As an avid fan of classic films, one would think I would have discovered silent movies, long before I finally did. However, as someone who loves the nuances of language and appreciates great dialogue, I was under the mistaken impression that a silent picture couldn’t possibly hold my interest, especially for the length of a feature film.
God bless Buster Keaton, because he was the one who finally broke through the prejudices I had formed. Fortunately, my affinity for comedy was too great. I took a chance on this legendary comedian and watched his much praised film The General. I was enthralled and began to seek out all of his films I could find. This led me also to discover the other two comedians of the silent film comedy triumvirate, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd and then the genius shorts of Laurel and Hardy.
My first memorable experience with a silent romantic drama was Frank Borzage’s Lucky Star. I was dazzled by the narrative, the performances of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, the cinematography. The fact that I could sit spell bound for almost two hours was proof that despite their differences from “talkies” silent films were just as powerful a story telling medium and just as addicting in entertainment factor.
Since then, I have continued in my personal discovery of silent films. I’ve sought out those by actors whose sound pictures I love, and also those whose popularity and success was greatest in film’s early decades. I’ve mostly watched silents featuring those with star power behind them; names like Norma Shearer, Pola Negri, Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Greta Garbo and John Gilbert among others. I’ve discovered pictures I love and those I didn’t (I’m looking at you Salomé and Battleship Potemkin).
I’ve learned a new appreciation for this art form that changed significantly with the advent of sound. And yet even now, I still sometimes find them intimidating, especially the longer ones. Which is why I’ve only recently watched The Big Parade and Wings and still haven’t seen most of Lillian Gish’s most successful pictures. But whenever I bravely venture back into the world of silent films, I’m rarely disappointed.
To celebrate this overlooked and oft misunderstood period in cinema, I want to share with you some of my favorite and more memorable discoveries; from pictures to actors and even a director. Continue reading “My Silent Film Favorites – 1920’s Centenary Blogathon”
Have you ever watched a movie that took you by surprise? Perhaps, it turned your expectations on end? Or maybe, you went in knowing nothing about the film and found yourself responding to it rather strongly? Such was the case for me with Nurse on Wheels, a British comedy starring Juliet Mills, daughter of John Mills and sister to Hayley.
I grew up with the Disney films of Hayley Mills and hold very fond memories of them. It was for this reason alone that I took a chance when I saw Nurse on Wheels show up in the TCM schedule recently. I had never seen Juliet Mills in a film before and knew absolutely nothing about Nurse on Wheels. I expected I might like it, but didn’t guess that it would be my favorite film discovery of the year.
Lucy Hill (Renee Zelweger) is the sole female executive for Munck Foods in Miami. Her career is her priority. When her boss mentions that one of their blue collar manufacturing plants needs some restructuring, Lucy volunteers. She is less than enthused however, when she learns that she will have to temporarily relocate to a small town in wintry Minnesota.
Lucy’s arrival in New Ulm is less than promising. The town’s citizens and plant employees are prejudiced against her. Lucy’s chilly attitude does nothing to endear her to them. Things go from bad to worse when she unintentionally antagonizes both the local union representative, Ted (Harry Connick Jr.) and Stu (J.K. Simmons), the plant foreman. Her only ally is her overly friendly secretary Blanche (Siobhan Fallon Hogan).
Thanks to Blanche’s efforts, Lucy slowly begins to warm up to the people of New Ulm. She begins to see them as individuals with something to offer, instead of names and statistics related to her job. As Lucy starts to involve herself in the community she finds she has more in common with these small town folk than she wants to admit. Her relationship with Ted also begins to heat up, though Stu still resists all of her efforts at reconciliation.
Lucy’s love for her new friends is challenged when her boss orders her to close the plant which provides the main source of employment for New Ulm. She is forced to re-examine her priorities and determine where her heart belongs. Continue reading “Winter in July Blogathon -New in Town (2009)”
THE INCOMPARABLE BETTE DAVIS
There is no disputing the fact that Bette Davis is one of the most talented actresses to ever work in Hollywood. Her success can be partly attributed to this talent and partly to her passion for her craft. With Davis, career always came first.
I cannot deny Bette Davis is quite the screen presence. Watching her on screen is like watching a force of nature. No matter what role she filled, whether the character was reserved and demure or aggressive and larger than life, Davis always imbued them with a backbone of steel, an unwavering stance against compromise and an inner intensity which was shown in her eyes. There is a line from The Philadelphia Story which Jimmy Stewart’s character says to Katharine Hepburn’s haughty heiress, “(There is) a magnificence that comes out of your eyes, in your voice, in the way you stand there, in the way you walk. You’re lit from within, Tracy. You’ve got fires banked down in you, hearth-fires and holocausts.” I’ve always thought this line was the perfect description of Bette Davis.
With all that being said, as much as I admire Davis, she is not on my list of favorite actresses. Much like a strong kick in the pants, I must take her in small doses or take the risk of being completely overwhelmed. Still, I have worked my way through a large portion of her films. So, when I ran across Winter Meeting, I was shocked to realize that there was a Davis film I had never heard of before. Of course, my interest was immediately piqued and it became my choice of entry for this year’s Bette Davis Blogathon. Continue reading “Bette Davis Blogathon -Winter Meeting (1948)”
DORIS DAY COMEDIES
As I’ve mentioned many times on this site, screwball comedy is my favorite film genre. So, it wouldn’t be hard to guess that the Doris Day comedies of the late 1950’s and 1960’s also rank among some of my favorite comedies. Though, they aren’t labeled screwball, they do have many of the same elements.
Day’s comedies weren’t ground-breaking and were often silly. But, they were always quality pictures with great dialogue, costumes and talent. They featured Day along side popular leading men like Cary Grant, David Niven, James Garner, Jack Lemmon, Rock Hudson and Rod Taylor. Day’s comedies also gave her the opportunity to showcase the talent for which she first became a star -her voice. And while I am particular about musical films, her singing never becomes the focal point of the story, which is something I can appreciate.
Doris Day is probably best known for her three comedies opposite actor and friend Rock Hudson, with good reason. They had fabulous rapport onscreen. But as much as I love this pairing, there is another one which just edges them out in my mind. That is why today, I am focusing on one of her films with Rod Taylor, The Glass Bottom Boat. Continue reading “Doris Day Blogathon -The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)”
Unlike in real life, in the cinematic world, thieves are usually lovable rogues thanks to their charm, intelligence and ingenuity. I blame Ernst Lubitsch. Long before we knew the names of John Robie, Thomas Crown or Danny Ocean, Lubitsch introduced us to the ideal image of a suave international thief in Trouble in Paradise.
Our first introduction to Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) comes just after a wealthy guest in a Venetian hotel has been robbed of 20,000 francs. Gaston, masquerading as a Baron, waits in a nearby hotel room for his dinner date, instructing a waiter on how to arrange the dinner. Before leaving to complete his instructions, the waiter picks a leaf off of Gaston’s dinner jacket. This is our first clue that Gaston is not all he seems.
Cue the arrival of Lily (Miriam Hopkins), a glamorous blonde claiming the title of Countess. She enters bemoaning the gossip of her peers, which will soon disclose her private dinner date with the Baron. But Lily is not what she appears to be either. Over dinner, the two confront each other over their real identities while also preening with pride over their skills as they reveal what they have stolen from each other. However, it’s not just wallets, watches and garters which are stolen this night, but hearts. It seems light fingers serve as an aphrodisiac. Gaston and Lily are instantly smitten. Continue reading “It Takes a Thief Blogathon -Trouble in Paradise (1932)”
Ever since my introduction to classic film via the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby, Katharine Hepburn has remained my favorite actress. Hepburn is famous not only for her unique personality but a long career, in which she appeared in many different roles and film genres. She is also well known for her love affair and eight film collaborations with Spencer Tracy. But perhaps because of Bringing Up Baby, I have always preferred her films with Cary Grant.
Sylvia Scarlett is an unconventional film about a girl who passes herself off as a young man. When Sylvia’s father Henry Scarlett (Edmund Gwenn) gets into trouble with his illegal activities, the two of them flee France for England. Henry feels his daughter’s sex will be a hindrance to his getaway. So Sylvia (Katharine Hepburn) cuts her hair and becomes Sylvester. On their way to England they meet con man and trickster Jimmy Monkley (Cary Grant). Soon the three are running scams together. Sylvester is determined to turn their threesome honest and is eventually successful. Continue reading “Sylvia Scarlett (1935) -The Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy Blogathon”
I have been a faithful fan of Cary Grant the actor for over twenty years. In that time I have read every book I could find about him to learn more about the man behind one of the most famous personas in cinematic history.
I have always been interested in biographies. I have read biographies about many of my favorite film stars. Over time, I have realized that I prefer the ones that focus on the individual’s personal background. While it is always interesting to learn about an actor’s career, who he worked with, why he chose certain projects, etc. I prefer it when those facts don’t overwhelm their actual story.
So, having done all the work of reading numerous books about Cary Grant, I am now sharing with you my three of my favorites.
Continue reading “Behind the Persona -Three Books About the Man Named Cary Grant”