Alix picks: Peter P. Peters (Fred Astaire) and Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers) in Shall We Dance (1937).
Peter (Petrov) and Linda are my favorite quarreling couple because their petty arguments keep the film lighthearted and provide a lead into a few great song and dance numbers. One petty quarrel over the pronounciation of “either” and “neither” turns into the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and a dance sequence on roller skates. Watch the scene here.
Lindsay picks: Nick & Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934) and 5 sequels
Forget best quarreling couple, these two are the best fictional couple EVER. But that’s another post. Over the course of 6 films it’s great fun to watch Nick and Nora banter, bicker, tease, joke, argue, pester, and quarrel all while admittedly being very much in love. William Powell and Myrna Loy are irresistibly charming in what became their signature roles.
Starring: Fred Allen, Ginger Rogers, David Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Douglas, Eve Arden, Louis Calhern, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eddie Bracken, Mitzi Gaynor
Directed By: Edmund Goulding
Other Notable Contributers: music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Favorite Scene: The “Glad Gladwyns” pre-show argument.
Favorite Line: “We can’t fight at home. We don’t speak there.” – Steve Gladwyn
Raves: This is a fun, lighthearted, romantic comedy about five couples who suddenly find themselves not legally married. You could hardly ask for a better all-star ensemble cast and each part is well played. The five couples’ relationships are all amusing and make this a pretty enjoyable film.
Rants: My only real rant with this film is its too short! I would have liked to see more of some of the couples, specifically Fred Allen/Ginger Rogers and Paul Douglas/Eve Arden. The ending felt too abrupt, like it didn’t really follow through enough with the stories to make the ending believeable.
My Take: Despite feeling like some of the couples could have used some more screen time, I still enjoyed the film. This is a great film to watch if you’re just looking for something fun. The film doesn’t contain groundbreaking cinematography or Academy Award winning performances, but its still one worth watching. I’ll also note that this is billed as a Marilyn Monroe film, but she actually has one of the smaller parts.
Modern Day Counterpart: Love Actually (2003). Both tell the stories of multiple couples in very different situations, but who all have trouble in their love lives.
Some films are known for terrific acting, groundbreaking cinema, or memorable plots. But sometimes its the soundtrack that comes to define a film. Here are a few such films:
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953): You can’t hardly think of this film without the thought of Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamond’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend” popping into your head. Carol Channing originally sang the song in the Broadway version, but Marilyn’s performance has become iconic. It heavily influenced Madonna’s video for “Material Girl” and was sung by Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge(2001). Here’s a little trivia, too: Marni Nixion, who sang for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964), Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956) and An Affair to Remember (1957), and Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961), was enlisted to help Marilyn out on the high notes of the song.
Blackboard Jungle (1955): My rock history professor a few weeks ago asked the class of 250 students if any of us had ever seen this film and I was the only one who raised my hand. Its unfortunate because this is a great film in addition to having a standout soundtrack. Blackboard Jungle is actually credited with popularizing rock and roll amongst teenagers. It features the song “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets which went to #1 on the Billboard charts for eight weeks following the popularity of the film. (An interesting side note, the film Dangerous Minds (1995) features a similar plot and is also well known for its soundtrack which features “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio.)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1952): I’m not a big Doris Day fan, but I do love to hear her sing “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).” Both the 1934 and 1952 versions of the film use Arthur Benjamin’s cantala “Storm Clouds” during a suspenseful sequence at the Royal Albert Hall, but only the 1952 version uses ”Que Sera, Sera.” The song not only won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, it also became Day’s signature song and the theme song for The Doris Day Show.
Swing Time (1936): Despite some amazing dance numbers, Swing Time, a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film, was not a big hit with audiences. The original song from the film, “The Way You Look Tonight,” however, became an instant classic. Most everyone knows the song, but not as many can actually identify where it first appeared, demonstrating how sometimes a great song can overshadow the film it was ment to support. The song is still immensely popular after 73 years showing up in films like Chinatown (1974) and My Best Friend’s Wedding(1997). Just about every crooner, from Frank Sinatra to Harry Connick Jr. have recorded versions and it even appeared on the last season of American Idol.
I know there are lots of other examples out there of films that become well known for the use of a particular song - does anybody have a favorite?