Friday, November 12, 2010

For the Weekend: Girl Power

Another week has gone.  Another weekend is here to relax or catch up.  Another bundle of movie suggestions for you to enjoy.  And this time, it's all about strong women.

First up is "Mrs. Miniver" (1942), starring Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon and Teresa Wright.  Directed by William Wyler, this touching World War II drama tells the tale of a woman (Garson) struggling to keep her family safe and strong during the first months of the war in England.  "Miniver" received twelve Academy Award nominations, winning six of them, including Best Picture, Director, Actress for Garson, and Supporting Actress for Wright.  Wyler admitted after its success that he did make "Miniver" as a propaganda film, to help convince the United States to join in the war.  And it worked.  President Roosevelt had the final speech of the film printed in Time and Look magazines, broadcast over the Voice of America, and printed on leaflets in several different languages and then airdropped over occupied parts of Europe.  Winston Churchill even said one time that "Miniver" did "more for the war effort than a flotilla of destroyers."  After the film was complete, Wyler himself enlisted in the US Army.  He was stationed overseas when he won his Oscar.  You can catch this inspiring film on TCM tomorrow (11/13) at 11pm EST.

The next strong woman is "The Lady Eve" (1941).  This delightful screwball comedy, written and directed by Preston Sturges, stars Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, and Charles Coburn. Stanwyck plays Jean Harrington, a con artist who meets rich but socially inept Fonda on a cruise and falls in love with him.  However, some truth comes out and they part bitterly.  So, in an act of revenge, she pretends to be the English Lady Eve while visiting his family to torture him, causing hilarity along the way.  This film went through many casting changes in the two years it took to get made.  Originally, it was to be a vehicle for Claudette Colbert.  Then it went through Madeleine Carol and Paulette Goddard before Stanwyck ultimately won the role.  As for the male lead, Brian Aherne, Joel McCrea, and Fred MacMurray were all attached before Fonda was cast.  And luckily they did win out because Stanwyck and Fonda are just perfect together.  "The Lady Eve" airs on TCM this Sunday (11/14) at 3:45pm EST.

Finally, yet another Eve for your weekend, though much more vindictive - "All About Eve" from 1950.  This classic drama stars Bette Davis (in one of the best roles of her career), Anne Baxter, George Sanders, and Celeste Holm in a story that's all about what one woman will do to get the career and fame she wants.  Based on a short story by Mary Orr, this was another film that was originally supposed to star Claudette Colbert, as the aging Broadway star Margo Channing, but she injured her back shortly before filming and had to withdraw from the project.  Thus writer and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz cast Davis instead.  As for the ambitious, backstabbing Eve Harrington, Jeanne Crain was first cast in the role, but she also had to leave the project when she became pregnant.  Mankiewicz agreed that it worked out better this way because he didn't feel Crain had the "bitch virtuosity" needed for Eve, whereas Baxter did.  "All About Eve" went on to earn fourteen Oscar nominations, the first film to ever earn so many (and matched by only one other film since, 1997's "Titanic").  It also earned the most actress nominations in Academy history - Best Actress for Davis and Baxter, and Best Supporting Actress for Holm and Thelma Ritter.  It won six out of the fourteen, including Best Picture, but none for the actresses.  All the drama of "All About Eve" can be streamed instantly on Netflix right now.

So enjoy your weekend, everyone!  And if you're in the mood to watch some great female roles, be sure to catch the classic films.  Each is an essential part of your movie diet.  Until Monday.  Later, gators!

(Post-tidbit:  Only a year after finishing "Mrs. Miniver," Greer Garson married Richard Ney, the actor who played her eldest son in the film.  Twelve years her junior, they only remained married for four years.)

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