Wait, you LIKE that movie? But, Kate! It was made after 1970! Let me feel your forehead...

June 22, 2009

I know everyone around here is pretty obsessed with older films. But I'm not just pro-older films, I'm very anti-newer films. I usually get a very twisted, "you MUST be kidding me" look on my face when anyone, but anyone, asks me to go to see a new film in theaters. And no, renting it from Netflix won't mask the fact that it was made in 2004. It is still a new film, be it in a theater or at home. I'm prone to sulk in my bedroom when my family (who usually share my strict pre-1970 rule) cave in and rent something new. (Okay, I don't actually "sulk"... but I do make it pretty well known that I won't be around for two hours or so...)

So, yesterday I had to pick out a movie for our "dinner and a movie" Father's Day event. Looking through my DVDs and old VHS tapes I came across 'A Little Princess', a movie that was released in 1995, when I was 9 years old. It was one of those children's movies where your parents like it as much, if not more than you do (especially my dad, who asks to see it almost every year) Since my dad likes it so much, and the plot is perfect for Father's Day, I decided we would actually watch a "new" movie (albeit, 14 years old)

I loved it just as much as I did when I was a little girl. I actually cried twice! It was such a magical, beautiful movie, I completely forgot that it was post 1970, breaking my cardinal rule of movie watching. So this got me thinking... if I had to make a list of post 1970 films that are actually good, how long could I get it? Are there two? five? Maybe if I include Disney cartoons, I can get the list to 10. Well, I actually managed 12!! Yes, 12!! Quite a feat for someone who has probably only seen about 30!

1. A Little Princess (of course!)
2. The Way We Were (from my Robert Redford kick 2 years ago)
3. Beauty and the Beast (My favorite cartoon as a kid)
4. The Little Mermaid (My second favorite cartoon as a kid)
5. The Brave Little Toaster (I love Lampy!)
6. When Harry Met Sally (Maybe Rob Reiner is my favorite modern director....)
7. Out of Africa (also from the Robert Redford kick...)
8. Schindler's List (Watched it in film class, & it was really moving)
9. The Hot Rock (also from the Robert Redford kick...)
10. Ferngully (My third favorite cartoon as a kid)
11. Waking Ned Devine (love movies about old people)
12. On Golden Pond (who doesn't love Henry Fonda in this movie?)

So there it is, folks... all 12 "newer" films that I would be happy to watch more than once. Other than these, I'll stick with my pre-1970 rule! :)

What "newer" films make it on your list? Either list in comments or send me a link to your post! :D

You can read lists from the other bloggers who have "jumped on the bandwagon":

(If I missed your post just let me know!)

Fredric March

June 20, 2009

I wrote a nifty little piece on Fredric March for Raquelle's Guest Blogger Month on Out of the Past. I really do hope you'll check it out, and then stay over there for a while -- since Out of the Past just turned TWO years old this month (!!!) there is plenty of outstanding material to keep your eyes glued to the computer for the rest of the weekend :)

*just remember to stop reading for at least ten minutes so you can call up your dad and wish him a Happy Father's Day!*

Now please go read my post.... HERE!

Ruthelma Stevens, revisited.. again

June 18, 2009

I don't know if anyone else ever does this too (I'm hoping you do so I don't feel like such a silly idiot!) but I was typing in search terms on google to see where my blog showed up (I feel so foolish admitting this) and when I typed in "Ruthelma Stevens" I came across a TCM Movie Morlocks blog post from last October about The Circus Queen Murder. (By the way, my post was on page 2 in case anyone was curious...)

The TCM blogger moirafinnie decided to highlight a different forgotten star from the film, Dwight Frye (the Circus Queen's husband, and fellow trapeze artist extraordinaire) They only give a small, passing mention to Ruthlema (and a backhanded compliment, "a character played with some considerable warmth by forgotten starlet Ruthlema Stevens") but the main reason I was so excited to find this post is the lobby card they have pictured to accompany it. It has a picture of Ruthelma on it!

I was shocked to find this, especially because it seems like this poster, just like the other one I featured, doesn't have her name on it, despite the fact that she is the female lead! Also, as I mentioned in my first post about Ruthelma, I couldn't find one single picture of her on the internet when I was researching my post. I was just so giddy to find this that I had to share it with you!

Helen Mack {Starlet Dreams}

You may not be familiar with the name Helen Mack. And her portrait might not immediately ring a bell in your mind either. But I'm positive that if you are a fan of late 30's screwball comedies, two simple words will immediately make you realize who she is. Mollie Malloy.

In His Girl Friday, Helen Mack had the unbelievably powerful role of Mollie Malloy, the girl whose life was doomed simply because she was nice to a poor helpless stranger. In a film with that starred Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and peppered with such great supporting stars as Ralph Bellamy, John Qualen, Regis Toomey, Gene Lockhart and Cliff Edwards, the stand-out performance is given by Helen Mack. She barely has even ten minutes total on screen and yet her short performance is imprinted on your brain forever.

Except for a handful of starring roles in minor films, it seems like making the most out of a mere ten minutes screen time was Helen Mack's specialty. After seeing her recently in the 1933 film, Sweepings, I just had to do this post. Again, she is given a scant 5-10 minutes on screen, and yet her performance is brilliant. I really wish her character had been built up in this film-- she would have given a nice splash of spunk and energy to a film that was starting to drag by the time she made her entrance.

Though I only really discovered the name behind the talent recently, I've always been taken aback by her performance in His Girl Friday, stunned that this powerhouse performance didn't kick-start a more luminous career. She had something that many major stars didn't have: screen presence. Her words come flying out of her mouth as if there was no script behind them. Her emotions are real and raw, and in a film that, at its core, is a romantic screwball comedy, Helen Mack gives an Oscar-worthy performance that temporarily knocks you off the edge of your seat.

Helen started acting in films when she was a little girl, (10 years old according to imdb) and her filmography stops in 1945... I'm not an authority on Helen Mack's life, so I don't know if she made a conscious decision to leave film and raise a family, or if playing characters named "secretary" wasn't exactly the career she had in mind. Whatever the reason, Helen only made five films after that performance in His Girl Friday. And I think that's a darn shame.

Marilyn Monroe

June 04, 2009

As you may have already heard, some never before published photos of Marilyn Monroe were released the other day from Life.com.

I've been doing classic movie paintings and drawings for almost half a year now, and I've never painted or drawn Marilyn. For some reason, I've been reluctant to depict the huge icons (except Audrey Hepburn, just because.) and kept putting it off. But when I saw these pictures, I just had to draw one of them.

The photos were taken in between her roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve, just before she shot to super-stardom. She looks so fresh, young and happy in these pictures.

It's a common misperception that because Marilyn Monroe was beautiful, she couldn't act. But I actually think she was one of the best comediennes of the 1950's. Since I rely heavily on TCM for my classic movie supply, I don't get to see Marilyn Monroe's films very often. I have Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and How to Marry a Millionaire on VHS but I don't watch them very often because, well, they're on VHS.

For a while, TCM was showing All About Eve almost every week (I'm guessing this was because they had temporary rights to show it, as it isn't scheduled anymore-- and by the way, when you search for "All About Eve" on TCM the ONLY result is "All About Steve" (2007)... what?! I had to search for Bette Davis, and then click on All About Eve through her filmography... odd!) anyway, when they were showing All About Eve every waking minute, I kept watching it over and over again, and after many viewings I realized that Marilyn Monroe may be the best part of the film. I'm surprised that it took two whole years for studios to give her a starring role after she did such a great job in this tiny role:

See what I mean? That part about yelling "Butler" just cracks me up :)

Thomas Mitchell

by Richard Hourula
Guest Blogger

Imagine Thomas Mitchell, right now, in blissful residence in Hollywood heaven. Someone asks him, so how was 1939 for you, Thomas?

“Well,” he’d reply while rubbing his chin, eyes glazed a bit. “Let me see, I believe that was the year when I was a quite a few fine films.”

No foolin. Now hopefully Mr. Mitchell wont be too modest, I mean all he’d have to do is name those films and anybody would be impressed: Stagecoach, Only Angels Have Wings, Gone With the Wind, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In one year. He had a great career that year.

He won a most deserved Best Supporting Actor for Stagecoach and could have garnered another nomination or two, at least.

Of course there was more to come. Perhaps his signature role was as Uncle Billy in It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). He was an at times bumbling, fumbling old fool but always a lovable one. Whether he’d a few too many or forgot what the strings on his finger were there to help him not forget, he was the quintessential dear old Uncle.

As Doc Boone in his Oscar winning performance, Mitchell was a disgraced doctor who’d been run out of town. He took advantage of a meek whiskey salesman (played, fittingly by Donald Meek) and kept hoodwinking the poor sap out of his wares. But when it came to delivering a baby he was equal to the task. When Injuns attacked his hand was steady on a pistol. Even at his worst Doc Boone, as played by Mitchell, was an amiable sort.

Indeed it seems Mitchell couldn’t have played disagreeable if he tried. First there was that face. Round and friendly with a twinkle in the eyes. Then his voice, which had its own warm timbre. Mitchell's persona was a kind of grizzled cuddliness. No wonder he played doctors so often.

Yeah but the man could act. Whether as Scarlett O'Hara's poppa, or a pirate in The Black Swan (1942) or the mayor in High Noon (1952), Mitchell took on a character and never slipped into a caricature of himself.

As Diz Moore, the cynical hard drinking reporter in Mr. Smith, he gave a nuanced performance as a man whose hard heart melts even as he loses the woman he loves.

There's a film I very much admire called The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). Mitchell started filming in the role of Webster only to suffer a broken leg. As good as Edward Arnold was filling in, I’m sure I’m not the only film buff who would love to have seen Mitchell in the role. Maybe he’s gotten the casting call in Hollywood Heaven.

Like many actors of his time, Mitchell made the switch to TV in the 1950’s, making only a handful of films during the last ten years of his life. Hollywood’s loss was TV’s gain.

Somehow to call Mitchell a character actor doesn't seem right. (Anyway, since all actors play characters, aren’t they all character actors?). It suggests an actor in a series of small parts in which he plays variations on the same guy (see Franklin Pangborn). Nothing wrong with it but it’s not Mitchell. He may have never been a leading man but he was too integral to too many films doing too much with a role to be thus pigeon holed. He played a lot of drunks, a lot of doctors and a lot of rascals, but fit them to the film he was in.

Yeah, Mitchell is doubtless glad to discuss his amazing 1939. But truth to tell, that was just one year in a most distinguished career.