The post Pillow Talk 1960s romantic comedies could be summed up in two words: Doris Day. The country was heading into a total transformation but good old Doris was trying her best to keep the American public firmly planted in the 1940s and 1950s, which is when romantic comedies like this shined and didn’t seem as tarnished. Don’t get me wrong…I love Doris Day. I can belt out “Que Sera Sera” in the shower with the best of ‘um (you’re going to have to take my word for it). But, by the mid-1960s, her clean image as the “good” girl was wearing a little thin. This film (one of her two pairings with co-star James Garner) is no exception. Garner (as Day’s husband) seems like a caveman in this film, always barking that his wife is not home since she’s out working! The horror!!!! But, all kidding aside, this would have to be one of my most guilty pleasures. I used to say that about Pillow Talk, but at least that film won an Oscar! This one didn’t come close but it’s just as much fun and just as sweet. The plot is silly and the dialogue is very outdated by today’s standards (or even by the mid-1960s standards) but it’s just a fun film to watch. Any film that has a pool explode into a yard-full of suds can’t be half bad, right?

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What is it about this movie that makes me so uncomfortable? Is it the continual mentioning of racial issues? Is it Selina, who is visually handicapped? Is it the way Selina’s mother treats her? Well, it is all of the above…and more. This film is a striking piece of 1960s cinema…in the heart of the Civil Rights era, it demonstrates much of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others preached…that we are all human—black, white or whatever. It also shows how truly colorblind love (all kinds of love) can be. Selina plays a very emotional abused and used blind girl who happens to encounter a distinguished Black man one day in the park. She, of course, cannot see that he is Black. He can see that she is White, but befriends her since he feels completely sorry for the situation she lives in. Yes…a Black man feeling sorry for a White girl in the 1960s. Well, like I said, this movie is about being truly BLIND to color. It’s about the human condition and the soul of a person, rather than the race. The platonic love Sidney Poitier’s character feels toward Selina has nothing to do with her being White. And, the romantic love Selina feels toward Poitier has absolutely nothing to do with his color, since she doesn’t even know what he looks like. A fabulous film about how racial and social situations matter very little compared to matters of the heart.

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Everytime I see this one, for some reason I always forget the twists and turns it takes, which is good since that of course increases the suspense for me. This is a prime example of wonderful melodramatic noir films of the post-WWII era…maybe even the best example. Not as serious as Laura, (or as good) and not as over-the-top as some (such as the Joan Crawford campy classic Mildred Pierce), The Postman Always Rings Twice is a perfect mix of murder and sex. Based on the short novel written by the same author as Pierce and another murder/sex film noir classic Double Indemnity, James M. Cain, Postman finds drifter John Garfield drifting to a roadside gas station/café owned by a older guy and his sultry, younger wife, Cora, who puts the D in DAME and the X in SEX. Lana Turner has never had to play up her sensual self as much as in this film…she seems to just sizzle each time the camera is on her. And Garfield does a good job of catering to her…not being able to resist, but putting up just enough resistance to lead to trouble. Basically, a great potboiler for those cold, lonely nights.

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Ninotchka is most famous and known for that fact that it’s a Greta Garbo comedy. Garbo was a well-known actress…iconic almost…so when she made her first comedy, I guess it was natural that the film’s tagline of “Garbo Laughs” revolves around only her and not around the movie, director, or other cast members. Don’t get me wrong…Garbo is great in this classic, though I feel that she is a excellent part of a excellent comedy ensemble that was put together and made to work seamlessly by famed comedy director Ernst Lubitsch, who helmed other comic classics such as The Shop Around the Corner and Trouble in Paradise. Also, the screenplay here is written by a pre-directing Billy Wilder and his early partner Charles Brackett. Garbo plays a Russian who heads to Paris to check up on three comrades who are supposed to be selling some famed Russian jewels. Garbo’s character, Ninotchka, is a stern, tough woman who despises Paris and all of its lavishness. This is, until she meets Leon, who represents everything she loathes around capitalism, but she falls for him anyway. Since Wilder, Brackett and Lubitsch’s work often goes unnoticed next to Garbo’s aura, while you’re watching his masterpiece, make sure you occasionally take your eyes off the goddess and take note of the stellar filmmaking.

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Mildred Pierce is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I mean, this is an Oscar-winner (Joan Crawford won her only Academy Award for this great, over-the-top title performance), but for some reason, I always feel like I’m doing something “naughty” when I watch it. Maybe because it’s just so much fun. Not FUN on the traditional sense of a good comedy, but FUN in the fact that it’s one of the best campy melodramas ever. The story of a mother who will do anything….I mean ANYTHING…to please her spoiled brat daughter, Crawford gives one of her best performances here as the desperate, troubled Pierce who really should tell her daughter to $*%^&#&# instead of always trying to please her every selfish whim. Never is there a more evil and vindictive young female character than Pierce’s daughter, Veda. She is just AWFUL, without being actually criminal. But, what she puts her mother through is practically criminal. Watch this one for a great evening’s entertainment…and tons of melodramatic FUN.

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The Lady Eve is fun. After seeing Stanwyck in a variety of Femme Fatale roles, it’s highly enjoyable to see her back at her comic roots. And, boy does she shine here as the daughter of a con-artist who is trying to score one big grift. Henry Fonda is perfectly befuddled as her prey…I’ve never really seen Fonda in a comic role like this before and I haven’t seen him since in anything that can come close to topping this. Both actors are simply brilliant in this one. Basically, Fonda plays a wealthy, naive young man on a cruise heading up the Amazon so study his love of snakes. Enter Stanwyck and her father (played by the always-great Charles Coburn) to try and “lure” Fonda into a trap to milk him out of some of his millions. Classic Preston Sturges at his finest!

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Splendid comedy remake of Ben Hecht play The Front Page with Cary Grant as a conniving editor, Rosalind Russell as a star reporter (and Grant’s ex-wife), and Ralph Bellamy as the mama’s boy Russell is trying to marry amid a hot murder story. Terrific character actors and sharp, witty dialogue add sparkle to this must-see comedy. The frantic comic banter between Grant and Russell changed the face of comedy filmmaking. After this film, comedies became more biting and cynical, with characters not afraid to “pretend” they hate each other, even though they really are madly in love. This initial hatred allows for some great nasty dialogue, which has never been better than in this film, directed by Howard Hawks.

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OK – Loretta Young won an Oscar for her performance in this film. So, right off the bat, you might think that you’re going to see a piece of high-caliber cinema…more high-brow than fun. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. This movie is pure FUN! It’s a charming, innocent romantic comedy that stars Loretta Young as Katrin, the only daughter of Swedish immigrants who…you guessed it…own a farm. She saves up enough for nursing school in “Capital City” and heads into the real world of skyscrapers and scam artists. After losing her money to the latter, she goes to work in a mansion owned by the matriarch of a political family…who also happens to live there with her single, attractive son. WOW! What a coincidence! Please don’t think I’m poking fun at this film…but to be honest it’s more of a guilty pleasure than anything. It’s not high art and Young, even though she is just perfect as Katrin, this is not an Oscar-worthy role, per se. Oscars are won for Shakespeare and for The Lion in Winter, not sweet films where the smile doesn’t leave your face throughout. So, if you are looking for an entertaining, delightful film that you might have missed, check this one out. It’s sure to please!

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This is the classic example of film noir….more than Otto Preminger’s Laura…more than anything else of the era. Why? Well, because this one’s got everything. In a big way too….lust, murder, the perfect femme fatale, the perfect fall-guy, the perfect everything. Based on the novel by James M. Cain (who also penned The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce) and directed by Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity is a thriller from start to finish…you’re always wondering and questions and getting closer and closer to the edge of your seat. Fred MacMurray plays a sarcastic insurance salesman who catches Barbara Stanwyck’s eye when he goes to try and sell her husband some insurance. Stanwyck is unhappily married and MacMurray knows it. The one thing in their way…her husband. Like in Postman, husbands are always expendable. Stanwyck is simply the best film femme fatale ever. She’s mean without being hard. She’s cool under pressure without being too sentimental. Stylized and perfectly cast, this Wilder masterpiece set the standard for film noir films…and dared others to try and top it…which, in my opinion, no film ever did.

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Surprisingly, I didn’t see this one until I was in my 20s. I used to think Bogart was a rough, unappealing creature…that is until I saw 1954’s Sabrina and began to see him as a softer, more compassionate soul. He possesses a knack for charming women off their feet, while being just a bit brash about it. He’s still rough and tough when he needs to be, but he knows when to bring out to tough guy and when to bring out his softer side. In Sabrina, I got a sneak peak at this behavior. In Casablanca, Bogart had it perfected…his character Rick Blaine is the romantic leading man to end all romantic leading men—not because he’s OVERLY sensitive but because he’s JUST sensitive enough. Now for the story…basically it’s about a nightclub owner in Morocco during WWII (Bogart) who reunites with an old flame (Ingrid Bergman, looking her best) that he fell in love with in Paris during the German occupation of France. Complications are plentiful, such as that the “old flame” is married…to a member of the French Underground, no less, which makes him trouble to the Nazis in Casablanca. But…really the details of the plot are pretty irreverent. Why? Well, how come even though the story is rich and filled with subplots and interesting characters, people only remember the relationship between Bergman and Bogart? And even though this film is a WWII intrigue thriller, why is it mostly know for being strictly a timeless “love story?” Rent this one and see if you can put answers to these questions…

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