Do you see this map? Everyone that we’ve ever known or will ever know lives somewhere here on this map. And some of those folks are classic film fans. I know we look through the lens of classic films as movies made in Hollywood during its “Golden Age.” Last year I did a blog post where I asked Classic Film fans from Texas to tell me about their journey and love for classic films. Being an American one might think classic film fans are only American. Au contraire mon frère. Au contraire. With the help of The Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival and my own movie~going experience at NYC’s popular retro movie houses back in the 70’s. I’ve learned that classic film fans come from all over the world.
So I’ve reached out to fans I know from around the world or whose work I’ve read, and asked them if they’d be willing to talk about their love and journey in classic movies. They said yes. They have different ‘voices’ and come to this thing in different ways. We do have a lot in common when it comes to movies. If the old ticker ( and my finances ) holds out, I would definitely love to visit them in their home country…see how the better half lives. 😉 Without further adieu, here are my guests. And as hostess, I’ll share my story as well.
Patrician Nolan-Hall Fernando Silva Håvard Andersen
[ CANADA ] [ CHILE ] [ NORWAY ]
Karin Mustvedt-Plüss Letícia Magalhães Pereira Gill Jacob
[ NORWAY-SWITZERLAND ] [ BRAZIL ] [ SCOTLAND ]
ALISON BLACKBURN PAUL BATTERS
[ ENGLAND ] [ AUSTRALIA ]
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[ All names, movie titles and photos are hot~linked. At least I tried… ]
1. WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
PATRICIA NOLAN~HALL: I was born in Nova Scotia, but have lived in Ontario since 1970. I’m a Toronto gal. Toronto is the capital city of the province of Ontario. We are hated by the rest of the country who think we’re all full of ourselves. We can’t help it if we’re the best! I worked as a secretary in several industries. Prior to enforced retirement due to health issues, I was happily employed at the Toronto Police Service. I miss the era of typewriters and stationery shops, and the occasional day when I felt I reached the goal of looking like Della Street.
CineMAVEN: Paddy has a great classic film blog called CAFTAN WOMAN ]
“Hiya Paddy. My friend and I visited Canada in September 2016. Toronto is beautiful.”
FERNANDO SILVA: I work as in-house counsel for a Publicly Traded company in Santiago de Chile. Santiago de Chile is the city I have always lived in, where I studied, made my life…the capital city. Twenty-five years ago people usually stayed and worked primarily in its native city, especially if it was the capital city, like mine with all the jobs, the opportunities, your family…the center of everything.
It has changed, but it is not like in the US where people tend to move from state to state periodically. It is not in our DNA.
HÅVARD ANDERSEN: Right now, I’m a student at the University of Oslo, where I’m working on a bachelor’s degree in English, that will hopefully be followed by a master’s degree in either Linguistics or Literature. I live in Hønefoss, which is more of a town than a city, I suppose, with its roughly twenty thousand inhabitants.
KARIN MUSTVEDT-PLÜSS: I live in Telemark, am in hotel receptions mainly, a tour guide and hostess for cultural events on the side.
LETÍCIA MAGALHÃES PEREIRA: I work with writing and advertising – although my ultimate goal is to be a film critic. I live in Poços de Caldas – don’t worry, many Brazilians haven’t heard of it either. And this…is my classic film blog:
Le’s Classic Film Blog
GILL JACOB: Born in Paisley near Glasgow, then lived for a short time in Glasgow (both parents from there) then Aberdeen…and now, living in Finland.
At the moment I’m on a work placement as a Teachers’ Assistant teaching English (as a native English speaker) to primary school aged Finnish kids in a Finnish bilingual school. My previous jobs back home were as a mental health nurse and occupational therapist. I worked in mental health for about 20 years. I was born and brought up in Scotland and moved to Finland six years ago with my then boyfriend – now husband – and apart from missing good friends and family, I’m living happily ever after. In my spare time I write my entertainment blog: Realweegiemidget Reviews Films, TV, Books and More, join fun blogathons and blogging collaborations…and loving it.
Gill’s Classic Film Blog
PAUL BATTERS: I live in the city of Wollongong, which is approximately 1 hour south of Sydney, NSW ( New South Wales ). I teach History at high school and also lecture at the University Of Wollongong in the Masters In Teaching course.
Paul’s Classic Film Blog
ALISON BLACKBURN: I’m in Chorley, Lancashire. I used to work in a bank in the U.K. primarily helping new business start-ups get off the ground but since 2011 I’ve been unable to work full-time due to ill-health. I now sell crystals and Fair Trade goods because it’s something I can manage within my limitations and I have fun doing it.
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2. WHAT MAKES YOUR COUNTRY UNIQUE FROM OTHER COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD?
PADDY: Canada has beauty and history, but so do other countries. Canada has a revered public health system, but so do other countries. Canada has an interesting, troubling and diverse history, as do other countries. What is unique to Canada is our geographical location next to a boisterous neighbour, the United States of America. We alternately love and hate our neighbour. Our neighbour can be generous in sharing its space and its culture. Our neighbour can be pushy and clueless at times (ask about my in-laws). Our relationship with our neighbours often defines us in the eyes of others, and in the past would colour how we viewed ourselves. I have noted a rise in Canadian pride, which works best if approached from the angle of our sense of humour. We have taken the dry, understated wit from our Commonwealth background and combined it with the wacky slapstick from those southern neighbours to make come up with our own unique self-deprecating view.
FERNANDO: What makes my country unique?…..Well, I haven’t really given much thought to that, other than I am happy here and wouldn’t leave this country, with all its flaws. Geographically, Chile is a very long and narrow country indeed, with limits to the East with the “Cordillera de Los Andes” (the Andean Mountains) and to the West with the Pacific Ocean. It is so long that it has a wide variety of climates: in the North we have a very dry Desert climate; in the center a wide variety of Mediterranean Climates; in the South, we have deep rain forests, Tundra Climate and there’s even a Chilean Antarctic Territory!
HÅVARD: We are uniquely contradictory on one very specific subject: that of electric cars. Per capita we’re the richest oil-producing nation in the world, but at the same time we own more electric cars per capita than anyone else in the world. That could be misconstrued as meaning it’s okay to pollute, so long as you don’t do it in Norway. On the more positive side, Norwegian nature is quite unique and breathtaking, and up north you also have the aurora borealis to provide a bit of extra dazzle to the proceedings. And if the pull of gravity on hydrogen and oxygen atoms is your thing, then Norway has nine of the ten biggest waterfalls in Europe. The Norwegian welfare system is also fairly unique, and the security it provides really is a remarkable thing, whether we’re talking about free education, free healthcare, or the promotion of gender equality.
KARIN: This will need to a two-fold answer, as I have the privilege of having two countries.
- Switzerland: A country chock full of contrast, beauty and delicious flavours. Everything is well-organised, people are responsible and hard-working like nowhere else. Somehow (I thank neutrality) the whole country seems to be this swell secret club nobody knows (or cares) about, so we just yodel away and enjoy our bizarre and old-fashioned banter.
- Norway: Land of equality. Land of trusting and simple people, with a strong sense of the common good and the sanctity of solitude. State-owned enterprise won the geographical lottery of natural resources (we’re in oil – “marinated, so to speak”), so now we enjoy being privileged while bitching about high prices and poor weather.
LETÍCIA: I can’t deny that Brazilian nature is amazing and gorgeous.
GILL: Scotland or Finland? Will answer as a true Scot here and say haggis, which is traditionally a sheep’s stomach skin filled with the ground up organs of the animal with oatmeal and spices added. Never made it from scratch myself as you can buy it tinned, and despite the vivid description it is really, really yummy. Although when I tell the (Finnish) kids at school about it they do look a wee bit ill at the thought of it!
PAUL: Australia is a continent as well as a country! Our flora and fauna is extremely unique and you will not find them anywhere else in the world (unless you visit a zoo!) There is a wide diversity of climate and environments, as well as a very multi-cultural population.
ALISON: I think Americans would say our Royal Family or our history makes us unique. We can claim many scientists, explorers, pioneers, warriors and history makers. We have led the world in many things. We have held our own not only in Europe but on the world stage for hundreds of years despite being a group of islands off the coast of Europe. And I like to think, this current political climate aside with some parts of the world including the UK are having a wobble at the moment, the UK still holds a respectful place in world politics.
What makes us unique is the richness of our country’s beauty and our heritage. On a day trip you could travel from a beautiful coastal scene, to a historic site to a stunning countryside setting. If we were guaranteed good weather only the inveterate travellers would vacation abroad.
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3. WHAT’S ONE MISCONCEPTION US FOREIGNERS HAVE ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY?
PADDY: There are still tourists who will cross the border expecting to immediately come upon snow. Try explaining to someone that Toronto is actually south of many American cities such as Boston, Seattle, and Minneapolis.
FERNANDO: I feel nowadays with the internet and a lot of information available about countries and places in general, U.S. foreigners tend to know more about us than in the past. But I do remember back in 1982 when I was in my second year of High School, my father acted as host to a U.S. family (whose father came here on a business visit). One member of that family became my lifelong friend. They were quite surprised when they arrived in Santiago – especially its two youngest members – that it was quite a “modern” city. I recall that they expected our city to be more “picturesque”, much less developed, with huts and all 😉 …. People from the United States tend to have misconceptions about Latin American countries in general. Do we have to blame Hollywood for that? 😉
HÅVARD: That it’s wall to wall white people, a misconception that’s been amplified even more through various media platforms in recent weeks, mainly due to a certain statement made by a certain president about immigration. The truth is that Norway during the last three or four decades has become a very multi-cultural country. If you’re riding the subway in Oslo, you’ll most likely hear a multitude of languages spoken all around you, be it English, Persian, Urdu, Arabic, Somali, Chinese, Russian, you name it. Cultural and ethnic diversity is alive and well in Norway, and for that I am inordinately grateful.
- Switzerland: That the cheese has holes in it (that is one vile variety out of a million different ones. Argh!) and that it’s all Germanic.
- Norway: That we are all dumb blondes invariably married to a big, dumb ox named Sven or Björn (both Swedish varieties of the names, not Norwegian).
LETÍCIA: Seriously: we’re part of Latin America but we don’t speak Spanish! We speak Portuguese.
GILL: Can name a few…They think all Scots run around in kilts (our traditional dress – tartan skirts for men and women) all day and all the men look like Sam Heughan (Jamie from “Outlander”) – which they don’t. And we eat really weird food.
PAUL: There are a few! Where do I start? I need to mention two!
One, Australians (or Aussies) are not like ‘Crocodile Dundee‘. As mentioned, we are very multi-cultural nation and the large majority live on the coast in cities and large towns.
Two, we’re not infested with dangerous killer animals. The truth is that the vast majority of Australians have never and will never see a great white shark, a dangerous snake or a funnel web spider in their entire lives.
ALISON: That we all live either in villages like in “Midsommer Murders” or Agatha Christie novels or in places reminiscent of “EastEnders” or “Coronation Street.” I would love to live in the bucolic English Village with a decent expanse of garden. The reality is most of us would, and that makes it an expensive place to live.
Another misconception is that it rains all the time; it’s not quite all the time.
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4. PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT A FILM THAT’S FAMOUS IN YOUR COUNTRY THAT WE MIGHT NOT KNOW.
PADDY: My first thought was Don Shebib’s “Goin’ Down the Road” from 1970, but that might be too generational. Perhaps Claude Jutra’s 1971 film “Mon Oncle Antoine”, but is it too regional? When I think of Canadian film, I think of the National Film Board of Canada. The NFB has won many Oscars for their animated and live action shorts. Shown in schools and before features at the theatre, Canadians don’t have to seek these films out as they come to us. Perhaps you don’t know, but would appreciate the experimental techniques used by Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart, combined with the music of the Oscar Peterson Trio, in “Begone Dull Care.” Generations have been mesmerized since 1949.
FERNANDO: Mmmm… I think I won’t mention locally-produced films, because obviously there are a lot that are not well-known in the USA, and since I am not aware about many of the films being shown these days because I am primarily focused on Classics, I am going to think about an older film.
Traditionally, Chile’s primary source for films has been the USA, but there was a time when European and Mexican films were extremely popular here. In particular, I am thinking about one film that was very popular in Chile in the late 1950’s and people who saw it in the Cinemas back in 1957, talked about it for many years after. It was “El Último Cuplé” (“The Last Torch Song”) (1957) starring Sara aka “Sarita” Montiel. Via flashback, “El Último Cuplé” tells the story of a fading singer who reminisces about her past. It is definitely a product of its time and it was immensely popular in Spain and in my country. This was Sarita Montiel’s first film after her rather lackluster stint in Hollywood and she was welcomed by the Spanish-speaking audiences with open arms, just as Dolores Del Río was welcomed by Mexico after two decades in the USA. It was a smash hit. I’d say that it is arguably the most popular film Montiel ever made.
Also, all the Mexican films starring ‘Cantinflas’ (aka Mario Moreno) have always been wildly popular in Chile and they cannot be properly translated to English, so I guess people who are not familiar with the Spanish language and especially Mexican slang from the 1940’s and 1950’s, will never be able to fully enjoy his films.
HÅVARD: The first film that comes to mind, is “Den Forsvundne Pølsemaker”, from 1941. I don’t know if it’s got an official English title or not, but if it does, then it’s probably something along the lines of “The Missing Sausage Maker.” What really makes it stand out, though (other than it being a genuinely fun and entertaining mystery/comedy) is that it was made during the Nazi occupation of Norway, and that lead actor Leif Juster was imprisoned by the Gestapo shortly after the movie was made for mocking the occupational forces on stage at a theater in Oslo. I would also like to give a shout-out to “De Dødes Tjern” (“Lake of the Dead”), from 1958, as it is regarded as Norway’s first ever horror movie, and not a bad one at that.
- Switzerland: The ‘Uli’ films (“Uli der Knecht”, “Uli de Pächter”) are probably the best known classic Swiss films that nobody would know. They are kind of Heimat films – set in rural land, often in ‘the good, old days’ etc. Switzerland has four official languages and within those languages the dialects are very strong. The German-speaking population is by far the biggest, but the spoken language is pretty far removed from regular, written German. In essence, this mean the majority of Swiss people write, function and learn in one language and speak another. However, for these films the actors were allowed to speak their own Swiss German. I am guessing this is why they have become so popular and so much the definition of the patriotic Swiss spirit. (And yes, have no meaning or interest for any non-Swiss citizen.)
- Norway: “Flåklypa Grand Prix” (1975) (English title: “The Pinchcliff Grand Prix”). This is the most popular Norwegian film by far, reaching more than 5 million views in cinemas upon its initial release – at a time when the population of Norway was 4.2 million. The film is written by the beloved multi-talented artist Kjell Aukrust, who wrote, directed, drew the sketches for the puppets and the sets of the film. Just about every single Norwegian actor of the time lent their voices to the puppets, music written and recorded by the dearest folk music artist of modern times and the setting and style is so traditionally and typically Norwegian. The script is packed with Aukrust specialties and literary finesse, and the entire film is a triumph of his special brand of humour in details, making this just as much fun for young as it is for the old. Norway has piss-poor traditions for screening classic films, but this is a must around Christmas and New Year’s Eve as well as being a winner all year ‘round. It has been translated to a slew of other languages and is still spawning all sorts of spin-offs, computer games, merchandise etc. and is being re-discovered by young audiences every day.
LETÍCIA: We can’t deny that “Elite Squad” (2007) and its sequel – both starring Wagner Moura, who later played Pablo Escobar in “Narcos” are very popular movies.
But, if we consider classics, I must talk about “The Given Word” – originally titled “O Pagador de Promessas” or “The Keeper of Promises” – from 1962, my favorite Brazilian film. It won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and was very close to winning a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, an award Brazil never got. The film is about a man who wants to pay a religious promise, but is forbidden by priests who think his promise was ridiculous – he promised he would bring a giant cross to a church if his donkey didn’t die. “The Given Word” is a lot like great Neo-realist classics, and if it was made in Italy it’d be better known and more celebrated.
CINEMAVEN: Lé, I have a question. TCM aired famed Brazilian film “BLACK ORPHEUS” back in February for their night of Academy Award~winning Foreign Films. What’s your opinion on how Brazilians see that film? Do young people know about it…do older people ever speak of it? And what do folks think of this Oscar~winning film featuring the Black Brazilians? ( What’s the proper term…Brazilians of African descent? Whaddya call ’em? If you say: “We call them Brazilians,” I will be thoroughly chastised. L0L! ) Talk to me a little about this.
Interesting question! It was just Carnival
, and “
is a film that was often in my mind in this period. By the way, over here ‘negro’ is not as offensive as ‘black’ but the most correct term would be ‘afrodescendant’.
“Black Orpheus” is often mentioned in cult circles. It was an Oscar win for France, written by French and Brazilian people, directed and produced by French men. Most of the cast was Brazilian – the guy who played Death was actually an Olympic athlete (Ademar Da Silva) who won two gold medals – and it was shot on location. It’s a perfect example of multicultural film, and because of this we don’t see it as very Brazilian. At least, it’s not so beloved as “Central Station” or “City of God.” And well, in “City of God,” the afrodescendants are the center of the picture. It’s a real thing because most Brazilians are black or “mixed”, although on TV they don’t have a very good representation. All in all, “Black Orpheus” is a beautiful film with an universal story – and setting it during Carnival is perfect because everything can happen during Carnival – really.
GILL: “Gregory’s Girl” which I reviewed here, a nice wee film from the early 80s about young love about a gangly and awkward teenage boy who falls for the only girl in his football team and his love for her…but no spoilers. Got a great Scottish cast and it’s a real fun comedy which never lost its charm, even on my re-watch recently. The Scottish accents are a wee bit difficult to understand at times, but add to the timeless charm of the movie.
PAUL: “Gallipoli” (1981) Dir: Peter Weir. “Gallipoli” is a powerful film which tells of Australian soldiers who fought against Turkish forces during World War One, as part of a British plan to knock Turkey out of the war. It focuses on two men and their journey from Australia to Egypt and finally Gallipoli, Turkey. It is a heart-rending story and incredibly accurate historically. Powerful performances (with a young Mel Gibson) and beautifully directed by Weir.
ALISON: I’m not sure there are any movies you would be unaware of !! I’m going to give you three that are set around where I live in the North West of England:
“Hobson’s Choice” (1954) – This is a play many of us studied at school. Hobson (played by Charles Laughton) owns a successful shoe shop, run by his eldest daughter Maggie (actress Brenda De Banzie). She sees a rare talent in Willie Mossop played by John Mills. When her father refuses her entreaties to be part of the business, she marries the cobbler. Hobson, who has no interest in running his shop – his interest is in supping ale – finds that his customers desert him. He ends up having to give in to Maggie’s demands or face ruin. It’s a great play, a comedy and perfectly cast here with David Lean directing. Charles Laughton had had a successful Hollywood career but this is my favourite movie of his and of John Mills’. De Banzie is a powerhouse as Maggie, the woman who manoeuvres the men into the best position for all concerned. This is set in Salford just outside Manchester.
The next one is “A Kind of Loving” (1962) starring Alan Bates and June Ritchie with Thora Hird playing the battle axe mother-in-law. A very simple story, set at the beginning of the 60’s. Bates plays Vic, a draftsman who starts courting with Ingrid. They do more than court and she gets in the ‘family way.’ He does the honourable thing and marries her. He moves into her mother’s house and that’s when the marriage starts to break apart due in no small part to his mother-in-law. It’s very reminiscent of photos of my parents’ courting days and that’s perhaps why I like it so much. It’s a photograph of times gone by. Part of the ‘angry young men’ set of films but it has an Everyman feel to it. This was filmed in Preston, which was so close to home, and Southport my nearest costal town.
Finally “Whistle Down the Wind” (1961) with Hayley Mills, set in the 1950s and again stars Alan Bates who plays an armed bank robber who hides out on Hayley’s father’s farm. Along with Hayley there is a sister and a young brother. In the biggest plot assumption in movie history, Hayley becomes convinced that Bates character is Jesus, a fact that’s only shared with the children. It’s a lovely, sweet movie set in Pendle Witch country, the seat of our most famous witches in the 17th century.
These are all nostalgic feel-good movies to me, as familiar and appreciated as a bar of a Dairy Milk chocolate.
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5. HOW DID YOU BECOME A FAN OF FILMS FROM HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN ERA? HOW DID THAT START FOR YOU?
PADDY: I did not become a fan of classic cinema, I was born a fan. At least, that’s how it feels. My dad was a major film buff, as was, I understand, his father after whom I was named. Watching movies with our dad was fun and a training ground. It was a point of pride that we never refer to a character actor as “what’s-his-name”. There were tests! We would be asked to recall what movies were shot by James Wong Howe (a god in my dad’s eyes). School night or no, if Bogie was on the late show, we would be roused to enjoy the black and white goodness.
Elwy Yost hosted two public television series in Ontario, “Magic Shadows” and “Saturday Night at the Movies.” They began during my teen years. The premise of “SNATM” was a double bill of uncut movies plus an educational component. In direct violation of what surely must be Canadian law, our father would forego Hockey Night in Canada and the family would gather to share the bond of classic movies.
FERNANDO: Well I’d have to thank my inquiring mind, always avid for knowledge and gathering all kinds of odd data. Also, I was exposed to Classic films from a very early age thanks to Public TV.
My first memories of films – seen very early in my life – were “Anna Karenina” (1935) and “Mary of Scotland” (1936) both of whose endings startled me and lingered in my mind for months.
Another relevant factor was my relationship with my elders in that regard, especially my parents and two of my grandparents. I was always asking questions about the films they saw in their younger years…their favorite stars…etc. I used to write down lists of actors of that Era and I began reading all I could about Old time Hollywood.
HÅVARD: I’ve been a movie geek for as long as I can remember. Over the years, the odd classic would sneak its way in between all the countless Hollywood blockbusters and whatnot that I was watching, like “Harvey” and “The War of the Worlds” (the 1953 version), for example; but it wasn’t until much later in life that I fell head over heels in love with classic cinema – some ten or fifteen years ago, probably. I had read a review of “The Thin Man” somewhere online, and so, with my curiosity piqued, I ended up ordering the box-set from Amazon. A week or so later that wonderful film effectively served as the spark that ignited my obsession with classic cinema, an obsession that’s been going like a four-alarm fire ever since.
KARIN: I have always loved history and everything old. As a child I had a cousin with an essential VHS collection (“Gone with the Wind” AND “The Sound of Music”) which we would watch repeatedly. Still, it wasn’t until many years later, in high school, that I stumbled upon TCM Nordic (a piss-poor substitute for the American TCM, but it did screen some classics back then). I figured I’d cultivate myself and let the one movie ride: “The Great Lie.” And Bedad – I liked it! So I stuck around for another one: “Undercurrent.” No great film, but I liked that one, too. And so, off I went on my first proper dives into classic movie film careers, that of Bette Davis and of Katharine Hepburn. And I’ve been digging, learning, reading, searching, traveling, buying, thinking, dreaming, talking classic movies ever since, discovering new joys in classics all the time.
LETÍCIA: I’ve always loved all kinds of entertainment. I have Asperger’s syndrome and I often get obsessed with some TV show. I loved Hannah-Barbera cartoons by the time I was 9 and I watched old tv-series, like “Bewitched” and “Get Smart”, as a teenager.
Because of Asperger’s, I also have a hard time making friends and I’ve always preferred the companionship of adults to the companionship of kids my age. That’s why I didn’t have friends in high school – and I liked staying with my grandparents, who would sometimes watch old films on TCM, back when Brazilian TCM showed classics.
I learned to enjoy those films. “Captains Courageous” (1937) left a big impression on me, and I started looking for more and more information about old movies and Classic Hollywood stars.
GILL: In the seventies, my mum introduced me to Doris Day movies – where I developed a bit of a crush on the leading men Rock Hudson, Cary Grant and Gig Young. So I watched mostly these leading men’s movies and also those of Deborah Kerr, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn. I hoped to meet the Cary Grant-type of man with a lovely voice, good manners and was the perfect gent.
However, for some reason, I didn’t make the connection that these movies were made much earlier and was shocked at these stars’ then ages, as these movies were so timeless. Or else, I was a very naive kid.
PAUL: My grandmother was a great film fan and I was very close to her. When visiting her, she would let me stay up late to watch classic movies on TV. I found myself entranced by the silvers and chromes of classic film. They seemed poetic to me. My aunt also had some beautiful books, featuring photography by Hurrell, of classic era actors and actresses, as well as an A-Z book of classic actors and actresses. She also had a gorgeous book of classic monster films. I poured over these books and I guess it all started from there.
ALISON: I’m really not sure about this. It’s not inherited, that I do know. I have memories of growing up in the seventies with old Hollywood films on the box. I was never interested in black and white films but the lushness of “The Wizard of Oz” was a winner every Xmas. I made an exception when it came to black and white for Laurel and Hardy – they were on TV a lot in my youth. We had only 3 channels then and I’m sure my parents loved the fact that when Laurel and Hardy was on, my brother and I would sit still for the duration.
I remember films often being on during the weekend afternoons. I never remember watching one from the beginning, but I was often drawing or doing jigsaws, playing with dolls etc., and I’d get drawn in. I had an early fascination with the glamorous actresses but I didn’t know their names when I was young.
Fast forward a few years and in my early teens I became fascinated by Marilyn Monroe. A couple of years after that I discovered the very handsome Errol Flynn.
I didn’t know God had made a man as handsome as Errol was in his early photos and films. I think from there my fascination grew as I entered the working world when we realise just how much freedom we had when we were at school and get tied to a strict schedule. Everyone needs some kind of escape route and books and classic films were mine.
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6. MY FUN, EASY QUESTIONS WILL COME AFTER THIS. BUT FIRST…YOU’VE TOLD US HOW YOU GOT STARTED. SO NOW TELL ME WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD FILMS? PERHAPS I SHOULD SAY WHY? I MEAN, ENGLISH IS A SECOND LANGUAGE ~ TO SOME OF YOU HERE ~ WHICH MAKE OUR HOLLYWOOD MOVIES PRETTY MUCH FOREIGN FILMS TO THE COUNTRY YOU LIVE IN. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THESE OLD MOVIES THAT STILL ATTRACTS YOU TO IT? CARVE AN ANSWER OUT OF MY LONG~WINDED QUESTION. THANKS.
PADDY: Due to the pervasiveness of American culture – film, television, music, sports – in North America, nothing about Hollywood films ever felt foreign. They were the touchstones of my life. My grandfather’s favourite actor was Fredric March, my father’s Spencer Tracy. My mom crushed equally on hockey players and baseball players. Only as I got older and saw Canada from a Hollywood perspective did I get the nagging little itch of a suspicion that although we get you, you don’t really get us.
What attracts me to classic film today is a mix of comforting nostalgia and an appreciation for the creativity and skill behind the work. The continual stimulation of entertainment combined with education is addictive.
FERNANDO: Well let me see, because most of the times I feel that fondness, and what one likes is not easy to “explain”. There is a certain appeal in the movies of the Old days, especially those of the 1930’s and 1940’s, whose art direction and settings make these movies to be something out of an ideal environment; so different from the times I was living in my boyhood days. (In general, I disliked the very late 1960’s and the early 1970’s up to 1977 more or less. It is a decade that aesthetically I find horrible: the music, the movies, the decors, hairdos, etc.). So these classic films transported me to aesthetically more beautiful environments and idealized settings, with beautiful, well-groomed people and wonderful places. I idealized these more because of what my grandparents and elders told me about those nostalgic years they missed.
HÅVARD: I suppose it taps into the Americanization that’s been taking place all over the world ever since 1776. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Because of that Americanization, I grew up watching American movies, as they were a part of my daily cultural diet; and a far tastier one than what Norwegian cinema had to offer at the time, I might add. I fondly remember watching personal favorites like “Smokey and the Bandit”, “Star Wars”, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”, “Ghostbusters”, and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” over and over again, until the VHS tapes were literally worn out. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as I basically watched everything I could get my hands on, from “Caddyshack” to “The Terminator”.
My fascination with classic films didn’t manifest until much later, as I’ve already mentioned, but when it did it was with a vengeance. I think part of the reason I was attracted to classic cinema in the first place, was curiosity, and wanting to know where movies like “Blade Runner” or “Basic Instinct” got their inspiration from. In a way, I think I’ve been conditioned all my life to loving classic cinema, as so many of the movies I grew up watching were so heavily influenced by them. And as for what attracts me to them still, I think it’s quite simply the astoundingly high quality that all these classic films are filled to the brim with.
KARIN: The thing about movies is that they are basically American, in my opinion and in my experience. Seeing a film from your own country in your own language is much more of a novelty than the other way around.
In Norway, more than in Switzerland, the American culture through movies and TV is so ingrained in our every day that it hardly seems ‘foreign’. In Switzerland the culture has much more influence from German, French and Italian culture and everything is dubbed there, so it’s a whole different ballgame (that I refuse to play).
Now then, with the exception of “The Sound of Music” and “Gone with the Wind” I was not raised on classic films at all – this happened quite by chance, but I’ve always loved anything that has to do with history, anything that was old, so I guess nobody was surprised. My taste in music has always gone back in time, too. But you ask what attracts me to these movies…still – which is not applicable to me. There is not a continued love, no nostalgia for my own childhood or own experiences in it for me as my upbringing in Norway and Switzerland in the 90’s and 00’s had nothing whatever to do with the Golden Age of Cinema. To me it’s a dive into a bygone era, a window to a world that fascinates me no end – the stars, the productions, the systems, the stories, the settings; everything. Only now, through the TCM Classic Film Festival and other experiences, has real life and ‘reel life’ overlapped.
LETÍCIA: Whether we like it or not, classic Hollywood movies are more easily available in South America than classic movies from other parts of the world – including Brazilian classics – because many of them are in extreme need of restoration. There are many classic Hollywood titles on DVD and being shown on TV. And English is a mandatory subject in Brazilian schools, that’s why it’s easy for me to read, write or watch movies in English without closed captions.
What I mean is that classic Hollywood is canon. It’s there, it’s celebrated in film studies and it’s a unique glimpse into our recent past. Hollywood was shaped by and also shaped the past century – and we can only comprehend them together.
GILL: I love those movies now, particularly those timeless romances, musicals, battle-of-the-sexes and romantic comedies with their chiselled-looking leading men and doe-eyed love interests. Love their fun, less contrived story-lines. The plots seem crazy at times but they are a kind of a fun crazy. Through the joy of blogathons I’ve seen some new acting names and some new movies which I’ve constantly enjoyed, as the acting talents’ joy in their roles is more visible than in modern day movies making them so much more enjoyable. Having seen the originals of such films as 1957’s “An Affair to Remember” with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, I can see why people get incensed at those Golden Hollywood remakes. Warren Beatty will never replace Cary Grant!!!
PAUL: The magic and poetry of classic films has always been there for me. Like a beautiful art form, that beauty cannot diminish. With streaming services, the Internet and DVD, more and more classic film become available. Sounds corny perhaps – but classic films are like old friends and every time I watch one that I haven’t seen in a while, it feels like a reunion of sorts!
ALISON: No, they’re not foreign at all. I don’t think anything from the United States is, apart from the way you misuse the language we gave you. Sorry, I couldn’t resist it.
I grew up with them (or snippets of them because my Dad would change the channel to sports) and no doubt it was the glamour and the storytelling. I do remember as a small child I didn’t do black and white unless it was Laurel and Hardy or the beginning of the “Wizard of Oz.” But they are the two things things that still draw me in. I love the way they dressed although I’m as bad as the next person for dressing comfortably these days. If even given the choice I doubt I’d do glamour for anything but the most important occasions though I love to look at it.
I watch for the escapism, the same reason which made them so popular in the first place. Escapism is not a word I would use for today’s films. With the classics, I can inhabit someone’s vision for the length of the movie, to see the finest costumes, the best actors, actresses and directors Hollywood had to offer. To listen to the finest musical scores. To watch a modern art form emerge through all its triumphs and hiccups.
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7. NOW. LET’S GO HOLLYWOOD. NAME THREE OF YOUR FAVORITE CLASSIC FILMS AND WHY YOU ENJOY THEM. YES, I KNOW THAT YOUR CHOICES WILL CHANGE FROM MINUTE TO MINUTE, BUT JUST COMMIT FOR THIS QUESTION.
PADDY: Such a question cannot pass without the inclusion of “Shane”, the movie that made me love movies. A theatrical re-release when I was a youngster was my introduction and it was while watching this movie that I became aware of the how I was being emotionally manipulated. An epiphany of seismic proportions.
“The Thing from Another World” plants me in the middle of the much to be desired Hawksian universe. In my imagination I would like to display such skill; to be so calm when disaster strikes, and so casual with my affection.
“The Adventures of Robin Hood” filled my eyes with wondrous Technicolor and my imagination with the glory of heroic deeds. I was awestruck the first time I watched this movie, and time has not diminished its power and entertainment value.
FERNANDO: Because I name my absolute favorite film of all time does not mean I think objectively that it is a flawless film. (Can one really be objective?) But…it is THE TOP film that appeals to me immensely, and that’s “Portrait of Jennie” (1948). It’s a film I am sure I saw as a kid and re-discovered as an adult, by chance, while zapping through channels one night while in a Hotel in Paris in 1998. I immediately loved it and wanted to own a copy…and since I bought one, it’s become my favorite film. I have seen it zillions of time and showed it to all the people I could. Its eerie, ghostlike qualities and its supernatural theme of people from different times meeting is simply irresistible to me. Thanks to this film I became a big admirer of Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten and its director William Dieterle.
“Love Me Tonight” (1932) is another absolute favorite; it is my favorite musical film of all time, with its inventive mise-en-scene and camera work. If Rouben Mamoulian had only made this film, he’d be a genius just for this one. It’s a film, just like “Portrait of Jennie” that I need to watch from time to time. This is one of the films that made me love the Pre-Code Era, Maurice Chevalier and made me discover a new Jeanette MacDonald, in her pre-MGM days.
“Letter from an Unknown Woman” (1948), is another film that has a special effect on me, and in my personal opinion it is the best film Joan Fontaine ever made, superior – IMO – to her better known Hitchcock–directed movies “Rebecca” (1940) and “Suspicion” (1941). [My second fave film of Joanie’s is “The Constant Nymph” (1943)].
Max Ophüls created a work of art and a masterpiece, about a woman obsessed with someone who never cared a bit for her, and worse, barely realized she even existed. It is a heart-wrenching film that moves me deeply each time I see it.
HÅVARD: That’s a tough one, but right here and now I think I’ll have to go for “His Girl Friday”, “Out of the Past”, and “Forbidden Planet.”
The comedic brilliance of Howard Hawks’ “His Girl Friday” is so intoxicating that it should come with a warning label. After the opening titles have done their thing, the dueling twosome that is Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell pepper you with a barrage of hilarity that doesn’t relent until the last fade to black. And with the sidesplitting dialog coming in at an estimated 240 words a minute, it’s a movie you can easily watch twenty times over and it’ll still feel as fresh as a daisy.
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Of all the dangerous dames you’re likely to run into if you take a walk down one of the shadowy side streets of film noir, the one you should fear the most is Kathie Moffat in “Out of the Past.” Played to perfection by Jane Greer, she is as seductive as vanilla and as deadly as poison, something private eye Jeff Bailey unfortunately learns the hard way. Jacques Tourneur’s “Out of the Past” is a tour de force of dark cinema, and the chemistry between Greer’s femme fatale and Robert Mitchum’s doomed private eye is as potent as rocket fuel. If you play with fire, you will get burned, but in this case it just might be worth the damage. In the words of Jeff Bailey:
“You build my gallows high, baby.”
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No film has ever come closer than “Forbidden Planet” in capturing the visual aesthetic of pulp era science fiction. The stunning artwork found on the covers of magazines like “Amazing Stories” and “Galaxy Science Fiction” during the ‘40s and ‘50s is brought to life like never before (or since) in Fred M. Wilcox’s fantastical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” It is a film brimming with imagination and talent, and if the ravishing beauty of Anne Francis as Altaira Morbius won’t make you go all weak in the knees, then the wonderous matte paintings by Howard Fisher and Henri Hillinck are sure to get the job done.
KARIN: (This is murder, and well you know it.)
[ CineMaven: Moahahaha! ]
1. “The Quiet Man” (1952):
Aside from it being visually stunning, fun and even sexy, it was such a labour of love for the whole cast and crew and it has come to symbolise the very special times I’ve spent in Ireland.
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2. “The Women” (1939): This remains such a perfect example of Golden Hollywood’s star power and what a well-oiled dream machine it was. A fantastic cast, brilliant script, excellent direction – shear perfection at every turn.
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3. “What Price Hollywood?” (1932): A gloriously cynical look into the murkier sides of Hollywood and the best picture of the whole circus. Once again, everything is right, everything is there in its finest feathers; cast, director, costumes, music, writing.
“A Star is Born” (1937): Oh, I love this film so much! Besides being about one of my favorite film subjects, the film industry itself, I love how director William A. Wellman and producer David O. Selznick decided to play with color in this film. I love early color films, and the primitive three-strip Technicolor here is to die for.
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“On the Town” (1949): Probably my favorite musical. Watching musicals, especially the ones with Gene Kelly helped me a lot whenever I was sad or tense. “On the Town” is extremely funny, has memorable dance numbers and a gallery of unique and charming characters.
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“Sunset Boulevard” (1950): I love silent cinema, and this film may be a way of including this personal passion on the list. The tragic story of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is one of the most poignant told in film history. Norma is an iconic character, and a ‘monster’ created by Hollywood itself. We must feel sorry for her, and sympathize with her. And the film also has the amazing Waxworks playing cards (featuring silent stars H.B.Warners, Anna Q. Nilsson and…Buster Keaton!!).
“An Affair to Remember” (1957) – Love Cary Grant’s chemistry with Deborah Kerr and their sparkling script and obvious film rapport. Didn’t see this until a recent blogathon but so loved it and loved everything about it especially the scenes with his grandmother. Just a lovely film all over. You can read my review of this favorite, here.
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“Young at Heart” (1958) – Loved this and fancied Gig Young in it. Loved it being about three sisters – same as me – and their love and romances. Great cast too, and was a great fun film ‘til Frank Sinatra turned up and irritated me for the rest of the movie. Because I was totally charmed by Gig from the start.
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“The Philadelphia Story” (1940) – This one has the edge with lovely Katharine Hepburn who is fantastic and Cary Grant just perfect too for his spot on performance. Both actors are hilarious in their roles and have great film moments between them. There was that undercurrent of chemistry throughout Kate’s and Cary’s film that Bing and Grace didn’t have as much of. Hepburn’s leading men and co-stars are pretty fab too and I remember watching this movie and enjoying it much more than that musical remake which was pretty good too.
“The Asphalt Jungle” – The quintessential heist film and beautiful film noir from John Huston.
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“Double Indemnity” – Absolutely top notch and a perfect example of quality film-making and story-telling.
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“How Green Was My Valley” – The beauty of the film lies in the power of memory and the love of family. It’s bittersweet, beautifully filmed and makes me cry every time I see it.
ALISON: Theresa, this is the question to which I’m adding my own nuance as promised. I see classic movies encapsulating all movies and for me musicals and their stars need their own chance to shine.
So three classic movies followed by three musicals and three musical stars.
“City Lights” – What can I say, I’m a silent comedy girl, and not just Chaplin; I love Buster and Laurel and Hardy too. But for me this is Chaplin’s silent masterpiece.
“Letter From an Unknown Woman” – So many of us watch movies because of the star. This I watch because of the director. Max Ophüls tells a sumptuous tale of unrequited love a woman has for a man who barely realises who she is.
“Vertigo” – This to me is the most Hitchcockian of movies. Themes that have run through other movies merge here. Scotty (James Stewart) is obsessed (with Kim Novak), he’s quite disturbing really but we as the viewers are with him. It’s a beautiful movie to watch. I like to watch this in tandem with “North by Northwest”, the Cary Grant character being heroic in contrast to Scotty in this movie.
Fred and Ginger – Their movies as one category. I don’t have a favourite…I love them all. They’re a snap shot of Depression-era escapism. Fred Astaire made many wonderful movies but Ginger Rogers was his best partner.
“Singin’ in the Rain” – “An American in Paris” is such a showcase for Gene Kelly’s talent and so watchable, but “Singing in the Rain” is the most joyful film ever.
“Footlight Parade” – My favourite of the Busby Berkeley musicals, starring Jimmy Cagney. Depression-era decadence. A wonderland of showpieces.
Fred Astaire – Dancing perfection with a sartorial charm. Longevity. Beautiful singing voice. The whole package.
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Gene Kelly – Dancing and choreographer workhorse. The opposite of Astaire, wasn’t he called ‘the dancing truck driver’? Kelly was much thicker set, and never tried to do the classical dancing Astaire did, but he pushed dance as an Art and Astaire pushed back. They both made MGM the home of the big musical.
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Judy Garland – Child star, singer, dancer, all round performer, wracked with personal demons, a trooper. So much talent, she shone brightly and was capable of great dramatic performances like in “A Star is Born.”
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8. NAME YOUR TOP THREE FAVORITE ACTORS AND TOP THREE FAVORITE ACTRESSES. PLEASE TELL ME YOUR FAVORITE FILM FOR EACH, AND WHY.
PADDY: Three, eh?
James Cagney as Biff Grimes in “The Strawberry Blonde.” Cagney is so true to every moment of this character, even when playing Biff at a younger age than himself. We see, we understand, and we root for this character in the wonderful Raoul Walsh film.
Boris Karloff as John Gray in “The Body Snatcher.” When his time as a leading actor came to Karloff, he brought his best to a few less than worthy film roles. “The Body Snatcher” for Val Lewton gave him a role as befits his stature and talent, and he soars. Scenes between Karloff and Henry Daniell are as enjoyable as a great tenor and baritone duet in opera.
John Wayne as Sean Thornton in “The Quiet Man.” I grew up with John Wayne everywhere, on television and at the theatre. In “The Quiet Man” the actor John Wayne harnesses his great star power to become one of the ensemble, but doesn’t let those scene-stealers get away with anything. Duke always had a special way of supporting his leading ladies, and it is with a delicate touch he hands their scenes over to Maureen O’Hara. John Wayne is lovely in this labour of love for John “Pappy” Ford.
Irene Dunne as Mama in “I Remember Mama.” Irene Dunne excelled at both drama and screwball comedy, and she did both by employing an incredible subtlety. “…Mama” was Dunne’s fifth and final Oscar nomination and the star disappears into the role while the actress brings all the unself-conscious warmth of the character to the screen and beyond.
Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson in “His Girl Friday.” The next time you watch this movie keep your eyes on Roz Russell. Every movement, every expression on her face, every offhand delivery of an important line is sheer pleasure.
Barbara Stanwyck as Lee Leander in “Remember the Night.” Christmas is always a sentimental time, even for a teenager. When I would catch this movie on television I would be swept up in the story through Barbara Stanwyck’s initially tough gal revealed to have a soft and broken core. Her self-discovery and sacrifice still breaks my heart in an ecstasy of tears.
FERNANDO: Difficult question, because there are so many favorites, and depending on the stage of one’s life, preferences may vary. I am leaving out Harding, Tracy, Gable, Loy, Lombard, Colbert, Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Bill Powell, MacMurray, McCrea, etc., so many favorites…but here I go:
Cary Grant – Difficult to say just one favorite given all the first rate films he made, but for the sheer joy it brings to me each time I see it, and for being one of the funniest films of all time: “The Awful Truth” (1937).
Ronald Colman – A very good actor who gave thoughtful performances and tended to underplay his roles skillfully. “Lost Horizon” (1937) would be my choice hands-down. Why? Because I am also looking for my “Shangri-La”, that ideal place of peace, harmony and happiness.
Joseph Cotten – He is an actor who has grown on me over the years and he never gave a bad performance. He has a melancholic air that makes him ideal in the roles he played in “Portrait of Jennie” (1948) my favorite Cotten performance, and in “Love Letters”, “September Affair” or in “The Magnificent Ambersons”, but which gives him a new dimension as Uncle Charlie in the amazing “Shadow of a Doubt.” He’s an actor that was always believable in any role he played.
Katharine Hepburn – “Alice Adams” (1935), in which she gives one of her most honest, sincere and heartbreaking performances ever. For me, this film is perfect and George Stevens deftly directs it. She’s been a favorite ever since I saw her in “Mary of Scotland” (1936).
Barbara Stanwyck – “Remember the Night” (1939), one of the most touching romantic comedies of all time, sensitively directed by Mitchell Leisen. Here, Stanwyck demonstrates her full range as an actress.
Joan Fontaine – “Letter from an Unknown Woman” (1948), for the reasons already exposed and because Joan managed to be utterly convincing through all the stages of the character’s life.
HÅVARD: My three favorite actors are William Powell, Gary Cooper, and Jack Lemmon. And my three favorite actresses are Barbara Stanwyck, Jean Arthur, and Irene Dunne.
My favorite William Powell film is “The Thin Man”, as it is filled to the hilt with delightful characters and unforgettable dialogue (“He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids”). The fact that W.S. Van Dyke was able to shoot the film in three weeks is just mind-blowing. It should also be mentioned that, in my humble opinion, William Powell is quite possibly the coolest cat to have ever walked the earth.
My favorite Gary Cooper film is “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, which might also be my favorite Frank Capra film of all time. It is every bit as touching as it is funny, and that is a seriously funny film.
My favorite Jack Lemmon film is “The Apartment.” I could have named most any film he made during his illustrious career, but I’m gonna go with the safe choice here for the simple reason that it so effortlessly manages to thread the needle; to both tickle the funny bone and deliver a scathing social commentary along the way.
My favorite Barbara Stanwyck film is “Double Indemnity”, and if that requires any further explanation, then shame on you.
My favorite Jean Arthur film is “Easy Living”, as it is so darn funny and entertaining from start to finish. A screwball comedy that it is simply impossible not to love.
My favorite Irene Dunne film is “Theodora Goes Wild.” Sure, “The Awful Truth” is arguably a better film, but Irene Dunne’s performance in “Theodora Goes Wild” is just completely and utterly uproarious, especially when she starts going wild.
1. Cary Grant – He could do it all. He could be funny and silly without being unsexy, gallant and smooth without being slick, smart without being cocky, brilliant without being a show-off, sexy without b…no wait, he was just damn sexy.
Favourite films: “North by Northwest”, “Penny Serenade”, “The Awful Truth.”
2. Spencer Tracy – The Actor. I believe him no matter what. Unparalleled, natural instinct.
Favourite films: “Father of the Bride”, “Test Pilot” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
3. Paul Newman – Because he was the best of two worlds: he went his own way and was a star on his own terms. No following the mob of mumbling newcomers and no bowing under to the old school either. He was an extremely talented and natural actor, seemed like a sincerely top-notch fella, had a delicious devilish humour about him and so absurdly hot the drool is still running the world over.
Favourite films: “The Young Philadelphians”, “Hud”, “Until They Sail.”
(I detest having to choose – this list should include at least 20 names more)
[ CineMaven: I know you do…and I thank thee for doing this! ]
1. Claudette Colbert – Her body of work is simply astounding, so many great films, from pre-code naughtiness to wartime drama, or 50’s fun – going from heavy drama to light comedy at the drop of a hat.
Favourite films: “Since You Went Away”, “The Palm Beach Story”, “Three Came Home.”
2. Maureen O’Hara – A great actress, though not nearly given enough good roles or chances. Her fire, her spunk, her sheer beauty on and off the screen holds a special place in my heart.
Favourite films: “The Quiet Man”, “Dance, Girl, Dance”,“Never to Love”, “Britannia Mews.”
3. Lee Remick – A very new discovery to me, but have been blown away by her talents. A truly great actress – completely natural. What’s more is she seemed like lady who was a housewife, regular Joe and politically engaged citizen who just happened to have talent in abundance and stunning natural beauty.
Favourite films: “Wild River”, “Sanctuary”, “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Anatomy of a Murder”.
James Cagney – “The Public Enemy” (1931): This is the first film I saw with him, and the one that made me fall in love. Cagney chews the scenery, steals all the scenes, has a fantastic performance… and the film has a jaw-dropping ending.
Henry Fonda – “Fort Apache” (1948): I love this film because Fonda plays against type and by doing this, shows all his talent. Henry Fonda is usually cute and nice in his earlier films, but as the stubborn Owen Thursday he just shines – and leaves little attention to be given to John Wayne.
Lon Chaney – I can’t choose my favorite Lon Chaney movie. I got to know him by his biopic, “Man of a Thousand Faces” (1957), with Cagney, but the man himself proved to be better than I expected. Every film is made better by his presence – like the so-so “The Ace of Hearts” (1921) and the boring “Oliver Twist” (1922) – and Chaney never fails to impress me.
Katharine Hepburn – “Woman of the Year” (1942): Tess Harding – Hepburn’s character in this movie – is everything I aspire to be: bold, smart, independent, confident. The film is also very funny and charming, but my main reason for loving it is because Tess is a bad-ass role model.
Greta Garbo – “Flesh and the Devil” (1926): I love silent movies, and this one has some amazing images and effects – like the lighting of a cigarette – and Garbo just looks stunning. Well, John Gilbert doesn’t look bad either…
Jean Harlow – “Red-Headed Woman” (1932): Aren’t pre-Codes fascinating? This film is a delight in its ‘incorrectness’ and shows Jean Harlow’s sex appeal perfectly – and, hey, she also could do drama and comedy!
Cary Grant – Fave Role: “An Affair to Remember.” Most charmingly sweet and most lovely of his performances that I’ve seen so far. He excels in both the comedy and dramatic parts in this movie. His on-screen chemistry with Deborah Kerr steals the show. Faultless. I just love this film as explained way too much here.
Rock Hudson – Fave Role: “Pillow Talk.” Also a fab comic actor and enjoyed him in this and so many of his classic movies. Bit of a hunk too back in the day. I loved this battle-of-the-sexes film and great film rapport with Doris Day.
Gig Young – “Teacher’s Pet.” Cute and so deserved that Oscar nod…despite Clark Gable. Wonderful screen chemistry with Gable and loved his flair for comedy and seeing more of his talent….which now seems kind of under-used in “Young at Heart.” See my review for “Teacher’s Pet” here.
Katharine Hepburn – Fave role: “The Philadelphia Story.” Great chemistry with the cast and loved her sparring scenes with Cary Grant. Great screen presence too and I love her with Grant over other male leads of her earlier movies.
Deborah Kerr – Loved her in “The King and I.” This introduced me to those great Hollywood musicals and loved her swirling about with Yul Brynner. A magical movie with memorable songs.
Carole Lombard – Saw her for the first time in “Nothing Sacred” for a Blogathon and loved her screwball performance and those comic moments. She co-starred with Fredric March. I’m definitely going to check out more of her work. Wish she had made more films with her off-screen husband Clark Gable. ( They only did “No Man of Her Own.” ) She was just fantastic.
Bette Davis – “Now Voyager.” Great range of character and emotionally stirring.
Barbara Stanwyck – “Sorry Wrong Number.” Takes the audience on an emotional roller-coaster ride, where our sympathies ebb and flow for her.
Myrna Loy – “The Thin Man.” Plays comedy straight to Powell with finesse and class. And gorgeous to look at, if I may say so!
Clark Gable – “It Happened One Night.” Gable shows his talent for comedy and was the role that perhaps cemented the ‘Gable image’.
Robert Donat – “Goodbye Mr. Chips.” Sentimental perhaps but such a wonderful actor, who showed range and ability playing a teacher from his early years through to old age.
James Cagney – “Angels With Dirty Faces.” He’s simply electric on the screen. His use of movement and voice is near perfect as the gangster who leaves us guessing in his final moments.
My first, although I don’t see him as an actor but as a pioneer/director/genius/personal hero is Charlie Chaplin. Even to people who know nothing about film, they know the name and the recognise The Tramp character. His films went from being produced hectically to tightly crafted works of art. I have so many favourite moments and so much of what he was saying is pertinent today. He was a humanitarian, he believed in the power of people supporting one another. He came from the workhouse – you didn’t get poorer than that – and with tremendous flair and talent he became the most famous man in world before he was 30. Though for the most part he played the same character, Chaplin, more than anyone, understood the power of silent cinema and helped it attain its artistry.
Without words Chaplin could move audiences from tears of laughter to tears of joy. He is a modern icon.
My favourite movie is so hard to pin down but it would have to be both “City Lights” for perfection and “The Great Dictator” in terms of lasting message to the world.
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My second favourite actor is another Brit and a man who has some similarities with Charlie Chaplin: both left-handed and both starting in vaudeville albeit at different times. Cary Grant.
When I think of Cary Grant I think of him as two actors: the funny, acrobatic, screwball comedian and the Hitchcock suave but slightly dangerous anti-hero. Sometimes we get films where he shows his talent for both persona and I love them equally. The fact he’s so gorgeous is a plus, but it’s the talent that makes him so watchable; even men like his movies. I remember watching Michael Caine being interviewed about Cary Grant, saying Grant made it all look so easy. Hollywood actors of his era were often typecast because the studio heads knew what made them money. They wanted Gable to be Gable and Bogie to be Bogie. Cary Grant played to this, but he also broke away. He wasn’t tied to any studio after the thirties. For me, the two movies that demonstrate either end of the Grant acting spectrum are “Bringing Up Baby” and “Notorious.”
“Bringing Up Baby” is my favourite screwball comedy, with a crazy storyline and pairs him with his best screwball co-star: Katharine Hepburn. I can’t listen to “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” without smiling.
Hitchcock first casts Grant in “Suspicion” where he seemed as guilty as hell and then in the classic “Notorious” with Ingrid Bergman. When I first saw this as a teenager I couldn’t believe such a sexy kissing scene was in an old film. I’d still rank it as one of the sexiest, most sensual film moments. If ever a girl needs rescuing, Cary Grant is your man. Of course he would go on to make two more films with Hitchcock, in many ways better than “Notorious” but for me it’s never lost it’s power.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
I’ve puzzled over number three, so two actors are tied for my third favourites: Charles Boyer and Montgomery Clift.
Charles Boyer was never employed for just his looks or accent, but for the depth he brought to his performances. His Napoleon is the most believable I’ve seen. In “Gaslight” he was chilling. In a whole host of films (“The Earrings of Madame De…”, “History is Made at Night”, “Cluny Brown” – the list is endless) I first viewed them because of the actresses in the movie. But then I was drawn in by the leading man who was consistently giving great performances, whilst giving his leading ladies their full chance to shine.
Favourite Charles Boyer movie ~ “Mayerling.”
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
With Montgomery Clift he mesmerises me. He’s beautiful, he’s haunted, he keeps you guessing. He absorbs the role and lives it, he befriends actors who are more unsure, he’s generous with his art. He was more consistent than Brando – who made some iconic movies, but got bored, lazy or both. Clift died too young, was troubled, never appreciated the joy he brought. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been as good without the demons. He saw acting as an art form, something Studio manufactured stars didn’t. He was an artist who consistently honed his performances and took his art seriously. Actresses who have given their best performances working with him are: Shelley Winters, Elizabeth Taylor, Olivia de Havilland.
Favourite Montgomery Clift movie ~ “Wild River.”
My number one favorite actress has never changed. I have loved her since I first saw a photo of her, way before I saw her in anything. If Chaplin is a hero, she is one of my heroines…so much so I’d have loved to have given my daughter her name: Vivien Leigh.
Like Chaplin, Leigh comes out from the screen and really touches me. She was a naturally gifted film actress, the camera loved her. She hadn’t made many films in England when she got the most coveted role in film as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” How many times have we watched film versions of much-loved books, only to think of how wrong the casting has been, especially when studios were bound to using their stable of stars. But with Vivien it was like it was written just for her. It’s a technicolor feast, but at its heart is Vivien as Scarlett. Other Hollywood films followed and amongst them she either played well-known women, Emma Hamilton or literature classics like “Anna Karenina”, making both roles her own. Just as Vivien is Scarlett she’s also Anna. I’ve seen many versions and I’ve read it twice…Vivien IS Anna. And then came an almost complete turnaround with Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and again Vivien was Blanche.
To some, Vivien might seem a tragic figure. I felt that once upon a time. But if she’d have lived, we’d be more open and understanding of her illness. She’s a tremendously courageous lady who accomplished so much both on stage and screen whilst battling with two terrifying illnesses. She was a woman who saw what she wanted and went after it with dogged determination. She was a woman who probably wouldn’t call herself a feminist, but she was at heart.
To nominate a film for Vivien is so hard as I’ve never seen a bad one but I must go with “Gone with the Wind.”
My second choice is Marlene Dietrich. The best actress ever? No. Is she one of the most iconic actresses…YES! I love her movies with Josef von Sternberg; they are crafted pieces of art. SHE is a piece of art. Their films together got more and more elaborate, and nothing this side of musicals conjures up the escapism needed in the Depression-ridden thirties as much as the excesses in their movies.
I prefer Marlene to Garbo, the star she was brought in to challenge. With von Sternberg Dietrich parted company with that comparison and found her way in the hard scrabble Hollywood of the thirties. She made some flops but she was always watchable. She broke out of her own mould with “Destry Rides Again.” Breaking the mould is something Dietrich would do time and again, whether entertaining the troops
during the Second World War or keeping her film career going into the sixties. I’m sure if Marlene had been allowed to enlist – she was such a force of womanhood – the war would probably have ended sooner. What a woman. Then as most women would be winding down, she undertakes a huge one-woman show. She stayed married to the same man for life, unashamedly taking many lovers, whilst her hubby (Rudolf Sieber) had a long-standing girlfriend. Not everyone’s way but it was Marlene’s. Like I said…what a woman.
My favourite Marlene film is “Shanghai Express.”
I love Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, they’re both underrated and I credit them with drawing me into movies. But my number three goes to Katharine Hepburn, for the same reason I hold Cary Grant so dear. She can do drama and comedy with equal adeptness. And she’s always Katharine Hepburn whether she’s Tracy Lord or Eleanor of Aquitaine or anyone else. Married when she was young then never married again, this long-term partner of Spencer Tracy, starred in many movies with him. She returned to the stage at intervals, always to rave reviews. A highly opinionated woman, she’s perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. And not at all glamorous. One gets the idea that whilst everyone else was suffering making “The African Queen” she was enjoying the whole thing. Her screen career spanned decades.
Katharine Hepburn – “Bringing up Baby.” She’s hilarious, leading poor old Cary Grant on a goose chase or ”Baby” hunt that he doesn’t want to be on.
SUMMING UP: All my actresses began their careers in movies in the 30’s. All my actresses are women before their time, none of them fit into the dutiful wife and mother role fully, or at all. I’d loved to have sat down for tea with Vivien. I’d loved to listen to Marlene and I’m sure Katharine would scold me for something. But they and some of their peers helped advance women’s rights faster than they had been advanced in the previous 1900 years.
And my actors…I’d love to listen to Charlie and ask him so many questions. Cary, I think I’d be struck dumb if he looked as good as he does in the movies. Boyer could read the phone book to me, that voice is like the finest tasting chocolate and Monty, I don’t know, I think I’d like to know who he really was, if in fact he knew.
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9. NAME A CLASSIC FILM YOU WOULD RECOMMEND SOMEONE SEE, AND WHY.
PADDY: Robert Wise’s boxing drama/noir “The Set-Up” from 1949. Creatively told in real-time with a perfect ensemble of actors, “The Set-Up” is my litmus test for critics. If they appreciate its many pleasures, I will take them seriously. If they dismiss it, as I have sometimes seen, they are dead to me.
FERNANDO: I always recommend films to people, either contemporary or older films, depending on the person to whom I am making the recommendation, his/her tastes, his/her personality, etc., especially when they are not familiar with Classic films.
But I can tell you that a couple of weeks ago, a young guy in his late twenties who works in my company, asked me about films; classics, etc. He asked me to recommend a couple of Classic films. Since he’s not familiar with the Classics, I told him he couldn’t go wrong with Hitchcock. So I recommended “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) and “Vertigo” (1958), stating that for me, these are Hitchcock’s best films.
In regards to “Shadow…” I told my co-worker to forget any prejudices against B&W or films not being widescreen. I told him “Shadow of a Doubt” is a superb thriller with great performances, plot twists and solid pacing that leads to a superb climax. I also told him “Vertigo” was a more complex film that had many layers and perhaps required more than one viewing. I mentioned it was one of the most fascinating films ever made and that he should see it at least once in his life.
HÅVARD: Fritz Lang’s “Spione.” For the simple reason that it puts every other spy movie made between 1928 and now to shame.
For someone not familiar with classic films and I’m trying to get them ‘classified’ I tend to recommend “North by Northwest”, “Charade”, “The Thin Man”, “Baby Face”, “The Palm Beach Story” or “The More the Merrier”.
For those in the know it’s a whole other kettle of fish. Then I’d recommend lesser known films by great artists, like mentioned here: “Three Came Home”, “Dance, Girl, Dance”, “Test Pilot”, “What Price Hollywood?”
For those not too familiar with classic non-Hollywood films: “La Ciociara” (“Two Women”) and “Das Riesenrad”.
LETÍCIA: There are many classics that still resonate with our current world – like “A Face in the Crowd” (1957). I also try to recommend some nice movies on my blog.
But I don’t know which I would recommend to someone – anyone. I think you can’t go wrong with a good comedy, especially the silent ones, because their humor is timeless.
GILL: “He Ran All the Way” (1951) – Another one I discovered, when I chose to review it in a blogathon. John Garfield blew my breath away with his screen presence and performance in this movie. He shows amazing depths from romantic to more frightening then to the paranoid side of his character as the movie progresses. This film makes me so want to see more of his work particularly his original take on “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946) where he played the role Jack Nicholson plays in the 1981 remake. You can also check out my review of this Garfield film here.
PAUL: “Seventh Heaven” (1927). If there was ever a silent film that was visual poetry, this is it (with all due respect to “Wings” and “The Crowd”). Borzage is a romantic and I adore the heart and emotion he brings to the film as director. Both Gaynor and Farrell are inspiring as the lovers who refuse to let anything divide them. For me it has the hallmarks of a masterpiece.
ALISON: I’d recommend too many. But three favourites films I’d recommend for different reasons are:
1. “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Of all the Christmas movies that have ever been made, this, still is the best Christmas movie. It’s a life lesson in a movie. It’s not the only movie to do this but it does it with more power than any other movie, bar one. The other being “The Ox Bow Incident.”
2. “Singin’ in the Rain” ~ My number one happy movie. Technicolor, Gene Kelly, a great score and Cyd Charisse. Say no more.
3. The film that still resonate today and displays both the power of Hollywood to make a statement and propaganda value, it would be Charles Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.” It was made at a time when Hollywood wasn’t quite sure about what to do about the trouble in Europe. “The Great Dictator” didn’t even mildly disguise the fun it was poking at Hitler and Mussolini. The man who was only a few days older than Hitler showed him just what he thought of him. And this film isn’t just us laughing at Chaplin portraying a Hitler character, but it has the trademark slapstick and pathos which are at the heart of Chaplin movies. It’s stood the test of time.
It correlates directly to a time in history when the world sat on the brink of disaster. Yet, its closing speech is one of the most beautiful to come out of a classic movie and it’s as poignant now as it was then. And it resonates even more today when we’re in politically shady times again. I think the film sums up Chaplin himself, his political views, which were somewhat simplistic and humanitarian. He wasn’t an enemy of America and perhaps there’s comfort there knowing that in the early 50’s there were crazy times in politics but rectified itself eventually. May the same happen again.
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10. ANY PARTING COMMENTS FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD, RE: MOVIES … OR LIFE?
PADDY: We live in an age where the creative hearts and minds of centuries and beyond borders can reach us. We should relish the art that flourishes around us without ignoring the voices of the past.
FERNANDO: My parting comments would be: never trust anyone but yourself when it comes to films. It has happened to me many times that I have read lackluster reviews about some films and after watching them I thought, “thank God I do not trust reviews or critics!” Your only guide should be your own taste, instincts and your will to discover new gems. There is a world full of hidden “easter eggs”; films from all over the world, of all the genres, of all the decades, that are there waiting to be discovered.
And share, share & share. When you find a film that you like share it with the World and try to write about your experience. It is the only way of “keeping the ball rolling” and “passing the torch” to other people and to future generations, especially with respect to older films.
And with regard to Classic or older films, liberate yourself of your prejudices; forget you are watching a B&W film or a Silent film, immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy!
Thank you my friend for considering me for this great experience.
[ CineMaven’s Note: Fernando has allowed me to re~post some of his pithy reviews here on my blog. To satisfy your curiosity please go to the little corner I’ve carved out for him and check him out. Thx!!! ]
HÅVARD: Just that there is a lot we can learn from movies, like “Rocky”, for example, which tells us to never give up, to keep chasing the dream no matter what. And “It’s a Wonderful Life” tells us that we all matter, that our actions in this world, whether big or small, will have consequences. So, make sure to be good to one another, and don’t be stingy with those hugs.
KARIN: I hate choosing and singling out names from a sky of bright stars. But anyway, this glorious by-gone world and the beautiful remains of it has become a part of my life. A big part. Thank God.
LETÍCIA: Blogging about classic films changed my life. I found my voice, my place and an amazing community. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have a blog. Thank you!
Kisses! Thank you so much for inviting me!
GILL: Parting comments… thanks for this great wee interview Theresa, it’s been fun! And film bloggers, get out of your comfort zone and review a film you haven’t seen yet. There’s so many films to discover and enjoy that you might just like it. So for that blogathon, just go random…
PAUL: It would take a lifetime to discover, watch and talk about classic film – and I intend to live as long as I can to discover, watch and talk about as much classic film as possible. Don’t let the distance from Australia deter you from visiting – we have so much to offer you if you visit! Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my feelings about classic film!
ALISON: Never underestimate the power of a good movie for being good for the soul. But the reverse is true…time spent on a movie that’s all effects and no storyline is time you can’t get back again.
Without being too philosophical, joy is to be found in small things: a favourite movie, a good friend, a cherished pet, a nice meal, a kindness or compliment given or received, creating something from scratch like a meal or painting or garment. If we instinctively knew this when we were born we might not pursue money, ambition and energy on things that don’t give us the sense of joy, but cost us dearly.
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