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My House in Umbria (2003)
Dame Maggie a Delight
I will not attempt to summarize the plot - only to express my gratitude for giving Dame Maggie a meaty role - I dangled upon her every word and expression. And thank God for a movie with characters over the age of 30. Thanks for giving those of us who love Italy a free vacation.
Now tell me, those of you who have criticisms - would you or would you not (if this were real) like to spend a week or even a year with Mrs. Delahunty in her villa? I don't think her prescient dreams, meddling, snooping, rambling reminiscences nor her grappa drinking would bore me a bit. In fact I would join in with wine, gin and tonic and grappa and even a (gasp) cigarette!
A slow Umbrian repast each evening under the candle-lit wisterias -- ahh now that is savoring life. And this movie teaches other lessons of life as well if you choose to listen.
Murder She Said (1961)
Margaret the Magnificent
I saw these films at the historic Lakewood Theater in Dallas as a very young tyke, so for me, Dame Margaret is Miss Marple. When they were shown on television my best friend (he still is) and I would watch simultaneously and we chatted the best lines on the phone.
Rutherford is simply a treasure to watch. Every facial expression is great - watch her as she serves coffee to the simpering siblings discussing the murder. And the Alexander kid character is not nearly so annoying as the young "Patrick" in "Auntie Mame" but for some reason is similar if not more worldly and cynical.
The golf game between the two is quite a delight. "Champion in 1921"! I love the score because it's eccentric just as our dear Miss Marple and Mr. Stringer.
Roll up your sleeves and do those dishes Dame Margaret, you have deducing to do later!
There is probably only one other ending in all filmdom history to compare with SFU "Everyone's Waiting", and that's the last 10 minutes of "Casablanca". The last six minutes is also probably the best music video ever made.
I watched finale of SFU with my sister. She lives in California and I live in Texas, but each week we would talk on the phone about the episodes shown each Sunday night. It was nice to be with her during this finale.
We sat breathlessly on the couch watching the demise of each of the major characters. I was especially touched by David seeing Keith before he died because it mirrors something which happened to me.
After the show ended, we could not speak. I went outside, gazed at the stars, moon and lake and took stock of things.
Tea for Two (1950)
Eve Arden: The World Will Remember
It's on her tombstone at the cemetery in Westwood, a few paces down from Marilyn Monroe. See her movies and you will know why.
Also see or hear "Our Miss Brooks" from radio or TV if you can find it. The movie version was not so great.
Interesting trivia is that Doris and DeWolfe were great friends and he later appeared on her TV show playing the same type of character. Hmm, wonder if Rock and Paul Lynde ever guested on that show?
"Cuddles" S.Z. is adorable as ever here, but it's Eve's line, (you can swear she's staring into the camera) "Does this strike anyone else as being totally imbecilic?" which sums up the movie...
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
I hope the real Nazis saw this one...
Of course they probably wouldn't have gotten it, or even Hogan's Heros.
Never again will there be such a class combination of Benny, Lombard, Lubistch and seasoned, well-loved character actors rolling along in this vehicle perfectly suited to their foibles. Anyone with even a little high school drama production or a small love of the theater will eat this up. "Get the pigs out before you drop in the ham!" Sad that Miss Lombard died related to the war effort, I can almost picture Gable sitting with the window open in the rain as in Gone With The Wind.
This was Mel Brooks before Mel Brooks, Strangelove before Strangelove.
Daring, yes it was. The only way to relate this to today's young people is if all the best-loved SNL comedians in just the right combination were to pull off such a feat, but I doubt they could - no wit compared to this cast nor the class -- too crass. So hat's off to the Golden Age of Hollywood, which never shone more brightly than in "To Be or Not To Be".
The Night of the Iguana (1964)
Why do I get the feeling these are the real Burton, Gardner,Kerr?
Did they act this so well or are Burton and Gardner channeling their epic, booze-fueled relationships with Liz and Frank? Kerr is class personified and she has never excelled more with that than in this film.
If this was the real Ava, I'd love to have had her at a party...hmm, I'm thinking maracas boys for my 50th birthday would be fabulosa! This gets better and better every time it's viewed. I was a late comer to this one, don't wait, see it again and again and catch all the subtle lines, actions, movements and facial expressions (well some are a bit over the top!).
I grew up with a fondness for Grayson Hall fawning after and protecting Barnabas Collins in "Dark Shadows" long before I saw "Iguana" -- she's a gem in this one -- and growing up a Texas Baptist, I would say she nails the part!
Desk Set (1957)
Please, Parents Make Your Children Watch This Film!
Make your kids watch this film, especially teenagers old enough to catch some of the wit. Then they will discover the class that has vanished from Hollywood. It might even be an entrée into classic film fandom for them that will nourish them for their lifetimes as they discover movie after movie made with magic. They might even get into old radio and TV shows with the greats, Skelton, Benny, Burns and Allen, Ronald Coleman, Bankhead, Crosby, Hope, Sinatra, etc....
I would suggest establishing "Desk Set" and "Auntie Mame" as Christmas traditions for your family.
I have been able to turn my niece on to these films and others such as "The Bad Seed", "Mildred Pierce" and campier items such as "Baby Jane", etc. She's developing quite the mordant, sly sense of humor. I hope to groom her into an Eve Arden/Miss Brooks persona someday!
Night and Day (1946)
Monty - marvelous- the rest miscast
Music producer after hearing "Miss Otis Regrets":"I hear the song here (ear) -- but it doesn't get me here (heart)." Monty Wooley deadpan -- "I myself am getting a sensation elsewhere." This period piece is interesting coming from Warner's, and it's fun noting the gay subtext in light of today's knowledge about Cole and Cary.
The music is grand, but think of this cast with perhaps Oscar Levant as Cole and Ruth Gordon as his wife. Mary Martin I love, and as someone else suggested "The Merm" playing herself would have added spark. The first Mrs. Reagan, Jane, might have had more bite had she played this role a few years on - as "Auntie Mame" said, "yet she's sooo sweet".
Oh well, Cole imagined himself Cary, who couldn't hold a campy candle to the quintessential queen of the 20th century. Supposedly on Cole's deathbed at the Waldorf Towers an assistant asked if there was anyone he wanted to see. "Oh I'd love to see my Queen Anne chairs" he supposedly replied.
Really odd bit with Eve Arden playing a "Frenchie" right after her tour-de-force of mordant humor in "Mildred Pierce". Knowing our gem Eve, I suspect she was having a ball with this balderdash, much as she did in the later "Tea for Two" where she looks at the camera and asks, "Does this strike anyone else as being totally imbecilic?"
The Boys from Brazil (1978)
Classic Camp and Comedy
If I owned a gay bar, I would run snippets from this right along with "Mommie Dearest".
I was in college when this came out and we used to quote from it constantly. We didn't even have to do the whole "Shut up you ugly bitch" line,we'd just start the little Mengele growling "Sh" and howl with laughter.We'd usually do this under our breath when some woman began to drone on...
Liebermann's lines counteract the growling with an almost Dr. Zachary Smith (Lost in Space), "Oh the pain, the pain" shtick.
The climactic fight scene is uproarious -- starting from the "Did you kill Mr. Wheelock/ no he's making us cocktails" exchange to the Bobby "man, you're weird -- ACTION!" ending.
Ah the days of the late 1970s / early 1980s comedies: "Animal House", "Airplane", "Pink Panther" sequels, "Blues Brothers", "American Werewolf in London" and yes the previously mentioned "Omen" (same dogs as TBFB?)series, especially "Omen II" with the raven appearance/truck rolling over the reporter with the mud flaps providing the final insult.
They don't make them like they used to and we don't have the superstars any longer -- as Joan Crawford/Dunaway said in "Mommie Dearest": "they gave the bad scripts to me because they knew I could make them work!"
Lost in Space (1965)
Ah, the Fountain of Youth!
Last night, I re-discovered my childhood.
I grabbed one of the last three Lost in Space Box DVD sets from a place I never go, Best Buy. I keep looking at the package in my hand. Yes, it's really there. It's mine with the swipe of a piece of plastic. I rush home, glancing at it on the seat of the pick-up.
I take a knife and tear into the package while sitting before the DVD player - not the culmination of technology that resulted in a machine that washes your clothes and packages them in 30 seconds, or an electronic hair-do helmet, but a fairly new and magical gizmo to me.
Where to start? I haven't watched an episode in six years. There's a whole season of treasures. (Dr. Smith "Treasure? Did he say Treasure?") So naturally, I pop in the October 16, 1997 beginning. A lot of irony here. The Jupiter 2 "a culmination of 40 years of intensive scientific research", and we quit work on such interplanetary plans 30 years ago. A 30 billion dollar mission? Our president just proposed that we spend twelve billion over the next five years, for a Mars mission which may not take place for 30 years. Well, LIS may make a few errors on star charts, but they were pretty accurate about inflation.
Maureen Robinson "I should say something light, and clever - but I just can't".
OK once the Jupiter 2 lifts off I am rapt, the episodes fly by in a hyperdrive - I notice I am sitting on the floor directly in front of the TV. Oh my God, I haven't done that since the 1960s - yes, Wednesday nights at 6:30, Texas Time. As situations unfold, I can hear the comments my skeptical parents made about certain plot lines. I took them personally. No, the whirlpool will NOT claim the Chariot!
Speaking of lines, well those DVDs are sharp. I can see a few wires during the "weightless" scenes. Uh-huh, that IS something holding up Judy's pony tail! Yep, these shows were only meant to be seen once or twice on our little black and white Curtis-Mathes. Who knew we LIS fans would have a marathon of merriment almost 40 years later with rewind, forward, pause and freeze frame on another little piece of plastic?
Yes, it was genius (as the kiddies today say) to rework the pilot and add the characters of Dr. Smith and the Robot. How could it be otherwise? I erupt with laughter several times, even with the serious Zachary. "Madame, where do you keep your orange bitters? Crepes Suzette is sublime with them and a disaster without". The good doctor even sends me back to the dictionary a couple of times, and I scored 700 points on my SAT verbal section, thanks to his influence.
Wonderful, lines, I've got to remember them. Where are the commercials? I've never seen LIS without commercials. No excised bits to sell hospital beds or promote yet another tacky show. No squished up credits and muted music. And, what glorious music! Oh, back - I've got to hear that again. Yep, it sounds good with that speaker system. And the subwoofer makes those explosions and lasers sound great.
All the sudden, it's 5:30 a.m. - I've been up all night!
Oh, this is a DVD set. I can replay them, I don't have to remember lines...yes well, how about:
"Mother, a cherry pie! How did you do it?" "The computer."
"For Pete's Sake, what is that?" "I think I'll call her Debbie".
"Benighted Plant" "Wretched Planet" "Obnoxious Planet"
"Two steps forward, my good man"
"I am not programmed to baby-sit"
"I need a servant to bring me some coffee"
"Plat-i-num, oh my!"
"When I think what these diamonds are worth on Earth - Oh the Pain, The Pain!"
"Penny you have compromised your moral principles for something material"
Wow, this is heresy these days, when's the last time you heard a line like that on television?
Yes, yes, yes. I love this. Thank goodness, at least 20 more episodes to re-explore. My 'vim and vigor' will last quite a few more hours. You know, I pulled a white hair out of my head the night before...