Friday, June 25, 2010

For the Weekend: Just the Classics

I don't know about you, but I really don't think weekends ever get here fast enough.  And why aren't they all 3-day weekends (like next weekend will be)?  Two days is just too short a time to really relax in this fast-paced modern world.  So, I say let's spend the weekend enjoying stories of a slower time.  Let's spend the weekend watching some classics!

First up, on TCM this Sunday at 6am EST, is "Mr. and Mrs. Smith."  No, not the high-octane action movie from 2005 that gave us Brangelina, but the romantic comedy from 1941 starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery.  Lombard and Montgomery play the titular married couple, Ann & David Smith.  One day after three years of marriage, Ann asks David if he would marry her again if he got the chance, and David jokingly expresses his doubts.  However, later that day, they both learn that their marriage is not valid due to some state line changes.  David tries to have some teasing fun with Ann, but she takes the situation more seriously, and thus, screwball comedy antics ensue.  It's a wonderfully fun film directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock.  His only lighthearted romantic comedy ever, he said he was convinced to do the project by Lombard herself (though some reports state that he had actually wanted to try his hand at a "typical American film about typical Americans").  Together, they both wanted Cary Grant to play the male lead, but unfortunately he was booked solid.  So they found the amazing Montgomery instead, whose chemistry with the beautiful Lombard is unmistakable.  Funnily enough, Lombard was a die-hard Democrat and Montgomery was a steadfast Republican, so to have her fun, Lombard would often spend her breaks during filming plastering Roosevelt re-election bumper stickers on Montgomery's car.

Next up, check out "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."  From 1947, it stars Gene Tierney as Mrs. Muir and Rex Harrison as the ghost, aka Captain Gregg.  Based on the book by R.A. Dick (pseudonym for Josephine Leslie), it tells the story of a young widow, Mrs. Muir, at the turn of the century who decides to move her and her daughter out to a cottage by the sea, but the cottage is haunted by the ghost of the late sea captain Gregg.  After Gregg and Muir start talking to each other though, a kind of romance begins as he helps her stay strong and independent living on her own.  Twentieth Century Fox purchased the rights to the book after its initial publication in 1945, which was only in the UK at the time.  When the film was made, Tierney thought she needed to play Mrs. Muir more lighthearted and screwball-y, but director Joseph Mankiewicz and Darryl F. Zanuck decided she should have more depth, so they reshot the first two days of scenes for her.  Tierney ended up getting some of the best acclaim of her career.  "Mrs. Muir" is available for instant viewing on Netflix right now.

The 1968 television pilot for the series "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" starring Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare:

Finally, how about the little-known classic "Holiday" (1938)?  Directed by George Cukor and starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, it's a wonderful romance that reunited Cukor, Grant and Hepburn from their first production together, "Sylvia Scarlett" in 1935, as well as teaming up Grant and Hepburn again after 1938's previous release, "Bringing Up Baby."  In "Holiday," Grant plays a free-spirited man who gets engaged to a young woman (Doris Nolan) during a trip.  When they return to New York though, he discovers she's a millionaire, and is all about the material stuff.  While trying to decide to what to do, he falls for her free-spirited sister (Hepburn).  Now, he's torn in all sorts of ways.  Hepburn and Grant are of course great together, like always, but this was made during Hepburn's "box-office poison" phase.  The studio was hoping that Irene Dunne could star with Grant instead of Hepburn, reuniting the "Awful Truth" pair, but Cukor insisted on Hepburn.  The film wasn't a box-office success, but it is now considered one of the duos finest films.  You can catch this gem on Netflix or watch it on YouTube here.

So take a tip from the classics and slow down this weekend.  Not everything in life has to be full speed ahead.  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and I'll be back Monday with another favorite film to discuss! 

(Post-tidbit:  Another playful joke from Lombard during filming "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" was her response to Hitchcock's often-quoted statement that "actors are cattle."  She had a mini pen constructed on the set that included three heifers, each with a nameplate - Carole, Bob, and Gene (for costar Gene Raymond).)

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