Just heard that David Bowie had died.
So in his honor let’s remember him as we all remember him best… no not Ziggy Stardust.
Well after a brief holiday break I decided to start the year with something simple and fun with the works of Marilyn Monroe.
The first on my list was Howard Hawks‘ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I mostly knew about this movie through having read about half of the very funny original book by Anita Loos. The movie is a very loose adaptation, telling the story of the beautiful and extremely… innocent showgirl, and unrepentant gold digger, Lorelei Lee played by Monroe.
The plot begins with Lorelei and her best friend Dorothy, played by Jane Russell, traveling to France in a luxury liner to meet Lorelei’s mark… er… finance there. From there hilarity ensues.
This is a fun film in a fluffy kind of way. A lot of the songs feel a little forced but they are done well enough that it doesn’t matter. For me the ditzyness of Monroe’s character gets grating really fast. Fortunately we have the sexy sarcastic Russell to appreciate. Lorelei comes off as the sweet innocent child who doesn’t think anything bad will ever happen to her… Dorothy’s the grownup who holds her hand when she has to cross the street.
Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch is the film with everybody’s favorite picture of Monroe holding down her skirt as standing on the subway grate (on the posters anyway… the censors wouldn’t allow it to appear in the original movie)
Seven Year Itch is an adaptation of the stage play with the same name starring Tom Ewell as Richard Sherman. Sherman is a New York publisher who’s home alone for the summer having sent his wife and son off to Maine for vacation. Left to his own devices he is torn between boredom of a new diet and nothing to do but his job and the guilt of temptation while staying on the staying on the straight and narrow constantly being judged by his vivid imagination.
Into this comes a beautiful young woman, played by Monroe who has just moved into the apartment above his. A complete innocent who makes him want to throw all of his promises to the wind while worrying that his marriage is falling apart due to a phenomenon known as the seven year itch.
This is pretty much Tom Ewell’s show with nearly half of the movie is him monologuing. Everything else rotates around him with everyone else serving as props and obstacles. In fact there were a few instances when I was watching this I was willing to believe that Monroe’s character was another of Sherman’s fantasies.
It’s been a while since I’ve shared yet another variation of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. I’ve tried to be strong but it was no use this one was too good with a classical music, string quartet version courtesy of the Royal Academy of Music.
Well after two weeks of watching dark cynical films that while taking place in and around Christmas were not in any way shape or form about Christmas I decided to finish the season with some true blue, optimistic, fluffy, troll the cynics, idealistic all American Christmas films!
White Christmas is one of those films that whether you saw it or not you find yourself thinking that you did because of all of the little snippets of it and all of the songs of it being played around the holiday season. I have some memories of seeing it but in hindsight it was about the last ten minutes of it (the rest of my memories were from assorted Irving Berlin reviews on PBS)
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play two war buddies turned a team of popular song and dance men. When they meet a team of performing sisters played by Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. They join them to go to their next gig in a resort in Vermont right before Christmas. When they get their they discover two things… First Vermont is having a warm spell so their are no customers at the resort and Two the resort is owned by Crosby and Kaye’s former commanding officer. The rest of the film consists of them trying to help save the resort by putting on a huge show with a little bit of time left over for our two couples to fall in love.
For the most part White Christmas is a 1950s Jukebox film with just enough plot to allow for the ensemble to perform as many Irving Berlin songs as possible… make no mistake there’s nothing wrong with this with the talent involved (though for the most part I found myself enjoying the choreography more than the singing. All in all it was an enjoyable bit of fluff.
(On a quick side none for some reason I keep thinking of Danny Kaye as short and keep being surprised when at 5’ll” he towers over all of his co stars in any movie I’ve ever seen him in.)
It Happened on Fifth Ave tells the story of Aloysius T. McKeever a hobo played by Victor Moore who spends the winter squatting in a fifth avenue mansion owned by “the second richest man in the world” Micheal J O’Connor, who spends his winters in Virginia.
McKeever runs into Jim, a young veteran down on his luck sleeping on a park bench, and invites him to move in. Then O’Connor’s daughter Trudy has run away from her finishing school and arrives home in disguise as well as the some of the veteran’s old friend are added to the mix and before you know it, it’s one huge happy family.
Meanwhile O’Connor finds out about this but rather than call the cops on the group, is convinced by Trudy to check things out disguised as a homeless man… Hilarity ensues.
This is a sweet little comedy. For the first half hour I found myself wondering if the script was written with W.C. Fields in mind but I quickly found myself loving Moore’s performance. It is never clear whether if he is a complete innocent to all of the things going on around him or if he is intentionally manipulating everybody for their own good but it is he who ultimately conducts everything else going on from the rather by the numbers romance of Jim and Trudy as well as the redemption of Micheal.