Monday, December 28, 2015

Directors of Christmas Movies


We watch them every year but aside from Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (and probably Michael Curtiz's White Chirstmas and Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner), you may not notice or recognize the director of your favorite Christmas films. In this post I am going to tell you who directed each of the most famous Christmas films and what other major films they directed. *This is not a complete list of Christmas films, just some of the better known or my personal favorites.

As I already mentioned, Capra and Curtiz need no introduction, but did you know the director of Christmas in Connecticut (1945) was Peter Godfrey? I certainly didn't recognize his name. I looked him up and discovered he was London born and directed two other great Stanwyck films (which I will be looking at for the Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon later this month) The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)and Cry Wolf (1947).

George Seaton directed the much loved Miracle on 34th Street (1947) but did you know he also directed The Country Girl (1954)? He also directed 36 Hours (1964), a James Garner film I discovered this year.

The director of The Bishop's Wife (1947) was Henry Koster, born in Berlin. He directed many well-known films, including The Inspector General (1949), Harvey (1950), and The Robe (1953), to name a few.

Holiday Affair (1949) is one of the lesser known holiday films starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. It was directed by Don Hartman. He only directed five films total, but was the writer of many popular films, including quite a few for Bob Hope.

Remember the Night (1940), another Stanwyck film, was written by Preston Sturges but directed by Mitchell Leisen. His 50 credits include a couple Lombard films, Midnight (1939), and many other romantic comedies.

Bachelor Mother (1939) was directed by Garson Kanin, who directed My Favorite Wife (1940) and who wrote the Tracy/Hepburn films Adam's Rib (1949) and Pat and Mike (1952).

Lastly, Holiday Inn (1942), which introduced perhaps the most popular Christmas song of all time, "White Christmas," was directed by Mark Sandrich, who has 76 credits beginning in 1926 and ending in 1946 (his death). His name will be familiar to all who love the Astaire/Rogers films.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Movie Stars Singing Christmas Carols

Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
And "The Birthday of a King."
Cary Grant "singing" "Christmas Lullaby."
Rosemary Clooney singing "Suzy Snowflake"
Bing Crosby singing "Marshmallow World."
Dean Martin singing "Baby it's Cold Outside."
Frank Sinatra & Nat King Cole singing "The Christmas Song."
Nat King Cole & Danny Kaye singing "Jingle Bells" (White Christmas special features).

Friday, December 18, 2015

Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas: A Book Review

Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas by Alonso Duralde not only lists just about every movie connected with Christmas, but also informs the reader which ones are worth viewing and which ones aren't.

The book is divided into 9 chapters and covers films from the dawn of sound up to the present (published in 2010). There is also an appendix that lists even more films not individually covered, with asterisks by the best ones (as a film in general, not as a Christmas movie). Here are the chapters:

1. With the Kids Jingle-Belling: Christmas Movies for Kids
2. Nestled All Snug in Their Beds: Christmas Movies for Grown Ups
3.  Like a Bowlful of Jelly: Christmas Comedies
4. A Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas: Holiday Tearjerkers
5. Putting the Heist Back in Christmas: Crime and Action Extravaganzas
6. There'll Be Scary Ghost Stories: Holiday Horror
7. Scrooge-a-Palooza: 'A Christmas Carol' on Film
8. The Worst Christmas (Movies) Ever: Lumps of Coal in Your Cinema Stocking
9. Just Like the Ones I Used to Know: Christmas Classics

Each of the films covered in the chapters lists the rating, running time, writers and director, primary actors, and studio along with a brief description and fun facts (did you know that that's the real Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Miracle on 34th Street and that Edmund Gwenn really played Santa for it? Also, in the part with the little Dutch girl, she tells Santa that she doesn't want anything for Christmas as being adopted by her new mother is gift enough). Animated films are also included. After the Appendix is an Index of Names, so that you can easily find a holiday film with your favorite actors, and an Index of Titles.

This is a great resource and would make a great gift for the film buff in your family, whether they like new films or old.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Frank Sinatra & Lauren Bacall: A Rocky Relationship

Today is the 100 birthday of the famous crooner, Frank Sinatra. In honor of this special day, Movie Classics and The Vintage Cameo are hosting the Sinatra Centennial Blogathon. Click here to read all of the other posts on this legendary man.

Known as "The Voice" and "Ol' Blue Eyes," Sinatra is famous for his songs, especially around this time of year, and for his films (From Here to Eternity, Guys and Dolls, The Man with the Golden Arm, High Society, Ocean's 11, Robin and the 7 Hoods). He is also known for his many relationships.

We all know about his turbulant marriages to Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow(!). Married four times total, he also had many affairs during and between marriages. One of his most well know was with friend and fellow Rat Pack member, Lauren Bacall (married to Humphrey Bogart 1945-1957).

Frank Sinatra: His Wives and Lovers in Pictures

Their relationship began in 1957, shortly after Sinatra's divorce from Ava Gardner and Bogie's death. It was doomed from the start, as both were known for their strong personalities.

In her autobiography, Bacall describes the affair as "volcanic" and "combustible."

"I can't remember how it all began - there must have always been a special feeling alive between Frank and me from earlier days. Certainly he was then in his vocal peak, and was wildly attractive, electrifying. And Frank had always carried with him not only an aura of excitement, but the feeling that behind that swinging fa├žade lies a lonely, restless man, one who wants a wife and a home but simultaneously wants freedom and a string of 'broads'."

Frank invited Bacall to a prize fight - the middleweight championship between Sugar Ray Robinson and Gene Fullmer - and when they left "there were photographers waiting and the resulting pictures ended up in newspapers around the world. It was my first public outing in Hollywood - the first time Frank and I were linked, even tentatively, in a romantic way. I remember telling a friend I couldn't understand why the press cared so much. My friend looked at me unbelievingly. 'Don't be a fool - you and Frank can't go anywhere without causing a commotion. Individually you make news, but together it's insane.' The next eight months were to prove him right."

After Bogie's death, Sinatra was the "only unattached man I knew, and I was glad he was around." They soon became a steady pair, acting as host and hostess of each others parties. However, from the beginning there were those who knew it wouldn't last. Franks mood swings  threw Bacall off; she never knew where she stood with him, didn't know how to play the 'love game.'
Always when we entered a room the feeling was: Are they okay tonight? You could almost hear a sigh of relief when we were both smiling and relaxed.

Rejections led to insecurities and when two people are insecure it is not a good thing. "Had he been sure of himself and his own life then, it might have worked. But he wasn't."
On March 11, 1958, Frank met up with Bacall in New York, where she was promoting one of her films. He was contrite for his erratic behavior, saying he had felt trapped but could now face it and asked her to marry him. She said yes and Frank began planning how he wanted the ceremony.
Two days later, while Frank was in Miami on a singing engagement, the announcement was spread across the front page of the papers. Frank blamed Bacall (though later he acknowledged - in a roundabout way that he knew it wasn't her fault) and didn't see her again for six years.
"As I look at it all now, it doesn't seem possible it happened as it did. I see that under no circumstances could it ever have worked. I expected more from him than anyone has any right to expect of another human being - loaded him with more responsibilities. No one could have remained upright in that circumstance. We used one another in some crazy way. Actually, Frank did me a great favor - he saved me from the disaster our marriage would have been."
"Anyway, it turned out to be a tragedy with a happy ending. Now, after a slow start, we are back on some sort of friendly basis. We don't live the same kind of life or think the same kind of thoughts anymore, but I'll always have a special feeling for him - the good times we had were awfully good."

You can read more excerpts from Bacall's autobiography  here.

From Frank's point of view, he too was getting over someone he loved. Bogie had been the love of Bacall's life and Ava of Frank. Sinatra: Behind the Legend by J. Randy Taraborrelli, tells the story from Frank's side.

"He tried to convince himself that he now wanted to be with Lauren Bacall, that Ava Gardner no longer mattered to him. And think of the sweet revenge against Ava that would be exacted if he were to end up married to another exquisite, even younger star, and so soon after their divorce."

"You might as well try to analyze electricity," one writer said when asked why Frank acted the way he did. He simply dropped out of Bacall's life without any explanation.

Frank's mother offered her own explanation (which is insightful in itself as to his relationship with his mother and therefore all women): "The two of them, they're wounded, one worse than the other. They don't need to be together. What kind of marriage is that? It's based on tears: his for Ava, hers for Bogie. And not only that, that woman is going to run his life. And no one runs my son's life. But me."

A few other interesting facts (IMDb):

Briefly lost the ability to sing after his vocal cords hemorrhaged in 1953. When his voice returned it had an extra dimension which many fans believed made his singing better than before.

Although the song Sinatra is most identified with is his hit "My Way", he originally didn't want to record it because he thought the song was "self-serving and indulgent.". His persona became so associated with it however, that he ended every concert with it.

In 1966 he was given a song to record, and after reading it over once, he despised it. The song was "Strangers in the Night", which turned out to be one of his biggest hits. Even after its success, he still hated the song and took every opportunity to deride it.

At his funeral, friends and family members placed items in his coffin that had personal references. These are reported to include ten dimes, several Tootsie Roll candies, a pack of Black Jack chewing gum, a roll of wild cherry Life Savers candy, a ring engraved with the word "Dream", a mini bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey, a pack of Camel cigarettes and a Zippo cigarette lighter.

In 1963 his son, Frank Sinatra Jr., was kidnapped. The kidnappers told Frank Sr. to call them from pay phones. During one call he ran out of coins, and briefly feared that it had cost him his son (the kidnappers gave him another chance). He paid the $250,000 ransom, Frank Jr. was returned, and the kidnappers were eventually caught. However, as a result of the payphone scare, Sinatra swore never to be caught without dimes again, and carried a roll of dimes with him constantly until his death.


Bacall, Lauren. By Myself and Then Some. 2005. Pages 308-324.
Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Sinatra: Behind the Legend. 1997. Pages 206-209.


Bewitched with Classic TV - My New Blog

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have started another blog devoted to classic television - Bewitched with Classic TV. This month I will be looking at all of the outfits worn by Elizabeth Montgomery in season 3 of Bewitched. If you're wondering why I started with season 3, you'll have to "pop in" and visit the blog ;)

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Favorite Brunette (1947)

"You mean DOOM Syndrome is a real thing?"

What film from the golden age of Hollywood do you show to a person who has only seen new movies? What if they say they don't like black and white? How do you get them to see that the oldies are not only good, buy better than the films of today? It is these questions that the Try It, You'll Like It! Blogathon hosted by Sister Celluloid and Movies Silently are answering.

The film I chose is My Favorite Brunette (1947) starring Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney Jr. Why did I choose this film? It has a little bit of something for everyone: likeable characters, an interesting plot, suspense, comedy. There's good guys and bad guys, mysterious people, creepy houses, and a range of locations from the city (San Francisco and Washington D.C.), the shore, and the country.

The film starts in jail. Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) has been arrested for a crime he didn't commit and is telling his story to the newspapers before he heads off to the chair. We then go back in time, to when everything began.

You see, I wanted to be a detective too. It only took brains,
courage, and a gun... and I had the gun.

Jackson is a baby photographer. Next door to his office is a private detective (brief appearance by of Alan Ladd as the detective). Sam McCloud asks Jackson to watch his office for him while he is gone. Just moments after he leaves, and while Jackson is pretending he is a detective, a beautiful woman rushes in (Lamour). She introduces herself as Carlotta Montay. She keeps shushing him and hurriedly whispers part of her story to him before hurrying out in fear. She tells him to meet her at an abandoned mansion, where she is staying (it still exists on Carmel-by-the-Sea's famous 17 Mile Drive). When Jackson arrives there he is immediately thrown into a mystery of deception and intrigue. Unsure of who is on his side and who isn't, he bumbles his way through danger, ending with his arrest for murder. Will he be cleared before the death sentence can be fulfilled? You can read the full plot synopsis here.

I found this movie at Dollar Tree many years ago (it's in the public domain) and it became an instant favorite with me and my brothers. The reason I chose this film is that is has an element of suspense that is present in most modern films. Generally, people who don't like old films say it is because they are slow and boring. My Favorite Brunette is very fast paced and really keeps you on your toes. Plus, you can never go wrong with Bob Hope's zaniness. You can watch the entire film below.

Be sure to read all of the other great posts of must-watch movies here!