Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk (1959) and Lover Come Back (1961)

As much as I wanted to be scholarly while writing this piece, I soon discovered that it was pretty hard to do, strictly on a personal level. You see, talking about Rock Hudson is something I love to do, but it can be difficult to leave his personal life out of the discussion. Because I adore Hudson, I'm apt to look at him as a tragic figure, a man who wasn't able to completely live as himself and died of a horrific disease. People often like to look at his films through the lens of his homosexuality, which is perfectly fine and a worthy thing to do, but it also seems to leave something out: Rock Hudson, the actor. Can we separate Rock from his closeted image and just examine him as an actor? I think I owe it to him to try. I can't believe that his sexuality is all that we have to define him.

To me, Hudson is irresistible, and nowhere is that more apparent than in his comedies, particularly those with best friend Doris Day. Known primarily for dramas such as Giant and his work with Douglas Sirk, Hudson's performance in Pillow Talk came as a revelation. Doris and Rock's chemistry is legendary and their performances wouldn't be the same without each other there to support and build up one another. Called "the Fred Astaire of comedy" by James Garner, Day was an expert comedienne by 1959, making her a worthy partner to challenge Hudson and bring out his innately wonderful comedic chops.

"Her sense of timing, her instincts -- I just kept my eyes open and copied her," Rock said. "Doris...was an Actor's Studio all by herself. When she cried, she cried funny...and when she laughed, her laughter came boiling up from her kneecaps." When asked what made a good screen team, he stated "First of all, the two people have to truly like each other, as Doris and I did, for that shines through. Then, too, both parties have to be strong personalities -- very important to comedy -- so that there's a tug-of-war over who's going to put it over on the other, who's going to get the last word, a fencing match between two adroit opponents of the opposite sex who in the end are going to fall into bed together."

Tuesday, September 20, 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 | Father's Little Dividend (1951)
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)
Cary Grant Won't Eat You | Designing Woman (1957)
Crimson Kimono | On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)
The Flaming Nose TV Blog | The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
Pillow Shots | The Band Wagon (1953)

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?