Four New To Me Classic Movies This Week

Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, 1952

Well? Have you?

I finally have and she’s a great gal in a meaningful, fun movie. Of course I watched Has Anybody Seen My Gal? for Rock Hudson, but it’s Charles Coburn that made this my favorite movie this week. He’s good, isn’t he? I’ll definitely pull this one out again when I want a feel-good movie.

The movie begins with Samuel Fulton (Charles Coburn) presumably laying on his death bed (it’s really not) and writing his last will and testament with his attorneys. You see, Fulton is a successful businessman, very rich and sure he’s going to die soon. He’s lonely, unhappy and longing for the love of his life that got away years ago. He never got over her. Now, he’s heirless and wants to find her heirs to leave his money to. He truly believes hers is the family he would have had if only she would have married him. But, Fulton is no dummy. Before he writes and signs his last will that leaves them his fortune, he decides to “test” them first. When his friend and attorney pushes him to get out of the house and relax, under the premise that it will heal him (he doesn’t believe Fulton’s really sick), he decides to find them. When he does, he pretends to be a boarder so he can stay in their house to be closer to them while performing his “test.”  The Blaisdell family doesn’t want him there, but needs the money ($8/week) so badly that they let him stay. They have no idea he’s rich, or their grandmother’s former love. In the process Fulton teaches drug store owner, Charles Blaisdell (Larry Gates) a few things about business and teaches the Blaisdell children (he thinks could have been his grandchildren) some good life lessons too. He realizes there’s no hope for Mrs. Blaisdell (Gigi Perreau), she’s clearly obsessed with how and what people will think of them. She makes quite a spectacle of a poor person pretending to be rich. It’s unclear whether he expected to love this family as much as he does, but he adores them. Except for Mrs. Blaisdell, he just feels sorry for her. The trouble comes when the family is so desperate for money that Fulton sends them an anonymous $100,000 gift. At the direction of Mrs. Blaisdell, they go crazy trying to become the head of  high society in their town. The money immediately turns them into even bigger fakes and phonies than before. In spite of the fact that he’s developed meaningful relationships with the children (he’s sure they would have been his grandchildren), Fulton feels the deep sadness he now sees in every aspect of the Blaisdell’s life.  He knows they were better off before they received the money. He can’t help them any longer because he wants them to see that too. Having money couldn’t make them happy.

The ending, while satisfying, is predictable. The journey through the story to get to it is what makes this a meaningful movie for me.

Oh yeah, Rock Hudson is in it! He plays a clerk and soda jerk in the Blaisdell’s store. He doesn’t even come close to starring in this, as the poster would have you believe. But, he plays a great love interest for Millicent Blaisdell (Piper Laurie). Speaking of her, the first time I saw Piper Laurie in a movie was in The Hustler. I wish it had been Has Anyboy Seen My Gal?

One more quick thing! This was James Dean’s first movie appearance. He’s only there a second and has one line as a customer at the Blaisdell’s store, but it is his first role in a movie. Unaccredited, but it counts.

Gigi, 1958

Gigi was the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture for 1958. It’s a musical, romantic comedy that Arthur Freed produced and Vincente Minnelli directed for MGM. It was Minnelli’s only Academy Award for Best Director. It also won seven other Academy Awards that year in a sweep over movies like Aunti Mame, The Defiant Ones, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Whew!

Gigi takes place around the turn of the 20th century Paris. A young girl, Gigi, (Leslie Caron) is being groomed by her grandmother and aunt to be a courtesan (well-dressed woman ready to engage and participate in a variety of topics ranging from art to music to politics) and she’s miserable about it. Meanwhile, her rich, playboy friend, Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan) is bored with his own well-to-do lifestyle. You can guess the plot from here, it’s a typical romantic comedy. The bonus to this story is that it’s narrated by Gaston’s Uncle Honoré Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier). He’s a pleasure to listen to….singing OR speaking. He made the movie for me.

The movie is something to look at. I’ve never seen colors so rich and deep in a movie before. I’m sure the Technicolor process has a lot to do with that, but wow. Those colors, along with all of that velour and velvet, the antiques and the costumes filled up every inch of my 55″ TV screen. What a sight!

I just wish all of this would have made Gigi a better time for me. It’s possible I’m just in a lousy mood and I vow to try again, but I’m a tad disappointed with this one.

The Alphabet Murders, 1965

I wanted to love this and didn’t. I watched it mainly for the Tony Randall starring role, but even that wasn’t satisfying. I found myself cringing too much during those moments that were meant to be funny, but were cheesy at best. Damn, I wanted this one! It’s an Agatha Christie story for Pete’s sake!

Strange Bedfellows, 1965

Eh.

Side note: I watched both Has Anyone Seen My Gal? (my favorite “new to me” classic movie this week) and Strange Bedfellows (my least favorite of the week) from my copy of:

I haven’t watched A Very Special Favor or Blindfold yet. Other than Strange Bedfellows, the others have been pretty darn good. I LOVE watching Rock Hudson act.

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.

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Bells Are Ringing, 1960

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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

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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

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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.