Henry Fonda on my Mind

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Today is Henry Fonda’s birthday. Over the course of his five-decade long career, Fonda appeared in over 100 movies and television shows. I’ve always loved the ease at which the actor performs. Here are clips from some of my favorite Henry Fonda performances.

Abraham Lincoln, Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

Charles Pike, The Lady Eve (1941)

Gil Carter in The Ox-Box Incident (1943)

Juror #8, 12 Angry Men (1957)

The President, Fail-Safe (1961)

Robert Leffingwell, Advise & Consent, 1962

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The Katharine Hepburn Performances I Love

Today would be Katharine Hepburn’s birthday 104th. In honor of my favorite actress, here are clips from some of her performances I love and consistently watch.

Susan Vance – Bringing Up Baby (1939)

Rose Sayer – The African Queen (1951)

Terry Randall – Stage Door (1937)

Jane Hudson – Summertime (1955)

Tracy Lord – The Philadelphia Story (1940)

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Nancy Drew at 80

On April 28, Nancy Drew, the 18-year-old sleuth who has charmed readers for decades turned 80.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Sonia Sotomayor all cite Nancy Drew as an influence, but these three successful women are of a very different generation than mine. So you have to question the appeal of this series today.

Nancy Drew is a quintessential teenage female character and there are none quite like her. She’s quirky, witty, and not afraid to stand her ground. That, I think, accounts for her lasting impact on pop culture. When I was younger, I loved the Nancy Drew series; my sisters and I read all or most of the books. But we learned about these books because our mother loved them as a child. She shared them with us, and if we can love Nancy, there is no reason why future readers won’t as well.

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Flashback: Five Years of YouTube

Five years ago today the first video was uploaded to YouTube. “Me at the Zoo” is only 18 seconds long and is just that, YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim talking about elephants.

It is crazy to think that this 18 second video started a revolution. I don’t know where we would be without YouTube.

I use YouTube daily – on this blog, to share my films, and for my own entertainment. I even used YouTube during my Senior Symposium presentation last Friday to avoid an inevitable DVD failure. Without it, I don’t think I could function.

Yet as I write this I am reminded of when P. Sitney Adams visited my avant-garde cinema class last fall. As he said: “There is a special place in hell for YouTube.”

While YouTube has been an integral factor in the social media explosion of the last five years, it has also destroyed how we watch movies. Why go to the movies, if you know that you can just watch 10-minute sequences of a movie on your computer for free? Of course, like everyone else, I know this but that doesn’t stop me from watching a movie or television show on YouTube. It’s a messy cycle that we will probably never get out of.

Happy Birthday, Olivia de Havilland

Olivia de Havilland, one of the few surviving Hollywood actresses from the 1930s, turns 93 today. De Havilland began her career in 1935, co-starring in Alibi Ike. Soon after, de Havilland co-starred with Errol Flynn in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade and The Adventures of Robin Hood. They would star in eights films together overall.

Today, de Havilland is perhaps best remembered for her role as Melanie in the classic epic, Gone With the Wind. She received her first of five Academy Award nominations.

By the 1940s, de Havilland had become frustrated with the roles assigned to her by Warner Bros and began to reject several parts. When her contract with the studio expired, Warner Bros. informed her that it was extended for six months because of her uncooperative nature. Therefore in 1943, she mounted a successful lawsuit (similar to Bette Davis’ lawsuit in the 1930s) against Warner Bros and the result granted more creative freedom to actors. The lawsuit is now known as the “de Havilland law” and has had a lasting impact in Hollywood.

Her struggle against the studio ultimately paid off. De Havilland began to play more complicated roles, ones where she didn’t have to solely be pretty or the damsel in distress. She received her first Academy Award in 1946 for To Each His Own.

When I think of Havilland, I don’t think of her career-defining role in Gone With the Wind. I think of the final scene in The Heiress. Here Morris Townsend (played by Montgomery Clift) confesses his “love” to Catherine (de Havilland), who he previously abandoned after her father had threatened to disinherit her years before. Catherine, now wealthy following her father’s death, pretends to forgive him and agrees to marry him. Only she does not pack her bags. Instead she orders the maid to bolt the door and is last seen silently ascending the staircase as Morris pounds furiously at the door.

De Havilland received her second Academy Award for this performance and it is one of my absolute favorite performances in all of cinema. I have read that de Havilland is currently penning her memoirs and that is something I look forward to reading.