I've said I intend to watch more classic films this year, and I am already doing so well ticking films off of my list! I have long been in love with the styles and fashions of old Hollywood, but I was way overdo falling for the films themselves, and their stars! (Though Cary Grant has long been a favorite)
I thought today I'd talk about a few of the black and white classics I have been watching and encourage you to go watch them too. Everyone knows a good place to catch old films is Turner Classic Movies, but the big tip for catching old films via TCM is to check out their catalog of films to watch online! Each film doesn't stay up very long, but it is a very convenient way to watch some films that are hard to find anywhere else. Others are available on Amazon to rent for a few dollars, and still fewer are on Netflix.
The Women (1939)Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and more
I have already mentioned that you must go watch this film, but I am here telling you again today in case you didn't listen the first time. I had heard that The Women was the film for fawning over fashion, so I knew I just had to see it. There is a reason this film is given gold medal status as a fashion film, the costumes are to - die - for!!! Norma Shearer is Mary Haines, the woman with the perfect life; a wonderful marriage, loving daughter, and gorgeous home-- until her girlfriends arrange for her to find out the truth. Her husband is cheating, and they know exactly who with! Antics ensue as the wealthy ladies (along with the occasional sales girl) of New York marry and divorce with abandon, switching and stealing husbands from one another. Oh and of course there is a confrontation in the dressing rooms after the fashion show, and what a fashion show! Honestly the whole film is a fashion show, but not a fashion show alone as the all female cast do such a wonderful job. I just watched this film mere weeks ago and I am already itching to see it again, just go watch it!
Stage Door (1937)Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rodgers, Lucille Ball and more
A ladies boarding house where all of the roommates are aspiring actresses in New York and competing for theater roles while each attempts to claw their way to stardom. Katherine Hepburn is Terry Randall, who unlike the rest of them has come from money but has left her family name and position to try her hand at being an actress. Her new roommate Jean (Ginger Rodgers) is instantly combative--unless Terry is offering to let her borrow her luxurious furs. The film follows the characters as they attempt to navigate their way to stardom. The dialogue in this film is crazy good, everyone is sarcastic and sharp in the best possible way. Though funny throughout, the ending takes on a more dramatic tone. The lead actresses are marvelous, but the film is more of an ensemble with all of the ladies sharing the space. I especially enjoyed young and beautiful Lucille Ball as the cynical Judith. Of course the late 30's fashion is divine, but I could watch Stage Door for the cracking script alone.
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, big cats and more
Don't worry, this film has nothing to do with child rearing, Baby is a leopard of course. Poor David (Cary Grant) was just trying to get a big donation for his museum (he's a zoologist--at least that what they call him, though really he's a paleontologist!) when he had the misfortune of meeting Susan Vance. Things just seem to go wrong around Susan, purses get mixed up, top hats get crushed, leopards get loose, and plans are most certainly thrown right out the window. David's day goes from bad to much much worse with Susan around. Missing his own wedding might seem to be the worst of it until the last piece of his dinosaur gets carted off into the garden by the family dog. Oh yes and there is still the leopard to contend with, or is it leopards? Sound a bit crazy? It is, but the two stars are wonderful and somehow Katherine Hepburn ensures you don't flat out hate Susan, which on paper seems a bit improbable. Also Cary Grant in glasses is A+, and Cary Grant in the feather trimmed robe is A+++. I'm not one for modern comedy films, but old Hollywood comedies are somehow infinitely better!
And now for a little bonus review...
Female Agents (2008)
I stumbled upon Female Agents (Les femmes de l'ombre is its french title) while browsing Netflix's new releases and decided to watch it right then and there. Female agents on secret operations in WWII France? Right up my alley! The five woman task force has one job initially, save a wounded geologist before the German's realize who he is and the secrecy of D-day is put into question. Of course their handlers have a second mission for them, kill Nazi Colonel Karl Heindrich. The costumes were fabulous and the story quite riveting. Though the story has been "hollywood-ized", the film was inspired by a real female S.O.E. agent and highlights the fact that women too were heroes in WWII. I highly recommend giving this film a watch, sure it's in French, but having to read subtitles isn't so high a price to pay and the actresses all do a fabulous job. Female Agents is currently streaming on Netflix!
Now enough about movies, I have to get back to my sewing ;)