Tag Archives: comedy

Down With Love (2003)

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I apologize for being so lax on my blogathon entries.  I over-committed and apparently cannot sign up for every blogathon during end of the quarter time at work.  We were very busy during the month of May and frankly, I just didn’t have the ambition to write anything after getting home.  I’m trying to get back on track, because I do enjoy watching movies and writing about them and sharing my love of movies with everyone.  I should hopefully have some more time.

Lately, I’ve been catching up with Ewan McGregor, who I’ve proclaimed as my new Scottish boyfriend.  I realize that he isn’t a classic movie star, but I enjoy movies of all kind–not just classic film.  Classic film is my favorite, but I do watch newer films as well. Anyway, a film that I just recently discovered and found completely enjoyable is Down With Love.

Down With Love, while a film from 2003, is an homage to the classic Doris Day/Rock Hudson sex farces of the late 1950s-early 1960s.  Pillow Talk, in particular, shares many similarities with this pastiche film.  The film takes place in 1962 Manhattan.  The film has a very stylized appearance with numerous tongue in cheek jokes and corny dialogue that was present in the rom-coms of yore.  The costumes and sets are colorful and gorgeous. Renee Zellweger’s apartment is hilarious and very 1960s.  There is also lots of innuendo which is always delightful.  Especially in this film, as the innuendo is pretty racy, but not crass.  A funny scene involves McGregor’s new secretary, Sally, overhearing a conversation between McGregor and his boss.  They’re discussing the newest innovation in men’s socks (no need for sock garters!), but without being in the room, Sally assumes that they are comparing the size of each other’s “manhood,” with McGregor coming out well ahead (“16 inches!” “And don’t forget, I have two of them”).

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Just one of many split screens in Down With Love

In Down With Love, Zellweger plays Barbara Novak, a feminist writer who writes the best-selling non fiction book, Down With Love.  The book is a sensation and soon every woman on the planet is engrossed in it and adopting its philosophy.  Down With Love tells women that they don’t need to fall in love with a man and assume a life of domestic servitude.  Women, like men, can have a fulfilling career, social life and have meaningless sex.  They don’t have to have a man around to be happy.  A love of chocolate can be substituted for a man if they wish.  The main thing that the men of the world dislike about Zellweger’s book is that it promotes an independent life for women.

McGregor’s character, Catcher Block, is a star reporter at Know Magazine For Men, is assigned to write a story on Zellweger’s book.  McGregor is a playboy, “a ladies man, a man’s man, a man about town.”  At first, he is completely against the idea, because he finds the idea of her book dumb and boring.  However, he has a change of heart when he finds out that he’s losing dates because they have embraced Zellweger’s idea that women don’t need men.  McGregor decides that he’ll write an exposé about Zellweger, exposing her for what he feels are her true feelings, based on his assumption that all women really want love and marriage.

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Just one stop on a parade of hot night spots that McGregor as “Zip” and Zellweger visit

To bait Zellweger into admitting that she really wants love and not just meaningless sex (so he has fodder for his article), he arranges for a chance meeting at a dry cleaner, knowing that she’s only heard his voice, but doesn’t know what he looks like.  He puts on a pair of glasses and poses as Major Zip Martin, a kind and naive astronaut from the South who is content on remaining chaste until he feels ready for a physical relationship.  Essentially Zellweger and McGregor are working toward opposite goals (opposite from their own and from each other’s).  Zellweger grows frustrated that McGregor won’t have sex with her and McGregor is enjoying frustrating her until he finds himself falling for her and suddenly his plan becomes frustrating for him as well (emotionally and physically).  One particularly funny scene involving McGregor’s frustration (more physical, than anything else) is where after a particularly hot first kiss, he has to literally cool himself off by dumping a champagne bucket full of ice water on top of his head.  In fact, there are a lot of sexy kissing scenes in this movie.  It definitely helps that McGregor is so cute.  Lol.

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Ewan McGregor as Catcher Block, “a ladies man, a man’s man, man about town.”

There is considerable sexual tension between Zellweger and McGregor’s characters throughout the entire film.  They have great chemistry with one another and are very adept at bringing their respective personas to the screen.  Zellweger’s Doris Day-esque character is not as squeaky clean as Day’s characters, such as when Zellweger is trying to outright ask McGregor (as “Zip”) to go home with her, after having literally just met him ten minutes earlier in the dry cleaner.  McGregor, in a very unusual role for him (no nudity for one, lol), is excellent as the European playboy.  Even his faux Southern accent is adorable and hilarious.  He is very charming and you can see how so many women succumb to his charms.  He also displays excellent comedic timing (which was also present in Moulin Rouge! to some extent).

David Hyde Pierce lends support as McGregor’s boss and best friend, Peter.  Pierce is essentially his Niles Crane (from Frasier) persona here, unlucky in love and neurotic.  He pines over Sarah Paulson, who plays Vicky, Zellweger’s editor and best friend.  Pierce and Paulson have a subplot where their two characters try to get together while at the same time, supporting their respective friends in their relationship.  Of course, Pierce is aware of McGregor’s deception in his relationship with Zellweger.  Pierce and Paulson also provide much of the humor of the film, as they get all the hilarious one liners that are ubiquitous in the world of “the best friend” in the Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedies.  Pierce and Paulson are essentially the male and female versions of the Tony Randall character who provided support in all three Day/Hudson features.

Speaking of Randall… He shows up in a very funny segment in the film where be bemoans the success of Down With Love because it’s affecting his relationship with his mistress.

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A very funny scene toward the beginning of the film where Sarah Paulson and Renee Zellweger show off their fashionable wares.  The best parts about these scenes, aside from the dramatic way they remove their coats, is the music.

Down With Love didn’t do well upon its initial theatrical release.  I believe it only barely turned a profit.  This film is greatly underrated and perhaps may have been overlooked when it was new, because audiences didn’t know what to make of this pastiche film that pays tribute to the 1950s-1960s sex farces.  Perhaps if this had come out a few years later when Mad Men came out, it may have done better.  I only found out about and watched this film less than a month ago, and I won’t even share how many times I’ve watched it since then.  I originally borrowed it from the library and have since procured my own copy.  I may have watched it two times in a row today while I wrote this blog entry.

Up with Down With Love!

PS: Watch the beginning of the ending credits of the film.  You won’t regret it.  Unless you dislike cheesy 1960s inspired lounge music numbers, then… I don’t think we have anything else to discuss.

This film is just plain fun.  And really, in the end of the day, that’s really all that matters.

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Doris Day Blogathon–“It’s a Great Feeling” (1949)

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Today is Doris Day’s 95th birthday–not her 93rd like previously thought.  It’s only fitting that I honor Doris’ birthday by discussing one of her films.  Doris made her screen debut in 1948 with Romance on the High Seas after forging a career for herself as a big band singer and radio performer.  She had originally wanted to be a dancer, but a 1937 car accident injured her legs and essentially ended her dancing career before it even began.  She landed a job at Charlie Ye’s Shanghai Inn as a waitress in her hometown of Cincinnati, OH while she pursued a singing career. In 1939, she landed a job as a big band singer, which evolved into also performing on radio.  Her singing career led directly to her career in film.  By 1949, Doris was appearing in her third film, It’s a Great Feeling, a lightweight Warner Brothers film that was essentially a “who’s who” of the Warner Brothers lot in 1949.

It’s a Great Feeling isn’t a great film by any means and isn’t even a definitive Doris Day film. It is most likely a foot note in the careers of the stars who appeared as themselves (if the film was even mentioned at all).  However, the film did serve its purpose.  It put Doris Day’s star on the map and directly led to her getting bigger and better roles in every successive film.  Doris Day was a star for over thirty years before she retired (by choice) from her career.  She is a living legend and one of America’s most beloved stars.

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Dennis Morgan (left) and Jack Carson (right) scheme to discover a new star

In It’s a Great Feeling, Doris plays Judy Adams, a waitress in the Warner Brothers commissary.  Star Jack Carson has been signed to appear in the new film, Mademoiselle Fifi.  Multiple famous directors (Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh and King Vidor) are approached to direct the film, but refuse once they find out about Carson’s casting.  A running joke in the film is that Carson is such a terror to work with that nobody will work with him.  The studio reluctantly agrees to let Carson direct the film (since nobody else will).  Now, he needs to find a female co-star.  He tries enlisting well known female stars, like Jane Wyman, but nobody will have anything to do with him.  Carson enlists friend Dennis Morgan to help him find a co-star and Morgan suggests he look for an unknown–rationalizing that nobody who knows Carson will work with him, so he’ll have more luck finding someone who doesn’t know any better.

Carson and Morgan end up coming across Judy, the waitress in the commissary.  Carson and Morgan’s first step to “discovering” her, is to introduce her to fictional studio head, Arthur Trent.  They remember that Trent likes to discover his own talent, so Carson and Morgan “arrange” to have Judy conveniently pop up in random places–elevator operator, cab driver and dental hygienist.  All Carson and Morgan end up doing is driving Trent bananas.  Judy keeps trying too hard to appeal to the casting director by looking at him with a goofy smile and rapidly fluttering eyelids.  (I do think that the weird sounds that accompany Judy’s smile and eye flutters are very annoying, and really the only blight on this otherwise entertaining film).

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Doris dresses as French singer “Yvonne” in an attempt to be cast as a Frenchwoman in “Mademoiselle Fifi.”

After their first scheme fails, Carson and Morgan arrange a screen test for Judy.  That too is a disaster, as it experiences technical problems and actually causes studio head Trent to experience a nervous breakdown.  Judy later re-appears as a French singer in an attempt to convince Trent that she is right for the role.  However, despite an elaborate ruse and help from two major actresses, Trent sees through Judy’s charade and she’s turned down.

Disillusioned with her lack of success and treatment in Hollywood (including all the nonsense that Carson and Morgan made her endure), Judy decides to head back home to Goerkes Corner, WI to marry her longtime sweetheart Jeffrey Bushdinkle, whom she left to pursue her career in Hollywood.  After discovering that there may be an opportunity for Judy in pictures, Carson and Morgan follow her to her hometown and plan on breaking up the wedding.  When they arrive, the Adams/Bushdinkle nuptials are already in progress.  Watching in bemusement to see who Judy could possibly want to marry in lieu of pursuing a film career, Carson and Morgan watch through the window.  The groom’s face is hidden until after the vows.  The bride and groom are declared man and wife and they go in for the kiss.  When their faces part, Carson and Morgan finally get to see the groom.  With a name like Jeffrey Bushdinkle, how attractive could be possibly be?

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Jack Carson (left) and Dennis Morgan (right) look on in astonishment when they see Judy’s groom. “What some girls will go for, he’s got nothin’,” Carson says, unconvincingly.

Answer: Very.  I won’t give it away, but if this man were waiting for me in Small Town, USA and there was a choice between living in this tiny town and being with this gorgeous man… well… it would be a very difficult choice and I don’t blame Doris Day’s character for one second.

Jack Carson, eat your heart out.

“Rain” Blogathon–“Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)

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Rain in movies is often used to evoke feelings of depression, despair, unhappiness, etc.  Film noir often uses rain to set the mood of the film.  In Key Largo (1948), the constant rain storm keeps the action contained onto the ship and gives the film a claustrophobic feeling.  While, noir and other more serious types of films tend to use rain as a way to make the scene dreary, scary, what not, other genres of film use rain for other purposes.  Romantic films like The Notebook (2004) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) use rain to create romantic kissing scenes.  Often times, in romantic films, the characters will be somewhat on the outs, only to realize their love for one another during a horrific rainstorm.  Their romantic feelings for one another will culminate with a passionate clinch and kiss in the pouring down rainstorm.  Other films, such as Pleasantville (1998) and Beauty and the Beast (1992) may use rain to symbolize change.  It is the idea of change that is represented so beautifully in Singin’ in the Rain (1952).  Gene Kelly in an iconic scene, memorably dances down the street in the pouring down rain.

“…doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo, doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo…” 

And so starts one of the most memorable rain scenes in film.

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Gene Kelly’s joy is infectious in one of the most delightful musical number ever to appear on screen

Singin’ in the Rain is quite simply one of the best (if not the best) musicals ever made.  It tells the story of Hollywood’s transition from silent films to “talkies.”  Stars Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are great romantic stars and are also involved in an off-screen romance–at least according to Monumental Pictures’ publicity department.  In reality, Don cannot stand Lina.  She on the other hand, cannot allow her ego to believe that someone doesn’t love her.  Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) is in charge of the studio’s music department and is also Don’s best friend.  Don ends up involved with an aspiring actress, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who Lina is intensely jealous of.  Not only is Don in love with Kathy and not Lina, but Kathy also threatens Lina’s career.  Kathy can sing and dance–two things Lina can’t do.  After the hilarious failure of Monumental Pictures’ first talkie, Cosmo, Kathy and Don come up with the idea to turn their turkey of a movie into a musical.  After dropping his love Kathy off at home and excited about their new venture, Don is on Cloud Nine.  Not even a torrential downpour can dampen (pun intended) his spirits.

Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” number is simply put, one of the greatest things to ever grace the silver screen.  His excitement over his new romance and the new direction his career is heading is infectious.  Even though he starts out carrying his umbrella, he quickly puts it away.  Kelly’s character Don, is so happy about his life that he doesn’t even care that he’ll be soaked on the way home.  He gleefully taps and skips his way down the sidewalks with a big smile on his face.  Don sees a lamp post, jumps up and twirls around.  He pretends his umbrella is a guitar, and playfully tips his hat to the woman in the store window advertisement.  He taps into his inner child, without a worry in the world during his magical walk down the street.  Don throws and catches his umbrella and allows water from the downspout dump on his head.  He pretends to balance on a curb.  Don’s rain dance culminates with him splashing around in the massive puddles.  A cop finally ends the number when he stops and stares at this guy essentially playing in the road.  Don unconcerned, croons “I’m singin’ and dancin’ in the rain” and walks down the sidewalk, arms still swinging happily.  His glee and enthusiasm is contagious.  It is impossible to not feel happier after seeing this scene.  In a way, the rain represents a new life.  It washes away all the unhappiness and annoyances of his previous life and now he can start anew, with his new film persona and lady love.

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A party pooper stops all the fun

The song “Singin’ in the Rain” was not written for Singin’ in the Rain.  In fact, all the songs in the film, except “Make ‘Em Laugh” (which sounds exactly like Cole Porter’s “Be a Clown”) were used in past musicals.  “Singin’ in the Rain” was crooned by Cliff Edwards in the 1929 musical, The Hollywood Revue of 1929.  Judy Garland gives a rousing rendition of the song in the 1940 musical, Little Nellie Kelly.  In 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, the song was used in a more disturbing fashion.  Star Malcolm McDowell hums the iconic song while raping a woman.  Gene Kelly’s rendition of the song plays over the closing credits.  Kelly himself was not pleased to be associated with this film. In 2007, Usher re-created the famous musical number in an homage to Kelly’s famous number, complete with the same style suit and everything.

Even though “Singin in the Rain” was more than 20 years old by the time it was used as the title song for the 1952 classic and had been performed multiple times by different artists, even by big star Judy Garland, it is Gene Kelly’s rendition that is the most famous.  The image of Gene Kelly twirling on the lamp post while ‘singin’ in the rain’ will forever be a part of American pop culture.  In an era where the word “iconic” is thrown around too often and too loosely to the point where it doesn’t really mean much, the image of Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain truly meets the definition.  The song itself has such a catchy tune, it’d be hard to find someone who at least doesn’t know the main part of the chorus.  Even Cary Grant was humming it in the shower in North By Northwest.

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One of the most famous scenes in film history

Jack Lemmon Blogathon–“Some Like it Hot” (1959)

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“I’m Daphne!”

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And thus begins one of the all-time funniest screen performances.  Jack Lemmon, who landed the role of Jerry/Daphne in Some Like it Hot after Jerry Lewis turned it down (thank goodness), delivers an Oscar-nominated performance and frankly, just one of the best portrayals ever to grace the silver screen.  His little cackles, facial expressions, mannerisms, everything he implements to create “Daphne,” are fantastic.  He makes the film.  Without him, it might have been funny, but not hysterical.  Don’t get me wrong, co-stars Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Joe E. Brown had their moments, but Some Like it Hot belongs to Jack Lemmon.

In other hands, like original choice Jerry Lewis’ for example, the role of Daphne could have easily evolved into something absurd and obnoxious.  Lemmon’s portrayal is absurd, but in a good way.  What makes his portrayal so successful is that he commits to the role.  He is in no way self conscious about dressing in drag.  What makes his introduction of Daphne so funny is how he suddenly embraces his persona while being introduced to Sweet Sue.  Jerry and Joe had already agreed that they would be Geraldine and Josephine, respectively, and suddenly Jerry blurts out “Daphne.” “I never did like the name Geraldine,” he says.  His enthusiasm is a contrast to the scene just a minute prior where complains about his outfit and shoes and then sees lead singer, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), walk down the train platform and is disillusioned that their charade is even going to work.

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JERRY: “Look at that. Look how she moves. That’s just like Jell-O on springs.  They must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell ya, it’s a whole different sex.”

The train ride from Chicago to Miami is one of the funniest scenes in the film.  Jerry is painfully aware that he’s supposed to be a woman–an awareness that only gets more cumbersome when he’s partying with a dozen girls inside his upper berth.  When Sugar invites herself into his “room” (if you can call it that), he has to remind himself “I’m a girl. I’m a girl” only to lament, “I wish I were dead.”

Another of my favorite scenes is when Sweet Sue (the band manager) emphatically states “There are two things I will not put up with during working hours: liquor and men!” To which Jerry (as Daphne), who has completely embraced his female alter ego (and is bordering on trying too hard to be believable as a woman), says:

JERRY: “We wouldn’t be caught dead with men! Rough, hairy beasts with eight hands. And they all just want one thing from a girl!”

The funniest part of that exchange is the disgusted look he makes afterward. Pretty much everything “Daphne” says is hilarious.

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Daphne’s feeling about men

The best part of Some Like it Hot is Daphne’s budding romance with Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), the oft-married (and oft-divorced) mama’s boy millionaire, who spends his time hanging out at the Seminole Ritz Hotel in Miami, always looking for his next ex-wife.  When Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopaters enter the hotel lobby, Osgood immediately has his sights set for Daphne.  While the subplot featuring the budding romance between Shell Oil-heir “Junior” (Tony Curtis doing his Cary Grant impression) and Sugar is amusing, the Daphne/Osgood courtship is comedy gold.

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While the audience and Jerry know that this relationship has no future, watching the millionaire become more and more enamored with Daphne is hysterical.  The tango scene where they literally tango until dawn (originally meant as a scheme for Joe bring Sugar to rendezvous in Osgood’s yacht, without Osgood being present, of course).  Jerry is really into their dancing and is having the time of his life.  The tango night leads to Osgood proposing to Jerry and giving him a diamond bracelet as an engagement present.  The scene where Jerry announces his engagement is one of the best parts of the film:

JOE: “What happened?”
JERRY: “I’m engaged.”
JOE: “Congratulations. Who’s the lucky girl?”
JERRY: “I am!”
JOE: “What?”
JERRY: “Osgood proposed to me. We’re planning a June wedding.”
JOE: “What are you talking about? You can’t marry Osgood.”
JERRY: “Do you think he’s too old for me?”

When Joe tries to talk some sense into Jerry by asking the obvious question (well obvious in 1959 that is), “why would a guy want to marry a guy?” Jerry answers, “Security.” Then goes on to say:

JERRY: “I don’t expect it to last.  I’ll tell him the truth when the time comes.”
JOE: “Like when?”
JERRY: “Like right after the ceremony. Then we get a quick annulment, he makes a nice settlement on me and I keep gettin’ those alimony checks every month.”

Throughout this entire scene, Jerry is shaking maracas and humming the tango.  He is excited about his proposal, even though he knows that he can’t really marry Osgood. Though as someone who hocked his overcoat to gamble money on a dog at the track (and lost), the prospect of being financially secure is probably an enticing one and he’s probably considering it, even though realistically, it can’t happen. Jerry’s maracas weren’t originally in the script; however, they were added after preview audiences laughed so hard that much of Jerry’s dialogue was lost.  Director Billy Wilder added the pauses and maracas and re-shot the scene so that the humor and the dialogue would remain intact.

The ending scene between Jerry and Osgood is one of the funniest (and most perfect endings) in film.  The moment has come when Jerry really needs to come clean about his true identity and call off the engagement.  He tries to hint to Osgood the reason why he can’t marry him:

Osgood wants Jerry to wear his mother’s wedding gown:

JERRY: “I can’t get married in your mother’s dress…she and I, we are not built the same way.”
OSGOOD: “We can have it altered.”

Jerry tries again:

JERRY: “I’m not a natural blonde.”
OSGOOD: “Doesn’t matter.”
JERRY: “I smoke. I smoke all the time!”
OSGOOD: “I don’t care.”
JERRY: “I have a terrible past. For three years, I’ve been living with a saxophone player.”
OSGOOD: “I forgive you.”
JERRY: “I can never have children.”
OSGOOD: “We can adopt some.”

Exasperated, Jerry finally lays it all out on the table:

JERRY: “I’m a man”

Then, one of the greatest lines and endings of all time:

OSGOOD: “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

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How will Jerry ever get out of this mess?

Nothing to do with Jack Lemmon, but this is one of my favorite lines from “Some Like it Hot,”

DOLORES: Have you heard the one about the one-legged jockey? 
…then later, we hear the punchline…
DOLORES: “Don’t worry about me baby, I ride side-saddle!” 

Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon!

I Love Lucy, Ep. 79 “The Million Dollar Idea” January 11, 1954

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This weekend, “A Shroud of Thoughts” is hosting a blogathon.  The theme is “Favorite TV Show Episode.”  I knew that I would have to write about an episode from my favorite television show of all time–“I Love Lucy.”  But which episode?! They’re all so great.  It was difficult to narrow it down.  I didn’t want to write about “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” (aka “The Vitameatavegamin Episode”) or “Job Switching” (Lucy & Ethel work in the chocolate factory) or “Lucy’s Italian Movie” (Lucy stomps grapes) because I feel like those are the episodes that are always trotted out when someone discusses the best “I Love Lucy” episodes.  While I adore these episodes, there are many other great episodes that deserve recognition.  I settled on “The Million Dollar Idea.”  A hilarious episode that features one of my favorite quotes.  On paper, it’s not really that funny, but Lucy’s delivery of the line makes it.

“The Million Dollar Idea” opens with the Ricardos and Mertzes having dinner in the living room.

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Ethel (Vivian Vance) and Fred (William Frawley) rave about Lucy’s (Lucille Ball) homemade salad dressing.  Lucy admits that it is her Aunt Martha’s recipe.  Fred tells Lucy that she should consider bottling and selling it.  Ricky (Desi Arnaz) on the other hand, takes this opportunity to remind Lucy that her bank account is overdrawn…again.  They have an off-screen battle over the household accounts.

The next morning, Lucy decides that she’s going to take Fred’s idea and bottle and sell her Aunt Martha’s Salad Dressing.  She enlists Ethel’s help and the ladies are in business.  They come up with a product name: Aunt Martha’s Old Fashioned Salad Dressing.  To market their product, Lucy decides to take advantage of her friendship with “frenemy” Carolyn Appleby (not seen in the episode) since she remembered that Carolyn’s husband Charlie works at a television station.  “[We’ll] cut her in, to the tune of, say, three cents a bottle,” Lucy tells Ethel.  “Yeah. She likes that kind of music,” Ethel agrees.  They decide to go on The Dickie Davis Show.

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On the show, Ethel appears as “Mary Margaret McMertz,” a parody of popular radio show host Mary Margaret McBride who dispensed household advice to women for over 40 years. Ethel touts the salad dressing and asks an “average housewife, picked at random, from [the] audience” to come up on stage.  Of course, this wasn’t a random selection at all.  It is Lucy, disguised as average housewife Isabella Klump.  Ms. Klump raves about the salad dressing, to the point where she’s literally drinking it from the jar!  Ethel asks her viewers to write (623 E. 68th Street) or call (CIrcle 7-2099) to place their orders.  Of course, Ethel holds the cards backwards and then upside down, but that doesn’t hurt orders.  By the end of the show, Lucy and Ethel have 23 orders–at the bargain price of 40 cents a quart!

Back at home, Lucy and Ethel get to salad dressing production.  As far as I can tell, the ingredients in the salad dressing are: oil, salt and onions.  One has to assume there must be some vinegar in there? But the dressing isn’t a vinaigrette–it looks more like mayonnaise.  Perhaps the dressing has eggs in it and when emulsified, it becomes more of mayonnaise type dressing? Then there are the onions.  Big pieces of onion only cut into quarters.  Maybe it goes into the blender next? Not sure.  Regardless, Lucy and Ethel have horribly under-priced their  product.  Ricky, who obviously has more business acumen than Lucy (he does manage the Tropicana Club, after all), decides to calculate Lucy and Ethel’s profit.  After calculating the cost of the ingredients, the cost of the jars and the cost of the labels and dividing it by their 23 orders, Ricky determines that they’ll churn out a 3 cent per jar profit–the same profit that was promised to Carolyn Appleby.  He tells Lucy that that figure doesn’t even include shipping, mailing, insurance, taxes or overhead.  “Oh. Well. If you’re going to figure all that stuff,” Lucy tells him.  Ricky urges Lucy and Ethel to get out of the salad dressing business.  Fred then enters the kitchen carrying an enormous bag of mail, one of three bags that were delivered. “We must be terrific television salesmen!” Ethel declares.

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Dismayed at the thought of having to produce so many jars of non-profit salad dressing, Lucy and Ethel decide to return to The Dickie Davis Show.   They figure if they’re so good at selling the dressing, that they’ll be good at “un-selling it.” The next day, Mary Margaret McMertz is back.  She once again advertises Aunt Martha’s Old Fashioned Salad Dressing and invites “an average housewife, picked at random, from [the] audience.”  Of course, Lucy comes up on stage, this time as country bumpkin, “Lucille McGillicuddy.”  Mrs. McGillicuddy smells the dressing and is immediately disgusted.  “Smell it” she tells McMertz.  McMertz smells it and is taken with the same bad smell.  “How about that? Looks like Aunt Martha had too many old-fashioneds” Mrs. McGillicuddy says. McMertz asks Mrs. McGillicuddy to taste the dressing.  After getting over her initial repulsion and the promise of a new jar, Mrs. McGillicuddy takes a swig.  She’s overcome with disgust and looks for a place to spit it out.  “What’s Aunt Martha trying to do? Poison me?” she asks.

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Under great duress, Mary Margaret McMertz says, “Friends, I can no longer endorse this product.  If you have ordered it, send in your cancellations.”

Which brings me to my favorite part of the episode. Falling to the floor after drinking the vile salad dressing, Mrs. McGillicuddy pops up and says:

“CANCEL! CANCEL!”

McMertz once again shares the cancellation phone number and address.

Mrs. McGillicuddy reappears.  “AND DO IT NOW!” she pleads.

After the show, the girls are sure that they’ve succeeded in getting out of making all the salad dressing.  Fred brings in more sacks of mail.  Lucy and Ethel excitedly start reading the postcards.  “Cancellations!” they think.  Except they’re not.  They’re more orders! 1133 more orders to be exact.  Lucy and Ethel decide to purchase salad dressing from the store, remove the labels and attach their own labels.  It’s not entirely honest and costs 50 cents a quart (10 cents more than their product), but they can get their scheme over and done with in the shortest amount of time.  Lucy and Ethel, decked out in matching outfits, some sort of apron vest like thing (looks like something that a newspaper delivery boy would wear), roller skates and shopping carts (that they got from somewhere.  I doubt that people with minimal storage, like in an apartment, would have shopping carts lying around) get ready to deliver their wares.  “You take the east side, I’ll take the west side and I’ll be in Jersey a-fore ya!” Lucy tells Ethel.

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Dinner & a Movie: Roman Holiday (1953)

I recently checked a new book out from the library, TCM: Movie Night Menus: Dinner and Drink Recipes Inspired by the Films we Love.  While I questioned some of the meals, I liked the idea of pairing a meal and a cocktail with a film.  A decade or so ago, TBS had a television show that followed these same lines.  It, I believe, was called “Dinner and a Movie.” In the show, the hosts would prepare a meal that was loosely themed to the featured film.  Usually it had some cutesy name (often times the name was a pun on the name of the film).  I liked the ideas featured in the TCM book as it was less corny and seemed more in tune with my idea of making film viewing an event in and of itself. Who says you have to leave the house to “go out” ?

I’ve been trying to come up with some type of feature for the blog.  I often enjoy pairing drinks and/or meals with specific films.  Even if this is my hundredth time watching the film, it can feel like a different experience in the context of a dinner and drink event.  For my first feature, I went with Roman Holiday (1953).  I decided to go with Roman Holiday, because I wanted to watch something that took place in Italy to go with my Italian meal. I made lasagna and paired it with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from California.  I’m not going to include recipes, because lets face it, I had to use a recipe to make the meal in the first place–so it’s not my recipe. My lasagna happened to be made with italian turkey sausage (instead of the traditional ground beef or ground beef and pork sausage blend).  The turkey makes the meal feel lighter.  I also added fresh spinach to the ricotta filling.

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My turkey, spinach, tomato lasagna with a breadstick and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.  I USUALLY TRY NOT TO BLOW PLOT POINTS, BUT I NEED TO DO SO FOR THE SAKE OF DISCUSSION***

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Roman Holiday is such a delight.  It is Audrey Hepburn’s first major film role and is the film that catapulted her to stardom.  Peck was very kind to Hepburn during the making of this film.  At this point, Peck was the bigger star and should have received sole star billing (i.e. above the title).  However, he felt that this was Hepburn’s film and that she would win an Oscar for it.  He insisted to the studio heads that Hepburn’s name also appear above the title with his.  He was right.  Hepburn went on to win the Best Actress Oscar for her work in this film.  Peck and Hepburn went on to be life long friends.

In this film, Hepburn portrays Princess Ann.  Princess Ann’s nationality I do not believe is ever disclosed in this film. Princess Ann is on a European tour and is quickly growing bored with her regimented routine and schedule.  One night, appearing at another function (undoubtedly just one of hundreds that she has to attend), Ann has a breakdown after being briefed on her next appearance.  A doctor gives her a sedative (seemingly every doctor in the Golden Age’s solution. “She’s hysterical. Give her a sedative”).  Not knowing about the sedative, Princess Ann sneaks out of the embassy and into Rome.  Joe Bradley (Peck), an American reporter for the American news service comes across her sleeping on a bench.  Not knowing of her true identity, he tries to give her money for a taxi to go home, but she’s too out of it to cooperate.  He ends up taking her home to sleep it off.

The next morning, word is out that Princess Ann has taken ill and has canceled all appearances (obviously the embassy is trying to save face and figure out where she is).  Bradley ends up going to work late under the pretense that he’s completed his interview with Princess Ann.  His boss calls him out on his lie.  Bradley sees a photograph of the Princess in the newspaper in his boss’ office.  Seeing an opportunity, Bradley bets his boss $5,000 that he can get an exclusive interview with Princess Ann.  He returns home and despite the Princess’ hesitations, he ends up taking her out for a day of fun in Rome.  With her newfound freedom, Princess Ann cuts her hair short and even drives a Vespa around town! Unbeknownst to her, Bradley has hired his friend Irving (Eddie Albert) to photograph the Princess during her day of freedom.

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Isn’t this just one of the most joyful scenes in cinema?

Many romantic comedies involve deception.  Roman Holiday features multiple deceptions.  Gregory Peck deceives Audrey Hepburn in two ways: 1) He knows her true identity but pretends like he doesn’t and 2) He tells her that he is a fertilizer salesman.  Audrey Hepburn deceives Gregory Peck by devising her fake identity of “Anya.” Of course, Hepburn’s deception seems reasonable, as she wouldn’t want word to get out as to her whereabouts.  Peck on the other hand, at the beginning of the film, is lying to Hepburn purely to profit off of her decision to be “free.” Of course, in most of these romantic comedies, the characters usually find out about the other’s deception and the relationship seems to be in jeopardy at first until one of them makes a great gesture.

In Roman Holiday, however, Hepburn never finds out about Peck’s true intentions.  In fact, she realizes that her jig is up when the government agents track her town at a party and chaos ensues.  At the conclusion of the party, Hepburn bids Peck adieu, stating that she must resume her royal duties.  Peck realizes that he’s developed true romantic feelings for her and doesn’t want to hurt her by profiting off of the photos he has of Hepburn acting very un-Princess like.  While appearing at another meet and greet event, Peck and Albert present Hepburn with the photos of her trip under the guise of a generic memento of her trip to Rome.  Hepburn and Peck exchange some vague but direct allusions to their day together while maintaining the appropriate distance between a royal and a “strange” reporter.  At the conclusion of the event, Peck is left to wonder what could have been as he leaves Princess Ann. I can’t help but think that Peck’s character will stick around in Rome hoping to see Princess Ann each time she visits–or perhaps he’ll get an assignment in Princess Ann’s country.

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Joe Bradley says goodbye to Princess Ann.

When I first saw this film, I loved Audrey Hepburn’s character but thought that Gregory Peck seemed wooden.  I have had that same opinion of Peck in other films, but as I see more of him and learned about him as a person outside of the silver screen, I’ve grown to appreciate him more.  Now, when I watch him in Roman Holiday, he still has that deep, stiff sounding voice.  However, now his deep voice lends itself to sounding more romantic and strong–which is a good quality for a leading man.  He and Audrey have magnificent chemistry.  Audrey’s effervescence is a nice contrast to Peck’s tendency to seem too serious and she helps lighten him up a bit.

This film is filled with so much joy and happiness that it is impossible to tire of it.  This film was a wonderful way to introduce Audrey Hepburn to the American public.

In Memory of Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)

Beloved television icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away today at the age of 80.  While I knew that Mary had been in poor health for the last few years and I’m not entirely surprised by her passing, I am still very sad.  I absolutely love Mary Tyler Moore.  Along with I Love LucyThe Mary Tyler Moore Show was my “must see” show during my Nick at Nite years.  I also loved The Dick Van Dyke Show, the show that put Mary on the map, but The Mary Tyler Moore Show will always have a special place in my heart.

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While I Love Lucy is my #1 favorite television show of all time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes in a close second.  While Lucy Ricardo got the best of her husband Ricky often and for the most part, always got her way, she was still expected to live up to the expectations of women in the 1950s.  Lucy was expected to keep house, take care of children (or in her case, child) and attend to her husband’s needs.  Husband Ricky was the breadwinner.  She took care of all domestic chores.  To Lucy, this life was mundane and she wanted the excitement of show business, something that Ricky experienced on a daily basis.  Ricky didn’t want his wife having a career.  Even when Lucy got her way and made her way onto the stage, she was still expected to return to her domestic duties.  In the only two-three cringe-worthy moments in I Love Lucy, Ricky actually spanks Lucy when she does something he doesn’t like.  Ricky keeps Lucy in her place and she usually always returns to domestic life even though it is apparent that she wants more.

In 1961, 24-year old Mary Tyler Moore was cast in The Dick Van Dyke Show.  She landed the star-making role of Laura Petrie, wife of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke).  This role allowed Moore to showcase her talent for dancing and also her comedic skills. In addition to her excellent chemistry with Van Dyke, the role of Laura Petrie allowed Mary to establish one of her great comic shticks.  Where Lucille Ball’s comedy came from situations she got herself into, much of Mary’s comedy came from being embarrassed.  In the episode “My Blonde-Haired Brunette,” Laura decides that Rob has become uninterested in her.  Knowing that blondes like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield are currently in vogue, Laura decides to make herself blonde.  She looks horrible as a blonde and Rob tells her over the phone that he loves her brown hair and he’s taking her out to dinner.  Desperate to change her hair before he comes home, she enlists friend Millie to help her.  Unfortunately, Rob arrives home when Laura’s hair is only half dyed.  She comes out with her half and half hair and collapses into a blubbering mess.  Mary Tyler Moore became one of the all-time best criers on television.  Even though Rob encouraged his wife to explore her talents, Laura Petrie ultimately was still a housewife and was expected to take care of son Ritchie and their home.  Laura somewhat bridges the gap between Lucy Ricardo and Mary Richards.

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Which brings us to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966 after a very successful five-year run on television.  Between 1966-1970, Mary was having trouble finding her next project.  She tried movies.  Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) was successful, but did not lead to any big projects.  In 1969, Mary and Dick reunited for a special called, Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman.  In this variety special, Mary and Dick portray themselves and through a variety of song and dance routines, it shows off the various sides of Mary and Dick’s musical comedy talents.  This special paved the way for Mary to get her own show.  In 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered.

In The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary portrayed Mary Richards, a newly single 30-year old woman who moves to Minneapolis to start a new life and career after her long-term relationship fizzles out.  Mary moves into a fantastic studio apartment managed by longtime friend, Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman).  Soon to be BFF, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), lives upstairs.  Applying for a secretarial position at WJM News, Mary lands the job of Associate Producer.  WJM’s news is the lowest rated news program in the city.  Mary’s new co-workers include the brash, but secretly a softie, Lou Grant (Ed Asner), sarcastic and disillusioned writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin McLeod) and the buffoonish, arrogant anchorman, Ted Baxter (Ted Knight).  Later, Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who hosts “The Happy Homemaker” program at WJM and Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel) join the gang.  Georgette ends up becoming Mrs. Ted Baxter.

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Mary Richards in many ways is the ideal woman of the 1970s (and maybe even now).  She’s gainfully employed and makes enough money to live independently.  She has many friends and even a close-knit group of co-workers who in many ways serve as a surrogate family for Mary.  While she would like to be married and have children, she isn’t desperate to have them.  She goes on dates and it is even implied that she spends the night with some of them.  She’s on The Pill!  Prior to 1970, were there any female television characters that even had sex, let alone were on The Pill? Mother characters don’t count.  Mary lived her own life according to her own terms.  There were times when Mary was a bit of a pushover and naive, but this is where the Rhoda and Lou characters came in handy–they were able to express their concerns to Mary in hopes that she’d make the right decision.  Throughout the 1970s, Mary Richards approached uncharted territory.  In an early episode, she discovers that the man who had her job before her made $50 more a week than she does.  She confronts Lou and demands to know why; In the fifth season, Mary faces the possibility of jail time for not revealing her news source; In the seventh season, Mary becomes hooked on sleeping pills. These are just a few examples.

Without further ado, my top 10 favorite episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

(This definitely isn’t meant to imply that I am not a fan of the other 158 episodes of the show)

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1. Put On a Happy Face (Season 3, Ep. 23)

Mary Richards is having a really bad week.  She’s late to work after her alarm fails to go off; She drips coffee on her new sweater before a meeting; she gets a flat tire; her paper bags fail causing her to drop her groceries all over the floor; she slips on the freshly waxed floor and sprains her ankle after trying to walk to the ladies’ room to fix her “hair bump”; she catches a cold from soaking her sprained foot; her date to the Teddy Awards bails; she ends up going to the award show with a “Robert Redford-type” (aka Ted Baxter); the dry cleaner ruins her dress; her hair dryer breaks; she gets a run in her stocking; it starts raining… This all culminates with Mary showing up at the Teddy Awards in a tacky dress, one wet slipper and one shoe, wearing a yellow rain slicker and haphazard hair.  Her false eyelash falls off.  She of course wins the Teddy Award she was nominated for and ends up a blubbering mess on the podium, only managing to apologize for her appearance.  She gets her award, and Mary is spelled wrong.  Of course it is.

*This is my favorite episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

2. The Dinner Party (Season 4, Ep. 10)

It’s time for another of Mary’s disastrous parties.  For someone who is so pleasant and well-liked by her co-workers and friends, it becomes a running gag in the series that she can’t seem to give a good party to save her life.  Nothing that happens at her parties is ever her fault, it just seems like everyone likes to bring their troubles to her parties.  In this party, Mary has invited Congresswoman Geddes as her guest of honor.  Her table only seats six.  The guests will be: Congresswoman Geddes, Mary, Lou, Rhoda, Murray and Sue Ann (who is cooking the dinner).  Sue Ann cooks exactly six portions of “Veal Prince Orloff.”  Rhoda shows up with a date (Henry Winkler) who has just been fired from Hempels and she feels bad.  Lou ends up taking 3 portions of Veal Prince Orloff and has to return two portions to the platter.  Ted, who was not invited to the dinner party, shows up to dessert.

3. The Lars Affair (Season 4, Ep. 1)

This is the funniest Phyllis episode.  This episode also introduces the Sue Ann Nivens character.  In this episode, Phyllis learns that husband Lars and Sue Ann are having an affair after meeting at Mary’s party.  Phyllis agonizes over the fact that her husband is cheating on her and even bakes a pie in an attempt to compete with Sue Ann.  The episode culminates with a confrontation on the set of “The Happy Homemaker” where Sue Ann refuses to give Lars up even after Phyllis points out all of his faults.  Sue Ann finally relents when Mary gives her an ultimatum, stating that being a homewrecker wouldn’t be a great image for “The Happy Homemaker,” it’s either Lars or her show.

4. Rhoda the Beautiful (Season 3, Ep. 6)

Perpetual dieter Rhoda has finally reached her goal.  Mary, Phyllis and the WJM staff give her praise but Rhoda cannot accept any of the compliments and meets each kind statement with a self-deprecating remark.  She ends up entering her department store’s “Miss Hempel Beauty Pageant.”  After a hilarious scene where Mary and Phyllis help Rhoda find something to wear (and Phyllis sings “10 Cents a Dance” from Love Me or Leave Me), Rhoda leaves for the pageant.  She looks fantastic and wins the contest.  Rhoda is finally able to admit that she looks good.

5. You Try to Be a Nice Guy (Season 5, Ep. 21)

Mary ends up becoming reacquainted with Sherry, a prostitute she met in jail while she was incarcerated for not revealing her news source.  Sherry got out of jail but was arrested again.  She recruits Mary to be a character witness at her court appearance.  Sherry is relying on a good character witness like Mary to keep her out of jail.  Mary agrees but unwittingly becomes responsible for Sherry’s behavior after having to give an oath promising to help Sherry look for legitimate work.  Mary, taking her oath seriously, is determined to find a decent job for Sherry but struggles since Sherry doesn’t have any marketable skills.  Finally, Sherry tells Mary that she wants to be a fashion designer.  Mary encourages her to pursue her dream.  To thank her, Sherry makes Mary a custom gown.  It ends up being a ridiculous, green colored concoction with lots of cutouts across Mary’s stomach and legs.  Only Mary Tyler Moore could wear this dress and not look atrocious, but it is so tacky and so completely not Mary Richards, that she looks ridiculous.  Ted and Georgette happen to show up at the same time Mary is wearing this dress and Ted can’t keep it together.  His reaction is the funniest part of the episode.

6. The Last Show (Season 7, Ep. 24)

All good things must come to an end and The Mary Tyler Moore Show unfortunately reached that point in 1977. I personally think they could have continued a couple more years, but it’s good that the show ended before the episodes started diminishing in quality.  In what is perhaps one of the best (if not the best) series finales of all time, the WJM crew (with the exception of Ted) learn that they are going to be fired.  Though they’re trying to repress their emotions, they finally let it all out after the end of their last newscast.  It’s hard to watch this scene without getting at least a little teary-eyed. Lou and Mary emotionally give speeches to everyone.  This culminates with the group sobbing in a large group hug.  Ted (or maybe Lou?) says he needs Kleenex and they move in one big glob toward the Kleenex box.  To lighten the mood, they sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” and leave the room.  Mary is left to turn off the lights. Thus ending The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

7. Sue Ann’s Sister (Season 7, Ep. 3)

Sue Ann’s sister Lila is in town.  Sue Ann is deeply jealous of Lila as it seems that every time Sue Ann gets something, Lila comes around and steals it from her.  Upon arrival, Lila and Lou immediately become chummy, which infuriates Sue Ann.  Lila then announces that she is interviewing for a “Happy Homemaker” type show on a rival network. This latest news is just too much for Sue Ann and she retreats to her bedroom.  The scene in Sue Ann’s bedroom is the funniest part of the entire episode.  Her bedroom is frilly gaudy.  She sleeps in a round bed, which we learn also vibrates.  She’s also got Tchaikovsky’s “Love Theme” from “Romeo and Juliet” queued up to play whenever I imagine she’s got something hot and heavy going on.  The best scene is when Ted walks in, looks up, and straightens his hat and tie–telling the audience about Sue Ann’s mirrored ceiling.

8. I Was a Single for WJM (Season 4, Ep. 24)

Inspired by the popularity of a local singles bar, WJM News decides to do a feature on the singles scene in Minneapolis.  The crew spends time at the bar each evening looking to find an “angle” for their story.  By Friday, Mary has become acquainted with many of the regulars and hopes to use them in WJM’s story.  When the singles become aware of the plan for cameras to enter their hangout and interview them, they become camera shy and leave in droves.  By the time the news starts, the bar is empty and Mary and co. are forced to improvise.

9. Edie Gets Married (Season 6, Ep. 1)

In this very emotional episode, Lou finds out that ex-wife Edie is planning on remarrying.  While he knows there isn’t a chance of them getting back together, Lou is still having trouble admitting that that aspect of his life (he & Edie) is over.  In a goodwill gesture, Edie invites Lou to her wedding.  Lou doesn’t know if he wants to attend, but ultimately does.  With Mary as his date, Lou very graciously and stoically watches his ex-wife tie the knot with someone else.  Originally Mary was supposed to provide moral support, but by the end of the ceremony, she’s a blubbery mess.  Lou then wishes Edie the best of luck in her marriage and Mary loses it completely.  Lou ends up taking her to the bar to console her.

10. The Square-Shaped Room (Season 2, Ep. 13)

Lou wants to surprise wife Edie with a makeover of their living room.  He plans to hire an old “designer” friend who currently decorates bus stations.  Mary suggests Rhoda, whose vocation is window decorator.  Lou hires Rhoda.  Rhoda agonizes over the right details for the room and finally settles for an all white motif with modern design.  The bookshelves appear to be made of white PVC piping.  There’s lots of white, shag, PVC and glass and a big number “5” on the wall.  This room is not Lou’s style at all and Rhoda has to return the room to its original state–however, there’s one change that Lou and Edie liked–the white walls.

The great thing about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was that despite the show being named after its star, it was truly an ensemble show.  While Mary was in every episode, not every episode centered around Mary.  Every character had their own story lines and chances in the spotlight.  This is one of the few shows where the main characters were fleshed out.  We knew each character’s backstory, frustrations, successes, etc.  What I also loved about this show is how effortlessly they blended drama with comedy.  Lou had many very emotional moments (especially when dealing with Edie) and the show was able to easily add levity to a situation without undermining the scene.

In the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode, Chuckles the Clown dies.  Not funny stuff.  Chuckles was dressed as a peanut and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.  His death is absurd and tragic.  Lou, Murray and Sue Ann get all the jokes out of the way in the first half of the episode.  Mary is mortified at her co-workers’ lack of sensitivity.  At the funeral, the co-workers are able to provide the somberness required for the occasion.  Mary, on the other hand, finally realizes the absurdity of the situation and can’t stop laughing during the pastor’s eulogy.  However, laughing at a funeral would be a very un-Mary Richards like thing to do–her laughter quickly turns to loud sobs.  It is a testament to Mary Tyler Moore’s talent that she was able to switch from laughter to crying so quickly and realistically.

Goodbye Mary.  You had spunk!

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