It’s National Kissing Day. Facebook has decided it, so it much be true. To celebrate, here is a lesson on how you should always want to wake up from a nap if you ever find yourself with a broken leg and becoming a peeping tom.
“Oh Rita, what are you wearing?”
The Lady From Shanghai, in addition to being one crazy film-noir, is one massive love letter to Rita Hayworth from her then-husband Orson Welles. Her often-bikini clad body and her wardrobe become an essential part of the movie, symbolizing her role as a seductress and a desperate woman. She also brings to fashion a style that needs to come back: the sexy sea captain. Seriously, what other actress could get away with this ensemble?
Only you Rita, only you.
I found myself at my old stomping ground tonight — introducing the classic film screening at the local library. The movie was It’s a Gift, starring W.C. Fields. I admit that my knowledge and exposure to W.C. Fields is limited. I’ve only seen a few movies here and there over the years.
In It’s a Gift, Fields is Harold Bisonnette (that’s pronouned BIS-ON-AY) a New Jersey grocer who spends his inheritance on a Californian orange grove. Despite the objections of his wife (Kathleen Howard) and children, they drive the 3,000 miles cross country. The plot though is less than important; it is the bits and gags that make It’s a Gift (or any Fields’ movie) worth watching. My favorite is a sequence set in the grocery store as Bisonnette tries to manage a customer demanding kumquats as a blind customer wrecks the store. (This scene also reminds me of the opening sequence of Bringing Up Baby when Cary Grant repeatedly shouts, “I’ll be with you in a minute Mr. Peabody!”)
I realized as I watched this scene unfold that Fields’ humor and style isn’t flashy. I find that refreshing nowadays. That being said I’m also fascinated by Fields’ vaudeville routines that often appear in his films and are in some ways the very definition of flashy.
A quick search on YouTube also led me to find this collection of three W.C. Fields’ shorts, including The Golf Specialist (1930).
What are your thoughts on W.C. Fields? Where does he rank on your list of greatest screen comics? What other movies or biographies should I check out? Let me know in the comments.
Some music for your Saturday afternoon.
I just love this scene from Road House (1948).
And Marlene sings it too.
And, last but not least, so does Billie:
Since seeing Blue Valentine, I have been unable to shake its harrowing depiction of marriage. Few films stay with me this long after I have see them. But the relationship between Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) is so beautifully damaged, it is impossible to forget their marriage.
This relationship also got me thinking. How often do we see couples in the movies who have been together for the long haul? The most romantic comedies bring together your Harrrys and your Sallys. But these movies establish false expectations for courtship and never show what happens after the credits roll.
Even the greatest movie couples – Sam and Ilsa, Jack and Rose, Westley and Buttercup – don’t say much about marriage. I’ve written about Hollywood’s supercouples before but none of the couples that I profiled made it down the aisle, let alone showed what real commitment looks like.
Then there is Barkley and Lucy in Make Way for Tomorrow. For every movie that gives us an iconic pairing, this one trumps them all. This Leo McCarey film about an elderly couple forced to separate when none of their five children will take both parents in will tug at your heartstrings with its simple and heartbreaking depiction of love, marriage, and commitment.
It is decided that Barkley and Lucy will stay with their children for just “a few weeks” but their sudden presence in their adult children’s lives becomes burdensome. As Roger Ebert writes in his wonderful assessment of the film: “Make Way for Tomorrow is quietly observant about the social awkwardness of the situation.” Lucy interferes with her daughter-in-laws bridge classes; Barkley is relegated to sleeping on the couch. We hope for Barkley and Lucy’s sake that the couple is reunited soon so they can present a stronger united front to their children, who have unintentionally cast their parents aside.
In the film’s final 30 minutes, when Barkley and Lucy are finally reunited before they are to separate again, Make Way for Tomorrow captures something most films do not. Real emotions without any exaggerations. The strangers who observe the couple as they revisit their honeymoon see something Barkley and Lucy’s children could not: unrelenting love and respect for one’s partner. No sequence will make you cry more than these final minutes of Make Way for Tomorrow.