I'd stray off the reservation a tad and see what came up. I, too, was pleasantly surprised to see The Court Jester getting so much love. And what's not to love?

FlickChick said...

Constance - thanks for stopping by. All of Doris' fine performances are now tinged with an extra bit of sadness for me. She was a great star.

FlickChick said...

HI Jay. That's what I love about blogathons - we all get introduced to some new to us films that others are passionate about. Fun!