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!

Hello, you beauties

So, I’ve been really busy lately. Got a lot of projects I’m working on at the moment (including writing a play for my course, wish me luck!), so I haven’t had time to do anything blog-related. This weekend, though, might be a little less stressful, so I’m definitely going to do something. I’m thinking review of a movie I haven’t seen in a very long time…

Anyway, have a nice week everyone! Love you ❤

My perfect day in Hollywood

18342396_1426048907456280_8038184517619298939_nSo, today is National Classic Movie Day. Happy National Classic Movie Day! 😀 Anyway, I thought I’d do a little something to celebrate. Last year, I did a list of 23 classic movie moments that I love, so this year, I’m going to do something a bit different. Basically, we classic movie buffs all wish we could invent a time machine and go back in time, just for a little while, to that glorious era. So, I’ve decided to tell you what my perfect day in Old Hollywood would be like. Mind you, I change my mind a lot. This is just something I thought of and it doesn’t have to remain that way. Anyway here we go! So, I was talking to my friend Denise a few months ago about this and we both agreed that we’d want to be best friends with Barbara Stanwyck and that the three of us would drive around and talk about everything and then she’d introduce us to everyone, because she’s a sweetheart. Ok, I don’t know about you, but the first thing I’d do would be to try and find Katharine Hepburn. I’d like to think I could keep my composure, but probably not. Deni would have to let her know that I’m not some crazy stalker. So anyway, once we’d met, we’d sit by the pool and talk about life. I’d like to think she would have liked me. And then provided we’d agree to meet again later that evening for dinner, Deni and I would go off again. Then, we’d have lunch with the Marx Brothers. Duck soup, probably HA! Anyway… then in the afternoon, we would try and sneak into the various studios to watch the shooting of our favorite movies. Later on, dinner with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Billy Wilder, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Bette Davis. Imagine that! And then, we’d all go to Ciro’s, the most famous club in Hollywood history. I don’t know about you, but I’d go look for Eve Arden, Irene Dunne and Rosalind Russell (who are hopefully all at the same table) and ask to join them. I’d love to just sit with them and laugh for an hour straight. And then, Deni and I both said that, at this point, we’d try and ask Glenn Ford out on a date. She also mentioned Gregory Peck and I mentioned Sterling Hayden. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. And then, after that, we’d go to one of George Cukor’s legendary parties. Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.

*sigh* Taxi to Old Hollywood, please!

5 things I love about 5 Katharine Hepburn movies

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Today is Katharine Hepburn’s birthday. And like every year for the past 10 years, I am having a marathon to celebrate. And of course,  I couldn’t let May 12th go by without writing a little something about her here on the Garden. I’ve already talked about several of her movies and the many, many things I love about her, so today I thought I’d do a fun list of 5 things I love about 5 of her movies. Of course, there are many more, but I’ll leave those for next year.

Here they are!

 

Bringing up Baby (1938)

  • – George, the dog
  • – Baby, the leopard
  • – Major Applegate and Aunt Elizabeth’s banter
  • – The dinner scene
  • – ‘I can’t give you anything but love, Babyyyy…’

Stage Door (1937)

  • – The calla lilies monologue
  • – The dialogue! Especially the insults
  • – Terry (Kate) and Jean (Ginger Rogers)’s relationship
  • – The cast
  • – THAT Andrea Leeds scene

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

  • – All that champagne!
  • – Ruth Hussey’s performance
  • – The swimming pool
  • – The drunken scene with Jimmy and Cary
  • – Dinah performing ‘Lydia’

Woman of the year (1942)

  • – THE LOVE
  • – THE LOOKS
  • – Ahead of its time
  • – The breakfast scene
  • – ‘Do you speak Chinese?’ ‘Fluently.’

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

  • – Spencer’s final monologue
  • – Sidney Poitier’s performance
  • – ‘Glory of Love’ theme tune
  • – Christina’s epic speech to Hillary
  • – How bittersweet it is

 

Happy Birthday, Kate ❤

DOUBLE BILL #2 : Laura (1944) and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)

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In 1944, Otto Preminger created his masterpiece, Laura (1944), a murder mystery noir surrounding the investigation into the death of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), led by Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), who ends up falling in love with her portrait. In 1950, Otto Preminger got together with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and cinematographer Joseph LaShelle again and made what would become his unsung masterpiece, Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), about a short-tempered cop, Mark Dixon (Andrews), who ends up on the wrong side of the law, despite his best efforts to be a good guy.

I’ve talked about Laura many, many times here on the Garden. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies and 4th favorite noir. There is nothing I don’t love about it. From the second it starts, with the climax of its iconic theme tune and the equally iconic Laura portrait, it demands your attention. That, combined with perhaps the greatest opening line of any noir, is enough to keep Laura permanently in any noir top 10 list. But it doesn’t stop there. ..The mystery itself will keep you guessing until the end. Everybody loved Laura and that was the problem.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, on the other end, is brutal. There is no melancholic theme tune to accompany it, no lost love, only 95 minutes of relentless, unstoppable, fearless… noir. It starts in the most unassuming way, with someone whistling the forever recycled and re-used Street Scene (1931) theme tune whilst walking on the sidewalk, on which the movie’s title is written. As the rest of the credits show up on the screen, two cops drive through New York City as they follow a lead. From that moment on, Where the Sidewalk Ends is nothing but a snake pit of violence, brutality and grittiness.

The fact that these films start in such a strikingly different way tells you pretty much all you need to know about them. Laura invites you in with a welcoming theme tune and the promise of a stylish noir that is just exquisite to look at and fascinating to listen to. Where the Sidewalk Ends delivers an unapologetically raw noir, with brutal scenes and an almost intrusive atmosphere. In both cases, you are 100% drawn to them. Laura offers you a murder mystery whose suspects include Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), Laura’s on-again, off-again fiance, Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), her aunt, and of course Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb, in an Oscar-nominated performance), perhaps the single most self-centered character in all of film noir, which is saying quite a lot. Sidewalk is full of rotten characters with no redeeming qualities. Well, apart from maybe Mark Dixon, the cop who has always tried to not be like his deadbeat, thieving father. However, despite his best efforts, things turn bad. I mean, really, really bad. He accidentally kills murder suspect Ken Paine (Craig Stevens), and then to make matters worse, he falls in love with Paine’s wife Morgan (Gene Tierney). Despite this, you feel for him. In fact, very few characters in noir have had such a huge emotional and moral turmoil as Dixon.

It’s interesting to see how these two movies have gone down in movie history. Laura is one of the most beloved noirs ever, and definitely the more well-known of the two, whereas Where the Sidewalk Ends is almost inexplicably obscure. Too dark? Or just not shown on TV a lot? I don’t know. All I know is that I was completely enthralled by it. I love the fact that it’s so dark. That’s what I want in my noirs. As for Laura, well… ‘and thus, as history has proved, love is eternal’, says Waldo Lydecker in the movie’s resolution. My love for Laura certainly is.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

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The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) was one of the many, many movies I saw in the glorious summer of 2007. That was the year I fell in love with classic movies, and that summer I watched as many of them as I could. I actually didn’t like The Magnificent Ambersons at first, but I always like to give movies a second chance, and this one actually grew on me over time.

The Magnificent Ambersons follows the Amberson and Morgan families throughout the years. Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) and Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello) have been in love with each since they were teenagers, but she decides to marry Wilbur Minafer (Don Dillaway) instead. Fast forward about 20 years: Eugene is back in town, he’s still very much in love with Isabel and vice-versa, but her son George (Tim Holt), a.k.a. the black sheep of the family, doesn’t approve of it.  On top of that, he falls in love with Lucy (Anne Baxter), Eugene’s daughter, but she doesn’t want a future with him because he has no ambition in life. Simply put, The Magnificent Ambersons is the original soap opera. Only better.

Hollywood’s rebel child Orson Welles made this movie just one year after his masterpiece, Citizen Kane (1941), and it could have easily suffered because of it. It almost did, apparently. The preview was a disaster and the movie itself was heavily edited against Welles’ will. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a fantastic film, albeit depressing. I’m guessing the reason the sleigh ride scene is so iconic is probably because it’s the only moment of happiness in this parade of misfortune, gossip and deceit. Everything from forbidden love to intimidating shadows to the constant clashing between George and his aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead in an Oscar-nominated performance), The Magnificent Ambersons has it all. And it is indeed magnificent.

My top 7 favorite quotes from Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

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J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is a newspaper columnist and the most powerful man in New York City. Whatever he says, goes. And right now, he wants to break up his sister Susan (Susan Harrison)’s relationship with Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). Enter Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), a press agent who will do anything for J. J. Hunsecker, no matter how despicable.

Sweet Smell of Success is so sleazy, it hurts. It’s so raw and unapologetic, it’s actually painful to watch at times. And that’s what makes it so damn good. That and the dialogue. Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets’ brilliant screenplay is incredibly tight and dripping with acid one-liners and putdowns. I’ve seen this movie a number of times and every time I watch it, I’m like ‘I wish I’d thought of that!’. So I’ve decided to do a list of my top 7 favorite quotes from Sweet Smell of Success. Here we go!

 

7. ‘You sound happy Sidney. Why should you be happy when I’m not?’ (J. J. Hunsecker)

6. ‘Cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river.’ (Sidney Falco)

5. ‘How many drinks does it take to put you on that tropical island?’ (Sidney Falco to Rita)

4. ‘I love this dirty town.’ (J. J. Hunsecker)

3. ‘You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.’ (J. J. Hunsecker to Sidney)

2. ‘Match me, Sidney.’ (J. J. Hunsecker)

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  1. ‘I’d hate to take a bit out of you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.’ (J. J. Hunsecker to Sidney)

 

Oh, what a great movie.

See you later, folks!

Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948)

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I was in the mood for a melodrama last night, so I decided to watch Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) and let it tear me apart. It is so painfully beautiful and beautifully painful, it makes my whole body hurt, not just my heart.

Vienna, 1900. Stefan Brand (Louis Jordan) is a washed-up pianist who decides to flee the city after he’s challenged to a duel. Before that, he receives a letter from someone from his past. In it, Lisa Berndle (Joan Fontaine) details her lifelong, unrequited love for him. This takes her back several years and throws us onto one of the most heart-breaking love stories ever told.

Max Ophuls’ masterpiece is still haunting after all these years. Written by Howard Koch, based on the novella by Stefan Zweig, Letter from an Unknown Woman is an enthralling, bittersweet (mostly bitter) tale, from the letter’s opening sentence to the final frame. Beautifully shot by Franz Planer, the atmospheric mood almost feels like a gothic story at times – very turn of the century indeed. And through it all, the movie belongs to Joan Fontaine. The camera always adored her, because of what she gave her audience. You stay with her the whole time and when her heart breaks in front of your eyes, yours will break too.

Letter From an Unknown Woman gives melodramas a good name. I never even understood that bad rap, anyway. I like them.

My top 10 Favorite Musical Numbers from Classic Musicals

Who doesn’t love a good musical? They’re fun, joyful, lovely and they warm your heart. Some of them break your heart as well. But the song-and-dance numbers are usually so good, that you don’t really mind. So I’ve decided to compile a list of my top 10 favorite musical numbers. Mind you, these aren’t necessarily my favorite musicals in the order they will appear on this list, just my favorite numbers from those musicals.

CRITERIA

  • – I have to have some degree of love for the musicals these numbers appear in, not just the numbers themselves
  • – There are certain numbers that I’ve seen the clips but not the entire film, so they won’t appear on the list
  • – Only one number from each musical will appear and it is the one I consider to be my favorite from that musical. Some of these were very hard, so bear with me
  • – There will be an honorable mention, and it will be my second favorite number from that musical
  • – These are my personal favorites, so the list is VERY subjective

 

Here we go!

10. Make ‘Em Laugh (Singin’ in the Rain, 1952)

Honorable mention: Good Morning

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This was a tough one. I had to go with Make ‘Em Laugh in the end, because it’s just too funny to overlook.

9. Over the Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

Honorable mention: We’re off to see the Wizard

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This is probably the most iconic song on the list. How can you not love it?

8. The Sound of Music (The Sound of Music, 1965)

Honorable mention: My Favorite Things

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As soon as it starts, you know it’s going to be good. It excites you and it fills you with nothing but joy. There is probably no better opening sequence to a musical.

7. Cover Girl (Cover Girl, 1944)

Honorable mention: Long Ago and Far Away

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Rita Hayworth never looked lovelier. She shines in this movie and this particular number is majestic.

6. The Man That Got Away (A Star is Born, 1954)

Honorable mention: Swanee

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The emotion, the feeling, the power, the words… This song is just too much. Judy Garland gives it her all, like always, and it’s magnificent.

5. Well Did You Evah (High Society, 1956)

Honorable mention: True Love

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I love the lyrics and I love how natural Frank and Bing make it seem. I’d love to just randomly start singing this at a party one day. Remind me to do that.

4. Pick Yourself Up (Swing Time, 1936)

Honorable mention: Never Gonna Dance

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I’d love to know how to tap-dance. This movie made me want to learn (which I still haven’t), and this number, particularly, has always fascinated me.

3. Bye Bye Baby (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953)

Honorable mention: Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend

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I love this movie so much, and this has always been my favorite number. Absolutely lovely and Jane Russell is awesome.

2. Get Happy (Summer Stock, 1950)

Honorable mention: You, Wonderful You

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When Judy Garland tells you to get happy, you jolly well get happy! It’s impossible not to.

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1. The Trolley Song (Meet me in St Louis, 1944)

Honorable mention: The Boy Next Door

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It could not be anything else, it will never be anything else. Not only is it my favorite musical number, it’s one of my favorite scenes from any movie ever. It’s perfect.

There you have it folks! Hope you enjoyed it, and as always, feel free to share your favorites in the comments!

Happy weekend, everyone!

DOUBLE BILL #1 Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958)

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A while ago, I wrote an article about the many similarities and differences between All About Eve (1950) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). It wasn’t really a comparison piece per se, just a post about two of my favorite movies, which happen to be quite often associated with one another for a number of reasons. And that got me thinking. A lot of movies often go hand-in-hand in movie buffs’ minds, and I thought it would be a nice idea to write a series of posts about that. I meant to start this a lot sooner – I wrote the Eve/Sunset piece about a year ago -, but now I have finally decided to follow through with it. So, here it is, the first instalment of my DOUBLE BILL series of posts: Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). For the record, this is not meant to start a war. These are just the thoughts of a movie buff.

Rear Window and Vertigo are two of The Master’s greatest and most beloved movies. Not to mention that they are arguably the two best Hitch/Jimmy Stewart movies of the four they made together. And because it’s Hitchcock, they share a lot of the same themes and motifs. You know, the usual ones. Suspense, mystery, icy blondes, perfect shots, you name it. However, there’s more to them than just that.

In both Rear Window and Vertigo, obsession leads to trouble. Although you can argue that both of them deal with very different types of obsession. In Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart is obsessed with watching his neighbours. This leads to him finding out something he shouldn’t have found out. In Vertigo, he’s obsessed with the memory of Madeleine (Kim Novak). His obsession makes him do… well, obsessive things. However, in Rear Window, Jeff’s obsession is due to boredom at having to stay at home – the whole thing might just be a metaphor for his relationship with Lisa (Grace Kelly), depending on how you want to look at it and how deep you think it might be. In Vertigo, his obsession is psychotic. It’s deeper. And sicker. Vertigo is like the culmination of every Hitchcock movie and every theme ever used in every Hitchcock movie. And it is definitely the darker one of the two. Rear Window, however, has always been my favorite. But I will agree that, objectively, Vertigo might be the better movie. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s the greatest movie ever made, like Sight&Sound did, but it is perhaps Hitchcock’s masterpiece (if you can pick just one!). Vertigo messes with your head and when it finally clears it all up for you, it delivers the ultimate comeuppance. It’s an incredibly satisfying resolution. On the other hand, the scene with Jeff and Thorwald (Raymond Burr) in Rear Window is one of the most thrilling scenes of all time. When Thorwald looks up at Jeff when he sees that Lisa is wearing his wife’s ring, you know it’s on. You know it’s going to be awesome. That whole scene in Jeff’s apartment is the reason why Alfred Hitchcock is called the Master of Suspense. No matter how many times you watch it, it’s always unbelievably exciting.

There are so many overlapping, intertwining themes in both of them, all drenched in metaphors, that one could analyze them forever. As I’m sure movie buffs will continue to do ’til the end of time.