Tag Archives: Romance

Reel Infatuations Blogathon–James Darren, “Moondoggie” from Gidget (1959)

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When I heard about the “Reel Infatuation” Blogathon by Font and Frock and Silver Screenings , I knew that I needed to join.  How can I resist writing about some of my favorite movie crushes? I’ll never turn down an opportunity to post some beefcake photos!  For my entry, I decided to write about one of my favorite teen idols, James Darren, aka “Moondoggie” from the first three Gidget films: Gidget (1959), Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963).  He is so cute and for me, he makes the film–even though I also love Sandra Dee too.  For all intents and purposes, I am going to focus on his first Gidget film co-starring Sandra Dee.  But don’t think you won’t be treated later to an entry about Gidget Goes Hawaiian co-starring Darren with Deborah Walley as the spunky surfer girl.  I can’t help it, I love the 1950s/1960s teen beach movies.

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James Darren as Moondoggie

Gidget is a coming of age story about 17-year old Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, portrayed by 50s/60s teen queen Sandra Dee.  The film takes place during Frances’ summer vacation between her junior and senior years of high school.  Her friends: Nan, Patti and Mary Lou are pressuring Frances to go with them on a “manhunt” to attract a boyfriend.  Apparently, if a girl hasn’t found a man before senior year of high school, she might as well become a nun.  The girls all go down to the beach and try to flaunt their stuff in front of the group of surfer boys, one of which is superhunk James Darren, aka Moondoggie.  Moondoggie is about 1-2 years older than Frances, he is starting college at the end of the summer.

The girls are trying too hard to attract the boys’ attention, except for Frances.  She’s a bit of a tomboy and ends up shunning the manhunt in favor of snorkeling.  Her friends think she’s hopeless.  Frances, in the first of multiple incidents, ends up getting tangled in some kelp.  Moondoggie sees her, grabs his surfboard, and fishes her out of the water.  From that moment on, we as the audience know that Moondoggie and Frances are going to end up together.  Moondoggie, though acting standoffish and too cool for school towards Frances, actually has a crush on her though he won’t admit it until the luau later in the film.

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Left to right: Sandra Dee (Gidget), Yvonne Craig (Nan) and Jo Morrow (Mary Lou). Craig’s bathing suit is hideous. I love Dee and Morrow’s bathing suits. I also love that Gidget couldn’t care less about impressing the boys–she’s going snorkeling.

Moondoggie’s crush on Frances is obvious.  He is the one who nicknames her “Gidget.”  Gidget is a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget.”  Basing her nickname on “midget,” might not be seen as being very endearing, but this action shows that Moondoggie is accepting Gidget into the group.  Earlier in the film, while talking to the group leader, Kahuna, Moondoggie vents about Gidget’s presence in their group.  Kahuna, at least a decade older than the other boys in the group, knows that Moondoggie has a crush on Gidget and easily accepts her into the group and suggests that the others do the same.  Kahuna, I think, also doesn’t take the surf group as seriously as the other boys, and doesn’t really care if Gidget’s there.  He just wants to surf.

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Moondoggie has fun teaching Gidget how to surf. As an aside, I love Gidget’s orange bathing suit.

Moondoggie’s infatuation with Gidget is also apparent when he sees Lover Boy (another boy in the surf group) giving Gidget surf lessons.  Lover Boy is getting very “handsy” with Gidget and it is very visibly making her uncomfortable.  It is obvious that Lover Boy has some other goals in mind besides teaching Gidget how to surf.  Moondoggie looks on at the lesson, and is very visibly irritated and jealous.  He intervenes when Lover Boy really gets carried away with the lesson.  Moondoggie not only wants to protect Gidget, he also doesn’t want other the other boys getting that up close and personal with her. He later takes Gidget surfing himself and gives her lessons on his board.  Moondoggie places his hands on her waist to help her stay up right on the board.

When Gidget gets tangled up in the kelp (again.  Come on Gidget!) and nearly drowns, Moondoggie saves her (again) and nurses her back to health in Kahuna’s tent.  As Nurse Moondoggie croons the movie’s theme song, “Gidget,” Gidget looks up at him adoringly and smiles.  She can’t keep her eyes off of him.  Moondoggie also smiles at her as he prepares a hot water bottle to warm her up.

“A regular tomboy, but dressed for a prom
Boy, how cute can one girl be?
Although she’s not king-size, her finger is ring-size
Gidget is the one for me…”

Later, Gidget finds out about the upcoming luau and convinces Kahuna to let her come.  It seems that the surfer boys think she’s too innocent to attend their annual shindig.  Gidget has an ulterior motive for attending the luau: she wants to get together with Moondoggie.  Because Gidget is awkward and can’t just tell Moondoggie, she puts together a scheme to make Moondoggie jealous.  She’s going to attend the luau with another one of the surfer boys and pay him to act friendly with her within sight of Moondoggie.  However, her plans are messed up when the surfer boy she hired ends up bailing and giving the job to Moondoggie!

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Gidget makes cow eyes at Moondoggie as he sings to her.

Moondoggie shows up to earn his money and also out of amusement after being told of Gidget’s scheme.  Now instead of doing the smart thing and admitting to Moondoggie that he was the boy she wanted to make jealous, Gidget pretends that she’s in love with Kahuna, despite him being twice her age.  Gidget has Moondoggie hold her tight while they sway to the music.  Entranced and in love, Gidget is soaking up every moment in Moondoggie’s arms.  One can’t help but notice that Moondoggie has the same facial expression as Gidget.  Both are holding each other, swaying to the music, eyes closed.

Moondoggie then brings out the big guns and serenades Gidget with “The Next Best Thing to Love.”  As Moondoggie sings, Gidget looks at him with big cow eyes.  Moondoggie is holding Gidget close and is just as smitten with her as she is with him.  He goes in for the big kiss and Gidget accepts it willingly… because, duh! Then of course, one of the surfers has to come over to remind Moondoggie that its past midnight and he no longer has to pretend with Gidget anymore.  Embarrassed, Gidget runs off.

Seeing that Gidget is leaving, Kahuna approaches Gidget for a ride to a friend’s beach shack.  Wanting to keep up the facade that she’s in love with Kahuna, Gidget agrees to give him a ride home and follows him into the beach shack for “one of his private parties.”  It is apparent that Gidget is hoping to get together with Kahuna, intimately.  Kahuna plays along and almost falls under her spell until he comes to his senses and tells her to go home.  Moondoggie, not trusting Kahuna and wanting to protect Gidget, shows up at the beach shack and has it out with Kahuna.

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Gidget’s dad plays matchmaker and inadvertently sets his daughter up on a blind date with Moondoggie, despite warning her to “never again go near those beach hoodlums.”  Don’t look so upset Gidget! He’s gorgeous! Your dad could have done a lot worse!

Gidget ends up being picked up by the police when her car breaks down.  She’s picked up by her parents and is grounded for the rest of the summer.  Had she just told Moondoggie about her scheme to make him jealous, she could have just avoided the whole Kahuna/beach shack debacle.  Fortunately for Gidget, the young man whom her father has been trying to fix her up with throughout the entire film turns out to be Moondoggie! Of course, to Gidget’s parents, he’s Jeffrey Matthews, the son of one of Gidget’s dad’s colleagues.

Gidget and Moondoggie on their “blind” date, end up going back to the beach.  They manage to get to the beach just as Kahuna is dismantling his shack.  They find out that Kahuna aka Burt Vail, has accepted a job as a pilot and is giving up the beach bum lifestyle.  Kahuna, knowing the whole time about Gidget and Moondoggie’s infatuation with one another, gives Moondoggie a reminder:

“Just remember, [Gidget] might be pint-sized, but she’s quite a woman.”

Gidget and Moondoggie embrace and Moondoggie asks Gidget to wear his pin:

GIDGET: “Oh boy, would I? Just wait until the girls get a load of this! Honest to goodness, it’s the absolute ultimate!”
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The Gidg has got her man!

I don’t blame Gidget for being such a nerd when Moondoggie “pins” her.  This is the ultimate symbol of “going steady.”  Moondoggie has essentially asked Gidget to be his girlfriend and she wholeheartedly accepts.  Her friends, the ones who were flaunting themselves trying to attract a boyfriend, are still single at the end of the film.  Gidget, who didn’t try hard at all, and was just herself, has managed to not only snag a boyfriend, but a super hot one to boot! You go girl.

Moondoggie shows up two-years later in Gidget Goes Hawaiian.  The story is presented as a continuation of the first film, despite having a different Gidget.  Moondoggie and Gidget are a year or two older, but are still madly in love.  Moondoggie is hands down, the best part about Gidget Goes Hawaiian.

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He’s so dreamy!
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Clearing the DVR- “The Enchanted Cottage” (1945)

I’ve changed one of the pages on my blog from “Film Reviews” to “Clearing the DVR.”  I currently have 300+ films saved on my DVR.  It is 70% full.  I really need to clear up some room before I run out.  99% of my recordings are off of TCM.  The other recordings are PBS, a Me-TV documentary about Rose-Marie (Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show), and the colorized I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show Christmas Specials that aired back in December.  My issue is that for every movie I watch and delete, I end up recording three in its place.  My other issue is that I end up watching a movie I’ve seen multiple times, because it’s what I’m in the mood for and nothing else will suffice.  For example, even though I’ve seen this movie like five times now, I’m watching Gidget Goes Hawaiian.

I’ve started the “Clearing the DVR” feature here at Whimsically Classic as a means to motivate myself to watch some of the films I’ve recorded and hopefully clear up some space–so that my husband is able to record all his episodes of Archer on FXX before I steal all the space. Typically when I finish watching a film I’ve recorded, I mentally rate it using the following criteria: 1) Did not care for film, would not watch again; 2) Liked the movie, but do not feel that I need to re-watch it; or 3) Loved the movie and must procure my own copy.  Often times, if I’ve decided that I loved the film and want my own copy, I will keep the film on the DVR until I’ve located a copy.  There are also films that I love, Penelope (1966) for example, that are not on DVD.  Storing it on the DVR is the only way to “own” a copy of the film!  Honestly, if it weren’t for the DVR, I wouldn’t get to watch anything! enchanted

A couple nights ago, I watched The Enchanted Cottage.  I recorded this film a few nights ago on TCM.  After reading its praises on the TCM Message Board, I decided to give The Enchanted Cottage a whirl.  I am also a big fan of Dorothy McGuire and knowing that she starred in this film gave me another reason to record it.  I really enjoy watching McGuire’s performances.  Unlike peers like Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr (to name a few examples), McGuire portrayed more ‘normal’ (for lack of a better word) women.  I think McGuire was very pretty, but in a more natural type of way.  She wasn’t overly made up to look glamorous–she had a more attainable, average type beauty.  I also like McGuire’s characterizations.  She portrays women with real issues, women who overcome adversity and hardship to get ahead.  She is so subtle in her performances.  As much as I love Bette Davis, she loves to chew the scenery (as they say).  McGuire’s characters convey so much sympathy, tragedy, etc. through small facial expressions or inflections in her voice.

One of McGuire’s most spectacular performances, in my opinion, takes place in The Enchanted Cottage.  McGuire co-stars with Robert Young as one-half of a couple who fall in love despite their physical shortcomings.  Their love story is framed within a story about an enchanted cottage.  The story begins with Herbert Marshall, a blind pianist, who is holding a dinner party for McGuire and Young’s characters who have recently fallen in love and married.  Marshall is also their neighbor.  Even though he cannot see, Marshall has seen McGuire and Young’s love for one another grow throughout their courtship.  Marshall has written a “tone poem” (a poem set to music) about his neighbors’ (and friends’) love.  McGuire and Young are late.  Out of respect for his other guests, Marshall begins his poem about the enchanted cottage.

The enchanted cottage resides in a small New England town.  According to the stories that have been told throughout the years, during World War I, a young newlywed couple built a beautiful estate in the country.  The gorgeous home was razed by fire and only one wing could be saved.  That wing was converted into a small cottage which the owner then rented out to young newlywed couples.  The legend says that honeymooning couples experience magic in the cottage– a testament to their love.  A widow, Mildred Natwick, currently owns the estate and works to keep it maintained.  She curiously keeps a calendar dated 4-6-1917.

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Robert Young (pre-disfigurement) and plain-jane Dorothy McGuire. I don’t really think she looks homely.

Fast forward some 25 years later (right after Pearl Harbor) and an engaged couple (Young and Hillary Brooke) wire Natwick about renting the cottage.  Despite her reservations, they’re not officially married after all, Natwick agrees to rent them the cottage.  She advertises for a maid to come to the cottage to help her out.  McGuire shows up on her doorstep to apply for the position.  McGuire’s character is not beautiful in this film.  In fact, it’s mentioned multiple times by other characters and by McGuire, that she is “homely.”  Personally, I didn’t think McGuire was unattractive in this film.  I thought she was pretty in an unconventional way.  However, I could buy that she wasn’t considered beautiful.

I liked that McGuire’s homeliness wasn’t created via prosthetics and makeup.  McGuire insisted that she could be plain looking by not wearing makeup, sporting an unflattering hairstyle and wearing ill-fitting clothing.  Combine McGuire’s requests with bad lighting schemes and filmmakers were very adept at downplaying McGuire’s attractiveness and conveying the idea that she was “ugly.”  In an era of the beauty queen, I think this was very brave on McGuire’s part to appear unattractive.  Many of her peers were too vain to allow themselves to appear on-screen looking anything other than beautiful.

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Mildred Natwick as Mrs. Minnett.

Natwick feels a connection with McGuire and agrees to hire her as a housekeeper.  When Young and fiance Brooke show up, McGuire is immediately attracted to Young.  He is an attractive man.  Brooke immediately dismisses McGuire and the cottage.  It’s not blatant, but it’s there.  McGuire tries to play up the enchanted angle and shows Young and Brooke where previous lovers have etched their names into the window panes of the cottage.  Young tries to use Brooke’s engagement ring to make the engraving and the stone falls out of its setting.  Natwick tells them that it is because they aren’t actually married yet and only honeymooning couples can make the engraving.  One gets the sense that the stone falling out of the engagement ring is foreshadowing.

Before they can marry, Young is called to duty in World War II.  He is injured in a plane crash and now the right side of his face is disfigured.  He also suffered nerve damage in his right hand.  Young returns home to his fiance.  Brooke ends up calling off the wedding.  Depressed, Young returns to the cottage, hoping to stay.  Natwick and McGuire agree to let him stay.  As McGuire dotes on Young, he starts to see that she’s a caring and genuine person.  They spend a lot of time together and it is apparent that they really care for one another.  Neighbor Marshall shows up occasionally and despite being blind, he is able to see their love for one another grow.

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Dorothy McGuire, Robert Young and Herbert Marshall

Young ends up proposing to McGuire.  At first, he has bad intentions when he proposes–his mother (Spring Byington), thinking that his disfigurement has ruined his life has proclaimed that he either must move home and live with her or she’ll move in with him.  Not wanting to live with his mother, Young proposes marriage to McGuire.  He realizes he’s being a jerk and discovers that he genuinely cares for McGuire.  They marry.

After marriage, Young and McGuire discover that a physical transformation has taken place.  Young’s scars and physical injuries are gone.  McGuire is now beautiful.  They are overjoyed and attribute their physical attractiveness to the power of the cottage.  Natwick, who has been witnessing their romance since the beginning, seems hesitant to agree with them, but allows them to live in their fantasy.  Byington and her husband, Richard Gaines, show up wanting to meet new daughter-in-law, McGuire.  Upon seeing her appearance, Byington says something to the effect of how lucky it was for McGuire to marry, despite not being a pretty girl.  This comment devastates McGuire.  She realizes that no physical transformation has taken place for either her or Young.  Natwick explains that the cottage really has no actual magic powers–it’s simply the power of love.  Love causes a couple to look past any physical features and only see what they want to see.

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Beautiful Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young as they see each other

While the message of this film is “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and perhaps even “love conquers all,” it is a film with some very interesting ideas.  In the 1940s, perhaps the lack of outward beauty was seen as a type of defect, something that someone should be ashamed of and trying to fix.  In the 2010s however, the constant emphasis on Young and McGuire’s appearances almost seem abhorrent–especially when their appearance is nothing that they can help.  However, I choose to look at this film from a romantic angle.  Despite being practically shunned by society for how they look, McGuire and Young were able to look past it and see the qualities inside one another.  Would the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” message be stronger if either McGuire or Young weren’t physically disadvantaged and fell in love with a conventionally gorgeous person? A la Beauty and the Beast? I am not sure.  Is it better that two misfits (so to speak) fell in love? Or does it send the message that a misfit can only fall in love with another misfit?

This is a very interesting film to watch and analyze.  I liked the dreamlike quality and how the love story played out.  I also really liked Natwick’s support as the stoic widow who isn’t so much cold as she’s hoping that another couple will be in love as much as she and her husband were.  I get the sense that she and her husband were the ones who built the estate.  He was killed during World War I and the world essentially stopped for her.  When McGuire and Young fall in love, she is so overcome by their romance, this gives her hope–so much hope that she finally updates her calendar to the current date.  I also really liked Herbert Marshall.  One, I really like his voice.  Two, I think his blind pianist provided great support to McGuire and Young.  He does not know how they look.  He only knows that they are two kind people who have fallen in love.  He is truly blind, literally and figuratively, when it comes to outward appearances.

This was a fascinating film and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.  I have added this film to my running list of films to purchase.

Blogathon (Belated) Clark Gable & Joan Crawford’s affair

I kind of missed the boat on this blogathon, as my entry was due two weeks ago.  Well better late than never, right? I thought I would write my entry even if ultimately it doesn’t end up as part of the official blogathon event.  I will be better with my future events.  I think I also over-commit because everything sounds so great!

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Without further ado…

Joan Crawford and Clark Gable starred in eight, count ’em, eight films together: Dance, Fools, Dance, Laughing Sinners, Possessed (all in 1931), Dancing Lady (1933), Forsaking All Others and Chained (both in 1934), Love on the Run (1936) and Strange Cargo (1940).  Prior to that, both appeared as extras (uncredited) in 1925’s The Merry Widow.

By the time the early 1931 rolled around, Crawford had become MGM’s top star and Gable had just been signed a short term one year contract by Irving Thalberg, MGM’s top producer who was famed for his youth and ability to select good scripts and find new stars. Gable’s first role at MGM was a small part as a villain in Crawford’s Dance, Fools, Dance.  Thalberg, sensing that he had something special with Gable, ordered that the script be re-written and Gable be given some steamy scenes with Crawford.  During their first clinch, sparks flew.

After Dance, Fools, Dance, Crawford and Gable made two more films together and many films apart.  By the end of 1931, during the filming of Possessed,  Crawford and Gable were involved in a full-fledged steamy affair.  However, Crawford was married to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. at the time and Gable was married to Maria Langham.  Both couples’ marriages were stormy, but due to morality standards of the time, it was imperative that Crawford and Gable kept their relationship on the down low.

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Crawford and Gable mostly kept their relationship contained to working hours.  They’d arrive to work early and stay late.  They rendezvoused in Crawford’s fancy trailer, which incidentally was a gift from her husband, Fairbanks Jr. He was still even making payments on it! They also occasionally lunched together in the commissary,  but only a couple times a week as to not arouse suspicion among their co-workers. Any breaks Crawford and Gable received were spent in the bed of a local hotel room. As we all know, the more a couple attempts to hide their relationship, the more people that know about it.  Despite Crawford and Gable’s attempts at discretion, their steamy affair was a well known secret around the studio.

Louis B. Mayer got wind of Crawford and Gable’s torrid romance and threatened their careers if they carried on.  Gable was to have made Letty Lynton with Crawford, but was removed when news of their affair broke.  He was replaced with Robert Montgomery. Crawford and Gable kept apart for awhile but still managed to appear in five more films together.  They continued their romance despite being married to other people.  Crawford divorced Fairbanks Jr. in 1933.  She remarried to Franchot Tone in 1935.  Gable remained married to Langham until 1939, when Gable fell in love with Carole Lombard and was forced to pay Langham a pretty penny in order for her to agree to divorce him so that he could marry Lombard.  Apparently, Crawford was jealous of Lombard’s relationship with Gable (whom everyone said was the love of her life and vice versa).  During the filming of Strange Cargo in 1940, Crawford would continually whisper things to Gable, presumably about Lombard, that irritated him.  However, in 1942 when Lombard was tragically killed in a plane crash, Crawford and Gable seemed to bury the hatchet.  Crawford was one of Gable’s closest confidants during his mourning.

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After Gable’s marriage to Lombard, and even after her passing, his relationship with Crawford carried on, but was never as steamy as it had once been.  They were good friends, perhaps “friends with benefits.”  Both Crawford and Gable remarried to other people.  They carried on until Gable’s death in 1960.  Even in interviews later life, Crawford referred to Gable lovingly, referring to him as her favorite leading man.  When asked why she found Gable so attractive, Crawford put it succinctly, stating: “…Balls! Clark Gable had balls.”  Crawford herself also had “balls,” figuratively speaking, which is perhaps why she and Gable got along so well.  In many ways Crawford and Gable were cut from the same cloth: similar meager childhood backgrounds, similar struggle to make it to the top of the heap in Hollywood, similar insatiable sexual appetites and so much more.

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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William Holden Blogathon–“Picnic” (1955)

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“I gotta get somewhere in this world. I just gotta.” -Hal Carter, Picnic.

And so sums up William Holden’s character in Picnic.  I’ve written about this film previously in this blog, but I thought that this time I would focus on William Holden and his character in the film.  Holden thought that he was miscast in this film and in many ways, he is right.  Hal is clearly supposed to be in his early to mid-twenties, as he’s a college classmate of Alan Benson’s (Cliff Robertson).  Holden himself was 37 and looked every bit of it.  From an age perspective, Holden is right.  He is too old.  However, from a personality standpoint, he is perfectly cast.

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Who cares how old he is supposed to be in this film? Hubba Hubba!

Holden made his screen debut in 1939’s Golden Boy, co-starring Barbara Stanwyck.  Holden was nervous and ill at ease and it was affecting his performance.  Columbia Studios bosses were unhappy with his performance and were on the verge of firing him.  Stanwyck, then one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, employed her star power and demanded that Holden remain in the film.  She coached him and helped him get through the filming of Golden Boy.  While Holden’s “green-ness” shows in this film, he’s not terrible (that honor goes to Lee J. Cobb, then 27, who was inexplicably cast as 21 year old William Holden’s father.  Cobb is horrible and very annoying in this film).  While Holden got steady work, it would take eleven years to finally “make it” and be a big star.

In 1950, Holden won the leading role in Sunset Blvd.  As “down on his luck” screenwriter, Joe Gillis, Holden developed his signature brand of cynicism, world weariness, but an overall good guy.  He would play this character in most of his films from here on out.  One of the best applications of “The William Holden” persona is his portrayal of Hal Carter in Picnic. A film in which, like I mentioned earlier, Holden felt he was miscast.  Yes, age-wise, Holden is too old.  He knows it and the audience knows it.  But personality-wise, Holden is perfect as Hal Carter.

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In Picnic, Hal Carter is a drifter who winds up in Kansas in hopes to reacquaint with an old college friend, Alan Benson.  Hal is unemployed and has jumped from job to job and city to city since dropping out of college.  He is trying to get his life back together and hopes that Alan will give him some sort of job.  Alan’s family owns a large grain mill and Alan promises Hal a job scooping wheat.  This job is not exactly what Hal has in mind–he wanted to be an executive.  Hal ends up meeting and falling for Madge Owens (Kim Novak), a 19 year old woman who is known to be one of the prettiest “girls” in the area.  But, oops! Madge is already involved with Alan.  This will drive a wedge between Hal and Alan.

Hal is just trying to find a niche for himself in a community where he can thrive.  He is tired of the drifting lifestyle and just wants to fit in somewhere.   From Hal’s expository dialogue, we learn that he is responsible for his previous failures.  Alan, believing that Hal is sincere in getting his life together, invites him to the town’s annual Labor Day Picnic.  At first, everything’s going great and Hal is charming everyone.  After Alan senses that Hal may have his sights set on his girlfriend, Madge (and Madge has her sights set on Hal), Alan begins giving Hal the cold shoulder.

Madge is facing a similar situation to Hal.  She is known for being beautiful and that’s it.  Her mother and boyfriend think that Madge can skate by on her looks and nothing matters except for her to “be pretty.”  It is apparent that Madge’s mother, Florence, wants Madge to use her beauty to land a boyfriend with a high social standing, so that by proxy, the Owens women (Madge, sister Millie, and mother “Flo”) will have high social standings as well.  It is apparent that Alan is really only interested in Madge so that he can have a pretty trophy on his arm.  Nobody takes Madge seriously because it is assumed that someone so beautiful couldn’t have any problems, right? Hal on the other hand, has made so many previous mistakes in his life, that his sincere actions are dismissed by others, thinking that he’s just a ne’er do well bum.  Both Madge and Hal are trapped by other people’s perceptions and expectations (or lack thereof) of them.

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Madge (Kim Novak)

Holden incorporates a raw sensuality and a brashness into Hal that is in direct contrast to Novak’s Madge who exhibits an uneasy and inhibited sensuality.  Hal knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to speak up.  Madge on the other hand, is conflicted.  For her entire life, she’s had people telling her what to do.  Finally, she finds herself feeling something for a man whom is the complete opposite of anyone she’s ever known.  Her mother doesn’t approve.  Her boyfriend doesn’t approve (well obviously I guess), not because he loves her, but because she’d look good on his arm.  Rosemary (Rosalind Russell), a boarder at the Owens’ home, goes off on Hal–not because she doesn’t like him, but because she resented him falling for younger Madge and not her middle aged self.  Rosemary is having her own personal crisis.  She is worried that she’s getting old and that she’ll be a spinster her whole life.  The only characters in the film who like Hal are: Millie (Susan Strasberg), Howard (Arthur O’Connell) and elderly neighbor Mrs. Potts (Verna Felton).

A powerful moment in the film is when Hal returns to the Owens home the day after the picnic (and a day after his and Madge’s rendezvous at the river bank) and makes one last plea for Madge to run away with him.  He proclaims his love for her and she realizes that she feels the same for him–so does Hal.  He yells “you love me! you love me!” repeatedly to Madge as he departs for the train.  Their feelings for one another are so expertly depicted in the now classic “Moonglow” dance–one of the sexiest scenes in film.  No words. No nudity. Nothing explicit–yet Hal and Madge’s feelings for one another are so explicit during the dance.  The sexual tension had already been building in the scenes preceding the dance and it explodes during the first moments when Madge hijacks sister Millie’s (more innocent) dance with Hal.

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“Moonglow,” one of the sexiest dances in film and a pivotal moment for the two characters in the story.

Holden was uneasy with the idea of dancing on screen.  Holden demanded $8,000 “stunt pay” to do the dance scene.  He figured the studio would balk and replace him with a dance double.  Well, that backfired.  The studio ponied up the money and Holden was on the hook to perform the dance. The director tried having Holden and Novak, with a few drinks in them, practice dancing to music from jukeboxes in the local bars, but they were too awkward and the end result was not sexy.  When it came time to shoot, Holden was allowed to have a few drinks beforehand.  The camera work was set up in a way to allow the stars to do minimal movement.  The camera would move around Holden and Novak on a dolly.  A bunch of lights were also added to change colors as the stars moved around which added visual interest to the screen.  Whatever hang ups and issues there were and whatever workarounds the crew had to incorporate in order to complete this scene worked, because the end result is gorgeous.  With each swivel of the hip, the audience can watch Holden and Novak slowly fall for one another.  This is where the audience begins to root for Holden and Novak to end up together.

Holden was able to so effortlessly bring sexiness, charm, humor, but at the same time, common sense and cynicism to his parts, that it really made him feel like an everyday person.  He lacked pretension.  You don’t feel like he’s putting on any type of facade.  He’s a “what you see is what you get” type of person.  He isn’t a distinct persona like Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart or James Cagney.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do a “William Holden impression.”  But that’s not to say he’s lacking in any personality.  It’s just that he’s so approachable and real.  He isn’t larger than life.  While I like Grant, Bogart and Cagney, I find Holden’s realism refreshing and enjoyable.  Whereas, someone like Marlon Brando (to me), always seems like he’s using a shtick (don’t get me wrong, he’s excellent in On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire), he’s a bit too intense.  Holden seems like a guy you could go out for a beer with and not feel intimidated or nervous that you wouldn’t have anything to say to him.  He (and his characters) is a real person.

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This looks like the cover of a trashy romance novel

To use the words of Madge to describe Hal, and in effect, describe an audience’s view of Holden himself:

“You don’t love someone because he’s perfect.”

Classic Quotes Blogathon–“Casablanca” (1942)

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One of the qualities a “classic” film has is memorable dialogue.  A movie’s scenes can only be enhanced by clever and well-written dialogue.  Prior to “talkies,” the character’s words were typed out across the screen on a title card.  When the characters are “speaking” on screen, oftentimes the actors are just filmed saying different words, but obviously, because the film is silent, the audience does not hear what is being said.  The audience is told what is being said, via the title card.

In Singin’ in the Rain (1952), a film that depicts the movie industry’s transition from silent to sound films, there is a memorable scene between Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen’s characters, Don and Lina, respectively.  Don and Lina are filming the scenes for their next silent film, The Dueling Cavalier.  Don is furious with Lina because she had his new lady friend, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) fired from her job at the studio.  They’re supposed to be filming a love scene.  While Don is stroking Lina’s arm and kissing her passionately, he’s also telling her things like “I don’t like her half as much as I hate you.”  Later in the film, after converting The Dueling Cavalier from silent to sound, Don, Lina and the rest of the studio personnel watch their film in a theater.  Silent films were not known for having great dialogue.  Unfortunately, the crew in The Dueling Cavalier didn’t realize that they needed to actually write something for the characters to say.  The actors are no longer silent on screen.  Don’s character is reduced to saying things like: “I love you. I love you. I love you.”  If a movie, like Singin’ in the Rain, can make their scenes and dialogue memorable, then it is destined to be a classic.

Aside from Singin’ in the RainCasablanca is another classic film from the studio era.  One of the reasons that the film is so popular and memorable is the dialogue.  This film is one of the most quotable films of all times.  The dialogue in Casablanca is gold, from start to finish.  The iconic airport scene at the end of the film has so many memorable quotes, it’s hard to choose a favorite.

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“Everybody comes to Rick’s”

My particular favorite quote is muttered by Claude Rains’ Captain Louis Renault, the shamelessly corrupt head of the Vichy French police in Casablanca.  German official, Major Strasser is also in Casablanca while he keeps track of Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo and his wife Ilsa.  Rick’s Cafe American, run by expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is the most popular club in town.  There is a backroom gambling den which though illegal, is popular and well attended.  Captain Renault frequently spends time at the roulette table.

On one particular night, Major Strasser and his cronies are spending time at Rick’s.  Strasser leads a rousing rendition of “Die Wacht am Rhine,” a patriotic German anthem.  Laszlo interrupts and has the band play “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem.  The dueling anthems is a very beautiful and powerful part of Casablanca (Anything to not hear that guitar lady sing again!).  Pretty soon, the French are drowning out the Germans.  Upset, Major Strasser orders Captain Renault to close Rick’s.

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Captain Renault demands that Rick’s be shut down.  Rick naturally asks what grounds the Captain has for closing his establishment.  Captain Renault is grasping for a reason to close Rick’s down and then delivers one of the funniest lines in the whole film:

CAPTAIN LOUIS RENAULT: “I’m shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.”
(The dealer hands the Captain a stack of money)
DEALER: “Your winnings, sir.”
CAPTAIN LOUIS RENAULT: “Oh, thank you very much…everybody out at once!”

This scene perfectly sums up Captain Renault’s entire persona.  He’s a corrupt official.  He’s a hypocrite.  He doesn’t care about what is right or wrong, he just wants to win.  Even if it means allying with the Germans, he doesn’t care.  He wants to be on the winning side.  Captain Renault is ultimately a good guy and eventually comes around toward the end of the film when he agrees to join Rick who plans on leaving Casablanca.

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“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

“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