1930s Film, 1940s Film

How To Live Life Like You’re In A Screwball Comedy

Escape the Mundane in Five Easy Steps.

So, your life has become slow and you don’t know how to get it to its former sharpness. You’ve come to see me because you’ve heard that I have an easy solution to your problem. Well, it won’t be easy, but it can be quick if you can think on your feet. My solution is all about thinking on your feet and being on your feet (typically running around).

With my quick and (sometimes) painless remedy, your days will never see dullness again. What I recommend is getting into the Screwball Comedy Lifestyle to feel better. Screwball comedy films were extremely popular in the 1930s and ’40s. Their stories often involved a “battle of the sexes” plot along with quick and witty dialogue, steamy chemistry, and some kind of quirky/over-the-top storyline.


Here’s how you can see better results in just two weeks with my new (and not patented) Screwball Comedy Lifestyle Guide:

1. Fall Completely In Love (But Accept That it Will Never Not be Complicated)

In many screwball comedy films, the story revolves around a couple of people who madly in love with each other but find themselves in at least one humongous misunderstanding or disagreement – enough to put their relationship or marriage in jeopardy. A properly-lived screwball comedy relationship/marriage will require insane romantic chemistry, a zany brain, and an undeniable hunger for adventure.


Despite the fighting, arguing, and possible cross-country shenanigans, you will eventually fall back into each other’s arms – I guarantee it. Find someone who will run after you like Joel McCrea’s character does in The Palm Beach Story (1942).

*Falling in love not required, but highly recommended

 


2. Embrace Oddness

Like, don’t even try to run away from it if you’ve got it. The ones that have fun in screwball comedies are usually the ones who just go with it. Going with it may get you in trouble, so be wary of that. Or not. Don’t be wary. I don’t know. Just be whatever. Have a ball! Take inspiration from this scene in The Philadelphia Story:


3. Wear Cool + Dorky Glasses

Dorky glasses = cool glasses. No argument. A prime example of this is Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby (1938). Wear something like this and you’re on your way to become screwball amazingness. Run around like a maniac in the middle a high society party with these glasses on and you’re set for life.


4. Sit By Interesting People on the Bus

As painful as it may sound (I warned you!) this will get you far in a screwball comedy lifestyle. You’ve got to sit by a person like Mr. Shapely from It Happened One Night (1934) at least once in your life. It may be horrible at the time, but you will look back at it and laugh.


5. Get Into a Ridiculous Fight and Tell Someone They Look Like Boris Karloff

This one is at your own risk, but it’s highly recommended if you would like to live out a complete screwball comedy lifestyle. You certainly do not have to go out and pull an Arsenic and Old Lace (1941) stunt, but do so if you please and only if it enhances your life. Throw stuff, yell, etc. If you want to go a step further, tell someone that he/she looks like Boris Karloff and see what happens.


☆ Happy Screwball Living! ☆


This post was originally published on Odyssey on August 30, 2016. 

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1940s Film, musicals

For Me and My Gal (1942)

“You think anything’s going to stand in the way of us playing the Palace this time? Oh no, not even a war.”

For Me and My Gal was released in theaters in late 1942, when America was fully emerged in World War II. After the US entered the War in December 1941, Hollywood joined in on the war effort in its own ways. One of these efforts was making movies in support of America and its men and women who were serving overseas.

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The film was directed by Busby Berkeley, who is probably best known today for the distinctive musical numbers he choreographed in several highly successful Depression-era musicals at Warner Brothers, including 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933.

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Gene Kelly and Judy Garland with director Busby Berkeley

For Me and My Gal is actually set during WWI, but its patriotic themes were easily translated to the then present-day situation.

The film opens as vaudeville singer and dancer Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly) meets fellow vaudeville performers Jo Hayden (Judy Garland) and Jimmy Metcalfe (George Murphy). Hayden and Matcalfe are partners in an act who happen to be performing at the same small-time venue as Harry.


Upon stepping off the train into the new town, Harry gives Jo the once-over, catcall whistles at her, and their exchange goes like this:

Harry: “Hello, Springtime.”

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Jo, looking up at the sky/rolling her eyes

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“…Aren’t you a little out of season?”

 


This is the first exchange ever shared by Judy and Gene onscreen and you can already sense that red-hot chemistry between them. For the first half of this film, it also begins a rocky relationship between the two characters.


There’s a scene in which Jo and Jimmy’s act does a song-and-dance number early on in the film (this video includes some unused audio, as well):


This number doesn’t resemble the style typically seen in Busby Berkeley musicals. In fact, nearly every musical number in the film is shot in a rather straightforward fashion in order to illustrate his vision of what a vaudeville performance looked like from the perspective of an audience member.

One evening, Harry invites Jo out for coffee and she accepts. Harry, who is far too cocky for his own good, realizes how great they would be together and decides he’s going to do everything in his power to snatch Jo up for himself. He shows her what they could be when he sits down at the piano in the cafe and begins to play the tune “For Me and My Gal”, which was first recorded in 1917.

Once they begin singing and dancing together, there’s no going back.


After Harry offers Jo a chance to team up with him and hit the big time, Jo also realizes that they would make a terrific pair but dreads the idea of hurting Jimmy by breaking up their act. After Jo and Harry discuss the idea, Jo returns to her hotel and Jimmy asks her if Harry offered her a chance to join him in an act. Jimmy, who is secretly in love with Jo, sees how interested she is and graciously tells her that he was thinking of breaking up the act anyway and that she should join Harry.

Harry and Jo officially team up as “Palmer and Hayden” and aim to make the big-time together. They begin performing together in other small towns, trying their best to work their way up to the New York stage.


Their relationship becomes complicated when Harry meets vaudeville sensation Eve Minard (Marta Eggerth). He becomes starry-eyed and begins to spend a lot of time with her, hoping to join her act. Jo, who is secretly in love with Harry, becomes upset and confides in Jimmy, who obviously understands what it’s like to be in love with someone who doesn’t reciprocate.

Their relationship becomes even more complicated when Harry receives a draft notice. He makes a terrible decision in hopes of furthering his career and afterward finally realizes how much of a jerk and opportunist he’s been.

So, what’s to come of Harry’s future in vaudeville and with Jo…?


The second half of the film includes several popular World War I-era songs, including “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag”, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”.

 


For Me and My Gal was one of the biggest cinematic hits of 1942, grossing over $4,000,000 worldwide. It was later released on VHS in 1988 and DVD in 2004.

Although it’s not one of Berkeley, Garland, or Kelly’s best films, musical film fans (especially those who enjoy Judy Garland and Gene Kelly) may appreciate its nostalgic numbers and fluffy plot. If anything, it’s cool to see where Gene Kelly started in Hollywood and how far Garland’s star had risen (and would continue to rise) in one of her first “adult” roles.


This post is part of the Busby Berkeley Blogathon hosted by Annette at Hometowns to Hollywood.

 

 

Holidays in Film, The 1970s in Film

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

My family’s always been in meat.

The original version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one many movies I’ve been The_Texas_Chain_Saw_Massacre_(1974)_theatrical_postermeaning to watch for a long time. I struck a bit of  cinematic gold late one early October night by catching it on TV.

One day, five fictional young adults walked into the truly terrifying world of a rural Texas area which is inhabited by a family of twisted murderers who keep human remains to create furniture for their home and who find delight in killing people in gruesome ways.

The whole movie is extremely scary in that gritty ’70s horror film kind of way. It’s chilling.


And it begins with the opening title.

The narrator – a man with a deep, omniscient voice – explains the impending terror that awaits the movie’s five main characters – and the audience. The text accompanying the narration fades to black and the black screen fades into unsettling visuals and sound effects and the opening credits roll…


When the main characters – five young adults – are introduced, they are en route to the rural Texas cemetery where sister and brother Sally (Marilyn Burns) and Franklin’s (Paul A Partain) grandfather’s grave has reportedly been vandalized and possibly robbed. Their friends are Jerry (Allen Danzinger), Pam (Terri McMinn), and Kirk (William Vail).

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When they arrive at the cemetery, they notice several bizarre people hanging out near it. (Would it be a proper horror film if there wasn’t strange activity near a cemetery?)

After their brief visit, the gang heads on to check out the old homestead of the Hardesty family, which of course, is also located in rural land.


Things start to get really strange when the kids reluctantly decide to pick up a strange-looking hitchhiker (Edwin Neal). He indeed is a bizarre fellow. He is unkempt, with long greasy hair and a large streak of blood on the right side of his face. His mannerisms are sketchy and it’s obvious from the get-go that something is “off” about him.

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The hitchhiker tells the group about how some of his family members used to work at an old slaughterhouse down the road. He goes on to show them his Polaroid pictures of hacked up cows. And then he grabs the pocketknife in Franklin’s hand and proceeds to slash his own hand with it.

Then, the hitchhiker takes the Polaroid camera that’s hanging from his neck and takes a photo of everyone else in the van without any explanation. After they refuse his random demand that they pay for the photo, he burns it in front of them and slashes Franklin’s arm with the pocketknife. They finally kick the hitchhiker out of the van after that. But he gets the last word by smearing his blood into a mysterious symbol on the side of the van as they drive away.

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Then, the gang stops at a gas station and are told by the owner that there is no gas there at the moment. The kids tell him where they are headed and he warns them not to go into the old abandoned house and instead, enjoy barbecue made at the station. They decide to go to the house anyway and to come back for gas later.

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While Sally, Kirk, Pam, and Jerry seem obliviously unsuspecting, both Franklin and the viewer of the movie sees that their destination is – sooner or later – going to be scary as (fill in the blank with your choice four letter word). Franklin is the only one who freaks out when he sees what the hitchhiker smeared on the van; everyone else mocks him and tells him to lighten up.

All five of them step into the old Hardesty house with varying degrees of excitement. Franklin, who is in a wheelchair, is left by the other four as they run upstairs and run around, squealing and giggling. I honestly thought that the scary stuff was going to take place in that old house. Boy, was I wrong.


Once Franklin tells Sally and Kirk that there’s a swimming-hole on the property, they gleefully set out to find out. But when they get there, they find that it’s dried up. There’s also the sound of a generator nearby. They walk a little ways and find a house and Kirk decides to see if the people inside can spare any gas.


Well, it all goes south from there.


As I’m not one who enjoys spoiling film plots, I won’t wander any further. If you’re reading this, love horror films, and haven’t ever watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original one!), please do yourself a favor and watch it. It’s pretty crazy.

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Guess who’s coming to dinner…

Looking deeper into the film’s history, it’s important to think about how audiences in the 1970s reacted to this movie. They weren’t completely used to seeing movies which were that scary. Horror films as we know them today were just starting to become popular.

To put things into perspective, the low-budget cult classic Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968 and The Exorcist was released just one year before The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was. Those were the days.

 

1940s Film, musicals

GOOD NEWS (1947)

Welcome to Tait College circa 1927, where football rules and romance is aplenty. This is Good News.

This film is a remake of the 1930 film musical, which was based on the 1927 play. (The 1930 version was a full-out Pre-Code production filled with sexual innuendos. By the 1940s, it was no longer screened in the US because of cinema censorship.) The 1947 version of the film, of course, is a lot more innocent.


The hottest man on campus (on the field and off) is Tommy Marlowe (Peter Lawford). Taking the opposite approach of the female classmates who are interested in him, Tommy decides that acting disinterested is the only good way to win a girl over.

Tommy’s plan is tested when he meets the new girl on campus, Pat McClellan (Patricia Marshall). Pat is a recent finishing school graduate who likes to show off her sophistication, especially to the opposite sex. She pledges at the Phi Gamma Gamma sorority and wins over the attention of the entire football team.

When Tommy shows interest in her, Pat immediately rejects his romantic advances and, with it, piques his interest even more.

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Pat McClellan does not find Tommy amusing.
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And she makes it known.

Because Pat rejects him using a French term, Tommy decides that the way to make her fall in love with him is by enlisting the librarian on campus to teach him French. The librarian just so happens to be Connie Lane, portrayed by June Allyson.

Connie is secretly in love with Tommy and is naturally upset that he is pursuing Pat, but she consents to his request and begins French lessons with him.

Tommy eventually falls in love with Connie as the lessons continue. Of course, that just makes everything complicated, as Tommy began taking French lessons in order to pass his class, which would ensure him a spot on the field at the big football game…which would ultimately lead him straight into the arms of Pat. So…yeah.

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One of my favorite parts of the film is when Tommy and Connie sing “The Best Things in Life Are Free”. It’s sweet, reassuring and, well, innocent.

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Tommy goes back and forth with his feelings toward Connie and Pat, which upsets Connie a great deal.

Finally, Tommy comes to his senses and realizes that Connie is the girl for him. By that point, Connie realizes that he really loves her and they get together.

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Seeing as Good News is a 1940s MGM musical production, no real blossoming romance can be verified until a big song and dance number is presented to celebrate it.


As seen in Good News, June Allyson thrived at the girl-next-door roles she was often given during her time acting in Hollywood films. With her distinct husky voice, cheerful attitude, and wholesome looks, she became a huge star at MGM in the 1940s.

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(photo courtesy of Doctor Macro)

Bonus video: The Varsity Drag number from the 1930 film version of Good News – It’s even more fun than the ’47 version, honestly. It’s crazy.


This post is a part of the June Allyson Centenary Blogathon, hosted by Champagne for Lunch. I recommend checking out the other posts written by various bloggers for this blogathon!

Modern Film: The '80s and Beyond

THE ROOM: A Cult Classic At Midnight

“If a lot of people love each other, the world would be a better place to live.”

On the night of Saturday, August 26, my friends and I took a Lyft to the Tivoli Theatre in St. Louis, MO – about two hours from where we live – and waited in a huge line to meet Tommy Wiseau and to watch The Room at midnight.

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For those of you not familiar with The Room, it’s been called “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”, which should tell you enough. It’s unintentionally hilarious, filled with dozens of head-scratching/bizarre one liners and extremely awkward moments.

I was introduced to the movie several years ago by a good friend and I’ve been crazy about the movie ever since, occasionally quoting it in everyday life situations.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that the screening was set to begin at midnight. However, seeing as it was a sold-out event featuring Tommy Wiseau and he did greet a lot of people, the movie ended up starting just after 2 am. By that time, my friends decided that they didn’t want to stick around any longer and I decided to move from the back of the theater closer to the front, where I found myself sitting beside a couple of really nice guys named Nick and CJ.

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Notice the spoon resting behind Nick’s ear? Well, spoons are a staple of late night screenings of The Room. I’ll get to that soon.

Before the film officially began, Tommy came down to the front of the theater and held a quick Q&A session. When I say quick, I mean it lasted for, like, two minutes. I’m not complaining at all – I just figure that’s a very Tommy Wiseau thing to do. He answered the questions he wanted to answer (For example, “Did you hit her?!” “No.”) and ignored the ones he didn’t want to answer.

After the Q&A ended, the film was preceded by a trailer for Wiseau’s upcoming buddy film (co-starring The Room‘s Greg Sestero) Best Friends, a trailer for the highly anticipated movie The Disaster Artist, and a commercial for Tommy’s underwear line.


FINALLY, just after 2:00, the movie began. What an experience that was.

Because everyone (or mostly everyone) who attends late night screenings of The Room has the movie memorized, there’s not a quiet moment in the audience until everyone files out of the theater. It’s truly one of the most quotable movies of all time and that night’s audience was not shy about proving it.

We all yelled along to the most famous lines, such as, “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!”

There was one guy down in the lower left side of the theater who was basically a one-man version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax. He had a quip for almost every single line and, at least in my case, it made the experience that much funnier. In fact, people throughout the audience made quips after terrible lines were delivered, booed at antagonist Lisa, and yelled at every character who forgot to close the door in the main character’s apartment (note: it happens a lot).

Now, back to the spoons.

If you watch closely, there are several picture frames placed on a table in the apartment. Of course, putting realistic pictures in them would be too simple. Inside the picture frames, there are pictures of single spoons in them. Someone somewhere decided that, at screenings of the film, audience members should throw spoons toward the screen every time the spoon photos appear in the shot. It happens several times.

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So, why were there pictures of spoons in that apartment? Thankfully, Tommy Wiseau answered that question for us!

I admittedly bought four spoons for $1 while standing in line, but fortunately I capitalized on the purchase by recycling spoons, in a sense. Those of us who were not in the back rows got to pick up the spoons thrown by people behind us and re-use them. I should also mention that there were a few inflatable footballs being tossed throughout the audience which is an homage to the cringeworthy football tossing scenes. It was the closest I’ve ever gotten to being in the middle of a sporting event at a movie screening.

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As someone who has the utmost respect for and adoration of movie theaters, it kind of felt like I was, in a sense, sinning as I launched spoons up front. As you can see in the photos I took, parts of the theater were a mess after the lights came back up.

But really, it was one of the best cinematic moments of my life thus far. I was surrounded by really nice and good-humored people late at night and we all share a mutual love for horrible cult classic movies. My 2 am – 4 am brain was begging to go to sleep most of the time, but it was 100% worth it to stay up and watch it. (Even though I am a little jealous that my friends found Tommy in a nearby diner and ate with him while I was watching the movie. True story.)

 

1940s Film, Holidays in Film

THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944)

One evening in the summer of 2013, I was spending some time at my grandparents’ home and we turned on the TV to see what was playing on TCM. It was a movie called The Very Thought of You, which I’d never heard of before. From the moment it began, my grandma and I were hooked.

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The film stars Dennis Morgan as an Army sergeant named Dave, who is on a three day furlough in Pasadena, CA. His buddy, “Fixit” (Dane Clark), is also on furlough and just wants to meet a nice girl. Dave had attended college at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) before joining the Army.

Soon after their arrival into Pasadena, Fixit’s wish is granted and Dave’s memory is jogged when they run into two young women on a bus. Fixit immediately lays on his humorous charm when he sees Cora (Faye Emerson) and Dave comes face to face with Janet (Eleanor Parker), who used to serve him chocolate malts at a shop in Pasadena. She remembers him, but he doesn’t remember her until she introduces herself.

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Fixit finds the woman of his dreams.
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“Aren’t you going to say hello?”

At the insistence of Fixit, the guys follow Janet and Cora after they get off the bus and decide to get to know them better. Janet reveals to Cora that she used to have a big crush on Dave just before Dave and Fixit catch up to them. While Fixit chats up Cora, Dave and Janet walk arm-in-arm on the sidewalk and get to know each other.

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Seeing as it’s Thanksgiving and Dave has no family in the area, Janet invites him to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. He gratefully accepts and joins them. Unfortunately, most of Janet’s family are hostile and rude toward Dave.

Janet’s mother (Beulah Bondi) is adamantly opposed to seeing any more of her daughters marry a serviceman. She believes that, if Janet were to marry Dave, she would either become a war widow. She faces opposition from her cynical brother. Her sister Molly also voices her outrage, citing her own experiences as she waits for her husband to come home from war (while stepping out with other men). Janet’s father (Henry Travers) and little sister Ellie (Georgia Lee Settle) are the only two who stick up for her.

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Father tells his family that he is ashamed at the way they treated Dave.
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Ellie stands up for her sister.
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Conflict arises.

The next day, Ellie wanders into a local drugstore counter and spots Dave. Being the energetic (and totally adorable) teenager that she is, she sprints home and takes Janet back with her. Dave invites Janet to take a drive to Mount Wilson and she accepts.

It’s worth noting that when Dave turns on the radio in his car, the classic song “The Very Thought of You” is playing. Here is one version of the song, as sung by Al Bowlly.


And that’s when their courtship really begins.

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Within two days, the couple experience moments of pure bliss and a pushback from Janet’s family which makes it all the more emotional for her.

It’s a concept that’s pretty difficult for a lot of modern audiences to grasp, but it was reality for many young adults during World War II. When a man in the service fell in love with a woman back home, they were faced with a tough decision: marry now or wait until he comes back.


Because I’ll Be Seeing You is unfamiliar to most people today (and I hope that at least some of you are able to watch it after reading this), I don’t want to reveal any more of the plot in this post.

I want to add that the leads of the film, Dennis Morgan and Eleanor Parker, convey a tender romantic chemistry in the film and they make a sweet onscreen couple. For all of the talent he carried within him – in acting and in singing – Dennis Morgan is so underrated. He carried a natural and charming presence onscreen that was really unique. And my, was he handsome.


Even better, it’s airing at 2:30 PM (EST) today – August 24, 2017 – on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). If you’re able to, I highly recommend watching it. 


This post is part of the TCM Summer under the Stars Blogathon, hosted by Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film. Check out other posts highlighting the stars of the month!

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1960s Film, Fashion in Film

TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967): A Few Thoughts + Fashion

By George, I finally did it: I watched Two for the Road. I’d been wanting to watch this movie for several years and for some reason never tracked down a copy of it to enjoy until now.

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I had the chance to watch it back in 2013 when I visited Hollywood for the first time with my dad. We got tickets to a double-feature of this film and It Happened One Night (1934) at the Egyptian Theatre. Unfortunately, Two for the Road was screened after It Happened One Night, which didn’t begin – if I’m correct – until 7:00 or 7:30 that evening. My dad wasn’t keen on the idea of walking back down Hollywood Blvd near midnight to locate our rental car. Although I was bummed, I will admit that he had the right idea in getting back to our car much before that hour. Nevertheless, I saw no less than two people dressed as Spiderman running and jumping around the sidewalks and I was totally enamored by seeing It Happened One Night on the big screen.

But good things come to those who wait!

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Directed by Stanley Donen, Two for the Road looks at a young couple’s twelve-year relationship – from their first meeting, to moments of bliss, to a strained and seemingly doomed marriage. Some moments in the film are terribly romantic, some are bittersweet, and some are downright heart-wrenching.

Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney star as Mark and Joanna Wallace. The film begins in the “present day”, introducing the watcher to a miserable couple seemingly on the brink of divorce. They begin to reminisce about the different periods in their relationship. The unique quality of this film is in its storytelling manner; instead of telling it chronologically, it’s presented in a nonlinear sequence.

Hepburn and Finney share a red-hot chemistry and despite it being a bit difficult to follow, the story is compelling and engaging. I think this was the best acting I’ve seen from Hepburn in a film so far. She’s so genuine and nails her dramatic and lighthearted scenes.

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As always, Ms. Hepburn is at the top of her game where fashion is concerned, proving to us that she can pretty much grace any outfit she wears. (Side note: Hubert de Givenchy collaborated with Audrey for a handful of her biggest films, but she was costumed by Mary Quant, Paco Rabanne, and several other designers in this one.)

The style of Audrey’s costuming in Two For the Road is much different than any of her previous films. Viewers are used to seeing her in elegant dresses, simplistic blouses, and long skirts. Along with her naturalistic performance, the wardrobe does wonders.

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On top of everything, this film’s soundtrack was scored by Henry Mancini, who scored three other Audrey Hepburn films: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), and Wait Until Dark, which was also released in ’67.  The theme of this film is absolutely beautiful.

The 1970s in Film

I Finally Watched HAROLD AND MAUDE

“I haven’t lived. I’ve died a few times.”

This is one of those movies that had fallen under the category of “I really want to see this movie” for a good while.

Harold and Maude (1971) was the first movie I ever watched at the TCM Classic Film Festival. My friend Jeremy and I lined up for the screening on Thursday night (the first official day of the festival). We stood next to a woman whose name I recognized from the “Going to TCM Classic Film Festival!” Facebook group. She has attended the festival for several years and comes from Canada each spring to indulge in the delights of TCMFF. Before we even set foot in the theater, she assured me that Harold and Maude is an incredible movie. I had no reason to doubt her.

From the moment Harold (Bud Cort) appeared onscreen, I knew I was going to fall in love with it. It also opens up with a Cat Stevens song (the whole film is filled with his music, actually) and a perfect moment of dark comedy, setting the tone for the rest of the flick.

Although I greatly enjoy many movies, there are just a handful of them that really have a profound impact on my life and Harold and Maude is one of them.

If you haven’t seen the film before, you probably at least know its general plot: it’s a love story between a young man and an old woman. Don’t be fooled; it’s so much more than that.

Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is a nineteen-year-old obsessed with death. To amuse himself, he simulates committing suicide in order to get attention from his mother. Every time he does it, his uptight and emotionally detached mother (Vivian Pickles) either ignores it or throws a fit. (Finally, she decides that Harold needs to get married in order to grow out of his “shenanigans”, so she sets out to find the perfect girl for him.)

Her reactions make every situation so funny.

Oh, Harold also drives a wicked Jaguar hearse.

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(courtesy of imcdb.org)

Harold’s hobby is attending random funerals for fun. During one particular funeral, he first spots 79-year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon) who also happens to attend funerals in her spare time. They became fast friends despite their totally opposite outlooks on life. Whereas Harold sees through a scope of darkness, Maude sees light all around. They realize that they’re a good match and begin spending all of their time together. Harold begins to see life as something not terrible, but beautiful. Then, they become more than friends.

A note about the performances and reception at the time of the film’s release: Did you know that Harold and Maude was actually a flop when it was released into theaters in 1971? Looking back, I think it was a flop on the part of the Academy to give it a total of zero Oscar nominations. How was it not at least nominated for Best Picture? How did Ruth Gordon not get the recognition she deserved? And did they even see Bud Cort’s performance? Wow. Back then, I think a lot of people were too weirded out by the movie’s portrayal of Harold and Maude’s romance and overlooked its brilliance. Too bad for them!

The movie sat around – unloved – for several years, then people actually started watching it and loving it. Now, forty-five years after it was released, Harold and Maude is one of the quintessential cult classics.

As much as I adore Ruth Gordon’s performance (seriously, old age goals), Bud Cort has been the one who has stuck the most in my mind since viewing the movie. I was so touched to see his character transform from a miserable teenager into a man who embraced life. Because of her, Harold steps outside of his “comfort zone”. He learns how to play the banjo, he smiles, he goes out… I was touched when he declared his love to Maude because, despite it being unorthodox for those two people to fall in love, it was pure.

In real life, Bud Cort is someone who I hope to meet someday. I’ve heard he’s a nice guy and he seems like such an interesting person and I’d like think we’d make good friends. He’s held bitter feelings toward Harold and Maude for years because he makes almost nothing off of residuals from the last forty-six years. What a shame that is.

To top it off, the soundtrack is made up of Cat Stevens tunes and it’s just about perfect.


Harold and Maude will be airing on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on June 21, 2017 at 8:00 PM (EST). If you’re active on Twitter and like to live-tweet movies, be sure to join the #TCMParty hashtag for lots of extra fun.

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(courtesy of all-that-is-interesting.com)
1940s Film, Holidays in Film, musicals

“Easter Parade”

“Miss Brown, what idiot ever told you you were a dancer?”
“You did!”

In 1948, MGM released a vibrant Technicolor musical called Easter Parade. Originally, Gene Kelly had been cast as Don Hewes, Cyd Charisse was cast as Nadine Hale, and Frank Sinatra was cast as Jonathan Harrow III. Because of various circumstances, the cast was completely switched around. The finished product starred Fred Astaire as Don, Judy Garland as Hannah Brown (as planned), Ann Miller as Nadine, and Peter Lawford as Jonathan Harrow III.

The story, set in 1912 and 1913, begins as a Broadway star named Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) receives the crushing news that his partner Nadine (Ann Miller) is suddenly quitting the act. Nadine tells him that she’s received an offer to go solo and Don tries to persuade her to stay with him. They go into a lovely song and dance number (“It Only Happens When I Dance with You”) and she seems to be persuaded to stay…until Don’s charming and handsome friend, Jonathan Harrow III (Peter Lawford), walks in to the apartment. Nadine has obviously moved on from Don to Jonathan.

Annex - Miller, Ann (Easter Parade)_NRFPT_01
(courtesy of doctormacro.com)

When it looks like Nadine can no longer be persuaded to stay, Don sets out to prove to her that he can find any ordinary chorus girl and turn her into a star. He wants to make her jealous. Enter Hannah Brown (Judy Garland). Hannah is a singer and dancer working at a local bar. She catches Don’s eye, so he grabs her off the stage, tells her to quit her job, and meet him for her first lesson the next day.

As Don tries to model Hannah after Nadine (Hannah has no idea about the scheme), he attempts to teach her how to dance exactly like Nadine, dress like her, and even have her name changed to something similar (Juanita). In one of the scenes, he even tries to teach Hannah how to be “exotic” and extra attractive to men. It really shows off Judy’s underrated comedic gift:

As the story progresses, love triangles unfold and cheery musical numbers ensue. This is one of the most memorable numbers in the film, sung and tapped wonderfully – as always – by Ann Miller:

Easter Parade is one of my personal favorite musicals. I think part of that is because it’s one of the movies I watched a lot when I was little. I often talk about movies that I watched as a child on here because many of them have made a huge impact on me. I love reminiscing about watching movies like this one with a different view of the world. Fortunately, I still watch Easter Parade with the same childlike amusement as I did when I was six. I’m really grateful for that.

However, I will say that as I’ve gotten older, I now think that Hannah should’ve chosen Jonathan instead of Don. As much as it pains me to say that Fred Astaire shouldn’t have been chosen, I’m one of those people that thinks she’d be so much happier with Jonathan. Maybe “Fella with an Umbrella” has something to do with it, but I mean it!

Having said that, I still think the ending is adorable. I can’t easily argue with a happy Judy and Fred. I hope you all have a happy Easter! Go drum crazy, shake the blues away, and sing to someone you love in the rain.

Before you go, here’s a bonus musical number that was cut from the final print of the film. Notice that Judy is wearing the same suit that she’d wear two years later in Summer Stock during the iconic “Get Happy” number.

1930s Film, Star Profiles

Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas (1937)

Image result for stella dallas imdb

Barbara Stanwyck is known for many roles: from her Pre-Code days up until her part in the popular 1960s Western television show The Big Valley, she could do it all.

There’s a role of hers which I feel is often overlooked and totally underrated: the titular character in Stella Dallas (1937).

stelladallas

Stella Dallas is the story of a young lady named Stella Martin, who’s in love with a formerly wealthy factory mill owner named Stephen Dallas (John Boles). She’s of lower class status but desperately dreams of upper class living.

The film is set in post-World War I Massachusetts. Stephen is in mourning: his father has committed suicide after losing his fortune. After falling out of high society, Stephen aims to regain his fortune and then marry his fiancee. But when news comes of his fiancee marrying another man, Stephen and Stella marry.

Once they’re married, Stella quickly falls into a bad pattern. She loves to socialize and meet high society people, but she often goes overboard. Embarrassed by her behavior, Stephen pleads with Stella to return to her more humble roots and become more refined. Within the first year of their marriage, she gives birth to a daughter named Laurel. Immediately after returning from the hospital–baby in arms–Stella begs Stephen to let her go to a party. He refuses to let her go, but she argues and finally gets her way.

We see the years progress through Laurel’s growth. Once she becomes a young lady, we see actress Anne Shirley enter the picture. Shirley did a great job portraying the Dallas’ daughter. By the time she appears onscreen, we see Stella and Stephen’s marriage dissolving. Eventually the split becomes permanent. Laurel lives with her mother and visits her father on occasion. She loves both of them; however, her relationship with Stella becomes a bit strained once she begins socializing with her peers in her teenage years. She befriends kids in more refined circles and falls in love with a young man who comes from a wealthy family. Adding to the pressure, Stella’s behavior is becoming more and more vulgar, causing Laurel to push her mother into the shadows.

To put a further strain on the situation, Stephen runs into his ex-fiancee, who has a family. They quickly become reacquainted and fall in love all over again. And the story goes on, and the tears begin to fall.


Barbara Stanwyck was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar four times but she never won one in her long and successful screen career. Stella Dallas was the first role that she was nominated for an Oscar. Luise Rainer took the Oscar home that year for her role in The Good Earth (1937).

Stanwyck’s role in this film is a little reminiscent of some of her roles in the early ’30s. She was one of the queens of the Pre-Code era. Stanwyck often played nitty gritty characters in her early Hollywood days.

As shown in the clip below, Stella tries her best to raise her daughter but she doesn’t always make great decisions. Her husband disapproves of the company she keeps, seeing them as a rowdy crowd. She’s so natural in her performance:

As the movie progresses, Stella seems to get zanier by the minute. I think that’s mostly due to the fact that we – the audience – are seeing her through the eyes of a growing Laurel. Laurel is surrounded by friends from “respectable” families and feels a great deal of pressure from that. She loves her mother so much, but she decides to make some tough decisions that hurt them both.

Throughout it all, Stella actually does grow. She remains “different” in her ways, but she makes a tough realization and a noble decision by the end of the film. If you’ve seen the film, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I highly recommend watching it to find out what I mean.

Don’t watch this scene if you don’t want the end of the film spoiled. If you do want to watch it and you’ve never seen it before, I will now allow Ms. Barbara Stanwyck to rip your heart out: