During this challenging season, The Classic Movie Blog Association is hosting the Classics for Comfort Blogathon and asking participants to recommend five movies that “soothe and comfort” us. And even though I’m not a member of CMBA, I was so inspired I decided to unofficially participate.
My time and mental energy has been limited by personal and national events this past couple of months. And while I have many coping mechanisms, classic films have always been one of my main sources of comfort when life gets to be too much.
It would be very easy to fill my list exclusively with Cary Grant, William Powell, or Ernst Lubitsch films, blockbuster hits such as Gone With the Wind or Casablanca, gloriously colorful and larger than life musicals such as My Fair Lady or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or even other film favorites I’ve written about regularly here on my site. But I wanted to challenge myself a bit to look beyond the obvious.
So I’ve tried to include titles that may not be the first to come to mind, but which still help me survive the crazy of real life.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
This is probably the best known film on my list, but I couldn’t not include it. What’s so great about this one is that it shows a strong, but feminine female heroine who isn’t afraid to step outside of her comfort zone, take risks and live an unconventional life, no matter what anyone else thinks. I love the unusual relationship between the two title characters which proves that love doesn’t always look the same for everyone. Gene Tierney is wonderful as the woman whose journey towards independence is challenged by Rex Harrison’s surly ghost. I find it so interesting that despite his antipathy towards her living in his home, he is the only one who sees her strength of character. This is signified by him calling her Lucia instead of her given name Lucy. I’m always inspired by Lucy Muir and her unwillingness to settle and compromise. I could go on about my love for this unique story, but I’ve already been there, done that.
Pillow to Post (1945)
I’ve actually featured this comedy before, but I think it bears highlighting again. Star Ida Lupino is known for her dramas and director’s eye. But this film proves she was also adept at comedy. She plays a rich man’s daughter wanting to prove her worth who ropes a soldier into a fake marriage while she’s on a business trip. Honestly, Lupino is absolutely charming and is the main reason the movie works so well. The auto-court setting contributes to the film’s humor as it presents itself as a microcosm full of nosy neighbors. And then there’s that ongoing gag about a pregnant woman about to deliver and avocados. All in all, this is one of my favorite rom-com discoveries in recent years, and one that I feel everyone should know about.
Private Lives (1931)
I’m one of the proud few that counts myself a Robert Montgomery fan. And I’ve always thought Norma Shearer deserves a lot more attention and praise than she gets. So, of course I love this pairing of the two as battling exes who can’t seem to stay away from each other. Written by Noel Coward it is full of biting wit and clever sarcasm while making the glamorous lives of the leisurely rich look both enviable and repulsive. Montgomery and Shearer’s characters are absolutely savage in their interactions with each other and their respective spouses. Their knock-down, drag-out fight is the only time I’ve cheered domestic violence on screen…but they both deserve it. And yet at the same time, I can’t help but root for them individually and as a couple, despite their toxic relationship. Plus, I just enjoy watching the debonair Montgomery.
The Honeymoon Machine (1961)
This one just makes me happy. I think Steve McQueen was fabulous in dramatic roles, but it’s nice to see him playing comedy as the mastermind in this lighthearted crime caper. He’s a naval man using the Navy’s new computing machine to break the bank at a Venetian casino. He and his two co-horts try to keep one step ahead of their commanding officer. At the same time he falls for his CO’s daughter, who is aware of their scheme. While I adore McQueen, it’s the whole cast which really makes this a personal favorite. The onscreen chemistry of Jim Hutton and Paula Patton is a delight. And Jack Weston’s performance as the drunken Signalman makes me burst into giggles every time.
Wee Willie Winkie (1937)
I didn’t grow up with Shirley Temple films and only recently discovered an affinity for them. But who better to lighten hearts than the same little curly top who brought joy to Depression era audiences. This is my favorite of her films, mainly because it doesn’t rely solely on her “cute” factor as some of her other pictures do. It’s sentimental with an edge of darkness. I attribute this to director John Ford who used Temple as the ray of light in a story of a fatherless child living with British soldiers stationed in India. The friendship between Temple and Victor McLaglen’s characters is so sweet. And I defy anyone not to shed a tear when Temple sings Auld Lang Syne.