Summer…

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Summer’s great, but because I live in a big city, sometimes it gets a little too hot and you just don’t know what to do with yourself. I mean, usually, I’d be going back to my hometown for a week or two, go to the beach and all that, but it’s going to be a very hectic summer for me here, at least for a few weeks, so I’ll just have to make do in the meantime. And one of the things I love to do, that gets me all summer-y is watching summer-themed movies, or at least movies that remind of summer anyway. I think I’ve created a sort of tradition with La Piscine (1969), as well as To Catch A Thief (1955). I love those two movies, especially Thief. It’s one of my favorite Hitchcock films, and it just screams summer to me. La Piscine, on the other hand, is incredible and so very European (and I mean that in the very best way possible). Hot and cool, it’s pretty much a summer movie with a story in it, rather than the other way around, if that makes sense. I also love Summertime (1955), which I can watch pretty much anytime, but it’s just especially great to watch it in the summer. Hmm, I feel a marathon coming on…

DOUBLE BILL #4 All That Heaven Allows (1955) and Written on the Wind (1956)

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Boy, was Douglas Sirk great! I’ve always admired how unapologetically soppy and melodramatic his films were. He was probably the most underrated and misunderstood of all directors, but I stand by him. I think he was fantastic. Rock Hudson was one of his greatest leading actors and the two of them gave us two of the best melodramas of all time: All That Heaven Allows (1955) and Written on the Wind (1956).

In All That Heaven Allows, Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) is a middle-aged widower living in the suburbs. Her two children are grown and she socializes with her group of friends on a regular basis. Her life isn’t massively exciting but she is quite content with it. She strikes up a friendship with her gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) and the two of them fall in love. He’s younger than her and when their relationship comes to light, her friends are quick to judge (it’s 1950s suburbia, what’d you expect?)

Written by Peg Fenwick, based on the story by Edna L. Lee and Harry, All That Heaven Allows is a product of its era but curiously ahead of its time. The small-town mentality and attitudes are dealt with in a way that almost feels like satire. There’s the detestable characters, especially Mona (Jacqueline De Wit), the instantly recognizable ‘judgemental frienemy’, there’s the whole thing about caring about what people think and then standing in the way of your own happiness in the process, and of course the standards and stereotypes that a 1950s society held dear. All of these and more are always made to feel like they’re being mocked. Cary is our main character and we’re totally, completely, almost devotedly on her side. In fact, she is so prominent that the light is never too far from her. There are hardly ever any moments or scenes in which her face is not lit. I’m not sure if that’s subconscious or not, but it works wonderfully. And then of course there’s Ron Kirby, the character we all want to be. He’s the only one who truly doesn’t care what anybody thinks. He’s true to himself and his love for Cary and that’s all that matters. All That Heaven Allows is beautifully understated and a stunning piece of romantic drama.

Written on the Wind is the more dramatic of the two films. Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) is a hard-drinking playboy and heir to the Hadley empire. When he meets Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall), he pursues her and asks her to marry him. Little does he know that she’s actually in love with his best friend Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson) and that the feeling is mutual. On top of that, there’s also Marylee (Dorothy Malone in an Oscar-winning performance), Kyle’s sex-crazed younger sister, who’s been in love with Mitch all her life.

Written by George Zuckerman and based on Robert Wilder’s novel of the same name, Written on the Wind is over-the-top, melodramatic and fantastic. This is, to me, the quintessential Douglas Sirk movie. This is what he does best. Melodramas are usually frowned upon, and maybe with good reason, but if it’s a Douglas Sirk film, you know you’re in good hands. And once again, we turn to Rock Hudson for comfort. His performance as Mitch is a breath of fresh air, an unfazed character in an otherwise crazy world, and I think that’s what Sirk understood. This type of character is badly needed in melodramas. And that was the beauty of Rock Hudson’s partnership with Douglas Sirk. In their movies together, he always seems to play the most likeable characters, the ones we hold onto for security and comfort, because that’s what we need. Truly a great director/actor duo and one that should be more appreciated.

Decoy (1946)

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Dr Lloyd Craig (Herbert Rudley) hitchhikes his way to San Francisco in order to murder Margot Shelby (Jean Gillie). He walks into her apartment, shoots her and as she lies dying, she narrates her story to us. In the flashback, we see that she is the girlfriend of Frank Olins (Robert Armstrong), a gangster who is about to be executed. Along with Jim Vincent (Edward Norris) and Dr Craig, they conduct a plan that will culminate in them getting all of Frank’s money. Everything looks peachy, if it wasn’t for the fact that Sgt Joseph ‘Jojo’ Portugal (Sheldon Leonard) keeps standing in their way.

Directed by Jack Bernhard, Decoy (1946) is great because of how strange it is. The coffin scene in particular has got to be the most bizarre scene in a noir ever, and there have been quite a few (Lloyd Nolan’s fate in The Chase (1946) comes to mind), but it simply has to be seen to be fully appreciated. And that goes for a lot of moments in the film. However, the standout aspect for me is Sheldon Leonard’s performance. I so wish he could have played more roles like that! Full of cynicism and one-liners, he is not to be played with. Well, almost.

I like Decoy and I like the fact that it has achieved a cult status over the years. Weird and brilliantly surreal, Decoy is, in many ways, the perfect cult classic.

Things I’ve said as a Classic Hollywood buff…

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These are all things I’ve said either to myself (!) or to other people. They all true and I sometimes wish they weren’t…

‘Alright, Carol, you’ve been watching too many movies from 1932’

‘Never tell anyone how many times you’ve seen Double Indemnity (1944)’

‘This is too much Veronica Lake in one week’

 ‘You can’t book my plane ticket for the 22nd, Mom, that’s Billy’s [Wilder] birthday!’

*someone tells me when their birthday is* Me: ‘OMG that’s the same day as *Old Hollywood personality*, that’s so cool!’

(about The Big Sleep (1946)) ‘This ******* movie gives me a headache every time I watch it!’

(answering the phone) ‘Ahoy hoy, is this Myrna Loy?’

‘I blame Dark Victory (1939) entirely for my hypochondria’

‘April 5th is such an awesome day for Classic Hollywood buffs’

‘I would so love to go party with Eve Arden!’

And so on…
W
e’re a crazy bunch of people! ❤

Mr Wilder, I absolutely adore you

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It’s Billy Wilder’s birthday! Woohoo! The thing is, I don’t know what to say about Billy Wilder anymore. I’ve gushed about him so much over the years, I honestly can’t think of anything else to say. You know I’m obsessed with The Apartment (1960), that I consider Some Like it Hot (1959) to be comedy perfection, and that Double Indemnity (1944) is my favorite noir. Not to mention I can do a spot-on impression of Norma Desmond. Well, ‘spot-on’ might be an exaggeration. But yeah, Billy Wilder is one of my biggest idols and the reason why I decided to become a screenwriter. I love and double-love Billy Wilder.

So, all that’s left for me to say is thank you. Thank you for everything, Mr Wilder, and I hope you’re having a wonderful birthday in Hollywood Heaven.

Top 10 Friendships in Classic Movies

So yesterday was National Best Friends Day, but I thought it was today *everybody rolls eyes at Carol*, so bear with me, this is a day late. Anyway, in this Top 10 Countdown, I will pick my favorite friendships in classic movies.

CRITERIA

– The friendship has to have some degree of relevance to the story or character development

– The two characters have to have more than 15 minutes worth of screen-time together

– Family relations or couples will not count

 

Here we go!

10 – Don (Gene Kelly) and Cosmo (Donald O’Connor), Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Funny, adorable and boy, can they dance! They have been best friends since their days as vaudeville performers, so they go way back. They make a fantastic duo and their friendship is one of the highlights of the film for me.

9 – Bunny (Katharine Hepburn) and Peg (Joan Blondell), Desk Set (1957)

What a wonderful friendship they have. Inside jokes, drinking, laughing, sharing, plus they work together… These two are not only #FriendshipGoals but also #CoworkerGoals, if there’s such a thing. Probably not.

8 – Dennis (Dennis O’Keefe) and Tony (Alfred Ryder), T-Men (1947)

In noir world, relationships of any kind are fast, fickle, and often fake and you must never take them for granted. Which is why Dennis and Tony’s friendship, however brief, is so poignant. It was the only thing they had. Their job made them do things they had to be prepared for, but probably never really were. The few moments they share are like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise incredibly heavy film noir.

7 – Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and Dr Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen), The Apartment (1960)

This is an interesting one, because it’s purely based on the fact they live next to each other. But nonetheless, they have a very amicable relationship, great banter and they always seem to be there for each other.

6 – Terry (Katharine Hepburn) and Jean (Ginger Rogers), Stage Door (1937)

In a movie where friendships are actually the main focal point, it was difficult to pick just one. In the end, I had to go with Terry and Jean’s friendship, because it was always such a love-hate type of relationship, with its ups and downs, and it came out on top in the end. 

5 – Margo (Bette Davis) and Birdie (Thelma Ritter), All About Eve (1950)

I was torn between Margo and Birdie, and Margo and Karen, but I decided to go with Birdie in the end. She is the only person who can see through Eve the entire time and is always trying to warn Margo about her. She is also the only one who can tell Margo off when she’s being an idiot and because she’s her assistant/maid, she’s always taking care of her.

4 – Walter (Fred MacMurray) and Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), Double Indemnity (1944)

The only ‘I love you too’ that ever meant anything in noir world. Regardless of the film’s plot and outcome – no spoilers, although, who in the world hasn’t seen it?! – they were always close and their friendship was real.

3 – Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Sam (Dooley Wilson), Casablanca (1942)

Louis would probably get jealous if he read this post, but I just have to include this particular friendship instead. It is probably the oldest relationship in the movie, and the one that never changes throughout. At the end of the day, Rick will come back to Sam, and Sam will play ‘As Time Goes By’ for Rick.

2 – Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon), Some Like It Hot (1959)

Even though they had to join a female band because they were trying to avoid getting killed, it still sounds like a really fun thing to do with your best friend. I love their moments together, they are funny as hell, have incredible chemistry and I just want to go party with them.

Before I reveal my number 1 pick, here are some honorable mentions:

– Jim (James Dean) and Plato (Sal Mineo), Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

– Lily (Marlene Dietrich) and Hui Fei (Anna May Wong), Shanghai Express (1932)

– Aunt Elizabeth (May Robson) and Major Applegate (Charlie Ruggles), Bringing up Baby (1938)

– Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Louis (Claude Rains), Casablanca (1942)

– Margo (Bette Davis) and Karen (Celeste Holm), All About Eve (1950)

– Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) and Maggio (Frank Sinatra), From Here to Eternity (1953)

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1 – Dorothy (Jane Russell) and Lolerei (Marilyn Monroe), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Even though you could argue that the film’s themes are a bit shallow and outdated, you can’t deny that the friendship between Dorothy and Lorelei is real and pretty much the driving force of the film. Dorothy’s protectiveness over Lorelei, and Lorelei’s adoration of Dorothy in a world full of men and diamonds is what gets them 1st place on my list.

 

There you have it! Happy belated Best Friends Day!

DOUBLE BILL #3 Top Hat (1935) and Swing Time (1936)

Musicals of the 1930s are pretty much screwball comedies with songs. And they’re absolutely fabulous. Especially Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers ones. Ten adorable little pieces of cinema, with perfectly executed song-and-dance numbers and heart-warming, albeit interchangeable plots. Two of them in particular, Top Hat and Swing Time, are the most iconic of them all. I re-watched them recently after a number of years and I still love them both for different reasons.

For me, Top Hat works better as a screwball comedy than Swing Time. And Swing Time works better as a musical than Top Hat. Ultimately, the point of these films – other than to showcase Fred and Ginger’s heavenly partnership – is to make you feel good. They’re musicals. They’re fun and lovely and beautiful. But for me personally, Top Hat has a better story and Swing Time has better numbers. Even though both of them share many of the same (screwball-y) qualities: quarrelling lovers, a doomed romance, misunderstandings, colourful supporting characters, one-liners and a wisecracking friend who serves as the voice of reason (Madge and Mabel, both played by Helen Broderick). Since I’m championing Top Hat as a screwball comedy, I have to mention one of the all-time great comedy supporting actors, the one and only Edward Everett Horton. I absolutely love that man and will watch anything he’s in. His mere presence in Top Hat almost made me question if I do indeed love Swing Time more.

Turns out I actually do. Always have. I think generally Top Hat is considered the most famous movie Fred and Ginger made together, but in my opinion Swing Time is better. There are more iconic numbers in Swing Time than Top Hat, for one – even though the all-time most iconic Fred/Ginger number, Cheek to Cheek, is indeed from Top Hat. But take a look at this: Pick Yourself Up (my favorite), A Fine Romance, the Oscar-winning The Way You Look Tonight, not to mention the majestic Never Gonna Dance. They are all incredible pieces of art from the song-and-dance era. And they’re all from Swing Time. I love them both, but Swing Time wins for me. Plus, it’s the movie that made me want to learn to tap-dance. It might have just been a spur of the moment, though. Never actually learned. But I will one day, hopefully. That’d be grand.

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

Ah, Mae West. Where does one begin with Mae West *cue Mae West-style double entendre*? If you know anything about her, you know she was an original, a trailblazer and a pioneer in many, many ways. And if you watch her films, you’ll realize why she was always the main attraction. When she’s on the screen, you know she’s going to be a riot and you know you’re going to have a good time.

Lowell Sherman’s She Done Him Wrong is only 65 minutes long (shortest film ever to be nominated for Best Picture) but boy is it frantic! So many things happen, from murder to attempted suicide to doomed romances, not to mention Mae West’s many, very famous one-liners. It goes a little something like this: Lady Lou (West) is the most famous woman in town and the main performer in a New York saloon. All the men want her and the feeling is mutual. However, she has an ex-boyfriend in prison who still wants her no matter what and who vows to take revenge on any man who gets in between them. One of those men is Captain Cummings (played by a very young Cary Grant), the officer at the receiving end of Lady Lou (West)’s ‘come up sometime and see me’ line. Mayhem, I tell you.

It’s a crazy ride of a film, and Mae West is a joy to watch. Full of confidence and wit, she had a ‘this is who I am, deal with it’ air about her that is just fascinating. She also had a very strange walk, that I have been trying to imitate for years. I can do the voice, so it’s safe to say I’m halfway there. Woohoo!