Archive for black&white

The Philadelphia Story

DVD (1940) Written by Donald Ogden Stewart/Directed by George Cukor           STARRING: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

(image: MGM Studios)

The story  A writer and photographer for a tabloid magazine concoct a plot to sneak into the fabulous and private wedding of Tracy Lord, a member of one of Philadelphia’s oldest families. The young and beautiful Tracy is a cool, self-righteous socialite who is determined not to marry another husband with as many flaws as her first one (she and her first husband C. K. Dexter Haven had “married on impulse and divorced in a rage” two years ago). Refusing to ever let passion control her again,Tracy thinks she is very much in control of her world now. But when the tabloid reporters — along with her ex-husband and her estranged father — show up at the Lord Mansion just 24 hours before the nuptials, the cold and seemingly unfeeling goddess finds her marble exterior is starting to crack.

This is the role that made Katharine Hepburn’s career (prior to this she was referred to as  “box office poison”). Hepburn as Tracy Lord is the master of aloofness as she floats about the great Lord mansion like a partial deity. Her home is full of classical Greek and Roman statuary and architecture which seem to add to her mythical force. Katharine is brilliant as she slowly softens throughout the film. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of watching Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant on screen, this is the exact right film in which to do it. Both are super charming as C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) and tabloid writer Macaulay Connor (Stewart).

The Philadelphia Story is more than 70 years old, but it feels very fresh. Despite the annoying depiction of two female characters turning a blind eye to their man’s infidelity, it’s a wonderful comedy and a strong female role for 1940s Hollywood. And there’s nothing like 1940’s film dialogue, is there? “Oh, Dext,” despairs Tracy Lord, “I’m such an unholy mess of a girl.” In romantic comedies like The Philadelphia Story, the dialogue clips along at a wonderfully entertaining pace. Some of the greatest dialogue in film history comes from films of this era.

The envelope, please The Philadelphia Story was nominated for six Oscars, and won two: James Stewart for best actor, and Donald Ogden Stewart for best adapted screenplay.

Sweet extras Best opening scene of a rom-com ever. Forty seconds of genius. 

Good for who? Call up the Baptist minister’s wife! The language is clean, and although there are numerous adult themes, this is 1940 filmmaking so sexual innuendos are heavily veiled. Children wandering into the room while you watch won’t be a problem either: they won’t have a clue what’s going on. This is an excellent choice for any adult, as long as he or she likes classic films (be mindful that it’s black and white, which drives some people to drink).

Where can I get it? Netflix doesn’t carry it yet, but you can buy from Amazon or rent the DVD from a place with a good classic film collection. In Halifax or Bedford, Nova Scotia, you’ll find it at Video Difference.


Love this movie? Live this movie! Bathing baldies … I mean, beauties. 

“My, she’s yar!” Tracy Lord says of the model yacht True Love. Well yar swim cap is pretty yar too, we want to say in return! It’s true, ladies — bald can be beautiful. If you too want to be a stone-cold retro goddess,  a bathing cap is where it’s at. Here, Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord takes a dip in the large pool on her estate, sporting a plain white cap.  Keira Knightley showed off the same look (with chip strap) in Atonement, a 2007 film set in 1930’s England. Similar caps can be purchased at Amazon.com and Speedo.com.



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Roman Holiday

DVD (1953)  Written by Ian McLellan Hunter / Directed by William Wyler

(image: Paramount)

I was raised on black-and-white movies. My dad is a film buff, and as for me, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what Ioh, oops, flashback, sorry, I mean I saw hundreds of old movies as a child. Yet of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she…no wait, I mean, of all the old movies I’ve seen growing up, I don’t remember ever being shown an Audrey Hepburn film. So it was really exciting when I recently got to watch my first Hepburn film at the Oxford  in Halifax — a classic theatre, complete with balcony.

The film was Roman Holiday, a 1953 romance-comedy which tells the story of a princess and an unscrupulous American newspaper man. On a tour of Europe, Princess Anne (“from a country which shall remain nameless”) seems to be on the verge of losing her sanity.  Unable to handle the pressures of her  exhausting schedule, she slips away from her guardians in the middle of the night and enjoys 24 hours of freedom in Rome. She meets reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) who spends much of the day with her as she experiences life’s little pleasures, many of them for the first time. The catch is that she doesn’t know that he knows that she’s Princess Anne. He’s secretly recording her every move, and we’re cringing at the thought of what he’s going to do with the story once they part ways.

Hepburn has such likeability, and it’s no wonder she won an Oscar for this role. If you’ve never seen Audrey Hepburn in action, you’ll fall in love with her here. Her character’s sparkling personality and naïveté is such a great contrast to co-star Gregory Peck, who is tall, dark and kinda grumpy and bitter.  The story feels so fresh and clever, despite the age of the film. Watching Roman Holiday caused me to re-assess my definition of rom-coms, which I truly thought was etched in stone when I started this blog. So I don’t spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’ll just say the ending of Roman Holiday pleasantly surprised me. I loved how it played out, and it brought to mind the wise words of my screenwriting professor which I have since added to my article What’s a romantic comedy? Not this.

Sweet extras The 1994 film Only You referenced Roman Holiday in more ways than I originally realized. The most obvious, of course,  is the visit to the ancient sculpture La Bocca della Verità (“The Mouth of Truth”), a scene in which Tomei and Downey Jr. actually recite lines from the Hepburn-Peck film. Watch both films and see if you can spot the references to Roman Holiday in Only You. I found five.

Good for who? This is a movie for absolutely anyone, except those who really dislike black-and-white movies. There is a colourized version of the film available, but I encourage you to watch it in black and white—the way the good Lord intended it!

 

Loved this movie? Live this movie!

When life overwhelms you and drives you to little princess hissy fits, take a lesson from Princess Anne and shake up your routine. Explore your own city or a nearby town, or maybe just try something you’ve never tried before: a new hairstyle, gelato, or perhaps a little champagne with your lunch. The idea is just to get out, enjoy something new, and appreciate the little things each day has to offer. I’ve been working on a writing project for the past two weeks and yesterday decided I needed a Princess-Anne-inspired break. With a Pavarotti CD, a bag of roast chicken chips, and my smelly dog Chachi, I drove to Wolfville, a little college town I love about 45 minutes away. Wolfville is not Rome, and I am no princess, but you get the idea. This would be a nice afternoon to myself.

Since the whole experience was about exploring and trying something new, I’m proud to say that I learned two new things about my dog that day: one, he is not a Pavarotti enthusiast (see photo. His ears are back. I think they’re bleeding.), and two, Chach is a little Houdini. When we first got out of the car, he slipped his collar while my back was turned. I found him at the side of a pizzeria, a few blades of grass stuck to his face. I scolded him, but he seemed in great spirits and was jumping around happily. I think the little numbskull was having his own Audrey Hepburn moment.

We strolled for a half hour, enjoying the sun that had broken through the clouds. I then put Chachi in the car while I explored a few shops and ate lunch. I chose a creepy dark pub where I was one of three seated customers. There were two junkies at the bar. I watched a darts competition on the widescreen and admired a set of faux Greek vases next to the beer signs. I said to the waitress: “I want to try something I’ve never tried. Name some weird things you serve.” She suggested some sort of mundane sandwich with a pickle. I exclaimed “Seafood chowder! Got any?” My plan had been to go my entire life without eating seafood chowder (most seafood does not appeal to me) but heck, I’d do it for Audrey. The waitress said that yes, she had some homemade Nova Scotia chowder, but she looked very concerned as she said “It’s got lobster in it…it’s got scallops in it… it’s in milk…it comes with a roll…” She said these things as if it were a list of dire warnings. No matter, I said, please bring it to me with a Diet Coke.

The chowder soon arrived — with some of the sauce splashed around the sides of the bowl as if the haddock had been jumping mere seconds ago — and I was taken aback. “Lady,” I wanted to say to the waitress, “this fish soup smells like fish!”   But it was actually very good, although way too rich in taste for me to finish.  It was like a Hershey’s Cookies n’ Crème chocolate bar in that way,  only full of fish.  In the bathroom stall afterward, I was scrawling notes about the chowder and when I got  up, my pen dropped into the toilet. I would have left it there, but this was the last of my favourite pens (Basin Stationary has discontinued them). So the Princess put her hand into Rome’s Mouth of Truth and I put mine into Wolfville’s toilet water. Ah, sweet synchronicity.

The best discovery of the afternoon was an excellent used bookstore called The Odd Book which has a terrific history and classics section. I bought a book called Late Medieval Italy, and I could have browsed the store all afternoon had I not been required to return to my responsibilities and duties as princess of the Woodlawn subdivision.  I returned a better, more worldly woman.

Paula Jane

 

 

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