Two separate incidents are responsible for my post this week. The first was a question posed by author and blogger, Barb Han, who already has two books out this year and a third on the way. She asked, “What is your favorite film?” It’s impossible to answer, because there are many types of films: comedy, drama, mystery, adventure, western, caper, historical, even documentary.
For comedy I have to choose SOME LIKE IT HOT, a black and white 1959 classic starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, with supporting actors Joe E. Brown, George Raft and Pat O’Brien. Some younger readers might not even know the three main stars, much less the lesser ones, but they were part of the Golden Age of American movies. Older readers--and real film buffs like me--know what I’m talking about.
I chose SOME LIKE IT HOT over some other comedies because I believe it’s timeless. I recently showed it to my grandson, who only recognized the name of Marilyn Monroe, and he loved it. I’m sure he didn’t get the reference to Cary Grant, or the 1920s St. Valentine’s Day massacre of hoodlums in Chicago, but funny is funny, and he lost himself in the age-old gender-swapping heroes, the clever plot and the slapstick denouement.
My favorite Western? Based on a novel and produced by Gregory Peck in 1970, THE BIG COUNTRY stars Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons and Burl Ives (all deceased but brilliant actors) which features the classic western motifs--cattle ranches, water rights, feuds and romance--in a smart, believable story.
I adore caper films and it’s hard to pick only one from such gems as THE STING (Paul Newman and Robert Redford), GAMBIT (Michael Caine and Shirley Maclaine), and HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn).
I’ll do a second post on this topic soon, but meanwhile borrow these films from Netflix and enjoy while I wax nostalgic.
According to an e-mail I received today, SON OF THE SHEIK is currently being shown at a public library near me. It was a silent film from 1926 starring Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky. And, no, I didn’t see it during its original release.
When I was in high school, some of us teenagers occasionally went to a downtown theatre that showed old silent movies, including SON OF THE SHEIK. Dialogue was printed on the screen and there was soft piano accompaniment in the background. Sometimes a patron would say something out loud, which the theatre ushers tried to squelch, but at one point the heroine, who is being held captive by the handsome sheik, tries to escape from his luxurious tent in the desert.
She rushes to a tent flap and pulls it aside, but a stout guard stands there. She closes it, rushes across to another flap, opens it. Another guard. She looks about helplessly, eyes darting, lips trembling. At which point one of the boys in our class spoke out loudly: “There must be a fire escape.”
We were asked to leave but everyone else in the theatre laughed for a long time. Well, maybe you had to be there.