Director Stanley Donen was on hand to introduce his 1963 film Charade this past Sunday at the 2012 TCM Film Festival. Starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, Charade is a romantic mystery that takes place in Paris. Mr. Donen was fun to listen to, as he’s sharp and energetic even at the ripe old age of 88. In the interview, he spoke very fondly of working with Grant and Hepburn and said he had a wonderful professional and personal relationship with each of them.
Mr. Donen was also asked what he thought the main difference was between movies then and now. He believes that aside from technological advancements, the main difference is that in the Golden Age of Hollywood, movies were made primarily for an adult audience and people with more life experience, whereas he believes that movies today cater to a younger audience. He also noted that while studio moguls back then wanted their films to make money, the execs also were concerned with making quality films that would improve their standing within the film community. They wanted to be respected as master filmmakers as well as successful businessmen. He believes that today, execs are held so tightly to the financial success of their studios that having a box office hit is the priority.
Despite a few rain showers, the TCM Film Festival was in full swing for day two. I saw three films today, two of which I had not previously seen.
I’m No Angel (1933)
This was my umpteenth Cary Grant film, but first Mae West film. I was surprised to learn that she wrote the screenplay, which was stuffed to the brim with innuendos. Clearly, this was a pre-Code film. In my opinion it was a good, not great film but I would absolutely recommend giving it a watch to see the very unique style of dialog and acting. It’s bolder than I imagined a film from ’33 would be and some of the lines are quite funny.
Nothing Sacred (1937)
I enjoyed this film, starring Carole Lombard and Fredric March, because it’s the rare screwball comedy that isn’t over-the-top silly. Lombard proved herself again to be a very gifted comedic actress. After seeing this film, it made me wonder what else she could have done in her career if not for her tragic death at age 33. The only thing I didn’t like about this film was the color palate. It was strangely like the muted color palate of the late 60′s/early 70′s instead of the brighter Technicolor look typical to classic films in color. I’m interested to know if anyone has seen a version where the color is vivid, as it the subdued color could just be found in the particular print I saw.
It’s indicative of the effectiveness of Hitchcock’s storytelling, James Stewart’s acting, and Bernard Herrmann’s score that each time I see this film, the ending leaves me breathless. The first time I saw this film was my freshman year of college. Even though I watched it on a 13-inch tv while wearing headphones so my roommate could study, it was gripping. Eight years later, I was able to watch it in the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater with the same exhilarating effect. Kim Novak was on hand to introduce the film that I consider to be Hitchcock’s finest.
It’s no secret we adore classic film, but we’re also realistic about it. We’re the first to admit that not every classic film should be, well, a classic. But sometimes, the bad ones are just as fun to watch as the good ones – especially when the special effects come out. Below is a partial list of so-bad-they’re-good classic films.
Reap The Wild Wind (1942)
Clearly a consolation role for her near miss at being Scarlett O’Hara, Paulette Goddard plays a headstrong southern belle with a mind for business (see?). There’s a giant squid, John Wayne in a non-war, non-western role, ridiculously dated scuba diving suits, and Ray Milland pretends his dog can talk. Annnnnd sold.
People Will Talk (1951)
In my opinion, Joe Mankiewicz writes either really great films or really awkward films. File this one under “awkward turtle”. Dearest Cary Grant plays a butcher shop owner turned medical school professor who helps Jeanne Crain deal with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Crain’s character tries to commit suicide by shooting herself, survives, and falls in love with the good doctor. Two seconds later, Grant’s character marries the girl (love or pity?) and the film ends with a student/faculty orchestra concert. P.S. It’s a comedy.
The Wild One (1953)
I like to think that Marlon Brando used The Wild One to get all the kinks out of his “tough guy” characterization before going on to acting brilliance in On The Waterfront. While Waterfront‘s Terry Malloy is hardened yet broken, Wild One‘s Johnny Strabler is… laughable. Johnny is so tough, so macho, so brooding that he becomes a caricature of himself. At one point someone asks him, “What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?” Smacking his gum, Johnny replies, “Whaddya got?” If you can take this film less seriously than it takes itself, what you’ve got is an amusing role from one of the most iconic actors of all time.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
Hate mail in three…two…one. Though Breakfast is one of the most loved films of all time, we at Anatomy of a Classic have always wondered why. Quirky? Yes. Comedic? Yes. Completely strange and sometimes awkward? Also yes. Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Holly’s landlord is at best uncomfortable to watch. And let’s not forget, Holly Golightly is an “escort”. But iconic costumes, “Moon River” and a pet cat named “Cat” lend this film a redeeming charm.
He’s sophisticated, charming, handsome, eternally tan, at ease in a tux, and extremely popular with the fairer sex. He’s a versatile actor – commanding in everything from slapstick to thrillers, from war dramas to romantic comedies. While this description could easily fit Mr. Clooney, it was invented by my favorite actor and American Film Institute’s #2 actor of all time – the one and only Cary Grant.
Recommended films for classic newcomers:
North By Northwest (1959)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
His Girl Friday (1940)
An Affair To Remember (1957)
To Catch A Thief (1955)
CG films classic fanatics may have missed:
The Grass Is Greener (1960)
The Awful Truth (1937)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)