Wednesday, March 05, 2008

All the Classic* Movies That I Have Seen

1. Only Angels Have Wings (1939).

Cary Grant played a snarky guy who had been jilted by a former girlfriend and now had difficulty relating to any female. So totally not the type of guy I can identify with right now...

The film was one of those subtle thrillers in which the arrival of a key character was announced with a flash of lightning and a sound of thunder.

And yet in spite of it all, I kinda liked this film. If nothing, its ending was very memorable and emotionally satisfying.

Though I was kinda surprised to see Jean Arthur of all people -- an actress best known for playing homebodies like the mother in Shane and demure reporters like the one in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town -- playing a showgirl. Granted, she didn't fit the image one usually thinks of when one thinks of showgirls. (There's no way Ms. Arthur would ever be mistaken for, say, Jane Russell or Joan Blondell.) But she managed to pull it off.

I was even more surprised to see Rita Hayworth make an appearance. And though she played a character named Judy, Cary never once said the obvious “Judy, Judy, Judy” line so often attributed to him by celebrity impersonators. Yet another Hollywood myth bites the dust.

2. Holiday (1938).

Yet another Cary Grant movie. No, I don't have a thing for Cary Grant but I do admire his movies. And quite frankly, who wouldn't want to be a member of any club that has Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in it?

This movie has been eclipsed by its more well-known successor The Philadelphia Story, which is a shame. Both Grant and Hepburn gave memorable performances, and Lew Ayres actually managed to play the type of character I didn't think was possible -- an alcoholic character which was actually sympathetic.

Perhaps, it was because Ayres's character displayed a certain self-awareness about his drinking that certain characters in more recent films (Sideways, Crazy/Beautiful, etc.) have not. Ayres' character did not really ask us to pity him for his condition; indeed, he showed far more pity for his sibling (played by Katharine Hepburn) than for himself. And though we were not really told the reasons for his constant drinking (there was some hint of a riff between him and his father but it was never fully explained in detail), director George Cukor wasn't above dropping a few hints that might or might not have meant something. (For example, the way he responded to certain remarks Ms. Hepburn's character made about Mr. Grant's character.)

Anyway, the result was an enjoyable movie that really deserved to be far more well-known.

* “Classic” in this case meaning “made before 1970.”

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