Monday, September 19, 2016

Jane Wyman falls for... Three Guys Named Mike (1951)

Many years ago, I was a classic film novice. It feels like a lifetime ago that I didn't know who Cary Grant was or what Citizen Kane was about, yet I can still clearly remember the small steps I took that led to my passion for old movies. One such step was Three Guys Named Mike. My oldest sister had heard that I was slowly learning about the classics and so she brought me one of those cheap collections comprised of those poor films that have been doomed to the public domain. The quality wasn't the best and the selected films were hit-and-miss, but to me, it became an education because of two films that couldn't be more different: Of Human Bondage with Bette Davis and Leslie Howard and Three Guys Named Mike.

While OHB knocked me to the floor, TGNM charmed me to pieces. Its story about a young woman leaving Indiana (!) to become a stewardess and explore the world tickled me, and watching her navigate her journey with wit and grace while juggling the attentions of three suitors was oddly inspiring. Here was Jane Wyman, doing what she wanted and having fun doing it -- she had good friendships with other women, she excelled at work after an embarrassing beginning that anyone could relate to, and she wasn't out searching for a husband. Dating three men at the same time bothers the guys more than it does her! Let's begin the review and you'll understand better.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Announcing the Vincente Minnelli Blogathon!

A genius filmmaker, Vincente Minnelli created some of cinema's most amazing images, as well as some of its greatest works: Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, The Bad and the Beautiful, Father of the Bride, The Band Wagon, the list goes on! So, in honor of Mr. Minnelli, I wanted to host my very first blogathon, which will be a tribute to the director and will take place on Dec. 16-18, 2016. Why these dates? Well, I originally thought of doing this on Minnelli's 114th birthday in February, but I decided I couldn't wait that long because I'm an impatient child. December was a touch closer and works with my current schedule, plus December 18th happens to be the 58th anniversary of the premiere of Some Came Running, so there's my official excuse. On to the rules!

The rules:
You can write about any of Minnelli's films, or really anything else related to him, such as his relationship with Judy Garland, his stage work before he came to Hollywood, his work on segments in Ziegfeld Follies, Lovely to Look at, or The Story of Three Loves -- anything! I also won't limit how many posts you want to do. The more the merrier, honestly. (Of course, don't be a hog and take up a bunch of Minnelli films before someone else can even pick one.)

Also, I'd prefer no duplicates. Minnelli has a good-sized filmography and since I'm not restricting what you want to talk about, I think it's a fair rule. That being said, if you want to talk about Brigadoon but someone already took it, you could focus on Minnelli's musicals in general or maybe his work with Gene Kelly or Cyd Charisse. I would even accept an in-depth look at one of the numbers, like "Heather on the Hill." Just ask me and I'll try to help. (And yes, I went ahead and claimed Brigadoon. It's a perk of hosting.)

You can post on any of the three days of the blogathon, or you can post early! I'm a big fan of submitting my posts a day before a blogathon, but that's just me. I only ask that you be sure to send me your link and I'll try to post it as soon as possible.

My final rule: please, please, please spell Vincente Minnelli's name correctly. Nothing drives me more crazy than somebody misspelling a name. Thank you.

If you'd like to participate, and I certainly hope you do, please leave me a comment below with your blog name and URL and your choice! (You can see a list of Minnelli's films here, if need be.) Then pick one of my crudely made banners, put it on your blog, and I'll see you in December!

List of Participants:
Love Letters to Old Hollywood | Brigadoon (1954)
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies | The Clock (1945)
Christina Wehner | Madame Bovary (1949)
The Wonderful World of Cinema | Father of the Bride (1950)
Serendipitous Anachronisms | Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Back to Golden Days | Some Came Running (1958)
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood | Lust for Life (1956) and the marriage of Minnelli and Judy Garland
Champagne for Lunch | Judy Garland's sequences in Till the Clouds Roll By (1946); Lena Horne's numbers in I Dood It (1943) and Panama Hattie (1942)
Old Hollywood Films | An American in Paris (1951)
Crítica Retrô | The Pirate (1948)
LA Explorer | Bells are Ringing (1960)
Caftan Woman | The Reluctant Debutante (1958)
Realweegiemidget Reviews | Goodbye Charlie (1964)
Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub | Tea and Sympathy (1956)
Cinema Cities | The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963)
Musings of a Classic Film Addict | The Sandpiper (1965)
Silver Screenings | Cabin in the Sky (1943)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Loss of Gene Wilder.

I've been starting and erasing every opening sentence I've had for this post for the past five minutes. Honestly, how do I begin? I've been in love with Gene Wilder ever since I first saw him in The Producers. He was hysterical (and wet and in pain), a tightly-contained man who could suddenly burst into the most outrageous and magnificent being. The moment he started clawing at Zero Mostel for his blue blanket, I knew Wilder was someone I could never forget.

Throughout high school, I was always bugging my friends about the latest classic I had seen; I could practically feel the stars in my eyes as I recounted Swing Time or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Funny Face. I can still remember how much my friend Maggie and I laughed as I gave her all the details on The Producers. She had never heard about it, but here we were, giggling until we cried over a movie only one of us had seen. You could say that demonstrates the power of Mel Brooks, the film's director and writer. But what has always stuck in my mind is Leo Bloom, precisely because of Wilder's characterization.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Clark Gable is Doris Day's... Teacher's Pet (1958)

No, you don't need your eyes checked, you read my title right -- Clark Gable and Doris Day made a movie together, and you know what? It's really good. When I first heard of this film, I was thrilled. I mean, Doris and Gable worked together? But then a bit of dread set in. Will this be super terrible? I mean, isn't it a weird pairing? And then I saw the posters, which all have Clark staring wide-eyed at Mamie Van Doren's behind. Oh no, I thought. This is going to be one of those awful, cliché-ridden sex comedies. I'm so happy to say that I was wrong.

Teacher's Pet is a smart, witty, and surprisingly thought-provoking romantic comedy. Fay and Michael Kanin's screenplay is fantastic, showing real character development and depth, as well as looking at both sides of the coin fairly -- it's not often that I can watch a rom-com and understand both of the leads' point of view as clearly as I do with Teacher's Pet. If I may be so bold, I'm going to venture to say that this film is one of Day's best, and possibly one of Gable's best too. Let's go to the blackboard, shall we?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Anniversary #3!

Maybe this is just indicative of my grasp on time, but I could have sworn today would be my fourth anniversary of starting this blog. Instead, it's my third and I'm pretty proud of the work I've done so far; hopefully you readers agree. For the most part, though, I feel like I haven't even begun to do everything I want to do with this blog -- I have tons of movies to still cover, which is probably endless, but I have an idea for a series that will look at more recent films. Don't get me wrong: I'm all about the classics. But I enjoy some modern movies as well, and the series would likely just be looking at one film every few months. We'll see how it goes. I started a Forgotten Classic series back in my first year of blogging and it fizzled out after about three films.

In addition to the new series, I think I'm going to finally host my own blogathon. I'm not sure when, but my goal is to do it before my next anniversary. I have at least two ideas on my mind, so there may actually be two blogathons from me in the coming year!

Let's all emulate Nick and Nora for today, though, and celebrate another year of exploring the classics together! I hope it's been at least one-tenth as rewarding for you as it has been for me. For those of you have decided to stick around, I sincerely thank you. For those who have just stepped in for a few posts, I'm thrilled you decided to give me a chance. I hope to keep providing informative, intelligent, and enjoyable content for as long as I can, and nothing is more encouraging than hearing from my readers or seeing my page views go up. Thank you, and here's to a fourth year!

With love,

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Day and Sinatra are matchless in... Young at Heart (1954)

Doris Day had a lot of terrific film partners in her career: Gordon MacRae, James Garner, Howard Keel, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon, David Niven, Clark Gable (look out for my review of that film in a few weeks!), and of course, the greatest of them all, Rock Hudson. Now, that list isn't totally comprehensible -- I left a few names out -- but you get the gist: Doris got to act with some incredible talent, and she always worked on their high level. That's why her teaming with Frank Sinatra is so unique. You have two of the 20th century's greatest artists working together and in my opinion, they match each other every step of the way. They have different styles and admittedly different personas, but you can't tell me that both of them weren't trying their damnedest to make the film work.

Is Young at Heart perfect? Goodness, no. Is it an admirable melodrama saved by the presence of its superb cast? Definitely. I recognize that not a lot of people will agree with me. I can't tell you how many negative reviews I've seen of this film. Maybe it's because of Day and Sinatra -- you except some big, cataclysmic explosion to happen before your eyes, and instead you get little, intermittent firecrackers. It's understandable. I had my standards lowered by so much of the grumpiness I was reading that when I saw the actual product, I was able to enjoy it. Hopefully this review will you give you a better sense of what you're getting into.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"My Letter, Her Stocking, and No Key": Dial M for Murder (1954)

Poster art is fascinating to look at. With just a few images and a few words, it has to tell you what a film is all about. Sometimes it can be disastrous or laughable, thanks to an awful portrayal of what an actor looks like or a cheesy tagline (my favorite: "Baby-faced savage in a jungle of intrigue!" [Born to be Bad, 1950]. Excuse me, what?). Sometimes, though, posters can be just right, such as the one above for Dial M for Murder. Initially, I was confused. Doesn't it look like Grace Kelly is being sexually assaulted and she's trying to call for help? That's not the plot at all!

But then I remembered something Hitchcock once said about how he liked to shoot dangerous or murderous scenes like love scenes, how he enjoyed adding a sexual charge to moments that weren't necessarily about sex. That's when the poster clicked for me, because although Kelly is being strangled and is struggling for her life, that scene has always struck me as highly sensual. Perhaps it was coincidental that the poster artist and the studio went for an eroticized image to titillate the masses, only to accurately depict one of Hitch's deepest themes, or perhaps the artist knew exactly what they were doing. Either way, once you read Alfred Hitchcock's name, you know some craziness is about to go down and we'll enjoy every minute of it.