Gregory (John Sinclair) is a gangling but amiable Scottish teenager who is mildly befuddled by just about everything, especially Dorothy (Dee Hepburn), who takes his place on the soccer team. In contrast, the girls he knows, including his ten-year-old sister, seem to understand everything (except why boys are so fascinated by numbers) in this sweet, endearing comedy with a great deal of insight and affection for its characters.
Kathryn Forbes’ memoirs of her Norwegian immigrant family are lovingly brought to life in this classic, often found on television on Mother’s Day. Mama is played by the luminous Irene Dunne, far from the sophisticated comedies and glossy romances she appeared in with Cary Grant, Charles Boyer, and Spencer Tracy. She presides over a large extended family with wisdom and good humor, and, in the best possible sense of the term, family values. A daughter’s adored cat who is injured, a roomer who skips out on the rent, a shy sister who wants to marry her timid gentleman friend, a gruff uncle who is not going gently into that good night, another daughter who wants to write—she handles them all so smoothly that it isn’t until the writer daughter sits down to tell her story that they see what she has done for all of them.
This movie provides a good opportunity for a discussion of honesty. Mama bends the rules more than once. She pretends to be a washerwoman at the hospital when she is told that her daughter cannot have visitors. She gently blackmails two of her sisters so that they won’t tease the third about her fiancé. She doesn’t tell Dagmar the truth about her cat. And, she lies to her children about the bank account so that they will feel secure. Yet she has an essential honesty and all of her actions are grounded in her devotion to her family and her strong sense of values, lovingly communicated to her children.
You know the character of the leading lady’s wisecracking best friend? No one ever filled that role better than Eve Arden (real name: Eunice Quedens), whose birthday we celebrate today. Seen-it-all but not cynical, she was the ideal sidekick for stars like Jimmy Stewart (“Anatomy of a Murder”), Katharine Hepburn (“Stage Door”), or Joan Crawford (she was Oscar-nominated for “Mildred Pierce”). On radio and then on television, she played “Our Miss Brooks,” the teacher who often battled with crusty principal Mr. Conklin and a crush on meek science teacher Mr. Boynton. It was this role that inspired her appearance as the principal in “Grease.” (more…)
Two recent films showed the influence of this classic French film about a little boy befriended by a red balloon and now the original is available on DVD for the first time. “CJ7” from China and “The Flight of the Red Balloon” from France (with a Taiwanese director) both make direct visual references to the 1956 short film, the only Oscar-winner for best screenplay without a single line of dialogue.
The Red Balloon is the story of a lonely boy (Pascal Lamorisse, son of writer/director Albert Lamorisse) who finds a large red balloon on the way to school. It has a mind of its own, following him to school like Mary’s little lamb, waiting patiently for him outside his bedroom window when his mother will not allow it in the house. The balloon is an imaginative and playful friend. When it is attacked by bullies, it seems that Pascal’s friend is lost. But an unforgettably joyous ending reminds Pascal of the power of friendship.
Astaire and Rogers: La Belle, La Perfectly Swell Romance
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 8:00 am
They said she gave him sex and he gave her class. In eight heavenly movies from the 1930’s at RKO Studios and then with one more — their only one in color — at MGM, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced and sang in some of the most deliciously entertaining movies ever made. We know right from the beginning that these two are destined to be together. But it usually takes them about 90 minutes to figure it out.
One thing they did better than anyone else before or since was to convey the beginning of a relationship through dance. Watch this number from “Top Hat.” As in most of their films, Astaire is already very attracted to Rogers when this scene begins, but she has no interest in him and finds his attentions annoying. As they begin to dance, she sees who he is for the first time and he learns that they are even more right for each other than he had hoped. In most romantic movies, there is some witty repartee to symbolize the deep connection between the couple. But here, it is all done with music (Irving Berlin’s delightful “Isn’t it a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain?”) and dance.