Somehow I watched 40 new-to-me films this month. I expected the number to drop because too much was happening, but I just always make time for movies, I guess. And the movies are still the greatest tonics I have for the blues. I didn’t really participate in Noirvember and only watched maybe three noirs. Also didn’t get to watch a lot of Natalie Wood movies, as she was TCM’s star of the month. There were some excellent women directed films that I’d like to feature in a separate post. I also watched five Van Johnson movies in November, which probably doesn’t matter to you but it did bring my total for the year up to 29. Yeah, solid achievement on my part. Good job me. I want to thank everyone who made this possible: TCM and myself. There will also be a future post dedicated to Mrs. Johnson’s blonde boy Van and how I spent this weird, wonderful, terrible year with him.
But, here are my favorites from the month!
Toward the Unknown (1956)
dir: Mervyn Leroy
This film was shown as part of TCM’s “Test Pilot” spotlight, and being the budding aviation enthusiast that I am, I was very excited about it. And it stars William Holden. And it was directed by one of my favorites, Mervyn LeRoy. This is not one of Bill’s more iconic films, which is why I’m happy that I got to see it. This little known test pilot movie made me want to turn my interest in airplanes into a full blown hobby. I’d like to collect my own model airplanes in addition to flying them. (Get me in touch with Hayao Miyazaki, please). The story concerns Lincoln Bond, a Korean War veteran (Holden), who returns to the air base to find a cool reception. He cracked under torture and most everyone is condescending towards him. And William “I make it look so effortless” Holden, just grits his teeth and grapples with his existential despair and self loathing by himself. Some thrilling set pieces here and breathtaking aerial shots. Will definitely return to this for a future post as well.
Blithe Spirit (1945)
dir: David Lean
I had an idea for a story, about a young woman who dies and returns as a ghost to haunt her husband and prevent him from marrying another woman. But apparently, Noel Coward beat me to it! In Blithe Spirit, based on Coward’s play, Charles Condomine (Rex Harrison) is married to his second wife, Ruth (Constance Cummings). While holding a seance for book research, his first wife Elvira (Kay Hammond) returns. This is so British and so caustic. It’s really charming. I love Elvira’s ghost look. She’s a tart presence amid some other eccentric personalities. I hope I’m a ghost someday. Speaking of, John Hodiak has a ghost apparently?! I’d like for him to haunt me.
I’ll Be Yours (1947)
dir: William A. Seiter
A minor comedy about an aspiring singer named Louise Ginglebusher (?!) (Deanna Durbin) who tells a fib to a rich businessman (Adolphe Menjou) in order to discourage his creepy interest in her. The plan backfires (a creepy man is a determined man). She falls for this lawyer (Tom Drake), who’s so honest he can’t earn a decent living. He just refuses to do anything corrupt, and he refuses to lie, which complicates their friendship. He doesn’t know that she’s a liar, not until the third act anyway. There’s a magical scene with Deanna Durbin singing on a nighttime boat ride (screenshot above), surrounded by other couples and accompanied by a studio chorus. It reminded me of a Walt Disney era animated film, because it evoked a similar innocence and enchantment. Also, consider me a fan of Tom Drake, best known as John Truett, the boy next door in Meet Me in St. Louis. His voice was so velvety…or “terribly sexy” according to fans in 1944.
I finally watched Words and Music (1948) too. It also featured Tom Drake. And a bevy of my favorite people: Lena Horne, June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. I leave you now with all of their spectacular music numbers!
Trying to get back in the habit of singing this every day. (The Moana soundtrack means I don’t listen to anything else).
The lyrics to “The Lady is a Tramp” still confuse me to no end, but when Lena sings it…it’s my favorite song!