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.
Johnny Rutledge (William Holden) is rootless bachelor who works for a traveling medicine show. When his employer is arrested, Johnny finds himself cooling his heels in a small town, while awaiting his employer’s release.
While out fishing he comes across a small cabin where the five young Chalotte siblings live. The oldest child confesses that his parents are dead and he is trying to keep the family together. Johnny feels sorry for them, but explains to young January that he can’t stick around to help. Past experiences have left him with a distaste for anything resembling roots or commitment. Still Johnny finds himself drawn to these children named after the months of the year. He also finds himself more and more intertwined in their lives.
I have always been a fan of romantic comedies. I can appreciate a good drama, mystery or even tragedy, but it is the romantic comedy which I found myself drawn to over and over again. Perhaps it’s because in a world of uncertainty and chaos, I love escaping into a film that can make me smile. I love knowing the ending will always be happy, even if real life isn’t.
Many classic film fans are familiar with some of the more famous examples of this genre. Titles like Bringing Up Baby, The Lady Eve, Pillow Talk, My Man Godfrey, His Girl Friday, It Happened One Night are instantly recognizable and re-watchable. But being a fan of classic rom-coms means I’m always on the lookout for unheralded, but just as enjoyable films. It’s always a risk watching a film I’ve not heard of before, but definitely well worth it when I discover a new favorite. I’d like to share some under-rated and lesser known classic rom-com films. Continue reading “Twenty of the Most Under-Rated Classic Romantic Comedies”
Maria Laura, aka Mala, is an aspiring actress whose outspoken views make it difficult for her to win roles. Fortunately, her roommate Kika is understanding as to why she is behind on her rent. Kika is also convinced her boyfriend is cheating on her. She coerces Mala into flirting with him to determine if he will be faithful. Though reluctant Mala is also successful and eventually word gets around about her unusual talent. Before she knows it, she is earning good money testing the loyalty of other women’s boyfriends.
However, when she finally lands a major role in a television series she is ready to leave her odd career behind. But the producer only agrees to guarantee the part if Mala will seduce her ex as a means of revenge. There is just one problem. Mala has already had an unfortunate encounter with wealthy businessmen Santiago and they can’t stand each other. Still, Mala’s big break depends on making Santiago fall in love with her so that she can break his heart. Further complications arise when she develops conflicted feelings towards him and her unpleasant task. Will Mala be convincing enough to snag the heart of this wealthy bachelor? Even more importantly, will she be able to protect her own heart while doing so?
Not too many years ago, I happened across a Ginger Rogers film I had never seen or even heard of before. Romance in Manhattan turned out to be not only a lovely little movie, but also became one of my favorites. As much as I love the pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce others to this lesser known charmer which co-stars Ginger with Francis Lederer.
Karel Novak (Lederer) has worked hard to achieve his dream of immigrating to America. A native of Czechoslovakia, he meets all the legal requirements for entry. However, upon his arrival he learns that one of those requirements has changed and he is to be deported back to his home country.
Karel can’t bear the thought that he must return home. Leaving his belongings and money behind, he escapes into New York City, where he is certain he will find work. However, the only luck Karel has is meeting the kind and compassionate show girl Sylvia Dennis (Rogers). Sylvia is the sole caretaker for her younger brother Frank (Jimmy Butler) and is barely making ends meet herself. But she offers Karel food, a place to sleep and help in finding a job.
As weeks and months pass, Karel becomes a welcome addition to the lives of Sylvia and her brother Frank. Karel finds a job as a taxi driver and helps contribute to the household. He also manages to befriend police officer Murphy (J. Farrell McDonald), despite living in fear of discovery and deportation.
Sylvia and Karel begin to fall for each other, but Sylvia prefers to marry a millionaire. She is sick of poverty and seeks security for herself and Frank. This desire becomes even more important when both she and Karel find themselves out of work just as social services threaten to take Frank away from her. Karel however, is convinced that love will find a way and proposes to Sylvia. But their problems are far from over. A shady lawyer reports Karel’s immigrant status and Frank is taken from Sylvia. But with a little help from Officer Murphy, Karel and Sylvia may just have a chance.
In today’s climate, it would be easy to politicize a film like Romance in Manhattan. Especially as it features the story of an immigrant whose dream of America motivates him to break the law when one subjective requirement threatens to obliterate his hope and sacrifice. But in my opinion, this would be a mistake, because you might miss the sweetness of this story and it’s characters.
This film came at a time of transition in Ginger Rogers’ career and is one of five films she made in 1935. Ginger already had numerous credits to her name, but mostly as a supporting or character actress. However, prior to the release of Romance in Manhattan, she was paired with Fred Astaire in two of the nine films in which they would appear together. Her star was just starting to rise. Within the following several years she appeared in six more films with Astaire and also branched out into serious dramatic roles, one of which (Kitty Foyle) won her an Oscar.
Ginger’s portrayal of Sylvia Dennis is one of my favorite’s. Sylvia is practical and realistic, but she has not allowed the challenges of life to harden her or make her cynical. She has retained her innocence but is also wise to the ways of the world. Though Sylvia has little, she doesn’t think twice about sharing it with someone who has even less. And even though she espouses a desire to marry wealth, Sylvia doesn’t really fit the definition of a gold-digger. She is playful yet sincere in her wish, but when it comes down to it, she realizes that love is more valuable. Rogers never overplays her performance as Sylvia, keeping it genuine with an underlying sense of humor. In her capable hands, Sylvia is a believable depiction of an average, quietly heroic, every day American.
As much as I love Ginger Roger’s portrayal of Sylvia though, this is really Francis Lederer’s film. From his first appearance onscreen he draws you in to the heart of Karel Novak. You feel his excitement, disappointment, determination and every emotion in between in his pursuit to become an American. His earnestness, innocence and optimism help you to experience the poignancy of his plight. Here is a man who truly wants to follow the laws of his adopted country, but who also refuses to allow his inability to meet one subjective requirement make all his sacrifice for naught. Even though he begins with nothing and needs every spare penny, Karel willingly contributes to the Dennis household. He also risks the threat of deportation in order to keep Sylvia and Frank together, willing to give up his dream for their sake. I particularly appreciate how his immigrant perspective helps Sylvia to see her native country through new, appreciative eyes.
Romance in Manhattan also benefits from the performances of Jimmy Butler and J Farrell McDonald as Frank and Officer Murphy. I’m not familiar with Butler’s other work, but his portrayal of Sylvia’s brother is quietly convincing. Unlike some child actors, his personality doesn’t overpower the part, but he doesn’t disappear into it either. Butler really makes Frank his own. It is a shame that he died young in combat in WWII. It would have been interesting to see what he might have done as an adult actor.
McDonald was a familiar face to me as he should be. In his career he amassed over 300 credits in small parts (some uncredited). Here he has the chance to shine as a soft-hearted Irish cop who doesn’t let the law crush an otherwise good man. And of course, what 1930’s film would be complete without the presence of Donald Meek? Sadly, he doesn’t appear until the end of the picture. But it’s still a pleasure to see him play a small role as a minister.
Romance in Manhattan celebrates self-sacrifice, compassion, human kindness, understanding and love. It’s focus on these attributes reminds us not only of the best qualities of America but also of mankind.
Unfortunately, this film rarely airs on TCM. But it is available to rent through Amazon, iTunes and Vudu. Or you could always buy the DVD like I did.
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.
After her seemingly perfect life falls apart, Sarah Hollenbeck reinvents herself as a successful author of steamy romance novels. At the height of her fame, Sarah becomes a Christian. Determined to leave her old life behind completely, she experiences culture shock as she throws herself into a new lifestyle.
But her old identity isn’t so easy to leave behind. Her fans and her publisher are clamoring for a new release. Meanwhile, Sarah’s past is one she tries to keep quiet at her new church, especially when she begins dating her pastor. Sarah is sincere in her desire for a complete personal transformation. But navigating the expectations, demands and privacy concerns of her new life presents a challenge. Continue reading “Book Review -The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck”
Pillow Talk introduced to the world for the first time, the popular, beloved pairing of Doris Day and Rock Hudson. It also re-invigorated the genre of romantic comedy.
Jan Morrow is an interior decorator who is living the dream in New York City, except for one major annoyance. She is stuck sharing a phone line with the egotistical, womanizing bachelor Brad Allen, a man Jan has never met. Brad is a Broadway song writer who works from home. He ties up their shared phone line at all hours with his multiple affairs. All of Jan’s efforts to regulate the use of the phone meet Brad’s mocking refusal.
One evening, purely by accident, Brad catches a glimpse of Jan while they are both out on separate dates. He is shocked to find that the woman he has been arguing with is actually not the plain prude he assumed she was. Knowing that Jan would never agree to date him, Brad concocts a false identity as a tourist from Texas and rescues her from her drunken date.
Jan is thrilled to finally meet a handsome man she feels she can trust and who treats her respectfully. As Brad and Jan spend time together, her attachment to “Rex Stetson” grows. While Brad is dating Jan using his alter ego, he also continues to pester Jan as himself over their shared phone line.
At the same time Jan continues to received marriage proposals from her wealthy client Jonathan Forbes. Jonathan is head over heels for Jan. When Jonathan discovers that his close friend Brad Allen is plying his tricks on the unsuspecting Jan, he decides to take action.
For the second year in a row, I am happy to be participating in The Reel Infatuation Blogathon. Hosted by Silver Screenings and Font and Frock, this blogathon is all about film, television or book character crushes.
YOU’VE GOT MAIL
In You’ve Got Mail Kathleen is the owner of New York City children’s bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner. Kathleen is the second generation owner of the store inherited from her mother. The Shop Around the Corner is not just a business to Kathleen, but also home to all of her happy childhood memories with her mother. It is also a beloved neighborhood institution, where the customers and employees are treated like family. Kathleen’s life revolves around her shop. Her secret correspondence with online pen pal NY152 provides her an outlet where she can share her dreams and fears not just about the shop, but also her life.
Romantic comedies are among my favorite films. They strike a balance between love and humor which leave me feeling happy and uplifted, no matter what is going on in the real world.But sometimes, a romantic comedy has a little something extra which makes it special.Return to Meis one such film.
Bob Rueland is still mourning the loss of his wife and childhood sweetheart. To honor her memory, he is working to complete a project which was close to her heart, a new gorilla habitat at the Chicago zoo. But otherwise, Bob is stuck in his grief, hiding from life until a chance meeting with waitress Gracie Briggs lights a new spark in him.
Gracie is just now beginning to live after a recent heart transplant gave her new lease on life. Though she is still helping in her grandfather’s restaurant, she is practicing the art of small pleasures through her painting, gardening and close knit relationships. Gracie is attracted to Bob, but is extremely sensitive about both the physical and emotional scars of her past health issues.
As Gracie and Bob grow closer, their relationship grows and motivates their own personal growth. They recognize a kindred spirit in each other. But unbeknownst to either of them, there is something else which links them together. And when this link is finally revealed, they must both decide if love is more powerful than grief.