A great romantic comedy with a twist. Here, the couple gets married first and then they decide to get to know each other. When they do, they find out how little they have in common. This would be just a typical run-of-the-mill rom com if it weren’t for the quick, super-sharp script (which won an Oscar) and the talents of Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall. Bacall and Peck have fabulous chemistry that translates perfectly on the screen. A must see for any romantic comedy fans!
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Melodrama at its finest! Directed by high-drama master Douglas Sirk, this film will make you run the gamut of all emotions. There is scandal, affairs, wronged love, unabated passions, alcoholism, miscarriages, infertility, guns, murder, etc. Sounds good, right? Well, it is. It’s like one big soap opera, but, don’t worry. It’s a top-notch soap…with Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas and Dorothy Malone, who won a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role.
Civil War veteran Ethan spends more time wandering the West than he does with his family. When he finally comes home, he soon finds himself searching once again: this time, for his sole-surviving nieces who were kidnapped after a raid on his brother’s home by Indian chief Scar. Many consider (including myself) this the best work from the frequent collaboration of John Wayne and director John Ford. The vistas from Ford’s famed location Monument Valley never looked more stunning. Wayne never was more tormented and troubled, really showing his acting range in this one. What a brilliant combination!
Once again Judy Holliday steals the show as the quintessential ditzy blonde. Like she did in her Oscar-winning performance in Born Yesterday, Judy uses her sweet looks and high-pitched voice to full-advantage. I wouldn’t go as far as to use to word “bimbo” but you get the idea. Judy here plays a naive lady who is determined find out about the company in which she owns a few shares of stock. She attends a stockholder meeting, which throws the board members into a tizzy, especially when she digs deeper into the company and uncovers the board’s shady activities. A fun film!
Evil Robert Mitchum comes to a small, sleepy town posing as a preacher to try and win over the hearts and bank accounts of unsuspecting ladies, preferably the desperate ones. Enter Shelley Winters with no husband and two kids, making the perfect target. The best thing about this movie is Robert Mitchum. Normally a good actor who is able to play any kind of role (cowboy, cop, soldier, good guy, bad guy, etc.), this movie took the “bad guy” role to new heights. Here his devilish acts focus around children. Even with a subject matter that can be very touchy, Mitchum gives this role his all. The end result is one of the creepiest, meanest and most ruthless characters in American cinema.
What can I say? Venice. Rossano Brazzi (tall, dark, handsome, and Italian) and summer. What more is there? Add into the already-perfect mix director David Lean and star Katharine Hepburn and what you end up with is simply magical. Summertime is a movie for everyone who has ever been in love, ever wanted to be in love or ever even thought of falling head of heels in bliss. Hepburn plays a single woman in the prime of her life (someone who might be derogatorily called an old maid or a spinster) who finally fulfills her dreams of venturing to Venice. While she loves the beauty of the city, she feels forlorn at seeing all of the couples enjoying the splendors of Venice together. Soon, she encounters a shop owner (played by Brazzi) who sweeps her off her feet, even though he has more than his fair share of secrets. Their love affair changes her life and her outlook on everything, especially Venice. Director Lean (best know for his sweeping epics including Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai) uses his mastery in both capturing the magnificence of Venice and the delicateness and wonder of a love affair. Once you watch this one, you might want to head to Venice and fall in love, so be prepared to call the airlines!
Hitchcockian, according to Wikipedia, is “a general term used to describe film styles and themes similar to those of Alfred Hitchcock’s films.” Being a Hitchcock fan, this term is like nails on a chalkboard for me…when misused. And, trust me, 99% of the time, it is misused. Brian De Palma is often called “Hitchcockian.” Um, excuse me…no, he’s just a copy-cat. Basically, the term has been tossed around by film critics since the Hitchcock era to signify any decent thriller. Hitchcockian has become WAY too over-used. It should not be used for ANY thriller…good or not. Hitchcock had a certain style, a certain elegance to his films that very few (if any) filmmakers have been able to duplicate over the years. Les Diaboliques is Hitchcockian. First of all, it was made in 1955, when Hitchcock was still alive and well and avidly working (the 1950s was probably his best and most accomplished decade). The story of Les Diaboliques is about two women (the wife and the mistress) who kill a man, only the have the dead body turn up missing. There are certain key differences between this film and Hitchcock’s work, of course, such as Les Diaboliques is devoid of the usual Hitchcock humor. But, on the whole, this is a great thriller…so Hitchcockian that the Master himself felt a little jealous of French director Henri-Georges Clouzot…maybe not jealous per se, but let’s just say Les Diaboliques was such a good thriller that Hitchcock felt some pressure. Do I think Hitch broke a sweat? Well, considering that he was and always will be the one and only Master of Suspense, I think he had very little to worry about.
This 1955 British comedy from Ealing Studios may be one of most riotous dark comedies in history. The story starts off easy enough (an old London lady serves as the facilitator of criminal activities for five men until their “perfect” plan goes horribly awry) but quickly turns into a series of farcical errors, most of which end in tragedy. This film seems to use the right combination of terror and comedy to create a funny yet dark tale. Alec Guinness is the main star of the film, even though a young Peter Sellers also appears as one of the five criminals, and the “Lady” played by adorable Katie Johnson does steal the show.
Rivaling Gone with the Wind as one of the most picturesque, epic love stories ever, this one is set in Hong Kong, after WWII. Unlike GWTW, this one ends tragic, though of course, that is all I will say. Starring William Holden, who plays a war reporter, and Jennifer Jones, who plays a Eurasian doctor from China who encounters prejudice in Hong Kong, this is a sweeping tale of love and loss, happiness and sadness. With the Oscar-winning song playing in the background constantly, this film is sure to make any romantic satisfied.
Jane Wyman as a middle-aged widow and Rock Hudson as her young gardener…sounds familiar, right? Well, the 2002 film Far From Heaven was loosely based on the plot. The biggest difference between the modern-day interpretation and the 1955 melodrama is that it was considered HIGHLY scandalous for an older woman to be involved with a younger man back then. Today, that would raise little more than an eyebrow, if that. In addition to the powerful, yet out-dated story, this film, directed by Douglas Sirk, features a breathtaking use of color. Sirk adds even more melodrama to the already syrupy scenes by wowing the audience through bold and expressive colors. From the clothes to the scenery (done on a set), the melodrama of the film is enhanced with the brightness and vibrancy of the colors. So, get your tissues ready and be prepared for some campy, sometimes corny dialogue but some visually stunning filmmaking.