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.

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.

1950s Film

Skip “Fifty Shades of Grey” – Go for “Marty”

Trade out Christian and Anastasia for Marty and Clara and you’ve got a winner. Of course, I’m referring to the two main characters in Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) and Marty (1955), respectively. The film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey was released back on Friday, February 13th. It’s based on the best-selling erotic romance novel, which has sold approximately 100 million copies worldwide. While there are tons of die-hard fans, there are many who see Fifty Shades as promoting dangerous sexual behavior (by objectifying women), masked by the selling point of “romance”. Many see it as grossly misrepresenting BDSM and promoting the idea of engaging women in sexual acts that are not entirely desired on their part. Seeing a story like this become a blockbuster makes me appreciate more simplistic, positive-message romance films even more than I usually do. So, after I caught Marty on TCM recently I basically thought, I should write a recommendation post about this movie in the midst of the “Fifty frenzy”. Because, honestly, it’s so much more worth watching.

French poster for "Marty" (1955)
French poster for “Marty” (1955)

Marty tells the tale of 34 year old Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine), a lonely and socially awkward Italian-American butcher from the Bronx. His mother won’t stop bugging poor Marty to find a wife. Not only does she bug him about marriage, but a lot of the older ladies of the neighborhood do, too. Marty dismisses their pleas to find a wife. He finds himself to be unattractive and unlikely to find a young lady to settle down with. Marty and his mom get into an argument after she tries to convince him to go to the Stardust Room, a popular club in town, one Saturday night. He’s tired of being turned down and hurt, so the prospect of having to endure a night out on the town seems downright awful.

Marty ends up going and meets a shy 29 year old school teacher named Clara (Betsy Blair), who has just been ditched by a blind date. Seeming to sense Marty is a nice guy, Clara goes straight into his arms and gently cries after her date goes off with an old flame without even telling her to her face (and even if he told her, that still would have been a lousy thing to do). Marty gives her a pep talk and they resume the evening dancing with each other and they hit it off. Then they decide to ditch the club and talk about life over sandwiches and coffee and simply walk around the streets of New York. Their relationship progresses from that point.

Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair in "Marty" (1955) Courtesy of wikipedia.org
Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair in “Marty” (1955)
Courtesy of wikipedia.org

The beauty of this film is in its subtlety and realness. Marty and Clara share what–one kiss?– throughout the entire film. Yet their chemistry and emotional vulnerability do the talking. Okay, so I’m definitely not opposed to kissing in movies, but I think movies like Marty hit the mark when it comes to romance, showing that relationships aren’t just about kissing or sex. I think the sexiness is found in sharing everything with your life partner: your hopes, dreams, fears, failures, triumphs, and everything in between. The film also shows those not-so-great moments in budding relationships, like when Marty tries to kiss Clara and instead of finding it to be a romantic gesture, it frightens her. In turn, Marty has a moment of frustration because he doesn’t understand why Clara won’t reciprocate the gesture. She simply thought he was getting fresh with her, which upsets him even more because he doesn’t want her to think he’s “that kind of guy”.

Ernest Borgnin
Ernest Borgnine as Marty

Marty’s family and friends also take a stance against Clara. His friends declare her to be too homely and plain and his mother is afraid Marty will marry Clara and leave her to be by herself. It’s not quite on the level of Romeo and Juliet, but there’s definitely tension. Ultimately, Marty has to choose between what his family and friends are pressuring him to do and what his heart is telling him to do.

I feel a kind of connection to this film and I’m sure many other feel the same way. I just feel like I kind of relate to Marty and Clara in some way. I’m kind of awkward sometimes. And I’ve gained some weight over the past couple of years. Although I don’t think about my weight all the time, I won’t pretend like I don’t think about it sometimes. I also used to be self-conscious of my mouth, especially when I had braces. You see, I got braces right after sixth grade and had them until the end of my junior year of high school. Back when I was in the early years of teenager-hood people sometimes mildly teased me about how big my mouth was. Although I think it was meant in good fun, it secretly hurt. Marty helps you remember that no matter what you look like and no matter how awkward you may be, you should never ever change for anyone. Don’t waste your time crying over jerks. Be the beautiful passionate nerd you really are.

So if you’re thinking about spending $8 on a movie ticket and $6 on popcorn to watch Fifty Shades of Grey, or if you’re thinking about renting it when it’s out to purchase, think about staying home and watching Marty instead. It will be airing on TCM on March 22nd at 3:30 pm (CST). If you aren’t able to watch it at the scheduled time, you can watch it via the free WATCH TCM app, which will stream the movie for about a week after it’s aired. All you have to do is provide your username and password to whatever cable/satellite provider you use and you’re in. Also, really consider donating money or services to a local domestic violence shelter. I think that’s the best route you could possibly take.