You know how most people look forward to Halloween or Christmas or something like that when September comes? Well for me, the most exciting part of this time of year is always Noirvember. And this year, I’ve got two big posts in mind that I simply cannot wait to share with you guys. EXCITIIING! Alright Carol, collect yourself, it’s only September.
I know what you’re thinking. These two films don’t have a lot in common, apart from the year they were released and arguably the genre they belong to. But something else they have in common is the love-hate relationship element, and that’s the main thing that always comes to mind when I think about them.
Love-hate relationships are hot. They’re intense, emotional, sexy, dramatic, sometimes funny and more often than not, fantastic plot devices. Notorious and Gilda are probably my favorite examples of this.
In Gilda (dir. Charles Vidor), Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is hired by casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) to be his right-hand man. Little does he know that Macready is married to Gilda (Rita Hayworth), a woman he once loved…
The entire film is a power struggle between Gilda and Johnny, fuelled by their intense love and subsequent hate for each other. Gilda tries to make Johnny jealous whenever she can, and Johnny tries to pretend none of it bothers him. That’s pointless, of course, since it’s pretty obvious he’s still in love with her. He tries to lie to himself and to her, but she can see right through him. His emotional turmoil and her constant teasing are the perfect combination and their scenes together are electric. Particularly the ‘I hate you too, Johnny’ scene, which is, in my opinion, possibly the hottest scene ever. It’s just so full of love, hate, lies and desire and it culminates beautifully with the two of them finally giving in. But it doesn’t stop there. Gilda and Johnny’s relationship suffers yet another set-back after that. Of course it does. They wouldn’t let you off the hook that easy!
Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, on the other hand, is a lot darker. Party-girl Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is asked by T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to spy on her dead father’s former friends, who he suspects are Nazis operating in South America. Eventually, she realizes she’ll have to marry Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), the leader of the group, in order to get information. Problem is, Alicia and Dev fall in love…
Throughout the movie, both of them struggle with their feelings for each other as well as their own demons. Dev can’t deal with the fact that he’s in love with a woman who he thinks would never be able to commit, and Alicia tries to prove him wrong. She tries to seduce him once she realizes that he’s in love with her, but he keeps trying to resist, even though he knows it’s useless. Before they know it, they’re sharing a kiss on the balcony in what is probably one of the most beautiful and romantic scenes ever filmed. You know what I’m talking about. That scene. The one everybody loves. It is so sweet, so carefully restrained, so intimate, it’s almost intrusive. I almost feel bad for watching it. It is their moment… After that, things take a turn for the worse and their relationship is yet again put to the test.
Gilda is hot. Notorious is sweet. Gilda and Johnny are fire. Alicia and Devlin are melting ice. Obviously, there is a lot more to these movies than just that, but for me personally, this is my absolute favorite thing about them. Ooh, the sparks!
We all love Duck Soup (1933). It’s as crazy as a box of cats and every scene is comedy gold. But there’s one scene that stands out for me. No, not the mirror scene (I know, I know…). My favorite scene from Duck Soup is actually the three hats scene. The first time I saw the film, back in the glorious summer of 2007, I laughed uncontrollably and had to rewind the scene about four or five times. It is pure genius from start to finish. Chico’s ‘I’m a spy and he’s a spy’ speech, Harpo’s goofiness, and, of course, Edgar Kennedy’s hilarious reactions. I don’t have a favorite Marx Brother, but I do have a soft spot for the Chico/Harpo combo (‘Charpo’, in modern terms), and the three hats scene, to me, is one of their best moments. It’s just great. ‘Peanuts!’
The Dark Mirror’s eerie opening scene thrusts us into a world of deceit, twists, revenge and mind-games, fuelled by sibling rivalry and psychological issues, from which you couldn’t escape if you tried.
When Dr Frank Peralta is found dead in his apartment, his girlfriend Terry Collins (Olivia de Havilland) becomes the main suspect. But there’s just one problem: she has a twin sister. When questioned by Lt Stevenson (Thomas Mitchell), Terry and Ruth refuse to confess which one of them did it, which leads to Dr Scott Elliot (Lew Ayres) being brought into the case, to study the twins and solve the mystery.
Directed by Robert ‘King of Atmosphere’ Siodmak, The Dark Mirror plays tricks with your mind, the way it’s meant to. Despite the fact – or maybe because of it – that it contains one of the oldest gimmicks in fiction, it just works. It’s great, we buy into it, and we’re enthralled by it. Mostly because Olivia de Havilland is beyond fantastic. We all love Olivia de Havilland. Like William Powell, Claude Rains or Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia de Havilland is one of those universally beloved people in classic film world. And why not? She’s incredible. In The Dark Mirror, she plays Terry and Ruth with amazing precision and detail, carefully and wisely, always making us question everything, including our own sanity, and the film’s climactic ending is one of her all-time best moments.
The Dark Mirror is a great psychological thriller. It pulls you in straight away and doesn’t let go until the very end. What more could you ask for?
As you know, I’m weirdly wonderful. Or wonderfully weird, depending on how you look at it. And because of that, my long-term relationship with Classic Hollywood has had its quirks along the way. And one of them consists of imagining myself living in the actual films, like, sometimes you’re watching a film and you kind of think ‘Oh, that looks like fun!’, and you start thinking that it must been really great to be in it.
So here are some of the films that have genuinely made me think ‘I want to live in that!’:
My Man Godfrey (1936) – they’re as crazy as a box of cats and I want some of that! Screwballs have that effect on me, somehow. They’re all insane, and that’s what’s so appealing about them. I have yet to watch one that doesn’t make me want to be in it.
Meet me in St Louis (1944) – The Trolley Song… oh, The Trolley Song… that, to me, is the epitome of happiness.
Some Like it Hot (1959) – everything about it is beyond wonderful. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in Some Like It Hot? Imagine doing all those shenanigans with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis!
Stage Door (1937) – Oh the theatre! I did a bit of acting a few years ago and it was so much fun. I just loved the sense of community and togetherness that we all shared. Stage Door always reminds me of that.
Easy Living (1937) – THAT HOUSE! Have you seen that house? But have you seen that house?! I’ve been obsessed with it since the first time I saw the film.
To Catch a Thief (1955) – The gorgeouness all around! It all looks so idyllic.
Grand Hotel (1932) – I would love to spend one week at the Grand Hotel and meet all those characters and hear their stories and laugh and cry with them. Seems like a nice place to lose yourself in.
The Women (1939) – I mean, come on, how can you not love it? Imagine hearing those one-liners on a regular basis. And the gossip! I know it’s petty, but it’s a lot of fun!
There you have it, folks! Happy Sunday ❤
I love screwball comedies. They are so crazy and fun and over-the-top! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, and I finally decided to do it, simply because I’ve been waiting too long, so I just thought ‘why not now?’
This is my personal list of favorite screwball comedies. I am not claiming these are the best, in this particular order, these are just MY favorites.
This list is open for an update, because these things always change.
Some comedies don’t necessarily fit into the screwball comedy genre. There are tons of sub-genres, screwball, romantic, sophisticated, dark, supernatural, etc… There are many comedy films that I absolutely love and do not consider to be screwballs, like for instance The Philadelphia Story (1940), which is mostly a romantic/sophisticated comedy, or The Thin Man (1934), which is a regular comedy with elements of mystery/drama. These 15 films are the ones that I think are closest to the accepted definitely screwball comedy genre.
Here we go!
15. Nothing Sacred (1937)
Dir. William A. Wellman
Carole Lombard and Fredric March are fantastic together. What a great duo!
14. His Girl Friday (1940)
Dir. Howard Hawks
Fast, frantic and full of lines!
13. Midnight (1939)
Dir. Mitchell Leisen
Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett wrote the screenplay for this, so obviously it’s brilliant.
12. The Pam Beach Story (1942)
Dir. Preston Sturges
I love Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea’s relationship in this. It’s so sweet!
11. The More the Merrier (1943)
Dir. George Stevens
I think I developed a slight crush on Joel McCrea after watching this. Also Jean Arthur is perfect in everything.
10. Trouble in Paradise (1932)
Dir. Ernst Lubitsch
Trouble in Paradise is, in many ways, the originator of all of these. I think it’s probably fair to say it’s the original screwball comedy, but that’s likely up for debate.
9. Merrily We Live (1938)
Dir. Norman Z. McLeod
My Man Godfrey’s younger cousin. Pretty much the same plot, but it is sooo lovely!
8. It Happened one Night (1934)
Dir. Frank Capra
The only Best Picture on the list, and how deserving! It’s extraordinary.
7. Ball of Fire (1941)
Dir. Howard Hawks
Barbara Stanwyck’s Sugarpuss is one of my all-time favorite movie characters. Wilder and Brackett also wrote this.
6. Easy Living (1937)
Dir. Mitchell Leisen
The taxi cab scene, Louis, the enourmous bedroom, Jean Arthur and Ray Milland’s relationship… Everything about Easy Living is fantastic.
5. Twentieth Century (1934)
Dir. Howard Hawks
It was so close! This and Easy Living were almost tied, but in the end, I had to put this one higher because I saw it on the big screen, so it has sentimental value for me.
4. The Awful Truth (1937)
Dir. Leo McCarey
Irene Dunne’s performance is the greatest screwball comedy performance by an actress in my opinion. It is incredibly complex once you analyze it.
3. My Man Godfrey (1936)
Dir. Gregory LaCava
The craziest family ever? I think so. Mind you, in a weird way, I would kind of like to live in that house for like a day or two. Sounds fun!
2. The Lady Eve (1941)
Dir. Preston Sturges
Big debate between this and Godfrey as well, but in the end, I had to go with Eve. It’s just slightly more convoluted, which is perfect for screwball.
1. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Dir. Howard Hawks
Well, of course. You all knew it. It is the greatest of them all, in my opinion, and one of my absolute favorite films in any genre, ever.
Happy Screwball! (don’t really know what that means, but let’s go with it)
For a brief period of time, four of Hollywood’s biggest stars got together and formed one of the most constantly overlooked partnerships in movie history. Between 1944 and 1945, Fritz Lang, Joan Bennett, Edward G. Robinson and Dan Dureya made two films together, Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945). To me, these two films always go hand-in-hand. I can never help but compare them to one another and I can’t even think of one without thinking of the other.
Woman in the Window is an interesting one. The ‘mid-life crisis’ theme that can often be found in film noir – Pitfall (1948) comes to mind – is certainly one of the best starting points in films of the genre. A man is bored with his life, his marriage and himself and he seeks some excitement elsewhere. After that, his life takes a turn for the worse. Perfect. In Woman in the Window, that man is Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) a professor who, after meeting up with his friends in his club, goes outside to look at a painting of a woman in a shop window. He meets Alice Reed (Joan Bennett), the woman in the painting, and the two of them go for a drink. Later, back in her place, Alice’s lover Claude Mazard (Arthur Loft) breaks in and starts fighting with Richard, who ends up killing him. With a murder to cover up and a body to dispose of, Richard and Alice soon make a plan and decide to pretend nothing ever happened. However, Mazard’s bodyguard Heidt (Dan Dureya) knows what happened and starts blackmailing Alice. Things get worse…
I love the fact that Woman in the Window is pretty much a stereotypical film noir, with all the elements there and in the right place, yet somehow it feels different. It’s kind of quiet and almost soothing. Apart from two or three scenes, everything is quite calm, and I really like that. I suppose its tongue-in-cheek ending might have something to do with it, who knows, I just find that interesting.
Scarlet Street, on the other hand… boy, is it dark! Edward G. Robinson plays Chris Cross (and that’s not even the best name in the film), a cashier who, after attending a dinner thrown in his honor, walks home through Greenwich Village and spots Kitty March (Joan Bennett) being attacked by a man. He runs to her rescue and the two of them go to a restaurant nearby. They start talking about art and Kitty wrongly assumes he’s a famous painter. After that, she and her boyfriend Johnny Prince (best name in the film), played by Dan Duryea, start working up a scheme to extort money from Chris. After that, things start going really wrong…
Scarlet Street is just an unrelenting spiral descent into madness. And it is unafraid. It gives you a pitiful leading man, a lazy layabout femme fatale and Dan Dureya, the caddest cad that ever cadded, and on top of that, it gives you nothing to comfort you. Has there ever been a sadder ending to a film noir? I’m talking genuinely sad, not ‘dark but had it coming’ sad. It’s quite impressive.
I love the fact that they are so similar and yet so different. They both have quite similar themes, they start more or less the same way, but they go down such drastically different paths. It almost feels like Woman in the Window is the antidote to Scarlet Street. Although I think Scarlet Street might be the better movie of the two – it is actually the remake of a Renoir film called La Chiene (1931), so maybe that’s another Double Bill?
Lang, Bennett, Robinson and Dureya were simply a great foursome. I kind of feel cheated that they didn’t make more movies together, but these two make up for that.
I love movie taglines. I love the fact that nobody has actually really nailed the art of the tagline. Then and now. For the most part, movie taglines are usually so weird and random. Like, every other crime movie always seems to be advertised as ‘the biggest crime ever committed!’ It’s actually quite fun looking up movie posters and reading the taglines, because they’re so repetitive and interchangeable and they often do not reflect the film at all (looking at you, All about Eve). Mind you, I understand completely the purpose of a tagline and how hard it is to fit a whole story into one sentence, so I’m saying this with the biggest love in my heart. It’s all in jest.
So I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite movie taglines.
Here we go!
All about Eve (1950) – ‘It’s all about women and their men!’ It absolutely isn’t.
Double Indemnity (1944) – ‘It was love and murder at first sight!’ Every single film noir ever made.
The Third Man (1949) – ‘You’ve never met anyone like him!’ Fair enough.
Citizen Kane (1941) – ‘It’s terrific!’ Bit of an underwhelming thing to say about ‘the greatest film ever made’
The Maltese Falcon (1941) – ‘A story as explosive as his blazing automatics’ I love this one. HOW COOL IS THAT?!
Born to Kill (1947) – ‘The coldest killer a woman ever loved!’ What are you talking about, she’s even worse than him!
Adam’s Rib (1949) – ‘The funniest picture in 10 years!’ Haha, why only 10 years? Why undersell it like that?
Shane (1953) – ‘In all your Motion Picture going experience, Shane will remain forever memorable!’ True but what a bizarre way to put it.
Cover Girl (1944) – ‘The most brilliant musical of our time!’ I don’t know, Meet me in St Louis came out the exact same year.
Meet me in St Louis (1944) – ‘MGM’s glorious love story with music’ See?
These are all brilliant and weird and fabulous in their own way. And there are so many more!
Iverstown has seen it all. And its secrets will come back to slap you in the face.
In 1928, a young Martha Ivers (Janis Wilson) tries to run away from her domineering aunt (Judith Anderson), and is helped by her friend Sam Masterson (Darryl Hickman). After a while, she’s brought back and the two of them have a row. Later that night, Martha strikes her aunt with her own cane and she falls down the stairs and dies. Walter O’Neill (Mickey Kuhn) witnesses the event, and his father promises to take care of Martha. Eighteen years later, Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) is back in his hometown by accident. He crashes his car and when he goes to have it fixed, he stops by his old home, now a hostel, where he meets Toni Marrachek (Lizabeth Scott). She tells him she’s just been released from prison and needs to get home. When she fails to return, she gets arrested for violating probation. Sam decides to go to Walter (Kirk Douglas), now a district attorney and married to Martha (Barbara Stanwyck), the most powerful woman in town, and he asks him to use his influence to get Toni released. A love triangle (or square?) begins to develop, and Sam is torn between his old love for Martha and his new-found love for Toni.
The first time I saw The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (dir. Lewis Milestone), I thought of doing a review, but I was so mesmerized by it, I couldn’t took away for two seconds to write something down. It’s such a compelling film. It’s the type of story that will never grown old, but it’s so much more than that. Sam Masterson is great character, and the whole film feels like a constant power struggle between his old life and his new life – and they’re actually not that much different -, and the two of them intertwine with each other wonderfully. For us anyway. Toni and Martha are almost like a metaphor for good vs evil, past vs future, and it’s great seeing him try to work it out. For me personally, Toni is the heart and soul of the film. She represents Sam’s future, she’s his way out of Iverstown for good, and she’s almost like a ray of light. I find myself drawn to her every time and I think this is one of Lizabeth Scott’s best performances.
I’m not sure if The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a melodramatic noir, or a noirish melodrama, but it’s definitely a combination of the two and it’s absolutely fantastic.
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…