Five Great Movies According To My Mom

These are my parents, Nancy and Joe. They are ridiculous.

A few months ago, I shared my dad’s five favorite movies and set him off on a path to Internet superstardom. This irritated my mom because Joe got to share his favorite  movies first. She was so irritated, I had to quickly jot down her favorite movies and promise to post them on her birthday. So here are my mom’s five favorite movies. Happy birthday Nancy!

Disclaimer: Just to double check, I asked my mom what her favorite movies were last week. She said “I should just know them” and it would be “too bad” if I hadn’t written them down. So who knows if these are actually her favorite movies. She also wouldn’t tell me why she likes these movies, so I’m just making it up. Now she’ll probably be irritated at me for writing this post. Oh well. I’m her favorite child (right, Mom?) so I’ll risk it.

Continue reading “Five Great Movies According To My Mom”

The 100 Greatest Movie Insults

“There is a name for you, ladies, but it isn’t used in high society… outside of a kennel.” –  The Women

I love it when someone proves that they have more time to do things than I ever will. A very dutiful YouTuber has spliced together 10 minutes of glorious movie insults. Do take the time to enjoy this one; it is fantastic.

Which quote is your favorite? I am always partial to Joan Crawford’s ultimate diss from The Women. But no movie line will ever come close to Rhett Butler’s ultimate send-off: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

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.

The Power of Cinematic Love: A Tribute to Supercouples

The supercouple is perhaps the most common entity in entertainment.  Supercouples, a term used since the early 1980s, are the high-profile, culturally significant and nearly perfect romances that influence our expectations of what a great love story should be like.  They exist in television (Ross and Rachel from Friends), comic books (Clark Kent and Lois Lane), literature (Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett), soap operas (Luke and Laura from All My Children) and musicals (Tony and Maria from West Side Story).

But of all the various forms of entertainment, film is arguably the most influential medium that defines a supercouple. A movie has less time to develop a story and to argue why a couple should be together. It uses the allure of a fairy tale romance and the idea that love can conquer to pull the audience in. After a classic line is spoken (“Love means never having to say you’re sorry”), and the often mismatched duo is drawn together (if they actually stay together is another story), an iconic supercouple is born.  Whether it is a couple from a classic (Joe Bradley and Princess Ann from Roman Holiday) or a couple that just emerged as an iconic love story (Cecelia Tallis and Robbie Turner from Atonement), audiences continually seek out these romances for thrilling, unequalled love stories.

In Casablanca, the ill-fated romance between ex-lovers Rick Blaine, an American expatriate, and Ilsa Lund, the wife of Czech resistance fighter is often considered the greatest romance in American film history.  When Ilsa enters Rick’s café for the first time after their Parisian affair, he utters the first of Casablanca’s many classic phrases: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”   Their brief reunion combines drama, comedy, suspense, and the emotional struggle of who Ilsa really loves:  Rick or her husband, Laszlo.  In the end, Rick sacrifices a lasting relationship with Ilsa because the solving the problems in the world is far more important than any romance between two people.

The sordid romance between Depression Era gangsters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker has maintained an enduring international popularity in film, television, music, and poetry.  The 1967 film based on their relationship, Bonnie and Clyde, has cemented the duos enormous impact on popular culture.  The tragic and graphic death of Bonnie and Clyde, paired with their enduring appeal, cements this couple as dangerously romantic and as American legends.

The relationship between Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain has captivated audiences like no other romance has in recent years.  Their love is anything but easy.  Despite their desire for one another, both men are deceived by the cowboy myth and societal expectations prevent them from staying together.   Jack and Ennis are just emerging as the iconic romance, whose love, as the film’s theme implies, can never grow old.  Audiences are just discovering and experiencing this romance over and over again.

Before Doctor Zhivago or Titanic, Gone With the Wind was the first epic film that set a monumental love story against the backdrop of historical event.    Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara belong together, but they just can’t seem to stay together.  Something, the Civil War or Scarlett’s infatuation with Ashley Wilkes, always seems to get in the way.  And with Rhett’s perfect send off to the always self-involved Scarlett, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”, their classic and tumultuous romance ends.  While any chance of them remaining together is lost, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara remain one of cinema’s most beloved couples.

By now, you’re probably wondering if any screen duo makes it in the end and one couple manages to beat the odds.  Even if it meant climbing the Cliffs of Insanity, battling Rodents of Unusual Size, or facing torture in the Pit of Despair.  Westley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride embody the ideal fairy tale romance.  At first Westley was just Buttercup’s “farm boy”, responding “as you wish” to her every demand and hoping she would realize her love for him.  They eventually fall in love, but are separated for five years and Buttercup becomes engaged to another, Prince Humperdinck.  In the end, Westley and Buttercup beat the odds, proving that true love, no matter how difficult it may be to achieve, can concur all. 

Honorable Mentions: Jack and Rose (Titanic); Jennifer and Oliver (Love Story); Sam and Molly (Ghost); Johnny and Baby (Dirty Dancing); Han Solo and Princess Leia (Star Wars); Jerry Maguire and Dorothy (Jerry Maguire); Lloyd and Diane (Say Anything); Dr. Zhivago and Lara (Doctor Zhivago)

Published: The Mount Holyoke News
February 14, 2008

Clark Gable: Signature Collection

Releasing tomorrow (Tuesday June 27) is the Clark Gable: Signature Collection. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times review:

Clark Gable: Signature Collection
Warner Home Video, $59.98, not rated.

Is it possible to be a great star without appearing in very many great movies? Clark Gable is probably the test of that proposition: he’s one of the few major box office stars of the 1930’s who might produce a glimmer of recognition from a contemporary audience, but after Gone With the Wind and perhaps It Happened One Night, most people would be stuck naming many more of his films.

What would Gable be without Gone With the Wind, or for that matter, what would Gone With the Wind be without Gable? It’s his leering masculinity that gives Margaret Mitchell’s weepy epic the balance and the ballast it needs to keep it from becoming the world’s longest Harlequin romance, and it’s David O. Selznick’s film that finally gives Gable a social context and a personal history to anchor his free-floating libido in something solidly dramatic.

Gable’s curse, of course, was that he spent most of his career under contract to MGM, and being a team player, never seemed to balk at the unimaginative, repetitive assignments he was given. A new box set from Warner Home Video, Clark Gable: The Signature Collection, brings together six Gable films, all but one (John Ford’s 1953 Mogambo) from his prewar period of greatest fame. (Gable spent World War II in the Army Air Corps, after his wife, Carole Lombard, was killed in a plane crash on her way home from a war bond drive.)

And while Gable’s sexual magnetism is still evident, even in a piece of cheese like Clarence Brown’s 1936 Wife vs. Secretary, there’s little in that film or the set’s remaining four (Robert Z. Leonard’s 1933 Dancing Lady, Tay Garnett’s 1935 China Seas, W. S. Van Dyke’s 1936 San Francisco, and Jack Conway’s 1940 Boom Town) that suggests the hold that Gable had over audiences of the period. Without Gone With the Wind — made, like It Happened One Night, while he was on loan to another studio — Gable would probably rank no higher in contemporary consciousness than Robert Montgomery or Robert Taylor, to name just two of his in-house MGM rivals.


This review poses some interesting questions about the career of Clark Gable. There’s no denying his iconic status, but his filmography doesn’t exactly shine.

But here is how I see it. What it comes down to is how you measure an actor’s iconic status. Is it based on awards and recognition? On career choices? On social impact? On charm? It’s a combination of all of this. What I do know is that when you starred in It Happened One Night and you were Rhett Butler, then you deserve to be a film icon, even if you don’t have the most outstanding filmography.

Clark Gable will always be an icon.