Saturday, February 12, 2011

2011 Movies for Valentine's Day

Once again, I would like to suggest some movies about love for Valentines's Day.   Last year's selections leaned more to the love lost and unattainable, this year is more optimistic and the viewer will not need to lay in so many hankies.
I generally only watch old movies, made before 1960, mostly black and white.  Therefore, the list below may seem limited to readers who watch newer films.  This list is mostly American films, maybe more foreign films next time.
The links on the titles lead to TCM.com

THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (1934)
A film full of love of all kinds - some of it pretty unsavory.... There is the unusual love between  poets  Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, whose initial connection is their mutual admiration of each other's work. (Norma Shearer and Frederick March).  There is the creepy smothering possessive incestuous love of Mr. Barrett (Charles Laughton) for Elizabeth, his favorite daughter. There is the young healthy passionate love of the sister Harriette for her suitor Captain Cook.   Directed by Sidney Franklin who remade it in 1957 with Jennifer Jones and John Gielgud, which is also quite good.

 [Trivia:  Although in the story always shows Barrett's beloved spaniel going with her, it's fate was not so happy; her father killed the dog after she eloped with Browning.  He really was a twisted control freak of a father.  His attitude toward Elizabeth was particularly creepy, but he treated all of his sons and daughters just as bad; disinheriting any child who married or left home.


SMILIN' THROUGH (1932)
In dual roles, Norma Shearer and Frederick March heat up the screen with pre-code passion.  Leslie Howard suffers and grieves.  In Victorian times, two men love the same woman, Moonyean.   On her wedding day, the jealous drunken ex-suitor shoots the bride.  Her widower lives in grief and solitude, communing with Moonyean's spirit. He adopts his Moonyean's orphaned niece who grows up into spitting image of his dead bride.  She falls in love with the son of none other than the murderer.  Will Leslie Howard stand by and let love have its way?  Will the lovers be parted forever by a vengeful guardian and the first World War?  Because it is a Pre Code film, the passionate love is portrayed with great feeling and intensity.  Love, romance, passion, ghosts - this story has it all.
Remade in technicolor with Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond  to much less affect but much lovely singing.  Not everyone appreciates MacDonalds singing, and Gene Raymond's heyday was in the early 30's.  However, he was a decent actor and singer, very athletic and enjoyable to watch.  He is under appreciated today.

MY FOOLISH HEART (1950)
 A very touching tale of a college girl's great love at the beginning of WW2, and the consequences. Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward were really too old for these parts. But it doesn't matter at all because they are so appealing.  When the story begins, Susan Hayward is an unsympathetic lush on the verge of divorce.  She remembers her love affair with Walt, played Dana Andrews who is terrifically appealing as the easy going, humorous but fatalistic Walt.  Be armed with  many hankies when you watch this.  And here is another photo of Dana Andrews just because.....


THE LIFE OF VERGIE WINTERS (1934)
 My favorite Ann Harding film.  This used to run on AMC back when AMC showed old RKO movies in the good old days. 
This is one of the ultimate pre-code "women's pictures".  Per  Mick LaSalle it was the last film released before the production code went into effect.  It was blacklisted by the Catholic church decency brigade, and was very profitable.  Moira Finnie has very nice write up about Ann Harding at Movie Morlocks, including some lovely photos from this movie.
Vergie Winters (Harding) loves John Shadwell (John Boles).  Her father, for a price, tells the man she loves that she has married someone else.  Heartbroken, he marries another played by Helen Vinson,  an actress who is not well known today but was a reliable supporting actress who often played the bad wife, but was equally good as a nice wife (ie, "Transatlantic Tunnel").  I always watch a movie if Helen Vinson appears.  Vergie and John carry on a 'back street marriage' together for many years as he becomes a distinguished politician until his wife brings it to a drastic halt.  I don't want to reveal too many plot details because the it is such a heartfelt melodrama.  Jon Boles could be a wooden  actor when he wasn't singing, but he is fine in this movie.  Lon Chaney Jr, back when he was billed as Creighton Chaney, plays Vergie's steadfast friend and would be suitor.   Ann Harding is at her most beautiful in this film.  The fashions, ranging from  WW1 to 1930's fashions are really lovely.

DOUBLE HARNESS (1933):

  Ann Harding and William Powell. Another great pre-code film.  Harding plays Joan, a very forthright and honest woman who loves John (William Powell) who is extremely fond of Joan, but marriage shy.  (In the best old movie tradition, we know they are sleeping together because Joan changes into a negligee when she visits him.) Joan tricks him into marriage, then works to honestly win his love and commitment to the marriage. It is not an easy task battling such obstacles as a frivolous and dishonest sister, The Other Woman, and the dinner party from hell.  Before Myrna Loy became famous as the ultimate Wife, Pal and Best Friend, Ann Harding wore that crown.


BLIND DATE (1934)
Ann Sothern plays Kitty, who works as a switchboard operator and supports her family. She  is engaged to a hardworking mechanic and long time friend Bill (Paul Kelly).  When he is too busy to step out with her on her birthday, she goes on a blind date and meets Bob (Neil Hamilton), a wealthy man whose intentions are not entirely honorable - at least in the beginning.   Rather improbably, Sothern gets a job modeling clothes for Bob's department store.   There are many vignettes of frugal Depression life.   There are several touching scenes between  Kitty and the two men who love her. Will true love, or obligation win out?   Paul Kelly is extremely good in this film.  There are many closeups of  Ann Sothern and her fabulous eyes, I cannot think of a movie where she was prettier. Supporting cast includes Jane Darwell and Mickey Rooney.  Laura's Miscellaneous Musings has a nice write up of this film.



ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (1948 ) 

  Billed as "Pleasure beyond measure!"  Jack Carson and Doris Day. Doris Day plays a struggling singer who is hired to  impersonate a wealthy socialite on a cruise. The socialite stays home to secretly spy on her husband. Meanwhile, the husband hires a private detective (Jack Carson) to spy on his wife during the cruise.  Both people struggle to maintain their assumed roles while falling in love with each other.  Lots of fun songs, nice technicolor, cute dialogue.  Day and Carson have  great chemistry together.   What is it about Jack Carson? The lovable jerk.    He can put his shoes under my bed anytime.
Also with Oscar Levant playing the usual Oscar Levant character.  (Levant made the famous quip that he "knew Doris Day before she was a virgin".)  This is a perfect example of Day's great charm: effervescent, spunky but not overly cute.  Check this link for lots of nice information about this film at this site devoted to  Doris Day's films.



ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952)
With Robert Ryan, that intense hunk of noir pulchritude and Ida Lupino, petite and equally intense. This spare and intense drama stars Robert Ryan as a scary, hardened cop, who seems to revel in his brutality. Ida Lupino a blind woman determined to get her psychotic brother safely put away.  Through his growing feelings for her and his experiences  in the rural community where he is sent to help capture a murderer, he becomes a more sympathetic and empathetic man.  A very famous music score by Bernard Herrmann.  Film Noir of the Week has a fabulous post on this film, so I won't waste time saying much more.  The gentle reader may wonder "A Robert Ryan film noir for a romantic Valentine Day viewing?"   You betcha.  Ryan and Lupino are one of my favorite film pairs.   Read more about Robert Ryan at Skeins of Thought, and this article by David Thomson which contains my favourite description of the actor "so convincing you could see his jaw muscles thinking."

THE SEVENTH VEIL (1945)   Starring James Mason, Ann Todd and Herbert Lom
Completely cornball melodramatic fun!  Anne Todd plays a concert pianist suffering from amnesia who is  brought back to mental health  thanks to 1940's  movie style psychoanalysis.  The seventh veil refers to that  revelation of emotion that restores our heroine's psyche and mental health. Dark and brooding James Mason provides both menace and romance.  Don't miss the scene at the piano!


VOICE OF THE TURTLE aka ONE FOR THE BOOK (1948)
From the John Van Druten play.  Of course, the original play is more sophisticated and frank; the movie steps softly around the more controversial aspects of the play and presents one of the sweetest most romantic movies ever.    Propinquity brings two people together early one Spring: Eleanor Parker is Sally, a ditzy struggling actress who so is in love with falling in love that she love unwisely and too well.  Ronald Reagan is Bill, a soldier with some baggage of his own who has been stood up by his date Olive, played with great vigor by Eve Arden. She has dumped him for her old beau Commander Ned Spurling (Wayne Morris), for whom she still lusts.  Unfortunately for Olive, Ned doesn't live up to her ardent memories.
Eleanor Parker plays the kind of woman who is so sensitive she thinks her radio got lonely because it was left on while they were out.  Normally, that is the kind of woman my palm would itch to slap. But Parker (and the playwright) give the character plenty of gentle quirky charm.
It's popular among some to dismiss Reagan as a mediocre actor, which is very unfair.  He brings  a great naturalness, humor and common sense to this character. Bill is just what Sally needs.



Everyone starring in this film was a the peak of their talent and good looks.  A thoroughly enjoyable movie.
As usual, the prolific Laura has a very nice post on this film.


A line loves a dot who loves a  "wild and unkempt squiggle".  What must the straight arrow line do to win her love?  It's only 10 minutes so why spend time describing it? Just watch it:

3 comments:

Laura said...

What a great rundown! (I appreciate your kind links very much!) THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE quickly became a great favorite of mine; Parker and Reagan are simply wonderful. Also love BARRETTS -- I'm fond of the Jennifer Jones version as well -- how sad about Dash! I haven't seen several of the films you describe and look forward to seeing them very much.

Best wishes,
Laura

Amanda Cooper said...

I also enjoyed Romance on the High Seas (Carson and Day are truly wonderful together) - and there are several titles in this list that I want to see, particularly The Barretts of Wimpole Street and Voice of the Turtle. I've always thought that the offhand dismissal of Reagan's acting career was criminal.

panavia999 said...

Thanks for visiting and for your kind words, Laura and Amanda. I hope some of these suggestions will send people down a path they haven't seen and maybe inspire reciprocal ideas - there are films I haven't seen yet either! :-)