Four New To Me Classic Movies This week

Viva Las Vegas, 1964

Viva Las Vegas. Directed by George Sydney for MGM in 1964.

The pandemic has me doing things I wouldn’t normally do. Like watch Elvis movies. I’m surprised that, so far, I’ve enjoyed what simple fun they can be when I give them my undivided attention.

Viva Las Vegas opens with us being introduced to race car driver, Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley) at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Seems he’s trying to qualify for the Las Vegas Grand Prix there, but he needs a new engine in his car to do it. I assumed that would be the plot. Wrong! We lose sight of that story line pretty early in the movie. Too bad, it might have been interesting. Lucky does spend the rest of the movie at jobs that are supposed to pay him enough money to buy that engine, but it seems like no one really cares about that anymore. Writers and director anyway. Instead, the whole movie now focuses on Lucky’s relationship with Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). It’s the typical boy gets girl, loses girl, gets girl back, plot. But, for me anyway, it’s filled with mid-century eye candy and stellar acting (just kidding, there’s no stellar acting), that I can’t stop watching. Even I’m surprised I enjoyed spending 85 minutes with Viva Las Vegas. The 1960’s Las Vegas style  that fills up my eyes in every single scene feels magical after three months of quarantine. The lights, decor, hotel swimming pools and dance floors, wardrobes, etc., etc……it’s all beautiful, colorful and pleasing. Elvis and Ann-Margret are beautiful too. I love that in some scenes they are the only two people onscreen dressed in yellow while all the others wear darker, drabber colors. I get it, they shine through this way, but they would have without it. They’re singing and dancing makes sure of that. If you like Elvis music, there’s a lot of it here. Ann-Margret’s dancing made the movie for me. Even though the plot was a yawn, and the script less than worthy, it was still a fun trip into 1960’s Las Vegas. And boy oh boy does it look like fun.

Elevator to the Gallows, 1958

Elevator to the Gallows. Directed by Louis Malle for Rialto Pictures

Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) is in love with his boss’s wife, Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau). Simon Carala (Jean Wall) is in their way of a life together, so they’ve concocted a plan to murder him, making it look like a suicide. Julien uses a grappling hook and rope to climb to the upper floor where Mr. Carala’s office is in the building they work in. No one saw him and he murdered his boss. It worked. Instead of using the grappling hook and rope to get back down to street level, he takes the elevator instead. As he’s getting into his car in front of the building, he notices that he forgot to take down the grappling hook and rope. So in a panic, he leaves the car running and rushes back in to take the elevator to go up and retrieve it. While he’s in the elevator, the superintendent of the building, who doesn’t notice him, shuts the power off to the building for the night.  Tavernier is stuck in the elevator and can’t escape. He realizes he left his car running in front of the building and fades into the reality of his situation. In the meantime, his car, along with his gun, is stolen.

We’re just getting started.

This is the best new movie I’ve seen this week. Honestly, it’s the best new to me classic movie I’ve seen in a while. Elevator to the Gallows is a French film that tells its story, in this case, with English subtitles. This unique suspenseful drama, coupled with terrific writing and acting, kept my mind busy from the first scene. I keep telling myself for some reason that good, light-hearted comedies are what the doctor ordered for me right now, but this movie proves that spending time with a riveting, engaging, dark, dramatic movie can be just as helpful. An escape is an escape, right? This movie is that and so much more. Bonus: the Miles Davis soundtrack is fantastic.

I loved this one!

The Doughgirls, 1944

The Doughgirls, 1944. Directed by James Kern for Warner Brothers.

I don’t care how many years it was on stage or how many laughs were on screen. With this cast, (and I sincerely I love them all!), I expected so much more. Like a plot.

I don’t even want to talk about it……

Fifth Avenue Girl, 1939

Fifth Avenue Girl, 1939 – Directed by Gregory LaCava for RKO

Fifth Avenue Girl is that light-hearted comedy I’m drawn to right now. It stars Ginger Rogers and Walter Connolly, and reminds me an awful lot of Easy Living, 1937, with Jean Arthur and Edward Arnold, (the other well-to-do businessman and father that shows up in so many late 1930s comedies).

In the opening scene of Fifth Avenue Girl, Millionaire Timothy Borden (Connolly) meets unemployed and hungry Mary Grey (Rogers) in a park. Borden is distraught. His business has problems, his wife, Martha (Verree Teasdale) is out with a playboy, his kids ignore him…and, it’s his birthday. He’s lonely and depressed and somehow convinces Mary to help him celebrate his birthday at a nightclub. The next morning, everyone’s surprised that Mary has slept in the guest room for the night. Timothy notices that this piques Martha’s interest in him again so he hires Mary to stay at the house as an employee so they can go out on the town every night to hopefully gain Martha’s affections again. Meanwhile, Mary, though not thrilled with the situation, has a positive effect on other members of the household too. But not before complications arise with various family members and love interest struggles. Of course, Mary gets caught in the middle of it all. It’s funny and fun to watch. Ginger Rogers as Mary is terrific. I still like Easy Living better, but this one will do too.

6 Favorite Movies From The 60s

May 16th is National Classic Movie Day! I love any reason to celebrate classic movies, and this is a fun way to do it. Thank you to Rick at the Classsic Film & TV Cafe for hosting this, The 6 From The 60s blogathon. The guidelines for this blogathon are simple: list your six favorite films from the 1960s and explain why they deserve such an honor! This post is my entry. I love comedies and the common thread running through these movies is that they made and still do make me laugh every time I watch them.

You can see all the blogathon entries by clicking here. I’m looking forward to seeing the other movies that have the honor of being someone’s “favorite!”

It’s no surprise that Walter Matthau shows up in three of the movies here, and that Jack Lemmon is in two of them. Watching these two just makes me so happy.

1-The Odd Couple, 1968

Why is The Odd Couple one of my favorite movies from the 60s? The friendships. It’s displayed in every scene. I see it and feel it from every character and it’s pure comfort for me. I admit, anything with Walter Matthau is good for me. Especially The Odd Couple.  From the poker game scenes, to the date with the neighbors, to the scenes with just a frustrated Oscar (Walter Matthau) and frustrated Felix (Jack Lemmon). Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon play these characters in such a way that we care about them both. Even though Felix’s neurotic nature makes us nuts, we care about what happens to him.  Even though Oscar is sloppy, we admire him and the way he carries himself. I love this movie for the kindness I see when I watch it. It’s sometimes sarcastic and playful, a little bit serious and painful, but the underlying kindness is always evident to me, even when they’re mad at each other. Despite all of the things that can and do go wrong, they all still care about each other in the end. And it’s funny as hell.

2-Cactus Flower, 1969

Why is Cactus Flower one of my favorite movies from the 60s? It’s a meaningful story chock-full of a lot of reasons to laugh from likable characters. Julian Winston (Walter Matthau), is a dentist that lies about being married to avoid commitment to marriage with Toni (Goldie Hawn). Nurse Dickinson (Ingrid Bergman) is there, thankfully, to keep Julian organized and to eventually set everything straight. All three actors, Walter Matthau, Goldie Hawn and Ingrid Bergman play off each other like they’ve done it for years….and this is Goldie Hawn’s first movie! Cactus Flower is a lot of fun!

Did I mention Ingrid Bergman was in it? She does comedy so well. I did not expect this, but oh my, is she good at it. Ingrid Bergman steals the show for me. And it’s wonderful!

3-Bachelor in Paradise, 1961

Why is Bachelor in Paradise one of my favorite movies from the 60s? It’s a gorgeous glimpse into mid-century American culture embedded in an interesting story line. I wrote about this movie here a few weeks ago because it’s always had such a positive effect on me. Lana Turner is wonderful.

From my April 10, 2020 post:

Bachelor in Paradise is light-hearted, mid-century comedy that has the power to make me laugh out loud and forget about things for a couple of hours. It’s filled with glorious mid-century decor, fashion and lifestyle. This movie doesn’t pretend to be a deep, societal observation, but there is an important feminist message here, especially for 1961, I suspect, mostly delivered to us via Bob Hope’s peppy narrating as Niles. Lana Turner’s beautiful, independent intelligence as Rosemary, along with the intelligent, thoughtful women of the neighborhood, make this one of my all-time favorite movies.

And yeah, it’s funny!

4-Charade,1963

Why is Charade one of my favorite movies from the 60’s? Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

The end.

5-Some Like It Hot, 1959

Why is Some Like It Hot one of my favorite movies from the 60’s? It’s rhythm. It clips along at a good pace with a plot that keeps me engaged by always wondering what in the world could possibly happen next. It’s one of the best movie-watching experiences I can think of. Paying attention to the three main characters-Joe (Tony Curtis), Jerry (Jack Lemmon), and Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) is easy because they’re all sincerely likeable and engaging. They’re good people that I find myself rooting for every time I watch this. From the first scene where Joe and Jerry  witness the Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929 to that sweet ending, everything that happens moves along so….perfectly? I never find myself cringing, bored or rushing to get it over with. It feels like a brave movie too, and I like that it takes chances. This movie feels like it’s been thoroughly thought out and put together so well by the director (Billy Wilder) and writers (Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond) that actors that just melt into the story. It’s perfect. But then, that’s Billy Wilder for ya.

6-The Thrill of it All, 1963

Why is The Thrill of it All one of my favorite movies from the 60s? Because Doris Day plays a character, Beverly Boyer, that comes up against sexism and still makes her own decisions in the face of it. Despite the chaos it causes her within her family, she follows her heart. That takes guts now, let alone in the 1960s. Her husband, Dr. Gerald Boyer (Garner) is not happy about any of what she decides to do, and he makes it difficult for her. Still, I love that everything that happens here is ultimately Beverly’s decision and not her husband’s. Even in the end. Some have called this movie sexist, and there is an overall atmosphere of it, but she’s successfully navigating through it on her own terms. It isn’t always fun for her and every step she takes is a challenge, but she does it, and it’s inspiring. On top of that, The Thrill of It All is hilarious!

That pool scene…..

The chemistry between Doris Day and James Garner is addictive. I wish they’d done more movies together.

Thank you to Rick at Classic Film and TV Cafe for hosting 6 From The 60s!

What’s YOUR favorite movie from the 1960s?

Four New To Me Classic Movies This Week

I have to admit, it hasn’t been a great week for new to me classic movies…help me out here…

Brewster’s Millions, 1945

Monty’s (Dennis O’Keefe) long lost uncle has left him a lot of money in his will. The catch is that he has to spend $1,000,000 in sixty days so he can inherit the $7,000,000 his uncle has left him. Oh, and the will dictates that he can’t give any gifts, support any charities and he has to keep the whole thing to himself.  The uncle’s purpose with the rules is to make sure his nephew gets sick of spending money so that he will always be responsible with the money he’s giving him. It’s an interesting plot to me. Of all the new to me movies I’ve seen this week, Brewster’s Millions was my favorite. It’s a lot of fun and full of clever ways to spend a lot of money. The 1945 film is roughly based on the 1914 version. I haven’t seen that, Have you? I need to see the 1985 version of Brewster’s Millions stars Richard Pryor and John Candy. Have you seen it? Did you like it?

All Through The Night, 1942

The plot – gamblers run amok and discover a cell of Nazis in New York and decide to take them on – is a bit far-fetched for me but the cast is worth the time. Humphrey Bogart, Frank McHugh, Kaaren Verne, Jackie Gleason, William Demarest, Peter Lorre, Phil Silvers, among others, make this movie fun, even if the plot wasn’t completely convincing to me.  Frank McHugh, as usual, just makes me happy. He makes me want to watch this again. His character, which is a version of all the other characters he’s ever played, is such a lovable, clever, funny guy that I can’t help but smile every time I see him. On a side note, McHugh has made five movies with Bogart. That’s a combination I need more of. Here’s the other four: Bullets or Ballots-1936, Swing Your Lady-1938, The Roaring Twenties-1939, Virginia City-1940. I’m feeling a Frank McHugh marathon coming on….

The Italian Job, 1969

I know I’m supposed to love this movie but I didn’t. Michael Caine is often a pleasure to watch, but even he couldn’t make this better for me. It’s supposed to be a comedy about a gang of criminals that try to steal gold by creating a traffic jam. Interesting, but I didn’t laugh as much as I expected when I saw this billed as a comedy. I did, however, admire all the Mini Coopers and amazing driving in this! Wow! The Coopers were driving on roofs, in tunnels and up stairs. I can’t imagine the effort put into the stunt driving here. Do I need to watch this again? What did I miss? I really want to like this. I LOVED the 2003 remake starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron….

Tony Rome, 1967

No. Just no.

I know, I know.  This one was my least favorite this week. A disappointment, because I wanted to love it. Frank Sinatra is a favorite of mine. Usually. This reminds me of an old Humphrey Bogart detective movie. Except that the Bogart plot is forced on us with a terrible script and bad acting. Even Frank Sinatra’s performance felt forced. I’d much rather spend time with Frank in The Manchurian Candidate, 1962 or Suddenly, 1954.

What made you happy to watch this week? Feel free to let me know what you thought of these movies. Please. I’m still disappointed in Tony Rome…

I hope you’re all safe and well….
xoxo, Sarah

Four New To Me Classic Movies This Week

Avanti, 1972

What a movie. I watched all 2 hours and 24 minutes of this Billy Wilder romantic comedy twice this week. I loved it that much. Jack Lemmon plays the married Wendell Armbruster, a successful businessman and Juliet Mills plays single, free spirit Pamela Piggott. Wendell travels to Italy to pick up the body of his father who died in a car accident. He was surprised to learn that Pamela’s mother had died in the car with him.  As it turns out, Wendell’s (married) father and Pamela’s single mother, had been having a decade-long affair. Wendell was stunned. It’s interesting to watch the straight-laced Wendell deal with all of this, with more and more help from Pamela. I love this plot. I have to admit, I cringed when there was talk of Pamela’s “weight problem” (I sure didn’t notice this problem) but it slowly became evident it was an essential part of the plot. This is the first movie I’ve seen Juliet Mills in and I’ll be looking for more. I knew her in the Nanny and the Professor TV show, and she’s is so much more here. The chemistry between her and Lemmon is spot on. The scenes shot in Italy are beautifully done too. I love the message in this one.

IMDb | TCM Shop

Bells Are Ringing, 1960

IMDb | TCM Shop

Judy Holliday. Oh how I love her. Her presence alone in this makes it worth seeing. But add Dean Martin and Jean Stapleton to the cast and…well…! How in the world I ever missed this one until now is beyond me. I am ashamed. And thrilled that I have another “go-to” movie I can watch that makes me feel good! You know, to watch if something unexpected happens and keeps me in the house for months. ANYWAY, Bells are Ringing is a musical directed by Vincente Minnelli and adapted for the screen from the play by Betty Camden and Adolph Green. Ella Peterson (Holliday) is an answering service operator for Susanswerphone in Brooklyn. She loves her clients and especially has a thing for Jeffrey Moss (Martin). This is a bright, happy movie I loved experiencing for the first time.

Any Number Can Play, 1949

IMDb | TCM Shop

Clark Gable plays Charley Kyng, the owner of a casino house. Alexis Smith plays his wife “Lon.” This movie explores the effect Charley’s business has on the family and his reaction to it. I was consumed with watching the evolution of not just Charley, but the entire family. I’ll watch this one many times. Frank Morgan and Mary Astor make small appearances here too.

Von Ryan’s Express, 1965

IMDb | TCM Shop

I found this one on the Frank Sinatra Film Collection DVD that I’ve been working my way through lately. I enjoy Frank, the actor, do you? Von Ryan’s Express is a drama that takes place during WWII. Frank plays an American POW that helps prisoners escape the Germans. It’s a pretty good movie that kept my interest, but it was hard for me to watch right now. I’ll watch it again when things are better. I think I’m better off listening to Frank sing right now.

Eggplant Tagine Recipe from the Casablanca Menu of Movie Night Menus

Eggplant Tagine Recipe

adapted from

TCM Movie Night Menus
by Tenaya Darlington and André Darlington

TCM

What they’ve done here is create a menu for several of our beloved classic movies with recipes to make them all at home. It’s a lot fun. We’ve made quite a few dinner and cocktail recipes from this book and every one of them has turned out perfect every time we’ve made them.

This Eggplant Tagine, from the book’s Casablanca menu, has quite a few ingredients. It’s a lot of fun to make when you have the time, and who doesn’t have time right now? Your efforts will be worth it. I promise. It’s a warm, comforting delicious plate of Mediterranean flavors that fits Casablanca perfectly.

No couscous? That’s happened to me a couple of times I set out to make this. I served it on rice instead. It’s wonderful both ways.

EGGPLANT TAGINE RECIPE

Print

Ingredients:
-1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, divided
-1 tablespoon unsalted butter
-3/4 c. pearl couscous
-3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 teaspoons ras el hanout (recipe below)
-1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
-2 small eggplants, diced (about 4 cups)
-1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained
-4 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
-3 Tablespoons almonds, roughly chopped and toasted (garnish)
-1 fresh mint (garnish – but makes the meal!)
-Plain yogurt, garnish

Ras el Hanout Ingredients (use it all)
-1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
-1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
-1/4 teaspoon paprika
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Method:
In a sauce pan, boil 1 cup vegetable stock with butter. Add couscous, stir, then remove from heat and cover.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic, salt and spices and cook until garlic is translucent and the spices are lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes, eggplant, chickpeas, dates and 1/2 cup of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on medium, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until eggplant has softened.

To serve, set out shallow bowls. Fluff the couscous and divide it among the bowls. Then, top with tagine and garnish with almonds, mint, and a scoop of yogurt.

Have you cooked anything you normally wouldn’t have time for during this pandemic? How’d it turn out?

(Mostly) 1930s Al Hirschfeld Movie Posters

Being in the middle of these colorful Al Hirschfeld movie posters seemed like a good place to start a Monday. Especially one in the middle of a pandemic.

Al Hirschfeld was born June 21, 1903 in St Louis, Missouri. Beginning in the mid-twenties, Hirschfeld began documenting every major entertainer in the 20th century. Caricatures were his favorite subjects and his can be seen in so much of our 20th century movie heaven. Hirshchfeld worked until his death on January 20, 2003 in New York City.

Peter Falk as Columbo. Caricature for TV Guide by Al Hirschfeld,1976

This is the one that started my search for more Al Hirschfeld artwork. I fell for it immediately in large part because of this weird Columbo crush I have going on. While Hirschfeld is best known as a pen and ink caricaturist, there were other styles of drawings too – including those like these movie posters from (mostly) the 1930s and 1940s:

1946
1934
1931
1930
1939
1935
1943

1975

I hope you’re all safe and well….thank you for stopping by!

Sources:

The Al Hirshchfeld Foundation

The Line King Documentary which is available with Prime Video.

For the Love of the Drive-In Theater – A Brief Photo Essay

Massachusetts, circa 1950s

I can’t help but think this would be a good idea right now.

As I write this, we’re in the the middle of social distancing, with its “six-foot rule” for essentials, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s forcing us to think about how we do everything…even how we watch movies. Yes, we can stream right now, thank God, and studios are opening movies on streaming services, but wouldn’t the drive-in be a great fill-in for all those closed theaters right now?

Six-foot social distancing: check. Self-isolation in the car: check. Food delivery to you in the car: check.

Just a thought…

I used to love going to drive-in theaters when I was a child. It usually meant two movies, staying up past my bedtime, pajamas in the car, lots of hot dogs, popcorn and candy we’d never get anywhere else. (I look back at that part now and think, “geez, my parents hated us!”) It was fun for a little girl like me! In my hometown, they tore the last drive-in down and built a trailer park in its place decades ago while I was still a child who loved going to the movies there. It devastated me. After I grew up and moved away, I found a few drive-ins here and there, but for the most part they had disappeared.

Even though there’s a few still open, I wish they’d make a come back.

Dixie Drive-In Theater on 14601 S. Dixie Highway, Miami. source: Miami Herald
From the Everett Collection on Shutterstock. Location unknown.

By all means, I’d want these pole speakers you sit in your window, NOT the radio-tuned to the right station. Sheesh! (Remember, nostalgia rules in this brain.)

Drive-in in Chicago, circa 1951, showing the cartoon, Spring Fever.
Westbury fly-in drive in in New York, circa 1954

A Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum movie seems like the perfect thing to see at the drive-in,…

Sundown Drive In of Whittier, California on opening night in 1954.

…so does a Robert Taylor movie.

Scarboro Drive in, Scarborough, California
84th and O Drive In, Lincoln, Nebraska, circa 1950s.

I wonder how it got that name.

Big Sky Drive In, Dane County, Wisconsin 1974. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.
Source and place unknown.
Star Drive In, Montrose, Colorado. Date unknown.
Sky-Vu Drive-In, Monroe, Wisconsin. This is the last drive-in I went to back in 2005-ish, and we had a long drive to get to it.  The movie was Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman. The Sky-Vu is still open.

What’s the last movie you saw at the drive-in?

I’d like to think going to the “outdoor” as we called them, would meet the requirements of social distancing while still enjoying a movie on the big screen. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but it’s a nice thought.