Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Classics For Comfort: Getting Out of the Comfort Zone

This is my entry in the Classic Movie Blog Association Classics For Comfort Spring Blogathon. Click here for more no-calorie comfort film food.

Movies have always served as a comfort for me, even in the best of times. The current  pandemic and resulting sense of isolation makes one want to pull those familiar films around us like a warm and cozy blanket. But, I confess, after 2 months, I'm beginning to need a little more. So, sorry "Singin' in the Rain", you'll just have to sit in your DVD case; and Norma Desmond? We shall rendezvous again - soon, my darling - I'm sure (we always do). But for now, I feel like dipping my toe in more challenging waters, so I offer the 5 films that took me out of my comfort zone (largely with positive results).

On The Waterfront

If I have an aversion to a particular star, I tend to avoid them, even if the movie is considered a classic. So it was with "On the Waterfront," because Marlon Brando and I are not exactly simpatico. Not only did I avoid this film, but I ran from it. It was a rather gaping hole in my film experience, I admit, and finally one Facebook friend (who has since passed) convinced me to give it a try. 

What can I say? I was 100% wrong. It is powerful, unforgettable, beautifully and achingly acted. I loved it and I love Renee for guiding me there. Still not loving Marlon, but I'm all in for him in this one.

Key Largo

Another star who I can't warm to is Bogart. I don't know why, because he is clearly an excellent actor and a magnetic personality. When he was at the phase in his career when he was battling James Cagney, I always rooted for Jimmy. Maybe it's the snarl..... Anyway, my love for Edward G. Robinson made me hold my nose and jump in and boy, am I glad I did. 

And just so you know, I have since managed to sit through "The Big Sleep" (what the hell is going on? I don't care), "The Maltese Falcon" all the way through (loved it) and "Casablanca" with new appreciation. He still gives me pause and always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, but maybe that's the essence of Bogey.

The Searchers

Never a western gal, for sure, but I figured I'd give it a sincere try with a great one. And yes, it is great. I'm still not 100% in for the genre (too many horses falling in battle), and I have real issues with John Ford sometimes, but I left the film with a great admiration for Ford's love of the American landscape, respect for his characters and an even greater respect for John Wayne as a genuine larger-than-life-size movie star. 

Count me a fan of Duke.


My knowledge of foreign films is pretty slim, so I chose to move out of my Hollywood-based comfort zone with "Breathless." I loved every single minute of it and have since managed to branch out with French and Spanish films. 

Merci Jean Luc Goddard and Francois Truffaut (whose films I was tempted to enjoy). Super cool after all these years.

Lawrence of Arabia

I'm not a big fan of the historical spectacle. I'm more of an intimate character film type of gal. Maybe I really resisted this one because I saw this in the movies on a re-release with a date who was so obviously gay and we didn't have such a great time, the kiss was awkward.....well, that's another story for another time...maybe.

Anyway, my love for Mr. O'Toole lead me back to this and "Lawrence of Arabia" now counts as one of my favorite films. It is beautiful - overwhelmingly so. And the music remains just about my favorite film score. It requires a commitment of time, but it holds me always under its spell.

What can I say? I love my comfort films during all times, but right now I'm feeling like some kick-ass films to jolt me off the couch and away from the kitchen. My inner Lucy is yelling at me.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

National Classic Movie Day: 6 from the 60s

This is my entry in the National Classic Movie Day 6 From the 60's Blogathon hosted by the great and powerful Rick at The Classic Film and TV Cafe. Please click here for more great films and memories from a great decade for film and a great decade to be young.

Amazingly (to me, at least), I have reached the age where I can write about classic films from the first hand experience of actually having seen them in the theater when they were released. My earliest memories of movies in a theater came from the decade of the 1960's. Seeing films with either my Mom or friends or  - most memorably - alone was like watering a hungry little seed that blossomed into a life long love. Accordingly, I have chosen to write about films from that decade that had an impact on me as a young person in the dark. Not all are classics, but they all hold a special place in my heart. Clearly, first loves leave a lasting imprint there.

Here we go, paisley mini skirt, go-go boots, poor boy sweater and all!

The Parent Trap (1961)
One Hayley is wonderful; 2 Hayleys is heaven
This is the film that made me love Hayley Mills. Forget the fact that a Boston sister and a western sister both spoke with British accents, I was mad for all things Hayley after that. There was not a movie magazine that printed a mention of her that I did not covet or collect (want to see the "Summer Magic" paper dolls I still have?). My favorite scene: the summer camp dress sabotage. Oh, and Maureen O'Hara, to me, was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She reminded me of my Mom, who took me to see this.

And my love for Hayley endures. Last year I saw her in a play in New York...front row seats...she was beautiful...I swooned.

The Thrill of it All (1963)
Doris as Beverly Boyer: The Happy Soap Girl
My Mom took me to see this one, too. I remember laughing a lot, but especially at the scene where James Garner drives his car into a soap filled swimming pool (hey, I was 10). Since that day, Doris Day has always seemed like a warm hug for me. Plus, I thought she was Beautiful, loved her hair and clothes and just the naturalness of her. I saw this film recently on TV and it still charmed me. Her chemistry with Jame Garner was equal to the sparks she shared with Rock Hudson. They were great together. This film was a narrow choice over their other film, "Move Over, Darling." What sent this over the top was Zasu Pitts as the family maid who I recognized from morning reruns of "The Gale Storm Show."

A Shot in the Dark (1964)

I'm pretty sure my older brother took me to see this one, probably because he wanted to see it and he was stuck with me for the afternoon. I'm so glad he did, because this was my introduction to Inspector Clouseau and the wonderful Peter Sellers, who became a favorite of mine. And you know, girls always notice other girls, and to me Elke Sommer was gorgeous. The scene at the nudist camp had the entire theater in hysterics (a wonderful memory; will we ever experience it again?), but the billiard scene was my favorite... even more now because at the time, I had no idea how divine George Sanders was.

Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) 

A most memorable day at the movies for me, the first movie I saw alone. I was feeling a little self-conscious, thinking that I might be the only solitary person there. However, when I paid for my ticket and entered the lobby, I noticed quite a commotion. People were filling out cards with questions, but I was so focused on getting a seat and looking like I did this ALL the time, I ignored all the hub-bub. 

First: the film. Gripping stuff, right? And for an 11 or 12  year old, pretty darn scary. Truthfully, it took me decades to be able to look at - much less appreciate - Joseph Cotten. I did scream and jump out of my seat when he (allegedly) crawled up those stair from a muddy grave.

Next: It turns out all of those cards and questions were for the appearance after the film of the 2 stars: Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. Yes, that was in the day when stars actually did these those things. Truly, after that film, all I wanted to do was leave, but I recall being forced to sit in my seat. I remember nothing of what the 2 greats had to say. My only memory is that Olivia looked beautiful and glamorous in a sky blue dress and that Bette was quite dowdy looking, but her answers to the questions elicited laughs and applause.  Oh how I wish that I had been able to appreciate them at that time. All I could think of was Joseph Cotten.

Lastly: That was the day I learned that going to the movies alone was okay - maybe even preferable. And I wish I had been able to appreciate Mary Astor, who made a brief, kind of sad, appearance in the film.

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Simply a dream come true for this Beatles fan. Since my bedroom wall was covered with pictures of the Fab Four (I was a John girl, thank you), the day this film came to town was the day my friends and I just had to see it. Loved the music and loved those guys.

This is one film that got even better for me as time went by. Not only is it fast, fun, inventive, great looking and a wonderful showcase for John, Paul, George and Ringo, it makes my eyes mist over with the happy memory of a youthful passion.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Oh that "R" rating caused quite a controversy, didn't it? Everyone, and I mean everyone, had read the book and eagerly anticipated the movie. But, that damned "R" rating meant I needed an adult to get in with. So yet another thanks to Mom for taking me, probably against her better judgement, to see this devilishly great film which is so true to the book.

Mia and New York in 1968 were enchanting, but it was Ruth Gordon who stole the show for me. As Minnie Castevet she was equal parts charming and frightening. Oh Rosemary, don't drink that concoction she brings over for you every morning! And wouldn't L'Air du Temps be better than tannis root? Of course, the big reveal was "the baby" and just the memory of those beady red eyes sends shivers down my spine. 

* Extra second feature: The Art of Love (1965)

* this is for the memory of the time when we got 2 for the price of 1. 

"The Art of Love" would not make anyone's list of classics and I think you might be hard pressed to find someone who actually saw it, but it's a silly film that I remember loving so much. And what's not to love? It had Elke Sommer (the girl who caught my eye in "A Shot in the Dark"), James Garner (who was so wonderful with Doris Day in "The Thrill of it All"), Dick Van Dyke (the star of one of my favorite TV shows) and Ethel Merman, who memorably had green hair in this. It was just great 1960's innocent fun. However, in doing a look back here, this little forgotten film had more great pedigree: a Ross Hunter production, written by Carl Reiner and directed by Norman Jewison. And the opening credits (remember them?) were pretty darn great, too.

What I love about all of these films is that I still love them - each and every one. While not all are classics, they are all solid fun in their own way and made even more precious because of the happy, enduring memories. 

Thanks again, Rick, for hosting another great National Classic Movie Day Blogathon!