Barbara Stanwyck was always at her best when her character came from the wrong side of the tracks. She seemed to have a natural affinity for those whose lives have mostly been filled with hard times, scrapping by the best way they can. Maybe, it had to do with her sad Brooklyn upbringing, her mother dying when she was four, pushed from a streetcar by a drunk, and her father leaving only weeks later, never heard from again. That kind of pain has to leave an indelible mark on one for life. Yet, beneath the tough exterior would hide a gentle desirous heart longing for acceptance and love that would eventually reveal itself. This double side of Stanwyck’s persona is clearly on display in many of her films including this 1940 holiday comedy/drama.
Fred MacMurray is prosecuting Assistant District Attorney, John Sargent. He arranges through a legal technicality, to have Lee Leander’s (Barbara Stanwyck) trial for shoplifting postponed until after the holidays. This gesture results in Lee, unable to post bail, having to spend the long holiday week in a jail cell. Sargent, in a twinge of guilt, or holiday spirit, arranges through a shady bondsman to have Lee’s five thousand dollars bail paid. When the bondsman delivers Lee to the ADA’s apartment, she is cynical enough, and has no doubt, her payback to him will be in sexual favors. To her surprise, Sargent expects nothing in return. He really just did not want her to spend Christmas in jail. The look of surprise in Lee’s eyes and face is priceless when this realization hits her. Continue reading →
There are some films you can never get enough of, right? Some are pure comfort food, some are annual seasonal delights, some are visually stunning, some bring back happy memories and others you, well, just find some indescribable need to just watch repeatedly. The pleasure of watching a favorite film over and over again fills your pleasure dome like an excellent piece of Belgium chocolate. If you are a serious student of film, repeatedly watching a film will reveal what makes it so powerful by studying the editing, the lighting, how the music is used and much more. On a lighter note, it’s simply the joy of being with an old familiar friend. There is the anticipation of knowing what’s coming next. It could be Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot when he sees Marilyn Monroe for the first time at the train station saying, “Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!” Or it could be Edward G. Robinson as Rico, in Little Caesar, shot down and uttering his last words, “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?” However you want to look at it, people do love watching favorite films over and over and over.
I have been working on my own list for a while, longer than I want to admit. I attempted to put the list in some kind of order finally succumbing to the simplest…alphabetical. As the title states, I have come up with 101 favorite films. The key word is “favorite.” The list was actually was a lot longer, but I limited it to 101. It was tough and this resulted in many films I love having not made the final cut. In the end, these films are my go to movies that I never get tired of watching.
A final note: This occasional series will be in ten parts, ten films per post except for the final post which will contain eleven entries. Like all lists, at least my own lists, this one is always subject to change. You will also note, the list consist of all English speaking films, mostly American. Originally, I included foreign language films, however, I decided that would be a list for another occasion. And now… Continue reading →
Woody Allen: Reel to Real is a new e-book from Take2 Publishing. Written by Alex Sheremet, the author examines, in-depth, the Woodsman’s complete film career, right from its earliest days to the present. He examines, not only Woody’s directed films, but those he had a role in as an actor. The book is the most far-reaching analysis of Allen’s career so far. Continue reading →