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Saturday, 30 July 2011

14 pint-sized film stars

I was watching Sadie Thompson (1928) a couple of nights ago and it struck me how petite Gloria Swanson was. I'm not particularly tall (5'6 - same height as Deborah, aw yeah!) but often I feel like such a clumsy giant around dainty 5-footers. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to make a post about some pint-size actresses from back in the day.

Gloria Swanson

The larger than life actress measured in at around 5 feet (some sources say 4'11, some say 5'2, but apparently her bus pass listed her as 5 feet.).

Elizabeth Taylor

One of the biggest film star's the world has ever known, violet-eyed Elizabeth was fairly tiny at 5'2.

Debbie Reynolds

Dainty Debbie (what can I say? I love alliteration!) measures in at 5'2.

Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard, the Queen of screwball comedy, was around 5'2.

Jean Harlow

I always think of Jean as being quite tall but in fact she was only 5'2.

Natalie Wood

A talented child actress, Natalie Wood blossomed into a gorgeous young woman measuring in at 5'2.

Louise Brooks

Louise is another person I always think of as being quite tall, but she was in fact rather petite at 5'2.

Bette Davis

Measuring in at 5'3, what Bette lacked in height she made up for with her formidable screen presence.

Miriam Hopkins

This little firecracker of an actress measured in at 5'2.

Norma Shearer

At only 5'1, Norma Shearer was one of the tiniest film stars - but because of her bold screen presence, you'd never know.

Mary Pickford

Teeny tiny Mary Pickford was only 5'½.

Leslie Caron

Actress and dancer Leslie measures in at 5'1½.

Jane Powell 

Jane's slim figure and height of 5'½ make her one of the most petite ladies on the list. 

Judy Garland

Last but not least is Judy Garland measuring in at around 4'11, the tiniest of them all.

Thanks for reading! :)

Thursday, 28 July 2011

guitars (and other twangable instruments) in classic films

Last week I started teaching myself the guitar (it's not going too badly, in case you were wondering ;D) and that gave me an idea for a post: Guitars (and similarly shaped and strung instruments :P) in classic films.

Hmm, let's see if I can make it easier...

From: The Sound of Music (1965)

Two drifters off to see the world

From: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Put the blame on Mame, boys

From: Gilda (1946)

Oh! I really think you're swell!

From: The Parent Trap (1960)

Now you sing, Schmidt! 

(Starts around 4:20)

From: Lilies of the Field (1963)

I don't care if it rains or freezes 'long as I got my Plastic Jesus

From: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

I spent ages trying to think of other instances of guitars (and banjitars ;D) in films, but whilst I could think of many other instruments, guitars just weren't there. If you can think of any more, PLEASE let me know because I know there must be so many obvious ones that I've left off. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Films I Can Watch Over and Over #4: Breakfast at Tiffany's

Although I inwardly shudder and have to fight the urge to weep whenever someone says, "Oh, I LOVE classic films! Breakfast at Tiffany's was awesome!!" and then follows up the statement with "I have the poster on my bedroom wall.", I do have a rather ginormous soft spot for the damn thing.

I mean, apart from my Mum, who doesn't love a film about a quirky young woman who has a cat with no name and is really just a lost little girl living a crazy life The Big Banana*? Aaaand breathe. Apart from Mickey Rooney, there is really nothing to dislike about Breakfast at Tiffany's. It has the ability to cast a ray of sunshine into your life even when you're feeling terrible, and that is something that everyone needs at some point. Everything about it, the music, the cinematography, the story, is sublime. We even get a beautiful happy ending (of course, if you read the book all your illusions about the film will be shattered for a while ;D ). 

I dare you not to cry!

I can't really say much more about why this is a film I can watch over and over because it's all been said before and if you've seen it yourself you will most likely know how I feel about it.

*See French and Saunder's 1988 Christmas Special. I am not mad.

P.S. Sorry there was no Box Set Monday post yesterday, I'll hopefully have one up next week though! As always, contact me if you'd like to do one :)

Friday, 22 July 2011

An essay on Deborah Kerr written when I was 14

You know when you're looking for something that you will probably never find and in the process of searching for that something you unearth something that is much more exciting than the original thing? (Wheew!). Yeah, well that happened to me today. I was looking for a guitar book that my parents got me about 4 years ago (I'm attempting to teach myself...) and instead of finding that I found a folder full of old school essays and stories. Amongst them were some classic film related gems that I thought I'd share. This one about Deborah is the first, so I hope you enjoy the ramblings of my 14 year old self in all of their grammatically erroneous glory!
Thanks For the Memorys 
(you know it's going to be good when I mess up the spelling of the title ;D)

"Shall We Dance?" is perhaps one the most unforgettable lines from any musical ever. No less so is the face we associate with those words - the charming, flushed face of Anna Leonowens played by the most beautiful and brilliant actress, Deborah Kerr. She is the woman I most admire. It doesn't seem right to call her "woman" - she was a "lady"! (all I'm going to say is: LOL WUT?)
She wasn't just a wonderful  actress she was a kind and considerate person off the screen. If anyone wrote her letter, they would be sure to get a reply as she had a considerate knack of replying to all letters. (what is a 'considerate knack' though??)

She made about forty-five films in a career spanning from 1941 until 1985. Her most memorable films are, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp", "Black Narcissus", "Edward, My Son", "Quo Vadis?", "From Here To Eternity", "The King and I", "Separate Tables", "The Sundowners", "The Innocents", "The Chalk Garden", and "The Prisoner of Zenda" (clearly I have always had a hard time just listing the essentials). Her own personal favourite was "The Sundowners" in which her role as Robert Mitchum's sheep farmer's wife was performed without make-up. It is considered one of her finest acheivements. The role she is probably remembered most for is her magical portrayal of Anna Leonowen's in "The King and I". Althought she was dubbed by Marni Nixon for her songs, the film will endure forever as one of Deborah's best roles and as one of the best musicals ever made.

Her role in "Edward, My Son" in 1949, garnered her first adcademy Award nomination of six: "From Here To Eternity", "The King and I", "Separate Tables", "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison", "The Sundowners". It's quite incomprehensible why she never won an Oscar as at least three of those roles she was nominated for, she deserved one. (don't even try to understand that sentence. it's impossible. I wrote it and I have no idea what it means.) She was awarded an honorary oscar in 1993 (it was actually 1994) in appreciation of her unappreciated work in many fine films. 

She died on October 16th, 2007 after becoming bedridden from the effects of Parkinson's disease.

I think that she epitomised the grace, beauty, elegance, and talent of Hollywood's Golden Age, and I am so happy to find that so many people echo my thoughts on this amazing lady. There are more than a thousand obituries about her on the internet, not just written by newspapers but by people who knew her, whether old friends or people who admired her and met her, and by people who never met her but who just want to pay a tribute to this wonderful lady. On youtube there are hundreds of videos in memory of her. 

Now all that remains for me to do is to echo the words of Glenn Close when she presented Deborah with her honorary Oscar, saying that is was being given to "an artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline, and elegance.".

Have a photo of Deborah and Donna (Reed) playing golf to ease the pain.
I know you're all in awe of my prowess as a writer but please, before you go and set fire to all of your essays, stories, poems etc. in a fit of jealous rage, inflate my ego a little more by telling me what you thought about the masterpiece above. Speak to you soon!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Another 5 mini film reviews (inc. 2 Gene Tierney films)

I hope you don't mind me doing these mini review posts, but I enjoyed doing the previous one so much that I thought I'd whip up another one!

Rating System

★★★★★ = watch it immediately because you need this film in your life
★★★★ = watch it soon
★★★ = watch it sometime
★★ = watch it if you must
★ = watch it only if you want to waste a couple of hours of your life

Tobacco Road, 1941 (John Ford)

The stars: Charlie Grapewin, Elizabeth Patterson, Gene Tierney, Marjorie Rambeau, William Tracy, Dana Andrews
The story: A family of stereotypical country bumpkins, whose ancestors were wealthy plantation owners (not for the first time in the last few posts am I throwing glances in Gone With the Wind's direction), are threatened with eviction from their ramshackle house and overrun land unless they can raise a year's worth of rent, a feat that seems nigh on impossible.
The verdict: At first it seemed as though slapstick was going be the mainstay of the film, but after a while a more touching side began to show through all the absurdities of the film and gave it a whole new meaning. Although parts of the film where just too crazy for me to honestly like watching, overall I did enjoy it (even if Gene wasn't in it as much as I had hoped she would be!).
The rating: ★★★

Pickup on South Street, 1953 (Samuel Fuller)

The stars: Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter
The story: On a crowded subway, a pickpocket lifts a young woman's purse and unwittingly finds himself in possession of a microfilm on which is held top-secret government information which has been stolen so as to be passed into Communist hands.  
The verdict: I can't recommend this film enough, it's one of the most engaging and thrilling noirs I've ever seen. Jean Peters gives a breathtaking performance in it; I didn't recognise her from the two other films I've seen her in, Niagara and As Young As You Feel. Of course I have to mention Thelma Ritter's absolutely stellar performance for which she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She was one of the great character actresses and she deserved an Oscar for pretty much every role she ever played. Thelma Ritter fan girl and proud!
The rating: ★★★★★

The Divorcee, 1930 (Robert Z. Leonard)

The stars: Norma Shearer, Chester Morris, Robert Montgomery, Conrad Nagel
The story: A young woman, Jerry, finds out on her 3rd wedding anniversary that her husband has been cheating on her. He tells her that it doesn't matter, that it didn't mean anything to him, so Jerry decides to give him a taste of his own medicine and finds out that it's a completely different story when the tables are turned.  
The verdict: It started out really strongly, but towards the middle it started to lose my attention. It did pick up towards the end though, and overall I did really enjoy watching it. Norma Shearer was brilliant as usual- I always get the feeling that you could transplant her from a 1930s picture and put her straight into a more modern film and she'd fit right in. I don't know if that makes sense, but her acting always seems to me to be a lot different from her contemporaries. Any one else get that when watching her films? 
The rating: ★★★★

The Dark Corner, 1946 (Henry Hathaway)

The stars: Lucille Ball, Clifton Webb, Mark Stevens, William Bendix
The story: Bradford Galt, a private investigator situated in New York, discovers he is being trailed and believes it to be connected to Anthony Jardine, his former business partner who framed him for manslaughter. His new secretary decides to help him discover what is going on, but as the plot thickens it seems that the answer might not be as simple as they first thought. 
The verdict: Whilst not the greatest noir you'll ever see with it's twists and turns being quite predictable and it's characters poorly developed and not at all engaging, it's a fairly good watch. I did think Lucy's performance was great though, it's a shame she's mostly remembered just for her comedic roles because she was really solid in dramatic parts too. 
The rating: ★★★

The Mating Season, 1951 (Mitchell Leisen)

The stars: Gene Tierney, Miriam Hopkins, Thelma Ritter, John Lund
The story: Ellen, the owner of a hamburger stand in New Jersey decides to pack up and visit her son and his new wife . Unfortunately, the bride has never seen her mother-in-law before and disastrously mistakes her for the hired help supposed to be coming to help prepare for a big party. Not wanting to embarrass her daughter-in-law, Ellen pretends to be the maid for the evening...  
The verdict: I enjoyed this film SO much. It was entertaining, highly comical (lots of "eeek! awkward" moments ;D), and completely free of dull moments! Gene was so sweet as the new bride, and Miriam was just fabulous as her ridiculously annoying mother. Thelma once again gave a brilliant performance and gained her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar Nomination.  
The rating: ★★★★★

That's all folks! :D

Monday, 18 July 2011

Box Set Monday #4: Ginger Rogers (Special Guest Post)

For the fourth "Box Set Monday" post, I am super duper excited to introduce to the first guest poster this blog has ever had, the marvellous Audrey of Fedoras and High Heels
Hello, readers-of-Sophie’s-wonderful-blog! I am honored to be doing a guest post on here this week for the “Box Set Monday” feature! The subject of my imaginary box set will be six of my favorite films starring the multi-talented Ginger Rogers.

As you can probably imagine, it is difficult to select six essential films from an actress who appeared in over seventy films (or was it eighty?). I tried to pick a variety of roles that showcase Ginger’s many talents and give viewers a good introduction to her filmography.

Ginger Rogers’ Box Set

Carefree, 1938
Bachelor Mother, 1939
Primrose Path, 1940
Stage Door, 1937
The Major and the Minor, 1942
I'll Be Seeing You, 1944

Although Ginger is best known today as being the dancing partner of Fred Astaire, you’ll notice that Carefree is the only one of their collaborations to make this list. While I do (by all means, do!) recommend viewing the other nine films they made together, I chose this one because the plot largely showcases Ginger—especially her comedic talents. Of course, there are also some wonderful dances between her and Fred, so you get a sampling of what made their iconic pairing so great.

In Bachelor Mother, when Ginger’s character gets stuck with a newborn baby, her boss at work assumes that she is an unwed mother. Basically, this film is just a great deal of fun. The plot is ridiculously delightful and David Niven has wonderful chemistry with Ginger.

You’ll notice that while Ginger’s Oscar-winning role of Kitty Foyle did not make the list, her other 1940 film—Primrose Path—did. That’s because I actually like this one better, and I think Ginger gives a finer performance. (I realize that may be an unpopular opinion, so feel free to disagree!). Considering that the Production Code was in effect, this film deals with some taboo subjects. But it manages to do so without resorting to a lot of stereotypes. Ginger gives a really natural, subtle performance that I consider one of the finest of her career. As an interesting side note, she dyed her hair brunette to de-glamorize (is that even a word?) for the role.

Stage Door is a marvelous drama (with some comedy thrown in) about a boarding house of aspiring actresses. I especially love Ginger in this because she gets some great lines and goes toe-to-toe with Katharine Hepburn without blinking an eye. The dynamic between the actresses in this is is snappy, sometimes catty, but always entertaining. How could it not be with a cast that, in addition to Ginger and Kate, includes a young Ann Miller, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, and Gail Patrick?

Okay, so Ginger really doesn’t look twelve here, but The Major and the Minor is such laugh-out-loud funny comedy that it’s okay (plus, it’s all kind of explained in the story). I especially love how Ginger has to bounce between her real age and pretending to be a twelve-year-old (as you can see in the photos). Oh, and there’s even a scene where she pretends to be her grandmother!

I'll Be Seeing You is a tender and unlikely love story of a shell-shocked WWII veteran and a wrongly accused convict. I love this film because it has a very quiet and honest feel to it. Some people may call it sentimental, but I think the the strength of the performances brings a depth to the characters and keeps it from being too sappy. I’m not really sure how else to describe this film...except that you need to see it! Though it takes place during Christmas, don’t expect a typical holiday movie. :)

So that's it for my imaginary box set. Be sure to chime in with your favorite Ginger films in the comments! 
That was a lot of fun! Thanks for having me, Sophie. I love reading your blog and especially enjoy your contagious enthusiasm for classic films! :D

Thank you so much for such a great post, Audrey :) I loved reading your summaries and, being shamefully lacking in knowledge of Ginger films, I'm looking forward to watching those that I haven't seen - especially Bachelor Mother and Primrose Path! It's been a real pleasure having you, Audrey! :D

Like always, if any of you would like to write a "Box Set Monday" post, just leave me a comment, send me an email, tweet me, send a carrier pigeon etc. and we'll see what we can do! ;D 

Thanks for reading and please check out my 5 mini film reviews post from yesterday!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

5 Mini Film Reviews

I'm really lax when it comes to writing film reviews, mainly because I don't think I'm very good at them. So, I thought that to get me more used to writing about the films I watch, I'd start doing mini review posts. I think this is also a good way to share with you what I think about the films I watch because this way I get to talk about a few at once! I hope you enjoy reading the reviews :D

Rating System

★★★★★ = watch it immediately because you need this film in your life
★★★★ = watch it soon
★★★ = watch it sometime
★★ = watch it if you must
★ = watch it only if you want to waste a couple of hours of your life

Johnny Belinda, 1948 (Jean Negulesco)

The stars: Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead
The story: A young Doctor arrives at an isolated village in Cape Breton and soon after meets Belinda, the deaf and dumb daughter of a local farmer. He befriends her and helps her be able to more easily communicate with people by teaching her sign language. Everything is going well for Belinda until she is raped by a customer of her father's, the consequences of which are disturbing to say the least.
The verdict: It's rare to see the subject of rape portrayed so candidly in the 1940s because although it's grips on the film industry were loosening, the Hays Code was still in full force (of course, although Belinda's rape is heavily implied, the word itself couldn't be used.). In a lot of classic films, rape is often implied but it's not always accepted as an atrocity - heck, sometimes the victim can even find it "romantic" afterwards, apparently (throwing glances in your direction, Gone With the Wind). The frankness of the film is one of the reasons it's so powerful; it makes quite clear that the man who raped Belinda is scum and that in absolutely no circumstances can rape ever be excused or justified.
The rating: ★★★★★ 

Sullivan's Travels, 1941 (Preston Sturges)

The stars: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake
The story: A young Hollywood film director, Sullivan, who makes a fortune making light, fluffy comedies decides that he wants to make a serious film about the hardships of the poor. So he dresses as a tramp, puts a dime in his pocket,  and goes out into the world to find out first hand what it's like to be poor. On the way he meets a wannabe actress about the quit the profession because she just can't seem to get a break. They team up and the adventure begins.
The verdict: I'd never seen a Veronica Lake film before this, but I loved her in it. She may not be the best actress but she's charming and funny and captured my attention from the moment she appeared on the screen. Whilst it's without a doubt a comedy, it's also a first class drama too. Preston Sturges bring the harsh realities of life to the screen in a way that Sullivan could benefit from learning from! 
The rating: ★★★★★

Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves), 1948 (Vittorio Di Sica)

The stars: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola
The story: A poor man in Rome finally lands a job putting up posters around the city, however, on his first day at work his bicycle, a necessity for his job, is stolen. The man and his young son must now search all over Rome to find the precious bicycle.
The verdict: Everything about the film is bleak and desolate, with seemingly no glimmerings of hope anywhere. The man, Antonio Ricci, was finally given and job and then just like that, his chance of finally being able to support his family were cruelly snatched away from him. Everything about him reeks of desperation, even his little son becomes desperate as their quest for the missing bike wears on. It's not a film you want to watch over and over, but there are many things to be taken away from it. I guarantee that you'll be mulling it over in your head for several days afterwards.
The rating: ★★★★★

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1945 (Elia Kazan)

The stars: Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, James Dunn  
The story: Francie, a young, sensitive, intelligent girl with a vibrant imagination, is growing up in Brooklyn with her alcoholic, but kind and caring, father, her hard-working mother, and her younger brother. Although the family is very poor, the children are happy and their father encourages Francie to use her intelligence and imagination to the best of her abilities.   
The verdict: To be honest, I'm sold as soon as I seen the name 'Joan Blondell' in the titles, but joking aside, this is a really great film. Elia Kazan is one of my favourite directors and, whilst I don't think this is his greatest film, he adds the touch of truth and humanity that I think is present in all his films.
The rating: ★★★★

Les enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise)
, 1945 (Marcel Carné)

The stars: Arletty, Jean-Louise Barrault, Pierre Brasseur
The story: It's almost impossible to compress this 160 minute long French masterpiece into a few short sentences without butchering it, but I'll try. Garance, a free-spirited and beautiful French actress, is caught up in a tragic love pentagon. She loves Baptiste, a brilliant theatre mime, and he loves her, but as always happens, tragedy strikes and everything goes pear-shaped.
The verdict: As I said, this is a French masterpiece. It's tragic, melodramatic, overwhelming at times, and just a truly beautiful piece of cinema. It's impossible not to be drawn in by Baptiste's incredible pantomimes; he, who seems to be so weak and almost pathetic at times, is able to command the complete attention of audiences from a couple of dozen to a whole theatre full. It's magical.
The rating: ★★★★★

Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Happy birthday to "The Queen"!

Today is the birthday of one of the greatest actresses Hollywood has ever known, the wonderful Barbara Stanwyck. There's no need for me to say how much I admire and love her because it's written all over my blog, but to pay my respects to her on her special day I thought I would share with my readers 6 reasons why she's so splendiferous. I made a "6 Reasons" post for Stany on her birthday last year too - you can check it out here (it was the first "6 Reasons" post I ever made!) - so this time I'll be making the reasons more fun and random ;D

Reason #1 - The G-String Song aka Stany Does the Splits

Reason #2 - Lily Powers

If you haven't seen Baby Face (1933), you should go and watch it immediately. It's one of my favourite pre-codes and Stany is absolutely magnificent as the ambitious Lily Powers who sleeps her way to the top. 

Reason #3 - Her friendship with Joan Crawford

Reason #4 - Her voice. Her GLORIOUS voice

I chose a clip from The Lady Eve (1942) to showcase her voice because A) it's a fantastic film, B) I couldn't embed the clip I wanted to use (it was her acceptance speech for her honorary Oscar which you can watch here), and C) it was already handily on YouTube! ;D

Reason #5 - Yum Yum

Reason #6 - Her humility and huge heart

The photo above is from the end of her Honorary Oscar acceptance speech. I know I already posted the link above, but I'm doing it again because once you've seen it you will see just how humble, loving, and wonderful she really was. 


Well, there you have 2011's instalment of "6 Reasons I love Stany more than Scarlett thought she loved Ashley". I hope you enjoyed reading, and let me know why you love Stany and what you've done to celebrate her birthday! Ohhh, before I go I just want to share with you all something pretty swell that I was given on my birthday back in April...

Is it amazing or is it amazing?! My Mum asked my cousin, who has a cake making/decorating business, to make it for me. Obviously, my cousin didn't know who Stany was (I wept) so my Mum showed her a copy of the amazing painting by Kate Gabrielle that my parents were giving me for my birthday. I'd asked if I could have a special cake for my 18th birthday because when we were younger, my Mum used to make my brothers and I AMAZING cakes for our birthday pertaining to whatever phase we were going through (cue Mrs. Miniver reference...) but the last few years she's not been able to. I knew I was getting one of my favourite film stars on it, but I wasn't sure which one. I was absolutely thrilled when I saw this :D 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Box Set Monday #3: Eleanor Parker

That's right, this week I'm 'box setting' the "Woman of a Thousand Faces", Eleanor Parker. I know I've said it so many times on this blog, but she really is criminally underrated. She had talent, beauty, charisma, and charm, yet she was never fully appreciated. I love her to pieces, but then again, she has so much magnetism it's impossible not to! I would love to meet her, probably a very unlikely thing to happen but I can dream, no? ;D

A Box Set For Eleanor

Caged, 1950
The Voice of the Turtle, 1947
Detective Story, 1951
Scaramouche, 1952
Three Secrets, 1950
Home from the Hill, 1960

I included two of the films for which Eleanor was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award: Caged and Detective Story. Her third, and last, nomination was for Interrupted Melody (1955), which, whilst being a really great film, isn't one of my favourites. Eleanor's performance was definitely Oscar-worthy though. I also did not include The Sound of Music because even though I absolutely adore it (and Eleanor's Baroness Schraeder is pretty much one of my favourite film characters EVER - she deserved a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the least), it's not so much an Eleanor Parker film and I only wanted to include films that were truly her own in the box set.  

Caged is the story of young, innocent newly-wed Marie Allen who is sent to prison after an attempted armed robbery during which her husband was killed. Shortly after going to prison she finds out she is pregnant and when the baby is born, Marie is made to grant custody of the child to her mother under the condition that once she is released from prison she can have her baby back. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out as planned and over time Marie becomes cynical and hardened, much like the people she first met when entering the prison. Eleanor did an amazing job with her role and because I'd only been used to seeing her in fairly glamorous roles previous to seeing this, I was shocked at how completely different she looked and acted. This film really demonstrates just why she was called the "Woman of a Thousand Faces". And yes, I do abuse that title ;D

The Voice of the Turtle (or "One For the Book" as it was later retitled) is a real gem of a film. It's quite hard to get a copy of, but if you can get your hands on one you won't be disappointed. It's such a sweet little romcom. Eleanor is so young and lovely and did I mention that Eve Arden is also in it? I love their scenes together... they had wonderful chemistry.

Directed by the utterly brilliant William Wyler, Detective Story is one of my favourite film noirs. It's tense and complex without being too confusing to follow, and chock-a-block with powerful performances, even Eleanor's quiet and subdued portrayal of Mary McLeod. I've never really been a big fan of Kirk Douglas but I can't deny that he gives a first class performance in DS. Once again, William Wyler delivers an arresting and thought provoking film. I can't recommend this film enough, especially if you love film noirs.

Scaramouche is a wonderfully rich (in cast and colours, not storyline ;D) and ridiculous film. Janet Leigh plays one of her most boring roles but Stewart Granger and Eleanor get to romp around France whilst wearing crazy outfits, which is always awesome.

There's really not much more I can really say about it other than you should go and watch it right now.

I first saw Three Secrets about 4 years ago and the moment I saw Eleanor on the screen I had to suppress a little squeal because IT WAS THE BARONESS! I'd never seen her in anything else, even though I'd always adored her as Baroness Schraeder. Three Secrets is a compelling story about 3 women who, for various reasons, each had to give up a baby. When a five year old boy is involved in a plane crash, in which both his adoptive parents where killed, and consequently trapped up on a mountain ledge, these 3 women (one of whom is the always brilliant Patricia Neal) both begin to wonder if the little boy is the child they had to give up 5 years before. It's a truly underrated gem of a drama, with great acting and a great storyline. 

Home from the Hill is a great but somewhat strange film. I love it, but there are parts that I hate - namely, the scenes with the dogs and the wild boar. Just no. It's without a doubt one of my favourite Eleanor films. She gives a top notch performance, one of her best I think, as Hannah, the wife of Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) a wealthy and powerful Texan, whose womanising ways have turned Hannah against him and made her cold and bitter. They have one child, a teenage boy, who has been deeply affected by their dysfunctional relationship and who, when unleashed from his overprotective mother's side and let to roam free, begins to make problems of his own. HftH is really enjoyable, albeit depressing, drama that doesn't get the appreciation it deserves. Oh, and I must mention that George Peppard gives a brilliant performance! 


Well, that's all folks! Next week there will be a special guest poster for Box Set Monday, so stay tuned for that! And, as I said last week, if any of you would like to 'box set' someone just leave me a comment, send me an email, tweet me etc. and we'll see what we can do! :D 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Box Set Monday #2: Greer Garson

It was a no-brainer that I was going to choose Greer for the second Box Set Monday post because most people who have read my blog for a while know that she's my favouritest of favourites after Deborah. Greer made just over half the number of films that Deborah did(including the one film they made together, Julius Caesar (1953)), and when picking, I thought it would help having less films to choose from, but all of her films are so fantastic that it took me absolutely ages to select the final two choices.

Glorious Greer Garson's Box Set

Mrs. Miniver, 1942
Julia Misbehaves, 1948
Blossoms in the Dust, 1941
Random Harvest, 1942
Adventure, 1945
The Valley of Decision, 1945

Other than it being a wonderful and uplifting film, I think it's fairly obvious why I chose Mrs. Miniver. It's the film Greer is most well known for and it's the role that garnered her an Academy Award.

Greer with the other 1943 Academy Award winners: Van Heflin, James Cagney, Teresa Wright.

Her performance as Kay Miniver, the charming, middle class English housewife who thinks "... it's lovely having flowers named after you.", is one of my favourite performances by any actress. Although Greer thought that Mrs. Miniver was more like her Aunt than herself, she really did something special with the role. I can't think of anyone else who could have been as perfect as she was. It's also the film that got me hooked on the Greer/Walter partnership!

Julia Misbehaves is one of the most ridiculously loveable films ever to be made. Other than Greer hanging from curtains whilst singing, Walter Pidgeon been slapped by a sea lion, and a story about the colour cyclamen pink (which has plot twists to do with Bulgaria and, once again, a sea lion.), there is nothing that would seemingly make this a special film, yet it is still too wonderful for words.

Turn the clock back 4 or 5 years and I was probably watching my first ever film where I consciously knew that the gorgeous red head starring in it was Greer Garson (previously I'd only ever seen her in Julius Caesar and, whilst I thought she was rather stunning, I wasn't hooked just yet). The film was Blossoms in the Dust and after I finished watching it I was possessed with such a longing for the 1940s (even though none of the film actually takes place then... I wasn't very discerning back then ;D ) that I went straight up stairs and tried to curl my hair. I think it was my first ever attempt at a vintage hairstyle and it didn't go well at all. However, I was completely bewitched by Greer and Blossoms is still one of my favourite films. Even though it always makes me cry a little, I feel so encouraged and enlivened whenever I watch it. The film also marked the start of the Greer/Walter partnership; God bless Mervyn LeRoy!

Greer was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress 7 times and won once, yet it still seems incredible that she wasn't nominated for her utterly perfect and heartbreaking performance in Random Harvest. Had she not already been nominated for Mrs. Miniver that year, I feel sure she would still have won the Academy Award anyway. Just watch her eyes and you can see the mental anguish her character is experiencing when she meets "Smithy" several years after the Liverpool incident (I am first class at not giving spoilers away ;D ). It HURTS to see her in so much pain and f;afja;'ldfadfsdk this film is just an essential for everyone.

Gable's back and Garson's got him! Every poster should have a tagline like that. Seriously. I am desperate to get a copy of the poster because I want those words on my wall. ANYWAY, in Adventure, Greer plays a librarian with wonderful librarian glasses...

Clark Gable plays a sailor and Joan Blondell is there for comic relief whilst looking very gorgeous. Do not be fooled by it's low ratings on IMDb because this film has everything. Gable teaches Greer how to hypnotise chickens (she imitates a rooster which is something you cannot miss), Thomas Mitchell loses his soul, and then Harry Davenport comes along to birth some babies like he does in every film. That scene always seems to crop up when talking with my Greer-loving friends, it amuses us so. Joan Blondell actually has more chemistry with Clark than he does with Greer, but that's not the point. The point is that She Who Put the Able in Gable and He Who Put the Arson in Garson* steal chickens and make an otherwise rubbish film wonderful.

The Valley of Decision is included in this box set because two of the most beautiful people ever to grace this earth, Greer and Gregory Peck, kiss in it. Several times. Once on a boat. I'll let Irving Berlin speak for me, "Heaven, I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak!". It's wonderful! Greer plays an Irish girl (Yes, Greer with an Irish accent) who takes a job in the house of the local steel mill owner. Then she falls in love with her employers son and he falls in love with her. OH, THE HORROR! What will become of their love? A mess. Otherwise the film wouldn't be 2 hours long.

*Instead of using the tagline "Gable's back and Garson's got him", Greer suggested they use "She put the Able in Gable" and Clark suggested "He put the Arson in Garson". Whilst they are both highly amusing, I do think the original is the best. ;D

I hope you all enjoyed this week's Box Set Monday post - stay tuned for next Monday! If any of you would like to do a guest post Box Set Monday, either leave me a comment or send me an email (or a twitter message if you're on there) with the actor or actress you'd like to box set (;D) and we can arrange it!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

I'm on a Gene Tierney high

After watching 5 of her films in the past 3 days, I am without a doubt on a bit of Gene Tierney high. Not only that, but I think I've finally succumbed to her oodles of charm. I must admit that I hadn't given her much of a chance before having only seen parts of a few of her films, and all I knew about her was that she had an overbite (pretty sure I have Millie to thank for that piece of information ;D), was ridiculously gorgeous, and had a really tragic life. In short, I basically thought of her as another one of the 40s ridiculously gorgeous actresses whom I would get around to watching more films of sometime (I even had her box set on my Amazon wishlist to remind me to watch some of her films!). Well, all I can say is I am so glad I decided to watch Leave Her to Heaven (1945) on Thursday night.

Yes, it's that film. I don't think you can be a classic film fan without knowing about the chilling scene shown in the photo above, even if you've never actually seen it.

Anyway, what can I say? I was hooked from that moment on. I wanted to see more films from this talented and beautiful lady. So the next day I watched The Mating Season (1951) whose cast also boasted Thelma Ritter and Miriam Hopkins so it HAD to be pretty wonderful - and it was! Then that evening I watched Heaven Can Wait (1953) and realised that I'd actually seen it before which was a surprise. I'm not sure if I'd seen all of it but I definitely remembered certain parts. Then last night I finally watched Laura (1944), a film I'd been meaning to watch since the beginning of time. Let me just say, I WAS NOT EXPECTING ANY OF THAT! I was sat on the edge of my seat the entire film. And I have never been more repulsed in my life than by seeing Clifton Webb in a bathtub. Just no. Finally, this afternoon I watched The Left Hand of God (1955) and, whilst it's not a great film and Gene's part isn't that big, I enjoyed it. Bogart was brilliant as always and you can never go wrong when Agnes Moorehead is in the cast. 

I am looking forward so much to watching more Gene films so please leave me recommendations! After I finish this post I'm going to watch Tobacco Road (1941) and perhaps I might write a review on it (any excuse to post Gene photos!). So, I'm going to say good night and leave you in peace :P 

Saturday, 2 July 2011

My Year in Film: June

I watched quite a lot of films this month (52 in total) so I feel quite proud of myself after last months pathetic total of about 2 dozen. I'm also rather surprised that I managed to watch so many given that I spent about 10 days in the middle of the month watching the first 2 1/2 seasons of House (which is a brilliant series, by the way). Anyway, here's my overview of the month...

160. 500 Days of Summer (2009)
161. Up (2009)
162. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
163. WALL-E (2008)
164. A Farewell To Arms (1932)
165. Cash McCall (1959)
166. Nothing Sacred (1936)
167. Forrest Gump (1994)
168. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
169. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
170. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
171. Lover Come Back (1961)
172. Dodsworth (1936)
173. Make Way For Tomorrow (1937)
174. Annie Hall (1977)
175. Citizen Kane (1941)
176. Cattle Queen of Montana (1954)
177. The Scarlet Empress (1934)
178. The Pianist (2002)
179. Midnight (1939)
180. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
181. Trouble in Paradise (1932)
182. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
183. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
184. The Third Man (1949)
185. Harvey (1950)
186. Out of Africa (1985)
187. Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
188. Marnie (1964)
189. Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid (1969)
190. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
191. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
192. One Way Passage (1932)
193. The English Patient (1996)
194. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
195. The Searchers (1956)
196. Big (1988)
197. High Noon (1952)
198. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
199. The Palm Beach Story (1942)
200. Young At Heart (1954)
201. Grand Hotel (1932)
202. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
203. Atonement (2007)
204. Swing High, Swing Low (1937)
205. Lilies of the Field (1963)
206. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
207. The Eagle and the Hawk (1933)
208. True Confession (1937)
209. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
210. Notorious (1947)
211. Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

1920s - 1
1930s - 15
1940s - 6
1950s - 7
1960s - 8
1970s - 1
1980s - 2
1990s - 2
2000s - 9
2010s - 1

Most Watched Actresses

1. Carole Lombard - 4
2. Mary Astor -3
3. Beulah Bondi - 2
4. Claudette Colbert - 2
5. Doris Day -2
6. Kay Francis - 2
7. Miriam Hopkins - 2
8. Natalie Wood - 2

Most Watched Actors

1. Cary Grant - 3
2. John Barrymore - 2
3. Claude Rains - 2
5. Frank Sinatra - 2
4. Fred MacMurray - 2
5. Frederic March - 2
6. Gary Cooper -2
7. James Stewart - 2
8. Joseph Cotten - 2
9. Orson Welles - 2
10. Paul Newman - 2
11. Robert Redford - 2
12. Sidney Poitier - 2
13. Tom Hanks - 2

New To Me Films I Really Loved

Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy
I was really looking forward to watching this and it absolutely did not disappoint - if anything it exceeded my expectations. Paul Newman gave a spectacular performance as Luke, a prisoner in a chain gang in Florida whose cool, seemingly fearless nature earns him the respect of his fellow prisoners. George Kennedy was particular brilliant in the film I thought and IMDb tells me he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance. It's just a really amazing film.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Philip Alford
I'd never seen TKAM before June - I know, the horror! - and I am so thankful that I finally got around to watching it because it's BRILLIANT. There are no other words for it. Usually when I've heard so many amazing things about a film I feel let down when I finally watch it because it doesn't live up to my expectations, but this film is the exception. Everything about it is magnificent and I feel like watching it again because it just seems like it's one of those films that you get more and more out of every time you watch it. Gregory is such an amazing, darling man in it that I just want to give him a huge hug. He actually owns the role of Atticus Finch, no doubt about it. Mary Badham was brilliant too - what an amazing little actress. I give it A MILLION STARS!

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury
I think it says on the poster for this film something like, "If you miss the first five minutes, you won't know what's happening!". So. True. I rented the film from the library and popped the disc in one evening just before I went to bed with a very vague idea of what it was about. Then, as I often do, I started watching it whilst doing stuff online. Some films you can actually get away with doing that but needless to say, I got about 20 minutes in and was like "Wait... I do not understand a single thing that is going on. I am so confused. *rewind*". So I started from the beginning again and my eyes were pretty much glued to the screen through the entire film (although I had to watch it in two parts because, riveting as the film was, my eyes decided they didn't want to stay open any longer!). I think there was a remake of it in 2004 (with Meryl Streep, I think) but I don't know if I'll ever watch it because there is absolutely no way you could improve upon such an amazing film.

Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryō Kase
I saw Flags of Our Fathers, the companion piece to this film (both films are about the Battle of Iwo Jima and they were both directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood), earlier on in the month and I wasn't really that impressed. The word that comes to mind when trying to describe it is 'bland'. It was completely lacking of emotion and when you think about what a terrific film they could have made with the subject matter, it's all just a bit disappointing. Then I saw LFIJ. Everything that FOOF was lacking, this film made up for. I think one of the greatest assets of the film is that it manages to show that the Japanese weren't all like the evil villains we see in many war films - that there was good and evil on both the American and the Japanese sides. Just like on the American side, there were men there who would give anything to go back home to their family. I really can't recommend this great film enough.

(Just a quick note: There are no hugely graphic combat scenes in either film such as you would see in something like Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers but having said that there are certain scenes that were quite disturbing, possibly more so that a full on combat scene, so if you're not up to seeing people being blown apart by grenades and limbs scattered around you should maybe give it a miss for now.)

In the Heat of the Night
Starring: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger
I've been meaning to watch more Sidney Poitier films for a while now and the so the other day I watched Lilies of the Field (I read the book a few years ago for school) and In the Heat of the Night, both of which I loved tremendously. I especially loved ITHOTN though and even slyly recommended my brother to watch it when he text me asking if I'd seen any good films recently (if you're reading this oh brother of mine, you should go and watch it!). Sidney is an immense actor and they call him MISTER Tibbs! Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system. He's in a rather racist in Mississippi to investigate a murder (it's actually more complicated that that but you'll have to watch it to find out.) but because he's black the majority of the towns folk are not impressed. Sidney, or rather MISTER Tibbs, refuses to let the racists drive him out of the town before he solves the murder. Go and watch it now - even if you're not my brother!

Well, there you go! Speak to you all soon :)
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