While the history of the automobile begins a couple of decades earlier, the rise of mass production in the early 1900’s led to them becoming part of our every day lives. Another popular “product” was produced around the same time in 1904, a man who would eventually come to be known as Cary Grant.
Both Grant and the automobile are ubiquitous parts of international history. Autos are in-arguably a vital part of every day life, an industry which continues to grow and innovate. While Grant may not be as essential by comparison to our world today, he is still a very important part of our cultural history. Comparisons are still made to his talent, his style and his contributions to the film industry.
As someone who has long been obsessed with Cary Grant, it recently dawned on me how many of his movies contain a memorable scene with him in a vehicle. Almost all non-historical films contain vehicles as they were a part of every day life. But Grant’s films elevated them as more than just part of a scene. Instead they became an actual setting for action and dialogue to advance the story. Even closer notice reveals that many of the movies utilizing vehicles in this way are directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I’m sure there is a deeper analysis to be drawn here about Hitchcock’s particular use of cars in his pictures starring Grant, but that’s another article for another day.
Favorite Discovery:A Stranger in Town and Small Island
Sweet Magnolias (2020) – Everyone, but I mean everyone, has been talking about this Netflix family and girl power drama. And with good reason. While it is a clean show, it also doesn’t shy away from real life situations like adultery, divorce and broken relationships, even it if does cast them in a slightly rosier light. I love the core of this series that is the strong friendship between the three main female leads. My only complaints are that some of the supporting actors are a bit wooden in their delivery and that cliff-hanger of an ending!
Bless This Mess Season 2 – I fell hard for this fish out of water sitcom last year. I love the twist of portraying a NYC couple adjusting to living on a farm in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. And though it does poke fun at the country folks it is an equal opportunity offender in making fun of the city couple as well. Lake Bell and Dax Shepherd are hilarious and I’ve found myself laughing out loud often while watching this show. I’m very glad this season expanded the amount of episodes from last year.
The Train (1964) – Burt Lancaster stars in this WWII flick as an agent of the French Underground working to save a train load of art that has been stolen by a Nazi officer. Though I’m not a fan of Lancaster who always comes across self-righteous (in my opinion), the story and the action kept me intrigued. I was disappointed by the anti-climatic ending.
A Stranger in Town (1943) – Character actor Frank Morgan takes a starring role as a Supreme Court judge who encounters institutional corruption in a small town while on vacation. Not only was this brief film humorous and fun, but it also addressed the serious issue of privilege and entrenched government manipulation. Morgan has a stirring speech at the end about the responsibility of American citizens that made me want to stand up and cheer. Definitely worth a watch!
Niagara (1953)– This is my first experience with Marilyn Monroe playing a conniving femme fatale. This color film noir depicted her toxic marriage with Joe Cotton in a believable way. But it was Jean Peter’s performance as a newlywed who gets caught up in their twisted game who stole the show for me. The scenes all around Niagara Falls were so interesting and made me wish I had explored it more when I was there.
Too Young to Kiss (1951) – I liked this much better than I anticipated, considering I’ve never been a fan of June Allyson. She didn’t annoy me as much as usual. Perhaps that is due to her character trying to pass as a child in order to catch the attention of Van Johnson’s music promoter. Overall, I thought this comedy was rather cute and am willing to watch it again.
Hamlet (1996) – In my goal to become more familiar with Shakespeare’s work, I finally tackled this four hour drama. Um wow! Boasting an excellent cast, intricate set and wonderful performances, it kept me intrigued. Although I will confess, I still struggled with the language of the Bard and had to Google a synopsis of the story to keep up.
Just Mercy (2020) – I wanted to see this one in the theater in January, but missed it. So, I was thrilled Amazon offered it for free this month. It’s a compelling and inspiring look not only at injustice, but also the way we stereotype those in the prison system.
Von Ryan’s Express (1965)– For a WWII film, this one had quite a bit of humor sprinkled in among the serious and tense moments. I appreciated how much of the film took place on a train. And it doesn’t hurt that it was filmed in color, so I could stare at the endless blue of Frank Sinatra’s eyes.
My Darling Clementine (1946) – Considering I’m ambivalent about Henry Fonda and Westerns, no fan of Victor Mature and absolutely adore the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday portrayals in the more recent Tombstone, I liked this John Ford version better than I expected to. Mature’s performance in the first half of the film really grabbed my attention. And for once I appreciated Fonda underplaying his role. But I felt the ladies playing the love interests were a distraction from an otherwise really good Western.
Bringing Up Baby (1938) – My all time favorite film still delights me after all these years. So many great lines and performances, not to mention the silliness of it all.
Call My Agent(2015)– I like this French series about talent agents, but I don’t love it. What I do really appreciate is a behind the scenes view of the world of French cinema and the fact that the guest stars are real French film stars. I have yet to get emotionally involved with the characters and wish there was a bit more warmth displayed, both in the cinematography and in the performances.
36 Hours (1964) – This WWII drama was a re-watch for me and didn’t have the same impact the second time around. I still felt Eva Marie Saint and James Garner were great in their roles and I’m never going to be unhappy to see Rod Taylor on the screen. I loved the ending a bit more this time around, even though the humor of it, didn’t quite jive with the overall serious tone of the movie.
As You Like It(2006) – My second foray into Shakespeare for the month. I definitely prefer his comedies. The premise is far-fetched, but who cares when it’s this much fun. I loved how the re-imagined setting of the play in Japan. But mostly I enjoyed watching my personal fave Romola Garai. And then there is Alfred Molina who kills it as the court fool.
Castle on the Hudson (1940) – It took me a while to develop an appreciation for John Garfield, but now that I have I’m seeking out all his films. Including this one about a cocky small time gangster who lands in prison. Garfield is great at pathos as he displays here. His journey from an arrogant, selfish man to one who develops character and integrity at great personal cost is a beautiful one.
Hot Sweet Sour (2017) – It’s been a while since I watched a Turkish film. This one about a couple who split but agree to marry in five years if they are both still single caught my attention. The first half plays like a romantic comedy until it finally segues into a melodrama. I think I would have preferred it stay in the rom-com zone. I found myself frustrated with the female lead, but there was a reason for some of her selfish, immature behavior which I learned later. I was very impressed with the male lead however.
Henry V (1989) – Ya’ll, the third time is NOT the charm. I’m trying hard to appreciate Shakespeare and if anyone can help in that endeavor, it is Kenneth Brannagh. However, the language still trips me up. It’s like watching a foreign movie without the subtitles and with extra pontificating. I know this one has very good reviews, but I finally quit half way through.
Lady J (2018) – This French Netflix film is little like eating macarons – full of gorgeous pastel colors and delicacy. But it has an underlying darkness as it is in essence, a tale of revenge. As much as I love dialogue, there was too much of it for me here. It’s a visually pleasing film, but failed to engage me emotionally.
Mae West: Dirty Blonde (2020)– I went in blind to this PBS documentary about this groundbreaking blonde bombshell. While I wish it had featured more information on West’s personal life, it certainly did a good job explaining her career success placed within the context of the time she lived in. What she achieved as woman in the film industry is extraordinary. Not only did she push social and moral boundaries, but those that inhibited the female sex as well. However, I didn’t feel like I got to know her personally. The presentation left me feeling a bit detached from the subject.
Girls from Ipanama (Coisa Mais Linda) Season 2 (2020) – I still love these characters as much as I did before, although I wasn’t thrilled with some of their choices this season. There were quite a few things introduced then left unexplored and several story lines felt like they moved too quickly. I do love that Adelia’s sister and Malu’s business partner received more screen time as I really like their characters. I did feel like there was a bit too much gratuitous nudity and sex. However, this Brazilian Netflix series remains one of my guilty pleasures.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)– After a couple of very serious, heavy feeling films, I needed something light and funny, so decided on a re-watch of my favorite comedy in recent years. As expected it did the trick, and lightened my spirits. I think the casting and plot for this re-make is just genius. And I appreciate how the film doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
Barakah Meets Barakah (2016) – I’m always trying to branch out in exploring foreign films. So this Saudi made Netflix picture caught my attention. It’s the story of a middle class man who meets and falls for a wealthy girl. Sadly, I didn’t find this one all that interesting, other than the exposure to Middle Eastern culture it afforded me.
The Soloist (2009)– I love Robert Downey Jr. and was curious to see him in a more dramatic film with Jamie Foxx. Of course, with these two talents, great performances were a given. The story wasn’t quite what I was expecting with its’ focus on mental illness and homelessness. Though I do appreciate that it presents these topics with compassion, it was a bit too much sadness and darkness for me at this time of my life.
When a Man Loves (1927)– How could I pass up the chance to see Drew Barrymore’s grandparents, John Barrymore and Dolores Costello, act together in the same film? This is the first of Barrymore’s silent movies that I have seen and I must say, I think I prefer him in “talkies”. It was heavy on the melodrama both in the story line and the acting and the plot was all over the place. Plus, it’s hard to take the very masculine Barrymore seriously when he’s wearing a full face of makeup.
Small Island (2009) – Populated with now familiar faces like Naomie Harris, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ruth Wilson & David Oyelowo, this mini-series provides a thoughtful look at the experiences of Jamaican immigrants in London after WWII. I don’t know much about Britain’s history with racism, but this gave me a better idea. I really connected with the characters and their experiences. It is beautifully shot and emotionally compelling. Plus, it made me want to visit the island of Jamaica.
By Your Leave (1934)– A forgettable little programmer about a husband and wife who decide to take a week’s vacation from each other. I expected a bit more from a film starring Frank Morgan and Genevieve Tobin. The best parts of the film were those with their bossy maid played by a pre-wicked witch Margaret Hamilton.
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.
This year I decided to keep track of my viewing stats a little differently. In the past, I only kept track of the new to me classic films in my tally. But for 2019 I chose to also include re-watches, newer films and television series. I continued to leave out television films from my total count. All told, I watched about 300 films and series which is quite a lot.
NEW CLASSIC FILMS – 143 Total
I continued on from last year in watching the films of Marlon Brando, Robert Mitchum and George Brent. I also actively sought out the films of Shirley Temple, Margaret O’Brien, Kay Francis, Greta Garbo, Jane Powell, Marion Davies and John Garfield. 2019 will also go down as the year I watched my first Elvis film.
Some of the more popular classics I finally made time for were Murder My Sweet, The Stranger, I Know Where I’m Going, Angel and the Badman, Ryan’s Daughter and Becket. Cleopatra was as much of a slog as I expected. However, I was happily surprised by great experiences with The Picture of Dorian Gray and Cat People. I had also put off watching the famous silent film The Big Parade but it completely wowed me! Continue reading “2019 Film Year in Review”
December was a month for indulging myself. Just over a third of my entertainment choices this month were re-watches, mostly of my favorite Christmas films. And still, I didn’t get to see all the holiday films I wanted to.
I also spoiled myself by going to the theater four times this month. I can’t remember the last time there were that many new releases I actually wanted to see. In fact, I think these four may account for a third of my total new release viewings for the whole year.
decemBER 2019 BREAKDOWN
30 Films/Series Total
12 Christmas movies (including While You Were Sleeping)
6 New Classics
5 TV Series
4 Theater Releases
Biggest Disappointment:Stand Up and Cheer – Shirley Temple’s brief presence was not enough to save this one.
Once again Aurora over at Once Upon a Screenis challenging everyone to pay it forward this Christmas by choosing classic film recommendations utilizing the Twelve Days of Christmas theme.
I’ve decided to stick as close to that theme as possible by creatively interpreting the lyrics of the song. I didn’t have as much time as I would like to elaborate on all the films and actors who are named in this post. But hopefully, they will pique your interest enough to discover them for yourself. Continue reading “#PayClassicsForward Christmas Challenge 2019”
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I have always been a Christmas fanatic. Christmas albums comprise my largest collection of music which I listen to year round. I start my countdown in October. I buy beautiful holiday wrapping paper despite my hatred of wrapping gifts. I put my tree up before Thanksgiving. AND I adore Christmas movies, which is why I wanted to share a list of my favorites for this blogathon.
In speaking of this holiday, I must admit, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. No trendy flocked tree for me this year, I’m sticking with my favorite red and gold. I love the aspect of the holiday which celebrates family over busyness, thoughtfulness over commercialism. And I still believe that the real reason for the season is the birth of Jesus. Continue reading “The Happy Holiday Blogathon – My Ten Favorite Christmas Films”