Fifteen Movie Questions Meme

So much for me posting up a storm here in May!  I can’t believe tomorrow is June 1st.  It’s been a busy couple of months and I’ve hardly watched any movies at all.  Here’s hoping the summer provides me with some quieter moments, so I’ll have more time for watching and writing.  My backlog of unwatched films recorded off TCM is getting ridiculous!

Anyway, several people, including Clara at Via Margutta 51, have done the 15 Movie Questions meme recently, and it looked like fun.  If you’d like to do it yourself, consider yourself tagged.

1.  Movie you love with a passion.

There are a lot of these!  Maybe An Affair to Remember.  I’ve seen it so many times and still think it’s the most romantic movie ever.

Affair to Remember

2.  Movie you vow to never watch.

Never is a very long time, so who knows?  There was a time when I hated Westerns, after all, but now there are quite a few I love.  But I’m definitely averse to horror movies, especially modern day gory ones, so probably those.

3.  Movie that literally left you speechless.

Leave Her to Heaven – the rowboat scene.  (Starts at about 2:20 below.)  I was so stunned and horrified the first time I saw it, and it still leaves me speechless every time.

4.  Movie you always recommend.

The More the Merrier.  To me it’s a perfect romantic comedy, and yet a lot of people outside of the classic movie fandom have never heard of it – or of Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn.

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5.  Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie.

Cary Grant.  I’ll watch anything he’s in at least once!  Obviously I’m not the only one who feels this way, given the recent releases of many of his early ‘30s movies on DVD.

6.  Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for.

John Wayne.

7.  Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet.

Cary Grant.  I’m reading his daughter’s book now (review to come!), and it’s made me adore him even more than I already did.  I’d love to have known him.  I’d also love to have met Audrey Hepburn, the sweetest lady ever, and Montgomery Clift, because he was so sad and I think he could’ve used a hug.  (And some anti-depressants, bless him.)

8.  Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen. (Picture required!)

Gary Cooper, no question.  In his prime he was absolutely the sexiest, most beautiful man ever in the movies.  Tall and lanky, with masculine strength and that sweet, shy demeanor, he could wear bespoke European suits or rugged American cowboy gear with equal elegance.  That pretty face and those bedroom eyes, swoon!

He was basically catnip for women, both on and off screen, and continues to be dreamy even to girls born many years after died.  I think I’d better add him to question #7, above!  I’d love to have met Coop, that’s for sure.  Preferably alone on a deserted tropical island.

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9.  Dream cast.

Cary Grant and Barbara Stanwyck in a romantic comedy.  Why did that never happen?

10.  Favorite actor pairing.

Rock Hudson and Doris Day.  They were so much fun together.

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11.  Favorite movie setting.  

Paris.  So many of my favorite movies take place there:  An American in Paris, Gigi, Sabrina, Funny Face, Charade.  Heck, pretty much every Audrey Hepburn movie is set in Paris!

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12.  Favorite decade for movies.

Probably the ‘30s.

9th May 1934: Myrna Loy (1905 - 1993) and William Powell (1892 - 1984) play sleuthing couple Nick and Nora Charles in 'The Thin Man', directed by W S Van Dyke.

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Mr Deeds Goes to Town

Swing Time

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13.  Chick flick or action movie?

Chick flick.

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14. Hero, villain or anti-hero?

Hero.

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15.  Black and white or color?

Black and white, I suppose, although I wouldn’t want to live without all my beautiful Technicolor movies.

Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman

Author Sam Wasson’s marvelous chronicle of the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’sFifth Avenue, 5 A.M.,  is a very quick and enjoyable read, full of juicy gossip about everyone from Truman Capote to Henry Mancini to Edith Head to George Peppard.  And of course there’s plenty about dear Audrey Hepburn as well.  A few thoughts on the book…

 Truman Capote was such a messed up individual, but then I already knew that even before reading this book. For instance, the marital advice he gave his supposed best friend Babe Paley — that her husband had basically bought her and her marriage was her job, regardless of what a cheating, horrible nightmare Bill Paley was — was awful and completely self-serving. Truman eventually used intimate and humiliating details of the Paley marriage in his unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, a move which cut him off from Babe forever.

I’ve read quite a bit about Capote over the years, and while I sometimes feel sorry for him and am always fascinated by him, I never like him.  Another book I can highly recommend for anyone interested in Capote is Deborah Davis’s entertaining Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball

What I didn’t know before this book was what a self-absorbed, wannabe-Method jackass George Peppard was. Poor Patricia Neal bore the brunt of it during the shooting of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, along with director Blake Edwards.

The book included some new-to-me sad facts about the Audrey Hepburn/Mel Ferrer marriage. Nutshell version: AH – angelic, of course, but also too easily pushed around; MF – a jealous, domineering jerk.  Specific example: Once, at a  dinner party, Audrey unthinkingly put her elbows on the table. From the book:

Mel was seated next to her, and when he saw this, he picked up a fork, slipped its prongs under her elbows, and said — in a voice loud enough for all to hear — “Ladies do not put their elbows on the table.” It was the sort of oppressively awkward moment that can only be met with silence. Audrey was stricken, and the table, mortified. Nothing was said. She simply removed her elbows and put her hands in her lap.

That was hardly the worst thing Mel ever did or said to Audrey, but just reading about it made me seethe. Can you imagine anyone humiliating sweet Audrey like that or telling her how to be a lady? Audrey Hepburn, the most inherently ladylike and delightful woman ever?  Unbelievable.

Other interesting tidbits:

- Breakfast at Tiffany’s originally had a different ending that was actually filmed, but is now lost. Paul and Holly still find the cat and wind up together, but the sun is shining and Holly decides to name the cat “Sam.”

- The wonderful “No matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself” speech Paul gives Holly after she dumps Cat out of the taxi and into the rain was actually written by Blake Edwards, not screenwriter George Axelrod. Edwards also took a lot of liberties when filming the famously funny and zany cocktail party scene. Neither of these things endeared him to Axelrod, even though they (or probably because they) made the movie much better.

- “Moon River” was originally called “Blue River,” and though it went on to be one of the most beloved and recorded songs of all time, a studio executive almost had Audrey’s performance of it cut from the movie.

- Before George Peppard was cast (against the wishes of Blake Edwards, who must’ve known what a pain in the butt he would be), Tony Curtis and Steve McQueen were in the running for the part of Paul Varjak. (V-A-R-J-A-K.) McQueen couldn’t do it because he had another picture obligation, but Curtis really wanted the part. Mel Ferrer made a fuss about not wanting his wife to work with Tony Curtis (see above re: domineering jerk), so that was that. I really can’t imagine Tony Curtis in the part, though. Peppard may have been awful on the set, but he’s Paul to me.  Plus, he was so pretty!

 – Paramount did a big publicity buildup, announcing that they’d cast a famous Japanese comic named Ohayo Arigatou for the part of Mr. Yuniyoshi. They created a whole hoax backstory for this guy, and passed along crazy and in retrospect highly offensive stories about him to the press, which they then reported. It was then revealed that the man they’d been writing about did not exist, and that Mickey Rooney had gotten the part. The whole Rooney as Yuniyoshi debacle is a horribly shameful mark on this otherwise delightful movie.

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is one of those nonfiction books that reads as easily and enjoyably as a novel. Highly recommended!

Hooray for Hollywood

Well, hello there!  It wasn’t my intention to drop off the face of the earth for a month, but April was super busy with work, travel and focusing on other interests (okay, one all-consuming interest, the royal wedding!), and I hardly watched any movies at all.

I did spend several lovely days in Los Angeles with friends, however, and got my classic movie fix by visiting a few historic spots in Hollywood, among them Grauman’s Chinese theater and the Griffith Observatory, where part of Rebel Without a Cause was filmed.

I was surprised by just how thrilled I was visiting Grauman’s Chinese theater, putting my hands in Gary Cooper’s big handprints and swooning over Cary Grant’s cement signature.  It was cheesy and touristy, but also exciting to see footprints and signatures of so many of the stars I love most – Gregory Peck, Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Irene Dunne…so many!  For the record, Gary Cooper’s feet were enormous and John Wayne’s were surprisingly small. 

Another highlight of the trip was visiting  The Hollywood Museum.  I can’t recommend that place highly enough for classic movie buffs!  It’s absolutely jam-packed with great movie memorabilia, mostly from the Golden Age movies and actors we all love so much.

There were costumes worn by stars like Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day, Lana Turner, Lucille Ball, Clara Bow, Judy Garland and others, several cars including Cary Grant’s 1965 Rolls Royce and Jean Harlow’s 1932 Packard, and a vast collection of movie star autographs. Lots and lots of neat things. The Jean Harlow exhibit, commemorating the 100th anniversary of her birth, was especially interesting.

One of Doris Day’s costumes from Love Me or Leave Me
Jean Harlow’s 1932 Packard and a costume from Bombshell

I also had a celebrity spotting moment, when Sean Penn was on my flight into Los Angeles.  He was four rows in front of me on the plane, looking greasy-haired and disheveled, slouched down in the front row with his sock-clad feet up on the wall. It was pretty exciting!

Still, seeing a current actor in person was far less exciting to me than simply touching a piece of cement on which Cary Grant once stood.  Today’s stars just can’t compare to the old time greats.  For one thing, I doubt Cary would have slummed it on Southwest Airlines,  and I know darn well he wouldn’t have put his feet up on the wall!

Speaking of Cary, I recently bought his daughter Jennifer’s new book, Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, which looks absolutely lovely.  I can’t wait to read it.

Hope to see you around here a lot more this month than last!