February is the month of Valentine’s Day. A month to celebrate romance. A month to celebrate love. Typically, in lieu of the regular romance movie routine, I personally like to watch movies about obsessive love, like Leave Her to Heaven, where the antagonist, Ellen Berent’s only problem is that “she loves too much.” That’s putting it mildly. For this blogathon however, I’m going to go the more traditional route with a salute to my favorite movie couples. No, it’s not the most unique idea, but I hope that my selections are unique. These are the couples you hope will end up together. Even if they don’t, if the relationship ends on a satisfying note, it can still be a relationship worth coveting.
#1 Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund- Casablanca (1942). This isn’t a unique choice. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) are often held up as one of Classic Hollywood’s greatest romances; but for good reason. Rick and Ilsa’s goodbye scene at the airport is iconic. Who can forget Rick lifting Ilsa’s chin as she sobs, then delivering the iconic line: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Yes he’s repeating a line that he says to Ilsa in Paris, but it’s this moment where the line is the most poignant. It’s the final callback to the passionate romance they shared before World War II changed their lives permanently. Yes, Ilsa was married to Lazlo (Paul Henried) while they were in Paris and she’s married to him throughout the film. But who cares about Lazlo? This is Rick and Ilsa’s romance. They fell in love in Paris. They were torn apart by the war when Ilsa discovers that her “dead” husband, Lazlo, is actually alive. They’re brought back together in Casablanca when Lazlo’s work with the French Resistance takes him to Morocco. Rick and Ilsa’s feelings for one another come back and it’s such a passionate romance, it’s almost a shame that they don’t end up together. But the ending allows Rick to be the bigger man and to find his place in the world, with Louis Renault (Claude Rains) by his side. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, indeed.
#2 Harry Morgan & Marie ‘Slim’ Browning- To Have and Have Not (1944). I’d be remiss to forget about Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s iconic first film together. For not being known as a matinee idol, Bogart found himself part of many classic on-screen romances. In this instance, it was his appearance as Harry Morgan (Bogart), a fisherman working in the French colony of Martinique, a Caribbean nation. Because this takes place right after the Fall of France to the Germans during World War II, the island of Martinique is a mish-mash of Germans (due to the control possessed by the Pro-German Vichy France), sympathetic French, and other people trying to escape their lives. One of these people that Harry meets, is “Slim” (Bacall), a young American woman who is a bit of a wanderer and has found her way to Martinique. The sparks between Harry and Slim are obvious, especially after Slim teaches him how to whistle. Bogie and Bacall’s on-screen chemistry leapt off the screen and into real life as Bogie and Bacall fell in love and became one of Classic Hollywood’s most iconic couples.
#3 Frances “Gidget” Lawrence & Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews-Gidget (1959). If there’s one type of movie I love, it’s the teen beach movie and Gidget is the all-time best teen beach movie, in my opinion. Part of the reason I love this movie so much is for Gidget (Sandra Dee) and Moondoggie (James Darren). In this film, Gidget (nicknamed bestowed upon Frances by the surfer boys, it’s an amalgamation of “girl” and “midget”) is a 17-year old incoming high school senior who feels inadequate next to her more physically developed, boy crazy girlfriends. At the beginning of the film, we see Gidget and her friends try to attract the surfer boys at the beach, with Gidget failing miserably due to her awkwardness. But there’s something endearing about Gidget. She’s genuine. She can’t muster up the ability to try and attract the boys, because it seems fake. She just wants to swim. She doesn’t want to play stupid games trying to get their attention. She ends up catching the attention of one of the surfer boys, Moondoggie. At first Moondoggie is standoffish, but it’s obvious that he’s doing so because he’s trying to keep up his “cred” with the other boys. But through being protective of Gidget and later having a chance to spend time with her one-on-one, he realizes that he really does like her. Gidget’s liked him the whole time. When they have a chance to be together, they are smitten. Frankly, they are adorable and I love them. In the end, Gidget’s friends are still single and Gidget’s hooked herself a hot college guy by staying true to herself. Get it, girl!
#4 Connie Milligan & Joe Carter- The More the Merrier (1943). Connie (Jean Arthur) and Joe (Joel McCrea) are adorable. They’re brought together by the meddling, Benjamin Dingle (Charles Coburn), a retired millionaire who sublets half of Connie’s apartment during the World War II housing crisis. When Sergeant Joe Carter shows up to answer Connie’s ad, Mr. Dingle sees an opportunity to fix the uptight Connie up with a nice young man. Mr. Dingle sublets half of his half of the apartment to Joe. After learning about Mr. Dingle’s arrangement, Connie is upset. Especially when the men start razzing her about her fiance, Mr. Charles J. Pendergast. Despite trying to impress the two men with Mr. Pendergast’s good points (he makes $8600/year and has no hair), it becomes even obvious that she’s matched up with the wrong man. By this point, Joe has a crush on Connie and wants to spend time with her. Later one evening, Joe and Connie find themselves alone together on the front stoop of their apartment building. What unfolds on the front stoop is one of the sexiest, romantic scenes in Classic Hollywood, and nobody had to lose any of their clothes. I love them together and hope that they lived happily ever after… without Mr. Pendergast.
#5 Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man Series (1934-1947). Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) Charles are the power couple that everyone wishes they were. They are part of society. They have a beautiful home. They have an amazing dog, Asta. And, they solve mysteries together, thanks to Nick’s background as a detective. Nick loves the thrill of the mystery and Nora desperately wishes to be a part of the thrill. Nick tries to keep her at home and safe from the danger, but Nora always manages to horn her way in, by finding a vital clue or having an alluring thought about a potential suspect. At the start of the film series, Nick had retired from his detective career when he marries socialite Nora. Nick and Nora have such an amazing rapport and chemistry with one another, that the mystery almost takes a back seat to their relationship. William Powell and Myrna Loy are so amazing together, that one wishes they’d been married in real life.
After World War II, the idea of the “nuclear family” was advertised to married couples as the “American Dream” and the way things are supposed to be to achieve a happy life. Women who’d found employment outside the home while the men were fighting in World War II, were expected to give up their jobs and return to “domestic bliss.” If couples weren’t already married, they married upon the man’s return from the war. Married couples had a million children. They bought a tract home in some newly-built subdivision in the suburbs somewhere. Women who during the war, had found personal enrichment in being a military pilot or working in manufacturing factory work were expected to find the same personal enrichment in the newest vacuum, fancy stoves, and being a shill for Tupperware. If a woman did not find happiness in these things, she was branded as “unfeminine” or a “bad wife” or any other negative labels. As one can imagine, secret pill and alcohol abuse was rampant among housewives in the 1950s and 1960s.
Despite what was really happening in America, the new burgeoning medium of television was continuing to perpetuate the image of the perfect nuclear family. Women like June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver) were seen as content and happy, while vacuuming the home, perfectly coiffed, dressed in high heels and pearls. She watched after her children, Wally and The Beaver, but hesitated to dole out discipline. Husband Ward was expected to make the disciplinary decisions for the children. Other shows like Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and The Donna Reed Show all presented the husband and wives as asexual beings whose only concern involved their children, their home, and everything else needed to uphold the image of the perfect nuclear family.
Meanwhile in the movie world, the collapsing studio system and Production Code allowed filmmakers room to explore more controversial themes and ideas. Dysfunctional families found more and more screen-time. Rebel Without a Cause presented a family with a browbeaten husband and a domineering wife. Their inability to come together as a parental unit is tearing their juvenile delinquent son apart. All That Heaven Allows depicts a mother (and widow) trying to find love again with a younger man, an arborist, much to the chagrin of her college-age children. Her children don’t approve of her relationship and don’t even like that she’s trying to find another husband, as if she would be cheating on their father.
Aside from ‘Rebel’ and ‘Heaven,’ there are countless other films depicting a complicated family dynamic: Written on the Wind, There’s Always Tomorrow, Peyton Place, Imitation of Life, the list goes on and on. Despite differences in theme, the one commonality that all these films have is that they demonstrate how intense and volatile these familial relationships can be when other factors are involved: class differences and expectations, alcohol, infidelity, out of wedlock pregnancies, sexuality, divorce, sexual needs, race, etc. These are all issues that if they exist, tend to remain hidden within the family lore. Family members cover for each other’s mistakes. If a member of the family is known for being racist, family members learn how to tolerate it, but don’t let it be known outside of the confines of the family unit. It is only when the skeletons in the collective family closet become known, that drama erupts, or someone suffers consequences, or both. One of the best examples of this idea is depicted in one of my favorite melodramas–A Summer Place.
::Cue Percy Faith’s “Theme to A Summer Place” ::
A Summer Place starts with Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire) and Bart (Arthur Kennedy) Hunter receiving a telegram from Ken Jorgenson (Richard Egan). Jorgenson writes the Hunters to request accommodations for himself, his wife and their daughter at their Inn in the resort town of Pine Island, off the coast of Maine. About twenty years prior as a youth, Ken had worked as a lifeguard on Pine Island. He is now a successful chemist and millionaire. The Inn used to be Bart Hunter’s family’s mansion, but has since been converted into an Inn due to Bart’s squandering of the family fortune. Sylvia also has a history at Pine Island and had known Ken during his lifeguarding days. It is obvious that Bart and Sylvia have marital problems. Bart is an alcoholic and Sylvia has been forced to keep the Inn running so that she and their 17-year old son, Johnny (Troy Donahue), have a place to live and food on the table.
Bart, assuming that Ken wants to flaunt his wealth and hold it over Bart (who has lost all of his wealth) wants to deny the reservation request. Sylvia tells Bart that they have no choice but to accept Ken’s reservation. They need the money desperately. Bart reluctantly agrees. To give the Jorgensons the best accommodations possible, the Hunter family move into their guest house so that the Jorgensons can have Bart and Sylvia’s master bedroom suite.
Meanwhile, Ken and his shrew of a wife Helen (Constance Ford) and their 17-year old daughter, Molly (Sandra Dee), are sailing to Pine Island. We get a sneak peek at Helen’s awfulness when she and Molly get into an argument over what Molly should wear when she disembarks the boat. Helen wants Molly to put on constrictive support garments and juvenile clothing that obscures her developing figure. Helen finds Molly’s figure and interest in boys to be vulgar. Honestly, Helen finds almost everything vulgar. Ken is much more permissive and finds nothing wrong with Molly’s figure, her choice in clothing, or her interest in the opposite sex. It should not come as a surprise that Ken and Helen do not sleep in the same bed, they don’t even share a bedroom. Honestly, it’s surprising that Molly even exists.
When Ken, Helen, and Molly step off the boat, Johnny and Molly immediately spot one another and are smitten. They spend time together and Helen instantly assumes the worst–there’s a horrible scene where Helen forces Molly to submit to a physical examination from a random doctor she hires to check and make sure she’s still a virgin. At another point, Helen slaps Molly so hard, she takes a very dramatic tumble into the Christmas tree. Yes. This is the type of woman we’re dealing with. In spite of Helen, Molly and Johnny fall deeper and deeper into love with one another.
While Johnny and Molly are falling in love, Ken and Sylvia are reigniting their’s. It becomes obvious that Ken and Sylvia were lovers during their youth when Ken was lifeguarding on Pine Island–that is the real reason why Bart didn’t want Ken and his family on the island. Ken and Sylvia were deeply in love, but didn’t marry because Ken was a poor college student and couldn’t support Sylvia. They broke up and she married Bart, whom she didn’t love, but he was from a rich family with status. How Ken ended up with Helen, I have no idea. She could not have been a better option than being single. Regardless, Ken and Sylvia have stayed in their loveless, unhappy, sexless (except for at least one rendezvous) marriages for the sake of their children.
Ken and Sylvia begin an affair which comes to light after the island’s night watchman rats them out to Helen and tells her about their nighttime trysts in the boathouse. Helen first decides to play the silent, suffering wife (based on the advice of her horrible mother who tells her to catch Ken and Sylvia together so she can get a bigger divorce settlement). However, after she forces Molly to go through the embarrassing physical virginity exam (after Molly and Johnny spend the night together on another island after their boat capsizes), Johnny threatens to kill her. Through a fit of anger, Helen reveals Ken and Sylvia’s affair to everyone. It’s game over and the Jorgensons and Hunters divorce. Ken and Sylvia are free to marry.
However neither Helen nor Bart will relinquish custody of their respective children. Apparently, despite being horrible people, the courts don’t look kindly on Ken and Sylvia (aka the better parents) because of their adultery. Custody is granted to Helen and Bart. Ken and Sylvia are given visitation rights. Helen and Bart choose to send Johnny and Molly away to separate non-coed boarding schools. Johnny goes to Virginia and Molly goes to another school a few states away. Despite their distance however, they stay in touch via letters (which are of course read by Helen) and secret visits. It is during one of these visits where Molly learns that she’s pregnant and tells Johnny. Helen learns of Molly’s pregnancy and informs Ken.
A Summer Place is such an amazing melodrama. I love the over-wrought melodramas of the 1950s. I love them even more when they center on teenage melodrama. A Summer Place has two nuclear families: The Jorgensons and The Hunters. Neither family is happy. The Jorgensons are torn apart by Helen’s prudishness, hate, and intolerance. Ken has a spectacular monologue where he berates Helen for displaying yet another prejudice:
(After Helen alludes to Molly’s “Swedish blood” as the reason why she lets Johnny kiss her the first night they meet)
KEN: So now you hate the Swedes. How many outlets for your hate do you have, Helen? We haven’t been able to find a new house because of your multiplicity of them. We can’t buy near a school because you hate kids. They make noise. And there can’t be any Jews or Catholics on the block, either. And, oh, yes, it can’t be anywhere near the Polish or Italian sections. And, of course, Negroes have to be avoided at all costs. Now let’s see: No Jews, no Catholics, no Italians, no Poles, no children, no Negroes. Do I have the list right, so far? And now you’ve added Swedes. And, oh yes, you won’t use a Chinese laundry because you distrust Orientals. And you think the British are snobbish, the Russians fearful, the French immoral, the Germans brutal, and all Latin Americans lazy. What’s your plan? To cut humanity out? Are you anti-people and anti-life? Must you suffocate every natural instinct in our daughter too? Must you label young love-making as cheap and wanton and indecent? Must you persist in making sex, itself, a filthy word?
RICHARD EGAN as KEN in A Summer Place (1959)
Helen has nothing to say. She just stomps out of the room. Helen sucks. She is a horrible, vile person. She has absolutely no redeeming qualities. She’s awful at the beginning of the film and she’s awful at the end. At least with Bart, I feel like deep-down, without the booze, he might be a semi-decent person. At least he isn’t full of so much hate. I think he mostly hates himself and how he’s squandered his family’s fortune and status. If this movie had been made pre-1950, Helen and Bart would have made some sort of turnaround to save their marriages and win back their spouses. However, in 1959, we are rooting for Ken and Sylvia’s adultery. These people deserve happiness. They should leave their spouses. Who cares that they’re cheating on their partners? Their partners aren’t worth keeping. Molly and Johnny’s love should be encouraged so they can save themselves from a fate like Ken and Sylvia’s. Being teen parents might not be the best thing in the world, but it’s not the end of the world either.
At the end of this film, two nuclear families have crumbled but two more are rising from the ashes. Johnny and Molly are starting their own family. Ken and Sylvia have found happiness with each other. Bart and Helen are left on the outside as they should be. True love prevails. Hate can kick rocks.
This year’s CLAMBA (CLAssic Movie Blog Association) Spring blogathon is dedicated to classic films that people may turn to in times of crisis, emotional distress, stress, or any other time when they might feel a little weary from the drudgery of day to day life. Right now, during these trying times, having something comforting to turn to, whether it be a movie, a pet, a hobby, etc. is more important than ever.
I find movies, especially classic movies, to be comforting. Not every film has positive subject matter, and not every film is uplifting, but they allow you to escape into a different world. Full disclosure: This is coming from someone who watches “Forensic Files” and “Unsolved Mysteries” to relax before bed. I have my “pet” movies that I revisit over and over again (The Long Long Trailer, Gidget, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, The Brady Bunch Movie, Singin’ in the Rain… ) but I’ve already written about those–sometimes multiple times. I will try to branch out and share my Top 5 favorite comfort films.
One of my favorite types of films is a tried and true romance. Not necessarily a rom-com (though occasionally those can hit the spot, depending on what it is), or a overly sappy romance (e.g. Nicholas Sparks), or some generic, non-offensive, completely predictable film (Hallmark Movies, I’m looking at you), but a real romantic film–“happily ever after” not guaranteed.
1) Summertime (1955). David Lean’s romantic drama is aesthetically a gorgeous film. Shot on location in Venice, Italy, the scenery and color is beautiful and very fun to watch. Katharine Hepburn stars as Jane Hudson (not that Jane Hudson), a single (gasp!) middle-aged secretary from Akron, Ohio. She has had a lifelong dream of going to Venice and has saved money for many years. Finally, she has enough money and travels abroad for her summer vacation.
Upon arriving in Venice, Jane boards the local vaporetto (e.g. a waterbus that transports the public down the canals) where she meets two fellow American tourists. Jane and the three tourists are all staying at the same pensione (e.g. a boarding house that includes meals). At the pensione, Jane meets another American tourist, Eddie Yaeger (Darren McGavin), and his wife.
On her first night out, Jane goes out to dinner and spots an Italian man, Renato de Rossi, (Rossano Brazzi) watching her. The next day, Jane is window-shopping at an antique store and spots a red goblet. Interested in obtaining more information (and possibly purchasing) the goblet, Jane enters the store and discovers that the owner of the shop is Renato, the same man who was watching her the night before. Later that night, Renato finds Jane at her pensione and confesses that he finds her very attractive. She tries to ward off his advances, but ultimately agrees to attend a concert with him.
Renato and Jane’s romance grows and soon find themselves completely enamored with one another. However, like so many romantic films, they reach an impasse when Jane finds out more about Renato’s past.
I love this film because Jane and Renato’s passion for one another is evident and who doesn’t love the idea of falling in love with a handsome stranger while on vacation? See Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun for another example of this storyline. I also liked the idea that Hepburn was playing a woman who was not only single, but didn’t seem to regret being single. She wasn’t a miserable “can’t find a man” spinster. This film is also where Hepburn picked up her lifelong eye infection after performing a stunt where she falls into one of the fabled (and notoriously polluted) Venice canals.
Another type of movie that I find comforting is an over-the-top melodrama. For me, over-the-top is something so outrageous, so absurd, that it seems like it could never possibly happen. But at the same time, with the right mix of people and the right situation, it could definitely happen. One of my favorite melodramas also combines another of my favorites: 50s-60s teen movies.
2) A Summer Place (1959) has everything one could possibly want in a good melodrama: racism, bigotry, xenophobia, adultery, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, a catchy title theme tune, love, the use of the word “convenience” for toilet… this movie has it all. And if that was not enough, the movie is photographed using the most beautiful color. Every scene is seemingly shot with gauze over the lens, giving everything a slightly hazy, ethereal look. This film also features two of my all-time favorite stars: Sandra Dee and Dorothy McGuire.
At the beginning of the film, we meet the Hunter family. Patriarch Bart (Arthur Kennedy), his long-suffering wife, Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire), and their teenage son, Johnny (Troy Donahue). It is quickly apparent that not all is well with the Hunter household. Bart, despite having been born to a wealthy family and seemingly had it all, has allowed his family’s Pine Island, ME estate to fall into disarray. Most of the blame for the family’s decline falls squarely into the lap of Bart’s alcoholism. To make ends meet, the Hunter family is forced to transform their private family home into an inn and rent rooms out to paying guests.
One day, the Hunters receive a telegram from Ken Jorgenson (Richard Egan) who along with his wife, Helen (Constance Ford) and teenaged daughter Molly (Sandra Dee), wants to rent out a room at the “inn” for the summer. The only hitch? Ken and Sylvia used to date twenty years ago, prior to their respective marriages and children. Ken at the time was a lifeguard on the island whereas, it is presumed that Sylvia must have come from “better stock.” However, the tables have turned and now Sylvia is seemingly lower class, whereas Ken is successful millionaire research chemist.
When the Jorgenson family is seen, it is obvious that Helen has some issues. “Some issues” is putting it lightly. Helen is one of the most prudish (even for 1950s standards), hateful women that I have ever seen in a film. She seemingly has an issue with everyone and anything that isn’t American, straight, puritan, and most importantly, White. Ken has an amazing scene where he rips his wife a new one. It is obvious that the Jorgenson union is going to be kaput by the end of the film.
Upon arrival at Pine Island, Johnny immediately spots Molly. They are instantly smitten with one another, much to the chagrin of Helen. As a parallel to the budding union between the children, something is rekindled between Sylvia and Ken. Both are stuck in unhappy marriages and both want a new start. Sylvia and Ken find themselves confiding in one another, until their flame is reignited. At the same time, Molly and Johnny are finding themselves falling for one another. Jilted spouses Bart and Helen, find themselves on the outside, looking in.
I love this movie. I love everything about it. I never tire of it and look forward to reading the novel. There is so much drama to savor. Sandra Dee, despite being saddled with the goody two-shoes virgin image, is definitely NOT living up to that reputation in this film. One of Dee’s best qualities, in my opinion, are her eyes. Her fantastic large, brown eyes imbue Dee with a vulnerable quality. She seems to always have a wanting in her eyes. She just needs someone to take care of, and someone to take care of her. For whatever reason, Troy Donahue, despite not being that great of an actor I really enjoy. I don’t know what it is about him, but he has a quality that I find interesting.
Sometimes, all that will provide comfort is some good old fashioned eye candy. Just something to ogle for a couple hours. One such eye candy (for me) is Errol Flynn. During his heyday, he looks amazing in pretty much everything. Even in the 1950s, when Flynn’s bad habits were definitely catching up with him, though looking older than his age, he still possesses the panache and charisma of his youth. For this entry, I’m going to discuss my favorite Errol Flynn film.
3) Gentleman Jim (1942) is a biopic that features Flynn as James J. “Gentleman Jim” Corbett. At the beginning of the film, Jim and his friend Walter (Jack Carson) are attending an illegal boxing match in 1890s San Francisco. The match is raided by the police. Jim and Walter find themselves in the paddywagon with Judge Geary, a prominent member of the board of directors at the bank that employs both Jim and Walter as tellers. Jim is able to think quickly and saves his boss from embarrassment.
Later, through a chance meeting at his bank, Jim meets Victoria Ware (Alexis Smith), the socialite daughter of Buck Ware, a wealthy upper-class member of the Olympic Club–the same club that Jim’s boss also frequents. Victoria has arrived at Jim’s bank to collect change for a local game at the club. After hearing Victoria state that she’s on her way to the Olympic Club, Jim charms her into letting him escort her and carry her heavy coins. Victoria, obviously interested in Jim (because duh! who wouldn’t?) and seeing his ulterior motives right off the bat, agrees to let him accompany her to the club. She even treats him to lunch and cigars. Later, Jim meets the Judge and other members of the upper class in the gymnasium.
Judge Geary and a renowned British boxing coach (who has been hired to evaluate prospects) see a lot of potential in Jim as a boxer. Both men are looking to make boxing respectable and plan to start a boxing club that use the Marquess of Queensbury rules (the same rules still in effect today in the boxing community). These rules were set up a few decades prior in London and were meant to make the matches more even and fair. The Judge and the British coach find Jim’s appearance and polished demeanor as the perfect image for their new fighter. And, if Jim’s good looks and charm weren’t enough, he’s also a good fighter!
Soon Jim gets to work training and quickly finds himself scheduled for his first fight, which he wins. Eventually, Jim gets a manager, Billy Delaney (William “Fred Mertz” Frawley) who books him into even bigger matches. After winning a series of fights, Jim finds himself booked for his biggest fight yet–Taking on the current heavyweight champion, John L. Sullivan (Ward Bond).
I love this movie. I love sports movies in general, and especially boxing ones. Flynn is so freaking adorable and hot in all of his scenes. The man even looks good in a union suit! The absolute best Flynn scene is when he falls into the San Francisco Bay and pulls himself out of the water. Ooh la la. Alexis Smith makes a great foil for Flynn’s brashness. Their love/hate relationship is one of the highlights of the film. One of the absolute best parts of the film though is Alan Hale as Flynn’s father. He is hilarious in this movie. Ward Bond is also excellent as John L. Sullivan.
Another type of film that I find comforting is something that is so adorable and so sweet, that you cannot help but feel better. Charlie Chaplin’s most famous character, The Tramp, is so sweet and kind, you cannot help but root for him. In The Kid (1921), even though the audience knows that Tramp’s “son,” belongs to someone else, you cannot help but root for the two of them to stay with each other. They belong together–even if the Tramp can’t provide financially. What he lacks in financial resources, he more than makes up for it in love and kindness. One of the absolute best examples of this is present in my favorite Chaplin film.
4) City Lights (1931). This film is so freaking adorable and sweet, I cannot stand it. Fortunately, I was able to see it in the theater prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was even better on the large screen. To make the experience even better, I got to view a 35mm print. Anyway, I digress.
The film opens with a bunch of dignitaries and citizens assembling for the unveiling of a new monument dedicated to “Peace and Prosperity.” When the veil is removed from the statue, the Tramp is revealed to be asleep in the lap of one of the figures. After a few moments of hilarity, the Tramp escapes the angry crowd and runs into the city. While in the city, the Tramp encounters a blind woman (Virginia Cherrill) selling flowers. The Tramp is smitten with her, even after figuring out that she is blind. The blind woman mistakes the Tramp as wealthy when she hears a door open and shut on an automobile right as the Tramp approaches her to purchase a flower. She assumes that he’s just emerged from a chauffered vehicle.
Later that evening, the Tramp saves a drunk millionaire from suicide. The millionaire is grateful to the Tramp and declares him his new best friend. The millionaire takes the Tramp back to his home for champagne, and then for a night out on the town. They have a raucuous good time. The next morning, the Tramp spies the flower girl at her corner as he’s driving the millionaire home. He gets some money from the Millionaire, takes the Millionaire’s car, and drives the girl home.
At this point, a running gag starts where the millionaire is the Tramp’s BFF when he’s drunk, but sober, he has no idea who the Tramp is and wants him out of his house ASAP.
The Tramp continues to visit with the blind girl. It is during one of these visits that he learns that she and her grandmother are one missed rent payment ($22… Oh to pay rent in the early 1930s) away from being homeless. At this point, nothing will stop the Tramp until he’s able to save the blind girl from losing her home.
This film is so freaking sweet and I don’t want to spoil it by describing the ending. It is perhaps one of the best endings ever in film and with so few words. The ending scene fully illustrates why Charlie Chaplin deserves every inch of recognition and acclaim that he ever received.
Finally, another of my favorite genres is film noir. Some film noir can be romantic in nature, like the Bogie/Bacall films and others can be super gritty (The Asphalt Jungle comes to mind). I love all of them. There’s something about the noir style, the narration, the way characters speak, everything.
5) One of my favorite noir, is probably one of the most famous film noir of all time: Double Indemnity (1944). Fred MacMurray stars as Walter Neff, a seemingly decent insurance salesman who makes his living selling all types of insurance. One day, he makes a house call to the Dietrichson household to remind Mr. Dietrichson to renew his automobile insurance. When Walter arrives, Mr. Dietrichson isn’t home, but his second wife Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) is. In one of the all time best character introduction scenes, Phyllis appears at the top of the stairway clad in a towel and her “honey of an anklet.” Walter is instantly smitten.
While flirting with one another, Phyllis asks Walter about taking out a life insurance policy on her husband, without her husband’s knowledge. Walter at first, wants no part of Phyllis’ obvious plan to murder her husband, but soon devises a scheme to write a policy that contains a “double indemnity” clause–which would double the payout, should the policy holder die in some type of accident.
At this point, I cannot decide if Walter is really that enthralled with Phyllis that he’s willing to commit capital murder, or whether he wants to try and put something over on his boss, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). Keyes is responsible for investigating claims on behalf of the firm, to reduce the amount of payments that need to be paid out. Keyes seems to believe that he knows anything and everything about probability of different causes of death and everything that would negate an insurance claim.
Walter inevitably ends up helping Phyllis commit the murder. Throughout the rest of the film, Phyllis and Walter try to cover their tracks as Keyes gets closer and closer to the truth.
I love this film. I love the way that Walter speaks, I love Phyllis’ hilarious wig, and Edward G. Robinson is fantastic. In the scene where Walter murders Mr. Dietrichson in the car, Phyllis has one of the most evil facial expressions in cinema.
May 16th is National Classic Movie Day. And what would be better to watch during these trying times than a classic film? This year, the Classic Film & TV Cafe’s annual blogathon is devoted to the 1960s. All participants have been asked to list their favorite films of this decade.
The 1960s are an interesting time for classic film as the Production Code and Studio System were all but gone. Sandra Dee, 50s/60s teen queen, was Universal Studios’ last contract star. Most of the classic film stars of the studio system were either retired, and unfortunately, many were deceased. Some of the younger stars of that era, e.g. Doris Day and Lauren Bacall, to name a couple, were still active, but even then their stars were waning. The 1960s brought a new crop of stars: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, to name a few. Some child stars, like Natalie Wood, had successfully transitioned out of juvenile roles and into ones for adults.
This year, the Classic Film & TV Cafe has asked bloggers to name their six favorite films of the 1960s.
Without further ado:
I’m sure everyone is familiar with this film. The violent shower scene where Janet Leigh meets her demise is iconic. Norman Bates’ name is synonymous with “mommy issues.” The fictional Bates Motel is infamous. I love Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. This is probably my second favorite Hitchcock film after Rear Window. I am not a big horror movie fan, but this film is more psychological than slasher and in true Hitchcock fashion, there are even some funny, albeit, macabre parts as well.
Janet Leigh stars as Marion Crane, a secretary for a local real estate company in Phoenix. On a Friday afternoon, she meets with her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), for a quickie during lunch. Their rendezvous is complicated when Sam announces that he cannot marry Marion because of debts he incurred after divorcing his first wife. Marion, disappointed, returns to work. When she arrives, her employer is in the middle of settling a large real estate deal. The client ends up giving Marion’s boss $40,000 cash as a down payment. Marion, seeing an opportunity to solve Sam’s money woes, so that they can marry, feigns a headache. Her boss, not wanting such a large sum of cash in the office over the weekend, asks Marion to deposit the cash on her way home. Marion absconds with the money instead and drives to California where Sam lives.
While enroute, there’s a fantastic scene (with Bernard Hermann’s amazing score) where Marion is driving and she imagines her boss’ conversation after he discovers that she’s stolen the money. Marion trades in her vehicle after a weird encounter with a police officer who keeps questioning her when she acts odd and suspicious after he wakes her up from a roadside nap. During a heavy rainstorm, Marion comes across a motel off the beaten path– The Bates Motel. The proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), is a little odd, but seems harmless.
Unfortunately, Marion is never seen again.
The remainder of the film deals with her sister, Lila (Vera Miles), Sam, and Detective Arbogast (Martin Balsam), trying to find out what happened to Marion. It becomes clear to all involved that Norman has a weird relationship with his mother. Lila and Arbogast decide that Mrs. Bates might hold the key to the whole mystery.
***SPOILER*** These are my favorite scenes:
Marion’s infamous shower scene
Lila tapping on the shoulder of “Mrs. Bates” and having the chair spin around only to see a skeleton wearing a wig.
“Mrs. Bates” stabbing Arbogast and him falling down the stairs.
Norman Bates’ reveal as “Mrs. Bates” That scene is funny, if anything.
The last scene featuring a close-up of Norman Bates’ face with “Mrs. Bates” providing the internal monologue. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Cape Fear (1962)
I saw this film for the first time a couple years ago. Prior to that, my only experience with Cape Fear was the Simpsons parody with Sideshow Bob assuming the Robert Mitchum role. I saw Scorsese’s 1991 remake last year and while it was okay, I preferred the original. Scorsese’s version was too graphic and gross. I liked the subtlety of the original. Cape Fear, in my opinion, is very progressive for 1962. It might be one of the first sexual thrillers. This film is terrifying and Robert Mitchum deserves all the credit for imbuing the film with the creepy and uncomfortable atmosphere present through the entire film. In Scorsese’s 1991 remake, Robert DeNiro assumes Mitchum’s role, and in my opinion, Mitchum was much more effective. DeNiro was just creepy, gross, and a complete psychopath. Mitchum, on the other hand, was creepy, but also possessed that dreamy quality (which also makes him excel in romantic roles). He was believable as a man who could charm a potential victim into spending time with him–only for her to realize his true character when it was too late. DeNiro is just a creep from the start.
The original Cape Fear takes place in contemporary 1962 Georgia. Max Cady (Robert Mitchum), has just been released from prison. He has just completed an 8-year stint after being convicted of rape. What’s interesting in this film is that Max’s crime is never explicitly stated, but is implied. After leaving prison, Max travels to the hometown of Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), a lawyer who assisted in delivering the eyewitness testimony that sealed Max’s case and got him convicted and incarcerated. Max is determined to get revenge on Sam. He promptly discovers where he lives. The remainder of the film deals with Max stalking both Sam and his family. It gets even worse when Max sets his sights on Sam’s 14-year old daughter, Nancy.
There is a terrifying scene between Max and a woman he picks up at a bar, Diane Taylor (Barrie Chase). This scene is made even more disturbing in the 1991 Scorsese version.
The highlight (and scariest part) of the film is the famous houseboat scene–parodied perfectly on The Simpsons. Sam’s family heads to their houseboat in Cape Fear, North Carolina, in an effort to lure Max. The scene between Max and Sam’s wife, Peggy (Polly Bergen) on the houseboat is so disturbing– it just gives me the willies thinking about it.
This film is fantastic and highly worth watching. I recommend watching it in the dark to get the full effect. In fact, I may watch this movie tonight in honor of National Classic Film Day.
Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968)
Full disclosure: I love The Brady Bunch. I can watch it all day long and I never tire of it. However, other family sitcoms, e.g. Full House, I can only take an episode or two at a time. Both sitcoms have overly sappy moments, both can be saccharine at times, there are lessons to be learned in each episode… so what’s the difference between the two shows? I have no idea, except the The Brady Bunch is superior.
In 1968, when Sherwood Schwartz was looking for a new project, he came across a newspaper column offering the statistic that 30% of marriages involve children from a previous marriage. He created a pilot for a series involving Mike Brady, a widower with three children, falling in love with and marrying Carol Martin, a divorcee with three children. Due to objections from the network, Carol’s marital status was made more ambiguous. Schwartz presented his pilot to all the major networks. Each network liked the project, but requested multiple changes. Then, two films about mixed families premiered– With Six You Get Eggroll (Doris Day & Brian Keith), and Yours, Mine and Ours (Lucille Ball & Henry Fonda), the latter film turning a major profit. The success of ‘Yours,’ served as the impetus for one network, ABC, to take a chance and greenlight The Brady Bunch.
Yours, Mine and Ours is based on the true story of Frank Beardsley and Helen North, two widowers who, between the two of them, have enough children to play an entire baseball game–defense and offense. They meet and marry and then try to unite their families and manage their massive household. Lucille Ball’s production company, Desilu, purchased the rights to Helen Beardsley’s (nee North) autobiography, Who Gets the Drumstick? Ball enlisted her I Love Lucy writing dream team, Bob Carroll Jr., and Madelyn Pugh to write the screenplay. Ball, of course, would play the role of Helen North. She enlisted her friend (and former beau), Henry Fonda, to play her husband, Frank Beardsley.
Frank works in the Navy and has recently left his post on the USS Enterprise. He has taken on a new role (one that presumably keeps him at home) working as a project officer. One day, at the commissary, he meets Helen North, a nurse on the base. They have a friendly, cordial meeting. But nothing comes of it. Later, Frank and Helen reunite when Frank has to bring 12-year old daughter Louise in for an exam. Frank and Helen hit it off and decide to go out on a date. The trouble? Frank and Helen are both single parents to a large number of children. Frank has 10 children, Helen has 8.
While on the date (at a VERY crowded club), there’s a funny scene where Helen practices nonchalantly telling Frank about her 8 children. Since she’s practicing out-loud, the men around her think that she’s coming onto them. Later, there is another funny scene where her fake eyelashes (courtesy of her daughters) keep falling off and later her pinned up slip falls down (her girls also shortened her dress, making her slip too long).
Finally, the truth comes out when Frank and Helen make their respective broods known to one another. After some funny scenes with the children including a manic Lucille Ball crying/drunk scene, and a near break-up, Helen and Frank marry and then work on combining their respective households–but not without help from Frank’s buddy, Darrel (Van Johnson).
My favorite scene is when Frank is doling out bedroom and bathroom assignments. Each bedroom is assigned a letter. The bathrooms are assigned a color. The children are assigned a number, based on their position within the group of children. There’s a funny quote when one of the younger children (11/18) walks down the hallway, repeating the mantra over and over: “I’m 11, red, A.” For the record, in my house, I’m 1, red, A. My husband is 2, red, A. My sister/boarder, is 3, red, B.
I’m not usually a big fan of children-centric movies/shows or actors (which probably makes my love of The Brady Bunch and Yours, Mine and Ours, even more bewildering)–but both The Brady Bunch and Yours, Mine and Ours are free of the annoying, precocious child with a catch phrase–so that’s probably why I like them. For the record: My favorite Brady kid is Marcia (close second: Greg), and my favorite Yours, Mine and Ours child is Phillip (perhaps the Jan Brady of the Beardsley household), close second: Veronica)
For the record, these are the children in their order of rank:
Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961)
I know that this is not the best movie in the world. It’s not even the best of the Gidget franchise. However, I love this movie. It’s so ridiculous in the best possible way. First of all, we’re supposed to believe that this is a continuation of 1959’s Gidget–just look past the fact that Deborah Walley (Gidget in Gidget Goes Hawaiian) looks absolutely nothing like Sandra Dee (the original Gidget in Gidget). The sequel even went as far as to film “flashbacks” of scenes from the first film, with Walley wearing some of Dee’s costumes! Gidget’s parents in the second film–Carl Reiner as Russ and Jeff Donnell as Dorothy, are completely different. Arthur O’Connell and Mary LaRoche assumed the roles in the Dee film. In the first film, only the surfer boys refer to Gidget by her nickname. Gidget’s parents refer to her by another nickname, “Francie,” based on her real name: Frances. In the second film, everyone calls Gidget by her nickname. The one constant in both films? And really the only constant that even matters? James Darren’s Jeff “Moondoggie” Matthews.
In Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Gidget and Jeff are still together. At the end of the first film, Gidget turns 17 and is entering her senior year of high school. Jeff is a college student, who is on summer break and planning to return to school in the fall. We can assume that Jeff is either a year or two older than Gidget. In Gidget Goes Hawaiian, the timeline is a little fuzzy. Presumably, this is a year or so after Gidget, based on the fact that Jeff is on summer vacation, returning to college again in the fall. At this point, Gidget is presumably at least 18, and perhaps Jeff is 20-21 (He’s still in college in 1963’s Gidget Goes to Rome. Super senior? Pursuing a MA?) He gives Gidget his pin at the beginning of the film, something that he did at the end of the Dee film. Is this a continuity error? I’m not sure. I choose to believe that perhaps Jeff got another pin and is giving it to Gidget. I really don’t know. Regardless, in Gidget’s world, Jeff has just proposed marriage, and they’re basically engaged now.
After an idyllic summer of surfing, bonfires on the beach and romantic dates, Gidget and Jeff reach their last two weeks of vacation together, before Jeff has to leave for school. Then Gidget’s dad drops a bombshell–he’s booked a two-week trip to Hawaii for the family. Most people would be ecstatic at this news, but not Gidget. She’s devastated, as two weeks is all she and Jeff have left together until he leaves for school. Her father is understandably both upset and bewildered at Gidget’s unhappiness. Gidget tries to get sympathy from Jeff, and he tells her that this trip is an opportunity of a lifetime (because it is) and that she’d be nuts not to go. Gidget, because she’s bonkers, takes Jeff’s encouragement as a sign that he’s indifferent to her leaving or not, gets mad, and breaks up with him. Meanwhile, Gidget’s parents have decided to turn their family trip into a romantic trip and cancel Gidget’s adjoining room. Gidget then announces that she’s coming on the trip after all, and her parents scramble to re-book her room. Her adjoining room is gone, but they’re able to book her a single room down the hall. Gidget and her family are on their way to Hawaii.
While on the plane, Gidget and her parents become acquainted with another family on board–Monty (Eddie Foy, Jr.) and Mitzi (Peggy Cass) Stewart and their daughter Abby (Vicki Trickett). Abby and Gidget are the same age. While seated on the plane together, Gidget and Abby get to talking. Gidget bares her soul to Abby about Jeff and how lost she is without him. The whole group is staying at the same Hawaiian hotel together. While at the hotel, Gidget and Abby meet Eddie Horner (Michael Callan), a dancer who is appearing at the hotel. The girls, Eddie and his friends all spend time together during the trip.
Gidget is miserable during the beginning of the trip. She just sits and mopes in the hotel, refusing to take in the sights of Hawaii. Her parents are understandably concerned. Gidget’s dad arranges to have Jeff fly to Hawaii as a surprise for Gidget. Between Gidget’s moping and Jeff’s arrival in Hawaii, she comes out of her shell and quickly wins over Eddie and the guys. Abby is jealous of Gidget’s popularity and appeal to the boys and quickly resents her.
I really like this film because it’s fun and has amusing moments. I do feel bad for Deborah Walley–only because I feel the costume team did her a real disservice. Gidget is presumably at least 18, but is dressed like she’s 12. Walley is not chubby by any means, but her tight, short waisted, twee dresses greatly undermine her figure. She looks best in her swimwear and when Gidget imagines that she’s a streetwalker. I also don’t know what’s up with the half up, half down hairstyle she sports–it’s not appealing. But I’ve seen it on other women during the early 60s, so I’ll assume that it was the style.
Where the Boys Are (1960)
If there’s one thing I love, it’s teen beach movies. I love all of them: Gidget, Beach Party, everything. One of the best films of this genre is Where the Boys Are. This film has more in common with the coming of age story in Gidget (1959) and less with the wackniess of the Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies. Much like Gidget, this film is progressive in its discussion of not only teenage sexuality, but the sexuality of young, unmarried, women. Where the Boys Are tells the story of four young college women (Freshmen) who travel to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a two week spring vacation.
Merritt Andrews (Dolores Hart) is a young woman who talks a good game when it comes to young women being free to date, makeout and have sex (aka “backseat bingo”) with whomever she wants. This progressive attitude of course scandalizes the professor of the “Courtship and Marriage” class. It is obvious that the four main characters in the film attend an all-female university. Merritt’s outspoken views have her kept under close watch by the school’s dean. At the conclusion of the school day, Merritt and her friends Melanie Tolman (Yvette Mimimeux), Tuggle Carpenter (Paula Prentiss), and Angie NoLastName (Connie Francis) set off for Fort Lauderdale.
While on the road, the girls come across TV Thompson (Jim Hutton) who is looking to hitch a ride to Florida. After being impressed by his height and shoe size, Tuggle (who stands 5’10.5 and desperately seeks a taller man) invites him into the car. They arrive in Florida and check into their apartment. As the events of the film unfold, it becomes apparent that each girl has a different viewpoint when it comes to sex.
MERRITT: Outspoken advocate of pre-marital sex. Talks a good game, but might not be as experienced and confident as she lets on. She meets Ryder Smith (George Hamilton), a senior at Brown University. He’s wealthy and his intelligence is on-par with Merritt’s. It becomes clear that he probably actually has the experience that Merritt talks about and it seems that he may have been led on by her at first.
TUGGLE: Strives to become a wife and mother “the chaste way,” she says. Tuggle believes that her height and build has her destined to become the mother to multiple children. She is more traditional and doesn’t particularly share Merritt’s opinion about sex. She wants to meet a man, marry and then have sex after marriage. TV ends up becoming her beau throughout the film and at first seems to be upset about her wanting to be a “good girl.” However, TV seems like a good guy.
MELANIE: She’s insecure about her lack of experience and takes Merritt’s outspoken views to heart. Her main goal while in Florida is to meet a “Yale-ie” and lose her virginity. Unfortunately for Melanie, she might be dealt the worst hand in this film. She meets a couple Yale-ies in the film.
ANGIE: Angie is your classic tomboy. She’s a pretty girl, but isn’t tall like Tuggle, or blonde like Melanie and Merritt. She’s short and brunette and a little curvier than the other girls. Angie is the captain of her school’s field hockey team. Nobody worries what Angie is doing on vacation or while at school. It is implied that everyone just assumes that Angie won’t have to worry about pressure to have premarital sex. The one asset Angie does have is that she has a killer voice. Her voice attracts the attention of Basil (Frank Gorshin) a didactic jazz musician.
This film has some very funny scenes such as at the club when the gang watches Lola Fandango (Barbara Nichols) perform an Esther Williams-esque underwater number; and when Angie and Merritt attempt to save money by ordering hot water (and dipping in their own contraband tea bag) at a restaurant. I also love the scenes showing the mob at the beach and in their hotel room (the girls end up sharing their 2-bed room with 7 other girls). There are also some very serious scenes as well as some sweet ones.
This is an excellent film for anyone who loves coming of age stories, teen beach movies, or movies with killer title theme songs.
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
Last but not least, one of my other favorite films of the 1960s is the cult classic, Valley of the Dolls. This film is so ridiculous in all the best ways possible. Prior to watching this film, I was unaware that “dolls” was a term for pills. I always thought that the “dolls” in the title referred to the women in the film. Oh how I was wrong.
This movie is amazing. Everyone in this film has a million problems. The most sane person is probably Susan Hayward’s Helen Lawson, and even she’s a piece of work. Based on Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 novel of the same name, this film tells the story of Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins) a recent college graduate who takes a job as a secretary at a theatrical agency. Their number one client is Helen Lawson–an aging, and cutthroat Broadway star. Helen is appearing in a new show, which is featuring a young ingenue, Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke). Neely is very talented and Helen fears that Neely will overshadow her performance. In an effort to get Neely to quit the show, Helen orders for all of Neely’s best scenes, including her big musical number, cut. The ruse works and Neely is out. Anne is immediately disheartened with show-biz after witnessing Helen’s cruel behavior toward Neely, but is convinced by her employer to not quit and stay with the company.
Anne and Neely befriend another young woman, Jennifer North (Sharon Tate). Jennifer is gorgeous, but her talent is limited. Neely’s agent at the theatrical agency (which employs Anne) lands her an appearance on a telethon, which leads to a nightclub gig, and so-on. The audience is treated to an amazing 1960s montage of Neely’s rise to success. Neely is offered a Hollywood contract and off she goes. Unfortunately, the pressure of the business and instant success gets the best of Neely and soon she’s a glorious, alcoholic, doll-addicted disaster. In all honesty, Neely’s complete collapse and self-destruction is the highlight of the film. I know it’s campy, over-the-top, and absolutely absurd, but I love it. Neely O’Hara was my hero in this film. One particular highlight is when a drunk, drugged out of her gourd Neely goes to a bar. She plays her own song on the jukebox and plays the “don’t you know who I am?” card. Nobody knows who she is because she’s a shell of her former self.
Unfortunately, the other two ladies, Anne and Jennifer, don’t fare much better, though Anne’s plight lasts all of 5 minutes. I wish she’d self-destructed a little bit more.
The absolute best part of the entire film is the showdown between Neely and Helen. It is amazing and one of my all-time favorite movie scenes. I absolutely love this movie from start to finish. It is worthy of its status as one of the all-time best campy, cult films. Lee Grant has an appearance as the sister to Jennifer’s beau. Dionne Warwick sings the very melancholy theme song.
Now I want to watch this movie. Valley of the Dolls / Cape Fear double feature? Is that weird?
Once again I’ve fallen off the posting train. I need to make it more of a habit, but I struggle to find time. Then, I had trouble with my WordPress account and I couldn’t post. I finally got that fixed. I didn’t want to miss posting on National Classic Movie Day. I also plan to post about the late, great Doris Day soon.
For this year’s National Classic Movie Day, the Classic Film and TV Cafe are asking participants to post his or her top 5 favorite films from the 1950s.
Without further adieu, here are mine:
The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
This is my absolute favorite movie of all time. I have probably seen it a hundred times (no exaggeration). I’m a big fan of I Love Lucy and Lucille Ball. The Long, Long Trailer is basically a 90-minute I Love Lucy episode. Ball and Desi Arnaz’ (aka Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy)character’s first names in ‘Trailer’ are very similar to those of their Ricardo counterparts– Tacy and Nicky, respectively. This MGM comedy is hilarious and I never tire of it, even though I’m at the point where I can recite the dialogue. Quotes from this film regularly make it into everyday conversations I have with friends and family (only those who have seen this film of course). My favorite quote to use, while driving, is “Turn right here, left.”
The Long, Long Trailer tells the story of Tacy and Nicky Collini, newlyweds who are embarking on a road-trip for their honeymoon: Los Angeles to Colorado. The Collinis decide to purchase a 40′ New Moon trailer for their journey. The film depicts the Collinis trying to handle trailer life and all the trials and tribulations that come with it: noisy trailer parks, parking on uneven surfaces, getting stuck in the mud, spending the night on a noisy highway, weight limits, cooking, parking, backing in, and more. Will the newlyweds’ marriage survive the trip?
My favorite part of the movie is when Tacy and Nicky decide to go off-roading and end up stuck in the mud. The trailer is all whopperjawed. Tacy and Nicky get through dinner and go to bed. Nicky is on the downhill side. He has no issues getting into bed. Tacy on the other hand, is on the uphill side and can’t stay in bed. One may ask why she doesn’t make her husband move over and she can share his bed. Well that would be the logical solution, but since this is Lucy, that isn’t going to happen. After a couple of feeble attempts to get into bed, the jack holding the trailer up (kind of) collapses in the mud and Tacy goes flying out the door. Nicky, awoken by his wife’s blood-curdling scream, comes to the door and says: “What’s the matter honey? Can’t you sleep?” While sitting in a 5′ deep mud puddle, Tacy gives him a look that could only convey “[expletive] you.”
I’ve mentioned Gidget many times on this blog, but it’s worth mentioning again. I love this movie. I’ve seen it dozens of times and I never tire of it. Sandra Dee is adorable. James Darren is hunky. The story is relatable. Gidget was the start of the 1950s-1960s teen surf movie craze and I’m all in for teen surf movies. Of all the teen surf movies (the ‘Beach Party’ films, For Those Who Think Young, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, etc.) the original Gidget film is the best.
In this coming of age story, Sandra Dee plays the titular character, Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, a seventeen year old tomboy who is uneasy about her girlfriends’ new hobby: manhunting. Frances is more interested in snorkeling than finding a boyfriend. Her friends on the other hand, act like they’ll be old maids if they aren’t “pinned” by the end of the summer aka the beginning of their senior year of high school. The girls (except Frances) try posturing and flaunting themselves in front of a group of male surfers, but fail to catch their attention. Frances clumsily tries to play along, but gets frustrated and goes snorkeling instead. Her friends ditch her. Frances, swimming in the ocean, gets stuck in kelp.
In the first of a couple kelp episodes, Frances is saved by one of the surfer boys, “Moondoggie,” played by James Darren. Frances is infatuated with him from the get-go. And frankly, who wouldn’t be? Frances is nicknamed “Gidget” by the boys (a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget”). She also takes an interest in surfing and is soon hanging out with the boys everyday. Her surfing skills steadily improve and pretty soon, she’s good enough to really “hang” with the boys. Throughout all the surfing scenes, Gidget and Moondoggie grow closer, culminating with a kiss at the luau. However, Gidget’s awkwardness threatens to keep them apart.
My favorite part of this film is probably Moondoggie serenading Gidget at the luau and planting the kiss on her. I also love the scene with the fight at Kahuna’s beach shack and the elderly neighbor’s witness statement to the police: “When I saw that other one (Moondoggie) run in there (the beach shack). I knew there’d be trouble. I can spot trouble through a crack in the blinds.”
All About Eve (1950)
One of the best known classics in Hollywood, I never tire of this film. The cast. The dialogue. The story. Everything about this film is perfect–except Thelma Ritter’s abrupt exit during the first half of the film. What happened to Birdie? She went to get the guest’s coat and never came back! This story is timeless, even in real life. No matter how great and indispensable you think you may be, there’s always someone waiting in the wings who is better than you are.
All About Eve begins at the Sarah Siddons Award ceremony. Rising star Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is slated to receive the prestigious Sarah Siddons award, the highest honor given to persons in the theater community. As acerbic critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) introduces the cast of characters, us as the audience knows that there is a story behind Eve’s rise to stardom. Huge star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) looks like she wants to shoot Eve. The playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) and director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) of Eve’s award-winning play do not look proud or happy in the slightest. Lloyd’s wife, Karen (Celeste Holm) takes over the narration and lets the audience in on the true story about Eve Harrington.
On a rainy night, after another performance of Margo’s hit play, “Aged in Wood,” Karen comes across Eve, a young woman she’s repeatedly spotted waiting outside the backstage exit. Thinking she’s doing the young woman a favor, Karen invites the young woman inside to meet her idol, Margo Channing. Little does Karen know what lurks ahead. As the story progresses, we see Eve slowly insinuate herself into Margo’s personal and professional life. Perhaps this is why Birdie disappears! Eve’s goal is to star in Lloyd’s next play, Footsteps on the Ceiling.
What I love about this film is how slowly Eve’s scheme unfolds. It is not obvious that Eve is taking over Margo’s life. It’s only through the music, Birdie’s “I told you so” face, and Margo’s growing frustration that we figure out what Eve is doing. As Eve gets away with more and more, the more brazen she becomes–such as calling Lloyd to her apartment in the middle of the night. My favorite part of the film is Addison’s take-down of Eve and Eve’s comeuppance at the end when she meets #1 fan, Phoebe (Barbara Bates).
Pillow Talk (1959)
Starring the recently departed Doris Day, this film is her first of three films with co-star Rock Hudson. Of their three films together, the others being Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964), Pillow Talk is my favorite. I love the catchy theme song, Doris and Rock’s undeniable chemistry, Tony Randall, and Doris’ gorgeous wardrobe. The film is funny, romantic and a little sexy.
In Pillow Talk, Doris stars as Jan Morrow, an interior decorator. She’s a successful career woman who’s driven up the wall by the romantic escapades of her party line partner Brad Allen, played by Rock Hudson. Tony Randall portrays Jonathan Forbes, a mutual friend of Jan and Brad’s. Jan and Brad bicker constantly on the party line. Jan tries to offer a compromise over the use of the line, but Brad is unwilling to participate. Jan ends up (unsuccessfully) filing a complaint against Brad with the phone company.
One night, Brad and Jan just happen to be at the same nightclub. Brad sees her and learns her name, figuring out that she’s the one who he bickers with on the party line. He concocts the fake persona of “Rex Stetson” a Texas cattle rancher. Using a Texas drawl, Rex successfully picks up Jan and takes her home. Soon they are seeing each other regularly. Jan finds herself falling for “Rex.” Brad/Rex finds himself falling for Jan.
My favorite part of this film is watching 6’5 Rock Hudson try to squeeze himself into a tiny sports car, Jan’s maid Alma (Thelma Ritter) drinking Hudson under the table, and every scene with Tony Randall. He is hilarious. Pillow Talk set the pace for the sexy 1960s sex comedies. Watch 2003’s Down With Love (with Renee Zelwegger and Ewan McGregor) for a fun send-up of Pillow Talk and the other sex comedy tropes.
Rear Window (1954)
This is my favorite Hitchock film. Everything about this film is fantastic: the story, the dialogue, the cast, the sets, everything. I absolutely love the set of this film. Hitchcock’s courtyard set is amazing. The attention to detail is fantastic. I love how the other neighbors all have storylines, even though they never set foot in James Stewart’s apartment. Miss Torso, Miss Lonelyhearts, The Songwriter, all the neighbors are fantastic. The only fault in this film is the cheesy way the ending looks, but I’ll chalk that up to 1950s technology.
In Rear Window, James Stewart plays photographer LB “Jeff” Jeffries, who is homebound after breaking his leg. He is bored and spends most of his days watching the goings on of his neighbors in the courtyard. He devises names for the neighbors and keeps up on their lives. One neighbor in particular, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), catches his attention. It seems that Thorwald had an invalid wife, until all of a sudden, he didn’t. Curious about what happened to Mrs. Thorwald, Jeff begins watching him more intently with a large telephoto lens.
Jeff sees Thorwald engaged in all kinds of suspicious activity and is determined that he was behind his wife’s disappearance. Using his binoculars and camera lenses, Jeff basically engages in a stakeout. Throughout all his investigation work, Jeff’s girlfriend, Lisa Fremont, played by Grace Kelly, and his nurse Stella, played by Thelma Ritter come and go. At first the ladies are dismissive of Jeff’s interest in Thorwald and his determination to prove him a murderer. However, after seeing Thorwald’s behavior first-hand, the ladies are hooked and soon join Jeff in his stakeout. Lisa and Stella become further involved in Jeff’s independent investigation when they leave the apartment to gather evidence from Thorwald’s garden and home.
My favorite part of this film is the scene with Jeff, Lisa and Stella watching Thorwald scrub his walls. “Must’ve splattered a lot,” Stella says matter of factly. Lisa and Jeff look at her disgusted. She then defends her position, saying “Come on. That’s what we’re all thinkin’. He killed her in there, now he has to clean up those stains before he leaves.” I also love Grace Kelly’s wardrobe. If there was ever an actress who epitomized Hollywood glamor, it’s Grace Kelly.
One of my favorite eras of film is the early to mid-1960s. The Production Code was on its way out and filmmakers were allowed to get away with racier content than they would have, had the film been made ten years prior. However, films made between 1960-1968ish were not yet allowed to go whole-hog and usually did not feature expletives or nudity. The early to mid 1960s seemed to be the era of the lighthearted, goofy comedy. Many of these films aren’t smart comedy, but they’re fun. And at the end of the day, after a rough day in the warehouse (maybe that’s just me), a fluffy, fun comedy is all you need–it isn’t in you at that moment to watch Marlon Brando give the performance of his life in On the Waterfront.
One of my favorite stars of the 1950s and 1960s is Sandra Dee. Sure, she’s no Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn, but not everyone needs to be either. She’s fun, charismatic, and a natural comedienne. One of my favorite qualities about Dee are her eyes. No matter the circumstance, whether she’s fawning over Moondoggie in Gidget or trying to train Bobby Darin using a dog training manual (If a Man Answers), she’s always got an underlying vulnerability. One of my favorite Sandra Dee films is That Funny Feeling, co-starring real life husband, Bobby Darin. I love Bobby Darin’s singing. Sandra Dee + Bobby Darin = winning movie in my book.
That Funny Feeling tells the story of Joan Howell (Sandra Dee), an aspiring actress who works as a maid to make ends meet. She is not a live-in maid, but rather she visits her clients while they’re out and cleans their homes. One of her clients is Tom Milford (Bobby Darin), a wealthy, playboy businessman. Tom leaves a note for Joan on his door stating that he will be in California for two weeks. His trip falls through, but Joan is unaware of the change in plans. Joan and Tom’s “meet-cute” moment occurs three times in the beginning of the film. The first time, Joan is bent down fixing a run in her stocking and Tom trips over her cleaning equipment (encased in a small round suitcase) and consequently over her as well. The second time, Joan is stopped at the same newsstand and Tom again trips over her suitcase and onto her. The third and final time, Joan and Tom’s respective cabs hit each other. They decide that this must be fate trying to tell them to meet and get together so they opt to have drinks together at a neighborhood bar. What Joan doesn’t know is that Tom is one of her clients whose apartment she cleans. Tom doesn’t know that Joan is his maid.
After they finish their drinks, Tom insists on bringing Joan home. Joan is embarrassed by the small, derelict hovel that she shares with her roommate, Audrey. The girls live in a tiny apartment, complete with beds that they have to shift out of the way to get into the bathroom, the neighbor’s alarm clock that they use for their own, an elaborate routine of moving stuff out of the way just to open the front door, and having to share their water pressure with the neighbor and his shower. They also have insect and noise issues. To keep Tom from seeing her real apartment, she has him take her to his apartment that she’s pretending is hers.
Amused (and confused) at the scheme that Joan is pulling over on him, Tom decides to play along. Tom enlists his boss Harvey (Donald O’Connor) to allow him to use his swingin’ bachelor pad to masquerade as his apartment. In exchange, Tom promises Harvey that he’ll help him hide his expensive art collection from his estranged wife who is looking to take all of his assets in their divorce settlement.
As Joan’s scheme continues, her deception gets more and more elaborate. She and her roommate, not wanting to return to their crummy apartment, and thinking that the owner will be out of town for two weeks, essentially move in. They even go as far as to bring all their clothes with them and re-decorate Tom’s apartment to feminize it. Joan takes to pawning Tom’s clothing to get money for the decor. When Tom picks Joan up for their date, he is shocked to see what has become of his home.
Of course, like how all these movies featuring deception go, Joan and Tom eventually find out each other’s true identities. Misunderstandings ensue and some hilarious scene will take place. In this instance, Joan ends up inviting all of Tom’s ex-flames to the same party, under the guise that it’s a costume party, where the theme is essentially Parisian courtesans. All the ladies come dressed as streetwalkers. The party is eventually raided and everyone in the movie is picked up as part of a suspected prostitution ring. And as all these movies go, they will eventually work everything out and live happily ever after.
I really enjoy this film. Sandra Dee, more confident and grown-up than her 17-year old self in Gidget is adorable. Bobby Darin has such swagger and I love his voice. Like Frank, Dean and Sammy, he’s just so cool. He sings the title song over imagery of the universe. The opening doesn’t really make any sense, but it’s fun in a retro way. I love Nita Talbot, who plays roommate Audrey is funny as Dee’s sarcastic, get a grip friend–who inevitably follows along with the scheme. She is the Ethel to Dee’s Lucy. I love Donald O’Connor, so his appearance in any film is always welcome. Too bad he wasn’t able to perform a tap dance number or something. He could dance while Darin sings.
That Funny Feeling, not groundbreaking cinema by any means, is a fun diversion. It serves as a portal into life in 1965 and features a great cast of performers. There is a funny scene where Talbot ruins Dee’s Duck a l’Orange by pouring tons of Cointreau on it and lighting it on fire while lighting a cigarette. Dee and Darin are adorable together. This film would be a great one to watch with your Valentine, or in my case, a parrot*.
*-My Valentine is a chef and consequently is spending Valentine’s Day cooking for other Valentines.
I love a good fluff film. And you can’t get much fluffier than 1950s-1960s teen beach movies. These films are never going to rank on the top of any “Greatest Movie of All Time” list (except for mine probably), but they’re a fun insight into a nicer, gentler time. A time when teenagers weren’t grinding each other in clubs or at school dances, or doing stupid “challenges” like eating detergent (I’m sorry that’s NOT a challenge, that’s just dumb) but rather are doing “The swim” and goofy dances at beach luaus. These are films where the biggest worry is whether the surf is good, or whether someone has a date to a luau. There’s usually a romantic element. These films have so much charm (and usually a little eye candy), I love them. The music, the silliness, the dancing, everything that I want in a film. Not everything needs to be Citizen Kane.
Gidget and Moondoggie embrace on the beach in 1959’s “Gidget.”
Gidget (1959).I covered this film earlier when I participated in the “Reel Infatuation” blogathon last summer. I covered the object of Gidget’s affection–Moondoggie. To give a short recap, Gidget is the coming of age story of 17-year old Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, portrayed by 50s-60s teen queen, Sandra Dee. Gidget is at an age where her friends are boy-crazy and want to find boyfriends. The beginning of the film finds Gidget being coerced into going to the beach to go “man-hunting.” Gidget is self-conscious (she isn’t as well developed as her friends) and doesn’t feel that urge to partner off with a boy. At the beach, she befriends a group of surfers and quickly discovers how much she loves surfing. The surfers, all boys, quickly take Gidget under their wing.
While surfing with the boys, Gidget meets super-hot college student Moondoggie, played by teen idol James Darren. At first, Moondoggie is indifferent to Gidget and gives her the cold shoulder. Moondoggie it seems is determined to strike out on his own and get out from under his father’s thumb (and wallet), and decides that he wants to shirk the responsibility of college and take up the occupation of beach bum. Under the tutelage of older friend Kahuna aka Burt Vail, played by Cliff Robertson, Moondoggie is determined to live life on his own terms. To him, Gidget seems like some kid who is perpetually in the way.
James Darren (Moondoggie) and Sandra Dee (Gidget) in “Gidget” (1959).
However, it soon becomes apparent that Moondoggie is putting up a big facade. He doesn’t really want to be a beach bum (neither does Kahuna either, it turns out). He also displays a protectiveness toward Gidget (as evidenced by him intervening in Gidget’s “surf lesson” with the handsy surfer “Loverboy”). Later, he finds himself enamored of her and they have their first kiss at the luau. At the end of the film, “the Gidg” and “Moondoggie” are going steady, he’s given her his pin! As Gidget would say, “this [film] is the ultimate!”
Where the Boys Are (1960). This film, while it takes place at the beach and features teenagers, has a different vibe and feel than the typical teen beach movies of the era. While it has some silly scenes and characters, the film overall has a more serious tone. Where the Boys Are is the coming of age story for four teenage girls, Merritt (Dolores Hart), Tuttle (Paula Prentiss), Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) and Angie (Connie Francis).
The four girls decide to escape their snowy college campus in the midwest (don’t blame them there) and head to spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While in Florida, each girl meets a man who indirectly teaches them something about themselves. Merritt puts up a facade as being sexually progressive, an attitude which she expresses in her relationships class (much to the chagrin of the prudish teacher). Melanie, inspired by her best friend’s attitude towards sex decides to jump headfirst into dating boys when she gets to Florida. Tuggle is more traditional and wants marriage and children, in that order. She’s looking for a man who not only shares her values, but is also taller than her. She’s 5’10.5″ tall. Angie is the “plain one” of the group (every teen movie seems to have one) and she’d just be happy to have someone be interested in her. She is the most down to earth member of the group.
The ladies in “Where the Boys Are” (1960) from left to right: Dolores Hart (Merritt), Connie Francis (Angie), Yvette Mimieux (Melanie) and Paula Prentiss (Tuggle)
Merritt ends up meeting Ryder Smith (George Hamilton), an older, rich college student who is experienced. He tries to ply her with alcohol and tries to get her to spend the night, but she refuses. Ryder soon discovers that Merritt talks a good game, but she’s really a virgin who isn’t ready for sex. Tuggle meets tall “TV” Thompson (Jim Hutton). He is goofy, but Tuggle finds that she likes him. He doesn’t drop her instantly when she tells him that she won’t have sex before marriage. However, he seems to have a roving eye which casts doubt on him being a suitable, long term partner. Angie meets the goofy musician, Basil (Frank Gorshin), who she loves. She’s able to show off her singing abilities in his “dialectic jazz” band. Finally, Melanie has the worst wake-up call when she meets some Ivy leaguers, namely Franklin and Dill. She genuinely feels something for Franklin but is taken advantage of by Dill after Franklin gives him the scoop that Melanie will be an easy score.
This film has a great theme song (sung by Connie Francis) and features a great cast. I love the more realistic storylines and the vibe of the film. Melanie’s storyline is a bummer, but I think it was needed to balance out the other characters’ storylines. Unfortunately, Melanie’s situation is all too relatable. Each girl features a different facet of relationships and I felt that all were portrayed very realistically.
Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961). I’m not going to lie, this film isn’t nearly as good as Gidget (1959). In this film, Gidget is portrayed by Deborah Walley. Sandra Dee unfortunately was under contract to Universal and they wouldn’t release her to reprise her role in this Columbia film. Gidget’s parents are recast as well. Carl Reiner and Jeff Donnell portray Gidget’s parents Russell and Dorothy Lawrence. James Darren, thankfully, reprises his role as Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews.
I’ll admit that when I first saw this film, I didn’t like it. Deborah Walley got on my nerves. However, I rewatched it, and now it has kind of grown on me. While Walley’s Gidget is different than Dee’s, I find her entertaining and it’s a fun take on the Gidget character. I did like Reiner and Donnell’s portrayal of Gidget’s parents more than Arthur O’Connell and Mary LaRoche’s in the original film. My criticism with this film is that I wish the costume designers had done service to Walley’s figure. While Dee was very petite (not necessarily short though, she seems to be of average height), her costumes were flattering and chic. Walley, while a little more curvy than Dee, but not fat by any means, was outfitted in some very twee looking costumes. Assuming that the Gidget character is supposed to be at least 18, she’s dressed like she’s 12. Unfortunately, these costumes gave Walley a short, squatty appearance.
James Darren (Moondoggie) and Deborah Walley (Gidget) dancing in “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” (1961).
Gidget Goes Hawaiian is meant to be a sequel to the original Gidget. We’ll forget about the fact that every character is portrayed by a different actor except for Moondoggie. The film even goes as far as to present “flashbacks” from the original film with Walley outfitted in Dee’s costumes and re-creating scenes from the original film. One error I found however, is that Moondoggie gives Gidget his pin at the beginning of the film. He gave his pin to Gidget at the end of the first film. In the second film however, Gidget treats him giving her his pin as an engagement ring, or an “engaged to be engaged” type symbol.
In this film, Moondoggie is home from college for summer vacation. Continuing with the timeline established in the first film, we can assume that Moondoggie has probably just completed his sophomore (maybe junior) year of college and Gidget has graduated high school. He and Gidget are inseparable. Their love for one another is continuing to grow, we see a montage of them at the beach, on a date, and dancing closely. There is a funny scene toward the end of the film where Gidget basically hints at sex, or at least asking Moondoggie if he’s experienced, to which he refuses to supply an answer. I will presume that Moondoggie has some experience with the ladies prior to Gidget, and why wouldn’t he? He’s a fox!
Russell surprises his wife and daughter with a two week trip to Hawaii. Dorothy is overjoyed (of course) and Gidget is less so. Moondoggie will be home from school for only two more weeks. Gidget refuses to go because she doesn’t want to lose their last two weeks together. At first Russell is upset, but then he and Dorothy make peace with the idea of a two week romantic Hawaiian vacation sans Gidget. Gidget tells Moondoggie of this injustice of having to go to Hawaii and he tells her to go, saying that it’s a great opportunity (because duh! it is). Gidget ridiculously assumes that Moondoggie doesn’t love her anymore.
The remainder of this film involves the Lawrence’s trip to Hawaii, friends that Gidget meets along the way, including a new boy, and a misunderstanding between Gidget and her parents. It’s ridiculous, dumb at times and doesn’t make any sense. But I really enjoy this film. I think it deserves its own post.
For Those Who Think Young (1964). This film (based on a 1960s Pepsi ad campaign slogan) also features James “Moondoggie” Darren. In this film, he plays Gardner “Ding” Pruitt III, a rich college boy who is constantly on the prowl for a new flavor of the week. He keeps a fancy rolodex of his dates with comments about each. His car has two (!) phones in it. Bob Denver plays his sidekick, “Kelp.” Another thing to love about these surfer movies, the absurd nicknames! Anyway, Ding has his sights set on Sandy Palmer, played by Pamela Tiffin. Sandy is the niece of Woody Woodbury, a comic who works at the dive bar, the Silver Palms. The Silver Palms is located next to the college campus and is well known as an establishment that serves alcohol to minors. This club also features a burlesque dancer named Topaz McQueen (Tina Louise).
Pamela Tiffin (Sandy) and James Darren (Ding) in the 1964 COLOR film, “For Those Who Think Young.”
One day, Woody and his comic partner, Sid Hoyt (Paul Lynde) find themselves out of work. It seems that their act at the Silver Palms is not that great. Woody, performing the last show, decides to just perform a stand-up routine instead of the usual song. His stand-up act is a massive success and soon the Silver Palms is rebranded into “Surf’s Up,” a brand-new college hangout that actually cards the patrons and brands them with a black-light stamp that says “No booze for youse” if you’re under 21.
Of course, the neighboring university thinks that nothing but debauchery happens at this club and want it shut down. The main ringleader behind this movement is Burford Cronin (Robert Middleton) who just happens to be Ding’s grandfather. The university even goes as far as to send their Professor of Sociology (Ellen Burstyn, billed in this film as “Ellen McRae”) to observe. She gets drunk on two spiked “fruit juices” but ends up giving her seal of approval to the establishment anyway.
Aside from Surf’s Up, the main conflict in this film is the relationship between Ding and Sandy. Ding actually finds himself genuinely liking Sandy and Sandy feels the same for him. However, Ding’s grandfather, Burford, thinks that Sandy is too “low class” for his family. It seems that his daughter, Ding’s mother, married a man whom Burford thought brought some “bad blood” into the family. To further anger him, Ding announces that he and Sandy intend to marry when they graduate college. Of course, Grandpa Cronin is upset, but like how these movies always turn out, his viewpoint does a 180 in 5 minutes and he’s welcoming Sandy into his family and embracing Surf’s Up, the club he wanted to close down 10 minutes ago.
Nancy Sinatra (Frank’s daughter) and Claudia Martin (Dean’s daughter) provide additional support in this film. There is a bizarre musical number in this film that features Bob Denver’s chin.
Beach Party (1963). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one of the Frankie and Annette “Beach Party” films. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen all of them, but I do own the box set. I’m going to go with the first film in the series. What I love about these films is that they have the most random co-stars. Aside from Frankie and Annette, these films often have old Hollywood stars like Robert Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Keenan Wynn, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Mickey Rooney or people like Paul Lynde, Don Rickles, and Stevie Wonder, everyone whom you wouldn’t expect to pop-up in a teen beach movie. These movies usually have a common theme, the main one being that Annette is mad at Frankie and Frankie being too clueless to know what he did. In Frankie’s defense, sometimes Annette is being ridiculous.
In Beach Party, Robert Cummings stars as an anthropologist who, along with his secretary Dorothy Malone, is studying the sex habits of teenagers. He comes across a clan of surfer kids, led by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Frankie and Annette aren’t “Frankie and Annette” in this movie, they’re “Frankie and Dolores.” In most of the films, Frankie is “Frankie.” Annette usually plays “Dee Dee,” but in Beach Party, she’s Dolores. In the Beach Party series, Frankie always seems to be frustrated by Annette’s tendency towards being a cold fish. This film is no different. Frankie invites Annette aka Dolores, to a beach house for some alone time. Annette, not trusting herself (or Frankie) with Frankie, has invited everyone to the beach house to chaperone. Because this is a “Beach Party” movie, Frankie is mad at Annette and she’s mad at him.
Annette Funicello (Dolores) and Frankie Avalon (Frankie) in “Beach Party” (1963).
In true Frankie and Annette fashion, they spend a bulk of the film jealous of one another. Annette decides to flirt with Cummings, who is too dense to see what’s going on. His secretary, Malone, who is in love with him (and closer to his own age), sees exactly what is happening. Frankie hooks up with some floozy that he meets in an effort to retaliate against Annette. There’s also a motorcycle gang, led by Eric Von Zipper who terrorizes the gang.
I enjoy these movies because, while they’re pretty dumb at times, the teenagers are cool. They sing fun songs, wear cool bathing suits and hang out in some pretty neat looking clubs.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!”
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.
Sorry for the delay in posting, but I’ve been very busy with work and dealing with the aftermath of a disaster incurred in my home. During the Thanksgiving weekend, my sewer pipe and sump pump decided to join forces and fail at the same time. Not to be outdone, the rain poured furiously, further compounding the problem. As a result, my basement flooded about 1′, destroying everything in its path. Unfortunately, in one of the rooms in the basement, I was storing my DVD collection. I lost all the films on the bottom shelves in the room. Some other films also suffered some collateral damage due to coming in contact with one of its flood-ravaged brethren.
You’ll notice that the rug is floating. All the movies that are on their sides on the second to bottom shelf are the ones in the water. There were seven shelves in all. Sadly, inside that cardboard box on the right side, were all my husband’s classic NES, SNES, Sega, etc. game cartridges. While I know that the DVDs themselves are okay, the cover art is destroyed. Plus the movies were covered in sewer water. Who wants sewage contaminated films? I don’t. Ick! Insurance should provide me with enough money to be able to replace all the victims.
Anyway. This brings me to my post:
In Memoriam to some of those lost in the great flood of 2016…
You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) /You Were Never Lovelier (1942).
In You’ll Never Get Rich, Fred Astaire portrays the manager of a theater who is enlisted by the theater owner, Robert Benchley, to help him woo dancer Rita Hayworth by buying her a gift. However, Benchley is caught by his wife, Frieda Inescort, who is at the end of her rope. It is implied that Benchley has a wandering eye and Inescort has had enough. She threatens divorce. To save his marriage, Benchley insists that Astaire bought the gift and sets Astaire and Hayworth up on a date. Matters are further complicated when Astaire is drafted into WWII and Hayworth travels to the camp (to perform for the troops) and to visit her real boyfriend. She and Astaire end up falling in love.
In You Were Never Lovelier, Hayworth portrays the second eldest daughter of a wealthy Argentinian, Adolph Menjou, who also owns a local nightclub. Menjou has four daughters and has insisted that his daughters must marry in order of age. Astaire portrays an American dancer who finds himself out of work after losing all his money betting on horses. Looking for work, Astaire visits Menjou’s club. Menjou is not interested. Astaire ends up contacting his friend, Xavier Cugat, who has been hired to perform at Menjou’s eldest daughter’s wedding. Astaire spots Hayworth and is immediately smitten, but she rebuffs him. Hayworth is not interested in marriage. Her two younger sisters are in love and desperately want to marry (in the film it the ladies seem like they’re more desperate to sleep with their boyfriends, but of course, morality dictates that they must wait until they’re married). Knowing the plight of his youngest daughters, Menjou begins sending orchids and love notes to Hayworth under the guise of a secret admirer. One day, Astaire tries to visit Menjou. Menjou, not seeing Astaire and thinking he’s the bellboy, orders him to go deliver the latest love trinkets to Hayworth. Astaire complies and Hayworth assumes that Astaire has been the one sending the notes. Hayworth ends up asking Menjou to set her up with Astaire. Menjou, who dislikes Astaire, offers to give Astaire a long-term contract at the club if he will do his best to repel Hayworth. Of course, they fall in love instead.
A Summer Place (1959)
One of my favorite types of films are the over-wrought melodramas of the 1950s. A Summer Place has everything you could ever want in a film: adultery, bigotry, alcoholism, love, teen pregnancy, everything. Plus, it has memorable theme music that is present throughout the film and adds to the overall mood of the film.
A Summer Place tells the tale of two former teenage lovers (Dorothy McGuire and Richard Egan) who end up reuniting twenty years after the end of their affair. Neither McGuire nor Egan are happy in their respective marriages. McGuire’s husband, Arthur Kennedy, is an alcoholic. McGuire and Kennedy operate an Inn on Pine Island off the coast of Maine. The Inn used to be Kennedy’s family’s opulent family mansion. With the family fortune all but gone, they are forced to rent out rooms. McGuire and Kennedy have even moved into the small guest house on the property so that they can rent out their master suite. One day, Kennedy receives a message from an old acquaintance, Richard Egan, who wants to bring his family to the resort. Egan, who used to be a lifeguard back when Kennedy knew him, is now a millionaire. Kennedy doesn’t want Egan to visit, feeling that he’s only there to brag about how he’s rich and Kennedy is now broke. However, McGuire tells him to accept the request, because they need money. McGuire and Kennedy also have a teenage son, Troy Donahue.
Egan shows up with wife Constance Ford and teenage daughter Sandra Dee. Egan and Ford have a rocky marriage. She is bigoted against pretty much everyone. He even delivers a delicious diatribe completing ripping her a new one. Egan, who is very cognizant of “the love that got away” (McGuire) encourages daughter Dee to listen to her natural desires and to embrace her developing figure and interest in the opposite sex. Ford on the other hand, is a prude who forces Dee to hide her curves and disapproves of any behavior that seems indecent. She particularly disapproves of Donahue and even goes as far as forcing Dee to submit to a particularly embarrassing and degrading physical exam after she suspects that Dee and Donahue were having sex, even though both parties vehemently deny it.
McGuire and Egan, who haven’t been together for twenty years since McGuire left the then broke Egan for the rich Kennedy, rekindle their romance and are soon engaged in an adulterous affair. Their respective spouses end up finding out and the marriages are soon dissolved. At the same time, McGuire and Egan’s respective children, Donahue and Dee, are wrapped up in a teen love affair of their own. Knowing of the time they lost, McGuire and Egan are the most supportive of their children’s affair. Ford and Kennedy both disapprove. Donahue and Dee are deeply in love and nothing, not even being sent to different schools in different states, will keep them from seeing one another.
Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)
This film, the precursor to The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), features Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda as widowed spouses who end up marrying and merging their families. The problem? Ball is the mother of eight children and Fonda has ten children. The beginning of the film features funny scenes of Ball and Fonda’s courtship. When they originally meet, neither knows about the other’s considerable brood. When the truth comes out, they try to put the kibosh on their relationship, but soon it is apparent that they are truly in love and they decide to take the plunge. Both groups of children dislike each other and the tension is high. Eventually they end up learning how to work together and to actually like each other.
One of the funniest scenes is when Ball comes over to meet Fonda’s children for the first time. The eldest sons, tasked with making cocktails, end up getting Ball schnockered by making her “an alcoholic Pearl Harbor” (as Fonda puts it), which is a screwdriver containing vodka, gin and scotch with a tiny bit of orange juice (for color, I imagine). Ball ends up dumping food on one of the children, laughing and crying maniacally, and generally making a fool out of herself.
Another funny scene deals with the plight of poor Phillip, one of Ball’s youngest sons. This poor kid can barely get any food at breakfast, can’t reach the sink to brush his teeth, is left with enormous rain boots that he can’t walk in and later ends up getting in a fight with the teacher in his Catholic school.
My favorite scene though, is the one where Henry Fonda hands out room assignments. He assigns a number to each child (oldest to youngest), a color to each bathroom and a letter to each bedroom. One of the children walks away repeating, “I’m 11, Red, A.”
Van Johnson co-stars as a co-worker of Fonda and Ball; Tim Matheson appears as the eldest child, Mike; and Tom Bosley appears as a doctor.
…and for the saddest casualty of them all…
The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
This is my favorite film of all time. I have probably seen it a hundred times–not exaggerating. When I replace my copy, I will be on my third copy. I wore out my VHS. Anyway, myself and my family can recite all the dialogue. Desi Arnaz has the best lines. These are some of the gems:
“It’s a fine thing when you come home to your home and your home is gone!”
“Have you any conception how much room it takes to turn this thing around? We might have to go on for miles and miles!”
Then the mechanic has two of the funniest lines, that continually haunt Arnaz for the first half of the film:
“Trailer brakes first!”
“Forty feet of train!”
This film is about a newlywed couple (Lucille Ball and Arnaz) who purchase a trailer and take it on their honeymoon. Arnaz’ job takes him to different locations all over the country (it is not stated what his job is, but I am assuming that he is some type of engineer as Ball mentions him working on a bridge and a dam), and Ball envisions them living in this motor home and traveling to wherever Arnaz’ job takes him. They plan to drive from Los Angeles to Colorado for their honeymoon. On the way, they visit Ball’s relatives in another part of California and also visit Yosemite. They get into hilarious incidents along the way, including an impromptu housewarming party, a night stuck in the mud, ruining Ball’s Aunt Anastasia’s prized rose, and much more. The highlight of the film is when Ball has the bright idea of trying to prepare dinner in the trailer while Arnaz drives.
This film is basically one big long I Love Lucy episode, Arnaz’ character’s name is “Nicky” after all, but it is fun from beginning to end and features gorgeous Technicolor and scenery.