Goodbye 2018

As we approach 2019, The Old Hollywood Garden enters its fourth year (!) and I, for one, cannot believe it. Four years! A lot of stuff has happened, and I feel like 2018 has been the best year so far, blog-wise. Looking back, I have written some of my best stuff, if I can say so myself, and I have broaden my tastes – horror season in October was particularly delightful. And while Double Bill has ended, there will be another series of posts starting next month, about something that is particularly close to my heart. Once again, I would like to thank you all, especially Mike, Denise, Mark, Virginie, Troy, Brian, Jon, Maddy, among many others, for your continuous support,  friendship, likes and comments. Have a great 2019, everyone!

 

 

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5 reasons why Meet me in St. Louis (1944) is my favorite musical

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I thought I’d kick off the Christmas festivities this year with my favorite musical of all time and a great Christmas movie in its own right, Vincente Minnelli’s Meet me in St Louis (1944). Here are five things I love about it:

The Trolley Song – It is, in my opinion, the most glorious moment in 1940s movie musicals. It is full of wonder, joy and excitement and it is the main reason Meet Me in St Louis always tops my ‘classics I’d love to be in’ list.

Margaret O’Brien’s performance – This might actually be my all-time favorite child performance. Her Tootie is the cherry on top of the Meet Me in St Louis cake; she embodies every emotion that we, as the viewers, feel throughout the film, in particular in the Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sequence, which is always heart-breaking.

Sisterly love – I love sibling relationships in movies. And one of the things that always warms my heart in this movie is the loving, supporting relationships between all five of them, especially the four girls. No matter what happens (and it’s a lot!), Esther, Rose, Agnes and Tootie are always there for each other. In fact, the whole family are one of the most endearing and loving there has ever been in a film, despite their differences.

The way it looks – Aesthetics were always a key aspect of MGM musicals and their importance should never be under-estimated. Meet me in St Louis is no exception. It looks beautiful. It looks appealing and warm and sweet. Its colors jump out of the screen and for two hours, St Louis looks like the place to be.

There’s something for everyone – One of the many things that makes Meet Me in St Louis so special to me is that it can fit into any category. It’s a musical, a romance, a family dramedy, a suburban tale, and a holiday movie – Halloween and Christmas, no less. Talk about iconic!

Happy Holidays, folks!

What a Character! Blogathon – Charles McGraw

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There are tough guys, there are bad guys, and then there is Charles McGraw, the toughest, baddest, most terrifying of them all. With his raspy voice and his cold, piercing eyes, Charles McGraw meant business. Mean, menacing, murderous business. From the moment he steps out from behind Henry’s Diner in the opening scene in The Killers (1946), in what has to be one of the greatest entrances of all time, you just know he’s not one to mess with. This was his break-through role and throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s, he was a constant presence in some of the screen’s greatest films as well as some of its most treasured cult classics, whether in bit parts or leads, with Armored Car Robbery (1950) and The Narrow Margin (1952) finally giving him top billing. In 1947 alone, he appeared in eight films, most notably T-Men (1947) and Brute Force (1947). If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s because there is one. Noir was his genre, and, like Neville Brand or Dan Duryea, he was one of its greatest cads. But unlike Brand or Duryea, McGraw wasn’t one you ‘loved to hate’. His characters weren’t misunderstood or even charming. He was just utterly, unashamedly terrifying. I don’t know about you, but I love seeing his name on the credits. I gasp every time he comes on, whatever the movie is. I know I’m going to be rocked to my core with just one line or even a look. I know that whatever bad stuff happens, it will be because of Charles McGraw. It’s perhaps no surprise that he is the one responsible for the most horrifying death in film noir history, that of George Murphy’s character in Border Incident (1949). It’s a truly horrible moment and one that only McGraw could pull off. He wasn’t just good at being bad. He was the best. For more posts on the What a Character! Blogathon, click here.

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COMEDY GOLD #10: ‘Tonsils!’ from Trouble in Paradise (1932)

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Last year, I wrote a little piece about Edward Everett Horton’s inescapable and always welcome presence in 1930s and 40s comedy films, and so I thought I’d restart my COMEDY GOLD series this month with one of my favorite performances of his: François in Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble In Paradise (1932). It’s the story of a thief, Gaston (Herbert Marshall), and a pickpocket, Lily (Miriam Hopkins), who decide to team up and con the owner of a perfume company, Mariette (Kay Francis). As would be expected, Gaston and Mariette end up falling in love and things go awry… Now, where does François come into this? Well, as it turns out, François himself had been conned by Gaston previously, when the latter robbed him while pretending to be a doctor. As this realization finally dawns on him, we’re treated to one of the film’s funniest moments, as Edward Everett Horton and Charles Ruggles prove to be one hell of a double act.

At a party thrown by the Major (Ruggles), he and François discuss Gaston (‘Funny the kind of men women fall for’) while sitting on the sofa. They comment on the fact that he’s ‘dull’ and ‘insignificant’, stating that he’s always been a secretary and he will always be one. The Major then casually mentions that the first time he saw him, he thought he was a doctor. Cue that classic Edward Everett Horton reaction, followed by Ruggles’. François then looks at the Major, gets up, then the Major gets up, then they both sit back down, only to get up again. François then turns to Mariette and exclaims ‘Tonsils, positively tonsils!’, unmasking Gaston once and for all.

I love everything about this movie (Lubitsch!), but I have always had a soft spot for Edward Everett Horton. He literally makes any movie better just by being in it. And let’s not forget Charles Ruggles, who is always charming in everything, no matter how wacky it is (Major Applegate in Bringing up Baby, anyone?). They are brilliant and I wish they’d made more movies together. One can only imagine what that would have been like.