Friday, November 18, 2011

"The family with us was strong and remains strong. Their problems are my problems and vice versa. We're sort of a 'group' going through the world together. Isn't that wonderful? I feel so lucky. I feel cared for and I have always felt cared for... I cannot say anything in detail about my sisters and brothers. They are so much a part of me that I simply know that I could not have been me without them. They are my 'box' - my protection."
- Katharine Hepburn, Me: Stories of My Life

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#33*: Mildred Pierce

Starring: Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Ann Blyth
Dir: Michael Curtiz (1945)

I was working up to this! I know it's a classic, but I'm scared of Joan Crawford.
Main character Mildred, played by Joan Crawford, is a stay-at-home mom whose two daughters are her only joy in life. When her husband leaves her for another woman and forces her to make her own way in his absence, Mildred finds work as a waitress to provide for her children. Her younger daughter Kay is a tomboy, cheerful and helpful, obviously destined for a tragic end. (THANKS, MOVIES.) Older daughter Veda is pretty and spoiled and longs to be a social success, whatever that means. (Class is a big theme in this movie. The Pierces are lower class, struggling to fit into the upper class. This causes misery. Life lessons here, my peeps!) Mildred lavishes gifts and dance lessons and everything she can afford on Veda, who is growing precocious and soon insists that her mother's offerings aren't good enough. Mildred, being sort of pathetically devoted, decides to feel ashamed and try harder rather than smack that ungrateful mouth.
Fortunately for Veda, Mildred is busting her buns and soon finds herself in a position to open her own restaurant. She winds up buying some property from wealthy bachelor Monte Beragon, a shmoozy guy in white pants who winds up seducing her ("HEY, NICE LEGS") and making her feel young and pretty again. Business is booming! Life seems to be looking up for Mildred! She buys more and more gifts for Veda. At this particular moment Kay gets pneumonia and dies, and the Pierce's divorce is finalized. This is what we like to call "a clusterfuck."
Veda interlude: Veda is a crazy little ho. She is ashamed of her working-class family and longs to Escape into Society. As soon as Mommy is all busy and distracted Veda runs off and marries a wealthy boy that she doesn't love JUST BECAUSE HE IS WEALTHY. (Ho.) Then, rather than stay with him (and he seems nice!), she demands a divorce, claims she is pregnant, and takes the poor boy for $10,000. Mildred steps in and tears up the check, knowing Veda is lying about the baby. Veda says some horrible things ("You're poor and ugly and I hate you"), Mildred slaps her, they both cry, and Mildred says GET OUTTA MY HOUSE. So Veda is kicked out and gets to sing in nightclubs for a few years. Yay!
End Veda interlude.
Since all this happens rather fast, Mildred recuperates with a vacay in Mexico while Veda plays a poor man's Carmen Miranda with her fancy voice lessons. When Mommy comes back she decides she wants Veda again, so she makes a deal with Monte to marry him - giving him one third of the business in exchange - in order to give Veda the home life she's always longed for. Bad idea, Mildred. Monte's a perv, what, you don't have that sixth sense for perverts like all women were born with?!?! Whatever, it works, Veda makes a tearful return to her mother and things seem on the up-and-up.
One night some time later Mildred is held up at work arguing with her creditors. Monte has been bleeding the restaurant franchise dry with his expensive lifestyle and his... creepy... doting on Veda. When she returns home from this meeting, Mildred finds Veda and Monte alone. K-i-s-s-i-n-g. It is GROSS, and I would screencap it for you only I mailed the DVD back to Netflix yesterday. It's just... Veda looks like a 12-year-old. Not okay.
Even the internet doesn't have it.
Mildred is disgusted and Veda wastes no time launching into her "Well now you know, he only stayed with you to get to me anyway, blah blah blah, I can't believe you thought anyone would love you, we're going to get married, p.s. you're still poor" rant. Mildred leaves. Monte turns around and is like, "Um, I'm not marrying you" and Veda flips a cow and shoots him.
The movie ends with Veda begging her mother to cover for her to the police so she can flee JUSTICE. JUSTICE, VEDA. Fortunately, Mommy Dearest has a brief moment of Um Fuck No and Veda is sent to jail. Outside the courthouse Mildred is met by her (sympathetic?) ex-husband and the movie fades out with the reassurance that they will make a life together again.

Stars: 4 of 5 for quality, 3 of 5 for re-watchability

*I watched this before TGNM, but posted in reverse. Anal-retentive me demands accurate numbering.

#34: Three Guys Named Mike

Starring: Jane Wyman, Van Johnson, Howard Keel, Barry Sullivan
Dir: Charles Walters (1951)

Sick at home under my baby quilt, all dosed up on DayQuil and gypsy tea with loads of honey, it's time to attack the Netflix instant queue!! Starting with the inexplicable Three Guys Named Mike (no, wait, it has Howard Keel. It's explicable now)!!
In TGNM, Jane Wyman plays Marcy, a high-energy Type A kind of gal who loves to fix problems and help people and is always full of adorable ideas! Doesn't she seem cut out to be an airline stewardess? Well, she is. She is going to school to be an airline stewardess. NICE.
Nobody seems to be able to make up their mind throughout this movie whether Marcy is a wide-eyed small-town girl always adorably messing things up (but nobody minds because she's so cute) or if she's just a blandified American 1950s version of Amelie. But whichever she is, I like her. "Rules weren't made for Marcy," remarks one Mike. Yeah, in like two scenes of the movie, one of which involves her letting a DOG ONTO A PLANE. Sounds a little bit IGNORANT to me. But oh well, if that's her tagline, I'll go with it.
The premise of this movie is that Marcy is likable, and she happens to meet a few guys in a short period of time that all decide to like her. And they are all named Mike. And they are all met by her through the WILD AND WONDERFUL WORLD OF AIR TRAVEL, which I imagine was still exciting in 1951 and apparently wanted to do little as an industry to counter the slutty-stewardess thing through propaganda like this.
Yes, that is all there is to the premise.
Mike #1 is Howard Keel, who I was rooting for until I remembered that Van Johnson got top billing and I was probably setting myself up for a disappointment. He appears early in the film wearing some sweet shades and singing a bum-de-dum-dee tune to himself in a sweet white car. Marcy has a flat on her way to the airport so he gives her a ride, she says she's a stewardess and he asks her how she likes her work, Oh she likes it fine but those pilots are real assholes, thank you, goodbye! But when she arrives on the tarmac and boards her first flight feeling all kinds of nervous HE'S THE PILOT!
In this wonderful scene Mike #1 gets mad at Marcy and makes fun of her while Sexy Copilot cracks up over on the left. Note to viewer: I don't think Sexy Copilot is actually supposed to be cracking up... And that is why this scene is wonderful.
OH BA DUM PSH! It is Awk-town, population: Mike and Marcy for a while until she starts being cute and bringing him his lunch, and we get a really winning montage of multiple meals being presented to Mike #1 until he finally starts smiling and winking at her in adorable moments like this (how else do you win a man over, anyway?):
Marcy meets Mike #2 (Van Johnson) some time later on a flight. He is aloof and reading a big heavy book so she thinks he must be a Very Important Person and spends the duration of the flight trying to get his attention. Somehow this involves telling a little girl sitting near Mike #2 to look out at the stars, whereupon Mike #2 gets all show-offy and starts being like ACTUALLY ASTRONOMY KNOWLEDGE BLAH BLAH and being rude and Marcy is like Fine well if you want to be that way and gives him this sassy look:
(Pure sass-afrass.)
Later she finds out Mike #2 is a graduate student and part-time bartender and they bond over the fact that he loves teaching and lighting up the eyes of children with knowledge and truth and love, and hey, Marcy's mom was a teacher too.
Mike #3 is an asshole she meets when her car battery dies and he very sleazily helps her fix it. I will spend very little time on Mike #3 because he SUCKS. He is TOO OLD and he is GROSS. Unfortunately, he also has one of the best "bits" with Marcy, where they pretend they are already married and talk about the six kids and the cat and the governess, and it is all very cute and funny until he starts grabbing her hand and fondling it and smooshing his lips on it and being like "Marcy, I think you'd like living life the way I do, you see, I'm an advertising man" or some baloney.
Basically the movie carries on and I get increasingly confused because I can't tell who I'm supposed to root for, although that may be the cough medicine. The Three Mikes meet and instantly hate one another and battle for the last thirty minutes or so for Marcy's affections, they all help her move into her new apartment (so cute! Helpful men!) and try to out-muscle each other, and at the culmination of the film they fight each other all the way to the tarmac to send Marcy off to Dallas or somewhere with their marriage proposals.
Proposal #1 (Cute and tall Mike.)
Proposal #2 (GROSS MIKE.)
Proposal #3 (Humble Scientist Mike.)
Not actually a proposal but should have been (Sexy Copilot.)
Well Marcy chooses the humble scientist and there's the end of the movie. It was cheesy and short and formulaic, but in all I actually enjoyed it a great deal. Jane Wyman was very endearing and, while I hate to see Howard Keel bested by Bland Johnson, the romance is sweet. Marcy almost made me want to be peppy and energetic and start lighting up other people's lives, but then I remembered that I'm home with a sinus infection and can't even make my own bed. Sigh. Maybe this movie is about accepting limitations?

Stars: 3.5 of 5. It is insubstantial and cute.

**Further notes about this movie:
-A lot of the scenes are shot in one take. Some are quite long!
-Marcy's girlfriends are really cute
-Marcy in a sarong makes me want to watch South Pacific
-Howard Keel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#32: Something in the Wind

Starring: Deanna Durbin, John Dall, Donald O'Connor
Dir: Irving Pichel (1947)

Boy do I love me some Deanna Durbin. Look at her! Isn't she adorable?!? Hope you're ready for shit-tons of screencaps and a horrible synopsis!
In Something in the Wind, Deanna plays Mary Collins, host of a radio program that's about to go off the air due to lack of funds. Poor little Mary, the program just consists of her sitting barefoot on a desk, spinning her own records and singing her own songs. She sure could use some money! And shucks, she seems like a nice girl.
In case you missed it, this is DEANNA DURBIN we're talking about. She is a TALENTED LADY.
One day Mary is met outside her studio by Donald Reed, wealthy heir of a local millionaire, who informs her that his Grandfather Reed has died and the financial relationship existing between Papa Reed and herself must now come to an end. There are a few unsavory hints about the nature of this relationship (as in SEX FOR MONEY). Mary has no idea what he's talking about, he hints insultingly a few more times, she tells him to piss off, he storms out, end of scene. Fast forward and Mary's elderly aunt confesses to her that when she was a governess in the Reed household, she and Papa Reed fell in love and he has been supporting their family with monthly checks ever since. This explains why the Reed estate would be cutting them off, but not why Mary is being accused of having an affair with Pops. Poor Mary hardly has time to digest this fact, however, before she is KIDNAPPED BY THE REED FAMILY!!
"I realize how hard it must be for this family to get people to come calling, but this really is too much!"
WHOA! Turns out all the Reeds are under the impression that Mary was a mistress of the late Reed Senior, and are now prepared to buy her off in order to subdue any scandal!! Yeesh! This family is INTENSE! Papa Reed, peeps should just be honest with each other, am I right? There ain't no baby.
Mary would at first like very much to remove this misunderstanding, but, realizing that a great deal of money is actually being offered to her (she could save her radio program!) and deciding that the Reeds pretty much suck anyway, she decides to play along as the fallen woman. She quickly invents a lovechild and demands a million dollars to keep her mouth shut. She shamelessly enjoys sending the whole horrible family into hysterics with threats of bad publicity, refusals to sign any settlement papers, and vivid descriptions of Donald's "darling baby uncle."
Mary bears up under vicious attacks on her character.

Mary and poor cousin Charles (Donald O'Connor) become fast friends during this process. Charles is in love with Donald's fiancee, and since Mary already hates Donald for insulting her, the two team up to destroy Donald's engagement and cause general misery. Creepy Uncle Chester chooses this moment to pop out from some behind some furniture. He's the same guy who played Deanna's dad in Three Smart Girls, isn't that funny? This family is all over the place.
What are you doing, Uncle Chester? "Hiding!"
The plot speeds up now as Charles takes matters into his own hands, convinced he can split up Donald's engagement faster if he can just persuade Donald to seduce Mary (?) and then arrange for this seduction to be witnessed by Clarissa, the fiancee. Donald is sort of stupid and agrees to go along, because... if Mary likes him... she will take his money? Or something. Don't ask questions. This is basically an excuse to take Deanna to a fashion show and have her wear this incredible sequin-y get-up, along with buckets of innuendo at Donald's expense. 
"You want it to get around town that I am Mrs. Reed? Why Donald, this is so sudden."
Deanna is a far cry from muffins and milk in this movie, and may I say I find her adorable?! In this scene she sings a wonderful song about mistresses and gets to sit on Donald's lap. Clarissa walks in and of course sees the whole thing, so TA-DA engagement over! I really want to recount this full scene blow-by-blow because it is actually hilarious, but I'm afraid to ruin it. 
"I'm insanely jealous." :D
Okay now moving on.
Back at the house, Donald tries once more to fake-seduce Mary. This time it works. There is a full moon, Charles hires a band to play outside the window, Mary wears one of her new fancy boob-enhancing gowns from the fashion show, and Donald turns off the lamps. Watching a poor woman's Jimmy Stewart try to nuzzle up and bust a move is definitely one of this movie's biggest selling points.

Donald: "You seem to be a very intelligent person, Miss Collins - Mary - 
and, if I may add, very attractive."
Mary: "Well, I wouldn't know! Personally, I've never appealed to myself in that way."

Before you know it, the movie magic takes its hold, Mary sings a song with the band, and BOOM! Fireworks! They kiss! And... it's the real deal!!
Donald looks like a great kisser. And look, he accessorizes!
They confess their true attraction to each other (as a viewer you just shut up and take it) and Mary goes to bed that night blissfully in love. Unfortunately, Mother Reed has witnessed this all from her bedroom window. She comes to Mary's room to convince her that any romance with Donald is impossible (blah blah blah poor, blah blah blah family duty, blah blah blah fake bastard child). Mary is finally subdued and leaves the house the next morning without saying goodbye to Donald. WILL THEY EVER BE TOGETHER AGAIN??
I'm going wrap up the rest with a slideshow so as not to spoil the wonderful ending! Well, okay, some hints too: Jail. Alcohol. Duet. And... ballet?

In this scene, Charlie drinks the soda and Donald drinks the alcohol. They both get drunk.
Deanna sings her way out of jail again. This time it's Il Trovatore with Jan Peerce of the Metropolitan Opera.
Another great kiss with Donald!
"That's just a sample of the work done on this machine."*
There you go!

Stars: 4.5 out of 5

*I'm not making that up. He actually says that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

#31: The Heiress

Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson
Dir: William Wyler (1949)

Sexiest elbow grab in the history of film
Let's start with the plot. Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) is plain, unappealing, and wealthy. As she ages, her critical and overbearing father becomes resigned to her spinsterhood, but her aunt continues to trot her out for parties Just In Case. Then one night the dashing Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) meets her at a dance and she instantly falls head over heels. He is sweet, intelligent, doting, and... poor. Olivia's overprotective father takes one look and instantly suspects him because, you know, nobody could love his stupid daughter and if Monty is poor then he can only want one thing, right? Once Monty proposes to Olivia, Dad steps in to prevent the wedding. Olivia vows their love is real, so he threatens to cut off her inheritance as a test. And here's where the movie starts to suck - Dad's right. Monty instantly bails, and the now-destitute Olivia is supposed to be grateful for this deliverance.
But it hurts!! Olivia really is unappealing, yet you want to believe Monty has seen the good in her. She really is unlovable, but, as she herself hopes, might he not have seen past her awkwardness and loved her for her virtue? Maybe?? Unfortunately, no. So the fact all along that the only two men in her life who ever claimed to love her both see her as unwomanly, unlovely, and a disappointment, finally becomes clear to her. And it breaks her.
First, full disclosure: I thought Morris loved Catherine. I really did. I believed in Monty's earnest face, his awkward smile, his adorable shoulders-to-waist ratio and empty dance card. Ten minutes in and I was squealing and screencapping and clapping my little hands in glee! Daddy was a tyrant! True love would conquer all! Catherine would get married and loosen up a little and have a baby with Monty and then everything would be perfect in the end! Monty would be her deliverance, Catherine vowed that he would "love her for all those who didn't!"
Sexiest hand-kiss in the history of film
But by the final third of the movie, as the score grew gloomy and foreboding and Catherine started getting her Fierce on, I realized I was about to be disappointed. And I got mad. I pounded the couch cushions, I yelled at the screen, I would not accept the injustice. Right up to the last moment I thought something, somehow, might magically make it right. I thought Monty's mustache meant he was really a new man. But Dad, now dead, was still right.

Austin: "Your grace? Your charm? Your quick tongue and subtle wit?... Catherine, I've tried for months not to be unkind but it's time for you to realize the truth... 
A hundred women are prettier, a thousand more clever, but you have one virtue that outshines them all. Your money. You have nothing else."
Catherine: "He does not love me for that!"
Austin: "I've known you all your life and I've yet to see you learn anything. With one exception, my dear - you embroider neatly."

(Try not turning into a bitter old spinster after hearing something like that. From your dad.)

So, after the credits rolled, while cranking "The Man That Got Away" and cleaning my kitchen in a fit of frustration, I finally realized something: The cruel transformation, the life-altering betrayal, the steely life of solitude and abandonment - it was a Jane Austen novel without salvation. Morris Townsend is what happens to naive, sheltered women right before they get rescued by a Mr. Darcy ("We knew each other growing up, the man's a douche. Buuuuuuuuuut, here's me..."). And I realized that I was no wiser than Lydia or Marianne, that Morris was indeed a fortune-hunting douchebag, and so my wee little heart broke.
But could YOU say no to that face??
Before that moment, however, I believed in romance. Monty filling out the dance card. Catherine giggling with Aunt Penniman. The elbow grab. Austin's horrible rant against Monty in the sitting room, and Monty being so brave.
The every-present chamois gloves.
I realized watching Catherine ascend the stairs that I am not a Strong Woman. I'm not made of that steely stuff. But... here's my thought. If not being a Strong Woman lands me with anything near Montgomery Clift in my late-plain-30s...

I don't think I mind.

Stars: 4 of 5

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#30: My Foolish Heart

Starring: Susan Hayward, Dana Andrews
Dir: Mark Robson (1949)

Oh, Susan. Oh, Dana. Oh, My Foolish Heart.
So I'll admit that from the instant I saw J.D. Salinger's name in the credits I was prepared to hate this story. And I almost did. I'm sure the only reason I liked it at all was because it was in movie form, and my darling Dana carried the lead. If I'd had to read PHONEY PHONEY BLAH BLAH BLAH ANGST LOVE KILLS AND EVERYONE DIES OH LOOK THE WATER I WANT TO KILL MYSELF as I imagine it appeared in the New Yorker, I wouldn't have bothered. J.D. SALINGER I HATE YOU!
Okay, sorry.
I did like the movie overall. Susan Hayward's acting is new to me since I've only seen her in pictures, but I think I like her. I heard she got an Oscar nomination for this role which on the one hand is Oh my lord old Hollywood, the things you used to reward*, and on the other hand is Neat! Of course I think she did a far more convincing job being the horrible alcoholic Eloise, probably because she was nowhere near college-age in this film, and portraying a naive twenty-year-old was a stretch at best. BUT she was still good as old Eloise. And her white lacy dress at the dance reminded me sooo much of Liz Taylor's white dress in A Place in the Sun, which was a plus. And then there was the whole thing that followed of how illegitimate babies ruin lives and kill innocent people and destine you for a life of misery, like in APITS. Also, she just looked like Liz Taylor to me. In the mouth, I think? Since that fact distracted me a great deal through the film, let's be honest and say that's about all I have to say for Susan, and we can move on now to DANA.
Oh, Dana. OOOOOOOOOH, Dana. He is too old for his part as well, maybe (this was after Best Years), but who cares - I love him. Every time I branch out with my Dana education I am impressed by how good of an actor he is. He speaks the same way, carries himself the same way, in every way seems totally effortless, and yet he creates a hugely different impression in every role. Wow this is totally the way all shitty bloggers sound when they try to describe good acting. I CAN'T ARTICULATE OKAY? IT'S JUST HOW IT IS. I love him SO much, but he can always surprise me. I guess that's how I tell a good old actor from another. And let's be honest, a lot of old actors suck**.
Dana isn't meant to be a 100% good through and through love interest in My Foolish Heart, but I guess that's just because he's doing this whole sex-before-marriage-I-don't-love-you-yet thing in a black and white movie and my standards for black and white movies are TRUE LOVE! And BUFFALO GALS! And OPEN POST OFFICE BOX 237 AND TAKE ME OUT OF MY ENVELOPE AND KISS ME! It's clear enough that he's a good person, he's just disenchanted (in that horrible J.D. Salinger way) and looks more like a real person than a Love Interest usually does. The way he wooed Eloise was kind of threatening, which I admit did loads for his sex appeal, but still kept me on guard until the movie played out and proved his worth. Ahhh Dana!
Example: The scene in his apartment, with Mendelssohn, on the couch. I just kept thinking "OH SUSAN DON'T DO IT!" but then "DAMN IT GIRL I TOTALLY WOULD I DON'T BLAME YOU I GUESS AAHH!" And then, while I still think the young Eloise was less convincing than old Eloise, this line she said before leaving his apartment punched my gut with how much it reminded me of real life, especially because she looked so sad:
"I wish this wasn't just a buildup. I wished you liked me a little."

So he says he likes her. And he wants her to stay for sexytimes. And she won't. (Again, this sucks! She wants him to like her! But, morals!) And finally he leans over, kisses her "the way he would a rich but loathsome aunt," and she goes to leave.
And of course she feels silly and tries to show up again two minutes later and bust a move, but he sends her home. And then, then, dear viewer, you know it's okay to love him.

As a side note, I also love that once she leaves he pretends like he's going to clean his apartment for a minute. But then he doesn't, and just takes his clothes off instead.
The rest of the movie is just really sad. There's the whole Fallen Woman thing which I have a hard time with, though I do love how Eloise doesn't try to force Walt to marry her. I also feel that Walt's reluctance to go to war and his numb feeling, being a "serial number in a platoon in a company in an Army," could have been better elaborated. Maybe it was too soon after the war to put that sort of attitude in a mainstream movie. Who knows. BUT. Ugh.

All in all, I liked it, but I won't be returning to My Foolish Heart anytime soon. It was very sad, and I don't like seeing Dana die. I do, however, like seeing him do this:

Because that's what I give Netflix twenty bucks a month for.

Stars: 3.5 of 5

*Boys Town. Just... Boys Town.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

#29: My Favorite Wife

Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant
Dir: Garson Kanin (1940)

So once again I waited too long between the movie-watching and the post-writing, and I have few recollections worth putting down now. I remember being vaguely put off by how implausible the movie was (supposedly on purpose, but still). Mainly the annoying part of my brain was just going "OMG IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANYONE TO BE THIS WELL-ADJUSTED AFTER SEVEN YEARS STRANDED ON AN ISLAND and also WHY DOESN'T SHE HAVE HELLA SUN DAMAGE NOW and also WHY IS HER HAIR STILL REALLY SHORT?" But beyond that... and it is hard to get beyond that since the whole movie is a screwball comedy based around a classic ("Enoch Arden") premise that is actually pretty loaded... it is pretty much as good as it should be. I always like seeing Irene Dunne and Cary Grant together, although so far my favorite is (and probably will continue to be) The Awful Truth, just because of all the good fights!
My personal preference is not to see Cary Grant doing the doofy, pop-eyed reaction shots I feel he does a lot of in this film as well as Arsenic and Old Lace. I prefer him being fast-talking, wise-cracking, athletic, or all of the above. That being said, though, there are a good number of adorable scenes scattered throughout My Favorite Wife which is an otherwise standard screwball (full disclosure: not usually my favorite style of comedy). For example, the scene where Cary Grant practices his confession to his second wife in the lobby of their hotel building is adorable. Another when he tries to convince Irene Dunne that he is on an airplane while inside a phone booth is pretty damn cute too.
Need I mention as well the final scene where he runs in and out of her room with a million lame excuses like a Pontipee brother trying to get her to invite him in? Culminating in this??
And Irene Dunne manages to be adorable the whole time as well. I always thought I hated her ever since I first saw her in Roberta (any enemy of Ginger's is an enemy of mine!) but those days are gone. She is CUTE. Also, she altered her own skirt in the powder room. That lady is a stud.

Beyond that, I'm sorry to report I have little to say. Basically the whole time I was just wanting to re-watch The Awful Truth. This is sounding like a bad review - it wasn't bad, it was just not my most favoritest genre. Also... I have never liked Randolph Scott. Even in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. He was just never cute, never funny, always a little bit of a butt. There, I've got it off my chest! Sorry, Cary, I know you were buds...

Stars: 3.25 of 5 because I'm finnicky

P.S. Cute moment to make up for stupid review:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

#28: Reaching for the Moon

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Bebe Daniels, Edward Everett Horton
Dir: Edmund Goulding (1931)

And this is where shit gets REAL. All I can say about this movie is OH EM GEE. My sister insisted that this movie was fondly remembered somewhere in the back of her brain and we should give it a try and see. The fact that Bing Crosby had top billing for it on Netflix was kind of confusing, but that's just because he sings a song in it (sounding surprisingly un-Bing-ly, although he was only a baby at the time) which is totally no big deal although kind of a fun fact. The REAL point of the movie, however, is this:
This man. This man right here.
Seriously, words cannot explain. This man speaks to my soul across the years. There I am thinking that Bebe Daniels has big feet, and then he SAYS that she has big feet. Obviously, we share thoughts. We share alcohol intolerance too. It is like we were always meant to be.

Story-wise, Douglas Fairbanks Love of My Life plays Larry Day, a wealthy man who has no interest in women and no skills in wooing them. Then Vivien, a saucy aviatrix played by Bebe Daniels, bets a friend that she can get Larry out on a date. She wins - Larry is smitten, they set up a date, and Vivien... inexplicably... stands him up and hops on a boat to Europe ("Ha! Ha! Ha!"). Proving that Rules girls totally know where it's at, Larry is SO smitten following her rejection that he sneaks onto the boat to follow her, pretends to be a lecherous French steward in her bedroom (it's dark and he's hot), and then chases her around to pester her in random shirtless scenes like this:

Basically Vivien decides she likes him after all but she doesn't know how to show it, so he becomes convinced she's still leading him on and they have a little bit of trouble (hint: she's secretly engaged) and he thinks she's taking advantage of him and they fight. Somewhere in there everyone drinks a really potent cocktail and Larry dances on the walls like this.
Yeah what's up he's adorable.
Anyway, things end up fine -- they always do -- and it gets tied up with a neat little bow. Huzzah. The main thing is not the plot though, which is standard, but the OH MY GOD CUTENESS of the whole thing. I should admit that I was a little worried at first to see Douglas in a talkie. After feeling the first flutterings of appreciation from Mark of Zorro I was afraid of him sounding squeaky and horrible, maybe being older and less attractive... But the talking Fairbanks is basically ten million times hotter. Trust. You get to hear the sexy smoker's voice and the constant laughing that explains his perpetual doofy Zorro grin, and the adorable high-pitched noises he makes when he jumps and tumbles, and the way he fakes his French accent... he delivers classic lines, like "When madame disrobes for bed, anything is liable to explode!"

(Just in case it hasn't been made clear, I am completely sold on Douglas Roundface Fairbanks. Lock, stock, and barrel. Baby and bathwater. Eggs in one basket, etc.)

Bad: Nothing.
Good: EVERYTHING and hey, I almost forgot! My boo Edward Everett Horton of Busby Berkeley fame plays probably the only obviously gay character in the history of classic movies, and is also hilarious! He and Douglas have several utterly adorable scenes together, mostly where Horton is trying to coach Douglas in how to "make a lady."
Uncle Eddie also has one of my favorite lines in the entire movie - although it is difficult to choose - when he drinks his cocktail and promptly exits, saying, "There's a Polish woman in the second cabin. A blonde. I may be two hours. I can't tell. Who knows. *snaps*"


Stars: 4.5 of 5

#27: Why Change Your Wife?

Starring: Gloria Swanson, Thomas Meighan, Bebe Daniels
Dir: Cecil B. DeMille (1920)

Warning you in advance: Cutest movie EVER. Gloria Swanson is Beth, the uptight and bookish wife of a curly-haired man who likes dogs and is named Robert. (Robert is not that cute, let's just get that out of the way.)
Robert likes to do fun things like listen to foxtrots and smoke cigars buy fancy undies for his wife. Beth likes to enjoy an evening of classical music and then put on her frumpy glasses (no!) and go to bed with a book (NO!!). She also HATES to wear undies in front of her husband... she puts clothes on underneath them. Needless to say, Robert and Beth are having no fun.
Next thing you know, some little hussy from his past is stalking the curly-haired hubby and inviting him to her apartment to have drinks and listen to foxtrots (his weakness) and next thing you know THEY HAVE KISSED. (Bebe Daniels a.k.a. Sally is the hussy on the left.)
Blah blah blah Beth finds out, she and Robert get a divorce, and she is all wound up about it and miserable. Robert is shamed into marrying the hussy (because KISSES MAKE BABIES). Then Beth overhears some little snitches in a dressing room saying how it's about time Robert found a wife that was more fun anyway. (Apparently this kind of thing was put in newspapers back in the day - the mind boggles!) So, rather than getting all furious-and-a-half and telling off the beezies, Beth decides that they are right and she immediately buys a bunch of exciting new clothes, stating the first principal of emancipated women everywhere: "I'll take this and six more; and make them sleeveless, backless, transparent, indecent - go the limit!"
Shortly after, Robert and Beth are reunited when Beth goes to vacation at the hotel where Robert and Sally are honeymooning. Robert is immediately stricken by Beth's new look (read: visible ankles) and the spark is rekindled. Apparently the fact that Robert was a cheater is not a problem with Beth anymore. She also likes dogs now. Can't they just be in love again?? But ROBERT IS MARRIED!
Anyway it goes on from there and gets very action-packed toward the end (someone gets hospitalized for slipping on a banana peel, someone threatens someone else with a bottle of acid, someone wears a caped swimsuit and knee-high gladiator sandals... to lunch), but to save myself from both spoiling all the thrilling action and making this thing too damn long, everything works out and they are super cute.

Bad: There's a creepy violinist. I try to avoid discussing him because he is SO TRAUMATIZING. His hands are huge and his tummy is weird and he wears the most offensive swimming ensemble I have ever seen in my entire life, bar none, AND THEN TRIES TO HIT ON PEOPLE WHILE WEARING IT. Seriously. I would screencap it but this browser would die from shame.
Good: Everything!! Gloria Swanson is sooooooooooooo cute in this, I want to die. I can't believe it is the same Gloria Swanson from Beyond the Rocks, she is just a million times more endearing and wonderful. All the titles are cute and snarky, all the costumes are insanely horrible in a kind of entertaining way, you get little gems like this thrown around too --
and so forth. DAMN THOSE SHREWISH WIVES AND THEIR BOOKS. This is like every ugly duckling story every told, except better, and AWESOME.
Do it. Even if Robert isn't cute, it is so worth it. Honestly if he was any cuter this movie would probably freak out and break the scales of awesome anyway, and then I'd have to develop a new ranking system... boo.

Stars: 4 of 5

#26: The Mark of Zorro

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite de la Motte
Dir: Fred Niblo (1922)

Okay, so here's the thing about Douglas Fairbanks.
Like, where to begin. Sort of short, sort of slouches, really bad hair (in this movie anyway), sort of round face with a sort of fat chin thing going on? Also, cheesy drawn-on mustache. Also, I've seen Antonio Banderas do this shit and he's, like, a comparative ten out of ten.
So riddle-me-this.
HOW does this short odd man manage to accomplish enough swashbuckling, hat-chewing, over-wall-leaping, and scarf trickery in a 90-minute period to capture my heart? HOW IS'T DONE? HOW IS'T ACCOMPLISHED? HOW IS THE LOFTY BARRICADE 'ROUND MY LOVE SCALED AND VANQUISHED BY A SMALL MAN WHO JUMPS HIGH?

Nevermind, 'twas done.

The first half of the movie was kind of slow, there were lots of natives being done wrong by the creepy Count of Something, this uptight Lolita beezy was all like "NO LE TOUCHE PAS" and Zorro was pretending not to be Zorro. But then a little ways in it started to get exciting - he was fighting people and being chased around and leaping high and twirling and thrusting and winning my love, et cetera. And he had to pretend to be this boring, awful nobleman who was always taking naps in the middle of the day (SUCH a turn-off, unless you knew he was just scuttling through the grandfather clock to go be Zorro instead) and doing obnoxious tricks with his hat. Not gonna lie, the love interest in this movie was like no big deal. But watching him mess with her was worth it.
And by the end, like I said, I was even jealous to see her get to do this.

Bad: All the scenes that didn't involve fighting and running and swashing and buckling were kinda whatever, and his love interest was a snooty little butt. I mean, I get that that creepy dude was totally imposing himself on her virtue or whatever, but she didn't have to be such a RUDE GUSS about it. Even if Zorro-pretending-not-to-be-Zorro was pretending not to care... I mean, he SO totally did! He just couldn't give himself away and jeopardize the fate California! Whatevs.
Good: Hugely relieved that I can like Douglas Fairbanks. (JUST WAIT UNTIL TALKIES OMG.) Because he jumps and swings and flies and flips and that shit has worked on me since I was knee-high to a grape watching Frank in Seven Brides... yeah, nbd.

Stars: 3.5 of 5 (because it gets better...)