Friday, December 5, 2014

They Don't Make Them Like This Anymore; 4 Fabulous Feel-Good Films

Don't forget that these pictures all pop open to a much bigger size if you click on them!

Laura by Otto Preminger. Years ago we used to go to an old theater that was an art and nostalgia theater. The owner was a professor and he gave lectures about the movies preceding them which were wonderful. We spent at least ten years there catching up on cinema. One of our earliest film fanatic discoveries was LAURA. He told us our film ouvre was sadly deficient with our lacking this film.

Otto Preminger was a first rate film director. There isn't a wasted second in his picture. There is the absolutely gorgeous Gene Tierney who plays Laura. She was also a very good actress. Not too far into the movie, Laura is murdered. The detective assigned to the case is the handsome, magnetic Dana Andrews. He begins by sifting through Laura's apartment. There is a big portrait of her looking down at him almost everywhere he turns. He starts mourning the loss of such a woman as he tries to find clues to the suspect. Then the movie takes a 180 degree twist.

I've watched it several times since, even knowing the twist and the resolution, and surprisingly, it holds up each time. 

Gilda. I don't care what initials follow your name, JD, MD, PhD. This movie will hit you right in the solar plexus no matter how PC and "with it" you are. It was made in the '40s, starring Rita Hayworth and Glen Ford, of all people, who normally I like in nothing! I also usually despise movies where the hero and heroine hate one another until the last few minutes of the movie or book. Well, just throw the rule books out with "Gilda." This film has chemistry with a capital "C". Sex appeal and the fate of those couples "meant to be" exudes from every frame of it. Rita Hayworth as Gilda is utterly gorgeous and desirable while Glen Ford as Johnny makes all other men pale in comparison. 

She's married to his boss who owns a casino-nightclub in South America. However, there will be no Gilda disappearing in the night skies with her husband as there was in "Casablanca." These two lovers aren't that noble. Instead, they verge on being outright scoundrels! Frankly, I never even thought Hayworth was much of a singer and dancer until I saw her perform "Put The Blame On Mame" in this film. Wow! I ate humble pie on that one. I began viewing this film as a pre-teenager. Loved it then; love it now. You can never have too much "Gilda." My advice: don't even fight it; trash out tonight in total pleasure with "Gilda." 

People Will Talk.  If you love romance movies, you cannot skip this one. Not only is it one of the very best romance movies, it is also one of the very best Cary Grant movies. Win-win in other words.

Grant plays a renowned gynecologist and college professor, Doctor Praetorius, in this 1951 glorious black and white film. He is the target of jealousy by his peers who attack him for unconventional practices, including for his having a hulking assistant. But it is more sinister than that. For the film's director, Mankiewicz, was targeted by McCarthyism in that era. Thus, Grant is Mankiewicz's stand in for when he was the main target for a McCarthy attack upon the Director's Guild.

While dealing with this 1950s mindset, Grant takes on a new patient played by Jeanne Crain. She is pregnant, unmarried and attempts suicide as a result. Grant sets out to save her. This is not enough for you to be able to separate it from the romance movies of today. What separates it is how much better it is straight across the board than the vast majority of them. First, a man is playing the lead whereas a lot of today's romances are headed by boys. Likewise, a woman is playing the lead. No one would ever refer to Grant and Crain as a boy and a girl. There is real electricity when they come together and there is not any silliness as its basis. Grant has such a lovely, light touch when anyone else would have been terribly over melodramatic with the same material.

The screenplay is also first rate as is the direction. Mankiewicz had already won a few Oscars and did not waste his time directing inferior scripts. The screenplay sparkles and you hate for it to end. I can guarantee that if you are a woman you will love this. It is irresistible.

Bell, Book & Candle. I have long wondered whether the tv series "Bewitched" was inspired by this film. They are not quite the same but the essence is the same. There is a man who does not want to be in love with a witch who is in love with a witch. And, of course, there are all the ways she makes his life hell with herself and her family from the day they first meet onwards. He's a publisher, not an adman, with a fiance who is totally obnoxious (Darren Stephens had the same before meeting Samantha). 

Kim Novak as the witch decides she wants him (Jimmy Stewart) and his life is turned upside down. Her brother is played by Jack Lemmon who is absolutely marvelous as a warlock.  I have seen this film several times and just love it. Stewart was probably a bit too old for this role. It was a May-December romance. But he and Novak had enough chemistry to bring it off. They were also a great duo in "Vertigo". This is a wonderful film.

By the way, every film listed today ends well so if you want relief from the holiday season, with movies guaranteed to deliver that feel good aura at the end, these are those four films.

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