When I rewatched this one recently, I fell in love all over again with Robert Mitchum’s character (OK — and with Mr. Mitchum himself). This one is a true classic…a film that gets very little attention during the holiday season, but should be up there with those notables Miracle on 34th Street and The Bishop’s Wife. Mitchum plays a wandering ex-Army man, who really just wants to make enough money to move to California and build boats. But, to save for the trip, he works retail stores at Christmas. Janet Leigh plays a widowed single mother who works as a comparison shopper…going from store to store buying things to compare prices at different places. She encounters Mitchum during one of her buys and the sparks start from the get-go. Even though she has a fella who’s sweet on her, she and her adorable son gravitate to the charming and debonair Mitchum. I mean, I sure would. Wouldn’t you?

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The teaming of the comedy team of Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and director George Cukor leads to comic mayhem as a bright rich girl steals her sister’s fiancée, a struggling young lawyer. Not the most famous of the Grant/Hepburn/Cukor pairings (The Philadelphia Story would have to take that prize) but I feel it’s the best. The comedy has a quirky, strange quality that makes it unconventional, which might be why it was not initially received as a classic, but it’s not too strange to miss this wonderful film.

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The Heiress is a magnificent film that defies 1940s Hollywood logic…the woman and man do not walk into the sunset hand-in-hand. Actually, what is even more defiant for a film of this era is a woman having power over a man. Yes, 1940s were the days of the powerful woman in Hollywood: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, etc. But, the films those women were in were mostly about tough ladies who needed the love of a good man to set them straight. The Heiress is nothing like that. The film begins by setting the stage that shy, naïve Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland), the wealthy daughter of a stern New England doctor, played beautifully by Sir Ralph Richardson, will probably never marry. Catherine is plain, timid, and lacks what, as her father claims, men look for in future wives…aside, of course, from her money. Enter Montgomery Clift’s Morris Townsend, who takes a liking to Catherine but her father disapproves and believes Townsend is just an opportunist. By now I’m sure you’re wondering where the “powerful” woman enters the picture. Well, Catherine learns quite a few life lessons over the course of the film and in the end she is a strong, confident woman who knows exactly what she wants and doesn’t want. Even though George Cukor was known in Hollywood circles as being the best “ladies director,” I feel that director William Wyler gives Cukor tough competition here and with some of his other movies (Roman Holiday, Mrs. Miniver, Jezebel, Funny Girl , etc.). This film is a tour de force for de Havilland (she won the Oscar), but Wyler’s brave direction increases both the power of Catherine and the tone of the whole film.

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Mike Nichols’ controversial film about Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman, in his film debut), a recently out of college lost-soul who begins an affair with his parent’s friend, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), just out of boredom. The affair allows him to procrastinate on other important decisions like graduate school and/or getting a job, much to his parents’ chagrin. More problems occur when he falls in love with the Robinsons’ daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross). This film did as much for the 1960’s rebellion as it did for both the careers of Simon and Garfunkel and Mike Nichols, who earned an Oscar for his cutting edge direction.

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One of the most loved and acclaimed movies of the 20th Century, Gone with the Wind is the winner of eight Academy Awards®, including Best Picture. Best Actress® winner Vivien Leigh stars as Scarlett O’Hara, who is simply one of the most timeless characters in cinema history, not to mention one of the prettiest Southern Belles ever. Starting in Margaret Mitchell’s iconic novel on life in the South before, after, and during the Civil War, Scarlett became engrained in the American consciousness as the epitome of beauty and selfishness. She spends most of her time pining over a man she can never have (Ashley Wilkes), and when she can finally have him, she wants the one she has had all along (the infamous Rhett Butler). Her fickleness, somehow though, comes off mostly as charming…the men in her life just simply understand that this is how she is. And every time she is let down by one of her beaus, her Mammy (Hattie McDaniel in her Oscar®- winning performance as Best Supporting Actress) is right there to help Scarlett survive. After all, tomorrow is another day!

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As critics and audiences alike call this their favorite James Bond film, I guess I am no longer alone in thinking this is one of the best spy films ever made. There is very little wrong with Goldfinger and what is wrong is very easily overlooked because of the strong plot and even stronger characters. With many series, the filmmakers begin to wane and rest on their successes when number three (or so) comes along. But, this is the case where the third film truly is the charm. Number one in the series Dr. No and two (From Russia with Love) just seem like practice in order to get to this third installment in the Bond series. Bond creator and author Ian Fleming got the title Goldfinger from the villain’s name…a man who is obsessed with gold. Truly. And the actor who plays the man-in-gold (Gert Fröbe) fits the bill perfectly. Sean Connery’s Bond also comes into his own in this film. In Dr. No he seemed a little unsure of himself and in From Russia with Love, it was the opposite…he seems TOO confident as the super-spy. Here, Connery shows the right tone of power, control and fear. And the plot is also one of the best ever in a Bond film…with Frobe’s Goldfinger trying to destroy the gold in Fort Knox so his mass amounts of gold increase considerably in value. But, for Bond films, plot always seems to take a back seat to the gadgets, romance and action. Here, at least, they made an attempt at a story…and did a great job in the process. No worries, though. There are lots of gadgets, action and romance. Promise.

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Did you ever look for something and it’s not where you remember putting it but the next time you look, it’s there? Sure, it happens to all of us occasionally and we think “I’m losing my mind.” In a second or two, that thought is replaced with something else and we forget about our minor brain lapse. But, what if things like that would continue to happen? What if we kept seeing things and hearing thing and doubting our sanity…little occurrences at first and then major things like losing pieces of jewelry and misplacing practically everything…? Well, Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight experiences all of these things plus more. Her husband, played with cruel intensity by Charles Boyer, might or might not be “helping” her out in the insanity department. Regardless, he becomes less and less sympathetic with her as she slips more and more out of reality. The audience never really knows whether Bergman is insane or not. I mean she hears footsteps above her…and we hear them too…but it’s not until the end until the plot is uncovered. Director George Cukor directs this so passionately that at times it has the feel of a horror film. When the light from the gaslights dims, the look on Bergman’s face is pure terror…as if she was being tortured. And…as you come to find out…she is. But how…and by whom????

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The Day of the Jackal was a surprise to me. I have tried other 1960s/1970s-era spy films and had not liked them…The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, The Odessa File, etc. When this Fred Zimmemann film came on cable one night, I begrudgingly thought I would give it a go, but expected I’d be turning it off quickly. I didn’t. I was totally engrossed in the story and captivated by the inner workings of the main characters. The story begins in the 1960s with a failed assassination attempt on Charles de Gaulle and leads us into a web of intrigue about a secret French organization that is determined to succeed in killing then President de Gaulle. This film plays like a documentary, which makes it slower-paced and more intense. Mostly filled with unknown actors (or at least actors who are not known to me) with the exception of Derek Jacobi…playing a Frenchman, no less…The Day of the Jackal demands all of your attention. If you take your eyes away from the screen for a second, an important detail might be missed. I’ve watched this one several times since I first saw it and each viewing, I catch something new…something that makes me like the film even more. From start to finish, this one captivates…it is truly one of the best, most taut spy thrillers ever made.

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One of Newman’s best roles…in my humble opinion. OK — it also happens to be the role he probably looks his best in. Does that have something to do with it — you betcha! Playing a two-bit street kid, one of his petty crimes finally lands him in a prison…and part of a chain gang. Not wanting to be there, he makes trying to escape his new occupation…getting caught and sent back almost as often as he attempts to flee. Newman is not the only reason to watch here…George Kennedy won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as one of the fellow inmates. And the other prisoners are also great…befriending Newman, cheering him on as he flees, and welcoming him back as he returns. Not a movie for all people…ladies, be where. This is the antithesis of a “chick flick.” But, then again, you can always mute it and just look at Mr. Newman!

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A fun, entertaining holiday movie with star of stars, Barbara Stanwyck. The premise seems a bit silly, but trust me, it works. Stanwyck plays a food/homemaking columnist (remember — this is the 1940s) who cannot do anything domestic herself…just write about it. But, low and behold, she is forced to become the domestic goddess when her editor makes her practice what she preaches. Stanwyck excelled in comedies like this…low key and very smart. She’s always excellent but in scatterbrained roles like this one, she’s priceless. Not just a holiday movie either — good all year around!

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