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My other movie goal for 2014

In addition to the 10 Classics for 2014 challenge I wrote about yesterday, my other movie-related goal for the year is to make a dent in the number of unseen movies in my possession. Ever since I got a DVD recorder about three years ago, I’ve been recording movies and saving them for a rainy day. Between those hundreds of recordings and the DVDs I’ve purchased over the years I have a lot of movies saved up — so many that I have to have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them all.

Of the movies on the sheet I’ve only seen about half, so this year I’m hoping to watch at least a couple of new-to-me films every week, picked at random based simply on what I’m in the mood for. Not a lofty ambition, but a fun one.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve watched so far in 2014. No doubt my viewing will slow down as the year goes on, but I’m off to a strong start. Cold, wintry weather makes for good movie watching , after all! So far everything I’ve seen has been very enjoyable and worth recommending. None have been great classics, but all are quality movies that made for fun viewing.

william-holden-jeanne-crain-edmund-gwenn-apartment-for-peggyApartment for Peggy (1948) is a sweet, funny film starring Jeanne Crain, William Holden, and Edmund Gwenn. Crain and Holden are a young married couple. He’s going to college on the GI Bill, and they can’t find anyplace to live because of the post-war housing shortage. Gwenn is a retired, widowed philosophy professor whose son died in the war. He feels his life has no meaning anymore and plans to commit suicide, until Crain talks her way into renting his attic as an apartment for her and her husband. (And their cat, and the dog she brings home one day, and their soon-to-be-born baby…)

The young couple, especially the sweet but slightly kooky girl, upsets the old man’s household and his plans to kill himself in lots of amusing and touching ways, giving him a reason to live as he grows to love them and to get interested in life again through all their ups and downs. A lovely little film. Edmund Gwenn (who played Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street) is good at playing loveable old men.

I watched this movie on a Fox MOD DVD, and I have to say the quality of the picture and sound was atrocious! This movie deserves better treatment than it got from Fox. Warner Archive does a much better job at releasing films. Honestly, just watch it on YouTube rather than buying the DVD. The quality couldn’t be any worse there than it was on the  disc.

Orchestra Wives (1942) is one of the two movies in which the Glenn Miller Orchestra was featured, the other being Sun Valley Serenade, which I was very happy to finally be able to watch during my Christmas vacation thanks to TCM. The plot — starstruck, innocent girl marries trumpet player she just met and is drawn into life on the road with other orchestra wives — is pretty simple, but the wives’ cattiness is amusing in a The Women-lite kind of way. As with Sun Valley Serenade, however, the real point of the movie is Glenn Miller’s music, which is simply wonderful.

First Love (1939) is a modern (well, 1939 modern) retelling of the Cinderella story, starring Deanna Durbin. This is the second Durbin movie I’ve seen (the other was 1941′s It Started With Eve) and I’ve enjoyed them both. Durbin’s musical style is probably hard for people today to appreciate, I don’t know, but I think she’s lovely. Her acting is so natural. She has great comic timing and can also break your heart. Plus her singing is gorgeous. This movie co-starred a very young Robert Stack in what I think was his first movie role.

I bought myself several Deanna Durbin movies with Christmas gift money after watching It Started With Eve on TCM, so I’m sure more of her stuff will be coming up for me in the weeks ahead.  It’s so fun discovering a new star to love!

Double Harness (1933) stars William Powell as a playboy who has no interest in either work or marriage, and Ann Harding as a woman who sees marriage as a business and sets out William Powell - by George Hurrell 1935to catch him and make him into the successful man she believes he can be. I completely loved this one. It’s a sophisticated look at relationships, and Powell and Harding have great chemistry. I’m starting to think Powell had great chemistry with all women, though!

Pre-Code movies never stop surprising me with how forthright they are about so many things. They’re still tame by today’s standards, of course, but compared to movies from the years after the Code began being strictly enforced they’re shockingly open. For instance Powell and Harding start sleeping together after just a few dates, and there are no punches pulled about this fact. Nothing like that would’ve happened in a movie just a few years later.

Vivacious Lady (1938) had been on my to-watch list for ages, and I don’t know why I waited so long to see it because it’s really good. Jimmy viv ladyStewart plays a quiet, reserved botany professor from a small college town who falls in love at first sight with a spunky nightclub performer, played by Ginger Rogers. They marry after a whirlwind one-day courtship, then head to his hometown to introduce her to his stuffy father, the college president.

Once back home, Stewart can’t seem to find the right moment or the necessary backbone to tell his father he’s married to a blonde singer he met a few days before. Lots of silliness ensues.

Charles Coburn plays Stewart’s father and Beulah Bondi plays his mother. Those two alone make pretty much anything worth watching, and they’re as good as always in this.

In The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936), William Powell plays a medical doctor and Jean Arthur plays his murder mystery author ex-wife. They’re still obviously in love in spite of being divorced, and when they get caught up in a real life murder when a jockey falls off his horse and dies under mysterious circumstances, there’s lots of mystery and even more witty banter.

This movie struck me as a wannabe Thin Man film. It isn’t on a par with that series, but it’s still lots of fun. Jean Arthur is one of my favorite actresses, and of course William Powell is always perfect. The wry wit combined with silliness, the jaunty walk, the mustache, the dimples…sigh. I’m feeling very smitten with him lately, the way my girlfriends are feeling about their Cumberbatches or whoever. Granted, my crush was born 122 years ago this year, but that doesn’t make my love any less real. ;-)

7 thoughts on “My other movie goal for 2014

  1. MC, wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your post, for many reasons. Like you, I’m trying to make more of a dent in the movies I have on hand! This sounds so very familiar, LOL.

    And like you, I track them in Excel — my dad and I actually keep a joint inventory, with a page for each of us, and we send it back and forth as we update it. We use it to track lending each other movies, too.

    The first three titles you wrote about were all favorites of mine and I’m so glad you enjoyed them and wrote about them! It’s a shame the release of APARTMENT FOR PEGGY was so poor. As my dad (who also enjoyed your post) pointed out, Fox certainly knows how to do DVD releases right when they want to, so it’s a shame they’re not bothering with these Archives releases. I have a Fox Movie Channel recording and I guess I’ll just keep rewatching that if they don’t do a better release!

    I love ORCHESTRA WIVES. So much great music. My favorite scene is “At Last” but there are so many great moments. SUN VALLEY SERENADE is another favorite. These are true “feel good” films.

    And FIRST LOVE! I think that was my first Deanna film. I’m so glad you will have the experience of discovering her! In addition to IT STARTED WITH EVE, my favorite Deanna films include HIS BUTLER’S SISTER (frustratingly only on DVD in the UK — I bought it from Amazon on VHS!), LADY ON A TRAIN, THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY, and CAN’T HELP SINGING. There are only three Deanna movies still ahead of me to watch for the first time. It may sound crazy but I’ve been delaying as I’ll be sad when I run out of “new” Durbin titles! Though I’ve already rewatched some of them two and three times. LOL. She was truly a unique screen persona, not quite like anyone else ever. Enjoy! I hope you’ll share more of your thoughts as you continue to explore her movies.

    I haven’t seen THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD in eons. After reading your post I want to get it out for a rewatch. STAR OF MIDNIGHT, too… Sometimes it’s hard to progress on seeing those new-to-me titles because I want to watch movies I’ve already seen! :)

    Have a great weekend!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    • Hi Laura! I really couldn’t keep track of my movies without the spreadsheet. When I first started it about 3 years ago, I probably had 250-300 movies. Now, thanks to recording a ton of things with my DVD recorder I have over 900, and my collection continues to grow. Crazy! It’s nice to have so many movies to choose from, though.

      I remember you recommending APARTMENT FOR PEGGY at some point, which is why I wanted to see it. It’s a wonderful movie – I really enjoyed it, in spite of the lousy Fox MOD DVD. Honestly though, the quality was bad. I had to adjust the brightness settings on my TV for some scenes that were really dark, there were strange horizontal lines on the picture the whole time, like there used to be on bad VHS recordings, and the sound had sort of a hiss in the background. It’s too bad Fox doesn’t take the care with their MOD selections that Warner Archive does with theirs.

      ORCHESTRA WIVES is such a cute movie. I got a kick out of realizing that the blonde girl singer who sang “People Like You and Me” and “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo,” and who reminded me so much of Betty Hutton, was her sister Marion!

      I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Deanna Durbin in IT STARTED WITH EVE. I guess I’d expected someone sugary sweet in a movie that was all fluff, but it wasn’t that at all. In fact I was pretty instantly smitten with how smart, sassy, funny, and touching her performance was and with how well-written the movie itself was. FIRST LOVE was wonderful, too. I bought the Sweetheart Pack that contains THREE SMART GIRLS, SOMETHING IN THE WIND, FIRST LOVE, IT STARTED WITH EVE, CAN’T HELP SINGING, and LADY ON A TRAIN as well as a few TCM releases — THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP, FOR THE LOVE OF MARY, and BECAUSE OF HIM. I can’t wait to see more of her films. I can understand why you’d want to hold back on a few and still have them to look forward to!

      I hope you get a chance to see THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD again sometime. It’s a fun movie. I haven’t seen STAR OF MIDNIGHT yet, myself, but it’s on my to-watch list during my current infatuation with all things William Powell. :-)

      Thanks so much for the nice comments, Laura!

      - Melissa

      • Hi again Melissa! Fun to hear more of your thoughts on all of the above. You’re right, Deanna Durbin is not quite what one expects! Her persona is really unusual — serene and confident yet also very funny. She was obviously a very smart woman and that comes through on screen. She can also be a real pill in some of her films, but you love her anyway just because she’s Deanna. You have some terrific viewing ahead of you. (There’s a catchy song in SOMETHING IN THE WIND I couldn’t get out of my head for days, LOL.) Some of Deanna’s best films, like IT STARTED WITH EVE and FIRST LOVE, are really well-written comedies which just happen to have music. LADY ON A TRAIN is a really unique one — comedy, music, and Nancy Drew-ish noir all rolled up in one package, plus it’s set at Christmas!

        That PEGGY DVD sounds ghastly! I didn’t order it immediately after having heard some iffy things about it, and after reading your additional comments I’m really glad I didn’t spend the money on it. That’s just a shame.

        Looking forward to hearing more about your future viewing adventures. :)

        Best wishes,
        Laura

  2. I need to do this with my movie book library! I just put all my titles in a spreadsheet and realized I hadn’t read half of them. First Love is such a charming movie. I thought it had a pretty sharp script, not as sugary as you’d expect.

    • It’s helpful to keep a spreadsheet when you have a big collection. I was really surprised when I went through my sheet and highlighted all the unseen movies. There were way more of them than I’d anticipated. It makes for a fun goal, trying to move some of those films over to the “watched” category. :)

      “First Love” was so enjoyable. I watched another Deanna Durbin movie, “Because of Him,” this weekend. I hope to write about it here soon.

      Thanks for stopping by, KC!

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