Archive for the ‘movies’ category

“Potato Salad!” And A Million Other Reasons I Love Danny Kaye

Confession time: When I was 12-years-old I was head over heels in love with Danny Kaye.

I had two VHS tapes chock full of his films, labeled in childish scrawl; sacred possessions that no one in the house save for me was allowed to touch. It happened over a long-ago Thanksgiving when the American Movie Classics channel (back when it really was the American Movie Classics channel) aired a festival of Kaye’s films … and everything else in my life stopped. I was already in love with old movies, courtesy Charlie Chaplin, but I think it was Kaye’s films that really solidified my obsessive personality when it came to the world of yesteryear. I immersed myself into his eye-popping, Technicolor dream world all day, every day– and I do mean all day. I wanted to be as beautiful as his best gal Virginia Mayo; I wanted my life to erupt into sparkling production numbers at a moment’s notice alongside Vera-Ellen; and I wanted a fella as sweet and honest and hilarious as Kaye. (I’ve obviously given up on the first two, but am still holding out for the latter…) Read more ►

Shirley? You Jest.

This post is in conjunction with the “Funny Ladies Blogathon,” hosted this weekend at Movies Silently. Head on over to the blogathon page to check out the many, many wonderful tributes to greatest funny gals of all time.

Surely there were plenty of funny ladies I loved before Shirley. Growing up, I Love Lucy was a daily ritual, just as The Carol Burnett Show was a sacred rite. And on primetime TV, well, the very best comedies all starred women: we had our pick of powerhouses like Murphy Brown and Roseanne. But, those were all TV shows. When it came to the movies, all of my favorite funny people were the fellas. At 12 I’d already discovered Chaplin and Keaton, The Marx Brothers and Danny Kaye, and I adored all of them. Of course, there are countless screen comediennes, but in this girl’s life, the one who came first and knocked me square over the head was Shirley MacLaine.

Of course, she’s really not exactly famous for being a straight up ‘comedienne.’ She’s the Oscar-winning actress from Terms of Endearment and countless other roles that have, rightly, won her a spot as one of cinema’s most accomplished dramatic actresses. And yet, even in those ‘serious’ roles, MacLaine’s uniquely wry, cutting wit punctuates even her most emotional performances. We laugh with MacLaine, even if it’s to hold back a tear. Read more ►

The Kitty Corner: An Interview with Brandie Ashe of True Classics

The Kitty Packard Pictorial is pleased as punch to introduce the Kitty Corner, a new series spotlighting some of the very best film blogs on the web, and the masterminds behind them. We kick things off with Brandie Ashe, webmistress of the much loved True Classics. A professional writer, Brandie has been blogging since 2009 and shares with us the story behind her blog, her love of classic films, and how the classic film community has changed her life.

The Kitty Packard Pictorial: Brandie, your website, True Classics, has come to be known among your readers as one of the foremost online destinations for truly fine reflection on classic film. Keeping that up month after month must be a true labor of love: tell us a bit about how the idea of True Classics was born.

Brandie Ashe: I have to admit that True Classics was my little brainstorm–and a pretty badly-timed one at that. Back in 2009, my friend Carrie and I were both in graduate school: she was getting her Master’s in social work, and I was pursuing an MA in English. We were in Georgia–I was in Milledgeville, and she in Athens. Since we were only about an hour apart, we spent a lot of weekends hanging out together, usually at her place, because she had Turner Classic Movies and I, sadly, did not. We spent many a weekend watching classic movies, and one day we caught a strange little musical on TCM called Cinderella Jones (1946). This film was so full of genuine ‘what-the-fuckery’ that we both felt the need to share our feelings about it. But how to do that? So I thought, ‘Hey, let’s start a classic film blog!’ And Carrie, bless her heart, decided to go along with my crazy scheme. Seriously, what were we thinking? We’re both in grad school and time is a premium, but we want to start yet another project? We were insane. Read more ►

Roll Credits: A Hard Day’s Night

This is the second installment of the Pictorial’s series “Roll Credits,” profiling some of the greatest title sequences in film history.

Richard Lester’s 1964 rock and roll musical, A Hard Day’s Night, has long been heralded as the movie that invented the music video. And while we could spend an entire post debating that, the fact remains, A Hard Day’s Night exemplifies the non-linear, creative sequences that would soon inform the grammar of music videos. A truly groundbreaking piece of filmmaking, Lester keeps the viewer surprised from the very first frames of the film: The Beatles shoot towards the camera like a charging locomotive– along with the crashing opening guitar chords of the theme song– and never slow down once. Read more ►

Growing Up Scarlett

Here’s the thing about my mother and I: We don’t communicate. I love her, of course, but the simple fact of the matter is that we just plain stink when it comes to the whole communication thing. In fact, every one in my family does. Don’t get me wrong: we talk a LOT. We are very very good, in fact, at talking. Name a topic, we’ll talk about it. Talk, talk talk. Think “Pick a little Talkalittle” from The Music Man. But. When it comes to the big stuff. The important stuff. The stuff that really matters.

Well. We sound more along the lines of crickets … chirping.

It’s taken a long time, but at last I’ve come to realize that the only way we communicate, in fact, in a constructive and meaningful manner is in fact through movies. I know more about my mother’s profoundly sensitive, deep love of family from the way she falls apart into a mess at the end of The Imitation of Life than I do from any heart to heart we’ve ever had over tea. Similarly, too, I know that all my mother has ever wanted was to make sure I was happy–although it has been hard for me to genuinely understand that– by the way she falls apart into a sobbing mess at Stella Dallas and I Remember Mama. Her abiding affection for (and my father’s grudging toleration) of family musicals like Meet Me in St Louis and really anything with Doris Day, made it easier to understand why she raised my sister and me in such a sheltered manner.

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Oh and: She absolutely cannot stand Ordinary People. It’s just too overwhelming for her. Interesting.

And so it’s been a strange therapy (talk about literal cinematherapy) to be able to reassess my relationship with my mother through the medium of film.

Ours was a strange household: Mrs. Cleaver could have taken lessons from my mother when it came to running a home. The flowers always fresh, carpets always newly vacuumed, and the table always set at the same time every night for dinner. In my own adulthood, I cannot help but marvel at her for her machine-like efficiency. Certain behavior was expected. As was speech of an approved fashion. We spoke constantly, our family, but in retrospect, never really about the big life issues. Oh we flirted around it, hinted at it, but never point-blank addressed it.

And so my mother and I found had to find other ways to say what we couldn’t face to face. And that happy medium proved to be (you guessed it) classic film.

Of the many films we shared together, there is one that stands out from all the others: Gone with the Wind.

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As cliché and yawn-inducing as that sounds, as eye-rolling as you may think it, the fact remains: my mother raised me on this film. And you know what? I’m glad of it. She taught me everything I needed to know in life through that film, and I would like to take this opportunity so graciously afforded me by Brandie Ashe and True Classics, to prove it.

I must have been about 10 years old when my mother first sat me down to watch the film—a tradition that would be repeated throughout the rest of my childhood and even into adulthood. It started innocently enough: the girlish fascination with pretty dresses and Southern gallantry and so forth. (And, just to be clear: My mother is an African-American who attended an all-white school in Delaware in the early 1960s. So if she is able to see past the extreme racial prejudice and focus instead on the film’s storyline and theme, I would suggest more people follow the lead.) And then, around 15, I started picking up on things that I’d never understood before. Things like … dude, this guy Ashley is a total douchebag. And. Ahh, so it’s Mammy and Melanie who are actually the strongest women in the film. I grew up with these characters, re-discovering year-in and year-out, never failing to learn something new about who they were, just as I was learning who I was.

As a grownup I can see, clearly, what my mother was doing– even if it was subconsciously. Those awkward lessons that every girl needs to hear from a mother figure, she inculcating through none other than Scarlett O’Hara. And this is why Gone with the Wind, for all of its seat-squirming social inequities and admitted over-the-top melodrama … for me, anyway, it is deeply personal. And the lessons learned from it have stayed with me. Lessons such as the following:

Gone with the wind

Rule #1 He’s just NOT that into you.

Rhett schooled Scarlett about her obsessive pursuit of Ashley Wilkes’ affections. And he’s right. Love the people who love you. Why would you want it any other way? If he’s just NOT THAT INTO YOU it’s all for the best.

 

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Rule #2 Own every inch of who you are.
Scarlett is profoundly flawed, but I absolutely adore her for having an acute knowledge of who she was–good and bad– and she owned every inch of it. The exact same can be said of Melanie Hamilton. Extreme opposites of the same coin, Scarlett and Melanie flourished from an extraordinary inner strength.

 

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Rule #3 Jealousy is extremely unattractive.
Scarlett is a royal bitch, but the woman is far from irrational: even in her jealousy of other women, there is an unspoken, perhaps unconscious, respect that pricks at her. Her sister Suellen, however, is a piercing example of how ugly jealousy can be. Instead of being a proactive figure, Suellen is perfectly content to be the victim. Few things are as unattractive as self-pity.

 

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Rule #4 “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Because, actually, if anyone says that, they really don’t. And what’s more, you more than likely deserve it. Rhett was 100% done. There’s a limit to everything.

 

Vivien Leigh Scarlett O'Hara Gone with the Wind 1939

Rule #5 You are NOT all that
Be humble. No one likes a hard-ass. There’s a reason people were drawn to Melanie Hamilton. Even someone like Scarlett–the ultimate hard-ass– admitted a deep respect for her. If there’s anything Melanie proved, it’s that meekness is not weakness.

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Rule #6 True friends stick by you.

Cherish the hand extended to you when no one else dares. Ask yourself what you’ve done to deserve it. And then try, somehow, to be worthy of it. Scarlett, unfortunately, didn’t do this until it was too late.

 

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Rule #7 Listen to Mammy.
Tough love is real love. Do not trust anyone that sugar-coats life for you– they are not a true friend. If someone calls you a “spider”, like Mammy does, they’re probably right. Listen to them.

 

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Rule #8 If you make enemies, make sure they are worthy of you.
Not everyone is as unrelentingly loyal as Melanie Hamilton, so take your adversaries seriously. A woman like Belle Watling could have made a powerful ally. India Wilkes? Never. It’s a fine, but necessary, line.

 

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Rule #9 Love is real, romance is a fiction.
Remember, Scarlett’s idea of romance was Ashley Wilkes—a schoolgirl ideal that did not exist. Rhett never once factored into her definition of what love really was… which is why she lost out on real love in the end. You see, romance is fiction. Love is real.

 

AsGodAsMyWitness

Rule #10 Tomorrow IS another day.
So use it to do what Scarlett did every day of her life: fight.

 

oh yes, and a cheekyRule #11, for the road:

RHETT

THIS is what a REAL man looks like.

Perhaps I’ll send this article to my mother and ask her to read it. She’ll probably smile, assure me that she will of course read it, give it a surreptitious glance, and tell me how much she enjoyed it before quickly changing the subject to something much happier and easier to talk about.

And that’s fine, mom. Because I understand you, thankfully, through our shared experience of film. Films allow me to hear the words, put ever so perfectly, in just the right way, that none of us could ever say on our own. And, not only have I grown to be OK with that, I feel quite special to know that every time I put in a film like Gone with the Wind or Stella Dallas I’m actually spending quality time with mother.