As promised, here is my first list of my top ten in each movie genre: musicals, westerns, dramas, comedies (screwball/romantic & regular comedies), comedy-drama, horror/ghost/sci-fi, suspense/mystery, biographical, and Disney.
This list will focus on musicals. First of all, what is a musical? According to the definition on Wikipedia, a musical is:
... a film genre in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing.
Throughout Hollywood History, the musical has evolved. A musical from the 1930s is not going to be the same as a musical from the 1950s. Over the decades, there have been Operetta's, Horse Operas (that's a Western that's also a musical), the Busby Berkley musicals, biopics about musicians and showmen, Historical costume epics, fantasies, musicals adapted from Broadway productions, rock & roll musicals, beach party musicals... the list goes on.
Now I'm not a huge musicals person (surprising since I love music, sing, and play both the piano and the ukulele). But I've never been a huge fan of the musicals that typically come to mind when someone says the word "musicals," so you will not be finding such classics as Singing in the Rain and Oklahoma! on here.
In picking my films, I did decide on a certain criteria, aside from merely liking it. It had to be a movie that I enjoyed the songs as much as the storyline (aka I actually know most if not all of the songs by heart) and if I looked for it at the library I would find it in the musicals section. So with those two things in mind, here is my list:
That wonderful one, two, three, four-legged friend.
Trigger - the most famous and talented horse in the movies. Only, that isn't Trigger in the film Son of Paleface (1952). It's Little Trigger.
Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Little Trigger, & Roy Rogers
That's right. Apparently the original Trigger, the one who made his film debut as Maid Marion's horse in The Adventure's of Robin Hood (1938) before being adopted by Roy Rogers, had by the 1950s retired from films.
Little Trigger, a Morgan, was smaller than Trigger and a lighter honey color. He was exceptionally smart and learned cues for over 100 tricks. He was also a good dancer, as can be seen in the video at the top of the post. He was also housebroken, meaning he could accompany Roy Rogers on visits to children's hospitals.
Little Trigger's performance in Son of Paleface is amazing to watch. He does all kinds of tricks - untying knots, running up stairs, and even is able to steal a scene from Bob Hope. In the scene, Bob and Trigger are sharing a bed. Trigger keeps stealing the covers from off of Bob. Unfortunately it's not of YouTube.
Trigger turns comedian and is by all odds the handsomest as well as the funniest performer in the film.
~ Film Critic Catherine Edwards
Trigger even won the Patsy Award (an award like an Oscar from the American Humane Association) for his role.
Skippy, a wire-haired terrier, was born in 1931/1932 and enjoyed an illustrious Hollywood career until his retirement in 1941. One of the smartest dogs in Hollywood, enjoying a salary of $125 a week compared to $3.50 a day of other canine actors, Skippy began training at 3 months old. Soon he was able to respond to both verbal and hand cues.
His first film launched him to stardom, almost equal to that of his co-stars who had been in pictures for many years. It was The Thin Man (1934) and Skippy played the world's bravest (ok, not really) detective's dog, Asta. He often follows Nick (William Powell) on his investigations, covers his face with his paw when Nick and Nora kiss, run off with valuable clues, and hide under the furniture when he is scared. He is also a family man (with a not so faithful "wife"). After the success of the film, everyone wanted a wire-haired terrier.
Skippy was then cast in small roles in four films in the year 1935 (The Big Broadcast of 1936, Lottery Lover, It's a Small World, and The Daring Young Man) and the following year reprised his role as Asta in After the Thin Man (1936).
Skippy's two other big roles included his role as Mr. Smith in The Awful Truth (1937) starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne and as George in Bringing Up Baby (1938) starring Grant and Katharine Hepburn.
The Awful Truth
"Singing" with Grant
As George, running off with Grant's intercostal clavical.
An article about Skippy, titled "A Dog's Life in Hollywood," appeared in the August 1938 issue of The American Magazine:
Movie actresses stroke Skippy lovingly. They coo at him and murmur endearing terms in his ears. He takes it all in his stride, because, what with contracts, options, and exacting work before the movie cameras, he hasn't much time for the attentions of Hollywood's most beautiful stars. But if he's paid for it and given the proper cue he will snuggle in the arms of the loveliest of stars, gaze into her limpid eyes, and, if necessary—howl.
Skippy, a smart little wire-haired terrier, is one of the leading stars in pictures. He leads a glamorous life—a dog's life de luxe. He is rated as one of the smartest dogs in the world, and when contracts are signed for his appearance in a picture he gets $200 a week for putting his paw-print on the dotted line. His trainer gets a mere $60.
His owner is Mrs. Gale Henry East, once a prominent movie comedienne. ... "When Skippy has to drink water in a scene, the first time he does it he really drinks. If there are retakes and he's had all the water he can drink, he'll go through the scene just as enthusiastically as though his throat were parched, but he'll fake it. If you watch closely you'll see he's just going through the motions of lapping and isn't really picking up water at all. And, because he has a sense of humor, he loves it when you laugh and tell him you've caught him faking but that it's all right with you.
"Treat a dog kindly and he'll do anything in the world for you."
My all time favorite dance out of every movie that has been made - including the countless ones I haven't even seen yet - is and always will be The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing from the classic holiday film White Christmas (1954).
White Christmas is a holiday favorite in my house. My family has watched it every year at Christmas time for as long as I can remember. Vera-Ellen instantly became my idol and I wished I could look like her, dance like her, and sing like her (I discovered that unfortunately it's not Vera-Ellen doing the singing... sigh). For several years Judy was my favorite name (I was also a big Judy Garland fan).
I'm going to presume that everyone has seen this not-to-be-missed film and get right to the point: Vera-Ellen's dancing. Let's take each routine individually:
Her first "dance," Sisters, Sisters, also where Phil and Bob first lay eyes on the Hanes Sisters (who incidentally have brown and DEEP blue eyes), isn't much of a dance. However, it's a great song and she and Betty (Rosemary Clooney) have awesome dresses (one day I WILL have a replica made):
The next dance is The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing, also known as the song where Phil and Judy get "carried away." It has a lot of great things going for it. Amazing dress - check! Partner with two left feet and matching gray shoes - check! Amazing song - check! Great dancing area - check!
I was always trying to twirl and get my skirt to land this way. It never worked :(
Pole dancing. The CLASSY way.
I love the part on top of the boat!!!
What is this, The best two out of three?
I could go crazy and basically put up the whole dance in gifs but
hopefully you'll just watch the video. On repeat.
After that, the foursome are off to Vermont (it must be wonderful this time of year, all that underwear) where they put on a huge show to bring business to the inn (owned by the fella's former general). The first number we see is Mandy. It's a truly colossal number with an unforgettable entrance, background girls wearing strips of red sequins held together with fabric you can't see (courtesy of Edith Head), men in green suits and red gloves, and Judy in a fabulous outfit with a detachable skirt.
(Sorry the video zooms in and out a little weird a couple times. It was the only one on YouTube)
It is in this number you really see Vera-Ellen's talent. Just watching some of those moves makes me wince and think, how is that possible? My favorite parts: "Mandy, what a gal!" and Judy's wink to the camera ;) Not to mention Phil doing this:
Haha I never noticed Bing :)
In Choreography, we get to see Judy do some amazing tapping while dressed in hot pink. Growing up we watch the old recorded VHS (complete with old commercials!) on the square TV and it was just blurry enough that when Judy's feet come down and she starts tapping, we couldn't see her foot moving - that's how small and controlled her tap was! So when we FINALLY got it on DVD we could at last see it! Also, it was this song that made us dislike Judy's dancing partner. How dare he try to steal her from Phil!!
Judy's entrance is at 1:38.
Out of all the performances, Abraham is the only one that isn't shown in it's final form. Mandy and Choreography are full dress rehearsals and the other two numbers we see, Gee, I Wish I was Back in the Army, and White Christmas, are shown in the actual show. I wonder how it would have looked and if the filmmakers thought about showing it as a "finished" version. Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way. Judy's yellow dress and heels as well as her bouncy hair match perfectly the energetic rhythm of the song.
If you've seen Holiday Inn (1942) - on DVD - then you will recognize the tune, although this is a sped up version without lyrics. In Holiday Inn it was a blackface routine and the lyrics are all about Abraham freeing the slaves. Understandably, it is cut out when shown on television nowadays. It's been a good many years since I've seen it (I wasn't much on Astaire in that film) and I've seen it only once so I didn't even remember it. I just remember thinking I liked the White Christmas version MUCH better.
When White Christmas showed in select theaters a couple Christmas's ago, my whole family went. It was amazing how much detail we could see!
The 1960s was a time of social upheaval: Rock n' Roll, Beatlemania, mini skirts, the sexual revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of two Kennedy's and Dr. Martin Luther King, riots, the space race, the list goes on. Old values were being tossed aside and a frenzied atmosphere took over.
In Hollywood too, the old movie stars, products of the studio system, were dying and retiring, and new young stars were taking their place. Movies became even more frank on certain issues. Foreign films and TV Movies became more prominent. A "New Hollywood" came into existence.
Just by looking at the films on my list, I can see a marked difference. About half of the movies I chose for my top ten are appropriate for family viewing. The rest are for a more mature audience (not to say they are "bad," just not appropriate for kids). That being said, as seems to be the trend in my lists, they are mostly comedies with a little drama and suspense mixed in.
1. The Bellboy (1960) - Jerry Lewis
2. The Hustler (1961) - Paul Newman & Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason
3. The Pink Panther (1963) - Peter Sellers, David Niven, Capucine, Robert Wagner
4. Sunday in New York (1963) - Jane Fonda & Rod Taylor, Cliff Robertson
5. Donovan's Reef (1963) - John Wayne, Lee Marvin
6. Lilies of the Field (1963) - Sidney Poitier
7. Cat Ballou (1965) - Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, Michael Callan
8. The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1965) - Rex Harrison, George C. Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Ingrid Bergman, Omar Shariff
9. That Darn Cat! (1965) - Haley Mills, Dean Jones
10. Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) - James Garner
Honorable Mentions: The Gazebo (1960), Psycho (1960), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), The War Lover (1962), McLintock (1963), 36 Hours (1963), My Fair Lady (1964), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), Help! The Beatles (1965), The Sound of Music (1965).
Tomorrow, my 1970s through the Present Top Ten Lists!
If you thought the 30s and 40s were a time of change in Hollywood, the 1950s was off the charts. With the accessibility of Television, many people were not going out to the movies, but instead, staying home and watching family sitcoms and game shows. When the Supreme Court outlawed block booking (selling groups of five or more films combining A pictures with cheaper B pictures) in 1948, the system began to crumble. Television hastened that end.
In order to lure movie-goers back to the theaters, studios decided it was time to make movies bigger and better. This was the decade of the Epic, the Technicolor Musical, 3-D, CinemaScope, Cinerama, VistaVision. With it came the loosening of the Hays Code, allowing topics back into movies that hadn't been allowed on the screen for two decades. Up popped the Rebel and a host of teen idols.
This list not only has three of my original Five Movies on an Island List, but it is also where my "romantic/girlish pleasure" side comes out. I mean, realistically, how many "Top Ten" lists have Gidget (1959) on them? Not to mention that four of the films have John Wayne in them!
1. Rio Grande (1950) - John Wayne & Maureen O'Hara
2. The Quiet Man (1952) - John Wayne & Maureen O'Hara
3. Roman Holiday (1953) - Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert
4. White Christmas (1954) - Bing Crosby & Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye & Vera-Ellen
5. Mister Roberts (1955) - Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, William Powell, James Cagney
6. We're No Angels (1955) - Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Aldo Ray
9. Gidget (1959) - Sandra Dee & James Darren, Cliff Robertson
10. Rio Bravo (1959) - John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan
Honorable Mentions: Sunset Boulevard (1950), Strangers on a Train (1951), Son of Paleface (1952), The Robe (1953), Sabrina (1954), Until They Sail (1957), The Defiant Ones (1958), Pillow Talk (1959), Who Was That Lady? (1959).
The 1940s - when the Movies went to war. Now, not only did the movies have to entertain, they had to show support of the war and boost morale. During this time, the OWI (Office of War Information) asked all filmmakers to consider these seven questions when making a movie:
Will this picture help win the war?
What war information problem does it seek to clarify, dramatize or interpret?
If it is and "escape" picture, will it harm the war effort by creating a false picture of America, her allies, or the world we live in?
Does it merely use the war as the basis for a profitable picture, contributing nothing of real significance to the war effort and possibly lessening the effect of other pictures of more importance?
Does it contribute something new to our understanding of our world conflict and the various forces involved, or has the subject already been adequately covered?
When the picture reaches its maximum circulation on the screen, will it reflect the conditions as they are and fill a need current at that time, or will it be out-dated?
Does the picture tell the truth or will the young people of today have reason to say they were misled by propaganda?
Hollywood rose to the challenge, churning out war picture after war picture. Mrs. Miniver (1942) portrayed ultimate patriotism. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) showed the challenges of returning Veterans. John Wayne won every battle conceivable against the enemy. Many big name stars even served.
Birthday boy James Stewart retired from the army as a two star Major General.
Even Roosevelt approved of the way Hollywood was doing their part. An aide to the President, Lowell Mellett, said "Practically everything being shown on the screen from newsreel to fiction that touches on our national purpose is of the right sort" (Hollywood Goes to War, Roy Hoopes).
The 1940s is the decade with the most films on my list. This one was particularly agonizing to whittle down to a mere ten (as you can see from all of the Honorable Mentions). Also, half of them ended up being Christmas movies (both #4 & 6 are set at Christmas are have a scene at Christmas time). There's also not a lot of war films reflected here. As you an see, I usually err on the side of comedy. What can I say? I love to laugh!
1. Meet John Doe (1941) - Gary Cooper & Barbara Stanwyck
2. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) - Robert Montgomery & Carole Lombard
3. To Be or Not To Be (1941/42) - Jack Benny & Carole Lombard
Honorable Mentions: Rebecca (1940), Remember the Night (1940), Third Finger, Left Hand (1940), The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941), The Lady Eve (1941), Random Harvest (1942), Now, Voyager (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), A Stolen Life (1946), Magic Town (1947), Life with Father (1947), Portrait of Jennie (1948), It's a Great Feeling (1949), Ma and Pa Kettle (1949).
The 1930s were a time of constant change in Hollywood as the movies made the transition to sound and had to find their feet all over again. Some stars were able to make the switch smoothly, many were not. It was a time where it had to be decided what could and could not be shown, of how far was too far. With the institution of the Hays Code came the birth of the Screwball comedy and with it a new kind of zaniness, perfect for coping with the Great Depression. Animation as we know it today took it's first big step with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney's first feature length animated picture. Then came 1939, the crème de la crème of motion pictures, with it's classics like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Stagecoach.
The main question is, how can I choose a mere ten films from such a diverse and amazing decade? I have 95 titles from that decade on my movie list. That means I can't choose 85 of them. Yet choose I must. As in any film list, many were left off, but here are the ones I truly could not live without:
1. The Thin Man (1934) - William Powell & Myrna Loy
2. It Happened One Night (1934) - Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert
4. Libeled Lady (1936) - William Powell & Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy & Jean Harlow
5. Double Wedding (1937) - William Powell & Myrna Loy
6. Bringing Up Baby (1938) - Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant
7. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland
8. Bachelor Mother (1939) - Ginger Rogers & David Niven, Charles Coburn
9. The Wizard of Oz (1939) - Judy Garland
10. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) - James Stewart & Jean Arthur
Honorable Mentions (aka didn't quite make it): Forsaking All Others (1934), Curly Top (1935), The Whole Town's Talking (1935), My Man Godfrey (1936), True Confession (1937), You Can't Take it With You (1938), Four Daughters (1938), Daughters Courageous (1939), and In Name Only (1939).
1. High Sierra (1941) - Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, Joan Leslie
2. The Maltese Falcon (1941) - Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre
3. Laura (1944) - Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb
4. Nobody Lives Forever (1944/46) - John Garfield, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Walter Brennan
5. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) - John Garfield, Lana Turner
Now that list was pretty easy because I haven't seen all that many film Noirs - the most was during the free TCM Noir online class last year.
But what about a top five from each decade? That could be a little more challenging. Top five of each genre: comedy, drama, musical, western - some easier than others. Top five of my favorite actors?
So here goes. I'll start first with top five top ten (sorry, five is just TOO hard) for each decade (in chronological order). Tomorrow I'll kick off with my top ten films from the 1930s (I've only seen two and a half movies from the 1920s so...).
Last year Rick of Classic Film and TV Café instituted the First Annual Classic Movie Day, which takes place on May 16. He hosted the My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon in which I wrote about one of my favorite films, Libeled Lady (1936). This year the theme is Five Movies on an Island. That's right. Just FIVE. The object is to write about the "five classic movies you would want to have with you if stranded on a deserted island. (Yes, you can assume you have electricity, a projector, big screen, and popcorn!) These might be your all-time five favorite movies. Or, you might mix in some 'comfort films' to give your tropical habitat that desired homey feel.' " The only thing I would want to change in this scenario is the popcorn - not a fan. I'll have chocolate please (or if it HAS to be popcorn at least let it be Fiddle Faddle).
I Dream of Jeannie
As any movie fan knows, choosing just a certain number of favorite films is both agonizing and fun. Agonizing because there's so many you want to choose (not counting that it depends on your mood) and fun because... well it's just fun that's all!
When making such a momentous decision such as choosing five movies to watch for who know's how long (remember how long it took to get off Gilligan's Island??), one must have some sort of criteria. Here is what I have come up with:
1. The films must leave you with a "feel-good" feeling, you certainly don't want to be sad or scared on you're island!
2. They must be films that stand up to the test of time - you can watch them again and again.
3. It would be good to have happy memories associated with the film, such as the annual family Christmas movie.
4. It should be long - why waste a choice on a film that only lasts 80 minutes!
5. At least one should have some great songs in it.
Notice I did not say it should have helpful hints on how to survive. The Swiss Family Robinson is ok, but not anywhere near the top of my list of favorites!
Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. (1966)
Now that I have my criteria, here are my five films in order of release date (pre-1970s):
The Thin Man (1934)
William Powell & Myrna Loy
Because I HAVE to have at least one Powell/Loy movie! The mystery may not be all that exciting, but their on-screen chemistry is! Need proof? Click here!
Ever since I discovered Powell a couple years ago, I have been hooked. That man is an amazing and often overlooked actor. I have seen almost all of his "talkies" and I can honestly say he's great in all of them. The Thin Man is the film that boosted his career and made him a top box-office draw as a romantic leading man (this to a man who had played mostly villains in his silent career). This film also made Powell and Loy every movie fan's favorite couple and put the fun back in marriage. I could quote the series all day and look at gifs for hours. I adore these two together.
~ ~ ~
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant
This movie is just flat-out, laugh out loud, funny. Hepburn's fast-talking may take a couple viewings to get used to but once you've got it, it just gets better and better. Practically every line is "quote" worthy and THAT HOUSE is to die for. And since on an island I'd most likely be living in a hut I need a house I can dream about.
My absolute favorite line in this movie is when Susan (Hepburn) and David (Grant) are out in the woods looking for Baby (the leopard) when they suddenly fall down, breaking David's glasses and Susan's heel to her shoe. In a completely ad-libbed looking moment, Susan begins walking around and says laughing in that funny laugh of hers, "I was born on the side of a hill." I. Love. That. Line. Luckily it's on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
~ ~ ~
Rio Grande (1950)
John Wayne & Maureen O'Hara
I have always loved John Wayne. I have never known a time without John Wayne. It is therefore no surprise that a John Wayne film should show up on this list. In fact, I could easily choose ALL John Wayne films for this list and be very happy on my island. But I limited it to one (if you were wondering, my other four would be Donovan's Reef, The Quiet Man, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and The Searchers).
Reasons I love this particular John Wayne movie the most:
It has a fantastic cast: Maureen O'Hara, Victor McLaglen, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., and a host of other familiar "Ford" faces.
It has a great soundtrack (yes we have the cd): the soft, heart-stirring instrumentals, the beautiful theme of "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen" running throughout, and the melodious harmony of the Sons of the Pioneers (watch above).
It has some of the best on-screen chemistry in the entire history of film: John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara... need I say more? The Duke really knew how to kiss a woman so that she'd never forget it and if you all alone on that island, well... you need something to never forget either.
Lastly, everything else! The directing by John Ford, the majestic vista's of Monument Valley, the action, suspense, romance... how could it NOT be on my list??
Just LOOK AT HIM!!!
~ ~ ~
Roman Holiday (1953)
Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck
Roman Holiday is the most beautiful romantic comedy of all time. Not only is it pretty much everyone's introduction to the magic of the bewitching Audrey Hepburn, but it's filmed in the Eternal City itself. Upon finishing it I always want to start it over and watch it again.
Both Hepburn and Peck are perfect in their roles of European Princess and American newspaper man. And I love Eddie Albert as Irving, the photographer. He brings the perfect amount of humor to the film. And of course I HAVE to mention the award-winning costumes by Edith Head. One day I WILL go to Rome and I WILL be wearing an outfit like Hepburn's as I go on my own "Roman Holiday" (I would say I WILL eat gelato on the Spanish Steps but I don't want to be arrested - I don't think I could get out of it like Hepburn and Peck did).
And yes, I'm so obsessed with this movie that I MADE MY OWN TRAVEL BROCHURE tracing all the locations they visited IN ORDER.
~ ~ ~
White Christmas (1954)
Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, & Vera-Ellen
I have watched White Christmas with my family every year for as long as I can remember. I know all the words to almost all the song (Mom always fast-forwarded "Mandy"). I would say more about this amazing film but I'm writing about it next week for the Gotta Dance! Blogathon. I will say that, for me, this movie embodies Christmas and because we only watch it at Christmas, we look forward to it all year long (it's really unbearable around July - one is always ready for Christmas in the heat of the summer).
Two more things that are a PLUS in this movie: VistaVision & Technicolor :)
To satisfy you until next week.
There are so many more I could choose, but these are tried and true favorites that I will NEVER tire of. My last word to you is, go, watch as many of your favorite movies as you want and be thankful that you will never have to actually make this decision!
In case you were wondering what my post-1970s list would look like, and you probably weren't: Rocky (1976)...... Moonstruck (1987)............. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)...................... You've Got Mail (1998) and................................ Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) - man was that agonizing!!!
UPDATE: Let's hope that if this ever DOES happen, it's on the TCM Cruise and then we can watch each others movies!!!
Eyes in the Night (1942) is definitely a 'B' film ( film made with lesser known stars and on a smaller budget). It stars Edward Arnold, famous for playing seemingly nice but really evil businessmen concerned only with furthering their careers (think Frank Capra's classic, Meet John Doe). Ann Harding is the leading lady and Donna Reed, who is at the beginning of her career, plays a supporting role as Harding's difficult (aka b*tchy) stepdaughter.
However, just because this is a 'B' film doesn't mean it isn't well made and interesting. Because it is! There's murder, Nazi's, and a smart seeing-eye dog (Friday). Directed by Fred Zinnemann, Eyes in the Night tells the story of a detective who is blind but who doesn't let that stop him from solving crimes. Since you can watch the film in it's entirety below, I won't go into a full synopsis. If you really want to read one, you can read TCM's synopsis here, as well as this TCM Article. The film was followed with a sequel in 1945 titled The Hidden Eye with Arnold reprising his role (watch the trailer here).
This title is in the Public Domain, hence the poor quality.
This film presents the disability of blindness, not as a hindrance or an unacceptable thing, but as an asset. Arnold, because he is blind, is not seen as a threat and therefore not taken seriously, which he is able to use to his advantage. While a blind person could not see this film, it certainly would help to know that there are some things they can do or get away with that a person who CAN see cannot do. It can also help those who live with a blind person realize that they are still the same and that being blind does not mean the person is instantly mentally disabled.
*I don't know anyone who is blind intimately so if anything I said is offending or incorrect, please let me know.
Bette Davis is an icon of Golden Hollywood, the actress that young girls interested in the performing arts aspired to be. She appeared in classic film after classic film and stole each scene she was in. And those Bette Davis Eyes.. well, that's another post.
Even the biggest stars, however, can have their slumps, and in the late 1940s Bette was having hers. That all changed when she was cast as declining star, Margo Channing, in the instant classic All About Eve (1950).
The costumes for the film, except for Channing's wardrobe, had already been designed by Fox's Charles LeMaire. Edith Head, who was friends with Davis, greatly wanted to do the job, and as LeMaire was already working on several other films, he helped arrange it (very nice and unselfish of him, if you ask me!).
The cocktail dress was all the rage at the time, and so of course Margo Channing had to have one. However, the finished result, the brown, off-the-shoulder dress that we know so well was actually an accident. In Edith's words (Edith Head's Hollywood):
My original sketch had a square neckline and a tight bodice. I had extremely high hopes for this dress because the fabric, a brown gros de Londres (a heavy silk) photographs magnificently in black and white, and it was trimmed in rich brown sable.
Because we were working on such a tight deadline, the dress was made up the night before Bette was scheduled to wear it. I went in early the day of the filming to make sure the dress was pressed and camera-ready. There was Bette, already in the dress, looking quizzically at her own reflection in the mirror. I was horrified. The dress didn't fit at all. The top of the three-quarter-length sleeves had a fullness created by pleats, but someone miscalculated and the entire bodice and neckline were too big. There was no time to save anything, and a change would delay the shooting. I told Bette not to worry, that I would personally tell Joe Mankiewicz [wrote and directed the film] what had happened.
I had just about reached the door, my knees feeling as if they were going to give out, when Bette told me to turn around and look. She pulled the neckline off her shoulders, shook one shoulder sexily, and said, "Don't you like it better like this, anyway?" It looked wonderful and I could have hugged her. In fact, I think I did [kind of hard to picture...]. With a few simple stitches I secured the neckline in place so she could move comfortably, and she left for the set. Above all, I did not want to delay the shooting.
A look at all sides of the dress.
Note how the sleeves are not attached to the actual bodice.
Not sure if this is the original or a replica.
Bette remembers that dress fondly in her Foreword to Edith Head's Hollywood: "My own momento to Edith's long career hangs on the wall of my home: a sketch of that fabulous brown cocktail dress... I bought the dress and I treasure the sketch. It's simply signed To Bette, from Edith."
A revised sketch to show the finished gown.
Whoopi Goldberg at the 2016 Academy Awards in an All About Eve inspired gown.